Claude Cat Page: The Films and Evolution of Claude Cat
Claude Cat, like so many of the Warner
Cartoon "minor" characters, has become larglely forgotten. For some
reason, Claude was just never made into a "star" character like Bugs
Bunny, or Wile E Coyote., or Tweety , or the more familair feline,
Chuck Jones , creator and director
of Claude, was a slow learner at the art of character creation early
in the early 1940's, and sort of limped along with a mouse character
called "Sniffles", who really had 3 traits that were used
interchangeably....cute, charming, or annoying. Sniffles, by the way, was
treated as a major star by the studio, promoted almost as much as Bugs
Bunny or Daffy Duck.
But what goes
overlooked about Jones in the early 1940's is that he DID have a character
besides Sniffles. In fact, he had several. Some lasted longer than others,
but they were still characters. A duo of dogs called the "Curious
Puppies" were his first non-Sniffles attempts, and for "slow and
subtle" and "frustration" humor, they were as good as they could be. But
what even the most perceptive cartoon watcher, even the historians and
experts, or maybe even Chuck Jones himself, fail to realize is that there
was a lot of potential in a small black housecat. This cat never really
had a NAME to speak of, but was undoubtedly a character. His first
appearance was basically in "Sniffles Bells the Cat"(1941), in which the
cat is so realistic in movement that he appears to have been rotoscoped
(traced from live action) but was not. The cat had little personality and
did not speak, but the design was there for a series of cat-oriented
cartoons featuring a neurotic little black house cat, that continued over
a period of about 4 years.
with "The Aristo-Cat", (1943), the character began to take off on his own,
given a neurotic personality and voice , (which obviously became
that of Claude), and sometimes just a sort of straight-man wherever a
housepet variety of one was needed. This cartoon was another landmark for
Chuck Jones, as it was the first appearance of the 2 mice Hubie and Bertie.
"Aristo-Cat"'s second appearance was "Fin & Catty" (1943),
where he said nothing of importance, just acted like a cat. Bob Clampett
used a cat remarkably similar to this character for his "an Itch in Time"
(also 1943) as an appalled onlooker to the chaos happening between Elmer
Fudd, a dopey dog, and a flea. In the end, kitty once again uses the
Claude cat voice, and says "now I've seen EVERYTHING!" and shoots himself
in the head..
The cat disappeared until
1945, when Jones used him again in "Odor-Able Kitty". He still had the
same voice, although this time he was a more humanized character, with a
light-orange fur color, and the same neurotic behavior. Unfortunately for
him , Pepe Le Pew came along, (his first cartoon) not only chasing but
upstaging the little guy. For a few more cartoons he settled down again,
got rid of the orange highlight in his fur, and became more like the
Clampett version of lazy onlooker.
brought the final revision to the "Aristo" cat character, making him into
a victim of Hubie and Bertie mouse's mind games. The next year a new
cat took his place, but only in outward appearance. "Mouse Wreckers"
(1948) introduced Claude Cat, a lazy, neurotic yellow cat named Claude
with a strange red hairdo.
FORMATIVE CLAUDE CAT
The formative Claude endured many subtle
makeovers throughout his 9- cartoon career, (such a limited amount of
cartoons may be the reason for his forgotten existence), and he ended up
becoming a perfect poster-cat for jealous rage. However, every one of
these films has something to like about it, and several of them have a
surprisingly dark undertone to them, a trait shared by a number of Jones'
films in the 1950's.
"Mouse Wreckers" (1949) finds
Claude at the mercy of Hubie and Bertie's relentless tricks, a concept
first explored in "Aristo Cat" and "Roughly Squeaking." In "Mouse
Wreckers", Claude stands between a warm house and two homeless mice....and
doesn't stand a chance. Hubie and bertie inflate him with an airpump, nail
the furniture and his bed to the cieling, and put aquariums in the windows
(to make it look like he's underwater.) Claude looks in the mirror,
wondering what's wrong with him, and takes pills. Ultimately, he runs away
screaming, cowereing in a tree in the back yard, leaving Hubie and Bertie
to roast marshmallows in the fireplace. "Hypo-Chondri-Cat"(1950) finds
Claude fearing for his life, as a hypochondriac on the verge of madness.
Hubie and Bertie notice his fear of disease and make him think he's
The same year, Chuck Jones began to
experiment once again, introducing the cat to Frisky Puppy, a little
terrier with a loud yip. Claude is once again terrified out of his mind.
But another element to Claude's personality is added here...jealousy.
Beginning with "Two's a Crowd" (1950) Claude becomes fiercely competitive.
He tries do get rid of Frisky, who has been brought into his happy home by
his owners. Predictably, he can't.
OF JEALOUS NATURE
neurotic and nervous phase was wrapped up for good in 1951's "Cheese
Chasers". Here, Hubie and Bertie try to commit suicide, in a plot
strikingly similar to Friz Freleng's 1945 cartoon "Life With Feathers",
which introduced Sylvester the cat.
That cartoon was his last with
Hubie and Bertie, as well as his last speaking role. Claude, for his last
cartoons, shut up and became a silent, vicious, jealous, evil character.
By far, his best performance ever in this phase was 1954's "Feline
Frame-Up," as he tries to make his owner think that Marc Anthony (the
bulldog from "Feed the Kitty", ) is trying to eat Pussyfoot, his pet
kitten. Marc Anthony gets thrown out of the house, and Claude steals his
soft pillow bed, (throwing Pussyfoot into a long-necked vase so he can't
escape). Marc Anthony gets his revenge on the mean cat, by making him
release Pussyfoot, sign a confession, and show that confession to the
owner. Claude gets tossed into the
Claude's cartoons are
underappreciated classics, they really show the talent of director Chuck
Jones, and are among the favorites of true Looney Tunes
Wreckers" (Hubie, Bertie)
"The Hypo Chondri-Cat" (Hubie,
"Two's a Crowd" (Frisky Puppy)
"Cheese Chasers" (Hubie,
Bertie, Marc Antony)
"Mouse Warming" (boy/girl mice)
Stricken" (Frisky Puppy)
"Feline Frameup" (Marc Antony,
"No Barking" (Frisky Puppy, Tweety)