Meet the man who convinced the world that he invented Porky Pig
That wasn't all, folks. They even built him a monument in his Kansas hometown. Nobody found out the truth until after he died.
Read to Me
In Porky Pig's first-ever appearance, the stuttering swine heads from a school desk to the front of a classroom to recite history before an audience that doesn't clap until he's chased offstage.
For people who know their cartoon history, you may know that this original version of Porky was the creation of famous animator Friz Freleng, whose cartoons introduced us to characters like Bugs Bunny, Tweety, Yosemite Sam, and Speedy Gonzales.
But for people living in the town of Portis, Kansas, Freleng wasn't the name they associated with Porky Pig.
They thought a stocky hometown boy named Melvin Millar, affectionately nicknamed "Tubby," created the cartoon most famous for his catchphrase "That's all, folks!"
To them, Tubby and Porky were one and the same.
You see, when Tubby was growing up in Portis, he always had a pencil in hand. Whatever the teacher said at the front of the class, he was doodling a cartoon about it in the margins of his textbook.
Everyone knew he was destined to draw big things that drew laughs.
After Millar graduated, he went to Kansas City Art School and then immediately he got hired by Leon Schlessinger Productions to be an animator working on Porky Pig cartoons under Friz Freleng.
From this point on, all the people in Portis knew was that on every single Porky Pig cartoon, they saw Tubby's name.
On top of that, whenever he signed his autograph, he drew Porky Pig next to his name.
The two names soon became synonymous.
It wasn't that Millar was intentionally trying to deceive his friends and neighbors, though.
According to one of his best childhood friends Hud Turner, everyone in Portis just assumed that Millar created the cartoon porker and never asked him about it.
How could they have suspected anyone else was behind the pig when they caught so many references to their hometown in Porky cartoons? Porky had to be a product of the hometown boy's pen!
Heck, in one of Tubby's most memorable Porky Pig cartoons, a parody on Perry Mason called "The Case of the Stuttering Pig," he even gave Porky a sidekick named Portis, named after his hometown!
Other references to Portis show up in earlier cartoons, including on a poster at a train station in "Porky's Pet" that reads "When in Portis, stop at Millar Manor," on a matchbox and wine label in "Bingo Crosybana," and on a crate in "Porky of the North Woods," which bears a label that partially reads "Portis, Kans."
It's easy to see how everyone got the wrong impression.
Even after Millar passed away in 1980, everyone in his hometown still believed he created Porky Pig.
It took a decade for the truth to come out.
That's when a town meeting was held to brainstorm tourism ideas and Hud's wife Nina remembered Tubby and realized the town already had a huge distinction: It was the birthplace of Porky Pig!
She pitched this idea, and everyone got behind it. The townspeople even floated the idea of changing signs for the town to say "Home of Porky Pig."
Before they changed the signs, though, they reached out to Warner Bros. for the copyright permission, and that's when Tubby’s real connection to Porky Pig became clear.
An executive wrote to Nina to tell her that Millar hadn't created Porky Pig after all, which she was dismayed to realize meant that Portis wasn't the "home of Porky Pig" after all.
"Oh boy, did that set us back," Nina told The Alternative Press in 1993.
The setback didn't last long, though. Everyone still thought Tubby's connection to Porky was strong enough to justify a memorial, so it was decided to do a memorial anyway.
Proud of his friend's legacy, Hud paid for the memorial with $700 out of his own pocket, refusing to take donations. Today it stands, weighing 1,000 pounds and reading, "In memory of Melvin Tubby Millar, animator for Looney Tunes Porky Pig cartoons and assistant to Friz Freleng, creator of Porky Pig."
It's not as quippy as "Home of Porky Pig," but it's still a big deal to the town of Portis, Kansas.
After working on Porky Pig cartoons, Millar moved to Walt Disney Studios and then became a teacher at the Hollywood Art School. Sometimes when he came back home to Portis, Kansas, he would make a point to do cartoon demonstrations to show off his skills and perhaps inspire more young animators to come from his hometown.
"He was the damnedest cartoonist I've ever see," remembered Clyde Lemon, a Portis resident. "You could never tell what he was drawing until about the last three lines."
On one of his last trips to Portis, Millar signed Nina's baby book, and in it, he did as he always did, scrawling his John Hancock alongside a perfect drawing of Porky Pig.
This was a special autograph certainly treasured by his old friends Hud and Nina. It was also proof of exactly why everyone was fooled for so long into believing Millar was the brains behind one of Looney Tunes most endearing and enduring characters.
"That was his autograph," Nina said, poking fun at the confusion after all those years. "He did it every time somebody asked him for his autograph."