Three Little Bops: 1957 Looney Tunes jazz version of the Three Little Pigs

My three-year-old has been having awful insomniac spells at two in the morning all week and we're at a loss for getting her back to sleep . Last night, when she came into our room, I desperately grabbed my phone off the bedstand and went YouTube spelunking for something to get her calmed down enough for a story and (maybe) sleep. We found our way to this 1957 Warner Brothers/Fritz Freling Loony Tunes classic, The Three Little Bops, which is just outstanding.

It's a 7-minute musical retelling of the Three Little Pigs in which the pigs have grown up to be successful jazz musicians, and must contend with a (clearly stoned!) Big Bad Wolf who keeps trying to sit in with his trumpet, which he sucks at playing. Eventually, the wolf blows himself up with a mistimed bomb-fuse, descends to hell, learns to play his horn, and his ghost is welcomed back in to sit in with the boys.

The music is brilliant, the animation is hilarious, and we both loved it. After Poesy and I watched this, we downloaded my free audiobook of Alice in Wonderland, a story she loves from picture-book abridgments, and listened to it together as a bedtime story and we were both asleep in short order. Let's hope she makes it through the night tonight!

If you like this one, also try 1943's Pigs in a Polka, another Three Little Pigs Looney Tune which features Carl Stalling's musical adaptations of Brahms's "Hungarian Dances."

Looney Tunes - Golden Collection, Volume Two (includes Three Little Bops)

3 little bops


  1. Very cool. Shorty Rogers, of all people! But I noticed that the wolf wears a very hip (for the times) ”Mr. B” collar while the pigs wear definitely square bow ties.

      1. But did the drunks at WB’s Looney Tunes know that?

        1937-47 zoot suits and big mostly segregated bands
        1947-57 be bop and small often integrated combos

  2. They’d obviously never heard Don Cherry.

    Also, does anyone else see a “No Wolves” policy as discriminatory?

    1. I am convinced too that the wolf is clearly supposed to represent a black person. The whole cartoon is grim in it’s perseverance to support segregation. It culminates with the conclusion of the story : A good “wolf” is a dead wolf (wink wink). It fits that 1957 is around the time white people accaparated jazz music with the “all-white” big bands.

  3. Damn Cory, that was my favourite cartoon as a kid. It’s tragic that little kids today no longer have access to those Warner Brothers classics on TV the way we did.

  4. I was a kid in the ’70s. Once in a while they would show Three Little Bops during the Bugs Bunny Road Runner Show. It was really weird because it was totally incongruous with the rest of the show. Pretty memorable, though.

    There were a couple of similiar beat-type things they used to show, but I can’t remember them. Anyone else know them?

  5. It made me think with huge nostalgia to Donald Duck & Daisy magically performing Tutti Frutti…
    Unfortunately I couldnt locate it on YouTube!
    If anyone can find the missing link – you cannot live if you never watched it!

  6. Oh, that was fun. :-) Makes me wonder two things – had the pigs gotten hot in a similar fashion? And the wolf could’ve had a pretty good ukelele career!

    1. Oh, please, not that one! I watched the Owl Jolson cartoon years ago, and I’ve still got “I Wanna Singa” stuck in my head. Warning to everyone who is tempted to follow the link that knoxblox provided: Danger! Highly infectious earworm! May cause insanity.

        1. I have nothing against the song, except that once it has been heard, it can never be unheard. It will burrow its way into your brain and lay eggs. Then, months – even years – later, in a quiet moment, it will suddenly and unexpectedly emerge; and you’ll find yourself unable to stop singing, humming, or at least thinking, “I wanna singa, ’bout the Moona and the Junea and the springa. I wanna singa.” Over and over again. Unrelentingly. Without respite. Until you eventually, little by little, go stark raving mad.

        2. Ah, but having Cab Calloway’s singing stuck in your head and having Butch from Our Gang‘s singing stuck in your head are two entirely different fates.

          Similarly, Johnny Cash did a rendition of “Drink to Me Only with Thine Eyes” (which Tommy Bond murders so memorably in that Merrie Melodie) that’s really quite sweet.

  7. @zapan I think you’re right, wolves & crows were commonly used to represent blacks in cartoons. Also notice the not-so-subtle association of jazz music with the devil – guy goes to ‘the other place’, learns to play, and comes back to play, and one of the pigs says ‘you have to get hot (deal with the devil) to play real cool’

    1. And zappan@5: Wow, I was kinda kidding. By ’57, jazz combos and jazz clubs alike were becoming one of the country’s few examples of a fairly well integrated subset of society. By ’57, white folk were starting to rip-off “race music” (ie. rock and roll); a fine example of non-integration.

  8. I came into this thread to say Stan Freberg!!! This is one of the many WB cartoons Stan Freberg voiced and one of the few on which he was credited.

  9. Stan Freberg?!

    I don’t know anything about this, but: my friends hired a sleep nanny for their toddler and with a little initial investment that kid became the guinness book of world records most parent-friendly sleeper of all time ever. Brainwashing?

    1. Yeah – and I bet that sleep nanny didn’t show a three-year old bright flashing, fast-moving, brain-stimulating images (with energetic music accompaniment) at 2am in order to achieve that result.

      So (as commented on later on above), no, I’m not surprised Cory read himself to sleep, and equally not surprised he and Poesy didn’t YouTube themselves to sleep.

  10. Remember this slightly more modern take on that story?

    Good times. Thanks for sharing these two excellent Merrie Melodies videos!

  11. Go to YouTube and look up “soviet cartoons” or somesuch. There are all kinds of batshit crazy cartoons in Russian from the Soviet era up there. Our extremely precocious and insomniac 2.25yo daughter thinks they are awesome and will happily snuggle and watch them as they put her back to sleep.

    1. On the subjects of wolves and Soviet cartoons. Nu Pogadi is one of the greatest Chuck Jones chase style cartoons ever made. It also seems to have some Freleng cues in there, but according to the director, Vyacheslav Mikhailovich Kotenochkin, he only was ever able to get VHS copies of Disney cartoons in through Germany and Nu Pogadi developed independently of Looney Tunes and Tom and Jerry.

  12. Yeah, it definitely seems that this was really about gentrifying jazz music while still keeping its “dark mystique” alive in the consciousness of its audience. The wolf wearing a zoot suit and being the only character to have elements of the usual cartoon animal blackface aesthetic had me suspicious, but “No Wolves Allowed” for the “high class crowd” clinched it.

    1. Good analysis, Hools Verne (and zapan and subhan). The racial sub-text here is astounding with only white faces in the clubs and the “no wolves allowed” sign.

      And in 1957 the message would have been especially clear to a black audience, with the Montgomery buses desegregated only months before (December 21, 1956). I’m surprised the wikipedia article for the short doesn’t mention anything:

  13. On a less charged note, you can definitely see Freleng’s own preoccupations coming to a front in that opening title sequence and some of that direction. Clear line from this to The Pink Panther. Hrm.

  14. This is on the Looney Tunes Golden Collection. I watched it with my kids recently and they liked it (both the cartoon and the music) and I just found it amazingly stylishly done. Music and graphics flowing wonderfully together.

    THIS is art!

  15. This one’s my favorite Three Little Pigs cartoon.

    Yes, war propaganda, but righteous and hilarious war propaganda. By the genius Tex Avery.

  16. I actually remember both of ’em from the first time around on the old B&W TV. Remember Bugs Bunny playing the Barber of Seville?

    and Woody Woodpecker?

    Check out “Dinner Music for a Pack of Hungry Cannibals” by Raymond Scott, music written for a old timey cartoon:

    I wish I could find it accompanying the original cartoon, but you can picture the cannibals dancing around the big cauldron, no?

    If you can’t, try this one (Er, this is a not-quite NSFW version):

    1. Raymond Scott’s “Dinner Music” was indeed used in many cartoons, but he did not write it for cartoons.

  17. There are some cartoons that are wasted on kids. I remember when I was a kid watching Disney’s “The Old Mill” and thinking, “Alright, the birds are OK, the owl only got wet, but everything’s fine.” As an adult I’m astounded by what a work of art it was. I was a bit older when I saw The Three Little Bops so I knew it was good but still not how good until I saw it as an adult.

  18. Racial overtones..?!?! Not even close.

    – The pigs gladly let the wolf join them at the first club – The wolf’s obviously a poser.
    – They reluctantly let him sit in at the second – The wolf’s not a good musician.
    – They want to keep him out of the last club – He’s been destroying their gigs (literally).
    – The wolf is killed, goes to hell (maybe because he blows up occupied buildings?), acquires good musicianship, and the pigs let him join in.

    If you wan’t to over-reachinly read something into the ‘toon, it’s actually about acceptance. The pigs don’t care where you come from. If you’re a good player they’ll let you play.

    The authors do perhaps wink mockingly at the ever-present cries of certain types of music being the devil’s work.

    1. Thanks JasonsRobot for putting some perspective on this. Some people are so busy looking for subtext they forget to look at the actual text.

  19. This was so great! Never seen it before: Owl Jolson on the other hand. . .oh yeah. That song will stick with you. . .

    Thanks for the links (and breaking down the racial sub-text ;)

  20. This is a great short! One I found out about after moving into our new home a few years ago. We found what I believe to be either session recordings or dialog recordings for this in the rafters in our garage. We live down the street from Warners and the pervious owner was an old sound guy there. It is an odd oversized vinyl recored with four holes in the center in a triangle shape instead of the normal one and grease pencil makes for takes along with the words “Thee Bops”. Anyone know how to play or verify this? I would love to get the audio off of it in a digital format but am afraid of ruining the record if I put it on the wrong machine.

  21. Loved seeing the Pigs in a Polka again thx for that! Did you notice the Swedish flag in the window of the 3rd little pig? Subtle ;-)

  22. The “Dew Drop Inn” is almost certainly a reference to the legendary Dew Drop Inn of New Orleans, which was a “black” nightclub where whites were regular patrons; integration in action during a time of segregation.

    Racism? Puhlease.

  23. I actually find this cartoon historically outrageous. These three little dorky pigs are playing jazz, and a stoned wolf comes to the door. Because he’s stoned, with his “red-rimmed” eyes, he can’t play jazz, and the pigs declare he’s a “square”. Hilariously the opposite of historical fact! It reminds me of a building mural somewhere in Indiana that has a bunch of white guys and a big banner that says, “The Birthplace of Recorded Jazz”. Oh that’s right, northern whites invented jazz! Or at least recording it.

    Jazz was invented and iterated upon perpetually by people on drugs. Weed, coke, heroin, et al. And this cute little cartoon turns it into a morality tale, where the wolf can’t play jazz because he’s stoned (wow), so the hep-cat pigs throw him out the door. How insane is that?

    However, this cartoon is one of a few from the late ’50s, early ’60s that draw the square in the air like in Pulp Fiction. It’s interesting since all of these children’s programs choose to satirize bebop, and incidentally, draw a square to indicate a lack of hipness. Just for kicks, I edited a little piece that has them all together:

  24. I think the point is Mostly about skill, not race. The Wolf’s trumpet-playing ability is Woeful, and That’s why he gets kicked out. I’d say the coming back after death thing is perhaps also a reference to ‘selling your soul to the devil for musical ability’, although I’m not sure if this cartoon came out before or after a black musician told everyone he sold his soul to the devil at a crossroads for musical ability.

  25. Wonderful!

    Jazz? My brain of limited musical knowledge hears a swinging rockabilly base with jazz highlights. The playfulness and storytelling remind me of Louie Jordan and Chuck Berry.

  26. No discussion of racial caricature and jazz in the Warner’s shorts is complete without a link to Clampett’s fabulous Tin Pan Alley Cats(previously on Boing Boing) and Coal Black an’ de Sebben Dwarves. (I wish I could find a better copy of Coal Black online; I got to see an absolutely pristine transfer of it when I worked in the animation industry.)

    And, honestly, I don’t think the wolf in this reads as “black” – his voice is pretty white, and his color scheme is pretty much generic wolf. You can see a very similar design in Avery’s Red Hot Riding Hood, or just down the hall from Freling’s office, any of the Coyote/Roadrunner shorts Jones had been doing for eight years at this point.

  27. although i will concur that the ‘red-rimmed eyes’ bit is probably intended to mean that the wolf is totally baked when he first appears. n.n

  28. At the very least, there is high irony regarding the “No Wolves Allowed” sign: this at a time when people of color could not get served at lunch counters. This is an amazing document of popular culture. How could its creators _not_ see the resonances between this cartoon and the civil unrest in Jim Crow South?

    I’m not convinced that the pigs are “white” and the wolf is “black” however.

    It’s very interesting that all the _patrons_ are humans, mature white adult humans. (Freleng, why couldn’t the patrons have been abstracted as animals also, albeit non-pig/non-wolf?) So, I think the pigs could easily be “black,” also. They serve the whites and simply happen to be more talented than the (pre-Hell) wolf.

    What, then, is its allegorical message? Blacks: sure you can achieve equality. We live in a meritocracy. You’re being excluded because you simply aren’t good enough. All you have to do is die (or go through some similar crucible?), and then you’ll become worthy. (What?!!?) OK, that “message” is nonsense.

    So, my take would just be: this is a bobble-headed, culturally insensitive story that wasn’t well thought-out, albeit it’s not as bad as something that’s overtly and maliciously racist.

  29. The music reminds me more of early rock ‘n roll than bebop. Bill Haley’s “Rock Around the Clock” sounds very similar, and that record was released in 1955 (2 years before “3 Little Bops.”)

  30. After Poesy and I watched this, we downloaded my free audiobook of Alice in Wonderland, a story she loves from picture-book abridgments, and listened to it together as a bedtime story and we were both asleep in short order.

    No one else found it remarkable that Cory read himself to sleep?

  31. Hrmn. I dunno. Does referencing the Dew Drop alleviate the cartoon of segregationist subtext? It does end up being destroyed for letting the wolf in the door after all. That the wolf’s voice comes off as white is a point well taken, but minstrel shows have always been a venue for white actors and this was certainly true of cartoons as well (something that confuses discussion of Clampett’s work). The reference to reefer is another issue. In 1957 I’m honestly not sure how much marijuana was seen as “colored drug”. I’d guess it was less so than it would have been in the 20s and 30s but I doubt that impression was gone completely. The deal with the devil stuff is directly tied to the “mystical negro” mythology that sprung up around jazz music and you really can’t abstract that away, though cartoons in general have been more able than most to abstract their roots away. I don’t know. It’s clearly not as conscious as any of the infamous eleven, but I still think there’s a very real narrative of gentrification going on in the subtext.

  32. This cartooon is also in The Looney, Looney, Looney Bugs Bunny Movie ($7.99 on Amazon currently) which just until recently was available for streaming via netflix (but seems to be only available on DVD right now).

  33. Sorry I’m coming late to the party, but someone has to mention that the music they are playing is in no way bop. More like early rhythm and blues, or small ensemble swing.

    I do love the cartoon, but it’s misleading young minds to tell them this is bop. It’s like the re-make of “The Karate Kid” where he’s actually taught Kung Fu.

    It’s interesting to note culturally, that when this came out, bop was hardly the new thing – it had been around for a over a decade. The Jazz world had moved on to cool jazz and west coast jazz, etc.

  34. Man. I haven’t seen this since I was about 8 and parts of the song still get randomly stuck in my head to this day!

    Thanks Corey!!!

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