Benjamin Alfred Washam (March 17, 1915 – March 28, 1984) was an American animator who is best known for working under director Chuck Jones for nearly 30 years. According to his World War II draft registration, he was born in Newport, Jackson County, Arkansas.
Washam worked at Warner Bros. Cartoons from at least 1938 until 1963, mainly under the direction of Chuck Jones (the surviving "breakdown" sheet for Chuck Jones' 1938 debut cartoon The Night Watchman includes one scene assignment for Washam). In 1944 he animated Hell-Bent for Election together with Stephen Bosustow, John Hubley and Jones. He also worked on made-for-television cartoons in the early 1960s. After Jones was fired from Warner Bros., Washam (with other animators working under Jones there) joined him at MGM. Washam also directed a few Tom and Jerry cartoons for release in 1967. He also designed the iconic character Big Boy for the restaurant chain Bob's Big Boy.
From the fall of 1967 Washam taught animation at no charge to eager, young students in weekly classes conducted at his Laurel Canyon home in Los Angeles. He explained that "animation has been good to me and I want to give something back." Many of Ben Washam's students from the late 1970s—which included Ren and Stimpy layout artist Eddie Fitzgerald—would lead the 2D Silver Age animation revival during the 1990s. Washam was known for his ability to explain animation mechanics as pertinent, useful methods, articulating and communicating the principles.
Washam served two separate terms as cartoonists' union president, including President of the Screen Animators Guild in 1948–49. His last work involved animating television commercials for Jay Ward and drawing layouts at Jones' production company. Washam retired in 1979. In addition to Washam's animation skill, Jones cited him as an able writer. Jones credited Washam with the "thanks for the sour persimmons, cousin" line in Duck Amuck.
Washam's animation of Bugs Bunny is easy to recognize, as he usually let Bugs' incisor teeth taper to a point. Also, he drew relatively wide cheeks and big pupils on Bugs' eyes. Another Washam trait was his tendency to nod a talking character's head. His work is best recognized by the loose connection of the core body parts, with a great deal of Hip Initiation; this led to multiple assignments of 'personality' scenes, as he could keep interest well in closeup. Chuck Jones commented on his ability to denote personality through facial cues. His work is angular in pose and fluid in movement.
Washam died on March 28, 1984 at age 69.
One day, animator Benny [sic] Washam was lunching at Wian’s stand, doodling on placemats. Wian saw that he was a cartoonist and asked him to draw a caricature of Richard Woodruff.... Bennie gave the sketch to Wian to use as a mascot for the stand.... The Big Boy sketch that Washam traded away for a free meal in 1936 ended up selling millions and millions of dollars worth of hamburgers.