Tasmanian Devil (Looney Tunes)

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Tasmanian Devil (Taz)
Taz-Looney Tunes.svg
First appearance Devil May Hare (1954)
Created by Robert McKimson
Voiced by Mel Blanc (1954-1983)
Noel Blanc (Tiny Toon Adventures, 1 episode only)
Jim Cummings (1991-present)
Dee Bradley Baker (Space Jam)
Brendan Fraser (Looney Tunes: Back in Action)
Jeff Bergman (Tiny Toon Adventures)
Ian James Corlett (Baby Looney Tunes)
Maurice LaMarche (Tiny Toon Adventures, 1 episode only in 1990 and Animaniacs, 2 episodes)
Greg Burson (Tiny Toon Adventures, 1 episode only)
Information
Species Tasmanian Devil
Gender Male
Relatives Hugh Tasmanian Devil (father)
Jean Tasmanian Devil (mother)
Molly Tasmanian Devil (sister)
Jake Tasmanian Devil (brother)
Drew Tasmanian Devil (uncle)
Tasmanian She-Devil (wife)

Dizzy-Devil (cousin)
Slam Tasmanian (descendant)

The Tasmanian Devil, often referred to as Taz, is an animated cartoon character featured in the Warner Bros. "Looney Tunes" and "Merrie Melodies" series of cartoons. Though the character appeared in only five shorts before Warner Bros. Cartoons closed down in 1964, marketing and television appearances later propelled the character to new popularity in the 1990s.

Personality[edit]

As the youngest of the Looney Tunes characters, Tasmanian Devil, or 'Taz' as he has come to be known, is generally portrayed as a ferocious albeit dim-witted omnivore with a notoriously short temper and little patience. He will eat anything and everything, with an appetite that seems to know no bounds. He is best known for his speech consisting mostly of grunts, growls and rasps, and his ability to spin like a vortex and bite through just about anything.[1]

In 1991, Taz got his own show, Taz-Mania, which ran for four seasons, in which Taz was the protagonist.[2]

Creation and first appearance[edit]

Robert McKimson based the character on the real-life Tasmanian devil, or more specifically its carnivorous nature, voracious appetite, and surly disposition. Owen and Pemberton suggest that the character of the Tasmanian Devil was inspired by Errol Flynn.[3] The most noticeable resemblance between the Australian marsupial and McKimson's creation is their ravenous appetites and crazed behavior. Although the bipedal Tasmanian Devil's appearance does not resemble its marsupial inspiration, it contains multilayered references to other "devils": he has horn-shaped fur on his head (similar to the Devil's appearance) and whirls about like a dust devil (similar in appearance to a tornado) which sounds like several motors whirring in unison. Taz is constantly ravenously hungry. His efforts to find more food (animate or inanimate) are always a central plot device of his cartoons.

In fact, this appetite serves as the impetus for McKimson's Devil May Hare (first released on June 19, 1954). In the short, Taz stalks Bugs Bunny, but due to his dimwittedness and inability to frame complete sentences, he serves as little more than a nuisance. Bugs eventually gets rid of him in the most logical way possible: matching him up with an equally insatiable female Tasmanian Devil. The character's speech, a deep, gravelly voice peppered with growls, screeches, and raspberries, is provided by Mel Blanc. Only occasionally would Taz actually speak, usually to utter some incongruous punchline, (e.g. "What for you bury me in the cold, cold ground?") and yet the character is capable of writing and reading. A running gag is that when Bugs Bunny hears of the approach of "Taz" and looks him up in an encyclopedia and starts reading off a list of animals that "Taz" eats; Bugs finds "rabbits" not listed until "Taz" enters and either points out that "rabbits" are listed or writes rabbits on the list.

After the film short debuted at theaters, producer Eddie Selzer, head of the Warner Bros. animation studio, ordered McKimson to shelve the character, feeling that it was too violent for children, and that parents would dislike this.[4] After a time with no new Taz shorts, studio head Jack Warner asked what had happened to the character. Warner saved Taz' career when he told Selzer that he had received "boxes and boxes" of letters from people who liked the character and wanted to see more of him.

Later shorts[edit]

McKimson would go on to direct four more Tasmanian Devil cartoons, beginning with Bedeviled Rabbit (released on April 13, 1957). McKimson would also pair the Devil with Daffy Duck in Ducking the Devil (August 17, 1957) before pitting him once again against Bugs in Bill of Hare (June 9, 1962) and Dr. Devil and Mr. Hare (March 28, 1964). His last two appearances done by the classic Warner Brothers directors, writers, and voice actors were in Bugs Bunny's Looney Christmas Tales appearing in The Fright Before Christmas segment and at the very end eating the sleigh full of presents. Then he appeared in the 1983 movie Daffy Duck's Fantastic Island as Yosemite Sam's first mate.

The Tasmanian Devil appeared in "The Looney Tunes Show" episode "Devil Dog" voiced by Jim Cummings. In the show, he is portrayed walking on four legs like a real Tasmanian Devil and his eyes are bloodshot red (later turned yellow when Bugs uses a taming trick that Speedy Gonzales taught him). Initially, Bugs believed Taz to be a dog and kept him as a house pet, to his roommate, Daffy Duck's, discomfort. Eventually Bugs learned the truth and tried to return him to his home in Tasmania, only to find out that Taz would rather live with him, naming him "Poochie". Taz subsequently appears in the following episodes, "The Foghorn Leghorn Story", "Newspaper Thief", and "Bugs and Daffy Get A Job".

Home video[edit]

All five of the original Tasmanian Devil cartoons are included in Looney Tunes Platinum Collection: Volume 1 as is "The Fright Before Christmas".

In other media[edit]

The character's first video game outing was in a title from the later days of the Atari 2600, in a 1983 release entitled "Taz". The 1990s saw a return of the character to video games in Taz-Mania and its semi-sequel Taz in Escape from Mars. Both titles appeared on the Mega Drive/Genesis, Master System & Game Gear systems. There were other Taz-Mania games released on the Nintendo SNES and Game Boy systems. He also costarred in the PlayStation/PC game Bugs Bunny & Taz: Time Busters, and in 2002's Taz: Wanted on Playstation 2, GameCube, Xbox and PC. He also appeared in the video games The Bugs Bunny Crazy Castle 2, The Bugs Bunny Birthday Blowout, Looney Tunes: Acme Arsenal, Looney Tunes: Space Race, Bugs Bunny Crazy Castle 3, Bugs Bunny in Crazy Castle 4, and Looney Tunes: Back in Action.

The Sonic the Hedgehog series from Archie Comics featured feral Tasmanian Devil characters that heavily resembled Taz, and were described as the only Sonic the Hedgehog-like species not to have fully evolved. This trait, originally intended as a nod to Taz's bestial behavior in comparison to other anthropomorphic Looney Tunes characters, became the basis of a major subplot before the comic series was rebooted in 2013.

The Tasmanian Devil made a cameo appearance as himself in Scooby-Doo 2: Monsters Unleashed when Scooby drinks a potion which turns him into Taz.

Taz also appeared in the MAD segments "Tasmanian Devil Duster" and "Body of Pwoof".

The ID monster in the classic science fiction movie Forbidden Planet strongly resembles the Tasmanian Devil.

Lawsuit[edit]

In 1997, a newspaper report noted that Warner Bros. had "trademarked the character and registered the name Tasmanian Devil", and that this trademark "was policed", including an eight-year legal case to allow a Tasmanian company to call a fishing lure the Tasmanian Devil. Debate followed, and a delegation from the Tasmanian government met with Warner Bros.[5] Ray Groom, the Tourism Minister, later announced that a "verbal agreement" had been reached. An annual fee would be paid to Warner Bros in return for the Government of Tasmania being able to use the image of Taz for "marketing purposes". This agreement later disappeared.[6]

After much lobbying from the Tasmanian state government in Australia, Warner Bros. decided to assist the fight against extinction of the Tasmanian Devil due to devil facial tumour disease.[7] Tasmanian Environment Minister Judy Jackson, prior to the company's support, heavily criticised Warner Bros., stating that the company had made millions of dollars from the character, but did not put up any money when other companies had.

The deal with Warner Bros. allows the Tasmanian Government to manufacture and sell up to 5,000 special edition Taz plush toys with all profit going towards funding scientific research into the Devil Facial Tumour Disease.[8][9] The deal also aims to increase public attention towards the threatening disease.

The Tasmanian Government and Warner Bros. have previously disputed the government's right to use the character as a tourism promotion, which Warner Bros. offered if they paid for it. The government refused this offer.[7]

References[edit]

  • Adamson, Joe (1990). 50 Years and Only One Grey Hare. New York: Henry Holt & Co. 
  • Schneider, Steve (1988, 1989). That's All Folks!: The Art of Warner Bros. Animation. New York: Henry Holt & Co. 

Notes[edit]

  1. ^ Warner Bros - The Lineup - Taz - retrieved December 23, 2012
  2. ^ Trusdell, Brian (May 28, 1995). "Focus : Warner's Toon Factory for the '90s". The Los Angeles Times (USA). Retrieved 10 May 2011. 
  3. ^ Owen, David; Pemberton, David (2005). Tasmanian Devil: A unique and threatened animal. Allen & Unwin. p. 153. ISBN 978-1-74114-368-3. Retrieved 22 August 2010. 
  4. ^ Owen and Pemberton, p. 157
  5. ^ Owen and Pemberton, pp. 161–164.
  6. ^ Owen and Pemberton, p.167, p. 169.
  7. ^ a b "Warner Bros to help save Tassie devils". The Sydney Morning Herald. June 20, 2006. 
  8. ^ "Taz Lends a Hand to his Devil Mates". Tourism Tasmania. 2006-06-21. Archived from the original on 2006-08-19. Retrieved 2006-08-14. 
  9. ^ "Warner joins the Fight". The Mercury. 2006-06-20. Archived from the original on October 15, 2007. Retrieved 2006-08-14. 

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