On this day in 1906, Isadore 'Friz' Freleng was born in Kansas City, Missouri. 100 years later he is considered an animation legend. His work has been enjoyed by young and old for the past 75 years! Today we celebrate his 100th birthday if he were alive today.
He started his career as an animator for Walt Disney Pictures working on the pre-Mickey Mouse shorts, mainly, the Alice Comedies and Oswald the Lucky Rabbit. There he met Hugh Harman and Rudy Ising who together formed their own company apart from Disney and created Bosko the Ink-Talk Kid. Bosko went on to be Warner Brothers' very first cartoon star.
Friz was very influential in the formation of many of the Looney Tunes characters when he started directing Merrie Melodies and Looney Tunes in 1935 with the short I Haven't Got Any Hat which is the first appearance of Porky Pig.
Friz went on to create and develop some of the most well known Looney Tunes characters, including Sylvester and Tweety, Yosemite Sam, Speedy Gonzales and, of course, Porky Pig. He became a great director and set the bar for future animation directors because of his natural sense of comic timing.
He won four Oscars for Best Animated Short, for the films Tweetie Pie (1947), Speedy Gonzales (1955), Knighty Knight Bugs (1958) and Birds Anonymous (1957).
A Porky Pig model sheet from 1936
After Warner Brothers closed their animation department in 1963 Friz and producer Dave DePatie created DePatie-Freleng enterprises which is most notable for creating the opening sequence of the Peter Sellers comedy The Pink Panther. The open credits were so popular that DePatie-Freleng created a whole series based on the cool cat. They won an Oscar for Best Animated Short in 1964 for the short The Pink Phink.
DePatie-Freleng made a slough of Saturday morning television programs throughout the 70s until they sold the company to Marvel Comics in 1981. They created The Pink Panther Show, The Ant and the Aardvark, The Super 6, Spider-Man, Fantastic Four, Spider-Woman and many, many more.
Friz retired in 1981 and worked as an executive producer for the Looney Tunes movies in the 80s. He died in 1995 of natural causes at the age of 89.
There is no doubt that cartoons would not be the same today without Friz. His work is an inspiration to anyone in the animation industry and he will always be considered one of the 'great masters' of animation.
We miss you Friz. Rest in Peace.
Chuck Jones (left) and Friz Freleng (right)