An hour of free time in school set Virgil Ross on a career in animation art. As a high school sophomore, Ross found himself one class short and decided to study cartooning. Sensing that it was the ideal career for him, Ross took a job as a commercial artist after graduation, hand-lettering movie titles for silent films.
In the late 1920's, Ross made some samples of characters and brought them to Walt Disney Company, whom he heard was hiring artists for its animated productions. Although not hired by Disney, he was hired by Winkler Studios and was immediately put to work as an in-betweener for the popular Krazy kat cartoon.
When co-worker Chuck Jones left Winkler to work with UB Iwerks (the creator of Mickey Mouse and Oswald the Lucky Rabbit), Ross followed, but the two men were laid off after only three months. Luckily Virgil was able to quickly get a job with Walter Lantz (creator of Woody Woodpecker cartoons). While there, he rose up through the ranks to a full-fledged animator and met the man who would change the course of his future, Tex Avery.
Tex Avery was Ross's mentor and was responsible for his later success in animation. The pair of Avery and Ross was hired by Warner Bros. in 1935 and made cartoon history! In 1940, the pair collaborated in "A Wild Hare" which brought Bugs Bunny his first Oscar nomination. In 1942, Ross moved to Friz Freleng's animation unit and went on to create more nominations (230) and won four for "Pie" (1947), "Speedy Gonzales" (1955), "Birds Anonymous" (1957) and "Knighty Knight Bugs" (1958) -- Bugs only winning Oscar performance.
During Ross's 30 years with Warner Bros., he was responsible for animating 25-30 feet of film each week, on time and under budget! At his desk in the infamous Termite Terrace, Ross cavorted with many of the most respected American animators, including Bob Clampett, Friz Freleng and Chuck Jones. Although each animator has his own signature strength, Ross's contribution to the characters was expression. His animation is said to be among the finest personality animation in the world, evident in his characterizations of Bugs Bunny, Yosemite Sam, Tweety and Sylvester and many more. In 1964, he left Warner Bros. to work for Filmation Studios and later Hanna-Barbera. Although his later animation was not as complex and detailed as that of the Warner period, it is equally memorable to children of all ages who grew up watching the Pink Panther, Superman, The Archies, The Flintstones, The Jetsons, Fat Albert and The Smurfs.