Isadore "Friz" Freleng was a Jewish-American animator, cartoonist, director, and producer who was best known for his work at Warner Bros. for the Looney Tunes and Merrie Melodies cartoons.
Freleng created cartoon characters that were memorable to many viewers and would live on with the legacy of Looney Tunes memorable cartoon characters like Porky Pig, Sylvester the Cat, and Yosemite Sam.
Early life and Warner Bros. career
Friz Freleng was born in Kansas City, Missouri and started his career in animation at United Film Ad Service. After, Freleng was invited to work as an employee for Walt Disney at the Laugh-O-Grams studio. There, Freleng met Hugh Harman and Ub Iwerks. When Walt Disney decided to close the studio and move to Los Angeles, California, Freleng followed. Freleng worked on the Alice Comedies and Universal Pictures' Oswald the Lucky Rabbit series before quitting following issues with Walt. When production of the Oswald series moved to Winkler Pictures, Friz began animating at their studio. After Universal Pictures head Carl Lamemmle terminated Winkler's Oswald contract in 1929, Friz joined Hugh Harman and Rudolf Ising at Harman-Ising Productions.
Freleng was unsure if Harman and Ising's "Bosko, the Talk-Ink Kid" would generate enough interest in a cartoon series, so he moved to New York City in case he was left without a job. There, he worked for Charles Mintz on his Krazy Kat films. Realizing he was unhappy in New York, Freleng moved back to California once he realized Harman and Ising's series sold to Schlesinger. Freleng was an assistant animator for three years until he was promoted to director.
When Harman and Ising left WB in 1933 for Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer, Freleng stayed with Warner Bros. and handled almost all the Merrie Melodies shorts until 1936, when Fred "Tex" Avery joined him. In 1937, Freleng briefly moved to MGM to work on their newest series Captain and the Kids. The series caused MGM to lose money and stopped production. Freleng returned to Warner Bros. after that and stayed there until the original "Termite Terrace" studio closed in 1963.
After the original studio shut down in 1963, Freleng opened his own animation studio, DePatie-Freleng Enterprises, with executive producer David H. DePatie, which Warner Bros. subcontracted to produce cartoons under the Looney Tunes and Merrie Melodies banners for its studio between 1964-1967. In addition, Freleng's company also produced the Pink Panther cartoon series for United Artists, which was later bought out by MGM. Increasing expenses and the decline of theatrical shorts forced Freleng and DePatie to sell off their assets in 1981 to Marvel Productions. In 2009, that company was bought out by the Walt Disney Company.
Today, most of DePatie-Freleng's former assets are owned by the Walt Disney Company. The ones that were not included with the sale to Marvel were:
- The 1964-67 Looney Tunes and Merrie Melodies cartoons made for theaters (owned by Warner Bros.)
- The Dr. Seuss television specials made by DePatie-Freleng (owned by Warner Bros.)
- The copyrights to the Pink Panther show and character (owned by Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer/United Artists)
- Doctor Dolittle and Return to the Planet of the Apes (owned by 20th Century Fox)
- "The Tiny Tree" (owned by AT&T)
- "What's New, Mister Magoo?" (owned by DreamWorks Classics/NBCUniversal/Comcast)
- "The Bear Who Slept Through Christmas" (currently owned by Lionsgate).
Friz Freleng retired in 1986 and died on May 26, 1995, of natural causes. He is buried at Hillside Memorial Park in Culver City, California.