Monday, April 25, 2016

...that's not Nixon!

Now it's time for that pre-cursor to the first Duck Dodgers, and it's with Bugs.  It's called Haredevil Hare, and for those of you who are my age, you just might recall a little something on cable when TNT was a new network that didn't have a big-time sports contract.  It's the opening clip for this thing, for one.


Well, just as Dick Cheney is not actually in Die Hard: With a Vengeance, (frankly, the person that the director thought was Cheney looks more like John Hughes or Edward Herrmann, what with the cute nose and all...) the person purported to be Nixon in the photo in this newspaper looks like Nixon if you make it really small.  But if you blow up the pic, it looks more like a normal human being than like Nixon.  As we all know, Nixon's face looks exactly like a foot... and there's no way to un-forget that.  It's unforgettable, if you like!  No way to un-remember, if you like.
Welp, as much as we hate to admit it, even Looney Tunes cannot exist in a vacuum.  Even such celluloid Rorschach tests as these are prone to the times they were created in, and in post-WWII America, while most thoughts turned to peace on Earth and goodwill towards men, others were dreaming up new ways to blow up the Earth.  Take the huge bombs used on the J... I mean, on Japan, for one.  Then there was the creation of the jet plane.  Surely, sending someone into outer space couldn't be far behind?  If Jules Verne was able to imagine it, surely human beings in the modern era could actually make it happen?
And so, we get to Bugs, because humans value human life too much to risk sending one of their fellow men into space without knowing all the risks, or for that manner, any of them.  And so a second time, in spite of the positive headline, Bugs is dragged kicking and screaming to the giant rocket built specifically for this first Kamikaze mission.  No, really.  Bugs is putting up about as big of a fight as I've ever seen.  After all, this is no mere Elmer Fudd armed only with a shotgun.  This is the federal government, armed with a mandate from the American people... more or less.  Well, space travel was the hot fad back then.  Plus, Russia was apparently also really into it, so we had to keep up, right?
Bugs keeps kicking and screaming until... yup, you guessed it!  The Hedonic model!  I'm telling you!  Maybe change the name of it to something that skews a little less devilish.  Hedonic, Gates of Hades... nah, it's just too good.  They're pouring carrots into the top of this giant rocket... I hesitate to call it a spaceship, but they do have some tiny windows on it.  Not quite the sort of detail that gets you questioned by the FBI, but pretty close!  And so, Bugs decides that space won't be so bad, as long as he's got that big pile of carrots with him.  Ever the jokester, Bugs tries to wriggle into the inside of the spaceship, making a fashion comparison in the process.
Now, here's something I didn't consider, mostly because I'm kinda slow.  But I have been thinking a lot about the Laws of Cartoon Physics lately, for some reason.  They mostly focus on the exploits of the Road Runner and that darned old Coyote, except for the thing about "feline matter."  Maybe there's kind of a quiet ban on Cartoon Explosives, and probably for good reason, so I'll tread lightly and offer the following Law of Cartoon Physics for Cartoon Explosives: the smaller the device, the larger the explosion it will produce.  There's a Tom and Jerry cartoon that comes to mind... The Yankee Doodle Mouse!  That's it!  There was also that Western with Porky and Daffy called Drip-Along Daffy which involved this law at the end with the arch bad guy.  The stick of dynamite in The Wacky Wabbit, of course, defies all laws, Cartoon or otherwise.
Anyway, so we can lump all these examples into subgroup a) as it involves a cartoon character getting blowed up real good.  Subgroup b) will be reserved for rocket launches, such as this instant case right here.  You gotta hand it to these Cartoon Rocket Scientists; they're pretty clever!  They learned that a tiny dynamite stick makes a big explosion, so that's what they use to send Bugs into outer space, and well on his way to the moon.
...this is probably where Act Two should break, but Haredevil Hare departs from the normal Act structure.  Needles to say, Bugs is less than prepared for space travel, and he tries to leave the ship.  He opens the Escape Hatch, only to see Earth disappear beneath his feet, making a slide whistle sound, of course.  I know, I know... but there's another Law of Cartoon Physics in the offing: cartoon characters are not affected by gravity in space, unless a) it's funny, or b) it interrupts the screenplay's narrative.  Sure, Bugs would probably get sucked out into space under normal circumstances, like the mother Alien in Aliens, but this isn't that cartoon.  Bugs instead closes the escape hatch back up, and clings to the uppermost part of the rocket.  Man, but that's a hollow rocket!  Okay, so they couldn't get every detail right.  Jones and company didn't know that the part of the spaceship where the pilots sit is actually quite small.


Next scene, more or less: the Moon proper.  We see a "shot" of the moon, and the artists decided to stick with the more well-known of the Moon's craters: Tycho, Copernicus, what have you.  This was before the Russkies named all the craters on the dark side for themselves, greedy bastardniks.  As Bugs heads rather quickly for the Moon, he experiences much the same emotions as he did during his plummet to Earth in Falling Hare: nausea, screaming, what have you.  A sign lights up that says "Fasten Safety Belts," a detail which might pass you by unnoticed.  That's the problem with these cartoons for the tiddlywinks: they move so fast, and there's no time to savour all the irony.  And then... the spaceship finally makes it to the surface, using a crater like a skateboarder might use the inside of an empty swimming pool.  I think Indiana Jones had a similar landing in that lead-lined refrigerator, if memory serves!
Next scene: the ship is a slightly broken, semi-smouldering mess there on the surface of the moon, but the door's still functional enough to open.  The door opens to reveal Bugs' dazed, blue eyes... really?  They're blue?  Usually he has black pupils, if my long-term memory serves.  Black pupil, blue iris, I guess.  Well, in an unusual situation such as this, you'd expect an iris or two to make an emergence.  Bugs experiences a little post-moon landing Stress Disorder (PMLSD), or a lot of it, depending on your level of patience.  It persists even after communicating back to Earth.  Again, this was one of those clips that TNT used to advertise their various Looney Tunes shows 25 odd years ago or so... man, I'm old.
Now, screenwriters should take note here, when it comes to details to be dwelled upon.  Bugs declares "I'm alone on the moon!", first out of anguish, then with a flair of romance to it.  Much like the cat from The Cat Who Hated People experienced, if only for a second or two before all Hell broke loose for him.  "Kilroy was Here." it.  Guess they didn't want to draw the semi-lewd figure that usually goes with it.
I guess what the screenwriters, past, present, and future should take note of, is that it's time to move the plot along already.  Just like Wallace and Gromit alone on the moon wasn't enough, Bugs alone on the moon can't exist in a vacuum.  Enter the pre-named Marvin the Martian and his advanced spaceship.  The whole solar system's trying to compete with us!  The titular Martian emerges, then starts walking Stage Right.  PhD scholars in music are still trying to study the sheet music for this part where the Martian starts walking.  Carl Stalling is a genius.  Is, was, and will be as long as Earth can sustain celluloid and its digital counterparts.
The Martian aims his expensive-ass Questar telescope at the Earth.  Why is that, anyway?  Why am I going to pay $7,000 for a tiny telescope, when I can get a used C-14 for that much?  The star map on the base?  Is it really that complete?  As with most Robert Clampett cartoons, the Martian rolls past the Earth a little bit, then doubles back.  Clampett would've made it messier, of course.
Bugs takes an interest in what the Martian is up to.  Bugs chews away on a carrot... or does he?  I've heard that Blanc himself was actually allergic to carrots, but ever the pro that he was, he would chew what he had to to get the audio, then spit it out into a bucket.  Here, he sounds like an old man adjusting his new dentures or something.  There's also a nice "shot" of M13.  Well, there's a lot less man-made light on the moon, as of this writing, so the stars are ever the glittier... glitter-ier... brighter.  "What's up, Doc?" asks Bugs, as he has of so many over the decades now.
"Oh, I'm going to blow up the Earth," says the Martian... oh, but this just isn't right.  It's supposed to be Freberg, damn it.  And now, here, in the first ever appearance of Marvin, it's just a nasally Blanc instead!  I can't take it!  I can't!  Anyway, for all you hipster psychologists out there like me, here's a nice post-modern touch for you: Bugs says to the little guy, "Hey, nice looking wee-pon you got there!", then Bugs nods his head... ironically?  I think so!  Yes, the scourge of busy nerds existed even 70 years ago, go figure.  Bugs did what he could, but there's just no stopping them.
And so, Bugs walks away, mulling over what just transpired.  Bugs says to himself, "After all, it's his business if he wants to blow up the Earth."  In a different Looney Tunes, at least the Marvin in that one had a good reason: Earth was obstructing his view of Venus, so natch!  Get rid of the Earth!  No such reason is offered this time.  Probably unspoken jealousy, of course.  Bugs rushes over and puts out the fuse on the tiny firecracker powering the Martian's V-16 rocket.  One of the rare times a cartoon character has actually put out the fuse of a firecracker.  "All the people I know are on the Earth!" says Bugs.  Needles to say, this is probably the most genteel act of interplanetary war we'll ever see.


The Martian whips out a trumpet, and calls out the reserves to get back the Uranium PU-36 Explosive Space Modulator (taken from the closed captioning) thereby informing the thinking of "Weird Al" Yankovic's hit, "I Love Rocky Road."  Flatu-tastic!
Bugs happens to be walking by as the Space Dog that the pre-Marvin Martian has summoned rises from the bowels of the ship.  "YIPE!" screams Bugs, and he zips away.  The dog ambles over to the Martian and gives a salute with its legs; the orchestral accompaniment to this seems to be the Wood Block.  The Martian issues its commands to the dog, and the dog... not in any big rush, mind you... goes after Bugs AKA "the Earth creature."  I'm not even going to dignify how the dog turns around with comment.
Next scene: Bugs tries to put his radio to good use, but to no avail.  Fortunately, it's not a real transmission, so there's no satellite delay... you know, because of the quarter million mile distance and all.  And that's another thing!  Just how tall is that radio tower, incidentally?  Tall enough to communicate all the way to the moon?  I scoff!  I scoff again!  (cough)  I'm choking on my disbelief now.  But there's one thing Jones and company got right: the scourge of advertising continues its slow march unabated.  Bugs is only trying to transmit the most important threat that's menaced this side of the galaxy in many a moon, and all Bugs can hear is a snappy radio jingle?  We're so screwed.  Fans of audio like myself will no doubt have to listen to this a couple times.  There seems to be a couple guys whistling, mimicing the sound of the turning of a radio dial, and Mel Blanc seems to start the broadcast with a long, mangled "RAYYYYY...."  Bugs listens to the jingle confused, then angry, then confused again.  When it's over, then we get the actual sound of a radio being tuned.  The orchestral accompaniment to sum all this up?  Bassoon, of course.
Next scene: the dog is by Bugs' side, but not as a loyal companion.  "Heh!  Catch the fugitive from the Dog Star," quips Bugs.  Bugs then sees that the dog has the firecracker in its mouth.  "Hey!" says Bugs.  "What's the big idea?  GIMME THAT!!"  Love that part.  Buck Rogers he ain't.  What follows after this is, well... it's the same old thing at this point.  It happened all through Rabbit Fire and... okay, it's the only example that comes to mind, culminating in the part in Who Framed Roger Rabbit when Eddie Valiant gets Roger to drink one last drink... Ooh!  Baseball Bugs too!  Daffy tried it once in Mexican Joyride; go figure.  There's at least one cartoon that even Arthur Davis couldn't screw up.
Next scene: the dog eventually realizes that he's been hoodwinked, and instantly goes after Bugs.  And just as instantly, Bugs and the dog end up in a semi-embrace.  We can see the Earth off in the distance.  Does this diminish that home movie footage of the earth taken from the moon in the late '60s?  A little... okay, that's going too far.  Now, screenwriters take note, for this all may seem superfluous, but it's all for the punchline.  The stuff that Latter Day Hipsters live for.  Bugs says "No, don't go yet!  There's a beautiful Earth out tonight."  What's not to love?  The dog laughs sheepishly, as so many of Bugs' foils before and or after him.  Great idea for a YouTube video if Warner Bros. doesn't put the kibosh on it.  Bugs stiffens, then exits Stage Left, but the dog is still lost in a fog of... whatever.  Self-absorption?  The Martian comes over and kicks the dog right in the middle of his daily duties.  The dog turns around to face his master and the wrath therein; his legs do not return to their original size!  Boy, but Jones liked to make life rough for his animators.


You know, I'm reminded of the guy who drives up on a motorbike in The Wabbit Who Came to Supper and says, in that Mel Blanc dumb guy way of his, "Telegram for Elmer Fudd."  There's also a motorbike delivery in ... gotta look it up... Rabbit Transit.  Bugs delivers a package to the vacationing turtle... the very idea.  Here, Bugs flies in on some kind of space motorcycle, later featured in the Michael Bay non-Transformers-based sci-fi film The Island.  They stutter when they fly, just like some things in one of the second trilogy of Star Wars films directed by Lucas proper.  Bugs delivers a new firecracker to the now elated Martian.  The Martian and the dog jump up and down in celebration.  He gives the full name of the device, as any nerd would, and runs off to screw it in to the V-16 rocket.
Next scene: Bugs looks on as he stands next to one of those dynamite detonators that you push down on.  The V-16 is now in the same scene with Bugs!  But what is Bugs looking at?  Continuity, people.  Continuity.  This was another one of the clips used on the TNT channel ... alas, an historical tibdit not yet worthy of Haredevil Hare's IMDb Trivia page.  Definitely for the best.  Anyway, Bugs underestimated the damage that this would cause, and he blows up the moon so bad, it's now a permanent crescent shape.
Zoom down to Earth.  The scientists are trying to get a hold of Bugs now.  Where were they when he needed them?  "Have you prepared a statement for the press?" asks the chief scientist.  Must be the first thing they teach you in astronaut school.  Always be ready for the press... you know, it's the damnedest thing.  I just saw an old interview with John Belushi and Dan Aykroyd when they were pushing the last movie they ended up doing together, a big little stinker called Neighbors.  Belushi was talking about fame, and that he didn't care for it.  I believe he said something like "You feel like a freak!"  Aykroyd had a very, very different take on it, comparing being famous to running for Congress.  Only the good die young, indeed.  Anyway, Bugs is a little bit like Dan Aykroyd, typically not at a loss for words.  You can probably guess his statement to the press, as we see him there, hanging on to a corner of the moon, with the Martian and the dog hanging on to him.  Bugs says into his transmitter "GET ME OUT OF HERE!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!"

Good double bill with: ...what else?  Duck Dodgers in the 24.5 Century

-so sayeth The Movie Hooligan

1 comment:

Blogger said...

Order a Sparkling White Smiles Custom Teeth Whitening System online and get BIG SAVINGS!
* Up to 10 shades whiter in days!
* Professional Results Are Guaranteed.
* Better than your dentist.
* Same as dentists use.