Over the years, there have been hundreds, perhaps thousands of different cartoon series that appeared both on television screens and in movies, but few are as well-known and influential as the cartoon classic Looney Tunes (and its sister series Merrie Melodies). This animated series, produced by Warner Bros, ran from 1930 to 1969, during the golden age of American animation, and the legendary series boasts some of the greatest and most recognizable cartoon characters ever created. It has gone on to become a worldwide media franchise with video games, comic books, and feature films, and this has led it to become one of the flagship properties of Warner Bros. With that in mind, here are some brilliant facts about the immensely influential and incredibly popular series.
10. All Speedy Gonzales Cartoons Were Once Pulled From TV
As “the fastest mouse in all of Mexico”, Speedy Gonzales speaks with an exaggerated Hispanic accent and wears an over-sized sombrero, a white shirt and trousers (representing a traditional Mexican ensemble), as well as a red handkerchief fastened around his neck. In 1999, all Speedy Gonzales cartoons were removed from Cartoon Network, due to alleged concerns that his portrayal was unfairly stereotyping the Mexican people. However, many Hispanics protested that they were not offended, but rather saw Speedy as a positive representation of Mexico’s individuality and a role model. In fact, more people were offended by the other mice which would appear in the same cartoon (notably Speedy’s cousin “Slowpoke”), as they were often shown to be slow and lazy. In 2002, after thousands had already registered their support for the character on Hispaniconline.com message boards, and a Hispanic-American rights organization called the League of United Latin American Citizens labeled Speedy as a “cultural icon”, Speedy Gonzales cartoons were once again made available for broadcast.
9. Warner Bros Insisted On Equal Screen Time In Who Framed Roger Rabbit
Who Framed Roger Rabbit is one of the all-time greatest cartoon films ever made, and serves as a love letter to the golden age of American animation, in a movie that blended together live action and animated characters. The film was best known for bringing together both Walt Disney and Warner Bros characters in the same movie. It was Disney who purchased the rights to the film, and they managed to convince Warner Bros to “lend” them some of their classic characters. Warner Bros agreed, but insisted that their characters get the same amount of screen time as Disney’s characters, and were treated as being just as important to the film as the Disney characters. This is why Bugs Bunny and Mickey Mouse often share scenes, and also why Donald Duck and Daffy Duck appear to be equally talented during their piano duel. Other Looney Tunes characters to appear in the movie include Porky Pig, Tweety Bird, Sylvester, and Yosemite Sam (Mel Blanc voiced all the Looney Tunes characters except for Yosemite Sam).
8. Looney Tunes Has Won 2 Academy Awards
Unsurprisingly, Looney Tunes cartoons are held in very high regard in the industry and by fans alike, and the terrific series has not seen its massive cultural impact go unrewarded. One short has been inducted into the National Film Registry, 1938’s “Porky in Wonderland”, which sees Porky Pig hunt a Dodo bird through a Salvador Dali-esque landscape. In addition, Looney Tunes have also scooped up two Academy Awards for Best Short Subject (Cartoon). The first winner was 1949’s “For Scent-imental Reasons”, which starred Pepe Le Pew in one of his many attempts to seduce what he believes to be another skunk, who is actually a cat with white dye on her back. The second Oscar win went to “Knighty Knight Bugs” in 1958, for a short in which Bugs, a court jester, must recover a singing sword from the Black Knight (played by Yosemite Sam) and his fire-breathing dragon. While those were the only two wins, the cartoons managed to garner an additional 10 Academy Award nominations over the course of a near 40 year run.
7. Looney Tunes Was Originally Developed To Showcase Warner-Owned Musical Compositions
Many have questioned why the series is called Looney Tunes and why its sister show was Merrie Melodies, as the musical reference seems odd for a cartoon series. Well, the real reason behind the musically-inclined titles is that the series was first developed to showcase Warner-owned musical compositions, for the sale of sheet music and phonograph records. The names were also inspired by Walt Disney’s musical series Silly Symphonies. To compete with Disney’s Mickey Mouse cartoons, Warner Bros decided to develop a cartoon series to accompany the music, where viewers were shown the adventures of characters that originally included the character Bosko. However, after a dispute over the show’s budget, the creators of the cartoons left with the rights to the characters and the cartoons, including Bosko. What could have been a disaster for Warner Bros actually paved the way for now-famous directors Tex Avery, Friz Freleng and Bob Clampett, who introduced Porky Pig in 1935, Daffy Duck in 1937, and Elmer Fudd and Bugs Bunny in 1940, creating the Looney Tunes we know today.
6. Wile. E Coyote and The Road Runner Follow Certain Rules And Laws
Some of the most memorable cartoons in the history of Looney Tunes and Merrie Melodies were the ones starring Wile E. Coyote and The Roadrunner, which saw a self-professed genius coyote hatch elaborate plans to catch a super-fast roadrunner, plans which would always comically backfire. It originally was meant to parody the likes of other cartoons like Tom & Jerry, but soon became incredibly popular in its own right. Interestingly, the writers actually came up with a set of rules that governed this series. These include restrictions such as the fact that the Road Runner was only allowed to only harm the Coyote through startling him with Road Runner’s trademark “meep meep” (which was also the only thing it could ever say), the Coyote is always more humiliated than harmed by his failures, and wherever possible the Coyote’s greatest enemy will be gravity, rather than the Road Runner itself. In addition, all materials, tools, weapons and devices used by the Coyote had to be obtained from the infamous ACME Corporation. Although some of the rules did end up getting broken at times, it is incredible to think that such a fantastic and entertaining series also managed to adhere to certain rules.
5. Bugs Bunny Changed The Meaning Of The Word “Nimrod”
Although you do not hear the word thrown around too often, these days, it was Looney Tunes that popularized the word “nimrod” and in the process, accidentally changed the meaning of it. The word was often used by Bugs Bunny to describe the inept hunter Elmer Fudd, who Bugs was always able to evade and humiliate quite easily (so easily, in fact, that people started to feel sorry for poor Elmer, forcing Warner Bros to invent a new nemesis for Bugs, in the form of the much less likable Yosemite Sam). Bugs would state “What a Nimrod”, but audiences failed to grasp that this was a sarcastic comment. According to the Book of Genesis in the Bible, Nimrod (the great grandson of Noah) was “a mighty hunter”, something that Fudd definitely was not. However, the joke clearly went over the heads of the general public, and it soon became used as a way to describe a stupid, slow or dim-witted person. Although certainly not the sharpest tool in the shed and definitely not a “mighty hunter”, Elmer Fudd became a hugely popular character with one of the great catchphrases – “Shhh. Be vewy vewy quiet, I’m hunting wabbits”, plus an instantly recognizable laugh.
4. Taz Only Appeared In 5 Shorts
When you think of Looney Tunes, Bugs Bunny is usually the first character to come to mind. After that, it is likely that you have Daffy Duck, Tweety Bird, and sooner or later, The Tasmanian Devil, or Taz. Based on the real life animal both visually and in terms of his behaviour, Taz is ferocious, short tempered and has a gigantic appetite. in addition, he communicates largely through grunts and English, using primitive grammar (Sadly, however, real Tasmanian devils are unable to spin themselves into miniature cyclones). Although Taz is considered one of the most popular and memorable characters in Looney Tunes, he surprisingly appeared in just five shorts, as he debuted in 1954, which was just before the studios closed 10 years later. However, Taz skyrocketed in popularity in the 1990’s, due to other television appearances, heavy merchandising and marketing, eventually even garnering him his own show, Taz Mania. Taz’s popularity despite his limited screen time is understandable, as he is one of the most unique, wild, and extreme cartoon characters ever created.
3. 11 Episodes Were Withdrawn In 1968 Due To Their Use Of Ethnic Stereotypes
Although Looney Tunes was always labelled as family entertainment, the series also has a dark history. In total, there are eleven cartoons that were withdrawn from distribution in 1968, which have come to be called the “Censored Eleven”. These shorts were deemed too offensive for modern audiences, due to the fact that they used extremely racist ethnic stereotypes. In addition, due to the racial themes represented by those characters being considered essential to the plot, they could not be edited. Eventually, the Censored Eleven were made available for purchase by Warner Bros, but the shorts are all preceded by the following warning:
“The cartoons you are about to see are products of their time. They may depict some of the ethnic and racial prejudices that were commonplace in the U.S society. These depictions were wrong then and they are wrong today. While the following does not represent the Warner Bros. view of today’s society, these cartoons are being presented as they were originally created, because to do otherwise would be the same as claiming that these prejudices never existed.”
2. Mel Blanc’s gravestone reads “THAT’S ALL FOLKS”
Those with an interest in Looney Tunes know just how important American voice actor Mel Blanc was to the series, as he was the voice of dozens of classic characters, including Daffy Duck, Porky Pig, Tweety Bird, Sylvester the Cat, Yosemite Sam, Marvin the Martian, Foghorn Leghorn, Speedy Gonzales and, of course, Bugs Bunny. Blanc’s prolific work as a voice actor make him perhaps the most influential figure in the voice acting industry, and in addition to his immense contributions to Looney Tunes, he also did voice work for many other animated series, including The Flintstones, The Jetsons and Tom & Jerry. When Blanc passed away in 1989, as part of his will, his gravestone (located in Hollywood Forever Cemetery) reads “THAT’S ALL FOLKS”, in reference to the trademark catchphrase of one of his most beloved characters, Porky Pig, one which has permeated popular culture.
1. Bugs Bunny Is The 9th-Most Portrayed Film Personality In The World
Bugs Bunny is, unquestionably, a cultural icon and one of the most immediately recognizable characters of all-time. He is a classic cartoon character, and because of the incredible influence of Looney Tunes on the company that created them, Bugs became the corporate mascot of Warner Bros. In addition, he even has his own star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame (other animated characters with stars include Donald Duck, Mickey Mouse, The Simpsons, and Snoopy). Bugs is such a celebrated and important figure around the world, and as a result, he is the ninth most-portrayed film personality in the world, behind a short list that includes Adolf Hitler, God, Jesus Christ, The Grim Reaper, The Devil, and the #1 spot held down by, unsurprisingly, Santa Claus. This shows the true magnitude of the character, as well as the Looney Tunes franchise, on a global scale.