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animator, cartoon director
Frederick Bean Avery was born in Taylor, Texas, on February 26, 1908, a descendant of both Judge Roy Bean and Daniel Boone. He started drawing comic strips while at North Dallas High School, from which he graduated in 1927. After spending a summer studying art at the Chicago Art Institute, he moved to the Los Angeles, California, area, where he initially worked in the harbor.
Avery's cartoon career began in 1929, when he was hired by Walter Lantz Studios. In addition to working on most of the Oswald the Lucky Rabbit cartoons, he also freelanced his drawing and gag-writing services to other studios.
In late 1935, Avery was hired by Leon Schlesinger, who put him in charge of the Warner Brothers Merrie Melodies and Looney Tunes cartoon series. In addition to directing about 60 cartoons, Avery also gave Bugs Bunny his personality and catch phrase "What's up, Doc?", redesigned Porky Pig, and created Daffy Duck.
A dispute with Schlesigner led Avery to leave Warner Brothers in 1941. After directing the first three Speaking of Animals cartoons made by Paramount Pictures, he moved on to MGM. Over the next thirteen years Avery directed virtually every MGM cartoon that did not feature Tom and Jerry. He also created some of MGM's best-known cartoon characters, including Droopy and Screwball Squirrel.
Avery left MGM in 1954, just ahead of the studio's decision to stop producing cartoons. He subsequently made four cartoons for Walter Lantz, including one with a redesign of Chilly Willy that became the one people are familiar with today, before leaving studio work altogether and going into television advertising. His most notable work during this period were the Raid bug spray commercials featuring the doomed bugs screaming "RAID!" just before being sprayed and "killed dead." He was also the creator of the Frito's Corn Chips "mascot" Frito Bandito.
Avery spent the last two years of his life developing gags and characters for Hanna-Barbera. He died of cancer in Burbank, California, on August 26, 1980.
This page was last updated on 02/26/2017.