(February 10, 1911— January 17, 2006)
Norman McCabe was an American animator who enjoyed a long career which lasted into the 1990s.
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.
Post-World War II
After the war, McCabe worked on commercial illustrations for such works as the Bozo the Clown children's storybook records 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). He also trained a new generation of animators in working with the classic Warner cartoon characters.
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.
McCabe died in January 2006, the last surviving director from the golden age of Warner Bros. Cartoons to pass away.
Even though McCabe's work was largely forgotten because he never made color cartoons during the golden age of Warner Bros. cartoons and created several cartoons that would not be considered "politically correct" due to heavy racial stereotyping (particularly true in his World War II-based cartoons, such as The Ducktators, Confusions of a Nutzy Spy, and Tokio Jokio), he won recognition and accolades from those in the animation business.