Monday, January 11, 2010

EGGHEAD: My Favorite Cartoon Character of All Time


In 1937, Tex Avery introduced a new character in his cartoon short Egghead Rides Again. Egghead initially was depicted as having a bulbous nose, funny/eccentric clothing, a voice like Joe Penner, and an egg-shaped head (thus the moniker "Egghead"). Many cartoon historians believe that Egghead evolved into Elmer over a period of a couple of years. However, animation historian Michael Barrier asserts "The Egghead-Elmer story is actually a little messy, my sense being that most of the people involved, whether they were making the films or publicizing them, not only had trouble telling the characters apart but had no idea why they should bother trying."

Egghead made his second appearance in 1937's Little Red Walking Hood and then in 1938 teamed with Warner Bros.' newest cartoon star Daffy Duck in Daffy Duck and Egghead. In 1938 Egghead continued to make appearances in the Warner cartoons, including The Isle of Pingo Pongo, and A-Lad-In Bagdad. In A Feud There Was (1938) Egghead made his entrance riding a motorscooter with the words "Elmer Fudd, Peacemaker" displayed on the side, the first onscreen use of that name. Egghead shifts from having a Moe Howard haircut to being bald and wearing a brown derby, a baggy suit, and a high-collared shirt.

His voice, laugh, and mannerisms are very much like those of Joe Penner. In the same period, a Warner's publicity sheet for Cinderella Meets Fella refers to Elmer as Egghead's brother, which seems to argue that at least internally at the studio the characters were always viewed as distinct, even as Fudd emerged and Egghead receded into obscurity. Egghead himself returned decades later in the compilation film Daffy Duck's Quackbusters. More recently, he also made a cameo appearance at the end of Looney Tunes: Back in Action and was also given in his own story, which starred him alongside Pete Puma, in the Looney Tunes comic book.

Egghead has the distinction of being the very first recurring character created for Leon Schlesinger's Merrie Melodies series (to be followed by such characters as Sniffles, Inki, and even Bugs Bunny), which had previously contained only one-shot characters, although during the Harman-Ising era, Foxy, Goopy Geer, and Piggy each appeared in a few Merrie Melodies.

In the 1939 cartoon Dangerous Dan McFoo, a new voice actor Arthur Q. Bryan was hired to provide the voice of the hero dog-character and it was in this cartoon that the popular "milk-sop" voice of Elmer Fudd was created. Elmer Fudd has since been the chief antagonistic force in the majority of the Bugs Bunny cartoons, initiating one of the most famous rivalries in the history of American cinema.

1 comment:

Unknown said...

Call me strange (many have), but I've always liked Egghead. I loved him in "A Feud There Was" and "Count Me Out". Took me a few years to figure out that he was doing a Charlie McCarthy impersonation when he sat down on the other boxer's knee. But his funniest moment had to be at the end of "A Feud There Was". Great character.

I think he probably did evolve into Fudd, even if that was unintentional.