ANIMATION SPIN
January 24, 2017 posted by Greg Ehrbar

Bugs Bunny’s “British Invasion” on Records

From England comes an entertaining—though Blanc-less—tour of London with original songs and a dream sequence with Henry VIII, minus the beheadings.

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BUGS BUNNY COMES TO LONDON
 MFP (Music For Pleasure, Ltd.) Records MFP-50083 (12” 33 1/3 RPM / Stereo / 1976)

Released in 1973. Producer: Barry Ainsworth. Writer: Ken Martyne. Music: Mike McNaught. Liner Notes: John A. Carlsen. Illustrator: Barry Elphick.
Songs: “London, Here I Am,” “The Bus Song,” “Cricket,” “Merry is the Month of May,” “The Bunny Hop,” “London Oh London” by Ken Martyne, Mike McNaught.

Like Lucille Ball or Perry Como in some 1060’s TV special, Bugs gets a VIP tour through the famous sights of London—described in audio—on this British-made LP (which accounts for why the title says Bugs “comes” to London rather than “goes”).

bugs-DJBugs meets a friendly policeman—a “bobby’—named Short Blip, played by the great Mike Sammes. One of the iconic voices of the late ‘60s and early ‘70s, he and his Mike Sammes Singers sang backup for an uncountable number of records, commercials, TV programs and movies. From Streisand to The Beatles, TV’s Avengers to many Rankin/Bass specials and a stack of Disney records, they were heard everywhere in the U.S. and Europe, sometimes uncredited.

This isn’t one of Sammes’ most distinguished appearances, but it’s certainly a pleasant romp. As is the case for so many of the Bugs Bunny merchandise items aimed at kids, the wabbit’s edges are all but smoothed down, save for his accent and snappy attitude.

What’s more, Bugs uses a number of English phrases that are totally out of character. Sometimes he’s doing this as a little joke, but in most instances it’s unclear whether they’re lapses in Bugs’ authenticity or a concession to the British kids who listened to the record in the ‘70s.

BugsLondonBack-600The most interesting sequence occurs when Bugs falls asleep in the Hampton Maze and he dreams he in the court of King Henry VIII and his latest wife, Queen Anne. Of course, there are no beheadings,–it’s a children’s record, after all, but it does make one wonder how an encounter between King Henry and Bugs might have been with Mel Blanc’s voice, Warren Foster’s storytelling and Chuck Jones’ direction. Mike Sammes voices the King, and may also be doing the voice of Bugs, which is done in the sped-up manner Blanc used to reserve for Tweety.

To reward the constable for his responstibility (so there, Mrs. Travers), Bugs gives him an all-expenses-paid trip to “the studio.” He also writes a complimentary letter to London’s chief of police. “Mind he gets that,” says Bugs, in his U.K. way.

In addition to Sammes (and likely members of his vocal group), the album’s music is the work of Mike McNaught, who worked with Elton John, Harry Nilsson and even Monty Python. For England’s MFP and Tempo labels, he also performed musical duties for Rupert the Bear and Noddy albums, as well as an LP we “Spinned” a while ago called “Spin a Magic Tune.”

GIVE A LITTLE LISTEN

“London, Here I Am” & “London Oh London”


At one point in “London Oh London,” Bugs sings: “Next time I come and see ya, gonna bring my dad.” Imagine that! A single record was also released with the song, “The Bunny Hop,” not to be confused with the Ray Anthony hit of the big band era.



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BUGS BUNNY GOES TO THE DENTIST 
Kid Stuff Book & Record DBR-204 (7” 45 RPM / Stereo / 1984)

Another odd Bugs record, from the odd Kid Stuff label who gave the world those Pink Panther records we talked about last week.

In the hands of the classic Warner artists, Bugs would have been a dentist in the same mad, irreverent way he was the Barber of Seville. In this story, he’s supposed to be working on a poem on good dental hygiene for a big “Happy Tooth Week” event. He stops by his good friend Dr. Gumm’s office, where Elmer is just finishing a cleaning.

Leaving the office, Bugs spots someone named Bully Benson. Apparently Bugs had teased Bully and now fears a payback. Bugs ducks back into the office, but when Bully arrives for his dental exam, Bugs disguises himself as the dentist. It turns out that Bully isn’t mad at him and helps him finish his poem, which is such a hit for Tooth Week, the mayor and the town acclaim Bugs.

It reads—and plays—like something too sweet for proper dental health. Bugs’ role is generic, as is Elmer’s, and is interchangeable with any other cartoon character. But there is a reason. Kid Stuff released an enormous amount of little read-along sets and like their LP’s the read-alongs became more slick and competitive as they gathered character licenses and increased sales. In addition to rougher art, the early read-alongs had fewer pages and no color illustrations. By the time this Bugs Bunny set came along, they either commissioned full-color books or adapted them from existing publications.

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Bugs Bunny Goes to the Dentist is in the latter category, adapted from a softcover Golden “Look-Look” book. Therein lies the reason why the story is so un-Bugslike. It’s aimed at young children to assuage their fears of visiting the dentist. Bugs and Dr. Gumm even spend a few pages looking over the dental equipment, the chair and the office itself—a very scary place for kids as well as some adults. “Remember when the drill used to scare you?” the doctor asks Bugs.

The book is just the thing to leave on the table in a dentists’ office, very welcome for parents with nervous kids in the waiting room. It’s unlikely to have made many kids leap up and down in stores, imploring “Mommy! Mommy! Please buy me this!” How many would have picked this record when there more lively read-alongs on the shelf? It seems like the sort of thing a distant relative might buy for a child when visiting: “Susie, you like Bugs Bunny, right?”

The record is fine but not opulent, with one reader and a synth score allowing the musician to follow the story (Kid Stuff employed a piano accompanist in earlier releases).

GIVE A LITTLE LISTEN
“Bugs Bunny Goes to the Dentist”


Rather than offer a clip of the record, which is pretty much as described above, I found a nice little video of a dad reading the book to his daughter. When you hear a book of this type used in the manner for which is was really intended, it makes sense.

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11 Comments

  • The illustrations on the record cover of Bugs Bunny Comes to London looks similar to the drawing of the old BBC TV/Q3,animated series Crystal Tipps and Alistair which aired on Captain Kangaroo in the 1970′s.

    • That was a very inspiring cartoon!

  • Not a bad Blanc-less performance on Bugs. In fact if you hadn’t mentioned that Blanc didn’t voice Bugs on that record I would have assumed it was him!

  • Okay, the London songs weren’t all that bad, except that, on some words, Bugs was talking like Elmer Fudd, or more accurately, like Tweetie. And I wonder if the kids who were listening to the BUGS BUNNY GOES TO THE DENTIST book had ever seen a classic cartoon like, say, “GORILLA MY DREAMS”.

    • I suppose it depended on how those cartoons were shown, I don’t believe the UK had a program similar to “The Bugs Bunny Show/Hour/Whatever” or a half-hour of those cartoons after school. Looking at schedules suggest the shorts were often seen standalone during scheduled programming or during certain shows, but never really its own block.

  • Wow! MIke Sammes (I’ve heard of him too!) made Bugs really sound like Mel Blanc (who I assume is on the second recoridng, he dental one.)

    • The Mike Sammes singers (directed by Mike Sammes) also did the backup vocals for the theme for the British series Stingray,Supercar and The Secret Service created by Gerry Anderson of Thunderbirds are Go! fame.

  • Okay, regading the dental one, quesiton answered: no character voices (and I even listened to it), just a reader.

  • Dang, Mike does a pretty spot-on Bugs!

  • Noticing who wrote “Bugs Bunny Goes To The Dentist”, it didn’t surprise me one bit, interesting it came from the co-creator of Casper The Friendly Ghost though!

  • I never knew either of these records existed.

    The London songs are highly reminiscent of the songs in the special “Lucy in London” from the mid-60′s. For anyone who’s interested, the special can be found among the bonus features on Season Five of “The Lucy Show” DVD.

    If that is Mike Sammes doing the voice of Bugs–he really does do an amazing job! (Although he sounded to me a little like Porky at times!) I wonder what Mel Blanc thought of this record?

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