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Robert Herman Givens, II
March 2, 1918
Hanson, Kentucky, U.S.
|Died||December 14, 2017
Burbank, California, U.S.
|Occupation||Animator, character designer, storyboard artist and layout design artist|
Robert Herman Givens (March 2, 1918 – December 14, 2017) was an American animator and character designer, responsible for the creation of Bugs Bunny. He was the leading character designer for Leon Schlesinger, creating over 25 successful characters for both Leon Schlesinger Productions and later Warner Bros. Cartoons. He also did the storyboards and layout designs. He worked for numerous animation studios during his career, including Walt Disney Animation Studios, Warner Bros. Cartoons, Hanna-Barbera, and DePatie–Freleng Enterprises, beginning his career during the late 1930s and continuing until the early 2000s. He was a collaborator with the Merrie Melody/Looney Tune directors at Warner Bros. and Chuck Jones' production company.
Born in Hanson, Kentucky on March 2, 1918, Givens was one of twin boys. His family moved to southern California, hoping the climate would improve the poor health of his father, who was a horse breeder and rancher. He attended Alhambra High School, graduating in 1936 and Chouinard Art Institute, California Institute of the Arts. He worked as a freelance artist in his senior year of high school before joining the Walt Disney Studio in 1937 on the recommendation of school classmate and Disney staffer Hardie Gramatky.
After joining Disney, he worked as an animation checker and timer on several of their short subjects (mostly involving Donald Duck), before working on their first feature-length film, Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs (1937).
He subsequently joined Warner Bros. for his first stint at the studio, which was spent working with Bob Clampett, Friz Freleng, Chuck Jones, Robert Mckimson and Tex Avery. For the cartoon A Wild Hare (1940), Avery asked Givens to design a rabbit character previously designed by director Ben Hardaway and character designer Charles Thorson, which Avery thought had potential, but was "too cute" in his existing design. Givens, therefore, created the first official design for the rabbit, now named Bugs Bunny. Givens' design was subsequently refined by fellow animator Robert McKimson (under whom Givens would frequently work in the decades ahead) two years later.
Givens' initial spell at the studio ended when he was drafted during World War II; his last cartoon for the studio before leaving was The Draft Horse (1942). As part of his military service, he worked with former Warner Bros. animator Rudolf Ising on military training films. He subsequently returned to Warner Bros. in the 1950s and mostly worked as a layout artist under McKimson, and also Jones later on, staying with the studio until its 1954 shutdown. Unlike many of his co-workers, Givens did not rejoin the Warner Bros. studio when it eventually opened again, and worked at various other studios, including UPA, Hanna-Barbera and the Jack Kinney studio. He returned for one last spell at Warner Bros. in the early 1960s, continuing until the studio's final shutdown, and even acting as the layout artist on False Hare (1964), the final cartoon (in production order) made by the studio.
Givens followed most of the Warner Bros. staffers to new studio DePatie–Freleng Enterprises, while also working with Jones once more on the Tom and Jerry cartoons produced by Jones at Sib Tower 12 Productions. He continued his Looney Tunes association by working at the Warner Bros.-Seven Arts cartoon studio in the late 1960s, remaining with that studio until it shut down. Further spells at DePatie–Freleng and Hanna-Barbera followed during the 1970s, before working at the reformed Warner Bros. Animation studio on Friz Freleng's Looney Looney Looney Bugs Bunny Movie (1981), Bugs Bunny's 3rd Movie: 1001 Rabbit Tales (1982) and Daffy Duck's Movie: Fantastic Island (1983). He then had spells at Filmation (whose founder, Lou Scheimer had actually worked under Givens when the two were freelancers in the 1950s) and Film Roman.
In the 1990s, he worked with Chuck Jones once again, handling the production design duties on the Looney Tunes cartoons that Jones' production company worked on for Warner Bros. His last animation credit was on 2001's Timber Wolf, a direct-to-video animated feature written and produced by Jones. After Jones died the following year, Givens largely retired from active animation work, though he continued to teach and give animation talks well into his 90s.
- Walt Disney – PBS film first screened in 2015
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