Sylvester the Cat
|Looney Tunes character|
|First appearance||Naughty but Mice (early version; 1939)|
Life with Feathers (official version; 1945)
|Created by||Chuck Jones (prototype)|
Friz Freleng (official)
Bob Givens (1939–1941, 1943)
Robert McKimson (1941–1942)
Hawley Pratt (1945–)
Dick Ung (1965–1966)
|Voiced by||Mel Blanc (1945–1989)|
Bill Farmer (1987, 1996)
Jeff Bergman (1989–1993, 1997, 2004, 2011–present)
Joe Alaskey (1990–2011)
Greg Burson (1993, 1995, 1997)
Terry Klassen (Baby Looney Tunes, 2001–2006)
Jeff Bennett (2003, 2006)
Eric Bauza (2018, 2021)
|Full name||Sylvester James Pussycat, Sr.|
|Significant other||Mrs. Cat|
|Children||Sylvester Jr. (son)|
|Relatives||Sylth Vester (descendant)|
Sylvester James Pussycat, Sr. is a fictional character, an anthropomorphic tuxedo cat in the Looney Tunes and Merrie Melodies series of cartoons. Most of his appearances have him often chasing Tweety, Speedy Gonzales, or Hippety Hopper. He appeared in 103 cartoons in the golden age of American animation, lagging only behind superstars Bugs Bunny, Porky Pig, and Daffy Duck. Three of his cartoons won Academy Awards, the most for any starring Looney Tunes character: they are Tweetie Pie, Speedy Gonzales, and Birds Anonymous.
Sylvester predecessors appeared from 1939–1944. Naughty but Mice was the first. Notes to You was remade in color in one of Sylvester's cartoons, Back Alley Oproar. The Hep Cat features another version, as well as Birdy and the Beast, which features Tweety. Before Sylvester's appearance in the cartoons, Blanc voiced a character named Sylvester on The Judy Canova Show using the voice that would eventually become associated with the cat.
Personality and catchphrases
Sylvester's height is 60 or 72 inches (152.4 or 182.8 cm) or 5 or 6 feet (1.52 or 1.83 m) tall and his weight is 60 or 72 pounds (27.2 or 32.7 kg).
In many cartoons, Sylvester is shown intentionally sticking out his tongue while speaking, putting on emphasis that the lisp is intentional. He is also known for spraying people he is talking to with the saliva from his lisping, which is a trait rarely shared by Daffy. A common gag used for both Sylvester and Daffy is a tendency to go on a long rant, complaining about a subject and then ending it by saying "Sakes".
He shows a different personality when paired with Porky Pig in explorations of spooky places, in which he does not speak, behaves as a scaredy-cat, and always seems to see the scary things Porky does not see and gets scolded by him for it every time.
Sylvester, who for the most part has always played the antagonist role, is featured playing the protagonist role in a couple of cartoons while having to deal with the canine duo of Spike the Bulldog and Chester the Terrier after being chased around. In 1952's Tree for Two by Friz Freleng, Sylvester is cornered in the back alley and this would result in Spike getting mauled by a black panther that had earlier escaped from a zoo without Spike and Chester knowing about it. In the 1954 film Dr. Jerkyl's Hide, Sylvester pummels Spike (here called "Alfie") thanks to a potion that transforms him into a feline monster. Both times after Spike's ordeal, Sylvester would have the courage and confidence to confront Chester, only to be beaten up and tossed away by the little dog.
Perhaps Sylvester's most developed role is in a series of Robert McKimson-directed shorts, in which the character is a hapless mouse-catching instructor to his dubious son, Sylvester Junior, with the "mouse" being a powerful baby kangaroo which he constantly mistakes for a "giant mouse". His alternately confident and bewildered episodes bring his son to shame, while Sylvester himself is reduced to nervous breakdowns.
Sylvester also had atypical roles in a few cartoons:
- Kitty Kornered (1946), a Bob Clampett cartoon in which a black-nosed, yellow-eyed Sylvester was teamed with three other cats to oust owner Porky Pig from his house.
- Doggone Cats (1947), an Arthur Davis cartoon where Sylvester is teamed up with an orange cat (later retooled as Sylvester’s brother Alan in The Looney Tunes Show) to stop a dog named Wellington from delivering a package to Uncle Louie's home.
- Catch as Cats Can (1947), another Davis cartoon that portrays Sylvester as a slow-minded cat with a dopey voice, who has to eat a singing canary that's a caricature of Frank Sinatra.
- Back Alley Oproar (1948), a Friz Freleng cartoon (actually a remake of the 1941 short Notes to You) wherein Sylvester pesters the sleep-deprived Elmer Fudd by performing several amazing musical numbers in the alley (and even a sweet lullaby ("go to sleep... go to sleep... close your big bloodshot eyes...") to temporarily ease Elmer back to the dream world, though very temporarily.
- The Scarlet Pumpernickel (1950), a Chuck Jones cartoon in which Sylvester plays the Basil Rathbone-like villain to Daffy Duck's Errol Flynn-esque hero.
- Red Riding Hoodwinked (1955), another Freleng cartoon where Sylvester co-stars with an absent-minded Big Bad Wolf in which each not only tries to get their particular "prey" (Sylvester vs. Tweety and the Wolf vs. Little Red Riding Hood) but they both nearly come to blows with each other playing "Grandma". ("You're musclin' in on my racket!")
In the television series Tiny Toon Adventures, Sylvester appeared as the mentor of Furrball. He also starred in The Sylvester and Tweety Mysteries. In the series, he plays the narrator at the beginning of episodes.
The character debuted in Friz Freleng's Life With Feathers (1945). Freleng's 1947 cartoon Tweetie Pie was the first pairing of Tweety with Sylvester, and the Bob Clampett-directed Kitty Kornered (1946) was Sylvester's first pairing with Porky Pig.
In the 1970s and 1980s, Sylvester appeared in various Warner Bros. television specials, and in the 1980s, he appeared in the feature-film compilations.
He has died more times than any other Looney Tunes character, having died in Peck Up Your Troubles, I Taw a Putty Tat, Back Alley Oproar, Mouse Mazurka, Bad Ol' Putty Tat, Ain't She Tweet, Satan's Waitin', Muzzle Tough, Sandy Claws, Tweety's Circus, Too Hop To Handle, Tree Cornered Tweety, Tweet and Lovely, Trick or Tweet (along with Sam Cat), The Wild Chase (along with Wile E. Coyote), and Museum Scream. He was even cast in the role of the Jacob Marley-like ghost in Bah, Humduck! A Looney Tunes Christmas.
A baby version of Sylvester is part of the title cast of characters in Baby Looney Tunes.
Sylvester is featured in The Looney Tunes Show (2011–14), voiced by Jeff Bergman. He is shown living with Granny alongside Tweety. In "Point, Laser Point", it is revealed that Sylvester was attracted by a glowing red dot that was on his mother's necklace when he was young as experienced through hypnotic therapy done by Witch Lezah. It was also revealed that his mother (voiced by Estelle Harris) has retired to Florida (with Sylvester's mother being disappointed that Sylvester never kept wearing his retainer, never remembered where she lives in Florida, and has not caught Tweety yet). This episode also introduced Sylvester's brother Alan (voiced by Jeff Bennett).
He also has two cameo appearances in Looney Tunes: Back in Action, but the second time, "Sylvester" is really Mr. Smith in disguise.
Sylvester appears in the Robot Chicken episode "Werewolf vs. Unicorn", voiced by Patrick Pinney. During Arnold Schwarzenegger’s announcement of illegal aliens from Mexico, Sylvester demonstrates a wired fence that will keep the aliens out, only for it to be penetrated by Speedy Gonzales.
Sylvester makes a vocal cameo appearance in the 2020 Animaniacs revival segment "Suffragette City", with Jeff Bergman reprising his role.
Sylvester as emblem of the 45th Reconnaissance Squadron
Sylvester as emblem of the 151st Fighter-Interceptor Squadron
Sylvester and Tweety in "I Tawt I Taw a Puddy Tat"
From 1979 to 1983, Sylvester was the "spokescat" for 9 Lives' line of dry cat food. His face appeared on the product's boxes and Sylvester was also featured in a series of television commercials. These ads usually consisted of Sylvester trying to get to his box of 9 Lives dry cat food while avoiding Hector the Bulldog. Sylvester would always succeed in luring the dog away so he could get to his food, but would always find himself a target again by the end of the commercial, which generally ended with Sylvester calling 9 Lives dry cat food "worth riskin' your life for."
In comic books
Western Publications produced a comic book about Tweety and Sylvester entitled Tweety and Sylvester, first in Dell Comics Four Color series #406, 489, and 524, then in their own title from Dell Comics (#4–37, 1954–62), and later from Gold Key Comics (#1–102, 1963–72). In most of the earlier comic books, Sylvester has white fur surrounding his eyes (similar to Pepé Le Pew) and green eyes. They both disappeared in the later comic books. The green eyes could be seen in some merchandise as well.
Sylvester and Tweety appeared in a DC Comics and Looney Tunes crossover comic called Catwoman/Tweety and Sylvester #1. In the issue, witches from the DC and Looney Tunes universes placed a wager where the existence of all birds and cats (as well as all bird- and cat-themed heroes and villains) depended on if Sylvester could eat Tweety. Sylvester (designed more realistically for the DC Universe) teamed up with Catwoman, while Tweety teamed up with the Black Canary.
In video games
Sylvester has appeared in the video games Sylvester and Tweety in Cagey Capers, The Bugs Bunny Crazy Castle, The Bugs Bunny Birthday Blowout, Bugs Bunny Rabbit Rampage, Looney Tunes: Acme Arsenal, The Bugs Bunny Crazy Castle 2, Looney Tunes: Back in Action, Looney Tunes: Space Race, Bugs Bunny: Crazy Castle 3, and Sylvester and Tweety: Breakfast on the Run.
The name "Sylvester" is a play on Felis silvestris, the scientific name for the European wildcat (domestic cats like Sylvester are in the species Felis catus). Sylvester was not named until Chuck Jones gave him the name Sylvester, which was first used in Scaredy Cat. Although the character was named Sylvester in later cartoon shorts (beginning with 1948's Scaredy Cat), he was called "Thomas" in his first appearance with Tweety in Tweetie Pie, most likely as a reference to a male cat being called a tom. Mel Blanc had also voiced a human character named Sylvester on Judy Canova's radio show earlier in the 1940s. Sylvester was officially given his name in the 1948 Chuck Jones short Scaredy Cat.
Sylvester's trademark is his sloppy and yet stridulating lisp. In Mel Blanc's autobiography, That's Not All Folks!, it is worth noting that Sylvester's voice is similar to Daffy Duck's, only not sped up in post-production, plus the even more exaggerated slobbery lisp. Conventional wisdom is that Daffy's lisp, and hence also Sylvester's, were based on the lisp of producer Leon Schlesinger. However, Blanc made no such claim. He said that Daffy's lisp was based on him having a long beak and that he borrowed the voice for Sylvester. He also said that Sylvester's voice was very much like his own, excluding the lisp (his son Noel Blanc has also confirmed this). In addition, director Bob Clampett, in a 1970 Funnyworld interview, agreed with Blanc's account concerning Schlesinger. Greg Ford once asked Blanc what was the difference between Daffy and Sylvester's voices. Blanc said to him that Daffy is a Jew and Sylvester is a Gentile.
- Mel Blanc (1945–1989, Bugs Bunny's Birthday Ball (1990); archive audio, Sylvester and Tweety in Cagey Capers (meowing) (1994); archive audio, Boomerang bumper (hiccup) (2004); archive audio, I Tawt I Taw a Puddy Tat (2011); archive audio)
- Danny Kaye (1951 I Taut I Taw a Puddy Tat cover)
- Gilbert Mack (Golden Records records, Bugs Bunny Songfest)
- Dallas McKennon (meowing sounds in Daffy Duck and Porky Pig Meet the Groovie Goolies)
- Richard Andrews (Bugs Bunny Exercise and Adventure Album)
- Bill Farmer (ABC Family Fun Fair, Space Jam)
- Darrell Hammond ("Wappin'")
- Jeff Bergman (1989 Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade, Tiny Toon Adventures, Tyson Foods commercial, Bugs Bunny's Overtures to Disaster, Cartoon Network bumpers, Boomerang bumper, Family Guy, The Looney Tunes Show, Scooby Doo and Looney Tunes: Cartoon Universe, Looney Tunes Dash, New Looney Tunes, Daffy Duck Dance Off, Ani-Mayhem, Meet Bugs (and Daffy), Looney Tunes Cartoons, Animaniacs, Space Jam: A New Legacy, Tiny Toons Looniversity)
- Joe Alaskey (Tiny Toon Adventures, Looney Tunes River Ride, Yosemite Sam and the Gold River Adventure, Sylvester and Tweety in Cagey Capers, Have Yourself a Looney Tunes Christmas, Carrotblanca, The Sylvester & Tweety Mysteries, Bugs & Friends Sing Elvis, Father of the Bird, Bugs Bunny's Learning Adventures, Warner Bros. Sing Along: Quest for Camelot, Warner Bros. Sing-Along: Looney Tunes, Looney Tunes: What's Up Rock?!, The Looney Tunes Rockin' Road Show, Tweety's High-Flying Adventure, The Looney Tunes Kwazy Christmas, Looney Tunes: Back In Action, Bah, Humduck! A Looney Tunes Christmas, Looney Tunes Dance Off, TomTom Looney Tunes GPS, Looney Tunes ClickN READ Phonics, various video games, webtoons, and commercials)
- Keith Scott (Looney Tunes Musical Revue, Westfield commercial, Spectacular Light and Sound Show Illuminanza, KFC commercials, Tazos Looney Tunes commercial, Looney Tunes: We Got the Beat!, Looney Tunes on Ice, Looney Tunes LIVE! Classroom Capers, Christmas Moments with Looney Tunes, The Looney Tunes Radio Show, Looney Rock)
- J. J. Sedelmaier (Cartoon Network presentation pitch)
- Greg Burson (The Toonite Show Starring Bugs Bunny, Looney Tunes B-Ball, Warner Bros. Kids Club)
- Terry Klassen (Baby Looney Tunes, Baby Looney Tunes' Eggs-traordinary Adventure)
- Jeff Bennett (Museum Scream, A Looney Tunes Sing-A-Long Christmas)
- Pat Pinney (Robot Chicken)
- Kevin Shinick (Mad)
- Dee Bradley Baker (New Looney Tunes (monster form))
- Eric Bauza (Looney Tunes: World of Mayhem, Bugs Bunny in The Golden Carrot, Space Jam: A New Legacy live show)
Reception and legacy
- Tom and Jerry, a similar type of duo.
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- Lenburg, Jeff (1999). The Encyclopedia of Animated Cartoons. Checkmark Books. pp. 140–142. ISBN 0-8160-3831-7. Retrieved 6 June 2020.
- The Judy Canova Show, September 7, 1943, as rebroadcast on XM Radio's Old Time Radio channel August 13, 2008.
- "Illegal Alien Problems - Robot Chicken - Adult Swim". YouTube. Retrieved 2020-09-22.
- 1979 Sylvester The Cat 9 Lives Cat Food Commercial 1
- 9-Lives Dry ad, 1983
- Catwoman/Tweety and Sylvester #1
- Jones, Chuck (1989). Chuck Amuck : the life and times of an animated cartoonist. p. 105. ISBN 0374123489.
- Blanc, Mel; Bashe, Philip (1988). That's Not All, Folks!. Warner Books. ISBN 0-446-51244-3.
- An interview with Bob Clampett
- REVIEWS BY RICHARD CORLISS: Looney Tunes Golden Collection — Volume 5
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- "Looney Tunes Musical Revue". Behind The Voice Actors. Retrieved 2020-09-20.
- "Warner Bros. Movie World Illuminanza". Behind The Voice Actors. Retrieved 2021-03-08.
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- "Cartoon Network Presentation 1991". Vimeo. Retrieved 15 July 2021.
- "The Toonite Show Starring Bugs Bunny". Behind The Voice Actors. Retrieved 2020-09-27.
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- "The Voice Artist's Spotlight on Twitter: "Greg Burson was the go-to guy for all voices in all of the Looney Tunes games developed by Sunsoft. Also voiced Daffy, Porky Pig, Elmer Fudd, and more."". Twitter. Retrieved December 6, 2020.
- "Warner Bros. Kids Club". Behind The Voice Actors. Retrieved 2020-09-27.
- Monger, James. "A Looney Tunes Sing-A-Long Christmas". AllMusic. Retrieved November 26, 2021.
- "Voice of Sylvester the Cat in Robot Chicken". Behind The Voice Actors. Retrieved 2020-09-20.
- "Voice of Sylvester the Cat in Mad". Behind The Voice Actors. Retrieved 2020-09-20.
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