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THE REVISIONIST HISTORY OF SCREEN COMEDY

Think of great movie comedians. Charlie Chaplin. Bob Hope. Bugs Bunny ? Or how
about TV stars? Lucille Ball. Jackie Gleason. Fred Flintstone? From years of indoctrination
into Hollywood history, the cartoon comedians seem out of place in these lists. And yet aren't
these animated comedians just as funny as the live actors? Why shouldn't they be honored right
up there with the live-action greats? They were in their
day. Bugs Bunny received an Oscar for his film comedy. Tom & Jerry earned seven, along
with an additional four nominations. Bob Hope? Three.

For some reason, as the history of movie and TV comedy is written, cartoons are usually
ignored. Maybe it's because they're short. (Although a seven-minute cartoon often has a better
laugh-per-minute ratio than a 90-minute feature comedy.) Maybe cartoons are neglected
because they're drawn rather than shot with live actors. (Then again, which takes more work?
Drawing thousands and thousands of cartoons or pointing a camera and saying "action!" ?)
Maybe cartoons get the short shrift because they're "just for kids." (Of course, until the TV era,
cartoons were made for adults and families to see in theaters.)

We have our own theory about the absence of cartoons from the comedy history books:
they're the secret guilty pleasures of cinema and television historians. Where Chaplin is
considered "high-brow" art, cartoons with cats chasing mice are too common, too "low-brow."
But we'll bet that when no one is looking, those people who write the history books don't sit in
plush screening rooms to enjoy the sophisticated wit of classic
movie comedy half as much as they curl up on the couch with a bag of chips and watch Tom
and Jerry, Bugs, Daffy, Huckleberry Hound or The Jetsons. Just like the rest of us!

Bill Burnett
Creative Director
Hanna-Barbera Cartoons Inc.