Merrie Melodies

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Merrie Melodies
Merrie Melodies classic title card.png
One of the series' classic title cards, as seen on several 1937-1938 releases
Directed by
Story by
Produced by
Starring
Music by
Animation by
Layouts by
Backgrounds by
Color process
  • B&W (1931–1934)
  • Two-strip Technicolor (1934–1935)
  • Three-strip Technicolor (1935–1969; 1988)
  • Cinecolor (1934 – c. 1940s)
Production
companies
Distributed by
Release date
1931–1969, 1988–1997
Running time
6–10 minutes (one reel)

Merrie Melodies is an American animated series of comedy short films produced by Warner Bros. starting in 1931, during the golden age of American animation, and ending in 1969. As with its partner series, Looney Tunes , it featured cartoon characters such as Bugs Bunny, Daffy Duck, Porky Pig, and Elmer Fudd. [1] Between 1934 and 1943, the Merrie Melodies series were distinguished from the black-and-white, Buddy or Porky Pig–starring Looney Tunes shorts by an emphasis on one-shot stories in color featuring Warner Bros.–owned musical selections. After Bugs Bunny became the breakout recurring star of Merrie Melodies, and Looney Tunes went to color in the early 1940s, the two series gradually lost their distinctions and shorts were assigned to each series more randomly.

Contents

Merrie Melodies was originally produced by Harman–Ising Pictures from 1931 to 1933, and then Leon Schlesinger Productions from 1933 to 1944. Schlesinger sold his studio to Warner Bros. in 1944, and the newly renamed Warner Bros. Cartoons continued production until 1963. It was outsourced to DePatie–Freleng Enterprises and Format Productions from 1964 to 1967, and Warner Bros.-Seven Arts Animation resumed production for its final two years. [2]

Three of the Merrie Melodies films ( Tweetie Pie , Speedy Gonzales and Birds Anonymous ) won the Academy Award for Best Animated Short Film and another three ( Duck Amuck , One Froggy Evening , and What's Opera, Doc? ) have been inducted into the National Film Registry of the Library of Congress. [3] [4] [5] [6]

In 2013, TV Guide ranked the Warner Bros. Cartoons (ranked as Looney Tunes) the third Greatest Cartoon of All Time (out of 60), one of only six film series to make the list (the other five being the Pink Panther series, Popeye the Sailor , Mighty Mouse , Woody Woodpecker and Tom and Jerry ). [7]

Background

Producer Leon Schlesinger had already produced the music-based Looney Tunes series, and its success prompted him to try to sell a sister series to Warner Bros. His selling point was that the new cartoons would feature music from the soundtracks of Warner Bros. films and would thus serve as advertisements for Warner Bros. recordings and sheet music. The studio agreed, and Schlesinger dubbed the series Merrie Melodies. Walt Disney Productions had already scored with their Silly Symphonies . Since cartoon production usually began with a soundtrack, animating a piece of music made it easier to devise plot elements and even characters.

The origins of the Merrie Melodies series begin with the failure of a live action series of musical shorts called Spooney Melodies, which featured popular songs of the day. These shorts included segments with a popular artist singing along with appropriate background sequences. Warner Bros. wanted to promote this music because they had recently acquired (in 1930) the ownership of Brunswick Records along with four music publishers for US $28 million. Because of the success of their Looney Tunes series, Warner Bros. decided to develop a new series of animated musical shorts called Merrie Melodies. Hugh Harman and Rudolf Ising led the development. It was meant to be a series of musical cartoons that featured hit songs of the day, especially those then owned by Warner Bros. and featured in their musical films. In 1931, many of the shorts featured the orchestra of Abe Lyman, one of the most famous band leaders of his day.

The first cartoon of the new Merrie Melodies series was Lady, Play Your Mandolin! , released in 1931. [2] Ising attempted to introduce several characters in his Merrie Melodies films, such as Piggy, Foxy, and Goopy Geer. Eventually however, the series continued without any recurring characters. [8] The shorts proved to be enormously popular with the public. In 1932, a Merrie Melodies cartoon, entitled It's Got Me Again! , was nominated for the first Academy Award to be given for animation.

When Harman and Ising left Warner Bros., in 1933, they took with them all rights to the characters they had created. Leon Schlesinger had to negotiate with them to keep the rights to the name Merrie Melodies, as well as for the right to use the slogan, So Long Folks, at the end of the cartoons. In 1934, Schlesinger produced his first color Merrie Melodies shorts, Honeymoon Hotel and Beauty and the Beast, which were produced in two-strip Cinecolor (Disney then had exclusive animation rights to the richer three-strip Technicolor process). [9] Their success convinced Schlesinger to produce all future Merrie Melodies shorts in color, using two-strip Technicolor. Looney Tunes continued in black and white until 1943. In 1936, the cartoons began to end with the slogan "That's all Folks!" which had previously only been used on the Looney Tunes series. The old slogan "So Long, Folks!" was completely abandoned at this time. The same year, Merrie Melodies began using the bulls-eye opening and closing title sequences (in 1942, Looney Tunes would use the same titles, usually in thicker rings). Also by 1936, Disney's exclusivity on the three-color Technicolor process was lifted, allowing Merrie Melodies a full color palette for the first time, hence the use of the blue concentric rings (as a technical test) for the rest of the 1935–36 season and the 1936–37 season. The Warner Bros. shield was later that year changed to cyan before definitely changing back to red in 1938.

Contractually, Merrie Melodies cartoons were obligated to include at least one full chorus from a Warner Bros. song. [8] Warner Bros. requested that these songs be performed by name bands whenever possible, but this lasted only through the first few shorts. The policy annoyed the animators of Merrie Melodies, since the songs often interrupted the cartoons' momentum and pacing (the 1938 Merrie Melodie A Feud There Was , for example, sarcastically uses the obligatory musical number as a shift in the action, with the lead characters singing the number into a KFWB microphone and ceding the mike to an announcer who reads a commercial). By 1939, the animators had been released from this obligation, and the Merrie Melodies shorts came to resemble more closely the black-and-white Looney Tunes series. In addition, several new characters were created to (initially) appear exclusively in the Merrie Melodies series, such as Egghead, Elmer Fudd, Inki, Sniffles, and even Warner Bros.' most popular cartoon star, Bugs Bunny.

In 1943, Schlesinger began producing Looney Tunes in color as well, and the two series became virtually indistinguishable except by their theme music and opening titles – in addition, characters once exclusive to one series began regularly appearing in the other as well. In 1944, the studio went to an all-color schedule; though for the first year of this, Bugs still appeared mainly in the Merrie Melodies series (not appearing in a Looney Tunes cartoon until the end of August), whereas Daffy Duck and Porky Pig (who each appeared in a few Merrie Melodies prior to mid-1942) appeared mainly in Looney Tunes that year. It was not until 1945 that the two series appeared completely indistinguishable, and that Bugs appeared in more Looney Tunes than Merrie Melodies.

By 1937, the theme music for Looney Tunes was "The Merry-Go-Round Broke Down" by Cliff Friend and Dave Franklin, and the theme music for Merrie Melodies was an adaptation of "Merrily We Roll Along" by Charles Tobias, Murray Mencher and Eddie Cantor (the original theme was "Get Happy" by Harold Arlen, played at a faster tempo). This continued until 1964, when the WB cartoon logos were modernized, and "The Merry-Go-Round Broke Down" became the theme for the Merrie Melodies as well. When the studio went to full color, even the animators themselves did not make any creative distinction between the two series, as evidenced in an interview quote from director Friz Freleng, "I never knew if a film I was making would be Looney Tunes or Merrie Melodies, and what the hell difference would it make, anyway?". The last Merrie Melodies cartoon was Injun Trouble , released in 1969. The Merrie Melodies theatrical cartoons didn't start up again until 1987 with only two cartoons made, The Night of the Living Duck (1987) and (Blooper) Bunny (1991). The Night of the Living Duck got a theatrical release through the compilation film Daffy Duck's Quackbusters (1988), while (Blooper) Bunny was shelved from its intended 1991 release until it premiered on Cartoon Network on June 13, 1997.

Blue Ribbon reissues

Beginning in late 1943, WB, in a cost-conserving effort, began to reissue its backlog of color cartoons under a new program that they called Merrie Melodies "Blue Ribbon" classics. For the reissue, the original front-and-end title sequences were altered. The revised main title card began with the "zooming" WB logo, followed by the title logo set against a background featuring a "blue ribbon" (hence the re-release program's title) and a Grand Shorts Award trophy, followed by the name of the cartoon. This revised title sequence eliminated the opening technical credits. The ending title card was also revised, replacing the original versions. Also, sometimes the title of the short was slightly altered for the rerelease; the "Blue Ribbon" version of the Bugs Bunny short A Wild Hare was retitled The Wild Hare for reissue, for example. Many of these "Blue Ribbon" prints were the versions used for television broadcasts for many years until Warner Bros. began a restoration program in the early 2000s as part of the Looney Tunes Golden Collection DVD releases.

For some reason, this was a Merrie Melodies deal only, possibly because starting where the known print is a reissue, the Looney Tunes were still in black and white. However, "Swooner Crooner" and "The Stupid Cupid" got reissues despite being in the Looney Tunes series, although they were reissued as Merrie Melodies instead. In 1968, the reissues ended, a mere year before the last short came out, although the time frame is 46 years counting the soaphrical shorts.

Filmography

Characters

Accolades

TVLine lists the theme song from the series among the best animated series themes of all time. [10]

Inducted into the National Film Registry

Academy Awards for Best Short Subject (Cartoon)

Academy Award nominations

See also

Related Research Articles

<i>Looney Tunes</i> Warner Bros. animated short film series and media franchise

Looney Tunes is an American animated comedy short film series produced by Warner Bros. from 1930 to 1969, concurrently with the related Merrie Melodies, during the golden age of American animation. The two series introduced a large cast of characters, including Bugs Bunny, Daffy Duck, and Porky Pig. The term Looney Tunes has since been expanded to also refer to the characters themselves.

Daffy Duck Warner Bros. theatrical cartoon character

Daffy Duck is an animated cartoon character created for Leon Schlesinger Productions by animators Tex Avery and Bob Clampett. Styled as an anthropomorphic black duck, he has appeared in cartoon series such as Looney Tunes and Merrie Melodies, in which he is usually depicted as a foil for Bugs Bunny. He was one of the first of the new "screwball" characters that emerged in the late 1930s to replace traditional everyman characters who were more popular earlier in the decade, such as Mickey Mouse and Popeye.

Porky Pig Warner Bros. theatrical cartoon character

Porky Pig is an animated character in the Warner Bros. Looney Tunes and Merrie Melodies series of cartoons. He was the first character created by the studio to draw audiences based on his star power, and the animators created many critically acclaimed shorts featuring the character. Even after he was supplanted by later characters, Porky continued to be popular with moviegoers and, more importantly, the Warners directors, who recast him in numerous everyman and sidekick roles.

<i>Duck Amuck</i> 1953 film

Duck Amuck is an American animated surreal comedy short film directed by Chuck Jones and written by Michael Maltese. The short was released on January 17, 1953 as part of the Merrie Melodies series, and stars Daffy Duck.

Leon Schlesinger American film and short producer

Leon Schlesinger was an American film producer who founded Leon Schlesinger Productions, which later became the Warner Bros. Cartoons studio, during the Golden Age of American animation. He was a distant relative of the Warner Brothers. As head of his own studio, Schlesinger served as the producer of Warner's Looney Tunes and Merrie Melodies cartoons from 1930, when Schlesinger assumed production from his subcontractors, Harman and Ising, to 1944, when Warner acquired the studio.

Beans (<i>Looney Tunes</i>) Warner Bros. theatrical cartoon character

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<i>Rabbit Fire</i> 1951 American animated short film directed by Chuck Jones

Rabbit Fire is a 1951 Looney Tunes cartoon starring Bugs Bunny, Daffy Duck, and Elmer Fudd. Directed by Chuck Jones and written by Michael Maltese, the cartoon is the first in Jones' "hunting trilogy"—the other two cartoons following it being Rabbit Seasoning and Duck! Rabbit, Duck! It is also the first cartoon to feature a feud between Bugs and Daffy. Produced by Edward Selzer for Warner Bros. Cartoons, Inc., the short was released to theaters on May 19, 1951 by Warner Bros. Pictures and is often considered among Jones' best and most important films.

Warner Bros. Cartoons, Inc. was the in-house animation division of Warner Bros. during the Golden Age of American animation. One of the most successful animation studios in American media history, it was primarily responsible for the Looney Tunes and Merrie Melodies theatrical cartoon short subjects. The characters featured in these cartoons, including Bugs Bunny, Daffy Duck, Porky Pig, Sylvester, and Tweety, are among the most famous and recognizable characters in the world. Many of the creative staff members at the studio, including directors and animators such as Chuck Jones, Friz Freleng, Robert McKimson, Tex Avery, Robert Clampett, Arthur Davis, and Frank Tashlin, are considered major figures in the art and history of traditional animation.

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<i>The Bugs Bunny/Road Runner Movie</i> 1979 animated feature film directed by Chuck Jones

The Bugs Bunny/Road Runner Movie is a 1979 American animated comedy package film directed by Chuck Jones, consisting of a compilation of classic Looney Tunes/Merrie Melodies shorts and newly animated bridging sequences hosted by Bugs Bunny. The bridging sequences, which had been produced in 1978, show Bugs at his home, which is cantilevered over a carrot-juice waterfall. The film was released to celebrate the 40th anniversary of Bugs Bunny.

<i>Rabbit Rampage</i> 1955 film by Chuck Jones

Rabbit Rampage is a 1955 Warner Bros. Looney Tunes animated cartoon, directed by Chuck Jones. The short was released on June 11, 1955, and stars Bugs Bunny.

<i>This Is a Life?</i> 1955 film

This Is a Life? is a 1955 Warner Bros. Merrie Melodies animated cartoon directed by Friz Freleng, written by Warren Foster, and produced by Edward Selzer, with music directed by Milt Franklyn. The short was released on July 9, 1955, and stars Bugs Bunny. The voices were performed by Mel Blanc, Arthur Q. Bryan, and June Foray. This is one of the few Bugs Bunny cartoons whose title does not contain Bugs, bunny, rabbit/wabbit or hare.

This is a listing of all the animated shorts released by Warner Bros. under the Looney Tunes and Merrie Melodies banners between 1930 and 1939, plus the pilot film from 1929 which was used to sell the Looney Tunes series to Leon Schlesinger and Warner Bros. A total of 270 shorts were released during the 1930s.

This is a listing of all the animated shorts released by Warner Bros. under the Looney Tunes and Merrie Melodies banners between 1940 and 1949.

This is a listing of all theatrical animated shorts released by Warner Bros. under the Looney Tunes and Merrie Melodies banners between 1970 and the present. It also lists shorts originally planned for theatrical release and other shorts that were not feature films, television series, or television specials.

<i>Looney Tunes Golden Collection: Volume 3</i> 2005 DVD compilation of Looney Tunes animated short films

Looney Tunes Golden Collection: Volume 3 is a DVD box set from Warner Home Video that was released on October 25, 2005. It contains 60 Looney Tunes and Merrie Melodies theatrical short subject cartoons, nine documentaries, 32 commentary tracks from animators and historians, 11 "vintage treasures from the vault", and 11 music-only or music-and-sound-effects audio tracks.

References

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  2. 1 2 "Merrie Melodies".[ permanent dead link ] Bcdb.com, April 12, 2012
  3. 1 2 "1947 academy awards". Infoplease. Retrieved June 26, 2013.
  4. 1 2 "1955 academy awards". Infoplease. Retrieved June 26, 2013.
  5. 1 2 "1957 academy awards". Infoplease. Retrieved June 26, 2013.
  6. 1 2 3 4 "National Film Registry List". The Library of Congress. Retrieved March 19, 2018.
  7. Rich Sands (September 24, 2013). "TV Guide Magazine's 60 Greatest Cartoons of All Time". TV Guide.
  8. 1 2 Schneider, Steve (1988). That's All, Folks! : The Art of Warner Bros. Animation. Henry Holt and Co. p. 39. ISBN   0-8050-0889-6.
  9. Gabler, Neal. Walt Disney: The Triumph of the American Imagination. p. 181.
  10. Caruso, Nick (October 24, 2020). "The Top TV Theme Songs of All Time: Animated Series". TVLine. Retrieved November 6, 2020.
  11. 1 2 3 "Brief Descriptions and Expanded Essays of National Film Registry Titles - Film Registry - National Film Preservation Board - Programs at the Library of Congress - Library of Congress". Library of Congress. Retrieved January 5, 2019.
  12. "1940 academy awards". Infoplease.com. Retrieved September 20, 2007.
  13. "1941 academy awards". Infoplease.com. Retrieved February 10, 2013.

Bibliography