The OFFICIALunOFFICIAL English Bulldog Mascot

And The Envelope Goes To…

In Books, BullTwit!, Cartoons, Children's Literacy, Comedy, Film, History, Humor, K-12 Education, Music, Popular Culture, Television, Tv Show Theme Songs, Twitter on March 6, 2010 at 5:29 PM

The results of the First Bulldog Nation Twitter poll are in. One hundred twenty (120) BullTwits responded.  Ninety (90) chose Spike.  Thirty (30) chose Hector.

Hanna-Barbera’s Spike, the often gruff, occasionally dim-witted English bulldog who is aggressive around cats but transforms into a soft puddle of melted butter when it comes to mice and his son Tyke was preferred 3 to 1 over

Warner Bros/Merrie Melodies/Looney Tunes’s Hector, the physically buffed, droopy jowled, popular caricature of the English bulldog with the authoritative pigeon-toed gait, wearing his trademark black collar with silver studs.

If you were born anytime after 1970, odds are you voted for Hanna-Barbera’s Spike. Why? Because during the 1980’s and 90’s where you spent your impressionable youth, there was not much uncensored vintage Warner Bros or Hanna-Barbera on air for you to watch.

In the eighties, pressure was brought to bear on the industry to protect children from being exposed to too much sensory overload and inappropriate content. Vintage Tom & Jerry, (when creators William Hanna and Joseph Barbera were under contract with MGM cartoon studios from 1937 until it closed in 1959), with it’s frenetic pace, noisy, repetitive sound effects and physical slap-stick was deemed too violent.

Warner Bros/Merrie Melodies/Looney Tunes was deemed excessively violent and racially insensitive, sexist, sexually suggestive and just plain politically incorrect.

TV animation came under serious creative and financial attack after 1970 when both the quality of the animation and the material began to suffer. Cartoons were originally produced on film and released in theaters. TV’s small budgets prevented Hanna-Barbera and every other cartoon producer accustomed to working in full theatrical-quality animation from producing their best work.  And it showed.

To keep within TV’s tighter budgets, Hanna-Barbera modified the concept of  limited animation. Character designs were simplified and backgrounds and animation cycles (walks, runs, etc.) were regularly rehashed. You would see Tom and Jerry running as if in place past the same tree over and over again.

Only the parts of the body that needed to move at a given time (for example a mouth, an arm, a head) would be animated. The rest of the figure would remain on a static animation cel. Dialogue, music, and sound effects were emphasized over action.

What you got to see were sanitized versions of the classic cartoons and noisy, story starved stick drawings produced exclusively by HB for The Cartoon Network which launched in October, 1992 and later Boomerang or Kids WB.

The seventies and the eighties were miserable times for television animation.

That’s why when I posted this update on my Twitter

❝Who’s the better cartoon #bulldog?: Hanna-Barbera’s hard-nosed bully Spike in Tom & Jerry or Warner Bros Hector, the dopey but lovable protector of the parasol packing Granny in Sylvester & Tweety? #Bulldognation, YOU decide.❞

to my 300+ Twitter followers, I was not surprised by the depth and range of emotion that came out of the mere remembrance of these two beloved cartoon bulldogs and the fierce loyalty each of the animation studios engendered. You are either hooked on Hanna-Barbera or crazy for Looney Tunes. You either loved HB’s wacky, repetitive sound effects or were annoyed by them. You either loved having HB show the story in pictures or you appreciated scripted rapier wit and dialogue more. Rarely is there Mr. In-between.

Here’s Spike making his motion picture debut in Dog Trouble (1942):

Hanna and Barbera ultimately wrote and directed one hundred and fourteen Tom and Jerry cartoons at the MGM cartoon studio in Hollywood, California between 1940 and 1959, when the animation unit was closed. The original series is notable for having won the Academy Award for Best Short Subject (Cartoons) seven times.

But the good times would not last and by 1970, Her discerning eye noticed the decline in  the quality of the animation, the writing and the humor of the characters. Critics stated that Hanna-Barbera was taking on more work than it could handle and resorting to shortcuts only a children’s television audience would tolerate. Ouch!  Here. See for yourself.

Here’s Spike in The Kitten Sitters for The Cartoon Network (1992):

Can you name all the HB Stars in this picture?

❝Overture, curtain, lights!
This is it. The night of nights.
No more rehearsing or nursing a part.
We know every part by heart!
Overture, curtain, lights!
This is it. We’ll hit the heights!
And oh, what heights we’ll hit!
On with the show, this is it!
Tonight what heights we’ll hit!
On with the show, this is it!❞

The Warner Bros, Looney Tunes and Merrie Melodies stable of cartoon animation. Need I say more? You know the characters: Bugs Bunny. Sylvester & Tweety. Road Runner & Wylie Coyote.  Foghorn Leghorn, Porky Pig, Daffy Duck, Elmer Fudd,  Yosemite Sam, Pepé Le Pew, Speedy Gonzales…

You know the creative team players:  Leon Schlesinger, Friz FrelengTex AveryRobert Clampett, Chuck Jones, music director Carl Stalling and Mel Blanc, The Voice of  almost all of the Oscar winning cartoon stars.

A vintage Warner Bros/Merrie Melodies/Looney Toons animated short was (and still is today) a joy to the senses, with rich, vivid colors, strong lines, crisp, snappy, sophisticated dialogue, classical, popular, swing and jazz music performed by a then live orchestra and band, and hilarious stories and situations that often reflected the social, economic and political climate of those times and resonate in ours today.

John Lennon once made a facetious comment that the Beatles were bigger than Jesus. The same could be said of Warner Bros, Merrie Melodies and Looney Toons, which from 1929 until at least 1970, dominated the short cartoon genre in theaters.  They literally were bigger than Disney.

Here Hector makes his motion picture debut in A Hare Grows In Manhattan (1947)

His role was to protect Tweety from Sylvester, usually at Granny’s request. He typically does this through brute strength alone, but sometimes he outsmarts the cat. Hector’s slow, smoldering intelligence is his Achilles heel, however, as Sylvester is very often able to outwit him.

His most prominent role was as a regular cast member in the animated series The Sylvester and Tweety Show where he plays Granny’s loyal guardian.

Here’s Hector in action in  Satan’s Waitin’ (1954):

People always tell me I look like Spike, but it is really Hector they’re thinking of. Yeah. I look like Hector.  Well all-righty then.  I hope you all enjoyed your nostalgic cartoon trip down memory lane. And as always I leave you with…

Goodwill Energies I direct
Toward each and every one of you
Each and every day

❝And there came to be evening and there came to be morning…❞

That’s life today!

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