Buddy: The Most Boring Looney Tunes Character Ever

Bosko was very successful for Warner Bros.’ Looney Tunes series. He appeared in a total of 39 short films.  Things seemed to be going great until 1933.   Hugh Harman and Rudolf Ising negotiated with producer Leon Schlesinger for more money so that they could improve the quality of their cartoons, and make them in color.  Schlesinger, who was notorious for wanting to spend as little money on the creation of cartoons as possible, refused their requests.

Ultimately, the two men decided to leave.  Since they owned the rights to Bosko, they took him with them.  Having learned a lesson from their former boss Walt Disney losing the rights to use Oswald the Lucky Rabbit, they created Bosko in 1929 and copyrighted him so that in case they lost a job, they would not be screwed out the characters they created.

Schlesinger had to start over.

He convinced several animators from rival studios to come to him.  One of them was Tom Palmer who created Buddy and directed the first two Buddy cartoons.

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However, the cartoons were so poorly received that Palmer was fired and Friz Freleng was hired to re-edit them into one.  This resulted in the cartoon called Buddy’s Day Out.

Buddy appeared in 23 cartoons in total.  Like most cartoons of the time, they were dominated by music.  Buddy, however, was considered to be a very boring character with no personality; that opinion is still commonly held among many classic animation fans and animation historians, though there are some dissenting voices.  Buddy was viewed as a rip-off and more specifically, a white version of Bosko; in fact, Warner Bros. animation director Bob Clampett went on record as saying that Buddy was “Bosko in whiteface.”

There was the need to create a new better character.  Friz Freleng made the Merrie Melodies series cartoon I Haven’t Got a Hat in 1935 which introduced several new characters to hopefully be a replacement for Buddy for the Looney Tunes series.  They included Porky Pig, most famously, and Beans the Cat, who became the new star of the Looney Tunes until he was supplanted by Porky.

Before being dropped, Buddy appeared in a Merrie Melodies short called Mr. and Mrs. Is the Name which was directed by Friz Freleng.  He and his girlfriend Cookie were depicted as merpeople, and this was his only appearance in a color short.  However, the character’s names are never given, and therefore, some people dispute whether or not the characters truly are Buddy and Cookie.

Buddy was never seen again until the 1950s when his cartoons began airing on television.

He made a new apperance in the 1990s series, Animaniacs in the episode “The Warners’ 65th Anniversary Special.”  Within the show’s fictional universe, the Warner siblings of Yakko, Wakko, and Dot were created to make Buddy’s cartoons more interesting.  They consisted of the Warners constantly hitting Buddy over the head with mallets.  Finally, Buddy was dismissed, and he became a nut farmer in Ojai, California.  Buddy was furious at the Warners for ruining his career, and he plotted to destroy their anniversary special.

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Buddy also was seen on the show on  PBS called History Detectives, in the form of animation cels.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Obscure Warner Bros. Cartoon Characters: Bosko

This post is the first of a series, where I will educate you about things about the Looney Tunes cartoons that most people don’t know.

The Looney Tunes are among the most famous cartoon characters in the world.  The gang of Bug Bunny, Daffy Duck, Porky Pig, Elmer Fudd, Sylvester, Tweety, Marvin the Martian, Yosemite Sam, Foghorn Leghorn, and the Tasmania Devil are loved around the world for their humor and overall zaniness.

However, it did not start with them.  It was several years before such characters first saw the light of day and became famous.

First, let’s step back in time to the late 1920’s.  There were two animators named Rudof Ising and Hugh Harman.  They worked for Walt Disney on the Oswald the Lucky Rabbit cartoons for Universal.  Things were good, and the cartoons were a success.

Then Disney had Oswald taken from, as he owned no legal rights to Oswald.

Charles Mintz, Disney’s distributor, set up a new studio, and hired away most of the staff including Harman and Ising.  They made more Oswald cartoons, but things went south.  Disney struck gold with Mickey Mouse, and Universal was angry that Mintz had let him go.  After failed attempts to get Disney to come back, Mintz and his studio was dismissed by Universal, and they hired Walter Lantz to make cartoons for them.

Harman and Ising were in need of another job.  Harman had previously created Bosko and copyrighted him, so that no one could take him from them.

They created a short pilot cartoon called Bosko the Talk-Ink Kid, which is credited as being the first animated cartoon with extended dialogue.  This short pilot got the attention of film producer Leon Schlesinger who decided to feature Bosko in a series of cartoons that he would sell to Warner Bros. called the Looney Tunes.  The short was not seen publically until the around the beginning of the 21st century.

Bosko was first seen by a public audience in 1930 in a cartoon called Sinkin’ in the Bathtub which was first appearance of his girlfriend, Honey.  From then, Bosko starred in 38 more cartoons, and he proved to be quite popular.

Bosko’s cartoons are noted for having little to no plot, and for their reliance on music.

There is also the nature of the character himself.  Nowadays, Bosko is often deemed an offensive character because his design is based on blackface caricatures.  In his pilot film and his first theatrically released cartoon, he even spoke with a stereotypical black accent.  Later cartoons gave him a falsetto voice.  Despite his appearance, however, Bosko was generally portrayed personality-wise (though like many cartoon characters of the time, he had little to no personality) without any of the common black stereotypes of the time.  He was depicted as an everyman, a kind-hearted fellow, and above all good-natured.  In later years, Ising denied that Bosko was meant to be a black stereotype, but this is rather hard to believe due the fact that he was registered with the U.S. Copyright Office as a “Negro boy.”

Bosko’s life at Warner Bros., however, would not last.  In 1933, Harman and Ising got into a budget dispute with Schlesinger.  They wanted more money to improve their cartoon’s quality and make them in color.  Schlesinger said no, and the two men left, taking Bosko with him.

They eventually found a new home at MGM.  They created the Happy Harmonies series, which debuted in 1934.  Bosko appeared in two cartoons with his original design.  Then he was redesigned as a realistic black boy, which seems to provide more proof Bosko being conceived as a black caricature.  However, he was unable to reproduce his success.  Eventually, in 1938, Harman and Ising were let go by MGM because they regularly went over budget with their cartoons.  MGM created their own in-house cartoon studio.

Bosko remained largely forgotten in decades.  His cartoons got their best exposure in a long time, when in the late 1980s and early 1990s, Nickelodeon aired them as part of their showing of the Looney Tunes.  However, they were soon removed.

Bosko and his girlfriend Honey appeared on an episode of Tiny Toon Adventures called “Fields of Honey,” where Babs Bunny attempts to find a female cartoon character to have a role model, and she helps Honey, and as is eventually revealed, Bosko, to find a new audience.  This episode redesigns Bosko and Honey as dog-like characters, who resemble the main characters of the Animaniacs.

Bosko has lived on, despite his obscurity.  Many of cartoons have fallen into the public domain, and they have appeared on low-budget home media, YouTube, and even official releases by Warner Bros.

While Bosko may seem dated and insensitive by today’s standards, it is important to not that without him, we would not have the famous Looney Tunes cartoons that we do today.