Friday, August 31, 2012

The Great Sniffles Conspiracy Theory!

After watching all 12 Sniffles cartoons in sequence on the new DVD set “LOONEY TUNES MOUSE CHRONICLES – The Chuck Jones Collection”, I think I may have enough evidence to set a new “Conspiracy Theory” in motion over the character of Sniffles.

We all know Sniffles.  A timid, naïve little mouse with a slow but cute childlike voice.  If you don’t know Sniffles, you can GO HERE for more.  But, I’m betting you do at least know of him…

That Sniffles” starred in EIGHT cartoons between 1939 and 1941.   In them, as noted, he was a shy cute little mouse, who did cute little things.    He befriended electric shavers, went on scavenger hunts, hid out in old book shoppes with his friend The Bookworm (Not the Batman TV villain!), took trips to the country, collected bird eggs, tried to stay awake on Christmas Eve, belled a cat, and visited a toy department.  Those eight outings represented the Sniffles most of us knew.   
There was another, less successful Mouse character at Termite Terrace.  His name was “Little Blabbermouse”.  He talked rapidly and incessantly, annoying everyone around him, and appeared in only one 1940 cartoon directed by Isadore (Friz) Freleng.  …And in a hint of what might be to come, the lone short of “Little Blabbermouse” is also included in “LOONEY TUNES MOUSE CHRONICLES” as a “Bonus Cartoon”!

(…Hah! “Bonus Cartoon”, indeed!)
In the latter part of 1941, a turning point occurred in the career (and perhaps the very LIFE) of Sniffles, with the release of a cartoon titled “The Brave Little Bat”! 

In what would be “Cartoon # 9”, Sniffles encounters another look-alike “mouse” (who is later revealed to be a BAT), who talks rapidly and incessantly in a voice sounding suspiciously like Sniffles – but, say… Isn’t this the M.O. of “Little Blabbermouse”?  You know… The failed “cartoon star” who had not been seen in over a year… and would never be seen again!
Good Bye, Sniffles!  Hello, ???
…Or (Heh-heh!) WOULD HE? 

After this outing, our cute, shy, slow-talking little Sniffles would not be seen for about two years – returning in 1943 in a cartoon called “The Unbearable Bear”! 

The Unbearable Bear” marked a noteworthy reimagining of the Sniffles series!  The emphasis is more on “comedy” than “cuteness”… but all the more significant is that Sniffles is no longer shy – but a RAPID AND INCESSANT  TALKER, and a general pest… as was “Little Blabbermouse”!   Hmmmm…

The final three Sniffles cartoons (numbers 10-12) would find him in motor-mouth mode: “The Unbearable Bear” (1943), “Lost and Foundling” (1944 – not a “pest” but still a talker), and “Hush My Mouse” (1946).   In this last one, Sniffles TALKS SO MUCH that he actually TELLS US what’s going to happen next in the cartoon – before it happens! 
So, what happened here? 

Did “Our Sniffles” walk off the job, or get quietly released, only to be replaced by “Little Blabbermouse” (alias “The Brave Little Bat”), who assumed the stage name of “Sniffles”?   Funny we never saw the shy guy again, after his meeting with that bat! 
...Have you seen THIS MOUSE?

Did directors Jones and Freleng conspire to replace an older “cute” character with a more contemporary “funny” one – one to whom one or both gentlemen may have… (Ahem!) “…owed a favor”? 

Did the “Real Sniffles” meet with foul play – or “suicide by cat”, perhaps, over a flagging career – resulting in “Little Blabbermouse” participating (willingly or otherwise) in the cover-up? 
Over the years, Mary Jane has been strangely silent on this matter!  ...But, note that, in the comics, the mouse talks too!

…And have I just opened up a new “Sniffles Conspiracy Theory”?

Heh-heh-heh!  The fools!

 No matter, it would have been interesting to see where Chuck Jones might have taken this “New Sniffles” during Warner’s glory days of the 1950s!   He sure would have been funnier than Pepe LePew! 


joecab said...

Oh good someone else said it! You know that bat pulled off his own wings and is probably walking around wearing Sniffles' own face as a mask.

Hey, don't blame me for being too graphic; he's a BAT. There's a reason Bruce Wayne picked his kind!

Joe Torcivia said...

My Fellow Conspiracy Theorist, JoeC:

The Little Blabber-Bat “pulling off his own wings” to assume the identity of the departed (?) Sniffles is bad enough… we all figured he did THAT!

But even I hadn’t figured on his wearing Sniffles’ ACTUAL FACE to make the gruesome transformation complete! I simply wrote it off to a Hollywood make-up job… not… not… Brrrr! (Shudder!)

Brilliant theorizing, my friend!

My other fellow conspirator, The Incomparable David Gerstein, pointed out to me that “Little Blabbermouse”, alias “The Brave Little Bat” – and now also alias “The Fiend with Two Faces – One Not His Own” DID star in a second cartoon: “Shop, Look and Listen” (also 1940 by Freleng, as was the original short titled “Little Blabbermouse”).

So, I stand corrected on that score. But, viewing that second cartoon with David today makes me realize why I thought there was only one… It was almost exactly the same plot – with a W.C. Fields-like rat taking onlookers on an aerial tour of a department store in a basket that travels on wires, while Little Blabbermouse speaks annoyingly and incessantly!

And, hey… So what if there were two! We conspiracy theorists are never deterred by contradicting facts! Little Blabbermouse still had motive enough to gain Sniffles’ trust as “The Brave Little Bat”, and then, when Sniffles least expected it… SKREEEEK!

…And Mary Jane could probably tell you exactly when that happened! But, she won’t!

It’s fun being a conspiracy theorist!

joecab said...

Oh yeah, I remember that cartoon! It's how I learned what alum was and why my Pop's styptic pencil in the medicine cabinet was made out of the stuff and what it was used for.

With this mouse collection, I was just thinking of how many times cartoon studios tried creating other mouse characters and failed to get much traction: Bigalow, Merlin the Magic Mouse & Second Banana, Cave Mouse... who else? It's probably because dogs, cats and mice seem to be the most prevalent species for cartoon characters...

--JoeC (still amazed at how many years those Mary Jane and Sniffles comics lasted)

Joe Torcivia said...

Yes, but WHICH Sniffles was it that appeared in those comics?

Was it our Good Ol’ Cute Sniffles… or was it (MWAH-HA-HA!) “The Fiend with Two Faces – One Not His Own”? SHRIEK! AAAAAAAHHH!

And, did “The Great Sniffles Switch” in comics take place to coincide with the changeover from “Mary Jane’s Magic Sand” to “Mary Jane’s Magic Words of Poof Poof Piffles” as the means of shrinking her to the size of her co-star?

…And (again) WHICH co-star was it? Mary Jane… If you’re out there, put an end to our speculative wonderings! Step up and tell us! Only YOU can satisfy our quest for the truth!

Of those “other mice” you mention, Bigelow, naturally, holds a special place for me – as he was a Cagney Parody Character – and one of those odd Hanna-Barbera entities that transcended series like the J .Evil Scientist Family!

Pokey said...

There was also originally in 1937-38 Gabby Goose [not to be confused with the hot tempered goat in some Porky shorts.] That goose appearedfirstinShe..I mean, appeared first in She (see how fast those guiys talked?) Was an Acrobat's Daughter, by Freleng, and in a few Porky's.

But importantly, you didn't mention the origin of the fast talking kid character, "Sis/Teeny" in the radio sitcom Fibber McGee and Molly...!

Joe Torcivia said...


I might not have mentioned it, because I didn’t KNOW it up to now. So, thanks for the new bit of info. That WOULD have been a perfect gag bit for radio!

Some things become “just so common” that we never even think about their origins. But, everything in these cartoons comes from somewhere – and it’s fun to find these things out.