Sunday, May 08, 2016
What Bugs Bugs Bunny
We start, as so many of these Bugs affairs seem to start lately, with him burrowing underground like a mole or a gopher. Again, he made the wrong turn at Albuquerque, and must've taken too much Ambien or something. If I were tunneling underground, I would probably take more surface breaks. Frankly, I have neither the patience nor the proper fingers for long-distance underground tunneling. Probably why I never got anywhere in life.
But Bugs and I have similar character flaws after all, for he throws all his sunbathing gear out of the snow-rimmed hole in the ground (love the Seuss-esque font of the book), leaps out in a bathing suit, screaming "MIAMI BEACH AT LAST!" and heads right for the water. First nice touch: the splash that Bugs makes in the water freezes in place. Much like that guy on The Simpsons who screams "THE PTA HAS DISBANDED!!!" and leaps out the window, but later retracts his leap... so too does Bugs jump back out of the water, in his nice new blue color. Cartoon hypothermia, however, is short lived, fading away right there in mid-scene! Usually you have to wait for the scene itself to fade before a character gets healed.
But then... God, working through Chuck Jones, saw Bugs all alone there in the Antarctic cold, and said "It is not good for the Bugs to be alone. I will make a helper suitable for him... but not one that will completely up-stage Bugs, of course." Bugs had a tough agent, you see. Enter the cute penguin... I think he knocks Bugs over. Let me check the DVD again... oh, shame on me. Not only does Bugs so get knocked over, but he has to speak up about it. He calls the penguin a "little runt," then he gets spun around all kinda ways by the penguin's human pursuer. "WATCH WHERE YA GOIN'!" says Bugs in that Brooklyn/Bronx way of his. The Eskimo zips back to Bugs' side, brandishing a spear near Bugs' nose. A capital opportunity for Bugs to ask, "Eh, what's up, doc?" ...which he does.
Now, Mel Blanc is a master of all accents, as we all know... but maybe he's phoning this one in a little tiny bit. Just a little tiny bit! Nothing that can't be forgiven. After all, all his sins were committed in the dark pre-Internet times. Anyway, the Eskimo asks Bugs where the penguin went... hoh boy. Let's just assume it's ethnographically correct for the time being. Bugs points in the opposite direction in relation to the penguin. The Eskimo takes Bugs at his word and heads off that way... hoh boy yoy YOY yoy YOYYYYYYYYYYYY. Well, adrenalin(e) can do that to you, I guess. I wouldn't know, personally; it's just what I hear at the gym all the time.
Fade to black! Already? That's a little unusual! Next scene: Bugs is heading back to the hole he dug in the ground, singing about Miami Beach. Is it a Carl Stalling original? Did Michael Maltese come up with it? Sadly, we'll never know any of the juicy answers to these pointless questions, as there is no DVD commentary... on the DVD. And so, Bugs is about ready to have a normal vacation, when ALL OF A SUDDEN... a massive Cuteness attack. The teeny penguin is standing there, looking up at Bugs, sadly. No hidden agendas here, no J.J. Abrams-style Trojan horses doubling back on themselves, messing with the space-time continuum... just your old-fashioned sad, tiny penguin. This is probably a good time for an Act break, but I'll wait until the drama gets going again.
Bugs tries to get rid of the little guy. First step: ...sorry, spoiler alert. It takes more than one try to get rid of the penguin. Bugs plays into the whole tuxedo thing by adorning the penguin with a top hat and a tie. Bugs then turns the penguin to the right, and tries to get the penguin to walk away. The penguin does this, and heads off into the icy horizon. Bugs then sets the plot in motion by revealing his itinerary: "Mr. Warner gave me just two weeks vacation, and I've already lost enough time." Make sure to make a note of this, because it'll come up later, spoiler alert.
The drama heats up a little bit, but I still want to wait on that long promised Act Break. The penguin makes his way back to Bugs' hole just as Bugs is about to take off for Miami. We're assuming now that Bugs has the proper bearings to do so. And unlike the self-professed moronic giant in Jack-Wabbit and the Beanstalk who manages to go all the way around the world in twenty paces, the penguin had merely reversed his course at some point, and made his way quickly back to Bugs' hole in the ice... even though we just saw the penguin head off towards the horizon and all. Apparently, this is a bending of time and space that doesn't rise to the level of inclusion in the Laws of Cartoon Physics, BUT OH WELL.
The penguin jumps into the hole. Now this is an intrusion that Bugs cannot tolerate... unlike that one where both Bugs and Daffy tunnel their way into a cave full of gems and such... Ali Baba Bunny! That must be it. One of those Saturday morning faves the networks would often show way back when. Now it's all Yu-Gi-Oh and the like. I gotta wait til Volume 5 to do that one; figures. The penguin tries a couple more times to go with Bugs, and Bugs continues to resist. Eventually, however, looking into those sad penguin eyes, Bugs relents and agrees to spend part of his vacation with the penguin. Well, Miami was a bigger deal back then. The penguin understands, and claps its fins together with joy. Too much cuteness! I can't take it! I tell you darlings, Chuck Jones was the master of cartoon psychology, whether it was cute stuff or stuff to drive you crazy... I know, I know, and often they're the same things.
Okay, we'll do the break here. And so, Bugs' vacation with the penguin begins in earnest. Bugs and the penguin are walking towards an icy hillside, as we'll find out later. Bugs is dragging the penguin along like a child just learning how to walk. "Look at that four-legged aeroplane!" says Bugs. The penguin looks. As it happens, it's all just a ruse and, unlike W. C. Fields and Baby LeRoy, Bugs gives the penguin a slight kick to send it sliding down the hill... hmm! Maybe the two instances are not so different! Irregardless, I'm reminded of what Homer said to Lisa about parents getting involved in playtime. I believe it was the computerized Lego animation episode; oh, that must've cost a pretty penny. So much for the slightly simpler time of Homer cubed! Homer gave Lisa the secret: parents find playtime with their kids boring. As it should be, frankly. We did all that stuff 40 years or so ago, right?
Now that Bugs has sent the penguin on its merry way, he's ready to head to Miami again. WHEN SUDDENLY.... Bugs looks to see the penguin slide right into the Eskimo's bag. Then suddenly, as with Eminem and someone else, moderated by Robert Culp, long afterwards, Bugs' conscience takes over. How can anyone really enjoy Miami after witnessing that? Well, Bugs struggles with it at first. "After all, I'm not my penguin's keeper!" says Bugs. LOL. I'm assuming there are some Christians out there that don't appreciate that, even though they're supposed to say they do. After all, this is a product of that den of iniquity called Hollywood, right? What do they know about the Bible?
Bugs returns to the hole, singing his Miami Beach song, and jumps in. The dust cloud quickly dissipates, and we zoom in on the hole. You could hear a pin drop. Bugs re-emerges from the hole with a guilty look on his face, then proceeds to get properly adrenalined up for a fight with the Eskimo.
Bugs then tries to appeal to the audience, which incidentally, is something that Bugs rarely does. Normally he's all too eager to play the good guy, and he even more rarely talks about actually taking a vacation away from his job. Bugs normally is doing his job, being a movie hero and all. Unconventional, sure, but he's got the weight of history on his side now. Which makes this exchange between he and the proverbial Fourth Wall all the more unusual.
But the unusualness of the situation quickly passes, as we dive back into more conventional fare. For example, next scene: we see the Eskimo, and the Eskimo sees Bugs dressed up as a lady again... see what I mean? Back to the usual plot conventions. The Eskimo, of course, turns into a complete horn dog... there's just no other way to say it. The Eskimo gets right in Bugs' face and rather rudely and nakedly "asks" for a kiss. Now, the genius move on Bugs' part: Bugs sees the bag and treats it like a gift. "Oh, you shouldn't have!" says Bugs in his best Southern Eskimo voice. The Eskimo hands over the bag and gets all shy and sh... stuff. Bugs lets out the penguin as discreetly as possible, and gives it another kick down the slidy slopes. They'll re-use that background again, don't worry.
Now in a previous Looney Tunes involving Eskimo(e)s, I think they were more culturally correct, as Bugs put lipstick on his nose and rubbed nose with the bad guy Eskimo in that one. I guess they got letters and made the changes after this one hit theatres. Bugs gives the Eskimo a kiss, and wipes his mouth off in disgust. The Eskimo has quite a different reaction, and returns with a giant fish.
Bugs tries modeling the fish as though it were a scarf, using a nearby ice wall as a mirror. Genius. Or as Allen Habel would say... brilliance! Brilliance. Bugs eventually hits the Eskimo with the giant fish, thereby inspiring that one ten-second Monty Python bit, "The Fish Slapping Dance." Give or take. This turns on the Eskimo even more, and the Eskimo grabs Bugs Bunny in his arms and holds him aloft. Bugs' costume slips, revealing his ears. This slowly turns the Eskimo off, then turns up his rage. Same thing happened to Elmer in Rabbit Fire. One more slap with the fish and Bugs is off to the races. Down the same slope as the penguin he goes, with the Eskimo close behind.
Next scene: time for some brainless action, Popeye-style. Bugs and the Eskimo ski all over the place... but where are the skis? We get one shot under the duo looking up, thereby inspiring the similar overhead shot in the second Indiana Jones film. Next scene: Bugs gets involved in a labor-intensive "3D" scene, where he tries to avoid narrow crevices in the ice. This scene is doubly disappointing, because 1) Bugs doesn't seem to be in that much danger, and 2) Bugs' legs twist around a few times, but they NEVER UNTWIST! Don't you feel cheated? Well, you should!
Sadly, as all chases must... although Charlie Sheen's 1994 film The Chase may still be going somewhere out there. That's just how unstoppable it was... anyway, the Eskimo finally catches up to Bugs, but they both end up sliding out onto a dangerous cliff. The cliff breaks, and Bugs and the Eskimo try to hang on. Carl Stalling uses a Vibraphone to accentuate the action. I'm reminded of the travails that Homer and Mr. Burns went through in... you know, that one with the rocket house. Sorry, Spoiler Alert.
Eventually, Bugs and the Eskimo degrade their situation to the point where they're hanging at a ninety-degree angle to the cliff they were on. Will they befall a similar fate as the two aardvarks in Odd Ant Out? Well, both of them were villains to the ant, whereas we've got the hero and the bad guy out on the same ledge. A puzzler indeed.
The penguin waddles out to the edge, where the cliff's just barely hanging on. I hate to spoil the surprise, but needles to say that the penguin manages to get the two going downwards. Fast. The penguin runs about as fast as it can to get a bucket of water. The penguin throws the bucket of water. The water falls and freezes, and now it's a race against time to see if this tiny bucket of water will catch up to Bugs and the Eskimo clinging to their little bit of icy ledge. Time for your smarter friends to scoff! Highly dubious at best, criminally negligent at worst. Well, cartoons were allowed to play a little more with reality back then. They're more realistic now, and kinda gross too.
And so, the penguin's ad hoc idea worked. The giant bit of cliff is stopped, and Bugs and the Eskimo were strong enough to hang on, despite all the gravity and potential energy working against them. The Eskimo tries climbing back up, whereas Bugs steps down to the ground. Bugs mocks the Eskimo. The Eskimo may not speak English, but mocking is damn near universal. The Eskimo angrily climbs down to really teach Bugs a lesson. But Bugs, as he usually is, is one or two steps ahead. Bugs steps aside, and the Eskimo falls through the snow, and down to actual ground level... hmm! What's going to happen to the Eskimo? Is he really going to jelly up the ground? Will he fall through the ice and turn into a man-sized ice cube? Will he suffer such a horrible fate? As it happens, there's a third solution you might not have thought of, which whisks the Eskimo away and saves the penguin from harm! (at least, from this one Eskimo)
Not realizing that the penguin saved his Bacon, Bugs heads off for Miami again, but the penguin is obstructing his way. "Oh, YOU again! Well, SCRAM!" says Bugs, sneeringly. The penguin begins to cry, and his tears turn into little ice cubes that make little ding noises as they hit the ground. More non-kitten-based cuteness! I can't take it!
I hate to bring in modern references to these timeless affairs, but there's a lot of talk lately for some reason about the art of negotiation. Probably because of Trump somehow. So, I guess you could say, Bugs tries to negotiate with the needy penguin. Bugs would like to stay, but how can he? "What am I gonna do with only four days vacation left?" Bugs asks the penguin. The penguin waves Bugs down to its level with its wing. MORE CUTENESS!!! I CAN'T TAKE IT!!! Bugs leans down, and the penguin whispers into Bugs' giant ear. It's something about how the days are six months long when you're close to one of the earth's poles. Bugs does the math and adds an extra two years to his vacation. Okay, so this cartoon isn't completely timeless. Needles to say, movie studio contracts have gotten longer and more verbose ever since.
-so sayeth The Movie Hooligan