Sylvester James Pussycat, Sr. is a tuxedo cat who appears in several Looney Tunes cartoons, often chasing Tweety, Speedy Gonzales, or Hippety Hopper. When depicted with an owner he is mainly with Granny, but very early he was with Porky Pig. Sylvester appeared in 103 golden age shorts, making him the fourth most frequent character, after Bugs Bunny, Porky Pig, and Daffy Duck.
Sylvester predecessors appeared from 1939-1944. Naughty but Mice was the first. Notes to You was remade in color in one of Sylvester's cartoons, Back Alley Oproar. The Hep Cat features another version, as well as Birdy and the Beast, which features Tweety Bird. Before Sylvester's appearance in the cartoons, Blanc voiced a character named Sylvester on The Judy Canova Show using the voice that would eventually become associated with the cat.
Personality and Pride
Sylvester shows much pride and plenty of envy, and he also never gives up. Despite his pride and persistence, Sylvester was definitely on the "loser" side of the Looney Tunes winner / loser hierarchy. His character is that of Wile E. Coyote, except that ironically Road Runner and Wile E. Coyote as well as Sylvester/Tweety are parodies of a predatory cat and mouse pairing, foreshadowing his future pairing with Speedy Gonzales.
In The Wild Chase, Sylvester is paired with Wile E. Coyote while they both try to catch Speedy Gonzales and Road Runner. As usual they both fail. He shows a different character when paired with Porky Pig in explorations of spooky places, in which he doesn't speak, as a scaredy cat. (In these cartoons, he basically plays the terrified Costello to Porky's oblivious Abbott.)
Sylvester's most developed role is as a hapless mouse-catching instructor to his dubious son, Sylvester Junior, in which the "mouse" is a powerful baby kangaroo named "Hippety Hopper". His alternately confident and bewildered episodes bring his son to shame, while Sylvester himself is reduced to nervous breakdowns. He is often referred to as a putty tat by Tweety and Senor Gringo Pussygato by Speedy Gonzales. His famous catchphrase is "Sufferin' Succotash" which is said to be a minced saying for "Suffering Misses" (Daffy also says it from time to time).
Sylvester's trademark is his sloppy, yet stridulating lisp. In his autobiography, That's Not All Folks!, voice actor Mel Blanc stated that Sylvester's voice is based on that of Daffy Duck, plus the even more slobbery lisp it gets and minus the post-production speed-up that was done with Daffy's. Daffy's lisp, as well as Sylvester's, were based on the lisp of producer Leon Schlesinger. However, Blanc made no such claim. He said that Daffy's lisp was based on him having a long beak, and that he borrowed the voice for Sylvester. He also pointed out that, minus the lisp, Sylvester's voice was fairly close to his own (a claim that his son Noel Blanc has confirmed). In addition, director Bob Clampett, in a 1970 Funnyworld interview, agreed with Blanc's account concerning Schlesinger.
To emphasize the lisp, as with Daffy's catchphrase "You're desthpicable", Sylvester's trademark exclamation is "Sufferin' succotash!", which is said to be a minced oath of "Suffering Savior". (Daffy also says "Sufferin' succotash!" from time to time.)
In Naughty But Mice, Sniffles finds a claw vending machine and makes his way inside as something has grabbed his attention. The cat finds coins in a pocket (or at least somewhere in its fur) and tries to grab Sniffles. Eventually he succeeds and Sniffles, who had been oblivious to the existence of the cat, begins to get very scared. Fortunately for Sniffles, the razor wakes up and begins to attack the cat, shaving off the cats fur. The cat runs away.
In Notes to You, Porky tries to go to sleep, a cat starts singing on the fence in his backyard. Porky then starts throwing objects at the cat. Porky finally hits him with a vase after a few failed attempts. Porky shoots the cat with a gun killing him and a angels of cats starts singing in the end.
Old Woman's Cat
The Old Woman's Cat is a minor antagonist of the 1941 animated cartoon short The Cagey Canary (similar to its official successor Sylvester). he is also voiced by Mel Blanc.
In The Cagey Canary, a Cat tries to catch a Canary, but he is stopped by Granny and she threatens to throw him out in the rain. After many re-tricks, he fails. Finally the Cat is out in the rain with the Canary. This is the only cartoon where the cat has brown fur instead of black and white fur.
The Hep Cat
In The Hep Cat, a cat strolling through an abandoned lot. Unfortunately, he stumbles across a dog named Rosebud"—otherwise known by fans as Willoughby the Dog—who, upon noticing the cat, gives chase. The cat, after a successful escape, begins singing "Java Jive." Later, the cat encounters an attractive female cat, and attempts to woo her, failing utterly. Suddenly, Rosebud the dog reappears and the chase resumes. After a series of zany, Clampett-esque sight gags, the cat once again evades the dog. As the cartoon closes, the cat can be seen kissing his dream girl—a puppet.
In The Fifth-Column Mouse, the short begins with a pleasant group of mice enjoying various water sports in a kitchen sink. Lurking nearby is a sinister cat who gains the confidence of a dim-witted mouse. The cat persuades the unsuspecting rodent to tell the other mice to become the cat's slaves, and the cat promises a never-ending cheese supply in return. The mouse (who much more resembles a rat) follows the cat's orders, but he soon finds out the cat's true intentions—to make them his dinner. The mice then form a united alliance against the cat as both sides prepare for war. After battling the cat a cream is thrown at the mouse throwing him into the leg of the robot they built.
He bears a close physical resemblance to a prototype of Sylvester the Cat, albeit fatter and is less intelligent.
Tweety is sitting in his nest, when a cat watches him. Tweety flies off and the cat chases after him. The cat can't fly, so instead he falls to the ground. By chance he falls on a bulldog, called Butch, who decides to help Tweety.
The cat chases Tweety, but Tweety scares him off. Tweety fools the cat by hiding in Butch's dish. The cat comes in and starts looking at Butch's dish. Butch comes in and pounds the cat to the ground.
Tweety wanders into the Cat's mouth, while he is looking for Tweety. Tweety lights the cats tongue on fire by putting a match on it. As the cat runs, Tweety helps the cat by using a hose and putting the fire. When he fires the hose (wearing a fireman hat), it turns out to be connected to a gas can, and gasoline goes into the Cat's mouth, causing him to explode.
The cat survives, but he's still out to get Tweety. When he arrives at the top of tree, he becomes a nest. Tweety gets into it, but a hen who is laying eggs causes him to get off. When she's finished, she flies off. The cat's mouth is full of eggs. His attempt to catch Tweety once again fails when a grenade lands next to him, and he accidentally stuffs it in his mouth. He blows up and Tweety says, "You know I lose more putty tats that way!"
Friz Freleng-directed episodes
Sylvester first appeared (in his present form) in the 1945 short Life with Feathers, which was directed by Friz Freleng. Although this was his first official appearance, there was a claim that in Notes to You, there was a prototypical version of him.
Sylvester's first official appearance with Tweety was in the 1947 short Tweetie Pie where he tries to eat Tweety but gets punished. In the film-shorts, he usually gets clobbered by Granny or Hector the Bulldog whenever he tries to eat Tweety. Other than Tweety, he also chases Speedy Gonzales, but Speedy would cause a pain for him. He also appears with Elmer J. Fudd in some cartoons. The pair's cartoons lasted from 1947 to 1954, shortly before the closure of the Warner Bros. studio. Sylvester and Tweety became one of the most well-known pairings in Looney Tunes, next to Bugs Bunny and Daffy Duck. Some of their episodes have won or were nominated for Academy Awards.
- Mel Blanc: 1943 - 1989
- Joe Alaskey: The Sylvester & Tweety Mysteries, Tiny Toon Adventures, Bah, Humduck! A Looney Tunes Christmas, Looney Tunes: Stranger Than Fiction, Carrotblanca, Looney Tunes: Reality Check, Looney Tunes: Back In Action, Tweety's High Flying Adventure
- Terry Klassen: Baby Looney Tunes
- Bill Farmer: Space Jam
- Jeff Bergman: The Looney Tunes Show, Family Guy - present
- Jeff Bennett: Museum Scream
- Patrick Pinney (Robot Chicken)
- Masashi Ebara (Japan)
- Alfonso Ramírez (Latin America; The Looney Tunes Show only)
- Simcha Barbio (Israel; The Sylvester & Tweety Mysteries only)
Warner Bros. Cartoons
- "Sufferin' succotash. What a perfect time for me to go on a diet."
- "I need to take 'birds' off of my diet litht; that one went right through me." ~ A Bird In A Guilty Cage
- Junior: "Did you give him his jutht desserts, Father?" Sylvester: "No, he doesn't like desserts." ~ Cats A-Weigh
- Tweety: "I wonder where that puddy tat went to?" Sylvester [swinging on wooden swing, flattened by rock-crusher]: "Does thith anthwer your question?"
- "Give me about a 20-second lead, then follow me." ''[catches Tweety, then spends 15 seconds unsuccessfully attempting to eat him before getting attacked]'' "Oh, stupid mercenary pussycats!" ~ Tweety's High Flying Adventure
- "Help! Pussycat overboard!" ~ Tweety's High Flying Adventure
- Sylvester's name is a pun on silvestris, the scientific name for the wild cat, the ancestor of domestic cats, as well as a rare name for kids (including actor Sylvester Stallone).
- In his early appearances he was unnamed but until then his original name was Thomas in Tweetie Pie, most likely as a reference to Tom and Jerry, with Tom's full name being Thomas.
- Sylvester has "died" the most of any Looney Tunes characters, having "died" in I Taw a Putty Tat, Back Alley Oproar, Peck Up Your Troubles, Satan's Waitin', Mouse Mazurka, Tweety's Circus, Trick or Tweet, and Tweet and Lovely.
- Prior to Sylvester's appearance in the cartoons, Blanc voiced a character of the same name on The Judy Canova Show using the voice that would eventually become associated with the cat.
- Sylvester once had a black nose, but his nose has since always been red like a Conrad's.
- Sylvester could be heard in an episode of the game show Press Your Luck. Host Peter Tomarken had earlier incorrectly credited his catchphrase "Suffering Succotash!" to Daffy Duck. Even though all three contestants had correctly answered "Sylvester", they were ruled incorrect. In a segment produced later and edited into the broadcast, Sylvester phoned Tomarken and told him, "Daffy Duck steals from me all the time." This was a joke because Daffy usually says it.
- In The Looney Tunes Show, Sylvester's appearance has changed in the series. His body is more shorter and slender and his canine teeth are more sharp and prominent making him look more like a housecat.
- Sylvester is jealous of Tweety because Granny gives him more attention.
- Sylvester was originally called Thomas. After "Tweety Pie" his name was changed to Sylvester.
In Popular Culture
- In the Adventure Time episode "Ignition Point," in the scene where Jake and Finn are face-to-face with the cook, Jake says, "Sufferin' succotash," Sylvester's famous line.
- In Drawn Together, Sylvester has Appeared in "Clum Babies" as one of the clients whom were seeking for a cure, depicted in a wheel chair.
- In Family Guy, in Padre de Familia, he appeared Chasing Peter Griffin's made character, Rapid Dave, who was an equivalent to Speedy Gonzales.