A Look Back on Looney Tunes Shorts (1950-1959)


Mel Blanc was known as the man of a thousand voices. And he lent those voices to a group of the greatest characters of all time, the Looney Tunes. For many people, these characters were youth’s introduction to comedy, entertainment, and culture. And to this day, the Looney Tunes are a good introduction to those aspects as they are diverse, funny, clever, and unique.

Several of the characters such as Bugs Bunny, Daffy Duck, Elmer Fudd Porky Pig, etc. were developed in a such ways that they could adapt to fit various comical scenarios. Porky Pig for instance started out as a comic foil for the mischievous Daffy Duck. In later shorts Daffy would become his own character on a similar level (but with different antics) ash Bugs Bunny. This would result in Porky Pig becoming more of a sidekick and straight man such as in the 1958 short Robin Hood Daffy (which would continue in the long run in modern cartoons like Duck Dodgers).

Bugs Bunny, much like Daffy was also a character of mischief often having Elmer Fudd as comic foil. What differed him from Daffy however was whereas Daffy often ignited fights, Bugs’ would only ignite his trickery if someone else picked a fight with him first. Many iconic shorts with Bugs Bunny prominently featured Elmer Fudd and helped give way to some of the former’s greatest works such as What’s Opera Doc?

While Elmer was a distinct antagonist in the Bugs Bunny shorts, Bugs wound up being the most versatile of the Looney Tunes. He would take on others such as Yosemite Sam and all other sorts of villains of the episodes all while utilizing countless disguises in the process such as a pirate, king, soldier, centurion, etc.

The early 1950s took the brilliant idea of pitting Daffy and Bugs against one another and eventually added Elmer into the mix. This combination of characters led to a revolutionary comedic trio in the world of Looney Tunes.

The greatest strength of the aforementioned cartoon shorts was the verbal dialogue of the characters. Physical humor was there at times, but the way every character talked in the various scenarios they were in made the Looney Tunes memorable. Physical humor in Looney Tunes was done best in the Road Runner and Wile E. Coyote cartoons. Much like Tom and Jerry there is a great sense of simplicity and creativity in their game of cat and mouse. Wile E. coyote would use all sorts of simple and elaborate traps to capture the Road Runner and each one would take delight in exploring various laws of physics such as gravity, speed, mass, momentum, magnetism, etc.

Another great element of the Road Runner and Wile E. Coyote cartoons was that of anticipation. They knew how to time the moment of a fall and realization of something gone wrong just right to the letter. The animators exaggerated the fall with characters flying, smashing, and unraveling yet somehow returning to normal for the next scenario.

The 1950s Looney Tunes shorts were masters of physical and verbal humor. Mel Blanc managed to voice each one differently and provide each one with a different personality. Their personalities stretched and led way to a wide variety of scenarios that still make them all relevant even today.