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Looney Tunes and Merrie Melodies (1939-mid 1940)

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Looney Tunes & Merrie Melodies (1939-mid-1940)
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This is what happens when one animator temporary departed from WB to work on MGM's ill-fated Captain and the Kids; as well as another one debuting as a director causes everything to lose its zanyness.
Genre: Comedy
"Slapstick"
Running Time: 6-10 minutes
Release Date: January 7, 1939 -
August 24, 1940
Distributed by: Leon Schlesinger Productions
Starring: Mel Blanc
Margaret Hill-Talbot
Pinto Colvig
Arthur Q. Bryan
Danny Webb
Berneice Hansell
Tex Avery
Sara Berner
Episodes: 70 shorts
(27 Looney Tunes shorts)
(43 Merrie Melodies shorts)
Previous show: late 1935-1938 era
Next show: late-1940-mid-1941 era


Looney Tunes and (its spin-off Merrie Melodies) is an American animated short film theatrical series by Warner Brothers that ran from 1930 until 1969.

In mid-1938, Friz Freleng departed from Leon Schlesinger Productions to work at MGM.

While most of the Looney Tunes shorts from the classic era have been well received, the shorts of 1939-mid 1940, while not terrible as the Buddy era (late 1933-mid 1935), received weaker to okay reception compared to the earlier cartoons because it's was mostly known for a series of somewhat average, yet forgettable "travelogue" cartoons by Tex Avery, cutesy Disney ripoffs by Chuck Jones, Ben Hardaway, and Cal Dalton.

This article will be talking about the shorts from "The Lone Stranger and Porky" up to "Patient Porky" with the sole exception of "Ceiling Hero".

Shorts

1939

  • "The Lone Stranger and Porky" (Clampett; January 7; with Porky Pig; first Looney Tunes short in this era)
  • "Dog Gone Modern" (Jones: January 14; with Two Curious Puppies; also the first appearance of both; first Merrie Melodies short in this era)
  • "It's an Ill Wind" (Hardaway/Dalton; January 28; with Porky Pig and Dizzy Duck; also his first appearance)
  • "Hamateur Night" (Avery; January 28; with Egghead)
  • "Robin Hood Makes Good" (Jones; February 11; one-off)
  • "Porky's Tire Trouble" (Clampett; February 18; with Porky Pig)
  • "Gold Rush Daze" (Avery; February 25; one-off)
  • "A Day at the Zoo" (Avery; March 11; with Egghead)
  • "Porky's Movie Mystery" (Clampett; March 11; with Porky Pig (as Mr. Motto))
  • "Prest-O Change-O" (Jones; March 25; with the Two Curious Puppies and Happy Rabbit)
  • "Chicken Jitters" (Clampett; April 1; with Porky Pig)
  • "Bars and Stripes Forever" (Hardaway/Dalton; April 8; one-off)
  • "Daffy Duck and the Dinosaur" (Jones; April 22; with Daffy Duck; Final Warner Bros. cartoon to open with "VITAPHONE" and "Presents")
  • "Porky and Teabiscuit" (Hardaway/Dalton; April 29; with Porky Pig; First Warner Bros. cartoon to have "WARNER BROS." and "Present" instead of "VITAPHONE" and "Presents")
  • "Thugs with Dirty Mugs" (Avery; May 6; one-off)
  • "Kristopher Kolumbus Jr." (Clampett; May 13; with Porky Pig (as Kristopher Kolumbus Jr.))
  • "Naughty but Mice" (Jones; May 20; with Sniffles; also his first appearance and first appearance of Sylvester (then known as Proto-Sylvester)
  • "Believe It or Else" (Avery; June 3; with Egghead; final appearance of Egghead in the Golden Age In American Animation)
  • "Polar Pals" (Clampett; June 3; with Porky Pig)
  • "Hobo Gadget Band" (Hardaway/Dalton; June 17; one-off)
  • "Scalp Trouble" (Clampett; June 24; with Porky Pig and Daffy Duck)
  • "Old Glory" (Jones; July 1; with Porky Pig)
  • "Porky's Picnic" (Clampett; July 15; with Porky Pig and Petunia Pig)
  • "Dangerous Dan McFoo" (Avery; July 15; one-off)
  • "Snowman's Land" (Jones; July 29; one-off)
  • "Wise Quacks" (Clampett; August 5; with Porky Pig and Daffy Duck)
  • "Hare-um Scare-um" (Hardaway/Dalton; August 12; with Happy Rabbit)
  • "Detouring America" (Avery; August 26; one-off) Academy Award nominee.
  • "Little Brother Rat" (Jones; September 2; with Sniffles)
  • "Porky's Hotel" (Clampett; September 2; with Porky Pig and Dizzy Duck; second and final appearance of Dizzy Duck in the Golden Age in American Animation; first cartoon to have the finalized Looney Tunes logo)
  • "Sioux Me" (Hardaway/Dalton; September 9; one-off; final cartoon to use the 1938-39 green-yellow color rings)
  • "Land of the Midnight Fun" (Avery; September 23; one-off; first cartoon to feature the late 1939-early 40 red, white, and blue Color Rings with a sky cloud background circle (similar to the cloud background in the modern Warner Bros. Pictures logo))
  • "Jeepers Creepers" (Clampett; September 23; with Porky Pig)
  • "Naughty Neighbors" (Clampett; October 7; with Porky Pig and Petunia Pig; the final appearance of Petunia Pig in Golden Age of American Animation)
  • "The Little Lion Hunter" (Jones; October 7; with Inki and the Minah Bird; first appearance of both)
  • "The Good Egg" (Jones; October 21; one-off)
  • "Pied Piper Porky" (Clampett; November 4; with Porky Pig)
  • "Fresh Fish" (Avery; November 4; one-off)
  • "Fagin's Freshman" (Hardaway/Dalton; November 18; one-off)
  • "Porky the Giant Killer" (Hardaway/Dalton; November 18; with Porky Pig)
  • "Sniffles and the Bookworm" (Jones; December 2; with Sniffles; first appearance of the Bookworm)
  • "Screwball Football" (Avery; December 16; one-off)
  • "The Film Fan" (Clampett; December 16; with Porky Pig)
  • "The Curious Puppy" (Jones; December 30; with the Two Curious Puppies; final Warner Bros. cartoon to be released in the 1930s)

1940

  • "Porky's Last Stand" (Clampett; January 8; with Daffy Duck and Porky Pig)
  • "The Early Worm Gets the Worm" (Avery; January 13; one-off)
  • "Africa Squeaks" (Clampett; January 27; with Porky Pig, and special guest, Kay Kyser)
  • "Mighty Hunters" (Jones; January 27; one-off)
  • "Busy Bakers" (Hardaway/Dalton; February 10; one-off; final short directed by Ben Hardaway and Cal Dalton)
  • "Ali-Baba Bound" (Clampett; February 10; with Porky Pig)
  • "Elmer's Candid Camera" (Jones; March 2; with Happy Rabbit and Elmer Fudd; also his first appearance)
  • "Pilgrim Porky" (Clampett; March 16; with Porky Pig)
  • "Cross Country Detours" (Avery; March 16; one-off)
  • "Confederate Honey" (Hardaway/Dalton (planned)/Freleng (finished); March 30; with Elmer Fudd; first short directed by Friz Freleng since 1938's A Star Is Hatched; first cartoon to have the mid-late 1940 rings evident from the red, white, and blue rings and black background)
  • "The Bear's Tale" (Avery; April 13; with Little Red Riding Hood, The Bad Wolf, and The Three Bears; also their first appearance)
  • "Slap-Happy Pappy" (Clampett; April 13; with Porky Pig)
  • "Porky's Poor Fish" (Clampett; April 27; with Porky Pig)
  • "The Hardship of Miles Standish" (Freleng; April 27; with Elmer Fudd)
  • "Sniffles Takes a Trip" (Jones; May 11; with Sniffles)
  • "You Ought to Be in Pictures" (Freleng; May 18; with Porky Pig, Daffy Duck with real-life people such as Leon Schlesinger, Michael Maltese, Gerry Chiniquy, Charles M. Jones, Bob Clampett, Henry Binder, and Paul Marin)
  • "A Gander at Mother Goose" (Avery; May 25; with Big Bad Wolf and The Three Little Pigs; also their first appearance)
  • "Tom Thumb in Trouble" (Jones; June 8; one-off)
  • "The Chewin' Bruin" (Clampett; June 8; with Porky Pig)
  • "Circus Today" (Avery; June 22; one-off)
  • "Little Blabbermouse" (Freleng; July 6; with Little Blabbermouse; also his first appearance)
  • "Porky's Baseball Broadcast" (Freleng; July 6; with Porky Pig)
  • "The Egg Collector" (Jones; July 20; with Sniffles and the Bookworm)
  • "A Wild Hare" (Avery; July 27; with Elmer Fudd and Bugs Bunny; first appearance of Bugs Bunny)
  • "Ghost Wanted" (Jones; August 10; one-off; last Merrie Melodies short in this era)
  • "Patient Porky" (Clampett; August 24; with Porky Pig and Happy Rabbit; the final appearance of Happy Rabbit in Golden Age of Animation; last Looney Tunes short in this era)

Bad Qualities

  1. Quantity Over Quality : Like Sesame Street, the series ran for way too long (it started in 1930), spanning a total of 9 eras and 1000 episodes. The series itself isn't bad by all means, it is a great series overall.
    • However, Frank Tashlin resigns after an argument with studio manager Henry Binder and worked for Disney in the story department, resulting in Chuck Jones taking over his unit.
      • As a result, it causes the series to jump the shark.
  2. Just like the Buddy era, the writing in this era (especially those of Chuck Jones cartoons) has decreased again from witty and clever into slow, repetitive, and boring compared to the late 1935-1938 era.
  3. The era is infamous focusing and marked the debut of Chuck Jones' boring early cartoons and Hardaway/Dalton cartoons started to decline in quality as well.
    • The big problem about these three people is that they tried way too hard to be like Disney but without including any of the cleverness Disney's animated output had in favor of being overly sickly-sweet and saccharine around the time these shorts were made.
      • Some of the stories are just not good and frequently lack humor.
      • Worse, some of Hardaway/Dalton shorts are the rip-offs of the better and funnier shorts by Tex Avery, with their only original star character Happy Rabbit (Bugs Bunny's prototype) being a rabbit version rip-off of Tex Avery's Daffy Duck but without any of the charm and likability Daffy had, so much to the point that even Friz Freleng remarked Happy Rabbit to be nothing more than "Daffy Duck in a rabbit suit".
      • Compared to Chuck Jones, Hardaway/Dalton did a much worse job in directing their Disney-esque cartoons, hence resulting the two to get demoted from director positions to storymen positions when Friz Freleng returned to the studio in 1940 and reclaimed back his unit from them, while Hardaway then left to Walter Lantz Productions soon after.
  4. Despite Porky Pig being the main star of the Looney Tunes series from 1936-1939, by this era the Looney Tunes series has become less Porky-focused, as Bob Clampett gets tired of Porky Pig and wanted to focus on other characters and gags since during the years 1937-1940 he was contractually obligated by Leon Schlesinger to create only black-and-white Porky Pig cartoons under a very strict deadline with severe money and time limitations (he was only given $3,000 and four weeks to complete each short), hence Clampett's burnout from producing these cartoons become completely evident during these years, causing his black-and-white cartoons to grow tired and stale during the years 1939-1940.
  5. While Friz Freleng briefly left for MGM's ill-fated Captain and the Kids series between 1938-1939, Ben Hardaway and Cal Dalton, who temporarily took over his unit, both tended to direct more Disney-esque cartoons.
  6. During this time, Tex Avery and Bob Clampett were trying to do "travelogue" cartoons, but however they're mostly very forgettable.
  7. Numerous bad/mediocre cartoons scattered throughout this era, such as:
    • "Elmer's Candid Camera" (which started Elmer’s career on a sour note)
    • "Porky's Picnic"
    • "It's a Ill Wind"
    • "The Curious Puppy"
    • "The Good Egg"
    • "Porky the Giant Killer"
    • "Gold Rush Daze"
    • "Fagin's Freshman"
    • "Mighty Hunters"
    • "Sniffles Take a Trip"
      • Most others range from mediocre to forgettable at best.
        • In fact, there were some poor episodes from this era that once had their pages, which have been permanently deleted due to cluttering the wiki. They had been relocated to the Horrible TV Show Episodes Wiki before it was merged into this wiki (which was beforehand called Terrible TV Shows Wiki).
  8. There are some mean-spirited moments on characters that often don't deserve it or does nothing wrong, such as:
    • Elmer seems to have got constantly tortured by Happy Rabbit for no reason whatsoever, in "Elmer's Candid Camera".
    • A running gag features Egghead teasing a ferocious lion (while funny), in "A Day at the Zoo".
    • Sniffles is fearful of almost every woodland creature that are practically harmless, in "Sniffles Takes a Trip".
    • "Porky's Poor Fish" ends in the very mean-spirited note as the cat tries to eat it, but the mouse turns monstrous, scaring the cat, shrinking him into a kitten, and crying as the mouse walks away.
  9. Some of the shorts (like "The Little Lion Hunter", "Africa Squeaks", "The Early Worm Gets the Bird", "Kristopher Kolumbus Jr.", "Detouring America", "Sioux Me", "Scalp Trouble", "Confederate Honey", "Pilgrim Porky", "The Hardship of Miles Standish", and "Mighty Hunters") have outdated offensive stereotypes of characters, most particularly African Americans or Native Americans.
  10. Some moments are very dark and depressing.
    • A infamous scene of a Mother Hen trying to commit suicide when she can’t have a baby, as well as the baby turtle getting bullied and ostracized by the baby chicks in "The Good Egg".
    • A Day at the Zoo ends with Egghead getting eaten by the lion.
    • Daffy Duck's first death in "Daffy Duck and the Dinosaur".
    • A very infamous scene of the frog committing suicide in "Cross Country Detours".
    • Screwball Football ends with a neighbor getting shot and killed by a baby.
    • Ali Baba-Bound has scenes referring to one of Ali Baba's men who has a bomb strapped to his head as a member of the "suicide squad".
    • Polar Pals has a scene of a hunter shooting his machine gun at a penguin, leaving bullet holes in the penguin's shadow, which dramatically dies as the penguin himself watches in horror.
  11. Some of the jokes can drag on for way too long (with "Cross Country Detours" being the worst offender).

Good Qualities

  1. Midway into this era, Friz Freleng came back to produce new cartoons, thus saving the series.
    • Just like the Buddy era, without this era, we wouldn't have one of the most two memorable characters, Elmer Fudd and, of course, Bugs Bunny himself.
    • Though Tex Avery still continue to produce travelogue cartoons after this era, he also begin to direct some other non-travelogue cartoons which are great as well such as the Bugs Bunny cartoons, "The Crackpot Quail", "Of Fox and Hounds", amongst others until his departure to MGM in 1941.
      • By 1941, Bob Clampett is finally released from Leon Schlesinger's obligation of only being allowed to direct black-and-white Porky Pig Looney Tunes cartoons beginning with "Goofy Groceries" (1941) where he was finally allowed to direct color Merrie Melodies cartoons like the other Warner directors, and later is supplied with higher budgets from Tex Avery's unit following Avery's departure from the studio in 1941, hence enabling Clampett to direct better Looney Tunes cartoons for the first time since 1937-1938 with great cartoons such as "Bugs Bunny Gets the Boid" (1942), "Horton Hatches the Egg" (1942), "A Tale of Two Kitties" (1942), "The Hep Cat" (1942)(the first ever Looney Tunes cartoon produced in color), amongst others.
        • By 1942, Chuck Jones would eventually learn from his mistakes and therefore started to direct much funnier and better cartoons starting with "The Dover Boys".
          • By 1943, Frank Tashlin returned to Warner Bros. using Bob Clampett's old unit (having taken over from Norm McCabe, a fellow animator from Bob Clampett's unit who briefly took over Clampett's old unit between 1941-1943 producing only black-and-white Looney Tunes cartoons) where he directed some great and funny Looney Tunes cartoons which are a huge step up from his previous work from before 1938 such as "Porky Pig's Feat", "The Unruly Hare", "A Tale of Two Mice", "Behind the Meatball", amongst others until his departure from Warner Bros. to direct live-action films in 1945, cause Robert McKimson using Tashlin's unit.
  2. There are still plenty of great, decent, or passable shorts from this period (especially from Bob Clampett and Friz Freleng):
    • "A Wild Hare" (Which started Bugs Bunny’s career on a high note)
    • "The Lone Stranger and Porky"
    • "You Ought to Be in Pictures" (the first ever animation/live-action hybrid cartoon in the Looney Tunes franchise)
    • "Dangerous Dan McFoo"
    • "Porky's Tire Trouble"
    • "Hamateur Night" (the best cartoon this era has to offer in the year 1939)
    • "Polar Pals"
    • "Detouring America"
    • "Thugs with Dirty Mugs"
    • "Scalp Trouble"
    • "Jeepers Creepers"
    • "Naughty Neighbors" (which ended Petunia Pig's career on the okay note)
    • "The Film Fan"
    • "The Bear's Tale"
    • "Porky's Poor Fish" (despite having a mean-spirited ending)
    • "A Gander at Mother Goose"
    • "Little Blabbermouse"
    • "Porky's Baseball Broadcast"
    • "Cross-Country Detours"
    • "Patient Porky" (which ended this era on a high note)
      • While Chuck Jones, Ben Hardaway, and Cal Dalton weren't as good as the other directors like Bob Clampett, Tex Avery, and Friz Freleng during this era; they did have their share of decent shorts as well; among those include;
        • "Robin Hood Makes Good"
        • "Prest-O Change-O" (which finally give Happy Rabbit his comeuppance)
        • "Bars and Stripes Forever"
        • "Daffy Duck and the Dinosaur"
        • "Old Glory"
        • "Snowman's Land"
        • "Hare-um Scare-Um"
        • "The Little Lion Hunter"
        • "Tom Thumb in Trouble"
        • "Ghost Wanted"
    • Likewise, while they are not the best shorts, "The Good Egg", "A Day at the Zoo", "Naughty But Mice", "Africa Squeaks" are still passable at best, even if some of those are forgettable shorts.
  3. Ben Hardaway and Cal Dalton eventually learned from their mistakes as the former started writing most of the funny stories for the 1940-1951 Woody Woodpecker shorts, as well as supplying Woody's voice between 1944 and 1949; while the latter started doing strictly animation work in much funnier and better cartoons for Arthur Davis' unit (who took over Bob Clampett's unit following Clampett's departure from Warner Bros. in 1946) like "The Goofy Gophers" and "Mexican Joyride".
  4. Excellent voice acting from Mel Blanc and the other voice actors, for the most part.
    • Speaking of voice acting, the quality of the music, sound effects, and voice acting goes get better and cleaner.
  5. Beautiful animation and music by Carl Stalling, along with gorgeous backgrounds.
  6. To be fair, Chuck Jones can't be blamed for his early cartoons as he didn't even write them, he just simply directed them.

Trivia

  • Starting with "Porky's Hotel", all cartoons (from 1939 to 1964) have the finalized Looney Tunes logo that is still used to this day.
  • The finalized "That's All Folks!" writing debuts starting with "Confederate Honey" and is still used today.
  • The Porky drum ending is redesigned starting with "Jeepers Creepers", although it should have started with Looney Tunes short before that, "Porky's Hotel".
  • According to Canadian animation historian Gene Walz, "Thugs with Dirty Mugs" was banned from being released in Winnipeg, Manitoba back in the 1930s for glorifying criminal behavior and showing Killer Diller being punished like a schoolkid (by being shown in prison writing "I've been a naughty boy" several times on a blackboard with a prison-striped dunce cap on his head) rather than an adult, which the censors thought wasn't "sincere."
    • It should be noted that the Hays Code in America had a similar rule about not glorifying criminals or criminal activity in movies, but animated shorts such as this one were mostly exempt from this rule.
  • Before the release of the HBO Max streaming service, all of the Porky Pig shorts in this era were restored for the "Porky Pig 101" DVD while "Prest-O Change-O" (the only restored Curious Puppies cartoon during the time), "Daffy Duck and the Dinosaur", "Naughty but Mice", "Old Glory", "Hare-um Scare-um", "Little Brother Rat", "Sniffles and the Bookworm", "Elmer's Candid Camera", "Sniffles Takes a Trip", "A Gander at Mother Goose", "Tom Thumb in Trouble", "Little Blabbermouse", "The Egg Collector" and "A Wild Hare" (the only restored Bugs Bunny cartoon during the time) that was restored for DVD releases.
    • All of the Inki shorts, "Scalp Trouble", "Mighty Hunters", "Sioux Me", "Africa Squeaks", "The Good Egg", "Ghost Wanted", "Porky's Movie Mystery", "Kristopher Kolumbus Jr." and "Ali-Baba Bound" are the only shorts from this era that has yet to be restored.

Reception

This era of Looney Tunes and Merrie Melodies unlike the late 1935 to 1938 era (though not as bad as the bland Buddy era) as well as the later eras received a mostly mixed reception from critics, audiences, Looney Tunes fans, and animation buffs.

Some of the criticisms targeted at this era include Chuck Jones, Ben Hardaway and Cal Dalton's shorts trying too hard to copy Disney's cutesy formula of the time and severely lacked the hilarious humor (though Hardaway and Dalton shorts do have some humor, but still) and zany wackiness of all the other cartoons produced by other directors, their bland, boring characters and cartoons which are almost comparable to those of Buddy (and to a lesser extent, Beans) and the rest of the Warners studio's poorly-received Disney-inspired musical Merrie Melodies cartoons and its characters of the late-1933 to mid-1935 era, series of mostly very forgettable "travelogue" shorts by Tex Avery, some mean-spirited humor, very dark and depressing moments, and outdated offensive stereotypes of characters, through a series of somewhat more memorable Porky Pig and Daffy Duck outings by Bob Clampett, returning of Friz Freleng, and the animation quality of Jones' (and some extent Hardaway & Dalton') early cartoons garnered mixed-to-positive reviews (at least, for the most part).

Despite the mixed reception of these eras, some of the cartoons from these eras had a warm reception from both critics and audiences alike, mostly from Bob Clampett (like "Naughty Neighbors" and "Patient Porky"), Friz Freleng (like "You Ought to Be in Pictures", "Little Blabbermouse" and "Porky's Baseball Broadcast").

Shorts with Their Pages

Videos

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