Updated on March 5, 2022
Once again, it’s St. Patrick’s Day, the day of some number of Irish clichés and stereotypes in media. Such is particularly prominent in older cartoons; one example is their tendency to depict police officers with Irish accents. This even extended to some live action productions, such as the 60s “Batman” TV show’s Chief O’Hara.
I thought I’d use today to look at a few of the uses of St. Patrick’s Day themes (or Irish references in general) in cartoons.
The 1951 Porky Pig cartoon “The Wearing of the Grin” has Porky staying at a castle secretly run by leprechauns, who dislike the thought of an outsider infringing on their territory. The Chuck Jones-directed short’s noteworthy as the final classic-era cartoon to star Porky Pig; Porky was reduced to being a co-star of Daffy or Sylvester for the remainder of the Looney Tunes’ run.
Tweety sings “When Irish Eyes Are Smiling” in the 1950 short “Canary Row.”
Irish depictions in general in Looney Tunes usually fit the “Chief O’Hara” mold; Irish-American police officers are commonly seen.
Tiny Toon Adventures
Similar to his mentor Porky, Hamton (with Plucky) also stayed at an Irish castle in the short “Pluck ‘O the Irish,” though unlike Porky’s experience, the residents of this castle were friendly—it’s the banshee haunting the castle that caused Hamton, Plucky, and the residents problems.
Here Comes Peter Cottontail
Peter visited (among the myriad of other holidays) St. Patrick’s Day in this 1971 Rankin-Bass Easter special.
An eighth season episode (“Homer versus the Eighteenth Amendment”) starts off revolving around a St. Patrick’s Day parade. As the episode title’s reference to Prohibition suggests, things quickly went wrong.
An earlier fourth season episode reveals the town holiday of “Whacking Day” was originally created as an “excuse to beat up the Irish.” An elderly Irishman appears to confirm such.
Back to the Future: The Animated Series
The early 90s spin-off of the popular “Back to the Future” movies features an episode titled “Batter Up.” In this one, Marty and Doc’s kids (Jules and Verne) go back in time to the 1897 baseball championship in Boston to help Marty’s “fifth cousin, three times removed” Pee Wee McFly win the game. The films established the McFly family emigrated from Ireland in the 19th century. As such, Pee Wee seems to be a first-generation immigrant that wound up in Boston, where many Irish immigrants in real life settled.
The episode ends with Marty and company helping Pee Wee win the championship for the Boston Beaneaters, making this another history-altering time-trip for our heroes. In real life, the era’s Baltimore Orioles beat Boston for the 1897 championship.
In one scene, Pee Wee’s anachronistically singing (while in a daze after being beaned by a baseball) the first line of “When Irish Eyes Are Smiling,” a song that wasn’t published until 1912.
A 1996 Superman comics storyline has the fifth-dimensional imp Mr. Mxyzptlk show up to spread his usual brand of chaos on St. Patrick’s Day, by giving “good luck” to everyone in Metropolis. Wacky hijinks ensue, of course.
An episode of “Lois and Clark” is titled “When Irish Eyes Are Killing.” Though I wonder why they didn’t go for the punnier “When Irish Eyes Are Smiting”…
The 60s Batman TV show’s Chief O’Hara started to occasionally appear in Batman comics in the 70s. O’Hara’s also appeared in the “Batman ’66” comics based on the TV show.
Some of DC’s characters come from Ireland or have Irish ancestry/ties, including Nightwing supporting character Bridget Clancy.
During its daily run, the newspaper strip “FoxTrot” would occasionally show Jason dressing up either himself or his pet iguana Quincy as leprechauns on St. Patrick’s Day. He’d then usually pester Paige for “Lucky Charms” (the cereal).