RUTH CLAMPETT, DAUGHTER OF FAMED CREATOR BOB CLAMPETT, DISCUSSES WHY COLLECTOR LOVE FOR LOONEY TUNES, TINY TOONS AND ANIMANIACS ONLY GROWS STRONGER
By Steffan Chirazi
Speaking with Ruth Clampett is speaking with animation royalty. Her father is legendary American animation director and pioneer Bob Clampett (1913-1984), who created Tweety and was one of the fathers of Bugs Bunny, amidst incalculable achievements in the industry.
THE ART OF ANIME SIGNATURE® AUCTION 7254
Including Important Lots from the Warner Brothers Studio Animation Archive
June 25-27, 2021
Warner Brothers animation art will also be featured in Heritage’s Sunday & Monday Comics, Animation, Video Games & Art Weekly Online Auction (HA.com/Comics).
“Bob Clampett was one of the great directors in animation,” says Tom Sito, professor of animation at the University of Southern California who has worked on productions for Disney, DreamWorks and Warner Brothers. “At a time when Walt Disney was pushing the whole animation industry more towards a gentle realistic style, … Clampett along with Tex Avery pushed their Looney Tunes in a contrasting philosophy, embracing fast-paced surreal anarchy and contemporary culture.”
Ruth Clampett has been immersed in the sheer joy of this animation her entire life. In 1985, the Clampett family created the Bob Clampett Animation Foundation, selling limited edition animation from Bob’s drawings. Ruth established herself as a premier force in curating and producing pieces for the growing collectors’ market, which lead to Warner Brothers creating its own gallery division in 1992 and asking Ruth to be the creative design manager. In 2001, she received the license to publish fine art for Warner Brothers, and subsequently founded Clampett Studio Collections, which has become the leading light for animation art collectors interested in work from Warner Brothers, DC Comics, Hanna Barbera + MGM, Harry Potter, and Beany and Cecil.
Ruth took time to talk with The Intelligent Collector about the cultural significance of Warner Brothers animation. The love and pride she has in her endeavors is instantly obvious from the first words of our conversation.
What do you think was behind the resurgence of animation back in the 1980s?
I think Who Framed Roger Rabbit reminded adults what great entertainment animation is. It brings back the best memories from your childhood, but it’s also an art form. You think of what Disney then started doing with Beauty and the Beast and all these different features that were really appealing to adults and kids, which then led to the animation art market exploding. What’s so completely unique about original production art is that there’s no other art form where you can actually own a piece of it. You actually have something that was part of the making of the cartoon, and was in the cartoon, and that in itself is so unique and extraordinary.
Of the early ’90s animation renaissance, was there a series which really grabbed your attention?
There were several, yes. Take the sheer brilliance of how Bruce Timm and the animation team approached the new Batman series. There was the unique storytelling, the amazing character design, and I always love seeing that production art. All the backgrounds were painted on black paper, and it just had this very distinct, very modern look to it which helped make the original art a huge collectible. The Batman fans are passionate, so it’s exciting when we can make them happy.
Which other properties attract continual favor and excitement with collectors?
There’s great love for Looney Tunes, along with Tiny Toons and Animaniacs. There’s a lot of terrific humor and really funny scenes in those stories. I think the Hanna-Barbera characters are also loved, as well as their settings. Whether it was Top Cat living in this New York alley, or space-age Jetsons, as a kid I just remember being so enamored with those characters. It’s the same with the Stone Age and Flintstones or Yogi Bear out in the forest, the images themselves are really fun.
Finally, why do you feel there’s been such a rise in popularity for the acquisition of animation art recently?
I think part of why animation art has sold very well, especially last year, because this is the kind of art you hang up in your house and it makes you happy when you see it. You’re reminded of the best parts of your childhood and how fun it was to see these films. During these trying times, it’s awesome to have a piece of history hanging on your wall that brings you joy and puts a smile on your face.
Editor’s note: A private collection that includes important lots from the Warner Brothers Studio Animation Television Archive – including master set ups from productions such as Batman: The Animated Series, Superman: The Animated Series, Tiny Toons, Animaniacs, Batman Beyond, Taz-Mania, Beetlejuice, and classic Looney Tunes cartoons – is featured in Heritage Auctions’ animation auction set for June 25-27, 2021.
This article appears in the Spring 2021 edition of The Intelligent Collector magazine.