Tasmanian Devil (Looney Tunes)

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The Tasmanian Devil
Looney Tunes character
Taz-Looney Tunes.svg
First appearanceDevil May Hare (1954)
Created byRobert McKimson
Voiced byMel Blanc (1954–1983)
Jeff Bergman (1990)
Noel Blanc (1990)
Maurice LaMarche (1990)
Jim Cummings (1991–present)
Greg Burson (1992)
Dee Bradley Baker (1996)
Frank Welker (1998)
Ian James Corlett (2001–2006)
Brendan Fraser (2003)
Joe Alaskey (2011)
(see below)
Information
SpeciesTasmanian Devil
GenderMale
FamilyHugh Tasmanian Devil (father)
Jean Tasmanian Devil (mother)
Molly Tasmanian Devil (sister)
Jake Tasmanian Devil (brother)
Drew Tasmanian Devil (uncle)
Tasmanian She-Devil (wife)

Unnamed wife
Unnamed son

Slam Tasmanian (descendant)
NationalityTasmanian (Australian)

The Tasmanian Devil, commonly 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. His first name is revealed in the 1957 short Bedevilled Rabbit, when his wife addresses him as "Claude".

Personality[edit]

Taz is generally portrayed as a ferocious, albeit dim-witted, omnivore with a notoriously short temper and little patience. He got his name in the short Ducking The Devil. Though he can be very devious, he is also sweet at times. His enormous appetite seems to know no bounds, as he will eat anything in his path. He is best known for his speech consisting mostly of grunts, growls, and rasps (in his earlier appearances, he does speak English with primitive grammar) as well as his ability to spin like a vortex and bite through nearly anything.[1] Taz does have one weakness: he can be calmed by almost any music. While in this calm state, he can be easily dealt with. The only music known not to pacify Taz is the bagpipes, which he finds insufferable.[2]

In 1991, Taz got his own show Taz-Mania which ran for four seasons in which Taz was the main protagonist.[3]

Creation[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.[4]:153 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 tufts of 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.

Appearances[edit]

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," 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 Edward Selzer, head of the Warner Bros. animation studio, ordered McKimson to shelve the character, feeling that he was too violent for children, and that parents would dislike him.[4]:157 After a time with no new Taz shorts, studio head Jack L. Warner asked what had happened to the character. Warner saved Taz's 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.

McKimson would go on to direct four more Taz cartoons, beginning with Bedevilled 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.

Later appearances[edit]

Taz appeared in the 1983 movie Daffy Duck's Fantastic Island as Yosemite Sam's first mate.

Taz 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 much 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". Taz later played a major part in "Ridiculous Journey" where he, Sylvester (whom Taz tried to eat) and Tweety were accidentally sent to Alaska by Yosemite Sam. The three of them work to get home while encountering other characters and avoiding tracker Blacque Jacque Shellacque. Eventually, they make it home when it turned out that Blacque was hired by Yosemite Sam to retrieve the three on behalf of Bugs and Granny.

Taz originally appeared in the series Wabbit as Theodore Tasmanian, an accountant at Chesterfield Consultants who try to repress his vicious side. Unlike most versions of the character, he spoke more coherently. He was also married and had a child. He eventually returned to his original characterization and way of speaking when the series was retooled as New Looney Tunes.

An alternate version of Taz appeared in the 2017 DC Comics/Looney Tunes crossover comics, where he was designed more for the DC Universe and faced off against Wonder Woman in the Wonder Woman/Tasmanian Devil Special. In the story, Taz is a Guardian of the Labyrinth on Themyscira and fought Diana when she was a teenager during her trials to become an Amazon warrior. Before Taz could attack her, Diana plays the harp and puts it to sleep before snipping off some of his fur as proof of her victory. She returns to Taz years later as Wonder Woman after Circe uses the Talisman of Eurytale to turn Hippolyta and the other Amazons into stone. As the Talisman can only be stopped by the Minotaur's Amulet, she requests Taz's help as Taz's connection to the other Guardians would lead them down the right path. During the journey, Taz reveals that he wasn't mad at Diana for tricking him, but was rather upset that she took the music away. The two defeat the Minotaur and Circe and the Amazons reward him with a large feast in return. In the issue's backup story (done more in the style of the classic Looney Tunes shorts), Diana sings to Taz the tale of the Trojan War with her and the Looney Tunes characters roleplaying the major players, but Taz in his dream alters the events to work out more in his favor.[5]

The final 3-D animated creature that Anthony causes to erupt from the cracking TV in a whirlwind effect, in 1983's The Twilight Zone's third segment “It’s a Good Life”, seems to be a version Taz that goes characteristically bonkers.

Voice actors[edit]

Home video[edit]

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

In popular culture[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, Looney Tunes: Back in Action, Galactic Taz Ball.

In the late 1990s to early 2000s, when Chevrolet used the Looney Tunes as part of their NASCAR campaign, the Chevrolet Monte Carlo racing teams were referenced as Team Monte Carlo, with the Tasmanian Devil as the mascot.

Professional wrestler Peter Senercia adopted "Taz" and the variant spelling "Tazz" as his ring names.

From 2005-2012, a custom-bodied Taz monster truck competed in the Monster Jam circuit, driven by Adam Anderson. It is currently retired, with a Scooby-Doo themed truck it's replacement, debuting in 2013.

Taz appeared in a 2014 GEICO commercial, where he drinks a "certain energy drink" and goes on a rampage.

In June 2017, the character appeared in the Wonder Woman / Tasmanian Devil Special #1, written by Tony Bedard with art by Barry Kitson. This version is reimagined as a Guardian of the Labyrinth on Themyscira whom Wonder Woman defeated when she was a teenager, but later teams up with her to save the Amazons from Circe.[7][8]

Lawsuits[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 battle to allow a Tasmanian company to call its fishing lure the "Tasmanian Devil". Debate followed,[where?] and a delegation from the Tasmanian state government met with Warner Bros.[4]:161–164 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 lapsed.[4]:167–169

In 1997, the Tasmanian government and Warner Bros. disputed the government's right to use the character as a tourism promotion, which was offered only if a fee was paid. The government refused to pay a fee to Warner Bros.[9]

In 2006, after much lobbying from the Tasmanian government, Warner Bros decided to assist the fight against extinction of the Tasmanian Devil due to devil facial tumour disease (DFTD).[9] Tasmanian Environment Minister Judy Jackson, prior to the agreement, had 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.[citation needed]

The deal with Warner Bros allowed 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 DFTD.[10][11] The deal also aimed to increase public attention towards the threatening disease.

Notes[edit]

  1. ^ Warner Bros – The Lineup – Taz – retrieved December 23, 2012
  2. ^ Warner Bros. "Merrie Melody," Ducking the Devil, 1957.
  3. ^ Trusdell, Brian (May 28, 1995). "Focus : Warner's Toon Factory for the '90s". The Los Angeles Times. USA. Retrieved 10 May 2011.
  4. ^ a b c d Owen, David; Pemberton, David (2005). Tasmanian Devil: A unique and threatened animal. Allen & Unwin. ISBN 978-1-74114-368-3. Archived from the original on 14 September 2011. Retrieved 22 August 2010.
  5. ^ Wonder Woman/Tasmanian Devil Special #1
  6. ^ "Junkyard Run, the (1998, Video Game) Voice Cast".
  7. ^ Wonder Woman / Tasmanian Devil Special #1 on DC Comics website
  8. ^ EXCL: Full DC/Looney Tunes Solicits Features Wonder Woman vs Taz by Stephen Gerding on ComicBookResources.com, 3 Feb 2017
  9. ^ a b "Warner Bros to help save Tassie devils". The Sydney Morning Herald. June 20, 2006.
  10. ^ "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.
  11. ^ "Warner joins the Fight". The Mercury. 2006-06-20. Retrieved 2006-08-14.[dead link]

References[edit]

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

External links[edit]