The Michigan Daily - Weekend etc. -- Thursday, September 30, 1993 - 3
Animated cartoon couples characterize their
By JOHN R. RYBOCK
Your grandparents had Mutt and Jeff. Your
parents had Tom and Jerry. Your younger aunts
and uncles had Rocky and Bullwinkle. We had
Scooby and Shaggy. And the next generation has
... Beavis and Butthead? I tell you, kids today ...
Since before MTV, since before television,
even, there have been cartoon duos. Be they friend
or foe (most often foe), animated buddies have
broken the rules of reality since World War I.
Long before Beavis and Butthead chose to
entertain themselves with "Frog Baseball," Mutt
and Jeff created the entire genre. Born to the silver
screen way back in 1916, they defined cartoon
buddies. The tall, skinny smart-aleck Mutt's mis-
adventures with the short, dumpy loser Jeff set the
stage for the cat-and-mouse chases that would
come years after their last feature short. Sight gags
which have become a standard of comical car-
toons, such as the repeal of the law of gravity, were
borne in the minds of Raoul Barre and Tom
Bowers, and fleshed out on the screen by their
pals, Mutt and Jeff.
But the times changed, and Mutt and Jeff
fizzled out as sound came to the motion picture.
Other animators tried to imitate the forefathers of
the cartoon short, but never had the success that
Mutt and Jeff enjoyed. One such short, "Wot a
Night," featured a rip-off of Mutt and Jeff named,
oddly enough, Tom and Jerry. Though they were
human, and not cat or mouse, one of their writers,
Joseph Barbera, would go on to create the quint-
essential cartoon duo.
But they were not to come for eight more years.
In the interim period, the man synonymous with
animation, Walt Disney, would corner the market.
He built his cartoon empire both on animated
films of classic stories and on an eclectic en-
semble cast. Mickey, Goofy, Donald... they have
all made their mark. But in the Disney system,
characters were mixed and matched together as
needed, and no inseparable duo came to life.
But Disney made the most of what he had, and
began to completely monopolize the Academy
Award for animated shorts. Yet that soon changed
as two young whipper-snappers named B ill Hanna
and Joseph Barbera, building on earlier shorts,
created the ultimate in the cat and mouse chase. In
1939, "Puss Gets the Boot" introduced people to
Tom the Cat and Jerry the Mouse (though some
people would have trouble remembering which
Anvils crashing, running into walls, tails on
fire --the limits of reality were brutally surpassed
to get the laugh. And with dialogue at a minimum
(until the recent "Tom and Jerry" movie, Tom had
spoken some two intelligible lines) the main lan-
guage of slap-stick needed no translation across
The Disney Academy Award monopoly was
soon chipped away, as Tom and Jerry took four
straight Oscars beginning from 1943 to 1946.
But while Hanna and Barbera were working to
put out their cat and mouse chase, the people at
Warner Brothers were creating the ultimate in
chases - Wil E. Coyote and the Road Runner,
running after each other with neither plot nor
characterizations. Why the Coyote would spend
hundreds of bucks on Acme jet-gliders to catch a
scrawny bird when he could just buy hundreds of
White Castle burgers for the same price was
irrelevant. Other than several rules, such as the
Roadrunner can never hurt the Coyote (all the
Coyote's injuries must be self inflicted), there
were no limits to what the two desert dwellers
As America changed, so did the cartoon pals.
Rocky and B ullwinkle took on the Cold War threat
of Boris Badanov and Natasha Fatale in the late
'50s /early '60s. Scooby and Shaggy rode in their
psychedelic Mystery Machine in the '70s. And
recently, the acid-tripped Ren and Stimpy mas-
terly mixed modern times with the classic -ele-
ments of the "Tom and Jerry" era.
And now, there is Beavis and Butthead. They
supposedly epitomize the stereotypical teen of
America today. The fast action of Tom and Jerry
has been replaced by two guys on a couch going
"He, he, he. Tom and Jerry suck." No, they don't.
And while Beavis and Butthead reign (God help
us), we can only sit and hope for a revival of the
he Oscar-winning Tom and Jerry antagonize each other in their recent feature film.
No second chance for 'thank you's
My life has been richly blessed
with four grandparents and a great-
grandmother, who have influenced and
shaped my life. I owe much of who I
am to these five wopderful people.
It was from my Grandma Halladay
that I learned the importance of pri-
mary education. As a first grade
JESSIE A A
teacher, she was my example of how
fundamental education is for children.
She was always there helping me with
my multiplication tables or my spell-
My Grandpa Halladay taught me
the importance of history (which has
turned out to be my major). He has
spent many years researching our fam-
*ly genealogy, always passing his in-
ormation on to me. He has always
told me how much the past shapes our
From my Grandma Isham I learned
that being a "traditional" woman is
not a bad thing - that making a home
for your family and nurturing it can be
one of the most rewarding accom-
plishments a woman can achieve.
Nonny, my great-grandmother,
showed me how to love God and all
his creations. She never said an angry
word to anyone and worked helping
others until she died at age 97.
My Grandpa Isham taught me how
important a sense of humor is. He also
showed me the meaning of generosity
by always helping his neighbors.
From all my grandparents I have
learned the value of aloving marriage
built on respect. Each set has been
married for 50 or more years. (Happy
anniversary Gram and Gramp!)
But it was my Grandpa Isham who
taught me the latest lesson. When he
died three weeks ago today, he re-
minded me of the importance of say-
ing "Thank you."
It has always been easy for me to
say I loved my grandparents. But I've
never told them how much I appreci-
ated all they've done for me. I guess I
always assumed there would be time.
And when my grandpa died suddenly
three weeks ago today, I realized I
could never personally thank him.
I could never thank him for all the
times he made me laugh. I could never
tell him how great it was when he
would pretend to blow up his muscles.
I could never thank him for the veg-
etables he grew in his garden (even
though I never wanted to eat them). I
could never thank him for bringing
me home from the hospital when I
was born. I could never thank him for
just being my gramps.
And while I know he knew how
much I loved him and that he never
wanted any thanks, I still wish I had
told him before it was too late.
For me, writing has always been a
way to express myself. So, this col-
umn is for my grandparents and espe-
cially my grandpa. It is a thank you for
the things mentioned and the hun-
dreds of other things they've done for
And for those of you reading, I
urge you not to wait. Tell everyone
who makes a difference in your life
how much you appreciate them. Just
because they may know it doesn't
mean they don't want to hear. And
you'll be glad you did it. Remember,
sometimes you don't get a second
The Michigan Daily is looking for models of all heights,
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Sunday, October 3, 5 p.m. at 420 Maynard
Bring a photo and a letter telling us why you want to be a model
for Fall Fashion.
Questions? Call Liz or Darcy at 763-0379
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