Monday, September 19, 2011

Remembering Earl Kress (1951-2011)

Earl Kress is not a household name to most people. But If you love cartoons, you have more than likely encountered his work. He was a writer, historian, voice actor, archivist, puppeteer, and animation fan. I read a number of obituaries and remembrances today that called him a "renaissance man". That's an accurate label.

As an Emmy Award-winning writer, Earl crafted memorable and hilarious stories for "Tiny Toons", "Animaniacs", "Taz Mania", "Pinky and the Brain", and many others for Warner Bros.. He also worked on the Disney feature "The Fox and the Hound", and numerous Hanna-Barbera cartoons in the 1980's and 90's including "New Yogi Bear", "Yogi's Treasure Hunt", and new "Wacky Races" (Aka "Fender Bender 500") cartoons for the short-lived variety show "Wake, Rattle and Roll". He also wrote for "Transformers", "Ghostbusters" and "Fat Albert", worked on "The Muppets", and most recently worked on new "Tom and Jerry" cartoons and direct-to-DVD movies.

Earl Kress was instrumental in restoring and preserving much of the classic Hanna-Barbera library, tracking down lost footage, credits, music and supplemental material and making sure the DVD releases of the H-B cartoons were done properly. In fact, Kress was widely regarded as the foremost expert on Hanna-Barbera. He knew every character, every show, and not only knew all of the names in the credits, but knew many of them personally. He was a fan, student and personal friend of Daws Butler, and could do most of Butler's character voices spot-on.

But writing some of the finest cartoons ever produced for television and serving as an invaluable preserver and historian of classic animation that inspired him wasn't enough for this man. He was also a comic book writer, penning stories for Bongo Comics' "The Simpsons" series and DC's "Looney Tunes". His stories in the latter are more faithful to the original Warner cartoons than a lot of modern animated revivals, and they're also funny as hell. Earl also wrote the theatrical Looney Tunes short, "Little Go Beep".

Here are a couple of DC Looney Tunes stories he did:

"Pronoun Trouble"

This story could be easily mistaken for a bit of unused material from the classic Chuck Jones Bugs/Daffy/Elmer Fudd trilogy.

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"The Dust Up"

This story from 2006 marked the first (and only) time that the popular "Mary Jane and Sniffles" segment from the golden age Looney Tunes comics ever appeared in modern Looney Tunes comics, or any other medium.

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"Deflate Of The Art"
"Duck Dodgers", a Cartoon Network TV series based on the perennial Chuck Jones classic short of the same name, inspired a number of comic book stories in the DC "Looney Tunes" series. Presumably it was supposed to be given its own comic book series, but Warner Bros. and D.C. instead chose to publish these stories in the flagship Looney Tunes book. Earl Kress wrote several of these stories, including this one, and it should be noted that the comics in general were often funnier than the Tv show.

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Earl Kress's appearances on the Internet radio program "Stu's Show" were always fascinating, and his devotion to getting classic cartoon voice actors interviewed and their stories told was clear.

I never got the chance to meet Mr. Kress in person, but I encountered him often online. He was a frequent contributor to the Golden Age Cartoons forums as "Daws Butler, Jr.", and I befriended and eagerly followed him on Facebook. While he was always willing to answer a question about his own work or that of his mentors, he never bragged about his own achievements.

But he had a lot to brag about. Earl passed away on September 19, 2011 from cancer. He left us too soon, but he contributed more to the field of animation and cartoons in his 60 years of life than many have in longer lifetimes. He preserved the legacy of his forebears and created quite a legacy of his own.
That’s All, Folks. And Doooon’t youuuu forgeeeeet him!

1 comment:

AM said...

A brilliant tribute to Mr. K. He did far more than I ever realised and I have him to thank for tracking down all those HB oddities it seems! He will be missed. I loved his commentaries on the HB box sets, he definately seemed to be the 'leader of the gang' there. :)

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