Talkin’ Pictures: Looney Tunes and Merrie Melodies

Termite Terrace

Similar to my “Oscar Month” in February, I would love to do a “Cartoon Month” and April seemed as good of a time as any to spotlight cartoons. If I want to keep going after April is over, then I wouldn’t mind extending it, but for now I’m just going to plan April as “Cartoon Month” for the Talkin’ Pictures blog series. First, let’s look at what today is considered the greatest studio of theatrical short cartoons along with Disney: Warner Bros. (I promised I would do a blog to the Looney Tunes at some point). It was at the studio known for its gritty, tough, saucy live-action films where cartoon zaniness thrived and they created a new type of cartoon that the other studios were hungry to experiment with like what Disney did a decade before them. While cartoons were never anatomically correct, Looney Tunes went all out with its animation at a time when every cartoon studio (except for Fleischer’s cartoons at Paramount) was desperate to compete with Disney. Throughout this month you will see that every cartoon studio attempted to be or outdo Disney at their own game, and none of them ever could succeed. Warner Bros. originally started out with no exception to this rule.

Harman and Ising

Back in 1929, Warner Bros. got the talented duo of Hugh Harman and Rudolf Ising to do their cartoons. Harman and Ising were Disney alumni as they both worked on early Disney cartoons, most notably Oswald the Lucky Rabbit cartoons. It was their animation style that is often credited to the work of Disney, even though Harman and Ising seemed to have really defined what would be considered “the Disney style” as they were the animators (although Ub Iwerks certainly played a major role as well). Harman and Ising decided to team-up, being close friends, and they found work at Warner Bros. studio which wanted to get into the cartoon business. Harman and Ising created a new character named Bosko to be the face of Warner Bros. cartoons and for a while he was.

Bosko the Doughboy

The happy-go-lucky Bosko became the first official Looney Tune. He appeared in a short film entitled Bosko, the Talk-Ink Kid (1929) which introduced the new character by having him interact with Rudolf Ising in a fashion that will remind many animation historians of silent era cartoons that mixed live action with the world of animation, such as the “Out of the Inkwell” series by Max Fleischer featuring Ko-Ko the Clown. Bosko then appeared in what is considered the first official Warner Bros. cartoon, Sinkin’ in the Bathtub (1930) which was a parody of the song “Singin’ in the Bathtub” which itself was already a response to the newly popular song “Singin’ in the Rain.” Hugh Harman tended to direct the Bosko cartoons while Rudolf Ising focused on the “Merrie Melodies” series which were directly influenced by Disney’s “Silly Symphonies” series. Along with Mickey Mouse as a character, Disney’s “Silly Symphonies” were also the subject of constant inspiration as the “Silly Symphonies” were considered cartoon art at its finest and were constantly being praised by audiences and critics alike.

Lady Play Your Mandolin

The problem with these Harman and Ising cartoons is their close similarity to Disney cartoons. Like with all other studios at the time, there was no beating the original as time and time again Disney proved they couldn’t be topped in their field. Harman and Ising even created a cartoon character named Foxy that looked and acted so similar to Mickey Mouse they had to scrap him after Disney threatened to sue the studio for plagiarism. You could hardly blame Harman and Ising for these problems as Disney’s style was technically their style too. It would be at a different studio where Harman and Ising would showcase their most acclaimed and beloved cartoons (we’ll get to that another week), but the early Warner Bros. Bosko cartoons have held a place in some animation lovers’ hearts if not the general public. While Bosko’s play upon vaudeville minstrel shows (which many cartoon characters were inspired by it is just more obvious with Bosko as he is not an anthropomorphic character but rather an exaggeration of a minstrel character) have made him not really present in the modern eye, he is seen as an animation icon although not as popular or praised as the later-day Looney Tunes characters. Still, Bosko cartoons lacked the quality to compete with Disney and that was always obvious.

Buddy's Day Out

Harman and Ising left Warner Bros. over a contract dispute. The Bosko cartoons did quite well in their day, they may not have been able to compete with Disney but the general movie-going public was familiar with the Bosko character. This left Warner Bros. without a cartoon star and without a creative team to pump out cartoon after cartoon. This is when the studio went through a noticeable slump. Cartoon head Leon Schlesinger hired Jack King and Tom Palmer to run things. Unfortunately, their cartoons were not steps in the right direction. They created the character Buddy who lacked any sort of personality whatsoever. Many of the animators at the studio at the time commented that Buddy was essentially Bosko-Lite with Bob Clampett referring to Buddy as “Bosko in whiteface.” Film/cartoon critic Leonard Maltin states that while the Bosko cartoons weren’t stellar, that statement isn’t fair to Bosko. Animation historian (and Bosko fan) Jerry Beck did a pretty good job summing things up by stating Bosko and Buddy were both rather dull but Buddy lacked Bosko’s “pizzazz.” After two years, the Buddy character was dropped and most people have forgotten he was once the head Looney Tune.


While Jack King and Tom Palmer took the studio in the wrong direction, Schlesinger had many animators under contract who would end up taking the studio by storm. Some would end up becoming directors and Schlesinger also hired some new talent. Out of all this good stuff coming in, two directors of this time stand-out the most and were clearly responsible for defining what the Looney Tunes were all about. These two directors were Tex Avery and Frank Tashlin (sometimes referred to as “Tish-Tash”). While many directors were still following in the foot-steps of Harman and Ising, such as Friz Freleng at this time, Tex Avery and Frank Tashlin were creating and molding something completely different. It was clear that Avery and Tashlin had little interest trying to resemble Disney, as they created a style of cartoons that seemed new and exciting. They both showcased energetic and zany-paced cartoons. Tex Avery was more exaggerated and experimental while Frank Tashlin was cinematic and had a little heart in the mix of his wild world.

I Haven't Got a Hat

By the time Tex Avery and Frank Tashlin became big directors, the studio was still having problems finding a character to star in their cartoons. Friz Freleng directed a cartoon entitled I Haven’t Got a Hat (1935) and it featured an ensemble of new characters in a school setting. One of these characters was a pig with a stutter named Porky who tried but struggled to get through reciting “The Midnight Ride of Paul Revere” and he stole the show. Despite the clear potential in Porky’s character, the studio decided to run with the cat named Beans who was a trouble-maker. It actually wasn’t a bad idea as Beans had the prankster attitude of many later Looney Tunes characters, but his solo cartoons seemed to play Beans derived of his original personality and he became a blander character. Luckily, Tex Avery knew the studio had a star in Porky and wanted to focus on him. And the rest is history.

Porky's Romance

Tex Avery may have made Porky a star, but Frank Tashlin made many of the best early Porky cartoons. They were imaginative and were animated as if all the animation was being captured on a movie camera rather than through animators. This is clear as early as Porky’s Poultry Plant (1936) which features a climax that takes place in the air and is handled through exciting animation that feels like a version of The Dawn Patrol, but pushed to cartoony extremes. Tashlin highlighted this creative eye even more in Little Beau Porky (1936) and Porky’s Romance (1937). In Tashlin’s cartoons, Porky was a nice, agreeable character but he had certain traits that distinguished him from Mickey Mouse and the Mickey imitators at other studios, partly thanks to his defining stutter and ability to get kicked around for the sake of comedy.

I Love to Singa

While Tashlin was putting Porky on top, Tex Avery was creating some brilliant one-shot cartoons. The most praised and beloved one-shot Avery Warner Bros. cartoon would have to be I Love to Singa (1936) which is a spoof of Warner Bros. own The Jazz Singer (1927). It features Owl Jolson (our Al Jolson incarnate) who longs to be a crooner which goes against his classical music loving family who try to steer him in their direction. Owl Jolson ends up running away from home, coming across a talent competition hosted by Jack Bunny (get it?) where he ends up winning the top prize for his crooning talents and the approval of his strict parents. The cartoon is not only well-animated in a style different from the other cartoons being made by the studio, but it presented a relatable lead and a full-fledged story told in the span of seven minutes. It was succeeding at what Disney had perfected, but doing it in a style all its own and strictly Warner Bros. rather than Disney.

Porky's Duck Hunt

Not only did Tex Avery make Porky Pig a star, but he also hit another homerun when he had Porky come into contact with a crazy, nutty duck named Daffy. The cartoon was Porky’s Duck Hunt (1937) and it was the first cartoon to feature Daffy Duck. It also showcased Avery’s ability to think outside the lines as the cartoon ends with Daffy jumping and hooting his way all around the “That’s All Folks!” title card. It cemented another star for Looney Tunes and a character that was more in the style of the wacky world created by Avery and Tashlin as well as their animators. Tex Avery used Daffy again in Daffy Duck and Egghead (1938) which is a proto-hunting cartoon that the studio would become known for as Egghead is seen as a proto-Elmer Fudd. While Avery and Tashlin continued working with Porky and Daffy as well as other superior one-shot cartoons, an Avery protégé ended up directing on his own cartoons and it was one of the best things that could have happened to the studio and cartoon history.

Porky in Wackyland

Tex Avery’s two underlings were Bob Clampett and Chuck Jones who took in everything the master had to teach them, but Clampett molded Avery’s style into a style all his own. His cartoons cannot be mistaken for Avery or Tashlin cartoons because they were so out-there and crazy that they only could have come from the mind of Bob Clampett. Perhaps the best example is Porky in Wackyland (1938) which is cited as one of the greatest cartoons ever made all for good reason. It is essential Clampett, a world built on crazy that only he could foresee. It features Porky going on a hunt for the Dodo bird which is worth a fortune. He goes to “Darkest Africa” to search for it, but he stumbles across a Dali-inspired world filled with mind-screws and bizarre imagery that would be at home in the classic animated trip starring The Beatles, Yellow Submarine (1968). At this time, there was no other cartoon out there like it. Sure Fleischer cartoons featured experimentation and surreal images, but not to the wacky extreme and humorous delivery of Porky in Wackyland. And like with every Clampett cartoon, there is no mistaking Porky in Wackyland for anyone else’s piece of work.

Night Watchman

It was also at this time that Chuck Jones started his long career in animation directing. Another one of Tex Avery’s “students,” he studied under Avery’s cartoons but went on to find a highly different style and voice. While Clampett took Avery’s zaniness and Tashlin’s creative eye and put it together in one unique style, Jones showed right away he wasn’t going to go down the route created by Avery or Tashlin instead preferring something rather different. Jones’ early cartoons don’t have the style he would later be known for however, as like with other cartoon studios at the time Jones’ love for Disney showed 100% as his early cartoons appear to be based on Disney’s “Silly Symphonies” and they, in fact, were. Jones’ first cartoon is The Night Watchman (1938) which is about a kitten that takes over his father’s job of watching the house when the old man gets sick, leading the mice to take advantage of the green-horned cat. It was more cute than funny, although sharply animated. Jones continued on this streak with his Sniffles series as Jones really liked building cartoons around little characters in a big world much like the little kitten in his debut directorial cartoon. Still, these cartoons were contradicting with the crazy, funny ones created by Avery, Tashlin, Clampett, and Freleng. Jones was told by the bosses to make funny cartoons or go somewhere else, so he ended up changing his style and really discovered something beautiful. He experimented with more typical Looney Tunes cartoons like Daffy Duck and the Dinosaur (1939) and Elmer’s Candid Camera (1940), but it would still be a little bit until Jones really defined himself as a director.

You Ought to Be in Pictures

In the 1940s, many essential Looney Tunes cartoons came to be. One of the most memorable ones is You Ought to Be in Pictures (1940) from the mind of Friz Freleng. Like Bosko, the Talk-Ink Kid all the way back, You Ought to Be in Pictures experiments with live-action and animation together. In this cartoon, Porky wants to be a feature film star thanks to Daffy’s desire to push the pig out so he can take his place as Warner Bros. go-to cartoon star. Porky interacts with Leon Schlesinger and Warner Bros. studios, predating Roger Rabbit by several decades. It is a funny, imaginative cartoon that takes an old formula of mixing two different mediums and makes it appear new and fresh. Porky and Daffy also mix perfectly with the real-world as it doesn’t appear wonky or creaky by today’s standards, in fact it still looks smooth and fluid after all these years.

Wild Hare 2

Something happened in 1940 that couldn’t be ignored. Tex Avery brought to light yet another character, except this one would become the studio’s mascot and today remains in that position: Bugs Bunny. There were proto-Bugs designs and characters, but A Wild Hare (1940) by Tex Avery is the first one to really define and introduce Bugs. The cartoon rabbit in Elmer’s Candid Camera (1940) slightly resembles Bugs, but we the audience know we are not watching Bugs as he sounds different and doesn’t have Bugs’ defining character traits including somberly chomping on his carrot in the sight of danger. This rabbit also laughs like Woody Woodpecker (both voiced by Mel Blanc so it makes sense) and not like our Brooklyn-voiced rabbit. In A Wild Hare, Bugs was chill in danger, but zany in comedic moments and in his delivery. It made for an irresistible character who was unlike any other at the time. He created mayhem for those involved, but the audience couldn’t help but be on his side even though Elmer Fudd usually never deserves it. Blanc hadn’t figured out Bugs’ voice quite yet, but the character was officially born. This was also before Bugs’ classic “Robert McKimson Design” so he looks a little lean and bug-eyed compared to usual.

Hollywood Steps Out

Tex Avery used Bugs again in Tortoise Beats Hare (1941) which plays upon “The Tortoise and the Hare” story which was turned into a cartoon by Disney a few years back. Bugs’ design was clearly inspired by the Disney hare, and Bugs appeared to have the hare’s cockiness and high energy which made it perfect for a parody of the story to be done with Bugs. This formula was used more times with Bugs Bunny coming into contact with Cecil Turtle who can always beat him in a race. Bugs was also starting to look closer and closer to his McKimson design with each and every cartoon. Meanwhile, Avery continued to work on more solid cartoons including Hollywood Steps Out (1941) and The Heckling Hare (1941), but then Avery took his creative style to MGM and we can’t say it was a bad move considering what he ended up doing for that studio similar to what he had done for Warner Bros. a few years prior.

Bugs Bunny Gets the Boid

Chuck Jones started coming more into his smart comedy style, Friz Freleng showcased his impressive knack for being able to place animation smoothly with soundtrack, and Bob Clampett was still knocking his cartoons out of the park and managing to reach new goofy heights. Clampett used his winning direction in such cartoons as Wabbit Twouble (1941), Horton Hatches the Egg (1942), Eatin’ on the Cuff (1942), and the particularly good Bugs Bunny Gets the Boid (1942). Many classic Looney Tunes continued to be pumped out regularly including The Dover Boys (1942) directed by Chuck Jones which is one of the first cartoons to show his smart but self-aware humor. Just try not to laugh when the villain proclaims “I will steal it and nobody will ever know!” and when the damsel in distress throws the villain across the room crying for help (even though she is more than capable of taking care of herself).

Tale of Two Kitties

With Avery gone, Clampett proved he was capable of creating new cartoon stars as well. A Tale of Two Kitties (1942) is an excellent cartoon with our title characters being cat impersonations of Abbott and Costello who get their source material down to pat. Throughout the cartoon they are trying to catch and eat a baby bird that is barely enough to fill both of their stomachs. This bird had the voice of a cartoon baby and he would be dubbed Tweety down the road. While Tweety is without his feathers in this cartoon, he has his classic character traits of foiling the puddy tats and making simple observations to the slapstick occurring. The Abbott and Costello cats (Babbit and Catstello) also made a few more cartoons, but sadly they didn’t go on to make as much as one would hope.

Tin Pan Alley Cats

A common critique of old cartoons in general is that they hold racial stereotypes. This is true and it can be highly uncomfortable for modern viewers. Many TV stations that show old cartoons heavily edit them if they feature stereotypes or they cut them out of circulation altogether. In the Looney Tunes canon, there are “The Censored Eleven” which are eleven cartoons that cannot be viewed on television or be bought on DVD. While it makes sense to want to keep non-cartoon enthusiasts from watching these stereotypes, it is never a good idea to completely ban something out of controversy. The Looney Tunes DVDs even commonly come with the warning stating that they are uncut as it would be wrong to remove these offensive stereotypes because it would be like saying they never existed. Well said, but it hasn’t excused “The Censored Eleven” which remain hard-to-find. Most of these cartoons probably deserve to be buried, but animation fans have been angry at the treatment of two particular cartoons. They are the only two in “The Censored Eleven” directed by Bob Clampett and they are Coal Black and de Sebben Dwarfs (1943) and Tin Pan Alley Cats (1943) which have been hailed as masterpieces by animation nuts. They are both excellent and creative cartoons, although one can also understand Warner Bros. being uncomfortable with the idea of displaying them to a wide audience. Bob Clampett was known for being a hip guy and he was a fan of jazz and portraying jazzy styles in his cartoons. These two cartoons are clearly meant to be tributes to jazz and its fast style, but modern audiences likely would largely not connect-the-dots in this respect and it would just appear racist. If you have a strong stomach for this sort of thing (you have to if you watch old cartoons), give them a watch if you can find them.

Porky Pig's Feat

Bugs and Daffy were making some of their best cartoons at this time. Tashlin returned to briefly work for the studio again until he ended up leaving to become a live-action director where his talents and eye for camera-angles was put to good use. Tashlin made what is often regarded as his greatest cartoon at this time: Porky Pig’s Feat (1943). It plays upon the Porky and Daffy relationship (the two characters became a wonderful pairing since they first appeared together) as the two try to escape out of a hotel without paying their bill. It takes this funny concept and builds on it with one great gag after another and one creative shot after the next. It is not only a wildly funny cartoon (with an excellent closing joke), but it is one of the best in terms of animation of the entire Looney Tunes library. Plane Daffy (1944) is another well-animated and laugh-out-loud funny cartoon from the mind of Tashlin. Tashlin once again shows he has the talent to be a live-action director and he would end up becoming a comedy director known for making live-action seem like animation in his Bob Hope and Jerry Lewis classics.

Book Revue

Meanwhile, Bob Clampett was pumping out so many praised cartoons: A Corny Concerto (1943), Falling Hare (1943), The Old Grey Hare (1944), Draftee Daffy (1945), A Grusome Twosome (1945), Book Revue (1946), and Bacall to Arms (1946) among others. Clampett managed to hold onto his crazy, one-of-a-kind style with each passing cartoon. They were so completely different from what all the other directors were doing. Clampett never played upon the same ideas or concepts that the other directors would stick to (not that doing so is a bad thing, if it works it works). It was also clear that there were no winners and losers in the eyes of Clampett. In one cartoon Daffy could win but in the next he could lose. Today Bugs Bunny is seen as an untouchable hero who always comes out on top, but Clampett didn’t see the need to make Bugs a winner in every cartoon similar to what Avery set-up initially with the rabbit. There was always an end-game in the other director’s cartoons, but not with Clampett. He also brought his zaniness to new peaks in the Porky-Daffy cartoon Baby Bottleneck (1946), Kitty Kornered (1946) which features a proto-Sylvester (before his red clown nose), and the Bugs-Elmer cartoon The Big Snooze (1946) which rather than playing on the basic Bugs-Elmer formula it takes it to surreal and absurd extremes when Bugs enters Elmer’s dreams. Arguably Clampett’s finest achievement of the 1940s came with The Great Piggy Bank Robbery (1946) which has Daffy imagine he is a variation of Dick Tracy (Duck Twacy) as he enters a bizarre underground of villains made-up of puns. The animation is also top-notch with Daffy being perfectly exaggerated and over-the-top throughout the cartoon’s run both in movement and facial-reactions. This was also around the time Clampett left Warner Bros. and the studio certainly lost something when he left, but they were on no shortage of talent.

Tweetie Pie

Jones and Freleng made lots of solid Bugs Bunny cartoons in the 1940s including Little Red Riding Rabbit (1944, Freleng), Bugs Bunny and the Three Bears (1944, Jones), Baseball Bugs (1946, Freleng), Hair-Raising Hare (1946, Jones), and Rhapsody Rabbit (1946, Freleng). Robert McKimson also became a regular director at this time. McKimson was a top-notch animator but many of his Bugs Bunny cartoons couldn’t rival the best of Jones and Freleng. There were still some good ones like Acrobatty Bunny (1946) and Easter Yeggs (1946) to his credit. Still, McKimson hit a more unique success with his other characters that were all his, unlike Bugs who everyone shared. Without McKimson we wouldn’t have Foghorn Leghorn after all. The other directors were creating brilliant new and original characters as well. Chuck Jones created Pepe Le Pew, a skunk who thought he was a total ladies’ man but was oblivious to the fact that he smelled bad. Pepe Le Pew is a parody of French actor and major Hollywood star Charles Boyer and it is for this reason why Pepe is probably my favorite Looney Tune (I know that is somewhat of a controversial statement given the fact that Pepe’s actions today seem too strong but I’m a sucker for a good, solid parody of old Hollywood). Pepe le Pew even managed to win one of Looney Tunes’ few Oscars, for 1949’s For Scent-imental Reasons. Friz Freleng also put together two characters originally created by Bob Clampett, Sylvester and Tweety Bird. Their first cartoon together, Tweetie Pie (1947), went over so well with audiences and critics it won an Oscar. It also merited the formula popular enough to continue its success streak (which it did). Robert McKimson and Chuck Jones also found ways to use Sylvester. McKimson used the cat in his Hippety Hopper and Jr. cartoons and Jones used him in some scare comedies with Porky Pig, making Sylvester one of the Looney Tunes MVPs. Meanwhile, we still got excellent Bugs Bunny cartoons like Slick Hare (1947, Freleng), Gorilla My Dreams (1948, McKimson), Rabbit Punch (1948, Jones), Buccaneer Bunny (1948, Freleng), Bugs Bunny Rides Again (1948, Freleng), Haredevil Hare (1948, Jones), Mississippi Hare (1949, Jones), Rebel Rabbit (1949, McKimson), High Diving Hare (1949, Freleng), Long-Haired Hare (1949, Jones), Frigid Hare (1949, Jones), and Rabbit Hood (1949, Jones).

Coyote and Road Runner

The good characters also didn’t stop there. In 1949, Chuck Jones took the basic formula from Columbia’s Fox and Crow cartoons and created the classic Wile E. Coyote and Road Runner cartoons. As far as laughs go, the Coyote and Road Runner cartoons were some of the most notable in the Looney Tunes collection. In Haredevil Hare (1948), Chuck Jones introduced another wonderful character, Marvin the Martian. While he is without his iconic voice here, the cute, under-acting alien is still delightful. Too bad Marvin the Martian actually didn’t appear in that many cartoons, but he has remained one of the most popular characters over the years. There was also Charlie Dog as well as Hubie and Bertie the mice from Jones (Hubie and Bertie were usually paired with Claude Cat), Taz the Tasmanian devil from McKimson, and Yosemite Sam the roughest, toughest gunmen in the West from Freleng. Freleng created Yosemite Sam in order to add more variety to the hunting cartoons which he felt were wearing thin by this point, not to mention that Freleng often felt bad for Elmer so he wanted to pair Bugs with a straight-up villain who deserved everything he got. Arthur Davis was an occasional director by this point as well and he sometimes did one-shot characters. I certainly wish Heathcliff and Louie of Dough Ray Me-Ow (1948) made more cartoons.

Scarlet Pumpernickel

After the 1940s, the directors tended to continue on and stick to the formulas that worked. They made for great cartoons, however. Chuck Jones started to experiment a little more and out of it he created some of his best cartoons. One of them would be The Scarlet Pumpernickel (1950) which stars Daffy Duck in the Errol Flynn-like role and he is supported by a strong cast of Looney Tunes including Sylvester as the Basil Rathbone-type villain and Porky Pig in the character actor king role. It was a funny cartoon that parodied swashbucklers, which were big at the time as Daffy lets us know as the frame of the cartoon is Daffy pitching it to be made. Hubie and Bertie’s The Hypo-Chondri-Cat (1950) is also filled with some oddly beautiful animation even though the formula itself is right at home in any other Hubie and Bertie cartoon. One of Chuck Jones most rightfully famous cartoons is Rabbit of Seville (1950). While “The Barber of Seville” spoof was already perfected by Woody Woodpecker, Bugs and Elmer handle the material quite differently and the result is a funny, out-there, and irresistible cartoon. Feed the Kitty (1952) combined a dash of pathos with the cat-and-mouse story involving a dog trying to keep the little cat he found without his owners noticing. Of course, Jones most recognizable feat as a cartoon director came with “The Hunting Trilogy” (Rabbit Fire (1951), Rabbit Seasoning (1952), and Duck! Rabbit! Duck! (1953)) which managed to bring something different to the Bugs-Elmer hunting formula by adding Daffy to the mix. It created a comedic high point.

One Froggy Evening

Still, there are four particular cartoons that come to mind when thinking of Chuck Jones’ genius. They are Duck Amuck (1953), Duck Dodgers in the 24½th Century (1953), One Froggy Evening (1955), and What’s Opera, Doc? (1957). Duck Amuck is a cartoon that constantly breaks the fourth wall which involves the animator torturing and messing with Daffy. Duck Dodgers is a parody of space programs with Daffy and Porky (of Earth) having to take on Marvin the Martian (of Mars) and it is filled with creative imagery that would be in place in Pink Floyd’s The Wall (1982). One Froggy Evening takes a brilliant premise for all it’s worth leading to a great conclusion and introducing audiences to Looney Tunes’ most famous one-shot character, Michigan J. Frog. What’s Opera, Doc? is the perfect mix of Jones’ humor and love for culture, making fun of high opera with some of his best animation to boot. All four were Oscar-worthy, so naturally none of them were even nominated.

Martian Through Georgia

Chuck Jones also put the Daffy and Porky duo to excellent use. Many of Jones’ best cartoons involve the teaming of the two, highlighting Daffy’s cocky attitude and Porky’s smarter but less confident nature. These cartoons include the Western spoof Drip-Along Daffy (1951), the Dragnet parody Rocket Squad (1956), the Sherlock Holmes send-up Deduce, You Say! (1956), and the brilliant Robin Hood Daffy (1958). Towards the end of his tenure, Jones began experimenting with some great one-shot cartoons including High Note (1960), Nelly’s Folly (1961), Martian Through Georgia (1962), and Now Hear This (1963).

Little Beau Pepe

The other characters were also being put to good use. Bugs Bunny had What’s Up, Doc? (1950, McKimson), 8 Ball Bunny (1950, Jones), Hillbilly Hare (1950, McKimson), Ballot Box Bunny (1951, Freleng), Operation: Rabbit (1952, Jones), Rabbit’s Kin (1952, McKimson), Bully for Bugs (1953, Jones), Hyde and Hare (1955, Freleng), Bugs’ Bonnets (1956, Jones), Broom-Stick Bunny (1956, Jones), and Ali-Baba Bunny (1957, Jones) among many more great examples of classic Bugs cartoons. Sylvester had Pop ‘im Pop! (1950, McKimson), Room and Bird (1951, Freleng), and Birds Anonymous (1956, Freleng). Pepe Le Pew had Little Beau Pepe (1952) and The Cat’s Bah (1954) from Chuck Jones as well as Really Scent (1959) from Abe Levitow. Wile E. Coyote and Road Runner had Beep, Beep (1952), Gee Whiz-z-z-z-z-z-z (1957), and To Beep or Not to Beep (1963) all by Chuck Jones. These characters had formulas, but formulas that worked really well. There were also new Looney Tunes characters created including Speedy Gonzales the fastest mouse in all Mexico (who the Oscars seemed to love) and Ralph and Sam, a wolf and sheepdog combo that played off each other like how Wile E. Coyote and Road Runner did except with priceless clock-out gags involving Ralph and Sam only enemies at their jobs.

Rabbit Seasoning

While some formulas wore thin after awhile, most of them had plenty more steam to continue. Unfortunately, the studio system came to a crash in the 1960s and Termite Terrace (the Warner Bros. studio where the cartoons were made) was gone. Looney Tunes were still being made but they were cheap and no longer starred many of the classic characters of the originals. Many of the directors left and pursued other ideas with Chuck Jones going to MGM and Friz Freleng doing Pink Panther cartoons. It was the end of the era, and sadly the Looney Tunes kept trying to pick themselves up even though they no longer had the talent or the budget to pull off what they once did. The Looney Tunes did not go out with dignity, but only the good is remembered today and many of the classic characters were spared. Today, the Looney Tunes have appeared in some movies and TV shows, but none of them come close to the greatness they once had. Movies like Space Jam (1996) seemed like watered-down versions of the classic characters with jokes that don’t fit their style (and heavy-handed animation to make matters worse). Honestly, there are so many classic cartoons from the Looney Tunes canon (many that I didn’t even mention) that it is enough to last a long time and secure multiple viewings without making viewers jaded. The Looney Tunes were some of the best (maybe even the best) cartoons to come out of the classic studio era, and while they are sub-par in new adaptations and re-imaginings, it is nice to know the classics have lived on and still look great even with all this time that has gone by. That truly is remarkable and is more than what most old movies can say.


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