Beans (Looney Tunes)
|Looney Tunes character|
|First appearance||I Haven't Got a Hat (1935)|
|Last appearance||Westward Whoa (1936)|
|Created by||Leon Schlesinger|
|Voiced by||Billy Bletcher (1935–1936)
Tommy Bond (1935–1936, occasional)
Will Ryan (currently)
Beans the Cat is an animated cartoon character in the Warner Bros. Looney Tunes series of cartoons from 1935-1936. Beans was the third Looney Tunes cartoon character star after Bosko and Buddy. He is voiced by Billy Bletcher and occasionally by Tommy Bond.
When the cartoon animators/directors Hugh Harman and Rudy Ising left Leon Schlesinger's studios in 1933, they took their main creation, Bosko, with them. Schlesinger had to rebuild his animation studio for Warner Bros. without so much as a marketable character to draw audiences. Schlesinger set up his new studio on the Warner Bros. lot, on the Sunset Boulevard. He collected a new staff for the studio by hiring people who used to work for other animation studios. Among them was Jack King, a Disney animator. By June 1933, when the new studio started producing animated shorts, Tom Palmer had been appointed production manager and director, with Jack King as the head animator.
Schlesinger intended to effectively compete with the Disney studio, and he needed a continuing, star character to compete with Mickey Mouse. Palmer introduced Buddy to be that character. Like Bosko and Mickey, Buddy had a girlfriend and a pet dog as supporting characters. Palmer left the studio after completing only two animated short films. He was replaced by Earl Duvall, who himself left after completing five short films. Schlesinger was in need of new directors, and even composer Bernard B. Brown received credits for directing two Merrie Melodies shorts. According to animation historian Michael Barrier, all the animated short films produced by the Schlesinger studio under its early directors lacked in cuteness and charm of any kind. They were also frequently incoherent. The shorts of this period had much smaller production budgets than their main competitor, Disney.
By 1934, Schlesinger had assigned directorial duties over the Merrie Melodies series to Friz Freleng, and over the Looney Tunes series to Jack King. Their films were more coherent than their predecessors. A few of Freleng's short films in particular were surprisingly close to the Disney shorts in both spirit and execution. Competing with Disney's Silly Symphonies, however, turned out to be too expensive. The Merrie Melodies series did get a bigger budget when it switched from consisting only of black and white films to only including color films by November 1934.
By 1935, Buddy was being phased out in favor of new characters, anthropomorphic animals. The process started with I Haven't Got a Hat (March 1935), a Merrie Melodies animated short directed by Freleng. The Merrie Melodies lacked continuing characters by this point. But the film served as a showcase for new characters, that were being groomed to replace Buddy as the starts of the Looney Tunes. Among the characters was Beans. The cast of the film consisted mainly of animal schoolchildren. Beans was a cat and there was a second, female cat called Kitty (or Little Kitty). There were also a pair of spotted puppies called Ham and Ex, a bespectacled owl called Oliver (or Oliver Owl), and a stuttering pig called Porky (or Porky Pig). Schlesinger hoped that some of them would catch on with audiences and become bankable stars.
About six months following I Haven't Got a Hat, came Buddy the Gee Man. It was the last Buddy film, and the studio then started promoting Beans the Cat as their next cartoon star. Beans' first "crack at stardom" was his first solo Looney Tunes film, A Cartoonist's Nightmare. The film was directed by Jack King, who directed a total of eight animated shorts featuring Beans. Michael Barrier describes Beans under King's direction as resembling the Mickey Mouse version of the early 1930s. Their designs were certainly similar, with both characters having a white face and black body. But in characterization Beans was a pint-sized hero, resembling the plucky, boyish, and heroic Mickey featured in The Klondike Kid (1932) and The Mail Pilot (1933).
Also in 1935, the studio gained a third full-time director, working in addition to Freleng and King. He was Tex Avery, a former inker for the short-lived Winkler Studio and the Universal Studio Cartoons. Avery had started working as an inker in 1928 and was promoted to an animator by 1930. While at Universal, he used to work under director Bill Nolan. Nolan used to delegate work to Avery, and Avery reportedly was the uncredited de facto director for a couple of films credited to Nolan. Avery had lost his job in Universal in April 1935, and was hired by Schlesinger a few months later. According to a later interview with Avery, Avery had falsely claimed that he was an experienced director when applying for the job: "'Hey, I'm a director.' Hell! I was no more a director than nothing, but with my loud mouth, I talked him [Schlesinger] into it." Avery's production unit received its own building within the studio lot. Avery got exclusive use of four animators for his unit: Bob Clampett, Chuck Jones, Sid Sutherland, and Virgil Ross. The first animated short film produced by this unit was Gold Diggers of '49 (1935), the third Looney Tunes film starring Beans. Beans was also featured in the film's title card, signifying that he was the intended protagonist. The film had a Western setting and cast Beans as a gold miner. Also featured in the film was a redesigned Porky Pig, making his second appearance.
Beans began appearing with characters from the cast of I Haven't Got a Hat, most frequently Porky Pig. However, after a number of Porky and Beans outings, it became clear that the character audiences were talking about was Beans's stuttering sidekick, Porky Pig. Beans was voiced at first by Billy Bletcher and sometimes Tommy Bond, and later by Will Ryan.
Avery stopped using Beans following Gold Diggers of '49, but continued using Porky as a star character. According to Michael Barrier, Beans was more of a straight man. In April 1936, Beans starred in Westward Whoa, his last cartoon short with the rest of the I Haven't Got A Hat ensemble. This cartoon would be the last appearance for most of these characters.
According to Barrier, Beans made one last appearance in Shanghaied Shipmates (1936), a short film directed by Jack King. It was to be the last animated short featuring either Beans or the rest of the cast of I Haven't Got a Hat, with the exception of Porky Pig. Barrier suggests that Leon Schlesinger may have been giving Avery a vote of confidence, when deciding to keep only Porky as a continuing character and to drop Beans. Porky had already been the main star in Avery's films, while Beans had continued to serve as the main star of King's films. After losing use of Beans, Jack King directed only three films starring Porky Pig. By April 1936, King was hired again by the Disney studio. He would go on to serve as a director in films starring Donald Duck.
|I Haven't Got a Hat (with Porky Pig)||March 2, 1935|
|The Country Mouse (cameo with Porky Pig)||July 13, 1935|
|A Cartoonist's Nightmare||September 14, 1935|
|Hollywood Capers (with Porky Pig (cameo))||October 19, 1935|
|Gold Diggers of '49 (with Porky Pig)||November 2, 1935|
|The Fire Alarm (with Ham and Ex)||December 23, 1935|
|Plane Dippy (cameo)||January 4, 1936|
|Alpine Antics (with Porky Pig)||January 18, 1936|
|The Phantom Ship||February 1, 1936|
|Boom Boom (with Porky Pig)||February 29, 1936|
|Westward Whoa (with Porky Pig (cameo))||April 25, 1936|
|Space Jam (cameo)||November 10, 1996|
- Barrier, Michael (2003), "Warner Bros., 1933-1940", Hollywood Cartoons: American Animation in Its Golden Age, Oxford University Press, ISBN 978-0199839223