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After quitting the Warner Bros. cartoon studio in 1941 after a squabble with Leon Schlesinger, director Tex Avery was hired by the MGM Cartoon studio to try and give the studio something to offer that wasn't Harman and Ising's cutesy oneshot short subjects.
And to say he succeeded with flying colors would be an understatement.
Free of the budget and creative constraints he faced at Warner Bros., and with a staff of skilled animators at his side (some of whom were even ex-Disney employees), Tex Avery went on to make some of the best cartoons of The Golden Age of Animation, or in some cases, some of the most acclaimed cartoons of all time. From 1942 to 1957, he cranked out dozens of classics, many of which would go on to codify the Zany Cartoon and thus serve as an influence to many animators, including master animator Richard Williams. The fact that they were constantly reaired in the early years of Cartoon Network only contributed to making him a legend in animation pop culture.
Recurring Characters in Tex Avery's works at MGM include:
- Droopy: A tiny, very modest Basset Hound that was apparently a master of Offscreen Teleportation and The Cat Came Back, capable of great strength when roused to anger. Is quite a good samaritan, constantly going good deeds, especially when it comes to catching criminal wolves. His voice sounds similar to that of H. G. Wells of all people. Possibly his best short is Northwest Hounded Police. Droopy cartoons continued to be made after Tex's departure from MGM, with Michael Lah as director.
- Screwy Squirrel: An insane squirrel that often picked on his antagonists for no reason other than because it was funny. He met his match with Lonesome Lenny in his final short, though, in which he was presumably crushed to death by the Of Mice And Men-inspired dog. His series was short lived because Avery never cared for the character much. There are stories of Tex's automatically throwing fan letters depicting Screwy Squirrel into the trash.
- George and Junior: The pair from Of Mice and Men reincarnated as bears. George has a plan, Junior is an idiot, and usually gets a kick in the pants he wasn't wearing for his bungling.
- Red and Wolfie: Wolfie made his debut in "Blitz Wolf" as an Adolf Hitler caricature, but it was in "Red Hot Riding Hood" that he became the womanizer with off-the-wall wild takes he was famous for being. Red herself was based on pin-up girls of the 1940's, and often would sing and perform in her appearances. Both characters frequently co-starred in cartoons with Droopy, Wolfie usually being the antagonist.
- Butch: Originally named Spike, he had his name changed in order to avoid confusion with a bulldog from another MGM cartoon series with the same name . He would often be the antagonist to Droopy, though he also starred in his own shorts as well. He was often tormented by a Small Annoying Creature with a Screwy Squirrel attitude in his solo shorts. Appearances of note include "Rock-A-Bye Bear," "Magical Maestro," "Millionaire Droopy," and "Cock-a-Doodle Dog."
Notable Shorts Include:
- Blitz Wolf: Academy Award nominee, runner-up on The 50 Greatest Cartoons list.
- Red Hot Riding Hood: No. 7 on The 50 Greatest Cartoons list.
- Northwest Hounded Police: 28 on The 50 Greatest Cartoons.
- King Size Canary: No. 10 on The 50 Greatest Cartoons.
- Bad Luck Blackie: 15 on The 50 Greatest Cartoons.
- Little Rural Riding Hood: No. 23 on The 50 Greatest Cartoons.
- Little Johnny Jet: Academy Award nominee.
- Screwball Squirrel: Runner-up on The 50 Greatest Cartoons.
- Señor Droopy: Runner-up on The 50 Greatest Cartoons.
- Swing Shift Cinderella: Runner-up on The 50 Gre--oh, you get the idea.
- Magical Maestro: Selected for preservation in the National Film Registry.
- Blitz Wolf: Tex's first MGM short, and a biting attack on Adolf Hitler. Also the first appearance of Tex's recurring Wolf character.
- The Early Bird Dood It
- Dumb-Hounded: The debut of Droopy, who attempts to capture the convict Wolf.
- Red Hot Riding Hood: One of his most beloved cartoons, and even holds the spot of #7 on The 50 Greatest Cartoons list. Debut of "Red".
- Who Killed Who
- One Ham's Family
- What's Buzzin', Buzzard?
- Screwball Squirrel: First appearance of Screwy Squirrel.
- Batty Baseball
- Happy-Go-Nutty: The second appearance of Screwy Squirrel.
- Big Heel-Watha: The third appearance of Screwy Squirrel
- The Screwy Truant: The fourth appearance of Screwy Squirrel.
- The Shooting of Dan McGoo: Droopy's second cartoon, and the second appearance of "Red".
- Jerky Turkey
- Swing Shift Cinderella: A follow up to Red Hot Riding Hood.
- Wild and Woolfy
- Lonesome Lenny: The last appearance of Screwy Squirrel, as he is severely impaired in the end of the cartoon.
- The Hick Chick
- Northwest Hounded Police: A remake of "Dumb-Hounded", and also one of Tex's best cartoons.
- Henpecked Hoboes: First appearance of George and Junior the bears.
- Hound Hunters: Second appearance of George and Junior the bears.
- Red Hot Rangers: Third appearance of George and Junior the bears.
- Uncle Tom's Cabana: A parody of Uncle Tom's Cabin, and one of Tex's more...outdated cartoons, basically his equivilent of Bob Clampett's Coal Black and De Sebben Dwarfs. Red also makes an appearance as Little Eva.
- Slap Happy Lion
- King Size Canary: Another one of his most known cartoons.
- What Price Fleadom
- Little 'Tinker
- Half-Pint Pygmy: Another one of Tex's more politically incorrect cartoons. Also the last appearance of George and Junior.
- Lucky Ducky: A semi-remake of Porky's Duck Hunt.
- The Cat That Hated People
- Bad Luck Blackie
- Senor Droopy: Notable, if just for the Roger Rabbit Effect ending, complete with a cameo of actress Lina Romay!
- The House of Tomorrow: The first of Tex's "Tetralogy Of Tomorrow."
- Doggone Tired
- Wags To Riches
- Little Rural Riding Hood: Yet another follow up to Red Hot Riding Hood, although it's more of a rehash of Swing Shift Cinderella, complete with Stock Footage from that cartoon. Nonetheless, it has wound up on The 50 Greatest Cartoons list.
- The Counterfeit Cat
- Ventriloquist Cat
- The Cuckoo Clock
- Garden Gopher
- The Chump Champ
- The Peachy Cobbler
- Cock-A-Doodle Dog
- Daredevil Droopy
- Droopy's Good Deed
- Symphony in Slang: A short that takes the Hurricane of Puns trope and milks it for all its worth. It's as funny as it sounds.
- Car of Tomorrow: The second of Avery's "Tetralogy Of Tomorrow."
- Droopy's Double Trouble
- Magical Maestro
- One Cab's Family: A short that bears a remarkable resemblence to the 30's Friz Freleng Warner Bros. cartoon "Streamlined Greta Green". It also seems to be the design inspiration for Pixar's Cars.
- Rock-A-Bye Bear
- Little Johnny Jet: A follow-up/rehash of One Cab's Family, but WITH PLANES!
- T.V. of Tomorrow: The third of Avery's "Tetralogy Of Tomorrow."
- The Three Little Pups
- Drag-A-Long Droopy
- Billy Boy: A short centered on a baby Extreme Omni Goat. Also stars a wolf character voiced by Daws Butler.
- Homesteader Droopy
- The Farm of Tomorrow: Fourth and last of the "Tetralogy Of Tomorrow."
- The Flea Circus
- Dixieland Droopy
- Field and Scream
- The First Bad Man
- Deputy Droopy: A partial remake of the short "Rock-A-Bye Bear".
- Millionare Droopy: The last of the original Droopy cartoons. A remake of "Wags To Riches."
- Cat's Meow: Tex's last MGM short. A remake of "Ventriloquist Cat."
- Abhorrent Admirer: Red's grandmother in "Red Hot Riding Hood," and her fairy godmother in "Swing Shift Cinderella," just to name a couple.
- Accordion Man: Plenty of times. A literal one that hasn't been flattened appears in "The Cat That Hated People."
- Anachronism Stew: Highly abundant in "Jerky Turkey," which alludes, among other things, to the Navy (1775); the Democrats (1830) and Republicans (1854); and cigarettes (the 1830's).
- And Call Him George: MGM loved Of Mice and Men even more than Warner Bros.
- Annoying Laugh: Screwy Squirrel.
- Anvil on Head: Common in many cartoons.
- Any time it involved Spike and a tree, the following dialogue was obligatory:
Tree: * falls completely the wrong way and smashes down on Spike hard enough for him to go straight through it and not even move*
- Art Evolution: Believe it or not, over time Droopy's face becomes less...droopy. Also, MGM cartoons as a whole leaned more and more towards Limited Animation as time went on.
- Ass in a Lion Skin: "Little 'Tinker," near the end when B.O. Skunk tries to woo a female by painting his fur like a fox. The girl fox he meets turns out, after they fall into a creek and their paint washes off, actually to be another skunk in disguise. Cue Crowning Moment of Heartwarming as they kiss.
- George and Junior try this trick in their shorts many times, though it always backfires on them, usually either due to Junior becoming confused and forgetting that George is the one in disguise, or for example in the case of "Hound Hunters" in which they are dog catchers trying to attract dogs by dressing in a cat suit, the scheme works too well.
- Author Appeal: Avery really enjoyed the idea of torturing mothers-in-law, if his "Series of Tomorrow" is to be believed.
- Beware the Nice Ones: Whatever you do to Droopy, don't ever, EVER deface a picture of the girl he loves...or take away his son's milk.
Droopy: Y'know what? That makes me mad!
- Big "Shut Up!": Joe Bear shouts this a lot in "Rock-a-Bye Bear".
- Bloodless Carnage
- Born in the Theatre: Definitely a favorite of Tex's, from characters running off of the film they're printed on, to yelling at members of the movie theater audience, to pulling stray hairs out of the theater projectors, to passing the boundary of the Toon universe where Technicolor ends.
- Broken Record: While Screwy Squirrel was being chased by Meathead.
- Butter Face: Several cartoons use this gag.
- By the Lights of Their Eyes: Parodied in "Who Killed Who" -- a pair of eyes peek through a slot on the door, and when spotted, the slot shuts... leaving the eyes on the other side of it. The eyes proceed to bang themselves on the slot to get it reopened.
- Cartoon Bomb
- The Cat Came Back: Droopy's Stock and Trade.
- Chekhov's Gunman: Lampshaded in "King Size Canary." The hobo cat is about to eat a mouse (which was in a sealed can of cat food, no less), but the mouse tells him, "I've seen this cartoon before, and brother, believe me if you're smart you won't eat me. 'Cuz before this picture's over, I save your life!" The mouse makes good on his word after all (scaring away a dog as a giant), but how does the cat repay him? By attempting to eat him!
- Cloudcuckooland: "The Cat Who Hated People" is this especially but as "Half Pint Pygmy" goes on, the jungle animals become more and more surreal (like two giraffes connected by their necks with no head between them.
- Cluster F-Bomb: Played with in "Screwball Squirrel," when Screwy is provoking Meathead into chasing him by insulting him through a payphone:
Screwy Squirrel: Why, you-- (notices audience) Oh, pardon me. (closes door and... blows a raspberry into the speaker.)
- This may also have been because at the time the Hays Code prohibited the sound of flatulence in film, even if it was made by blowing a raspberry.
- Cock-a-Doodle Dawn: In "Cock-a-Doodle Dog", though instead of just crowing at dawn the pesky rooster crows all day long after Butch had no sleep the previous night.
- Country Mouse / City Mouse: The premise of "Little Rural Riding Hood."
- Cranial Eruption
- Curse Cut Short: At the end of "Blitz Wolf."
- Deadpan Snarker: Droopy to the Wolf in "Shooting of Dan McGoo", after the wolf claims his drink was watered down.
"What do you want for ten cents? Gasoline?"
- Department of Redundancy Department: Michael Lah is credited in "Cellbound" as both animator and director.
- Deranged Animation: Particularly in the cartoon "The Cat That Hated People."
- Also, "Half Pint Pygmy"
- Disguised in Drag: Spike in "Ventriloquist Cat" (female cat) and "The Garden Gopher" (female gopher).
- Disproportionate Retribution: "Magic Maestro" is one big case of this. Presto sabotages the Great Poochini's opera performance solely because he wasn't hired as an opening act -- not that opera is well known for opening with a magic show in the first place, mind you.
- Downer Ending: Though all of his cartoons are Played for Laughs, he wasn't afraid to end on something of a downer every once in a while. Lampshaded in at least three cartoons where the protagonist meets with a terrible fate ("Batty Baseball," "The Early Bird Dood It," and Screwy Squirrel's last short "Lonesome Lenny"), when a character holds up a sign that says "Sad ending, isn't it?"
- Driven to Suicide: Though sometimes shocking to modern audiences, some of Avery's cartoons ended with the main character shooting themselves, such as "Red Hot Riding Hood".
- Everythings Nuttier With Squirrels: The Screwy Squirrel cartoons.
- Everything's Worse with Bears: "Rock-A-Bye Bear"
"QUIET! SHUDDUP! QUIET!! I HATE NOISE!! I CAN'T STANDS NOISE!! WHAT THE MATTA? YOU DEEF OR SOMETHIN'??"
- The Faceless: Meathead the dog after Screwy Squirrel pulls his face off with flypaper.
- Fake Rabies: In the Droopy short "Wags to Riches," Spike puts shaving cream on a sleeping Droopy and phones in a report of a mad dog, but a fan blows the foam onto Spike's face just as the dog catcher arrives.
- Family-Unfriendly Violence
- Finger Gun: Dinosaur Dan in "The First Bad Man" uses his own finger as a gun when his real gun runs out of bullets. Also used by Spike/Butch in "Wags to Riches" (but not in "Millionaire Droopy") after attempting to shoot Droopy.
- Fire and Brimstone Hell: Where the Hitler-type wolf ends up in after getting killed in "Blitz Wolf".
Wolf: Where am I? Have I been blown to...
A bunch of devils: (in unison) Eh... it's a possibility.
- Flat Joy: Droopy is Trope Codifier.
- Fractured Fairy Tale: A lot of his cartoons, such as "Red Hot Riding Hood," "Swing Shift Cinderella," and "Blitz Wolf."
- Fur Is Clothing
- Heroes Want Redheads: Wolves do, too.
- Glamorous Wartime Singer: Red was based off of these. In one of her later shorts she does sing a song with a wartime theme.
- Gravity Is a Harsh Mistress
- Gross Up Close-Up: A possible Ur Example occurs in "Cock-A-Doodle Dog", where the camera does a close up on the sleep-deprived Butch's bloodshot eyes (which are made to look like a road map).
- Grumpy Bear: A literal example, with Joe Bear in "Rock-a-Bye Bear".
- Hard Head
- Hello, Nurse!: Another trope Tex Avery helped codify.
- He Went That Way!
- Hollywood Healing
- Hospital Hottie: The chicken nurse from the end of "The Hick Chick". Really, she's basically Red if she was a chicken.
- Hurricane of Puns: While the average Avery cartoon has a bunch of this trope, "Symphony in Slang" in particular is practically nothing but this trope.
- Incredibly Lame Pun: Lampshaded with the "reject" crossed animals at the end of "The Farm of Tomorrow". For example, crossing a goat with an owl -- a hootennanny.
- In "The Car of Tomorrow", the narrator groans at a pun about "seal-beam headlights".
- The Insomniac: Butch in "Cock-A-Doodle Dog", because he's being kept awake by a noisy rooster.
- Instant Waking Skills: In "Rock-a-Bye Bear," a dog is house-sitting for a bear that's going into hibernation; but this bear will instantly wake up at the sound of a pin drop and pummel the dog yelling "QUIET!! SHADDUP! QUIET!!" Hilarity Ensues as a rival dog attempts to wake the bear up and steal the watchdog's job.
- Interactive Narrator: "Red Hot Riding Hood" begins this way, with the Wolf, Red Riding Hood and Granny complaining about doing the same story the same way every time.
- Iris Out: Meathead concedes defeat and asks for "Screwball Squirrel" to end, but Screwy holds back the iris and convinces him to go for one last shot a la hide-and-seek.
- Iron Butt Monkey: Most of the antagonists.
- Just Whistle: In Bad Luck Blackie a kitten being bullied by a dog makes a deal with a black cat that whenever he blows on a whistle the black cat will come and cross the dog's path, causing bad luck.
- Karma Houdini: Screwy Squirrel, who had seemingly no motivation besides meanness for torturing the dog and who never got his comeuppance. Except, in his final cartoon, the ending suggests the dog killed him - see Downer Ending.
- Killed Off for Real: Screwy Squirrel in "Lonesome Lenny."
- Let's Get Dangerous: Droopy, when someone has a laugh at his expense for any reason and is about to be severely punished by him for it.
Droopy: You know what? That makes me mad!
George: "Junior...bend over."
- Medium Awareness: Many times the cartoons characters in Avery's shorts knew they were in a cartoon.
- This exchange from "The Early Bird Dood It," as the worm and bird pass by a movie billboard with the lobby card of the very cartoon they're in:
Bird: Hey! I hear that's a pretty funny cartoon.
Worm: Well, I sure hope it's funnier than this one!
- The book the old coot is reading in Who Killed Who is titled "Who Killed Who (From the cartoon of the same name)."
- Mime-and-Music-Only Cartoon: "Lucky Ducky." No spoken dialogue, a few sound effects, a disclaimer at the beginning. And that's it.
- Ms. Fanservice: Red is a classic example. She was intended to be a Ms. Fanservice for World War Two troops at the time.
- Napoleon Delusion: Screwy Squirrel had one, and then gave it to his unfortunate antagonist Meathead.
- No Indoor Voice: The bear in "Rock-a-Bye Bear," who ironically hates noise despite the fact that he's always shouting.
- Not the Fall That Kills You: The killer in "Dumb-Hounded" jumps off a tall building to his supposed death, but he has "good brakes" that he uses to screech himself to a halt just before hitting the pavement, on which he lands as gentle as a feather.
- Offscreen Teleportation: Lampshaded in "Screwball Squirrel":
Screwy Squirrel: Uh, you people want in on a little secret? You wanna know how I tricked that guy all through the picture?
(a second Screwy Squirrel appears)
Both Screwy Squirrels: We was switched all the time!
(they both laugh, but then two identical Meatheads walk over and pick them up)
Both Meatheads: So was we! (they laugh à la Screwy Squirrel)
- Also Droopy's modus operandi.
- Panty Shot: The girl flea in "What Price Fleadom," Red at the end of "Wild And Wolfy."
- Scooby-Dooby Doors: Many cartoons, making Tex the Ur Example if not the Trope Namer.
- Self-Deprecation: Tex had a habit of lampshading his own corny gags as early as his first MGM cartoon, Blitz Wolf.
- Screwy Squirrel: duh.
- Sexophone: Whenever an attractive woman struts onto the scene. Always the same riff too.
- Shot for Shot Remake: His last two shorts ("Millionaire Droopy" and "Cat's Meow") were remakes of earlier shorts ("Wags to Riches" and "Ventriloquist Cat", respectively) done for Cinemascope.
- Simpleton Voice: Junior, various other antagonists.
- Smelly Skunk: "Little 'Tinker"
- Something Else Also Rises: Just watch any of Wolfie's wild takes.
- Stock Scream: A lot of the screams were also used a lot in Tom and Jerry.
- Talking Animal
- Take That: Tex loved making fun of Disney, as well as Harman and Ising's own "cutesy cartoons" they made for MGM. Just watch the opening of "Screwball Squirrel" for example.
- That Makes Me Feel Angry: Droppy used to say this, almost word for word. Of course, he had to, due to his monotone way of speaking, you couldn't tell how he was feeling.
Droopy: You know what? That makes me mad.
- Through a Face Full of Fur: For instance, in his MGM short "Who Killed Who", a ghost blushes after being caught in an Eek! a Mouse! moment.
- Unlikely Hero: Droopy
Droopy: You know what? I'm the hero.
- Unstoppable Rage: When Droopy says he's mad, somebody's in for a world of hurt.
- Vagabond Buddies: George and Junior
- Villain Protagonist: Screwy Squirrel.
- Wartime Cartoon: Many of his WWII-era cartoons qualify, "Blitz Wolf" being the one that dealt with WWII directly.
- Wild Take: Trope Codifier
- Wolf Whistle: Tex's cartoons are known for this.
- Woodland Creatures: Played with and parodied in "Screwball Squirrel" and "Little 'Tinker".
- Zany Cartoon
- Zeerust: His "of Tomorrow" shorts, which parodied documentaries about future technology that were popular in the 1950's.