Monday, January 28, 2008

Looney Tunes Bells

In 1988, the New England Collectors Society put out a set of little collectible bells called the Looney Tunes Classics Silverplated Bell Collection. They were available to collectors as a mail-away subscription (one of those one-per-month deals, apparently). They also did a series of Walt Disney characters around the same time. The thing that has baffled me about the Looney Tunes collection was the totally random characters that were selected. Sure, you had Bugs, Daffy, Porky, Foghorn, Road Runner, Speedy, Sylvester and Yosemite Sam... but they also did miniature bells of Merlin Mouse, Mrs. Elmer Fudd (from "Don't Axe Me"), Claude Cat, Hippety Hopper, Honey Bunny, Granny, Slowpoke and most baffling of all... (as Matthew stated below)...

Lo, the Poor Indian... !?

Talk about obscure!

The ones I listed are the ones I know exist, not sure if there were more or not (no idea how Lo got the bell-treatment over, say, Tweety or Coyote or Elmer). Images on the web are rare (they sometimes pop up for sale on eBay). If you have images of any other of these things send us an e-mail.

Sources: Looney Tunes Collector,What a Character

Saturday, January 26, 2008

"Hocus Pocus Powwow" (1968)

Here's another reason to give the final batch of Warner Bros. shorts, the Bill Hendricks-produced 1967-69 era, another look. Walter Lantz veteran Alex Lovy, perhaps better known among Looney Tunes fans for his horrendous Daffy Duck/Speedy Gonzales efforts, was actually pretty productive during his brief stint at Warners. Besides the ever-present Robert McKimson, Lovy was the only credited director this late in the game, and managed to be creative and funny despite miniscule budgets. Rather than drag any more of the beloved classic characters other than Daffy and Speedy through the low-budget mud, Lovy opted to try new ideas and characters that fit the more limited style, ultimately creating Cool Cat, Colonel Rimfire, Merlin the Magic Mouse, Second Banana, anf a slew of one-shot characters like Chimp and Zee and a couple of bumbling World War I fighter pilots. While Cool Cat was more of an attempt to cash in on 60's culture and the Pink Panther, Merlin was completely original. A travelling magician with a W.C. Fields-esque voice, (originally performed by Daws Butler and later by Larry Storch) was aided by his sidekick, Second Banana, and always found himself in sticky situations with some joker who stood between him and his latest travel destination.

In this particular cartoon, "Hocus Pocus Powwow", Merlin and Second Banana are thrown off a train in the middle of the desert for misplacing their tickets. They run into "Lo, the Poor Indian", a goofy Native American who looks like something from a Hanna-Barbera TV show, and thanks to veteran gag writer Cal Howard, the resulting battle of half-wits is surprisingly funny. "Lo" was memorable enough that Warner Bros. actually licensed him for merchandise, and he turned up as part of a series of LT-themed brass bells in the 1980's. Unfortunately, the cartoon is now deemed to politically incorrect for television and has never been released on video in any form. It turned up once as part of an unscheduled late-night marathon of "un-PC" cartoons on Cartoon Network over 6 years ago, (ironically, the same marathon featured the pilot for Adult Swim.)

Enjoy "Hocus Pocus Powwow", directed by Alex Lovy, written by Cal Howard and scored by Bill Lava (and for once Lava delivers a good score!)

Tuesday, January 22, 2008

Duck Dodgers Valentines

Here's a sure way to impress the ladies this Valentine's Day. Why not give them some Duck Dodgers Valentines?

These are actually a box of those little Valentine cards that kids give out in the classroom. I found this today at the dollar store. Probably leftover stock from three years ago or something (there was no date on the box). It's still interesting since there was very little tie-in merchandise made for the Duck Dodgers TV show.

As you can see, the cards come in "8 intergalactic designs". Some of which deserve some special attention since they make absolutely no sense.

Um... ok. "I promise I sent you one"? Aren't we looking at the Valentine that was sent to us? I don't get it.

Wouldn't this "joke" make more sense if they had a picture of a character actually kicking something instead of just standing there?

Sunday, January 20, 2008

Rabbit Records

Don't miss this great post over on the Classic Children's Records & More blog (a goldmine of oddball kiddie records from the past) showcasing two vintage Looney Tunes albums.

The first is a 1974 LP from Peter Pan Records titled Four More Adventures of Bugs Bunny which was a reissue of four stories previously released as read along book-and-record sets. Mel Blanc provides all the voices including Elmer Fudd and even the female voices of Petunia and Granny. "Get That Pet" (where Granny finds a new pet (Bugs) to replace Sylvester) and "Porky's Picnic" are the best of the four tales. Plus, you get to see some crazy looking cover art by longtime Peter Pan Records illustrator George Peed of the LT gang.

They also have up the 1961 Capitol Records collection, Bugs Bunny and His Friends which was a compilation of the great Capitol LT records of the 1940s & 1950s including "Daffy Duck's Duck Inn", "Bugs Meets Hiawatha" and others.

Saturday, January 19, 2008

Those were @#$%^&#@!* Days

1934 was not a good year for Warner Bros. Cartoons. Harman and Ising had left, Everyone was trying their best to make Buddy interesting, and a team of less-than-stellar directors was at the helm of the Merrie Melodies. My previous post regarding "Sittin on a Backyard Fence" proves that they had some talent. But did they make missteps? Ohhhhhhhh yeah. Even Friz wasn't perfect. Here's a pair of commentaries I did on 2 of the worst Warner cartoons ever: Freleng's "How Do I Know It's Sunday" and Bernard Brown's "Those Were Wonderful Days", both from 1934. Don't say I didn't warn you...

Is It Cool Enough Outside For Some Kool-Aid?

Forget hot chocolate, even though its freezing outside Bugs still loves drinking his delicious "scrump-diddley-ump-tious" Kool-Aid. From 1965, here's a Kool-Aid commercial featuring Bugs and Elmer competing in a ski race. The prize? What else?

Sounds like Hal Smith as Fudd and Paul Frees as the contest judge. Up until a few minutes ago I had never even seen this ad before.

Previous Bugs & Kool-Aid stuff we've covered on this blog: here, here, and here.

Friday, January 18, 2008

Tyco Looney Tunes Action Figures

In 1993, Tyco got the Looney Tunes license and created a whole series of merchandise which included a set of action figures, talking figures, PVC figures, plush dolls, a board game, and probably some other stuff I am forgetting. Here is the back of the package of one of the action figures.

The set consisted of Taz, Marvin, Bugs (with a weird carrot-shooting... thing), the Road Runner and Coyote.

I have always found it amusing how easily the Road Runner figure's head comes off. I imagine it was done so kids could let Wile E. win once in awhile...

Wednesday, January 16, 2008

"Sittin' On A Back Yard Fence" (1933)

As long as we're on the subject of rare cartoons, I think it's appropriate to point out another really obscure one that deserves more attention.

First a brief history lesson. After creating and sustaining the Looney Tunes and Merrie Melodies for over 3 years, Hugh Harman and Rudolf Ising left producer Leon Schlesinger and his studio. They moved off to MGM, taking their star creation, Bosko, and lead animator, Friz Freleng, with them.

Searching for a quick way to get things back on track, Schlesinger turned to animators Tom Palmer, Earl Duvall and Jack King. Since they couldn't use Bosko, Palmer and Duvall came up with Buddy and debuted him in "Buddy's Day Out" (1933). The cartoon got sent back to Schlesinger by Warner Bros., and Palmer got the axe. Duvall managed to crank out three more Buddy films, which weren't bad, but not quite what Schlesinger and Warner Bros. had in mind. Schlesinger re-hired Freleng away from Harman and Ising shortly afterward. Duvall never appeared in the credits of a Warner cartoon again, and I think it was the end of his animation career.

Duvall will forever be associated with Buddy, But in addition to his Buddy cartoons, Duvall also directed two one-shot Merrie Melodies. His first, "Sittin' On A Back Yard Fence", is a standout. It's just as entertaining as the final Harman/Ising cartoons, a nice breather from Buddy, and has great music and animation. Unlike most of the Merrie Melodies, this one has a little bit more plot to it, and a better-than-usual attempt at interesting characters. There are some striking similarities between this and some of Bob Clampett's cat cartoons, particularly "Hep Cat" and "Gruesome Twosome", and this is a full decade prior! The cartoon opens as usual for the 30's...with a song. But unlike most, the song is key to the cats-in-a-love-tiangle plot and provides a nice backdrop for the "objects come to life" interludes. There's a great chase toward the end, between the cats and a bulldog...and some impressive animation of the cats getting tangled up in a rolling pin careening along the power lines, complete with some nifty camera angles. It sure beats the hell out of Duvall's boring second MM effort, "Honeymoon Hotel".

Because it's a musical, and so rarely seen, it didn't seem right to do a commentary over it. So here it is: In my opinion, Earl Duvall's best cartoon. "Sittin on a Back Yard Fence".

Tuesday, January 15, 2008

Noel Paul Stookey on "Norman Normal"

I discovered that Noel Paul Stookey, creator of Norman Normal, has an official website, and decided to email him regarding Norman Normal. I asked him if he had any interesting memories about it, and to my surprise, he emailed me back. I'll post the correspondence here:

I am curious to know more about a cartoon short written by Paul Stookey for Warner Bros. in 1968, entitled "Norman Normal". It's never been released on video or DVD officially, and last appeared on TV over 20 years ago. I'd love to know more about the experience of working on it. If interested in sharing, please contact me!

" hiya matthew. yeah...loved that cartoon...had rough outlines of a NORMAN NORMAL series set to go a couple of times but wbros never quite had the appetite for it. even 20 years after the fact there was interest. Although i did all the other voices, the lead voice (Norman) was DAVE DIXON, my co-writer on I DIG ROCK AND ROLL MUSIC (a pp&m top 10 song in the 60's), a director of a little known film i co-wrote with him called THE CULVERT and, oh yeah, a highschool classmate of mine - actually a year behind me - in retrospect he did a brilliant unaffected reading of the role that's for sure. Not sure how i can help you. what is it you want to know?"

Thanks for the response! Very interesting. I guess the way you can help me is to tell me all you know about the cartoon. How you came to write it, the plans for a series, and your experience with it. Did you have any involvement with Alex Lovy or the Warner cartoon studio at the time? I'm curious, since the cartoon itself hasn't aired on TV in 20 years and has not yet been released to DVD. A lot of people simply want to know more about it!

hmmm... this could be a very long email. tell ya what, i'll do a brief flybyand you get back to me with specific questions if necessary...

1) NORMAN NORMAL was a name, spray painted on various pieces of publictransport equipment in AUSTRALIA in the early 60's. i was struck bythe attempt to apply the term 'normal' to anybody. though there wasobviously a thread of similarity that ran through all human life, itwas becoming more and more apparent to me that each of us was veryunique; particularly in terms of how we dealt with our similarities.

2) for me, the making of records in the mid sixties was becoming moreof an experiment in styles than a straight rendering of the tunes. iwas interested in recording sonic environments (complete with soundeffects) as backgrounds in which music might present its poetry; ie:HYMN, THE HOUSE SONG, I'M IN LOVE WITH A BIG BLUE FROG and I DIG ROCKAND ROLL MUSIC were from that era.

3) loved sound effects! loved to mimic them. grew up on jonathon winters - did sfx on stage with the trio. thought to myself hey, nowthat multi-track is here, i could do an entire 'orchestra' with justmy sfx. discovered pretty quickly that i didn't have the range tocover all of it but laid down some basic tracks and then did vocalgroup overdubs for a song i wrote called NORMAN NORMAL.

4) the lyrics to NN captured most of what i saw in the irony offinding 'normal' but thought if it could be an animated cartoon itwould give a broader palette upon which to paint the humor...

5) throughout the 60's, my highschool friend, dave dixon and had ishared an appreciation for the lyric subtext of popular music andculture. he was a 'perfect partner' as we saw certain hypocrisies inour own lives and those of folks around us. the idea of a 'normal'life appeared to carry with it some expectations that we thought wouldbe funny to examine; and especially preconceptions about businessethics, personal integrity and morality in general.

6) peter, paul and mary were among the 'first born' by WARNER BROTHERSrecords, certainly the first most successful group the label had inthe early 60's and therefore held in pretty high regard by thatcompany. though there was no official connection between thefledgling record company and the parent film group, the introductionwas made and i had a great meeting with joe kotler at the warnerbrothers building on madison avenue in nyc and we agreed in principleto go ahead with turning the tune into a cartoon.

7) milt glaser (the world reknowned graphics artist) did somepreliminary sketches of norman - i still have them as prize collectoritems - but they were thought by wbros as too difficult to reproducein animated form. we ultimately settled for a more 'closed' stylethat made cel painting and in-betweening an easier task.

8) dave dixon (who would become disc jockey and television personalityon public radio in detroit and florida) and i created and performedall the parts for the 1st cartoon. dave's beautifully level vocaldelivery underlined the 'honesty' with which NORMAN approached lifeand i did all the character voices. with the exception of the titlemusic (wbros used my sfx original), the incidental/transitional musicwas added by wbros. dave and i also did treatments for 3 or 4 followup cartoons which, alas...never got made.

9) bill hendricks WAS interested in the 70's in picking up the ideafor a series, interviewed me in that regard, and even paid $$ tooption the concept...but again there was no progress beyond talking.

10) although there was never an idea of creating a NORMAN series,myself but rather just because of my love of animation, i created aNEWORLD ANIMATION group in maine and, borrowing the talent of RYANLARKIN (from the canadian film board and recently the subject of anacademy award short called 'RYAN'), who came to work with us for twoor three months, we were creating a show for the christianbroadcasting network called THE SKY'S THE LIMIT when, sadly, theproject was cancelled by them.

11) i still maintain an affection for the animated process and itsability to speak in terms that transcend (and sometimes transform)reality. sometimes it seems we can only see beyond our day to day bybending it.

sorry to have run on matt...hardly a flyby...thanks for the chance to remember, noel

Thanks to Mr. Stookey for the information!

Friday, January 11, 2008

Abe Lyman's Orchestra

Forgive me for not knowing the origin of this clip. But a random Youtube search for "Merrie Melodies" turned up this wonderful piece by Abe Lyman's Orchestra called "12th Street Rag". This is the band that made the earliest Merrie Melodies so much fun. They jazzed up the "Foxy" and "Piggy" cartoons for Harman and Ising, years before Carl Stalling came to work for the Warner cartoon studio. If you like old-time jazz (like I do, along with any type of music you can throw at me from classical to rap) you'll love this.

Thursday, January 10, 2008

200 Posts! "Norman Normal" (1968)

When Jon and I started this blog, we hoped to collect, in one place, the wealth of information that the internet has brought to light concerning the history of Warner Bros. cartoons. Thanks to the miracle of forums, blogs, Youtube, Dailmotion, Ebay and email, material that has been scattered and hard to find for years has come to light for all to see. Fans, historians and collectors of Warner Bros. Cartoon history have come together to share their knowledge, insight and collections. Even we had no idea how many random books, bits of merchandise, comics, commercials and audio recordings featuring the Looney Tunes characters existed until we started this blog. Just when we thought we'd seen every commercial ever done with the Road Runner, for example, another one turned up. Classic cartoons that have been ignored by TV and video distributors for years are now popping up all over the place.

With the classic cartoons gone from TV these days, it's more important than ever to keep their legacy in the public eye, and show their continuing impact on our culture. I like to think our little blog has helped with that.

Keeping all of this in mind, here's a cartoon that has only appeared on television in the United States a handful of times, on Nickelodeon's "Nick at Nite" 20 years ago. It's one of the few truly great cartoon shorts to come out of the late 1960's, and certainly a highlight in Warner's mixed bag of low-budget entries during the 1967-69 period. Directed by Alex Lovy of Walter Lantz and Hanna-Barbera fame, "Norman Normal" (1968) is a thoroughly adult look at society, predating "The Simpsons" by over 20 years. It was written by musician Paul Stookey of Peter, Paul and Mary fame, and he also provides several voices. Norman is an averge joe put in the tough spot of choosing whether or not to do what's right or follow society. His boss pressures him to get someone drunk in order to facilitate a business deal, his out-of-touch father advises him to "just blend in", and he becomes a party-pooper when he rejects racist jokes. It's surreal, has some laugh-out-loud funny moments, and has a social relevance that still raises questions for today's world...truly ahead of its time! Now if only Warner Bros. could put this on a Golden Collection for all to enjoy...until then, there's always "Misce-Looney-Ous!"

Misce-looney-ous Bookshelf - Bugs Bunny's Adventures

Here's a short story from the 1948 storybook Bugs Bunny's Adventures from Whitman Publishing. This small book contained three stories. It features some nice illustrations that go uncredited (one of the McKimson brothers, perhaps?). As you can see, the stories are awfully text-heavy for a kiddie book. They kind of remind me of the type of short stories that would run in the old LT & MM comics. In addition to "Bugs Bunny's Headache" (below), the book also contained "Bugs Bunny's Balloon Ride" and "Porky Meets the Three Bears". Maybe I will showcase those some other day.

This was Misce-Looney-ous blog post #199. Stay tuned for a special post in honor of #200 soon!

Sunday, January 6, 2008

Mil-looney-um 2000

Let's turn back the clock to the dawn of the new millennium and take a look at a Looney Tunes marketing campaign that didn't really go anywhere --- the "Mil-looney-um". In late 1998, Warner Bros. issued press releases promoting their "Mil-looney-um" campaign which was supposed to be a huge marketing blitz with tie-ins galore leading up to the year 2000. A portion of the press release:

Warner Bros.' classic Looney Tunes characters celebrate the millennium with the irreverent "Mil-LOONEY-Um," a companywide marketing initiative spanning the world beginning third quarter 1999, led by Warner Bros. Consumer Products.

In the United States, the Mil-LOONEY-Um campaign includes Kids' WB!, The WB Television Network's children's programming service, which will broadcast specially created animated interstitial programming weekdays. In addition, Kids' WB! will feature a Mil-LOONEY-Um-themed "watch & win" contest on Saturday mornings during November and December.

Additionally, Warner Bros. Studio Stores will host special in-store events in locations nationwide, including the Warner Bros. Studio Store at One Times Square.

Warner Home Video product will feature Mil-LOONEY-Um branding via on-pack stickers and Mil-LOONEY-Um moments included in the preview trailers. Warner Bros. Online will have a dedicated Mil-LOONEY-Um area on its Web site with streaming video of interstitials, online polls and shockwave games.

In the end, the "Mil-looney-um" was kind of a bust. I am not sure if not as many companies as hoped signed up or WB just lost interest or what... but all that resulted was a tie-in with Subway sandwich shops (including a commercial of the LT gang ringing in the new year and Taz devours their six-foot long party sub), a series of Smucker's jelly jars and Kraft throwing "2" and "0" shapes into their Bugs Bunny macaroni & cheese.

The promised tie-in with Kids WB never came to be and neither did the official "Mil-looney-um" website. The only newly animated interstitial intended for Kids WB didn't even surface on TV, but among the previews at the start of two Tweety-themed VHS collections in the short-lived "Looney Tunes Presents" line of videotapes.

I am not sure if any of Warner Bros. Studio Stores participated in the "Mil-looney-um" hype as the press release promised. I know the WB stores were near the end of the line by then (finally going out of business completely in 2001).

Oh well, maybe Warner Bros. will get its act together for the next millennium...

Saturday, January 5, 2008

Franklyn Vs. Lava: "Adventures of the Road Runner"

Thanks to Speedy Boris on the Termite Terrace Trading Post for doing this! Here's a neat little comparison of some scenes from "Adventures of the Road Runner" (scored by Milt Franklyn) and "To Beep or Not to Beep" (scored by Bill Lava.)

"To Beep" used footage previously made for the "Adventures" pilot/featurette, but Franklyn had passed away by the time "To Beep" was made.

Years later, for television, "Adventures of the Road Runner" itself was mined for material to create two shorts called "Zip Zip Hooray" and "Road Runner Ago Go", both of which retained the original score by Franklyn.

Friday, January 4, 2008

Bugs Bunny Show- Part 4

Here's an episode of the Bugs Show featuring Friz Freleng's inimitable gangster duo, Rocky and Mugsy. If you don't watch it, you might get shot! If this animation isn't funny enough for you, the ad for baseball cards with Bugs and Yosemite Sam is historically interesting. I'm willing to bet the Mickey Mantle card mentioned is worth a ton more than it was in 1961!

Bugs and Daffy Sing About the U.S. Constitution

Here's a musical one minute public service announcement featuring Bugs and Daffy singing about how the U.S. Constitution is amended. It was one of a series of spots shown during the 1986 season of The Bugs Bunny and Tweety Show on ABC. We've shown a couple of these in the past, such as this one featuring the Road Runner & Coyote.

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