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Director: Douglas McCarthy
Release Date: August 25, 1995
Stars: Bugs Bunny, Daffy Duck, Yosemite Sam, Tweety, Laszlo, Penelope Pussycat, Pepe le Pew a.o.
Rating: ★★★
Review:

‘Carrotblanca’, as the title implies, is a parody on the classic feature ‘Casablanca’ (1942) and appears on several DVD releases of that film.

The short, however, originally was shown theatrically, accompanying the live action feature ‘The Amazing Panda Adventure’ in North America and the animated feature ‘The Pebble and the Penguin’ internationally. Thus, the film is a clear product of the cartoon renaissance, reviving many characters from the classic Looney Tunes and Merrie Melodies.

The most familiar faces have the starring roles, so we watch Bugs Bunny as Rick Blaine, Daffy Duck as Sam, Yosemite Sam as ‘General Pandemonium’, Tweety as Ugarte, Sylvester as Laszlo, Penelope Pussycat as Ilsa, and Pepe le Pew as Captain Louis. Also visible are e.g. Foghorn Leghorn, Sam Sheepdog, Porky Pig, the Crusher, Beaky Buzzard, Miss Prissy, Giovanni Jones and Pete Puma. Strangely absent are Elmer Fudd on the Looney Tune side, and Signor Ferrari on the Casablanca side.

The short compresses the original movie into a mere eight minutes, and parodies many of its classic scenes, including the flashback scene. As expected, the result is rather silly, but unfortunately not very funny, as somehow most of the gags fall flat (it doesn’t help that Tweety goes into a Peter Lorre impersonation four times). The film remains at its best when parodying the feature, but as soon as the cartoon characters go into their own routines the results get unpleasantly stale. Thus the film is more a product of nostalgia than one breathing new life into the decades old characters.

Thus ‘Carrotblanca’ may not be an essential film, yet it’s still a fun watch, I guess more for Looney Tunes lovers than Casablanca lovers. If anything, the short showed that the characters still had potential to entertain, a notion Warner Bros. cashed on with the feature length ‘Space Jam’ (1996).

Watch ‘Carrotblanca’ yourself and tell me what you think:

‘Carrotblanca’ is available on several Blu-Ray and DVD editions of ‘Casablanca’

Director: Chuck Russell
Release Date: July 29, 1994
Stars: Jim Carrey, Cameron Diaz, Peter Riegert, Peter Greene, Amy Yasbeck, Richard Jeni
Rating: ★★★★½

Based on the comic book series of the same name ‘The Mask’ was originally conceived as a horror film, but was redrawn as a comedy-fantasy, leaving the comic’s violence behind, but retaining some of its dark overtones. The resulting film turned out be a great example of the animation renaissance that were the late 1980s and early 1990s.

‘The Mask’, of course, is a live action movie, but like that other, very influential live action feature, ‘Who Framed Roger Rabbit’, ‘The Mask’ takes its inspiration from 1940s classic cartoons. The most obvious influence is Tex Avery: we can see the Avery wolf as a statue in Stanley’s apartment, where our hero Stanley Ipkiss (Jim Carrey) watches an excerpt from Avery’s ‘Red Hot Riding Hood’ (1943). The Mask later mimics the wolf scene at the Coco Bongo Nightclub, when watching his love interest Tina Carlyle (Cameron Diaz) perform. Another Avery reference is the ridiculously long car in which the Mask arrives at the club.

Other influences come from Warner Bros. cartoons: during the transformation scene Stanley turns into a whirlwind, which is clearly inspired by the Tasmanian Devil. To make sure, the film makers show a pillow with Taz’s likeness on Stanley’s couch during this scene. In some scenes The Mask has some character traits in common with the early loony version of Daffy Duck, and in one scene, The Mask behaves and talks like Pepe le Pew, Chuck Jones’s lovesick skunk.

But The Mask has most in common with Bugs Bunny: both characters are very confident, always ready to turn threat into comedy, both kiss their enemies, both have an ability to produce props out of nowhere, and both put on highly dramatic fake death scenes. The Mask’s death scene is a particular highlight of the film, with references thrown in to Aunt Em, Old Yeller, Tiny Tim and Scarlet O’Hara. During this scene even a fake audience stands up – another nod to Tex Avery.

The Mask’s cartoony antics were realized by computer animation, then still in its early stages. The computer animation was in the good hands of Industrial Light & Magic, also responsible for some other early milestones like the CGI in ‘The Abyss’ (1989), ‘Terminator 2: Judgment Day’ (1991), ‘Death Becomes Her’ (1992), and of course, ‘Jurassic Park’ (1993). In those days CGI got visibly better with every film, thus back then the computer animation in ‘The Mask’ was spectacular in its novelty. In ‘The Mask ’the computer animation effects are all deliberately cartoony and unreal, and even if not all effects have aged very well, they’re still nice to watch.

Of course, Jim Carrey himself adds a great deal to the cartoony character of The Mask. At the time he was known by most as ‘that crazy white guy’ in the black comedy series ‘In Living Color’, and, indeed, in ‘The Mask’ he can be too much, but he shifts between his more timid Stanley Ipkiss character, and the wild Mask very well. The rest of the cast is in fine shape, too. Cameron Diaz makes her acting debut as the gorgeous Tina Carlyle, and although she’s introduced as a sex bomb in a classic scene, showing off her legs and boobs, Diaz gives her character a remarkable gentleness and depth, beyond the cliche ‘babe’ character. This is a remarkable feat giving the few scenes the character is given. No wonder ‘The Mask’ set her off on a great acting career.

Peter Greene plays a delightfully scary villain, and Peter Riegert has the unfortunate task to be the only actor to play it straight as Lieutenant Kellaway. But he’s better off than Amy Yasbeck, who is adorable as Peggy Brandt, but this journalist is the least convincing character of the whole movie. Special mention has to go to Max, the dog who plays Stanley’s dog Milo, and who manages to make this side character an entertaining addition to the cast. But even minor characters, like Dorian’s henchmen or the street gang are portrayed by fine actors.

Apart from the cartoon references the film breathes classic cinema, even though the story is set in a contemporary fictive metropolis called ‘Edge City’. First there are the cultural references. For example, the car Stanley Ipkiss loans, is an early 1950s Studebaker, at one point The Mask grasps a Tommy Gun popular with gangsters in the 1920s, he wears a zoot suit to the Coco Bongo Club, where Tina sings 1940s jazz hit ‘Gee, Baby, Ain’t I Good to You’, and as Cuban Pete The Mask makes a complete police force doing the conga, an early 1940s dance craze. Second, the film noir atmosphere is highly enhanced by the lighting, as is the fantasy element with the film’s strong coloring.

Typically nineties are the environmental touches: the opening shot of ‘Edge City’ clearly shows a heavily polluted town, and when Stanley and Tina watch the sunset, this looks more like the Northern Lights, making Ipkiss remark “the methane emissions really pick up the colors”.

True to the source material, The Mask is not an entirely likeable character: he’s too grotesque, too creepy, and too maniacal for that. I don’t think anyone would have chosen a character wearing a bald green skull-like mask, if it had not already been in the original comics. In that respect it’s a puzzle to me that the film was followed by an animated series starring this character. In the film, Carrey mostly rescues the character from becoming appalling by using his comedy talents, but during the ‘love’ scene with Tina at the park he becomes genuinely frightening, despite the comic references, and one is relieved the cops rescue Tina from this all too insistent character.

Nevertheless, Carrey manages to make his nice, but all too timid pushover Stanley Ipkiss likable, and his transformation to a guy with guts believable. Apart from all the cartoon references, celebrating classic cartoon humor, ‘The Mask’ also manages to succeed in delivering its message: Be nice, but stand up for yourself, and don’t let people mess with you.

Watch the trailer for ‘The Mask’ yourself and tell me what you think:

‘The Mask’ is available on DVD and Blu-Ray

Directors: Chuck Jones & Abe Levitow
Release Date: January 10, 1959
Stars: Bugs Bunny
Rating: ★★★★½
Review:

Baton Bunny © Warner Bros.

‘Baton Bunny’ is the last of Chuck Jones’s great tributes to classical music, following ‘Long-Haired Hare‘ (1949), ‘Rabbit of Seville‘ (1950) and ‘What’s Opera, doc?‘ (1957).

The short also forms the closing chapter on a long tradition of concert cartoons with cartoon stars conducting, which goes all the way back to the Mickey Mouse short ‘The Barnyard Concert‘ from 1930. True, ‘Baton Bunny’ is not the last of such cartoons (it was e.g. followed by MGM’s ‘Carmen Get It (1962) starring Tom & Jerry, and ‘Pink, Plunk, Plink‘ (1966) starring the Pink Panther), but these cartoons are hardly the classics ‘Baton Bunny’ certainly is.

Bugs Bunny is the sole performer in the cartoon – we don’t even see the orchestra members, only their instruments. Bugs Bunny and the orchestra play Franz von Suppés overture ‘Morning, Noon and Night in Vienna’ (1844), which Bugs conducts not only with his hands, but also with his ears and feet. Like earlier conductors Mickey (‘The Band Concert‘, 1935) and Tom (‘Tom & Jerry at the Hollywood Bowl‘, 1950) Bugs has some troubles while conducting: with a fly, echoing Mickey’s problems with a bee in ‘The Band Concert’, and with his collar and cuffs, echoing Mickey’s problems with his over-sized costume. Highlight is Bugs’ reenactment of a Western pursuit featuring a cowboy, an Indian and the cavalry, only using his ears to change into each character.

But throughout the cartoon Bugs is beautifully animated, with strong expressions, and deft hand movements. It’s a sheer pity that in the end, the fly turns out to be Bugs’ only audience. But Bugs is not too proud to bow for the tiny creature that had troubled him so much just before. Apart from the animation and Michael Maltese’s entertaining story, ‘Baton Bunny’ profits from Maurice Noble’s beautiful background art, and great staging. Thus the short is a wonderful testimony of Warner Bros. cartoon art of the late fifties.

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

This is Bugs Bunny cartoon No. 140
To the previous Bugs Bunny cartoon: Pre-hysterical Hare
To the next Bugs Bunny cartoon: Hare-Abian Nights

‘Baton Bunny’ is available on the DVD-box ‘The Looney Tunes Golden Collection Volume 1″

Director: Friz Freleng
Release Date: June 7, 1941
Stars: Bugs Bunny
Rating: ★★★★
Review:

hiawatha's rabbit hunt © warner bros.This cartoon opens with the voice of Bugs Bunny reciting the first lines of Longfellow’s famous poem ‘The Song of Hiawatha’, while we watch the Indian paddling through a beautiful scenery.

Bugs soon discovers that Hiawatha is hunting rabbits. Luckily, in Freleng’s cartoon the Indian is one of those nit-witted characters based on Lon Chaney jr.’s portrayal of Lennie Small in ‘Of Mice and Men’ (1939), so popular at Warner Bros. (see also ‘Of Fox and Hounds’). In the end the mighty warrior leaves the scene empty-handed, while Bugs recites some last lines from the poem. Nevertheless, it’s the hunter who has the last laugh…

‘Hiawatha’s Rabbit Hunt’ marks Friz Freleng’s first try at Warner Bros.’ new star. He understands the character very well: his Bugs Bunny is both self-assured and capable of making mistakes. In one scene Bugs wants to take one of his graceful dives into a hole, only to land hard on the ground besides it. There’s a priceless scene in which Bugs enters Hiawatha’s cooking pot as if he were taking a hot bath. This is by all means already classic Bugs Bunny material. The looks of the rabbit, on the other hand, are highly unstable, and at times Bugs looks more like his predecessor from ‘Elmer’s Candid Camera‘ (1940) than himself.

In his book ‘Chuck Amuck’ Chuck Jones writes that he feels that “[Freleng], too, went wide of the mark in understanding Bugs’s persona. Not as wide as I did and Tex did, but ’twas enough, ‘twould serve“. I don’t quite agree. Tex Avery indeed is way more off in ‘Tortoise Beats Hare‘. Freleng’s Bugs is not really defined, yet, but he’s well underway.

‘Hiawatha’s Rabbit Hunt’, being Bugs Bunny’s only fourth cartoon, proved once again that this was a character to stay. Nevertheless, in this cartoon Freleng’s unit is at his best in the animation of Bugs’s adversary, Hiawatha. The moves of this dumb and clumsy character are very well-timed and matched with equally funny music by Carl Stalling. The cartoon also boasts some gorgeous background art, which add to the poetic atmosphere, despite all the delightful nonsense.

Watch ‘Hiawatha’s Rabbit Hunt’ yourself and tell me what you think:

This is Bugs Bunny cartoon No. 4
To the previous Bugs Bunny cartoon: Tortoise Beats Hare
To the next Bugs Bunny cartoon: The Heckling Hare

‘Hiawatha’s Rabbit Hunt’ is available on the DVD ‘Warner Bros. Home Entertainment Academy Award-Nominated Animation: Cinema Favorites’

Director: Bob Clampett
Release Date: December 20, 1941
Stars: Bugs Bunny, Elmer Fudd
Rating:  ★★★½
Review:

Wabbit Twouble © Warner Bros.When Tex Avery left Warner Bros. in 1941, Bob Clampett inherited his unit.

This is best visible in ‘Wabbit Twouble’, which features the same rich oil background art as Avery’s earlier cartoons. The short is Clampett’s only third Merrie Melody (and thus color cartoon), and his first take on Bugs Bunny, who still was only one-and-a-half year and seven cartoons old. Clampett’s take on the rabbit is quite different from his contemporaries. In a way he goes all the way back to Bugs Bunny’s forerunner in ‘Porky’s Hare Hunt‘ (1938), with Bugs Bunny taunting Elmer just for fun.

Elmer comes to ‘Jellostone park’ for rest and relaxation. But as soon as he has installed himself, Bugs starts nagging him. Bugs Bunny’s best trick is giving Elmer glasses which he paints black, making Elmer think it has become night already. Also involved in the routine is a bear, who even replaces Bugs as Elmer’s main problem. This leads to a chase scene, which is very remarkable as it almost consists of poses only, with little to no movement in between. Chuck Jones would expand on this animation on poses in ‘The Dover Boys‘, and this animation technique would become more dominant in the postwar era.

‘Wabbit Twouble’ features very unusual opening credits. First Bugs Bunny’s name is photographed using real carrots. Second, the credits are written on a moving landscape, a device that would be used extensively by Chuck Jones in the late 1950s and 1960s, and third, the names of all contributors are written in ‘Elmerfuddese’: thus ‘Wobert Cwampett’, ‘Sid Suthewand’ and ‘Cawl W. Stawwing’. This sequence alone shows how important Arthur Q. Bryan’s voice had become for the Elmer Fudd character, after only six cartoons.

Even more interesting, ‘Wabbit Twouble’ suddenly shows a fatter design of Elmer, which was modeled on Arthur Q. Bryan’s looks, so the animators could also use the actor’s funny movements. Unfortunately, Elmer lost a lot of his appeal with this fatty design, and it was only used in three more cartoons (‘The Wabbit Who Came to Supper‘, ‘The Wacky Wabbit’ and ‘Fresh Hare’, all from 1942). With Friz Freleng’s ‘The Hare-Brained Hypnotist‘ Elmer luckily was his normal self again.

Watch ‘Wabbit Twouble’ yourself and tell me what you think:

 

This is Bugs Bunny cartoon No. 7
To the previous Bugs Bunny cartoon: All This and Rabbit Stew
To the next Bugs Bunny cartoon: The Wabbit Who Came to Supper

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

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’

Director: Ben Hardaway & Cal Dalton
Release Date: August 12, 1939
Stars: proto-Bugs Bunny
Rating: ★★½
Review:

Hare-Um Scare-Um © Warner BrosIn 1939 Ben Hardaway revisited the rabbit he had introduced in ‘Porky’s Hare Hunt‘ (1938).

The rabbit was completely redesigned, and received the colors that would make Bugs Bunny. However, the rabbit retained his loony character and Woody Woodpecker laugh, and is a far cry from the cool guy Bugs Bunny would become. But as he was Ben “Bugs” Hardaway’s bunny, it was this character that gave Tex Avery’s later star his name.

‘Hare-Um Scare-Um’ stars an anonymous red-nosed man who goes hunting when meat prices soar. In the forest he encounters the loony rabbit, who at one point even sings a song about how crazy he is.

There’s remarkably little to enjoy in ‘Hare-um Scare-um’, as neither hunter nor rabbit are sympathetic, and one doesn’t care for either. However, the short introduces cross-dressing, when the rabbit disguises himself as a female dog to attract the hunter’s pooch. This cross-dressing would become a popular feature of the later Bugs Bunny.

Watch ‘Hare-Um Scare-Um’ yourself and tell me what you think:

‘Hare-Um Scare-Um’ is available on the Blu-Ray set ‘Looney Tunes Platinum Collection: Volume 2’

This is the third of four cartoons featuring a Bugs Bunny forerunner
To the first proto-Bugs Bunny cartoon: Prest-O Change-O
To the next proto-Bugs Bunny cartoon: Elmer’s Candid Camera

Director: Chuck Jones
Release Date: March 25, 1939
Stars: Two Curious Dogs, proto-Bugs Bunny
Rating: ★★½
Review:

Chuck Jones uses the silly rabbit from Ben Hardaway’s ‘Porky’s Hare Hunt‘ (1938) and makes it a magician’s rabbit in a cartoon featuring his earliest stars, the “Two Curious Dogs”, which had made their debut in January in ‘Dog Gone Modern’.

In ‘Prest-O Change-O” the two dogs flee from a dog catcher into a magician’s house, where the tall dog meets the rabbit, while the small dog struggles with a “hindu rope”.

Jones’s handling of the material is very Disney-like, slow in action and with much attention for situation comedy. Unfortunately, his two dog characters are anything but funny, and the complete film fails to impress. The rabbit, a forerunner of Bugs Bunny, is as unsympathetic as he was in ‘Porky’s Hare Hunt’ and rightfully gets punched in the end. He doesn’t talk, however, but shows the weird laugh he got in ‘Porky’s Hare Hunt’.

‘Prest-O Change-O’ doesn’t add anything, however, and the rabbit remains unappealing. So, after this film this particular rabbit was transformed into another design, making its debut in ‘Hare-um Scare-um’ of five months later.

Watch ‘Prest-O Change-O’ yourself and tell me what you think:

‘Prest-O Change-O’ is available on the Blu-Ray set ‘Looney Tunes Platinum Collection: Volume 2’

This is the second of four cartoons featuring a Bugs Bunny forerunner
To the first proto-Bugs Bunny cartoon: Porky’s Hare Hunt
To the next proto-Bugs Bunny cartoon: Hare-um Scare-um

Director: Ben Hardaway
Release Date: April 30, 1938
Stars: Porky Pig, proto-Bugs Bunny
Rating: ★★★½
Review:

Porky's Hare Hunt © Warner Bros.‘Porky’s Hare Hunt’ was Ben Hardaway’s last solo cartoon before he teamed up with story artist Cal Dalton to co-direct fourteen shorts.

The film is a clear attempt to duplicate Tex Avery’s ‘Porky’s Duck Hunt’ (1937). Now Porky is hunting rabbits, and Daffy’s loony character is now transferred to a rabbit, which even jumps and whoo-hoos like Daffy does. However, the rabbit has got a unique, weird laugh, which at several occasions is clearly Woody Woodpecker-like. Although this rabbit appears three years before the woodpecker himself, this is no coincidence, as both this rabbit and Woody Woodpecker were conceived By Ben Hardaway, and voiced by Mel Blanc.

‘Porky’s Rabbit Hunt’ is an uneven and only moderately funny cartoon that contains a few typical Warner Bros. gags, like a sniffing gun and ‘hare remover’, which makes the rabbit disappear completely (in cartoons rabbits and hares are completely interchangeable).

More importantly, it is the first of three cartoons featuring rabbits that anticipate the coming of Bugs Bunny. This rabbit has little in common with the world famous hare: he’s far from sympathetic, even heckling Porky in the hospital. Moreover, he’s a clear loon, like Daffy, not the cool hero Bugs Bunny would become. However, this rabbit already does perform a fake death scene, something that would become a Bugs Bunny trademark, and he quotes Groucho Marx from ‘A Night at the Opera’ (1935), saying ‘Of course you know that this means war’, which would become a Bugs Bunny catchphrase.

Watch ‘Porky’s Hare Hunt’ yourself and tell me what you think:

This is Porky Pig cartoon no. 39
To the previous Porky Pig cartoon: Porky’s Five and Ten
To the next Porky Pig cartoon: Injun Trouble

This is the first of four cartoons featuring a Bugs Bunny forerunner
To the next proto-Bugs Bunny cartoon: Prest-o Change-o

‘Porky’s Hare Hunt’ is available on the Blu-Ray set ‘Looney Tunes Platinum Collection: Volume 2’ and on the DVD-set ‘Porky Pig 101’

Directors: John Foster & George Stallings
Release Date:
 February 27, 1932
Stars: Tom and Jerry
Rating: ★★½
Review:

Rabid Hunters © Van BeurenIn ‘Rabid Hunters’ Tom and Jerry are hunters, who try to catch a rabbit with their semi-anthropomorphized dog and horse.

The rabbit appears to be an early forerunner of Bugs Bunny, outwitting all four characters to a jazzy upbeat score. This soundtrack, by Gene Rodemich, is the absolute highlight of this otherwise erratic, boring and terribly poorly animated short. Also noteworthy is a hallucinatory scene at a tree branch that has to be seen to be believed. Like the Silly Symphony ‘The Fox Hunt‘ from a year earlier, the cartoon ends with a skunk.

Watch ‘Rabid Hunters’ yourself and tell me what you think:

This is Tom & Jerry cartoon No. 7
To the previous Tom & Jerry cartoon: Rocketeers
To the next Tom & Jerry cartoon: In the Bag

‘Rabid Hunters’ is available on the DVD ‘The Complete Animated Adventures of Van Beuren Studio’s Tom and Jerry’

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: 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
Airing Date: February 23, 1978
Stars: Bugs Bunny, Daffy Duck, Porky Pig, Elmer Fudd, Yosemite Sam
Rating: ★
Review:

Bugs Bunny in King Arthur's Court © Warner BrothersThe Looney Tunes Television Specials were a series of 25 minute long television programs running from 1976 to 1989 and revisiting the classic Warner Brothers characters in all new material. They were produced by either Chuck Jones’ studio or De Patie-Freleng.

‘Bugs Bunny in King Arthur’s Court’ is the fourth within the series, and produced and directed by Chuck Jones. The story is loosely based on Mark Twain’s ‘A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur’s Court’ from 1889, as Jones readily admits in the opening titles. It features Bugs Bunny as himself, Elmer Fudd as a knight, Daffy Duck as a very unlikely King Arthur, Yosemite Sam as Merlin, and Porky Pig as an anonymous soldier.

Although Jones’s mastery shines through at times, the episode is a sad caricature of the old cartoons. Just nothing seems right. The designs are weak, especially that of Yosemite Sam (not a Jones character), who is too small compared to the others. Moreover, the timing is remarkably slow, and there’s way too much dialogue, slowing down the animation. The gags are further hampered by Dean Elliott’s terrible, partly electronic music. Even Mel Blanc’s voices are poor: his imitation of Arthur Q. Bryan’s voice of Elmer Fudd is nothing like the real thing, and Porky Pig simply stutters too much.

The episode’s trite story is expanded over 24 minutes, while, considering its flaws, it would already have been difficult to remain interesting within seven minutes. The result is a 24 minute long bore. The 1970s were the middle ages of animation, indeed…

Watch ‘Bugs Bunny in King Arthur’s Court’ yourself and tell me what you think:

http://www.funniermoments.com/watch.php?vid=05851c679

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: 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

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