Biography: Virgil Ross

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Birth/Death

Birth: August 8, 1907
Death: May 17, 1996

Occupation/Title

Virgil Ross was credited as animator numerous times, though he was a master at his craft which he practiced for decades.

Bio Summary

Virgil Ross was born in 1907 and witnessed firsthand the birth of such great animated stars as Bugs Bunny and Daffy Duck. His 60 year career spanned work from Mintz to Schlesinger/Warner Bros. and through the era of low budget television animation.
Though men such as Chuck Jones and Tex Avery, whom Ross followed to Schlesinger Studios, dominate the lore of Merrie Melodies and Looney Tunes, Ross left an indelible stamp in the movements of the great Schlesinger/Warner Bros. characters. So entwined with the world of animation, Ross even married an ink and paint girl at Schlesinger’s. He remained at Warner Bros. until 1964, when he roamed to different studios including Filmation, Hanna Barber, DePatie Freleng (where he followed Friz Freleng, the director to whose unit Ross worked for twenty years).
He passed away in May of 1996 after suffering a stroke earlier that year. Ross worked as he advanced in years, though he spent much of his later public life attending gallery and store openings dedicated to his and other’s work in the golden age of animation. In the twilight of his life his work achieved the beaux arts status denied his craft as animation slipped past its golden age.

Early Life/Family

Virgil Ross married Frances Ewing, a fellow Schlesinger employee who worked as an ink and paint girl.

Education/Training

First hired as a trainee for $6 a week to work at Mintz, Ross gained on-the-job training and eventually worked his way up to animator, first for Tex Avery at Lantz, then for so many years at Schlesinger/Warner Bros.

Career Outline

Ross began work as a trainee for Mintz and worked on Oswald the Rabbit cartoons, a foreshadowing perhaps of his great success animating an even greater rabbit in the future. He gained a break with Tex Avery at Lantz, hired as an animator, though he only worked a scant six months at the studio. When Tex Avery convinced Leon Schlesinger to hire him as a director, Ross joined Tex’s team at Termite Terrace. Under Tex Ross was involved in the evolution of Bugs Bunny, animating what Chuck Jones called “the mature Bugs Bunny” if not the definitive Bugs in “A Wild Hare” in 1940. He worked on Tex’s pictures until he left the studio, at which time Ross worked under the direction of Bob Clampett. Ross, however, did not animate in the sort of extreme dynamic characteristic of Clampett. He prospered as he began under the direction of Friz Freleng and helped Freleng bring such great stars to life like Sylvester and Tweety in their definite forms. Ross worked under Freleng until 1964 when he moved on to other projects. Animating under Hanna Barbera, Filmation, DePatie Freleng, Chuck Jones, Sam Nicholson, and Marvel, Ross would never again be the prolific animator he was in his Warner Bros. days.
At Filmation in the 60s and 70s he participated in the superhero craze in animation. He animated characters from Batman to Superman and even worked for a time on the Star Trek cartoon series. Joining his long time director Friz Freleng at DePatie Freleng in the 1970s, Ross animated on the Pink Panther series. As his career wound down, he returned to projects involving the old Warner Bros. characters. He also spent some of his time doing work for galleries and attending opening of Warner Bros. stores which featured his artwork.

Comments On Style

His style of animation relied more on his subtle acting seen through the characters. This put him at odds with the more outrageous Bob Clampett who supervised Ross’ unit for a while during the 40s. Though Ross had many more dimensions than subtlety. He could convey superb action with the very best and is legendary for his ability to animate dance and action sequences. Many admire his sequence in “Rhapsody Rabbit” with Bugs trying to untangle his fingers. Ross embodied consistency and it has been pointed out that his characters often held true to their forms often after the model sheet had been modified. His Daffy Duck, a prime example, was often shorter with a longer bill than the standard version of the 50s and 60s.

Influences

Despite early breaks from Avery that brought him to Warner Bros. and his experience with Oswald the Rabbit, Ross’ determination to stick to an earlier version of Daffy shows his passive resistant to influence.

Personality

Virgil Ross, in the words of Martha Sigall, “was one of the nicest people I ever met in the cartoon business.” As his career wound down and he entered the semi-retired life an artist he always had time for his fans, signing and making drawings.

Anecdotes

Though it is often said that Ross was a great dancer which allowed him to animate these sorts of sequences so well, he had a unique experience under Bob Clampett making “Coal Black and De Sebben Dwarfs.” Clampett had his unit go to a Central Avenue night club in 40s L.A. to witness the zoot-suit culture and dancing that would appear in the cartoon. This experience probably informed Ross’ work, though he managed a Carmen Miranda and a Suma wrestler with Bugs Bunny just fine.

Miscellaneous

Filmography

I Love to Singa (1936) (animator)
Milk and Money (1936) (animator)
Porky’s Duck Hunt (1937) (animator)
I Only Have Eyes for You (1937) (animator)
Uncle Tom’s Bungalow (1937) (animator)
A Sunbonnet Blue (1937) (animator)
Daffy Duck & Egghead (1938) (animator)
Daffy Duck in Hollywood (1938) (animator)
Cinderella Meets Fella (1938) (animator)
Believe It or Else (1939) (animator)
screwball Football (1939) (animator)
A Wild Hare (1940) (animator)
… aka The Wild Hare (USA: reissue title)
Wacky Wildlife (1940) (animator)
Porky’s Preview (1941) (animator)
All This and Rabbit Stew (1941) (animator)
Aloha Hooey (1942) (animator)
Any Bonds Today? (1942) (animator)
… aka Bugs Bunny Bond Rally (USA: video title)
… aka Leon Schlesinger Presents Bugs Bunny (USA: complete title)
Nutty News (1942) (animator)
Eatin’ on the Cuff or The Moth Who Came to Dinner (1942) (animator)
… aka Eatin’ on the Cuff (USA: short title)
… aka The Moth Who Came to Dinner (USA)
Slightly Daffy (1944) (animator) (uncredited)
Life with Feathers (1945) (animator) (uncredited)
Hare Trigger (1945) (animator)
Peck Up Your Troubles (1945) (animator)
Baseball Bugs (1946) (animator)
Holiday for Shoestrings (1946) (animator)
Hollywood Daffy (1946) (animator)
Of Thee I Sting (1946) (animator)
Racketeer Rabbit (1946) (animator)
Rhapsody Rabbit (1946) (animator)
The Gay Anties (1947) (animator)
Tweetie Pie (1947) (animator) (uncredited)
Rabbit Transit (1947) (animator)
A Hare Grows in Manhattan (1947) (animator)
Along Came Daffy (1947) (animator)
Slick Hare (1947) (animator)
Back Alley Oproar (1948) (animator)
I Taw a Putty Tat (1948) (animator)
Buccaneer Bunny (1948) (animator)
Bugs Bunny Rides Again (1948) (animator)
Hare Splitter (1948) (animator)
Kit for Cat (1948) (animator)
Wise Quackers (1949) (animator)
Hare Do (1949) (animator)
High Diving Hare (1949) (animator)
Curtain Razor (1949) (animator)
Mouse Mazurka (1949) (animator)
Knights Must Fall (1949) (animator)
Bad Ol’ Putty Tat (1949) (animator)
Dough for the Do-Do (1949) (animator) (uncredited)
Each Dawn I Crow (1949) (animator)
Which Is Witch? (1949) (animator)
Home, Tweet Home (1950) (animator)
Mutiny on the Bunny (1950) (animator)
The Lion’s Busy (1950) (animator)
Big House Bunny (1950) (animator)
His Bitter Half (1950) (animator)
All a Bir-r-r-rd (1950) (animator)
Golden Yeggs (1950) (animator)
Bunker Hill Bunny (1950) (animator)
Canary Row (1950) (animator)
Stooge for a Mouse (1950) (animator)
Canned Feud (1951) (animator)
Rabbit Every Monday (1951) (animator)
Putty Tat Trouble (1951) (animator)
The Fair Haired Hare (1951) (animator)
A Bone for a Bone (1951) (animator)
Room and Bird (1951) (animator)
His Hare Raising Tale (1951) (animator)
Tweety’s S.O.S. (1951) (animator)
Ballot Box Bunny (1951) (animator)
Tweet Tweet Tweety (1951) (animator)
Carrot Rabbit (1952) (animator)
Gift Wrapped (1952) (animator)
Foxy by Proxy (1952) (animator)
Little Red Rodent Hood (1952) (animator)
Ain’t She Tweet (1952) (animator)
Cracked Quack (1952) (animator)
A Bird in a Guilty Cage (1952) (animator)
Tree for Two (1952) (animator)
Hare Lift (1952) (animator)
Snow Business (1953) (animator)
A Mouse Divided (1953) (animator)
Fowl Weather (1953) (animator)
Southern Fried Rabbit (1953) (animator)
Ant Pasted (1953) (animator)
Hare Trimmed (1953) (animator)
Tom Tom Tomcat (1953) (animator)
A Street Cat Named Sylvester (1953) (animator)
Catty Cornered (1953) (animator)
Robot Rabbit (1953) (animator)
Sandy Claws (1954) (animator)
Dog Pounded (1954) (animator)
I Gopher You (1954) (animator)
Captain Hareblower (1954) (animator)
Bugs and Thugs (1954) (animator)
Dr. Jerkyl’s Hide (1954) (animator)
Muzzle Tough (1954) (animator)
Satan’s Waitin’ (1954) (animator)
Yankee Doodle Bugs (1954) (animator)
Goo Goo Goliath (1954) (animator)
Pizzicato Pussycat (1955) (animator)
Pests for Guests (1955) (animator)
Stork Naked (1955) (animator)
Lumber Jerks (1955) (animator)
Hyde and Hare (1955) (animator)
Roman Legion-Hare (1955) (animator)
Heir-Conditioned (1955) (animator)
Tweet and Sour (1956) (animator)
Rabbitson Crusoe (1956) (animator)
Tree Cornered Tweety (1956) (animator)
Napoleon Bunny-Part (1956) (animator)
Tugboat Granny (1956) (animator)
A Star Is Bored (1956) (animator)
Yankee Dood It (1956) (animator)
Two Crows from Tacos (1956) (animator)
Tweet Zoo (1957) (animator)
Tweety and the Beanstalk (1957) (animator)
Piker’s Peak (1957) (animator)
Birds Anonymous (1957) (animator)
Bugsy and Mugsy (1957) (animator)
Greedy for Tweety (1957) (animator)
Show Biz Bugs (1957) (animator)
Gonzales’ Tamales (1957) (animator)
Hare-Less Wolf (1958) (animator)
A Pizza Tweety-Pie (1958) (animator)
A Waggily Tale (1958) (animator)
Knighty Knight Bugs (1958) (animator)
A Bird in a Bonnet (1958) (animator)
Trick or Tweet (1959) (animator)
Apes of Wrath (1959) (animator)
Mexicali Shmoes (1959) (animator)
Tweet and Lovely (1959) (animator)
Wild and Woolly Hare (1959) (animator)
Here Today, Gone Tamale (1959) (animator)
Horse Hare (1960) (animator)
Goldimouse and the Three Cats (1960) (animator)
Person to Bunny (1960) (animator)
Hyde and Go Tweet (1960) (animator)
Mouse and Garden (1960) (animator)
From Hare to Heir (1960) (animator)
“The Flintstones” (1960) TV Series (animator)
“The Bugs Bunny Show” (1960) TV Series (animator)
Trip for Tat (1960) (animator)
Lighter Than Hare (1960) (animator)
D’ Fightin’ Ones (1961) (animator)
The Rebel Without Claws (1961) (animator)
The Pied Piper of Guadalupe (1961) (animator)
Prince Violent (1961) (animator)
… aka Prince Varmint (TV title)
The Last Hungry Cat (1961) (animator)
Quackodile Tears (1962) (animator)
Crow’s Feat (1962) (animator)
Mexican Boarders (1962) (animator)
Honey’s Money (1962) (animator)
The Jet Cage (1962) (animator)
Shishkabugs (1962) (animator)
Devil’s Feud Cake (1963) (animator)
Mexican Cat Dance (1963) (animator)
Chili Weather (1963) (animator)
The Unmentionables (1963) (animator)
Dumb Patrol (1964) (animator)
Nuts and Volts (1964) (animator)
Hawaiian Aye Aye (1964) (animator)
Señorella and the Glass Huarache (1964) (animator)
“Linus! The Lion Hearted” (1964) TV Series (animator)
Tired and Feathered (1965) (animator)
Boulder Wham! (1965) (animator)
Just Plane Beep (1965) (animator)
Hairied and Hurried (1965) (animator)
Highway Runnery (1965) (animator)
Chaser on the Rocks (1965) (animator)
Shot and Bothered (1966) (animator)
Out and Out Rout (1966) (animator)
The Solid Tin Coyote (1966) (animator)
Clippety Clobbered (1966) (animator)
“The Road Runner Show” (1966) TV Series (animator)
Quacker Tracker (1967) (animator)
The Music Mice-Tro (1967) (animator)
The Spy Swatter (1967) (animator)
“The Superman/Aquaman Hour of Adventure” (1967) TV Series (animator)
“The Archie Show” (1968) TV Series (animator)
“The Bugs Bunny/Road Runner Hour” (1968) TV Series (animator)
“The Batman/Superman Hour” (1968) TV Series (animator)
“The Adventures of Batman” (1969) TV Series (animator)
… aka The Adventures of Batman and Robin the Boy Wonder (USA: complete title)
“Archie’s Fun House” (1970) TV Series (animator)
Moochin’ Pooch (1971) (animator)
Airlift a la Carte (1971) (animator)
Chilly’s Hide-a-Way (1971) (animator)
Fritz the Cat (1972) (animator)
Daffy Duck and Porky Pig Meet the Groovie Goolies (1972) TV Episode (animator)
“The ABC Saturday Superstar Movie” (animator)
… aka The New Saturday Superstar Movie (USA: second season title)
“Star Trek” (1973) TV Series (animator)
… aka Star Trek: TAS (USA: promotional abbreviation)
… aka Star Trek: The Animated Adventures (USA)
… aka Star Trek: The Animated Series
… aka The Animated Adventures of Gene Roddenberry’s Star Trek (USA: video box title)
Journey Back to Oz (1974) (animator)
Pink Da Vinci (1975) (animator)
Pink Plasma (1975) (animator)
“The Oddball Couple” (1975) TV Series (animator)
Pink Elephant (1975) (animator)
Bobolink Pink (1975) (animator)
Pink Piper (1976) (animator)
“The Pink Panther Laugh and the Half Hour and Half Show” (1976) TV Series (animator)
“The Sylvester & Tweety Show” (1976) TV Series (animator)
“The Fantastic Four” (1978) TV Series (animator)
… aka The Fabulous Fantastic Four (UK: video box title)
… aka The New Fantastic Four (USA: promotional title)
“The All New Pink Panther Show” (1978) TV Series (animator)
Pink Pictures (1978) (animator)
Pink Daddy (1978) (animator)
Cat and the Pinkstalk (1978) (animator)
Pink Press (1978) (animator)
The Pink of Bagdad (1978) (animator)
Pinktails for Two (1978) (animator)
Pink in the Woods (1979) (animator)
The Great American Chase (1979) (animator) (segment “Bugs at Home”)
… aka The Bugs Bunny/Road Runner Movie (USA: video title)
Bugs Bunny’s Looney Christmas Tales (1979) (TV) (animator)
Bugs Bunny’s Bustin’ Out All Over (1980) (TV) (master animator)
The Looney, Looney, Looney Bugs Bunny Movie (1981) (animator)
… aka Friz Freleng’s Looney, Looney, Looney Bugs Bunny Movie
The Grinch Grinches the Cat in the Hat (1982) (TV) (animator)
… aka The Cat in the Hat Get’s Grinched (USA: video title)
Hey Good Lookin’ (1982) (animator)
Bugs Bunny’s 3rd Movie: 1001 Rabbit Tales (1982) (animator)
… aka Bugs Bunny’s 1001 Rabbit Tales (USA: short title)
Winnie the Pooh and a Day for Eeyore (1983) (animator)
… aka A Day for Eeyore (USA: short title)
Daffy Duck’s Movie: Fantastic Island (1983) (animator: classic cartoons)
… aka Daffy Duck’s Fantastic Island (USA: short title)
“The 13 Ghosts of Scooby-Doo” (1985) TV Series (animator)
“The Bugs Bunny/Looney Tunes Comedy Hour” (1985) TV Series (animator)
“The Bugs Bunny and Tweety Show” (1986) TV Series (animator)
Christmas in Tattertown (1987) (TV) (animator)
Daffy Duck’s Quackbusters (1988) (animator)
“Merrie Melodies: Starring Bugs Bunny and Friends” (1990) TV Series (animator)
“That’s Warner Bros.!” (1995) TV Series (animator)
From Hare to Eternity (1997) (special thanks)

Honors

Annie Award: Winsor McCay Award 1988

Related Links

Bibliographic References

Beck, Jerry. I Tawt I Taw a Puddy Tat: Fifty Years of Sylvester and Tweety. NY: Henry Holt & Co., 1991.

Jones, Chuck. Chuck Jones’ Chuck Reducks: Drawing from the Fun Side of Life. NY: Warner Books, 1996.

Sigall, Martha. Living Life Inside the Lines: Tales from the Golden Age of Animation. Jackson: University of Mississippi Press, 2005.

Sito, Tom. “Virgil Ross-In Memory.” Animation World Magazine 1, no. 4 (July 1996). http://www.awn.com/mag/issue1.4/articles/newsmag1.4.html

Weinman, Jaime J. Selecting bloggings from “Something Old, Nothing New.” http:zvbxrpl.blogspot.com

BIO-AAA-038

Contributors To This Listing

Keith Rogers

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