Posted in WB Cartoon Companion on January 30, 2004
Truly the first Warner Brothers cartoon star. In Bosko the Talk-Ink Kid, the pilot film made by Hugh Harman and Rudy Ising in 1929 that earned them the backing of Leon Schlesinger and Warner Brothers, Bosko was a caricature of a little African-American boy. He soon transformed into a not-specifically-human character who bore something of a resemblance to the Fleischer studio’s Bimbo. It was in this form that he appeared in most of the early Looney Tunes. He usually, but not always, appeared with his girlfreind Honey. The Bosko cartoons are generally quite peppy and upbeat.
Bosko’s voice was provided by animator Carmen “Max” Maxwell. It has been argued that while Steamboat Willie may have been the first cartoon to use sound effects and music successfully, speech was not pioneered in animation until the Bosko shorts.
When Harman and Ising split with Schlesinger in 1933, Bosko went with them to MGM and, along with Honey, morphed back into a recognizably human character. The MGM Bosko cartoons were not particularly successful, and the character eventually faded from view. The Schlesigner studio went on to feature Buddy in a long series of shorts in an attempt to create a viable “star” character identified with the studio.
Contemporary Warner Brothers cartoonists have loosely imitated the design of characters like Bosko in designing the Animaniacs, who were supposedly created around the same time Bosko was.