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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

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Director: Chuck Jones
Release Date: 1957
Stars: Ralph Phillips
Rating: ★★
Review:

Drafty, Isn't It © Warner Brothers‘Drafty, isn’t it’ is the second of two propagandistic advertisement shorts Chuck Jones made for the US Army in the late 1950s.

Like its predecessor, ‘90 Days of Wondering‘ (1956), it stars a young adult form of dreamer boy Ralph Phillips. In this short Ralph Phillips has nightmares about all his ideas of  adventure being blocked by a giant shadow of a soldier beckoning him. Then he’s visited by an army pixie who elists some fictions and facts about the army. The cliches, of course, are the most hilarious. This short also contains a very Tex Avery-like running gag in which he pixie repeatedly has to put Ralph’s dog to sleep by singing it a fast lullaby.

‘Drafty, Isn’t It?’ is a well-made and beautiful film, and it would have been more enjoyable were it not so sickeningly propagandistic.

Watch ‘Drafty, Isn’t It?’ yourself and tell me what you think:

Director: Robert McKimson
Release Date: July 20, 1957
Stars: Speedy Gonzales
Rating: ★★★★
Review:

Tabasco Road © Warner BrothersIt was Robert McKimson, not Friz Freleng, who directed the first Speedy Gonzales film ‘Cat-Tails for Two’. But it took four years before McKimson revisited this character.

By then Friz Freleng had redesigned McKimson’s creation in ‘Speedy Gonzales’, which had won an Academy Award.

McKimson’s returns to Speedy Gonzales actually results in one of Speedy’s finest films. Here Speedy tries to protect two drunken mice called Pablo and Fernando from a large grey cat. ‘Tabasco Road’ is a very talkative cartoon, but it’s also inspired and charming, especially because of the characters of Pablo and Fernando, who are as intoxicating as they are intoxicated. The best gag, however, is when Speedy’s action appears too fast for the viewer, and Speedy replays it for us in slow motion.

Watch ‘Tabasco Road’ yourself and tell me what you think:

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: Friz Freleng
Release Date: January 5, 1957
Rating:  ★★★★★
Review:

Three Little Bops © Warner Brothers‘Three Little Bops’ retells the story of the three little pigs in a jazz style.

The film features voice actor Stan Freberg as a singing narrator. In the cartoon the three little pigs are jazz musicians who play jump blues (not bebop!). The wolf is a corny jazz cat, who wants to sit in, but whose trumpet playing is too amateurish to entertain. Only in hell the wolf learns that “you gotta get hot to play real cool”.

The film is unique within the Warner Bros. cartoon canon because it features neither voice work by Mel Blanc nor music by Carl Stalling/Milt Franklyn. It even lacks the ‘That’s All Folks!’ ending, showing a ‘The End’, instead. In the cartoon Stan Freberg does all the singing, while the swinging rhythm & blues music is provided by jazz musician Shorty Rogers and his combo. Together with ‘Rhapsody in Rivets‘ (1941), the cartoon is one of the best examples of director Friz Freleng’s perfect sense of musical timing. The result is one of the most entertaining animated cartoons of the late 1950s.

Watch ‘Three Little Bops’ yourself and tell me what you think:

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