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8 iconic cartoon characters and their debuts

Popular Looney Tunes character Daffy Duck debuted today 78 years ago. On this occasion, we look at debut animated shorts of other noteworthy icons of the cartoon world

Daffy Duck: The zany and wacky Daffy made his cartoon debut in the 1937 short titled 'Porky's Duck Hunt'. The cartoon, which is originally one of the shorts featuring prominent Looney Tunes star Porky Pig happened to feature Daffy Duck as a supporting character who would pester Porky throughout the episode with several popular sight gags and jokes.

A still from Daffy Duck's debut short, 'Porky's Duck Hunt' (1937). Pic/Dailymotion
A still from Daffy Duck's debut short, 'Porky's Duck Hunt' (1937). Pic/Dailymotion

'Porky's Duck Hunt' became extremely popular with viewers and made Daffy Duck a household name over the years. Interestingly he wasn't named until the 1940 short 'Elmer's Candid Camera'. The cartoon was also notable for being the first short in which legendary voice-over artist Mel Blanc voiced both Daffy and Porky. '

Bugs Bunny: Any cartoon lover would jump with joy upon hearing the popular catchphrase, "What's Up Doc?" as it would conjure memories of cartoon shorts featuring Bugs Bunny asking this questions to cartoon villains like Elmer Fudd or Yosemite Sam while chewing on the carrot, an image which is etched in popular culture.

A still from Bugs Bunny's debut cartoon 'A Wild Hare'. Note Bugs' rival Elmer Fudd on the left. . Pic/YouTube
Bugs Bunny in a still from his debut cartoon 'A Wild Hare'. Note Bugs' rival Elmer Fudd on the left. . Pic/YouTube

Cartoon world's most famous rabbit made his official debut in the 1940 short 'A Wild Hare', which also starred his frequent nemesis Elmer Fudd, a comically inept and good-natured hunter who hunted rabbits and other forest animals for game. Like his frequent cohort and 'partner in crime' Daffy Duck, Bugs was also unnamed in his debut cartoon. He wouldn't be named until Bugs Bunny like most Looney Tunes characters of Warner Brothers was also voiced by Mel Blanc. The plot of 'A Wild Hare' featured what would later become the usual formula for most cartoons starring Bugs Bunny and Elmer Fudd or any other antagonist: Bugs would be the target of the hunter (in this case Elmer) and would outwit him with his cunning and intelligence.

An interesting note would be that Bugs Bunny's signature carrot chewing mannerism was inspired from Hollywood screen legend Clarke Gable's 1934 film 'It Happened One Night' (it would later be remade in Bollywood twice, most notably in 1991 as 'Dil Hai Ki Maanta Nahin' starring Aamir Khan and Pooja Bhatt). The film featured a scene in which Gable's character Peter Warne leans against a fence, eating carrots rapidly and talking with his mouth full to Claudette Colbert's character.  Bugs Bunny like Daffy Duck was unnamed in this short until his next one, 'Elmer's Pet Rabbit'. 'A Wild Hare' was also nominated for an Oscar.

Tom and Jerry: Just reading the names on the left is enough to trigger fond memories of one's childhood, sitting in front of the television and watching everyone's favourite cat and mouse duo and their misadventures. Tom and Jerry debuted in the 1940 episode, 'Puss Gets the Boot'.

A still from the first 'Tom & Jerry' short 'Puss Gets the Boot'. Pic/YouTube
A still from the first 'Tom & Jerry' short 'Puss Gets the Boot'. Pic/YouTube

Created by iconic animator-duo William Hanna and Joseph Barbera and produced by MGM, 'Puss Gets The Boot' centers on Jasper, a gray tabby cat trying to catch a mouse named Jinx (whose name is not mentioned within the cartoon itself), but after accidentally breaking a houseplant and its stand, the African American housemaid Mammy has threatened to throw Jasper out if he breaks one more thing in the house. Naturally, Jinx uses this to his advantage, and begins tossing any and everything fragile, so that Jasper will be thrown outside.

Tom was called Jasper in 'Puss Gets the Boot', although he would receive the name 'Thomas' (as the housemaid Mammy Two Shoes called him) and Tom for short in later episodes. The cartoon was nominated for an Academy Award for Best Short Subject in 1941. Although not called or mentioned by name Jerry has been credited in this cartoon as Jinx.

Scooby Doo: Created by Hanna-Barbera Productions, which was owned by William Hanna and Joseph Barbera (the creators of Tom & Jerry) popular cartoon dog Scooby Doo made his debut in, 'What a Night for a Knight', which happened to be the premiere episode of the 1969 series 'Scooby-Doo, Where Are You!'. The show also featured Scooby's friends namely Shaggy, his closest buddy, Fred, Thelma and Daffney, a group of teenagers who went around the country and the world solving mysteries as amateur detectives.

A still from 'What a Night for a Knight'. (From left) Shaggy, Thelma, Scooby Doo, Daffney and Fred
A still from 'What a Night for a Knight'. (From left) Shaggy, Thelma, Scooby Doo, Daffney and Fred

'What a Night for a Knight' involves Scooby and his gang of friends investigating the strange case of a ghostly knight who was terrorising a museum. This plot which usually involved paranormal happenings that later turns out be a hoax would later become the basis for numerous other series that followed. Scooby Doo's love for food, his funny English diction and friendship with Shaggy are highlights of the show that made him a household name.

Popeye: He's strong to finish because he eats his spinach! Popeye the Sailor, the man who has two priorities in life: his ladylove Olive Oyl and his trusty spinach, the secret for his superhuman strength. Popeye, his love interest Olive Oyl and rival Bluto, who were popular characters in comic strips created by Elzie Crisler Segar made their first animated cartoon appearances in the pilot episode of the 'Popeye the Sailor' series in 1933, which was produced by Max Fleischer's Fleischer Studios. Popular Fleischer character Betty Boop also made a small appearance in the short.

A still from 'Popeye the Sailor' featuring lead characters Olive Oyl, Popeye and Bluto. Pic/YouTube
A still from 'Popeye the Sailor' featuring lead characters Olive Oyl, Popeye and Bluto. Pic/YouTube

The short was notable for introducing viewers to the standard Popeye cartoon plot - a villain, usually Bluto, makes a move on our hero Popeye's "sweetie," Olive Oyl and beats him up until he eats spinach, giving him superhuman strength. Thus empowered, the sailor makes short work of the villain. Popeye ranked #20 on TV Guide's "50 Greatest Cartoon Characters of All Time" list. The character was also portrayed by late Hollywood legend Robin Williams in the 1980 live-action film 'Popeye'.

Mickey Mouse: Walt Disney's mascot and cartoon icon Mickey Mouse made his debut in the 1928 short 'Steamboat Willie', which also featured his frequent love-interest Minnie Mouse and villainous Pete. 'Steamboat Willie holds the distinction of being the first-ever fully synchronised sound cartoon. (Click here to read more about how the legendary Disney cartoon 'Steamboat Willie' came to be)

A still from 'Steamboat Willie'. Pic/YouTube
A still from 'Steamboat Willie'. Pic/YouTube

Walt Disney originally intended to name Mickey Mortimer Mouse but changed his mind after the suggestion of his wife. A early protootye of Mickey Mouse, was a character in the first sound and colour cartoon, 'Fiddlesticks' (1930). Produced by animator Ub Iwerks who had worked with Walt Disney, the short featured the mouse playing a musical duet with the short's protagonist Flip the Frog. (Click here to read more about 'Fiddlesticks')

Donald Duck: Iconic Walt Disney character, the cartoon duck Donald first appeared in the 1934 Silly Symphonies short, 'The Wise Little Hen'. It was an adaptation of a fairy tale 'The Little Red Hen', which featured Donald and his friend Peter Pig try to avoid work by faking stomach aches until Mrs. Hen teaches them the value of labor. Donald Duck was voiced by artist Clarence Nash, who would go on to be his voice for over 50 years.

A still from 'The Wise Little Hen'. Pic/YouTube
A still from 'The Wise Little Hen'. Pic/YouTube

Popular legend states that animator Walt Disney was inspired to come up with the name and character Donald Duck as a companion for his mascot Mickey Mouse, after reading a report about cricket legend Donald Bradman's dismissal for a duck during a game against the New York West Indians in 1932. Donald Duck has appeared in more films than any other Disney character, and is the most published comic book character in the world outside of the superhero genre.

Goofy: Goofy, the third member of the popular Walt Disney cartoon trio, the other two being Mickey Mouse and Donald Duck, made his first appearance in 'Mickey's Revue', a cartoon released in 1932. He was voiced by artist Pinto Colvig, who would continue to voice Goofy until 1967.

A still of Goofy annoying fellow audience members in 'Mickey's Revue'. Pic/YouTube
A still of Goofy annoying fellow audience members in 'Mickey's Revue'. Pic/YouTube

'Mickey's Revue' introduced Goofy as 'Dippy Dawg' an annoying member of the audience attending a song and dance show featuring the performances of the titular Mickey Mouse, Minnie Mouse, Horace Horsecollar and Clarabelle Cow. In the short, Goofy constantly irritated his fellow spectators by noisily crunching peanuts and laughing loudly, until two spectators knocked him out with their mallets.

Originally known as Dippy Dawg, the character is more commonly known simply as "Goofy," a name used in his short film series. In his 1950s persona, Goofy was called George Geef, or G. G. Geef, implying that "Goofy" was merely a nickname. In Goofy Gymnastics (1949) he fills out a coupon with the name James Boyd.

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