My generation grew up with GI Joe, Voltron, Thundercats and He-Man, so we're not exactly strangers to action-based cartoons, but we also had reruns of Looney Tunes shorts and early Hanna-Barbera (Tom and Jerry, The Jetsons, The Flintstones, etc). These days, it seems cartoons are all about action, and those old cartoons have either disappeared completely, or have become more difficult to find (Boomerang excluded). It's quite a shame, because my own nieces and nephew, regardless of being generations removed from the likes of Bugs Bunny and Tom and Jerry, absolutely love those old cartoons. Sure, they still love Avatar: The Last Airbender and Shaolin Showdown, but they also know what funny is.
Nevertheless, someone, somewhere felt that Bugs and his pals needed to cash in on the popularity of anime and anime-inspired action cartoons, and the result was Loonatics Unleashed, a cartoon set in the future, featuring descendants of the classic Looney Tunes characters with super powers and crazy gadgets and weapons. The first season will be out on DVD this March, and if you see your kids walking towards it in the store, I suggest you kick them towards the classic Golden Collection DVD sets instead.
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:
Are you bored? Do you have nothing much to do today? Does the thought of leaving your home and being around other human beings just leave you unfulfilled? Don't worry, that's why I'm here. Instead of stepping outside where you might risk being hit by a car or strangled by a squirrel, why not sit in front of the warm glow of your computer screen and watch some clips from old TV shows like You Bet Your Life, The Beverly Hillbillies, The Lucy Show and The Dick Van Dyke Show? There's also some old Popeye and Looney Tunes shorts, plus movie serials and trailers.
A friend of mine sent me this link to Public Domain Comedy, knowing I'm a sucker for all things cartoony. You can also find a lot of similar clips and full-length videos by poking around the Archive.org site. It's like YouTube, but without the guilt of viewing copyrighted material.
Years before Porky Pig would become the first breakout character of Warner Bros. Animation, there was a little humanoid by the name of Bosko, the star of the very first Looney Tune, "Sinkin' in the Bathtub," a sugary-sweet animated short that debuted in 1930 at the Warner Bros. Theater on Broadway as a lead-in to the feature film The Song of the Flame.
This cartoon, and many that followed it, were created under the omnipresent shadow of Disney during a time when Walt ruled animation and the only way to get a cartoon produced was to stick to a Disneyesque formula (even the name "Looney Tunes" is a play on Disney's "Silly Symphonies" cartoons). It wouldn't be until many years later that Warner Bros. would develop a style separate from Disney and take animation to wonderfully ludicrous heights that would never be allowed within the confines of the Walt Disney Studio. While Disney focused on narrative and making images realistic, Warner Bros. chose to make cartoons with characters and worlds that that would twist, contort, and defy our laws of physics. This change in style was thanks in large part to Tex Avery, who joined the studio in 1935. "Sinkin' in the Bathtub" pales in comparison to what the studio would eventually create, but it's a great piece of animation history, nonetheless.
Watch the cartoon here.
Before he passed away in 2002, one of the last cartoons iconic animation director Chuck Jones helped to create was a Flash-animated series called Thomas J. Timberwolf. You can watch every episode here, and if the animation seems a tad primitive, keep in mind this was created in the early days of Flash, but even with that stipulation the cartoons still look pretty damn good. The smooth talking but accident prone Thomas J. Timberwolf was voiced by Joe Alaskey, one of the voice actors to take over the voices of many of the Looney Tunes after the death of Mel Blanc, and the voice of Plucky Duck on Tiny Toons, among many, many other characters on numerous animated programs. Nancy "Bart Simpson" Cartwright, also did voices for the internet series.
[via Cartoon Brew]
Good news for animation fans who are into that whole "high definition" thing. The September 26th HD-DVD release of The Adventures of Robin Hood, the 1938 classic featuring Errol Flynn in the titular role, will also include three Warner Bros. shorts in high def: "Robin Hood Daffy," "Katnip College," and "Rabbit Hood." It would be nice if they actually released HD-DVDs of these and other cartoons, but I guess we'll have to take what we can get for now. At least you'll be able to see Bugs' make-up and all of Daffy's plastic surgery scars. Apparently a Blu-Ray disc will hit stores sometime next year. To be honest, I'm rather indifferent to seeing these cartoons in high def. To me, seeing them in high def is like listening to an old jazz song on a CD. There's nothing wrong with it, per se, but that's not really how it was meant to be experienced. Of course, these cartoons were originally created for movie screens, so I guess anything other than that would be "incorrect" so to speak.
[via Cartoon Brew]
Okay, we've looked at both Bugs Bunny and Daffy Duck individually, and now it's time to focus on some of the best cartoons in which the two cartoon heavyweights shared the screen (much to Daffy's consternation, I'm sure). Bugs Bunny didn't necessarily meet his match with Daffy, but the two characters played off one another in a manner that seemed more substantive than Bugs' usual battles with the likes of Elmer Fudd and Yosemite Sam. While someone like Elmer would simple come at Bugs with guns blazing, Daffy would often try to match Bugs on an intellectual level, and usually wind up having his bill shot clean off his face. These are my favorite Bugs and Daffy cartoons:
Rabbit Seasoning (1952): An ever-malleable Elmer Fudd finds himself repeatedly shooting Daffy, despite Daffy trying to convince him it isn't duck season. Actually, it is duck season, but Bugs uses reverse psychology and clever pronoun usage to trick Daffy into somehow begging Elmer to shoot him. There's also an important lesson for all of us in this cartoon, which is that a crazy man with a gun can always be thwarted by a rabbit dressed as a woman.
While each of the Looney Tunes characters had their own personality, even those personalities would differ depending on which era the cartoon was made, and who was directing. Porky Pig, for example, was often portrayed as the neurotic foil, but in later cartoons with Daffy Duck he was often the calm voice of reason. Daffy also differed greatly in personality from his early days under the supervision of Bob Clampett when he truly lived up to the name "daffy" to his eventual evolution into the selfish but lovable duck most people know him as today. Trying to keep these two sides of Daffy's psyche in mind, I've come up with five of what I think are his best shorts:
Duck Amuck (1953): "And on this farm he had an igloo...." This was one of my favorite cartoons growing up, and still is today. Daffy finds himself at the mercy of an unseen director who erases and paints in new scenery, erases Daffy himself, and even messes with the music soundtrack and Daffy's own voice. Al the while Daffy tries to reason with him, but to no avail. In the end it's revealed that the man with the magic pencil and paintbrush is actually Bugs Bunny.
Have you ever come across a show you used to watch as a kid and realized there was a lot of stuff that went over your head? I'm talking about those shows you enjoyed as a kid, but also enjoyed as an adult because they seemed to work on two different levels. Well, maybe it would help my explanation if I just dove right in and listed five shows I loved as a kid, and then rediscovered as an adult. If this triggers any memories, let it all out in the comments. Onward:
Batman: The old Adam West series was reran when I was younger, and I love it for its comic book / pop art aesthetic, kooky villains, and nutty fight scenes. What I didn't realize until I was older was how clever the show really was, and that it was actually very self-aware and downright hysterical at times. I don't know if I could imagine West playing a "serious" Batman, but I can't imagine anyone else in this role.
Hey, check your watch. Yeah, it's time for another episode of The Five where we list stuff in groups of five, and you throw down some more in the comments. It's both fun and educational. Today we're talking about the best fictional corporations on television, so let's get into it:
Acme: Are you a coyote who has devoted his life to catching a single bird? If so, the Acme Corporation has everything you need from anvils to rocket sleds to exploding birdseed. Of course, none of these things come with any guarantee, but I'm sure they'll work out just fine for you. According to Wikipedia, Acme was part of the Warner Bros. cartoon universe early on, having first appeared in "Buddy's Bug Hunt" in 1935.
Yesterday as I was getting ready to Tivo the Ricky Gervais episode of The Simpsons, I started to think about whether something like this had been done before, where an actor not associated with a cartoon was brought in to contribute to an episode. While I'm sure there's many, the only one I could think of was the Looney Tunes' short "The Mouse That Jack Built" which featured Jack Benny and his fellow stars from his famous radio and television program playing themselves as mice. The result was a hilarious short about Jack and his friends going out to eat at the Kit Kat Club, which turns out to be an actual cat. In the end, we're treated to a live-action shot of the real Jack Benny waking up from his nightmare, only to see the two mice from his dream crawl from his cat's mouth and scurry into a mousehole. Benny didn't write the episode, but by bringing in new voice actors with a more cerebral and less "cartoony" approach to humor, it resulted in one of the more unique Warner Bros. animated shorts when mixed with the slapstick and sadism for which these cartoons had become famous. Also, it should be noted that Mel Blanc, who voiced ninety-nine percent of the Looney Tunes characters, was also a regular on the Jack Benny Program, so maybe ol' Jack didn't need much convincing to appear in animated form. Rumor has it he asked for no money, just a copy of the cartoon. Oh yeah, and just to bring it full circle, the foppish shop owner on The Simpsons who says, "Yeeeeeesss???" is based on a character on Jack Benny's show. It's like a big ol' Mobius strip o' comedy.
So, my fellow cartoon-lovin' peeps, can you think of any other cartoons to turn themselves over to "new management" if only for one episode?
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