An Interview by Michael Barrier
Lloyd Turner was living in southern Oregon when I visited him on
May 13, 1989. He had lived in California for many years before that,
as a comedy writerfirst for Warner Bros. Cartoons, then for
Jay Ward on the original Crusader Rabbit TV cartoons, for
Bob Clampett on the Time for Beany puppet show, for Ward
again for almost ten years, and finally for Norman Lear on live-action
shows like All in the Family. He did a lot of free-lance
work, too, writing many of the Dell comic books of the fifties with
the Warner Bros. characters, as well as any number of television
I'd been in Oregon in 1988, before I knew Turner was living there,
and when I called him in the fall of that year and talked with him
for a half hour or so, I was stung with regret that I'd not seen
him when I'd been only a few miles from his home. I was living in
Virginia and doing a lot of business travel then, and a few months
later Northwest Airlines dropped in my lap a free ticket that I
had to use quickly. So I flew to Oregon for the weekend, had dinner
with Carl and Garé Barks, and spent the better part of the
next day interviewing Lloyd Turner. That quick trip seemed a little
nutty at the time, but after the interview I was very glad I'd made
Turner was a delightful man and a wonderful interview, I think
in part because he viewed his career as a comedy writer with the
detachment of someone who would rather have been doing something
else. I remember the evidence in his home on the Rogue River of
his strong interest in the navy. A military career was foreclosed
to him by the loss of his left arm. Apparently, he lost his arm
in an accident when he was a boy. Turner himself didn't tell me
thatLew Keller, his colleague at the Ward studio, didand
I had the strong feeling that the loss of his arm was a subject
that Turner did not want raised.
I saw Lloyd Turner and his wife, Darlene, again in 1991, after
he had survived a grueling bout with esophageal cancer. He suffered
a recurrence of the disease in 1992 and died on November 30 of that
year. He was 68 years old.
Out of considerations of length, I've
limited the excerpts from my interview with Turner to his years at the Warner cartoon studio.
I've not included an audio clip from the interview here, but you
can hear an excerpt in my audio commentary for the Chuck Jones cartoon
Hair-Raising Hare in the first Looney
Tunes Golden Collection DVD set. In that excerpt, Turner
speaks of the hairy monster that pursues Bugs Bunny as a Michael
Maltese creation. Ted Pierce received screen credit for the story,
though, and in his portion of the audio commentary Greg Ford talks
about Pierce as the cartoon's writer. Such are the hazards attending
the frequently misleading credits on the Warner cartoons. Maltese
and Pierce often worked as a team at the time Hair-Raising Hare
was made, and it's likely both of them worked on that cartoon.
It was later that Maltese wrote exclusively for Chuck Jones and
Pierce for Friz Freleng.
When I posted this interview in 2004, I had no photos of Turner from around the time he worked on the Warner cartoons. Happily, Janice Munn Johnson, who dated Turner when they were both living in Hollywood, has remedied that lack by giving me four wonderful photos from 1947 of the robust, outgoing young Lloyd Turner. Jan had moved from a small town in Ohio to Hollywood, where she found a job with Capitol Records. "I moved back to Ohio," she wrote to me in February 2008, "as I knew I was too young to get married (I was 19), and I also knew Hollywood was too wild for that small town girl. Anyway, I doubt that Lloyd was ready for a commitment." Turner sent her the photos of himself after she was back in Ohio. Ever the gag man, he called the car in one of the photos "Shasta," as in "she has to" have gas, water, oil, and so on.
Jan married someone else, a marriage that lasted until her husband's death fifty-two years later. But she always remembered Turner fondly. "He was a very special part of my life, albeit for a very short time," she says. "I know that is why I kept his pictures all these years!"
And now it's time for you, too, to get to know Lloyd Turner.
Turner: I came to Hollywood from Oakland, California, in
1943, I think it was, and the motivation to get me down there was
Disney; all I could think about was working for Walt Disney. Boy,
he had me captured. I had many adventures before I even looked for
work. Met a girl first thing, you know. At a party, I mentioned
that I wanted to get into animation, and somebody said, "Have
you been over to Warner Bros.? They're always looking for somebody."
I said no, and they knew somebody; they said, "`Call so-and-so."
I don't even know who that was. But I went over there and applied
for work. I didn't know what [the] work was. It turned out it was
in-betweening; they needed in-betweeners. I certainly didn't go
there as a writer. I was pretty good at drawingI'd majored
in art, and I had some art schooling, some college stuff, and scholarships
that I'd won. And so a man named Johnny Burtonhe was kind
of like the manager. Johnny was a neat guy; he did a lot of the
running of the studio, but he was kept impotent by the powers that
be, starting with Leon, who was a funny little man. Have you been
told about Leon?
Barrier: He's always described as a dapper little man, and
there was some cologne that he wore that sticks in people's minds.
Turner: To shake hands with him, you took that scent to
the grave. He was a little, rotund guy, almost completely bald,
who combed his hair, as we all do, to cover it. A funny little guy;
he looked like a caricature. He had a speech impediment, a lispit
was "Sufferin' succotash," right down to his socks. Daffy
got it, and then Sylvester got it. You'd see Leon, and he'd be standing
there talking about the time clocks [lisping the "s"].
Everything was on time clocks there; if you were a minute late,
they docked you ten; a minute after that, they docked you twenty.
Ten minutes for every one minute over. It was a factory.
In '43, they put me on as in-betweener, and I was doing fine at
that. It gets kind of boring after a while. What started me in the
writing thing, I'd hear the writers, they were coming in latewe
had to be there, like I say, if we were there one minute after eight
we were docked ten minutes, and so on. I had to park on the street
and run for it, but they got to drive on the lot. The writers and
the directors got to drive on there, and they'd just walk in the
back of the building. Neat. I kept listening to the writers, and
they were always laughing; I think they had to hit the time clock,
too, but it seemed like they were late a lot. Whether they just
didn't care, or they didn't get docked, I don't know.
There was a bell that rang, kind of like at Alcatraz at dinner
time; that meant it was eight o'clock, or it was time for lunch.
You left on the bell and came back on the bell, and at five o'clock
the bell went off again, and everybody was lined up in the halls
waiting. It was like a stampede. That old building was like an old
barn; I don't know what it had been originally. There was a checker
there, an old man named Steve Milman; he was kind of palsied. He
checked all the stuff, but he wanted to seem more important, because
it was really mundane, what he was doing. I think this happened
just before I got there, but I remember they talked about it until
the day I left. He was sitting there at his desk, checking some
scenes, and a giant old-fashioned light fixture over his head gave
wayjust through age, I think. It came down and lit right on
his desk, missing him by the barest fraction, and really put him
into shock. The building was literally falling apart; it was like
a smelly old barn in there.
Did anybody ever tell you about Smokey [Garner]? He was a hillbillyilliterate.
He was paid in cash, because when he was back in the hills, the
federal people got after him about taxes, or moonshining, or something.
He somehow found his way out here, and he went to work for Schlesinger,
and he insisted that he be paid in cash. He reasoned that if you
paid in check, then you put out deductions, and the Social Security
number, and then the federal people would find it. It became a pain
in the ass to the bookkeeping department. They said, "Everybody
here's on salary, we have contracts, we have bookkeeping, and this
one guy we're [paying] out of the petty cash." So they finally
called him inJohnny got him in, and Leon, I guess, whoever
was in charge at that time, and they said, "Look, Smokey, honest,
honest, just because we pay you with a check, the federal people
won't come and take you away. It doesn't mean anything. You're just
one person in millions here in the United States, and if you sign
a check and turn it in, they're not going to know." They talked
him into it.
As luck would have it, about two weeks later the feds show up.
They'd been looking for him for years. It had no connection, of
course; and it was just a matter of a few questions. He wasn't ready
for Sing Sing or anything. But as he left to go to the office, he
was screaming, "I knew it!" It took months to calm him
down. Such a charactera hopeless alcoholic. He'd go in that
room, and when the red light was on, nobody could go in, and he'd
get drunk in there. But everybody knew it, and everybody loved him.
He had to fill out some form, and he could only barely write a little
bit. Warren Foster was helping him, and Warren came in to me, and
he said, "I've got to tell you the funniest thing. We just
filled out this information that the studio needsjust your
name, mother's maiden name, where you were born, Social Security
number, address, how old you are. Basic information." I said,
"How did he go?" He said, "He didn't know when he
was born, but we had it down to where he was in a gas station, changing
tires, at the age of three. So we did the best we could and turned
Getting back to my thingI heard all this laughing going along,
nothing but fun city, jam sessions, and the writers seemed to be
privileged characters. One day I walked in to Warren Foster and
said, "What do you have to do to be a writer around here?"
I was still across the hall, in-betweening in the [Robert] McKimson
unit, [Foster's] unit. Warren worked on a little riser, at an old
desk, in a Life magazine. He'd open the Life magazine,
put his sketches in there and draw, and if you came in, he'd close
the magazine. He wouldn't let you see what he was doing. You'd only
see it when he pinned it up on the board.
Barrier: He was that afraid of being?
Turner: I'll get to that in a minute. It was kind of an
unsure feeling; I don't know what it was born of. Because everybody
there certainly should have felt secure, with their talent.
Barrier: It was hard to get fired there, from all I've heard.
Turner: It was hard to get fired there. It was manageable,
though. You know about George Hill?
Barrier: He was the story man for [Art] Davis just before
you came along.
Turner: I replaced him; Bill [Scott] and I did. He had a
little trouble with the booze; and was from New York. Mike [Maltese]
and Warren knew him, from back in New York. They were all kind of
like gutter kidstough. Mike wasn't, but Warren was a tough
monkey, he really was. A real city kida gutter kid.
Warren looked up at meyou couldn't sit there eight hours
a day and just work; you couldn't. So he'd read the magazine, too.
If anybody came in, he used it as kind of a pad, a cushion, and
that became just a standard thing, that Warren worked in a Life
magazine. It had a double [purpose]. Warren was very crafty, very
street-wise, so he could close the book, and you couldn't see what
he was doing, or if Eddie Selzer came in, doing one of his surprise
patrols, you could start drawinghe was drawing inside the
Life magazine. When in fact, you were reading it until the guy came
through the door. Anyway, I said, "What do you have to do to
be a writer?" Warren looked up and said, "What have you
written?" I said, "Nothing." He said, "Go home
and write something." It hadn't occurred to me that I'd have
to do that. But I did. I went home, and I got a story; I knew enough
how to do most of it. I took it to Warren, and he said, "Okay;
not bad. I'm going to help you flesh it out a little bit, then you
go down, see Selzer, and see if you can do a jam session for everybody."
So I did; I wrote a story, and I went down, and they said, "Well,
yeah, we'll listen to it." Terrifying experience, because they
brought in all the directors, and all the writers, and Eddie Selzer
[Schlesinger's successor as head of the cartoon studio] and his
little secretary, who kept copious noteson what, I don't know,
but she was at his elbow all the time. Eddie was only about that
biga little Yosemite Sam. I never saw the man smile.
Barrier: Lloyd Vaughan [an animator for Chuck Jones] told
me Selzer particularly disliked you, for some reason.
Turner: He was a little tyrant, and he was riddled through
with insecurities. He never smiled, and he walked with his hands
down in his pockets in a kind of a shuffling gate, and he looked
up over his glasses, and he was so conscious of being little. It
was hard to like him, and I'm sure I did things that agitated him,
just unconsciously. So I'm not surprised. I'm not sure he liked
anybody; he didn't seem like the kind of a guy that liked his mother.
Barrier: When you did a jam session, was this that first
story you did with Bill Scott?
Turner: No, this was one I did all on my own.
Barrier: Was it made into a film?
Turner: I was just trying to think; I don't even remember
the title. I think it was Doggone Cats.
Barrier: That's the very first one you have screen credit
for, with Bill Scott.
Turner: I think it was pulled out of the bucket and we reworked
it and used thatI think. I did the jam session, almost had
a heart attack, nobody said anything, and I looked at Eddie, and
he [looked sour]. And I looked at the rest of the guys, and they
were allit didn't kill anybody, but it was a story, and it
worked. A couple of days later, [Selzer] called me down to his officethey
had a P.A. system, and they'd boom your name up and downand
he said, "If there's an opening, we'll give you a chance."
I was thrilled. George Hill was in there at that time, and he wasn't
getting along with Artie. Artie was insecure in the story end of
things. A neat guyI thought he was one of the more creative
guys theregood animator, and I was taken with his drawing;
I thought his drawing ability was excellent. He had a style that
I liked. Now, when I see some of that old Davis stuff, it doesn't
strike me that way, but at the time, I was very impressed.
Chuck Jones was really the strength there; he was the force, I
thought. I didn't have as much to do with Friz as I did with Chuck,
and I guess that's because of Mike. I adored Mike, right from the
beginning. He was less suspicious. [But] they were all suspicious.
When Bill and I went in thereI thought that they threw me
into the unit, I thought I was I was alone, and I wasn't ready for
this; I thought, what have you done? You have really stepped into
the deep water, and what are you going to do? Artie was a nervous
wreck. Here's an unknown kid, going to come in and be his writer?
He was spastic. Then, that Monday morningnobody told me about
itthis guy shows up at the door, and says, "Hi, my name
is Bill Scott, we're going to work together." I went over and
hugged him, and I said, "Thank God I'm not alone."
We spent the first week, I guess, getting acquainted. He was a
neat guy, very intellectual, very bright guy, very good artist,
much more literate than I, much more savvy, because he had been
in the Army, and he'd gone through a lot of filmmaking stuff. He
was many legs up on me in knowledge and experience, and he was very
strong. I was very lucky to have Bill. He was less inhibited than
I in the jam sessions; he was very outgoing, kind of a closet actor.
I guess you've heard the famous story of when we did our first one
Barrier: This was when you were doing the new version of
Turner: I guess it was. That isn't as clear as it should
be, I guess. But we worked on it and we got it together, and all
the time we were doing this, Ted Pierce would come up and he'd stand
in front of our storyboard. He called us "juniors""Well,
juniors, what are you guys up to?" He's looking for something
funny, you know. "Um-hmm," and he'd walk out, wouldn't
say anything. Mike came up a couple of times, and he's got little
pieces of paper, and he's throwing them at us"juniors"
again. "Well, juniors, how you doing?" Warren came in,
he looked at it. Warren was kind of helpful, though; Warren came
in and gave us a couple of gags and laughed at a couple of things,
and he said [in regard to some gag or piece of business], "This'll
never work." Warren was good.
Barrier: That's funny, because Warren does come across as,
as you say, suspicious
Turner: Very. Paranoid. You've got to really protect yourself.
Barrier: How was that consistent withwere you guys
just so young and so new?
Turner: He liked me. He was my mentor. He saw something
in me that wasI don't know, young brash kid, could have been
his brother, could have been his kid. He was a lot older than I
was. But he was helpful. Did not like Bill Scott at all. Bill was
too outgoing, and was not intimidated by anybody, and very bright,
very sure of himself, very cocky. I think Warren resented that.
He was afraid of Bill. I said to Warren, "Why all this sneaking
around looking at what's on our board with these guys downstairs?"
He would laughhe had a ready laughand he said, "Because
new blood is dangerous around here. We don't take to new blood."
Who knows, we might have become the hottest team since Hecht and
MacArthur, and they were all suspicious of that.
Anyway, somehow we got our first story done, pinned up, and we
prepared to jam it. The day came, everybody came in, including Eddie
Selzer and his funny little lady with a pad and pencil. He sat in
the front, and everybody surrounded him. Bill told the story, and
there wasn't a laugh, there wasn't a reaction, there was nothing.
The other guys, like Tedhe was a real bastard. He'd sit there
looking out the window, anything to show disinterest, that attitude
through the entire thing. The rest of them kind of just sat there.
Eddie, you never got anything out of him. So when it finished, not
a sound. I looked at Bill, and Bill looked at me, and we thought,
well, so soon our careers end. After this pause that must have gone
on for three and a half hours, it seemed likeand of course,
Artie Davis is sitting there, and he's the guy we wrote it for,
and he's just sitting there looking from one to the other, he's
terrified, he's sweating, he's got a bum story, he just knows it,
nobody likes it, we're bums, he's going to be a bum, he's going
to get firedand Chuck Jones stood up and said, "Well,
if nobody else wants it, I'll take it," and walked out. And
then the room came alive. Everybody started to pitch in, and they
had ideas. And then Artie, all of a sudden...
Barrier: It was okay.
Turner: Well, yes, but he didn't know. It was okay; it was
a funny story.
Barrier: But that was his feelinghey, it's okay.
Turner: Yeah, that's right; they had to tell him. Artie
was good to us for a couple of days after that. Then, when it came
time for the next production, they passed out the next numberit
was to be a Daffy Duck or something. They started us out on a miscellaneous,
and I think the second one was What Makes Daffy Duck.
Barrier: In the order of the production numbers, the next
one was The Stupor Salesman.
Turner: The Stupor Salesmanbig tough guy goes
up to a cabin to hide out, Daffy comes by with all kinds of stuff
to sell him; he doesn't want to be bothered, and Daffy's being obnoxious.
Then, nothing stands out, other than just coming to work and trying
to get through another day. Bill and I got along great; I was in
awe of Bill's talent.
Barrier: How did you two work together?
Turner: Like you and I are sitting here. Sit and talk. Then
we split the sketches up, Bill'd take half and I'd take half.
Barrier: Thinking about story work, it seems to me that
it would be the kind of work where everything would go real fast,
or you just wouldn't be able to get anything going. So you'd either
get a story done in nothing flat, or you'd be sitting around for
days trying to think of something.
Turner: Feast or famine.
Barrier: Was that the way it worked, ordinarily?
Turner: Yeah, but if I were doing it now, I could do them
in a day. We made it much harder than it was. When you've got the
situationthey called us gag men; we were gag men, we weren't
writers in those days. And that's where Warren was good. He'd get
a good situation, like the little Henery Hawk who didn't have it
clear in his mind what a chicken was, so Claghorn [Foghorn Leghorn]
could con him. Then he came up with the kangaroo, which was passed
off as a giant mouse. Lot of fun with that, because the cat is getting
killed by the playful little thing.
Barrier: He came up with things that could be repeated in
a number of cartoons.
Turner: Yes, it's a running gag. It wasn't really a plot,
it was a situation. And simple stuff.
Barrier: You said that you made it harder for yourself than
necessary; what do you mean?
Turner: We used to struggle to get that far.
Barrier: To get a situation?
Turner: Just to get a situation. Mike had it down: The simplest
thing in the world is, A wants to eat B. But you could only do that
so many timesexcept when, suddenly, A and B are not a cat
and a mouse. When A is a little baby chicken hawk, trying to find
B, a chicken. We know chicken hawks eat chickens, but he's a baby
chicken hawk, and he doesn't know. So it's A wanting to eat B, but
it's not a cat and a mouse. Then you go another step: It's a half-starved
coyote. Warren had it, too; Warren would sit there, and he wouldn't
tell you. He was very protective in that area. When he'd get something,
he cloistered it. Mike, on the other hand, was very open. You'd
go down, [and say] "What are you working on?" "I've
got a funny idea!" He was very animated, and fun to talk to,
and fun to listen to. He'd tell you, he was very opennot Warren.
Barrier: Phil Monroe [an animator for Chuck Jones] said
of Mike that whether you wanted him to or not, he'd go through the
Turner: Oh, yeah, sure. He was looking for reaction, or
lack of reaction. And he liked the strokes; if you broke up at a
joke, that's fun.
Barrier: He was a performer.
Turner: He was so much fun to listen to, just talking. He
did imitations all the time, he was always doing Cagney, and he
had just enough moves on a time step, so he almost looked like he
could tap dance. To show you how his mind worked, he took a little
matchbox, and he drew on it, and when he finished, it looked like
a tiny drum. I walked in, and he was putting the finishing touches
on this thing. I said, "What are you doing, Mike?" "I'm
making a drum." "A drum?" "Yeah, watch."
He reached over and pulled out a box of kitchen matches, wooden
ones, and he took them like little tiny drumsticks, and he made
a little time beat on there. Gags like that. Then Chuck would come
in, and [Mike]'d have a bunch of little pieces of paper, and on
the paper was written "THAT," on each piece. He'd come
up to you, and he'd say, "Take THAT and THAT and THAT,"
and then he'd circle you: "And THIS." That was a variation.
I was going through my stuff one day, and I came across a pair
of yellow dice that were Mike's. He used to keep them in his room,
and we'd play for the change in our pockets. He'd just see me come
in the doorwe'd migrate around, seeing what the other guy's
doingand out would come the dice, with that look. They were
his lucky dice. Well, his lucky dice turned out to be the greatest
thing that ever happened to me. He couldn't beat me with his lucky
dice, so it became the challenge of a lifetime. I made more lunch
money off of him. I got to be flip about it, because he was talking
to them, and putting them in a cupand nothing. Snake eyes.
One day he took the dice, and he pulled my pocket open, and he said,
"Herethey're your dice, they have been all along."
And he gave them to me. Years go by, and I was looking through a
drawerI don't even know what I was doingand I found
the dice. I called him, and I said, "Mike, I was going through
my stuff, and I came across a pair of dice." He remembered
the whole thing; he said, "You're probably wealthy by now with
those things." I've still got them sitting in there. Dear Mike,
what a sweet guy he was. And I loved Warren. Warren helped me a
hell of a lot.
Barrier: It's really striking to me that he was so helpful
to you and yet generally so suspicious.
Turner: Of everybody, except he adored Mike. He wouldn't
turn his back on Ted. Ted was not a very nice person. But Ted was
an eccentric; a lot you forgave because it was Ted. Ted would come
in, and he was a very heavy drinker and a heavy smoker, so he was
kind of dirty all the time. He had a camel's-hair coat that must
have cost a lot of dough, and it had spots all over it; and his
shirta white shirt, originallyhad one collar up like
this, and ring around the collar, and it was frayed a little bit;
and a tie that had not been untiedit had been loosened, taken
off, and hung, and then put back on. But the tie was on. All this
dirty shirt, and a wrinkled old suit, shabby shoes with obviously
dirty socks, unbathedbut a little fresh carnation in his lapel.
Even on a hot day, he's wearing this damned camel's-hair coat; that
was the rage in the twenties, with John Barrymore. Ted had one of
those; and he had a convertible that had long since shredded and
fallen apart. He'd come in hung over, dirty, and full of ashes,
and he'd make the rounds. He wanted to know what was on your storyboard.
He was very suspicious of you, and if you had a good gag up there,
it would set him into a lachrymose attitude for days. He'd kind
of grunt at you.
There was an "in" bar across the street, called Brittingham's,
and it was where all the famous and near-famous went. It was a famous
watering hole, right next to KNXT radio at the time; it was a restaurant
and bar, and it was always the thing to go to "Brit's."
Ted lived there, and he was a martini drinkerall day, all
night, martinis, with olives. He had to go to the dentisthe
was one of those guys who let his teeth go, of course, and they
looked bad, and he had bad breath. He finally, just through pain,
had to go get something done. When he came back to the studio, I
was sitting in Warren's office, and Ted came in and said, "Well,
I made it, I lived through it." Warren laughed and said, "Did
you cry? Did they give you a lollipop?" "No." "Well,
how did it go?" "In the tooth that was bad, they found
a pimento." Which was pure Ted.
He came in one morninghis office was downstairs, but he came
in, and he came upstairs. There was Warren's office, and when I
was writing my office was next to [Warren], then Artie, then down
[the hall] to McKimson; then he went downstairs, and there was Chuck
and then Friz. Ted would always come in the front, turn left, go
up the two flights of stairs, come by Warren's office, and if Warren
was alone in there, he'd say hello to Warren, and he'd go to my
office"Good morning, junior"and then downI
don't think he talked to Artieand say hello to Bob [McKimson],
then he'd go [downstairs]. He always did that.
This one morning, I happened to be sitting talking with Warren,
and Ted comes in and he's got this big bandage on his ear. He looks
awfulbig dark circles, dirty, needs a shave. Later than all
of us; we were all late from time to time, but Ted was really late.
He'd come in at 9:30. So he stuck his head in, and said, "Good
morning, gentlemen"still that pompous "good morning""how
are we this morning?" We said, "Well, how are you? You
look awful." He said, "I feel horrible." He had the
little fresh flower, you know. And he walked off. I looked at Warren
and I said, "There's more to that than just getting drunk last
night. What's the big bandage on his head?" So he said, "Let's
go down and find out."
We zipped downstairs, and went in, and Ted was taking off his
overcoat, with a rumpled, dirty old suit underneath. We said, "What
happened to the ear? You don't tell us anything." He was drunk,
we knew that; "Wanda [Pierce's girlfriend] probably beat the
living bejesus out of you, but did she get you in the ear?"
He said, "No, a monkey bit me." And he sat down. I looked
at Warren, and we said, "Come on, don't jerk us around. What
happened to you?" "I'm telling you, a monkey bit me. I
had to go get shots." He was very out of sorts. It turned out
that was exactly what happened. He was over in Brit's drinking,
and some guy comes in with a pet monkey on his shoulder, and he's
feeding it popcorn at the bar. It took a dislike to Tedjust
instant dislike. It bared its teeth, and it bristled, and it reached
over and got his ear and [bit] right through his ear. We thought
it was all a joke, but it was absolutely true. The only guy in the
world who could get bitten by a monkey in the middle of Hollywood.
I know he liked Mike, and Mike liked him. [But] nobody trusted
him, because he couldn't be trusted. And he did some funny things;
[but] of the writers, he was the least creative.
You could always expect a fun time and a damned good story out
of Warren and Mike. Warren was very good at telling a story, and
he was a giggler; he would get a big kick out of his jokes. Well-founded,
they were funny. And he'd kind of slip into his New York thing.
He had more of a Brooklyn accent; he almost went into character
when he told the story. But it wasn't one of the characters, it
was Warren's New York side. And it was charming, this Brooklynese
kind of thing. He'd giggle, and he'd lead you up to a gag; he had
a good sense of timing. When things didn't work, he was able to
ad lib something apropos for the dead spots. Most people in the
room had something to contribute; there wasn't any bum-rapping.
Even Ted didn't try to put [Warren] down. He wouldn't get away with
it, with Warren, for one thing; Warren was a tough monkey, and you
just got the feeling you don't fool with Warren.
Barrier: Of course, the way he managed to switch from McKimson
to Freleng was an indication of that. Did you hear about that? That
was after you left, of course.
Turner: Warren kept pretty much in touch with me; he would
call me from time to time, and we'd arrange to meet somewhere for
a few drinks. Warren always had a strategy. Nothing escaped him;
he was very sharp, and he really had a strong sense of survival.
He suspected a booby trap behind every door; and there usually was
Barrier: So he'd be working ahead to get them before they
Turner: Always. And he would. He was very secretive in his
stuff, he always held back. He always seemed to trust Mike; he adored
Mike. He was in awe of Mike, and he really appreciated Mike for
what he was. Mike wasn't devious; he was without guile. Mike had
his little slyness, too, his little secrets, but it was always a
harmless, gentle thing. Mike was a wonderful guy, and Warren was
a wonderful guy. Warren was just a more complex sort of a guy, and
he was prone to uptightness. It came out when he drank. When Warren
would drink, he would get very strong-minded, and you couldn't do
anything with him. Try to keep from driving, for instance, when
you knew he shouldn't. You'd have had to fight him to stop him.
I'd even get to the point where I'd hide his keys. But you didn't
hide things from Warren; he knew where they were. He was acting
like he didn't see, or didn't know, but he knew where they were.
And then he'd sit and laugh, with that funny scrunched-up way he
had. He was something else. But he was just like a big brother to
me; he protected me, and gave me advice, and steered me.
Barrier: He obviously could have been a dangerous opponent
if he had not felt about you that way.
Turner: Oooh! When I went there, I was 19, or something;
I was there like 19, 20, 21, in my really early years. I was just
a punk kid, I really was. Warren was probably in his forties. A
twenty-year spanthat's a lot. I remember I got to calling
him "Dad." We'd date together; we'd get a couple of girls
from the hutch [Turner's nickname for the cartoon studio], and we'd
date them. There was one girl in particular, a very pretty girl,
that he'd latch onto, and I had a gal from the outside who worked
at MGM, named Junie something. We'd double-date; we'd go bowling,
or to dinner and bowling, or drinking, or whatever. We were like
buddies, like a couple of sailors on liberty. A lot of fun. We got
together on double dates, went to his apartment and cooked, and
we went out to dinner, and we were around together a lot, and I
was calling him "Dad." "Hey, Dad, pass the salt,
will you?"you know, being smart-ass, flip and slick with
the dialogue, and showing off for the girls.
I remember particularly we were bowling at this place down on Vermont,
which was across from a restaurant we used to go to a lot, called
the Blarney Stone, or something like that; gave you huge big steaks,
big as your fist. So I'm into this thing of calling Warren "Dad"I
don't even realize it, it's just a pet name I've picked up. The
next day, or the next week when we went to work, he came in, and
he sat down, and he started to giggle. I said, "You're getting
ready to tell me something. What is it?" He said, "I want
you to cool it with the `Dad' thing. I'm out with this girl, she's
only twenty-something, and you're calling me `Dad.' Find another
name. You know, I could be your father, and that's just a nice way
of calling you something." I roared. I didn't realize it was
tweaking him. He was the old man of the group, and everybody else
was in their twenties. I thought it was smart; I had no idea it
was twitting him.
He finally met this older woman, a bit more where he was at the
time, and they got very hot and heavy. She set her hooks out to
get him, and the first thing to get Warren was to get rid of me,
because we were too close. I was up all the time, calling him at
compromising times, and coming up for dinner and eating the whole
roastlike we had done, Warren and I. She saw me as a pain
in the ass; she didn't need me in that relationship at all. So she
had him fix that; he had to get me aside and explain the secrets
of life and all that. He was trying to explain that I no longer
fit in as close pals, because he's got a relationship now, and I'm
playing the field. It was different; and he did it very nicely.
It was hard for him, because he was emotionally tied up with me;
I was like his kid, or his brother.
Anyway, I did see him from time to time, and we would meet for
drinks, and various things. But he said, "Boy, I got into it
last night?" "What happened?" "I was over at
Shirley's apartment, and her daughter by her first marriage and
this kid come over." He's a young man, 25 or 30, he's young
and he's tough, and Warren's in his forties. The kid starts hassling
him, giving him a lot of verbal abuse, so Warren told the kid, "Listen,
I'm not going to sit here and listen to your claptrap. You shut
your mouth, or I'm going to take you out on that front lawn and
shut it for you." What? Warren said that? And the kid stood
up and said, "You're going to have to show me that one, pop."
Warren said he took the guy out on the lawn and he just beat the
living daylights out of him. And he was a tough, young, big guy.
Warren didn't have a mark on him. I mean, you don't go around getting
into fights when you're in your forties. You win if you walk away,
has always been my philosophy. But Warren said he'd just had this
kid up to here, and it hadn't been the first time. So, he said,
"I was ready to fix him." And he did. Boy, I was impressed.
We had a jumping contest one time. A friend of ours was putting
in his own pool, and he had the hole dug in the back. A big dirt
hole, right? So we went down to what was to be the deep end, and
the shallow end, and there wasn't much room from the fence to get
a run, but we started fooling around [to see] who could jump the
farthest. I'm a young guy, built like a steel spring, and I spring
off there like a gazelle, and I make a spectacular airborne flight
that must have lasted 45 minutes. A buddy of mine, same thing. Tough
young guys, you know, really in prime condition. "Okay, Warren,
give it your best shot." He came off of that thing, and he
left us so far behind. I mean, he was strong. I was astounded. He
was a tough guy; you could grab him by the arm, and it was like
steel. He never exercised, he never did anything. He was just a
tough New York kid; I guess he fought his way up through the streets
Barrier: I wish I knew more about his background.
Turner: He used to play the piano on the radio. He was a
pretty good piano player.
Barrier: In New York?
Barrier: He told you about this?
Turner: Well, yeah. We'd go to somebody's house who had
a piano, and I was great for getting somebody who could play the
bass, and I was learningwe'd do "The Twelfth Street Rag."
Warren was listening to me pound out one of my memorized tunes one
time, and he said, "I'll give you a new one." He showed
me the chords to "Ain't Misbehavin'," and then he played
the bass, and we played it. My God, he could play that piano! Then
he did some stuff by himself. I said, "Where did this come
from?" and he told me that earlier on, he had been kind of
like Gene Austin on a local radio station in New York. He was making
a living as a piano player. Two bucks a night, or a day, or something
like that, very minimal, with no notoriety, but he did that. How
he segued into gag writing, how he ended up at Fleischer, what he
did before that, I don't know.
He smoked a lot, and drank a lot; he was smoking the last time
I saw him. I was a heavy smoker, and I quit in 1968. But Warren
kept right on doing it. I don't recall Mike smoking. Ted did, of
course; Ted did everything. He was totally decadent; he was like
John Barrymore in his waning years. I'm convinced Ted was capable
Barrier: In jam sessions, you said Warren was charming when
he was telling a board, but I get a sense that Mike was on a different
Turner: Mike was shy. In a one-on-one situation, he was
very outgoing and friendly and comfortable. But I got the feeling
that Mike was a little shy. But he was very good, and he was funny.
Chuck added a lot to that, because Chuck was a good gag man, and
he loved to laugh; he'd laugh at his own stuff, he'd laugh at your
stuff. He added a lot of spirit. Mike's story meetings were always
a lot of fun, I think in part because Chuck was so positive.
Barrier: I'm surprised you would say that Mike was shy,
because everything I've read and heard about him was that he was
just a wonderful performer in front of the storyboards.
Turner: Oh, he was. But there was a little-boy shyness there,
also. Yeah, he was a performer. In fact, he was the kind of a guyremember
I told you he'd learned just enough to fake a tap dance? It looked
like he was doing it. Crosby used to do it, when Hope and Crosby
danced together. Mike could break into this little tap dance that
was utterly charming; he only had about four moves, but they were
good ones. He would use thatlike he'd be telling the story,
and the story is dying, it isn't working. Everybody's starting to
feel for him, because now he's selling harder. He always did. You're
[the story man telling the board] starting to laugh more yourself,
that's a sure sign it's dying, when you're the only one laughing.
He's pointing to the thing, and he's acting it outand nothing's
happening. Just silence. So all of a sudden, Mike would start to
dance. I mean, he's not selling the story, he's got to do something.
That cracked everybody up. The story needed help, and then he'd
get it, you see, because he broke that tension.
I don't remember so much about Ted, except that he would smoke
[when he was going through a storyboard in a jam session]. He would
change character, too, he would get kind of this gravelly voice.
[It was] okay, his story work; he presented it well. I really don't
know who was the best. It was always a bright part of the month
for me when I'd go down and get to see one of their things. Plus
I'd learn. Bill and I were learning fast, and there was a lot to
learn; and there wasn't too much volunteer work going on, trying
to help the juniors. We're young blood, remember? If we had proved
to be really firecrackers, it's very possible Ted would have been
thrown out. But if Ted went, who came in? There weren't that many
writers running around that could do this stuff. So I could see
the feeling. Warren, until he found out that he and I were going
to be close friends, he held me like that. Mike never did; Mike
was very open about it. He would come in and look at my storyboard
and say, "If you've got anything funny here, you're in giant
trouble." He would do his Cagney: "Mister, anything funny
here, you're gone." He'd read and say, "Ah, you're okay,
there's nothing funny there." How can you not love a guy like
I think we were given a monthfour weeks to do [a story].
As I say, we must have made it really hard, because it doesn't take
a month to do a ten-minute [cartoon].
Barrier: There must have been time to do a lot of polishing.
Turner: Well, yeah, there was a lot of talking and stuff
went on. I think the biggest time-consumer was trying to get something
different. Things tended to look a little alike after awhile, and
you were always fighting to get something new. You would be given
a Bugs, and a Daffy, and about every other script you were given
a miscellaneousthat means, anything you want to do. Hopefully,
striking upon a new character.
Barrier: Who was specifying which characters had to be used?
Turner: Johnny Burton. After you'd finish a picture, you'd
go down and he'd give you a production number. That's the first
thing you'd put up on the board, the production number and what
it wasa miscellaneous, a Daffy, a Bugs. You'd take a little
piece of paper and pushpin that up in the upper lefthand corner.
That was your assignment. Then you'd sit down and you'd say, "What
the hell are we going to do?" Like happened somewhere along
the line, I guess it was Mike [who] said, "Let's do a skunk
story." He figured it out where the cat is being beaten up
by the dog, so as a deterrent he goes and paints a white stripe
down his back, and he paints himself up with limburger cheese. So
when the dog goes out and is going to kill him, the cat goes out
and scares the dog to death because he's a skunk now; he smells
bad and he's got a white stripe. Brilliant; now he's safe. Not so:
He goes just a few blocks away and he meets a horny skunk, and so
Pepe le Pew is trying to screw him for years. And he's a guy! Think
of the richness of that situation. To protect himself, skunk. Safe?
No. Horny skunk comes along. And he's a guy; it wouldn't have worked
anyway. But look at how much happened. They thought of that; it
Barrier: Ted Pierce has screen credit on that cartoon [The
Odor-able Kitty], and I remember Mike complaining that he had
gotten cheated out of screen credit.
Turner: I saw Mike come up with that. Mike came up with
itnot Ted Pierce. They may have worked together; Ted had probably
had a lot to contribute.
Barrier: Mike was clearly still resentful about that, thirty
Turner: Well, he should have been. It was a very bright
I remember Mike was going through a pixie thing; it was kid-around
time, and he called me on the phone [and said], "I got a new
one for you." So I go down, and Chuck'd be there, laughing,
and I'd go in and say, "What have you got?" He said, "It's
a guy who's queer for flies." He acts it out. He's in the park,
and he gets the little fly, and he spreads its little legs, and
he looks around [to make sure] he's alone, then he takes a hair
[and penetrates the fly with it]. You know, pixie stuff like that.
He had several others like that. Then he talked about a horny skunk;
he was thinking about it.
Barrier: This was when you were still in-betweening, I guess.
Turner: No, I was a writer then.
Barrier: The very first [Pepé le Pew] he did came
out in '45. Of course, he did a lot more later, while you were still
Turner: Well, we're talking about when I just had becomewhen
did I start writing?
Barrier: It must have been '46. Clampett left around May
Turner: Okay, you're right, I was still in-betweening then.
Barrier: Dave Monahan worked for Davis for about a year.
Turner: That's right; Dave was good, too.
Barrier: George Hill was in for one picture, then you guys
Turner: You're right, because I remember when Clampett left....
I was in-betweening when Clampett left so I didn't start writing,
I guess, until, what did you say it was, '46? Mike and I had become
friends through Warren, because Mike and Warren were pretty close.
Barrier: Mike had gotten Warren his job at the studio, evidently.
Turner: That's right; had him come out. Warren did some
Popeyes and stuff, didn't he, at Fleischer's? George Hill, they
got him out, too. George was a real sweet guy, and he was too literate
for that job. He was very well read, he had a wonderful vocabulary.
Artie made it tough on anybody new in there. Artie was so insecure,
I don't care who went in there, they were going to have problems
Barrier: Hill had been working at Warners for a while before
he replaced Dave Monahan, hadn't he?
Turner: I remember he came in as a writer, and that's when
I first became aware of him. I don't think he'd been doing anything
else there. I think he came in as a writer, from New York.
Barrier: I've seen pictures taken at the studio in early
'45, and he was in one of those pictures, but I've never seen any
credit for him except on that one Davis cartoon.
Turner: My first awareness of George was when I went to
work for Artie. I was in-betweeningwell, of course, because
[Turner became a writer] when they fired [Hill]did you hear
the circumstances on which he was [fired]? He was pretty good on
the sauce, too, and he would sneak out and go across the street
to a little bar called the Ski Room. I don't remember the name of
that street; it was the back gate, where you drove in and drove
out, with the guard there. It was Van Ness, and then the next street
over, like Fountain. Right across the street, at Fountain and Sunset,
there was a little bar; it was there for years. Anyway, George would
sneak over there and have drinks. He was so frustrated, because
Artie wouldn't buy anything, no matter what he put up on the board,
Artie would come in and say, "I don't know...I don't think
this is working." So George would take it down and try something
else. Nothing he did seemed to work. Selzer was suspicious; he'd
go in to see George, and he was in the tank. He knew he was getting
it somewhere, and he was laying for him.
One day, George had a session with Artie, and Artie stripped him
of his pride, or whatever. George went out the back door and across
the lot, and out, past the guard. Everybody liked George, except
Selzer; nice guy, there wasn't anything not to like there. He was
not a predator like Ted. So he went over and he got all tanked up.
He's staggering back onto the lot, and he gets right at the gate,
and here comes Eddie Selzer, in his chauffeur-driven car, coming
in. George is standing there talking to the guard, blasted out of
his head. The guard grabs George and shoves him down in his guard
shack and says, "Stay there." Pushes him down below that
little counter. Eddie drives up, and for some reason stops and talks
to the guard for a minute. George gets up, and [thumbs his nose
and gives Selzer the razzberry]. So, when he gets back, of course,
"George Hill, office." He was let go, instantly. It was
a great relief. I talked to him afterwards, talked to his wife,
and she said, "We've got to get back to New York. He hasn't
been happy since we've been out here." So they left, and I
never heard any more about him. Then I got my call saying, "We're
going to give you a shot. As of Monday, you're going to be our writer."
Barrier: You said Hill had trouble getting Artie to buy
anything. Did you run into that situation very often when you and
Bill were working together?
Turner: He always gave himself an [out], like, "Well,
I don't know, it's your responsibility." The other guys, Chuck
would come in and say, "Hey, I got a gag!" But ArtieI
don't remember him ever contributing anything like that. All he
did was come in and act insecure, which made us insecure. We're
the junior writers, and we knew we were on trial there, at best.
We went through the stages; I think the Guild said you had to start
out at 75 bucks a week, and then, if you lasted so many days, or
months, whatever, you went to stage two, and into the journeyman
end of things, and finally you became a writer. I think it was 135
bucks a week when you finally hit the scale. The other guys, the
old-timers that had been there, of course, had negotiated upwards
of $200 a week, which was a lot of dough in those days.
Barrier: So if you'd gone back to being an in-betweener,
you would have taken
Turner: Twenty-seven bucks a week!
Barrier: a big pay cut.
Turner: Oh, yeah. I think when you finally went through
your thing there, it worked out to about thirty-seven bucks a week,
from 135. I couldn't spend it. So going back was a pride thing,
and it was the money, and I didn't like Eddie. I thought, if I do
that, I'm liable to end up being an animator, and I decided I didn't
want to do that. I didn't see anybody there that I wanted to trade
Barrier: It sounds like Artie wouldn't commit himself to
your storyboards, but would just hang back and let you guys go out
Turner: That's exactly right. It made us very nervous. I
never disliked Artie; I liked Artie. He's a nice guy. It made me
nervous that he didn't support us, and he didn't take the attitude
"We're in this together, guys. Good, bad, or indifferent, we're
going to rise or fall together." I'd have liked that. It would
have helped us a lot. We would probably have gone a long way toward
competing better than we did. But he didn't, and eventually he's
Barrier: I met him one time, and I liked him, but I got
the feeling that this was a guy who'd gotten kicked around over
Turner: Well, apparently. Nobody really hated Artie, but
nobody really liked him. I'll tell you a Rod Scribner story. Rod
was thoroughly crazy; you know that. He ended up in a looney hatch
somewhere; burned down his house and did a lot of bizarre things.
Rod was a weird guy. Artie'd been on his ass a lotno, I beg
your pardon, it wasn't Artie. He was still with McKimson.
Barrier: Scribner was in Clampett's unit when Davis took
over, but he went immediately into McKimson's unit. Then he was
out for about two years with TB, and he came back
Turner: Into McKimson's. It must have been the brief exposure
he had with Artie; something ticked him off with Artie. He was always
bum-rapping him, even though he wasn't working with him. Anyway,
Rod was very irresponsible, and would do anything. Anything he did
wouldn't really shock you. We were going out the back door, through
the lot, going to lunch, a group of us; Rod and I were hanging back.
We see Artie go into the phone booth, right there by Johnny Burton's
officejust a phone booth, sitting in the hall. It's not attached,
except a few wires going into the wall. Rod elbowed me and said,
"Watch me fix Davis." So he goes around to the other side
of the phone booth and gets it, and tips it at a 45-degree angle.
Inside that booth, it sounded like a bomb had exploded. Knees, elbows.
Scared Artie absolutely to death. Rod tips it back up, laughing
like he was possessed, and he runs out the door. Davis comes out
of therehe was petrifiedand what he saw was Rod running
and laughing. Oh, he was really mad. They gave each other a wide
berth for a while; but that was Rod. It was kind of an unfunny prank.
Barrier: With real hostility behind it. When you'd see the
cartoons Artie made from your stories, what was your reaction?
Turner: They don't hold up.
Barrier: At the time?
Turner: I thought they were better than what I see now.
Barrier: But when you were at the studio back in the forties,
and you'd just been working on the story
Turner: We'd finished one, and went down and looked at it?
I was thrilled. I had nothing to relate to. I thought everything
worked, I thought the animation was wonderful, I thought they were
sensational. And so did Bill. We were thrilled. When you finished
a picture, the whole studio was taken down to the projection room,
and we sat there and viewed it. Everybody got to see it. And we
were very proud. But now I see 'em, and I think, those look dated.
A lot of them don't; the Jones stuff, Jones and Mike, and some of
Ted's stuff holds up great, and Warren's stuff, even with McKimson,
it's funny stuff. But some don't.
Barrier: The thing that strikes me about so many of Artie's
cartoons is that they start off like gangbusters, and I don't know
what Artie did, but it seems as though, instead of the gags fitting
together in some kind of rhythm that really makes them work nicely,
the gags stand there kind of naked and alone. There's one you did
called Riff Raffy Daffy, with Daffy as a bum trying to find
a place to sleep who winds up in a department store, and Porky's
Turner: He was just trying to find a place a sleep. Well,
see, that's pretty thin.
Barrier: It didn't start off that way, though. It seems
so often that a more confident director would have made it all hang
Turner: Chuck would have made it into a better picture.
It needed some rewriting. It shows you what I thought of itI
don't really clearly remember it, but as I remember, it needed a
little fleshing out. But, see, Chuck would have come in, and he'd
have spotted that, and he would have sat down with us, and he would
have said, "What can we do right here?" He'd have sensed
that, as a good director, and we'd have worked on itI think.
I'm just second-guessing, but Artie sure didn't go beyond what we
Barrier: That's an interesting point. So he didn't plus
Turner: No, he was good with the animators, it seemed. At
least his starting positions and his draftsmanshipI was always
thrilled with that. He was very good at that. We had adjoining rooms,
and I could hear him explaining what he wanted from the animator.
I wasn't too aware of him being abusive or putting people down;
I did hear him do that, I heard him flipping scenes later and saying,
"This isn't what I wanted, at all."
Barrier: What contact would you have with the animators
in the unit?
Turner: I'd in-betweened long enough that Iit was
kind of the way you survived there, you moved around from room to
room, talked to people, saw what other pictures were being done,
go into where they're making the backgrounds, go to the other units.
So I got to know [animators] who were downstairs in a whole other
unit, like Lloyd Vaughan and Ken Harris, Manny Gould, Bill Melendez.
Even though they were in other units downstairs, in the other end
of the building, over a year or so I got to know everybody in the
studio. That was my contact with the animators. The more intimate
ones were in my unit.
Barrier: When you finished a board, I assume Artie went
through it for the animators. Would you sit in on that?
Turner: The first thing we'd do when we finished a board,
of course we had the jam session. Following the jam session, there'd
be changes, there would be suggestions, there'd be this, there'd
be that. Then the confusion would start. Artie wouldn't really know
whether this joke that had been suggested was better; more often
than not, he thought it was. Anything different from what we had
done was better. Sometimes we'd argue; Bill especially was very
ballsy in that. I was kind of afraid to speak out. Bill would say,
"No, no, no. That isn't as funny as" I was always
kind of afraid to get that bold with him; I was easily shouted down.
I wasn't as sure of myself.
Bill was cocksure, and probably, that's why, when they [separated
Scott and Turner and had each man write a story on his own, which
led to Scott's being fired], they took me. Bill said, "This
is it, boy." I was too dumb to know what was happening, but
he pointed it out. He said, "One of us isn't going to be here
pretty soon." It was just that cold-blooded. They split us
up, they put him downstairs with Friz, and left me where I was.
I did one, and he did one, and he helped me with mine, and I helped
him with his. We were very good friends; I didn't want to split
up, I didn't want to be alone.
Barrier: Was he actually working for Friz as his story man
at that point?
Turner: He did a story for Friz, which Friz didn't like.
Nobody liked it particularly. I think Bill was so outspoken that
he made certain people very nervous, and they figured, if you have
to keep a dummy, they may as well keep me. I was the least trouble.
Barrier: "Certain people"? You mean management,
or other story people?
Turner: I don't think management cared. I think Eddie Selzer
just wanted to cut the salaries by one half, and I don't think he
liked Bill any more than he liked me. He didn't like either one
of us, really. I think it was Artie, and I think it was other people
Bill had been outspoken with. Warren didn't like him; he called
him "that brash punk." I'm sure Warren had a big voice.
Anyway, it was just cold-blooded whapexcept dear Chuck. He
got hold of Bill and he said, "I heard about a job that you
might fit right into, at Jerry Fairbanks, a thing called 'Speaking
of Animals.'" Bill went over, and the next thing I knew, he
was working over there. Thanks to Chuck. Which was kind of nice;
it was a better job than the one he left. I kind of wished I was
over there. It wasn't too long after thatoh, boy, being alone
in there was worse than the two of us. Artie'd come in and intimidate
Barrier: You did some good stuff when you were by yourself,
like Dough Ray Me-ow, with the cat who was so dumb he couldn't
remember to breathe.
Turner: Oh, yeah; Heathcliff was his name.
Barrier: Then Odor of the Day, with the skunk, and
Holiday for Drumsticks, where Daffy persuades the turkey
to stay skinny. That was the last one you had screen credit on,
and then the last one Davis directed, called Bye Bye Bluebeard
Turner: That's because a guy named Sid Marcus came in.
Barrier: Now, did you work on that one, too?
Turner: No, when I finished the Daffy one, as I recall,
Warren came to me and said, "Get ready for a shock." I
said, "What?" He said, "Things are not well. They're
having meetings, and Artie's down there. Artie's on the frying pan;
they're not happy with what he's doing, and he's laying it off on
you pretty heavy. So don't be surprised if something happens."
I said, "What's the worst scenario you can think of?"
He said, "Probably going back to in-betweening." As I
recall, he pegged it. I said, "I don't want to do that."
He said, "Well, what do you want to do?" I'd been over
to Hanna and Barbera at MGM, and I'd talked to them, during my tenure
there; I wasn't all that happy with Warner Bros. Bill Hanna was
very, very nice to me, and implied that he would maybe be of some
help some day. So I was confident that I could leave there and go
right to MGM, and do stories over there. Or at least get a job there,
and when something came up do stories there. So I really quit Warners.
Eddie called me down and said, "It's either go back to in-betweening
or you're out."
Barrier: Oh, so this was even before Artie's unit was shut
Turner: Yeah. Because after I left, then Sid Marcus went
in there. My options were quite clear. Either I in-betweened again,
or I quit. In my mind, I thought, well, I'm not all that happy,
and working with Artie is a double helping of nothing. I didn't
see where I was going to improve, and I didn't think I was really
doing that good. I had great self-doubt. I just wanted out.
Barrier: Your own work, you didn't have confidence in the
quality of it?
Turner: It wasn't that, it waswhat do you call it?
Aversion therapy. I was getting sick of walking in there, and I
was getting sick of looking at my own stuff, I was getting sick
of Artie's insecurities, and I was getting sick of being in this
barn. It just wasn't fun any more. I was kind of burnt out with
it. And the thought of going back to in-betweeningI couldn't
handle that. So I just decided to quit. I told Eddie, "If you
don't mind, I'm a writer now, and I think I'll just quit."
[Posted January 29, 2004; revised and photos added, February 6, 2008]