Category Archives: The Bugs Bunny Appreciation Society

Bugs’n’Ed

Considering the number of cross-dressing gags in old Warner Bros. cartoons, it was inevitable that somebody would do this kind of mash-up. So, ladies and gentlemen (and all possible combinations thereof), let me present Bugs Bunny in “Glen or Glenda.”

Advertisements
Tagged , ,

‘The yams did it! The yams did it!’

Back in the day, one of the New York independent stations — WWOR to be exact — devoted a good portion of its Thanksgiving Day airtime to multiple airings of the original King Kong, Son of Kong and Mighty Joe Young, with a liberal seasoning of vintage Warner Brothers cartoons to round out the menu. So here’s some nostalgia to go with your stuffing, beginning with Tom Turk and Daffy, a 1944 Chuck Jones short featuring Daffy Duck and Porky Pig. Note that the cartoon is credited to “The Staff” rather than an individual writer. Note also that great Daffy line — “The yams did it! The yams did it! Those nasty yams!” — which may have been an early influence on Karen Finley.

Another great Daffy and Porky cartoon is My Favorite Duck (1942), from the early period when Daffy Duck was anarchy incarnate rather than the feathered version of Sylvester he became during the late Chuck Jones period. Porky’s attempts to overcome his epic stutter while singing “On Moonlight Bay” are great stuff.

Continuing our camping theme . . .

Wabbit Twouble (1941) is often dismissed as a weak item from Bob Clampett, but I think it’s a riot. On the other hand, everyone agrees that Clampett’s take on Daffy Duck defines the character:

That’s The Great Piggy Bank Robbery (1946), which has to rank among the Top Ten Warner Brothers cartoons.

That’s all well and good, you say, but what about King Kong? Here you go:

All right, that was “King Kong” from Uncle Meat as performed by the classic Frank Zappa/Mothers of Invention lineup, taken from a 1968 BBC broadcast. Man, do I love that gold-top Les Paul Zappa’s playing.

And now, the big sendoff:

Happy Thanksgiving, everybody. And a nod to Glenn Kenny for the inspiration.

Tagged , , , , , , ,

The Big Snooze (1946)

Duh rabbits are coming, hurray hurray! Duh rabbits are coming, hurray hurray! Duh rabbits are coming . . .

Nudity! Cross dressing! Sexual threats! Drug use! “The Big Snooze” is a Bugs Bunny cartoon for the whole family! The title pokes fun at Raymond Chandler’s The Big Sleep (which Warner Bros. had adapted for film that year) and it’s even got a closing line from Fibber McGee and Molly. Woo hoo!

“The Big Snooze” is the swan song of Bob Clampett, the unheralded maniac who inherited the leadership of the Termite Terrace cartoon unit at Warners Bros. after Tex Avery left in 1941. Under the circumstances, we can assume Clampett’s employment issues influenced the opening, in which Elmer Fudd finally gets fed up with playing the patsy and — how do they put it? — breaks the fourth wall by addressing “Mr. Warner” and tearing up his studio contract.

What happens next reflects Clampett’s love of Salvador Dali and the Surrealists in general. Standing over Elmer Fudd as he naps, Bugs ingests a bottle of sleeping pills, invades the dream and before you kow it Elmer is running around naked except for a derby and a garland, then he gets hooched up in a dress and wig, then he’s menaced by zoot-suited wolves (“Howwwwooooooolld is she?”) and let’s just say the whole thing is pretty Freudian. Sometimes a cigar is just a cigar, but what do you make of a little bald guy struggling to get out of a long tube so he can spray shots at something he wants? Anybody here want to take that one on?

Terrified by the chaos unleashed by his decision to step outside the confines of his assigned role, the wised-up Elmer returns to work playing the guy who never wises up.   

After quitting Termite Terrace, Clampett briefly worked for Screen Gems and Republic Pictures before turning to television and winning acclaim (along with some Emmy awards) for the puppet show Time for Beany, Thunderbolt the Wondercolt and Beany and Cecil, an animated version of the puppet show. Many of his colleagues despised Clampett as a credit-hog who tried to obscure the contributions of the other Termite Terrace animators — Clampett tried to claim he cooked up Bugs Bunny on his own after watching It Happened One Night — but his Warner Bros. cartoons are some of the finest the studio ever produced, and his manic sensibility put an end once and for all to any stylistic connections between Warner cartoons and Walt Disney.  

Easter Yeggs (1947)

Here’s the Easter Rabbit, hooray!
The happy Easter Rabbit, hooray!
I am getting Looney Tuney, touched in the head
This whole thing is gooney, I should-a stood in bed.

My first newspaper job was with an editor whose favorite word was “yegg.” She used it to describe any of the scruffy types who cropped up in the paper’s Police Log. My first great triumph was to demonstrate that the term meant a safecracker or a thief. She told me that was very interesting and went right on using “yegg” the way she always had. Little did I know that I had been givena glimpse into the very heart of newspaper work.

Rabbit’s Kin (1952)

For today’s session of The Bugs Bunny Appreciation Society, I surrender the podium to Premiere film critic Glenn Kenny, whose blog In The Company of Glenn offers startling revelations about the voice work done for Pete Puma, the “uber-grotesque” heavy in the 1952 cartoon “Rabbit’s Kin”:

One cartoon we were particularly fascinated by was the 1952 Looney Tune Rabbit’s Kin. It was actually one of the handful of ’50s-era Tunes we were really into, being such Golden Age purists and all, and our enthusiasm for it stemmed from one thing: its villain, the uber-grotesque Pete Puma, from whom Bugs protects an adorably wide-eyed baby bunny. The Puma had a supremely goofy voice and a habit of punctuating his sentences with an extended, high-pitched whine that my cronies and I delighted in impersonating. (We did so frequently enough that the women in our lives were soon pursuaded that our mental conditions were far more serious than they had initially perceived.) Naifs that we were, we wondered how, precisely, cartoon voice maestro Mel Blanc had come up with the effect. As it happened, Blanc came to lecture at William Paterson College in 1980 and during the Q&A one of us asked him about the Puma. We were flummoxed that he had zero recollection of the character. Had Mel gone senile? No. I believe it was Barre, who had/has a fairly astonishing expertise in recorded comedy of the late ’50s-early ’60s, who unearthed the fact that is was Stan Freberg—who also conceived The Three Little Bops for Warners’ cartoon division—who embued the Puma with the power of gnarled speech.

Stan Freberg on a Bugs Bunny cartoon! Who’d a thunk it? Here’s a little refresher:

You’ll have to read the full Kenny post to get more good stuff on Patti Smith and how Pete Puma provided him with an in just when he needed it most.

Falling Hare (1943)

Sometimes I think the main value of my education was giving me the chance to catch up on all the World War II vintage pop-culture references in the Bugs Bunny cartoons I watched as a kid. I didn’t know from Wendell Wilkie, A-cards or “4-F” draft classification when I was a wee bairn, but I laughed whenever they cropped up in Warner Brothers cartoons because the master gag writers at Termite Terrace were such genuises at pacing and delivery that even the more obscure jokes in their cartoons arrived just as you were primed for a laugh. Only much later in life did I learn that Wendell Wilkie played a role in society beyond that of generating yucks for Warner Brothers — though I still find him far more plausible in the context of Merrie Melodies than politics — or that “Was this trip really necessary?” had a wartime provenance.

Falling Hare is one of my all-time Bugs Bunny faves, in large part because it is one of the few cartoons — maybe even the only cartoon — in which Bugs is somebody else’s patsy. It was also my introduction to the gremlin, that creature invented by RAF pilots in the early 1920s and introduced to the wider public by Roald Dahl, who made them the subject of his first children’s book. They were gleefully appropriated by the Termite Terrace crew, who after hitting a career best with Falling Hare created a Slavic strain of gremlin for Russian Rhapsody (1944) to take on Adolf Hitler himself:

Russian Rhapsody is a particular fave with Termite Terrace scholars because many of the gremlins are caricatures of Warner Brothers staffers, including Bob Clampett, Chuck Jones, Friz Freleng and Michael Sasanoff. A couple of decades later, gremlin lore inspired “Nightmare at 20,000 Feet” one of the better episodes from the original Twilight Zone series, which became the redeeming episode of Twilight Zone: The Movie, and a showcase for one of John Lithgow’s best bits on film:

Oh yeah, there were a couple of films titled Gremlins of which the less said the better. Not only were they cruddy movies, but the whole concept of the gremlin as an aviation trickster was discarded.

All things Filboid


How many times have I seen Baseball Bugs, the 1946 Bugs Bunny cartoon in which Bugs squares off against a baseball team called the Gas-House Gorillas? And how many times have I taken in the joke advertisements lining the walls of the baseball stadium?

So why did it take me this long to notice that one of the ads is for something called Filboid Studge? I knew the Warner Brothers animators at Termite Terrace were a smart bunch, but extra kudos are in order for the gag writer who managed to work in a nod to Saki, aka Hector Hugh Munro.

“Filboid Studge” isn’t as well known as “Sredni Vashtar” and “Mrs. Packletide’s Tiger,” but it’s easily as blackheartedly amusing as either of those Saki classics. The situation is simple: a commercial artist asks for permission to marry his employer’s daughter. The employer agrees, for his company is about to go bankrupt trying to market a foul-tasting breakfast cereal called Pipenta, and he wants to get his daughter married off before the family finances collapse. To show his gratitude, the artist drafts a top to bottom rebranding of Pipenta as a health product called Filboid Studge:

No one would have eaten Filboid Studge as a pleasure, but the grim austerity of its advertisement drove housewives in shoals to the grocers’ shops to clamour for an immediate supply. In small kitchens solemn pig-tailed daughters helped depressed mothers to perform the primitive ritual of its preparation. On the breakfast-tables of cheerless parlours it was partaken of in silence. Once the womenfolk discovered that it was thoroughly unpalatable, their zeal in forcing it on their households knew no bounds. “You haven’t eaten your Filboid Studge!” would be screamed at the appetiteless clerk as he turned weariedly from the breakfast-table, and his evening meal would be prefaced by a warmed-up mess which would be explained as “your Filboid Studge that you didn’t eat this morning.” Those strange fanatics who ostentatiously mortify themselves, inwardly and outwardly, with health biscuits and health garments, battened aggressively on the new food. Earnest spectacled young men devoured it on the steps of the National Liberal Club. A bishop who did not believe in a future state preached against the poster, and a peer’s daughter died from eating too much of the compound. A further advertisement was obtained when an infantry regiment mutinied and shot its officers rather than eat the nauseous mess; fortunately, Lord Birrell of Blatherstone, who was War Minister at the moment, saved the situation by his happy epigram, that “Discipline to be effective must be optional.”

I’m not the only one with Filboid on the brain: here’s a Los Angeles animation artist’s site that boasts some eye-catching graphics.