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Babbit and Catstello

USA



Original Air Date:
1942
Channel:
Theatrical
Prod. Co.:
Warner Brothers
Genre:
Series
 

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Characters & Voices
Babbit - Ted Pierce
Catstello - Mel Blanc
 
When Termite Terrace was at its height, most of the short 1cartoons they produced were intended for a theatrical release, preceding Warner Bros. films. A popular misconception held today is that these cartoons were intended solely for children. True, the humour was often juvenile, typically relying on clever wordplay and slapstick, but Warner Bros. learned that children didn't comprise the entire house. So it was that adult-themed humour needed to be grafted into the cartoons, mostly in the form of innuendo, but frequently as topical references. It was common to see cartoon versions of Warner Bros. stars in the Looney Tunes/Merrie Melodies series, but when one attempts to hold the attention of the audience, one must
pay attention to what's popular.

So it came to pass that Babbitt and Catstello, cartoon parodies of vaudeville legends and MGM contract players Abbott and Costello, became the starred in a handful of Warner shorts, most notably their debut, "A Tale of Two Kitties," which also marked the first appearance of a far more well-known character, an unnamed bird who came to be known as Tweety.

Since Babbitt and Catstello had nothing to do with their flesh-and-blood counterparts, the material was largely in their particular idiom while remaining legally distinct from any of their works, though Catstello was occasionally heard to utter one of Lou Costello's regular one-liners, "Oh... I'm a bad boy."

Critical Analysis
Though few in number, the Babbitt and Catstello cartoons are memorable, due in part to the fact that a mesh of the comedy stylings of Abbott and Costello and the frenetic pace of a Merrie Melodies cartoon is, by all accounts, a successful combination. They were funny cartoons, and, as I was never a fan of Tweety, I actually enjoyed their later appearances chasing unnamed mice (whose careers failed to spark quite like Tweety's did) more. "The Mouse-merized Cat," which had the characters dabbling with hypnosis, entertains me to this day.

I do think it was kind of mercenary for Warner to capitalize on the success of performers they didn't have under contract, but Termite Terrace was nothing if not reliable; even when they stole their material they managed to make it their own.
 
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In 1951, comic book writer Tony Isabella was born.