The Five: Cartoon character quirks - VIDEO
The point of this edition of The Five, besides giving me yet another chance to talk about cartoons, is to examine those weird quirks that set certain cartoon characters apart from their constituents. That is to say, something beyond the usual bulging eyes, springing hair, unraveling tongues, mallet-induced head lumps and stars and birdies that twirl about the head whenever they crash through a wall. I'm interested in quirks and traits a character possesses that no other character does. Some of these are easy: Fred Flintstone's "Yabba Dabba Doo!," Bugs Bunny's various catchphrases like "What's up, doc?" and "Of course you know, this means war!," so I tried to delve a little deeper and come up with some oddities only incredible nerds like myself would notice.
Maybe this will make more sense if I just jump right into it:
Jerry Mouse's nervous gulp
As Dave Barry might say, "Jerry Mouse's Nervous Gulp" would be a great name for a band. It's also one of my favorite cartoon sound effects. Typically, Jerry faced obstacles with the same insouciance as Bugs Bunny, but in those rare instances when he thought his life was in danger, he would swallow the lump in his throat and emit a sound I can't describe, so I posted a video below. Skip to 3:22 to hear it.
Fred Flintstone's bowling technique
Perhaps it comes from years of never wearing shoes, but one thing is certain: Fred could bowl a strike by running up to the lane on his tippy-toes. It's almost like watching ballet, isn't it? Somewhere along the evolutionary ladder we must have lost this ability, because in my experience using the same technique in bowling always results in gutter balls, and angry drunk guys punching you in the kidneys for being so weird.
Road Runner's tongue flap
Chuck Jones did a lot of things well, but one of the things I admired most about him was his ability to use the medium to tell a story with no words at all, and this was especially evident in his mostly wordless Road Runner cartoons. Besides his "MEEP MEEP!" and the way he would stop on a dime and wobble back and forth like a spring, the Road Runner would show his light-hearted unconcern by flicking his tongue in and out, usually after thwarting Wile E. Coyote and right before dashing off across the desert again. Skip to 1:05 to see it.
Sure, any cartoon character can scream and wail in anguish, but Goofy had a special wail that still cracks me up when I hear it. Actually, the yell was also used by Goofy to express exhilaration. When my brother and I were younger, we would often try to copy Goofy's yell whenever we crashed our sleds. If you don't know what I'm talking about, you can hear it at 5:22 and 6:02.
You know, Dastardly's canine companion from Laff-A-Lympics and other shows? He had a sinister, asthmatic laugh that sounded like a car engine trying to start up on a cold morning. The only way I found to duplicate this sound in the real world is to chase a heavy smoker around the block several times. Hear Muttley's wheezing snicker at 0:38.