Friday, July 4, 2008

Everyone loves Gossamer

Animator Chuck Jones introduced the monster character in the 1946 film Hair-Raising Hare. In it, Bugs Bunny is lured to the lair of a mad scientist who wants to use the rabbit for his experiments. The monster (unnamed here) serves as the scientist's henchman. Part of this plot was repeated in the 1952 Jones short Water, Water Every Hare, in which the character was referred to as "Rudolph". The monster would remain dormant for many decades until Jones used the character once more in Duck Dodgers and the Return of the 24 1/2th Century in 1980. This is the first cartoon where the character is called "Gossamer", and is so named by Marvin the Martian. Jones gave the monster this name "because he's the opposite looking of gossamer. He's a big hairy thing."
The character is a hairy, red monster. His rectangular body is perched on two giant tennis shoes, and his face, which resembles a heart shape, is composed of only two oval-shaped eyes and a wide mouth, with two hulking arms ending in dirty, clawed fingers. The monster's main trait, however, is bright red hair. In fact, a gag in the 1980 short Duck Dodgers and the Return of the 24½th Century lampoons this by revealing that Gossamer is, in fact, composed entirely of hair. He was originally voiced by Mel Blanc and has been voiced by Joe Alaskey and Jim Cummings.

Gossamer has also appeared in a cameo role in a number of recent Warner Bros. productions. He appeared in 1990s episodes of Tiny Toon Adventures, for example ("Duck Treck"), and he appears briefly in the 1996 movie Space Jam. He has also featured in a number of episodes of The Sylvester and Tweety Mysteries. He was also the boss of the "Haunted Castle" level in the Looney Tunes video game Taz: Escape from Mars. He was a boss in Taz: Wanted.

In recent years, Warner Bros. marketers seem to have seized upon the character. Gossamer's image is available on all sorts of Warners merchandise, from T-shirts to ballcaps to plush toys. This sort of marketing helped propel The Tasmanian Devil to newfound stardom, and it is seemingly helping Gossamer's popularity to some extent. It remains unclear whether Gossamer will become one of the more popular Looney Tunes characters, as has Taz, or if he will remain relatively obscure. In 2001 Gossamer returned in the Sheep Raider video game. He (or a descendant) also appears in the Loonatics Unleashed series as a wrestling rival for Slam Tasmanian named Gorlop, who hails from "the planet Gossamer". A younger Gossamer appeared in an episode of Baby Looney Tunes as a helper in Pepe Le Pew's garden. He also appears in 2006 Bah, Humduck! A Looney Tunes Christmas as a Security Guard who has to work overtime without pay for greedy Daffy Duck.

A clip in the deleted scenes featurette on the Looney Tunes: Back in Action DVD features Gossamer being harassed by Kate Houghton (Jenna Elfman), suggesting that Gossamer was planned to make an appearance in the film, but it was deleted. However, a full look at this scene is not shown in the full deleted scenes clips on the DVD-ROM.

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