Isadore ‘Friz’ Freleng was one of the pioneers of modern animation and the creator of more than 300 cartoons featuring Bugs Bunny, Daffy Duck, Speedy Gonzales, Tweety Pie and most notably Yosemite Sam among other classic Looney Tunes characters for Warner Bros.
Five of his cartoons were awarded Academy Awards over a twenty-year period (winning the only Oscar for Bugs Bunny-Knighty Knight Bugs.) After leaving Warner Bros. in 1962, Freleng founded his own production company, DePatie-Freleng Enterprises where he created the Pink Panther.
Although Freleng helped give life to a menagerie of Warner Bros. characters, he became the personification of Yosemite Sam. He even admitted to serving as the inspiration for the gun-slinging, brazen Sam. “I have the same temperament,” he told the Associated Press. “I’m small, and I used to have a red mustache.” Chuck Jones said, “We would tease Friz that if he ever exploded the result would be similar to what Sam did when he was angry.”
Freleng, along with Chuck Jones, Bob Clampett, Robert McKimson and Tex Avery, became the driving force of Warner Bros.’ legendary Termite Terrace, the raucous, irreverent group of animators whose sly wit and technical and artistic gifts created a unique identity for Warner Bros.’ cartoon characters.
For a self-described iconoclast, Freleng was honored by some very respectable organizations: the Academy of Motion Picture Arts & Sciences, the Motion Picture Screen Cartoonist’s Guild, the British Film Institute and the International Animated Film Society. In 1985 the Museum of Modern Art honored both Friz Freleng and Chuck Jones at a major film and art retrospective that set attendance records for the institution that remain unbroken 28 years later.
In 1980, Mr. Freleng returned to Warner Bros. to direct television specials and compilation features. They are 1981′s Looney, Looney, Looney Bugs Bunny Movie, 1982′s 1001 Rabbit Tales and 1983′s Daffy Duck’s Fantastic Island. In the nearly eight years since his death (May 26, 1995), production artwork from three of his late films has continued to be sought out by discerning collectors of animation art.