Director: Chuck Jones
Release Date: July 3, 1943
Stars: Bugs Bunny
Two castaways on a raft are so hungry they are ready to eat each other.
Then they land on a tropical, quasi-Hawaiian island, which strangely enough is inhabited by Bugs Bunny, and the two hungry men immediately try to catch and eat our hero. Of course they don’t manage to do so, and in a hilarious end scene, it’s Bugs, not they, who sails off on an ocean stormer into the distance.
The two castaways were modeled on the cartoon’s story men, Tedd Pierce (the tall one) and Michael Maltese (the short one), and the two men actually voiced their cartoon counterparts themselves.
The cartoon’s real stars however, are its outrageous backgrounds. Designed by Bernyce Polifka and painted by her husband, Gene Fleury, they are arguably the boldest backgrounds in any cartoon from the pre-UPA-era. The island is depicted in brassy, strangely colored, semi-abstract to abstract images, with no sense of three-dimensionality, whatsoever. Nevertheless, the clearly 3D characters read surprisingly well against the outlandish backgrounds.
Polifka had replaced John McGrew, who had worked with Fleury on experimental backgrounds for Chuck Jones cartoons like ‘Conrad the Sailor‘ (1942) and ‘The Aristo-Cat‘ (1943), but who joined the navy in 1942. The couple shared McGrew’s boldness, and worked with Jones on ‘Hell-Bent for Election’ (1944), one of UPA’s earliest films. But apparently they left Warner Bros. somewhere in 1943-1944. In 1949 they worked for Lou Bunin’s part live action part stop motion feature ‘Alice in Wonderland’, but after this job, they seemingly disappeared from the animation world. So, ‘Wackiki Wabbit’ remains their most famous and greatest legacy. The backgrounds themselves can be admired on the late Michael Sporn’s excellent blogpost on this cartoon.
Watch ‘Wackiki Wabbit’ yourself and tell me what you think:
This is Bugs Bunny cartoon No. 18
To the previous Bugs Bunny cartoon: Jack Rabbit and the Beanstalk
To the next Bugs Bunny cartoon: A Corny Concerto