History for the Rest of Us

Popeye for President

Originally released March 30, 1956 – this Famous Studios Popeye cartoon features Bluto (the Blutocratic Party candidate) running against Popeye (representing the Spinach Party) for President of the United States. With the two candidates tied and only the vote of Olive Oyl outstanding, the two candidates go to work in order to win Olive’s...

The Far Side

The Far Side

May 21, 2014

The Far Side first appeared in newspapers on January 1, 1980 and ran for fifteen years, it’s last appearance being on January 1, 1995. All 23 Far Side compilation books were on The New York Times Best Seller list. The single-panel cartoon was created by Gary Larson who originally worked in a music store. Bored at work, he picked up a pencil and began to draw cartoons. He sold the first six panels to a local magazine. He created additional cartoons that he then sold to the Seattle Times, and was eventually syndicated through the San Francisco Chronicle. His cartoons caused the reader to look at everyday things in a bizarre, hilarious way. Perhaps Larson’s most well-known cartoon depicts something we all can relate to – pushing on a door that clearly says ‘Pull’. This classic cartoon appeared on mugs, t-shirts, and was pinned to many office cork boards. His book The Prehistory of The Far Side gave insights into some of the comments Larson received from readers as well as some insights into his thought process for creating the cartoons. One particular cartoon he discusses shows God playing a Jeopardy-like game show (hopefully, for Larson’s sake, God has a sense of humor). Of this cartoon Larson said, “First, I made God look the way I think most of us are pretty sure he looks. Secondly, I made sure he was really winning hands down. Even if Norman had only ten points it would have meant that he beat God to the buzzer at least once, and someone would have gotten mad.”* *Larson, Gary. The Prehistory of the Far Side. Universal Press, 1989. Related Stories: Bugs Bunny Garfield The Incredible Hulk Batman Li’l...

Peanuts

Peanuts

May 14, 2014

On October 2, 1950, one of, if not the greatest, cartoon cartoon characters of all time was born. Charlie Brown, the blockhead created by Charles M. Schulz made his first appearance in the comic strip Peanuts on that date. Peanuts had, at its peak, a readership of 355 million. The strip included memorable characters like Snoopy, Lucy, Linus, Woodstock, Sally, and Peppermint Patty. Nearly 50 years later, on February 13, 2000, Charlie would make his final appearance – one day after the death of his creator Mr. Schulz. The Final Strip: Most Memorable Characters: Charlie Brown Charlie was the product of Charles M. Schulz’s formative years. Charlie, despite his numerous failures is always determined to try his best regardless of the outcomes. For example, how many times did he try to kick that football that Lucy was ‘holding’ for him? Snoopy Charlie Brown’s dog was quite the opposite of Charlie. Confident and self-assured his vivid imagination led him to believe he was a World War I Flying Ace who was often flying his ‘Sopwith Camel’ (doghouse) in pursuit of the Red Baron. Snoopy had six siblings, five of which made appearances in the strip (Andy, Olaf, Marbles, Spike, and his sister Belle). Lucy Lucy van Pelt first appeared on March 3, 1952 and was typically the rock in Charlie Brown’s shoe. She was smug, highly confident, crabby, bossy, and full of advice – as demonstrated by the sign on her booth ‘The doctor is “in”‘. She was in love with piano-playing Schroeder who barely gave her the time of day. She also hated being licked by Snoopy, who seemed to relish licking her. Linus Famous for his ‘security blanket’, Linus was the philosophical younger brother of Lucy who first appeared on September 19, 1952. He was Charlie’s most loyal friend, since Snoopy never filled the roll of being ‘Man’s best friend’ (a point Charlie would sarcastically refer to from time to time). Sally Sally was Charlie Brown’s ever-questioning little sister who had a crush on blanket-toting Linus. She first appeared in the strip on August 23, 1959. Woodstock Snoopy’s sidekick Woodstock made his first appearance in the strip in 1967 and received his name...

The Jetsons

The Jetsons

Sep 22, 2013

On September 23, 1962, The Jetsons debuted on ABC. It was the first program on ABC to be broadcast in color. The show is about a futuristic family from the year 2062. The family lives in the Skypad Apartments in Orbit City and consists of George Jetson, Jane his wife, daughter Judy, and ‘his boy Elroy’. The family also has a pet dog Astro (Rastro in Astro-speak), and a robot maid Rosie. Meet George Jetson George works for Spacely Sprockets a rival company to Cogswell Cogs. As a ‘digital index operator’ George is required to work two days a week for one to three hours. His boss Mr. Spacely constantly blames George for his backfiring business plans, and Spacely’s most famous catchphrase is ‘Jetson! You’re fired!’ George’s job consists of turning the Referential Universal Digital Indexer (RUDI) on and off. Since the cartoon was loosely based on the comic strip Blondie, George exhibits similar characteristics to Dagwood Bumstead. Jane, his Wife Jane, George’s wife, loves to shop at Mooning Dales and is a dedicated mother who loves aquiring the latest time saving gadgets as well as the latest fashions. Jane is an efficient housewife (thanks to her ability to get Rosie to do all the work). Daughter Judy George’s daughter Judy goes to Orbit High School, but she’s dropped off by her father and doesn’t have to fly through ten miles of asteroid storms to get there like George did when he was a child. Judy is sixteen and a fan of the rock singer ‘Jet Screamer’. She is obsessed with clothes and boys, and frequently reveals her secrets to her floating robotic diary named ‘DiDi’. His Boy Elroy Elroy is a first grader in Little Dipper School and is 6 1/2. He is very intelligent, obsessed with the space-age, and studies star geometry, space history, astrophysics and math in school. Rosie Rosie the Robot Maid is a beloved member of the Jetsons family and looks after the household chores, as well as Elroy. While not a cutting-edge robot, she still manages to get the Jetsons’ chores done in record time. She refers to George as “Mr. J”. Rosie, a model XB-500 robot, was...

Wile E. Coyote and Road Runner

Wile E. Coyote and Road Runner

Sep 17, 2013

On September 17, 1949 Wile E. Coyote (Carnivorous Vulgaris) tried to catch Road Runner (Accelleratii Incredibus) for the first time in their initial cartoon ‘Fast and Furry-ous’. In this first, of nearly 50 animated shorts, Wile E. hasn’t learned the value of Geniune ‘ACME’ products and purchases items from ‘Ace’, and ‘Fleet-Foot’. However, his luck never improved by working almost exclusively with ‘ACME’ as his supplier of gadgets. Wile E. was very loyal to ‘ACME’, notwithstanding the fact that he was constantly defeated by gadgets made with their products. When asked, in a Cartoon Network commercial promoting Looney Tunes, why he continued to purchase products from ACME Corporation when previous purchases had all backfired, Wile E. responded by holding up a wooden sign which said ‘Good line of Credit’. The characters were created by Chuck Jones in 1948 for Warner Bros. Wile E. also appeared as an antagonist of Bugs Bunny in five shorts. Wile E. was mostly silent in the Coyote-Road Runner shorts but spoke with an upper-class English accent (voiced by Mel Blanc) in the Bugs Bunny shorts. Road Runner only made his signature ‘Meep, Meep’ sound with an occasional noise from his tongue. In Chuck Amuck: The Life and Times Of An Animated Cartoonist, it is claimed that the Road Runner and Wile E. cartoons adhered to some simple but strict rules: The Road Runner cannot harm the Coyote except by going “meep, meep.” No outside force can harm the Coyote — only his own ineptitude or the failure of Acme products. Trains and trucks were the exception from time to time. The Coyote could stop anytime — if he were not a fanatic. (Repeat: “A fanatic is one who redoubles his effort when he has forgotten his aim.” — George Santayana). No dialogue ever, except “meep, meep” and yowling in pain. The Road Runner must stay on the road — for no other reason than that he’s a roadrunner. This rule was broken in Beep, Beep, in a sequence where Wile E. chased the Road Runner into a cactus mine. All action must be confined to the natural environment of the two characters — the southwest American desert. All tools,...

Bugs Bunny A Wild Hare

Bugs Bunny A Wild Hare

Jul 25, 2013

Historians consider the July 27, 1940 release of A Wild Hare as the first ‘official’ Bugs Bunny short. Though not named in the short, he appears in his fully developed form along with Elmer Fudd, and first uses his signature ‘What’s up, Doc?’ line. Bugs Gets His Voice Bugs also got his voice in the short. One of Mel Blanc’s co-workers showed him the latest drawings for the character, and commented that the rabbit was ‘A tough little stinker’. The light went on for Blanc who said, ‘In my mind I heard a Brooklyn accent’ and ‘the new, improved Bugs Bunny wouldn’t say jerk, he’d say joik’. A Wild Hare was a huge success and was nominated for an Academy Award for Best Animated Short Film. Inspiration The inspiration for Bugs came from a variety of sources including Zomo, a trickster rabbit from Central and Eastern Africa; Charlie Chaplin and Buster Keaton; and Groucho Marx. Bugs used his carrot in much the same way that Groucho used his cigar, and Bugs eventually stole the line used by Marx, ‘Of course you know, this means war!’, in response to insults. Interesting Facts Bugs Bunny has starred in over 175 films, has been nominated for three Oscars (winning in 1958 for Knighty Knight Bugs), and was given his own star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame (only the 2nd cartoon character to do so). In a poll conducted in the United States in 1976, citizens were asked to name their favorite characters, real and imaginary. Bugs Bunny finished second…behind only Abraham Lincoln! Related Stories: Garfield The Incredible Hulk Batman Li’l...