EGGHEADMedium: Theatrical cartoons
Produced by: Warner Bros
First Appeared: 1937
Creator: Tex Avery
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It may seem a little odd that Egghead's first appearance is titled Egghead Rides Again. But when Tex Avery directs a picture, it's normal for things to seem a little odd.
That Warner Bros. cartoon was released July 17, 1937. Its protagonist,
true to his name, had a head shaped just like an egg, with a large, egg-shaped, noticeably reddish nose attached. Actor Cliff Nazarro, who did the voice, isn't known for any other voice acting, making Egghead sound unlike any other cartoon character, before or since. (Nazarro did, however, have another toon connection — he played Barney Google in Hillbilly Blitzkrieg, a 1942 live-action comedy short about Snuffy Smith in the World War II U.S. Army.)
Egghead was back four months later in Little Red Walking Hood, Avery's first (of many — the best-known is Red Hot Riding Hood) deconstruction of a classic children's story. Or was he? Some modern scholars point to a few small differences in design (unabashedly bald, whereas Egghead wore a hairpiece, squint-eyed as opposed to Egghead's widely open eyes, and a few others), to support a contention that this is actually the first appearance of Elmer Fudd.
It's widely believed that Egghead gradually metamorphosed into Elmer, but the facts are more complicated than that. Warner Bros. was promoting and merchandising both Egghead and Elmer, as brothers. The fact that they talked the same, acted the same and looked almost the same didn't keep them from being two separate characters. Assuming the promotion and merchandise represented "reality", whatever that means when applied to cartoon characters, Egghead appeared in only three more cartoons — Daffy Duck & Egghead, A-Lad-in Bagdad (no relation) and Count Me Out, all of which came out in 1938. The last two were directed by Ben "Bugs" Hardaway (the guy Bugs Bunny is named after) and his partner on many cartoons, Cal Dalton. The Egghead-like Elmer was in another seven, all by Avery.
Since Egghead and his alleged brother never appeared in the same cartoon, and since Elmer's name was used almost exclusively in promotion, merchandising and production (it appeared on the screen only once, on the side of a vehicle in A Feud There Was, also from 1938), many cartoon watchers think it more expedient to consider them the same character, at least before the modern form of Elmer appeared. It's also convenient to call him Egghead, whatever the off-screen materials say.
Whoever he was, he was a very eccentric little guy — which may have been his downfall, as audiences seem to have found him too eccentric to relate to very closely. In some of his later cartoons, he functioned merely as a running gag, on stage for only a few seconds at a time, for example when he repeatedly tormented a caged lion in A Day at the Zoo, or asked if it was time to do his big scene yet in The Isle of Pingo Pongo. That's the way he was handled in his final appearance, Believe It Or Else, a Ripley parody, which was released June 3, 1939.
Nine months later, the "real" Elmer Fudd appeared. He'd been re-designed completely, tho he still maintained a few elements of Egghead's appearance (e.g., short stature, bald head, oddball clothing). He acted different, too — less of a weirdo and more of a wimpy simpleton. And his voice was very different.
After that, neither Egghead nor his nearly identical brother ever appeared in another cartoon.