Saturday, October 14, 2017

Two krazy rabbits

Well, first of all a huge THANKS to everyone who weighed in with their favorite cartoon character. (You're still welcome to tell us yours.)  Part of the fun of doing a blog is creating a little community and finding ways for you to interact.  So thanks for playing along. 

On to the results.

Yep, you guys agreed with the EW poll. Not much suspense here since you could all read through the comments yourself, but it was clear that Bugs Bunny was your overwhelming choice for favorite cartoon character. And I can’t disagree at all.

What was surprising to me, and somewhat heartening, is that the winning character hails from the 1940’s, not just someone on a cartoon show that came out in January. I say that because when I was a disc jockey back in the era of Top 40, stations would occasionally put together their “all-time Top 300” songs and invite listeners to send in postcards with their all-time favorite three songs. Invariably they would choose the songs currently in the top ten. (What we had to do was just throw out all the cards and tabulate a list ourselves.)

As for my choice, only one other person (a commenter on Facebook) shared my favorite. But mine is a little obscure, especially to younger generations since it was a TV cartoon from the ‘50’s and probably hasn’t been seen on television in God knows how many years. It was a tough choice because I too love Bugs, along with Wile E. Coyote, Daffy Duck, Popeye (the Fleisher cartoons, not the Paramount cartoons), Foghorn Leghorn, Top Cat (how can you not? He’s Bilko), Snagglepuss, Homer Simpson, Mr. Burns, Mr. Peabody, Mr. Magoo, Goofy, Dan Hoard (voice of the Springfield Isotopes – okay, you got me. It’s me), Tom Terrific, Mighty Mouse, and Pepe LePew – but my all-time favorite would have to be Crusader Rabbit. (I can just hear you saying “Who???”)

Crusader Rabbit was a forerunner of Rocky & Bullwinkle – serialized cartoons that were irreverent, sprinkled in adult humor, were the first to feature longform stories, and in addition to the usual cartoon slapstick utilized wordplay humor. Each episode had funny titles that were usually puns like “I can row a boat, canoe?” As a 7 year old that killed me.

Crusader Rabbit was the first cartoon show made exclusively for television. Prior to that cartoons were designed for theatrical release. There were actually two sets of Crusader Rabbit cartoons. The first around 1950 with some of the worst primitive animation ever, and then a new batch in color in the late ‘50s which were a big improvement in design, animation (although all TV animation was pretty cheesy back then), and leaned in even more on the irreverence and wordplay. The writer, Chris Hayward, went on to write and co-run BARNEY MILLER.

One final note: Going through your picks I couldn’t help but notice there were very few Disney characters. For all the dazzling animation, when it came to laughs there was something more subversive and delicious about the Warner Brothers, Jay Ward, Max Fleisher cartoons, Terrytoons, and even Hanna-Barbera cartoons.

Finally, a “Donald” that no one voted for.

48 comments :

Ralph C. said...

I would've said Bugs Bunny or Charlie Brown, just from "A Charlie Brown Christmas" special, still one of my favorite shows/specials, ever.

Pat Reeder said...

Didn't have a chance to weigh in on the previous thread, but while I love Bugs, I'll throw in my vote for Super Chicken. You have no idea how often the phrase, "You knew the job was dangerous when you took it, Fred," comes in handy.

And a sentimental nod to Dishonest John from Beanie & Cecil (After blowing his own head off: "It's gone! It's gone! My headache's gone!")

JW said...

Crusader Rabbit was indeed a forerunner of Rocky and Bullwinkle. Jay Ward was involved in the production.

Tim Ahern said...

I won a Bob Wills & the Texas Playboys album from The Dr. Demento Show on KMET in 1973 by knowing that Crusader's sidekick was Rags the Tiger. The things we keep in our heads!

Dr Loser said...

The lack of Disney cartoon characters isn't at all surprising, but not for the reasons you hint at. (Edgy, subversive, etc.)

(I'd recommend Richard William's "The Animator's Survival Kit" -- a splendid how-to guide, btw -- for suitable historical background covering the Disney, Warner Brothers, and even Hannah Barbera artists.)

It all depends upon what the precise wording of the question is, doesn't it? Ask me which cartoon character made me cry, and I'll answer Dumbo. Every time. Well, actually Dumbo's mother, but, see, this is the thing about Disney cartoons when they really work:

Disney cartoon films are ensemble productions. You can't have Dumbo without his mother. You can't have Dumbo without the mouse. You can't have Dumbo without the crows on the telegraph wire.

Bugs? Bugs is a stand-up comic. He's a magician. He's a soliloquy in fur. He can work with Daffy or Elmer or Foghorn, but they're interchangeable foils, really.

That said. And to be scrupulously fair. Bugs Bunny is indisputably funnier than Dumbo.

Kosmo13 said...

Crusader Rabbit was a favorite of mine in the early 1960's, but I can barely remember anything about the cartoon.

Garrett said...

I didn't participate because I had very little experience with cartoons while growing up. My mother didn't approve of them at all and was one of those types who, with only the best intentions, was forever writing letters to the networks and to TV stations complaining about cartoon violence and old cartoons that reflected outdated racial, social and sex roles stereotypes. She was one of those who would write asking why they couldn't make nice cartoons where, for example, Bugs Bunny and Elmer Fudd learn that it's better to cooperate and have fun together than to fight, or where Popeye and Bluto learn that Olive Oyl should be recognized and respected as a person in her own right and isn't just a prize for them to fight over.

Pizzagod said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Matt said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
sanford said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Terence Towles Canote said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Sean MacDonald said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Sean MacDonald said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Breadbaker said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
unkystan said...

Johnny Walker said...

Tom said...

Todd Everett said...

Anne said...

Leif said...

Justin Piatt said...

Kirk said...

Peter said...

Robert Forman said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Peter said...

Eric J said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Donald Benson said...

The Big Guy said...

It is interesting about the Disney characters, but if you haven't seen Mickey lately, you should take a look. There are new Mickey cartoons on YouTube all the time. The new Mickey is irreverent, certainly in comparison to old Mickey. And the cartoons are loaded with adult asides, much as Crusader and Rocky were. Watch a few and I promise you will wonder what the guys in the writers room have been smoking.

Stuart Raish said...

Crusader Rabbit was always the first cartoon on the sheriff john show at noon on kttv ch. 11 in LA.

Todd Everett said...

Let's see -- you approved a whole bunch of comments, then deleted them. A whole bunch. Care to explain, so at least we don't do it again?

Liggie said...

Shouldn't you have spelled it "wabbit"?

Ken Levine said...

Yeah. I accidentally hit the wrong key on my smartphone so sorry those were deleted. I'm trying to figure out how to get them back.

Rich said...

What? No 'Roger Ramjet"??

Unkystan said...

It seems all of this afternoons comments were deleted, including mine. What gives?

Johnny Walker said...

Wow, how did you manage to delete so many comments? All mine said was how unsurprising how little Disney classic characters appear. Mickey Mouse must be the dullest character to ever launch a career. Has ANYONE ever liked him ever? MM cartoons weren't just missing a subversive edge, they were missing charm, wit and personality. Even as a child they bored me.

Anyways, I found the first ever Crusader Rabbit on YouTube. Crude animation to say the least, but this was before Hannah Barbera had figured out how to mass produce things cheaply. The art was gorgeous, however, and it has incredible charm. I loved it!

For anyone else, here it is: https://youtu.be/C3hHQvkUhJo

Onto episode two! :)

VP81955 said...

One character whom I don't believe received any votes was Felix the Cat, who's better known to Angelenos as the symbol of a Chevy dealership that's been around since 1921. (Felix Chevrolet was titled for the surname of the firm's owner.) Felix was the star of a long-running series of silent cartoons, which may explain why he's been somewhat neglected; he was clever, funny and loved by millions. (The cat "spoke" through comic strip-style voice balloons.) Many Felix cartoons from the '20s are available on YouTube, and aside from some archaic ethnic stereotyping, they hold up well. But the arrival of Mickey Mouse, and sound, doomed Felix's animation dominance.

About 1960, the character was revived for TV cartoons (the ones with the theme song "the wonderful, wonderful cat"), but they frankly weren't very good. In the '90s, Felix was rebooted into a personality more along the lines of his '20s heyday, and those cartoons lasted for a few years.

John Mazur said...

Belated votes for Top Cat & George Jetson.
Love the sorta ‘EGBOK’ theory of each.

MikeN said...

> Invariably they would choose the songs currently in the top ten.

Back then, that time frame wasn't too different from all-time.

Daniel said...

Oddly, all my favorites are Disney characters, mostly ducks: Donald Duck and Lilo and Webigail from the new DuckTales cartoon (though not the Webigail from the 1980s, who was less complicated and wasn’t played by Kate Micucci).

Garry M. said...

Johnny Walker said...
Wow, how did you manage to delete so many comments? All mine said was how unsurprising how little Disney classic characters appear.


I think we all know what happened, Johnny. The Disney folks got wind of your comment and sent their muscle out to "persuade" Ken to "accidentally" delete your anti-Mickey remarks and the reactions to it. You're probably lucky you didn't get your fingers broken. Or gnawed off my mice. I'd be careful in the future. ;-)

Actually, my son loves Mickey, but then he's three and right now, MICKEY MOUSE CLUBHOUSE is the coolest thing on TV. (It's an educational program starring the classic Disney characters that Disney produces for pre-schoolers.) Oh, and we don't leave the house without his baseball cap with Mickey on the front of it.

I'm sure, though, that in a few years he'll move on from Mickey to other cartoon characters. Right now you try to show him a Bugs Bunny and he spends the entire six minutes asking, "Why did he do that?" "Why are they doing that?" "What happened?" "What does that mean?"

Donald Benson said...

What'd I say? What'd I say?

Donald Benson said...

"Well, he's dressed up like a lady so Elmer Fudd will like him very, very much ..."

D. McEwan said...

Being the same age as you and from the same city, I too grew up loving Crusader rabbit on Sheriff John's Lunch Brigade, and I loved more when, a few years later,they began running hour-long compendiums of Crusader Rabbit on Saturdays, when you saw the entire serial all at once. Bullwinkle learned everything he ever knew from Ragland T. Tiger.

Classic Sitcoms said...

I didn't know that Chris Hayward wrote "Crusader Rabbit," but it makes perfect sense, given the arc of his later career. The scribe went from "Crusader Rabbit" to "Rocky and Bullwinkle," before graduating to a couple of prime time sitcoms that were basically cartoons acted out by live actors: "My Mother the Car" and "The Munsters." Hayward eventually moved on to more grown-up fare, including "He & She," "The Governor & JJ," and, as you mention, "Barney Miller." Not a bad career, really.

Carole Carle said...

Somebody...anybody...unless its madness, or some manifestation of The Mandela Effect
https://rationalwiki.org/wiki/Mandela_effect (hmmm some would challenge that none of Wiki is truly rational) I remember but cannot find any allusion whatsobloomin'evuh of a cartoon character called "J.Fubar West"...I connect Mr.West with Bugs Bunny somehow...I would be eternally grateful to find out this was not the ramblings of an actor/turned songwriter/turned Internet Radio Host...Love this site..btw

Carole Carle

Brian said...

My theory as to why there were few to no Disney characters mentioned: the lack of subversive element may be one issue, but the other issue for me was lack of access. Bugs Bunny and Popeye and the Flintstones were on five days a week in the NYC metro area. All the Disney stuff was shown on the occasional Sunday when The Wonderful World of Disney didn't feature one of those drat nature documentaries.

Disney held fast to its library of animation for many years, perhaps believing that TV would drain them of its precious bodily fluids. I remember one Sunday, they showed Mickey and the Beanstalk, which is a short...and they excerpted it! This is before the advent of VCRs. The Mouse Factory TV show also chopped up their product. The Disney stuff, pre-Disney channel was released to theaters and then mothballed and my generation had TV. Even then, it was a rare thing to see a cartoon before the feature and they were not Disney, unless it was a Disney movie. When I saw "Fantasia", they featured a Mickey Mouse short, in black and white...from "the Flirty

Bugs, et al., were there when I got home from school and even then, only the ones that my local station had. It wasn't until the Bugs Bunny and Road Runner Show got rerun on Saturdays that we got to see some of the other shorts, which included the Oscar winners, like "Knighty-Knight Bugs" and "Birds Anonymous".

Donald Benson said...

Disney learned early on the value of theatrical re-releases; some of the animated features needed multiple re-releases to recoup their costs. Also, while old cartoons represented a fraction of MGM's or Warner's vault, they were the bulk of Disney's. After losing Oswald in the 1920s, Walt Disney was extremely loathe to sacrifice ownership on anything.

Time seemed to prove Disney right. The older Warner toons were sold for a fraction of what they quickly earned for their new owners; Warner thereafter held onto newer product and released it themselves on network TV as "The Bugs Bunny Show" and on Saturday mornings. Ted Turner bought up and monetized the old cartoon packages as well as the features of Warner, MGM and RKO; Time Warner merged with Turner to repatriate Warner's old and valuable product.

Walter Lantz kept a tight rein on his output until eventually selling out to his distributor, Universal. You only saw his shorts on the syndicated "Woody Woodpecker Show", in theaters, and as 8mm Castle Films (usually sans soundtrack). You can argue Woody was often just as hard to see, but he never had the same cachet as Mickey.

MGM's Tom and Jerry were long limited to theaters and a network Saturday morning show, although other MGM toons trickled onto local stations.

When Disney finally warmed to television, it was mainly as a way to finance Disneyland. Both to protect the re-release value of his vault and to differentiate his network hour from cheap local shows, shorts would be combined with new animation to form long episodes (Goofy does yard work and fantasizes adventures; Donald Duck quits the studio and tries other careers; etc.). "Mouse Factory" took a similar approach, thriftily using a live comic host instead of new animation. Whole shorts did appear on the original Mickey Mouse Club; when that show went into syndication it was the only place to see Disney shorts on local TV.

The Sunday hour also salvaged items that weren't quite re-releasable. During and after the war Disney made some "package films": essentially revues of music-themed shorts under a single title like "Make Mine Music". They didn't do that well, so the parts that were strong enough to stand alone, such as "Pecos Bill" and "Casey at the Bat", eventually went out as stand-alone shorts. Those and nearly all the rest were incorporated into the TV hour in various forms, usually as musical interludes in themed shows (Uncle Walt talks about bringing objects to life with animation, Exhibit A is "Johnny Fedora"). "Mickey and the Beanstalk" was actually half of a feature, "Fun and Fancy Free" (live narrators Edgar Bergen and Charlie McCarthy were replaced by Ludwig Von Drake). The other half was "Bongo", an oddity about a circus bear in the wild, having to learn that slap from a female was a sign of affection. Since most of that one was bear couples joyously slapping each other, it didn't have much of an afterlife. The package films finally surfaced more or less intact in the DVD era; not sure if they were ever VHS.

You'll note it was also a long time before a Disney movie turned up on TV as anything but a two-part Sunday night show. Disney's "underexposed" vault of famous titles and characters was one of the attractions for a hostile takeover attempt in the 70s.

McAlvie said...

Disney movies can be awesome viewing experiences, but while you might become involved in the moment, they don't speak to adults in the same way. As you said, Bugs was subversive. As for those old cartoons still polling high, well, they are often timeless and not dependent on trends, and you didn't have to worry about whether the kids were old enough. Bugs managed to be cocky and subversive without being offensive; all the characters managing to be fun and innocent without being saccharine.

When its good, it lasts.

And the other thing about cartoons v animated movies, well cartoons just play better on the small screen. For the best of the old Disney movies, a small screen doesn't do justice to the incredible artwork, you don't get the same immersion experience. And it's obvious that people want that experience, based on the size of the 'small' screens they buy these days.