The year of the Great 1929 Wall Street Crash also gave birth to one of the most American pieces of media ever known — Looney Tunes. In an effort to compete with Walt Disney’s Mickey Mouse animated shorts, Warner Bros. concocted a series of animated shows specifically to highlight their recently acquired music catalogue. Bosko, a sort of monkey-cat thing, proceeded to silently awe people while jamming out to tunes and hanging out in his bathtub. Logistical and contractual disputes occurred, Bosko and his creator went their separate ways from Warner Bros., a brief few years had a strange humanoid figure named Buddy, and then the likes of directors Tex Avery, Friz Freleng, and Bob Clampett were brought on.
Every growing venture has some early years where you look back on their works and you’re like, what the hell am I looking at? Warner Bros. wasn’t being experimental, per se, but testing the waters, and those tests and legal issues created a good backbone for what Avery and his cohorts would soon produce. For instance, we first meet Porky Pig in I Haven’t Got a Hat in 1935, where he stutters through a school lesson.
Porky was the first official, lasting Looney Tunes star, soon to be closing the credits of every cartoon with his signature “Th-th-th-that’s all, folks!” Shortly after, in 1937, came Daffy Duck, in Porky’s Duck Hunt, where the pig plays the soon-to-be Elmer Fudd role, and 1940 brought us Fudd himself and Bugs Bunny. Bugs, with his talent for drag and impersonations, and joy of breaking the fourth wall, has become an international cartoon phenomenon, and even has his own star along the Hollywood Walk of Fame.
The ‘40s to the ‘60s brought us Tweety, Sylvester, Wiley and the Roadrunner, Foghorn Leghorn, Speedy Gonzales, Pepe Le Pew, Yosemite Sam, and the ever-popular-as-a-tattoo Tasmanian Devil. This era is known as the “Golden Age” for Looney Tunes and Warner Bros. — a time of huge growth and creativity, where the company was churning out story after story. It was, of course, followed by that thing that happens after every apex in a company — a series of dark years where Warner Bros. shut down its animation studios.
It’d be nice if every dark age followed a proper reboot like Warner Bros. did — after this blip, Looney Tunes returned to an even stronger audience. The ‘70s brought on a series of re-edits to older works that removed the good old dated racism, anti-semitism, and other hugely problematic ethnic stereotypes. This led the way to further syndication across other growing platforms years later, like Nickelodeon, and to the 1996 bizarre humans-play-basketball-with-animated-characters full-length feature Space Jam.
The Looney Tunes are everywhere now — they have their own mascots, theme park rides, swag, and, of course, tattoos. So, so many tattoos. They inspire a lot of people in a lot of ways — Marvin the Martian wants you to destroy the world, and Daffy wants you to question your existential self. The Looney Tunes have a power over our media that very few characters have, and they are 100% American-made. They’ve come a long way since 1929, but the Looney Tunes have taught us one timeless, lasting thing: the proper way to sign off writing about Looney Tunes. Th-th-th-that’s all, folks!