Culture The Wolery

Fritz Owl

Image for Fritz Owl

One in a series of posts dedicated to pop-culture depictions of owls — as stand-ins for educated, highbrow humans — from 1924–1983. The series derives its title from Owl’s home in A.A. Milne’s Winnie-the-Pooh stories.

Professor Fritz Owl is the father of “Owl Jolson” in the 1936 Merrie Melodies animated cartoon “I Love to Singa,” directed by Tex Avery. Professor Fritz, who speaks with a German accent, is a disciplinarian and mandarin voiced by Billy Bletcher, best known for voicing cartoon villains like Black Pete (Mickey Mouse films) and the Big Bad Wolf. His intolerance for jazz leads him to banish one of his owlets from their tree, for the crime of singing the Arlen and Harburg tune “I Love to Singa” (popularized by Al Jolson and Cab Calloway) at every opportunity.

Everyone’s favorite Warner Bros. cartoon, “I Love to Singa” helped popularize in US culture the owl — in the person of Professor Fritz — as a symbol of pompous Old World culture. A saturnine, mordant Old World intellectual who needs to get hip to what’s happening.

PS: See this 1935 short in which a glasses-wearing owl student is portrayed as a snooty prig on whom his classmate plays a prank; and compare with the impish owl student (who ends up wearing his predatory teacher’s mortarboard and gown) in Teacher’s Pest (1950).

Tags: Owls