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Meet the Oswald the Lucky Rabbit of Looney Tunes, Bosko, The Talk-Ink Kid, the original, all but forgotten debut cartoon character of Leon Schlesinger's animation studio for Warner Bros during The Golden Age of Animation. Created by ex-Disney employees Hugh Harman and Rudolph Ising, Bosko is, as his name tells, a "talk-ink kid" -- or more specifically, an inkblot blackface character. His first appearance was in the short pilot "Bosko The Talk-Ink Kid" in 1929, and was noteworthy for being one of the earliest cartoons to feature properly synchronized sound and dialogue in a cartoon. However, his official theatrical debut (the pilot was never shown to the public) was in the original 1930 Looney Tunes short Sinkin in The Bathtub.
While Bosko was initially what is now considered to be a very offensive character, Rudy and Hugh shortly decided to ditch these racist aspects of him in favor of him being more like an everyman character, from having him own his own businesses, to getting to beat up the occasional white bad guy -- pretty progressive for its time, ain't it?
The early Bosko cartoons were very, very different from the Looney Tunes cast that we've all grown up with. Bosko dosen't have much if anything in the way of personality, with the shorts almost always eschewing plot and characterization in favor of slapstick oriented comedy or having the footage timed to a classic song -- the former of which were obvious holdovers from Harman and Ising's previous work at Disney, but Harman and Ising's cartoons were noticably more raunchy and wild (at first, anyways).
A few years later, however, due to budget disputes with Leon, Harman and Ising decided to pack up and leave for MGM, taking the rights to Bosko with them -- learning from Walt's debacle with Oswald, the duo wisely made sure they owned Bosko in case somebody tried to screw them over. Leon would quickly assemble a new team in an attempt to compensate for this loss, as well as creating a new Expy for Bosko--Buddy, who was basically a whiteface version of him. Those shorts are noteworthy, if only for being some of the dullest, blandest cartoons to ever come out of that time period -- in particular, the first short Buddy's Day Out was reportedly so bad that it nearly killed this new studio before it even got off the ground.
At MGM, Bosko became a recurring star of Harman And Ising's Happy Harmonies series of shorts. He initially retained his inkblot design when he first arrived at MGM, but this design and his original characterization (or lack of) altogether were eventually scrapped in favor of a full-on blackface kid with a curious personality, sharing only the original name of Bosko. But the character failed to regain any of his original popularity, and ultimately faded out altogether after a handful of shorts.
While the character has remained in limbo for many years, his cartoons rarely airing on TV, save for the earliest days of television (when the first package of Looney Tunes shorts were initially released to television) and on Nickelodeon in the late 80s and 90s, 25 of his 37 warners shorts have made their way into the Public Domain, as well as the Looney Tunes Golden Collection series. The character also made a brief comeback in the Tiny Toon Adventures short Fields Of Honey. (although he was slightly redesigned to look more like the dog-esque characters of the then upcoming Animaniacs show.) Buddy would also make an appearance in an episode of Animaniacs, The Warners 65th Anniversary Special, to get revenge on the trio, who in their universe were responsible for destroying Buddy's (in real life, non-existent) stardom. (they were brought in to spice up his boring cartoons...)
- Bosko, the Talk-Ink Kid: Although it was not released theatrically, it could in a sense be considered the very first entry in the Looney Tunes series.
- Sinkin in The Bathtub: The "official" first Looney Tunes short.
- Congo Jazz
- Hold Anything
- The Booze Hangs High
- Box Car Blues
- Big Man from the North
- Ain't Nature Grand!
- Ups 'N Downs
- Yodeling Yokels
- Bosko's Holiday
- Tree's Knees, The
- Bosko Shipwrecked
- Bosko the Doughboy
- Bosko's Soda Fountain
- Bosko's Fox Hunt
- Bosko at the Zoo
- Battling Bosko
- Big-Hearted Bosko
- Bosko's Party
- Bosko and Bruno
- Bosko's Dog Race
- Bosko at the Beach
- Bosko's Store
- Bosko the Lumberjack
- Ride Him, Bosko!: Earliest Warner Bros. cartoon still under copyright.
- Bosko the Drawback
- Bosko's Dizzy Date
- Bosko's Woodland Daze
- Bosko in Dutch
- Bosko in Person
- Bosko the Speed King
- Bosko's Knight-Mare
- Bosko the Sheep-Herder
- Beau Bosko
- Bosko's Mechanical Man
- Bosko the Musketeer
- Bosko's Picture Show
- Bosko's Parlor Pranks: First appearance of Bosko in an MGM cartoon, as part of the Happy Harmonies series. Consists almost entirely of colorized Stock Footage from previous Bosko shorts.
- Hey-Hey Fever: Last cartoon to feature the original Bosko design.
- Run, Sheep, Run: First cartoon to feature the In Name Only Bosko.
- The Old House
- Circus Daze
- Bosko's Easter Eggs
- Little Ol' Bosko and the Pirates
- Little Ol' Bosko and the Cannibals
- Little Ol' Bosko in Bagdad: Last theatrical appearance of Bosko.
- Fields of Honey: Makes a redesigned appearance with Honey.
- Two-Tone Town: Original design appears as a background easter egg in the Town.
- Space Jam: Makes a cameo as a portrait in the film.
Noteworthy shorts the character has appeared in:
Tropes associated with this series:
- Bratty Half-Pint: Wilbur the Cat from "Bosko's Parlor Pranks", who really, really wants an ice cream cone.
- Captain Ersatz: Bosko and his girlfriend Honey could well be considered the early studios answer to Mickey and Minnie Mouse. (along with Foxy and Roxy from Merrie Melodies...) His dog Bruno is also a blatant ersatz of Pluto the Pup.
- Chuck Cunningham Syndrome: Bosko very rarely makes appearances in modern Looney Tunes artwork, and hasn't appeared in any cartoons since his redesigned cameo in Tiny Toons. Understandably, this is due to his roots as a blackface character making him an unacceptable character to put into the mainstream today. It dosen't help that his esoteric nature compared to the mainstream Looney Tunes (due to his cartoons being off the air since the 80's), not to mention his vague personality, do not make him a popular character among fans.
- Early Installment Weirdness: Understandably, if you're a modern Looney Tunes fan whos used to all of the later characters like Bugs Bunny, Daffy Duck, Wile E Coyote and The Road Runner, etc., these early shorts will be quite an odd experience to see compared to the later shorts.
- Dogface: his look in Tiny Toon Adventures.
- Everything's Better with Monkeys: Done with the baby monkeys in "Congo Jazz".
- "Everybody Laughs" Ending: The ending of "Congo Jazz".
- Flat Character: Moreso with his successor Buddy, though.
- Gainaxing: Done by a palmtree in "Congo Jazz".
- The Golden Age of Animation
- Looney Tunes in the Thirties: From 1929 to 1933 for Bosko. Buddy took over around mid to late 1933, and was retired in 1935.
- Music Soothes the Savage Beast: Done by Bosko to a tiger in the beginning of "Congo Jazz".
- No Ending: Taken to the utmost extreme in "Ride Him, Bosko!". Just as Bosko is hot on of the trail of the kidnapped Honey, the film goes to Rudy Ising and his animators get up and leave without resolving the Cliff Hanger, obliterating the fourth wall in a way that hints at later Warner Bros. more than contemporaneous Disney.
- Off with His Head: In "Hold Anything", Bosko decapitates a mouse with a saw--and it's Played for Laughs!
- Pie-Eyed: Depending on the Artist.
- Precision F-Strike: The aforementioned quote from "Bosko's Picture Show."
- Public Domain Animation: All of the shorts prior to "Ride Em, Bosko!" are Public Domain.
- Rhymes on a Dime: In "Ride 'Em Bosko", there's an exposition card which says "Red Gulch, where men are men, nine times out of ten."
- Stock Footage: A huge chunk of animation from the Warner Bros. shorts were retraced for the first two MGM Boskos, albiet colored.
- That's All Folks: By all accounts, he should be the Trope Namer, as he technically said the lines first in "Sinkin in the Bathtub", but for some reason it went to Porky Pig instead.
- ↑ If only for Bosko's alleged use of the f-word.