Illustration for a text story in Dell's 'Roy Rogers Comics' #82, attributed to "Al McKimson" (presumably Chuck McKimson and Pete Alvarado).

Charles McKimson, nicknamed "Chuck", was an American animator. He was the brother of famous Looney Tunes director Bob McKimson. Together with his other brother, Tom McKimson, he worked in Bob's unit at Warner Brothers' animation studio throughout the 1940s and early 1950s. Chuck and Tom also participated in the production of the 'Roy Rogers' comic strip between 1949 and 1954, although what their exact envolvement was is still open for speculation.

Early life and career
Charles Edson McKimson was born in 1914 in Denver, Colorado. He was the youngest of the three McKimson brothers, Bob and Tom, who'd later all have careers in the animation industry, often working for the same companies. McKimson's father was a newspaper publisher and owned a weekly syndicated newspaper in Wray, Colorado, while his mother was an artist. The three sons learned everything about drawing and publishing from their parents. The family moved around between Colorado, L.A. and Texas until finally moving to L.A. again in 1926.

Warner Bros. Animation
In 1937 Chuck McKimson joined his older brothers Bob and Tom as an animator at Warner Brothers' animation studio. They all worked in Tex Avery and Bob Clampett's unit, where they specialized in animation, lay-out and designing model sheets. They had a reputation for being able to animate complicated scenes, particularly Bob. In 1941 the United States became involved with World War II and Chuck signed up to serve his country. By the time he returned to civilian life, the war was over and things had drastically changed at Warners. Avery, Clampett and Chuck's brother Tom had all left the studio. Bob McKimson was still there and promoted as one of the three main directors, alongside Chuck Jones and Friz Freleng. It was only natural that he would work in his brother's unit. While Tom was mostly preoccupied with animation and lay-out, Chuck McKimson was often given close-ups and characterization scenes to work on. He co-wrote the script of one 'Foghorn Leghorn' cartoon: 'All Fowled Up' (1955), alongside Sid Marcus.


Still from: 'All Fowled Up' (story by Chuck McKimson).

Roy Rogers
On the side Chuck and Tom McKimson worked on the daily 'Roy Rogers' newspaper comic (1949-1953), based on the popular cowboy movie star of the same name. The comic was published between 2 December 1949 and May 1953 under the collective pseudonym "Al McKimson". This was an anagram of their names and main writer Al Stoffel. Other sources like Mark Evanier have however pointed out that Al McKimson stood for only Chuck McKimson and fellow artist Pete Alvarado. There is some debate about the exact involvement of the McKimsons, and it seems to have ended in May 1953. Many of the strips signed with "Al McKimson" have been identified as being drawn by Pete Alvarado, Hi Mankin, or John Ushler. 'Roy Rogers' was distributed by King Features and often followed the same plots as the 'Roy Rogers' movie serials running in theaters. From 1954 on Phil Evans and then Carl Fallberg became the new writers, while Mike Arens drew the series under his own name until 1961.

Dell Comics
In 1953 3-D movies were the hype of the season and many Hollywood pictures tried to release pictures which required 3-D glasses in order to bring back people to theaters who'd otherwise stay home and watch a new phenomenon: television. Executives of Warner Brothers suddenly had the impression that nobody would watch regular movies anymore and closed the studio. A few months later the fad predictably wore down and the studio went back in business. While Chuck Jones and Friz Freleng were able to recover most of their former staff, Bob McKimson suddenly found himself without employees. Much had to do with the fact that McKimson's unit was mostly filled with people Jones and Freleng didn't particularly need or want. Some were fresh out of high school or college. Others were notorious for being difficult or unreliable workers. It's therefore not surprising that the majority weren't too keen to return to their former job. Even McKimson's brother Chuck instead joined Tom McKimson as art director of Dell Publishing's comic and colour books division.

Return to animation
In 1961 Chuck McKimson returned to the animation industry as a director on the TV series 'Calvin and the Colonel'. This was basically a remake of the radio and television series 'Amos 'n' Andy', which featured African-American actors portraying stereotypical versions of black people. 'Amos 'n' Andy' had been extraordinarily popular on the radio (1928-1960) and television (1951-1953), but by the second half of the 1950s many viewers deemed it racially offensive. Around the same time African-American activists started rallying for equal civil rights, which made the content too controversial, both for black viewers as well as general people who didn't want to be reminded of political matters. 'Calvin and the Colonel' was an attempt to use the same cast of characters, but redesign them as anthropomorphic animals to avoid further controversy. The series never caught on and was cancelled after just one season.

Death
Chuck McKimson passed away in 1999 at the age of 84. He'd survived his brother Tom by a year. Chuck's ashes were scattered at sea. 

Books about Chuck McKimson
For those interested in McKimson's life and career, his son Bob McKimson Jr. published a highly recommended biography about his famous father and his two brothers Tom McKimson and Bob McKimson titled: 'I Say, I Say... Son!' (2012).


'Roy Rogers' strip from The Enterprise Ledger of 10 February 1950, credited by "Al McKimson".

Series and books by Chuck McKimson in stock in the Lambiek Webshop:

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