Bullwinkle Animator ‘Tex’ Henson Dies at 78
DALLAS (Reuters) – William Henson, the animator behind the wise cracking chipmunks Chip ‘n Dale, flying squirrel Rocky and the beloved dimwitted moose Bullwinkle, died earlier this week at the age of 78 after being hit by a pickup truck in suburban Dallas, a local medical examiner said on Thursday.
Known in the industry as “Tex” Henson, the animator joined the Disney animation studios in California after graduating from high school in Dallas. He was a cartoonist for Disney films such as “Song of the South,” “Pecos Bill” and “Peter and the Wolf.”
Henson’s first major claim to fame was when he joined forces with another Disney animator to campaign for the comic chipmunk duo of Chip ‘n Dale to become regular characters in Disney animation. The chipmunks were then featured in about two dozen films.
Henson left Disney, and after a stint in New York where he worked on cartoons such as “Casper the Friendly Ghost,” he went to Mexico to supervise a studio that turned out some of the more memorable animated character on American television.
He supervised a team of about 180 animators who brought characters such as Rocky, Bullwinkle and the spies Boris and Natasha to life. The studio also turned out other cartoons featuring Underdog, Tennessee Tuxedo, and the cartoon rabbit of Trix cereal fame.
“There wasn’t much expected from those cartoons,” Henson told the Fort Worth Star-Telegram in an interview about 10 years ago.
“We were hackin’ ’em out on the cheap, getting’ the job done,” he said, adding that most of his employees did not speak English or understand the humor of their work.
“But we made ’em as funny-looking as we could under the circumstances and I guess something clicked between the writing and the cartooning,” he told the paper.
Henson later moved to the east Dallas suburb of Terrell and taught animation in the Dallas school system. He also drew cartoons for a small newspaper in the area.
He died at Parkland Memorial Hospital of head injuries suffered in the auto accident, the Dallas County Medical Examiner said.