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Merrie Melodies is a series of animated short films produced by Warner Bros. between 1931 and 1969, during the Golden Age of American Animation. As with its parent series, Looney Tunes, Merrie Melodies featured some of the most famous cartoon characters ever created; including Bugs Bunny, Daffy Duck and Porky Pig.

Merrie Melodies was originally produced by Harman-Ising Pictures from 1931 to 1933, and then Leon Schlesinger Productions from 1933 to 1944. Schlesinger sold his studio to Warner Bros. in 1944, and the newly renamed Warner Bros. Cartoons continued production until 1963. Merrie Melodies was outsourced to DePatie-Freleng Enterprises from 1964 to 1967, and Warner Bros. Cartoons resumed production for the series' final two years.

Three of the Merrie Melodies shorts (Tweetie Pie, Speedy Gonzales, and Birds Anonymous) won the Academy Award for Best Animated Short Film and another three (Duck Amuck, One Froggy Evening, and What's Opera, Doc?) have been inducted into the National Film Registry of the Library of Congress.

History

Early production

Leon Schlesinger had already produced one cartoon in the Looney Tunes series, and its success prompted him to try to sell a sister series to Warner Bros. His selling point was that the new cartoons would feature music from the soundtracks of Warner Bros. films and would thus serve as advertisements for Warner Bros. recordings. The studio agreed, and Schlesinger dubbed the series Merrie Melodies.

Each cartoon in the Merrie Melodies series would be contractually obligated to include at least one full chorus from a Warner Bros. song.

Harman-Ising cartoons

While Hugh Harman directed the Looney Tunes shorts, Rudolf Ising directed the Merrie Melodies shorts. The first three shorts starred two characters named Foxy and Roxy, while the fourth and fifth starred two characters named Piggy and Fluffy. Piggy would appear consecutively on the ending cards of the Merrie Melodies shorts starting with the fourth and ending with the fourteenth.

Following the first five short films, Merrie Melodies would primarily consist of one-shot cartoons. Goopy Geer was the last recurring character created by Harman-Ising, and he appeared in two shorts released in between the one-shot cartoons. None of the characters created by Harman-Ising would be used in future theatrical shorts after their departure from the series in 1933.

Hugh Harman later claimed that he did not want to work on the Merrie Melodies because he didn't like how the role of music played in the new series. "I just didn't like to be compelled to use the certain songs available to us," he said in 1973.[1]

Transition to color; Future events

In 1934, Schlesinger produced his first color Merrie Melodies shorts, "Honeymoon Hotel" and "Beauty and the Beast", which were both produced in Cinecolor (Disney had exclusive rights to the richer Technicolor process). Their success convinced Schlesinger to produce all future Merrie Melodies shorts in color as well. Looney Tunes, however, continued in black and white until 1943.[2]

In 1935, three shorts were released that would break the formula Merrie Melodies had followed for about three years. "Mr. and Mrs. Is the Name" featured Buddy, a character that had only appeared in the Looney Tunes films up until that short. "Country Boy" featured Peter Rabbit, who would become the first recurring Merrie Melodies character since Goopy Geer following his second appearance in "My Green Fedora". "I Haven't Got a Hat" would be the first Merrie Melodies short featuring characters that would go on to star in the Looney Tunes series.

In addition to the change in formula, "I Haven't Got a Hat" would serve as the debut of the first Warner Bros. cartoon character to draw in audiences based on star power - Porky Pig.

The contractual obligation to include at least one full chorus from a Warner Bros. song in a Merrie Melodies short was done away with in the late 1930s.

As time went on, Looney Tunes and Merrie Melodies became indistinguishable save for their opening and ending theme songs. Friz Freleng once said in an interview; "I never knew if a film I was making would be Looney Tunes or Merrie Melodies, and what the hell difference would it make, anyway?".

The final short part of the Merrie Melodies series would be "Injun Trouble".

Theme music

  • "Get Happy" (1931-1933)
  • "I Think You're Ducky" (1933-1936)
  • "Merrily We Roll Along" (1936-1964)
  • "The Merry-Go-Round Broke Down" (1964-1969)

Blue Ribbon Merrie Melodies

Beginning in September 1943, WB, in a cost-conserving effort, began to reissue its backlog of older color cartoons under a new program which they called Merrie Melodies "Blue Ribbon" reissues. For the reissue, the original front-and-end title sequences were altered. The revised main title card began with the "zooming" WB logo, followed by the title logo set against a background featuring a "blue ribbon" (hence the re-release program's title) and a Grand Shorts Award trophy, followed by the name of the cartoon. This revised title sequence eliminated the opening technical credits. The end title card was also revised, replacing the original versions. The revised title sequences were edited right into the original negative, thus the original title sequences were cut away and possibly scrapped. Some of these same revised "blue ribbon" reissues can still be seen on television today. For example, the "blue ribbon" version of the Bugs Bunny short A Wild Hare was erroneously retitled The Wild Hare for reissue, along with some slight subtle edits (the original unaltered version has been released on both LaserDisc and DVD).

For the Looney Tunes Golden Collection DVD releases, WB went through great lengths to track down whatever elements of the original title credits still exist in an effort to re-create as best they could the original versions of the altered 'blue ribbon' shorts. Some pristine prints of the original issues were obtained from the UCLA Film and Television Archive. As a result, such cartoons as I Love to Singa and Book Revue can once again be seen as they were originally intended. Unfortunately, there are some "blue ribbon" reissue versions of cartoons that are represented on the Golden Collection DVDs as they are the only versions that were made available for exhibition. In any event, to this day there is controversy among animation fans and historians on the alteration of the "blue ribbon" releases.

File:Merrie Melodies Openings And Closings (1931-1969) UPGRADED 2.0

References

  • Schneider, Steve (1990). That's All Folks!: The Art of Warner Bros. Animation. Henry Holt & Co.
  • Beck, Jerry and Friedwald, Will (1989): Looney Tunes and Merrie Melodies: A Complete Illustrated Guide to the Warner Bros. Cartoons. Henry Holt and Company.

See also

External links

  1. Hollywood Cartoons: American Animation in Its Golden Age p160
  2. http://ssnpodcast.com/2016/07/01/whats-difference-looney-tunes-merrie-melodies
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