Richard Stone; Won Emmys as Composer of Cartoon Music


Richard Stone, an Emmy-winning composer of cartoon music for such Warner Bros. series as “Animaniacs” and “Pinky & the Brain,” died of pancreatic cancer Friday at his West Hills home. He was 47.

Stone was widely considered the modern-day successor of Carl Stalling, the legendary composer who wrote hundreds of wacky musical scores for such Warner Bros. classics as “Looney Tunes” and “Merrie Melodies” from the late 1930s to the 1950s. Stone helped to revive the Stalling tradition of using a full orchestra, synchronizing the music to characters’ movements and employing musical effects to convey the Warner brand of cartoon humor--witty without being cute.

He even composed on the same studio Steinway and conducted on the same stage that Stalling used.


“I always try to keep the Stalling language going,” he once told Daily Variety. “If something falls without a piano glissando, it doesn’t fall.

“We still use the xylophone for an eye blink and we still play ‘The Lady in Red’ when a character wears a red dress. We do this to honor Carl Stalling, but also to keep conversant with the Warner Bros. tradition.”

Stone grew up in Philadelphia watching “Looney Tunes” cartoons. He was exposed to music through his father, who played the piano, and his maternal grandfather, a music critic for the Philadelphia Inquirer.

Stone studied cello and music theory at the Curtis Institute and Indiana University. After moving to California in 1980, he worked as a music editor for Maurice Jarre and other composers, then scored several movies, including the cult classics “Sundown: The Vampire in Retreat” and “Pumpkinhead.”

Although faithful to the Stalling legacy, Stone’s cartoon music incorporated other styles, including rock ‘n’ roll, jazz, country and show tunes. Since 1994, he had won seven Emmys: two for the theme songs of “Animaniacs” and “Freakazoid,” and five for music direction and composition on “Animaniacs” and “Histeria!”

He also wrote the themes for “Pinky & the Brain,” “Taz-Mania,” “Road Rovers” and “The Sylvester & Tweety Mysteries.”

He is survived by two sons, Richard and Michael; a brother, David, of Burbank; a sister, Bonnie Sunstein, of Iowa City, Iowa; and his mother, Janet, of Jenkintown, Pa.

Donations may be made to the Pancreatic Cancer Action Network, P.O. Box 1010, Torrance, CA 90505.