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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.

History[]

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.

Sylvester would debut in "Life with Feathers", as a clueless cat who wants to avoid eating a bird that wants to get eaten after the bird's wife stops loving the latter. By setting on food commercials, the cat is convinced that he wants to eat the bird, but a last minute telegram states the his wife has left him. Now wanting to live, and escaping the cat, the bird returns home only to realize she's changed her mind and is staying, leading to the bird calling for Sylvester again.

Sylvester would not be famously paired with Tweety until "Tweetie Pie". In his early appearances he was unnamed, but until then his original name was Thomas in "Tweety Pie", most likely as a reference to Tom and Jerry, with Tom's full name being Thomas. He was quickly renamed Sylvester in later cartoons likely to avoid confusion with the two.

Interpretations by Director[]

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.

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 chases some unnamed one-off characters which Sylvester himself served as the antagonist, such as an unnamed woodpecker in "Peck Up Your Troubles", an unnamed mouse in a handful of cartoons such as "Mouse Mazurka", "Stooge for a Mouse" and "Little Red Rodent Hood".

He also appears with Elmer Fudd in some cartoons "Back Alley Oproar", "Kit for Cat", "Heir-Conditioned" and "Yankee Dood It", the latter two which was co-produced by the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation. 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 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[]

Sylvester made his debut in a Robert McKimson cartoon in 1947 alongside Foghorn Leghorn, Henery Hawk and Barnyard Dawg in the cartoon "Crowing Pains".

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 a easily-frightened coward who also 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.

After Termite Terrace's closure[]

Sylvester would make sparse appearances after the original Termite Terrace studio was closed. He was paired with Speedy for three cartoons produced at DePatie-Freleng Enterprises, those being "Road to Andalay" (1964), "Cats and Bruises", and "The Wild Chase" (the latter two from 1965). These efforts, all directed by Friz Freleng, represent the director's final work for the original theatrical run of the series, alongside the final Speedy cartoons that does not pair him with Daffy due to limitations later imposed on the studio. Sylvester would be retired after "The Wild Chase", only making a cameo in McKimson's "A Taste of Catnip" where he beats up Daffy Duck after he blows up a catnip factory to cure his feline-like instincts.

Post-Golden Age[]

Sylvester is one of the main hosts for one of the analogy shows that ran concurrently with The Bugs Bunny Show, being The Merrie Melodies Show with Speedy Gonzales and Daffy Duck. The anthology show primarily aired Sylvester's later Speedy cartoons from the 1960s. Outside of the aforementioned series, Sylvester's cartoons with Tweety would be commonplace on The Road Runner Show as the second cartoon of each episode. Most of Sylvester's other cartoons usually aired in the "potluck" cartoons on The Bugs Bunny Show.

In The Looney Tunes Show, Sylvester's appearance has changed in the series. His body is shorter and slender, and his canine teeth are sharper and more prominent, making him look more like an actual 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. He appears in Seasons 2 and 3.

In Looney Tunes Cartoons, Sylvester has been redesigned to closely resemble how Bob Clampett drew him in "Kitty Kornered", albeit with yellow eyes, a red nose, and a white tip on his tail.

In Bugs Bunny Builders, Sylvester is shown to be friends with Tweety with no desires to eat him.

Personality[]

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 surprised 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.[1]

There is a myth that Daffy's lisp, as well as Sylvester's, were based on the lisp of producer Leon Schlesinger.[2] However, Blanc made no such claim. He said that Daffy's lisp was based on him having a long mandible,[3] 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.[4] In an audio commentary for "Scrap Happy Daffy", Greg Ford claimed that while he and Blanc were discussing the two characters' voices, he told him that Sylvester is a gentile and Daffy is Jewish.[5]

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". Sufferin' succotash! was actually first said by Daffy.

Filmography[]

Main article: List of Sylvester cartoons

Notes[]

Quotes[]

  • "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"
  • "Eep."
  • "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"
  • "Are we men, or are we mice?" - "Kitty Kornered"
  • "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"
  • (Sylvester yells at Hippety Hopper] "STAND STILL!" ~ "Cats A-weigh!"
  • "Ah-Ha! You missed me!" ~ "Cannery Woe!"
  • "Dirty little Rodent!" ~ "Chili Weather"
  • "Ah-Ha! Right on target!" ~ "Hawaiian Aye Aye"
  • "Where there's cheeses, there's bound to be mouses!" ~ "Hoppy Go Lucky"
  • "Ha, thought you fooled mmm-- (sentence gets cut off when the confederate soldiers spot him) ~ "The Rebel Without Claws"
  • (Grabs Tweety) "Ha, gotcha! I should get a medal of honor for this!" ~ "The Rebel Without Claws"
  • (Laughs at Tweety) "Too bad you haven't got 9 lives like me." ~ "The Rebel Without Claws"
  • (Lying on the floor after being defeated) "It's good thing I have got 9 lives. With this kind of an army, I'll need 'em!" (Cartoon closes) ~ "The Rebel Without Claws"
  • "Cannibals!" ~ "A Mouse Divided"
  • (Puts Tweety in a sandwich) "Stop squirming! I can't stand a sore loser." - "Hyde and Go Tweet"
  • "What, no ketchup?"(Tweety turns into his Hyde form)"I guess I'll have to eat you without KETCH-!" (briefly gets eaten by Tweety) - "Hyde and Go Tweet"
  • "HELP! OPEN THE DOOR! HELP! I'M LOCKED IN WITH A KILLER! AHH! AHH! AHH! HEEEEELPPP!" ~ "Hyde and Go Tweet"
  • "Open up! Open up I say! Open this door or I'll knock it down!" ~ "Hyde and Go Tweet"
  • "I'll jump! I've got a choice?! OHH!" ~ "Hyde and Go Tweet"
  • (Receives a flyer to buy various machines and a mice-catching robot) "Hmm! Why not?! (short laughter) ~ "Nuts and Volts"
  • (Reads Instructions) "Place Tralafaze marked "C" into slots "D" and "E." Connect wire "X" and "W" to battery cable." ~ "Nuts and Volts"
  • "Stupid Robot! Just one more boo-boo out of you and I'll send you to the scrap heap." ~ "Nuts and Volts"
  • "Sufferin' Succotash, with all the merit badges he can go out for, my bright little son has to pick on bird stocking, sheesh!" ~ "Cat's Paw"
  • "That stupid cat!" ~ "Trick or Tweet"
  • "GET IN THERE!" ~ "Mouse and Garden"
  • "Hey, Sam, what's going in there? (Sam hides the mouse in the drawer as Sylvester enters the room) Alright, Buster, whatcha hiding in here?" ~ "Mouse and Garden"
  • "Oh, yeah, we'll see. (opens drawer and speaks with a mouse in his mouth) Alright, nothing in there." ~ "Mouse and Garden"
  • "PUT IT BACK!" ~ "Trick or Tweet"
  • (Sam tries to grab Tweety but Sylvester stops him) "Oh, no you don't! Your dirty double-crossing scheme didn't work!" ~ "Trick or Tweet"
  • (Sylvester grabs a nail) "I'm fixing this thing so you can't try it again!" ~ "Trick or Tweet"
  • "Come down here, ya little squirt!" ~ "A Bird in a Guilty Cage"
  • "Come on, Malcolm! Don't lay down on the job! Pull yourself together!" ~ "Road to Andalay"
  • "Come on, Malcolm! Let's go back to town and get some glue." ~ "Road to Andalay"
  • "Never mind the sardines, Buster! Just finish my face." ~ "Trip for Tat"
  • "Eep! The monster mouse is after my only son. Oh, no you don't!" ~ "Who's Kitten Who?"
  • "Stand still you overgrown jumping jack so I can swarm ya!" ~ "The Slap-Hoppy Mouse"

Other media[]

  • Sylvester Cat (Columbia version)

    Version of Sylvester in "Up N' Atom"

    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.
  • Stc

    Sylvester's cameo appearance in Drawn Together

    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.
    Rapid Dave

    Rapid Dave

Voice actors[]

Gallery[]

Main article: Sylvester/Gallery

References[]

  1. Blanc, Mel; Bashe, Philip (1988). "Sylvester, Tweety, and Other Terrible Twosomes", That's Not All Folks!. Warner Books, page 101-102. ISBN 978-0446390897. 
  2. Patten, Fred (7 July 2013). Two More Notorious Animation Myths. Cartoon Research.
  3. Blanc; Philip 1988, p. 95.
  4. Barrier, Michael; Gray, Milton (1970). An Interview with Bob Clampett. Funnyworld No. 12.
  5. Scrap Happy Daffy (Commentary).
  6. Paz, Maggie Dela (22 June 2023). Tiny Toons Looniversity Cast Revealed for Upcoming Max Series. ComingSoon.
Characters
Main Characters
Bugs Bunny (Prototype Bugs Bunny) Daffy Duck Elmer Fudd Foghorn Leghorn Lola Bunny (Honey Bunny) Marvin the Martian (K-9) Pepé Le Pew (Penelope Pussycat) Porky Pig Road Runner Speedy Gonzales Sylvester (Sylvester Jr.) Taz Tweety Wile E. Coyote Yosemite Sam
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1930s debuts

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1940s debuts

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1950s debuts

Melissa Duck Frisky Puppy Granny (Proto-Granny) Miss Prissy (Emily the Chicken) Sam Cat Nasty Canasta Marc Anthony and Pussyfoot Chester Ralph Wolf and Sam Sheepdog Toro the Bull The Weasel Witch Hazel Tasmanian She-Devil Ralph Phillips Egghead Jr. Mugsy Jose and Manuel The Honey-Mousers (Ralph Crumden, Ned Morton, Alice Crumden, Trixie Morton) Instant Martians Slowpoke Rodriguez Pappy and Elvis Blacque Jacque Shellacque

1960s debuts

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1930s debuts

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1940s debuts

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1950s debuts

The Martin Brothers Pete Puma George and Benny Babyface Finster Michigan J. Frog Shropshire Slasher Mot Pablo and Fernando Charles M. Wolf Señor Vulturo Mighty Angelo

1960s debuts

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