During the Golden Age of American Animation, Tweety Bird was created by Bob Clampett in an otherwise unassuming parody of Abbot and Costello back in 1941. But the character resonated with audiences, even if the more malicious aspects of the character did not. Tweety went on to star in almost 50 shorts during the heyday of Warner Bros. animation, becoming an icon for the Looney Tunes franchise along the way.
Now, CBR is taking a look back at Tweety Bird's history, his place in the larger Looney Tunes universe and how he's evolved over the decades.
TWEETY BIRD'S BEGINNINGS
Tweety was originally not a Tweety bird at all, or owned by anyone in particular. He was a wild chick, with no real connections in particular. In this form, Tweety often contended with random cats in his assorted appearances, usually a different one in each short. After Clampet left the studio, Friz Freleng took over the character and devised a new formula and redesign for Tweety. Originally, Tweety was a naked chick with smaller eyes. The new look gave Tweety a softer appearance and yellow feathers to make his appearance more charming. Tweety was also given his signature big blue eyes, transforming the character into a more sympathetic lead.
Around this time, Tweety received a new home and owner to complete the transformation. Granny had previously appeared in other shorts, but she became Tweety's owner in the 1949 short"Canary Row". Granny is protective of Tweety, often trying to keep him out of harm's way. Her bulldog Hector, who's sometimes called Spike. is likewise a loyal protector to the bird, against Tweety's most common threat: Sylvester the Cat.
SLYVESTER AND TWEETY
Sylvester was one of the most versatile characters in the Looney Tunes lineup. The cat typically served as an antagonist during the Golden Age, frequently serving as a foil to any number of characters. Sylvester even became the fourth most consistent character in the original cartoons, appearing over a hundred times. However, his most famous role came when he was placed opposite Tweety. The first cartoon featuring both characters was 1947's "Tweetie Pie", which actually went on to win an Academy Award.
A formula was quickly developed for the pair centering around Sylvester's constant failed attempts to eat Tweety. Certain catchphrases became iconic sayings, notably playing on the verbal tics of both characters. The formula proved adaptable but consistent. No matter how hard the cat tried, Sylvester could just never get past Tweety's own machinations, along with the protective nature of Granny and Hector. This antagonism was explored over the course of numerous shorts, with their relationship becoming one of the most popular Looney Tunes pairings.
THE EVOLUTION OF TWEETY BIRD
Tweety Bird, like many Looney Tunes characters, has gone through some serious reinvention over the years. The original version of the character was significantly harsher around the edges. The secret to many Looney Tunes protagonists was their reluctance to kick someone when they were down or to throw the first punch. The best heroes in the series (notably Bugs Bunny) always had to react, lest they become the jerk in the story and lose the sympathies of the audience. The early shorts by Clampet had a Tweety who lacked that soft edge, and his Tweety would scream at opponents or take genuine glee in their pain.
The Frieling redesign of the character went deeper than just cosmetic changes. The new Tweety was genial and soft-spoken. Instead of screaming, this Tweety would barely let out a peep even when in danger. Tweety became a closer analog to a Disney character than almost any other Looney Tune, constantly in danger and not by any fault of their own. It made audiences hopeful for his survival, and thrilled whenever he got the upper hand.
Tweety's popularity has remained consistently strong among audiences because of this, with the character having extended appearances in assorted modern updates of the Looney Tunes franchise, ranging from Space Jam to The Slyvester and Tweety Mysteries. Tweety, like many of his fellow Looney Tunes characters, proves how a character can transform and morph to reach their true potential, and how it can sometimes take multiple creators to come up with something that's just right.