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Animating Music: Carl Stalling's Golden Age

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

From 1936 to 1958, composer Carl Stalling wrote about 600 musical scores for Merrie Melodies and Looney Toons shorts. The arsenal at his command was impressive, including a 60-piece orchestra and his own encyclopedic knowledge of music history. Cartoons – and kids – were never the same. We discuss Stalling’s life and legacy with conductor George Daugherty of the “Bugs Bunny on Broadway” concerts. Plus: WQXR host Jeff Spurgeon highlights classical moments in Stalling’s work. 


George Daugherty and Jeff Spurgeon

Comments [13]

Dunn from NYC

I learned the song "The Daughter Of Rosie O’Grady" (1917) by watching Bug Bunny sing it in a 1940s cartoon I watched on a b&w TV set in the mid-70s.

Aug. 26 2011 08:30 PM
Diana from Detroit, MI

Thanks so much for this broadcast! I do believe watching Loony Tunes influenced my decision to start my musical career, although as a child, I didn't think much of it. Hearing the wonderful music of Brahms, Wagner, etc. brought so much joyous memories. Who'd thought classical music can be so funny!

Aug. 25 2011 02:46 PM
Sandra from San Francisco

Thank you for the most interesting and informative segment. Thanks also to Maestro Daugherty for keeping the Stalling legend alive for future music loving generations. Never ''Kill the Wabbit''.

Aug. 24 2011 02:41 PM

i wonder, how many people had their "classical bug", awakened by looney tunes? i imagine, that it has alot to do with the individual, and the enviornment in which they grew up.

Aug. 24 2011 02:32 PM
Frank Stevens

Thanks to Robert Clampett's "Corny Concerto" Looney Tune, I'll never hear J. Strauss' "Blue Danube" without 3/4 timed quacks in my head.

Aug. 24 2011 02:26 PM
Zachary from Manhattan

The fact that each short had its own original score is simply astounding. Cartoon music has all but disappeared. I remember The Batman cartoon in the early 90s (also from Warner Bros) had a full orchestral score for almost every episode, composed by Shirley Walker. I shudder to think of the music in modern cartoons. Carl Stalling and Milt Franklyn were gods elevating the cartoon to high art.

Aug. 24 2011 02:23 PM
Nick from UWS

Warner Brothers cartoons had one focus: to make you LAUGH. They make me laugh as much today as they did when I was a kid.

I don't think I have ever laughed at a Disney cartoon.

Aug. 24 2011 02:22 PM
Wilma from The Bronx

I agree totally that so many people , myself included, got their first taste of the classics through Warners Brothers cartoons, and Carl Stallings' contributions were invaluable. However, please don't forget the contributions of Raymond Scott. Where would cartoon music be without
"Powerhouse " ?

Aug. 24 2011 02:22 PM

perhaps bugs bunny,taught a couple of generations, to be devious,petty, and manipulative...i'm being at least half serious,by the way...

Aug. 24 2011 02:21 PM
Nick from UWS

Carl Stalling was a great American genius. The pure hilarity of his work is unmatched.

Despite Disney's pioneering studio, Disney cartoons don't hold a candle to the great Warner Brothers cartoons of the 30s and 40s.

Those cartoons were so hilarious, so full of adult references and double entendre, so unafraid to be ugly or grotesque or violent, and chock full of GREAT music. They were also drenched in the sharp wisecracking attitude of New York and the East Coast, which, as a lifelong New Yorker, I deeply appreciate. Personally I find Disney to unwatchable, it is so sanitized and Polly Anna.

Aug. 24 2011 02:18 PM
Ty from Brooklyn

I always loved when Bugs sang what I can only assume were popular songs of the time, or humming a diddy when he popped out of the rabbit hole in Pismo Beach - "When the Swallows come back to Capistrano......"

Aug. 24 2011 02:15 PM
Siouxan from Bronx

In my humble opinion, Looney Tunes are the finest cartoons every made. On every level, sophistication, soundtrack, design and story line.

Favorite Bugs Bunny scene: parody of Sierra Madre. Humphrey Bogart approaches Bugs for a handout, Bugs Bunny makes like he's going for change and then spits "Hit da road!"

Aug. 24 2011 02:06 PM
Theresa from Brooklyn

I'm sure that Carl Stalling was a genius, and had a dream job for a composer/musician with a ripe sense of the ridiculous. Not only were his own contributions indelible, but his choices from the Warner Bros catalog (e.g. "Oh You Beautiful Doll" for Bugs in drag) and the classical world, were so right, and right-on. And how many music lovers of that generation owe their first taste of the classics to Stalling?

Aug. 24 2011 12:20 PM

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