"I Think, Therefore I Ant."
The Secret Journals of Leon Schlesinger
Schlessinger was studio head and president of Warner Brother’s animation
division from 1937- 1946. A notorious gambler and drinker, Mr. Schlesinger is
reputed to have called the cartoons that he produced “trash” and generally took
a singular uninterest in the work created by his studios.
journals, long thought destroyed in the Acme Factory fire of 1949, were just
recently uncovered. The following are few of the more revealing excerpts...
PORKY’S CONTRACT CAPERS
contract renewal talks with Porky. Talk about your shit ways to start a day!
The pig’s still angry at me for giving Petunia the axe. But business is business
and that little piglet couldn’t act to save her greasy butterball ass. I don’t
know why the little oinker’s so upset. I mean it’s not like he was bonking her
or anything -- Porky’s little secret might fool the rest of America, but we know
which way the wind (that is to say, Porky), blows around here.
he’s also still pissed about the diet we put him on…. But, Jesus Christ,
something had to be done. The little fucker had gotten way too fat: Now don’t
get me wrong, I know fat is funny, but it can also be disgusting. And the pig
has really let himself go. For God's sake, you can see the lard sweating off
the pig in every one of his pictures.
Porky's 1st Toon "I Haven't Got A Hat"
boy comes into my office and shoots a nasty scowl at a picture of me and Daffy
at The Brown Derby that I have on my desk. Then he waddles over to a chair
and plunks his big bacon ass into it… I make a mental note to
call the cleaner’s the moment that fat boy leaves.
We stare at
each other in silence for a minute or so. I’m gazing into his snout and wishing
that he wore trousers, and he’s sort of twitching. I give him a look that says,
‘what’s on your mind?’
getting ready to speak when I beat him to the punch. “Porky, baby, you look
I tell him
the diet’s doing wonders for him and then inform him I only have a few minutes.
L-l-l-l-l-Leon,” he finally manages to sputter out… Now I know this cracks up
all of America, but personally, it drives me insane. Truth be told, if that
porcine puke wasn’t so popular, I’d have dumped him ages ago. No shit, there’s
something about that stutter that just gets under my skin.
“I’ve, l-l-l-looked over the co-co-con-con-paper work,” he tells me, “and I have
to admit I’m more than a little pe-pe-pe-perturbed.”
I look him
over with total disgust. I make sure he understands my look, plain and
simple. This little piggy would still be Leonard Cummings, and working at a
market in Iowa if it wasn’t for me. And although this son of a swine has the
nerve to talk money with me, to bitch about what I’m paying him, I’m not
Sure, I know
the people at Disney don’t have a lead pig and rumour is Porky’s being having
lunches with the beloved, drunken, fascist, Uncle Walt. But I know the Porkster,
better than anyone else. “Look Porky,” I grab a bottle and offer him a drink
that I know he’ll refuse, “if it were up to me, that number would be a lot
higher, hey you know I love you, chunky, but the fact is, well, you’re not our
number one star anymore.”
He’s offended by the truth; as a rule most pig actors are. He starts ranting
about Warner Brother’s being in the dumpster until he came along and how if it
wasn’t for him, yada yada yada... I admit he’s right about this and thank him
profusely for all he’s done for the studio. But I’m quick to remind him that
right now he’s our number three star.
casually mention a smelly skunk with all kinds of screen potential that our
talent scouts have been checking out – just to make him a little nervous. He
doesn’t flinch, I offer up a primo parking spot, all the slop he desires and
dinner with Lana Turner.
laughter sends shudders down my spine, so I decide to play my ace in the hole.
“Look, Pork, that’s the best I can do, if you don’t like it maybe you should go
I can see
his little pink pig eyes light up. Obviously
Walt’s offered up a sweet pot, but by my next sentence whatever hope he had is
all but a memory.
“I mean,” I
continue (it’s an idle threat but I know I’ve got him), “I’m sure there are
lots of studios interested in you. I can only hope that they’re as successful
as we have been at keeping your little, oh let’s call them, fruity extra
curricular activities, out of the press.”
suddenly gets agitated; he now accepts my offer of a drink. “You wouldn’t
d-d-d-d-d-d-d-d-d-d-dare!” he squeals.
I light up a
cigarette and smile.
intentionally,” I tell him, “but you know how it is. Stories get told; somehow
the press gets wind of it. And I don’t think Uncle Walt would take too kindly
knowing his new pig was a... set designer. In fact, I’m pretty sure he
disapproves of, or some might even say, positively detests, that kind of
For a second
or two I think he’s gonna start crying, I really hope not because I’m not in the
mood for a laugh. But he doesn’t… Instead, he looks at the contract and asks me
if that’s all I can offer.
that’s all Porky!” I tell him.
says, “has anyone ever told you that you’re a p-p-p-p-p-p-p-p-p-p-p-p-prick!”
I tell him
yes. He signs the contract and storms out. I have a quick drink, call the
cleaners, joke to myself about just taking Porky to them, and then go out for a
“THE QWACK FIEND”
you lined me up with gave me the clap!"
me a wacky smile; his eyeballs shoot out of his head, his jaw drops to the
ground then his body goes limp and forms into a little black puddle. Unable to
stop myself, I burst out laughing. Sure, I’ve been peeing shards of glass all
morning and my dick is in a frightful state, but that duck is so goddamned
succotash,” he cackles, “talk about your sour persimmons, hoo hoo hoo!”
I bust a
gut. By the time the duck’s helped me off the floor, all the while singing this
crazy, improvised song about venereal disease, my urge to ring his scrawny neck
worry, Leon, we’ve all been there before, lover boy.” He winks at me
mischievously and then reaches into his down and pulls out a card. “He’s a very
discrete physician, Leon, so don’t sweat it, cousin.”
exception of Daffy, I’ve always done my best to avoid having to deal with the
talent. Truth be told, they make me wanna puke. And as far as I’m concerned, at
7 minutes a flick, these frenetic actors always wear out their welcome.
is friends with the rabbit sends my head spinning… Still there’s
no accounting for tastes, and like I said, I really love this duck, warts and
Daffy says, a mouthful of gob spraying me in the face. “Come here,” he jesters
for me to move closer, I’ve already got my guard up when I notice the strange
and demented glint in my buddy’s eyes. He looks around the office in a paranoid
sort of way, making sure it’s just the two of us. He loudly whispers into my
ear, “I was wondering, about those little white goodies. Brother, they sure do
Before I can
say anything, he hops on an imaginary bicycle and begins riding it around the
office while the musical tune of “Merry Go Round Broke Down” begins
reverberating off my office walls.
I feel a
pang of sorrow in my heart.
tell him, “you don’t need that shit, hell, you’re funny enough.”
hops off the bike and in a lightning bolt his body is wrapped around my head.
Now he’s draped in a tuxedo jacket and tails, his hair done up like some great
French lover, “Be quiet Cheri,” he croons, French accent and all. “Don’t be
afraid for Daffy, he knows exactly what he’s doing. Take me to the casaba; we
will make beautiful musique together.” He starts kissing my forehead
I try and
pull him off me, but of course, his body just keeps stretching. Finally with all
my might, I fling him off of myself and watch in amazement as he does a great,
‘duck bouncing off the walls,’ routine….
Daffy nuttiness. Suddenly, out of nowhere, the soundtrack for, “Freddie The
Freshman,” comes up and Daffy’s wearing a Yankees uniform and is winding up to
pitch one to me.
“It’s all up
to you, DiMaggio, we need you to score for ol' Daffy.” Well I swing at it with
the bat that has mysteriously appeared in my hand (that duck is pure magic I
tell you) And the next thing I know the duck is fielding the ball and telling me
to go for home plate. “Slide DiMagio, slide!” `he roars. Once again, somehow,
I’m caught up in his crazy world.
bumps on my noggin and one explosive cigar, I’m making a phone call for him… Now
that the duck knows he’s getting what he wants he relaxes and plunks himself
down on my desk in a provocative pose, but I can see he’s hurting.
pass and he starts acting more than a little screwy. He begins pacing back and
forth, wearing a hole into my floor, then he starts walking on the walls and
defacing my pictures. He paints a moustache on a picture of my mother. He starts
ranting, real crazy like.
“Not bad for
a kid who never took a lesson, eh Leon? Eh Leon? EHH LEON???? EHHHHH LEON? HOO
HOO HOO HOO HOO!!! HOW MUCH LONGER? HOW MUCH LONGER?”
I try and
keep him settled with scotch and cigarettes but it’s a tough business. Secretly
I worry about the potential damage this crazy duck could do to the studio. The
last thing I want is to see the messed up mallard getting dragged out in a
hospital stretcher on his way to the nut house -- unless, of course, it’s in one
of my pictures.
cigarettes, six bottles of scotch, and a couple of minutes later, I notice he’s
staring to shake in a cold sweat. Things are starting to go beyond funny. He’s
desperate for the drugs, I’ve seen the look before. He spends the next fifteen
minutes on the phone berating his agent, I can hear the guy crying over the
extension. Thankfully, before Daffy can start in on his agent’s wife’s physical
shortcomings there’s a knock at my door and the qwacked fiend will finally be
getting what he needs.
million, Leon,” he says, then plants me a big wet one on the lips and casually
exits, leaving me to pay up on his account.
About a half
an hour later I'm just about to go out for lunch when my secretary bursts into
my office and tells me that Mel Blanc has just found Daffy in the men’s room.
The fucking duck is lying in his vomit with a syringe hanging out of his wing.
I tell her
I’ll handle it; find the card of the discrete doctor that Daffy gave me earlier
and start dialing.
THE RABBIT SEES RED
Starring Bugs Bunny
I had just
finished watching the dailies of the rabbit’s latest film and was feeling more
than slightly depressed, “Slick Hare” was destined to be yet another in the
string of hits that the rabbit had starred in. Bugs had moxy, he had ‘noive,’ he
had charisma, he had star power, he was making me a rich man, but I still
couldn’t escape the fact that I hated him…
any of my stars, more than anyone else in the world, I hated him. I hated his
cocky arrogance, I hated his ears, his Brooklyn accent, his meteoric rise to the
top and I hated his vegetarianism… I’m a meat and potatoes man and don’t trust
anyone who doesn’t feel the same way: Most of all though, I hated the fact that
I needed him.
sucking back some scotch in the hopes of improving my mood, when all of a sudden
the door swings open and in he walks like he owns the place. Now under any
other circumstances, I’d nail the bastard who had the gall to just sashay in
without an appointment, but with the bunny...well, things were different with
him. I always felt that he knew it pissed me off that he could get away with
this type of behavior, and was sure that that was the main reason he acted this
way. Without even asking, he wanders over to my desk, pours himself a large
drink, opens a gold cigarette case, produces a carrot and begins chewing on it,
the sound of his crunching on the thing annoyed me, but what annoyed me even
more was the fact that I knew the next word’s out of his mouth.
“Eeeh, what’s up, shit for brains?’
I rub my
hand deep into my face and once again secretly wish that once, just once, Elmer
would get it right and blow the fucking rabbit’s nuts off.
Bugs,” I falsely laugh, hoping that whatever crap it is he has to spew is over
with quickly. He pours himself another drink and reaches into his cigarette
case, I emit a low groan and he returns it with a sour look.
“So what can
I do for you?” I ask.
the dailies?” He scratches himself idly, all the while looking incredibly
“Yes, yes, I
saw the dailies...” I try to leave it at that, but he gives me a look that says,
‘and?’ so, knowing his massive ego I follow with, “good work, very funny stuff.”
The goddamned rabbit sneers, “Good, Leon?” he says with a familiarity I find
offensive, “Good? What are you some kind of wise guy? This was some of me best
work. Why I’m sure to get the Academy Award for this one… And you...”
great Bugsy,” I say, knowing he hates the nickname, but before he can interject
I follow with, “some of your best work, truly inspired; that coconut pie routine
with Elmer, gosh, it was still funny the fifth time you did it.”
He chews on
his lip, not sure whether I’m being sarcastic or not, then decides to let it go.
think of Bogey?”
my heart sinks. Bogey in a Bug’s film... How could he? My favorite actor in
the world; a guy I’d give me left nut to produce, and here he is in a bunny
film. To make matters worse, not only is Bogey friends’ with the rabbit, but he
thinks he’s a comic genius. Bogey idolizes the rabbit, the way I idolize Bogey,
it’s just not fair, damn it! “He was great.” I manage to mumble.
“But not as
great as me, right, Leon?” The vermin baits me.
not as great as you.” I get ready for the drill.
“And why is
that, beaver puss?”
you’re the greatest talent in all of Hollywood, Bugs. There’s no one who can top
you.” The words make me gag, I reach over for my bottle and notice a tingling in
my left arm; it feels like little animated kittens licking at my veins. Even a
heart attack, I think to myself would be better than another five minutes with
this offensive, egomaniacal rodent.
right. Now listen prune face,” the rabbit says, suddenly all business, “I ain’t
working for McKimson anymore, you got that Leon? The guy’s a hack, he’s
holding me back, he makes me look offensive. That guy has no sense of the comic
poetry that is Bugs Bunny.”
poetry! This was a new angle. “Look, Bugs,” I can hear the pleading in my voice
and it makes me hate myself.
“Shut up you
maroon, and listen to this!” The rabbit pauses for a second, and then lets go
with one of the loudest and ungodliest sounding farts I’ve ever heard. “Boy,
ain’t that stinker?” He chuckles balefully, and I have to agree, the room is
suddenly over powered with the scent of noxious bunny fumes.
I can feel a
vein on my forehead, it’s pounding to get out of my skull, and I once again
relive all the indignities this lousy rodent has put me through...
gag-fest of joy buzzers and handshakes; the burning pokers up my butt; the wet
kisses on the mouth, it was an insult, I knew it. Then there were my suspicions
that he was sleeping with my wife, not to mention the fact that I was convinced
it was him who had removed the brakes from my car.
little hot under the collar, fat boy,” Bugs chortled.
I turned my
attention back to this fucking loathsome piece of shit and took a full spray of
seltzer in the face, completed with the smashing of the bottle on my noggin. I
had it, I’d never liked the little pellet dropping asshole to begin with, and it
was time to tell him as much. I’d let him know what I really thought of him
(even though I was sure he suspected it all along) and his raging ego. I’d
tell him the academy thought he was a joke, and that he’d be long dead before he
ever won an Oscar. I’d confess my secret loathing about his need to do
drag, and tell him how much it sickened me. As far as I was concerned he was a
sexual weirdo who got off on it; in fact I wouldn’t be surprised if he was
wearing a bra and panties even as we spoke.
I’d remind him of his reluctance to join in on the propaganda films, of his
Nazi sympathizing past, his socialist background, his cowardice to take a stand
and what a hypocrite he was…
And then, in
my greatest moment of triumph, I’d kiss him square on the lips and tell him
about the latest project I had in store for him; I called it, ‘The Pregnancy
I wanted to
say all of that, but all I could manage was, “You’re fired.”
“Oh, a power
struggle eh?” the rabbit didn’t flinch. “Okay, Leon.” He waltzed (literally)
to the door, turned back, gave me an evil smile and said, “Of course you know,
this means war.”
I heard the door
slam behind him: a loud echoing boom that shattered every piece of glass and
knocked over every book in my office. The light from above me crashed onto my
head… it was only natural it should, of course…
A couple of hours
later I was told I was wanted upstairs, I didn’t bother going. Once the rabbit
had declared war, I knew it was over.
"And that's that..."
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