10 great Tex Avery gags from ''Looney Tunes''

Avery's style evolved animation, and his influence is still felt today.

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Image: LOONEY TUNES and all related characters and elements are ™ of & © WBEI


So much of what we define as "cartoon logic" came from the brain of one man, Tex Avery. It is impossible to overstate Avery's influence, particularly due to his outsized role as director of many iconic Looney Tunes shorts. The animator stood in contrast with popular cartoon philosophies of the time. In particular, Avery was the opposite of Walt Disney in his attitude, style and brand of humor. Tex Avery's cartoons were witty, irreverent, sarcastic, absurdist, and sometimes pushed envelopes we still have in place today. 

In honor of Tex Avery and the legacy he left behind in animation, here are ten great gags that evolved animation, pushing the genre forward for decades to come.  

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1. Porky and the Rainmaker

When a snake oil salesman comes to town to hawk his weather wares, a gullible Porky Pig purchases a pack of pills. But the things actually work, and soon, Porky's barnyard pals are ingesting thunder and lightning and fog. One unlucky chicken swalls a "Cyclone Pill" and is thrown to all corners of the frame. Better still, when the chicken lands, it quips in baritone "Well! Imagine that!"


Image: LOONEY TUNES and all related characters and elements are ™ of & © WBEI

2. Red Hot Riding Hood

While this short is better known for the whistling, stomping, eyeball-popping wolf, we wouldn't even get there if the characters didn't completely derail the story first. Avery made no bones about breaking the fourth wall. Here, the wolf, Red and her grandma berate the narrator, heckling the storyteller until the familiar tale of Red Riding Hood is dropped in favor of something funnier.


Image: LOONEY TUNES and all related characters and elements are ™ of & © WBEI

3. Screwball Squirrel

In another example of a character taking a toon off its tracks, the titular rodent observes as the hapless Charlie Chipmunk introduces an adorable, pastoral story. That is until Screwball Squirrel intervenes, beating Charlie senseless and stealing the rest of the cartoon to showcase his own story.


Image: LOONEY TUNES and all related characters and elements are ™ of & © WBEI

4. Little 'Tinker

"Little 'Tinker" is a toon that displays Avery's mastery over his universe. How many gags can one animation be about a stinky skunk? The answer, if you're Tex Avery, is "a thorough amount." Chief among those gags finds Little 'Tinker crooning for a mate with such conviction that he ends up in an iron lung. Bonus points for his Frank Sinatra suit! 


Image: LOONEY TUNES and all related characters and elements are ™ of & © WBEI

5. Who Killed Who?

If the devil is in the details, then a Tex Avery toon would've been his infernal playground. Here, a throwaway gag provides multiple levels of comedy genius. While the protagonist could've looked at a regular clock, Avery squeezes out laughs by having the character turn to this, a "Boooolova," parodying the clockmaker Bulova. Spookier still, the cuckoo that emerges is a talking avian skeleton!


Image: LOONEY TUNES and all related characters and elements are ™ of & © WBEI

6. Droopy's Good Deed

The great outdoors was fertile grounds for Tex Avery. So Droopy's boy scout conquests are ripe with gags as Droopy is pursued by the bad guy, Spike, only to have those efforts accidentally thwarted again and again. One such attempt at Droopy's undoing sees Spike set a fire and impersonate a woman in need of rescue. Not only does Droopy make it out alive, but he also makes it out carrying a real (cartoon) woman, much to Spike's dismay. 


Image: LOONEY TUNES and all related characters and elements are ™ of & © WBEI

7. Ventriloquist Cat

That same Spike, perhaps tired of his work going unrewarded, turns his attention towards chasing a cat in this 1950 short. Here, his foe is a bit more worldly, as evidenced by the cat's use of dynamite to evade his predator. Spike-on-a-kite gets a special explosive delivery, blowing a window in his stomach with enough room for a duck to fly through.


Image: LOONEY TUNES and all related characters and elements are ™ of & © WBEI

8. Car of Tomorrow

This short exhibits Tex Avery's skills as a comedy literalizer, taking everyday phrases and bringing them to life. Here, a car described as sporting a "magnificent rear end" is personified to a disturbing degree.


Image: LOONEY TUNES and all related characters and elements are ™ of & © WBEI

9. Lucky Ducky

Lots of Tex Avery cartoons contain early examples of post-modernism and metatextuality for the masses. Namely, "Lucky Ducky" features two hunters pursuing a baby duck so far and across so much land that the cartoon's budget for colorization stalls out, and the characters are rendered in grayscale.


Image: LOONEY TUNES and all related characters and elements are ™ of & © WBEI

10. Doggone Tired

1949's "Doggone Tired" is a great example of Tex Avery's penchant for upending logic in hilarious ways. A hunted hare tortures its predator while the dog later tries to sleep. In one fantastic sequence, the rabbit puts a phone under the sleepy dog's ear while the tinny operator voice babbles loudly. The dog grabs the receiver and strangles the operator's to death through the phone.


Image: LOONEY TUNES and all related characters and elements are ™ of & © WBEI

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12 Comments

Steve0684 8 months ago
Although Warner via Turner has access to these shorts along with Porky the Rainmaker, the rest originated from MGM. They're not Looney Tunes other then the one with Porky.
Sid401k 9 months ago
Looney Tunes were produced by Warner Brothers. Most of those examples are from Avery's later years at MGM.
cperrynaples 9 months ago
6 will never be seen in its entirety on TIWM! Within a 45 second sequence, there are not 1, not 2, but 3 "darky" jokes! Check this one out on YouTube!
cperrynaples cperrynaples 9 months ago
An clear example of the racism: After Droopy saves the woman, Spike runs back to see if there was another one! Both the house and Spike are burned to a crisp, so Droopy comes back and says, "Hey Blacky, any more girls in there?" Even more racist is the third joke, which I won't explain here, except to say it involves a millonaire and a bomb!
Bapa1 10 months ago
Tex Avery was great. His cartoons had a style of it's own.
Andybandit 10 months ago
In #1. I forgot how different how different Porky pig looks.
daDoctah 10 months ago
A bit of history on #5, "Who Killed Who?" There was a musician's strike going on in Hollywood at the time this cartoon was made, so Avery had them do a soundtrack on the electronic organ (apparently the union didn't consider the organ a "real" instrument, so it was exempt from the strike). This gives the whole thing yet another layer of eerieness.

(The only popular band allowed to perform at the time were Jerry Murad's Harmonicats. Seems harmonicas were also not considered real instruments.)
McGillahooala 10 months ago
Tex Avery created a lot of great cartoon moments.
LoveMETV22 10 months ago
Love Tex Avery cartoons. Always funny.

Literally.
cperrynaples LoveMETV22 9 months ago
The best gag is "cat got your tongue"! So funny they did it twice!
Irish 10 months ago
Hmmmmm...... identifying the puzzle pieces was a teeny bit difficult. Especially Bugs dressed up like a cowboy! I thought it was Yosemite Sam!
7/10
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