Friday, November 03, 2006

What I Learned From Termite Terrace

Recently, I've been re-watching the first three DVD volumes of the Looney Tunes cartoons, simply the best series of cartoons ever made. Heck, it beats most of what else is on television these days!

I grew up with Bugs, Daffy, the Road Runner, et al. on Saturday mornings. I would crudely record the audio on my tape recorder so I could hear some of the wonderful sound effects. I walked around humming the "What's Up, Doc" song, and my sibs and I would often recreate the scenes from "Rabbit of Seville", especially where Bugs began putting all sorts of liquid on Elmer's head.

And then there was that time that we all ran off a cliff to see if we could run back again like Wile E. Coyote. (OK, we didn't. But the Experts said we kids would be influenced by that!)

Anyway, I love these DVDs. They're chock full of informational videos, commentaries, and other special features, which appeal to me (but not Ladycub). Here's just some of what I've learned from Termite Terrace (the shack where so many of the toons were made):

  • Directors Bob Clampett and Tex Avery took the Tunes from Disney ripoffs in the early 30s to the zaniness we now know, especially through Daffy Duck. I developed a new appreciation for Clampett, who was often overlooked on the Saturday morning shows which tended to stick with toons from after 1947. (John Kricfalusi, who developed Ren and Stimpy, comments on some of the cartoons. He can't stand Chuck Jones or Friz Freleng, but he adores Clampett and Avery.)
  • I want Treg Brown's job. He's listed as the Film Editor in the credits, but his real job was splicing in the sound effects. And what a great lot they were.
  • The music in the cartoons was so good because they had the entire Warner Brothers Orchestra, under the direction of Carl Stalling, providing it.
  • Not every voice was done by the amazing Mel Blanc. The reason you might think otherwise is that Mel got exclusive screen credit for the voices as part of his contract. Selected voices not done by Mel: Elmer Fudd (Arthur Q. Bryan), Pete Puma and Junyer Bear (Stan Freberg), Papa Bear (Billy Bletcher), and the Road Runner (Paul Julian, who said "Meep Meep" when carrying large stacks through the halls of Termite Terrace).
  • Hillbilly Hare, the memorable toon with Bugs square dancing with a couple hillbillies in the Ozarks ("Grab a fencepost, hold it tight / Whomp your partner with all your might"), came about because the folks at Termite Terrace liked to square dance during lunchtime.
For more, get the DVDs. :-)

Even recent attempts to capitalize on the success of Looney Tunes, like Tiny Toon Adventures and Animaniacs, just can't recapture the magic of those days from the 40s and 50s. I don't think we'll ever see their like again. I'm just glad these cartoons, which their makers never thought would have any shelf life after being shown before feature films, have persisted in being magical-- and hysterical -- over 60 years later.


Mom2BJM said...

Hmm, the analyzing of the Looney Tunes is just over my head! I watched them too..

Have a good weekend Cyg!