Did you get up early on Saturday mornings to watch cartoons? Maybe catch a few of your animated favorites after school? We did and, we have to admit, we miss it!
In 2021, we turned our nostalgic affinity for cartoons like The Flintstones, Scooby-Doo, Rugrats, and He-Man into an opportunity to find out more about these classic gems (or Pebbles, if you will). With so many cartoons from the 1980s and 1990s we love - there was a lot to learn!
From details about the voice actors, to insights into plot devices and influences - and even a few answers to enduring questions - here are a batch of facts we learned about nostalgic cartoons in 2021. Vote up the ones that are perfectly Smurfy!
- Photo: Rabbit Fire / Warner Bros.
In the Warner Bros. theatrical shorts, Mel Blanc voiced nearly all the major characters. He was Bugs Bunny, Pepe Le Pew, Sylvester, Tweety, Daffy Duck, and Porky Pig. When the original voice actor for Elmer Fudd, Arthur Q. Bryan, passed in 1959, Blanc stepped up to the plate.
He also voiced characters like Barney Rubble on The Flinstones, albeit from a hospital bed. In January 1961, Blanc fell into a coma for two weeks after a serious car incident and was in the hospital for 70 days. He continued his recovery at home in a hospital bed, but this didn't stop him from working. The cast and crew of The Flintstones came to Blanc's home, set up his microphone, and read their lines for him around his bed.
According to Blanc's son, Noel, the prolific voice actor's connection to one of his best-known characters, Bugs Bunny, was undeniable. When Blanc was in a coma, doctors searched for signs of life, speaking to him with no response. Eventually, after seeing Looney Tunes playing on the TV, they switched to another tactic.
"[The doctor] finally says, 'Bugs, can you hear me?'" Noel recalled. To which Mel in character responded, "Yeah, what’s up, doc?”
- Photo: NBC23,499 VOTES
Actor and comedian Paul Winchell was a man of many talents; he was a ventriloquist and also an inventor, building and patenting a mechanical heart in 1963.
Winchell began voice acting for Hanna-Barbera during the late 1960s, notably appearing in Winnie-the-Pooh featurettes. As the voice of Tigger, Winchell won a Grammy for Winnie the Pooh and Tigger Too in 1974. When The Smurfs first aired in 1981, he provided the voice for the antagonist, Gargamel.
While Winchell navigated acting and performing, he simultaneously invented and patented dozens of devices. His artificial heart design, which he donated to the University of Utah, was fundamental in developing the model that was used in 1982 for the first artificial heart transplant.
Chuck Jones directed many Looney Tunes and Merrie Melodies episodes and was instrumental in shaping the characters' personalities. Along the way, he created or co-created characters like Bugs Bunny, Pepe Le Pew, Marvin Martian, Wile E. Coyote, and Road Runner. Over numerous episodes, the adventures changed, but the rules of the wild cartoon universe remained consistent thanks to a clearly laid-out list.
Director Amos Posner posted the list from Jones's autobiography, Chuck Amuck: The Life and Times of an Animated Cartoonist (1999), to Twitter, saying: “Still obsessed with Chuck Jones’ coyote/roadrunner rules. Awesome to so clearly, concisely define your characters.”
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Many Hanna-Barbera Characters Had Collars And Neckties To Make Them Easier To Draw
There's a reason so many Hanna-Barbera characters have collars. From Yogi Bear to Fred Flintstone to Huckleberry Hound, the animated stars were drawn wearing collars because it cut down significantly on the number of drawings needed for each episode.
According to Joseph Barbera, putting a collar or necktie around a character helped cut costs, which was important when the creators shifted their focus from putting cartoons on the big screen to television during the late 1950s and '60s.
With a collar, animators only had to worry about drawing a character's head; the body could remain relatively static. This technique, called "limited animation," developed "because there was no money, absolutely no money," according to Barbera.
- Photo: Scooby-Doo, Where Are You? / Taft Broadcasting
Scooby-Doo was once the longest-running animated series on television. Scooby-Doo, Where Are You? debuted on television in 1969, and new iterations of the show have continued to run for decades. In 2004, Scooby-Doo became the longest-running animated comedy, according to Guinness World Records.
Through the years and in the many new and reshaped Scooby shows and movies, Shaggy and Scooby have been the only characters present at every step. Frank Welker, one of the most prolific voice actors in the history of animation - with as many as 850 credits to his name - started voicing Fred on Scooby-Doo from the outset and has ever since. After the voice actor for the titular character (Don Messick) perished, Welker took on voicing Scooby, too.
Welker was 23 years old when he started voicing Fred Jones in 1969 and, although the show had some brief hiatuses from airing, has remained a constant as the man who drives the Mystery Machine. Welker takes joy in the fact that, over the decades, "Fred was the only one who had a license... As long as nobody took the van away from me, that gave me four-wheel power."
When Welker auditioned for Scooby-Doo, however, he wasn't trying for the role of Fred. Welker, rather, wanted to voice Shaggy - which ultimately went to Casey Kasem. Kasem actually auditioned for Fred but, when the voices were finally assigned, the two men had been swapped. Welker explained:
I really liked Shaggy, and tried to have fun with that, and I know Casey wanted to do Fred because he wasn't really comfortable doing that kind of goofy Shaggy part. But then Joe [Barbera] [switched us], and Casey came up with that crazy, wonderful voice for Shaggy.
Joe said that Fred was the all-American hero type and that I should just do my own voice. I was like, "I never saw myself as the hero type, but OK!"... I’m kind of a comedian goofball, so it was a little bit hard being restricted, but I was just happy to be a part of the [group].
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When The Jetsons first aired in 1962, the lead character George was voiced by George O'Hanlon for the initial 24 episodes of the show. When it was canceled, he spent his time writing and picking up other acting roles.
When The Jetsons was revived during the 1980s, O'Hanlon was again tapped to voice George. By that time, he had suffered a stroke and "couldn't read, he couldn't memorize, he couldn't concentrate very well." The studio was willing to accommodate him and O'Hanlon received assistance recording his lines. According to Joseph Barbera:
[O'Hanlon] couldn't see. So you had to read him the line, and he would then do it, and that was one line at a time.
The same system was used when O'Hanlon voiced George for The Jetsons movie in 1989. As he was finishing up a recording session, however, he showed signs of distress. He was taken to the hospital, where he passed soon after, the result of a second stroke.
When it was released in 1990, The Jetsons was dedicated to O'Hanlon and to voice artist Mel Blanc, who'd passed a few months earlier, as well. Both O'Hanlon and Blanc's parts in The Jetsons were completed by voice actor Jeff Bergman.