- Year created: 1942
- Most outsized body part: Feet
- Is he nice: No, even though he smiles a lot
Tweety Bird (also known as Tweety Pie or simply Tweety cartoon) is a fictional Yellow Canary in the Warner Bros. Looney Tunes and Merrie Melodies series of animated cartoons. The name “Tweety” is a play on words, as it originally meant “sweetie”, along with “tweet” being a typical English onomatopoeia for the sounds of birds. His characteristics are based on Red Skelton’s famous “Mean Widdle Kid.” The Tweety cartoon appeared in 49 cartoons in the Golden Age.
Despite the perceptions that people may hold, owing to the long lashes and high pitched voice of the Tweety cartoon, Tweety is male. This is established several times in the animated series The Sylvester & Tweety Mysteries, and in the film-short Bad Ol’ Putty Tat when Sylvester tries to trick Tweety using a fake female bird. On the other hand, a 1951 cartoon was entitled “Ain’t She Tweet.” Also, his species is ambiguous; although originally and often portrayed as a young canary, he is also frequently called a rare and valuable “tweety bird” as a plot device, and once called “the only living specimen”. Nevertheless, the title song directly states that the bird is a canary. His shape more closely suggests that of a baby bird, which in fact is what he was during his early appearances (although the “baby bird” aspect has been used in a few later cartoons as a plot device). The yellow feathers were added but otherwise he retained the baby-bird shape.
Tweety the Jerk
In his early appearances in Bob Clampett cartoons, the Tweety cartoon is a very aggressive character who tries anything to foil his foe, even kicking his enemy when he is down. Tweety was toned down when Friz Freleng started directing the series into a more cutesy bird, and even more when Granny was introduced, however sometimes Tweety still kept his malicious side. One of his most notable “malicious” moments is in the cartoon Birdy and the Beast; when a cat tries to chase Tweety by flying and falls after remembering that cats cannot fly, Tweety says sympathetically, “Awww, the poor kitty cat! He faw down and go (in a loud, tough, masculine voice) BOOM!!”, after which he grins mischievously. A similar gag was used in A Tale Of Two Kitties when Tweety, wearing an air raid warden’s helmet, suddenly yells out in that same voice: “Turn out those lights!”
Tweety Cartoon Creation
Bob Clampett created the character that would become Tweety in the 1942 short A Tale of Two Kitties, pitting him against two hungry cats named Babbit and Catstello (based on the famous comedians Abbott and Costello). On the original model sheet, Tweety was named Orson (which was also the name of a bird character from an earlier Clampett cartoon Wacky Blackout).
The Tweety cartoon was originally not a domestic canary, but simply a generic (and wild) baby bird in an outdoors nest – naked (pink), jowly, and also far more aggressive and saucy, as opposed to the later, more well-known version of him as a less hot-tempered (but still somewhat ornery) yellow canary. In the documentary Bugs Bunny:a Superstar, animator Clampett stated, in a sotto voce “aside” to the audience, that Tweety had been based “on my own naked baby picture”. Clampett did two more shorts with the “naked genius”, as a Jimmy Durante-ish cat once called him in A Gruesome Twosome. The second Tweety short, Birdy and the Beast, finally bestowed the baby bird with his new name.
Many of Mel Blanc’s characters are known for speech impediments. One of Tweety’s most noticeable is that /s/, /k/, and /g/ are changed to /t/, /d/, or (final s) /θ/; for example, “pussy cat” comes out as “putty tat”, later rendered “puddy tat”, and “sweetie pie” comes out as “tweetie pie”, hence his name. He also has trouble with liquid sounds; as with Elmer Fudd, /l/ and /r/ tend to come out as /w/. In Putty Tat Trouble, he begins the cartoon singing a song about himself, “I’m a tweet wittow biwd in a diwded cage; Tweety’th my name but I don’t know my age. I don’t have to wuwy and dat is dat; I’m tafe in hewe fwom dat ol’ putty tat.” (Translation: “I’m a sweet little bird in a gilded cage…”) Aside from this speech challenge, Tweety’s voice (and a fair amount of his attitude) is similar to that of Bugs Bunny, rendered as a child (in The Old Grey Hare, Bugs’ infant voice was very similar to Tweety’s normal voice), which was achieved by speeding up Mel Blanc’s voice recordings of Tweety Bird.
Some of this article uses modified material from the Wikipedia article on the Tweety cartoon “Tweety“, which is released under the Creative Commons Attribution-Share-Alike License 3.0.