In Remembrance: Norman McCabe


     Norm McCabe, the last of the directors from Warner Brothers' “Golden Age of Animation” who worked on the classic short Porky In Wackyland (1938) in addition to scores of other cartoons, has passed away on January 18, 2006. He was 94.


     Born in England in 1911, McCabe was raised in the United States. He joined Warner Brothers Studios in the mid-1930s. He was first attached to director Frank Tashlin’s unit as an animator, but moved over to work under director Robert Clampett in 1938. It was with Clampett and fellow animator Izzy Ellis that McCabe helped to create the classic cartoon Porky In Wackyland, whose almost surreal sense of humor helped to mold the direction of Warner Brothers’ cartoon output for the next two decades. McCabe continued to work with Clampett for the next three years, animating a total of 12 Porky Pig cartoons.


     When cartoon director Tex Avery left Warner Brothers in 1941 to join MGM Studios’ cartoon division, Clampett took over Avery’s animation unit. Since McCabe had already co-directed two Porky Pig shorts with Clampett – The Timid Toreador (1940) and Porky’s Snooze Reel (1941) – he was given the reigns of Clampett’s old unit. McCabe’s solo cartoon directorial debut was Robinson Crusoe, Jr. (1941).


     However, McCabe’s run as a director for Warner Brothers was short-lived. In 1943, he was drafted into the Army, where served in the Army Air Corps Training Film Unit. In his two years as a director at Warner Brothers, he produced only 11 cartoons. Some of his cartoons – The Ducktators (1942), Confusions Of A Nutsy Spy and Tokio Jokio (both 1943) – contained topical jokes about World War II and the Axis powers that would be considered politically incorrect today.


     After World War Two, McCabe turned to working on commercials and educational films. He returned to animation in 1963, helping to animate the main title credits for Blake Edwards’ comedy The Pink Panther. The following year, McCabe joined up with director Friz Freleng to work on cartoons at Warner Brothers Studios and on the Pink Panther cartoon shorts being released through United Artists. McCabe would help animate a total of 22 Pink Panther cartoons, from the series’ first, Oscar-winning installment Pink Phink (1964) to In The Pink (1967).


     In 1967 McCabe moved over to television, working as an animator on several cartoon series. In 1972, he returned to theatrical animation, serving on the crew of Ralph Bakshi’s feature Fritz The Cat. McCabe would continue to work on theatrical short cartoons for Freleng’s animation studios for the rest of the `70s. In the 1980s, McCabe returned to Warner Brothers animate new material for the cartoon anthology movies Bugs Bunny’s Third Movie: 1001 Rabbit Tales (1982) and Daffy Duck’s Movie: Fantastic Island (1983).


     After serving as an animation director on The Transformers: The Movie (1986), he helped animate a trilogy of new Daffy Duck theatrical shorts - The Duxorcist (1987), Night Of The Living Duck and Daffy Duck’s Quackbusters (both 1988).


     McCabe was awarded the Golden Award from the Motion Picture Screen Cartoonists in recognition of his fifty years in the animation field in 1985. In 2000 he won the Windsor McCay Award at the ASIFA-Hollywood’s annual Annie Awards.