Merlin the Magic Mouse and Second Banana

This here is the last regular Looney Tune to be make his appearance during the golden age. (By which I mean, making my criteria of appearing in at least five shorts.) As is befitting his name, Merlin is a magician. The joke being, that he’s not a very good one. It’s not much of a joke, but to liven it up a little, he actually HAS some magic powers. (Or at least his hat does.)

For his first appearance (In the appropriately named “Merlin the Magic Mouse”) he was voiced by the talented Daws Butler. For his remaining appearances, the role went to Larry Storch. His voice sounds like a dying W.C. Fields. An odd choice I must say. By 1968, was Fields still popular enough to spoof? Is Merlin a field mouse? Is it just because he has a red nose? Maybe they were just trying to keep the studio afloat as long as they could, knowing that the end was nigh?

Merlin is always accompanied by his sidekick, Second Banana.

A sad enough name, but even worse, the kid doesn’t get many lines. (I’m actually not sure of his age. He seems like a kid.) When he does talk, he shares the voice of whoever is voicing Merlin, minus the Fields voice. He wore a bow tie for his first three appearances, but upgraded to a sweater for the final two.

They’re entertaining enough, but I suppose it just wasn’t enough to keep the public interested in short films playing at theaters any longer. These two kinda faded into obscurity, but they had appearances in merchandise, like dolls and comics. Merlin himself would make cameos in both “The Sylvester and Tweety Mysteries” and “Bugs Bunny’s Crazy Castle” Nice to see he had SOME sort of legacy.

They may not be animation’s most popular mice, but they are good enough to see the studio on its way out. Hats off to you Merlin, and your second banana too. I’m happy to blog about your guy’s greatest works. (All five of them)


Leon Schlesinger was a real joy to work for. He left his employees to do what they wanted as long as followed his demands. This did lead to some drawbacks, though. For example, directors were not given the credit they so richly deserved. Instead, they were given the rather meaningless honor of “supervisors.”

Yes, Leon had his good and bad points. Unfortunately, his bad points would often drive some of his best employees away. (I’ve already discussed the tragedy that was known as “losing Tex Avery” At least he still had success over at MGM) Years before that happened, he would lose Harman and Ising. (Who also went to MGM. That’s just where people went when they were done with the WB. Even Freleng did that at one point. Happily, he came back.) But since they were the ones who created Bosko, they took him with them to the other studio. And yes, Bosko had a few MGM shorts made. How was he looking?

Oh my. That’s unfortunate.

Without his “star” (Bosko may have been entertaining, but he never was able to compete with the mouse or the flapper) Leon needed a new character. But why should he design one? He’s the boss. So he lured out animators from other studios. (With bait I suppose. He probably just attached a string to a piece of paper that had “Draw on me.” written on it. Pulling it along, he’d easily get his prize.)

One of these animators came from Disney. He was Earl Duvall. (Pretty prolific in the field of drawing. Working on both the Mickey Mouse and Silly Symphonies comic strips.) He designed Buddy. Buddy, (I’m sorry to say) doesn’t really have any character. He is just sort of bland, big-eyed, and always smiling. He’d probably work a lot better as a comic strip than an animated toon. (Call it “My bro Buddy.” And it could be about Buddy and his brother…Boy.)

Yᴏᴜ ʀᴀɴɢ?

No. Back in your kennel.

Yeah, Buddy wasn’t the star Leon was hoping for. His cartoons are still fun to watch, but they really needed a better lead role. At least for his sake, Buddy had a girlfriend. Her name was Cookie. (Warner Brothers toons like women with “sweet” names.) She might have even less character than Buddy. That’s a shame.

Today, Buddy is one of the lesser known characters. But he still has lived on a wee bit. (I swear there is a picture of him in Space Jam.) But his biggest feat was appearing on Animaniacs.

Don’t let that smile fool you. Here, it was said that the Warner siblings were added to his shorts to make them actually funny. That mostly meant having him get hit with giant mallets. This promoted the kids to star category, and Buddy was forced into retirement. He blamed them for ruining his career, and tried to axe them off. (He failed.)

Despite all the negativity I’ve spewed, I can’t say I hate Buddy. If he wasn’t forced to be rushed, maybe he could have been halfway decent. Good try Buddy.

Hippety Hopper

 First appearance: Hop, Look and Listen
First appearance: Hop, Look and Listen

Kangaroos are interesting animals. They are marsupials which means that the females lack a placenta or womb. This means that they have really small gestation periods and the young are born in a near unrecognizable state. The young then crawl into a pouch that their mother has where they will latch onto a nipple and suckle constantly. As the young gets bigger, it starts to resemble its parent more. Eventually, it can venture out of the pouch. But will continue to visit and once it gets too big, at least poke its head in for a quick suckle. Adult kangaroos feed on grass and other vegetation. They have to hop everywhere as they are incapable of walking. They live only on Australia along with the majority of the worlds marsupials. They have long ears much like a rabbits, and thick supple tails.

Now why am I discussing the natural aspects of a kangaroo on a blog about animation? Well, based on that description I just gave you, would you ever look at one of these things and go “Wow. That’s a big mouse.”? And yet, that’s how this guys shorts play out. Sylvester will catch sight of him and try to hunt him, under the assumption that he is a rodent of unusual size. (Although if Sylvester is a normal house cat, and Hippity is as tall as him, then capybaras are larger still.) His reasons for catching him aren’t even food based. (Just like in nature. Predators aren’t likely to waste their time hunting something large that can fight back unless there is a number of themselves) Most of the time, its a matter of pride. He wants to prove to his son that he can catch said mouse as he has just spent the first part of the short bragging about his skills. Other times, he wants nothing to do with the “mouse” but other characters refuse to believe in a giant mouse’s existence and demand he face his fear. Hippity himself doesn’t talk as he is a baby. What’s more, since he comes from a species who is known to practice kick boxing as young, he doesn’t know that his repeated pummelings of Sylvester are hurting him. So, yeah, his shorts aren’t big on story. It’s just McKimson trying his own version of a chase cartoon. Jones had his coyote/roadrunner and wolf/sheepdog, Freleng had Sylvester with Tweety or Speedy, and McKimson had a baby kangaroo. (Who for the sake of the joke is always drawn with rounded ears to look more mouselike.)


 First Appearance:
First Appearance: “Naughty but Mice”  

When Chuck Jones started directing his own shorts, this was his first character. As you can tell, Sniffles was a mouse. (Mice were quite popular in animation for a while there.) His name came about from his first appearance, wherein he had a cold. Seeing as he came around at the beginning of Jone’s directing career, Sniffles acted towards his problems much differently than the other Looney Tunes. (And he wasn’t voiced by Mel. But Bernice Hansen. I think the voice suits him)  His first instinct was to run away. While this didn’t make for especially funny shorts, they were still entertaining. Showing how one might live if you were the size of a mouse. By the end of his theatrical career, Sniffles got more of a personality. He became quite the chatterbox. And this is how he is remembered to this day. But the poor guy just couldn’t compete with other characters like Daffy and Bugs, and by 1946, he had his final short. But the little guy wasn’t completely forgotten. He played quite the prominent role in the early Looney Tunes comic books. There he was the friend of a girl named Mary Jane. She could shrink down to his size and join him on his adventures.

 They were just friends. Don't get any ideas.
They were just friends. Don’t get any ideas.

He got his own apprentice on Tiny Toons. (Known as Lil Sneezer.)

 Voiced by Kath Soucie
Voiced by Kath Soucie

And he played for the Tune Squad in “Space Jam.” He is promptly squished after annoying one of the Monstars with his chatter. (Which kind of annoys me. I wish his opponent would have covered his ears or something, allowing Sniffles to take the ball.) And he got a shout out in the direct to DVD movie “Leroy and Stitch.” One of the experiments is given the name “Squeak” and he is designed to annoy people with his endless chatter. And he wears a suspiciously similar hat. 

 Voiced by Rob Paulsen
Voiced by Rob Paulsen

And Sniffles was meant to appear in “The Looney Tunes Show.” But sadly it was cancelled before he could make more of an appearance besides the intro. But what really makes me sad, is that he was set to be voiced by Tara Strong. She’s a master at voicing cute characters. It would have been great to see how she would have made him sound. It’s sad that the little fella never got as popular as his co-stars, but he at least made enough of an impact to be absorbed by everyone subconsciousness. And I take great pride in having seen every one of his shorts. This Sniffles is one I am always happy to see every flu season. (Sorry, was that too cheesy?)

Sylvester Jr.

I apologize for the wait on today’s post. I got called into work today. As such, I didn’t have time to watch a short. So it’s time for another character profile. And don’t expect a post next Monday. Guess who’s going to comiccon?

Unlike pretty much every other character in Looney Tunes, Sylvester is a father. (Of course, some shorts had the others being parents for a joke.) Being Sylvester though, he’s not going to admit all the times he failed to his son. So he builds himself up as a champion predator. And like most kids, his son wants to believe every word. Unfortunately for him, something always comes along to put Sylvester back in his place and Jr. ends up hiding his face in shame. (Who’s his mother? I don’t know.) Still, the poor kid loves his dad (and usually ends up finding a much simpler solution to the current short’s problem.) It’s a nice bit of fatherly love to balance out the chaotic madness of these brilliant cartoons.

Ralph Phillips

You know, I’ve mentioned Ralph before in previous posts, but I have yet to give him his own post. I aim to fix. Technically speaking, Ralph only appeared in 2 shorts from the golden age. But, he also starred in two army recruitment films and an unaired TV pilot. So he still makes the criteria for getting his own spot. Ralph is just like any ordinary boy. He as an active imagination and it showed in his two shorts. He was either daydreaming during school, or fantasizing at home. Both shorts are very creative and his first one is considered one of the 100 greatest Looney Tunes. In the recruitment films he was much older and a little bit more serious. Which just goes to show how much he grew up. And if you watch his shorts, listen carefully to his voice. Sound familiar? No, it’s not Mel. It’s Dick Beals, the same person who was Speedy in the Alka-Setzer commercials. Ralph doesn’t get a lot of recognition these days. (I mean, why market a small boy, when a talking rabbit is far more profitable?) But he will always have a place in the hearts of those who are young at theirs.

Henrey Hawk

Just like Beans, WB thought it would be this character that would become the star. First appearing in Jone’s “The Squaking Hawk” he was later used by Mckimson in the short “Walky Talky Hawky.” The short also starred a rooster who nobody expected to go anywhere. The short would actually go on to be nominated for the acadamey award. It lost to “The Cat Concerto.” (Dang Tom and Jerry! I love those guys and their shorts, but they won just too many oscars for my taste.) This propelled the rooster (Foghorn naturally) to being the star. As for little Henrey? He stuck around, but he was never the main focus. He mostly appeared with Foghorn, but was also in Daffy’s “You never were Duckier” and “The Scarlet Pumpernickel”. (Although there, it was just a quick cameo.) And since I know alot about animals, I will tell you: there is no such thing as a chicken hawk. The correct term is Red-tailed hawk. (While I’m at it, Siberriean Tigers don’t exist either. It’s AMUR Tigers.)


Just like Bugs, there was also a proto-Elmer. Just like the Proto-Bugs, i consider this fellow a completely different character. Egghead is a little man with a huge bulbous nose. His voice being similar to Joe Penners. He eventually would become Elmer. Heck, in one short he was called Elmer Fudd. Egghead may have fallen into obscurity but he can still be fondly remembered. (by some of us) He stars in “Cinderella meets fella” which is one of “The 100 greatest Looney Tunes.” He also appeared briefly in “Looney Tunes back in Action.” Not only that, but he was in the brilliant “A day at the zoo,” “The Turn-tale wolf,” and our topic for next time: (which will be Friday. I wont make you wait too long) “Daffy Duck and Egghead.”


Petunia Pig

A quite minor character, but she appeared in at least 5 shorts, so she meets requirements. In her first appearance she was actually billed as the next “star.” That never worked out too well. While usually labled as Porky’s girlfriend, she was actually quite horrid to him in her first appearances. (Heck, she was once his sister) Also she went through a huge makeover. At first she looked like a skinny Porky with blush on. Eventually Clampett desigined her as she is above. Cute eh? By this point, she and Porky were a great couple. She never did go on to have the same fame, but she did live on as “Baby Looney Tunes” and “The Looney Tunes Show” suggest. (i just heard this was cancelled. congratulations cn, you killed any chance of ever winning me back.)


As we all know, when Disney started making cartoons everyone wanted to join in. Warner Bros. did not have much luck creating a charcter to rival Mickey Mouse. Friz Freleng directed a short (“I haven’t got a hat”) that featured many characters. Surely one would become a star? The character that the studio THOUGHT would be loved was Beans. Aside from getting in predicaments, Beans didn’t really have much character. His name came from the fact that his “sidekick” was named Porky. Despite what i just said, I like Beans. One of his shorts (“A cartoonists nightmare”) is one of my favorite looney tunes ever. Beans never did become a star, but he did at least get to star in a few.