I Taw a Putty Tat is a 1947 short animated cartoon, released in 1948, directed by Friz Freleng. It stars Tweety and Sylvester, both voiced by Mel Blanc. The uncredited voice of the lady of the house (seen only from the neck down, as she talks on the phone) was Bea Benaderet.
The bird's inability to enunciate certain letters (presumably due to having a beak instead of lips) is the reason for the pronunciation of his famous catch-phrase that forms part of this cartoon's title (as in "I Thought I Saw a Pussy Cat"). This is the first film whose title included Tweety's speech-impaired term for a cat. The "standard" spelling was eventually changed from "putty tat" to "puddy tat".
Sylvester awaits the arrival of a new canary after the previous house bird has mysteriously disappeared (one of several such disappearances, according to stencils the cat keeps on a wall hidden by a curtain, confirmed by his "hiccup" of some yellow feathers). Upon the arrival of the bird, Sylvester pretends to play nice in order to abuse and eventually make a meal of the pretending-to-be-naive canary.
A series of violent visual gags ensues in which Tweety physically subdues the threatening cat by smoking him up, hitting him on the foot with a mallet, feeding him some alum and using his uvula as a punching bag. (See illustration)
A couple of racial/ethnic gags are included. Sylvester imitates a Scandinavian-sounding maid, who feigns
complaining about having to "clean out de bird cage." He reaches into the covered cage and grabs what he thinks is the bird. The canary whistles at him. The confused cat opens his fist to find a small bomb, which promptly explodes, covering the cat in "blackface" makeup. His voice pattern then changes to something sounding like "Rochester", and he says, "Uh-oh, back to the kitchen, ah smell somethin' burnin'!" just before passing out.
A more subtle gag with a racist legacy occurs when Tweety, inside the cat's mouth, yells down its gullet. The answer comes back, "There's nobody here but us mice!" This is a variant on an old joke in which a black man is hiding in a henhouse, and when the farmer yells who is there, the would-be chicken thief answers, "Dey's nobody here but us chickens!"
At the climax, Tweety has managed to trap Sylvester inside the birdcage, and has introduced a "wittle puddy dog" (rhymes with "puppy dog"; a not-so-little "pug dog", an angry bulldog - in his first appearance). Their deadly battle occurs under the wrap the bird has thrown over the cage.
The film ends with the lady of the house calling the pet shop again, this time ordering a new cat, while Tweety lounges in Sylvester's old bed. Overhearing the woman telling the pet shop that the cat will have a nice home here, Tweety reveals the silhouette of a cat now stencilled on the wall, and closes the cartoon with a comment to the camera, "Her don't know me very well, do her?" a variant on one of Red Skelton's catchphrases by his "Mean Widdle Kid" character from radio.
This cartoon is a color remake of a 1943 black and white short film titled Puss N' Booty which was directed by Frank Tashlin and written by Warren Foster. In this previous version, a generic cat and canary team called Rudolph and Petey were used but the plot along with some gags and story elements were re-used. Puss N' Booty was notable as it was the final black and white cartoon ever released by WB.
After winning the Academy Award for Animated Short Film in 1947 for Tweetie Pie, a film which combined for the first time two of the studio's latest animated stars, Tweety Bird and Sylvester, there was a demand for more short films using the characters. Freleng himself said he could not imagine Tweety working with any other partners than Sylvester (in contrast, Sylvester still had his fair share of cartoons without Tweety).
I Taw a Putty Tat was Freleng's second film teaming the characters and was released less than a year after Tweetie Pie. It is noticeable that while this cartoon was directed by Friz Freleng, the Tweety we see in it is by far closer to the aggressive little bird used in his first few cartoons directed by Bob Clampett than the more subdued and naive character he would become a few years later as the series progressed.
Bea Benaderet provided the voice of the housemistress but she did not get credit as with most voice actors at the studio, Mel Blanc being the exception. Amongst the musical quotations in the Carl Stalling film score (with or without lyrics accompanying them) are extracts from Singin' in the Bathtub, She Was an Acrobat's Daughter and Ain't We Got Fun.
The animators for the cartoon were Ken Champin, Gerry Chiniquy, Manuel Perez, Virgil Ross, and an uncredited Pete Burness. Paul Julian was the background artist, while Hawley Pratt was the layout artist.
When this cartoon aired on Cartoon Network, The WB, TNT and TBS, the blackface gag where Sylvester (dressed as a maid) mistakes a dynamite stick for Tweety, and walks back to the kitchen, speaking like Rochester, was cut.
After its original release in theaters I Taw a Putty Tat was re-released as part of the compilation film, Bugs Bunny: Superstar (1975), along with other short films from the 1940s. This feature was later made available on VHS and Laserdisc before it was discontinued in 1999.
The short film has also been made available on VHS through two compilations released by MGM/UA and Turner Entertainment in the 1980s : Little Tweety and Little Inki Cartoon Festival Featuring "I taw a Putty Tat" and Tweety and Sylvester.
The short was part of the Golden Age of Looney Tunes volume 4 Laserdisc set. It also occurs in its entirety in the documentary Bugs Bunny: Superstar Part 1, which is available as a special feature on Discs 1 and 2 of the Looney Tunes Golden Collection: Volume 4, although it has not been refurbished or released independently in that DVD series.
The Turner dubbed version (which also has the same edit seen on TV to remove the blackface gag) has been made available as a bonus feature on the DVD release of Romance on the High Seas.