Looney Tunes & Merrie Melodies Title Cards: 1948-49
By Jason Haggstrom, February 2, 2011
I have a real fondness for the title cards that precede animated shorts, especially those found in Looney Tunes and Merrie Melodies cartoons. Such title cards tend to feature the characters and settings in painted form which gives them a distinctly different look than how they appear within the cartoons themselves. The artists who worked on Looney Tunes and Merrie Melodies produced some of the most stylish and iconic title cards I’ve ever seen. Most of them are elegant works of art that feature terrific design work in composition, layout, and typography (which was lettered by hand!). They’re just plain fun to look at!
Scroll down a bit and you’ll find a gallery of the 39 Looney Tunes and Merrie Melodies title cards from the 1948-49 shorts that I own copies of (a total of 67 shorts were actually produced during that span). My favorite image in the set is the title card for High Diving Hare. Its image of Bugs’s feet—his head presumably embedded into the floor of a very shallow pool—is just a wonderful graphic in and of itself. The fact that it sets up audience expectations contrary to what actually occurs in the short (instead, it is Yosemite Sam who repeatedly plummets from the extremely high diving board) just makes it that much better.
The title card to Fast and Furry-ous (the first short to feature Wile E. Coyote and the Road Runner) is another gem. The italicized type implies speed and forward movement while the sign’s angle—tilted so far back that the stems of the italicized letters are now vertical once again—stamps out the implied movement entirely. In Coyote terms, this is analogous to the sudden (and painful!) contrast between flying freely through the air and slamming into a mountain (or standing still before being bowled over by a speeding train, or…). Another extreme is found in the image’s depth cues. The canted roadway and sign are almost too close for comfort while the winding (and very flat) roadway behind tapers off miles into the distance. Notice how those two mountainous peaks not only define the extreme distance of the scene but also act as the perfect counter-balance to the road in the front plane that is weighing down the right half of the image.
If you look closely at the title cards for Back Alley Oproar and Kit for Kat you’ll see one of the most blatant examples of title card re-use in the series’ history. In most cases of title card similarity, the artist simply took some design inspiration from an existing title card. In this case, the title card for Kit for Kat just crops in on the existing background painting from the title card created for Back Alley Oproar. For a production company that created over 1,000 short films, it’s quite amazing that more title card designs (and specific title cards themselves) weren’t re-used in this fashion.
Ultimately, I think all of them are worth taking a peek at (click any one of them for a larger view). Whether you are into Looney Tunes and Merrie Melodies, graphic design, or even typography, there’s something interesting to be found in each one of these amazing title cards.
If you’d like to learn more about Looney Tunes and Merrie Melodies title cards or see a larger (albeit lower quality) gallery of images, be sure to check out Dave Mackey’s excellent Warner Bros. Cartoons Filmography And Title Card Gallery.