This week we are tying into Toon In With Me and their weeklong tribute to Bugs Bunny, airing every morning at 7am ET/PT on MeTV. I will be one of several talking heads on screen, extolling the virtues of our favorite wabbit, in-between screenings of restored prints of The Best of Bugs Bunny.
My fellow guest speakers (via Zoom) are Jeff Bergman (former voice of Bugs Bunny), Billy West (voice of Bugs in Space Jam), Robert McKimson Jr. (son of director Robert McKimson), and Ruth Clampett (daughter of director Bob Clampett).
Each day is built around a theme. Here is a guide to what you will see.
Tracing the origin of Bugs Bunny, from his white-furred prototype to the wacky gray rabbit we know and love today. Cartoons include Porky’s Hare Hunt (1938), Prest-O Change-O (1939), Hare-Um Scare-Um (1939), A Wild Hare (1940) and Elmer’s Candid Camera (1940).
Tuesday, May 4 at 7AM | 6C
“Of Course You Realize This Means War”
On day two, they examine Bugs’ biggest adversaries — human, animal, and alien. Cartoons include Wabbit Twouble (1941), Duck! Rabbit, Duck! (1953), Wild and Wooly Hare (1959), Hare-Way to the Stars (1959), and Devil May Hare (1954).
“Ballads for a Bunny”
Day three examines Bugs’ musical side, and the many ways Looney Tunes incorporated classical music and opera. Cartoons include Rhapsody Rabbit (1946), Long-Haired Hare (1949), Rabbit of Seville (1950), Baton Bunny (1959), and What’s Opera, Doc? (1957).
Thursday, May 6 at 7AM | 6C
On day four, cartoons with a Hollywood connection. Cartoons include Slick Hare (1947), What’s Cookin’ Doc? (1944), A Star is Bored (1956), A Hare Grows in Manhattan (1947), and What’s Up, Doc? (1950).
On the fifth and final day, they will present the fan-favorite Bugs Bunny cartoons as voted online by viewers. It’s billed as the “First Annual Toony Awards”! Cartoons will include Little Red Riding Rabbit (1944), Bully for Bugs (1953), Hillbilly Hare (1950), Baseball Bugs (1946), and… your vote for the best Bugs Bunny cartoon of all time!
So what are your Favorite Bugs Bunny cartoons? There are so many good ones; If you could limit the list to ten, what would they be?
As for me, I created this subjective list below. They are in no particular order – except maybe chronologic. You’ll note that there are only eight pictured – the other two titles of my Top Ten are listed in this previous post: McKimson’s Acrobatty Bunny and Jones’ Operation Rabbit.
I purposely didn’t choose acknowledged classics like What’s Opera Doc? or A Wild Hare. I went for titles that are personally meaningful to me. Ones I can happily watch over and over. Comfort food selections – the Bugs Bunny cartoons I frequently quote from, the ones I believe contain the quintessential personalty of the character. Let’s begin with…
TORTOISE WINS BY A HARE (1943)
How do I love thee? Let me count the ways: That perfect Clampett model sheet for Bugs. The McKimson animation. Cecil Turtle’s mother. The Rabbit gambling mob. “Streamline design!” Mel Blanc’s greatest performance. “You FOOLS! I’m da rabbit!” The suicide end gag… on and on. All in all: A Clampett classic.
THE BIG SNOOZE (1946)
Clampett’s final six cartoons, released in 1946, are undeniable classics. His ultimate one, The Big Snooze, appropriately ends with Elmer Fudd quitting and tearing up his contract with “Mr. Warner” (now that Leon is no longer there). Of course Bugs coaxes Fudd out of retirement with a daydream-turned-nightmare that only Clampett could conceive – culminating in Fudd’s fantasy of being chased around Hollywood and Vine, in drag, then falling to his “death” (i.e. returning to the rat-race of making the same cartoon over and over again). “The Wabbits are Coming, Hooray, Hooray…”
BUCCANEER BUNNY (1948)
There are so many good Bugs vs Sam cartoons – this one is one of the best. Sam’s second Bugs Bunny (his third cartoon if you count Along Came Daffy), his first as a pirate. Freleng nails the personality here and the animation crew (Perez, Champin, Ross and Chiniquy) is running on all cylinders. Quintessential Bugs, who does not give up on giving Sam a cannon blast at every opportunity. The timing of the “Freleng Door Gag”, and the “match into the powder room” sequence, highlight Friz at the height of his abilities. “He’s in there, here’s in there… “
GORILLA MY DREAMS (1948)
“Someone’s Rockin’ My Dreamboat… Bugs versus Gruesome Gorilla; adopted by a Momma Gorilla, “Upsy-Daisy”, Raymond Scott’s “Dinner Music For a Pack of Hungry Cannibals”. Love it. “Gruesome” is actually a character more powerful than Bugs – but Bugs wins nonetheless simply by tiring him out. I can relate to that.
BULLY FOR BUGS (1953)
Jones bullfighting classic. En route to Coachella Valley “and the carrot festival therein” Bugs encounters an unmovable force in a Mexican bull ring. Facial expressions, poses, funny drawings and great timing… this one has it all.
BUGS AND THUGS (1954)
Largely a remake of Racketeer Rabbit, but this re-do is better than the original (in my humble opinion). Freleng revives gangster “Rocky” (from 1950’s Golden Yeggs) and teams him with henchman “Mugsy” for comic gold. Great dialogue by Foster in this one: “Okay Clancy, Take the boys and surround the house”; “Shut Up, shuttin’ up!”; “You heard the boss, Let me have it!”; “Would I throw a lighted match if my friend Rocky was in there?”
BABY BUGGY BUNNY (1954)
Ant-Hill Harry (aka “Baby Face Finster”) hides out in Bugs rabbit hole… and it almost works until Bugs catches the tattooed ex-con shaving. Having Bugs pull his tricks on a toddler might have been in bad taste, but making the babe a bank robber allows us to take much glee in violently punishing the rugrat (wish fulfillment to many a sleep deprived parent). I love Jones’ character design of Bugs, Ant-Hill Harry and various supporting characters here. Beautiful stuff.
Please note: the premise of this film was so good it was essentially ripped off to become a 2006 Wayans brother comedy Little Man.
THE BUGS BUNNY SHOW (1960)
Longtime readers here know I have a passion for The Bugs Bunny Show, the original ABC Network series that aired in primetime in 1960-1963 (52 episodes). This is the series that introduced me to Bugs Bunny and the Looney Tunes – way back when. The format of the show was three classic Looney Tunes, introduced by Bugs Bunny, usually on stage with guest characters, in new animation provided by Chuck Jones, Friz Freleng and Robert McKimson. The show in its original format never went into syndication… and variant versions of the show ran on Saturday morning, on all three networks, for over 40 years! The original negatives were futzed with all those years – but the show is restorable (something I hope to help make happen – eventually). I was able to put several of the show’s bridging sequences on the Looney Tunes Golden Collection DVDs (as bonus material). Here is one of those “host segments” by Jones. The parts that are in black and white currently have issues with the original color negs…
Please feel free to debate my choices in the Comments below. Everyone will have an opinion on this – and no two lists will be the same. I’m really more interested in hearing what your favorites are so… go for it!