Director: Bob Clampett
Release Date: 
October 5, 1946
Stars:
 Bugs Bunny, Elmer Fudd
Rating:
★★★★½
Review:

‘The Big Snooze’ (a pun on the Bacall-Bogart vehicle ‘The Big Sleep’) opens with Elmer quitting after a short chase routine involving a tree trunk on a cliff.

He tears his contract with Warner apart and decides to enter a career of fishing only ‘and no more wabbits!’. When he rests at the riverside, Bugs enters his serene dream to create a nightmare. This involves e.g. nightmare paint, rendering Elmer in Adam’s costume, making a girl out of him, followed by wolves and a great fall, which typically ends the nightmare. At the end Elmer returns to the scene, reassembling the contract and ready for another routine with the tree.

‘The Big Snooze’ is one of those great cartoons that play with their characters as being real stars (others being the Mickey Mouse cartoon ‘Mickey’s Gala Premier’ (1933), the Donald Duck cartoon ‘The Autograph Hound‘ (1939) and ‘You Ought to Be in Pictures’ (1940, starring Porky and Daffy).

The opening scene was taken from Tex Avery’s ‘All This and Rabbit Stew’ (1941), with Elmer replacing the original black caricature. The rest of the film has a disjointed feel, and features weird cuts and odd cinematographic choices. For example, when Elmer tears up the contract, this is shown in five different shots, following each other in rapid succession: 1) a medium shot of Elmer tearing up the contract, 2) a close-up of only his hands tearing, 3) a close-up of the paper snippets flying into the air above Elmer’s head, who’s hardly seen in this shot, 4) a very strange perspective shot of Elmer smashing the contract into the camera, and 5) a close-up of his boots stamping on what remains of the paper.

Another noteworthy scene is when Bugs Bunny is ‘multiplying’: in this scene Elmer is the only traditionally looking character, placed on a black canvas, overrun by rabbits, only drawn in red, yellow and pink outlines and mixing with the green outlines of some plants. This short scene is a startling piece of early cartoon modernism, and looks forward to the work of the UPA studio in the 1950s. On the other hand, the gag in which Bugs pulls away a hole harks all the way back to the Mickey Mouse cartoon ‘The Picnic‘ (1930).

Bugs sings excerpts from three songs in this short: ‘Beautiful Dreamer’, ‘Someone’s Rocking My Dreamboat’ and ‘September in the Rain’.

The Big Snooze’ was to be Bob Clampett’s last cartoon at Warner Bros. He was fired before he could finish it, and the short was completed by Art Davis, who succeeded him as a director. The film’s look and feel is still that of the war era, while contemporary cartoons by Chuck Jones and Friz Freleng show the studio was heading into other directions, with milder humor and more sophisticated designs. In contrast, in ‘The Big Snooze’ Clampett’s animation style is extremely flexible, as usual for him, and his backgrounds are as vague as ever.

‘The Big Snooze’ is a hilarious cartoon that marks the end of an era, where the wildest and the zaniest gags were possible. Only Tex Avery at MGM would continue the extreme style. Bob Clampett left Warner Bros. in May 1945 to join the Screen Gems studio. He was succeeded by Art Davis, who would direct some great cartoons until his unit was closed down in 1949.

In the years following Clampett’s leave, his zany style was continued for a while by his master animator Robert McKimson, who had been promoted to director only a few months earlier. However, McKimson soon toned down both animation and humor, and he would never achieve the same level of originality as Bob Clampett did during his Warner Bros. days.

Watch ‘The Big Snooze’ yourself and tell me what you think:

This is Bugs Bunny cartoon No. 40
To the previous Bugs Bunny cartoon: Racketeer Rabbit
To the next Bugs Bunny cartoon: Rhapsody Rabbit

‘The Big Snooze’ is available on the DVD-set ‘Looney Tunes Golden Collection Volume Two’