Merrie Melodies

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Merrie Melodies is the name of a series of animated cartoons distributed by Warner Bros. Pictures between 1931 and 1969. The series was produced by Leon Schlesinger Productions until 1944, when Schlesinger sold his studio to Warners. The newly renamed Warner Bros. Cartoons, Inc. continued producing the series until 1964.

Producer Leon Schlesinger had already produced one cartoon in the Looney Tunes series, and its success prompted him to try to sell a sister series to Warner Bros. His selling point was that the new cartoons would feature music from the soundtracks of Warner Bros. films and would thus serve as advertisements for Warner Bros. recordings. The studio agreed, and Schlesinger dubbed the series Merrie Melodies.

Walt Disney Studios had already scored with their Silly Symphonies. Since cartoon production usually began with a soundtrack, animating a piece of music made it easier to devise plot elements and even characters.

The Merrie Melodies series was taken on by Rudy Ising, one of the two animators (the other being Hugh Harman) who had worked on the original Looney Tunes short. Ising attempted to introduce new characters in his Merrie Melodies films, such as Piggy, Foxy, and Goopy Geer, but Foxy was so derivative of Mickey Mouse that he was dropped, possibly at Disney's urging. The Merrie Melodies shorts became largely plotless musicals or romances without any recurring characters and continued in this vein even after Ising left the studio in 1933.

In 1934, Schlesinger produced his first color Merrie Melodies shorts, Honeymoon Hotel and Beauty and the Beast, which were produced in Cinecolor (Disney had exclusive rights to the richer Technicolor process). Their success convinced Schlesinger to produce all future Merrie Melodies shorts in color as well. Looney Tunes continued in black and white until 1943.

Contractually, Merrie Melodies cartoons were obligated to include at least one full chorus from a Warner Bros. song. Warner Bros. requested that these songs be performed by name bands whenever possible, but this lasted only through the first few shorts. The policy annoyed the animators of Merrie Melodies, since the songs often interrupted the cartoons' momentum and pacing.

In the late 1930s, the animators were released from this obligation, and the Merrie Melodies shorts came to resemble more closely the black-and-white Looney Tunes series. In 1943, Schlesinger began producing Looney Tunes in color as well, and the two series became virtually indistinguishable except by their theme music and opening titles. By this time the theme music for Looney Tunes was "The Merry-Go-Round Broke Down" by Cliff Friend and Dave Franklin and the theme music for Merrie Melodies was an adaptation of "Merrily We Roll Along" by Charles Tobias, Murray Mencher & Eddie Cantor.

Warner Bros.-owned songs continued to appear in some of the shorts, however, as shown by the frequent repetition of "The Merry-Go-Round Broke Down" and "Singing in the Bathtub," as well as the music of Carl Stalling and Raymond Scott, particularly "Powerhouse".

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