The subject of cartoon characters and radio has already been discussed extensively on Cartoon Research and other cartoon forums. Devon Baxter had done several Radio-Round Up articles profiling radio references in cartoons. The radio show Mickey Mouse Theater on the Air was covered in Taschen’s terrific Mickey Mouse book by J.B. Kaufman and David Gerstein. Also, radio adaptations of Disney films have been covered by J.B. Kaufman and Jim Korkis on Cartoon Research. However, this article is about cartoon characters appearing on radio shows.
Most of the shows featuring a character cameo was due to Mel Blanc. With Mel Blanc as part of the cast of his own show, The Jack Benny Program, The Phil Harris Alice Faye Show, or The Abbott and Castello Show, there was always an opportunity for him to break into Woody Woodpecker, Porky Pig, or Bugs Bunny. The frequent appearances of these characters, particularly Bugs Bunny, shows how popular they really were. Whenever Mel would break into the roles (usually as a surprise to the audience), audiences would break into hysterics. Clarence Nash, Pinto Colvig, and Arthur Q. Bryan would also occasionally have to break into characters Donald Duck, Goofy, or Elmer Fudd at times as well.
Most of the time, characters would appear in cameos on the radio shows, frequently as part of a dream sequence or as part of a quick laugh. However, sometimes, radio shows would have characters as their feature attractions. Many of these radio shows no longer exist. So many radio shows made between 1931 and 1936 no longer exist. It didn’t become common for stations to produce 16-inch acetate reference discs until 1936. As early as 1930, radio was paying attention to the Hollywood studios with Walter Lantz and Pinto Colvig appearing on the air to showcase the making of Oswald Rabbit cartoons. Charlie McCarthy also had Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs on his show to promote the success of the film.
Some Surprise Cameos
The Abbott and Costello Show 11/19/42 “Knights in Shining Armor with Merle Oberon”— Mel Blanc plays the sound man and mentions he does all of the voices in the Leon Schlesinger cartoons for Warner Bros. He performs the voice of Porky Pig and Bugs Bunny on the show. He also imitates an electric organ which comes back up later on the show. He gets the hiccups whenever he’s yelled at. (Scene starts at 4:40 – CLICK HERE)
The Abbott and Costello Show 11/25/43 — “Costello’s Pet Turkey With Jane Wyman” — Bugs Bunny was promoted as one of the attractions of this episode in the very beginning. Lou has a pet turkey, and Bugs Bunny calls the team on the phone after Lou has a meltdown over his Ingrid missing. (Scene starts at 18:40 – Click Here)
Mail Call—8/02/1944—Jack Carson tours his home town in Canada on his magic carpet. Bugs Bunny appears. Like other appearances, Bugs makes a joke about having a family. Here he jokes about being on a honeymoon. (Click Here – Scene starts at 7:00)
The Mel Blanc Show—“The Missing Slices of Bread” 2/18/1947 — Mel Blanc had his own short-lived radio show. On each show, he was promoted at the beginning as the voice of Bugs Bunny and would say That’s All Folks at the end of each show. Mel’s own radio show wasn’t a success. In this show, Bugs Bunny cameos in a dream sequence when Mel is looking for slices of “stolen” bread. (Scene Starts around 13:00 – CLICK HERE)
Jack Benny Program Episodes
The Jack Benny Program — Jack Fires The Sportsman Quartet —02/23/1947— While driving the Maxwell, Rochester says that he can’t go any faster and that the Tortoise and the Hare have already passed them. After a bit, he says that they finally caught up to the hare, who turns out to be Bugs Bunny (Scene starts at 2:00). [LINK]
The Jack Benny Program 10/01/1950—The Maxwell is Stolen— The Sportsman sings their song to promote lucky strikes and to add to the plot about Jack’s stolen car. Woody Woodpecker chimes in, giving his two cents and his iconic laugh. ([LINK] scene starts at about 18:40).
The Jack Benny Program—I Was Coerced—2/25/1951—Mel Blanc and Don Wilson visit Jack Benny. Mel’s novelty record I Tawt I Taw A Puddy Tat with Tweety and Sylvester was popular enough to be even referenced on the Jack Benny Show. Mel sings as Tweety about Lucky Strikes Cigarettes for the shows weekly plug for the sponsor. ([LINK] scene starts at 11:00)
The Jack Benny Show—Jack Introduces the Cast/Last Season of the Show—03/06/1951— Jack introduces Mel Blanc. Mel does many of his voices, including the parrot, Professor LeBlanc, the train announcer, and the Maxwell. Mel walks away doing a wide array of voices, including Bugs Bunny and Woody Woodpecker. (Embed below – Scene starts at 23:16).
The Jack Benny Program—11/9/1952—Jack Sees a Doctor—Jack goes to the doctor and sits next to a patient who thinks he’s a rabbit. This patient is, of course, played by Mel Blanc, who does his Bugs Bunny voice. ([LINK] Scene starts at 19:30)The Jack Benny Program—11/29/1953—Thanksgiving Dinner—Mel Blanc calls and complains that Jack is making him do the voice of a turkey. While on the phone, he performs as Bugs Bunny, the Maxwell, an English Horse, and Woody Woodpecker. Mel also plays a turkey in this episode. ([LINK] Scene starts at 15:20)
The Jack Benny Program—The Don Wilson Story—01/10/1954—Mel did his stuttering Porky voice in many radio shows. During the war, he used the same voice as Private Sad Sack. On his own show, he used the voice for his Zookie character. While telling “The Don Wilson Story” Jack looks for announcers. One that auditioned was Mel Blanc doing his stuttering voice. Mel, at the end of his audition, says, “That’s All Folks!”([LINK] Scene starts at 23:25)
The Jack Benny Program 3/28/1954—Jack and the Bean Stalk—In a dream sequence in which Jack Benny dreams he’s Jack from the Jack and the Beanstalk story, Jack meets Bugs Bunny (referred to solely as Mr. Rabbit). Jack tells Mr. Rabbit that he reminds him of a friend, Frank Remley. Remley was the drunken guitarist in Phil Harris’s band on the show. ([LINK] Scene Starts at 19:00)
Longer Guest Appearances and Cameos:
Abbott and Costello Meets Bugs Bunny (Nylon Stockings with Lucille Ball)—November 18th 1943.
Mel Blanc was a regular performer on Abbott and Costello’s radio show. The famous pair was also very aware of Bugs Bunny. In fact, Bugs Bunny is referenced in their film Buck Privates Come Home. On this show, Mel Blanc plays Bugs Bunny. Mel Blanc played Bugs in a few others as well, including one with Jane Wyman and another with Akim Tamiroff. This episode is significant because it features Bugs Bunny as a major character. Unlike other shows that may feature Bugs in a fairy tale segment or a dream sequence, Abbott and Costello showcased the character as if he was a celebrity guest. He gets equal building with Lucille Ball in the show intro. A lot of this plot takes place in a department show. Many of the things that Bugs Bunny does were much more like the character’s personality in the cartoons than in the other shows that cameoed him. What Bugs does seems like it could’ve been taken right out of unused gags of a cartoon like Hare Conditioned (which was made after this cartoon). Very wonderful radio show. [CLICK HERE TO LISTEN]
The Lifebouy Show (A Wild Hare Recreation)— On this December 9, 1943, broadcast of The Lifebouy Show, Mel Blanc and Arthur Q. Bryan reprise their roles as Bugs Bunny and Elmer Fudd for what seems to be sort of a recreation of A Wild Hare. This was not the first time A Wild Hare was redone for radio. A Leon Schlesinger introduced radio production of A Wild Hare was broadcasted on The Al Pearce Show in 1941, staying faithful to the script. That broadcast no longer seems to be around, but its script is available on the now-defunct Tobacco Archives website. The Lifebuoy Show was hosted by Al Jolson. One of Mel Blanc’s many records he made was a cover Toot, Toot, Tootsie, which was originally from the film Jolson Sings Again.
The Hall of Fame (12/25/1934)—”Walt Disney and His Gang”—
The gang is all here this Christmas. Mickey, Minnie, Donald Duck, Clara Cluck, Pluto, The Three Little Pigs, and all the rest appear. The show features songs straight from the Silly Symphonies cartoons and performances from all the other Disney characters. This predates Mickey’s own radio show by four years. The broadcast starts with “The Silly Symphony Orchestra.” Songs include “The World Owes Me A Living” from The Grasshopper and the Ants, Who’s Afraid of the Big Bad Wolf from The Three Little Pigs, “We are the Boogy Man” from Lullaby Land, “Hi De Hates” from Goddess of Spring, and “You’re Nothing But a Nothing” from The Flying Mouse. Walt Disney appears as well as host. This was also meant to promote Mickey’s cartoons now turning to all technicolor. Also featured are Mickey’s pigs “Hoppo, Burpo, and Chirpo.” Grand Opera (written by Mickey Mouse” is also featured. This broadcast was profiled in a January 35 issue of Radio Stars with a photo of Walt riding a large Mickey Mouse. The broadcast ends with Christmas music. The broadcast coincides with a contest from Screenland Magazine for kids to win prizes by saying why they like Mickey Mouse. The Screenland article is also pictured below.
The Chase and Sanborn Show: Charlie McCarthy Interviews Porky Pig
Charlie McCarthy interviews Porky Pig in this radio broadcast from Christmas. The two characters also fight with each other for a bit.
Command Performance: A Message from Donald and Goofy to Hitler (6-30-1942)— In this show (starting about 13:00), Pinto Colvig and Clarence Nash play Donald Duck and Goofy who give a message to Hitler. Groucho hosts this episode of Command Performance. [LISTEN HERE]
Chesterfield Supper Club – Guest Mel Blanc 1/30/1947 – Mel Blanc guests on the Chesterfield Supper Club. Mel Blanc plays all of his characters. Mel goes back and forth between his characters showing how good of a performer he was. Bugs, Daffy, and Porky sabotage the whole show and take over the show from the hosts with a fake phone call.
NBC Story Shop—Donald Duck— In The NBC Story Shop, Craig McDonnell has Donald Duck as a guest star to help him tell stories. [LINK]
Texaco Town with Eddie Cantor—Eddie Cantor’s 1937 broadcast had a quick tribute to Disney with the characters singing. Who’s Afraid of the Big Bad Wolf is sung, The World Owes Me A Living from Grasshopper and the Ants, You’re Nothing But a Nothing from The Flying Mouse, Clara Cluck and Donald Duck also sing. Donald sings Mary Had a Little Lamb. This broadcast was successful that Walt and the gang were brought back for an encore.
Command Performance a Tribute to Walt Disney (The Animal Show)—05/03/1943—
In this show, it’s an all animal performance. Many of the animation fans out there have probably already heard this one. It was included as a bonus feature in one of Thunderbean’s Cartoons for Victory sets. In this show, Panchito Pistoles, Clara Cluck, Porky Pig, Jose Carioca, Donald Duck, Goofy, Bugs Bunny, and Elmer Fudd all pay tribute to the animals of the US military. Radio logs credit this show as “A Tribute to Walt Disney.” However, about half of the characters on this show aren’t even Disney. This is one of the neatest shows that I’ve ever heard before. This episode came out around the time that The Three Caballeros did. This seems to be also a promotional tool for the film. Panchito Pistoles and Jose Carioca also appear alongside Donald Duck. Pinto Colvig plays Goofy who is mistakenly credited as “Goofy Horsecollar,” further showcasing the confusion about whether or not Goofy is a dog.
Command Performance: Bugs Bunny— Bugs Bunny appears on an August 21st 1943 broadcast of Command Performance. Bugs appears about at 5:57 of the show. Bugs Bunny was a big attraction to soldiers. The character could be seen on many military patches and airplanes at the time as an American mascot. Here is a show in which Bugs Bunny and Elmer Fudd both appear. [LINK]
The Phil Harris Alice Faye Show—The Easter Bunny 04/09/1950—In Phil Harris’s own radio show, Mel Blanc plays the part of the Easter Bunny. Bugs Bunny’s constant association with Easter in promotional tools goes back to his creation and is a subject that could be its own article on Cartoon Research. In order to keep their father’s beliefs in the easter bunny afloat, Phil Harris’s two children seek out Mel Blanc to dress up and trick Phil Harris into thinking he’s the easter bunny. Arthur Q. Bryan also cameos at the very end.
(Special Thanks to Keith Scott)