The general concept of Looney Tunes is confusing to many generations of viewers who grew up watching Bugs Bunny, Daffy Duck, Elmer Fudd and more on television. You see, originally, Looney Tunes cartoons appeared as short films that aired in movie theaters from 1930-1969. By the time they stopped airing them in theaters, though, they had already begun to make content specifically for television.
Meanwhile, all of the Looney Tunes films were eventually syndicated into television form, so most people know them as television characters. When they went into syndication, a number of early films were pulled from ever airing. Of the ones that did air, though, there were still a number of references that pushed the boundaries of good taste (which makes sense, since most of these were originally intended for a movie-going audience). Here are 15 particularly inappropriate moments in Looney Tunes cartoons that appeared on TV.
15. SPEEDY GONZALES DID WHAT
After briefly appearing in another cartoon in 1953, Speedy Gonzales made his proper debut in the 1955 film, “Speedy Gonzales,” which starred Slyvester the Cat trying to guard a cheese factory from Gonzales. The film won the Academy Award for animated shorts and Speedy was soon one of the most popular Looney Tunes characters.
However, much of the humor in Speedy Gonzales appearances were based on negative stereotypes about Hispanics, so few of the original films are ever shown today on the Cartoon Network. One particularly rough joke was when when mouse says, “I can contact Speedy because he’s a friend of my sister” and another mouse retorts, “He’s a friend of everybody‘s sister!” As you might imagine, that’s a bit too untoward for modern audiences.
14. WRESTLING FAIL
The very last Looney Tunes animated film aired in 1969. It was titled “Injun Trouble,” (which, in and of itself, is, of course, inappropriate) and it involved Cool Cat traveling through the Old West and running afoul of the Native-Americans who live in the area (as well as all of the other people who lived there, as well).
At one point, he gets stopped by a Native-American woman who sashays up to him and asks him if he wants to “Indian wrestle.” When he quickly agrees, her much larger partner jumps out from behind a bush and pummels the hapless feline. As noted, even before the innuendo, this story was too inappropriate for modern audiences, but the suggestive material was just the problematic icing on the garbage cake.
13. BUGS KNOWS HIS MULTIPLICATION TABLES
One of the best under-the-radar recurring jokes with Bugs Bunny was a play on the word multiply. Obviously, it is most commonly known as a mathematics term for, in effect, rapid addition (instead of saying “Add seven plus seven plus seven,” you just say “Multiply seven times three”). However, it is also a biological term for when a species procreates.
Rabbits are well known for often they multiply, so it serves as a tricky way to get a dirty joke into a cartoon. In one film, Bugs Bunny wins a call-in quiz show when he answers a seemingly impossible mathematical multiplication problem. He notes, “We rabbits are great at multiplying.” In another film, he’s shown reading a “How to Multiply” book as if it were salacious material.
12. IT’S PLAYDUCK SEASON!
While Bugs Bunny might read “How to Multiply” for his unsavory literary read, Daffy Duck has another choice. This one is technically not a Looney Tunes cartoon, but rather from an episode of Tiny Toon Adventures, but since it stars the Looney Tunes stars, Bugs and Daffy, we’re still counting it.
Daffy and Bugs have been enlisted to watch some student films but Daffy is disinterested. Instead, he checks out Playduck Magazine (the same magazine showed up in the film Howard the Duck). Bugs grabs the magazine from him and shames him for not paying attention. Amusingly enough, Bugs then begins reading the magazine himself, as apparently even a rabbit is interested in the photo spreads in the magazine. We guess there’s no such thing as duck season or rabbit season when it comes to those kinds of pictorials.
11. COOL CAT IS IN FOR DISAPPOINTMENT
As the Looney Tunes film studio wrapped up production in the 1960s, new projects were almost entirely made up of films featuring the same group of characters. There would either be a Daffy Duck cartoon, a Speedy Gonzales cartoon or a Wile E. Coyote and Roadrunner cartoon. Things changed in 1967 with the introduction of Cool Cat, a “hepcat” played by Larry Storch, who keeps running afoul of a British big game hunter named Colonel Rimfire.
Cool Cat became the last new Looney Tunes star, featuring in six films between 1967 and 1969, including the final Looney Tunes film, “Injun Trouble,” where Cool Cat finds himself thrilled to find a Topless Saloon, until he sees that the bartender is a topless man.
10. TROUBLE UP NORTH FOR BUGS
“Bewitched Bunny” was the introduction of the witch character, Witch Hazel, who tries to capture little kids to eat, but Bugs saves the kids. Seeing the rabbit, Witch Hazel decides to cook him instead. Bugs obviously does not want to be served up for dinner, so the rest of the cartoon is a back and forth between Bugs and the Witch as he tries to avoid getting eaten.
In the end, he ends up transforming the Witch into a female bunny. He walks off with her and turns to the audience and says, “Ah sure, I know. But aren’t they all witches inside?” Prehaps not surprisingly, this proved controversial in Canada, and the cartoon had a different line when aired on broadcast TV there in the 1980s. Bugs now said, “Sure uh, I know. But after all, who wants to be alone on Halloween?”
9. READING IS FUNDAMENTAL
It sure seems as though Looney Tunes had a bit of a problem with the sexualization of Native American women. We saw this with the sexy “wrestling” woman in “Injun Trouble,” but we saw another one in the short film, “Book Revue,” which was ostensibly a Daffy Duck short, but was really a collection of parodies based on book titles.
One of the books parodied was the then-new release, The Cherokee Strip, which was a memoir by the Pulitzer Prize winning journalist Marquis James about his life growing up in Oklahoma in the late 19th Century and the early 20th Century. Of course, the book’s title led them to making an attractive Cherokee woman, well, strip. Then The Whistler and The Sea Wolf leer at her, whistling and howling at her.
8. HIGH BROW AND LOW BROW, ALL AT ONCE
One of the most popular Looney Tunes cartoon pairings was Wile E. Coyote and Roadrunner (the Coyote debuted as an occasional Bugs Bunny rival), with Wile E. constantly creating elaborate traps to try to capture the Roadrunner (and, of course, failing). One of the recurring bits in the cartoons was that they would treat it as a sort of twisted nature documentary.
Nature documentaries, of course, would often show the official Latin scientific name of the animals in the documentary. So Wile E. Coyote and Roadrunner would get their own unique scientific Latin names in each film. One of these Latin scientific names was a rare high brow/low brow joke. He was labeled “Hardeheadipus Oedipus,” which would translate as a hard headed mother… well, you know.
7. GIVING HIM THE BIRD
An interesting aspect of watching old Looney Tunes cartoons is that modern audiences often don’t get the parodies in the cartoons, since they are typically parodying people who were popular in the 1940s. However, even modern audiences recognize the famed comedian Abbott and Costello, which gives “Babbit and Catsello” — a pair of parody cats — more relevance.
In one cartoon, Babbit and Catsello are trying to capture Tweety Bird and Babbit keeps yelling at Catsello to give him the bird. Catsello turns to the audience and notes that if it weren’t for the restrictions put into place at the time by the Hays Office (which prevented films from cursing or using other vulgar language or actions), he would give Babbit the bird. He was of course referring to the extended middle finger, also known as flipping the bird.
6. PRISON FUN WITH YOSEMITE SAM
In most of these examples, we’re talking about cartoons that were created in the 1940s and 1950s, when societal standards were a lot different (heck, even the 1960s were a lot different, culturally, than today), but surprisingly enough, this entry is from a cartoon that was made in 1995!
“Carrot-blanca” was a short cartoon parody of Casablanca (why they were doing new parodies of 1943’s Casablanca in 1995 is anyone’s guess) with Bugs Bunny as Rick and Yosemite Sam as the villainous Major Strasser. At one point, Bugs tricks Sam into going to prison, where the clear implication is that Sam is about to be assaulted by his much larger inmate. This came out just in 1995, people! Have standards really changed that much in just two decades?
5. ELMER FUDD AT ATTENTION
“Rabbit Seasoning” is the second of the famed Looney Tunes “hunting trilogy,” which is three films where Bugs Bunny and Daffy Duck work against each other to try to force Elmer Fudd, who is out hunting animals, to hunt the other animal and not them. This is the origin of the famous exchange between Bugs and Daffy, who try to convince Fudd, “It’s Duck Season.” “No, it’s rabbit season.” “No, it’s Duck Season.”
At the end of the film, Bugs Bunny seduces Elmer Fudd by dressing up as an attractive woman. We see how much of a reaction “Bugs” has on him because his hat elongates as if, well, you know. He is in such a daze that he stumbles over to Daffy and accidentally shoots him right in the face with his gun.
4. DAFFY WORKING IT FOR ALL HE’S GOT
Back in the 1940s, TV had yet to become the main source of content for most American households, so radio was still king. Therefore, there were a whole pile of actors who were only voice actors. Many of them later became famous cartoon voices, as well, but at the time were known for their radio characters. One of these actors was Bill Thompson, who later became known for being Droopy Dog. In the 1940s, though, his most famous character was the meek Wallace Wimple.
Looney Tunes films would often riff off of famous radio stars, so in one film, Daffy Duck is hunted by Mister Meek (basically just Wallace Wimple), who is trying to prove his manhood to his wife. Daffy disturbingly tries to distract him by doing a strip tease, treating his fur like it is his dress.
3. PUFF PUFF AND PASS… REALLY FAST
As noted, despite it being an Academy Award-winning film (just the third Looney Tunes film to ever win that honor), “Speedy Gonazles” is filled with a whole bunch of rather offensive ethic humor. However, interestingly enough, it also has a bunch of jokes that were hidden due to the fact that they are in Spanish.
For instance, Speedy often sings the song, “La Cucaracha,” including the following lyrics, “La cucaracha, la cucaracha, ya no puede caminar porque no tiene, porque le falta marihuana que fumar.” This translates to, “The cockroach, the cockroach, can’t walk anymore because it doesn’t have, because it’s lacking [weed] to smoke.” So yes, this is a Looney Tunes film that won an Academy Award and it involves a mouse singing about smoking pot!!
2. PEPE LE PEW IS JUST CREEPY PERIOD
Let’s face it, Pepe Le Pew is just inappropriate period. This shows you just how much society has changed, as one of the Pepe films, “For Scent-imental Reasons,” actually won the Academy Award, and the whole joke is that a skunk won’t take no for an answer when it meets a beautiful female skunk (who is just a black cat that accidentally had a white stripe painted down her back).
As disturbing as the general set-up of the cartoon is, the cartoon was also interesting in that it used the phrase “making love” before it was fully identified with “having sex,” so there are lots of lines like, “the poor thing is just stressed, we will fix that by making love” and “Everybody should have a hobby, don’t you think? Mine is making love.”
1. BUGS BUNNY… “FILM” STAR?!
As noted, Looney Tunes has won a number of Academy Awards over the years, but it is interesting to note that despite their films being, in retrospect, the best of the best for the era, they did not win an Academy Award until 1947’s “Tweety Pie”!
Therefore, in 1944, they did a cartoon called “What’s Cookin’, Doc?” that is about Bugs Bunny being irate over constantly losing out on the Oscars. So Bugs insists on a recount after losing to Jimmy Cagney for Best Actor, so he shows them clips from his best works. He accidentally then shows them a stag reel (the title card is an actual stag, of course) which a startled Bugs quickly changes over to the right film. The implication, though, is that Bugs starred in a stag reel! “Stag reels” was what adult films were called back in the day. We’ll let you draw your own conclusions there.
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