The Cartoon Legends of Merrie Melodies and Looney Tunes
I’m as old-fashioned as button-up shoes. Well, maybe not that old, but I do feel this old many times. Actually, I am the tender age of 57. Born November 27, 1953, I hit it just right by being born in the ‘wild fifties’ with Elvis Presley; Chuck Berry; The Everly Brothers; Connie Francis and many more music legends, but the sad thing about it was I was too young at the time to really know who these guys and gals were and by the time I had learned about them, it was already 1961 and I was starting first-grade.
In the ‘turbulent sixties,’ there was social unrest; riots in the street; draft cards burned along with women’s bras (for equal rights); Viet Nam; drugs and the Drug Culture and I was too conservative to enjoy any of this slice of history that helped to shape our country. Oh how I would have loved to spent those three days of fun and music--commonly known as Woodstock. But cannot ‘cry over spilled music,’ so life did some marching on and I followed the best I could.
During all of the years of my growth, there was one constant, one totally reliable, one trusty area that I truly enjoyed every Saturday morning: Merrie Melodies with such superstars as: Bugs Bunny; Danny Duck; Elmer Fudd; Sylvester Cat; Wiley Coyote; Roadrunner; Yosemite Sam; Porky Pig; Foghorn Leghorn; Tweety Bird and the Tasmanian Devil, all in color and all created for one thing: Entertaining kids of my age and yes, even in my adult years, I enjoyed these icons of the cartoon world.
It was one of the safest addictions that a kid could have being hooked on the amazing adventures of Bugs Bunny as he outfoxed, well, out-hared Elmer Fudd each time they would meet. We learned the dialogue. We learned each episode and knew all the time that Bugs was going to win, but we enjoyed watching how he always beat Elmer Fudd to the punch. Bugs was an amazing rabbit who needs to be inducted into the Smithsonian Institute for giving so many people, young and old alike, so many hours of happiness.
When I, and millions more children would be caught up in this believable fantasy we were not thinking about Viet Nam, death, drugs, or doing harm to anyone. It was as close to utopia on this earth as we would ever find--being the first ones up on Saturday morning equipped with our glass of milk, a box of Kellogg’s Sugar Frosted Flakes, and loving the feeling of being completely engulfed in Merrie Melodies all while mom and dad grabbed some needed shut-eye. It was our time. Saturday morning. Nothing or no one could lure us away from our television sets when Bugs and friends were running wild, creating havoc and just simply doing what “true” cartoon legends do: Make us laugh, challenge our imagination and just enjoy a hour’s worth of ecstasy without homework, teachers, homework or household chores. What a taste of heaven that time was to us.
When I was compiling my artwork references for this story, I only chose the cartoon elite of Merrie Melodies and Looney Tunes. You do not see the elderly woman who was Tweety Bird’s mistress. I never took to her back then and now I still harbor some resentment on how down-right rude and sorry that she always treated one of my favorite Warner Brothers creations, Sylvester the Cat. I was said of Sylvester’s slurred speech that the producers of this cartoon were having a dilemma on choosing just the right voice for Sylvester, so as a practical joke, one of the producers, who did a near-perfect impression of director, Leon Schlesinger, dubbed in that voice and at the first viewing, Schlesinger asked where did the producers get that most-unique voice. The producers, fighting back laughter, told Schlesinger some believable tale and the rest is history. No one ever told Schlesinger the real truth of where Sylvester’s voice came from. I love behind-the-scenes facts like this one.
And if you want to know the whole, unvarnished truth, I never really appreciated Tweety Bird, that Judas, for squealing on Sylvester, who was just following his cat nature to want to eat a bird for lunch. But noooo, the two-faced Tweety Bird just had to get in good with that old woman long enough to get Sylvester in trouble when “act” innocent. One thing I cannot stand is a hypocrite cartoon character.
BUGS BUNNY . . .
Had to be my all-time favorite cartoon character. Now I did appreciate Walter Lantz’ Woody Woodpecker, but when it came to skill and talent to always outwit Elmer Fudd, Bugs was the man, I mean, rabbit. Talk about cool. Bugs defined the word cool. We seldom saw him sweat even staring down Elmer Fudd from the other end of a double-barrel shotgun. Bugs’ mind was razor-sharp--making him nimble-minded and able to create from thin air, a convincing story to prevent gullible Fudd from skinning him alive. And Bugs had a way with the lady rabbits. His suave ways, animal-like charm and overwhelming wit made him a true “ladies hare.” Love that Bugs.
ELMER FUDD . . .
Humble, dedicated and gullible. This best describes Elmer Fudd, sworn-enemy of Bugs Bunny. I hand it to Fudd for being so dedicated to his craft of hunting ‘wabbit’ as he would say into the camera, but only get within an eyelash of Bugs and then he would get hoodwinked by Bugs and have to create a new game plan which, when put into motion, would flop like all the other plans of genius that he had created. In think that behind the scenes, when the cameras were not rolling, Bugs Bunny and Elmer Fudd were close friends and knew that the cartoons they were making was only show business. Sort of like professional wrestling except more believable.
YOSEMITE SAM . . .
Was not afraid of a circle saw. Sam was the bravest, toughest cartoon character to ever grace the television screen. In my opinion. Sam, for some reason, was another enemy of Merrie Melodies’ star, Bugs Bunny and who knows the reason why? I do think that the writers thought that Yosemite Sam would be more of a challenge for Bugs than gullible Elmer Fudd. And too, viewers, even young viewers sometimes grow tired of seeing the same old battles with Bugs and Elmer Fudd going at it and Fudd always losing. Yosemite always lost, but he was more colorful in speech and actions. I loved his hat with the turned-up brim and his classic moustache and twin six-guns blazing. Yosemite Sam was hard to beat for an enemy of Bugs Bunny or any cartoon hero. “Yew filthy var--ment,” (referring to Bugs Bunny), was Sam’s trademark statement. And even today with the various samplings of modern-cartoon characters, I miss Yosemite Sam, a true man among rabbits and will always have a place in my heart.
ROAD RUNNER . . .
Was cool, but there was that little hint of gloating each time he would out-maneuver Wiley Coyote, his all-time nemesis. No matter what trap was laid for the Road runner, it was child’s play for him to speed by leaving Wiley in a cloud of confusion. I guess I liked Road runner because my dad liked him too. On some Saturday mornings, my dad would get his cup of fresh, black coffee, get comfy in his favorite chair and enjoy Merrie Melodies with me. These moments to me were nothing short of priceless.
WILEY COYOTE . . .
Was a very determined coyote. He never gave up. Wiley was always at odds with the care-free Road runner. Was it because Wiley was so hungry? And why didn’t Wiley choose to just forage from other life forms that were plentiful in the dessert? Who knows but the writers. I would appear to me that Wiley Coyote was a coyote of privilege because he always had his “machinery of madness” always from ACME so and so company, shipped to the dessert and you never saw him sign any bill of laden or throw the delivery person an American Express card, did you? From nuclear-powered rockets to ACME laser guns, Wiley put them all to use, but still found himself defeated every episode by the spirited Road runner. I grew weary of that scene that showed Wiley Coyote falling off a very steep mountain--back first and you saw the doom in his eyes as his body grew smaller and smaller until you barely heard a ‘thud’ and a small puff of white smoke. Wiley must have been genetically-altered to make himself almost indestructible. Just look at all the falls, explosions and head-on collisions that Wiley survived. He just had to be made of something besides fur and teeth. I will forever be a Wiley Coyote fan for I too, know all to well what it feels like to be an underdog.
DAFFY DUCK . . .
Was just that. Daffy, in many ways. Daffy was a big-thinker and had high aspirations of ‘making it big’ in show business on many of the Merrie Melodies cartoons where he always had to compete with his arch-rival, Bugs Bunny, who always stole Daffy’s thunder and show as well. I loved Daffy Duck for his out and out bravery and cunning. Who can forget the classic cartoon where Daffy and Porky Pig were hold up in a big motel--dodging the motel dick, or dog, as it were because they didn’t have the cash to pay the bill. Daffy Duck’s acute sense of con artistry was put to the test, and I have to give him credit for never giving up or ‘never saying die,’ as he tried to help himself and and his traveling companion, Porky Pig, elude the authorities and get back on the road. Long live Daffy Duck.
SYLVESTER CAT . . .
Was not a criminal or evil feline. I don’t care what Tweety Bird says. Sylvester was a good cat and knew how to wage war against birds and other enemies of the cat world. I write this under protest for how the producers and writers always gave Sylvester a hard time and flimsy scenarios of survival. Sylvester was as good as the Road runner in my opinion and way-more entertaining than that yellow bird, Tweety, who only stayed on his swing in cage and talked baby talk to stay in good with that dimwitted old woman with her hair up in a bun. If I had any say so, I would have produced a Sylvester spin-off like they gave the Road runner. Talk about unfair. It was oh so obvious that there was a secret, shady cartoon conspiracy against Sylvester. “Sufferin’ Succotash” am I the only one who is aware of how badly Sylvester was treated? I wonder if nowadays, in his plush retirement condo in Palm Beach, if Sylvester ever thinks back of those ‘glory days’ and his days of being one of the main stars of Merrie Melodies? A comeback? Well, in the Cartoon World, anything is possible, but please, for my sake and all Sylvester cat fans, leave Tweety out of this project.
PORKY PIG . . .
Dates back to the original black and white Merrie Melodies cartoons where he was shown much bigger than he was in the latter color cartoons. Most of the time, in the older cartoons, lovable Porky was always cast as a farmer. Yeah, that is really believable--a pig that farms. And talks. But the producers pulled it off without a hitch. In years to come, Porky Pig was written to be more-sophisticated and cultured, but not to the point of being overly-intelligent because he had to play the ‘fall pig’ to the varied ‘get rich quick’ schemes provided by good friend, Daffy Duck. Who in their right mind didn't love the adventurous, humble, sensitive and warm-hearted Porky Pig?
FOGHORN LEGHORN . . .
Was probably the most-complex of the Merrie Melodies cartoon characters. That’s right. Complex. In one episode, Foghorn was helpful, caring, and noble. And in other episodes, he was cunning, mischievous and sometimes-mean. I don’t know why the writers didn't just let him enjoy the role of ‘ruling rooster,’ in the barnyard and write from that base. The writers somehow managed to always portray Foghorn Leghorn, talking like people from the Old South, being taken advantage of by the non-cartoon character, the little Chicken Hawk, or more confusing, the grumpy watchdog who was no match for Foghorn’s sheer genius at outdoing him at will. And the old maid hen, Penny, that got to be a nerve-grinder to me. She was not that supportive to Foghorn who could have carried the cartoon industry single-handed, or rather, single-winged. “I say. I say, I appreciate and will always be fond of Foghorn Leghorn.
Simply put, “I miss you cartoon legends : Bugs Bunny; Road runner; Sylvester; Daffy Duck; Elmer Fudd; Porky Pig; Foghorn Leghorn; Yosemite Sam and Wiley Coyote.”
I will forever treasure the special memories that you have given me.
And as for me and my love for you, I will never say,
“That’s . . .that’s . . .that’s all, folks!”