For many years, what we think of as The Warner Brothers Cartoons were only distributed by Warner Brothers--the cartoons were produced by an independent outfit called Schlesinger Productions (after Leon Schlesinger, the studio's owner). Like many small businesses, money was tight, and also like many small businesses, the people most responsible for the studio's success saw the least of the cash. The cartoonists, animators, directors, writers, in-betweeners, colorists, cameramen, etc. were nearly all headquartered in a ramshackle building on Van Ness Avenue in Los Angeles which came to be affectionately nicknamed Termite Terrace by the people working there.

Luckily, the Schlesinger studio employed people who cared more about making cartoons than they did about material comforts. So you had a bit of a madcap environment, where writer Cal Howard ran a complete hot dog stand--including a small oven, an ice chest, firecrackers, and condoms--out of his desk and under the bosses' noses; where a secret alarm system was triggered whenever a member of management came to visit, allowing dozing animators to be awakened before they got fired--and allowing the writers and directors--whose jobs were the safest--to adopt poses of lethargy that would put the laziest slacker to shame; where Pepe LePew-style French signs were placed on the restrooms ("Les peckerays de cavaliers relieves vous dans cette room"); where the boss' pinhead tirades that camels and bullfights could NEVER be funny were converted into Oscar-winning cartoons; where humor was encouraged and appreciated above all else and working a job for little pay didn't have to mean you were a mere wage slave.

The building has been closed and demolished for decades, but I hope it's enshrined somewhere as one of the Great Places to Work...

Primary research from Chuck Jones' brilliant autobiography "Chuck Amuck". Pester your local bookstore or library for a copy today!

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