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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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”.

 

 

 

Oswald the Lucky Rabbit: Disney’s First Cartoon Star

Before there was Mickey Mouse, Walt Disney had a rabbit.

Previously, Walt Disney made a series of live-action/animation hybrid short films called the Alice Comedies.  They focused on a young real-world girl who ventured into the cartoon world where she had lots of adventures.  However, after three years, the series was discontinued due to money constraints.

There was a need for a new series of cartoons.  Disney’s distributor, Charles Mintz, told Disney about how the studio Universal, wanted to release cartoons.  A deal was made with Universal, and Oswald the Lucky Rabbit was created.

The first cartoon in the series, Poor Papa, depicted Oswald as being old and tired.  The bosses at Universal did not like the short and the portrayal of Oswald, and therefore, Disney made a new one, Trolley Troubles, where Oswald was depicted as being much more young, spirited, and energetic.  This cartoon was released in 1927, whereas Poor Papa did not see the light of day until 1928.

Oswald became very popular, and he was even the first character created by Disney to be made into merchandise.

However, things would not be this way forever.

When time came to negotiate a new contract with Charles Mintz, Disney asked for a 20% budget increase in order to improve the quality of animation of his shorts.  Mintz not only rejected his request, he said that Disney would have to accept a 20% budget decrease; the reason was financial constraints, but Mintz promised more money if things turned around.  Then it got worse.  Mintz revealed that he was already hiring away Disney’s staff as part of a new commitment.  Since Walt Disney did not own the rights to Oswald, he had no choices other than to accept Mintz’s terms or to walk away.

Disney finished his contract, and he left, accompanied by only a small number of his former staff including, most importantly, Ub Iwerks.  Disney vowed to make sure that he works for nobody other than himself, and he also made sure that he owned the rights to whatever characters he created so that no matter what, nobody could stop him from making cartoons with those characters.  Disney and Iwerks created Mickey Mouse, and the rest is history.

Meanwhile, Mintz oversaw the production of more Oswald cartoons.  Some of his staff included other men who were instrumental in the history of animation including Hugh Harman, Rudolf Ising, and Friz Freleng.

Then things went south.

After Mickey Mouse appeared in the first cartoon with synchronized sound, Steamboat Willie, which of course was a huge success, Universal was angry that he had allowed Disney to walk away.

Mintz attempted to get Disney to come back.  But Disney refused to accept his terms.  The terms were hardly any better than the previous terms that he previously offered Disney.  The terms would be that Universal would own Mickey Mouse, Disney would get a small increase in pay, and a lack of control over his staff.  Disney said no.  Oswald cartoons eventually moved to sound, but that   Universal later fired Mintz and his studio in 1929, and they hired Walter Lantz to make more cartoons with Oswald.  Mintz would find a new home making cartoons for Columbia Pictures

Lantz changed the course of Oswald, making his shorts more and more driven by fantasy.  Eventually, as Disney created his signature style of being very cute, Lantz tried to emulate it, but Oswald gradually lost his popularity, being phased out in 1938.

Oswald was revived in 1943, in a short film called The Egg-Cracker Suite, but this attempt was a failure because Oswald was depicted as being very cute, when by that time, most audiences favored abrasive, assertive cartoon characters such as Bugs Bunny, Daffy Duck, Universal’s own Woody Woodpecker, among others. This was his last appearance in a theatrical cartoon, except for a cameo in a 1952 Woody Woodpecker cartoon.

Fast-forward to 2006.  The Walt Disney Company negotiated with NBCUniversal for the rights to Oswald.  By trading sportscaster Al Michaels to NBCUniversal, Disney got in exchange, the rights to the Oswald character and the surviving Disney Oswald cartoons.

The cartoons were released in December of 2006 under the Walt Disney Treasures collection (Only 13 shorts were known to exist at the time, but two more were discovered since then).  Oswald began appearing in videos games, Disney theme parks, and even in short films (2013’s Get a Horse).  This is a happy ending for a Disney’s very first cartoon star.

Sources:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Oswald_the_Lucky_Rabbit

 

http://tvtropes.org/pmwiki/pmwiki.php/WesternAnimation/OswaldTheLuckyRabbit?from=Main.OswaldTheLuckyRabbit

 

 

 

 

 

Daffy Duck

Since I don’t have any characters who have names beginning with the letter D, (I have several ideas that are not completely developed and planned and that have characters that are not yet named) I will talk about one of my favorite characters that I did not create, and who has a name that begins with the letter D.  That would be Daffy Duck.

Daffy Duck was first created in 1937.  He was one of the first characters to be  what is called a screwball character.  He acted completely crazy and tormented his antagonists with his nuttiness.  This is was what made him popular with audiences.  He eventually supplanted Porky Pig (who was the first Warner Bros. cartoon character to truly become popular) as the most popular Looney Tunes character.

However, as with many characters, he changed.  In some cartoon shorts, Daffy was toned down, but still rather goofy.  But 1948 gave him a significant change.  In the cartoon called, You Were Never Duckier, he is upset that at a fair, the best rooster will win $5,000, but the best duck will win only $5.  He decides to disguise him as a rooster to win the money.  This was the beginning of Daffy being changed into a greedy, negative character, although his personality was not as negative at the time.

Director Chuck Jones fully changed Daffy when he pitted him against Bug Bunny, who by then had been the most popular Looney Tunes character for several years, in 1951 with the cartoon Rabbit Fire, which showed them arguing over whether it is rabbit season or duck season.  This caught on and many other cartoons depicted Daffy as greedy, arrogant, and mean-spirited. Director Friz Freleng took the Bugs-Daffy rivalry further by making them show business rivals in shorts like This is a Life?, A Star is Bored, and Show Biz Bugs.

In the 1960s, after Warner Bros. shut down their cartoon studio, due to the growing popularity of TV, and contracted out animation to outside entities.  Most of the Looney Tunes characters were dropped;  Daffy was one of the exceptions.  He became an antagonist of Speedy Gonzales, and most of such cartoons are criticized not only for being unfunny and slow, but for making Daffy completely unlikable.  By 1968, Daffy and Speedy made their last theatrical appearances, and the following year, Warner Bros. pulled the plug on theatrical cartoons.

Despite this Daffy Duck cartoons continued to be rerun on TV.  There were several revivals of Looney Tunes in the forms of TV specials, compilation films, TV series, and more.  Al of this ensured that such a complex character would never lose his popularity.