Merlin the Magic Mouse and his second banana, Second Banana.

MERLIN THE MAGIC MOUSE

Medium: Theatrical animation
Released by: Warner Bros.
First Appeared: 1967
Creator: Alex Lovy
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Everybody knows Bugs Bunny, Daffy Duck, Porky Pig and other stars of the Golden Age of Warner Bros. cartoons. Even Pepe LePew, Speedy Gonzales, Foghorn Leghorn and other lesser …

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… lights of that era are pretty famous. The pre-Golden Agers, such as Foxy, Piggy and Buddy aren't so well known. More obscure yet are the "stars" of the post-Golden Age era — Cool Cat, Rapid Rabbit, Bunny & Claude and the like.

Merlin the Magic Mouse was one of these, created during the brief period when Alex Lovy (who also worked for the Hanna-Barbera and Walter Lantz studios) was in charge of the outfit. Merlin's first cartoon, appropriately titled Merlin the Magic Mouse, was released November 18, 1967.

Merlin was a "magic" mouse only in the sense that a stage magician performs "magic"; and in fact, a stage magician is what he was. He belonged to a waning breed of show business performers, the itinerant workhorses of the field, who wake up each morning in a seedy hotel room, ply their trade in seedy joints to bored and indifferent audiences, then move on to the next town, traveling any cheap way they can. Often, they have second bananas, who function as straight men, stage assistants or something like that. Merlin's was named, also appropriately, Second Banana.

In that first cartoon, voices for both Merlin and Second were provided by Daws Butler (Hokey Wolf, Lippy the Lion and a lot of better-known characters), who is probably the second-best-known (after Mel Blanc) voice artist in America. For the other four cartoons in the series, which came out between 1967 and '69, both voices were done by character actor Larry Storch, whose other voice credits include Koko the Clown and Tom Dracula. Both actors did Merlin's voice in the familiar style of W.C. Fields (who, to cite a toon connection for him, may very well have modeled his screen persona after Ally Sloper).

Merlin the Magic Mouse never became a comic book star like Donald Duck, a live-action movie character like George of the Jungle or a huge merchandising icon like Smurfs. Those five cartoons are all there is. But they're part of the Looney Tunes TV package, so he'll keep on getting at least a low level of exposure as long as Bugs, Daffy and Porky are on the air.

— DDM

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Text ©2006-07 Donald D. Markstein. Art © Warner Bros.