Sunday, November 22, 2015

Dept. of Wacky Wildlife

Wabbit Twouble is, of course, one of the unquestioned Bugs classics.  In the old VCR days, I spent what seemed like a great many hours rewinding the tape and listening to Elmer's conga car, just soaking in the Looney Tunes' Orchestra's rendition of a cartoon car's engine.  It's much too easy now!  Just point and click on a DVD track.  Where's all the time spent on the picture stopping, then going backwards and what not?  With all the needless vertical lines and otherwise crumpled picture?
In any event, I should probably recuse myself from this one entirely for these reasons... but I'll let an arbitrator worry about that should an impasse arise.  Meantime, this is actually a rather calm outing by Bob Clampett standards, if you consider such disasterpieces as A Gruesome Twosome or even The Old Grey Hare, where the animation is about as elastic as animation can get... all due respect to John Kricfalusi, of course.  He's our modern-day Bob Clampett equivalent, if only in his own mind.
But we start out innocently enough, after the "Crazy Credits" give way to the majestic landscape of the American Southwest, spoiled only by a makeshift bit of road.  Why, even the music calms down!  At least until... SPOILER ALERT... enter the noisy car of one Elmer J. Fudd, puncturing the stillness.  Note that the animators decided on painting the car exhaust dissipating "practically," rather than having the editors do a complicated cross-fade.  In order to do each puff of smoke dissipating, that would mean a cross-fade every six frames or so... Disney probably would've insisted on it, but not the rebels at Warner Bros.  Nowadays, it's all adjusting alpha levels in Adobe Flash, of course, but back then time and money was of the essence.  Quick and dirty is still the prevailing business model.  The car's right rear wheel stretches to the pervasive Conga beat that was taking American cinemas by storm during the '40s... if I recall correctly, even Popeye picked up on it at one point.  But, see, even Elmer's car seems restrained in comparison to Clampett's later work as the go-go 1940s rolled on.  Were he making this cartoon a couple years after 1941, it would've been all over the place.
Now, if you listen to the music of the car engine really carefully, you'll notice that the audio gets repeated a couple times.  When it first starts, if you listen to the 2nd beat of the 2nd group of four (9th group as well...), there's the sound of either a triangle or... yes, a cowbell.  Some kind of note piercing through the din in the key of F or so.  It gets repeated just before Elmer comes across the sign for Jellostone National Park... oh, I guess he's in Montana then, as opposed to the Southwest.  The mountainous terrain on the way there seemed a little Southwest-y to me, but I'm no expert.  I spend most of my time on the coasts, as it were.
...yeah, probably should've recused myself from this one.  And so, the ancient battle in animated cartoons begins anew, when Man ventures forth in Thoreau's footsteps to be at one with Nature... but Nature's not having any of that.  Not again.  Puts me in mind of that one Betty Boop cartoon where the noises of nature become more annoying than the din of the big city.  Bugs sees Elmer coming and lays a trap for him... well, not so much a trap, but Bugs seems to want Elmer close so he doesn't have to get too far out of bed to mess with him?  It's unusual.  In the Chuck Jones trilogy, Elmer's a blatant trespasser.
I just watched the special documentary on the DVD, and Leonard Maltin points out that Wabbit Twouble is actually his favourite Bugs and Elmer short because it's got everything: visual humor, funny sounds and music... and other stuff, I'm sure.  Anyway, Bugs ruins Elmer's tent, then Bugs ties Elmer's fingers together in some kind of an unholy knot.  That's the kind of gag you find funny when you first see it, but as the years roll on you turn into Tin Foil Hat Man over it, and if it ever does come up in conversation, but only because you bring it up, you launch right into "It's physically impossible.  I worked as a medic in the Gulf, and Lord knows I've seen fingers tied up in knots, but not like that.  It's impossible.  Physically impossible."  To which everyone else responds with " what ELSE is going on in the news?"  And so, Elmer puts a board over Bugs' rabbit hole and hammers it down to the tune of "Shave and a Haircut."  "That oughta hold him all right, heh heh heh..." says Elmer triumphantly, taking his short victory lap.  Bugs almost immediately undoes Elmer's handiwork, then imitates Elmer's line, growing fat in the process.  And yet, De Niro gets the Oscar.  Where's Bugs' statuette?  Where's his parade?  Well, there is that time Bob Dole talked about Bugs Bunny, shortly after he did that Pepsi commercial where he was watching Britney Spears on the TV and said "Easy..."  Alas, not everything's on the YouTubes.
But these animated cartoons can't be all action all the time.  You gotta have a slow part so people can catch their collective breaths.  And besides, as imparter of life lessons Bugs Bunny teaches us, just because we're stuck in a bubble doesn't mean we can't get into lots of trouble... no, wait, that was from the commercial for Bio-Dome.  No, Bugs teaches us that you can mess with a guy when he's sleeping, too!  Bugs does the old paint on glasses trick, combined with changing the time on Elmer's clock, to trick Elmer into thinking he slept for eight hours when in fact he slept for about fifteen seconds.  All the while mumbling something about "peace and re-waxation" in his sleep.  LOL.  For those who care about such details, one of the old Cartoon Network channels way back... maybe TNT... used the part where Elmer says "Mowning alweady!  How time fwies!" in commercials for Looney Tunes.
Next scene: Elmer has his sink at the ready, and he washes his face... you know, roughing it.  Real Paul Bunyan-type sh... stuff.  Elmer's got his face completely lathered, and he reaches for the towel.  Next next scene: the towel is hanging off of a branch, and Bugs is now holding the branch.  Elmer tries to follow the towel, and Bugs leads him off of a cliff.  Cue the Cartoon Physics.  Bugs throws the branch off the cliff, if only to demonstrate that gravity for everything else is still strongly in effect.  But unlike Wile E. Coyote, Elmer was not meant to plummet to his death, only to be reincarnated instantly in the next scene.  Elmer instead just gets a good scare, leaps, and ends up in Bugs' semi-loving arms, quivering from the fear.  "Somebody must've twicked me!" notes Elmer.  Bugs launches right into "You know, Doc, I wouldn't be a bit surprised if it was me that tricked ya."  Stinker, indeed!  I've always found that exchange puzzling, but that's just how naïve Elmer is, you see.  Usually he's able to figure that out on his own... anyway, it's shotgun time.
Now, screenwriters take note, because Bugs must be in real trouble this time.  Elmer packed in a lot of stuff on his little camping trip... including an already-lit fire, lol.  But we didn't see the shotgun at first, but now Elmer's got it, and a reason for using it as well.  WHEN SUDDENLY.... enter the bear.  Elmer quickly takes out a book and reads the section on grizzly bears.  Again, very restrained for Clampett.  The book advises on playing dead and, even though Elmer is still trembling quite a bit, the ploy works.  The bear takes one sniff of Elmer, says "P.U.!" and slowly retreats.  Enter Bugs growling like the bear, so Elmer goes back to playing dead.  "Funny situation, ain't it?" says Bugs as he f... messes with Elmer some more.  I'll spare you the play-by-play, but here's the genius moment: Elmer EVENTUALLY realizes that it's just tiny Bugs pretending to be a bear.  Bugs has his back turned to Elmer, who's reaching for the shotgun.  Elmer's only planning on clubbing Bugs with the gun this time.  Re-enter the bear.  Bugs gets scared and leaps out of the bear's way.  Elmer lets fly with the gun and... yup, hits the bear instead.  Genius.  (Jack Brown g... yeah, yeah.  What's so great about that anyway.)  And so, with no outdoors manual to guide him, Elmer politely puts down the bent shotgun, puts on his hat, and takes off running.  The bear gives chase, and nearly eats Elmer's head off... not once, not twice, but three times!  Ah, cartoon violence.
And then, a classic visual gag, to the tune of Rossini's "William Tell," no less.  A cartoon staple.  Elmer and the bear hide behind trees in the forest... but what happens when there's a gap in the forest?  Well, you pose anyway, of course!  I'm telling you, if this cartoon isn't in Heaven, I just don't wanna go.  That's all there is to it.  Heaven should at least be for cinephiles.  We're a visual species!  We can't help that.
And then, just as Nelson Muntz eventually became less of a bully as the The Simpsons seasons wore on, the bear ends up like a monkey on Elmer's back.  Elmer takes off running with the bear, and the bear's just enjoying the ride at that point.  At least, until a tree limb knocks him down.  That'd be a good YouTube compilation.  Someone should work on that!  Call it "The Most Awesome Montage of Guys in Films getting Knocked Down by a Tree Limb."  I think there was one in The Bank D... Richard.  That'll get you started.


And so, almost as quickly as his camp site was set up, Elmer the Fudd quickly breaks down his camp site, gets in his car and takes off.  But, much like Robert DeNiro's character in Heat, Elmer's not quite ready to leave... actually, there's no similarity there at all!  DeNiro's character went after Waingro after the phone call from Voight's character, whereas Elmer passed by the sign on his way out of the campgrounds... maybe that's open to interpretation or debate.  Would DeNiro have gone after Waingro anyway, even if he didn't know where he was?  The world just might never know... but we do know that even wussy old Elmer demands truth in advertising, and seeing that sign a second time, well... that broke the camel's back, that did.  Not as bad as he lost it in Elmer's Candid Camera or even The Wild Hare... but clearly Elmer's Candid Camera is where he lost it the worst.  But Wabbit Twouble's pretty good too!
Of course, Bugs is once again one step ahead of Elmer, even in this situation, for there's an angry Park Ranger standing by as Elmer defaces Jellostone's welcoming sign.  Immediate next scene: Elmer in jail.  "Well, anyway..." he starts.  Sorry, but I couldn't bring myself to spell 'well' as 'weww.'  Clearly I'm just one big letdown.  And so, Elmer informs the audience that, now that he's in his new prison garb, he's finally found peace and relaxation.  Of course, Bugs is once again one step ahead of Elmer, and... well, I guess I'll let you see that one for yourself.  I may have mentioned it already, but Wabbit Twouble just might be the Bugs Bunny short I take with me to that proverbial desert island made famous in funny papers, where extreme choices have to be made.  Seriously, though, if Wabbit Twouble isn't in Heaven, then clearly it's actually Hell in disguise, just like that one episode of the original "Twilight Zone" where a gambler kept winning all the games he played.  Boy!  Talk about Hell!

Good double bill with: ...what else?  Bugs and Fat Elmer in The Wacky Wabbit!

-so sayeth The Movie Hooligan

No comments: