When I think about the various influences on my writing, some of them are obvious. Monty Python, Douglas Adams, Mad Magazine, the Goons. Tolkien, Lewis, Gaiman, Le Guin. These ones come up without a lot of thought. When your writing sits on the border between fantasy and comedy, there are a few very clear touchstones. But others require a little more thought.
One influence that isn’t immediately obvious is the old Warner Brothers cartoons. The classic Looney Tunes and Merrie Melodies featuring Bugs Bunny, Daffy Duck, Porky Pig et al.
I love those old cartoons. I love the sense of madness and anarchy that underpins them. I love their creativity and inventiveness, and how they can subvert the everyday and take you off into paths you never expected. I love the broad range of characters, each so clearly captured in appearance, animation, and voice. I love the attention to detail and the many small touches that only become apparent on repeated viewings.
Many years ago, I did a class on writing for animation, and the teacher explained something of the genesis for these cartoons. Apparently, those high up in the Warner Brothers world held little regard for the work of their animators, so they were pushed way out to the farther reaches of the studio. The upside of this was that they had a high degree of independence, while their outsider status allowed them to generate an attitude of caring little for what others thought about what they did – a great recipe for real creativity.
If there is any character within the WB world that really epitomises that feeling of being an outsider, it would have to be Daffy Duck. I was always more of a Daffy than a Bugs man. Bugs always struck me as being a bit smooth and smarmy. Daffy, on the other hand, was someone I could relate to. Always trying to be accepted and trying to be a success, but never quite sure how to go about it and expending all of his (apparently unlimited) energy in the least effective ways. Sounds a lot like me.
One of the most iconic moments in the WB cartoons is the scene where Bugs is trying to convince Elmer Fudd it’s duck season while Daffy is trying to convince him it’s rabbit season. Of course, Bugs’s tricks win the day and it’s poor Daffy who ends up getting his beak shot of in a variety of inventive ways. When I watch that scene, my sympathy hovers between perpetual fall guy Daffy and the utterly clueless Elmer. Like Elmer, I often feel myself being pulled in multiple ways, never quite sure what decision I should make.
As a writer, I gain a lot of inspiration from those old cartoons. Partly, it’s because of the madcap humour, that I try to capture in my own stories. Also, as an independent writer, I feel like a bit of an outsider trying to buck the system. We’ll see how we go with that. Because it may be rabbit season or duck season, but in my world it’s always writing season.
Quick addendum – an important announcement
I’m excited to announce that my new picture book, Bella and the Blue Genie will be officially released next Monday (May 7).
In anticipation, the kindle addition is already available for pre-order on Amazon.
So there’s no need to wait for the official release date – feel free to do your self a favour and grab a copy now.
Posted by Jonathan Gould and tagged as