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Tweety (or “Tweetie Pie”)

Posted in WB Cartoon Companion on March 24, 2004

    Little yellow canary bird who is the eternal target of Sylvester the Cat. Tweety usually benefits from either the intercession of outsiders, such as Granny or one of the generic bulldogs that infest Warner Brothers cartoons, or just plain cartoon laws of gravity and luck. On occasion -- particularly in his earliest shorts -- Tweety would take the offensive in protecting himself.

    Tweety was the creation of Bob Clampett, who had a fascination with baby birds he fondly remembered from nature films, as well as a nude baby picture of himself he remembered rather less fondly. While the studio had used similar birds before -- as, for example, in the Avery/Clampett 1941 cartoon The Cagey Canary -- Clampett gave the bird, originally called Orson, judging from an early model sheet, a lisping baby voice, a head proportioned like a baby’s, and a temperment borrowed perhaps from the Red Skelton’ character Junior, the Mean Widdle Kid. In his debut in A Tale of Two Kitties (Clampett, 1942) and in his followups Birdy and the Beast (1944) and A Gruesome Twosome (1945), Tweety shows that he is no helpless little orphan, using gasoline, hand grenades, dynamite and clubs to protect himself. The characters name first appears in the credits for Birdy and the Beast.

    Originally pink, Tweety’s color was changed to yellow after censors complained, no doubt tipped off by the Durante-like cat in A Gruesome Twosome (Clampett, 1945) calling Tweety “the naked genius”, to say nothing of Catstello indicating in A Tale of Two Kitties (Clampett, 1942) that if the Hays Office would only let him, he’d “give ’im [his Abbot-like partner] the bird, all right!”.

    Clampett did the preliminary work on Tweetie Pie before leaving the studio, at which time the cartoon was turned over to Friz Freleng. It went on to win the Oscar in 1946.

    Odd footnote: no one appears to know the complete credits for the cartoon. They are not listed in the records of the Library of Congress, nor in Beck and Friedwald, and it does not appear that any version exists other than the Blue Ribbon re-releases which eliminate the credits. It is hoped that this will be remedied someday.

    The above cartoon has caused some confusion concerning the name of the character. Sometimes -- most often, in fact -- the character is referred to as Tweety, but other times as Tweetie Pie, muddying the situation. See, for example, Tree Cornered Tweety (Freleng, 1956), in which Tweety appears in an Automat window labeled Tweety Pie, right next to the Lemon Pie.

    Tweety makes a cameo in No Barking (Jones, 1954), saying his catch-phrase “I Tawt I Taw a Puddy Tat”. (Incidentally, “Putty Tat” has also been spelled as “Puddy Tat”, which is now the officially endorsed spelling.) In 1950, Mel Blanc recorded a hit song “I Taut I Taw a Puddy-Tat” -- words and music by Alan Livingston, Billy May and Warren Foster.

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• The Warner Brothers Cartoon Companion is © (copyright) 1996 E. O. Costello. All rights reserved.

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