March 11, 2015 posted by

Animator Breakdown: “Hot Cross Bunny” (1948)


Hans Perk’s wonderful blog, A. Film LA, lets viewers observe documents (known as “animator drafts”) that show, in simple terms, who animated what in particular shorts and features for Disney. Other historians have also shared this valuable information that has been safe-guarded over the years within the Disney Archives. Non-Disney studio drafts are a bit harder to find – scattered about, waiting to resurface (and hopefully be acquired by animation historians). Material like this from the Warner Bros. Cartoon Department is particularly hard to come by.

Animators Greg Duffell and Milt Gray recollected memories of the studio having an archive much like Disney’s, with everything housed and catalogued, floor to ceiling. “The Kinney National people came in after they’d bought WB from Seven Arts and asked what that building was where they stored the art,” Duffell said. “After being told they didn’t make cartoons anymore, they [Kinney National] decided to destroy everything, so it got either burned or buried in the desert.” However, not every piece of animation artwork, such as production drawings, layouts, preliminary lobby cards and model sheets, was gone. A decent number of drafts from the studio have surfaced, but mostly from Clampett and McKimson’s private collections.

Today, we’re going to look at the draft for McKimson’s Hot Cross Bunny (originally titled The Rabid Rabbit) that Mark Kausler graciously loaned me. The McKimson/Foster dynamic combined exaggerated characterizations with a brutal onslaught of heavy slapstick. Bugs has a hammy nature in this entry, with his bombastic vaudeville performance in the amphitheater in an audience of “sourpuss doctors” which possesses the middle of the cartoon.

What is interesting about the animation in this cartoon is that Anatolle “Tolly” Kirsanoff and Fred Abranz were not credited for their work. (Although Izzy Ellis had been credited in previous titles, the low footage count might have deterred it in this title.) McKimson’s Birth of a Notion, released a year earlier, credits Kirsanoff and animator Fred Jones (who is seen on-screen drawing Porky in Freleng’s You Ought to Be In Pictures) in its draft.

This raises a few questions on the matter. What other animators in different units were uncredited, besides animator Rev Chaney in Clampett’s? How long were Kirsanoff, Abranz and Jones in the studio? I’m uncertain of these answers and hope others might know.

Instead of a mosaic, I thought it would be best to look at the artist’s work in motion – I’ve embedded an “animator breakdown” video for this cartoon. The animation draft I worked from is posted below the video. Enjoy!

Hot Cross Bunny Draft1
Hot Cross Bunny Draft2


  • Nice one on one of my all-time favorites. Note that the “Softshoe” dance is a reuse/facelift of the routine in STAGE DOOR CARTOON (as it is in BUGS BUNNY RIDES AGAIN).

  • This post today was an ABBsolute joy!! My all-time top (top) BB film….that was on the network for decades. I was so appalled when, one year, (one of) the networks actually CENSORED the ending with the electrodes. Can you imagine that!???

    • According to the website “Looney Tunes and Merrie Melodies” it was ABC ( American Broadcasting Company) which cut out the scene where Bugs Bunny took the parts of the Brain Transfer Machine and switched his wires to the Doctor’s as well as placing the helmet on his head and when the Doctor flipped the switch you could heat Bugs screaming but came out unharmed but the Doctor had his brain switched with the chicken’s. The censored version was also seen on both Kids WB and Cartoon Network/Boomerang .

  • So out of like, 7 animators, only 3 are credited? Incredible, ain’t it? I’m guessing Izzy Ellis was gone from the studio by the time the credits were made and that Tolly Kirsanoff and Fred Abranz weren’t around long enough to be considered part of McKimson’s “team”. Don’t know why Carey’s not credited.

  • I think Kirsanoff remained with Warner Bros. until it closed. He later joined Filmation Associates. Alfred Abranz worked on some of the 80s features.

    • Kirsanoff also worked for Larry Harmon Productions, directing on the “Bozo” cartoons.

      This is a good post. One of my favorite Bugs cartoons.

  • Love it, love it, lo-o-o-ove it!

  • Funny thing…

    I was leafing through one of my ol’ books, the first of Danny Peary’s CULT MOVIES just before coming here. Regarding FANTASIA, his 1981-published essay suggested that there was “approximately a 4 1/2 to 1 ratio between what was drawn and what was actually used”. Contrasting Warner Bros. to Disney, Peary then states that studio “usually used everything that was drawn”. Whether or not this is entirely accurate (since this was published long before the internet age when it wasn’t so easy to double-check yourself with information), the point is made pretty clear in both the above draft and video. They really didn’t waste much! Everything was carefully planned. Warners was definitely a well-oiled machine in the forties.

  • Very instructive–it’s interesting to see how different animators were given scenes which last just a few seconds, and yet they are cut together so that the general audience (including me) can’t really discern differing “styles.”

  • This is a great idea. An Animator breakdown would be a great idea for any future DVD special feature, as best as possible.

    • Hey, I’m hoping to have this be a regular feature here on CARTOON RESEARCH!

  • Fred Abranz’ animation is really solid! So frustrating that animators such as he never got screen credit. At least they had a fun job and a steady paycheck…

  • “Hot Cross Bunny” is one of my favorites too, definitely one of Bob McKimson’s best.
    Was it in scene 14 (“Bugs in wheelchair”) or 16 (“Bugs goes dramatic”) where Bugs did his Lionel Barrymore impression?

    Daffy Duck also did a “Danny Kaye routine” in Bob Clampett’s “Book Revue.”

    • That would be scene 16 where Bugs does the Barrymore impression.

    • Ahj..thanks for reminding me of that impression, 1945’s “Book Revue”:Heydeyye Hey Hey Dey” then the surgeon CLOCKS bugs with his wooden mallet|!

  • Hard to choose a favorite animator in this short, they’re all pretty solid. Manny Gould is one of my all-time favorites, though.

    Why was the title changed from “The Rabid Rabbit” to “Hot Cross Bunny”? Was the former just a working title? Or was it a censorship thing?

    • Might have been a little of both (imagine the word “rabid” in a cartoon title back then!)
      THE RABID RABBIT is not that good of a title, and sort of a tongue-twister at that.

  • The draft doesn’t say that scene 6F (Bugs lying in bed, approached by the Doc) is by Charles McKimson – it’s clearly separate from McKimson’s 5 ft 11 scene 6.

  • I’ve also always enjoyed this,too (wasn’t reissued till the final multiple seasons,with the “tan open/close” rings of whatever cartoons were being released, and was therefore three last pre-1948 copyright to have a Blue Ribbon fact, this is, along with “The Pest that came to Dinner”,Prod.1050, reissued around 1957-58, and the first of them, “You Were Never Duckier”, prod.1046l, reissued 1954-55, one of the oldest of the 1950s-1990s “post”-1948 WB cartoons produced not counting the “redrawn” W7 ones.

    The switching minds thing (like in a later Magilla Gorilla from 1963 at Hanna-Barbera) strangely doesn’t take place till the end. Series including one live action one at the end of this list that got a lot of mileage of out the premise include “The Flintstones” with the ultimate-multiple switches of characters minds so character A and B become each other than C and D, “Yogi Bear” with “Brainy bear”,with a scientist, his pet chicken, Yogi and Boo Boo, all of whom except Boo Boo became guniea piga in the brain switching “Hot Cross Bunny” touched on, and in different ways so Yogi becaem the chicken, then the mad doctor,etc.,, and one werll remembered live-action classic of the type, “Gilligan’s Island” with “The Friendly Physican” where all of the (live action, not the Filmation) castaways got brain-switched! Bugs and Elmer got switched in a weay, in the amnesia/brain sickness/hyponsis pill epic “Hare Brush”, but no scientific brain switching was used.

    Finally, the low budget Gene Deitch “Tom and Jerry’ titled “Switchin’ Kitten”, the very first of these,m if I recall, used that same plot to switch Tom and Jerry.

    Favorite bits: the mentioned softshoe from ” Bugs Bunny Rides Again” and “Stage Door Cartoon” and Bugs acting like a doctor…also the old “Hospital surgery room doctors stadium” bit already used (going back to at LEAST 1938 in “The Daffy Doc”) with Bugs walking up the stadium a la some concessionaire, and imiating the one and only Lionel Barrymore (the wheelchair scene)..also the rushing thru halls, camkpire scene, and threatening to drink what’s actually a chocolate malt (as Bugs only REALIZES at the end of the gag and only from the doc).

  • “HOT CROSS BUNNY” is by far a better title, far more humorous than “RABID RABBIT”, and why, oh why wasn’t this set up for inclusion in a LOONEY TUNES GOLDEN COLLECTION volume? It is so rarely shown anymore for whatever reason, and Bugs Bunny is at his best on all counts, here. I wonder what Barrymore movie the dialogue that Bugs parodies is taken from.

    • Just found one of my earliest memories and favorite cartoons, and thought I’d better contribute.

      What I now know is a Lionel Barrymore impression is my earliest funny memory, one of my top 5! I never had a clue what it was about, but I loved it!

      Shawn, it is not a single performance BB is portraying, it is a mashup of at least these 3 performances –

      Mayor of the Town (radio program “I’m the mayor of this town…”)
      A Free Soul (courtroom scene “Ladies and gentlemen of the jury…”)
      Any of the 9 Dr. Kildare films where LB portrays Dr. Leonard Glilespie “Dr. Gillespie…”)

      Also rounding out the full pastiche with allusions to his 61-year career in film (elderly-ness), oftentimes portraying a grump, and much time spent in a wheelchair (first due to a broken hip, later arthritis).

      This may not be all the references, but glad for the chance to add value!

    • While not included in the Golden collection, it IS included restored and uncut as an extra on the Treasure of the Sierra Madre blu Ray and it looks fantastic !

    • A slight tangent on the Barrymore theme. In Blazing Saddles, when the hunchback says he can’t fit another hanging in soon, Hedley Lamarr says ‘ah yes, the Dr. Gillespie killings’ and the man waiting to be hung is in a wheelchair. Back to Bugs, this is one of my favorite toons.

  • I always like McKimson’s character models for human characters. I think he was the only director post-Clampett whose human characters look funny. Jones’ look comical but McKimson’s are actually funny.

  • Where can I purchase this dvd

  • Is the Doctor character modelled/parodied from a famous person?

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