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.

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.

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