Foxy and Roxy (the latter remaining nameless until Tiny Toon Adventures) are animated cartoon characters featured in three 1931 animated shorts in the Merrie Melodies series distributed by Warner Bros. They were the creation of animator Rudolf Ising, who had worked for Walt Disney in the 1920s.
Concept and Creation
Foxy is one of many early cartoon characters modeled after the successes of Paul Terry's and Otto Messmer's work in the 1910s and 1920s. Foxy himself is a close cousin to Disney's characters Oswald the Lucky Rabbit (1927) and Mickey Mouse (1928). His body is just like Mickey Mouse but a little different. Similarly, his female companion, later called "Roxy," is very similar to Minnie Mouse.
In 1925, Hugh Harman drew images of mice on a portrait of Walt Disney. Disney and Ub Iwerks would then use the portrait as the basis for their creation of Mickey Mouse; the character who eventually became Disney's most popular. Knowing that Disney and Iwerks had capitalized on their idea, Harman and Ising figured it was only fair that they should conceive a character based on a similar mold, thus leading to the birth of Foxy.
Though Foxy bares a strong resemblance to his Disney counterpart (even having a significant other in his life who he loves with all his heart), he and Mickey still have a considerable number of differences. Foxy's has tear-drop ears, a baritone voice, shoes with a more complex design, a bushy tail, and a more passionate character. Mickey has circle ears, a falsetto voice (he was originally baritone, but Walt practiced until he became good enough to try a falsetto voice), plain shoes, a much thinner tail, and is mild-mannered (but very passionate when around Minnie).
Foxy was the star of the first Merrie Melodies cartoons Ising directed for producer, Leon Schlesinger. Ising had already helped his partner Hugh Harman create another series, titled Looney Tunes, with the character Bosko. Foxy's first appearance on screen was on August 1931 in "Lady, Play Your Mandolin!". This old-western themed short features Foxy developing affection for the tavern singer who would become his girlfriend.
Foxy and his then-nameless girlfriend would appear in another cartoon that same year: "Smile, Darn Ya, Smile!" (5 September 1931), a musical set on a trolley. The plot bares some similarities to Trolley Troubles, a 1928 Oswald Rabbit cartoon which Harman and Ising contributed on. This also marks the first time Foxy's name was mentioned
Nearly a month later, a third short called "One More Time" (3 October 1931) was released. This musical cops-'n'-robbers themed cartoon would become Foxy's final appearance in the Merrie Melodies series.
At the end of each short, Foxy comes out from behind a bass drum and says to the viewers, "So long, folks!" This closing act would later be assumed by Porky Pig but with a different line. Although all three shorts use sound, the voice actors aren't credited and were never revealed.
Upon leaving Warner Bros. two years later, Ising took and kept with him the rights to Foxy and two other characters he conceived. Though Ising got a job at another studio, none of the characters he recently featured made anymore theatrical appearances. All three Foxy shorts would end up in the public domain after several years.
After more than six decades of absence, Foxy hit the screen again. He appeared along with his girlfriend (here christened "Roxy") and fellow forgotten Warner Bros. progenitor Goopy Geer in "Two-Tone Town", an episode of Tiny Toon Adventures that first aired 28 September 1992. The three, along with their bumblebee friend Big Bee, live in a run-down world of black-and-white which is visited by the series' stars, Babs Bunny and Buster Bunny. Feeling sorry for the old timers left in oblivion, Babs and Buster decide to help bring Foxy, Roxy, Goopy, and Big Bee back to the limelight. The efforts of the two rabbits work out, but doing so results in an exchange of scenarios: Buster and Babs end up being featured in an old theater while the four characters they helped became the new TV sensation.
The series animators significantly redesigned the foxes for this episode, making them less like their original versions. These changes are:
- Foxy wearing plain shoes rather than the sophisticatedly designed ones he had in the Merrie Melodies period.
- Roxy wearing pumps that fit instead of oversized and an M-shaped ribbon instead of a boater with a flower, and her tail now attached to the back of her dress instead of sticking out from underneath.
- Wider ruffs of fur on their cheeks.
- Having more foxlike ears that are triangular rather than teardrop shaped.
- Having slightly smaller eyes.
- Tails that are white-tipped instead of all black.