Sunday, December 06, 2015

What's Opera, Doc?

Rabbit of Seville is a fun one.  Think of it, of course, as a warm-up to the much celebrated What's Opera, Doc?  I once saw the Seattle Gay Men's Chorus sing the verses to What's Opera, Doc? while it was projected on a giant screen.  Alas, there's not as much for a chorus to work with here with this one.  Also, it kinda doesn't work if you've got a couple dozen guys trying to do an Elmer Fudd impersonation, but whatever.  It's the thought that counts, right?
And so, we start with the wide expanse of the outdoors, with the worlds of Mother Nature and the recreational exploits / artistic ambitions of the Dominion of Man at odds.  Faceless crowds flock into the arena to see some damn opera.  Meanwhile, far off in the adjacent mountains, shotgun shots ring out, accompanied by their companion flashes of light.  For some reason, I think of that one oft-copied scene from Schindler's List where various windows are lit up by gunshots.  Shame on me.  But Bugs is in peril, no question, and, without a Daffy to take the bullets for him, Bugs needs a ruse to trick the easily tricked Elmer the Fudd.  Can dressing up in drag be far behind?
The ultimate irony, of course, is that Bugs' actual natural habitat is the stage.  We sort of get that from Stage Door Cartoon and probably others.  And when Bugs is on stage, well... Elmer just doesn't stand a chance.  But that's adaptation for you.  After all, spiders would rather be indoors with us, apparently!  Imagine My Dinner With Andre with spiders.  You know, the Andre spider going "Comfort can lull you into a dangerous tranquility" and the Wally spider saying "I'm looking for more comfort because the world is very abrasive!"  And then, of course, one of them telling the other, "Oh you, you always know how to get a reservation..."
Chuck Jones has a thing about extreme expressions with eyes.  Why, someone ought to do an internet meme about that... Yahoo Image Searches are a little risky.  It takes a while, but Elmer eventually gets over his stage fright, and gets back to his original goal of killing Bugs Bunny.  Meanwhile, Bugs takes to his stage profession of barber with a vengeance.  He massages Elmer's bald head, gives him a shave, Bugs even gives Elmer the full Carmen Miranda treatment (an arrangement of fruit upon his head)... but is Elmer grateful?  Of course not!  Then again... Bugs was a little rough with that first shave, even incorporating it into the lyrics: "There!  You're nice and clean, although your face looks like it might have gone through a machine."
Here's a sequence worth noting... probably because I'm a guy.  So, as often happens, Bugs and Elmer race each other in the barber's chair to the ceiling of the place.  Cartoon barber chairs are infinitely tall, you know.  Elmer's just about to catch up to Bugs, when Bugs lets loose one of those sandbags common to the stage that act as counterweights for the curtain.  And where does the bag land?  Right on Elmer's junk!  Oh, dude... pretty tawdry gag for Chuck Jones, I must say.  For those of you who are fans of Chris Farley's Tommy Boy, you'll remember what happened to Rob Lowe's character at the end.  Similar type deal.
Which brings me to the excellent sound in this cartoon.  Elmer drops his shotgun after getting hit in the schnutz, and it makes a great clang when it hits the ground.  On the other hand... when Elmer's clopping around the stage looking for Bugs, sure, it sounds echo-y and all, but it's totally unsynced.  Totally.  Sloppy work, guys.  But allow me to congratulate the animation, especially at this one part.  Elmer spins through one of those rotating doors real fast and gets dizzy.  Then he and Bugs do a little dance back to the barber's chair... now, that sequence is the kind of thing that gets taught in animation schools.  Rotoscoped, but neat.  A lot of the early rotoscoped stuff, the borders of the people involved move around too much.  Not here.
As for the ending, well... we start to get a Pink Panzer-style finale.  Elmer and Bugs get axes, guns, and cannons.  When Bugs can't out-cannon Elmer, he goes for love.  Flowers, candy, wedding ring... that type of thing.  Here's the twist: Elmer goes for it!  Elmer returns in a wedding dress!  Good Lourdes.  This changes everything.  Alas, we don't get a finale like Johnny Smith and Poker-Huntas, where we see Bugs and Elmer sitting round a hearth, with little baby Elmer-Bugs hybrids crawling all over the place.  Bugs gets in one last prank on Elmer and says "Next!"  Well, they can't all be serious, can they?

-so sayeth The Movie Hooligan

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