11/15/2012 11:03 am ET Updated Jan 15, 2013

Book Shows Creation Of Beloved Cartoon Foghorn Leghorn (PHOTOS)

Foghorn Leghorn was originally created by my father, Bob McKimson, to be a foil for the rarely used character Henery Hawk, a tiny chicken hawk who had been introduced by Chuck Jones in a 1942 release called "The Squawkin' Hawk." Bob had approached Jones and asked if he could put Henery in his upcoming cartoon, since the character was not being used. Thus, Henery began appearing in Bob's Foghorn cartoons.

The first cartoon featuring Foghorn and Henery together was "Walky Talky Hawky," released in 1946. In this cartoon, Henery's father tells him that, as a chicken hawk, it is in his nature to hunt and eat chickens. Unfortunately, Henery has no idea what a chicken is. When he sets out to find one, Foghorn quickly turns the little hawk into an unwitting pawn in the rooster's ongoing battles with Barnyard Dawg, another cartoon creation of Bob's.

"Walky Talky Hawky" was nominated for an Academy Award, but it didn't win; at the time, the Academy used block voting, and MGM had more members in the short subjects branch than Warner did. Bob directed all of the ensuing Foghorn cartoons, many of which included not only Henery Hawk and Barnyard Dawg, but also Miss Prissy, Willie the Weasel, and Sylvester, among others. In the cartoons, Foghorn is always beating up on Barnyard Dawg, but occasionally the dog gets the better of him. Miss Prissy, a spinster hen, constantly schemes to wed Foghorn, while Willie, a buck-toothed weasel, attempts to steal chickens right out from under Foghorn's nose.
The creation of Foghorn Leghorn began when Bob's story man, Warren Foster, had an idea for a cartoon featuring a rooster. Bob brought up a popular character called Senator Claghorn that he had recently heard on the radio program The Fred Allen Show. Kenny Delmar, the actor who played Claghorn, had taken his voice delivery from a sheriff character on Blue Monday Jamboree, an older radio program. The old sheriff repeatedly said, "I say, son," because he was deaf and didn't think anyone could hear him. Foster was crazy about the idea. He and Bob merged the two personalities of the old sheriff and Senator Claghorn and ended up with the Foghorn Leghorn character.

At first, Bob didn't think Mel Blanc could do the loudmouthed Southern voice of Foghorn, so he auditioned another voice actor. But the actor couldn't provide the voice Bob wanted, so he decided to give Blanc a try. After he described the character to him, Blanc nailed it and was the voice of Foghorn from that point on. Bob believed Foghorn had the makings of a good character, but he knew he had to wait for the public's reaction. Needless to say, the animated rooster's first cartoon proved to be very popular, and soon he became a lead character, with Henery as the secondary. The rest, as they say, is history.

The History Of Foghorn Leghorn