The Differences Between the Looney Tunes the Merrie Melodies and How Those Differences Eventually Went Away and They Became Exactly the Same

When watching anthologies of Looney Tunes cartoons, one might be confused as to why several of the cartoons are called Merrie Melodies.  The reason is that there was once a difference.

The Looney Tunes series first began in 1930.  It proved to be a success, and so, producer Leon Schlesinger decided to sell a second series of cartoons to Warner Bros.  The point of this new series was to promote songs that Warner Bros. owned.

Previously Warner Bros. created a series of live action shorts called Spooney Melodies.  This series was not a success, and only one entry, “Crying for the Carolines” is known to still exist today.  These shorts were essentially early music videos.

The series that would replace the Spooney Melodies was an animated series of shorts called the Merrie Melodies.  Each cartoon was intended to serve as a promotion of a specific song owned by Warner Bros.  The plot and characters would be created from the song, and the goal was that these cartoons would encourage members of the public buy phonograph records and sheet music of the songs.

The first Merrie Melodies short, Lady Play Your Mandolin was released in 1931, and it was inspired by the song of the same name.  It featured a character known as Foxy, who is noteworthy for looking exactly like Mickey Mouse, but with a bushy tail and pointy ears; he appeared in two other Merrie Melodies shorts, and was discontinued after that.

The next starring character that was created was for the series was Piggy, who was essentially, Mickey Mouse as a pig; he had a girlfriend named Fluffy.  He appeared in two shorts, and was dropped.

Finally, after several shorts containing one-shot characters (characters used for only one short and never used again), a new character was created in 1932: Goopy Geer, a tall humanoid dog.  He bears a strong resemblance to the Disney character Goofy, who debuted the same year.  Goopy appeared in three shorts, but suffered the same fate as Foxy and Piggy, and was discontinued.

After this, the Merrie Melodies became focused on having non-recurring/one-shot characters, as well as serving as promotions for their title songs.  The Looney Tunes were based around recurring characters.

In 1934, the Merrie Melodies were produced in color for the first time, moving to color permanently, at the end of 1934.  The Looney Tunes continued in black-and-white until 1942, and permanently in 1944.

By the late 1930s, the Merrie Melodies stopped focusing on promoting songs, though they remained one-shot cartoons for the most part, including recurring characters such as Egghead, Elmer Fudd, and Bugs Bunny who would be introduced in the next few years.

In 1944, the after the Looney Tunes moved completely to color, the two series became the same.  Characters who appeared on series appeared in the other.

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.

TV Tropes Tuesday: TV Tropes: On One Condition

This trope is related to Unexpected Inheritance, and very often, it coincides with it. A character receives an inheritance.  But there are conditions to be met.  If they are not met, then the character will lose the money/estate. This trope is often used as a way to guarantee that the character will fail to meet the conditions, so that the premise of the show is not changed too much. There are usually four conditions:

1.  The character has to spend the night in the deceased’s house, which could be haunted.  Someone will try to scare them off buy dressing up as a ghost.

2.  The character is told that he or she will lose the money if they harm a certain person/type of person; such person, then starts antagonizing them because they can get away with it.

3.  The character needs to get married within a certain time frame, either to specific person, or any person.

4.  The character will lose either the entire inheritance or their share of the inheritance, if they die; this results in someone who stands to potentially gain all of the money, trying to kill them.

There are ways of messing around with the expectations of this trope. One way is to show that the character meets the condition, but ends up with no money because the estate was heavily in debt and was ceased by the government for taxes and such. Another subversion is that the inheritance is worthless due to the deceased’s assets having no value. Yet another way is that there is no inheritance, and the benefactor isn’t even dead; it was all a secret test of character.

Some examples:

  • Rose on The Golden Girls was bequeathed $100,000 to take care of her late uncle’s favorite pig for the rest of his (the pig’s) life. When the pig fell ill, the vet believed he was just homesick, so the girls gave up the money and passed him on to another relative back in Minnesota, only to have the pig die of old age 36 hours later.
    • After Aunt Fran dies on Mama’s Family, Thelma learns that she possessed a secret fortune, which she has willed to Thelma. The catch? The notoriously cantankerous Thelma must avoid losing her temper for two weeks, or else the money will go to Fran’s favorite charity.
      • Uncle Beaureguard’s $1 million dollar fortune in Confederate dollars came from an episode of Scooby-Doo, Where Are You!. As mentioned above, Confederate bank notes are worth a lot of money to historical collectors. This never occurred to the writers, nor the Scooby Gang, who treat it as a total loss. Each beneficiary had to stay in Beauregard’s home to receive his/her share and the shares of those who failed to fulfill the condition went to those who didn’t fail. Scooby became the sole beneficiary.
      • The Tom and Jerry cartoon “The Million-Dollar Cat” had Tom inheriting a sizeable fortune on the condition he not harm another animal, not even a mouse. Jerry pesters him until he can’t take anymore, and the cartoon closes with Tom remarking “I’m throwing away a million dollars… but I’m HAPPY!” while trying to clobber Jerry with a broken board.
      • In the Woody Woodpecker cartoon Billion Dollar Boner, a man named O’Houlihan gets a billion dollar check – on the condition that he cannot do any harm to a bird. Woody then proceeds to antagonize him. At the end of the episode, it’s revealed that the check is a rubber fake.
        • A frequent plot in Looney Tunes shorts.
          • The Wabbit Who Came To SupperBugs Bunny moves in with Elmer Fudd when Fudd’s Uncle Louie wills him his entire fortune provided he does not harm any animals, especially rabbits. In the end, Elmer DOES manage to curb his anger long enough to get the money… and immediately loses it all (and then some) to taxes.
          • Hare to Heir uses both the “humiliating restrictions” and “murder” plots together. A broke Yosemite Sam inherits a large lump sum of cash on the condition that he will lose a percentage of it each time he loses his temper. As the amount left inevitably dwindles due to his famous hair-trigger rage, he tries to kill off the executor of the will who’s been making all the deductions before it’s all gone (Namely, Bugs Bunny). In the end, Sam tried to pitch an image of calmness by having his servants hit him without him getting angry at them for this and Bugs had no courage to tell Sam he had already lost all the inheritance by then.
          • In The Fair-Haired Hare, Sam builds his house over Bugs’s rabbit hole; a judge grants them joint custody, with the stipulation that if one of them dies, the other will get full rights to the property. Sam’s poorly-disguised murder attempts start soon after.
          • The feature-length movie Daffy Duck’s Quackbusters had Daffy goldbricking his way into inheriting the massive fortune of millionaire J.P. Cubish. He thinks he’s in the clear once Cubish dies, only to find out that a clause in the will that Daffy be ethical with the money causes a chunk of it to vanish into the spirit world every time he does something dirty.
          • There’s also a story where a cat inherited a fortune with the will stipulating that his parrot friend Louie would get the money if something happened to the cat. By the end of the cartoon, one of Louie’s plans actually seems to work, as the cat’s nine lives start leaving him. However, Loiue then brags about the inheritance he’s leaving behind, causing the lives to return and the cat to declare that if he can’t take the money with him, he’s not leaving.
          • In Tex Avery‘s MGM short Wags to Riches, a millionaire dies and leaves his fortune to Droopy, with a clause that in the event of Droopy’s death the entire estate will revert to his other dog, Spike…who naturally spends the cartoon trying (unsuccessfully) to bump Droopy off.

The book Marry Your Baby Daddy by Maryann Reid is about three sisters who receive an inheritance from their late grandmother.  The catch is that they have a certain amount of time to marry the fathers of their children.

My Favorite Pieces of Classical Music Monday: My Favorite Pieces of Classical Music: Part 12

Happy Monday!

Here are more pieces of classical music to share today.  I will share two pieces by Johann Strauss:  Tales from the Vienna Woods and  The Blue Danube

These pieces have a film connection with me.  The first time I heard them was probably when I was a child, and I first saw a Warner Bros. cartoon called A Corny Concerto.  It was a parody of Fantasia, and it featured Elmer Fudd introducing two pieces of music: Tales from Vienna Woods and The Blue Danube.  The first segment featured Porky Pig and a a hunting dog, pursuing Bugs Bunny; the second focused on a young Daffy Duck being wanting to be accepted by a family of swans, but all of attempts fail.

 

In addition both pieces inspired two separate MGM cartoons.

This one is about deer interacting with the faun known as Pan.

This one is a sweet fantasy taking place in the forest.

And here are the pieces in their original contexts.

Tales from Vienna Woods

Blue Danube