Mickey Mouse? Or Bugs Bunny?
Which side are you on?
One or the other. No wavering.
Okay… true… in 2007, they’re just two sides of the same lunchbox. Or multi-billion dollar industry. Or something.
But back in the 1930s? And the ’40s? And the ’50s?
There was Walt Disney. Anthropomorphic sweetness and light.
And there was Warner Brothers. Misanthropic nastiness and bite.
I’ll stick with the latter, thanks. Bugs Bunny. Daffy Duck. Porky Pig. Elmer Fudd.
My kind of people.
Not to mention the looney geniuses behind the toons:
• Mel Blanc, the man of a thousand voices, including those of Bugs, Daffy, Porky, Yosemite Sam, Pepé Le Pew, Sylvester the Cat and Foghorn Leghorn.
• Carl Stalling, who composed most of the turn-on-a-dime musical backgrounds to Warner Brothers’ Looney Tunes and Merrie Melodies series.
And of course, the animators who each brought a distinctive touch to the proceedings. Among them:
• Fritz Freleng, the creator of many of the Warner Brothers’ characters still found on lunchboxes decades later.
• Tex Avery, the much-imitated pioneer of surreal slapstick animation
• Chuck Jones, a master of literate wordplay and brilliant comic timing
• and Bob Clampett, whose hilarious cartoons – more than the others – pushed the boundaries of both propriety and the laws of physics.
“An Itch in Time” is a Clampett classic from 1943, starring Elmer Fudd, his dog and “A. Flea”. It includes two instances of Clampett testing the limits of the Hays Code, which governed the censorship of films at the time.
The final image – a feline suicide – was cut out of all televised versions of the cartoon, although it is readily available now in the era of DVDs and YouTube.
An earlier scene – featuring the flea-tortured dog dragging his hindquarters along the floor in pain, then stopping in mid-drag to look at the audience and say “”Hey, I’d better cut this out, I may get to like it!” – was apparently inserted by Clampett in the expectation that it would never survive the censor’s scissors. But it did.
The highlight of the cartoon, though, is A. Flea’s Clampett-penned theme song – “There’s food around the corner!” – which will stick in your head all day like a pesky parasite once you watch the film below.
To underline Clampett’s proto-punk sensibility, the tune was later covered by Green Day.