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Director: Tex Avery
Release Date: July 27, 1940
Stars: Bugs Bunny, Elmer Fudd
Rating:  ★★★★½
Review:

A Wild Hare © Warner Bros.‘A Wild Hare’ marks the birth of one of the biggest cartoon stars of all time, Bugs Bunny.

The short had been preceded by four other Warner Bros. cartoons about hunting and rabbits, ‘Porky’s Hare Hunt‘ (1938), ‘Prest-O Chang-O‘ (1939). ‘Hare-Um Scare-Um‘ (1939) and ‘Elmer’s Candid Camera‘ (1940), which all contributed to the formation of the character.

Yet, it’s the character, design and voice the rabbit got in ‘A Wild Hare’ that made the rodent into the Bugs Bunny we all know now, even though he still looks a little different. Nevertheless, the difference between Tex Avery’s Bugs and his predecessors is less marked than sometimes advertised: Jones’s rabbit in ‘Elmer’s Candid Camera’ already was a calm character, and both the rabbits in ‘Porky’s Hare Hunt’ and in ‘Elmer’s Candid Camera’ had performed fake death scenes. Moreover, even in the first half of ‘A Wild Hare’ the rabbit still seems a bit loony, like his predecessors.

Still, the rabbit has become a lot cooler: in his first appearance (which surprisingly only occurs after two and a half minutes!) he calmly addresses his hunter with the first occurrence of that famous line ‘What’s up, doc?‘. And in the second half he kisses Elmer Fudd a few times (another Bugs Bunny trademark) and deliberately invites Elmer to shoot him, only to act out a superb death scene, animated to perfection by Robert McKimson.

Likewise, Elmer Fudd gets his definite design in this cartoon, and it’s here he utters his trademark opening words ‘Be vewy vewy quiet, I’m hunting wabbits‘ for the first time. He still has the red nose he had inherited from his predecessor Egghead, but that would soon go, too.

Priceless is the ‘guess who’ scene, in which Elmer guesses several beautiful Hollywood actresses as likely candidates (“Hedy Lamarr? Carole Lombard? Rosemary Lane? Olivia de Havilland?“), before deciding upon ‘that screwy rabbit’. The complete cartoon forms the template for many Bugs Bunny cartoons to come, up to such a late short like ‘What’s Opera, Doc?‘ (1957).

The cartoon itself at least was a success, and nominated for an Academy Award (which it lost to MGM’s ‘The Milky Way‘), and it prompted other cartoon directors to use the character, too. Five months later, Chuck Jones was the first, with ‘Elmer’s Pet Rabbit’. Thus this rabbit had to get a name. And in an era in which virtually all cartoon stars had alliterated names, he was christened Bugs Bunny. In fact, this name that already appeared on a model sheet for ‘Hare-Um Scare-um’ as ‘Bugs’ Bunny’, after director Bugs Hardaway, who had directed that particular cartoon. ‘Elmer’s Pet Rabbit’ has a separate title card to introduce this rabbit and his red-hot name.

With ‘A Wild Hare’ the Leon Schlesinger studio turned a new page. Together with MGM’s ‘Puss Gets The Boot’, Tom & Jerry’s debut film, which had been released five months earlier, the short somehow heralds the wilder and more mature days of the 1940s. And although Elmer and Bugs don’t chase each other in ‘A Wild Hare’, the cartoon helped to shape the format of the chase cartoon, with the comedy played out well with just the two characters, in a clear antagonistic relationship. Now the fun could really begin…

Watch ‘A Wild Hare’ yourself and tell me what you think:

This is Bugs Bunny cartoon No. 1
To the last proto-Bugs Bunny cartoon: Elmer’s Candid Camera
To the next Bugs Bunny cartoon: Elmer’s Pet Rabbit

‘A Wild Hare’ is available on the Blu-Ray set ‘Looney Tunes Platinum Collection: Volume 2’ and on the DVD ‘Warner Bros. Home Entertainment Academy Award-Nominated Animation: Cinema Favorites’

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Director: Friz Freleng
Release Date: April 21, 1945
Stars: Bugs Bunny, Yosemite Sam
Rating: ★★★★½
Review:

Hare Trigger © Warner Bros.‘Hare Trigger’ introduces that tiny yet explosive adversary to Bugs Bunny, Yosemite Sam.

His introduction music is Franz Schubert’s Erlkönig, and train robbery is his profession. However, on the train he encounters Bugs, who gives the short-tempered bandit a hard time.

The cartoon contains a shot of an über-cool Bugs rolling a cigarette, a gag repeated and improved on in ‘Bugs Bunny Rides Again‘ (1948). The short  also contains live action footage in the ‘club bar’ wagon.  The gun drawing scene is a highlight, as is Yosemite Sam’s death scene, which bugs invokes with ketchup. The cartoon ends brilliantly with a tongue-in-cheek cliffhanger.

According to Freleng he needed a stronger adversary to Bugs than Elmer Fudd ever was, and Yosemite Sam perfectly fitted the job. He was a delightful opponent to Bugs Bunny, and he became Friz Freleng’s favorite bad guy, lasting until 1964, and starring 31 cartoons in total, nearly all with Bugs Bunny. Perhaps Freleng was so fond of the character because he was partly based on Freleng himself.

In any case, he soon took Sam out of his Western origin, making him a.o. a pirate (‘Buccaneer Bunny‘, 1948), a foreign soldier (‘Bunker Hill Bunny‘, 1950) and a sheik (‘Sahara Hare’, 1955). Free from his Western origins Yosemite Sam could be Bugs Bunny in every country and every period of time, and in this respect he anticipates the Little Guy, the Pink Panther’s adversary, who also sprouted from Friz Freleng’s imagination.

Watch ‘Hare Trigger’ yourself and tell me what you think:

This is Bugs Bunny cartoon No. 32
To the previous Bugs Bunny cartoon: Unruly Hare
To the next Bugs Bunny cartoon: Hare Conditioned

 

Director: Tex Avery
Release Date: July 5, 1941
Stars: Bugs Bunny, Willoughby
Rating: ★★★★★
Review:

The Heckling Hare © Warner Bros.The dumb dog Willoughby was a minor Warner Brothers character, created by Tex Avery, and starring a few cartoons in the early 1940s.

The dog kept changing names, and that’s probably one of the reasons he never got famous. ‘The Heckling Hare’ was his third cartoon, and in it he remains nameless. Tex Avery puts him against his much more famous creation, Bugs Bunny. Penned by Michael Maltese, the result is an inspired cartoon, full of gags.

Willoughby swaps places with Elmer Fudd in hunting rabbits. He’s of course no more successful than Elmer, and Bugs tricks him a lot. The best scene is when Bugs makes the dumb dog making faces, while he puts forward a sign to the audience reading “Silly, isn’t he?”.

However, the cartoon is most famous for its finale: for it ends with a lengthy fall from a cliff by both characters. This scene is obviously cut short in the final version. Producer Leon Schlesinger didn’t like the original ending, which apparently involved no less than two other falls, and ordered the cut. Rumors have it that this was the reason for Tex Avery to leave Warner Bros. This isn’t true. Tex Avery wanted to do a series combining live action animals with animated mouths. Schlesinger wasn’t interested, so Avery ended up doing this series, Christened ‘Speaking of the Animals’ at Paramount. However, this was not a success, and by September 1941 Schlesinger was making cartoons again, now at MGM, where he would direct his greatest shorts.

In his book ‘Chuck Amuck’ Chuck Jones argues that ‘The Heckling Hare’ was the cartoon that re-established Bugs Bunny’s character, after three somewhat misguided cartoons by himself, Tex Avery and Friz Freleng. Bugs Bunny certainly is much more himself and in any of the previous cartoons. In any case, he would meet Willoughby again in the dog’s very last cartoon, ‘Hare Force’ (1944), directed by Friz Freleng, in which the dog is called ‘Sylvester’.

Watch ‘The Heckling Hare’ yourself and tell me what you think:

This is Bugs Bunny cartoon No. 5
To the previous Bugs Bunny cartoon: Hiawatha’s Rabbit Hunt
To the next Bugs Bunny cartoon: All This and Rabbit Stew

Director: Bob Clampett
Release Date: September 25, 1943
Stars: Bugs Bunny, Porky Pig, Elmer Fudd, Daffy Duck?
Rating: ★★★★★ ♕
Review:

A Corny Concerto © Warner Bros.‘A Corny Concerto’ is a two part spoof on Disney’s most ambitious feature, ‘Fantasia’ (1940), using two waltzes by Johann Strauss jr.

The cartoon features a very Fantasia-like opening, with Elmer Fudd as a clear caricature of Deems Taylor. He announces ‘Tales from the Woods’, which tells about Porky Pig and a dog hunting Bugs Bunny. Porky fills the role of Elmer Fudd in this sequence, and it’s the only cartoon in we can watch him hunting Bugs Bunny. This first part is a classic Bugs Bunny routine, complete with death scene, but now timed to music and acted in pantomime. With its overt mix of high culture and silliness this part is a direct ancestor to Chuck Jones’s later ‘What’s Opera, Doc?‘ (1957).

The second part is a story on ‘The Blue Danube’. It opens with flowers dropping on water, just like in the Nutcracker Suite sequence in Fantasia. This part tells about a little black duck, an infant version of Daffy Duck, trying to join a family of swans, and finally saving them from a vulture by destroying him with TNT. As this story is some kind of inverse of ‘The Ugly Duckling‘ (another acclaimed Disney masterpiece), this could be considered to be a parody within a parody.

Apart from Elmer Fudd’s speeches, the cartoon is completely pantomimed, and full of the wild and zany animation so typical of Bob Clampett’s unit. The backgrounds are lush and colorful, and reminiscent of the the Pastoral Symphony sequence in the original Fantasia. Their designs become overtly ridiculous in ‘The Blue Danube’, with Greek columns placed randomly in the water.

The result is a highly original mix of style and nonsense, and a great testimony of what Leon Schlesinger’s studio could do on a limited budget. In all, the cartoon is an undisputed classic, and very enjoyable, even if you don’t know its topic of parody.

Watch ‘A Corny Concerto’ yourself and tell me what you think:

This is Bugs Bunny cartoon No. 19
To the previous Bugs Bunny cartoon: Wackiki Wabbit
To the next Bugs Bunny cartoon: Falling Hare

This is Porky Pig cartoon No. 102
To the previous Porky Pig cartoon: Porky’s Pig’s Feat
To the next Porky Pig cartoon: Tom Turk and Daffy

Director: Chuck Jones
Release Date: May 9, 1951
Stars: Bugs Bunny, Daffy Duck, Elmer Fudd
Rating: ★★★★★
Review:

Rabbit Fire © Warner Bros.‘Rabbit Fire’ is the first of three cartoons in which writer Michael Maltese and director Chuck Jones play Bugs Bunny, Daffy Duck and Elmer Fudd against each other.

The cartoon introduces a new incarnation of Daffy: as the jealous and treacherous miser who never wins. This transformation works, because Daffy the trickster was already present, as can be seen in films like ‘You Ought to be in Pictures‘ (1940) and ‘The Ducksters‘ (1950). As we could expect Daffy’s tricks, so successful against Porky Pig, fail when tried on Bugs Bunny, and Daffy’s repeated failures add to the duck’s frustration.

However, with this transformation, Daffy would lose his lunacy altogether, and it was this new frustrated, misguided, loser type of Daffy that would prevail to the present day, combined with Daffy-the-misguided-hero, championed in other Chuck Jones cartoons, like ‘Drip-along Daffy‘ (1951) and ‘Duck Dodgers in the 24 ½ Century‘(1953).

In ‘Rabbit Fire’ the contrast between Bugs and Daffy is played out very well: Bugs is the initial victim, but he remains über-cool and in total control, while Daffy is the treacherous actor, trying to harm Bugs, but biting the dust every time. In fact, this character trait makes Daffy rather similar to an earlier incarnation of that other famous duck, Donald, who, by the early 1950s had more or less evolved into the straight guy.

The team’s streak of genius is that Daffy never turns into rage, but remains cool, as well. When confronted with a string of defeats, he just walks up to Bugs and utters: ‘you’re despicable!’. Elmer Fudd, meanwhile, remains the confused instrument of the feud between the two animals.

‘Rabbit Fire’ is a dialogue-rich cartoon, but the dialogue never wears down the action. In fact, two of the film’s highlights involve a lot of talking: the gun-pointing scene, and a scene in which Bugs and Daffy read aloud several recipes (strangely enough Daffy pulls out a book on rabbit recipes out of Bugs’s rabbit hole…). Other highlights are a gag involving an elephant gun, and the short’s finale, in which it’s suddenly Elmer Season.

The success of ‘Rabbit Fire’ was repeated in ‘Rabbit Seasoning’ (1952) and ‘Duck! Rabbit! Duck! (1953). After this classic trio the studio paired Bugs and Daffy, and even Elmer in a bunch of other cartoons, and the antagonism between rabbit and duck remains intact to the present day, as can be seen in the feature film ”Looney Tunes: Back in Action’ (2003).

Watch ‘Rabbit Fire’ yourself and tell me what you think:

This is Daffy Duck cartoon No. 55
To the previous Daffy Duck cartoon: The Ducksters
To the next Daffy Duck cartoon: Drip-along Daffy

This is Bugs Bunny cartoon No. 82
To the previous Bugs Bunny cartoon: Fair-Hared Hare
To the next Bugs Bunny cartoon: French Rarebit

‘Rabbit Fire’ is available on the Blu-Ray ‘Looney Tunes Platinum Collection: Volume 2’ and on the DVD-set ‘Looney Tunes Golden Collection Volume One’

Director: Chuck Jones
Release Date: December 16, 1950
Stars: Bugs Bunny, Elmer Fudd
Rating: ★★★★★ ♕
Review:

Rabbit of Seville © Warner Bros.‘Rabbit of Seville’ is the second of three superb Chuck Jones Bugs Bunny cartoons on opera, bridging ‘Long-Haired Hare‘ (1949) and ‘What’s Opera, Doc?‘ (1957).

The cartoon starts with an open air opera theater setting with the Elmer-Bugs chase quickly entering the scene. When Elmer hits the stage, Bugs quickly opens the curtains, prompting the orchestra to play ‘The Barber from Seville’ by Gioachino Rossini. This leads to a wonderful aria by Bugs, and even Elmer joins in.

But the best part of the film is the silent comedy that follows on the music of the opera’s overture. During this sequence Bugs Bunny’s expressions are priceless, and the action is beautifully staged to the music, leading to a great finale in which Elmer and Bugs get married.

Throughout the picture Jones’s timing and staging are perfect. It improves on both Charlie Chaplin’s barber scene in ‘The Great Dictator’ (1940) and on the vaguely similar Woody Woodpecker cartoon ‘Barber of Seville‘ (1944). The result is no less than a masterpiece.

Surprisingly, this cartoon about  ‘The Barber of Seville’ does not feature the famous ‘Largo el factotum’ aria from that opera. This is remarkable, for this aria was a staple in cartoons, and used extensively in e.g. ‘Barber of Seville’, the Tex Avery cartoon ‘Magical Maestro’ and Chuck Jones own Tom & Jerry cartoon ‘The Cat Above, The Mouse Below‘ (1964).

Watch ‘Rabbit of Seville’ yourself and tell me what you think:

‘Rabbit of Seville’ is available on the DVD set ‘Looney Tunes Golden Collection, Vol. 1’

This is Bugs Bunny cartoon No. 77
To the previous Bugs Bunny cartoon: Bushy Hare
To the next Bugs Bunny cartoon: Hare We Go

Director: Robert McKimson
Release Date: June 17, 1950
Stars: Bugs Bunny, Elmer Fudd
Rating: ★★★★★ ♕
Review:

What's Up, Doc © Warner Bros.‘What’s Up, Doc?’ starts very much like Friz Freleng’s ‘A Hare Grows in Manhattan‘ from 1947: Bugs Bunny is a Hollywood star, interviewed by the press.

However, Writer Warren Foster and director McKimson’s take is much funnier than Freleng’s: instead of turning to an ordinary chase sequence, the duo retains the idea of Bugs being a real actor throughout the picture. The cartoon shows his erratic career in the vaudeville scene.

The most absurd take is when Bugs Bunny is down in the dumps. We seem him hanging out in the park with actors, who, by 1950, belonged pretty much to the has-beens: Al Jolson, Jack Benny, Eddie Cantor and Bing Crosby. At this point, it is Elmer, “the famous vaudeville star”, who turns Bugs into a star. We watch the duo performing in what must be the most terrible vaudeville act ever put on screen. But when Bugs utters “what’s up, doc” the duo hits the jackpot.

This loony, self-satirizing from-rags-to-riches story is entertaining throughout, and leads to a great finale. It may well have inspired the equally tongue-in-cheek opening sequence of ‘Singin’ in the Rain’ (1952), which shows some similarities to McKimson’s short.

‘What’s Up, Doc?’ is without doubt one of McKimson’s best cartoons. Sadly, the film more or less marks the end of McKimson’s most inspired era, for during the 1950s the quality of his cartoons steadily declined, becoming more and more routine, and less and less funny.

Watch ‘What’s Up, Doc?’ yourself and tell me what you think:

‘What’s Up, Doc?’ is available on the DVD set ‘Looney Tunes Golden Collection, Vol. 1’

This is Bugs Bunny cartoon No. 72
To the previous Bugs Bunny cartoon: Big House Bunny
To the next Bugs Bunny cartoon: 8 Ball Bunny

Director: Friz Freleng
Release Date: April 22, 1950
Stars: Bugs Bunny, Yosemite Sam
Rating: ★★★★★
Review:

Big House Bunny © Warner Bros.To escape some hunters, Bugs Bunny hides inside a prison, where Sam Schultz (Yosemite Sam) is a prison guard.

What follows is a great series of prison gags, including two morbid ones resulting in Sam hanging on the gallows and being electrified in an electric chair. Throughout the cartoon the warden keeps calling for Schultz, not unlike the Nazi officer in the Ernst Lubitsch feature ‘To Be Or Not To Be’ (1942).

‘Big House Bunny’ is full of excellent gags and Freleng’s timing is superb throughout, making ‘Big House Bunny’ one of those little known masterpieces.

Watch ‘Big House Bunny’ yourself and tell me what you think:

‘Big House Bunny’ is available on the DVD set ‘Looney Tunes Golden Collection, Vol. 1’

This is Bugs Bunny cartoon No. 71
To the previous Bugs Bunny cartoon: Homeless Hare
To the next Bugs Bunny cartoon: What’s Up, Doc?

Director: Chuck Jones
Release date: February 25, 1956
Stars: Bugs Bunny, Witch Hazel
Rating: ★★★
Review:

Broom-stick Bunny © Warner Brothers‘Broomstick Bunny’ was the second of three Bugs Bunny cartoons, featuring Witch Hazel, the others being ‘Bewitched Bunny’ (1954) and ‘A Witch’s Tangled Hare’ (1959).

‘Broomstick Bunny’ is a halloween cartoon, in which Bugs Bunny, wearing a witch mask, tries to get trick or treat from Witch Hazel.

Unfortunately, she sees in him a competitor in ugliness. In the end, she drinks her own beautifying potion, turning into a beautiful redhead girl, soon being chased by the genie from her magic mirror. Hazel’s girl image was allegedly modeled after her voice actress, June Foray.

Jones’s animation style becomes close to a mannerism here, with a practically obligatory way to depict Witch Hazel speeding away, leaving numerous hairpins in the air. The cartoon is saved by Ernie Nordli’s extreme layouts and Philip DeGuard’s more than fabulous backgrounds, which belong to the most beautiful of the cartoon modern age.

Watch ‘Broom-stick Bunny’ yourself and tell me what you think:

http://www.ulozto.net/live/x5US9Dz/bugs-bunny-broom-stick-bunny-1956-avi

This is Bugs Bunny cartoon No. 120
To the previous Bugs Bunny cartoon: Bugs’ Bonnets
To the next Bugs Bunny cartoon: Rabbitson Crusoe

Director: Friz Freleng
Release Date: May 8, 1948
Stars: Bugs Bunny, Yosemite Sam
Rating: ★★★★
Review:

Buccaneer Bunny © Warner BrothersAlready in his third cartoon Yosemite Sam is used outside his original Western setting, and changed into a timeless adversary of Bugs Bunny.

In ‘Buccaneer Bunny’ he’s a 18th century pirate called Seagoin’ Sam. This idea of Sam as a timeless foe was a masterstroke, and in the following years, Sam would be Bugs Bunny’s nemesis in a wide variety of settings, like the American war of independence, the Sahara desert, ancient Rome and the middle ages.

‘Buccaneer Bunny’ is a wonderful start of this series, consisting of wonderful gags, including a beautifully timed multiple door gag. Bugs Bunny also does a great Charles Laughton parody, disguising as captain Bligh, as portrayed by Laughton in ‘Mutiny on the Bounty’ (1935).

Watch ‘Buccaneer Bunny’ yourself and tell me what you think:

This is Bugs Bunny cartoon No. 49
To the previous Bugs Bunny cartoon: Rabbit Punch
To the next Bugs Bunny cartoon: Bugs Bunny Rides Again

Director: Robert McKimson
Release Date: December 14, 1957
Stars: Bugs Bunny, Elmer Fudd
Rating: ★★★½
Review:

Rabbit Romeo © Warner Brothers‘Rabbit Romeo’ opens with Elmer Fudd receiveing an enormous package from his uncle Judd Fudd containing a ‘Slobavian rabbit’.

The Slobavian rabbit turns out to be a giant female rabbit called Millicent. Elmer will get $500 if he will guard the rabbit until his uncle arrives. Unfortunately Millicent gets lonely, and expresses that by wrecking things, so Elmer seeks a companion, which of course has to be Bugs Bunny. In the end of the cartoon Bugs gets rid of the all too loving Millicent by putting Elmer into a rabbit suit.

‘Rabbit Romeo’ is a rare combination of storyman Michael Maltese and director Robert McKimson. Maltese’s peppy story makes it one of McKimson’s better latter day shorts. The designs on Bugs and Elmer may be flat and uninspired,  the animation on Millicent is great. Moreover, McKimson’s timing is excellent, and he excels in some facial expressions on Bugs Bunny, which belong to the best in any Bugs Bunny short.

Watch ‘Rabbit Romeo’ yourself and tell me what you think:

This is Bugs Bunny cartoon No. 134
To the previous Bugs Bunny cartoon: Show Biz Bugs
To the next Bugs Bunny cartoon: Hareless Wolf

Director: Chuck Jones
Release Date: July 6, 1957
Stars: Bugs Bunny, Elmer Fudd
Rating:   ★★★★★ ♕
Review:

What's Opera, doc © Warner BrothersOne of the most celebrated animated cartoons of all time, ‘What’s Opera, Doc’ places the typical Elmer Fudd-Bugs Bunny chase routine into the world of Wagnerian opera.

The cartoon’s masterstroke is that it uses all the cliches of the chase, which go all the way back to the first Bugs Bunny Cartoon ‘A Wild Hare‘ (1940), but that they are carried out in the most serious, Wagnerian fashion. The result is ridiculously pompous, mocking Wagnerian opera, as well as playing homage to it. Milt Franklyn’s score quotes music from five Wagner operas: ‘Der fliegende Holländer’, ‘Die Walküre’, ‘Siegfried’, ‘Rienzi’ and ‘Tannhäuser’.

The cartoon’s operatic character is emphasized not only by operatic singing, but also by featuring Wagnerian magic (a magic helmet), a ballet (a staple of French opera, but only employed by Richard Wagner in his very first operas), and a sad ending, a cliche of 19th century opera in general. Michael Maltese provided new lyrics to Wagner’s pilgrim chorus from ‘Tannhäuser’ and made it into a rather Hollywood musical-like love duet between Elmer and Bugs.

The animation is outstanding throughout, especially in the ballet and love duet between Bugs and Elmer. Indeed, for the ballet sequence the animators studied Tatania Riabouchinska and David Lichine from The Original Ballet Russe, and there’s a genuine seriousness about this scene. Yet, the main attraction of the cartoon lies in Maurice Noble’s extreme background layouts and bold color designs. Especially when Elmer gets furious, there is a startling emotional use of colors that has not been seen on the animated screen since ‘Bambi‘ (1942).

The opening sequence, with Elmer casting a mighty shadow is a straight homage to ‘The Night on Bold Mountain’ sequence from ‘Fantasia’ (1940), while the shots of Bugs being dressed as Brünnhilde and riding an oversized horse are retaken from ‘Herr meets Hare’ from 1945 (which, like ‘What’s Opera, doc?” was also penned by Michael Maltese). In this sense the cartoon is as much a homage to animation history as it is to opera.

‘What’s Opera, doc?’ is a brilliant cartoon of pure grandeur and one of Chuck Jones’s all time masterpieces. What’s most striking is that it was made during the normal grind of a commercial animated cartoon studio. The film took much longer than normal to make, which Jones and his unit could only manage to do by cheating on their schedule, stealing time from a much more ordinary short, the Road Runner cartoon ‘Zoom and Bored’ (1957).

Watch ‘What’s Opera, Doc?’ yourself and tell me what you think:

This is Bugs Bunny cartoon No. 131
To the previous Bugs Bunny cartoon: Piker’s Peak
To the next Bugs Bunny cartoon: Bugsy and Mugsy

Director: Chuck Jones
Release Date: July 3, 1943
Stars: Bugs Bunny
Rating: ★★★★★
Review:

Wackiki Wabbit © Warner BrothersTwo 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 three-dimensional 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 had 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

Director: Chuck Jones
Release Date: December 12, 1942
Stars: Bugs Bunny
Rating: ★★★★
Review:

Case of the Missing Hare © Warner BrothersBugs Bunny is bullied by a large magician, leading to his catch phrase “Of course you realize this means war”. In the second part of the film Bugs Bunny wrecks the magician’s show, and finally the magician himself.

Bugs’s catch phrase was borrowed from Groucho Marx, an important inspiration on Bugs Bunny’s character anyhow. The line would become typical for Bugs as directed by Chuck Jones. Unlike Bob Clampett, Jones would treat the rabbit not as intrinsically mischievous, but as reacting to injustice placed on him.

The large magician in ‘Case of the Missing Hare’ is the first of many particularly large adversaries Jones gave to Bugs, all bullying the rabbit into action. Thus, the magician is the direct forerunner of e.g. the warehouse keeper in ‘Hare Conditioned‘ (1945), the crusher in ‘Rabbit Punch‘ (1948) and Giovanni Jones in ‘Long-Haired Hare‘ (1949).

‘Case of the Missing Hare’ shows that by the end of 1942 Chuck Jones’s mastery over material had become fully realized. The cartoon features his typical character designs, extravagant key poses, original camera angles and sense of design. The latter is exemplified by background artists Gene Fleury and John McGrew’s very unnatural backgrounds. In the first part we watch pink trees and yellow skies. In the second part they got even bolder, reducing the backgrounds to abstract forms in two colors, only.

In its typical and original design and cinematography ‘Case of the Missing Hare’ looks forward to Jones’ mature work of the late forties and fifties.

Watch ‘Case of the Missing Hare’ yourself and tell me what you think:

This is Bugs Bunny cartoon No. 14
To the previous Bugs Bunny cartoon: The Hare-Brained Hypnotist
To the next Bugs Bunny cartoon: Tortoise Wins by a Hare

Director: Friz Freleng
Release Date: March 28, 1942
Stars: Bugs Bunny, Elmer Fudd
Rating: ★★★★
Review:

The Wabbit Who Came to Supper © Warner BrothersElmer Fudd will inherit three million dollars from Uncle Louie, if he doesn’t hurt any animal, especially rabbits. Bugs, of course, takes advantage of the situation.

‘The Wabbit Who Came to Supper’ was Friz Freleng’s second Bugs Bunny cartoon, only, but he understood the brassy character completely. The highlight of the cartoon is the scene in which in the middle of a chase a clock chimes and Bugs bursts into a convincing New Year routine… in July. This scene not only shows the fresh character’s overpowering personality, it also shows Bugs Bunny’s ability to produce necessary attributes out of nowhere, this time confetti and streamers.

Bugs’ design, however, is rather unappealing and uncertain in this cartoon. And Elmer Fudd, too, has the less appealing alternate fatty design, which Robert Clampett had introduced in ‘Wabbit Twouble’ (1941). Luckily, this design was short-lived and lasted only four cartoons.

Two years later Hanna and Barbera would use the same plot idea in the Tom and Jerry cartoon ‘Million Dollar Cat’ (1944) with even better results.

Watch ‘The Wabbit Who Came to Supper’ yourself and tell me what you think:

This is Bugs Bunny cartoon No. 8
To the previous Bugs Bunny cartoon: Wabbit Twouble
To the next Bugs Bunny cartoon: The Wacky Wabbit

 

Director: Chuck Jones
Release Date: March 2, 1940
Stars: proto-Bugs Bunny, Elmer Fudd
Rating: ★★
Review:

Elmer's Candid Camera © Warner BrothersIn this slow and only moderately funny cartoon Elmer tries to photograph nature, but he’s hindered by a predecessor of Bugs Bunny.

This goofy rabbit is not quite Bugs, even though he behaves very calmly and does a Bugs-style death act. His looks and sounds are those of the crazy rabbit in ‘Hare-um Scare-um‘ (1939) and he still has the Woody Woodpecker-style laugh introduced in ‘Porky’s Hare Hunt‘ (1938). Jones has toned this loony fellow down, but it was to Tex Avery to introduce a really cool rabbit in ‘A Wild Hare‘ from four months later.

No, the importance of ‘Elmer’s Candid Camera’ lies in the fact that it marks Elmer’s debut. Although he’s still wearing an Egghead suit (the character from which he evolved), he lacks Egghead’s goofiness, and he has received his distinctive voice provided by Arthur Q. Bryan. Moreover, he utters his famous line “wabbit twacks” for the first time here.

Unfortunately, ‘Elmer’s Candid Camera’ is more historically interesting than entertaining, and outside its historical importance, the cartoon is quite forgettable.

Watch ‘Elmer’s Candid Camera’ yourself and tell me what you think:

http://ulozto.net/live/xzv5WBh/bugs-bunny-elmers-candid-camera-1940-avi

This is the last of four cartoons featuring a Bugs Bunny forerunner
To the first Bugs Bunny cartoon: A Wild Hare
To the previous proto-Bugs Bunny cartoon: Hare-um Scare-um

 

 

Director: Chuck Jones
Release Date:
 April 19, 1952
Stars:
 Bugs Bunny
Rating:
 ★★★★
Review:

Water, Water Everyhare © Warner BrothersSix years after ‘Hair-raising Hare’ (1946) Bugs Bunny faces the orange monster in sneakers again.

‘Water, Water Every Hare’ is a horror cartoon featuring almost everything a horror movie should have: an evil scientist, a monster, a mummy and a robot. This story is rather awkwardly framed, however, by a story about the river flooding Bugs’s home and transporting him to and from the castle. Facing the monster Bugs repeats his manicure-tric from the earlier film, although this time he pretends to be a hair dresser. He also makes himself invisible and he makes the monster shrink.

If not as funny as ‘Hair-raising Hare’, ‘Water, Water Every Hare’ is full of clever gags. It moves at a relatively relaxed pace, which only a very confident film maker could use with such effect. In that respect, ‘Water, Water Evey Hare’ shows the mastery director Chuck Jones had achieved. He needn’t be fast and furious to be funny and he knew it.

Watch ‘Water, Water Every Hare’ yourself and tell me what you think:

http://www.metacafe.com/watch/7621186/water_water_every_hare_1952/

‘Water, Water Every Hare’ is available on the DVD set ‘Looney Tunes Golden Collection, Vol. 1’

This is Bugs Bunny cartoon No. 90
To the previous Bugs Bunny cartoon: Foxy Proxy
To the next Bugs Bunny cartoon: Hasty Hare

Director: Friz Freleng
Release Date:
 May 2, 1953
Stars:
 Bugs Bunny, Yosemite Sam
Rating:
 ★★★★
Review:

Southern Fried Rabbit © Warner BrothersWhen his home country looks like a desert and he becomes short of carrots, Bugs migrates to Alabama.

Unfortunately, the ‘Mason Dixie Line’, the border between the North (desert) and the South (beautiful green landscape), is protected by Southerner Sam, who isn’t aware that the civil war has ended ages ago. This preposterous idea leads to great gags involving several impersonations by Bugs, a.o. of Abraham Lincoln.

Watch ‘Southern Fried Rabbit’ yourself and tell me what you think:

http://archive.org/details/SouthernFriedRabbit_35

This is Bugs Bunny cartoon No. 98
To the previous Bugs Bunny cartoon: Upswept Hare
To the next Bugs Bunny cartoon: Hare-Trimmed

Director: Chuck Jones
Release Date: January 19, 1952
Stars: Bugs Bunny, Wile E. Coyote
Rating:
 ★★
Review:

Operation Rabbit © Warner BrothersThe second appearance of the Coyote after his debut film ‘Fast and Furry-ous‘ (1949) was, surprisingly, not another Road Runner cartoon.

Instead, director Chuck Jones decided to place his still fresh carnivore character against Bugs Bunny,  a character increasingly in need of worthy opponents.

in ‘Operation: Rabbit’ Wile E. Coyote, who introduces himself as ‘genius’, suddenly is a talking character, speaking with an eloquent voice.  The experiment is not successful. The coyote’s ability to speak floods the action with a lot of superfluous dialogue, and he almost totally lacks the sympathetic frustration so wonderfully demonstrated in the Road Runner cartoons. Moreover, there’s hardly any chemistry between the two overconfident characters, which leads to remarkably unfunny gags, with only the one involving a flying saucer being able to create a chuckle.

Despite the shortcomings, Jones would make Bugs Bunny and Wile E. Coyote co-star in three more cartoons: ‘To Hare is Human’ (1956), ‘Rabbit’s Feat’ (1960), and ‘Compressed Hare’ (1961). Meanwhile the Coyote would have a much more interesting career in the Road Runner cartoons, with the second one, ‘Beep Beep’, appearing four months after ‘Operation Rabbit’.

Watch ‘Operation: Rabbit’ yourself and tell me what you think:

http://www.wimp.com/funtoon/

This is Bugs Bunny cartoon No. 87
To the previous Bugs Bunny cartoon: Big Top Bunny
To the next Bugs Bunny cartoon: 14 Carrot Bunny

Director: Chuck Jones
Release Date: March 10, 1951
Stars: Bugs Bunny, The Crusher
Rating: ★★
Review:

Bunny Hugged © Warner BrothersThree years after ‘Rabbit Punch‘ (1948) Bugs Bunny faces the Crusher again.

This time Bugs is the mascot of ‘Ravishing Ronald’, a gay looking ballet dancer type of character with a hair net. This guy challenges the Crusher in a wrestling match, but is clobbered immediately.

In order not to lose his job Bugs Bunny challenges the Crusher, too, as the ‘masked terror’. Of course, he wins the game, by strategy in a rather boring and uninspired cartoon, especially when compared to the delightful ‘Rabbit Punch’. The best gags are in the beginning: the Crusher showing his enormous excess of muscles and the extravagant entry of Ravishing Ronald.

Watch ‘Bunny Hugged’ yourself and tell me what you think:

http://www.ebaumsworld.com/video/watch/82493307/

This is Bugs Bunny cartoon No. 80
To the previous Bugs Bunny cartoon: Rabbit Every Monday
To the next Bugs Bunny cartoon: Fair-Haired Hare

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