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1979: Albert's (in Omaha) is lit!

Sunday, July 12, 2009

Ahhhhh, Yes!

Before it vanishes, as it has other times, do yourself a favor and spend some entertaining time immersed in the scholarly pages of The Warner Brothers Cartoon Companion by Eric Costello.

I can't mention it without bragging that I -- yes, I! -- once had the privilege of serializing this groundbreaking reference in the pages of a monthly cartoon APA (private magazine that went out to the contributors). Once I learned that Costello was doing this, and having seen it, I got his permission to run a few pages of it each issue, with the intention of turning the text files over to him afterward, so that he wouldn't have to type the thing over another time, and could get it published somewhere reputable. My term of office expired before it was completely finished, but by then (or soon after) he took the show to the net where it could be appreciated by a wider audience.

So. You might ask what this wonderful thing is? (I pause while you ask.) It's a guide to all the puzzling references, in-jokes, catch-phrases and ad jingles that enlivened the classic Warner Brothers cartoons, and which now confuse and confound audiences, even as their kids are shouting "TURN OUT THAT LIGHT!" or asking "Was this trip really necessary?" Radio jokes, ration coupons, opaque slang, Texas trivia, aspects of Hollywood stars, and other detritus of the collective unconscious are aired and explicated herein.

A note of caution: It comes and goes. It seems that no sooner has Mr. Costello found a home for this indispensable repository of knowledge than something happens leading to a 404 NOT FOUND message. A Google search will show you all manner of no-longer-viable WBCC locations. We recommend saving the whole thing to your hard drive, and maybe converting it to some format in which you can carry it with you wherever you go. It's that good. Samples:


The Last of the Red-hot Gobblers. A caricature in The Woods Are Full of Cuckoos (Tashlin, 1937) of Sophie Tucker.


One of the many advertising slogans for Lucky Strike cigarettes. Daffy-Duck-as-Danny-Kaye mentions the slogan in Book Revue (Clampett, 1946). The Christopher Columbus character in Hare We Go (McKimson, 1951) yells the phrase in exasperation at King Ferdinand while attempting to prove the Earth is round. Henery Hawk also used the expression when confronted with a fine specimen of alleged chicken tail.


Cigar-smoking character actor with a dour face who was well-known and often imitated. His movie appearances include 42nd Street, Golddiggers of 1933 in which he played the producer, the live-action Alice in Wonderland as the Caterpillar, and Wake Up and Live.

Caricatures of Sparks appear in:

  • Hollywood Steps Out (Avery, 1941) greeting the table of stonefaces
  • Malibu Beach Party (Freleng, 1940) being buried in sand by Baby Snooks/Fanny Brice
  • Slap-Happy Pappy (Clampett, 1940) indicating his joy (?) at the news that Eddie Cackler (caricature of Eddie Cantor) is going to be the father of a boy
  • Fresh Fish (Avery, 1939) as an old crab

It is quite possible that the Rip Van Winkle character in Have You Got Any Castles? (Tashlin, 1938) is a Sparks caricature as well, given the character’s voice.

These are three successive entries, taken from the page I had it open to when I started this. I can't promise that the internal links work, but it gives you the names and the meanings -- there's enough there to satisfy your curiosity and make you want to watch all the cartoons again.


HECK said...

Thanks for the link. There are really no other animated shorts to compare with the Warner Bros. They play on so many levels. It will be nice to be able to parse some of the more obscure references.

Toaster said...

I saw that you had posted on the blog The Comics Curmudgeon; if you like that blog, you might also like Pointless Planet, which is quite similar but which mocks TV ads rather than comic strips. Check it out:

Kip W said...

Thanks, Toaster, I might go have a look. My viewing habits these days are so irregular, though, that I don't see 'all the ads' any more like I used to. I see the ones they show over and over, though, like on Comedy Central. I have to wonder if they really think showing the same ad twice gains them more in sales than they lose in outright hostility.

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