Thursday, July 16, 2015

Frank Furlong: "... the most fulfilling work of my time in commercial art."

Frank Furlong was a young illustrator in Detroit during the mid-20th century when that city, fueled on high-octane auto industry dollars, was as much an epicenter of advertising art as New York. Previously Frank described his departure from Detroit and what came next. Today, the conclusion of the story... ~ Leif Peng

Frank writes...

"Word got around and an old rep from Detroit called from L.A. wanting my reel as old clients from Detroit had moved on to various cities and expressed an interest in what I was doing. So work started coming from L.A. and I started flying back and forth, still getting work in Dallas. I landed a 20 minute film for the Southern Baptists of "David and Goliath." This was major work in that market and gave me a chance to use Jack Unruh as a stylist. Turned out the Baptists didn't want me playing fast and loose with their idea of the showdown. No suspense, no drama. It was pretty... but dull. Fortunately I still have one of Jack's BGs... magnificent. It was about this time that Peggy Lee was singing "Is that all there is?" - and I felt the same. So we moved on again."


"Feel free to envy me in that for a couple years Tex Avery and I were the animation department for a commercial production house here in L.A."


"Tex's hands were pretty much crippled by arthritis so he was more a teacher than anything else. At meetings with clients he came up with gloriously funny bits but unfortunately most all of them wanted harder sell so I wound up directing the commercials, with Tex as an adviser. Thank God."


"I fear most of the animation I see where people are trying to emulate Tex really misses the point. He wasn't just speed, he was timing and humor. I remember one such attempt with the resultant comment from Tex that he didn't mind people stealing his stuff, he just wished they'd get it right."


"Tex never understood his place on the Pantheon and was stumped when fans from all over the world showed up wanting to meet him. One of my favorite memories in this end of the biz was directing a spot that called for a female shopper walking away from the camera at it's end. I was not an animator (I kinda backed into it from designing characters and BGs) but, with Tex at hand, I knew what I wanted and was unable to get it from a couple really good people so I tried my hand. When I showed Tex the pencil test his reaction was "Furlong, that's the worst animation I've ever seen. I love it!"


"To Tex it was the gag uber alles. Different from Disney he couldn't have been."


"I worked animation for almost 40 years and I've got to admit it was the most fulfilling work of my time in commercial art, but I never again found the atmosphere I enjoyed with other artists that makes Detroit's glory days unforgettable. Before I wrap up I want to make sure I didn't leave the wrong impression, by maybe concentrating on the fun and love of my time. It was work. And it was hard work. It was frustrating and fulfilling. I feel privileged to have been part of it."

To see Frank's recent work, please visit

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