"The Looney Tunes Taz
bears little resemblance to the real-life Tasmanian Devil of Australia!
He does, though, eat like
- W.J. Flywheel, Webporium
Tasmanian Devil, often referred to as "Taz", is an
animated cartoon character featured in the Warner Bros. Looney Tunes
series of cartoons. The character appeared in only five shorts before
the Warner Bros animation studio closed down, but marketing and
television appearances later propelled the character to new
popularity in the 1990s. Today Taz is one of the most recognizable
members of the Looney Tunes roster.
Robert McKimson based the
character on the real-life Tasmanian devil of Australia, though the
most noticeable resemblance between the Australian mammal and
McKimson's creation is their ravenous appetites. Whirling like a
tornado that sounds like several motors whirring in unison, The Devil
devours everything, animate or inanimate, and his efforts to find
more food are always a central plot device of his cartoons.
In fact, this appetite
serves as the impetus for McKimson's "Devil May Hare"
(first released on June 19, 1954). In the short, the Devil stalks
Bugs Bunny, but due to his dim wits and inability to frame complete
sentences, he serves as little more than a nuisance. Bugs eventually
gets rid of him in the most logical way possible: matching him up
with an equally insatiable female Devil. The character's speech,
peppered with growls, screeches, and raspberries, is provided by Mel Blanc.
After the short entered
theaters, producer Edward Selzer, head of the Warner Bros. animation
studio, ordered McKimson to shelve the character since it was
"too obnoxious". After a time with no new Devil shorts,
however, Jack Warner asked what had
happened. He then saved Taz's career when he told Selzer that he had
received "boxes and boxes" of letters from people who liked
McKimson would go on to
direct four more Tasmanian Devil cartoons, beginning with Bedevilled
Rabbit (released on April 13, 1957). The she-devil returns in this
cartoon, now as Mrs Tasmanian Devil, but Taz's romantic feelings for
her prove to be his Achilles heel when Bugs uses a sexy female-devil
costume to deliver some explosives to him. McKimson would also pair
the Devil with Daffy Duck in "Ducking the Devil" (August
17, 1957) before pitting him once again against Bugs in Bill of Hare
(June 9, 1962) and Doctor Devil and Mister Hare (March 28, 1964).
Warner Bros. closed its animation studio in 1964, the Tasmanian
Devil would remain a nostalgic favorite for many filmgoers. The
character also gained new fans when the Looney Tunes shorts entered
television syndication. In the late 1980s and early 1990s, Warner
Bros. marketers seized upon this, and through their efforts,
catapulted the character, now dubbed "Taz", to even greater
popularity. Today, Taz is one of the most recognizable Looney Tunes
stars, and his image appears on more merchandise than many more
prolific Warners characters such as Porky Pig and Elmer Fudd.
popularity would pay off for Taz in Warner Bros. television
animation. For example, his miniature understudy, Dizzy Devil, is a
recurring character in the Fox TV series, Tiny Toon Adventures, which
debuted September 14, 1990. Then on September 7, 1991, Taz got his
own show, Taz-mania, which ran for three seasons on Fox. The show
recasts the Devil as a dim-witted teenager (voiced by Jim Cummings)
who lives in a warped 1950s-era sitcom household. Taz now has an
angsty teen sister, a rambunctious little brother, a June
Cleaver-esque mother, and a nonchalant father (based on Bing Crosby).
In the 1996 film Space Jam, Taz was voiced by Dee Bradley Baker.
In the late 1990s and early
2000s, Taz was used extensively in Chevrolet Monte Carlo
advertisements, intended to show the dual nature of the personal
sports coupe. The ads used the tagline - "The side you show the
world is up to you." On September 7, 2002, an infant version of
Taz premiered as one of the regulars of the Baby Looney Tunes series.
The infant version of him was voiced by Ian James Corlett. Most
recently, he has had guest spots in Looney Tunes: Back in Action
(2003) (where he was voiced by the main actor in the movie, Brendan
Fraser) and two episodes of Duck Dodgers.