Sylvester James Pussycat, Sr. is a Tuxedo cat who appears in the Looney Tunes and Merrie Melodies series of cartoons. He often chases Tweety, Speedy Gonzales, or Hippety Hopper. When depicted with an owner, he is mainly with Granny, but very early on he would be with Porky Pig. Sylvester, in main roles and cameos, has appeared in 103 Warner Bros. shorts between 1945 and 1966, making him the fourth most frequent character, after Bugs Bunny, Porky Pig, and Daffy Duck, respectively.
Sylvester shows much pride and he also never gives up. Despite his pride and persistence, Sylvester was definitely on the "loser" side of the Looney Tunes winner / loser hierarchy.
In "The Wild Chase", Sylvester is paired with Wile E. Coyote while they both try to catch Speedy Gonzales and Road Runner. As usual they both fail. He shows a different character when paired with Porky Pig in explorations of spooky places, in which he doesn't speak, as a scaredy cat. (In these cartoons, he basically plays the terrified Costello to Porky's oblivious Abbott.)
Sylvester's most developed role is as a hapless mouse-catching instructor to his dubious son, Sylvester Junior, in which the "mouse" is a powerful baby kangaroo named "Hippety Hopper". His alternately confident and bewildered episodes bring his son to shame, while Sylvester himself is reduced to nervous breakdowns. He is often referred to as a putty tat by Tweety and Senor Gringo Pussygato by Speedy Gonzales. His famous catchphrase is "Sufferin' Succotash" which is said to be a minced saying for "Suffering Misses" (Daffy also says it from time to time).
Sylvester's trademark is his sloppy, yet stridulating lisp. In his autobiography, That's Not All Folks!, voice actor Mel Blanc stated that Sylvester's voice is based on that of Daffy Duck, plus the even more slobbery lisp it gets and minus the post-production speed-up that was done with Daffy's. Daffy's lisp, as well as Sylvester's, were based on the lisp of producer Leon Schlesinger.
However, Blanc made no such claim. He said that Daffy's lisp was based on him having a long beak, and that he borrowed the voice for Sylvester. He also pointed out that, minus the lisp, Sylvester's voice was fairly close to his own (a claim that his son Noel Blanc has confirmed). In addition, director Bob Clampett, in a 1970 Funnyworld interview, agreed with Blanc's account concerning Schlesinger.
To emphasize the lisp, as with Daffy's catchphrase "You're desthpicable", Sylvester's trademark exclamation is "Sufferin' succotash!", which is said to be a minced oath of "Suffering Savior".
Much like Looney Tunes' "Big Four" characters, Bugs Bunny, Daffy Duck, Elmer Fudd and Porky Pig, many different cartoon directors put his own spin on the Sylvester the Cat character. Friz Freleng and Robert McKimson both made extensive use of these two very different versions of the character.
Friz Freleng's Sylvester
Sylvester first appeared (in his form today) in the 1945 short "Life with Feathers", which was directed by Friz Freleng. Although this was his first official appearance, there was a claim that in "Notes to You", there was a prototypical version of him.
Sylvester's first official appearance with Tweety was in the 1947 short "Tweetie Pie" where he tries to eat Tweety but gets punished. In the film-shorts, he usually gets clobbered by Granny or Hector the Bulldog whenever he tries to eat Tweety. Sylvester and Tweety became one of the most well-known pairings in Looney Tunes, next to Bugs Bunny and Daffy Duck. Some of their cartoons have won or were nominated for Academy Awards.
Other than Tweety, he also chases Speedy Gonzales, but Speedy would cause pain for him, similar in vein to the Road Runner/Wile E. Coyote match-ups.
He also appears with Elmer Fudd in some cartoons. The pair's cartoons lasted from 1947 to 1954, shortly before the closure of the Warner Bros. studio.
Two cartoons paired Sylvester with the canine duo Spike and Chester, which the cat serves as the protagonist while these two dogs serve as the antagonists. In these cartoons, Spike and Chester chase Sylvester to be beaten up, only for Spike to get clobbered by another outside force, and the oblivious Chester to disbelief the bulldog as a coward.
Bob Clampett's Sylvester
Sylvester's only appearance in a Bob Clampett cartoon was in 1946's "Kitty Kornered", as one of Porky's pet cats who (along with three other cats) fights back against being put out for the night. The Sylvester in "Kitty Kornered" wasn't named "Sylvester" (or even had a name, for that matter) nor did he look like him (he was black and white, but had a black nose instead of a red one, yellow eyes instead of white eyes, and had no white tip on his tail.) and was portrayed as a comically brash trickster, but arguments can be made that it is Sylvester since Mel Blanc uses Sylvester's voice for that cat character.
Arthur Davis' Sylvester
Art Davis' version of Sylvester had two radically different personalities. In "Doggone Cats", Sylvester was a trickster troublemaker who didn't speak and had a smaller, yellow and white unnamed partner in crime, both of whom enjoyed harassing a dog named Wellington. In "Catch as Cats Can", Sylvester had a dopey persona and spoke in a dopey voice that sounded similar to Davis' cat character Heathcliff from "Dough Ray Me-ow", had no lisp when he spoke, and took orders from a green parrot modeled after Bing Crosby who wanted Sylvester to take out an emaciated canary who looked and sung like Frank Sinatra.
Art Davis' version of Sylvester is designed slightly differently, with a dopey, off-model head with a bigger nose and longer jaw, skinny build, and a longer tail.
Although Sylvester doesn't appear in "A Hick a Slick and a Chick", Herman the cat bears a striking physical resemblance to him but with red fur in place of Sylvester's black fur.
Robert McKimson's Sylvester
In the Robert McKimson cartoons, Sylvester is paired alongside a silent yet jumpy baby kangaroo named Hippety Hopper, whom the cat mistakes Hippety for a "giant mouse" and attempts to capture and eat his "prey", but the innocent and infantile Hippety mistakes Sylvester's predations for a game — a game of rough-housing, to be exact. Sylvester is repeatedly punched, kicked, juggled, spun, and pounced, but each failure only cements his will to have the "mouse" for lunch. The cat's dignity will suffer no less.
In addition to the Sylvester/Hippety Hopper pairings, Sylvester is also paired alongside his son Sylvester Junior, where he unsuccessfully tries to raise his son to be a real cat. Junior possesses a degree of respect for his father, although often, when Sylvester does something embarrassing or humiliating, Junior often displays shamed and/or embarrassment of his father's behavior (sometimes donning a paper bag over his head). Often, Sylvester and Junior's shorts would feature Sylvester trying to capture Hippety Hopper, a baby kangaroo, to prove a point to his son. Each attempt at capture, of course, failed miserably, owing to Sylvester's invariably mistaking the kangaroo for a "giant mouse," and as such being taken completely by surprise by the kangaroo's athletic prowess, with Sylvester losing every fight, often in spectacularly humiliating fashion.
Mckimson also paired Sylvester with Speedy Gonzales for three shorts: "West of the Pesos", "Cannery Woe", and "A Message to Gracias", following the same Speedy/Sylvester formula as perfected by Friz Freleng.
McKimson's character design of Sylvester evolved over the years; initially from 1947-1953 he was drawn with a dopier, off-model look, with slanted eyes, a wider mouth and a bigger nose with three whiskers instead of two, a plumper stature and a thicker, shorter tail with no white tip on his tail. Since the mid-1950s, McKimson redesigned his version of Sylvester to closely resemble how his original creator Friz Freleng drew him.
Chuck Jones' Sylvester
Sylvester was paired alongside Porky Pig in three horror-themed cartoons directed by Chuck Jones paralleling the Abbot and Costello match-ups; "Scaredy Cat", "Claws For Alarm" and "Jumpin' Jupiter". In these three cartoons, Sylvester and Porky Pig go to spooky settings such as a haunted house, a haunted hotel and even getting abducted by aliens, which only Sylvester is aware of the danger, and frequently saves Porky from the dangers despite how oblivious Porky is to the danger they're in. Jones' version of Sylvester is depicted as rather cowardly and doesn't speak.
"The Scarlet Pumpernickel" however casts an unusual role of Sylvester in a Chuck Jones short; he speaks, and also portrays the villain to Daffy Duck who portrays the cartoon's titular Robin Hood-like hero.
Prior to Sylvester's appearance in the cartoons, Blanc voiced a character of the same name on The Judy Canova Show using the voice that would eventually become associated with the cat.
In his early appearances he was unnamed but until then his original name was Thomas in "Tweetie Pie", most likely as a reference to Tom and Jerry, with Tom's full name being Thomas.
In The Looney Tunes Show, Sylvester's appearance has changed in the series. His body is more shorter and slender and his canine teeth are more sharp and prominent making him look more like a housecat.
In New Looney Tunes, Sylvester has been redesigned with a dopier, off-model look similar to how Robert McKimson initially drew him from 1947-1953.
- Main article: List of Sylvester cartoons
- Sylvester's name is a pun on silvestris, the scientific name for the wild cat, the ancestor of domestic cats, as well as a rare name for kids (including actor Sylvester Stallone).
- Sylvester has died more times than any other Looney Tunes character, having died in "Peck Up Your Troubles", "I Taw a Putty Tat", "Back Alley Oproar", "Mouse Mazurka", "Bad Ol' Putty Tat", "Ain't She Tweet", "Satan's Waitin'", "Muzzle Tough", "Sandy Claws", "Tweety's Circus", "Too Hop to Handle", "Tree Cornered Tweety", "Tweet and Lovely", "Trick or Tweet", "The Rebel Without Claws", "The Wild Chase", and "Museum Scream".
- Sylvester could be heard in an episode of the game show Press Your Luck. Host Peter Tomarken had earlier incorrectly credited his catchphrase "Suffering Succotash!" to Daffy Duck. Even though all three contestants had correctly answered "Sylvester", they were ruled incorrect. In a segment produced later and edited into the broadcast, Sylvester phoned Tomarken and told him, "Daffy Duck steals from me all the time." This was a joke because Daffy usually says it.
- Sylvester makes a cameo in the final scene of the film Who Framed Roger Rabbit with other animated characters.
- Sylvester, Wile E. Coyote, and Bugs Bunny each drove a real Nissan Micra in a 1999 commercial in Italy.
- "Sufferin' succotash. What a perfect time for me to go on a diet." ~ "Tweet Zoo"
- "Well, birdth are off my litht; that one sort of upset my stomach." ~ "A Bird in a Guilty Cage"
- Junior: "Did you give him his jutht desserts, Father?" Sylvester: "No, he doesn't like desserts." ~ "Cats A-weigh!"
- Tweety: "I wonder where that puddy tat went to?" Sylvester [swinging on wooden swing, flattened by rock-crusher]: "Does thith anthwer your question?" ~ "Tweet Tweet Tweety"
- Tweety: "What happened to the Puddy Tat?" Sylvester [swinging on wooden swing, flattened by rock-crusher again]: "Does thith anthwer your question?" ~ "Trip for Tat"
- "Ahhh, shaddap!" [hits his enemy with something]
- "Ahhh, what are you lookin' for, a fat lip?" ~ "All a Bir-r-r-d"
- "He may be the fastest mouse in all Mexico, but he never counted on meeting the brainiest feline in all Mexico." ~ "Cats and Bruises"
- "Help! Pussycat overboard!" ~ Tweety's High-Flying Adventure
- "Gee he's awfully big for a little bitty squirt. But no mouse is no match for no cat, SO!" ~ "Hoppy Daze"
- "All right, just try that again, Buster!" ~ "Gonzales' Tamales"
- "And stay outta there, ya little rodents!" ~ "Chili Weather"
- "Now just try to get all the cheese!" ~ "Speedy Gonzales"
- "Spoiled Sport!" [After getting kicked out of the hotel] ~ "Canary Row"
- "Sufferin' Succotash. Black-balled again!" ~ "Bell Hoppy"
- "Helpless?! She's about as helpless as a porcupine in a nudist colony!" ~ "Birds of a Father"
- [Scolding Malcolm after being pecked] "You crazy stupid bird; save it for that mouse! Any more shenanigans from you and you'll end up a chicken pie." ~ "Road to Andalay"
- "Say, Tomcats can't be mothers. Cats don't lay eggs. There's something screwy here." ~ "Crowing Pains"
- "I forgot all about that silly thing" [After his back gets shaved] ~ "Here Today, Gone Tamale"
- "You can come but you're not leaving" ~ "Here Today, Gone Tamale"
- [Sylvester scolds his bird] "Now you listen while I pound something into your head. When I say let go you let go! [Sylvester hits his bird] There, I hope I pounded that into your head." ~ "Road to Andalay"
- [Malcolm takes flight] "Let go, stupid! Let go! [Malcolm drops Sylvester] [Now Falling] GRAB ME! GRAB ME!" ~ "Road to Andalay"
- "All right, wise guy. I'll take care of you!" ~ "The Pied Piper of Guadalupe"
- "Sheesh! What a fast mouse! [Realizes he's on fire] Ow-Ow-Ow-Oh-Oh-Oh-Ow-Oh!" ~ "A Message to Gracias"
- "Some bright idea, stupid dog!" ~ "D' Fightin' Ones"
- Two years after his debut, the Screen Gems studio used a cat similar to Sylvester in the 1947 Color Rhapsody short "Up N' Atom".
- In the Adventure Time episode "Ignition Point", in the scene where Jake and Finn are face-to-face with the cook, Jake says, "Sufferin' succotash," Sylvester's famous line.
- In Drawn Together, Sylvester has appeared in "Clum Babies" as one of the clients who were seeking for a cure, depicted in a wheel chair.
- In Family Guy, in "Padre de Familia", he appeared chasing Peter Griffin's made character, Rapid Dave, who was an American equivalent to Speedy Gonzales.
- Mel Blanc: 1943 - 1989
- Joe Alaskey: Tiny Toon Adventures, Carrotblanca, The Sylvester & Tweety Mysteries, "Father of the Bird" Tweety's High-Flying Adventure, Looney Tunes: Stranger Than Fiction, Looney Tunes: Reality Check, Looney Tunes Back in Action, Bah, Humduck! A Looney Tunes Christmas
- Jeff Bergman: Tiny Toon Adventures, The Looney Tunes Show, New Looney Tunes, Looney Tunes Cartoons, Space Jam A New Legacy, Bugs Bunny Builders
- Bill Farmer: Space Jam
- Terry Klassen: Baby Looney Tunes
- Jeff Bennett: Museum Scream
- Eric Bauza: Looney Tunes World of Mayhem, King Tweety
- Main article: Sylvester/Gallery