It’s Saturday morning. Time for cartoons! Or at least it was when I was a kid back in the early sixties. The very first cartoons I watched, however, were actually in prime time! THE BUGS BUNNY SHOW, for instance, premiered on ABC in 1960.
Apparently my parents had no qualms about me watching THE BUGS BUNNY SHOW because they had, themselves, been enjoying Looney Tunes and Merrie Melodies for years in theaters! It was a known quantity. My Dad, especially, although then in his fifties, had been a fan of Bugs Bunny, Daffy Duck and friends for as long as they’d been around.
In the years since then, of course, parents’ eyes were opened up to see all the gun violence, suicide gags, cross-dressing and back-stabbing in so many of the Warner Brothers cartoons but, in 1960, that was just considered good, clean fun!
THE BUGS BUNNY SHOW took many of the old theatrical cartoons and recycled them into a format of three per episode with all new linking material animated by Warner’s animation department. Even the commercials for Post were new little cartoons!
The opening theme was one of the most memorable in television—“Overture, curtain, lights…” Entitled “This Is It,” the song featured Mel Blanc singing with himself via overdubs as both Bugs Bunny and Daffy Duck. In fact, Blanc, long the sole credited voice for the Looney Tunes characters (for contractual reasons) probably got more new work out of THE BIGS BUNNY SHOW than anyone else!
As an impressionable city child, I was introduced via this cartoon series not just to Bugs, Daffy, Elmer Fudd, Foghorn Leghorn, Speedy Gonzalez and a dozen other memorable characters but also to, among others, the concepts of skunks, duck hunting, cats eating birds, Mexican accents and roosters. Oh, and anvils.
As I learned to read, THE BUGS BUNNY SHOW credits also introduced me to the names of the great Warners animators including Friz Freleng, Robert McKimson, and Chuck Jones.
Bugs ran in prime-time with new material for only a couple of seasons before switching to Saturday mornings for what would ultimately be more than a twenty year run on multiple networks with multiple titles, sometimes even zooming to a 90 minute format! There was little new from that point, though, other than animated commercials. Instead, the pre-existing material was recycled in endless variations, over time editing or censoring much of the more “questionable” materials.
Although originally aired in black and white, most of the vintage cartoons had naturally been in color and the new animation was also thus so the show easily transitioned to color by the mid-sixties.
All during this time, those same Looney Tunes and Merrie Melodies cartoons were also appearing throughout the country in various local programs and I watched them religiously anytime I saw one!
Perhaps it was because they were never included in the original series but I was never that big on Road Runner and the Coyote. I admire their cleverness with the endless variations on a theme but otherwise, eh.
Bugs Bunny, on the other hand, taught me perseverance. Nothing ever rattled him for more than the length of a seven-minute cartoon. He was nearly always prepared for whatever came along or was quickly able to adapt and deal with a problem. Most of the time, Bugs was calm, clever and determined. I wanted to be like Bugs.
Daffy, on the other hand, served as Goofus to Bugs’ Gallant.
I feel sorry for today’s kids that they aren’t growing up in a world where some variation of THE BUGS BUNNY SHOW is on constantly. As opposed to that “new” LOONEY TUNES show. In fact, although nearly all of the Looney Tunes and Merrie Melodies are available on DVD, one would be hard pressed to find a single one of the cartoons on any of the hundreds of stations that are out there today.
I feel lucky that I met these great characters when I did. THE BUGS BUNNY SHOW in 1960 probably influenced more kids of my generation than just about any other TV series. I’m glad my Dad loved it, too. We watched Warner Brothers cartoons together for the rest of his life. He’d hate the fact they aren’t on TV anymore.