It’s hard for me to imagine now, but Looney Tunes – and its sister Merrie Melodies – both originated because Warner Bros. wanted short films to feature their extensive music library. What followed was an enduring American treasure, running in theaters from 1929 to 1970.
Not surprisingly, the original creators of the series came from Walt Disney’s animation studios. At first, Merrie Melodies were in color and Looney Tunes in black and white, but after 1943 both were in color and featured the same characters. About all that distinguished them was their introductory music.
The first big Looney Tunes star was Porky Pig, introduced in 1935. Daffy Duck came along in 1937, and Bugs Bunny in 1940. The list of characters Warner Bros. created became popular with adults as well as kids. Just look at WB’s astonishing cartoon cast: Elmer Fudd (1940), Tweety Bird (1942), Pepe Le Pew (1945), Sylvester (1945), Yosemite Sam (1945), Foghorn Leghorn (1946), Marvin Martian (1948), Road Runner and Wile E. Coyote (1949), Speedy Gonzales (1953), and Tazmanian Devil (1954).
The cartoons have been on American television almost nonstop since the mid 1950s. They’ve also appeared in India, Denmark, Ireland, Indonesia, Israel, the UK, Singapore, Bulgaria, Turkey, Greece, and Japan.
Several of the giants of animation helped make Looney Tunes such an international hit. Chuck Jones directed many of the most famous WB classics, including the Bugs Bunny/Elmer Fudd “Hunting Trilogy.” Friz Freleng directed more cartoons than anyone else, and was instrumental in developing many of the most popular characters. And Tex Avery is credited not only for creating Porky Pig, but also Chilly Willy for Walter Lantz Studio.
Looney Tunes have been nominated for 25 Best Short Subject Academy Awards, and won five. And four Looney Tunes have been selected for the National Film Registry. Here are some wonderful memories: