Warner Brothers Cartoon Companion

by E.O. Costello

This series of capsule definitions constitutes an encyclopedia of references to be found in the classic Warner Brothers cartoons. One of the amazing things about these cartoons is that, even through they were made three generations ago, they still posses the power to make us laugh. But in subtle ways, the cartoons do betray a certain sense of age. Perhaps it is a reference to a contemporary event, product, or radio program which is incomprehensible to a modern viewer. Perhaps it is a caricature of a Hollywood star whose luster may have dimmed in the intervening years. Several levels of meaning may await a viewer who chooses to examine the details of a cartoon closely. Subtle, inside jokes are buried in the painted backgrounds of many cartoons. Caricatures of in-house staff are sprinkled into some cartoons. There are even occasions where off-color gags have slipped by the ever-watchful eyes of the censors, to delight discerning viewers.

The goal of “The Warner Brothers Cartoon Companion” is to explain or point out some of these hidden and buried references. The purpose is not so much for nitpicking, but to put one in the place of the theatergoers of the day, and allow one to laugh at the same jokes.

In general, I will be concentrating on identifying and explaining certain oft-used catch-phrases (like “Greetings, Gate”), identifying what may be obscure historical references (“A” cards, “Mr. Anthony”), or pointing out inside jokes. I will also try to give some background information on various people that worked on creating these masterpieces as well, relating a bit of their history and background.

E.O. Costello