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|Screwball "Screwy" Squirrel|
|Screwy Squirrel character|
|First appearance||Screwball Squirrel (1944)|
|Last appearance||Tom and Jerry's Giant Adventure (2013)|
|Created by||Tex Avery|
Screwball "Screwy" Squirrel is a cartoon character, an anthropomorphic squirrel created by Tex Avery for Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer. He is generally considered the wackiest of the screwball cartoon characters of the 1940s, which included Warner Bros.' Bugs Bunny and Daffy Duck, Disney's Aracuan Bird, Terrytoons's Heckle and Jeckle and Walter Lantz's Woody Woodpecker.
Among the most intangible and non-standard cartoon characters ever created, Screwy can do almost anything to almost anyone: he pulls objects out of thin air, doubles himself, and constantly breaks the fourth wall, all the while uttering a characteristic cackling laugh. The character was not as successful as Avery's Droopy was at this time, and Screwy was killed off after appearing in only five cartoons: Screwball Squirrel (1944), Happy-Go-Nutty (1944), Big-Heel Watha (1944), The Screwy Truant (1945), and Lonesome Lenny (1946).
The character was notable for being brash and erratic, and is considered by some to be annoying with few sympathetic personality characteristics such as Bugs Bunny's nobility or Daffy Duck's pathos. Most of his cartoons revolve around him inflicting various forms of torture on his enemy (usually Meathead Dog, voiced by Dick Nelson) for seven minutes. In The Screwy Truant, Screwy hits a dog across the head with everything he can find in a trunk labeled "Assorted Swell Stuff to Hit Dog on Head". When he finishes, the dog remarks, "Gee whiz! He hit me with everything but the kitchen sink!" Screwy responds with, "Well, don't want to disappoint you, chum," then pulls out that very item and bashes him over the head with it.
The final cartoon in the series, Lonesome Lenny, a broad parody of the characters of George and Lenny from the John Steinbeck novel Of Mice and Men, ended with a joking reference to indicate that Screwy had been crushed to death by his antagonist, who commented "You know, I had a little friend once, but he don't move no more." Avery never used the character again, nor did anyone else in animation during Avery's lifetime.
Both Screwy and his adversary Meathead Dog make a cameo appearance in the 1988 film Who Framed Roger Rabbit: Screwy appears on a picture hanging in Lena Hyena's room, while Meathead is seen sniffing around at R. K. Maroon's Cartoon Studio in the film's beginning. Screwy is also mockingly mentioned as one of Eddie Valiant's bar patrons by Angelo: "Who's your client, Mr. Detective of the Stars? Chilly Willy, or Screwy 'Squirrel'?"
The Tex Avery original shorts have been frequently seen on Turner Broadcasting System-run networks such as the Cartoon Network and Boomerang (Turner, now a subsidiary of Time Warner, has owned the rights to Screwball Squirrel since founder Ted Turner bought the MGM/UA film library in 1986).
In 1993, Screwy was used as a template for Slappy Squirrel on Animaniacs, as a female version of the character who had aged 50 years and become a miserly and cranky character. This was before Time Warner bought out Turner and did not yet own the rights to the character, forcing the producers to disguise him. Screwy was also used as the model for the short-lived cartoon character Sledgehammer O'Possum,[original research?] created by animator Patrick A. Ventura for Cartoon Network's animation anthology television franchise, What A Cartoon, produced by Turner's own Hanna-Barbera Cartoons in the early 1990s.
Hanna Barbera resurrected Screwy in new animation for the Droopy, Master Detective Saturday morning cartoon on Fox Kids in 1993-1994. The new cartoons featured the character's name as Screwball—never Screwy—and pitted him not against Meathead, but a pair of typical Hanna-Barbera authority figures, human park attendant Dweeble and his oafish dog Rumply. "Screwball" himself wore a T-shirt and, much of the time, a Napoleon hat.
On April Fools' Day, 1997, Cartoon Network ran an edited version (minus one blackface gag) of the 1944 Screwy Squirrel cartoon Happy-Go-Nutty repeatedly from 6 AM to 6 PM, as part of an April Fool's Joke that the cartoon character had taken over the channel.
As of 2005, Screwy appears as one of the characters in idents for the Boomerang TV channel.
In 2013, both Meathead and Screwy Squirrel make appearances as residents of "Fairy Land" in Tom and Jerry's Giant Adventure retaining most of their traits. Screwy Squirrel is now voiced by Paul Reubens and Meathead is voiced by John DiMaggio.
- Wally Maher (1944-1946)
- Charlie Adler (Droopy Master Detective)
- Paul Reubens (Tom and Jerry's Giant Adventure)
- Adamson, Joe, Tex Avery: King of Cartoons, 1975, De Capo Press