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.

LooneyTunes buddy

215950 10150162540403926 223597233925 6583888 8330791 n

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.

BuddyOnAnimaniacs

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

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Advertisements

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

 

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.

 

 

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

 

 

 

 

 

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.