I can picture it now: I’m wrapped up in a robe, reclining in my easy chair, feet up in front of a roaring fire and a glass orange juice by my side. No, I’m not planning my retirement quite yet, rather I’m simply trying to set up the ideal setting in which to read I Say, I Say…Son!, “A Tribute to Legendary Animators Bob, Chuck, and Tom McKimson” written by Bob’s son, Robert McKimson Jr. The biography, and I use the term loosely, is a cross between an account of the McKimson brothers’ careers and a treasury filled with sketches and models by the brothers on different animation projects throughout their lives.
A majority of the book chronicles Bob’s career at Warner Brothers working on the Looney Tunes productions. That’s not to say the rest is uninteresting – the final few chapters review his work at UPA with Mr. Magoo and The Inspector – but it does cause the reader to stop and think. Generally Bob McKimson is not thought of as a Warner Bros. legend with such men as Chuck Jones, Carl Stalling, and Mel Blanc. However, what McKimson Jr. does in his book is showcase his father’s and uncles’ work, so that animation fans today can hold a better appreciation for what they see. (I know that I can never watch Bugs Bunny Gets the Boid again without giving a small thanks to Bob for revitalizing Chuck Jones’ boring Beaky Buzzard from just a few years earlier). What I find so successful about this book is not that it tries to undermine the achievements of other directors at Warner Brothers, rather it elevates Bob McKimson to a higher respect in the Golden Age of Animation. Quite frankly, the man was involved with Looney Tunes from the time of Leon Schlesinger until the painful, slow death of the cartoons in the sixties. That’s a span of around thirty years, during which time he developed characters like Bugs Bunny, Daffy Duck, Porky Pig, and even created his own Looney Tunes stars including Foghorn Leghorn, Pepe LePew, the Tasmanian Devil, Sylvester the Cat, and Speedy Gonzalez. Bob worked early in his career as not only the highest paid animator in the industry, but also the most efficient, putting out nearly fifty drawings each day when the quota hovered around thirty. The book is a perfect tribute and advocate for the higher respect Bob McKimson deserves.
While Bob McKimson’s work is well documented, the other brothers, Tom and Chuck, receive more modest mentions. This is justifiable however as neither of the two accomplished the fantastic cartoons Bob directed and animated. Just know before reading that this tribute to the brothers is not an equally divided tribute. In the end however, it is without question a recommended purchase. For many people, this is the biography of the man that created your favorite animated characters. This is the story of the brothers who worked with the cast of Looney Tunes from inception to cancellation, and developed the characters who in turn have helped to develop the animation industry as well as American culture. Not only do I approve, but expert animation historian Jerry Beck of cartoonbrew.com has also described the tribute to be “fantastic” and “a real treat.” Without question, it’s time the McKimson brothers received recognition for their work, and who knows, in years to come maybe we will see more tributes to the unknown animation greats from that Golden Age.