Hubie and Bertie
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|Hubie and Bertie|
Bertie & Hubie in Mouse Wreckers.
|First appearance||The Aristo-Cat (1943)|
|Created by||Chuck Jones|
|Voiced by||Michael Maltese and Tedd Pierce (first appearance)
Stan Freberg and Dick Nelson (then Mel Blanc) (later appearances)
Bob Bergen (both in Space Jam)
Jim Cummings and Jeff Bennett (The Sylvester and Tweety Mysteries, Tweety's High-Flying Adventure)
Hubie and Bertie are animated cartoon mouse characters in the Warner Bros. Looney Tunes and Merrie Melodies series of cartoons. Hubie and Bertie represent some of animator Chuck Jones' earliest work that was intended to be funny rather than cute.
Jones introduced Hubie and Bertie in the short The Aristo-Cat, first released on June 19, 1943. The plot of the cartoon would serve as the template for most future Hubie/Bertie outings: a character with some mental illness or degree of naïveté (here, a cat who doesn't know what a mouse looks like) is psychologically tormented by the pair. They tell the hungry cat that a bulldog is a mouse, leading to several painful encounters for the cat. Hubie is voiced by Michael Maltese and Bertie by Tedd Pierce; both men were screenwriters for Jones at the time.
Hubie and Bertie as designed by Jones are nearly identical mice with long snouts, large ears, and big, black noses. The two are completely anthropomorphic, walking on their stubby hind legs and using their forelimbs as arms. The characters are primarily distinguished by their color: one is brown with a lighter-colored belly and face, while the other is gray. (Which mouse is which color changes from film to film.) Hubie has a pronounced Brooklyn street-accent. Bertie has large buck teeth, and a habit of responding to Hubie with "Yeah-yeah, sure-sure!" or snickering "Riot!" if Hubie has just proposed some scheme with comic potential.
Beginning with The Aristo-cat, Jones quickly established differing personalities for his mice. Hubie, here in brown, is the thinker. He comes up with the plans, and he is the mouse with the chutzpah to fast-talk anyone into doing almost anything. Bertie, on the other hand, grey in this cartoon, is the doer. He performs the gruntwork to accomplish Hubie's schemes. Hubie makes it clear who is subservient to whom, slapping the simpler Bertie around whenever his natural goofiness interferes with the task at hand.
Bertie made a cameo in Odor-able Kitty.
Trap Happy Porky (February 24, 1945) was their second appearance. Nameless, indistinguishable except for color, they appear only in the first act, stealing food from a Porky in nightshirt & cap. They are silent except for a single "I'm only three and a half years old", and retreat when a cat shows up.
Jones would repeat the theme of mind-games several more times in his Hubie and Bertie shorts, as in their third cartoon, Roughly Squeaking on November 23, 1946. This time, Jones has the mice exploit a cat's stupidity by convincing him he's a lion and a dog is a moose he wants to eat. By the short's end, the cat thinks he's a lion, the dog believes he's a pelican, and a bystanding bird has pulled his feathers out and imagines himself a Thanksgiving turkey. The mice are here voiced by Mel Blanc (Hubie) and Stan Freberg (Bertie).
In the next cartoon, Mouse Wreckers, and for the remainder of the series, Blanc and Freberg would handle the voices of Hubie and Bertie, respectively. After the classic cartoons, Joe Alaskey would usually play Bertie.
Cat and mouse
Jones introduced a permanent "antagonist" of sorts for the mice in Mouse Wreckers. The short was released in 1949 and was the first in which they are officially called "Hubie" and "Bertie". In the cartoon, the duo moves into a new home, only to discover that it is protected by champion mouser Claude Cat (the character's debut), voiced by Mel Blanc. The mice torment the cat both physically and mentally. The short was nominated for an Academy Award.
The mice would antagonize Claude in two more films: The Hypo-Chondri-Cat, released in 1950, featured Hubie and Bertie making Claude think he's sick with various ailments and, ultimately, that he has died. In 1951's Cheese Chasers, Hubie and Bertie inadvertently torment Claude when, after going overboard on a cheese raid and getting sick of their favorite food, they decide to commit suicide by trying to get Claude to eat them.
After these seven cartoons, Jones retired Hubie and Bertie. He was moving on to other characters, such as Pepe Le Pew, Wile E. Coyote and the Road Runner, and Marvin the Martian, as well as his Marc Antony and Pussyfoot shorts. Jones would, however, continue to use the characters (or mice designed just like them) in cameo roles in other shorts whenever he needed a generic mouse for a gag (for instance, the unnamed mouse in Chow Hound, who resembles Bertie, or the "killer" mice in Scaredy Cat).
In recent years, Hubie and Bertie have made several cameos in Warner Bros. productions. They play the public address announcers in the 1996 movie Space Jam. They have also appeared in Tiny Toon Adventures, The Sylvester and Tweety Mysteries, Tweety's High-Flying Adventure (2000) and Duck Dodgers. Hubie and Bertie briefly appear in The Looney Tunes Show opening.
Impact on Jones
Despite their short run of films, Hubie and Bertie are significant in that they symbolize Chuck Jones as he had reinvented himself in the late 1940s. Before then, his films were mostly sweet, Disney-esque fluff starring ultra-cute characters such as Sniffles (who coincidentally, was also a mouse). The Hubie and Bertie shorts, in contrast, are intensely humor-driven and full of over-the-top gags and jokes.
In addition, Hubie and Bertie's penchant for playing to their foes' neuroses hints at Jones' later work with Looney Tunes characters such as Daffy Duck. Jones is the one largely responsible for turning Daffy from a bouncing screwball to a neurotic narcissist, and it is Jones who introduced several characters who are driven by believable impulses rather than just revenge, such as Wile E. Coyote with his obsessive pursuit of the Road Runner and Pepé Le Pew with his outsize libido. Jones' Hubie and Bertie shorts show that the director was already thinking about characters in terms of their personalities.
- The Aristo-Cat (1943)
- Trap Happy Porky (1945)
- Roughly Squeaking (1946)
- House Hunting Mice (1947)
- Mouse Wreckers (1949)
- The Hypo-Chondri-Cat (1950)
- Cheese Chasers (1951)