Bugs: (singing) There, you're nice and clean/Although your face looks like it might have gone through a machine.
Darker and Edgier: After a decline into faux-Disney style sentimentality and comedy in the 1933 to 1935 period, Tex Avery and Frank Tashlin would pull the studio in the exact opposite direction of them around 1936, featuring street smart, contemporary gags and sardonic, earthy humor. Tashlin's shorts in particular tended to have some rather cold, morally gray or just plain scary elements, such as "Now That Summer Is Gone", "Porky's Romance" (Porky tries to commit suicide in it!) "The Case of the Stuttering Pig" and "Wholly Smoke".
Chuck Jones likewise went through this phase—after his first four years of directing slow paced, mawkish cartoons like Sniffles the Mouse, he abruptly transitions to the same sardonic humor used by his contemporaries by 1942, complete with his own touches of morbid humor, with shorts like "The Draft Horse" and "The Dover Boys". Probably his darkest cartoons are "Fresh Airedale" and "Chow Hound".
Friz Freleng even tried his hand at this during the 1936 period— Pigs Is Pigs features one of the most infamous dream sequences in the series, where the gluttonous protagonist (who has no real sympathetic qualities) gets a taste of his medicine, being force fed through an elaborate montage until he violently explodes from overeating!
The Private Snafu shorts (and some of the Wartime Cartoons in general) played up the wilder and violent elements of the series even more—the Snafu shorts, because they were privately screened for soldiers and thus avoided the scrutiny of the Hays Office, even get away with very risque content like a woman doing a striptease (and scantily dressed woman in general, something pretty uncommon in the main series Looney Tunes), some (mild) on-screen swearing, and other content that would never have been allowed in public theaters of the day. If Looney Tunes was The Simpsons of its time, then Snafu was practically their answer to South Park.
And of course Loonatics Unleashed was an extremely blatant attempt at this. Although it quickly changed into trying to find something more like the original material that could still be an action property.
The Darkness Gazes Back: In one Sylvester and son cartoon, Sylvester corners the mouse he's chasing into a dark room and sees a pair eyes staring back. Thinking it's the meek rodent, he charges inside to attackonly to get his ass kicked by the boxing kangaroo.
Bugs Bunny is arguably the most famous and iconic Deadpan Snarker in western animation.
Daffy (post-Flanderization) has quite a sarcastic streak in later cartoons.
Porky is often very verbal about the wacky cast around him, especially when paired with Daffy (particularly the pompous Daffy who was trying to be a star, not the wacky one who always got Porky in trouble).
Deer in the Headlights: Whenever someone's about to get hit with something heavy from above, or a train, or anything like that, you can bet that this will be their reaction.
Delivery Stork: One of Freleng's recurring characters is a stork that's so drunk that he delivers babies to the wrong expectant couples. Seen in the shorts, "Apes of Wrath," "Stork Naked," "Goo-Goo Goliath," and "A Mouse Divided".
Demoted to Extra: Porky Pig, despite being the series first major star and mascot from the mid to late 30's, started getting smaller roles by the early 1940's, with his last major billing being in "Porky Pig's Feat" (1943). Apparently, this was due to the fact that Bugs Bunny and Daffy Duck's more abrasive personalities were far more flexible in humor and in vogue with the time period than the mawkish Straight Man that Porky was. Porky still made appearances throughout the series, but always as a sidekick or secondary character to stars like Daffy or Sylvester from then on out.
Bugs: I could be wrong; maybe it's face north for a southbound moose. Or is it the other way around in reverse?
Depending on the Artist: Because the directors were also in charge of doing the key characters poses, the specific designs would vary from unit to unit. Most noticeable with the Jones and Clampett units. With the latter, the personal style of individual animators, especially Rod Scribner, would stand out.
Digital Destruction: The Golden Collection sets have gained some notoriety among some animation buffs for usage of the infamous DVNR process, resulting in oversaturated colors, oversharpened lines (which ruins the look of the cels) or even flat out erased artwork (particularly noticable in the restoration of "The Big Snooze" on Vol. 2), and fuzzy moire patterns. Cartoons released prior to August 1948 would usually suffer the worst from this process, as the rights were owned by various other companies from the late 50s-90s. note Explaination: Warner Bros. sold the color LT/MM shorts off to Associated Artists Productions in 1956, and the cartoons would soon be owned by United Artists, then Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer, and finally Turner Entertainment Co. before WB regained them in 1996 due to parent company Time Warner acquiring Turner. Because of this, at least 1 cartoon from the Golden Collection sets would suffer badly from DVNR.
The climatic drunk car chase of "You Don't Know What You're Doin"! The whole city is wobbling and bouncing like jelly, and the dog chasing Piggy even hallucinates a sewer grate transforming into a hideous monster.
Porky's encounter with Nick O'Teen and a legion of personified smoking and tobacoo products in "Wholly Smoke".
Porky's nightmare of wearing the Leprechaun's shoes in "Wearing of the Grin".
Disproportionate Retribution: Bugs Bunny is reigning king of this trope. Some cartoons gave him a decent motivation (someone attempting to kill him, destroying his home, etc.), but far more often he would make someone's life a living Hell (or, very rarely, an actual dying Hell) just for annoying him.
Marvin the Martian is perfectly willing to kill billions of lives just because their planet was blocking his view of Venus.
The Ditz: Schulz, Private Snafu, Hermann Göring, Elmer Fudd on occasion, etc.
Domestic-Only Cartoon: The original 1930-1969 shorts, the TV specials, the compilation movies, and some of the theatrical shorts from the '90s.
Double Entendre: The most notable is the "beavers damming a river" gag used first in "The Eager Beaver" (Jones, 1946) and "Unnatural History" (Levitow, 1959).
Downer Ending: Quite a few shorts have these, though they are often played for laughs.
The Tex Avery short "Circus Today" ends with the diver falling to his death leading the band to play "Taps".
Each Dawn I Crow ends with John Rooster finding out that Elmer was not planning on using his axe to kill him for dinner after all, but instead to chop a tree. Unfortunately, the tree falls on John, and Elmer ends up having him for dinner after all, though he's still alive as he's being boiled.
Quite a few Foghorn Leghorn cartoons end with him being outsmarted by whoever he's in conflict with, whether he's being dragged away to be eaten by Henery Hawk, starts being cooked by the weasel, gets married to Miss Prissy when he really didn't want to marry her, tied up, dressed in drag, and presumed married to a beatnik rooster in Banty Raids, taken away by the farmer when he gives an ultimatum that either he or the newborn rooster go in Broken Leghorn, and a number of other issues. Though he does tend to come out on top as often as he doesn't.
Porky Pig's Feat ends with Daffy and Porky still locked up in the hotel to which they can't afford to pay the bill, and Bugs Bunny is locked up as well.
Hardly any of Chuck Jones' Daffy Duck cartoons (except A Pest In The House and Rabbit Fire) have happy endings for the character, even before Jones turned him into a loser/bad guy.
"The Unmentionables": Again, played for laughs: Bugs joins Rocky and Mugsy for their long prison sentence because he lost the key to the handcuffs that he arrested them in.
Cheese Chasers. Hubie and Bertie OD on cheese and decide to commit suicide. So they try to get Claude to eat them. Claude is pestered so badly, he gets turned off to eating mice and decides to commit suicide himself. He tries to antagonize Marc Antony to beat him to death. See Fridge Logic for the bulldog's response to all this. At least he doesn't decide to end it all, at least.
Though he does try to flag down the nearest dog catcher to turn himself in, which is pretty much Suicideby Cop.
Henry Bear trying to off himself in "Bear Feat", only for Junior to save him.
Droste Image: "I Was a Teenage Thumb" ends with the narrator saying the knight who was the size of a thumb had a son who was the size of his thumb, who had a son the size of his thumb, and so on, and so on.
Dysfunctional Family: The Three Bears, with the oversized idiot cub Junyer constantly getting punched in the face by his short, hot-tempered father, and the mother bear being too passive to do anything about it. On the Chuck Jones documentary, Chuck Jones: Extremes and In-Betweens, Matt Groening stated that the Three Bear family was where he got the idea for The Simpsons being a dysfunctional cartoon family.
Early Installment Weirdness: The early B&W shorts before 1936 are very, very different from the Looney Tunes characters most of us are familiar with from childhood, to where one would be hard pressed to believe they're part of the same series as Bugs Bunny and others. The differences are as follows:
First, the art style is completely different; the characters were drawn in a pie eyed "rubberhose and dumbbell" style that was common back then.
The strong individual directing styles, post-modernistic humor, fourth wall busting and satirical comedy that the iconic Looney Tunes are known for is virtually nonexistent; the gags are standard slapstick and surreal distortions of the characters, with occasional vulgar humor sandwiched in.
The crop of shorts from circa the 1933 to 1935 period also tended to have sentimental or juvenile Disney style content and humor, a mindset that Looney Tunes would eventually become the total antithesis of. The early shorts of Chuck Jones up to around 1942 likewise aimed for this, and it's a startling contrast to his more famous work.
In contrast to the wide ensemble of characters with distinct personalities littered through both the character driven and oneshot cartoons, the early Looney Tunes relied on characters with either one-dimensional or nondescript personalities—including their first lead stars such as Bosko the Talk-Ink Kid and Buddy. The Bosko cartoons also had no major or recurring characters outside of him, Honey and Bruno. Stock funny animal characters also tended to pop up more than cartoon humans in these early shorts, and even the ones that did pop up tended to be celebrity caricatures drawn in a similar rubberhose style, instead of the more observant caricature style the series eventually settled into. Of the series iconic cast, only two of its major stars (Porky Pig and Daffy Duck) are present in the 1930's, and in Daffy's case, his introduction and subsequent rise to fame was rather late in the 30's era of the series. Porky appeared as early as 1935 and immediately became a series star, but even then, his roles and characterization are quite different from the more famous shorts he's starred in.
The musical style of the series before Carl Stalling's arrival, which by no means bad and featuring excellent songs and compositions, was much more standard musical fare than the distinctive, energetic musical style Stalling brought to the franchise.
The Merrie Melodies were initially more distinctive from the Looney Tunes shorts; prior to around the late 30's, they were animated music videos with no recurring characters (outside of the first five with Foxy and Piggy) that was mandated to have a song number in every single cartoon, something that was eventually dropped to make them another series of gag shorts that are indistinguishable from the Looney Tunes series (although the music video aspect of them would make a comeback eventually).
Ear Trumpet: "Now Hear This" is about an old man who finds a new ear trumpet in place of his old and worn-out one. He is overjoyed to have a new shiny trumpet, but it is, in fact, Satan's lost horn, and it turns the old man's world into a synesthetic, nightmarish acid trip sequence.
Eat the Camera: The early Harman-Ising Looney Tunes frequently used a gag where a character would run or fly towards the screen screaming or laughing, and their mouth would almost always envelop the camera! Sometimes it was even the same or similar piece of animation used over and over!
"Sinkin in the Bathtub", ironically, is a subversion, as Bosko comes very close to the camera, but he falls off screen instead.
"Lady, Play Your Mandolin" has a drunk horse running, and laughing mad, towards the camera from a hallucination in the mirror. This piece of animation would be reused in shorts like "You Don't Know What You're Doin!" and "I Love A Parade"!
"Smile, Darn Ya, Smile!" has Foxy eating the camera as his out of control trolley launches him screaming towards the screen.
"Shuffle Off To Buffalo" has a stork carrying a baby towards the screen, whose crying mouth envelops the whole screen.
Even the post Harman-Ising shorts occasionally used this gag. "Hollywood Capers" has the Frankenstein monster literally eat a camera, and we see it from the cameras POV.
"The Woods Are Full of Cuckoos" has "Moutha Bray" end her song number by eating the camera as she sings "Hey Maaaaaaaaaaaannnnnnn!"
"To Beep or Not to Beep" has has Wile E. Coyote falling off a cliff where a bridge had just been, with a cactus landing on him after the fact. The pain launches him into the air and his mouth covers the whole screen (in red) as he screams in pain.
"Stupor Duck," with Daffy on a rocket ship heading for the moon.
Edited for Syndication: Looney Tunes became notorious for being chopped up when shown on many networks, either edited to remove overly violent gags or "insensitive" racial stereotypes. Some shorts were merely edited for time to make room for more commercial breaks. As a result, there was much rejoicing when the Golden Collections presented the cartoons as they were originally seen in theaters. In many instances, it was like watching them for the first time.
The 1961 Bugs Bunny cartoon "Prince Violent" had its title changed to "Prince Varmint" for television in the 1980s.
Two cartoons had recent edits that were rather dubious, considering what goes on in today's cartoons. The Hasty Hare had footage of astronomer I. Frisby (caricature of Friz Freleng) writing his resignation removed, and Drip-Along Daffy had Porky's final line taken out—after Daffy, in janitor's outfit and clean-up barrel, says "I told you I was gonna clean up this one-horse town!", Porky says to us "Lucky for him this is a one-horse town!"
Surprisingly, a recent showing of part of "Bugs Bunny Bustin' Out All Over" let a butterfly calling Bugs a jackass slip by!
The epithet "jackass" has been used on W-B cartoons before. In 1945's A Tale Of Two Mice, Babbitt tells Catstello (both as mice) that if his plan to get the cheese doesn't work, "I'll...I'll be a jackass!" It doesn't, and Catstello hammers it in ("Jackass! Jackass!! Yer a jackass!! Hee-haw!"). 1950's Mississippi Hare has Col. Cornpone asking Bugs "If'n I had four legs and went 'hee-haw,' what would I be?" Bugs: "Why, you'd be a jackass." (Resulting in one of Bugs' perfectly timed duels.)
Edutainment Show: The three shorts, "By Word of Mouse," "Heir Conditioned," and "Yankee Dood It," commissioned by the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation which educated the viewer on how the capitalist economy works and why it's a superior one. These shorts came about in the mid-50's at the height of Red Scare, and it's easy to tell. In fairness, they did at least attempt to make these shorts interesting by throwing gags in between the edutainment, but in all, they pale in comparison to their regular output.
1939's "Old Glory" is educational as well, though unlike the aforementioned Sloan shorts, it doesn't contain comedy at all. Rather, it's a history lesson on the Revolutionary War and the formation of the U.S., with Porky learning about it from Uncle Sam in the wraparounds.
Eek, a Mouse!!!: Subverted in "Unnatural History": A mouse scares a giant elephant, but the mouse itself is scared by a tiny elephant even smaller than he.
Also the specialty for Elmer Fudd, in such cartoons as "Good Night, Elmer" (where he spends the entire cartoon trying to put out a candle flame and wrecks his room in the process. And when he finally extinguishes it, it's morning) and "Ant Pasted" (where a bunch of ants fight back against him, though he did deserve it for throwing fireworks at them. Still, the fact that he can't even fight back against ants counts as a major fail).
Everything Explodes Ending: "Captain Hareblower" has Bugs Bunny blowing up Yosemite Sam's ship by throwing a lit match into the gunpowder room. Sam tries to get even by doing the same to Bugs' ship, but Bugs doesn't even try to stop him and Sam makes a hasty retreat. Turns out it was the other kind of powder room (the ladies bathroom), yet it explodes anyway, to Bugs' surprise.
Evil Living Flames: Throughout "Porky the Fireman", portions of the fire Porky is helping to fight come alive and antagonize the firefighters. One fiery figure steals a bucket of water from Porky and dumps it on his head, while another mocks a team of firemen as they try to hose it down. At the end, after the building has burnt to the ground, one last anthropomorphic flame peeks from the rubble and gets doused by dozens of firemen at once... before popping back up from the ashes, knocking all the firemen down with a hose used like a gatling gun, and victoriously beating its chest as the screen fades to black.
Evil Sounds Deep: The construction worker from "Homeless Hare" and the bulldog from "Chow Hound", both voiced by John T. Smith.
Evolving Music: A whole book could be written on the subject, given how long the series ran in theaters, but basically, the scores mirrored the changes to popular music and film music.
When the series began, the scores by Frank Marsales, Norman Spencer, and Bernard Brown were heavily influenced by ragtime and foxtrot. By the time Carl Stalling arrived, the cartoons began to have jazz, big band, and swing-influenced soundtracks, with song cues accentuating the on-screen action more common. Milt Franklyn continued this tradition, albeit with a few less song cues and more experimentation in chords and instrumentation. His successor, Bill Lava, was clearly influenced by horror and crime drama films, and that was reflected in his cartoon scores. He also took influence from early rock 'n roll music, as heard in cartoons like "Banty Raids" and "Cool Cat".
Excuse Plot: With very few exceptions, Story is always a formality in the theatrical cartoons and amounts to little more than very basic set ups for each film. The conflict in the series peak year shorts are always a result of either an individual characters actions or friction between the characters personalities and very rarely from an outside conflict or influence. Chuck Jones stressed in his biography "Chuck Amuck" that the characters personalities were always given top priority over the stories;
"An idea has no worth at all without believable characters to implement it; a plot without characters is like a tennis court without players. Daffy Duck is to a Buck Rogersstory what John McEnroe was to tennis. Personality. That is the key, the drum, the fife. Forget the plot. Can you remember, or care to remember, the plot of any great comedy? Chaplin?Woody Allen?The Marx Brothers?"
Face Doodling: It's the theme of "Daffy Doodles": Daffy Duck travels throughout town painting moustaches on every advertisement he can find, until he finds Porky Pig as a policeman trying to catch him, after which he starts painting moustaches on him and everybody else in the city.
Fading into the Next Song: Bill Lava being fond of ending his shorts in the 1962-1964 era with an "E" note so that they could smoothly transition into the "Merrily We Roll Along" closing music, many of the episodes aired during that time do so.
Fake Rabies: In "The Waggily Tale", when Junior dreams he is a dog, his owner brushes his teeth with shaving soap, causing him to be mistaken for a mad dog.
In "Feed The Kitty," Marc Antony the bulldog sprays his mouth with whipped cream to pretend he has rabies in order to scare off his mistress and rescue Pussyfoot the kitten from a bowl of cookie batter. It doesn't work.
Falling Into Jail: In Hare Lift, Yosemite Sam bails out of the crashing aeroplane carrying his bag of stolen loot and laughing maniacally. He stops laughing as he lands in an open-topped car full of unamused police officers.
Family-Unfriendly Violence: Surprisingly and ironically, much less common than in other contemporaneous classic cartoon series, like Tom and Jerry. Any violence will tend to leave the recipient more dazed or angry than seriously hurt, and if the victim in question has fur or feathers, the only real damage they suffer is losing said fur or feathers.
Sometimes this would happen off-screen. For example, in "Knights Must Fall," we never see the immediate impact of Bugs crashing into those knights with his iron armor (we just hear the raucous and witness the judges' reactions to it). However, the end of the cartoon shows him managing a used armor dealership, which includes his nemesis' armor, so we can assume he either killed all those knights or they were forced to turn in their armor after losing the joust.
Fatal Fireworks: In the Merrie Melodies cartoon "It's Hummer Time!" one of the punishments the dog gives the cat is "Happy Birthday," where the cat is given a birthday cake with firecrackers instead of candles and he must blow them out before they go off. Of course he doesn't succeed.
Wile E.: (to Bugs in "Operation: Rabbit") Allow me to introduce myself. My name is Wile E. Coyote, genius. I am not selling anything nor am I working my way through college. So let's get down to cases: you are a rabbit and I am going to eat you for supper. (Bugs feigns terror) Now, don't try to get away. I'm more muscular, more cunning, faster and larger than you are, and I'm a genius, while you could hardly pass the entrance examinations to kindergarten. (Bugs looks bored and yawns) So I'll give you the customary two minutes to say your prayers.
Bugs: I'm sorry, mack, the lady of the house ain't home. And besides, we mailed you people a check last week. (goes back down into his rabbit hole)
Wile E.: (walking back to his den) Why do they always want to do it the hard way?
Feuding Families: "A Feud There Was", "Naughty Neighbors", "Hillbilly Hare" and "Feud With a Dude".
Fire and Brimstone Hell: As seen in "Draftee Daffy", "Satan's Waitin'", "Devil's Feud Cake", an episode of "The Bugs Bunny Show", "The Looney Looney Looney Bugs Bunny Movie", "The Three Little Bops", and alluded to at the end of "The Hole Idea".
Friz Freleng's cartoons in general have this a lot (along with characters going to Fluffy Cloud Heaven), particularly the Censored 11 short, "Sunday Go To Meetin' Time," in which a lazy, black man named Nicodemus skips church and hits himself in the head while chasing a chicken, and finds himself in Hell for all of the sins he committed when he was alive (such as skipping church in favor of gambling, stealing chickens, stealing watermelon, and just raising hell [or "dickens", as the cartoon put it]).
"The Three Little Bops" uses it to turn the Big Bad Wolf from an anti-heroic wannabe to a smooth player:
Pig #1: The Big bad Wolf, he learned the rule
You gotta get hot to play real cool!
Flanderization: Different directors often focused on different aspects of a character, most notably with Daffy, Bugs, Elmer Fudd, and Porky.
Fluffy Cloud Heaven: A lot of Friz Freleng cartoons have this afterlife (and the fire-and-brimstone Hell) as a recurring setting for any character who dies or has a near-death experience (cf. "Sunday Go to Meetin' Time," "Satan's Waiting," "Back Alley Oproar"). Other directors have done this trope too, but Freleng deserves special mention for using it often.
Flynning: In "The Scarlet Pumpernickel", Daffy as an Errol Flynn-type swashbuckling action hero engages in this kind of sword duel with Sylvester as a Basil Rathbone-type villain.
Putty Tat Trouble concludes with Sylvester the cat and his rival in their respective apartments shivering and sneezing with their feet in washpans of hot water. Both cats had fallen through the ice on a frozen pond, courtesy of Tweety and his trusty ice pick.
Referenced in The Unmentionables; as Rocky and Muggsy prepare Cement Shoes for a blindfolded Bugs Bunny, he complains "Look, fellas, how many times do I have to tell ya? I haven't got a cold!"
Fractured Fairy Tale: Occurs quite frequently in the series; in fact, an entire disc in the Golden Collections (vol. 5, disc 2, to be exact) was devoted to cartoons about fairy tales with a twist. One of the earlier examples, though, was Tex Avery's "Little Red Walking Hood".
Franchise Killer: Believe it or not, this has happened to the series—as early as 1933, in fact. After Hugh Harman and Rudolph Ising left Leon's cartoon studio, he hastily hired a new team of crack animators, lead by director Tom Palmer, to rush out three new cartoons featuring his Expy of Bosko, the Talk-Ink Kid, Buddy. These new cartoons were so mediocre that Jack Warner himself rejected them all on sight, with Leon's studio on the verge of getting shut down. Thankfully, Leon got Friz Freleng to return to the studio and rework the rejected cartoons into one coherent cartoon, which thankfully saved this new studio from being killed before it even got off the ground!
The Friends Who Never Hang: Most of the cast have had a short together, sometimes leading to unique dynamics, however, due to some being director specific, a few key stars have not interacted. Special "all star" projects such as the live action movies and The Bugs Bunny Show remedied a few of these.
Funny Animal: Duh. All of them (excluding the human characters, like Elmer Fudd and Yosemite Sam)
Funny Foreigner: Pepé Le Pew, Speedy Gonzales, and, to a lesser extent, Foghorn Leghorn (with his Southern accent) and Bugs Bunny (with his New York accent), for those who aren't originally from America.