Rare sight of a funny animal packing heat. Artist: Vince Fago. (Sourpuss in front; Gandy Goose behind.)

SOURPUSS

Original Medium: Theatrical animation
Produced by: Terrytoons
First appeared: 1939
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Terrytoons was the shabbiest of the 1930s cartoon producers, and from Farmer Alfalfa to Kiko the Kangaroo, it had the shabbiest cartoon stars — not that the studio's output tended to have stars at all. A pessimistic cat, whose laughs came largely from contrasting his unpleasant view on life with the funny stuff all around …

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… him, was added to the mix on January 13, 1939, with the release of The Owl & the Pussycat.

Sourpuss came less than a year after Terrytoons had introduced Gandy Goose as an attempt to duplicate the success Warner Bros. had been having with Porky Pig for the past few years. Gandy was moderately successful for them, but didn't really take off until Sourpuss was added as his second banana. Apart, either of them was about as interesting as Puddy the Pup or Dimwit Dog; but together, Sourpuss's unpleasant demeanor contrasting with Gandy's cheerful effervescence, they came as close to a hit as the studio had had to date.

Both voices were provided by Arthur Kay, in his only cartoon roles — and among the few acting roles he ever had, of any kind. Kay was mostly a music man, composing and conducting for 20th Century Fox, which distributed the Terrytoons. The few times he appeared on-screen, he usually played just what he was, the leader of an orchestra.

For Gandy, Kay did an imitation of actor Ed Wynn, whose own voice was heard in Disney's Alice in Wonderland. Sourpuss sounded like actor Jimmy Durante, the narrator of Rankin/Bass's Frosty the Snowman. It wasn't just Durante's voice that Sourpuss used. Animators also made an effort to capture Durante's style of movement.

Sourpuss made only the one cartoon without Gandy. The two met in G-Man Jitters, which came out less than two months later. That one went over so well, they were back together only a few months after that, in Hook, Line & Sinker. Soon they were a regular team.

By 1942, when the company that is now Marvel licensed the Terry product for comic books, Gandy and Soupuss were so firmly together, they appeared together on the cover of the first issue. They were together in each inside story, too. Later, they appeared together in comics licensed by St. John (Baby Huey, Little Annie Rooney) and Pines (Supermouse, Jetta of the 21st Century).

It was in the early 1950s that Terrytoons underwent the upheaval of founder Paul Terry selling out and new management being brought in, which resulted in the demise of formerly established stars like Dinky Duck and The Terry Bears. The last Gandy & Sourpuss cartoon (and hence, the last one with Soupuss in it at all) was Barnyard Actor, which came out in 1955. Altogether, Sourpuss appeared in about 2½ dozen cartoons.

Decades later, they were brought back, at least briefly. Animation mogul Ralph Bakshi (American Pop, Fritz the Cat), who got his start at Terrytoons, returned to the characters in the late 1980s produce Mighty Mouse, the New Adventures for CBS. Gandy and Sourpuss appeared in one episode. But that's been their only appearance since the original cartoons ended.

— DDM

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Text ©2009 Donald D. Markstein. Art © Viacom, Inc.