WHAT ABOUT THAD?
June 22, 2013 posted by Thad Komorowski

Animator’s Draft: “The Windblown Hare” (1949)

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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.

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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.

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(No animator is credited on the draft for Scene 21, although it’s more than likely by Charles McKimson.)

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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.

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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.

11 Comments

  • Thanks very much for providing this! Animator drafts are such a wonderful source, and it’s a shame the WB drafts are extremely obscure, except with a few from McKimson’s private collection as well as Clampett’s family archive (Clampett’s son told me they had roughly 10 to 12 animator drafts which survive today).

    Great mosaic too, Thad. They provide a great visual guide in contrast to the the draft.

  • Wonderful to see a new animator mosaic, Thad! Thanks for assembling this!
    I have the first page of the animator draft for Tex Avery’s “Wacky Wildlife,” and I was surprised to see that it lists an assistant director, by last name only, as LANDSMAN.
    It would make sense that a cartoon director would need an assistant. Unlike ADs in live action film, these poor guys never got screen credit.
    All this has made me curious about the ADs for the great animation directors… who they were, what they did and how they might have contributed to each cartoon.
    I’m sure it would be really easy to find this information, he said sarcastically…

    • That’s not a real draft, I’m afraid. A fellow named Sanek fabricated a few of these “documents,” even going so far as to saying that Howard Swift animated on Clampett’s WACKY WABBIT.

    • Dammit! That is exactly what animation history DOESN’T need… jerks making fake documents. Well, I’ll delete the damned thing, so that I never refer to it by accident. I hope Sanek is only able to see Squiddly Diddly cartoons, from badly faded TV prints, wherever he may be…

  • It’s fascinating that as head animator under Clampett, McKimson was always the animator Bob counted on for the most beautiful, on-model designs, but within 18 months of taking over as director, Bob already was in the process of getting bored with those same designs and was trying to take them in a ‘new’ direction (he didn’t have the clout to get Friz and Chuck to give in to his stockier design for Bugs, or his extended muzzle version of Sylvester, and finally gave in to the generally accepted look of the continuing characters. But this is where the ‘Short secondary characters with gianormous heads‘ period reaches full flower. It kind of works here, because the out of proportion, anything-but-cute design is tied to three characters who are supposed to be unappealing).

  • It’s interesting how each director made Bugs Bunny their own. Each certainly had a different take on the character, be it the calm and cool Bugs of Jones or the wild and crazy Bugs of Clampett.

  • Did you notice ownership of the brick house changed from the red pig to the yellow pig? Compare 0:52 to 2:25

  • Always loved Bugs and the wolf doing their dysfunctional Red and Granny. For pure, inexplicably funny cartoon violence, it’s up there with gangster rabbits whacking a tortoise-disguised Bugs in the face with a mallet.

  • $125.00 seems pretty cheap to me. Works out to about $1,300.00 in today’s money according to the inflation calculator I use. Aren’t voice actors paid a lot more than that these days?

  • Robert Forman – In it’s golden age, voice work at WB didn’t pay that well. Thanks to his radio work and publicity for being the voice of the WB characters in later years Blanc was in a position to make big demands to do voice work for commercials etc. and threaten to go public if they didn’t pay his rate. So he finally got what he was worth. I learned this reading some of Mark Evanier’s comments of the world of voice acting. You notice WB these days never designates one person handling a character the way Disney does.

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