Tweetie Pie (1947)

Director: I. Freleng
Story: Michael Maltese, Tedd Pierce
Animation: Manuel Perez, Ken Champin, Virgil Ross, Gerry Chiniquy, Don Towsley
Layouts: Hawley Pratt
Backgrounds: Hawley Pratt
Voice Characterisation: Mel Blanc and Bea Benaderet
Musical Director: Carl Stalling
Cast: Thomas (Sylvester in Character), Tweety Pie

Wow! What a fantastic cartoon. The characters of Sylvester (called Thomas here but henceforth called Sylvester for this post) and Tweety Pie are delightful. It’s no wonder that this one Warner Bros. their first Academy Award. This cartoon was re-released in the 1950s as a “Blue Ribbon” release, with all titles and credits replaced. Thanks to Wikipedia for the credits listed above.

The story opens on an areal view of a pretty suburban home in a deep blanket of snow, there is a a snowman in the garden, and as we zoom in closer we see the tiny figure of Tweety Pie warming himself on a discarded cigar butt. Suddenly the snowman has eyes, Sylvester emerged from beneath the snowman’s top hat, taking it with him, and sidles over to a box of tennis racket that he uses as snowshoes. He stalks up to Tweety who, delivers his immortal catch-phrase “I tought I tor a putty cat.” Note the earlier Bugs cartoon “Hare Force” also starts with a snow scene, but is much much colder. This clearly adds emphasis to the central function of the snow, to be very cold. The snow in “Tweetie Pie” is altogether much warmer stuff, the extra emphasis is not required here because we never go outside again.

Sylvester’s unseen female owner rescues Tweety from the cat. There is a lovely moment where Sylvester hides the bird behind his back in is asked by the woman to show each of his paws in turn. When the second hand is revealed as empty is transpires that Sylvester has used his tail to secure his trophy. The owner retrieves and pets Tweety, and reprimands Sylvester. Tweety is a piece of work. Purely from an animation point of view, I actually think Tweety is the funniest Warner Bros. cartoon characters ever created. His range of expressions is both cute and crafty. A combination of sickeningly sweet and brutal calculation. As Tweety’s new owner pets the bird, his expression of smug appreciation is hilarious!

When asked to kiss the bird, Sylvester can’t resist closing his mouth around the bird with a snap and is beaten.

Tweety is now safely tucked away inside his new cage. Swinging happily in his new home. Sylvester, still unpopular with his mistress reminding him angrily “No tricks!” However as soon as her back is turned, Sylvester piles the furniture and just as he gets up to Tweety’s cage, he discovers it is empty. He hears sawing from below and looks down to see Tweety sawing through the table leg far below. Everything comes crashing down and the lady owners high heels are seen stomping down stairs. Sylvester, hastily rearranges the room and feigns sleep on the rug. He’s rumbled by his owner and beaten with a broom!

The next scene Sylvester tries it again with metal legged furniture only to find Tweety with an oxy-asthetaline blow torch and visor cutting through the metal. The cat ends up getting beaten again.

Sylvester tries using a desk fan to carry him up to the empty cage. He looks down and sees Tweety by the plug-socket. There is a beautiful silent exchange between the two where Sylvester appeals to the merciless Tweety for clemency. Crash!

Essentially the Cat wants to eat the bird, a simple premise, full of great visual gags. The Oscar winning scene for me is the construction and deployment of a fantastic W Heath Robinson contraption involving a toaster, an ironing board, a cuckoo clock and a bowling ball! Crash!

The final straw for Sylvester is a Buster Keaton style gag that shows Sylvester sawing a ring in the ceiling around the hook from which the bird cage is swinging. Unfortunately it appears that the entire ceiling is support by a joist directly above the bird cage. Crash!

So it is that the luckless Sylvester breaks up his mistresses broom and burns it only to be beaten on last time with a metal coal pan.

Brilliant! Let’s visit the first ever Tweety Pie cartoon tomorrow. “A Tale of Two Kitties” from 1942

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