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 Gold Diggers 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.
Porky shared his stutter with the voice actor who originally played him, Joe Dougherty, who actually did have a stuttering problem. 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. Blanc continued the stutter; however, it was harnessed for a more precise comedic effect (such as stumbling over a simple word only to substitute a longer word without difficulty). Porky's Duck Hunt was released in 1937, and Blanc officially became the permanent voice of Porky until his death in 1989. In later interviews, Blanc often made the claim that he intended Porky's stutter to be suggestive of the grunting of actual pigs (although other cartoon pigs do not have such a severe stuttering problem). Porky is currently voiced by Bob Bergen.
Porky starred in dozens of films in the late 1930s. The directors still did not have a grasp on the character, however; his appearance, age, and personality all varied from picture to picture. One such cartoon, Porky the Rainmaker, features both a Porky Jr. and a Porky Sr. Bob Clampett finally pinned Porky down, making him cuter, slimmer, 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, 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 in 2000.
In his commentary as part of the 1970s documentary film, Bugs Bunny: Superstar, Clampett discussed the fact that his early version of Tweety Bird had to be redesigned after his first picture because the producers thought he "looked naked". Meanwhile, as Clampett noted, nothing was ever made of the fact that "all those years, Porky never wore any pants!"
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 soon was christened Daffy and who became the studio's biggest star (until himself replaced by Bugs Bunny). In fact, Friz Freleng satirized this phenomenon when he directed You Ought To Be in Pictures (1940). The film features 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 Swooner Crooner. Other cartoons dumbed Porky down and cast him as a duck hunter after Daffy, largely paralleling 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, Duck Dodgers in the 24½th Century, Deduce, You Say, and Robin Hood Daffy. Jones also paired Porky with Sylvester in a series of cartoons in the late 1940s and early 1950s, in which 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 was used in regular rotation in television syndication beginning in the 1960s, as was the rest of the Looney Tunes co-stars. A Saturday morning cartoon, The Porky Pig Show, ran from 1964 to 1967. In 1971, he starred in another show, Porky Pig and Friends. Both of these programs were collections of old theatrical shorts. Porky also appeared in all the classic film-feature compilations in the 1970s and 1980s. Another such collection was the 1986 film, Porky Pig in Hollywood, which ran in art and college theaters. In the 1990s animated series Tiny Toon Adventures, Porky appears as the mentor of Hamton J. Pig. Porky Pig also appears as the "Eager Young Space Cadet" in the animated television series Duck Dodgers.
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, including Porky, speaking out against bullying. Despite these recent protests, Porky continues to feature in new Warner Bros. animation.
Porky is the star of the Super NES video game Porky Pig's Haunted Holiday. Porky also has a cameo at the end of Who Framed Roger Rabbit (1988), where, paired with Disney's Tinkerbell, has the duty of closing the movie with his famous "That's All Folks!" line.
In the movie Looney Tunes: Back in Action, Porky makes a cameo appearance alongside Speedy Gonzales, where they both lament their politically incorrect status. At the end of the movie, Porky tries to say his classic line, but stutters so much, the lights are turned on around him as the studio closes for the night; so an irritated Porky simply says, "eh eh,go home, folks!"