Merrie Melodies

Last updated

Merrie Melodies
Merrie Melodies classic title card.png
Merrie Melodies classic title card
Directed by Tex Avery
Bob Clampett
Arthur Davis
Friz Freleng
Hugh Harman
Rudolf Ising
Chuck Jones
Robert McKimson
Frank Tashlin
More...
Produced byHugh Harman
Rudolf Ising
Leon Schlesinger
Eddie Selzer
John Burton
David H. DePatie
Friz Freleng
William L. Hendricks
Story by Warren Foster
Tedd Pierce
Michael Maltese
More...
Starring Mel Blanc
June Foray
Arthur Q. Bryan
Bea Benaderet
Stan Freberg
More...
Music by Carl Stalling
Milt Franklyn
William Lava
More...
Animation by Ken Harris
Rod Scribner
Gerry Chiniquy
Virgil Ross
Ben Washam
Bill Meléndez
More...
Layouts by Maurice Noble
Hawley Pratt
Robert Gribbroek
More...
Backgrounds by Paul Julian
Pete Alvarado
Philip DeGuard
More...
Color process B&W (1931–1934)
2-strip Technicolor (1934–1936)
3-strip Technicolor (1936–1969; 1988)
Cinecolor (1934-)
Production
company
Distributed by Warner Bros.
The Vitaphone Corporation
Vitagraph Company of America
Release date
August 2, 1931- present
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. 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 three film series to make the list (the other two being the Pink Panther series 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 (who became 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

1955-56 season rings with Blue Ribbon version of Merrie Melodies opening titles, taken from Kit for Cat, one of only five post-1948 era credit-less Blue Ribbon and the only that was originally a Looney Tunes short. KitblueRibbon.gif
1955–56 season rings with Blue Ribbon version of Merrie Melodies opening titles, taken from Kit for Cat , one of only five post-1948 era credit-less Blue Ribbon and the only that was originally a Looney Tunes short.

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 (except for the 1943–44 season and half of the 1944–45 season of reissues, such as A Wild Hare and I Love to Singa when Schlesinger was still producing the cartoons and cartoons in the Merrie Melodies series originally released between September 1, 1944 and July 10, 1948), replacing the original versions.

The revised title sequences were edited right into the original negative, thus the original title sequences were cut away and possibly scrapped[ citation needed ]. Some of these same revised "blue ribbon" reissues can still be seen on television today. For example, the "Blue Ribbon" version of the Bugs Bunny short A Wild Hare was retitled The Wild Hare for reissue, along with some slight subtle edits (the original unaltered version has been released on LaserDisc, DVD and Blu-ray Disc).

Filmography

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> Cartoon media franchise of Warner Bros.

Looney Tunes is an American animated comedy short film series produced by Warner Bros. Depuis 1929 alongside its sister series, Merrie Melodies, during the golden age of American animation. They introduced Bugs Bunny, Daffy Duck, Porky Pig, Elmer Fudd, Wile E. Coyote, Road Runner, Sylvester, Tweety, Granny, Yosemite Sam, Foghorn Leghorn, Marvin the Martian, Pepé Le Pew, Speedy Gonzales, the Tasmanian Devil, and many other cartoon characters. 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.

Daffy Duck Warner Bros. theatrical cartoon character

Daffy Duck is an animated cartoon character produced by Warner Bros. Styled as an anthropomorphic black duck, the character has appeared in cartoon series such as Looney Tunes and Merrie Melodies, in which he usually has been depicted as a foil for Bugs Bunny. Daffy 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 during 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>

Duck Amuck is a 1953 American animated surreal comedy short film directed by Chuck Jones and written by Michael Maltese. The short was released on February 28, 1953 as part of the Merrie Melodies series, and stars Daffy Duck.

This is a listing of the shorts, feature films, television programs, and television specials in Looney Tunes and Merrie Melodies series, extending from 1929 through the present. Altogether, 1,002 animated theatrical shorts alone were released under the Looney Tunes and Merrie Melodies banners from the 1930s through the 1960s. From the beginning to the present day, 1,041 shorts have been created.

Leon Schlesinger American film 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 also 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.

Friz Freleng American animator, cartoonist, director, and producer

Isadore "Friz" Freleng, often credited as I. Freleng, was an American animator, cartoonist, director, producer, and composer known for his work at Warner Bros. Cartoons on the Looney Tunes and Merrie Melodies series of cartoons.

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

Beans the Cat is an animated cartoon character in the Warner Bros. Looney Tunes series of cartoons from 1935–1936. Beans was the third Looney Tunes cartoon character star after Bosko and Buddy. He is voiced by Billy Bletcher and occasionally by Tommy Bond. He was created by director Friz Freleng. The character was featured in nine cartoons made in 1935 and 1936.

<i>Rabbit Fire</i>

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 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.

<i>The Heckling Hare</i> 1941 Bugs Bunny cartoon

The Heckling Hare is a Merrie Melodies cartoon, released on July 5, 1941, and featuring Bugs Bunny and a dopey dog named Willoughby. The cartoon was directed by Tex Avery, written by Michael Maltese, animated by soon-to-be director Robert McKimson, and with musical direction by Carl W. Stalling. In a style that was becoming typical of the Bugs character, he easily outwitted and tormented his antagonist through the short, his only concern being what to do next to the dog.

<i>Looney Tunes Golden Collection: Volume 1</i>

Looney Tunes Golden Collection: Volume 1 is a DVD box set that was released by Warner Home Video on October 28, 2003. The first release of the Looney Tunes Golden Collection DVD series, it contains 56 Looney Tunes and Merrie Melodies cartoons and numerous supplements. The set won the Classic Award at the Parents' Choice Awards.

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

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 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 the animated shorts released by Warner Bros. under the Looney Tunes and Merrie Melodies banners between 1960 and 1969. A total of 147 shorts were released during the 1960s.

This is a listing of all the animated shorts released by Warner Bros. under the Looney Tunes and Merrie Melodies banners between 1970 and today, plus a listing of feature films, television programs, television specials, and various other animated shorts and productions distributed and/or produced by WB.

<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.

Looney Tunes Platinum Collection is an annual set of Blu-ray box sets with three discs and two-disc DVDs. Disc 3 contains special features and is exclusive to the Blu-ray set. Each release for both formats contains 50 Looney Tunes and Merrie Melodies animated shorts. The first volume was announced for Blu-ray in July 2011, and released on November 15, 2011. Volume 2 was announced August 1, 2012, with a release date of October 16, 2012 for both formats. Volume 1 came in either as a collector's edition set or just a stand-alone digibook for the Blu-ray release. The DVD versions of the Platinum Collections only replicates the first two discs of the Blu-ray counterpart, but doesn't contain extras or special features.

References

  1. Lenburg, Jeff (1999). The Encyclopedia of Animated Cartoons. Checkmark Books. pp. 104–106. ISBN   0-8160-3831-7 . Retrieved June 6, 2020.
  2. 1 2 "Merrie Melodies [ permanent dead link ]" Bcdb.com, April 12, 2012
  3. 1 2 "1947 academy awards". Infoplease.com. Retrieved June 26, 2013.
  4. 1 2 "1955 academy awards". Infoplease.com. Retrieved June 26, 2013.
  5. 1 2 "1957 academy awards". Infoplease.com. 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". TVGuide.com.
  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, Washington, D.C. 20540 USA. 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