Sunday, March 06, 2016

What is the Sound of Bugs and Daffy doing an impression of Elmer Fudd?

It's a tried and true formula to be sure, ever since Elmer started hunting wildlife, first with a camera in Elmer's Candid Camera, then with the now ubiquitous cartoon shotgun in The Wild Hare, but the formula will probably never get more perfect than in Rabbit Fire, the first of the Bugs and Daffy and Elmer Hunting Trilogy.  It inspired the opening sequence of Joe Dante's Looney Tunes: Back in Action, and it will continue to entertain wherever Looney Tunes are shown.  I tell you, this Chuck Jones really knew what he was doing!


Well, it starts out innocently enough, as always.  Elmer in the forest, with his naughty old gun, ready to tame the forest's secrets.  Now that mankind, particularly American Mankind, has overwhelmed the forests, and continues to chip away at the last bit of untouched landscapes with dazzling new, sanitized suburbs, with houses all mashed together in the suburb equivalent of high impact feed lots, the forest has lost a bit of its appeal, sure.  I mean, who has time to go outside when there's so many videos to watch on the internet, for one?  I harken back to a decade ago, personally, when I was on a trip with a few of my colleagues.  We took a day hike into the mountains, and on the way back I came across a pond that was positively full of frogs, all jumping about.  I can't help but think to myself now, that it's a long way from the city, and there's not enough people around to destroy it.  That's the only reason it's still existing.
But let's get back on track.  It's time for a little "stragedy," as it were.  We see a close-up of Bugs' feet... SPOILER ALERT, it just looks like Bugs' feet, but as it happens, Daffy apparently also orders from the Acme Corporation catalogue, and by Gum, he has procured himself a pair of phony extra-large animated rabbit's feet!  Daffy's preparing a trail to Bugs' hole in the ground, one that even someone as thick-headed as Elmer Fudd could follow.  "Oh boy!  Wabbit twacks!" exclaims a happy Elmer.  This hunting trip might prove to be his best yet!
Now that Daffy has laid the track for Elmer, Daffy calls Bugs to the door and he scurries off, saying "Survival of the fittest!"  Oh, Daffy... how far you've fallen.  You used to be the unabashed spokesman for anarchy.  Daffy gives a half-hearted looney laugh of old as he rounds the giant rock to hide, but it's just not the same.
Bugs emerges from the hole, and Elmer fires a shot, turning Bugs' ears into a pair of flutes, judging from the fresh holes, and the dust falling from them... is that dust?  Or maybe it's fur, just dusty looking fur.  Elmer rushes up with his shotgun and jams it into Bugs' mouth.  Dayamn, but that fat boy can move.  He's clearly angry, and armed... a popular combination in our modern times, alas, but what can be done.  But once the indignity of the situation has passed, Bugs handles himself with near absolute confidence, saying to Elmer "Say, Doc, are you trying to get yourself in trouble with the law?"  Bugs takes a teentsy bit too long to get to the point, love it.  Another reason this is a classic.
And then... as usual, things aren't going as Daffy would have liked.  Now, if you're a fan of a good debate, well... this one's probably going to be a bit too simplistic for you.  And you probably further won't like how easily Bugs tricks Daffy into switching his argument, especially if it reminds you of a time you made that mistake yourself.  But the filmmakers have tried hard to hide the metaphors as much as possible behind this motley gang of anthropomorphic cartoon characters, and to protect the feelings of those on whom this argument is based as much as possible.  They really have.  Of course, Groucho complained at one point that he was tired of such scenes as the one where he's in the rain and trying to board a train, but ends up nearly catching pneumonia instead.  He wanted something bad to happen to his brothers Harpo and Chico instead, but somehow it just wouldn't be the same.  And Ollie seems to get hit more often than Stan when an aggrieved third party's had enough of the two of them.  And Roger Ebert got tired of the nice ring to the phrase "Siskel and Ebert"... oh, right.  Bad example.
Anyway, Elmer seems to prefer shooting Daffy anyway.  Note the expression on his face when Daffy says "I say it's duck season and I say 'Fire!'"  I guess Bugs is too much like a member of a family at this point.  The third time Daffy gets shot, spoiler alert, his head's now upside down, meaning his windpipe now goes through his brain... ick.  Sorry about that.  Only in a cartoon.  "Hey you!  Come back here!" says Elmer to Upside-Down-Headed Daffy, and he tries to fire the gun again.  However, there's no boom!  No more bullets!  Elmer says "Well, what do you know?  No more buwwets!"
"No more buwwets?" asks Bugs.  Bugs says to Daffy, "Hey, Laughing Boy!  No more buwwets!"  Daffy returns, head back on proper, and also says, excitedly, "No more buwwets?" know, I'll bet there's a reference there someplace.  Perhaps to a TV western playing at the time.  I mean, there was "Hey Boy" on "Have Gun, Will Travel" for one, right?  Ever the curious one, Daffy snatches the gun from Elmer only to find out... boy, I tell you.  Chuck Jones always seems to subvert peoples' expectations in one way or another.


"Devilishly clever!" says Daffy.... oh, right.  I should explain.  Bugs nails a sign to a tree that says "Duck Season Open," and he tiptoes away.  Now, Daffy tiptoes up to the tree in the same manner as Bugs tiptoed away from it.  One of the ways that the animators cut corners.  My favourite example of this is in the one where... can't think of the title.  It's the one where Elmer plays Dr. Jekyll.  He has a dog that he tries out his formula on, and the dog ends up eating grass in the field to get the taste out of his mouth.  Elmer later on ends up out there as well, eating grass next to the dog.  Their actions are exactly the same: stuffing their mouths one second, then panting, then stuffing anew.  I went through a brief period with my VCR where I had to rewind that scene a couple of times while laughing my ass off.... Hare Remover!  That's probably it!  Anyway, so Daffy says "Uh oh," because the real bad trouble's coming now.  Elmer comes tiptoeing up with the gun, but Daffy's ready this time.  Daffy's got a rabbit costume... a really, really bad one.  Elmer seems confused.  But arguably, Daffy acts a little more like Bugs than in, say, A Star is Bored, where he's supposedly getting gainfully employed to imitate Bugs.  "Any luck with those ducks?  It's Duck Season, you know!" says Daffy as Bugs.
Just then, Bugs comes up, with a similarly, um... let's say minimalist duck outfit.  "Just a darn minute!  Where do ya get that 'Duck Season' stuff?" says Bugs as Daffy.  I didn't know this, but according to the IMDb, Hank Azaria calls this sequence Mel Blanc's greatest achievement.  I won't dispute that, but I just thought about the scene from Birds Anonymous where Sylvester starts crying and says "I'm weak!  I gotta have a bird!!!"  I'm a sucker for a good cry, what can me say.
Anyway, to cut to the chase, Daffy doesn't look over to see that the sign now says "Rabbit Season Open."  "You know what to do with that gun, Doc!" says Daffy, not realizing what's about to happen.  That also seems to be the NRA's motto these days... you know what to do with that gun!  Great, isn't it?
Somehow, Elmer can't supercede the dramatic tension between Bugs and Daffy.  With fresh smoke still billowing from his bill, Daffy pushes the barrel of Elmer's gun aside, gets real close up to Bugs' face and says... wait for it... "You're despicable!"  Bugs walks away with Daffy in tow, and even the most ardent Daffy fan can't help but think to themselves... Daffy's got nothing!  "Very definitely despicable?"  Thereby inspiring that now infamous sequence from A Few Good Men... wait, I gotta look it up... "'I STRENUOUSLY object'?  Is that how it works?" And so, Bugs and Daffy remove their respective outfits, and Bugs gets out a book titled "1000 Ways to Cook a Duck" and begins reading recipes.  "Yummy yum!" adds Bugs after the first one.  Well, butter usually makes things better, although I hear duck meat's pretty fatty already.  I wonder if Jones and company suffered from boredom when coming up with these things.  Is this not the same or a similar bolt of lightning to when the "Seinfeld" writers were debating what to do with the character of Susan Ross, and one of them apparently said "Too bad we can't just kill her off!"  If there's a more depraved setup than this in a Looney Tunes cartoon, well, frankly I don't want to know about it.  Fortunately, Daffy finds another book in Bugs' hole, entitled "1000 Ways to Cook a Rabbit"... we'll leave the implications of that aside for now.  Let's just say that it's similar to what some online have posited about Wall-E, and how he spent the first part of the film, helping himself to the spare but still workable parts of robots similar to him.  Cold-blooded, indeed!
Elmer is apparently unmoved by Bugs' and Daffy's latest game of one-upmanship, and in yet another stroke of genius, Elmer declares "I'm a vegetawian!  I just hunt for the sport!"  Bugs gets all up in Elmer's grill, and Daffy runs up in a tennis outfit.  "Anyone for tennis?" Daffy asks.  Elmer quickly shoots Daffy.  "Nice game!" says Daffy, looking damn near a little bloody.  This reminds me of some conversations I had in high school... okay, middle school.  More often in middle school.


We're close to the Act Break anyway.  As in Rabbit Seasoning, there has to be a scene with Bugs and Daffy fleeing, and Elmer in nothing short of the hottest of pursuits, using that shotgun of his as though it were an automatic.  Incidentally, when are the gun manufacturers of the world planning on making a machine shotgun?  Sure, it'd be big and clunky and hard to load, but we could put hard working Americans to work making a belt for the thing?  You know, like in all them war pics?
Anyway, we come to a completely superfluous gag, designed to pad out the feature to the length of one reel.  Even I willingly admit that.  Bugs admonishes Elmer for using an elephant gun.  Oh, Elmer... you're far, far too easy to play head games with.  "Ewephant gun?" asks Elmer.  "That's right, Doc!  So why don't you go shoot yourself an elephant?" asks Bugs as he slowly slips into his hole.  "You do and I'll give you such a pinch!" says the gay elephant now standing next to Elmer.  The elephant hits Elmer upon his head, sending Elmer into the ground... not so dissimilar to Elmer's quarry, I now realize!  But Elmer quickly escapes from the "rabbit hole" that his body made, after getting hit by that elephant... incidentally, this IMDb page also says that the elephant was based on Joe Besser.  Figures.  Well, if nothing else, Besser is a lesson in hanging out with the right people.  You might have been a very talented person in Joe Besser's day, but he was hovering near the Stooges, and when the grim spectre of Death cut Shemp down in his semi-prime, well... Joe Besser got the call to step in Shemp's very large shoes.  And Moe and Larry questioned that decision, sometimes openly in the same film with Joe, ever since.
Next scene: it's time once again for Bugs to play dress-up as a woman.  Elmer falls head over heels again because, like Joe Besser, he's only a playboy when the time is right.  Borrowing Bugs' plunger from earlier, Daffy takes to his new role as Lady Bugs' hunting dog... I wonder how that conversation went!  So clearly, this scene is the opposite of what happens in Rabbit Seasoning.  Bugs' costume slips ever so slightly after Daffy bites Elmer on the leg.  "EEEYOWWWW!!!!" says Elmer, but it sounds like Mel Blanc filled in for Arthur Q. Bryan on that one.  Let's face it!  Not every guy can scream good!
But, let us reflect on this scene for a second.  This may be the first and only time that Bugs has a gun too!  In his disguise of a human lady, he fires a shot that takes off Elmer's trademark cap, thereby leading to Elmer falling in love at first sight.  Or maybe it's just the little head doin... um, never mind.  Thankfully, Bugs' disguise slips before things go too far.  Elmer gets mad, and snatches the gun away from Bugs.  The nerve of that guy!  He aims Bugs' shotgun at Bugs and says "Okay, Wabbit!  I see through that disguise!"  Well, a minute earlier, you didn't!  A lot!  Maybe Garth was on to something...


Well, Daffy's not one to take Elmer's threats lightly.  Daffy runs over to the tree and tries to make his case to the highest authority... the United States government.  "Wabbit Season!" says Daffy, pointing to the sign, and still poking fun at Elmer's unfortunate lisp.  And to any law enforcement officials watching this, bear in mind that it's Bugs who tears down the first sign.  That is, if you care at all about the rule of law.  "Duck Season!" says Bugs, as the Wabbit Season sign comes down.  Daffy follows suit and tears down the Duck Season sign, revealing another Wabbit Season sign behind it.  "Wabbit Season!" Daffy exclaims.  Is this not a level of desperation commensurate with that of Lenny Bruce in the courtroom he was in?
This seemingly endless loop could go on for years, as Groucho might say.... that's the one it was in, I swear!  But these cartoons are finite affairs, unlike Facebook video games.  And soon... damn, but I hate to spoil it.  Needles to say, the tables get turned on Elmer.  A lot.  Elmer ends up running his ass off, Stage Left.  We see Bugs and Daffy in Elmer outfits, each with a shotgun.  And yes, I'm going to type out all the dialogue, because this is one of the best endings to a Looney Tunes cartoon ever.  Bugs addresses the audience, saying "Be vewy vewy quiet.  We're hunting Elmers!"  Daffy then does the Elmer laugh, and off they continue to tiptoe.  Brilliance... brilliance.

-so sayeth The Movie Hooligan

1 comment:

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