Like a tornado!
Welcome on the Tasmanian Devil's Spot...
Don't flee in terror before his insatiable hunger. He's such a jovial fellow...
The 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.
Creation and first appearance
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 the character.
McKimson would go on to direct four more Tasmanian Devil cartoons, beginning with Bedevilled Rabbit (relased 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).
Marketing and later years
After 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.
This late-blossoming 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. 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). On September 7, 2002, an infant version of Taz premiered as one of the regulars of the Baby Looney Tunes series. Most recently, he has had guest spots in Looney Tunes: Back in Action (2003) and on a 2004 episode of Duck Dodgers.