5 Obscure Looney Tunes Cartoons

Youtube
Youtube

We’re all familiar with Bugs Bunny, Daffy Duck, and Porky Pig, but what about Owl Jolson, Ralph Phillips, or the Dover Boys of Pimento University? Between the 1930s and 1960s, Looney Tunes and its sister series Merrie Melodies produced a number of animated shorts that don't feature any of the usual reoccurring characters. These cartoons are often visually experimental, entertaining, and downright weird. Here are five obscure Looney Tunes cartoons.

1. The Dover Boys of Pimento University (1942)

Steampunk Looney Tunes? Okay not quite, but this parody of the now-forgotten children’s series The Rover Boys is full of stylized early-20th-century goodness. The three Dover boys, Tom, Dick, and Larry, are playing hide-and-seek with “their” fiancée Dora Standpipe during a “gay outing in the park” when Dora is abducted by Dan Backslide, a mustache-twirling villain voiced loudly by Mel Blanc.

But while Dora may act like a damsel in distress, it’s Dan Backslide who needs saving in the end. This cartoon broke away from earlier animation styles by having the characters hold theatrical poses for a longer-than-usual time on screen. Between that and the all-human cast, the cartoon seemed so strange to Warner Brothers that it almost got director Chuck Jones fired.

2. The Three Little Bops (1957)

A version of “The Three Little Pigs” done all in jazz by trumpeter Shorty Rogers. The Three Little Bops are swinging jazz musicians and the Big Bad Wolf is a square who can’t jam, so the pigs throw him out. This makes the Wolf mad, so he tries to destroy the clubs the pigs are performing in, which are made of—you guessed it—hay, sticks, and bricks. The story doesn’t end well for the Wolf, but then again, it never does. Trivia on this cartoon: the movie Pulp Fiction references The Three Little Bops when Mia Wallace, played by Uma Thurman, tells John Travolta’s Vincent Vega, “Don’t be [square]” and draws an imaginary square in the air.

3. I Love To Singa (1936)

Another jazz-related Looney Tunes, this time a spoof of The Jazz Singer starring Al Jolson. A little owl named Owl Jolson loves to sing jazz, but his stern German parents want him to sing classical. Family strife ensues until a radio contest changes the father’s mind about his “jazz crooner,” turning I Love To Singa into an endearing tale about a family learning to love a child despite his differences. Al Jolson and Cab Calloway also performed the catchy song “I Love To Singa” in the movie The Singing Kid, which came out the same year. (Many years later, South Park also featured it in the episode "Cartman Gets an Anal Probe.") The cartoon hits some insensitive notes, making fun of stuttering and showing what seems to be a sexual assault between a telegram deliverer and a secretary, but man, that owl is cute.

4. From A to Z-Z-Z-Z (1954)

Ralph Phillips is a boy who can’t stop daydreaming.

Instead of paying attention in class, he imagines he can fly, fights his math problems on the chalkboard, flees from attacking Indians, deep sea dives, wins a boxing match, and turns into Douglas MacArthur. The cartoon, which seems modeled after the James Thurber’s short story “The Secret Life of Walter Mitty,” has a sequel, Boyhood Daze, where Ralph daydreams after being sent to his room for punishment. In fact, the Looney Tunes crew seemed to like Ralph Phillips. A grown-up version of the character appears in two army recruitment films: Drafty, Isn’t It? and 90 Days Wondering. It seems that Ralph becomes a military man in the end.

5. The Bear That Wasn’t (1967)

A morality tale about a bear whose habitat is replaced by a factory and who is convinced by Corporate America that he’s a “silly little man who needs a shave and wears a fur coat." While the cartoon, directed by Chuck Jones, was originally made for MGM, it was based on a children’s book of the same name written by Looney Tunes animator Frank Tashlin. Though the book was published in 1946, Tashlin waited 20 years to animate it, turning down Disney in the process. Unfortunately, he didn’t like the cartoon, feeling it ruined the message of his book and calling it a “terrible experience” in an interview. Be that as it may, the animation alone is worth watching here.

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6 Amazing Facts About Sally Ride

U.S. National Archives and Records Administration, Public Domain, Wikimedia Commons
U.S. National Archives and Records Administration, Public Domain, Wikimedia Commons

You know Sally Ride as the first American woman to travel into space. But here are six things you might not know about the groundbreaking astronaut, who was born on May 26, 1951.

1. Sally Ride proved there is such thing as a stupid question.

When Sally Ride made her first space flight in 1983, she was both the first American woman and the youngest American to make the journey to the final frontier. Both of those distinctions show just how qualified and devoted Ride was to her career, but they also opened her up to a slew of absurd questions from the media.

Journalist Michael Ryan recounted some of the sillier questions that had been posed to Ride in a June 1983 profile for People. Among the highlights:

Q: “Will the flight affect your reproductive organs?”
A: “There’s no evidence of that.”

Q: “Do you weep when things go wrong on the job?”
A: “How come nobody ever asks (a male fellow astronaut) those questions?"

Forget going into space; Ride’s most impressive achievement might have been maintaining her composure in the face of such offensive questions.

2. Had she taken Billie Jean King's advice, Sally Ride might have been a professional tennis player.

When Ride was growing up near Los Angeles, she played more than a little tennis, and she was seriously good at it. She was a nationally ranked juniors player, and by the time she turned 18 in 1969, she was ranked 18th in the whole country. Tennis legend Billie Jean King personally encouraged Ride to turn pro, but she went to Swarthmore instead before eventually transferring to Stanford to finish her undergrad work, a master’s, and a PhD in physics.

King didn’t forget about the young tennis prodigy she had encouraged, though. In 1984 an interviewer playfully asked the tennis star who she’d take to the moon with her, to which King replied, “Tom Selleck, my family, and Sally Ride to get us all back.”

3. Home economics was not Sally Ride's best subject.

After retiring from space flight, Ride became a vocal advocate for math and science education, particularly for girls. In 2001 she founded Sally Ride Science, a San Diego-based company that creates fun and interesting opportunities for elementary and middle school students to learn about math and science.

Though Ride was an iconic female scientist who earned her doctorate in physics, just like so many other youngsters, she did hit some academic road bumps when she was growing up. In a 2006 interview with USA Today, Ride revealed her weakest subject in school: a seventh-grade home economics class that all girls had to take. As Ride put it, "Can you imagine having to cook and eat tuna casserole at 8 a.m.?"

4. Sally Ride had a strong tie to the Challenger.

Ride’s two space flights were aboard the doomed shuttle Challenger, and she was eight months deep into her training program for a third flight aboard the shuttle when it tragically exploded in 1986. Ride learned of that disaster at the worst possible time: she was on a plane when the pilot announced the news.

Ride later told AARP the Magazine that when she heard the midflight announcement, she got out her NASA badge and went to the cockpit so she could listen to radio reports about the fallen shuttle. The disaster meant that Ride wouldn’t make it back into space, but the personal toll was tough to swallow, too. Four of the lost members of Challenger’s crew had been in Ride’s astronaut training class.

5. Sally Ride had no interest in cashing in on her worldwide fame.

A 2003 profile in The New York Times called Ride one of the most famous women on Earth after her two space flights, and it was hard to argue with that statement. Ride could easily have cashed in on the slew of endorsements, movie deals, and ghostwritten book offers that came her way, but she passed on most opportunities to turn a quick buck.

Ride later made a few forays into publishing and endorsements, though. She wrote or co-wrote more than a half-dozen children’s books on scientific themes, including To Space and Back, and in 2009 she appeared in a print ad for Louis Vuitton. Even appearing in an ad wasn’t an effort to pad her bank account, though; the ad featured an Annie Leibovitz photo of Ride with fellow astronauts Buzz Aldrin and Jim Lovell gazing at the moon and stars. According to a spokesperson, all three astronauts donated a “significant portion” of their modeling fees to Al Gore’s Climate Project.

6. Sally Ride was the first openly LGBTQ astronaut.

Ride passed away on July 23, 2012, at the age of 61, following a long (and very private) battle with pancreatic cancer. While Ride's brief marriage to fellow astronaut Steve Hawley was widely known to the public (they were married from 1982 to 1987), it wasn't until her death that Ride's longtime relationship with Tam O'Shaughnessy—a childhood friend and science writer—was made public. Which meant that even in death, Ride was still changing the world, as she is the world's first openly LGBTQ astronaut.