Saturday, November 21, 2009

A "Tweet" Birthday!

67 years ago today - November 21, 1942 one of the most beloved cartoon characters in history made their screen debut.

An unnamed, featherless, pink, baby bird was featured in the Warner Brother's animated short called "A Tale of Two Kitties" . Babbit and Catstello, a pair of hungry cats determined to get the little birdy, are based on the comedic duo of Abbot and Costello who were big stars at the time.

Like almost all the Warner cartoons, there are numerous references to topical subjects of the day. This one featured one of the cats flying with artificial wings, comparing themselves to a "Spitfire" war plane. Near the end, the bird yells "Turn out the lights!" which is a direct reference to air raid precautions.

There is also a comment on the Hays office which was the main bureau in charge of censorship at the time. Catsello is on top of a ladder trying to reach the bird. Babbit is holding the ladder and yelling "Give me the bird. Give me the bird!". Catsello turns to the audience and in his Brooklyn accent says: "If da Hays Office would only let me... I'd give him 'da boid' all right!". The "bird" or in this case the "boid" is a common euphemism for "the finger" This is not exactly appropriate for children's cartoons, but such comments and references were always thrown in to keep the adults amused while the kids just enjoyed the on screen visual antics.

In "Birdy and the Beast", (August 19, 1944) the little featherless bird was given a name in the opening credits - Tweety.

The baby bird was also featherless and nameless in his third short - "A Gruesome Twosome" (June 9, 1945) which featured a Jimmy Durante like cat.

The fourth cartoon that featured Tweety had a number of firsts. It was his first one with feathers. This was also Tweety's first pairing with Sylvester who was called Thomas in this short. It was called "Tweety Pie" and released on May 3, 1947. This was also the first time that animator Friz Freleng - who created Sylvester in 1945 - worked with Tweety since Clampett had left the studio in 1946

Like so many of the characters that Mel Blanc voiced, Tweety was well known for his speech impediment that made an s sound more like a t. The phrase "Sweetie pie" came out more as "Tweetie Pie". In Putty Tat Trouble, he begins the cartoon singing a song about himself, "I'm a tweet wittow biwd in a diwded cage; Tweety'th my name but I don't know my age..." (Translation: "I'm a sweet little bird in a gilded cage...") Aside from this speech challenge, Tweety's voice (and a fair amount of his attitude) is similar to that of Bugs Bunny, rendered as a child (in The Old Grey Hare, Bugs' infant voice was very similar to Tweety's normal voice), which was achieved by speeding up Mel Blanc's voice.

Over the years, there has been much speculation as to Tweety's gender and species. Many have believed that Tweety was female, but numerous comic books created by Warner staffers have always had the character as a boy. Tweety himself confirmed this during the WB's cartoon series "Sylvester And Tweety Mysteries". His species was always left somewhat generic in the early years - even saying that he may be a rare one of a kind. In later years, he has been referred to as a "canary". In the theme song lyrics to "Sylvester And Tweety Mysteries", Sylvester sings:
"Someday I'll eat that darn canary
And then I'll be happy yes sirree..."

Mysteries aired for 5 seasons on the WB from the fall of 1195 to spring of 2001 and had 53 episodes.

The character of Tweety was first drawn and created by Warner brother's animator Bob Clampett, who later stated that the idea for the bird was loosely based on his own naked baby picture! As long as Tweety is a happy little bird in his cage or a nest, he is quite content. BUT if he is threatened or pursued by a cat - one in particular - then look out. The sweet little bird can turn up with some nasty tricks of his own and is not above kicking an opponent when he is down!

Throughout his career, Tweety has made countless appearances in Warner Brother cartoons, specials and even had a small part in the movie "Who Framed Roger Rabbit" (1988).

Tweety's Looney Tunes/Merry Melodies and filmography
A Tale of Two Kitties (1942)
Birdy and the Beast (1944)
A Gruesome Twosome (1945)
Tweetie Pie (1947)
I Taw a Putty Tat (1948)
Bad Ol' Putty Tat (1949)
Home Tweet Home (1950)
All Abir-r-r-d! (1950)
Canary Row (1950)
Putty Tat Trouble (1951)
Room and Bird (1951)
Tweety's S.O.S. (1951)
Tweet Tweet Tweety (1951)
Gift Wrapped (1952)
Ain't She Tweet (1952)
Bird in a Guilty Cage (1952)
Snow Business (1953)
Fowl Weather (1953)
Tom Tom Tomcat (1953)
A Street Cat Named Sylvester (1953)
Catty Cornered (1953)
Dog Pounded (1954)
No Barking (1954) - in a cameo appearance
Muzzle Tough (1954)
Satan's Waitin' (1954)
Sandy Claws (1955)
Tweety's Circus (1955)
Red Riding Hoodwinked (1955)
Heir Conditioned (1955) - in a cameo appearance
Tweet and Sour (1956)
Tree Cornered Tweety (1956)
Tugboat Granny (1956)
Tweet Zoo (1957)
Tweety and the Beanstalk (1957)
Birds Anonymous (1957)
Greedy For Tweety (1957)
A Pizza Tweety Pie (1958)
A Bird in a Bonnet (1958)
Trick or Tweet (1959)
Tweet and Lovely (1959)
Tweet Dreams (1959)
Hyde and Go Tweet (1960)
Trip For Tat (1960)
Rebel Without Claws (1961)
The Last Hungry Cat (1961)
The Jet Cage (1962)
Hawaiian Aye Aye (1964)
Carrotblanca (1995), voiced by Bob Bergen
Space Jam (1996) movie
Looney Tunes: Back In Action (2003) movie
Museum Scream (2004), voiced by Billy West
Bah, Humduck! A Looney Tunes Christmas (2006)

Have a Happy Birthday Tweety and thank you for 67 years of great entertainment!


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