I’ve rather missed going into detail identifying animators and their scenes like I did when I originally began blogging seven years ago. Unfortunately, I’ve learned since then that you can’t really prove who did what over half a century ago without ample proof. I feel I have a rather good eye for animators’ styles, though I obviously don’t have the skill of a Mark Kausler, Greg Duffell, or Mike Kazaleh. Therefore, any animator breakdowns of mine on Cartoon Research will be sourced from original documentation and nothing less.
Our first installment is The Windblown Hare, a Bugs Bunny cartoon directed by Bob McKimson in 1947 and released in August 1949. The animator’s draft is courtesy of scholar Mark Mayerson.
The Warren Foster-McKimson team-up yielded interesting Bugs concotions. Compared to the ‘mature’ Bugs of the Freleng and Jones units at the time, the McKimson Bugs was a naive, childlike prankster indulging in various ventures – an almost animated equivalent of the Bugs seen in the comics of Western Publishing, only with an especially violent streak. Depending on whom you talk to, these cartoons either fall under intriguing misfire or genuine classic. Most would probably agree Windblown Hare is in the latter category. While initially off-putting that Bugs is stupid enough to buy two marked houses, it’s established with Scene 4 (animated by Phil De Lara) that since he’s going up against pure concentrated evil (those jowls, those teeth, that laughter…), it’s going to take a while before our hero is triumphant, no matter what the circumstances are. With so much energy and gratuitous violence (some of it against a poor, unsuspecting old lady) happening and the beyond merely satisfying finale make this entry too enjoyable to write off as a dud.
Dialogue was recorded in June 1947, with Mel Blanc getting paid $125 for his session, and Bea Benaderet receiving $50 for what was ultimately two lines of dialogue. Albeit, they are easily the top reads of her career (“Can’t a body get her shawl tied?”), so it was a bargain.
(No animator is credited on the draft for Scene 21, although it’s more than likely by Charles McKimson.)
McKimson’s character layouts are beginning to get noticeably tighter and more confining here, though they aren’t anywhere near the obvious inexpressive acting (finger pointing, creased brows) that most critics feel define McKimson’s weaknesses as the 1940s petered out and the ’50s came in. This is the last credit at Warners for Manny Gould, though it wasn’t the last cartoon he animated on (that is likely Hippety Hopper, the very next McKimson cartoon to go into production). He was one of the broad character animation school to leave the unit as that kind of animation began to fizzle out of existence industry-wide (and certainly unlikely to find a sympathetic friend in Bob McKimson). I would say that the animation in this cartoon by Charles McKimson and De Lara point to where McKimson’s direction was ultimately heading, whereas that of Gould and John Carey illustrate what was going to be left behind.
I do want to call your attention to how full the animation is in this cartoon, at a time when seemingly pointless, trivial scenes pull off elaborateness with shocking ease. Scene 27, animated by Manny Gould, is only nine feet, or approximately six seconds of animation. It’s a pan shot, and Bugs has to walk off into the distance and pick up his basket, goading the wolf into asking for his “present.” Emotion needs to be read on both characters. The team pulls this off, and your eyes aren’t deciding whether to focus on Bugs or the wolf – they’re drawn to both characters and the acting.
Note that at least three scenes were cut before animation was completed, both to the cartoon’s advantage. Scene 36 (of Bugs and the wolf walking off after Bugs realizes he’s been had) is relatively unneeded exposition, but Scenes 18 and 18A were clearly removed for the effect McKimson wanted. The energy on display in Gould’s animation would be softened with more close-ups and it’s thus infinitely funnier to see Granny running in terror out the door immediately after being knocked on her ass.
Foster later revamped this cartoon as Oinks and Boinks, the very first Yogi Bear cartoon for the character’s own show, though with none of Windblown Hare’s viciousness naturally.