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Western Animation / A Tale of Two Kitties

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"A Tale of Two Kitties" is a 1942 Merrie Melodies cartoon, directed by Bob Clampett. It is notable as being the debut film of Tweety Bird., then known as Orson.

The plot is centered on two cats, Babbitt and Catstello, who are looking for something to eat, and they decide to target a seemingly harmless baby bird resting high up in a nest in a tree. However, it quickly turns out that the seemingly innocuous bird is smarter than he lets on, and he actively fights back against the cats, while the duo continue to banter with each other along the way.

The cartoon is in the public domain and can be seen here.

Not to be confused with the 1996 Good Housekeeping animated film A Tale of Two Kitties, nor the film Garfield: A Tale of Two Kitties, nor a T.U.F.F. Puppy episode of the same name.


"A Tale of Two Kitties" provides examples of:

  • All There in the Script: Before officially being named "Tweety Pie", the model sheets for the little baby bird in this short have him named "Orson".
  • Anvil on Head: Tweety throws a rope for Catstello to climb up, but it's tied to an anvil which is then pulled off the roof and onto Catstello's head.
  • Bowdlerization: When this short aired on The WB, Catstello' line after Babbit says, "Gimme the bird! Gimme the bird!" — "If the Hays Office would only let me, I'd give 'im the bird alright!" — was cut, due to being a reference to Flipping the Bird.
  • Breaking the Fourth Wall: When Tweety is shooting down Catstello, he briefly pauses the action to ask the audience "Is there an insurance salesman in the house?"
  • Cheated Angle: As pointed out here, Catstello's fall onto the roof is cheated so that instead of directly falling on top of it, he's flying towards the roof from an odd angle so as to give more visual impact, since the scene moves fast enough that the audience wouldn't notice the cheated perspective.
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  • Dodge by Braking: When Catstello is falling, he's on course with a pitchfork. At the last moment, he stops in midair, sidesteps, and instead lands on Babbitt.
  • Dope Slap: Babbitt gives one to Catstello after rescuing him (while Catstello thinks he's still up on the makeshift stilts).
    Catstello: "Help! Save me, help!" (realizes Babbitt is holding him) Hey, how'd you get all the way up here?" (Babbitt slaps him)
    • And another one after he failed yet again to catch Tweety.
    Babbitt: (hitting Catstello) Why do you do these things?
    Catstello: I'm a baaaaaaaad pussycat.
    [Babbitt slaps Catstello in the back of the head.]
  • Early Installment Weirdness: Tweety actively fights back against the cats in this cartoon, unlike his future encounters with Sylvester. He's also a pink, featherless baby bird, unlike his standard yellow feathered appearance (the latter change was made due to the Hays Office discovering that Tweety's pink body made him look naked, which does seem like a ridiculous change...until you learn that the bird's pinkness was inspired by Bob Clampett's baby pictures).
  • Hypocritical Humor: Babbitt orders a reluctant Catstello to catch the bird, but he doesn't want to harm it. When Babbitt tells him it's only a "tiny little bird", Catstello suddenly screams with determination and makes it personal.
  • Is There a Doctor in the House?: When Catstello is being gunned down by Tweety, he briefly pauses the action to ask the audience if there's an insurance salesman in the theater.
  • Jump Cut: The part where Catstello is falling towards a pitchfork and the camera cutting back and forth between his reactions and the fork has very fast cutting, with some shots barely lasting a few frames on screen. The dramatic, action like cutting all builds up to the punchline where Catstello halts himself in midair to step aside and land safely on top of Babbitt.
  • Larynx Dissonance: When Tweety yells at the cats to turn out the lights in the end, his voice goes from a cutesy falsetto to a loud, deep voice.
  • No Celebrities Were Harmed: Babbitt and Catstello are parodies of Abbott and Costello. Catsello even uses a paraphrase of Lou's "I'm a baaad boy!" catchphrase.
  • No Name Given: Despite being the debut of Tweety Bird, he is unnamed in the cartoon.
  • Pain-Powered Leap: When Catstello was having a difficult time climbing the ladder, Babbitt got him up it with a needle in tuckus.
  • Plummet Perspective: Catstello falls onto the barnhouse roof and then off of it in this perspective.
  • Public Domain Animation: The cartoon's copyright wasn't renewed, so it's a Public Domain staple.
  • Punny Name: Catstello is an portmanteau of Cat and (Lou) Costello.
  • Shout-Out: The title is a play on A Tale of Two Cities.
  • Think of the Censors!:
    Babbitt: Give me the bird! Give me the bird!
    Catstello: If da Hays Office would only let me, I'd give him the boid, alright.
  • "Too Young to Die" Lamentation: As Catstello thinks he's about to fall off the stilts, he shouts "I'm too young to die!"
  • Visual Pun: When Catstello is launched into the air, flying with makeshift wings, he calls to Babbitt that he's a Spitfire (plane), and proceeds to spit like he's shooting a machine gun.
  • Wartime Cartoon: The cartoon was made during World War II, so there's a couple topical references to it. Catstello imitates a spitfire airplane, and Tweety puts on a air raid helmet and sicks anti-aircraft weaponry on Catstello to shoot him down. At the end, Tweety Bird yells at Babbitt and Catstello to "TURN OUT THOSE LIGHTS!" Also, Babbitt is tending a victory garden in one scene and whistles a couple notes of the wartime song "We Did It Before (And We Can Do It Again)".