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Happy Easter, Doc!
by Summer Wood

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What's up?

What's up?
(I'm a week off - I thought this was going to run last week, but hey, I'll just celebrate Orthodox Easter!)

Easter is a time of Spring, of Rebirth. Take it as a Christian religious holiday or as the end of winter and the time of blooming things, it is a glorious period of renewal. It makes sense that its symbol should be the rabbit. After all, rabbits become prominent in the Spring, showing up in meadows and lawns as the grasses get longer. They do not hibernate, but they become more cautious, being prey, in the times that foliage is at its most sparse. And they are a pretty fertile bunch, highlighting the fecundity of Springtime.

Over the years, several movies and other media have given us portrayal of rabbits: the rather annoying Easter Bunny of the Rankin Bass Easter special HERE COMES PETER COTTONTAIL, the foul mouthed son of the E.B. in HOP, and, most recently and oddly, an Australian warrior-pooka in THE RISE OF THE GUARDIANS, Dreamworks Christmas offering from last year. However, let's cut to the chase and, on this Easter morning, honor the Greatest of All Cinematic Rabbits, Bugs Bunny!

Warner Brothers debuted a rabbit prototype in their Merrie Melodies series, in the 1938 episode, Porky's Hare Hunt. Porky Pig was the big cartoon star for Warner's at the time, but this episode, which involved Porky hunting a wily rabbit who was white instead of gray, he was the antagonist. Through the
Proto-Bugs

Proto-Bugs
late thirties, the rabbit character showed up a couple of times, until finally in 1940, Bugs Bunny appeared in his first official cartoon, A Wild Hare. From then on, Bugs was the biggest cartoon character of the studio and, soon, the Warner Brothers mascot.

Many think that Bugs was modeled on Groucho Marx of Marx Brothers fame, and in fact, the catch line, "Of course, you realized this means war!" was lifted from Marx. However, it seems Bugs was actually inspired by Clark Gable. In IT HAPPENED ONE NIGHT, when Gable's reporter is traveling with Claudette Colbert's run-away heiress, he attempts to hitchhike, talking nonstop while munching carrots. The fast talk and carrot habit of course was passed down to Bugs. One may also note that Gable was often teased about his big ears.

More than the Hollywood antecedents, Bugs comes from a long line of tricksters. Rabbits and hares were prominent trickster characters in myths and legends from Asia and Africa, culminating in the African slave character known as B'rer Rabbit and his Creole cousin, Compare Lapin. The trickster caused mayhem for gods and men by his clownish, but ultimately cunning antics. The rabbit, as a smaller and weaker prey animal, made a particularly attractive figure to oppressed people, like the African slaves, who were able to glory in the rabbit's outwitting of more powerful opponents, like the bear and fox. Bugs is a fitting
Ballot Box Bunny

Ballot Box Bunny
descendant of that line.

To move onto the best of Bugs, it is not an easy choice, since there were a lot of great cartoons. In lieu of cutting down to five or so individual cartoons, I'm going to offer my three favorite groups of Bugs cartoons (with apologies to Gossamer, the big furry carrot creature, who missed the cut by not being in quite enough).

3.The Yosemite Sam group - It was hard not to love the interplay between the territorial, wise-ass rabbit and the land-grubbing, bombastic yahoo! Most of the cartoons started with Sam trying to appropriate land that contained Bugs' rabbit hole. Some fondly remembered cartoons include >i>Ballot Box Bunny, in which Bugs and Sam are running against each other for mayor and features the memorably wired piano keys, set to explode on the last note of > Those Endearing Young Charms, which Bugs cannot play correctly, and , where Bugs washes up on the desert island that has been home to Sam for a long time, to the point where he "hates coconuts!" Knighty Night Bugs, in which Sam is the Black Knight with his coldy dragon and his cohorts are Sir Osis of Liver and Sir Loin of Beef is the only Bugs to win an Academy Award.

2. The Daffy series - There was no better pairing then the irascible duck and the cool bunny. There was a trio of Duck Season-Rabbit Season shorts (Rabbit Fire, Rabbit Seasoning, and Duck,
Bugs vs. Daffy

Bugs vs. Daffy
Rabbit, Duck!
to be precise), where Elmer Fudd is somewhat confused as to which animal he is allowed to hunt, so Bugs tricks Daffy, over and over again, into announcing that it was duck season. Poor Daffy spent a lot of the time with his beak blown to the back of his head and telling Bugs he was despicable. The great classic of the pairing, though not obvious until the end, is the brilliant Duck Amok, where Daffy is plagued by an omnipotent, and very nasty animator who adds, removes and alters the poor duck's body parts and, memorably, turns him into some half beast/half flower, before the animator is revealed to be Bugs himself. Ain't he a stinker?

1.The Music series - By far the greatest of the Bugs cartoons were the ones parodying music, opera in particular. Rabbit of Seville featured Bugs tormenting poor Elmer to the music of Mozart's the Marriage of Figaro. His turning Elmer's head into a fruit salad is classic. Even better was What's Opera, Doc?, a parody of Wagner's Ring Cycle. Who can forget Bugs in Viking drag as Elmer croons "Oh, Boonhilda, you'wa so wuvly." To which Bugs replies, "Yes, I know it. I can't help it?" Of course, "Kill de Wabbit!" is the anthem of the cartoon, which, in 1992, was the first cartoon to be preserved in the National Film Registry.

So may all your rabbits this Easter be fast-talking Gray Hares! And please share your favorite Bugs cartoons! Happy Easter!

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Mike Thomas
Apr 7, 2013 1:02 PM
[X] delete
I never realized what a pedigree the rabbit had! Makes me all the more to cheer his triumphs as he declares, "Of course, you know, this means war."

But in his list of nemeses, I feel you left out his Number One Adversary, and that is Elmer Fudd, who, coincidentally was the only character not voiced by the immortal Mel Blanc (in later years, he did take over the voicing duties). He's even mentioned in two of your top three! For shame!

I think it's great, though, that there are "grown ups" out there that still appreciate the classics.



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A Musing in Movieland
Every other Sunday

One woman's attempt to find meaning in movies, from movies, and between movies and to figure out why movies should matter to us, all while trying to find a laugh in the whole, screwy business."


Other Columns
Other columns by Summer Wood:

American Gods (With apologies to Neil Gaiman) Pt 2

American Gods (With apologies to Neil Gaiman) Pt 1

Most Beautiful Woman Alive!

The Jazzier Age?

The Sexiest Oscar Alive

All Columns


Summer Wood
I'm still cautiously optimistic that there really is a pattern to our lives and am striving to find mine, although I secretly suspect that life is really just about a Big, Space Baby. Which would be disappointing. And confusing. But, hey, you gotta have a sense of humor about it all, right? Philosophical stuff aside, I am an attorney, an artist and a performer and, if I could figure out a way to make the last two pay the bills, I'd dump the first one tomorrow.




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If you have a comment, question, or suggestion, you can send a message to Summer Wood by clicking here.


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