May 11, 2023 posted by Steve Stanchfield

Making A Character A Star: What Ingredients Do *You* Think Are Most Important?

In Thunderbean-not-news:
Since it’s clear that it doesn’t make sense to update on the “almost finished-ness” of various Thunderbean projects, I’ll shut up about the nearly done stuff until they’re *actually* done. I’ll keep talking about aspects of things as they’re developing, but lesson learned on this, and apologies for the frustration that I may have caused.

It’s an interactive post today— so your response is required! Let’s see if we can break a record for Cartoon Research responses….

As I write this, I’ve just arrived home after working nearly all waking hours the past three days on the student show setup. The weekend before was grading, including reading forty-one eight page papers on animated films, the finals for the Animation History class at CCS. They’re always fun to read, but exhausting.

One of the students wrote a paper noting that there’s barely any newer cartoon characters that have had the ability to continue to be popular like the older cartoon characters. As we were working on setup I had a few good conversations about some of the reasons why.

If you think about it, it’s sort of amazing that so many cartoon characters from the golden age are still recognized now. The staying power of any individual character relies on appeal in various ways, and of course while of that is individual taste, it’s pretty clear that, over the course of individual cartoons, strong ideas were built for characters that allowed them to continue to live and be enjoyed by new generations.

I thought it might be fun to list off some of your favorite (or most hated!) cartoon characters and why they have (or don’t have) appeal. Since everyone has different ideas as to why they like something, it might be fun to also explain a little bit about how you view appeal (or what isn’t appealing). So, here’s my off the top of my head short-list of favorites and not-so-much favorite non-favorites:

1) Columbia’s Scrappy

Why do I love Scrappy so much? I think, above anything else, he’s an underdog in his own cartoons, and and underdog in remembrance of characters from the golden age. In his own time, he was even second-fiddle to the more popular Krazy Kat cartoons that Columbia produced. What I think I like most about the cartoons is that Scrappy is a tremendously appealing character. He tries to succeed against nearly-always impossible odds, and pretty frequently loses anyway. Yet, in each new cartoon, he’s almost always smiling and cheerful. The best of the cartoons are well timed and animated, especially so many of the really fun early ones. Oopy (or the almost Oopy by any other name) is a pretty good pest in a lot of the cartoons, and I always love seeing Scrappy get mad at him o the point of rage at times. Dynamic, maybe not-so-much, but the best and really enjoyable after multiple viewings, and the worst at least are generally tolerable (although someone once told me the Millionaire Hobo is not only the worst cartoon ever made, but close to the worst thing ever put on film-now that’s true dislike!).

2) Terrytoon’s Kiko the Kangaroo

If you watch enough Kiko cartoons, you can identify exactly why Kiko never found much success. His appeal is more on design than any other thing since there’s basically never much consistency to his character. You can’t point out what his personality is at all since, honestly, he just doesn’t have one of his own, but rather just reacts to things happening all the time. That isn’t to say I don’t like Kiko cartoons. They’re enjoyable for what they are- and I personally enjoying hearing the never ending Kiko theme song when he comes on the screen. Come to think of it, Mighty Mouse follows that same pattern. So, even though Kiko is lacking in personality appeal, he’s still really appealing in his design and motion.

3) Fleischer Studio’s specific building of Popeye (1933-42)

It’s pretty clear that Segar’s “Popeye” was helped tremendously in popularity by the nearly-pitch perfect, evolving efforts of the Fleischer studio. I think it’s the best match of a studio’s style with a licensed property in any cartoons, ever. The Fleischers built Popeye’s appeal though wonderful little adventures, highlighting different aspects of his personality in each. Popeye is kind at times, selfish and bitter at others, self reflective in others. He always puts his sense of justice above anything else, and sometimes his idea of what is fair is based on a street-fighting attitude. I wonder how many of the story artists and animators at Fleischer’s based their ideas on their own experiences in the big city. I think the Fleischer cartoons from the early to mid-30s are as thoroughly New York as any cartoons could ever be, ever. When I was growing up in the early 70s they were the only series still on TV that were in black and white. The station I watched renewed Popeye for many, many years, with half the cartoons in color (at the beginning of the show) and another ending the half hour show. The thing I liked best about Popeye was his sense of justice, even though he’s not too edjamakated. He still tries to do what right with the tools he *does* have (“Now I teaches ‘em MY way”)

4) The Dumb Cluck (1937)

Now, here’s a character that really doesn’t have appeal to recommend him. The Dumb Cluck shows up in only a handful of cartoons in the late 30s. Great stop-motion animator Charlie Bowers directed them and seems to have a lot of trouble considering our poor cluck as more than a vehicle for gags- leaving you with no reason to ever like him.

Now it’s your turn: What character or characters have lots of appeal to you, and what characters do not?

Looking forward to hearing your thoughts. Have a good week all!


  • Will do!

    Oswald the Lucky Rabbit – The preceder of Mickey Mouse. Disney brought the character back in ‘06

    Fox and Crow – They bare a similarity to Tom and Jerry

    Toby the Pup – Currently half the amount of shorts only survive

    Pooch the Pup – Sadly praised by a pixel artist (bloody hell), but was Lantz’s third produced cartoon series

  • If there’s one character I really want to see mentioned more often, it’s Farmer Al Falfa. The character survived years worth of series to series transition and had the longest theatrical duration out of any classic character. The premise of them is that he’s a farmer– but grumpy, old, drunk… and sometimes likes to go to burlesque and dress up as Father Noah. Basic, but somehow really gets a kick out of me, and whenever I watch a Fable it gets even more hilarious. Shall DOWN ON PHONEY FARM ever get a new shelf life on Blu-Ray, it will give people a good impression why Terry sought his eyes on making money off that big rascal. Al Falfa is also the kind of character where the everyman formula works best, as long as his background is intact. He can randomly go far away to be a cheese maker from Holland or a pilot, and I can still find a reason to laugh. An almost? timeless, adorable figure of nonsense gone by. Stathes and folks are doing a good bidding doing whatever they can to resurrect his legacy.

  • I have so many favorites, I have narrowed this list to characters whose longevity lasted through multiple incarnations, redesigns, and in most cases, more than one series.

    1. Koko the Clown–from “Out of the Inkwell” through “Betty Boop”, Koko was depicted in many forms and ways, beginning with his rotoscoped image in the early Fleischers, past the silent era, to being a supporting player in the “Betty Boop” series (his role in “Snow White” being particularly bizarre and memorable).

    2. Felix the Cat–in terms of sheer longevity, this one may take the prize. He has delighted children (and adults) for many generations, beginning in the silent era and persisting into the sound era–in comic books, comic strips, cartoon shorts, serialization, and even a Saturday morning cartoon series (at least one that I can recall). Felix has endured multiple incarnations, many changes of supporting cast, and many redesigns, but has retained his recognition appeal for generations. The proof is that kids today still recognize the character, have at the very least heard of him.

    3. Oswald the Lucky Rabbit–Walt Disney’s first breakaway star, who quite literally got “broken away” from his home studio, this character has probably had more varying redesigns than any other. And like the others so far on this list, he had his origins in the silent era. He remained a popular character in comics long after his popularity as the star of cartoon shorts had waned. Many times he was reworked and repurposed, even changing from his original proto-Mickey Mouse appearance to his re-colored more rabbit-like design–and even became a “family rabbit” after his adoption of Floyd and Lloyd. Then in recent years, reverting back to the Disney studios, he has at the same time reverted back to a design similar to his original form.

    4. Peg-Leg Pete–this is the oldest of Disney’s currently-recurring characters, dating all the way back to the Alice Comedies. He has undergone numerous redesigns and name changes, the most drastic being the addition of, and later removal of, his peg leg. Like Felix and Oswald, he has had a lengthy career in comics as well as in cartoons, his most frequent nemesis being of course Mickey Mouse. Despite the many changes, his appeal as Mickey’s most frequent nemesis remains constant. He has also antagonized Donald Duck, particularly in some of the cartoon shorts, and Goofy in cartoon shorts such as “Moving Day” but also in the Disney Afternoon series “Goof Troop.” He has even had a wife and kids and at least one recurring girlfriend. I originally knew the character as Black Pete, but he has also been known as Putrid Pete, Sneaky Pete, and just plain Pete. On at least one occasion he was Black Pierre. And in “Symphony Hour” he was, bizarrely, Sylvester Macaroni. But whatever name he goes by he remains a classic villain.

    5. Jiminy Cricket—originally created as a one-off character for the film “Pinocchio,” Jiminy Cricket has appeared in multiple films, including numerous educational videos for the “Mickey Mouse Club” and has served as unofficial host of the Disneyland/Walt Disney Presents TV anthology series. Voiced most famously by Cliff Edwards, and by several others since, he has continued into the present day as a popular recurring character. He also was one of the few feature characters to be spun off into another film–as host of “Fun and Fancy Free.” (Although Figaro, also from Pinocchio, had a career for a time as Minnie Mouse’s pet cat.) He still continues as a Disney icon–in pins, buttons, plush dolls, and more. He also had his own comic books for a brief time. Personally, I cannot get enough of this character. He has been the host for many special presentations, including the classic Christmas special “From All of Us to All of You.” His presence always spells delight.

    I could go on and on, but this is a good sampling. Thanks for the challenge, Steve!

  • First of all they cannot be annoying. They have to be likable in personality.
    Second, they have to be well designed. None of that CalArts look that is pretty bland.
    Finally, there must be something unique as opposed to just a copycat. And it should be noted most of these creations were a happy accident. Nobody sat down and said “let’s create a character that is old, one eye closed, he’s a sailor, he’s gruff, and he eats spinach.” Popeye was an accident. I sometimes wonder what if some other one shot WB cartoons responded just as well as Bugs Bunny and the Road Runner.

    • Actually, it was Elzie Segar who sat down and created that character who was old, was a sailor, was gruff, and ate spinach. He was also sarcastic. .

      • Popeye wasn’t actually old, although he was supposedly based on an actual old sailor.

    • Any character ever created was a deliberate decision. In Popeye’s case, Segar needed a character in a storyline where Castor Oyl was hiring a sailor. The unplanned part was continuing to create stories around this ugly old man who eventually became a far more appealing and interesting personality. Creators now don’t always have the luxury of a slow development period for new characters that Popeye, Donald Duck and Bugs Bunny’s creators had, with the need to create 10 to 26 episodes of a series rather than a bunch of stand-alone short subjects.

      • Hey Deb! How did you manage to add an avatar to your post? You’re the only one who has one (at least that shows on my computer)!

        Well, just so I don’t derail the conversation, I thoroughly agree with GDX’s statements regarding Popeye, Bugs, Daffy, a dozen other WB characters, and Mickey. Icons all. I never liked Pepe, DETEST Gabby, and I watched a Charlie Chan last night with Roland Winters! (Yes, I’m o-l-d.)

    • No offences but I don’t like the label of recent characters designs as the “Cal Arts” look. Heck, I don’t think even half the artist designers even went to Cal Arts!

    • “First of all they cannot be annoying. They have to be likable in personality.”

      I disagree. Daffy Duck is obnoxious and is a GREAT cartoon star. He provides what I call “friction” – for lack of a better term – to Porky Pig and Bugs Bunny especially. It depends on the kind of “annoying.” In addition to Daffy, I kind of like the annoying Gabby characters in the Warner Bros. cartoons – by that I mean both Gabby Goat and Gabby Goose – but I can’t abide Gabby Human in the Fleischer Bros./Paramount cartoons.

      I don’t waste my time on any modern animation. I’m strictly interested in the stuff from the 1910s through the ’50s, and little else. (Although I think the Rocky and Bullwinkle Show is great, in spite of the limited animation. To quote the late, great Charles M. Jones, “All animation is full animation.” Or vice versa – I forget.)

      I think Toby the Pup is great. Too bad not more of his cartoons survive. Aside from theatrical Warners cartoons, the stuff I like is the stuff Tommy Stathes and Steve Stanchfield/Thunderbean make available. That’s a LOT of good entertainment.

      Oops! Avery, too.

  • In terms of appeal

    Bud and Susie-Frank Moser’s contribution to the Paramount Magazine has a nice charm in the survivors lurking around, like THE MIDNIGHT RIDE OF BUD and THE CANDY KIDS. I really like his way of drawing more literalized designs, especially the cute cat they have. Apparently, later shorts only feature Bud and Scat the Cat (he’s given this name in a review for one).

    Toby the Pup-I love the survivors. A great blend of music and charm, and the gags are funny too. Hopefully more of these surface something. Easily my favorite shorts of the 1930/1931 period

  • Attractive design is a must for me…which is why I think many characters from modern cartoon series will not last the way the classics have. There’s nothing attractive, IMO, in the design of Spongebob or Phineas and Ferd, as examples. Their designs seem ugly and amateurish to my eye.

    • Honestly, I think the designs are okay. I’ve seen much worst (usually in the adult animation department).

  • I like a lot of magical girl anime, and those series all have virtually the same setup: An adolescent girl discovers that she has magical powers and is hence a more important person than she had hitherto believed. At this point a number of new people enter her life, some of whom are going through exactly the same thing, and they help her to develop her powers and fulfill her destiny. This is an obvious metaphor for growing up; to a child, being able to have a baby, drive a car or make money is akin to having magical powers. But in anime, the fate of entire worlds is at stake. Since growing up is an experience we all have in common, we can relate to the heroine’s triumphs and tribulations, however fanciful; the character thus becomes a person we care about and sympathise with. If the story is told well, the result can be emotionally powerful.

    (Incidentally, Bloom, the central magical girl in Winx Club, has a pet named Kiko, but he’s a rabbit, not a kangaroo.)

    Compare Animaniacs’ Katie Kaboom, a teenage girl who loses her temper at the least provocation, turns into a monster and goes on a destructive rampage; then in the end she calms down as though nothing had ever happened. Yes, we know that adolescents have wild mood swings; we’ve all been there. But this is a middle-aged adult’s view of adolescence. Katie’s feelings, as strong as they are, don’t really matter; in fact, the whole point of the cartoons is to ridicule her for expressing them. (It doesn’t help that they all follow a single unvarying formula.) Small wonder that Katie was one of the least memorable, least appealing characters on an otherwise brilliant show.

    As for what constitutes appeal in a cartoon character, well, if we had a hard-and-fast answer to that there’d be no unappealing ones, would there? Any criterion you might propose would be bound to have exceptions. Besides, “appeal” is a subjective quality after all. There are some very popular cartoon characters that I can’t stand, like Tom Terrific and Spongebob Squarepants. My brother-in-law loathes Bugs Bunny, if you can believe that. De gustibus non disputandum est!

  • Andy Panda and Porky Pig really have no discernable personality or character traits to speak of (They’re generally cast either as cranks or put-upon dupes), and yet they both have so many entertaining cartoons built around them. Both have appealing designs and voices, but good gags and strong supporting characters are what I believe to be the key to their success.

    • Porky, IMO, is at his best when he is used, essentially, as an “actor” playing a part–usually teamed with Daffy–as in “Duck Dodgers” or “The Purple Pumpernickel”. There, his lack of “personality” works for him, not against him.

      • What in Heaven’s name is “The Purple Pumpernickel?” Do you mean “The Scarlet Pumpernickel?” Porky wasn’t teamed with Daffy in that. He opposed Daffy. (As did Sylvester.)

  • Are we strictly talking golden age or can we include television? Because the one I’m always most fascinated by is Scooby-Doo. He’s not only outlived all his HB contemporaries in popularity but also much more acclaimed cartoons like Rocky & Bullwinkle. I’ve decided it comes down to the following factors: Takamoto’s iconic designs, being the first cartoon based around the horror genre, Velma being the first female cartoon character since Betty Boop who took on an active role, Messick and Kasem’s performances

  • I always hated Pepe le Pew, even when I was a kid. One-joke character, and a lame joke at that.

    • Honestly, I happen to like his films despite being formula driven. I thought his last two were some of the best Warner animated shorts in the waning days of the studio.

  • Star power boils down to personality.

    I appreciate all the mentions of the underdogs here; they should never be forgotten. But among so many accomplished players in Toontown, who are the few who really stand out and are frequently discussed over time?

    I don’t think it’s Scrappy.

    Popeye really is such an overwhelming standout. There is no one or nothing else like him anywhere, in animation or otherwise.

    Bugs, Daffy, and arguably a dozen others from the once-in-a-lifetime Warner cartoon studio. Crazy-good talent and imagination, with special mention of Mel Blanc.

    Can’t forget The Mouse. Mickey was a force of nature who will live on forever.

    Star quality might be slim pickin’s in today’s time frame, but after some decades, at least one has emerged: Homer Simpson.


  • Part of the problem with “today’s kids” – the danged whippersnappers – is that they don’t seem to like anything in black-and-white! When i was growing up – now more than a half-century ago – most people in my neighborhood couldn’t afford a color TV set. The first family in our area that got a color TV set invited just about every kid in he neighborhood (or so it seemed) to watch a Sunday night episode of WALT DISNEY’S WONDERFUL WORLD OF COLOR. The Disney show was one of the only shows at the time that exclusively broadcast in color and what a treat it was to watch THE THREE LIVES OF THOMASINA and boo at the ice-cold animal vet (Patrick McGoohan) in the show. The first time I saw anything in color was – I think – when my dad passed his “bar exam” and we went to Springfield Illinois for that. The motel had another Disney show – featuring Ludvig Von Drake – who – for a long time – was my favorite cartoon character. It was due to the genius of Paul Frees’ voice characterizations, but it was also due to the dazzling (in my young eyes) COLOR!

    I have tried my best to get my son to love old black-and-white vintage cartoons. I came close when the Fleischer POPEYE cartoons were released on the DVD sets and he also liked the designs and animation of THE LITTLE KING cartoons, but … by and large, these days he’d rather watch SPONGEBOB SQUARE PANTS or maybe vintage episodes of JONNY QUEST. BUT – again, they’re in color!

    • This is not completely true. I grew up on SpongeBob (I’m 20), but prefer the Golden Age.

      • I find it heartening when young people cultivate an interest in golden age cartoons, classical music, great books, or anything that isn’t targeted specifically toward their age demographic.

    • I realize this comment is months old but I’m only 16 and I absolutely ADORE b+w cartoons! I love Fleisher and Schlesinger toons. It’s such a shame that I can’t find other kids that appreciate the same oldies as I do 🙁

  • I forgot to add earlier episodes of THE SIMPSONS. I know plenty of people who hate the Matt G. designs of the characters, but my son likes everything about the show – the designs, voice work, etc. He’s seen some of the newer episodes and they don’t have the same “punch.” But, I get that. How long have THE SIMPSONS been on the air? Well over 30 years now, right? i guess it’s how I felt as a kid watching the old Warner Bros. cartoons and then seeing a Chuck Jones or Friz Freleng “special” from the ’70s or early ’80s and wondering why it didn’t have the old “pep”!

    I hate to say this, but maybe the proper computer “colorization” is the answer for kids? Some years ago, I saw some “color” versions of the old black-and-white LOONEY TUNES that were digitally re-colored and they actually looked like early Technicolor to my eyes. Of course, I’d want the black-and-white originals to be available, but these didn’t look bad to me at all. Still, I’d rather have somebody like the late Ray Harryhausen supervise the process or somebody at Warner Bros. who could recapture the “look” of these films as if they had been done in color – as an experiment.

    Steve, I’m glad you’ve embraced the “odd and old” black-and-white cartoons as a youngster. Thanks to the efforts of you and your crew, our “world” of cartoon fans is a little richer for it!

  • If I were to think of the characters that I find the most appealing, Donald Duck and Uncle Scrooge and Snoopy and the rest of the Peanuts cast would top my list.

    Character design is a part of it. All of these characters have a pleasant and friendly look to them. But character design can only take you so far, if we notice how many other characters have knocked off the Disney and Schulz styles and are still mostly forgotten now.

    Personality is another key element. Donald and his friends really developed more in comics than they did in animation, and these recognizable personalities connected with their readers, and continue on in new stories in European comic books to this day. Similarly, Charlie Brown, Snoopy and their friends each have their own distinct personalities that connect to their audience to the point that 23 years after Charles M. Schulz’s death, people still remember Peanuts. Both Peanuts and the Duck comics have podcasts where people examine these works (Unpacking Peanuts and Barks Remarks/Rosa Remarks).

    We also should address the elephant in the room, corporate sponsorship. Both Disney and Peanuts have big businesses keeping these characters in the public eye, which many once-popular characters don’t, perhaps giving them an unfair advantage.

  • I disagree that modern cartoons characters aren’t popular, or won’t stand the test of time. My goddaughter, born in 1991 loves Spongebob, Rocko, Cowardly Dog, and the Animaniacs. She is well aware of Looney Tunes, but only through our showing her DVDs. Same with Fleischer Popeyes, though they were shown on cartoon network a few years back.

    I have rather recently taken a liking to Gandy Goose and Sourpuss. The animation is up to Golden Age level. (A surprise since they’re all Terrytoons.) I do not remember seeing these on TV in the late 50s, early 60s. Why they weren’t more widely shown is a mystery to me.

  • Cookie initially surprisingly had a more appealing design than Buddy

    • Agreed.

    • When it comes to Palmer’s efforts, Cookie sort of looks like an Iwerks character.

  • Mutt and Jeff had a built-in appeal, thanks to the popular comic strip. The Abbot-and-Costello dynamic with Mutt putting Jeff in peril made for a good comedy premise. It’s a pity they never made it into the sound era, sez I.

  • As a 60s kid I’m still a big Ludwig Von Drake fan. The animation and design were as fun as the voice.

    Always liked the clowns in “Dumbo”. Yes, as characters they’re meant to be unfunny and mean. But even without the dressing room scene you get these guys really believe they’re hilarious and cute.

    Pink Panther is fun to look at, a near stick figure who somehow registered as appealing. His character was a bit shaky, from the genuinely cool cat in movie credits to the generic happy oaf in many of the shorts.

    Bugs Bunny, Mr. Magoo, Betty Boop, Droopy and others tended to evolve to a certain ideal balance of appeal and animatability. Afterwards they’d become too cute, or overly streamlined, or simply incompatible with the modern layouts they were dropped into. Think of well-rounded Sylvester suddenly surrounded by angular cats with skinny necks and limbs.

    With Hanna Barbara, character designs and voices were often the best thing about the early shows — a sensible priority when they spent most of their cartoons standing and talking.

  • Bugs Bunny has always been my favorite cartoon character, for his cool demeanor in all situations. He wins most of the time, although sometimes he does lose (“Hair Brush,” the Cecil Turtle cartoons). I’m also a big fan of Yosemite Sam, the little man with the big temper. And the Popeye/Bluto/Olive trio is always appealing.

    Agreed that Pepe LePew is not likable.

    This week’s cartoon reminded me of the worst of the b/w Columbia Phantasies.

  • “Cute” design, a la Fred Moore, is important. But JUSTIFICATION is the most important. The best version of each character- Jones’ Bugs, Clampett’s Daffy, Culhane’s Woody, Freleng’s Sylvester, Moore’s Mickey, Hannah’s Donald, etc…-all have REASONING behind what they do. Some originated as unmotivated wild things (Daffy, Woody, Clampett Bugs), but became endeavoring once their mental faculties were made evident.

    I think animals play another part. Sure you may like Popeye or Betty Boop, but so much the character as the gags. And the former’s ugly too (sorry). But who DOESN’T love Bugs?

  • I guess what makes an enduring character is one that seems to have potential and captures the eye of viewing audiences while also develops and evolves as time goes on. Granted, that doesn’t always work, but when it does, it makes a difference.

    I apologize if I’m not getting my thoughts across.

  • Wow! You’ve really challenged everybody here! This is such a wide field of conversation, that I don’t quite know where to start.

    I was a fan of cartoons early on in my life. Once I discovered them on television, I couldn’t pull myself away from hours and hours and hours of watching! when I had sight to do so, I drew. I liked to draw the stills from my favorite cartoons, and at that time there were no DVDs or VHS tapes to allow me to freeze my favorite frame that I was trying to duplicate, although a lot of the real classic ones, like the MGM cartoons with so much detail, I had a hard time trying to replicate on a piece of paper. I guess I liked animation because if it’s detail, and its ability to mesmerize! Those early fully animated cartoons from MGM and Warner Brothers were dazzling to my eye! enjoying the same cartoons while sightless, I realized how wonderful the scores were and how carefully chosen the sound effects are. That is why I’m still amazed and want to realize so many of them restored; so I can hear them like people heard them in their local theaters on Saturday matinees, or in between their favorite films at night or midnight showings. as for character development, I even think of the now censurable characters; we don’t like some of the censored characters because they remain stereotypes.

    Yet, we still see speedy Gonzales cartoons on TV. A character like Bosko turned into a fully human stereotype, while his Warner Bros. incarnation gave him all sorts of adventures like racing cars, fighting in the medievel times, braving the Arctic, all kinds of adventures. Why wasn’t that aspect possible at MGM? If Bosko had continued as he was, I think he would’ve dazzled a lot of kids even today. Instead, he remained either a Mickey Mouse chlone or a fully realized stereotypical black boy. I guess we could say the same for Flip the Frog, but somehow we like Flip because he goes through so many surreal adventures, utilizing cartoon logic to the most extreme, and that’s why we like them even today. I look forward to getting the complete Flip the Frog on Blu-ray and enjoying them again. when I was a kid, I accepted anything animated put on television. However, when I discovered the theatrical Tom and Jerry (The cat and mouse) cartoons, I was delighted that neither character talked all that much.

    Yes, there are examples where are the characters other one or two words to express an emotion or a certain situation, but we just accept that and move on because they pantomime everything else. I found that exciting! and you also have to give credit to Scott Bradley scores for these cartoons; but I knew of those, because I discovered the Happy Harmonies and Tex Avery cartoons before I discovered the theatrical Tom and Jerry cartoons! I guess that, in my ramblings here, I am saying that there is a lot more to the characters besides mere character development. They were the scores, the sound effects, the timing of the comedy. In all of these, you can’t beat the Looney Tunes characters. Even in their one-shot cartoons, there was a lot of fun to be had. Even in those days when the Looney Tunes tried to fit into the Disney mold, they were never boring, at least to me. you might say that Bosko and Buddy never developed beyond their happy-go-lucky nature. They were able to fit into any situation, just like Mickey Mouse or Donald Duck. In a way, that’s a shame, because if you had any live action counterparts to both of these characters, it would probably be the our gang comedies or early talking comedies of that same age.

    Even if Bosko remained the obvious stereotype, there were characters within that design in live action that he could have taken on, or even the voices of same. no one explored that sort of thing within the MGM studios. Instead, in each of his cartoons, it was a situation that ran amok. This sort of thing took place in the our gang comedies as well, and films like “thundering fleas“, we are one mishap leads to another, until it is far beyond what you would expect! The animated version of that film would obviously be the cartoon I so often talk about for detail, “CIRCUS DAZE“, A cartoon where the situation escalates out of control, and the main characters are not entirely the focus of that cartoon. also, I cannot deny that the thing that makes the theatrical cartoons so inventive is the fact that there were inventive gags in those cartoons. How often do you see so much attention paid to so much detail today? I often wonder what a new golden age of theatrical cartoons might be like if they came back to theaters. I still say there is room for them, but of course there are monetary and other reasons why this can’t entirely be. I wish they would iron that out, because then we would realize how worthwhile cartoons really are.

  • If it weren’t the the utterly guilelessness of Rocky and Bullwinkle, their cartoons would be unbearable with the bad animation and worse puns.
    Yogi Bear and Boo-Boo started off wonderfully, but by 1960 when the Jellystone/Ranger Smith formula was firmly–leadenly–established, they had lost their appeal. Well, Boo-Boo was still okay, but Yogi became just plain obnoxious.
    One bone of contention between the animavens and myself is my disbelief that the postwar-ner (speaking of bad puns) Bros. cartoons represent best of breed, despite some truly great cartoons during that era. By 1950 the stars had been exorcised of their animal charm, in part because UPA had decreed that animal characters were passe. Without zany influence of Tex Avery, Bob Clampett, and Frank Tashlin, the Warner cartoons became drier and more formulaic; Bugs became an overconfident man in a rabbit suit (a smug bunny), and Daffy could have been renamed Disagreeable.
    Casper’s fate is that of most living people who try too hard to please: their desperation and neediness become grating, and they defeat their own purpose. If Casper had learned to be his own best friend, he’d have been a lot less easy to resist.

    • Losing their charm by 1950? I thought the cartoon felt more sophisticated by that time especially Chuck Jones’ wonderful shorts. Although, I might be a bit bias as Jones is my favorite Warners cartoon director.

  • Well, I thought my comments on carefully adding computer “colorization” to black-and-white cartoons would cause a whole storm of protest. Now, I’m thinking that the black-and-white versions should be left as they are without the alternate color versions. Still, I have to admit that the carefully “colorized” LOONEY TUNES I saw on “Nick At Night” (?) looked pretty good!

    I think Hans meant to type “1960.”

    I’m not picking on you, Kevin, but I am always amused that the “do-gooder” lunkheads who bemoan the fact that “stereotypical” cartoons like SPEEDY GONZALES cartoons are still popular and are still being shown today. I seem to remember reading somewhere that a whole group of Mexican-Americans wrote in letters for the SPEEDY cartoons to be put back on the airwaves and found nothing objectionable about them. Or MR. MAGOO makes fun of people who are nearsighted or that CHARLIE CHAN films are objectionable to Asians. I’m so sick of people worrying about what is “Politically Correct” or not, I could vomit! One of the reasons that the MR. MAGOO cartoons or the CHARLIE CHAN films remain popular is because – I think – the characters were based on real people, not just stereotyped notions about them.

    Probably the best cartoon characters are those that have real, human characteristics in their make-up. Directors like Chuck Jones thought of characters like Bugs and Daffy as real personalities – and that, I think is key to a cartoon character’s success and long-lasting appeal. But, there are many factors at work in the popularity of characters in animated cartoons. The direction, the design of the characters, the voices used and – not least important – the music that is composed for the cartoons are ALL key factors.

    A few years ago, I was in the hospital for cellulitis and I watched some cartoons that were running on The Cartoon Network during the day. Maybe I’m just an “old fogey,” but I found nothing appealing about characters shrilly screaming at each other – a lot – in cartoons like ED, EDD AND EDDY – or whatever it was called. In the old days, directors like Tex Avery, Bob Clampett and Chuck Jones – among others – knew how to pace the cartoons so that even the most manic characters cavorting about would have periods of calmness – so that audiences wouldn’t feel that their eyes and ears were being constantly assaulted. I noticed this with newer cartoons like REN AND STIMPY and SPONGEBOB SQUARE PANTS – even when the characters are being most annoying, there are “pauses” in their craziness that the audiences really need to enjoy the cartoons. What do you think?

    • I can’t speak to Speedy but what planet are you living on where you think Charlie Chan films are still popular? I’d wager the majority of people under 50 have no idea who he is (and I take it you don’t fall into that category given how you consider Ren & Stimpy a new cartoon lol)

    • That being said, if you’re most recent exposure to new cartoons is Ed Edd ‘n’ Eddy, I’m curious what you’d think of Steven Universe. It’s much gentler than a lot of the CN shows I grew up with and more plot driven. Personally I find it a bit saccharine at times but if you’re looking for something more character based, it might surprise you.

    • Your experience in the hospital reminds me of a time when I was donating blood and saw a cartoon called “The Get Along Gang” in the waiting room. It was about a group of cute animal children who tooled around on roller skates because it was the ‘80s, and they all got along with each other, hence the name. I can’t tell you how depressed it made me feel. I mean, this show would have been vetted by at least a dozen different committees to ensure that every aspect of it evoked a positive response in young people, and yet it made me feel like throwing myself in front of a train. It put me in a terrible mood for the whole day.

      By the way, I saw “Charlie Chan at the Opera” a few weeks ago and enjoyed it very much.

    • No, I meant 1950. Certainly it’s a matter of opinion, but I bet I’m not the only one who finds the Warner Bros. characters more appealing in the ’40s than in the ’50s. (Does no one else prefer the Clampett Tweety to Freleng’s?) They’re more playful and ingenuous, their antics more spontaneous as well as more fully animated. Of course many of the ’50s Warner cartoons are brilliant, no thanks to increasing budget restraints and the studio’s unaccountable disregard for the product. But I believe the topic was what makes a cartoon character appealing or not, and sophistication and charm are not the same thing. By the sixties, of course, the characters were only going through the motions, and increasingly limited motions at that; and ’70s Xerography in the TV specials made them look tired and frayed (Mel Blanc’s aging voice didn’t help, either).

      • Honestly, the main reason the cartoons were not as zany I think it mainly was because Clampett and Avery were elsewhere. The other directors were a bit more refined.

      • I think the Looney Tunes from the 40s and the 50s are wonderful for different reasons. A lot of it boils down to the mindset of the people behind the scenes of course. Films directed by Tex and Bob had the main purpose of seeing how many gags you could put in a seven minute cartoon and still have it be appealing to the audience. They succeed because of how creative the gags are how well timed they are. While by the time the 50s rolled around, they began to develop more as “characters”. Let me explain. The 1950s cartoon put out by Friz and especially Chuck were more focused on gags based off personas from the characters. They took the characters, shaved off some zaniness, and gave them very identifiable personalities. Bugs is a wise guy, Daffy is greedy ect. ect. This may sound like it boxes in the characters but because those traits are so simple but yet so definable, there is an endless amount of material if written right. So a lot of the cartoons are putting the characters in situations and seeing how they can react. And these cartoons are so great because of how creative they are in keeping the narrative fresh in locales and reactions. Now I generally prefer the 40s cartoons because I love the uncapped nature and the idea that anything could possibly happen (as is the wonder of animation in general). But that being said, as an amateur writer, I respect the craftsmanship and character work from the 1950s and I think it lead to some of the greatest cartoons the studio ever put out. So much goes into making a character likable like designs but I think one of the biggest elements is simply creativity and asking yourself what you want to get out of the character. It’s a lot more complicated than that but it’s a good foundation for a great cartoon.

  • Well, Alexandra … I guess I am OLD! What can I say? Cable TV is too expensive for our family, so the only way I “catch up” with it is if the family spends some time in a motel on vacation. Now that my son is getting older – he’s now a teenager – the Cartoon Network is no longer the first thing we watch on TV. I haven’t seen STEVEN UNIVERSE, so I can’t say one way or another.

    As for CHARLIE CHAN, I believe the DVD sets that Fox put out some years ago sold well – despite all the controversy surrounding it. MGM and then Warners put out the rest of the film series – and I think those sold well, too! Probably there are a lot of OLD old movie fans out there. I guess what I should say is that those old movies are still generally popular with Baby Boomers and even OLDER people than that!

  • I disagree with the complaint about updates. I like reading about what you’re working on, what print you’re looking for or have found, etc. I think you could continue to do so, with perhaps an effort to underplay how close to finished they are so such folks don’t make the logical leap of expecting a package in the mail any day now.

  • My two cents, character design is important, but not as important as developing and writing the character. Both need to go harmoniously hand in hand. There are many iconic characters that have very basic and simple designs, Tom and Jerry, Pink Panther, Daffy Duck, Huckleberry Hound to name a few. What made those characters stand the test of time was the quality of writing, how well the jokes come across and each of the characters unique features that contrasts from others which would make them memorable.

  • I’m certainly not against the idea of not updating on projects until there’s an update to be had, but at what point do you just cut your loses on that final special feature of Flip the Frog? Is it really that important to the overall product?

    • Eek! More avatars for Danielle C and Jeffrey! Maybe someone can leave a post as to how one adds an avatar to their post. I thought it might have something to do with having a website, but Jeffrey doesn’t. (I know it doesn’t really matter one bit, but it’s bugging me anyhow!)

      • I honestly don’t know how I have this avatar haha. The only thing I can think of is that a long time ago I used to use this avatar on forums such as IGN that used a comment system (they used Disqus at one point, then they swapped to another) and I set this very avatar on my account. I also used this avatar on other comment section systems, so it’s possible that the picture is tied to my email address thanks to the comment system Cartoon Research uses, or heck maybe I set it here somehow and I’ve completely forgotten haha.

        • Same here. My avatar is a photo of myself from a few years ago that I used on my email address and it appears to come up by default.

          • Thanks for the replies! Geez, after all these years, the interwebs still remain a mystery!

  • Just a few thoughts on racial prejudice, stereotyping and film censorship!

    Paul, you mentioned CHARLIE CHAN AT THE OPERA (1935). When I was growing up in a middle-class neighborhood in Chicago (I think there might still be some of those around), I didn’t come into contact with too many Asian people, unless we’d go to a neighborhood Chinese restaurant or store with Asian proprietors. Our neighborhood wasn’t racist, it’s just that back then, we didn’t have a lot of Asian neighbors when I was a youngster. So, when I first saw that CHARLIE CHAN movie as a young kid, I learned some valuable lessons in life. DON’T STEREOTYPE people just because they might look, sound and act differently from you! You just MIGHT learn something useful from them – and create a great friendship!

    The Irish-American Kelly (I can’t think of the character’s first name) in film (played by William Demarest) is almost bigoted in his resentment of a foreigner – Charlie Chan – whom Kelly refers to at least once as “Chop Suey” – who works on a murder case with him. At the end of the film, the police inspector has learned more than a thing or two from the wise old Asian detective. So DID I! Earlier in the film, I was almost ashamed of my Irish-American heritage on my mother’s side. Luckily, Detective Kelly learned something about racial prejudice and labelling people by only what one hears or sees – from others.

    Did it matter that Waner Oland was not strictly an Asian actor? He was Swedish, but certainly looked very Asian and took pains to act and speak as a foreign person would who learns the English language and American customs as a “second language”? Oland had been playing various Chinese villains for years in films and he told co-star Key Luke that he wanted to “atone” for this and play an Asian HERO for a change. Most people thought that Warner Oland really was Asian. Why? He looked like he was – even without make-up and he was a heck of a great ACTOR – and as – again – Key Luke stated over the years, he was probably the best actor at the time to play the part. I’ve seen original illustrations of “Charlie Chan” from reprints of the original serialized stories from THE SATURDAY EVENING POST (in the late 1920s) and Oland surely resembles the character. I don’t think the CHARLIE CHAN films are “hateful” for people to see!

    I haven’t been fortunate enough to see the play HAMILTON – although I’ve been able to watch scenes from it on public TV. Did we have black senators and statesmen in the White House roughly 200 years ago? I don’t think so. So, why were these various actors cast in the play version? Gee, maybe because they could sing and act extremely well! That’s what ACTING is all about!

    The point is, cartoon makers back “in the day” – 100 or less years ago, if you want to go back that far – often took the “easy way” to depict foreign people by using stereotypes of people who would be easily recognizable to theater audiences. Was this wrong to do? Sure it was! Early cartoon animation stressed GAGS not characterization. So, in a FELIX THE CAT cartoon if a Chinese villain is depicted, it will most likely be a caricature – a stereotype. A couple of decades later, a cartoon character more as not might be based on a popular radio character like “Rochester Van Jones” from THE JACK BENNY PROGRAM or a movie character like “Birmingham Brown.” What today’s “Politically Correct” censors don’t realize – or don’t care – is that these later characters had evolved from cardboard-thin stereotypes to real (if comic) human characters that ACTUALLY “pushed their way through the door” – sometimes too gently, I’ll admit – to be accepted by ALL audiences!

    Actors like Mantan Moreland and Eddie Anderson invested their characters from stereotyped depictions into real flesh and blood characters. So did Bill Cosby and others with shows like FAT ALBERT AND THE COSBY KIDS. Today, Bill Cosby has a blotch on his reputation, but when I was growing up, those characters were just as fun to discover and watch as Bugs Bunny or Popeye on TV. The thing that bugs me – no pun intended – is that if I created FAT ALBERT and hired someone like Bill Cosby to help me on the project, I suspect that today, the cartoon series would be either censored or off the air, because it was created by a WHITE person. There’s something weirdly WRONG about that!

    Put “disclaimers” on these older cartoons – if you must – but don’t cut any “offending scenes” out of them or – worse yet – ban them from TV, video or film retrospectives. You’d think that by now we’d all know not to “throw out the baby with the bathwater”!

  • Characters that may not be “stars”, but have staying power, for me anyway:
    Puddly the Pup. All he really does is react to things, but he’s so frisky; also he’s small so is always at the bottom of the frame, not taking up too much space.
    Mr. Peabody. He’s a dog, so even though he’s rather posh and sometimes a strict parent to Sherman, he walks on all fours. Because he’s a dog. I like that.
    Olive Oyl. Everything about her is absurd to the nth degree, up to and including her taste in men, but Popeye and Bluto would be unwatchable without her.
    Crabby Appleton. He has his own theme song, in which he boasts about how rotten he is – “My name is Crabby Appleton and I am truly awful,
    It tittilates my funny bone to do a deed unlawful”. He should’ve had his own series.
    No star quality: Kiko the Kangaroo. It’s those pants! They’re scary!

  • Whatever it takes, these characters sure didn’t have it:


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