by E.O. Costello
- A CARDS
A favorite wartime gag of Bob Clampett.
A cards were a part of the gasoline rationing programs of World War II,
and entitled the cardholder to the smallest available ration of
gasoline. Larger rations were available for uses deemed vital to the
war effort through B and C cards, among others. See Gasoline Rationing for more information.
In Falling Hare (Clampett, 1943), Bugs Bunny points with his carrot to an A Card as the reason the plane runs out of fuel.
- ABBOTT & COSTELLO
Classic comedy duo consisting of Bud Abbott (né William Alexander Abbott, 1897-1974) and Lou Costello (né Louis Francis
Cristillo, 1906-1959) who moved directly from burlesque to film upon
signing with Universal in 1941. The pair went on to have their own radio
show in 1942, where they presented their now-classic
“Who’s on first?” routine.
A number of Warner Brothers cartoons feature Abbott & Costello parodies. Examples would have to include:
- A Tale of Two Kitties (Clampett, 1942) featuring
“Babbitt” and “Catstello” cats chasing the prototypical
- A Tale of Two Mice (Tashlin, 1945)
- Hollywood Canine Canteen (McKimson, 1946) featuring a brief bit
with Abbott & Costello-like dogs
- Hollywood Daffy (Freleng, 1946) shows dressing rooms for various
stars of the day in a panning shot. Those of Bud Abbott and Lou Costello
are thin and fat, respectively
- The Mouse-Merized Cat (McKimson, 1946)
A respected supplier of goods which have a marked tendency to
backfire in a
variety of ways, leading ultimately and inevitably to disaster.
to what one might have reason to think, Acme was not invented by Chuck
Jones. Amce does, however, remain inextricably linked with Jones; who
used the brand name as a recurring gag over a period of years.
The first use of the Acme name in a Warner-released cartoon is in
Porky’s Poppa (Clampett, 1938), in which the elder Pig orders a
mechanical cow from the esteemed outfit, with the soon-to-be traditional
chaos ensuing. Jones would not use Acme until The Good Egg (1939),
which he successfully employs an Acme toaster to hatch chicks.
Incidentally, Acme is not an acronym. It derives from the Greek “akme”
meaning “point” or “pinnacle”.
Among the more noteworthy uses of Acme, outside of Jones’ cartoons, is the Freleng cartoon Bugs and Thugs (1954), in which Rocky and Mugsy
drive a 1952 Acme with California license plates. In the same cartoon,
one can see an ad to change to Acme oil in a gas station. In The
Up-Standing Sitter (McKimson, 1947), Daffy works for the Acme Baby
Sitting Agency, whose motto is “Our sitters don’t lay down on the
job”. The spider in Meatless Flyday (Freleng, 1944) uses Acme
steel shotgun pellets coated in I.G. Farben Kandy Kolor to trap the fly.
Acme was widely used as a trademark in the Sears-Roebuck mail order
catalogs for a variety of goods. The author owns a 1907 catalog listing
Acme anvils for sale. Currently, “Acme” is the name of an animation
industry standard for registration equipment.
some consumer products have been with us for over a century --
Coca-Cola and Kodak come to mind -- advertising slogans and trademarks
usually retired fairly soon after their introduction. A catchphrase
such as “Where’s the Beef?” may be in vogue for a
brief period of time, only to be forgotten a few months later.
many respects, Warner Brothers cartoons serve as time capsules,
preserving products and slogans, once of public prominence, which have
since all but vanished. Two cartoons in particular, Lights Fantastic (Freleng,
1942) and Billboard Frolics (Freleng, 1935) abound in references to
then-current products and advertisements.
Products parodied in Lights Fantastic:
- Underwood typewriters as “Understood”
- Four Roses whiskey as “Four Noses”
- Lucky Strike cigarettes, in the horse shoe sign with the Speed Riggs
auctioneer spiel made famous on radio advertisements. See also Sold [to] American.
- Chase and Sanbourn coffee as “Face and Sunburn”. The
“It’s Dated” gag refers to a then-hot innovation about the dating
and freshness of the coffee.
- Maxwell House coffee as “Stucco House” with its “Good to
the Last Drop” motto
- Planters peanuts, seen both as the dancing Mr. Peanut and in the live
action footage of New York City’s Times Square
- Carnation tinned milk as “Darnation”, with the
“contented cows” tagline
- Old Dutch cleanser
Two references I have yet to identify with certainty are the cod liver oil
gag and the “hieroglyphic” animated billboard, also seen in A
Hare Grows in Manhattan (Freleng, 1947). The billboard may possibly refer to
Ramses II Cigarettes. The long and short cigarette gag seen in Meet John
Doughboy (Clampett, 1941) as well as a number of 1941-1942 cartoons
from MGM, refers to Pall Mall cigarettes, specifically spoofing an ad in
which two soldiers blithely compare the sizes of their cigarettes.
In Billboard Frolics, the products include
- RCA with Nipper, its canine symbol
- Arm & Hammer Baking Soda
- Bon Ami cleanser with its “Hasn’t Scratched Yet” chick
- Old Dutch Cleanser
slogans and/or products can be seen in various other cartoons as
follows. This is by no means an exhaustive list, but rather a
- “Good to the Last Drop”, Maxwell House Coffee
- Seen in Ceiling Hero (Avery, 1940) on a parachute
- See also separate entry linked above
- “China Clipper”, Pan American Airways
- Rather “politically incorrect” gag seen in Ceiling Hero (Avery, 1940)
- “B.O.”, Lifebuoy Soap
- Several references, see separate entry linked above
- Posters defaced in Daffy Doodles (McKimson, 1946) include
- Elsie the Cow, Borden Dairy products
- Campbell Soup Twin
- Nipper the RCA Dog
- Johnny the Phillip Morris Bellhop
- Fisk Tires “Time to Re-Tire” ad with sleepy child and candle
- “Men of Distinction”, Calvert Whiskey
- Parodied in a “Frenchified” poster in Two Scents Worth (Jones, 1955)
- “Ask the Man Who Owns One”, Packard Automobiles
- Several references, see separate entry linked above
- “Tattletale Grey”, Fels-Naptha Soap
- Goofy Groceries (Clampett, 1941)
- Ali Baba Bound (Clampett, 1940)
- “The Pause That Refreshes”, Coca-Cola
- Seen on billboard in Daffy Duck and the Dinosaur (Jones, 1939)
- “It’s , two to
one”, parody of Lucky Strike’s “With Men Who Know
Tobacco, It’s Luckies two to one”
- Seen as “Duckies” in Daffy Duck and the Dinosaur (Jones, 1939).
- Seen in The Major Lied Till Dawn (Tashlin, 1938) as a subtitle after eating spinach.
- “So Round, So Firm, So Fully Packed; So Smooth and Easy on the
Draw”, Lucky Strike Cigarettes
- Daffy Duck says this as “Danny Boy” in Book Revue (Clampett, 1946). See also separate entry, linked above
- “Listen to It Fizz!”, Alka-Seltzer
- Scrap Happy Daffy (Tashlin, 1943)
reference by Daffy to sodium acetylsalicylate is a further spoof of the
Alka-Seltzer ads of the day, which prominently mentioned this active
- Catch as Cats Can (Davis, 1947)
- “Have You Had Your Iron Today?”, Ironized Yeast
- The Goofy Gophers (Davis, 1947)
- Variation in Screwball Football (Avery, 1939)
- See also separate entry, linked above
- “Does Your Tobacco Taste Different Lately?”, unverified, but may
refer to Camel Cigarettes
- Seen on billboard in Baseball Bugs (Freleng, 1946)
- Closing gag of Herr Meets Hare (Freleng, 1945)
- Variant used in Hook short Tokyo Woes (Clampett, 1946)
- “Trade” and “Mark” the Smith Brothers, Smith Brothers Cough Drops
- Appear coughing at each other in Smile, Darn Ya Smile (Harman/Ising, 1931)
- “How are you fixed for blades?”, Gillette razors
- Bugs asks
this of the executioner in charge of the guillotine in Napoleon
Bunny-part (Freleng, 1956). The studio was producing commercials for
Gillette at the time of this gag.
Mythical place that shows up on signs in Foney Fables (Freleng, 1942).
- “AIN’T I A STINKER?”
Originally a tagline of Lou Costello, but spoken on many occasions by Bugs Bunny. Examples include Hare Force (Freleng, 1944) and A Hare Grows in
Manhattan (Freleng, 1947).
- ALA BAHMA
Bugs Bunny’s nemesis in Case of the Missing Hare (Jones, 1942). A
full-of-himself vaudevillian whose magic act follows the Bill and Bert
Variety Dance Team.
New Mexico town which must have poor road signs, given all of the wrong
left turns made there by Bugs Bunny. The earliest use of the gag identified by the author is in Herr Meets Hare (Freleng, 1945).
- AL GOATSON
Labeled “The Singing Kid” in The Woods Are Full of
Cuckoos (Tashlin, 1937), Goatson is a caricature of performer Al
- ALLEN, FRED
(né John F. Sullivan, 1894-1956)
Fred Allen was an acid-tongued, nasal-voiced and baggy-eyed Boston
comedian who starred on radio continuously from the early 1930s through
the late 1940s. Probably best remembered today for his long-running
feud with Jack Benny, which was played by both comedians strictly for
laughs. Town Hall Tonight was his major radio program from the 1930s.
Allen is seen as a jack-in-the box in Toytown Hall (Freleng, 1936),
imitated in an appropriately nasal voice by the Edward G. Robinson
gangster in Thugs With Dirty Mugs (Avery, 1939), and caricatured as
a fox signing “Swanee River” instead of the title song in The
Woods Are Full of Cuckoos (Tashlin, 1937).
- ALLMAN, ELVIA
Longtime supporting actress on radio identified by Keith Scott as being the
voice of the Katherine Hepburn-like Little Red Riding Hood character in
Little Red Walking Hood (Avery, 1937).
- AMECHE, DON
(né Dominic Amici, 1908-1993)
Don Ameche played many roles in movies and on TV over the years, but is best remembered for the title role in The Story of Alexander Graham Bell (1939). For years, Ameche was the butt of jokes about his alleged invention of the telephone. Little Blabbermouse in Shop, Look and Listen (Freleng,
1940), clearly impressed with a robotic card dealer that executes
cheats, asks eagerly whether Ameche invented that, too.
- AMOS ’N’ ANDY
One of the longest-running radio shows ever. Amos ’n’ Andy debuted
in 1928 and ran continuously, in one form or another, clear into the
1950s. Although the show’s title characters were African-American, the
leads were played by two white men: Freeman Gosden (who played Amos,
Kingfish, and Lightnin’) and Charles Correll. In the early 1930s, the
show was far and away the most popular on the air; some movie theatres
even piped in the show,
readjusting their schedules to do so.
The show is referred to in the Goopy Geer short The Queen Was in the Parlor (Harman/Ising, 1932), and at the end of Lighter Than Hare (Freleng, 1960) after Bugs tunes in to the comeuppance of Yosemite Sam of Outer Space.
- ANDERSON, EDDIE (“ROCHESTER”)
Actor best remembered for his supporting role of Rochester, Jack Benny’s valet on The Jack Benny Show, which started out on radio in the 1930s and ran clear into the 1950s on television.
Anderson had a distinctive, raspy voice which can be heard in The Mouse That Jack Built (McKimson,
1959), for which the principal actors from the television series
provided the voices for their animated counterparts. Anderson is also
caricatured as “Winchester” in Malibu Beach Party (Freleng, 1940), driving the infamous Maxwell in Meet John Doughboy (Clampett, 1941), making a phone call to Benny in The Mouse-Merized Cat (McKimson, 1946), and as one of the 1,000 voices performed by the turtle in Curtain Razor (Freleng, 1949).
symbol of Warner Brothers cartoon mayhem. The earliest use of an anvil
in an offensive or defensive role that the author has found is in A Tale of Two Kitties (Clampett, 1942), in which Robert Clamtett’s prototypical Tweety tosses the
Lou Costello-like cat a rope, with anvil attached.
Interestingly, the Sears, Roebuck & Co. catalog from 1907 sold Acme anvils.
- APACHE DANCE
In It’s Got Me Again (Harman/Ising, 1932), two of the mice do a
French Apache Dance on a piano keyboard. When Harman and Ising moved to
MGM, they re-used this gag -- with practically the same animation -- in Toyland Broadcast (1934).
- ARMSTRONG, LOUIS
Great jazz trumpeter/vocalist with distinctive, gravelly voice and
infectious high spirits; loved by music fans around the world. He can be seen in Clean Pastures (Freleng, 1937) as one of the modern angels along with Cab Calloway,
Jimmie Lunceford and Fats Waller. An Armstrong-like trumpeter can be seen sending a Waller-like cat “outta dis world” in Tin Pan Alley
Cats (Clampett, 1943).
- “AROUND AND AROUND SHE GOES...”
Carnival barker’s line when spinning a Wheel of Fortune. Catchphrase for Major Bowes,
one version of which was “Around and around she goes, and where she
stops nobody knows”. Bugs uses the phrase when switching drinks with a
nonplussed Yosemite Sam in The Fair Haired Hare (Freleng, 1951).
- ARSENIC AND OLD LACE
Hit Broadway play made into a Warner Brothers film starring Cary Grant, directed by Frank Capra. Kitty Kornered (Clampett,
1946) contains not one, but two references to this film. One early on
when the lush cat is seen
tippling from a bottle labeled “Arsenic and Old Grapes”, and again at
the very end, with the cats yelling “Charge!” in Teddy Roosevelt
- “ASK THE MAN WHO OWNS
Advertising slogan for Packard automobiles. Seen on one of the signs used
to advertise Bugs, who is for sale in Gumbiner’s Pet Store in Elmer’s Pet Rabbit (Jones, 1941).
- ASTAIRE, FRED
Graceful dancer of the silver screen whose career spanned decades.
Astaire is perhaps best remembered for the elegantly choreographed
musicals of the 1930s in
which he played opposite Ginger Rogers.
Astaire can be seen dancing with Rogers in what looks like rotoscoped footage in Malibu Beach Party (Freleng, 1940). Daffy mentions Astaire when singing to Leon
Schlesinger in You Ought to Be In Pictures (Freleng, 1940).
- AUDIENCE GAG
Warner Brothers gag in which a member of the audience appears to get up
and interact with the characters on-screen. Examples include
- Daffy Duck and Egghead (Avery, 1938)
- Egghead shoots an audience member, posed by Tedd Pierce
- Thugs With Dirty Mugs (Avery, 1939)
- An audience member who has sat through the previous showing of the cartoon squeals to the cops about the next job to be pulled
- Rabbit Every Monday (Freleng, 1951)
- Yosemite Sam stops an audience member from leaving, so as not to tip off Bugs
- Cinderella Meets Fella (Avery, 1938)
- Cinderella comes up from the audience, where she had been watching the show
- The Case of the Stuttering Pig (Tashlin, 1937)
- The sourpuss from the third row saves the day
- Hair Raising Hare (Jones, 1945)
- A doctor
answers Bugs’ seemingly panicked query as to whether there is a doctor
in the house, triggering a classic example of his “What’s up, doc?”
- Cracked Ice (Tashlin, 1938)
AVERY, FREDERICK BEAN (“TEX”)
animation Director whose unique style, perfected at MGM, was to become
one of the most recognisable of the 1940s. Among others, McKimson, Jones, and the Hanna-Barbera team were all strongly influenced by Avery’s style of precision-timed, high-speed animation.
Avery started out drawing cartoons for North Dallas High School’s annual, The Viking. Upon
his graduation from that school in 1927, he attended a summer course at
the Art Institute of Chicago, hoping to improve his skill to the point
where he could sell a cartoon strip to a local newspaper. While he
reportedly enjoyed the studies; he dropped out after about a month,
seeing little relevance to the kind of cartooning he wanted to do in
the institute’s traditional life-drawing based curriculum. Not long
afterward, Avery moved to Los Angeles, where he worked loading fruits
and vegetables onto trucks.
entered the field of animation in 1930 as an inker at Walter Lantz’s
studio. After a while, he was in-betweening. Toward the end of his
tenure at Lantz’s studio, Bill Nolan would reportedly hand over enough
of his work to Avery that he was directing cartoons in all but name.
Adamson credits him with timing animation on Towne Hall Follies (Nolan, 1935) and The Quail Hunt (Nolan, 1935). (Incidentally, Avery had been blinded in his left eye during some horseplay at the Lantz studio.)
search of more money, and probably screen credit, Avery moved to
Schlesinger’s studio in late 1935 where he replaced director Tom
Palmer, with whom Schlesinger was generally dissatisfied. Avery was
given a unit consisting of Robert “Bobe” Cannon, Bob Clampett, and Charles M. Jones,
in addition to Virgil Ross and Sid Sutherland, both of whom Avery had
brought from Lantz’s outfit. This unit was put in the original “Termite
Terrace” Building on the Warner Brothers’ Sunset lot. As was standard
for Schlesinger-produced cartoons, Avery was credited with
“Supervision” rather than “Direction”, his name listed as “Fred” rather
than “Tex”. (By all accounts, producer Leon Schlesinger
considered nicknames undignified and his workers undeserving of the
title “Director”.) This billing would not change for Avery until his
move to MGM.
and his unit can largely be credited with bringing the studio to life
after several years of relatively bland and highly repetetive cartoons
featuring such utterly forgettable characters as Buddy. To start, Avery and his unit succeeded in making Porky Pig, who had first appeared in I Haven’t Got a Hat (Freleng,
1935), a genuniely likeable character. In an environment of relative
energy and enthusiasm, Avery and his unit tried to come up with newer
and better characters, going on to create Daffy Duck as a foil for
Porky in Porky’s Duck Hunt (1937).
the fact that Avery and his unit had created the studio’s first truly
appealing characters, Avery directed very few Looney Tunes: the black
and white series which showcased the studio’s recurring characters. For
the most part, Avery directed Merrie Melodies, which were produced in
color, but which featured “one shot” characters exclusively.
Consequently, Avery’s most widely recognised work from this time is a
series of “spot-gag” cartoons spoofing the live-action Fitzpatrick Travelogue short subjects.
Tex Avery’s single greatest cartoon creation from his time at the Schlesinger Studio is undoubtedly Bugs Bunny.
Bugs had not truly developed so much as appeared in various guises
before Avery utilised the existing framework -- rabbit, rabbit being
hunted, rabbit foiling hunter -- to create Bugs. Earlier cartoons had
featured rabbits, who, for the most part, did little more than resemble
Daffy Duck in voice and manner. The rabbit known as Bugs -- named after
Director J. B. “Bugs” Hardaway
-- changed appearance and character repeatedly from one short to the
next, from one Director to the next. It is not until Avery’s A Wild Hare (1940)
that Bugs Bunny’s distinct character, voice, appearance, and overall
manner come sharply into focus. Avery cites the Disney short The Tortoise and the Hare (Wilfred Jackson, 1935) as an influence.
Ironically enough, it was a Bugs Bunny cartoon -- The Heckling Hare (Avery,
1941) -- which ended Avery’s career at the studio. The cartoon was
supposed to end as follows. Bugs and Willoughby (the hunting dog who
has been chasing him throughout the cartoon) fall through a hole
overhanging a cliff, plummet through space screaming in terror for
several seconds, brake to a sudden stop and land gently, then razz the
audience by saying “Fooled ya, didn’t we?”. (This is the point where
the cartoon now irises out, ending abruptly.) As planned and originally
animated, the cartoon had Bugs and Willoughby fall through yet another
hole, with Bugs crying out “Hold on to your hats, folks, here we go
again!”: reportedly the punch line to a then-current joke of an
off-colour nature. It is unclear whether Schlesinger was pressured by Jack Warner
to cut the last line. At any rate, Leon and Tex apparently got into an
argument over the cut and Avery was suspended, only to be fired (or
forced to resign) soon afterward.
Avery was, at this time, also developing the first of the Speaking of Animals short
subjects which used animated mouths superimposed on live-action
animals. (The series was sold to Paramount in 1941.) Evidently, this
only served to exacerbate Schlesinger’s already-tenuous working
relationship with Avery. While the exact date of his departure varies
from source to source, it most likely ocurred late in the summer of
went on to blossom creatively at MGM through the 1940s and 1950s, with
a long string of truly great cartoons to his credit. The work of these
productive years includes The Blitz Wolf (1942), Bad Luck Blackie (1949), Magical Maestro (1952),
and many others. There is a long series of cartoons starring Droopy,
his most enduring character from the MGM years, several cartoons
starring Red Hot Riding Hood, a sexy bombshell of a nightclub singer,
created and artfully animated by Preston Blair, and a series of
documentary-type cartoons with titles such as House of Tomorrow (1949), Car of Tomorrow (1951), and TV of Tomorrow (1953).
returned to the Lantz studio in the 1950s where he worked on a few of
the early Chilly Willy cartoons. Eventually he wound up directing
television advertisements -- the last time he directed Bugs Bunny was
for a Kool-Aid commercial. He is also credited with creating the
roaches used in the commercials for Raid Insecticides.
Avery died on August 26th, 1980, while working at the studio of his
previous colleagues and rivals at MGM, William Hanna and Joe Barbera.
The author recommends the Joe Adamson book Tex Avery: King of Cartoons. The
book is devoted solely to Avery and contains a substantial number of
informative interviews with him, which include anecdotes about his days
at the Lantz, Warner Brothers, and MGM Studios. Reference should also
be made to John Canemaker’s recent Tex Avery which contains a wealth of drawings and model sheets from Avery’s MGM years.
reference footage of Avery survives from the 1930s and 1940s.
Originally shot to provide animators with models of action, it shows
Tex acting out scenes from Cross-Country Detours (1940) and playing the part of the little scarecrow in I’d Love to Take Orders From You (1936). Reference footage also survives of the stripper used by Avery as a model for the lizard shedding its skin in Cross Country Detours. A studio secretary named Trixie, who worked for Tex, posed as the Mae-West like deer in the same cartoon.
Tex provided a number of vocal characterizations during his career as a Director, most notably as the laughing hippo in Hamateur Night (Avery, 1938), the jolly walrus in The Penguin Parade (Avery, 1938), the laughing referee in Count Me Out (Hardaway/Dalton, 1938), and the rascally ghost in Ghost Wanted (Jones,
1940). In interviews conducted by Adamson, Avery states that he also
provided the voice of Willoughby the hunting dog in the cartoons Of Fox & Hounds (Avery, 1940), The Heckling Hare (Avery, 1941), and The Crackpot Quail (Avery, 1941). Funnyworld #17 credits him as the spider in Meatless Flyday (Freleng,
1943); but this attribution seems rather unlikely for obvious reasons.
The author believes that Avery may have provided the voice for the
hippo who mocks the lion at the beginning of Hold the Lion Please (Jones, 1942).