Though he only appeared in two Looney Tunes episodes during their initial “Golden Age”, along with a third installment in 1980, the monster was clearly a fan favorite. He’s since appeared in countless cartoons on television as well as the silver screen, in video games, commercials, sports—you name it. And for the record, Gossamer is not red, but orange (Jones, 1996).
1. GOSSAMER IS OVER 70 YEARS OLD
While his character’s age is never revealed in the cartoon world of Looney Tunes, his first appearance in our world was in 1946’s Hair-Raising Hare. This was during the “Golden Age” of Looney Tunes (1935-1965), under the umbrella of Warner Bros. Gossamer was intended as a non-recurring antagonist to Bugs Bunny, much in the same way as his fellow sneaker-clad monster, Marvin the Martian, who was introduced two years later.
Yet Gossamer returned to antagonize Bugs Bunny in 1952’s Water Water Every Hare. The popularity of the character was such that decades after Warner Bros. closed their animation department, he was resurrected to face off with Daffy Duck in 1980’s Duck Dodgers and the Return of the 24th ½ Century.
Like so many other memorable characters in the Looney Tunes world, Gossamer was given voice by the colossal vocal talent of Mel Blanc.
2. GOSSAMER WAS BORN OF GENIUS
Gossamer was the creation of animation legend Chuck Jones. Not only was he instrumental in the creation of Bugs Bunny, Daffy Duck, Elmer Fudd, and Porky Pig, he was the genius behind Wile E. Coyote and the Roadrunner, not to mention Marvin the Martian and Pepe Le Pew. The prolific man directed over 300 animated films, including the glorious animated adaptation of Dr. Suess’s How the Grinch Stole Christmas, and took home four Oscars. In fact, he was nominated no less than ten times for Academy Awards! A must-watch is another late, great comedian, Robin Williams, waxing poetic about Chuck Jones at the 68th Academy Awards in 1996.
- Steven Spielberg, “Birdus Fleetus and Lupus Persisticus were my childhood heroes. Chuck Jones is a comic genius.”
- Whoopi Goldberg, “If I could have been created again, I would want to be a Chuck Jones creation. I’d have great character, great timing, and the laughs would never stop coming. He’s the best.”
- Ray Bradbury, “Chuck Jones was born genetically joyful. He can’t be any other way.”
- Ron Howard, “When I am directing a scene, I often refer to a Chuck Jones moment.”
- Robin Williams, “Picasso… Monet… Michelangelo… if any of those artists were alive today, they’d be pea green with professional jealousy over the accomplishments of the Great Jones.”
Irrelevant side note: while working as an animation historian in 1998, I was scheduled to meet Chuck Jones. Alas, that morning he was ill and cancelled, marking one of the saddest days of my life.
3. THE ONLY MONSTER IN TENNIS SHOES
“Gossamer is just a strange mass of orange hay… in tennis shoes,” Chuck Jones wrote in his 1996 book Chuck Reducks. The man had a penchant for putting his characters in sneakers. Particularly famous is Marvin the Martian and Marvin’s dog K9, both of whom also sport large sneakers. Are they monsters, though? You decide.
Jones waxed poetic about such shoes: “My father gave each of his children a fresh pair of tennis shoes every spring, by which time our leather winter shoes were pretty shabby. Each year, when I pulled these new shoes on and tightened the laces, they felt like Mercury slippers (Ray Bradbury agrees)—I thought I could fly, and I probably could. I ran and I ran, and it felt wonderful. By the end of the summer, the shoes were looser, toes were showing through, and it was time for winter shoes again.” (Jones, 1996). For Mr. Jones’ footwear fetish we must be thankful, for how could our favorite monsters get along without them?
4. MONSTER: KNOW THYSELF!
When introduced in Hair-Raising Hare in 1946, our orange fellow was not given a name at all, the cell he was kept in being labelled merely “Monster”. It wasn’t until his second appearance, in 1952’s Water, Water Every Hare, that he was given a name: Rudolph. In the 1980 cartoon Duck Dodgers and the Return of the 24th ½ Century the monster was given his current name of Gossamer, by Marvin the Martian (another monster everybody loves, also created by Chuck Jones). Jones gave the monster this name because he was, in fact, precisely the opposite.
In Water, Water Every Hare, Bugs Bunny plays hairdresser to the poor Gossamer—called Rudolph in this cartoon—eventually giving him a perm using TNT (or as Bugs calls it, “a permanemanent”). The result blows off the hair on his head, revealing a lumpy cranium that looks suspiciously like a pair of buttocks. However, in 1980’s Duck Dodgers and the Return of the 24th ½ Century, the joke is made that Gossamer is composed entirely of hair, with no body underneath whatsoever.
5. GOSSAMER ROCKS SPORTS
1996 Space Jam
Alongside with pretty much the entire Looney Tunes roster, Gossamer makes an appearance in the film starring NBA legend Michael Jordan.
2002 Chevy Rock and Roll 400
While Gossamer may not have had much screen time in the NBA, he had plenty in NASCAR—specifically the 2002 Chevy Rock and Roll 400 at Richmond International Raceway. He even won fourth place and a cool $82,000—sort of. Technically, driver Dale Earnhardt, Jr. won fourth place in his car with a special Gossamer-orange paint scheme with our favorite tennis-shoed monster emblazoned across the hood. Both Dale and his brother Kerry ran Looney Tunes cars. Other Looney Tunes characters had some fun that day alongside several racing legends.
2012 Super Bowl
Gossamer has a cameo in the MetLife commercial “Everyone” debuting during Super Bowl XLVI.
6. MONSTER HIGH FIVE BONUS
Gossamer Loves Spider Goulash
The title of the 1952 cartoon in which Gossamer makes his second appearance—Water, Water Every Hare—is a pun on the line “Water, water everywhere / Nor any drop to drink”, from the macabre poem The Rime of the Ancient Mariner. Chuck Jones was a consummate reader of classics and frequently made reference to them. Jones was also quite an epicurean: Gossamer was bribed to chase after Bugs Bunny with the promise of spider goulash. Upon hearing the words he revealed a sudden burst of joy and quickly obeyed. And, really, who wouldn’t?