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Cartoon Culture

A Tweety Boutique

Who says Cartoon Brew isn’t up on the world of fashion?

Warner Bros. Studio Stores may be a thing of the past, but that hasn’t stopped the Warner Consumer Products division from selling high end designer Looney Tunes items and opening a fancy Tweety boutique in Beverly Hills.

Located at 9699 Wilshire Boulevard, and open for a limited time (through September 3rd), the boutique had a splashy opening last month with several photo ops with Hollywood starlets (including Hillary’s Duff’s sister Haylie, pictured at left). According to the press release:

The latest offerings from the Tweety collection are decidedly more designer-oriented and cater to a more sophisticated female shopper, as the line expands to include appropriately themed products from Alexandre Herchcovitch, Alexander Wang, Alice Ritter, Erickson Beamon, Issa London, Miss Davenporte, and Scoop.

Not that we need anything else to further blur the line regarding Tweety’s sexual status. For the record: He’s a man, baby!

  • matt

    Gah. This stuff drives me crazy. Not only is Tweety not “girl friendly” but he’s probably the MOST uh, despicable Looney Tunes character there is! Intentionally torturing, taunting, and using his looks, lisps and stereotypes to pull the wool over innocent characters’ eyes. Which is exactly what made him great!

    I don’t think there’s a single marketing person alive that even GETS that his name is ironic!

    The simple fact is that while Disney has many existing characters that cater to a female or small child demographic, classic Warners characters just don’t. If they come up with a new character like Bugs’ girlfriend, then fine, whatever. At least that’s a bit more honest. But twisting the core of Tweety who is twisted himself is shameless, shallow and shoots the marketing in the foot in the end anyway (tell me how many girls watch Tweety cartoon compliations?). These characters are male skewing characters in terms of marketing. They should embrace it instead of fighting it.

    It’d be a whole lot more hilarious and clever if they used Bugs in drag. At least it would show some guts!

    I don’t even want to talk about the time I went into a WB studio store to find, I kid you not, the Road Runner statue wearing pearls and with a handbag. No tongues in cheeks to be found. What the?!

    In the interests of full disclosure I did do work for Warners Consumer Products many years ago and within my own limited ability tried to give them stuff that was always in character and also not just recycle the same old art from the styleguides. Back on topic, I think I recall this being about the time they changed Tweety’s proportions to work better for merchandise. Sure it worked better for type and apparell but it was still the tail wagging the dog.

    I remember a conversation with someone at WB CP where I was saying Space Jam would be a flop (owing to the classic cartoons being more sketch-based vaudeville type humour than linear narrative and also this film being animated in a more Disney style) and that instead PPuff girls would be huge and of course she thought it’d be exactly the other way around. Ah well.

    Sorry for the rant. This one hits me close to home. Is there any point in selling this stuff when the character itself has no meaning to either WB or the consumer buying it? Well of course not (besides tha money), and that’s how Mickey got to be where he is, just a corporate logo not a character. But thanks for the post, Jerry. It was cathartic!

  • Matt, I found your post kinda cathartic, too. But I do have one possible cavil…
    You ask, “how many girls watch Tweety cartoon compilations?â€? I overheard some teen girls talking about Tweety the other day on the subway; one was wearing a Tweety shirt, thus initiating the discussion. I caught them laughing about the fact that the shirt—for them—represented the cartoons: Tweety looks innocent and cute, but “sheâ€? is really a sneaky little brat, defeating cats and so forth. “She looks innocent, but looks can fool you.â€?
    Apart from the element of gender, it appears these kids knew very well who Tweety is; and in their eyes, the marketing served to put across that image.
    It’s troubling that Tweety should be promoted as a girl, but how should we react to the rest of this?

  • Tom Minton

    Believe it or not, little girls en masse just adore Tweety. You can tell them he’s male and even give him a girlfriend, as we did more than once during the five year run of “The Sylvester and Tweety Mysteries”, and again in the Y2K “Tweety’s High-Flying Adventure” direct video (finally coming out on DVD September 18th). Though perceiving an established male character as female was one peculiar mass phenomenon, the official Warner Consumer Products attitude was ‘let’s not mess with that perception.’ They viewed it as a gift horse and continue to promote the character as female. This relates to Matt’s comment above that the classic Warners ‘crown jewels’ lacked overt female-relatable characters (other than Granny) that they could aggressively merchandise. The original, non-plumed Bob Clampett Tweety was obviously male. The gender confusion arose when Friz Freleng redesigned him as cuter and paired him with Sylvester in the late 1940’s. I can’t tell you how many grade schoolers and middle schoolers I gave drawing lessons to who would actually insist that Tweety was either female or an ‘it.’ It pretty much came down gender lines, however. The girls swore Tweety was female, the boys figured he was an ‘it.’ Go figure.

  • Paul

    I prefer the earlier Tweeties, where he was pink and laid the smackdown on cats like Babbit and Catstello. The later cartoons with Sylvester were just grating.

  • matt

    Hey David, that’s cool, because I’ve asked girls about this (I know this can never be big enough to be representative but anyway) too and on questioning my niece and her friends (who also wore tweety stuff) had absolutely NO idea. They bought the stuff because he was “so cute” and liked the “puddy tat” soundbites they saw on ads. It turned out some had seen the newer watered-down Tweety on that mysteries show, but either hadn’t seen or hadn’t paid attention to the classic stuff.

    They were also genuinely shocked to hear Tweety was an ironic name as it hadn’t occurred to them that he wasn’t the ‘good guy’ or even that it was a play on ‘sweety-pie’. Anyway that was just one group but indicative of the reaction I usually get when I ask (I use it like a litmus test) as being involved with both character design and marketing I’m always interested to see how characters and marketing of them/communication works.

    The troubling thing here to me is that I think the perception of Tweety as a WB character is redundant, and they’re only interested in the design as a branding element that has built-in caché, hence my Mickey analogy. The Tweety compilation comment was just because to my knowledge, I don’t think there ARE any Tweety compilations to buy (but plenty of merch!). Tail wagging the dog as I said. I’m not surprised as they’re only doing the Mickey thing a couple of decades late, but it’s hard not to be disappointed.

    P.S. As for fashion, unless you’re blessed with lovely olive or black skin, yellow is the hardest colour to wear!

  • matt

    Hey Tom, sorry to be posting so much, but that’s really interesting. They didn’t want to mess with an incorrect perception, but had no qualms about messing with the character themselves!

    I hope you’re not too offended about my opinion of the mysteries show, but I personally felt it was also a bit of a disservice to the characters. Is the ‘Adventure’ video closer to their core personalities or is Tweety pretty friendly? BTW I know it sounds like I’m another “only the old stuff” type but I’m not and love new animation in 2d, 3d Stop-mo and so-on.

  • “Warner Bros. Studio Stores may be a thing of the past…”

    Yeah, don’t remind me…thank you, AOL. Has anyone ever bought anything from WBShop.com?? Ugh.

    On the subject of Tweety’s gender and the attempts on “The Sylvester and Tweety Mysteries” to set the record straight, my favorite moment from the whole series was when Tweety made a rather off-the-cuff aside specifically about the people who think he’s a girl.

  • Tom, it’s very strange to me that what with all their Tweety marketing, WB has never released “Sylvester and Tweety Mysteries” DVDs in North America—at least not that I’m aware of. Scooby Doo gets better treatment even though the brand has obviously peaked.

  • uncle wayne

    Can’t wait for the Sthylvester Sthalloon!

  • Fred Sparrman

    I think Tweety is twansgender.

  • Brad Constantine

    The eyelashes have it….It’s been going on since Bambi…Bambi, Thumper, Flower all had big ol eyelashes just like Tweety and were all male. Dopey escaped cuz he’s hung like Berle and you can see it trips him up when he tries to catch the soap. I say we give Tweety a little pecker from now on….
    I’ll tell you what gets my falsies all bent out of shape. The fact that Dora the Explorer has no eyelashes at all.Drives me crazy…I always cry out…”why?” why no lashes, Dora?….did you stand to close to the gooey volcano?
    It’s gonna catch up with her in her teens….

  • Tom Minton

    Hey, Matt, that’s okay. “The Sylvester and Tweety Mysteries” was a concept originated by Faye Whitemountain, who sold it with Jean MacCurdy to the studio heads at WB. It was the first original animated series greenlit for the launch of the KidsWB fall 1995 season, and the first time Sylvester and Tweety were to appear in a series of cartoons since Gerry Chiniquy’s “Hawaiian Eye-Eye” in 1964. I was therefore assigned to produce a franchise crossing the classic Tweety we all know and love with “Murder, She Wrote” and everyone did the best they could in an era we may not soon see the likes of again. The budgets for those half hours were roughly four or five times what studios are spending today, and we had a full orchestra that recorded on the same music stage used by Carl Stalling. We did get a few things in there, as Greg mentions, to set the record straight, but, while the show was at one time the highest rated on the KidsWB schedule, nobody seemed to care what gender the lead was. And the biggest viewing demographic was little girls. This was the same demo that comprised the heftiest viewership of Bakshi’s Mighty Mouse, so, again, go figure.
    The “Adventure” longform video was an attempt to tell “Around the World in Eighty Days” with Tweety as protagonist. My original title was “Around the World in Eighty Puddytats” but the execs changed that, for insane legal reasons not involving the public domain classic book, to “Tweety’s High-Flying Adventure”, a staggeringly generic choice. The mandate at that time (1999) was to use cameos of every classic WB star and – get this – to incorporate EXTREME SPORTS somehow in every geographic setting, as there was some big pending deal with various global sporting goods companies in the works. I was told it had to be this way or they wouldn’t do the picture. Tweety thus gets in a few digs at extreme sports and at product placement, though there were no specific branded products in there, just extreme sporting action and venues. Our “Mysteries” series ended production in May of 1999 and I had to get the longform project greenlit in order to keep even half of them employed and on staff. Money was tight, compared to what Disney spent for its DVDs, but not as tight as it would progressively become at Warners.

  • Tom Minton

    And, to answer David as to why SATM has yet to appear in any form on video in North America, the ways of Warner Home Video remain mysterious. Eventually they’ll perhaps get around to releasing it on DVD, or HD-DVD or Blu-Ray. If this ever happens, I do hope that they seek out the people who worked during the five years of the series for interviews, but their track record in this regard is mixed. We actually did an extensive behind-the-scenes added value feature in 2000 for the eventual DVD release of “Tweety’s High-Flying Adventure” featuring artists and directors and voice actors. Because they opted to do a VHS only release at that time, the theory was that they’d save it for the eventual first time DVD release, which, it turns out, won’t happen until next month, seven years later. I’ve seen no indication in advance sales material that that material will be on the THFA DVD. Weird, since they long since spent the money on it and it’s sitting on a shelf.

  • Tom Minton

    Last post about SATM. Jerry Beck once told me how much he appreciated our attempt to put a cameo of Cool Cat in most episodes of the series. The credit for Cool Cat worship goes to ap/prop designer Paul Trandahl, who insists to this day that Cool Cat is a God. By the time I got around to coming up with a story for the longform, the plot simply had to hinge on Cool Cat. Though he has but one line in that opus, the story indeed turns on him. Joe Alaskey did the vocal honors, imparting voiceprint authenticity and attitude to the Cat’s sage assessment at the denouement: “Confidentially, my sympathy was like, with the bird.”

  • Robert Schaad

    Hoping that the Beaky Buzzard line of high end haute couture merch will be as successful.

  • I didn’t work on THE SYLVESTER AND TWEETY MYSTERIES and wasn’t even a particular fan of it, but I do think it was a far better series than it had any right to be. The scripts were nicely underwritten, allowing for a lot of pantomime acting, and there was actual pacing in many episodes, a rarity for SatAM cartoons. The animation quality was all over the map, but when it was good, it was great. And the shows seemed to get better, minimizing the “mystery” aspect, with each season. Not to knock TSATM’s other aspects, but my favorite thing about the show was its incredible variety of background styles; it seemed like every episode took a different approach to bgs, with most of them working quite well. I’ll never forget seeing one mind-blowing episode, set in “Area 51”, in which the backgrounds were intentionally styled like mid-1950s sci-fi comic books (“The Three Rocketeers” and RACE FOR THE MOON) drawn by Joe Simon and Jack Kirby! If the series is ever released on DVD, it’s definitely worth a second look.

    Nice job, Tom, Tim Walker and the rest of the TSATM crew…

  • My two cents:

    Tweety has become the “Birdo” of the Looney Tunes franchise.

  • Adam

    Tweety Bird is sooooo hot right now.

  • “The animation quality was all over the map, but when it was good, it was great.”
    In my memory, it was never better than in a first-season episode, DOUBLE TAKE—wherein an extended Sylvester gag sequence was animated so flawlessly that it felt, to my teenage mind, like the second coming of the golden age.
    Unfortunately, I had no VCR at the time, so I haven’t seen the episode since its original airing.

  • Tom Minton

    You have a good memory, David. “Double Take” was among the eight first season half hours animated by TMS in Tokyo, the best overseas animation subcontractor Warners ever used. There were still many retakes in that one, due to hookup confusion about all those hotel door exterior/interiors. One can always tell a good Japanese studio’s animation by the general lack of perspective errors. TMS did not do wonky looking production backgrounds and the planes of the characters’ feet always matched those of the settings. The animation quality throughout the series (or any animated series) varied because (in SATM’s case) many different animation houses had to be used. The 1990’s was a busy decade in this industry and there were only so many places available to do the amount of work in the alloted schedules. It was not an easy task for any of them to replicate the classic Warners look on a television schedule. The more recent a classic animation style, the easier it tends to be to replicate. The quality of the classic theatrical Sylvester and Tweety shorts devolved from 1947 to 1964 in a rather steep curve after about 1959. When SATM began production, both Sylvester and Tweety were regarded by Warners as ‘secondary characters’ in their cartoon pantheon. Yet in the third year of the series run, by the company’s own admission, Tweety had become ‘bigger than Bugs.’ When we started production, everyone figured the cat would be the star. When we switched the format to shorts from the second season on, we showcased Tweety more as it became evident he was the real lead. As Adam posted above, Tweety is hot right now. Most of the parking attendants in the San Fernando Valley sport Tweety tattoos. As big as Tweety is here, all of the classic WB characters are even bigger in Europe.

  • Tom Minton

    Enough already. THAT was the last post about SATM.

  • matt

    This is the big problem when shows and features are hobbled by the retail concerns and consumer focus groups coming first through the suits (yes I know they’re not all evil) and the cart begins to lead the horse. I’m not saying the people working on TSATM weren’t super geniuses or that the phenomenal artists toiling away on Disney features for the last few years aren’t the bees knees, we all know amazing people who do that work.

    It’s one of the biggest shames though when all that enthusiam and energy is tempered by motives that have little to do with story and characters themselves. It always ends up coming through and yes I’ve been in the position too. I’m not saying indulge any off-the-cuff creative fancy but I do know in the last hundred years there’s not one single enduring popular character that was the product of marketing. Jerry and Amid may know better here.

    One thing I’m sure of though is that a focus group never told us anything new – only what was popular LAST year. These retail shenanigans don’t help. Hmmm. I wonder WHY the Studio Stores closed, eh?

    Oh God – “Tweety is so hot right now” I was blissfully unaware of the Paris Hilton danger and what it could mean until you said that!!

  • matt

    Oh and thanks for your posts Tom. Really interesting and informative! I’d ask about the Duck Dodgers series here but maybe that’s for another time.

  • Sassy

    Hi. Where can i buy the Havaianas Tweety Online? Thanks

  • Warner Brothers Licensing decided to push Tweety about two and a half years ago. I was attending a meeting for licensors of Warner Brothers product lines and was taken aback my the sheer weirdness of the pitch. They’ve been sending free Tweety stuff to celebs for a while now and I guess it finally hit for them. I thought the line was ugly and boring then and I think it’s ugly and boring now.

  • Gene

    WB licensing is missing a bet by not sending swag to death row inmates of federal prisons, what with all the hot crime reality shows on the air. It’s all about money for WB at this point. Everything they do screams it.

  • Stephen Rhodes Treadwell

    I can’t believe how many people think Sylvester is cute. I think he’s anything but cute. I think he’s quite unpleasant looking. Tom, from Tom & Jerry, however, is very cute. I definitely prefer him to Sylvester. He’s much more fun to watch on TV. I disagree about Tweety being the most despicable LT character. Sylvester’s more despicable.

  • Stephen Rhodes Treadwell

    Call me weird but I don’t think any Looney Tunes character’s great.