Posted in WB Cartoon Companion on March 24, 2004
Warren Foster, Mike Maltese, and Tedd Pierce were probably the three most important writers at the Warner studio from 1937, when on-screen credits for stories started to be awarded, through 1964, when the studio closed. Each of these writers was, either together or alone, responsible for dozens of the cartoons made by Warner Brothers, and worked with most (if not all) of the major directors. Each of them put in at least 20 years as writers with the studio. Maltese and Pierce, in the late 1940s, worked together for the Jones and Freleng units.
Other writers had rather short careers, at least as far as on-screen credit is concerned. In some cases, however, a writer was associated almost exclusively with a certain director:
Don Christensen with Norm McCabe
Lou Lilly, Ernest Gee and Mike Sasanoff with Bob Clampett
Bill Scott and Lloyd Turner with Arthur Davis
Sid Marcus with Bob McKimson
Robert Givens with Chuck Jones
Others had a wide range of experience with many different directors, even over a short period of time. These would include the following, primarily from the late 1930s and early 1940s:
Ben “Bugs” Hardaway
Mel “Tubby” Millar
Other writers have too few credits to make any real judgment as to their influence at the studio. These would include
Some animators occasionally received story credit. These would include
Chuck Jones received credit for writing or co-writing a number of his cartoons, as did Friz Freleng. Even Bob McKimson received story credit on one occasion. It should be noted, however, that the job of a director at Warner Brothers generally called for him to be responsible for the final state of the dialogue in a cartoon. Thus, in that regard at least, on-screen credits can be seen as underestimating the true influence of directors over story matters.
Until about 1940, writers generally worked in a pool-type arrangement, with directors selecting story men as needed. Gradually, specific writers became associated with specific directors.
It is important to emphasize two facts when considering where credit is ultimately due. The first is the fact that on-screen story credits were not awarded at all until 1937. The second is that the studio used a system of rotating credits between 1937 and 1944, under which a writer might get credit for a cartoon to which he had contributed little, yet might not receive any credit for a cartoon to which he had made major contributions.
By way of example, on page 114 of Chuck Amuck, Chuck Jones gives Tedd Pierce credit for contributing to the following cartoons:
Little Lion Hunter (credited to Bob Givens, 1939)
Elmer’s Candid Camera (credited to Rich Hogan, 1940)
Ghost Wanted (credited to Hogan, 1940)
Bedtime for Sniffles (credited to Hogan, 1940)
Inki and the Lion (credited to Hogan, 1941)
Contributions of 1930s-1940s era writers like Howard, Hogan, Miller, Millar and Hardaway might thus be very greatly underestimated. This is particularly likely with Howard, who has few on screen credits, but is constantly cited -- particularly by Jones and Maltese -- as a major influence on the studio. Sadly, the contributions of pre-1937 writers are virtually untraceable, given the unfortunate state of record-keeping at Warner Brothers.