‘Looney Tunes’: the biography of the toon house

A lifelong addiction to Looney Tunes and their real-life imaginary characters and creators is not necessary to enjoy “Anvils, Mallets & Dynamite: The Unauthorized Biography of Looney Tunes” by journalist Jaime Weinman, but it will help the reader stay engaged when the tome will become, shall we say, a little academic.

Any “serious” bookkeeping of this place formerly known as “Termite Terrace” on the Warner Lot is immediately in danger when the imaginary subjects of your purse are known as “Bugs”, “Daffy”, “Porky” et al and the “Real people have names like” Tex “,” Chuck “and” Friz “.

Detailing the creative origins of “that Oscar-winning bunny, Bugs Bunny,” as Warner Bros. was proud to note it, Weinman writes “” A Wild Hare “by Tex Avery is the movie that set Bugs’ focus, catchphrase, and attitude. Avery created the plan that all directors would follow.

Everything is historically correct, but perhaps it lacks the cosmic and / or comedic dimensions of this particular moment of the “Big Bang”. But while Weinman’s prose tends to be more useful than scintillating, his book more than makes up for this deficit by providing a very dense, detail-oriented historical look at a legendary hotbed of bustling chaos and comedic magic.

Weinman draws on seminal work that precedes his ambitious “biography,” and the book’s sources include work by scholars and animation professionals, including Joe Adamson, Jerry Beck, Will Friedwald, and Michael Barrier.

One of the pleasures of the book is Weinman’s emphasis on the dichotomy between the earlier anarchic and more daring works and the perhaps more famous and acclaimed works of the 1950s, dominated by the noble goals and creative ideals of the giant of Chuck Jones animation.

One of Tex Avery’s early cartoons, “Daffy Duck & Egghead” (1938), epitomizes this wild, swinging approach to fencing. Weinman writes, “We see stock market gags refined in a way that makes them distinct from Warner Bros. gags. … A 1937 cartoon by director Frank Tashlin, “The Affair of the Stammering Pig,” features a running gag where the villain looks at the audience and mocks a viewer.

“In ‘Daffy Duck & Egghead’ a little humanoid hunter with a bulbous nose… repeatedly tries to get a silhouetted audience member to sit down and stop interrupting the image. The third time the guy gets up, Egghead shoots him and the figure makes a very elaborate and exaggerated death scene, spinning around and ultimately falling flat on its back. … The idea of ​​characters interacting with audiences, combined with Avery’s love of surprise and the growing knowledge that censors would allow cartoons to get away with a level of violence they wouldn’t approve of. never in any other type of film, took the studio one step closer to maturity, and it only took a year.

That era and place of boundless imagination and fearlessness included the intersection of industries that today would almost certainly lead to litigation. As Weinman notes, the making of Bugs really started on the road where the American King of Animation reigned supreme. Bugs was “borrowed” from Disney.

“Bugs Bunny is none other than Max Hare,” said Frank Tashlin at the end of his life, referring to a character in the Disney cartoon “The Turtle and the Hare” (1935). Weinman is careful to emphasize the importance of this particular act of theft in the larger history of American animation and he adds the voice of Bugs “creator” Avery, who was less optimistic about the “birth” of Bugs. .

“Sir. Disney was polite enough never to mention it.… People had copied him for years… but he never complained. He obviously considered us pests. You might even call them ‘termites’.


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Raymond I. Langston

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