Teodora is a bilingual writer and translator. She is the author of two books, a poetry volume and a collection of short stories.
They may seem innocent and cuddly, but they’re actually pretty shrewd and shifty. Often characterized by speech impediments and a frail constitution, these guys bamboozle their enemies when they least expect it, causing a reversal of the victim- aggressor roles. The kids love them because of their childish charm and sense of humor. Even if these mischievous heroes hit, kick, and bash the heads of their attackers, nobody dies, so I guess it’s OK. Their evil side is far more obvious in the eyes of a grown-up.
Maybe I was an exception, but I remember telling my Mom, "I don’t like Jerry, he’s bad. Why does he make fun of Tom like that?" Or, "Tweety enjoys harming the cats, it’s not fair!" The memory of my sympathy for the plausible antagonists inspired me to write this article. Don’t get me wrong, I love all animals. All seven characters are prey that have to fight for their lives. However, there is a boundary between self-preservation and cattiness.
This is my top seven sneakiest cartoon characters of all time.
Created by: Bob Clampett
Born in: 1942
Voiced by: Mel Blanc, Jeff Bergman, Bob Bergen, and others
Trademark: the phrase "I Thought I Saw a Pussy Cat"
What could be cuter than a little yellow canary with blue, batting eyes? Don’t let yourself be fooled by Tweety, because this is one cold-hearted bird.
In the famous A Tale Of Two Kitties, Tweety is the target of two hungry cats, Babbit and Catstello. The latter, who is also a bit dim-witted, is convinced by his partner to try different methods of catching the prey. Tweety not only defies the cat’s poor attempts to catch it, but also enjoys torturing it. He hits Catstello in the head with a baseball bat numerous times, places a bomb in his diving helmet and then exclaims: "Oh, the poor puddy tat. He cwashed his weeny head", after which he grins sadistically. At one point, he appears to save Catstello by offering him a rope. In reality, he ties the other end to an anvil, which eventually squashes him. Towards the end, Tweety turns even creepier. Wearing an air raid warden's helmet, he shouts out of the blue: "Turn out those lights!" in a masculine voice.
Tweety’s specialty is tormenting Sylvester. It’s true, the cat initiates the hunting game, but the canary overdoes it. He goes beyond just fighting for his life, getting a real thrill out of watching the feline in agony. In Tweety's S.O.S, he shows Sylvester a picture of a boat in the sea, while moving it back and forth. This causes Sylvester to get seasick; his face turns literally green. Again, Tweety pretends to offer a helping hand, but instead, he fills a remedy bottle with nitroglycerin. When Sylvester drinks it, he starts spitting up explosive flames.
Created by: Tex Avery
Born in: 1943
Voiced by: Bill Thompson
Trademark: monotone voice and sluggish moves
He moves slooowly and he speaks as if he were about to fall asleep the next minute. His eyes are half-closed, yet he sees everything with a jaw-dropping (pun intended) clarity, including the shady intentions of the villain. His surprising strength erupts unexpectedly, after a remark like: "You know what? That makes me mad". After this, all hell is breaking loose. In One Droopy Knight, the little mellow fellow turns into a merciless knight who breaks off the dragon's tail when he reaches the boiling point of his seemingly infinite patience. The same happens in Señor Droopy, where his victim is a bull.
He is also renown for driving the wrongdoers out of their minds with his omnipresence. For example, in Dumb Hounded, the wolf who escapes from jail does everything humanly (in a manner of speaking) possible in order to make himself scarce. He takes the plane, rides on a horse, gets on the train, hops in a taxi, travels all around the world and reaches the North Pole, only to find Droopy sitting next to him, annoyingly serene, talking on the phone... with him. The dog sheriff is practically everywhere the wolf goes. At one point he is tied, but somehow he manages to pop up right in front of the escapee the minute he arrives to his new destination.
3. Bugs Bunny
Created by: Ben Hardaway, Cal Dalton (predecessor), Tex Avery (official)
Born in: 1940
Voiced by: Mel Blanc
Trademark: the phrase "What’s up, doc?"
Everybody hearts bunnies. They are soft and innocent and don’t eat other animals, just carrots. Bugs Bunny does not match the description above (except for the last part). Clever and fast, he always manages to get the best of Porky and Elmer Fudd.
A Wild Hare is one of the most well-known cartoons featuring Bugs. One scene in particular shows his mischievous side at its best. I have to say, I love Bugs here. After a long, tiring chase, he offers to let Elmer Fudd have a shot at him. Elmer fires and Bugs plays dead. Now remorseful, Elmer begins to cry. Bugs sneaks up behind him, kicks him in his rear, shoves a thick cigar into his mouth, and then takes off, like a ballerina.
Another episode in which he annoys the bald-headed hunter is The Wabbit Who Came To Supper. Elmer receives a telegram from his Uncle Louie, telling him about a $3 million inheritance. The condition is to refrain from harming any animals, especially rabbits. Elmer lets Bugs free, but the sneaky rabbit creeps into Elmer's house, where he takes a shower, uses his razor and even pretends to call Uncle Louie to inform him about his nephew’s misconduct. When Elmer manages to throw him out, Bugs hypocritically calls him a dirty double-crosser. Then he pulls the same stunt, faking death. Moreover, he contends ironically: "This scene ought to get me the Academy Award. "
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Bugs Bunny’s sarcasm is truly delightful in Wackiki Wabbit, where he puts on a real show for two men unfortunately stranded on an island. He uses a marionette to make them think that the chicken they hoped to quench their hunger with is possessed by a ghost. At the end, the two men hear a steam whistle from a ship. As they jump with joy at the thought of being rescued, Bugs kisses them goodbye and adorns their necks with garlands. Distracted, the two are blind to the obvious – Bugs has boarded the ship himself.
4. Daffy Duck
Created by: Tex Avery
Born in: 1937
Voiced by: Mel Blanc, Jeff Bergman and others
Trademark: exaggerated lisp
Ok, maybe Daffy is obnoxious right from the start, with his loud voice and lisp, but you wouldn’t expect him to be THAT obnoxious. More often than not, he is also a crook and a liar, using his loquacity to achieve his questionable goals.
Perhaps he is most famously known for his role in Yankee Doodle Daffy. Porky, a producer, is waylaid by Daffy, a talent agent, who forces him to listen to his performance of a number of musical and stage acts. This is really hilarious, because he actually wants to obtain an audition for his client, a child performer named "Sleepy" Lagoon. Daffy prevents Porky from leaving in various ways (much like Droopy). Each time Porky opens the door, Daffy is there, despite having been in the room just a second ago. We see him dressed like a clown, like a cowboy. To top it all, he turns out to be the pilot of Porky's plane and then his parachute.
There are many episodes illustrating Daffy’s irritating antics, whose purpose is to make someone’s nights sleepless. In Daffy Duck Slept Here, Daffy does everything in his power to irk Porky: he shakes the bed, pesters him with questions, spills water from a glass and tricks the pig, half-immersed in dreamland, into stepping out of the window, convinced he's boarding a train. In A Pest in the House, he opens the window, letting in the awful noises, he sings and laughs while drunk, scratches the window – all of which are blamed on poor Elmer. On another occasion, in A Dime to Retire, Daffy contrives a plan in which he sends animals in Porky’s room (a cat to catch a mouse, a dog to catch the cat, and so on) so that he may extort the pig.
Created by: William Hanna & Joseph Barbera
Born in: 1940
Voiced by: (occasionally) William Hanna, Mel Blanc and others.
Trademark: does not really have one, but let’s say the brown fur
Jerry is undoubtedly more innocent than Tweety and Droopy, but sneaky nonetheless. He also resorts to trickery, as a consequence of being attacked first. In many episodes, he joins hands with powerful or fearless allies like: Spike (Framed Cat), Quacker (The Vanishing Duck), Uncle Pecos (Pecos Pest), Jumbo (Jerry and Jumbo) and his cousin Muscles (Jerry’s Cousin).
Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Mouse shows a dark side of Jerry. After accidentally drinking the milk&poison concoction made my Tom, Jerry becomes bigger, much stronger and totally merciless, dragging Tom out of a safe box through a hole he makes with his fist, and then throwing him violently, after which he bangs his head against the wall, pulls him by the whiskers and gives him a good thrashing.
However, Jerry’s malice is more overt in Chuck Jones’s Tom and Jerry episodes, which are less known to the public. In Is There a Doctor in the Mouse? Jerry drinks a potion that gives him the ability to eat and run at incredible speed. So he basically steals Tom’s food, leaving him with nothing. Then he makes a second potion which transforms him into a huge, creepy mouse. Jerry’s invisibility from Of Feline Bondage allows him to hook Tom's nose and scare him with a pair of scissors. It gets worse – he manages to cut his whiskers and shave his arms, legs and chest in such a way, that Tom appears to wear gray shorts and a white top. He looks downright pitiful.
6. Road Runner
Created by: Chuck Jones, Michael Maltese
Born in: 1949
Voiced by: Paul Julian
Trademark: the "Meep Meep" sound
Road Runner is the only bird left in a deserted area (at least this is what I always thought), which makes him the best target for the ever-hungry Wile E. Coyote. The skinny coyote is probably the descendant of Scrat, the unfortunate squirrel from Ice Age, who constantly finds himself in the situation of having his prey slip through his fingers. Road Runner always smiles and defies some basic laws of science. He’s unfairly lucky and he knows it.
Coyote always designs elaborate plans that fail miserably. Let’s take an example – he lures the bird with acme bird seeds. Roar Runner eats the seeds, while Coyote uses a magnet attached to a grenade in order to attract the bird towards him. Tragically, the magnet separates from the grenade, which explodes in his face.
The antagonist owns a track record of failures: bombs blow up next to him, heavy things fall on his head, he is catapulted into rivers, bumps into rocks, runs too slowly, runs too fast and falls off a cliff, is scared off the cliff by his prey, ends up floating like a balloon, is ran over by trucks, wrapped up like a gift, etc. At one point, Roar Runner nonchalantly sits on a fragment of a rock, suspended in thin air. Coyote expresses his disappointment via a written message: "I wouldn’t mind – except that he defies the law of gravity."
7. Betty Boop
Created by: Max Fleischer
Born in: 1930
Voiced by: Margie Hines, Mae Questel, Kate Wright and others
Trademark: big, round eyes and squeaky voice
Betty Boop was originally a caricature of Helen Kane, an American popular singer. Despite looking like a cute doll with her puppy eyes and curly hair, Betty was the only sexualized female cartoon character back in her days. Her skimpy dress and hair style remind us of the flappers, the audacious Western women from the 1920s, famous for their promiscuous pursuits.
I remember watching Betty Boop cartoons with a smile on my face, thinking that I was admiring the adventures of a little girl. I didn’t even know she was a grown woman, neither did my friends. Kids nowadays are far more perspicacious and mature, but a few decades ago, it was easy to fool them. Most of them would place Betty in the same category as Audrey and Little Lulu.
There are several cartoons starring Betty that have been banned due to inappropriate content. See what happens in Ha! Ha! Ha! Koko the Clown, who has a toothache. He is treated by Betty who mostly dances around the issues, both literally and figuratively. She attempts to calm his pain, but uses too much laughing gas. Betty and Koko start laughing hysterically. The laughing disease infects objects too: a mailbox, a bridge, cars, graves.
Betty Boop brought with her the idea of a change in the mentality of the "modern world". In Minnie the Moocher, Betty is depicted as a teenager rebelling against her parents’ obsolete ways. The generation gap of the 1930s... not much different from nowadays. Betty has a fight with her parents and runs away from home with her boyfriend Bimbo (ironically, this was the name of a man).
Lee Cloak on March 28, 2015:
A fantastic fun hub, very enjotable, very interesting, thanks, Lee
flint3099 on March 06, 2015:
Great list. I grew up with bugs bunny ( well all of these on this list actually ) but I would have to say he is the sneakiest to me.
Teodora Gheorghe (author) on March 06, 2015:
Thank you, Amanda! Yes, unfortunately, today's youth seems to have forgotten about these wonderful cartoons. Animation nowadays is definitely not what it used to be...
Amanda from Michigan on March 06, 2015:
I loved the looney toons growing up! Today's youth are not very familiar with this old cartoon characters. Bugs Bunny and Tweety are definitely my favorites! Interesting hub, thanks for sharing. :)
Teodora Gheorghe (author) on March 03, 2015:
Yes, it sounds like him. :))
poetryman6969 on March 02, 2015:
Droopy because he can lull you into believing he is not a threat.