“The Mouse That Jack Built” – Jack Benny in Looney Tunes Animation

Old Time Radio believes it appeals to a “Nostalgia Market”, which sadly often means that the market will dry up once the generation that remembers when the programs were broadcast moves on. Fortunately, a growing number of enthusiasts are joining the ranks of old time radio fans who are discovering these shows and what a treasure they are.

Some have no recollection of Jack Benny as a Radio or even a Television personality. But we did know him as a small rodent from the Merrie Melodies cartoon, “The Mouse That Jack Built”.

“Merrie Melodies” and “Looney Tunes” were the cornerstones of Warner Brothers animation from the 1930s onwards. Most of the short films were originally released in theaters as companions to Warner Brother’ feature films. Many of us grew to love the cartoons and the great characters when they were released to TV syndication during the 1950s and 1960s. They were also a staple of Saturday mornings on all three networks at different times.

“The Mouse That Jack Built” was released in 1959, directed by Robert McKimson. The plot was a parody of The Jack Benny Program. Most of the references in the cartoon were to the TV show rather than the radio program, but the program was such a close outgrowth of the Radio that most of the gags are familiar to Radio fans.

The story is a dream sequence of a mouse living in the walls of Jack Benny’s house. This mouse is of course Jack himself, and the cartoon hits a number of the running gags from The Jack Benny Program. These include “Jack as a Miser”, “The Vault”, “Jack’s Violin” and “The Maxwell”.

The sound effect for the Maxwell jalopy had been voiced by Mel Blanc since its radio introduction, so it wasn’t much of a stretch to add it to the cartoon. “The Mouse” would be only the second time that on-screen acting credit would be given to someone besides Mel Blanc.

There is a rumor that the only payment Jack Benny asked for the project was a copy of the cartoon.