Sunday, May 22, 2016

Shining Music Station

Chuck Jones should be ashamed of himself... okay, let's review this.


An unusual setup, indeed.  It's as though this is an actual concert or something.  At least A Corny Concerto gave a thematic hint in its title.  And sure, "Mr. Bugs Bunny" as guest conductor seems ripe with the promise of wackiness, but... spoiler alert... the Looney Tunes franchise fell on hard times in the early, middle, and late 1950s.  The animators were getting older, and this seems to be reflected in Bugs' appearance.  I mean, look at this sad reflection of his former, more sprightly self!  LOOK AT IT!!!!!!!!!!!!!
Those wrinkled, drooping eyelids.  Why, he looks like a sad, sorry, miserable, squashed thing compared to... just about any of the 1940s Looney Tunes.  Can anyone tell me what's wrong with this picture?  Anyone at all?
As with Rhapsody Rabbit, there's some smart aleck in the audience coughing.  Now, for some historical perspective, you can't go to Baton Bunny's IMDb "Connections" page.  For that, we have to go to Baton Bunny's IMDb "Trivia" page.  Apparently, Baton Bunny, in addition to borrowing thematic elements from other fellow Looney Tunes, borrows quite a few key plot elements from the not-known-at-all Disney short The Band Concert, which has got to be well within the Top 5 LAMEST titles for a Disney short.  Of all time, which includes Cretaceous and Devonian.  Unless it's about Robbie Robertson, you don't name your film The Band Concert.  If there's a band in it, it's pretty much a given that there will be a concert involved.  It's like Larry the Cucumber and Bob the Tomato.  Where's the alliteration?  Where's the oomph?  It's OOMPH, not zero miles per hour!  Anyway, that's neither here nor there.  So this thing called The Band Concert also features a conductor with an ill-fitting outfit, a troublesome insect, and a cougher ejected from the audience.  On the plus side, there's no troublesome storm in Baton Bunny to stop the concert... which is too bad, because that's probably exactly what this film needs.


The baton has been picked, squeaky glasses have been fumbled with, Bugs has done his stretching exercises... wait, is he mooning us?  Hmm!  And so, the concert finally begins.  2nd hmm!  We can't see any of the performers!  Oh boy!  Will it turn out to be an all-Bugs orchestra at the end?  Oh, Gawd, but I hope so!  Anyway, the actual music begins in earnest at about 2:04.  Oh dude, Bugs is so into it, he can't even keep his own sheet music on his lectern-like stand!
Of course, Leopold didn't need a baton to conduct, but that's neither there nor here.  He didn't seem to have sheet music even!  But Bugs does his best to live up to his own standards, using every part of his body to conduct... ears, toes, fingers... fingers?  He pops out from behind the fat rostrum, just enough so that we can see the parts of him that are conducting.  My description of it just doesn't do it justice... then again, it kinda does.  Maybe I'm just in the wrong frame of mind.  Maybe I'll think this is a bloody classic the next time I watch it.  But how long should I wait?
Anyway, some more conflict arises.  In cartoons, traditionally, a musician's worst enemy has been a mouse that takes an interest in the proceedings... again, as with Rhapsody Rabbit, and any number of Tom and Jerries.  But here, we depart slightly from the formula, and at 2:45, enter the annoying fly.  And even though the fly is sort of in tune with the tune the orchestra's playing, Bugs cannot tolerate it.  Bugs' eyes focus on the fly.  The fly lands on Bugs' nose, and Bugs tries to shake it off.  So like people.  Incidentally, there's an edit before the fly appears.  I mean, when you have a big job ahead of you, like animating a fly, it really needs its own scene.
Now, I watched Baton Bunny with a companion a while ago, and their verdict was that it was kinda lame.  With which I wholeheartedly agree... but there's little moments in it, to be sure.  Take, for example, the part at 3:07, when Bugs turns into a virtual Bugs Tornado, trying to shake that fly off of his nose.  The orchestra, so in sync with the conductor's every movement, speeds up, and seems to play that Irish song... "The Irish Washerwoman"!  That seems to be it!  Lol.  Well, it's used in a semi-memorable way here.  Bugs stops, briefly loses the baton, then taps on the lectern... I'm assumpthing that that's what it's called.  The fly reappears, then Bugs writes in his book of sheet music.  Unfortunately, we don't get to see what he writes.  Oh well.  A little something to tickle the brain, perhaps.
After the fly, there's not much in the way of conflict.  Bugs' tail conducts a little... ugh... and Bugs struggles with his cuff links, in a way that only cartoons could at the time.  Sure, such things are possible today, post-Forrest Gump, if you will... but who wants to?  No one.  That's who.


Oh, Act Three should definitely start at 4:29, or about 70% of the way into the film, including opening credits, assuming a total running time of six minutes 25 seconds.  The music actually picks up a little bit, with a fast sequence, just like in the William Tell Overture.  Unless you've seen A Clockwork Orange, people don't realize there's a sad, slow part of it, too!  Sadder even than Adagio for Strings, for God's sake!
Now, I hate to be so hypocritical, but the sound Bugs makes at about 4:33 when he falls on his ass, well... clearly this isn't the Looney Tunes' Golden Age.  Was that really the best they could do?  Clearly, Carl Stalling wasn't that great of a teacher, having left the future of cartoon music in the hands of mere technicians.
Anyway, back to Bugs who, now that the music's fast, is having way way more fun than even P.D.Q. Bach would have as a conductor.  Now, how's he going to get rid of that big-ass harp from 4:57?  Why, cheat, of course!  Look how it shrinks behind the podium.  Lame, lame, lame.  But the part with the tuba at 5:10's pretty good.  The music itself doesn't carry enough literal heft, you see.  It needs a narrative accompaniment, with a Western flavour, apparently.  Far, far removed from Vienna, indeed... but then again, there's all those Spaghetti Westerns, right?  I'm sorry, but I have to believe that it's all related.
There's that timpani sound again at 5:15 when Bugs falls to the ground!  Nails on chalkboard, I'm sorry.  Anyway, next scene: this is just how good a conductor Bugs is.  Either that, or how good the orchestra's visibility of him is.  Bugs' whole rabbit body trembles, and the orchestra gets it.  No baton, no ears giving direction, just a full body shake.  Now, that's synchrony, or symbiosis, or whatever you want to call it.  Conductor and orchestra on the same wavelength.  You'll not see anything like it ever again.
Next scene: Bugs lays there as though he's at Death's door, and the fly makes its triumphant reappearance, like a fly in your own house, looking for a nice pile to land on and wipe its two front hands together, like the evil intruder it is.  The fly lands on Bugs' nose anew... boy!  Bugs must be a real brown noser or something... sorry, I shouldn't of have said that.  But they do make that argument in Rabbit Rampage, or Bugs' version of Duck Amuck.  The fly stokes Bugs' rage, and he turns into a tornado version of himself again.  Now, even the most vocal anti-fan of classical music knows the part at 5:31.  I'd forgotten about it myself.


And so, as with The Who after him, it's time for the wholesale destruction of the orchestra.  But for good cause, as it's a really annoying fly.  The violins go first, as Bugs runs into that area at about 5:36.  Apparently, we're still not going to see any musicians in this picture, but we might hear about a union protest afterwards in the paper.  The French Horns are next at 5:38, but I swear that it sounds more like a trumpet that blasts when it happens.  Bugs swings at the fly with a trombone, then gets his foot stuck in a big drum, but loses it just as quickly before running through the tubular bells.  Bugs gets his weaponized hands on a pair of cymbals, and stuns the fly with them.  Bugs has managed to destroy about half of the orchestra, but we still hear the full orchestra at the end, finishing up the piece.  Lame, lame, lame.  Nothing less than full destruction of the orchestra will do, as this film clearly shows.
And so, the piece is over and Bugs takes what he believes to be a well-deserved bow.  Bugs' bug-eyes are opened wide, however, to find that there are only crickets in the audience giving the applause.  Everyone's at home, either reminiscing about World War II for the elders, or working on their cars and combing their hair with their switchblade combs if you're younger.  No one gives a Real George about classical music anymore, now that it's all on vinyl and readily available anytime one would want, or perhaps even on specialty market radio stations.  It can't all be about Elvis on the airwaves, right?
Will no one give this film closure and give Bugs and band a little applause?  Well, once again, it's the fly's job to bring a little life to this celluloid affair, and we zoom in on the fly... that now actually looks like a fly, and not just some random black dot, and the fly is clapping with its two teeny weeny front limbs.  And yet, it sounds suspiciously human.  Bugs shrugs, then starts bowing to the fly.  I couldn't feel more underwhelmed.

Good double bill with: Pink, Plunk, Plink... which is actually unfair to Pink, Plunk, Plink

-so sayeth The Movie Jerk Hooligan

1 comment:

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