Goopy Geer: Warner Bros. Very Own Goofy

Warner Bros. was having some bad luck in creating a starring character for the Merrie Melodies series. The first two, Foxy and Piggy both were short-lived characters, appearing in only three and two short films, respectively.

For a while, the Merrie Melodies consisted of one-shot characters, that is to say, characters that were created for one cartoon, and never used again.  These cartoons were: Red-Headed BabyPagan MoonFreddy the Freshman; and Crosby, Columbo and Vallee.  A month after the latter-most cartoon, there was a short featuring a new starring character; it was called Goopy Geer.

 

This short was about a tall, lanky humanoid dog, named Goopy Geer, who first played the piano, and who was very dedicated to it.  Goopy looks similar to the Disney character Goofy, who debuted shortly after in the Mickey Mouse cartoon, Mickey’s Revue,  and whose original name was Dippy Dawg; because Goopy and Goofy debuted in the same year (1932), it is thought that the similarities between the two are coincidental, and that neither was a rip-off of the other.  Promotional drawings depicted him as a black dog, but in all of his cartoon appearances, Goopy was white.  Interestingly, his un-named girlfriend, a short dog, previously debuted in Freddy the Freshman.

A month later, the short, It’s Got Me Again! was released; it was a one shot, and it featured mice who were never seen again.  After that, Goopy appeared again in a short subject called Moonlight for Two.  It seemed that Warner Bros. had a star character for the Merrie Melodies; however, Goopy made only one more appearance in The Queen Was in the Parlor, and he was dropped.  He later made a brief cameo in the Bosko Looney Tunes short, Bosko in Dutch.

Following that, the Merrie Melodies series focused on one-shot characters until the late 1930s.

Goopy made one last screen appearance, around sixty years later, when he appeared in the Tiny Toon Adventures episode, “Two-Tone Town”.  He is redesigned as a black dog, in line with how he appeared in original promotional drawings.

File:Goopy Geer1.jpg

 

Advertisements

Piggy: The Pig Warner Bros. Had Before Porky Pig, or, Mickey Mouse in Pig Form

After Foxy, the previous starring character of the Merrie Melodies was dropped, a replacement debuted just a month after Foxy’s last appearance in a theatrical cartoon short subject.  He was Piggy.  Piggy debuted in a short called You Don’t Know What You’re Doin’!, where he played the saxophone in a night club.

Piggy looked a lot like Mickey Mouse, only as a pig.  He still looked less like Mickey mouse than Foxy did, but even then it is likely that there was no intention to copy Mickey Mouse because because Mickey, Piggy, and Foxy were based on sketches of mice that Hugh Harman drew in 1925, while Harman was working for Disney.

Piggy appeared in one additional short in the series called Hittin’ the Trail for Hallelujah Land, which was later banned from TV and home media, due to containing portrayals of black people that are now considered offensive; it was one of eleven shorts that are called the Censored Eleven, and I will discuss them in a future post.  Then he was discontinued.

Friz Freleng revived the character in 1936 under a brand new design.

Piggy appeared in two cartoons, At Your Service Madame and Pigs Is Pigs; the first depicted him as the part of a family, and the latter featured him the main protagonist; both portrayed him as a glutton as is defining character trait.

Piggy did not appear in the Tiny Toon Adventures episode, “Two-Tone Town”.

 

 

 

Foxy: Warner Bros.’ Very Own Mickey Mouse

When Warner Bros. created the Merrie Melodies series, they needed a character to be the star.

Rudolf Ising assumed supervision of the new series, while Hugh Harman began directing Looney Tunes shorts as a solo director.  Ising created Foxy, who looked very familiar.

As you can see, Foxy looked almost like Mickey Mouse.  The biggest differences are the ears and the tail.

It may appear that Foxy was a rip-off of Mickey Mouse, but that is not true.  In 1925, Hugh Harman, who was working for Walt Disney at the time, along with Ising drew some mice.  These mice were later used by Disney and Ub Iwerks to create Mickey Mouse.  Harman figured that since he made the original drawings, it was perfectly acceptable for him and Ising to create a character based upon them.  And so, Foxy was born.

Foxy debuted in 1931 in the short, Lady Play Your Mandolin.  He would appear in two more shorts, Smile, Darn Ya, Smile! and One More Time, before being retired; in fact, he was killed off in his last short.

Foxy would be brought back to life in 1990s in the show Tiny Toons Adventures, where he and his previously unnamed girlfriend, who is now called Roxy, are,  along with another largely forgotten early Warner Bros. cartoon character, Goopy Geer (whom I will talk about in a future post) live in the black-and-white part of Acme Acres.  They have been long forgotten over many decades, and so, Babs Bunny and Buster Bunny decide to give them another taste of the spotlight.

Foxy has lived on in home media releases and even on television.  In 2000, Cartoon Network aired a special hour-long episode of their documentary series ToonHeads called The Lost Cartoons, which featured pieces of Warner Bros. animation that either had been rarely seen, if at all, since their original releases, or had never been seen by the public at all.  This special featured Lady, Play Your Mandolin! and it was later released on the first volume of the Looney Tunes Golden Collection.

 

 

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.