Merrie Melodies is a series of animated short films produced by Warner Bros. between 1931 and 1969, during the Golden Age of American Animation. As with its parent series, Looney Tunes, Merrie Melodies featured some of the most famous cartoon characters ever created, including Bugs Bunny, Daffy Duck and Porky Pig.
Merrie Melodies was originally produced by Harman-Ising Productions from 1931 to 1933, and then Leon Schlesinger Productions from 1933 to 1944. Schlesinger sold his studio to Warner Bros. in 1944, and the newly renamed Warner Bros. Cartoons continued production until 1963. Merrie Melodies was outsourced to DePatie-Freleng Enterprises from 1964 to 1967, and Warner Bros.-Seven Arts resumed production for the series' final two years.
Three of the Merrie Melodies shorts ("Tweetie Pie", "Speedy Gonzales", and "Birds Anonymous") won the Academy Award for Best Animated Short Film and another three ("Duck Amuck", "One Froggy Evening", and "What's Opera, Doc?") have been inducted into the National Film Registry of the Library of Congress.
Merrie Melodies is also the title of a segment in The Looney Tunes Show in which various characters sing songs.
Leon Schlesinger had already produced one cartoon in the Looney Tunes series, and its success prompted him to try to sell a sister series to Warner Bros. His selling point was that the new cartoons would feature music from the soundtracks of Warner Bros. films and would thus serve as advertisements for Warner Bros. recordings. The studio agreed, and Schlesinger dubbed the series Merrie Melodies.
Each cartoon in the Merrie Melodies series would be contractually obligated to include at least one full chorus from a Warner Bros. song.
While Hugh Harman directed the Looney Tunes shorts, Rudolf Ising directed the Merrie Melodies shorts. The first three shorts starred two characters named Foxy and Roxy, while the fourth and fifth starred two characters named Piggy and Fluffy. Piggy would appear consecutively on the ending cards of the Merrie Melodies shorts starting with the fourth and ending with the fourteenth.
Following the first five short films, Merrie Melodies would primarily consist of one-shot cartoons. Goopy Geer was the last recurring character created by Harman-Ising, and he appeared in two shorts released in between the one-shot cartoons. None of the characters created by Harman-Ising would be used in future theatrical shorts after their departure from the series in 1933.
Hugh Harman later claimed that he did not want to work on the Merrie Melodies because he didn't like how the role of music played in the new series. "I just didn't like to be compelled to use the certain songs available to us," he said in 1973.
Color and Beyond
In 1934, Schlesinger produced his first color Merrie Melodies shorts, "Honeymoon Hotel" and "Beauty and the Beast", which were both produced in Cinecolor (Disney had exclusive rights to the richer Technicolor process). Their success convinced Schlesinger to produce all future Merrie Melodies shorts in color as well. Looney Tunes, however, continued in black and white until 1943.
In 1935, three shorts were released that would break the formula Merrie Melodies had followed for about three years. "Mr. and Mrs. Is the Name" featured Buddy, a character that had only appeared in the Looney Tunes films up until that short. "Country Boy" featured Peter Rabbit, who would become the first recurring Merrie Melodies character since Goopy Geer following his second appearance in "My Green Fedora". "I Haven't Got a Hat" would be the first Merrie Melodies short featuring characters that would go on to star in the Looney Tunes series.
In addition to the change in formula, "I Haven't Got a Hat" would serve as the debut of the first Warner Bros. cartoon character to draw in audiences based on star power - Porky Pig.
The contractual obligation to include at least one full chorus from a Warner Bros. song in a Merrie Melodies short was done away with in 1937.
As time went on, Looney Tunes and Merrie Melodies became indistinguishable save for their opening and ending theme songs. Friz Freleng once said in an interview; "I never knew if a film I was making would be Looney Tunes or Merrie Melodies, and what the hell difference would it make, anyway?"
The final short part of the Merrie Melodies series would be "Injun Trouble".
- "Get Happy" (1931-1933)
- "I Think You're Ducky" (1933-1936)
- "Merrily We Roll Along" (1936-1964)
- "The Merry-Go-Round Broke Down" (1964-1969)
Blue Ribbon Merrie Melodies
- Main article: List of Warner Bros. cartoons with Blue Ribbon reissues
Beginning in September 1943, Warner Bros., in a cost-conserving effort, began to re-release its backlog of color cartoons under a new program that they called Merrie Melodies "Blue Ribbon" classics. For the reissue, the original front-and-end title sequences were altered. The revised main title card began with the "zooming" WB logo, followed by the title logo set against a background featuring a "blue ribbon" (hence the re-release program's title) and a Grand Shorts Award trophy, followed by the name of the cartoon. This revised title sequence eliminated the opening technical credits. The ending title card was also revised (except for the 1943–44 season and half of the 1944–45 season of reissues, such as "A Wild Hare" and "I Love to Singa" when Schlesinger was still producing the cartoons and cartoons in the Merrie Melodies series originally released between September 1, 1944 and July 10, 1948), replacing the original versions.
"A Feud There Was" was the first cartoon to be re-released with Blue Ribbon titles on September 11, 1943, scrapping the original titles. It was later re-released again on September 13, 1952, scrapping the first re-release's Blue Ribbon titles.
The revised title sequences were edited to replace the original title sequences, although Tex Avery saved a few of his shorts' original titles from erasure before they were cut. Though some have had their original bullet title sequences and credits restored for official DVD and Blu-ray releases, majority of the re-releases still have the Blue Ribbon credits. In addition, most Blue Ribbon prints of the short, usually through the American and European 1995 Turner prints, can be seen on television packages throughout the world. Some of them, like "A Wild Hare", have edited lines, although the original unedited version is present on The Golden Age of Looney Tunes, Volume 4, Side 1, the Warner Bros. Home Entertainment Academy Awards Animation Collection, The Essential Bugs Bunny, and the Looney Tunes Platinum Collection: Volume 2, Disc 1. Also, several Blue Ribbon prints have altered titles. For example, "A Wild Hare"'s re-release print is also titled "The Wild Hare", "My Little Buckaroo" is titled "My Little Buckeroo", and "The Fella with the Fiddle" is titled "The Fella with a Fiddle". In addition to "A Feud There Was", instead of re-releasing other shorts into the Blue Ribbon program, seven other Blue Ribbon shorts have been re-released twice, scrapping the first re-release titles. They are, "The Cat Came Back" (1944 and 1954), "Of Fox and Hounds", (1944 and 1954), "The Fighting 69½th" (1943 and 1953), "The Early Worm Gets the Bird" (1943 and 1952), "Rhapsody in Rivets" (1947 and 1954), "The Trial of Mr. Wolf" (1946 and 1954), and "Old Glory" (1945 and 1953). However, the latter three were credited Warner Bros. on their first re-release, keeping the first Blue Ribbon re-release closing titles for the second re-release. Starting with the 1947-48 animation season reissues, custom fonts for titles were used. "Dangerous Dan McFoo" was the first cartoon to use this.
The determining of cutting the credits to keeping them would determine which cartoons' copyrights were sold to Associated Artists Productions in 1956, though five cartoons that would remain in Warner Bros.' television packages were re-released under the original 1943 rules and one cartoon that was re-released in the 1952-53 animation season kept its original credits, but still replaced the opening and closing bullet titles.
Later cartoons originally released from August 1948 to 1957 kept the original credits, to save Warner Bros. even more money. These were also edited into the original negative as the titles cut to the credits instead of faded in. Cartoons originally released between 1948 and 1951 and re-released in the 1956-59 animation seasons had their original closing titles kept, regardless if it was in the Merrie Melodies or Looney Tunes series. In the 1959-64 animation season, the closing titles were also replaced, except for a few (the ones originally released in the 1956-57 animation season).
For the Looney Tunes Golden Collection DVD releases, WB went through great lengths to track down whatever elements of the original title credits still exist in an effort to re-create as best they could the original versions of the altered 'blue ribbon' shorts. Some pristine prints of the original issues were obtained from the UCLA Film and Television Archive. As a result, such cartoons as "I Love to Singa" and "Book Revue" can once again be seen as they were originally intended. Unfortunately, there are some "Blue Ribbon" reissue versions of cartoons that are represented on the Golden Collection DVDs as they are the only versions that were made available for exhibition. In any event, to this day there is controversy among animation fans and historians on the alteration of the "Blue Ribbon" releases, primarily the ones re-released between 1943 and 1956.
- "Merrie Melodies" www.bcdb.com, April 12, 2012
- 1947 academy awards. Retrieved on 2013-06-26.
- 1955 academy awards. Retrieved on 2013-06-26.
- 1957 academy awards. Retrieved on 2013-06-26.
- About This Program. The Library of Congress.
- Hollywood Cartoons: American Animation in Its Golden Age p160
- WARNER BROS. TTILES.
- Schneider, Steve (1990). That's All Folks!: The Art of Warner Bros. Animation. Henry Holt & Co.
- Beck, Jerry and Friedwald, Will (1989): Looney Tunes and Merrie Melodies: A Complete Illustrated Guide to the Warner Bros. Cartoons. Henry Holt and Company.