Hubie and Bertie are mouse characters in the Looney Tunes and Merrie Melodies series of cartoons. Though largely forgotten today, Hubie and Bert represent some of director Chuck Jones' earliest work that was intended to be funny, rather than cute.
Chuck debuted Bert and Hubie in the short The Aristo-cat, first released on June 19, 1943. The storyline of the cartoon would serve as the template for most future Hubie/Bert outings: A character with some mental illness or degree of naïveté, here, a cat who doesn't know what a mouse looks like, is psychologically tormented by the pair. In this cartoon, they well the mouse-hungry cat that a bulldog is a mouse, leading to several painful encounters for the cat. Hubie is voiced by Michael Maltese and Bert by Tedd Pierce; both men were screenwriters for Chuck at the time. Bert and Hubie as designed by Chuck are nearly identical mice with long snouts, large ears, and big, black noses. The two are somewhat anthropomorphic, walking on their stubby hind legs and using their forelimbs as arms. The characters are distinguished by their color; one is brown with a lighter-colored belly and face, while the other is gray (which mouse is which color changes from film to film). Hubie has a pronounced Brooklyn street-accent. Bert has large buck teeth, and a habit of responding to Hubie with: "Yeah-yeah, sure-sure!" or sniggering "Riot!" if Hubie has just proposed some scheme with great comedic potential. Beginning with The Aristo-Cat, Jones quickly established differing personalities for his mice. Hubie, usually grayish-blue, is the thinker. He comes up with the plans, and he is the mouse with the chutzpah to fast-talk anyone into doing almost anything. Bert, on the other hand, brown in this cartoon, is the doer. He performs the gruntwork to accomplish Hubie's schemes. Hubie makes it clear who is subservient to whom, slapping the simpler Bert around whenever his natural goofiness interferes with the task at hand.
Chuck would repeat the theme of mind-games several more times in his Hubie & Bertie shorts, as in their second cartoon, Roughly Squeaking (November 23rd, 1946). This time, Jones has the mice exploit a cat's stupidity by convincing him that he's a lion and that a dog is a moose he wants to eat. By the short's end, the cat thinks he's a lion, the dog believes he's a pelican, and a bystanding bird has pulled his feathers out and imagines himself a Thanksgiving turkey. The mice are here voiced by Stan Freberg (Hubie) and Dick Nelson (Bert). The short was followed by House-Hunting Mice on September 6th, 1947, where Hubie and Bert run afoul of a housekeeping robot. In this cartoon and the next entry, Mouse Wreckers, Stan Freberg voices Hubie and Mel Blanc, Bert; the actors would swap roles for the final two shorts. After the classic cartoons, Joe Alaskey would usually voice Bert.
Cat and mouse
Chuck created a permanent "villain" of sorts for the mice in Mouse Wreckers. The short was released on April 23rd, 1949 and was the first in which they are officially called "Hubie" and "Bertie." In the cartoon, the duo moves into a new home, only to discover that it is protected by champion mouser Claude Cat (the character's debut). The mice, of course, torment the poor puss both physically and mentally. The short was nominated for an Academy Award. The mice would go on to antagonize Claude in two more films. The Hypo-Chondri-Cat (April 25th, 1950), features Hubie and Bert making Claude think he's sick with various ailments and, ultimately, make him think he's dead. In Cheese Chasers (August 25th, 1951), Hubie and Bert inadvertently torment Claude when, after going overboard on a cheese raid and getting sick of their favorite food, they decide to commit suicide by trying to get Claude to eat them. After these 7 cartoons, Chuck retired Hubie and Bert. He was moving on to other characters, such as Pepe Le Pew/Penelope Pussycat, Wile E. Coyote/Road Runner, Marvin The Martian, and Marc Anthony/Pussyfoot. Jones would, however, continue to use the characters (or mice designed just like them) in cameo roles in other shorts whenever he needed a generic mouse for a gag (for instance, the unnamed mouse in Chow Hound or the "killer" mice in Scaredy Cat).
In recent years, Hubie and Bert have made several cameos in Warner Bros. productions. For example, they're the sports announcers in the 1996 movie Space Jam. They also appear in The Sylvester and Tweety Mysteries, Tweety's High-Flying Adventure, and Duck Dodgers.
Impact on Jones
Despite their short run of films, Hubie and Bert are significant in that they symbolize Chuck Jones as he had reinvented himself in the late 1940s. Before then, his films were mostly sweet, Disney-esque fluff starring ultra-cute characters such as Sniffles (who coincidentally, was also a mouse). The Hubie & Bertie shorts, in contrast, are intensely humor-driven and full of over-the-top gags and jokes. In addition, Hubie and Bert's penchant for playing to their foes' neuroses hints at Jones' later work with Looney Tunes characters such as Daffy Duck. Jones is the one largely responsible for turning Daffy from a bouncing screwball to a neurotic narcissist, and it is Jones who introduced several characters who are driven by believable impulses rather than just revenge, such as Wile E. Coyote with his obsessive pursuit of The Road-Runner, Pepe Le Pew with his outsized libido, and Penelope Pussycat with her lack of self-control when she falls in love. Chuck's Hubie & Bertie shorts prove that the director was already thinking about characters in terms of their personalities.
- The Aristo-cat (1943)
- Trap Happy Porky (1945)
- Roughly Squeaking (1946)
- House Hunting Mice (1948)
- Mouse Wreckers (1949)
- The Hypo-Chondri-Cat (1950)
- Cheese Chasers (1951)
- Space Jam (1996)
- The Sylvester & Tweety Mysteries
- Tweety's High-Flying Adventure (2000)
- Duck Dodgers
- Tedd Pierce: The Aristo-cat
- Stan Freberg: 1948 - 1951
- Bob Bergen: Space Jam
- Joe Alaskey: Duck Dodgers
- Jeff Bennett: The Sylvester & Tweety Mysteries, Tweety's High-Flying Adventure
- Michael Maltese: The Aristo-cat
- Mel Blanc: 1948 - 1951
- Joe Alaskey: Duck Dodgers
- Jim Cummings: The Sylvester & Tweety Mysteries, Tweety's High-Flying Adventure
- Bob Bergen: Space Jam
- Main article: Hubie and Bertie/Gallery