Loopy de Loop: The Complete Collection
Review by KC Carlson
An extremely rare piece of Hanna-Barbera history was recently released from the Warner Archive. Loopy de Loop is frequently described as Hanna-Barbera’s “lost” character. He was a relatively long-running character (debuting in 1959 and ending in 1965), but unlike popular HB characters Huckleberry Hound, Yogi Bear, and The Flintstones — whose prime-time series ran approximately during the same time as Loopy’s run — you couldn’t see Loopy’s adventures on your television screen. Loopy de Loop cartoons were only shown in movie theaters, most likely only in front of Columbia Studios releases.
By then, most of the major studios had already halted their theatrically released cartoons — or, like Disney, were rapidly winding down their production of shorts. Warner Bros. was still making Looney Tunes in the early 1960s, and DePatie-Freling (spinning off from Warner Bros.) would have a hit series with the Pink Panther cartoons starting in 1964, but except for an odd release here and there, the once thriving studio-driven theatrical cartoons had all left the theater and moved to television by the end of the 1960s. Loopy de Loop largely got left behind… and forgotten.
“Fe Fi Fo Foop, I smell the blood of Loopy de Loop!”
Barely mentioned in most animation histories (and, oddly, almost not mentioned at all in most books specifically about Hanna-Barbera), Loopy de Loop is animation’s lost… er… wolf. Sure, the cartoons were supposedly syndicated in 1969 (a bare-bones, detail-free IMDb page exists as a placeholder), but I’ve never seen them on TV. In fact, I’ve seen more Wally Gator, Touché Turtle, and Lippy the Lion and Hardy-Har-Har (other “famous” HB obscurities) cartoons on TV than I have of Loopy.
The Loopy de Loop series was Hanna-Barbera’s only theatrical series release of a regular character in the company’s history. Of course, Bill Hanna and Joe Barbera were no strangers to theatrical cartoons, having being the creators and directors of the popular and long-running (and multi-Academy Award-winning) MGM Tom & Jerry series. And HB did further animated theatrical feature releases — most notably Hey There, It’s Yogi Bear in 1964 and A Man Called Flintstone in 1966.
“My name is Loopy de Loop. I am honest, friendly, and charming!”
His trademark self-introduction, “I am Loopy de Loop, the good wolf,” tells us a lot. Unlike most stereotypical fictional wolves, known to be bad, evil, sneaky, ferocious… (there’s even a really annoying song about big and bad wolves, produced by another animation company), Loopy is kind, friendly, helpful, and a self-appointed good Samaritan. Or, as it’s frequently quoted in the cartoons themselves, he’s “kind, considerate, and charming.” For that, he is rewarded by the very people he helps by being run out of town or beaten up — just because he’s a wolf. (Kinda like a lot of Casper the Friendly Ghost cartoons, frankly.) His most prominent trait is his mangling of the English language in a very bad French-Canadian accent. Like most other Hanna-Barbera characters, he is naked (he’s a wolf after all…), except for a hat (a classic toque style, in this case), and something around his neck (here, an ascot).
There are a total of 48 Loopy de Loop cartoons on this two-disc DVD-R collection. That’s over five hours of Loopy de Loop cartoons. They are fun to watch in small doses, but I don’t recommend watching the entire set in one sitting!
Loopy mangling English: “You are making too much of the mischief!” “I le-goofed!”
Some of the things you will witness watching these cartoons include Red Riding Hood with a shotgun; Loopy thinking he is a dog after a visit to a psychiatrist; various ne’er-do-well wolves who do not like Loopy because he is nice; a walking egg with a shotgun; Loopy frequently being shot into space; Loopy attending a people party, where all the partygoers are apparently Peter Lorre, Ed Sullivan, Jimmy Durante, and Maurice Chevalier imitators; hipster wolves; elderly Musketeers; a horse that talks like Jimmy Durante; a huge tough-guy mouse; and a lot of John and Marsha references (a very popular Stan Freberg novelty single of the era). “Bear Hug” is a cartoon that I can’t even begin to describe. All my notes say are “weird-ass cartoon.” Perhaps I had been watching too long by then…
Quotes used as subheads in this article are actual quotes from the cartoons.
“With a mouse on my head, I guess there’s nothing to do but faint!”
Notable creators on the series include voice actors Daws Butler (who voices Loopy), Don Messick, Paul Frees, and Hal Smith. June Foray (Rocket J. Squirrel) and Jean Vander Pyl (Wilma Flintstone) provide practically all the female characters. Later in the series, both Janet Waldo (Judy Jetson) and Mel Blanc (do I have to tell you?) make cameo voice appearances, for all you completists out there.
The bulk of the cartoons are written by HB mainstays Warren Foster and Michael Maltese. The latter is best known for collaborating with Chuck Jones on some of Warner Brothers’ best (and favorite) cartoons, including Duck Dodgers, the Bugs/Daffy/Elmer hunting trilogy, “What’s Opera Doc?”, “Duck Amuck”, “Feed the Kitty”, “Bully for Bugs”, Robin Hood Daffy, and, of course, “One Froggy Evening”. His Loopy cartoons are the ones to watch for, as he does the most breaking of (or subverting) a lot of the series clichés. The overuse of fairy tale characters and too many “Loopy is a bad guy because he’s a wolf” misunderstandings are two major ones.
After Warner Brothers stopped producing new animation shorts, Maltese also had a very productive career at HB writing many of their classic early series, including The Quick Draw McGraw Show (featuring Snooper and Blabber and Augie Doggie and Doggy Daddy); Wacky Races; episodes of The Flintstones, The Jetsons, and Top Cat; and one of my personal favorites, The Impossibles (rock stars who were also superheroes fought completely wacked-out villains). Sadly, The Quick Draw McGraw Show is still not available on home video. Hint, hint, Warner Archive!
One of the more interesting things about the Loopy de Loop series is that since it was produced as a handful of individual cartoons over a number of years (as opposed to the usual series method of getting an order for a season of 13 half-hour episodes, and having them produced by the same creative team all in a short period of time), is that the animation and design of the series fluctuates quite a bit from cartoon to cartoon — further making it a unique Hanna-Barbera series.
“Congratulations, Loopy! You’ve got what it takes to be shot to the moon by amateurs!”
Since this is presented by Warner Archive (under the “Hanna-Barbera Classic Collection” banner), it has not been restored to the extent that the more popular (and first released) HB series were, but the occasional cartoon with some scratches or uncorrected color is a small distraction when opposed to not having these officially available. I’m happy to see Warner Archive dipping more into the early 60s HB material, and I encourage them to do more and for you to purchase them. My personal wish list: Ruff and Ready, the aforementioned Quick Draw McGraw Show, Wally Gator, Touché Turtle, Lippy the Lion and Hardy Har-Har, Atom Ant, and Secret Squirrel. (The studio provided a review copy.)