This week we’ve been marveling at the endless presence of pets in cartoons through the ages, with many of our favourite childhood characters having been immortalised in illustrated fur. Perhaps with pets taking up so much room in our hearts, it’s not surprising that they have also a considerable presence in our film and television culture.
Cat lovers will fondly remember a whole host of feline characters:
- Felix the Cat, who first appeared in comic strips and silent films throughout the 1920s.
- The endlessly unlucky Sylvester, outwitted daily by the wily Tweety Pie. Sylvester J. Pussycat Senior (to give him his full name!) first appeared in 1945 and went on to grace hundreds of Looney Tunes cartoons, winning three Academy Awards in the process.
- The equally dim-witted Tom, of Tom and Jerry fame, featured in 114 cartoons produced by Hanna and Barbera between 1940 and 1957, amassing seven Academy Awards and a place in the collective consciousness.
- First published in 1978, the eighties saw the rise and rise of Garfield the cat, whose daily newspaper strip illustrating his boundless sarcasm and disdain for his human Jon brightened many a breakfast table across the world. Odie, Garfield’s nice but dim canine companion, was the perfect foil to his cutting comments and helped fuel a massive worldwide merchandising machine of pencil cases, mugs, duvet covers and the like.
Dogs are equally well represented in animation through the ages, with a number of much-loved canine characters, including:
- Goofy. First created by Walt Disney Studios in 1932, the lovable but hardly intellectual dog remains one of Disney’s most popular characters – perhaps we can all identify with his well meaning, but invariably clumsy ways!
- Snoopy. Snoopy made his debut on October 4th, 1950, two days after the first Peanuts strip appeared. At its peak, Peanuts ran in over 2,600 newspapers, with a readership of 355 million in 75 countries, and was translated into 21 languages. Snoopy’s character enjoyed an active imagination, often appearing as his favourite alter egos Joe Cool and World War 1 pilot Ace. Certainly not your average beagle!
- Deputy Dawg. Featuring in 34 episodes shown originally throughout the mid-60s, his adventures revolve almost entirely around his attempts to protect a smallholding from various creatures determined to steal the crops. Harmless fun that proved captivating for many a small child back then!
- Clifford the big red dog. Clifford has featured in more than 80 books, first published in 1963 and still going strong today. His early and widespread appeal helped publisher Scholastic Books become a major force in children’s publishing and landed him a long-running cartoon show.
- Brian, from Family Guy. Bringing the cartoon canine right up to date, Brian is notionally the pet dog of the Griffin family, but is one of the most loved and intellectual characters; a struggling writer who talks more sense than the humans and drives a Toyota Prius!
And finally, let’s not forget the most famous cartoon character of all, Mickey Mouse.
Mickey made his official debut in 1928’s Steamboat Willie, one of the first talking cartoons. He went on to appear in over 130 films, spawn a huge entertainment empire and become the first animated character to have a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame. Not bad for a mere mouse!