Sylvester the Cat
|Looney Tunes character|
Sylvester the cat.
|First appearance||Notes to You (early version)
September 20, 1941
Life with Feathers (official version)
March 24, 1945
|Created by||Friz Freleng|
|Voiced by||Mel Blanc (1945–1988 ; I Tawt I Taw a Puddy Tat)
Joe Alaskey (1990–2007, 2011)
Jeff Bergman (1990–1993, 2011–present)
Bill Farmer (1996)
Jeff Bennett (2003)
Patrick Pinney (2007–2014)
Terry Klassen (2001–2006; Baby Looney Tunes)
|Children||Sylvester Jr. (son)|
|Relatives||Tom Pussycat (brother)
Sylth Vester (descendant)
Sylvester James Pussycat, Sr., Sylvester the Cat or simply Sylvester, or Puddy Cat, is a fictional character, a three-time Academy Award-winning anthropomorphic Tuxedo cat in the Looney Tunes and Merrie Melodies repertory, often chasing Tweety Bird, Speedy Gonzales, or Hippety Hopper. The name "Sylvester" is a play on Felis silvestris, the scientific name for the wild cat species (domestic cats like Sylvester, though, are actually Felis catus). 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. Sylvester appeared in 103 cartoons in the golden age. He appeared fourth most frequently in films behind Bugs Bunny, Porky Pig, and Daffy Duck respectively. 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's trademark is his sloppy and yet stridulating lisp. In his autobiography, That's Not All Folks!, voice actor Mel Blanc stated that Sylvester's voice is identical to his voice for Daffy Duck, 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 pointed out that, minus the lisp, Sylvester's voice was fairly close to his own (a claim that his son Noel Blanc has confirmed). In addition, director Bob Clampett, in a 1970 Funnyworld interview, agreed with Blanc's account concerning Schlesinger.
In many cartoons, Sylvester is shown intentionally sticking out his tongue while speaking, putting emphasis that the lisp is intentional. Sylvester is also known for spraying people he's 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."
Sylvester prototypes appeared from 1941-1944. Notes to You was the first prototype. It was remade in color in one of Sylvester's cartoons, Back Alley Oproar. The Hep Cat features another prototype, as well as Birdy and the Beast, whch features Tweety Bird the final cartoon to feature a prototype .
To emphasize the lisp, as with Daffy's catchphrase "You're desthpicable", Sylvester's trademark exclamation is "Sufferin' succotash!", which is said to be a minced oath of "Suffering Savior". (Daffy also says "Sufferin' succotash!" from time to time in "Ain't That Ducky", "Baby Bottleneck", "His Bitter Half", "Hollywood Daffy", "The Great Piggy Bank Robbery", "Daffy Dilly", "Skyscraper Caper", "You Were Never Duckier", and "Duck Dodgers Jr.")
Sylvester shows a lot of pride in himself, and never gives up. Despite (or perhaps because of) his pride and persistence, Sylvester is, with rare exceptions, placed squarely on the "loser" side of the Looney Tunes winner/loser hierarchy.
He shows a different character 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 doesn't see, and gets scolded by him for it every time.
Sylvester, who for the most part 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 escaped from a zoo. 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. After Spike's ordeal, Sylvester would have the courage and confidence to confront Chester, only to be beaten 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 "king-size 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.
- 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) Sylvester co-stars with The Big Bad Wolf in which each not only tries to get their particular "prey" (Sylvester vs Tweety Bird and the Wolf vs Little Red Riding Hood) but they both nearly come to blows with each other playing "Grandma" ("Trying to muscle in on this racket")
In the 1970s and 1980s, Sylvester appeared in various Warner Bros. television specials, and in the 1980s, he appeared in the feature-film compilations.
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 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 food "worth riskin' your life for."
In the television series Tiny Toon Adventures, Sylvester appeared as the mentor of Furrball. The character also starred in The Sylvester and Tweety Mysteries. In the series, he plays the narrator in the beginning of episodes.
In Loonatics Unleashed, Sylvester's descendent and likely Sylvester Junior's descendent is Sylth Vester, a hitman hired by the villain, Queen Granicus, to kill the Royal Tweetums so she will not have to lose her throne. Despite his best efforts he is beaten by the Loonatics. Later on the series, it is shown that he is not entirely a bad guy, for he helped the Loonatics find the Royal Tweetums (who was hidden) and fight against Optimatus and Deuce and their plan to take over the Universe. Just like his ancestor, Sylth Vester tries to kill Tweety's descendant using all kinds of tricks, but they all backfire, resulting in Sylth Vester getting many injuries.
In 1985, Sylvester could be heard in an episode of the game show Press Your Luck. Host Peter Tomarken had earlier incorrectly credited his catchphrase "Suffering Succotash!" to Daffy Duck. Even though all three contestants had correctly answered "Sylvester," they were ruled incorrect. In a segment produced later and edited into the broadcast, Sylvester phoned Tomarken and told him, "Daffy Duck steals from me all the time." All three participants returned to compete in future episodes.
Sylvester has "died" the most of any Looney Tunes characters, having "died" in I Taw a Putty Tat, Back Alley Oproar, Peck Up Your Troubles, Satan's Waitin', Mouse Mazurka, Tweety's Circus, Trick or Tweet, Tweet and Lovely and The Wild Chase.
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 a Garfield cartoon, he made a cameo by sending Rosalina a love letter.
In other media
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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 cameo appearance in Who Framed Roger Rabbit, where he provides the punchline for a double-entendre joke regarding Judge Doom's (Christopher Lloyd) identity. Sylvester appears as part of the TuneSquad team in Space Jam, bearing the number 9 on his jersey. He also has two cameo appearances in Looney Tunes: Back in Action, but the second time, "Sylvester" is really Mr. Smith in disguise.
In the Family Guy episode Padre de Familia, Peter made up his American version of Speedy Gonzales called Rapid Dave after he decided that immigrants shouldn't be allowed into America. Sylvester (In which Jeff Bergman reprises his role) appeared in the cartoon with Dave that Peter made, and tried to catch him.
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 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).
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, and Bugs Bunny: Crazy Castle 3
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 Bird in Tweetie Pie, most likely as a reference to Tom from Tom and Jerry. His name was probably changed in order to avoid lawsuit from MGM. 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.
- Mel Blanc (1945–1988); (I Tawt I Taw a Puddy Tat) Archive Audio
- Joe Alaskey (The Sylvester & Tweety Mysteries, Tiny Toon Adventures, Bah, Humduck! A Looney Tunes Christmas, Looney Tunes: Stranger Than Fiction, Carrotblanca, Looney Tunes: Reality Check, Looney Tunes: Back In Action, Tweety's High-Flying Adventure)
- Terry Klassen (Baby Looney Tunes)
- Bill Farmer (Space Jam)
- Jeff Bergman (Tiny Toon Adventures, The Looney Tunes Show, Scooby Doo and Looney Tunes: Cartoon Universe, Family Guy)
- Jeff Bennett (Museum Scream)
- Patrick Pinney (Robot Chicken)
Sylvester (as well as Speedy Gonzales and Porky Pig) appeared in a skit seen at the end of an episode of the game show Press Your Luck. Earlier in the episode, Daffy Duck was incorrectly listed as the correct answer to the question "Which well-known cartoon character is famous for uttering the immortal words 'Sufferin Succotash!'?" At the end of the episode, Mel Blanc called the show in his Sylvester voice to correct host Peter Tomarken on the gaffe. Tomarken assured "Sylvester" that future "Looney Tunes"-related questions would be run by Sylvester's office and that the three contestants in the episode would be given a second chance, as any spins that were to be awarded for the correct answer would have affected the course of the episode's gameplay.
|Wikimedia Commons has media related to Sylvester the Cat.|
- "Sylvester aka Sylvester J. Pussycat, Sr. aka Puddy Tat". comicbookrealm. July 23, 2012.
- "TV Guide's 50 greatest cartoon characters of all time". CNN. July 30, 2002.
- Blanc, Mel; Bashe, Philip (1988). That's Not All, Folks!. Warner Books. ISBN 0-446-51244-3.
- An interview with Bob Clampett
- The Judy Canova Show, September 7, 1943, as rebroadcast on XM Radio's Old Time Radio channel August 13, 2008
- Sylvester's history at Warner Bros' official website (requires flash).