The character was designed by animator Bob Clampett and introduced in the short "I Haven't Got a Hat" (1935), directed by an uncredited Friz Freleng. Studio head Leon Schlesinger suggested that Freleng do a cartoon version of the popular Our Gang films. Porky only has a minor role in the film, but the fat little stuttering pig easily steals the show. Since Hugh Harman and Rudolf Ising had left the studio in 1933, taking the studio's star character Bosko with them, Looney Tunes had been kept afloat by cartoons featuring the bland Buddy. Porky's introduction ushered Buddy out the door and pointed to things to come. Tex Avery was hired to the studio in 1936, and his film "The Golddiggers of '49" reused much of the cast from "I Haven't Got a Hat", albeit in wildly different roles. Porky transitioned from a shy little boy to an immensely fat adult. Though he was still in a supporting role, Porky got most of the laughs. The directors realized they had a star on their hands.
This early Porky shared his stutter with the voice actor who originally played him, Joe Dougherty. Because Dougherty could not control his stutter, however, production costs became too high. The versatile Mel Blanc won the audition for the character in 1937, beginning his long career with the studio.
Porky starred in dozens of films in the late 1930s. The directors still didn't have a grasp on the character, however; his appearance, age, and personality all varied form picture to picture. Bob Clampett would finally pin Porky down, making him cuter, smarter, and less of a stutterer. Clampett's Porky was an innocent traveler, taking in the wonders of the world -- and in Clampett's universe, the world is a very weird place indeed. This principle is perhaps best demonstrated in "Porky in Wackyland" (1938), a film that sends Porky on a quest to find the last of the Dodos. This cartoon was selected for preservation by the National Film Registry.
Porky's post at the pinnacle of the Warners' pantheon was short-lived, however. In 1937, Avery pitted Porky against a plucky black duck who would soon be christened Daffy and would become the studio's biggest star (until replaced himself by Bugs Bunny). In fact, Friz Freleng would satire this very phenomenon when he directed "You Oughta Be in Pictures" (1940). The film features up-and-comer Daffy convincing Porky to quit his job at Warner Bros. to find better-paying work elsewhere. In turn, Porky convinces studio-head Leon Schlesinger to release him from his contract. After a highly unsuccessful foray into the real world, Porky returns happily to the studio that created him.
Porky always remained a sentimental favorite of the Warner directors. His mild-mannered nature and shy demeanor made him the perfect straight man for zanier characters such as Daffy Duck. He still starred in a few solo cartoons, as well, such as Frank Tashlin's "The Swooner Crooner" (1944). Other cartoons dumbed Porky down and cast him as a duck hunter after Daffy, largely parallelling the Elmer Fudd/Bugs Bunny pairings. Chuck Jones perfected the Porky-as-straightman scenarios, pairing the pig with Daffy Duck in a series of film parodies such as "Drip-along Daffy" (1951) and "Deduce, You Say" (1956). Jones also paired Porky with Sylvester in a series of cartoons in the late 1940s and early 1950s. Porky plays the curmudgeonly owner of the cat and remains clueless that Sylvester is constantly saving him from homicidal mice, space aliens, and other threats. Porky, of course, also kept his trademark, the "Th'-th'-th'-th'-th'-th'-that's All, Folks!" that became the signoff for most Looney Tunes cartoons.
As did the rest of his Looney Tunes co-stars, Porky enjoyed regular rotation in television syndication beginning in the 1960s. In 1964, Porky got his own Saturday morning cartoon, The Porky Pig Show which ran until 1967. In 1971, he would star in another show, Porky Pig and Friends. Both of these programs were collections of old theatrical shorts. Another such collection was the 1986 film, Porky Pig in Hollywood, which ran in art and college theaters.
In 1991, the National Stuttering Project (NSP) of San Francisco picketed Warner Bros. demanding that they stop "belittling" stutterers and use Porky Pig as an advocate for child stutterers. The studio refused the NSP, but eventually agreed to grant $12,000 to the Stuttering Foundation of America for a 1994 conference. After continued pressure from NSP member Ira Zimmerman, Warner Bros. released a series of public service announcement posters featuring Warners characters speaking out against bullying. Despite these recent protests, Porky continues to feature in new Warner Bros. animation to this day.