Tasmanian Devil

Posted in WB Cartoon Companion on March 24, 2004

    Animal short on brains but long on hunger who was one of the most colorful foes of Bugs Bunny, and occasionally Daffy Duck, in the 1950s. The character supposedly came about as a result of a conversation between storyman Sid Marcus and director Bob McKimson. When discussing what animals they had used, McKimson said that the only thing the studio had not used was a Tasmanian Devil. Marcus did not know what one was, but McKimson did, apparently from doing crossword puzzles.

    The character debuted in Devil May Hare (McKimson, 1954), and, perhaps predictably, was banned by the feckless Eddie Selzer, the producer of cartoons at the time. Remarkably, however, no less a personage than Jack L. Warner, head of all production at Warner Brothers, enquired as to why the character was not being used. (Schneider makes an arch comment, in effect, as to a ravenous stupid beast having an appeal to a movie mogul.) With that, the character was brought back for a few more efforts in the late 50s and early 60s. Mel Blanc provided the voice -- transcribed for one short as “eccawchkupkekupke” -- but he was not particularly enthusiastic about the part.

    In recent years, the character has gained enormous popularity, and even got his own Saturday morning show on Fox, which, as of this writing, is on The Cartoon Network. Even if the character is for the most part one dimensional, seeing “Taz Boy” (sometimes called this within the studio, from a fan letter) throw a fit can be enjoyable.

    Horrifying thought though it may be, a “Mrs. Taz” is seen at the end of both Devil May Hare (McKimson, 1954), when she marries the brute, and in Bedevilled Rabbit (McKimson, 1957), when she pounds Taz for making whoopie with a pseduo-shedevil: actually, Bugs in cross-dress disguise, complete with steel trap for teeth.

    Filmography, all directed by McKimson:

        Devil May Hare (1954)
        Bedevilled Rabbit (1957)
        Ducking the Devil (1957)
        BIll of Hare (1962)
        Dr. Devil and Mr. Hare (1964)

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