Monday, May 13, 2013

DVD Review: Looney Tunes Super Stars: Sylvester and Hippity Hopper: Marsupial Mayhem.

Looney Tunes Super Stars: Sylvester and Hippity Hopper: Marsupial Mayhem

(Released April 23, 2013 by Warner Home Video)  

Another Looong DVD Review by Joe Torcivia

How many times can a single marsupial commit the same type of mayhem, without driving viewers… I dunno… um, “hoppy”?   Let’s find out…   

By now, we’ve discussed both the good and the bad of the LTSS series of DVD releases many times.  Feel free to read any of my prior reviews of the LOONEY TUNES SUPER STARS series:

Instead of rehashing what is found in those reviews, we’ll concentrate on what has changed for this release – and, of course, on the shorts themselves.  If a previously discussed “PRO” or “CON” is not listed below, assume it remains unchanged. 

You can also compare this set with the previous recent release for PORKY PIG. 

ROBO-PROMOS:  There is only ONE Robo-Promo.  It is for the new LOONEY TUNES SHOW.  I guess I’ll get around to trying that someday.   An improvement over when there were many more such non-optional promos. 

WIDESCREEN VS. FULL-SCREEN: As with the prior PORKY PIG set, this controversial issue seems to have been eliminated for this release.  Please read about it in ANY of the prior reviews (linked above).  While I felt there was something to like about the simulated widescreen effect, the loss of outer-image area made it not worth the trouble it took to “toggle” from one to the other.  It’s just as well to see these cartoons as we have always seen them on TV.  I’d say it was wise of WHV to discontinue the experiment. 

17 OF 18 SHORTS ARE NEW TO DVD!  (Or, so says the packaging!)  That’s reason enough to buy any package, even one as chock-full of plot repetition as this! 

But, not so fast…

Hippity Hopper” appeared on LOONEY TUNES GOLDEN COLLECTION Volume 6. 


And “Goldimouse and the Three Cats” appeared on LOONEY TUNES GOLDEN COLLECTION Volume 5.  


So, I have no idea which “one” WHV regards as the lone “double-dip”, do you? 

Still, 15 of 18 is a worthwhile purchase – just not as much as indicated by the packaging.

…And the reason we’re all here:

THE SHORTS:  (All feature Sylvester and Hippity Hopper, unless otherwise noted):

Hop, Look and Listen (Robert McKimson, 1947) Runs 07:04:  Baby kangaroo Hippity Hopper escapes from his mother in the city zoo and hops over to the home of Sylverster J. Pussycat, where he is mistaken for a “giant mouse” – and so begins one of the most oft-repeated plots in the annals of theatrical short cartoons, surpassed by few others, save the “Popeye / Olive / Bluto triangle” and female cats getting white stripes painted onto their backs! 

Sylvester finds himself caught between said “giant mouse” and a bulldog who keeps throwing the cat back into the fray:  Dat’s th’ most sickening ting I ever hoid!  A CAT scared over a MOUSE!  Ain’t you got no PROFESSSIONAL PRIDE?  Now, get back in dere, an’ get dat mouse, or I’ll beat ya to a pulp!”    

Overall, a really nice effort by McKimson and writer Warren Foster, including an intensive exercise workout sequence by Sylvester – where the background changes into different solid colors, for each new activity he tries.  It’s almost a pity this cartoon wasn’t allowed to stand alone (or maybe have only one remake, or a maximum of two), as it would be remembered as a much stronger effort. 

I never thought just being a pussycat could get so complicated!” 

Hippity Hopper (Robert McKimson, 1948) Runs 07:08: “The waterfront, with its evil spell, drew me relentlessly toward the river.  I knew then that this was to be my last night on Earth.  I had the feeling that no one would care whether there was one less mouse in the world, or not!”

McKimson and Foster revisit their kangaroo plot a year later, but with a nice opening spin: A despondent mouse is about to commit suicide by drowning, due to Sylvester making his life a misery.  On the docks, he encounters the crated and zoo-bound Hippity Hopper, mistaking him for a “giant mouse” – a mouse that can teach Sylvester a lesson. 

I’m gonna take VITAMINS, and grow as BIG as you are!”, the mouse tells his tormentor.  From here, you know where it’s going.  The skeptical and overbearing bulldog is back too!   

Pop ‘Im Pop (Robert McKimson, 1949) Runs 07:18:  The final piece of the formula clicks into place with the introduction of Sylvester Jr.  Here, originally presented as more “kitten-like”, as comfortable on all-fours as standing upright. 

Your father knew that a cat can always lick a mouse, and this one was AS BIG AS ME!  Suddenly, he snaps at me, so I grabs him by his leathery ears, and throws him to the ground!  Then, I clamps my famous headlock on him, and that DID IT.  No more giant mouse!” -- brags Sylvester.  …He’ll regret this boastfulness – now and for years of formulaic cartoons to come! 


Who’s Kitten Who?” (Robert McKimson, 1950) Runs 07:17:  

SYLVESTER:  “…You’re getting to be a big boy now, Son, and there comes a time when we must discuss some of the mysteries of life. 

SYLVESTER JR.:  Yes, Father… What do you wish to know?”  

A few “firsts” here. Tedd Pierce takes over from Warren Foster as the primary writer of this series – and has already done so for Robert McKimson’s cartoons in general.  Foster would work with Friz Freleng, until departing for Hanna-Barbera.  Unless otherwise noted, all remaining cartoons are written by Pierce.  Sylvester Jr. first dons his iconic “bag-over-the-head” to show shame for his father.  We end in uncharacteristically gruesome fashion, with Sylvester thinking his son was eaten by the “giant mouse”!  

Hoppy-Go-Lucky (Robert McKimson, 1951) Runs 06:54: Billed on the package back as “…a brilliant send-up of John Steinbeck’s classic ‘Of Mice and Men’”, we find big dumb cat “Benny” and his annoyed pal “George” looking for mice.  Though George is not exactly “George”…

SYLVESTER:  “…And stop callin’ me GEORGE!  My name’s Sylvester!” 

BENNY:  But, I CAN’T SAY ‘Sylvester’, George!” 

B-B-B-Big... M-M-Mouse!  B-B-B-Big!
Three guesses (minus two) as to who they run into!  A good music score, with such Warner Bros. standards as (This is my) “Lucky Day” and “Freddy the Freshman”. 

Cats Aweigh!” (Robert McKimson, 1952) Runs 06:43:  Sylvester, with son in tow, applies for a job as a ship’s cat.  But, guess who’s doing most of the work? 

SYLVESTER:  Well, Son, it’s like this… Now, you’re a LITTLE CAT, so you take care of the LITTLE MICE.  I’m a BIG CAT, so I take care of the BIG ONES.” 

You’re free to further guess which hyperactive hopper just happens to be crated in the cargo hold.  Nice twist ending on the formula, which I will not spoil. 

Bell Hoppy (Robert McKimson, 1953) Runs 06:49: Hippity Hopper escapes from a van transporting him to a zoo, only to run afoul of an association of mangy felines called “The Loyal Order of Alley Cats Mousing and Chowder Club”. 

One of us…”, the Grand Poobah says, “…will have to PUT A BELL around the monster’s neck, so we can hear him coming and gang up on ‘im!”  Poor Sylvester draws this unenviable task as his initiation into the club.  This cartoon is highlighted by having a wild bunch of gang-cats violently beat on Sylvester, every time the bell (intended for Hippity) rings.       

Lighthouse Mouse (Robert McKimson, 1954) Runs 06:33:  Unusual writing credit: Sid Marcus.  Sylvester is the mouser in a lighthouse also occupied by an annoying parrot and an ornery Scotsman as the lighthouse keeper, who gets lines like this: 

While you sleep, that crazy ‘moose’ [mouse] is loose in the ‘hoose’ [house]!”  With the annoying parrot (who goads Sylvester throughout the picture) repeating it TWICE, to be sure we get it! 

The “moose”, er, MOUSE kills the lights, causing an Australian cargo ship to disgorge a crate – containing Hippity – onto the island.  Now, we’re really getting into “How-many-ways-can-we-paint-a-white-stripe-on-the-back-of-a-black-cat” territory!   

To Hop to Handle (Robert McKimson, 1955) Runs 06:46: Unusual credits: Warren Foster returns as writer, and Robert McKimson is one of two ANIMATORS credited.  Junior fashions a “Pied-Piper Pipe” to summon mice.  Guess who he summons! 

Nice ending bit: Sylvester modifies the Pipe to call “real” mice, and summons a pack of vicious dogs that pounce upon him. 

SYLVESTER JR:  I wonder if anyone would be interested in adopting a fatherless kitten!” 

Slap-Hoppy Mouse(Robert McKimson, 1956) Runs 06:42: SIGN: “For Sale.  This desirable old run-down, mouse-infested house.  Tralfaz Investment Co.”  (I wonder what THAT OUTFIT is doing today?)  

It is there that rich, pampered pet cats Sylvester and Son go slumming to catch mice.  …And a crate containing Hippity Hopper FALLS OFF A CIRCUS TRAIN – and TUMBLES INTO THE BASEMENT OF THAT VERY HOUSE!  Really?  What are the odds of THAT happening? 

Bizarre non-sequitur: SYLVESTER: “You are now going to see your old, broken-down father un-infest one broken-down, mouse-infested house!” 

SYLVESTER JR. (adopts a sort of beatnik’s cadence): “Hey, man, you’re not broken-down!  You’re a real cool cat!” 

SYLVESTER (momentarily taken aback – not unlike the audience – but recovers): “Um… Yeah!  Come on, Son!”      

Mouse-taken Identity (Robert McKimson, 1957) Runs 06:39: Hippity escapes from a zoo (yet, again), and takes refuge in a museum’s Australian exhibit. I’m taking bets on the ID of the museum’s watch-cat and son!  
Here's the made-for-TV Title Card, as it appeared on the sixties ROAD RUNNER SHOW!

Hoppy Daze (Robert McKimson, 1960) Runs 06:21:  A pint-size, “Jimmy Durante-like” cat cons Sylvester into catching him some mice.  They begin with a waterfront warehouse, containing a certain crate from Australia. 

Yeah, it's the GIANT MOUSE again!  What of it?
Freudy Cat (Robert McKimson, 1963) Runs 06:27: The theatrical filmography of Hippity Hopper ends (perhaps appropriately) with a “CHEATER”.  Considering all the similarly-plotted cartoons featuring Sylvester, Sylvester Jr., and Hippity, not only does it make sense – but I wonder how many moviegoers even noticed!  The HERMAN AND KATNIP theatrical series also ended on a “cheater”, so Hippity’s not exactly in the worst of company. 

Sylvester begins the cartoon running from the dreaded (and perhaps imagined) “giant mouse”.

SYLVESTER JR. (sympathetically): “Oh, Father, Dear Father, that’s all in the past.  The bad old giant mouse is no more.  …Oh, my poor father, still in a state of shock.  Well, there’s only one way to get him unshook!” 

That “way” is to take the poor pussycat to “Dr. Freud E. Katt Psikaitrist”, where they relive clips from “Slap-Hoppy Mouse” (1956) and “Cats Aweigh!” (1952) – with some slight changes in dialogue and William Lava’s music replacing the original scores – until Hippity Hopper shows up for his newly-animated farewell, driving all three cats… er, “hoppy”.  …And, not that you’d know it from the order of the cartoons in this set, but it was Sylvester Junior’s farewell, too.
Can’t you just hear the little tyke now?  Oh, the SHAME OF IT, ending on a CHEATER!  How will I ever face the kittens in Troop 11 and a half?  At least Father will go on to star in some low-budget cartoons like ‘The Wild Chase’!  Good luck, Father!  Try to stay as ANIMATED as those cheaply produced things will allow!”     

What am I doing HERE?

Cat’s Paw (Robert McKimson, 1958) No Hippity Hopper. Runs 06:26: “Sufferin’ succotash!  With all the merit badges he could go out for, MY bright little son has to pick on Bird-Stalking!”, laments Sylvester, while climbing a lofty peak with Junior.  Need I say, Sylvester “gets the bird”, in the figurative sense only? 

Ulp!  Up THERE?  ...We lost the "Giant Mouse", for THIS?
With Hippity Hopper on the path to eventual retirement, Sylvester and Son became free to indulge in escapades that do not involve “giant mice”.  And, to this end, Robert McKimson fashions a quartet of enjoyable “inept father and loyal but skeptical son” cartoons to advance the characters.  In a way, it’s a shame this approach wasn’t tried sooner.  Oddly, all of these predated “Freudy Cat” in actual release order.   

Fish and Slips (Robert McKimson, 1961) No Hippity Hopper. Runs 06:19:  Writer: Dave Detiege. Sylvester takes Junior fishing – not at the pier, but in a closed aquarium, where it’s safer.  …It’s NOT safer.  Is that a fishing photo of “Film Editor” Treg Brown at the start of this cartoon?  Or is Brown’s name just thrown out as an in-joke that only WB staffers and future animation geeks would get? 

Treg Brown?
Birds of a Father (Robert McKimson, 1961) No Hippity Hopper. Runs 06:23:  Writer: Dave Detiege.  Junior’s new best friend is a bird!  That does not sit well with Pop, who shows the kid how to hunt birds.  Scratch one quiet Sunday afternoon! 

If only you were around to meet the "Giant Mouse"!  Those were GOOD TIMES!
Claws in the Lease (Robert McKimson, 1963) No Hippity Hopper. Runs 06:26:  Writer: John Dunn.  Strays Sylvester and Junior try to find a home with a large grouchy lady.  As often occurs in real life, she thinks the kitten is cute, but has no use for the adult cat – and the cartoon revolves around the cats’ efforts to stick together.  An interesting change of pace for the pair, that almost makes you feel sorry for Sylvester, until he carries things a wee bit too far. 
Father ALWAYS goes a bit too far, doesn't he?
Finally, and notably out of chronological order, to conclude the set, is…

Goldimouse and the Three Cats(Friz Freleng, 1959) No Hippity Hopper. Runs 06:26:  Written by Michael Maltese (probably just prior to his departure from Warners to write the entirety of THE QUICK DRAW McGRAW SHOW), and the only non-McKimson cartoon in the set.
Mike Maltese is REALLY GONE?  ...EEEEK! 

Whoever heard of CATS eating porridge?  Why can’t we have a MOUSE, like other pussycats?” asks Sylvester Jr., characterized by Maltese as more of a spoiled brat than in prior McKimson/Pierce/Foster efforts.  If anything, this different spin on Junior might have served as Mike Maltese’s “warm-up” for three seasons of Augie Doggie scripts for TV.
"Oh, Father... If only WE could bond as well as those DOGS!" 
"Aw, just stay on YOUR SIDE of the couch an' be quiet, Son!  Bugs Bunny's on!"

It’s another one of those “fairy-tale” parody cartoons that both Maltese and Warren Foster often did, with a cute little “Goldimouse” as the quarry – and the only appearance of Junior’s mother!  Both Mama and Junior are quite dismissive toward Sylvester, adding to his frustrations.

For those of you that might find Sylvester Jr. as annoying as (oh, say…) Scrappy-Doo, feel free to take delight in the ending, where Sylvester Sr. plops a bowl of cold porridge on the kid’s head! 

Porridge?  Yuck!
OVERALL:  Despite the sameness of many of the cartoons in this collection, it’s hard to dislike Hippity Hopper.  I know, because I’ve tried.  I’ve tried to dread the coming of ANY cartoon that contains the phrase “giant mouse”. 


But, I can’t really do it!  Just look at Hippity’s wide, ever-present, and infectious smile.  His kinetic enthusiasm.  And, he’s really just doing what you’d imagine a baby kangaroo would do.  It’s not HIS fault that some dumb cat keeps mistaking him for a “giant mouse”… over and over again… year after repetitious year!  

And, you can’t really fault Robert McKimson for resorting to this, because the cartoons were made in a time when it was inconceivable that they would ever be seen beyond their original theatrical run, sans an occasional re-issue.  He released them at an average pace of ONE per year, and that isn’t nearly as excessive as it tends to look in weekly or daily television broadcasts.

Depending on your point of view, Sylvester Jr. is either as annoying as Scrappy-Doo, or as “endearing” as Augie Doggie (a character he clearly inspired).  Over the years, I’ve held both views – today, leaning more toward Augie.

Robert McKimson remains unfairly underrated as an animation director, and perhaps resorting to the “giant mouse” bit as often as he did, was one reason why. 

Consider, however, if he’d stopped after the third cartoon.  The first three were all excellent, and provided just enough variation on the theme to form a trilogy.  Three would seem to be the optimum number of times to repeat a formula, without it wearing thin, or becoming annoying. 

Along with “The Duck Season / Rabbit Season Trilogy”, and what I like to call “The Cowardly Sylvester and Stupefyingly Oblivious Porky in Danger Trilogy”, we could have had “The Giant Mouse Trilogy” – and, no doubt, we would have enjoyed it more for its triplicated brevity.    
Imagine... a pussycat like ME, in TWO TRILOGIES!

But, then again (…Can’t he MAKE UP HIS MIND, on reviewing this set?!), you do get the entire classic-era theatrical runs of both Hippity Hopper AND Sylvester Jr., all on one disc for somewhere between ten and twenty bucks, and that’s worthwhile by any standard!  And, I must admit, I enjoyed this set far more than I initially expected to!

Since it IS the entire classic filmography for two popular, though second-tier, Warner characters, however, why wasn’t more of an attempt made to present the shorts in their proper release order? 

LOONEY TUNES SUPER STARS: SYLVESTER AND HIPPITY HOPPER: MARSUPIAL MAYHEM is surely recommended for Sylvester fans (or those who like “giant mice”), Robert McKimson fans, and general Looney Tunes completists like me.  I’ll also cop to an affection for Hippity Hopper and Sylvester Jr. that I didn’t really know I had!   The rest of you can decide for yourselves how many times you wish to see a cat (and son) mistake a kangaroo for a “giant mouse”.

...Though you may also be surprised at how much you enjoy yourself with this collection! 


Chris Barat said...


Good job as always. I wonder whether Warners might have missed a trick by not dispensing with Hoppity very early in the run and simply concentrating on the (to my mind, much more promising) teamup of Sylvester and Sylvester Jr. for a longer period of time. Leaving the "giant mouse" cartoons at the "trilogy stage" might indeed have been the right way to go. (There's a humorous contrast to the "Porky and Sylvester" trilogy in that BOTH father and son are laboring under a delusion here!)

Warners seems to have had some trouble keeping Hoppity on model. Sometimes he really DOES look like a giant mouse (with a chunkier tail); sometimes he looks like what he is supposed to be, a cherubic little baby kangaroo.


Joe Torcivia said...

I agree completely, Chris!

Despite a (surprisingly) newfound affection for Hippity Hopper, I think a long-running “Sylvester and Son” series (“th-eries”? As Syl would say) would have better served the characters in the long run. And I still maintain that a “Giant Mouse Trilogy” would have been more fondly remembered – especially if Junior were INTRODUCED in the final entry (as he would have been, if there were only three) and then went on to a memorable series with “Pop”.

Consider the promise of the quartet of later shorts, applied to an earlier time when the Warner theatrical machine was operating at its height. You could have pretty much applied everything that was done with Augie Doggie and what little was done with Elroy Jetson to Sylvester Jr.

Junior was a great vocal performance by Mel Blanc that I always got a laugh out of hearing and, in the ‘50s, inept fathers were not quite yet the norm in comedy as they would later become – and remain(!) – so it would have been an enjoyable series.

scarecrow33 said...

Given the repetition of the "Giant Mouse" gag, we also have to bear in mind that not only were the original audiences watching these cartoons a year apart (and who was necessarily following every Sylvester-Junior-Giant Mouse escapade, when the shorts ran rather randomly with whatever feature played on the same bill?), but also when these were aired on television as part of the "Bugs Bunny/Road Runner Hour" for example, it might be a few weeks between episodes in this particular series, so even though the repetition became more noticeable, it still wasn't the same experience as viewing all of them in one or two sittings as can be done with this DVD release. Still, my overall impression is amazement at how many variations on one theme could be accomplished. It occurs to me that the ingenuity of most of the Warner Bros. shorts wasn't so much their originality as their ability to re-work the same ideas and get fresh material out of each new effort.

However, I do feel it's a shame that we never got to see anything more of Hippety Hopper beyond the Giant Mouse gag. In his appearances in these cartoons, he displays a personality that might have had potential beyond the one-gag limitation. He could have become an ally of Sylvester in escaping a ferocious bulldog, for example, or a companion for Junior in playing or picnicking together. Or he could have formed an alliance with Tweety to put the "bad ol' puddy tat" in his place. I can picture him duking it out with the Road Runner, or better yet, going up against the Tasmanian Devil! Or Daffy Duck trying to promote the baby kangaroo for a circus sideshow...and collect a tidy little sum...only to have it all backfire. There are lots of possible plots for Hippity besides being mistaken for a giant mouse.

I also notice that "Hoppy Go Lucky" is one of the few times that Sylvester says his own name. The other characters--Bugs, Daffy, Elmer, Porky, Yosemite Sam, Wile E. Coyote, etc., frequently introduce themselves by saying their own names. But Sylvester rarely does. In fact, in most of his cartoons, he seems to be nameless, aside from possibly the title card. Granny frequently calls him by name, as does Porky, but in many if not most of his cartoons, Sylvester's name is not mentioned. Of course, his name was well known to audiences, so it probably didn't matter. But I can't think of another instance where Sylvester introduces himself by name.

And here's another question to ponder--how did they decide which cartoons were designated as Looney Tunes and which were Merrie Melodies? I know that each series was originally developed differently in the 30's--the Looneys were mostly in black-and-white and the Merries had color and generally more "musicality"--but by the late 40's and early 50's, how did anyone decide if a certain cartoon was going to be a Looney Tune or a Merrie Melody? Or was it totally random by then? Anybody know?

Overall, I really enjoyed seeing these again...some I haven't seen in years. Thanks for another long and insightful review, Joe. As you can see, I didn't "roo" the day!

ramapith said...

"Oh, the shame of it! My father's big bad behavior toward my endearing little bird friend just reminded me of another concept our series might have come close to! In fact—just today, poor old Pop said it was better late than never..."

"O' courthe it is, son! What'th the use of chasin' titchy li'l giant mice when I coulda been goin' for big fat pigs?"

"Goodness, Father, are you sure?..."

"Sure I'm sure! Meat on th' table—"

"No, wait!"

"Wait?! Oh-h-h, I know, son! Don't tell me... the sthcript says yer friends with 'em, right? We-ell, not today, yer not! In fact, I'm goin' over to sthtir-fry all three before you kin say Jackie Robinth— uh, Jackie Robinthth— uh, Rosa Parks! (Sheesh!)"

"My poor old father doesn't know it, folks, but I couldn't make friends with those pigs! They're not like the pigs at that other studio..."


"Hey! Come back, kitty cat! Youse is better at playin' swat da fly an' surprise-surprise than dat ol' wolf ever was!"

"Nyeah! All fer one... an' one fer all! >Mwahahaha!<"

"YEEIPE!... Is there a Tasmanian Devil in the housthe?"

Joe Torcivia said...


Come to think of it, “Birds of a Father” WAS rather similar to the concept of Li’l Bad Wolf, Zeke (Big Bad) Wolf, and the Three Little Pigs in the Disney comic books! And, by 1961, given the cross-pollination of talent between Western Publishing and the Hollywood Animation studios, I’d say the concept could certainly have “migrated” from one to the other… oh, say, perhaps even more likely than The Phantom Blot influencing Porky Pig’s “Phantom of the Plains”

Though I don’t see Li’l Wolf putting that BAG over his head – not when Zeke can use it for stealing Br’er Bear’s chickens!

Joe Torcivia said...


It was by the time of “The Bugs Bunny Road Runner Hour” – with all its subsequent incarnations, and with more Post-1948 WB cartoons being added to daily local and syndicated shows in the early-to-mid ‘60s – that I began to feel the weight of the repetitiveness of the “Giant Mouse” cartoons.

When just the Pre-‘48s ran locally (…and I can still remember seeing the first one, “Hop, Look and Listen”, on local kids’ shows from that time), and only a few of them ran on the ABC 30-minute BUGS BUNNY SHOW, I began to notice the “Giant Mouse” *trend* – but not the inundation that would follow. (Even Pixie, Dixie, and Mister Jinks did one on THE HUCKLEBERRY HOUND SHOW – but, wisely, only one!)

Sylvester’s name was spoken often enough, between Granny (as you note) and Porky in the “Trilogy”. I never counted, but I’m sure his name appeared on a fair number of title cards, too. I suspect that, if the “eloquent vagabond” persona of the earlier comic books had taken hold in animation; he’d have introduced HIMSELF quite a bit, as well.

I really like your alternate scenarios for Hippity Hopper! Particularly, the alliance with Tweety, which Freleng would have been the director to do. Did Joe Barbera ever do that plot for TOM AND JERRY? It seemed a natural, given all the “external characters” he introduced into their battles. Well, he DID do it in the PIXIE AND DIXIE, but only after years of (presumably) seeing it done with Sylvester!

Just sticking to McKimson, wouldn’t it have been a (geographic) natural to have Hippity become the toughest meal the Tasmanian Devil ever went after? Bugs may have been able to stymie Taz with tricks and disguises, but Hippity would have vanquished him by “innocent force and will”! That would have been nice to see!

And, yes, the McKimson “huckster” Daffy would have been the perfect character to (unsuccessfully, of course) try to exploit the baby ‘roo! Hippity DID have a cameo in McKimson’s Bugs Bunny cartoon “Bushy Hare”.

In that same vein, Pepe Le Pew could surely have done more than just “the amorous pursuit of a conveniently white-striped cat” all the time – such as be the “forceful good Samaritan” completely unaware of the effects of his odor on those unfortunates that he insists on helping! Never mind the rut that Popeye eventually “ran aground” on! Were these formulas THAT DIFFICULT to break, I have to wonder?

You’ve got the same definition criteria for LOONEY TUNES vs. MERRIE MELODIES that I have. If there were any specific rules of definition by the ‘50s and ‘60s, I don’t know ‘em. …David, or anyone else?

Anonymous said...

My impression (from Ben Mankiewicz's introduction to some cartoons on TCM) is that Looney Tunes were a vehicle for WB's star characters (like Bugs and Daffy), while the Merrie Melodies either did not have continuing characters, or, if they did, featured the B-list characters (like Foxy). Also, the MM series switched from B&W to color before Looney Tunes did. Re: Sylvester's name, I seem to remember one Tweety cartoon in which the cat looked like Sylvester, but his owner addressed him by some other name. I don't know if it was made before the Tweety and Sylvester concept was fully developed, or if Sylvester had a twin. Warners did seem to use some cartoon characters in different roles; the wolf in the "Ralph and Sam" series looked like the coyote in the Road Runner cartoons, who, in turn, was called "Wile E." when he was chasing Bugs Bunny. -TC

Joe Torcivia said...

I think the alternate name Sylvester was called-by was “Thomas”. I can still hear the female pet-owner’s voice yelling “THOMAS!”, though I don’t recall which cartoon that was. Clearly, that couldn’t continue if MGM had anything to say about it. I wonder which cartoon was the FIRST to refer to him as Sylvester. We may have to look that up.

If these “coincidences” continued, next thing you know WB and MGM might both be doing cartoons about their starring characters giving a piano recital in a great concert hall, and being thwarted by a mouse! Naaah… Couldn’t be!

And, that’s pretty much the way I understand the divide between LT and MM, TC. Except, that I’m still not certain what governed the division in the later periods of the “50s and ‘60s, when they basically did one type of gag cartoon. Did the designations simply become meaningless trademarks, after a certain point?

I always figured that Wile E. Coyote had a black nose, and Ralph Wolf had a red one. Still, as you note, there was one Wile E. that talked (vs. Bugs Bunny) and one that did not (vs. Road Runner, except in comics). Sylvester, too, had both mute and talkative personas. Perhaps these characters were more adept at portraying “different roles” than we give them credit for.

Dan said...

Nice job, Joe: one day in, and the complexities of the Hippity Hopper shorts has sparked quite a set of theories. Well... I suppose that's a natural 'round here!

Hippity must have left enough of an impression on the WB animation staff to include him in the march of characters during the opening titles of 1960s original "The Bugs Bunny Show"—H.H. certainly wasn't included for variation of color or scale. By today's standards of consumer recognition, Sylvester Jr. (or the curiously absent Porky) would have been more logical choices.

The "mouse disguise" device was used by a baby AND Mama elephant in Hanna & Barbera's 1951 Tom and Jerry short "Jerry and Jumbo"—but the dialogue-free T&J give a different tone to the same convention.

If you think about it, Tom Cat and Sylvester share so much in common, yet they are remarkably distinct characters. Same goes for David G.'s comparison between Zeke/Li'l Wolf and Sylvester/Syl Jr.—a Disney character at that time would never be ashamed of their Father figure (affection/pathos), and a "Looney" WB Father figure could never live up the expectations of his kid (honesty/comedy)

Sylvester Jr. still has potential, it's surprising he hasn't surfaced in a prominent role somewhere during the past 25 years. - Dan

Joe Torcivia said...

“Complexities” is (are?) our middle name, around here, Dan!

Tom, Sylvester, Katnip , and Mister Jinks have a lot in common, as far as I’m concerned. Including the fact that all of them had “sons” – but only Sylvester’s parlayed the role into a regular gig!

Junior is actually a favorite character of mine, despite seeing a few too many “giant mice”!

Chris Barat said...


Regarding the division between LOONEY TUNES and MERRIE MELODIES: I think that the MM's were originally centered around songs that either had appeared or were appearing in Warner Bros. movies. The early ones generally have song-related titles. The LT's were (as "anonymous" suggested) vehicles for whatever star characters Warners had at the time. At some point, the distinction was either forgotten or purposely erased. I'm not sure exactly when, though.


Joe Torcivia said...

I think we all agree on that, Chris.

I’d like to know when that changed and if there were any “rules” that governed the designations, once the change took place. Or did they just become (and were maintained as) indistinguishable trademarks.

And, if they were nothing more than “indistinguishable trademarks”, why did “Merrie Melodies” fare so much worse than “Looney Tunes” – which has become the de-facto popular designation for the entire series of Warner Bros. cartoons.

Indeed, why retain the name “Merrie Melodies” at all? It’s not as if they made any significant advances with it. …More things we’ll never know!

scarecrow33 said...

The derivations of the titles are fascinating--adjective plus noun, with the adjective meaning "funny," "joyous", or "zany" and the noun being a musical term. So there could be a "merrie melody" (melodie?) or a "looney tune" which essentially meant the same thing. Interesting that Hugh Harman and Rudy Ising were at Warner Brothers for the birth of the "Looney Tunes" and "Merrie Melodies" series, and that later they formed the "Happy Harmonies" series, which of course utilizes the same adjective plus noun combination and also plays on their names, Harmon-Ising. The fact that the two of them worked for Disney before they came to Warners rather suggests a little borrowing from the term "Silly Symphonies." After all, what is a "Silly Symphony" but a "Looney Tune"? Adjective for "humorous" or "zany" plus musical term noun!

The fact that Carl Stalling worked for Disney before moving over to Warners also seems to suggest a deliberate borrowing. Yet ironically, the average person of today(if there is such a being)probably has never heard of the "Silly Symphonies," "Happy Harmonies", or even "Merrie Melodies" but might instantly recognize a reference to the "Looney Tunes," which have somehow found their way into the cultural lexicon.

What fascinates me most about all of this is how much of the history of animation dovetails at Disney. If Walt Disney did not directly create it, if it has to do with animation, it's highly likely that he or his creations INSPIRED it--either that or it was created as a REACTION TO or REBELLION AGAINST the Disney style. One way or another, Disney set the standard, and the others marched, willingly or unwillingly, to his tune, or rather, symphony. (I know there's more to it than that, but it's a cool idea, all the same...and largely true.)

Joe Torcivia said...

More great observations, Scarecrow!

I suppose our “take-away” from all this is that, as ALL ROADS once led to ROME, all things animation lead to (or flee from) Disney!

Makes perfect sense, even in terms of the “branding” of a particular studio’s series of animated cartoons. I suppose you had to have a brand-name that SOUNDED ENOUGH LIKE the brand-name of the standard-of-the-field – that being Disney. And that, presumably, is also why so many of those early animated characters either looked like Oswald or Mickey – or stepped out of their cartoons as background characters. Though, eventually, studios like Warner Bros. and MGM would find ways to surpass Disney – at least in terms of “funny entertainment value”.

Isn’t it rather ironic that this great influence on just about every short cartoon ever made, was the first (of the SUCCESSFUL studios, that is) to bail on the format. Imagine mid-sixties Donald vs. Chip ‘n’ Dale cartoons that looked and played like the Daffy / Speedys”! Glad that never happened!

And, didn’t history nicely repeat itself in ‘80s / ‘90s television, when Disney brought the medium out of its 15-20 year doldrums with series such as DuckTales and the like – only to be surpassed in nearly every way by the Warner Bros. series that followed!

Oh, and I still think Merrie Melodies (as an identifying term) is known to the modern populace – if only because it’s seen when the opening title sequences on the cartoons is not cut, or otherwise altered.

It was even on the Dell comic book – and you’ll notice my Blog “label” reads “Looney Tunes and Merrie Melodies”.

Still, it is “Looney Tunes”, and not “Merrie Melodies”, that those cartoons are “generically known as” today. The modern day comic book is simply called “Looney Tunes”, and even the current, derivative sit-com version of these characters is called “The Looney Tunes Show”. The DVDs are called “Looney Tunes Golden Collection”, “Looney Tunes Platinum Collection”, and “Looney Tunes Super Stars”.

…And ya gotta wonder why that happened.

Joe Torcivia said...

I should have included this with my last comment, but… Maybe we just have a need to distill everything down to Visual and Verbal Shorthand, and “Looney Tunes” – without the accompanying appendage of “Merrie Melodies” – fits that bill just fine.

Joe Torcivia said...

In a nice bit of “blogging-symmetry”, in this post I compare Sylvester Junior to the later Hanna-Barbera creation Augie Doggie – and, about a week later, in an “Augie post”, Hanna-Barbera Blogger Yowp draws those same parallels!

“Be aghast with wonderment at your gift,” says Augie, pointing to the large package. Inside is Roscoe [a HORSE, and Augie’s birthday gift to Dear-Old-Dad], who jumps on Daddy and slurps him like a dog. Daddy tries to kick him out of the house, but we gets tears from Augie and the Sylvester Junior-like “oh-the-shame-of-it” catchphrase and self-psychoanalysis. “Because my dear old dad rejected my birthday gift, I shall grow up with a trauma.” So Daddy lets Roscoe stay. “I wouldn’t want my boy to grow up with a trauma. They’re the woist kind,” he tells us.”

Alby D said...

Love the blog, Joe. So grateful you do this.

As a kid I was a big fan of Looney Tunes, etc, but I only recently fell in love with them again when I started to watch them with my four-year-old son. In a very short period of time, I collected nearly all the available shorts on DVD and can safely call myself a fanatic/completist.

Meanwhile, your blog has been a great way to keep up with the various releases. When it comes to the Super Stars series, in fact, every time I get hold of one I bring up your review and go episode by episode, reading and watching them side by side. It's been awesome.

Question: Any chance you'd consider doing reviews of the Golden Collection series? I know it's a long shot, but thought it'd be worth an ask. I can't help thinking what fun it would be read your reviews of the various shorts.

Either way, though, mainly I just want to than you for all you do. It's definitely MUCH appreciated!

Joe Torcivia said...


I can’t thank you enough for such kind words! And I know how special watching them with a four-year old son can be! Enjoy that experience to the fullest!

The Looney Tunes Super Stars series, in its own odd way, fascinates me – both with its flaws and with its virtues. It is clearly not up to the high standards originally set by the Looney Tunes Golden Collections (little, if nothing else, is), but neither is it an unworthy waste of time and money. Indeed, if you were to read the reviews chronologically, you’d note a trend in improvements as they progressed.

They could easily be nothing more than double-dip regurgitation collections, as Warners tends to do with Scooby-Doo and Tom and Jerry, but they are not. Quite the opposite from endlessly repackaging “the classics”, they tend to devote their efforts to the less heralded aspects of Looney-Toondom – such as featuring directors Robert McKimson, Arthur Davis, and Rudy Larriva and spotlighting characters like Sylvester Jr., Hippity Hopper… and even “Bunny and Claude”!

As for reviewing the Golden Collections, it would probably never happen time-wise. But, as you can glean from my LTSS reviews, there’s no doubt that I consider them the greatest animation experience that one can have with DVD. They were well worth the price, and it’s unfortunate that WHV decided to abandon them – as they were both a prestige item, and the standard against which all other animation home video efforts are measured in terms of overall quality.

That’s likely as close as we will get to a Golden Collection review around here because, beyond my typical time constraints, I’ll add that there’s a reason I’ll review “other” Humphrey Bogart film DVDs, but not “Casablanca” or “The Maltese Falcon” (though I did manage to do “Treasure of the Sierra Madre”) – and that same reason is at the heart of my reviewing “Looney Tunes Super Stars” over “Looney Tunes Golden Collections”. That is because so much has already been said, that I probably don’t have anything unique to add. …Outside of my personal view of each short and feature, one after the other (as I do with LTSS), that is. And I may never have enough time to do the justice that sort of effort deserves.

While writing this, another factor just occurred to me. This Blog was started in 2008, and that was also the year the Golden Collections ended – and that “ending” occurred before I got into a regular pattern of “Looong DVD Reviews”.

When the Looney Tunes Super Stars series began in 2010, I was so pleased to see the Looney Tunes DVD drought come to an end – yet disappointed because it failed to live up to the standards of the Golden Collections (Again, what has?) – that I was motivated to post on it. And, as I said previously, the incremental improvements were worth noting, so there were subsequent posts – until we ended up here!

For what it’s worth, I’m currently preparing that same sort of “background and toon-by-toon” review approach for TAZ-MANIA Volume One… 13 episodes makes it manageable. It probably won’t appear for quite a while, due to the ever-present time constraints. Only have the first three (of 13) done at this writing.

Please come back and comment anytime!

Alby D said...

Thanks a million for replying. Looking forward to that Taz review!