Tweety

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Tweety
Looney Tunes character
Tweety.svg
Tweety in the Friz Freleng design. This is also his current appearance.
First appearance
Created by
Voiced by
In-universe information
Alias
  • Tweety Bird
  • Tweety
  • Tweety Pie
SpeciesYellow canary
GenderMale
NationalityAmerican

Tweety is a yellow canary in the Warner Bros. Looney Tunes and Merrie Melodies series of animated cartoons.[2] The name "Tweety" is a play on words, as it originally meant "sweetie", along with "tweet" being an English onomatopoeia for the sounds of birds. His characteristics are based on Red Skelton's famous "Junior the Mean Widdle Kid."[3] He appeared in 46 cartoons during the golden age, made between 1942 and 1962.[4]

Personality and identity[edit]

Despite the perceptions that people may hold, owing to the long eyelashes and high-pitched voice (which Mel Blanc provided), Tweety is male[5][6][7] although his ambiguity was played with. For example, in the cartoon "Snow Business",[8] when Granny entered a room containing Tweety and Sylvester she said: "Here I am, boys!", whereas a 1952 cartoon was entitled Ain't She Tweet [emphasis added]. Also, his species is ambiguous; although originally and often portrayed as a young canary, he is also frequently called a rare and valuable "tweety bird" as a plot device, and once called "the only living specimen". Nevertheless, the title song of The Sylvester & Tweety Mysteries directly states that he is a canary. His shape more closely suggests that of a baby bird, which is what he was during his early appearances (although the "baby bird" aspect has been used in a few later cartoons as a plot device). The yellow feathers were added, but otherwise he retained the baby-bird shape.

In his early appearances in Bob Clampett cartoons, Tweety is a very aggressive character who tries anything to foil Sylvester, even kicking the cat when he is down. One of his most notable malicious moments is in the cartoon Birdy and the Beast, where a cat chases Tweety by flying until he remembers that cats cannot fly, causing him to fall. Tweety says sympathetically, "Awww, the poor kitty cat! He faw down and go (in a loud, tough, masculine voice) BOOM!!" and then grins mischievously. A similar use of that voice is in A Tale Of Two Kitties when Tweety, wearing an air raid warden's helmet, suddenly yells, "Turn out those lights!" Tweety's aggressive nature was toned down when Friz Freleng began directing the series, with the character turning into a more cutesy bird, usually going about his business, and doing little to thwart Sylvester's ill-conceived plots, allowing them to simply collapse on their own; he became even less aggressive when Granny was introduced, but occasionally Tweety still showed a malicious side.

Creation by Bob Clampett[edit]

Tweety's debut in A Tale of Two Kitties

Bob Clampett created the character that would become Tweety in the 1942 short A Tale of Two Kitties, pitting him against two hungry cats named Babbit and Catstello (based on the famous comedians Abbott and Costello).[9] On the original model sheet, Tweety was named Orson, which was also the name of a bird character from an earlier Clampett cartoon Wacky Blackout.[10]

Tweety was created not as a domestic canary, but as a generic (and wild) baby bird in an outdoor nest: naked (pink), jowly, and also far more aggressive and saucy, as opposed to the later, better-known version of him as a less hot-tempered (but still somewhat ornery) yellow canary. In the documentary Bugs Bunny: Superstar, animator Clampett stated, in an sotto voce "aside" to the audience, that Tweety had been based "on my own naked baby picture". Clampett did two more shorts with the "naked genius", as a Jimmy Durante-ish cat once called him in A Gruesome Twosome. The second Tweety short, Birdy and the Beast, finally bestowed the baby bird with his new name, and gave him his blue eyes.

Many of Mel Blanc's characters are known for speech impediments. One of Tweety's most noticeable is that /s/, /k/, and /g/ are changed to /t/, /d/, or (final s) /θ/; for example, "pussy cat" comes out as "putty tat", later rendered "puddy tat", and "sweetie pie" comes out as "tweetie pie" (a phonological pattern referred to as 'fronting'), hence his name. He also has trouble with liquid consonants: as with Elmer Fudd, /l/ and /r/ come out as /w/. In Canary Row and Putty Tat Trouble, he begins the cartoon by singing a song about himself, "I'm a tweet wittow biwd in a giwded cage; Tweety'th my name but I don't know my age, I don't have to wuwy and dat is dat; I'm tafe in hewe fwom dat ol' putty tat." (Translation: "I'm a sweet little bird in a gilded cage...") Aside from this speech challenge, Tweety's voice is that of Bugs Bunny's, one speed up (if The Old Grey Hare, which depicts Bugs as an infant, is any indication of that); the only difference is that Bugs does not have trouble pronouncing /s/, /k/ and /g/ as mentioned above.

Freleng takes over[edit]

Clampett began work on a short that would pit Tweety against a then-unnamed, lisping black and white cat created by Friz Freleng in 1945. However, Clampett left the studio before going into full production on the short (which had a storyboard produced, where it was titled "Fat Rat and the Stupid Cat"[11]), however Freleng would use Tweety in his own separate project. Freleng toned Tweety down and gave him a cuter appearance, including large blue eyes and yellow feathers. Clampett mentions in Bugs Bunny: Superstar that the feathers were added to satisfy censors who objected to the naked bird. The first short to team Tweety and the cat, later named Sylvester, was 1947's Tweetie Pie, which won Warner Bros its first Academy Award for Best Short Subject (Cartoons).[12]

Sylvester and Tweety proved to be one of the most notable pairings in animation history. Most of their cartoons followed a standard formula:

  • Sylvester wanting to catch and eat Tweety, but some major obstacle stands in his way – usually Granny or her bulldog Hector (or occasionally, numerous bulldogs, or another cat who also wants to catch and eat Tweety).
  • Tweety saying his signature lines "I tawt I taw a puddy tat!" and "I did! I did taw a puddy tat!" (Originally "I did! I taw a puddy tat!", but the extra "did" got inserted somehow). Eventually, someone must have commented on the grammar of "...did taw..."; in later cartoons, Tweety says "I did! I did tee a puddy tat!".
  • Sylvester spending the entire film using progressively more elaborate schemes or devices to catch Tweety, similar to Wile E. Coyote in his ongoing efforts to catch the Road Runner, Tom's attempts to catch Jerry, and the Aardvark's attempts to catch the Ant. Of course, each of his tricks fail, either due to their flaws or, more often than not, because of intervention by either Hector the Bulldog or an indignant Granny (voiced by Bea Benaderet and later June Foray), or after Tweety steers the enemy toward them or another device (such as off the ledge of a tall building or an oncoming train).

In a few of the cartoons, Sylvester does manage to briefly eat Tweety up with a gulp. However, either Granny or another character makes him spit Tweety out right away. Sylvester was also briefly eaten by Hector the Bulldog, and forced by Granny to spit him out. This occurred during the Christmas special episode, and as a punishment, both Sylvester and Hector were tied up with their mouths gagged shut.

In 1951, Mel Blanc (with Billy May's orchestra) had a hit single with "I Tawt I Taw a Puddy Tat", a song performed in character by Tweety and featuring Sylvester. In the lyrics Sylvester sings "I'd like to eat that Sweetie Pie when he leaves his cage", implying that Tweety's name is actually Sweetie Pie, altered in its pronunciation by Tweety's speech impediment. Sylvester, who has his own speech issues involving the sounds /s/ and /p/, slobbers the "S" in "Sweetie Pie", just as he would the /s/ sounds in his own name. Later the same name was applied to the young, pink female canary in the Tiny Toon Adventures animated TV series of the early 1990s.

From 1945 until the original Warner Bros. Cartoons studio closed, Freleng had almost exclusive use of Tweety at the Warner cartoon studio (much like Yosemite Sam), with the exception of a brief cameo in No Barking in 1954, directed by Chuck Jones (that year, Freleng used Pepé Le Pew, a Jones character, for the only time in his career and the only time in a Tweety short, Dog Pounded).

Later appearances[edit]

Tweety had a cameo role in Who Framed Roger Rabbit, making Eddie Valiant (Bob Hoskins) fall from a flag pole by playing "This Little Piggy" with Valiant's fingers and releasing his grip. The scene is essentially a re-creation of a gag from A Tale of Two Kitties, with Valiant replacing Catstello as Tweety's victim.

During the 1990s, Tweety also starred in the animated TV series The Sylvester and Tweety Mysteries,[12] in which Granny ran a detective agency with the assistance of Tweety, Sylvester and Hector. Tweety has the starring role. The storyline carries into the 2000 direct-to-video feature-length animated film Tweety's High-Flying Adventure. Tweety's prototype, Orson, also made an appearance in the series.

Tweety also appears in Tiny Toon Adventures as the mentor of Sweetie Pie, and one of the faculty at Acme Looniversity.

In the 1995 cartoon short Carrotblanca, a parody/homage to Casablanca, Tweety appeared as "Usmarte", a parody of the character Ugarte played by Peter Lorre in the original film. In several sequences, Tweety was speaking and laughing in character like Peter Lorre. He also does the Looney Tunes ending instead of Porky Pig or Bugs Bunny. This is also notable for being a rare instance where Tweety plays a villain character.

In 1996, Tweety appeared in the feature film, Space Jam, with legendary basketball player Michael Jordan.

In 2001, a younger version of Tweety appeared on Baby Looney Tunes, thus coming full circle from his earliest appearances.

In 2010 Tweety was featured, with his Looney Tunes co-stars, in Cartoon Network's series The Looney Tunes Show.[13] He is voiced by Jeff Bergman. He appeared in the episode "Ridiculous Journey", where he and Sylvester work together to avoid getting eaten by Taz. He had been revealed to have fought in World War II alongside a young Granny. Sylvester also asked him how old he was, to which Tweety replied, "I'll never tell." Sylvester then asked if Tweety would at least tell him if he (Tweety) was a boy or a girl. Tweety whispered into his ear and Sylvester had a surprised expression and said "Huh, I was wrong."

Tweety has recently appeared as a major character in New Looney Tunes and Looney Tunes Cartoons, where his designs are mostly based on his Freleng heyday with a few Bob Clampett elements to make him more suited for 1942–1944, and his personality reverts him to being more violent and abusive in nature while being toned down to retain his cute facade.

On February 17, 2021, it was announced Tweety will star in Tweety Mysteries which is similar to The Sylvester & Tweety Mysteries.[14] The series will be a live-action/animated hybrid aimed towards girls and will air on Cartoon Network.[15][16] He will also appear in the preschool series Bugs Bunny Builders which will air as part of Cartoonito on Cartoon Network and HBO Max.[17][18]

Merchandise[edit]

Tweety and Sylvester have been used to endorse products such as Miracle Whip dressing and MCI Communications long distance.[12] In 1998, the United States Post Office honored Tweety and Sylvester with a 32-cent postage stamp.[19] Tweety also appears in products produced by Warner Brothers Studios.

Modern art[edit]

British artist Banksy's 2008 New York art installation The Village Pet Store and Charcoal Grill features "Tweety", an animatronic sculpture of an aged and molting version of the character.[20]

Comic books[edit]

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), then later from Gold Key Comics (#1–102, 1963–72).

Tweety's Looney Tunes and Merrie Melodies filmography[edit]

Directed by Bob Clampett[edit]

Directed by Friz Freleng[edit]

Co-directed by Hawley Pratt[edit]

Directed by Gerry Chiniquy[edit]

Directed by Chuck Jones[edit]

  • No Barking (1954) – cameo appearance-MM

Post-Golden Age of American animation[edit]

Voice actors[edit]

Legendary voice artist Mel Blanc originated the character's voice.[21] After the Golden Age of American Animation came to an end, Blanc continued to voice the character in TV specials, commercials, music recordings, and films, such as 1988's Who Framed Roger Rabbit, which was one of Blanc's final projects as Tweety. Before and after Blanc's death in 1989, several voice actors have provided the voice in his stead. These voice actors are:

References[edit]

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External links[edit]