A little idea I’ve had for a while. After the last Animaniacs production wrapped up, the Warner siblings get removed from the lot once the eldest sibling becomes an adult. Yakko meets up with Bugs, a colleague he’d known for years, while waiting for Wakko and Dot to get dropped off from school. Real-life issues and whatnot.
Sorry for some panels looking so much better than others. I never intended to get the whole thing nice and polished.
“What am I talkin to you for? All you gotta do is munch on a carrot and people love you.”
This is probably the best moment in the entire film to me, and it only
lasts 25 seconds. So why didn’t we see more of it? Aside from numerous
reasons you can probably guess if you know what went on behind the
scenes, it’s because this ISN’T LOONEY TUNES. This is Pixar levels of
depth, drama, and character building that the original shorts never had.
I highly doubt Bugs or Daffy can pull
off pathos well but this scene convinced me it’s possible. You know,
just sit and silently ponder the themes of the story with no wild,
exaggerated movements for 3 full minutes without it looking very
awkward, the kinds of things you only see in live-action movies. Here,
Bugs for the first time finally realizes that all the abuse Daffy had
gone through for decades in stardom isn’t acting anymore, and could be
seriously harming his well-being. For the first time, Bugs is worried
about him. Daffy likewise acts like his sarcastic self but finally gets
a chance to voice his frustrations like a mature adult to his foil, and
I think that already lifted some weight off his shoulders.
They’re designed for slapstick and vaudeville levels of comedy. And it
saddens me that the only time I really felt like they GOT shades of a
good Looney Tunes movie for today’s audiences is when we were given a
scene that would NEVER happen in a short, but it’s still BRILLIANT, and I
can’t wait for someone to make another movie with these characters with
about 40% or even 20% of the movie carrying this kind of emotional
weight to it and pulling it off! Yes, many purists will cry “That’s not
Looney Tunes!” but every single animated film today have this kind of
tone mixed in with the looniness, so I’m confident there’s a way to do
Warner Brothers and Disney: Two Approaches to Two Similar Characters
I watched the Disney short ‘Trick or Treat’ (1952) for the first time recently and I noticed some striking similarities with a later Warner Brothers short ‘Broom-Stick Bunny’ (1956).
I’d argue Warner Brothers does a much better job at characterisation than Disney and what better way to prove it than to show how the two studios approach two similar characters.
Both have a character named Witch Hazel, both are voiced by the same actor (June Foray), both of the stories involve trick-or-treaters. Fom then on they start to differ. Let’s start off with the designs.
The WB Hitch Hazel is full of contrasts, subtle angles & curves. Even if she didn’t have green skin the design would still be very unique. She has a large overweight body, very short skinny legs, a big angular bulbous nose. Her hands are very skinny and bone-like (with knuckles, not always common in cartoons). The hat is unique, and so is her hair, it even has individual curls (a nice touch, adds to her character, shows that she’s a bit manic) and the Chuck Jones patented skin tooth.
In contrast the Disney Witch Hazel is a lot more generic. Being the Aryan lover Walt Disney is, the Witch is blonde & white. She has a wart, cleft chin, a couple of winkles on her lip and a bulbous nose (not as large or angular as WB). The big contrasts in her design is that she’s very short and her hat’s very tall. The hands are fairly unique & complex for Disney character design at that time but still nowhere near as unique as the WB Witch Hazel.
Now to be fair, you could argue that ‘Trick or Treat’ was made earlier than ‘Broom-Stick Bunny’ and the stylised, UPA-influenced designs weren’t as prominent in 1952 as they were in 1956 (the year ‘Broom-Stick Bunny’ was made) but even so ‘Toot, Whistle, Pluck and Boom’ (a stylised, UPA-influenced Disney short) only came out a year later in 1953 and Warner Brothers were already making more specific, angular designs in the late 40′s and early 50′s. Even the WB Witch Hazel character was introduced as early as 1954.
Now let’s look at how the two characters act, starting off with the WB Witch Hazel. I’d recommend watching the scene again from 2:43 to 3:12. Note how tailored the animation is to Foray’s voice than Disney’s.
Here she says, “LIKE IT?!? why it’s absolutely HIDEOUS!!!”. Witch Hazel leans back & stretches out when she shouts “LIKE IT?!?”, crouches down & curls up as she says “why it’s absolutely..”, then stretches out again to say “HIDEOUS!!!”. The animator has exaggerated Witch Hazel actions when she shouts, but moves her less when she speaks softly. This kind of animation makes you believe the character you’re watching on screen is saying those exact words.
There’s plenty of great scenes with Witch Hazel in ‘Broom-Stick Bunny’ (even though this is a Bugs Bunny short, she steals the show) but I really like this particular scene for showing her character. Notice her hand movements, the way she twiddles her fingers, the way she leans in to talk, blinks slowly, flutters her eyelashes, moves her legs and so on.
Compare this this to scenes with the Disney Witch Hazel.
This would be one of the ‘better’ acting scenes in the short and even this isn’t in the same league as Looney Tunes. All she does in the clip is put her hands on her hips (to show she’s cross), pull a generic angry face (only the eyebrows show she’s angry), and rubs her nose (for what purpose I can’t fathom).
A lot of the scenes with the Disney Witch Hazel involve her moving and jumping around a lot. Which doesn’t add up to describing the character’s personality apart from saying that she’s energetic and happy.
It doesn’t help that a lot of the camera shots are cut very short. Compare that to ‘Broom-Stick Bunny’ which has an uninterrupted animation scene for almost 30 seconds. Goes to show how much priority Warner Brothers put towards character compared to Disney.
Here she is introducing herself. There is a tiny bit of unique acting here, she does flutter her eyelashes (like WB Witch Hazel).
Here she says “kids,this piegeon’s a pushover”. All she does is point to him, and flick her hand. Note here how in all of these clips (and when you watch the whole short) how the Disney Witch Hazel hardly makes any facial expressions at all. Meanwhile the WB Witch Hazel has no shortage of different facial expressions.
To sum up then, Disney take a very general, stereotypical approach to characters whereas Warner Brothers made more specific, unique characters and even though they’re more exaggerated than Disney, they’re based off observations of real life people.
That’s why people remember not only the main characters like Bugs & Daffy, but a whole cast of other characters like Witch Hazel, Tweety, Sylvester, Foghorn Leghorn, Marvin the Martian, Wile E. Coyote, etc.
If you’re into animation and you’re studying animation characters, study Looney Tunes not Disney.
OK I know this is going to sound weird but I though Leopold would look good in black and white, then it made me think of the Looney tune character Pepe le pew annnnd … that’s how I go this … though it was cute and funny
Happy 75th anniversary, Bugs Bunny! (”A Wild Hare” directed by Tex Avery premiered in theaters nationwide on July 27, 1940.)
Tex Avery died August 26, 1980. This tribute by Chuck Jones was published in the Sunday, August 31, 1980 Los Angeles Tribune Calendar section. (Bottom: photographic negative of an original Tex Avery Bugs Bunny model sheet.)
“What Tex taught me was this:
“1. You must love what you caricature. You must not mock it–unless it is ridiculously self-important.
"2. You must learn to respect that golden atom, that single-frame of action, that 1/24th of a second, because the difference between lightning and the lightning bug may hinge on that single frame.
"3. You must respect the impulsive thought and try to implement it. You cannot perform as a director by what you already know, you must depend on the flash of inspiration that you do not expect and do not know.
"4. You must remember always that only man, of all creatures, can blush, or needs to; that only a man can laugh, or needs to, and that if you are in that trade of helping others to laugh and to survive by laughter, then you are privileged indeed.
"5. Remember always that character is all that matters in the making of great comedians in animation and in live-action.
"6. Keep always in your mind, your heart and your hand that timing is the essence, the spine, and the electrical magic of humor–and of animation.”
This was another homework assignment that I had a blast with; the idea was to draw a character in three different styles as accurately as possible. I did four, since the character is a lion I couldn’t not do TLK style, heh!
All were referenced off of specific pictures in order to maintain accuracy but all were 100% hand drawn!
Possible Similarities Between Commander Peepers and Marvin the Martian?
There’s a few parallels that can be drawn between Wander and Bugs Bunny. Or rather, Wander pulls a few suggestions and tricks from Bugs’ playbook. There’s the cross-dressing exploits and the deceptive one-up capers Wander pulls on Lord Hater every so often. “The Big Day” is one of the few times Wander shows a rare glimpse of his clever, smart aleck side. Look at the sly glances he sneaks at Sylvia or how readily he suggests to Lord Hater that certain events could be bigger and grander than what they are. Compare this with a typical scene where Bugs encounters, and dupes, characters from the ignorant Elmer Fudd to the arrogant Daffy Duck. Bugs’ is very laidback and casual. He’s always one step ahead, planning his next ornery stunt or just being quick on the uptake.
Generally, Wander is too nice for his own good, hyper, and a bit oblivious because he’s lost in his own mind. Even in “The Big Day,” he gets caught up in the excitement and allure of his own caper. Bugs gets invested in his dupes, yes, but he’s always ready to back out and launch the punchline. If Sylvia weren’t acting as an anchor, Wander would have let Lord Hater destroy him. That’s one big difference between Wander and the king of the cartoon jokers Bugs.
Though, Wander doesn’t exclusively channel Bugs. It’s a toss-up chance as to how he’ll approach a Looney Tunes brand scenario. He just as readily ekes by on strokes of luck or wily Roadrunner antics. This is exactly what role he adopts as he bumbles through the Skullship with an antsy, desperate Peepers chasing him in “The Prisoner.”
On another note, Wander also shares Bugs’ talent to appear anywhere and everywhere spontaneously. Including various props and costumes with said appearances. This is used for a few gags over the course of “The Greatest,” specifically when Wander poses as the award-distributing judge.
If Wander takes a few cues from Bugs, would it be too much of a stretch to draw similar parallels between Marvin the Martian and Commander Peepers?
A General Character Sketch of Marvin the Martian
In his various appearances over the course of Looney Tunes, Marvin comes across as a harmless, kind of geeky weakling. He’s nondescript with an odd “nothing special” or “Average Joe” vibe to him. To add to this, sometimes Marvin’s visor falls into his face or he utters “Oh, my.” Some kind of effect that casts him as a meek, if somewhat bumbling kind of figure.
His quiet, uniform monotone only amplifies the effect. When he makes comments about blowing up the Earth, it’s hard to take him seriously if only because of how casually he says it. It’s very easy to interpret this as a dry or deadpan joke. That’s what comes to mind when Bugs initially brushes off Marvin’s threats or leaves the strange character to his own devices.
Of course, Marvin holds a stark contrast between his deceptive demeanor and role as an earnest world destroyer. As soon as he pulls out his laser gun or Acme brand disintegrator, though, there’s no doubt about his malicious intent.
As time has passed and Marvin started appearing in other shorts and series, he reveals his short temper. He’s not above ranting, complaining, and gesturing emphatically. Originally, he passes off active chases or pursuing his enemies to underlings and minions with the exception of the 1953 Duck Dodger short. Over time, he transitions into a more sly, confident, and determined figure. He’ll contend with his rivals one on one, going to whatever measure necessary to stop them or achieve his goals.
This version of Marvin is capitalized on and further fleshed out in the 2003 Duck Dodgers cartoon as Commander X-2. There, he’s a fairly confident and capable figure, if not a bit condescending. If the Cadet isn’t around to play straight man to Dodgers, X-2 usually steps up to the role with his own tired “This again?” look and sarcastic quip. He has flashes of self-doubt and timidity, but not enough to revert to the mannerisms and reserved conduct of his original Looney Tunes counterpart. He’s very much come into his own.
Peepers V. Marvin
Look at the discrepancy between Marvin’s appearance, voice, and role as a wannabe planet destroyer. Peepers sits in a similar camp: He’s a tiny, scrawny villain that’s been outright called “cute” by Wander. Yet, he’s a fairly competent military strategist with ambitious goals of conquering the galaxy. This contrast gets poked at and played with often: Other characters outright point it out or Peepers switches between angry and growling attack dog to sweet-talking and folding his hands with gushing pride. Just look at some of the more flamboyant gestures and mannerisms on his part during a certain scene in “The Big Day.”
Marvin becomes intimidating when he reaches for his ray gun or disintegrator. Peepers entertains very similar effects: When he corners Wander or Sylvia, he immediately whips out his ray gun and holds in their face. The interesting and hilarious difference between him and Marvin is that Peepers doesn’t necessarily have to rely on tech and gadgets. Sylvia is built up as a powerhouse that can plow through just about anyone or anything in her way. So, it’s strangely satisfying, if not absolutely hilarious, to see Peepers rip off his shirt and very capably fight her one on one. Like other jokes over the course of the series, it’s once again playing on the “looks are deceiving” idea.
If anything else stands out as a point of comparison between these two, it’d be their respective character designs. Marvin has no mouth or nose. Where other toons can have dropping jaws, flaring nostrils, condescending smirks, or wide grins, Marvin’s expressions are restricted to eye movement. Though, a lot can be conveyed through tone, inflections, and body language, too. This leads to particularly strong emphasis on brow creases, when he curls his fists in frustration, etc. Marvin has a fairly reserved voice and mannerisms. There’s strong emphasis on the contrast between this and how exaggerated or nervous Marvin’s victims are in comparison.
Peepers is ridiculously energetic and emotional. There’s a distinctive cadence to his voice; a kind of up and down rhythm with an irritated grunt or whine placed on certain words. This is complemented by how his iris moves in time with his voice, an interesting stand-in or replacement for lip movement, and his very emphatic body language. He’ll jump if he has to if it gives weight or gravity to his words. In short, Peepers has an obvious short fuse. Marvin is more likely to keep a cool head just a bit longer than Peepers would.
What I find especially interesting is that Marvin is a self-assured figure where Peepers seems to over-compensate. Just look at the tall, exaggerated lightning bolt on Peepers’ helmet. Just how big it is when compared to the tinier fare on a generic watchdog’s beanie. It’s easy to tell when the Commander gets irate or upset, too; it shines through in his voice or how much more trigger-happy he is. With Marvin, it takes a little longer to get him that angry. Granted, that depends on what variant of Marvin the Commander is getting compared to. Later incarnations could share Peepers’ temper.
If anything, I thought it’d be interesting to compare and contrast these two. Sometimes, a compare/contrast reveals interesting insights or features about characters that a viewer never really noticed before. It definitely highlights how certain archetypes or traits overlap and how differently writers and designers can handle them.