As it happens, the off-handed remark is kind of a staple of Hollywood. For those without the benefit of Jerry Beck's DVD commentary, here's the one that created the (Looney Tunes) Tasmanian devil in the first place. The Looney Tunes screenwriters... yes, they did have screenwriters, and no, they didn't just plagiarize cartoon strips. One of their tasks at hand was to come up with a new villain for Bugs. They've tried everything: pirates, bandits, hunters, what have you... The story man on this one, Sid Marcus, made the off-handed observation that the only thing they hadn't tried was a Tasmanian devil! Bingo. Lights going off, light bulb over heads, etc. The whole kit 'n kaboodle. And so, much like Bugs does in Devil May Hare, the story men (and one chick) went to the old dictionary or encyclopedia to begin the hard work of research. Don't you love stuff like that? ARE YOU NOT ENTERTAINED?
Of course, this is a motion picture for the tiddly-winkies age eight to eighty we're dealing with here, so a cinematic touch is needed. Well, director Robert McKimson will just have to do in a pinch, seeing as how Friz Freleng's unavailable. How Robert Clampett avoided creating this character is beyond me; I suppose because, when you get right down to it, everyone in a Clampett affair had a little touch of Tasmanian devil in them, and elasticity to boot.
To give you an idea of how scary and formidable this Tasmanian devil character is, the first animal we see zipping by is a bird. Think about that for a second... We see Bugs emptying out a vacuum cleaner full of carrot ends, and he brushes the vacuum's contents out of the picture frame... the picture of sustainability. Bugs wonders aloud for the audience what the deuce is going on. And then, the big rumble happens... one still frame alone doesn't do the sequence justice, of course. This is the best I can do for the moment.
Bedevilled Rabbit... better enjoy this YouTube link while you can, because it's now got a bullseye mark on its back and will be struck down by copyright lawyers very very soon.
Next scene: one of the important establishing scenes retained from a childhood spent watching this one on Saturday morning, Bugs runs through the very, very long list of animals on the omnivorous diet of the Tasmanian devil, many of which just ran past the entrance to Bugs' survivalist-style bunker. Listing lots of things is, of course, a long comedy tradition, dating all the way back to... John Cleese and George Carlin? Ooh! There's James Thurber's "The Story of O" as well; a childhood favourite of mine, incidentally. And so, the Tasmanian devil has a few more surprises up his sleeve. He's quite stealthy, having sneaked in behind Bugs while he was reading, and... spoiler alert... the Tasmanian devil is half-assed literate! In between the spinning and the gorging, he's able to add one more item to Bugs' long yet incomplete list of animals on Taz's diet checklist. I'll bet Taz makes a mean 25-meat pizza. What I'm getting at is this: Taz writes "and rabbits" in Bugs' reference guide, and even kinda daintily dots the 'i'. Taz continues to surprise! Why, I'll bet WB could get a whole show out of this guy... wonder if it's on DVD at all.
Next scene: as is tradition in all Bugs Bunny cartoons that carry the label proudly, there has to be a moment when Bugs gets an eyeful of his adversary that he will spend the rest of the celluloid affair squaring off against, and says to him or her or, in this case, it... "Eh, what's up, Doc?" The whole time, of course, Taz is wheezing and a huffin' and puffin'... you know, sometimes I get the feeling that Mel Blanc liked playing this Taz character fella. Perhaps some of that enthusiasm carried right on over to Speed Buggy and Captain Caveman, for example... wait a second. Captain Caveman and the Teen Angels? Now, I'm no member of Focus on the Family or the Cato Institute, mind you, but that raises a few red flags for me. But when you get right down to it, aren't all couples that way? He's a caveman, she's a teen angel... let's move on.
And to be fair, Taz writes "rabbits" with a capital 'R'. Okay, so he's not big on proper grammar. And so, Taz picks up Bugs as though he were going to carry him across a threshold. Almost touching in a way. But Bugs is always looking about five to twelve steps ahead, and he knows that it's the threshold to the devil's stomach. So what's Bugs' strategy here? Well, it's basically a variation on a theme, but usually Bugs has to gain direct control of the situation. He opens with a good hard hit with the carrot he was eating, saying "Put me DOWN, you baggy eyed devil!" Say what you will, it seems to have worked. Taz looks confused, and he seems downright domesticated for the moment.
Hare-um Scare-um... indeed a different era. Incidentally, that's the IMDb's phrase for the lead cwazy wabbit in that one. However, I don't think that was Mel Blanc doing the voice of rabbit and hunter, but that's just my opinion. I have no proof that would stand up, certainly not on a game show on the IFC channel... hmm! Where did it go? Didn't Chris Gore host it? Wasn't Jason Mewes a guest panelist on it? "Ultimate Film Fanatic," that's it! Anyway, let's move on.
And so, Bugs makes a deal with this particular devil. Well, Bugs turned into one of the establishment eventually, as is poked fun at in his version of Duck Amuck and it's called... Rabbit Rampage? Whatever. Guess they ran out of titles that week.
And so, the characters have been introduced, the basic conflict set up... what more do you need? Time for a long series of gags, right? Something like that.
Max Schumacher, but it's true.
That being said, I dare say that Bugs has got a little bit of devil in him! Trying to play that Tasmanian devil like a fiddle and what not. So Bugs' plan is to help prepare a big meal for the Tasmanian devil... I guess eating trees and dirt can get a little old, but even the Tasmanian devil needs variety in the ol' diet, and a little fiber. But Bugs is thinking at least three steps ahead, and... Daily Show time! Gotta run!!!
Where was I? Oh, right. Under the ruse of helping Taz plan a meal of many courses, Bugs tells Taz that they're going to start with groundhogs. Next scene: outdoors, ground level. Bugs and Taz have shovels. "Okay, Doc, this is the spot. We'll start digging for groundhogs," Bugs tells Taz. And so, we're off to the races. Taz puts his back into it, and digs to China with a shovel about a third as fast as he could by just spinning round and round like a murderous top. Bugs starts shoveling in his own right, just not as quickly or as voraciously as Taz does, and yet Bugs is able to quickly cover up Taz with dirt, and adds a flower to the top of the pile for good measure. You know, like a grave and what not... I mean, but dayamn! Seems like Bugs has got some of the actual devil in him! Same thing happened to Elmer in The Wacky Wabbit way out there in the desert, but at least Bugs felt a little bit guilty about that one, breaking the fourth wall and saying to the audience, "Gosh, ain't I a stinker?" Not here. The stakes against Taz are a little higher. Once the flower is placed, Bugs says "And dat's dat!" No remorse; Bugs' only regret is that he didn't use concrete instead.
Next scene: unlike Bugs' earlier pronouncement, that is apparently not that. As often happens in these cartoonies for the tiddly-vinkies, cartoon characters can perform magic tricks with their own bodies. Ever the Southern gentleman, Taz is now tapping Bugs on his turned shoulder. Bugs turns around, and Taz quietly and deeply (deep voice) asks Bugs "What for you bury me in the cold, cold ground?" Reminds me of the time Yosemite Sam asked Bugs "Why did you pour ink on my haid?" Hare Trigger, I believe it was, the Friz classic. Also reminds me of Chris Elliot in Cabin Boy, because in that, he would occasionally say something in as deep a voice as he could muster, but would quickly return to his foppish, Sandler-esque character.
Which brings us back to Taz, now standing on Bugs' chest, snarling and wheezing in that way of his. But Bugs has a few tricks up his own sleeve, and he starts sniffing the air. "I smell chicken!" says Bugs. "CHICKEN?" asks Taz. Taz has calmed down again, and Bugs must follow through on his ruse, having bought himself a little bit of time. Why, Taz is far too respectful, frankly! Bugs is now off to the side, out of Taz's view, and he whips up a thing that looks like a chicken, but as we can see from the ingredients list, it is in fact a chicken sculpted out of liquid bubble gum with a bicarbonate of soda center. The background music at this juncture is a little reminiscent of the music used in Hal Roach comedies (at 3:08 or so). Bugs is able to make a chicken out of this potentially explosive mess within a few seconds... seems like it always takes me a few hours to pull off the same thing, and once it's done, I always end up feeling like it's been a full day and I'm ready for a nap. How's that happen, anyhow? Daniel Goleman? Antonio Damasio? Any thoughts?
Next scene: Bugs says "Luncheon is
Now, for those of you who live and die by Adobe Photoshop and its increasingly numerous counterparts, you'll surely have an appreciation for the special effects involved in creating the illusion of an increasingly transparent bit of bubble gum. The way I see it, this was done in either one of two ways. 1) They found a way to paint cels with a paint that could be done thin enough to see through, or 2) the more likely alternative, which is filming the bubble gum separately, perhaps on a green screen background, or maybe just black, then compositing the gum over the normal image with an optical printer. The artists and camera persons involved were so good that the final effect looks pretty seamless; alas, they don't get credit at the top of the picture.
As for the plot, well... the day a character like Taz has to slow down and chew his food more properly is a day I just don't want to live and see... NO! I AIN'T WATCHING IT!!!!!!!!!!
Next scene: fade-in on a (maybe Acme brand) portable life-raft. Apparently, as the packaging would have us believe, all you have to do is pull the cord and the raft self-inflates! Not enough self-inflating gizmos in my life, lemme tell ya; oh, the minutes I could've saved. Anyway, Bugs takes this raft and dolls it up as though it were a pig. Not one of the pink barnyard variety, mind you; more like one of those brown forest pigs, or maybe a black pot-bellied pig. As always, in the now grand Looney Tunes Merrie Melodies tradition, Bugs makes it look like a pig with two ears and a tail made of green foliage. Bugs uses black paint to paint a face on the front of the raft, and of course one eye is bigger than the other, thereby flying in the face of that Sesame Street song that starts "I've got two eyes: one, two. And they're both the same size: one, two."
And now that Bugs has jerryrigged... I mean, manufactured his latest ruse, he kicks the raft packaging out of the frame at 4:01. I know this, because the trombone adds a nice musical accompaniment to it: the orchestral version of a fart, basically. Oh, Carl Stalling, wherefore art thou? Bugs then hides behind the closest, solitary tree, hangs on to the raft's rip cord, makes very bad "oink" noises, and awaits the Tasmanian devil's damn-near-instant approach. Having liberated himself from his bubble gum hammock in the trees, Taz reappears, his mental Etch-a-Sketch having been cleared... and he takes a long time to come to a complete stop! Lol.
Taz eats the raft pig in one bite, damn near engulfing his own arms in the process. I guess that can indeed be a hazard when you're a creature that's about fifty percent mouth. I recall from my youth when he said "Melph!" while he was eating; must've been memorable. Now, the raft was easier to swallow than the bubble-gum and soda chicken, and when Taz swallows the raft, he stands in this kind of curved way, and I seem to recall a page from Preston Blair's oversized animation book, where animators are well advised to think of their characters as a short line, either straight or curved, that represents the emotional state of the character, or maybe the animator's disturbed emotional state. One of the two. The curve that Taz makes is just one of those moments. Okay, let's move on.
Next scene: Bugs finds the tallest tree he can and quickly climbs up it. Taz stops spinning at the base of said tree and starts taking extremely large bites out of it. For those of you chronologists out there, this happens at the rate of one bite every 0.66 seconds, give or take. More like 0.67, argububably. Bugs slowly finds himself heading towards ground level... hmm! For some reason, I'm put in mind of Axe Me Another. Anyway, as Taz power-eats the tree, Bugs tries to calm Taz down. I've heard there's no worse thing to say to an angry person than "Calm down," but that's just me, and Bugs just has Taz. Sparing Bugs the indignity of climbing up into the bit of branches that's left of the tree, Taz stops long enough to see Bugs point in the opposite direction, and to hear Bugs say "A NICE FAT DEER!" Oh, and fans of animation that makes sense will surely appreciate the fact that, as Taz eats the tree, a small pile of bark builds up on the right side of the screen.
Next scene: a long shot of Bugs' ode to Claes Oldenburg that's supposed to be a deer. Next scene: ...welp, can't argue with results! For Taz is off and running like a regular two-legged beast, off to get that deer. But Bugs, in his own way, seems to be trying to tell Taz, for God's sake! HOW PATHETIC ARE YOU??!!!!!!! Bugs actually says, of course, "Not so fast!!! You'll scare him (the deer) away!" Incidentally, you know the difference between beer nuts and deer nuts? Ah, love that one. Anyway, for this particular ruse, Bugs has thought ahead at least two steps. Oh gimme two steps, gimme two steps babe, said Bugs unto the Lord. And the Lord provided, and Bugs saw that it was good. But let's see how it works out foist.
"Foist knock him out with this slingshot! THEN go get him!" says Bugs. Ah, reminds me of Rabbit Punch. Unfortunately, we don't get the 3D view of the aftermath this time. And so, Taz goes over to the oversized slingshot and pulls back on the giant rock in the sling. Again, Taz proves to be not so dumb, but he is the bad guy here, and as such, he deserveth what he get-eth... something like that. Note the rabbit hole beside the base of the giant slingshot, as it comes up later. Bugs drops into the hole, grabs a saw, and starts sawing away at the base of the slingshot, while Taz pulls back on the boulder. Oh, I doubt that Carl Stalling could've done much better with the music here than Milt Franklyn, but that's just me.
sawing part of the contest, and now Taz is over in the corner, stars orbiting over his head, dazed like a passed-out drunk in a bar, with his only friends being the boulder from earlier under one arm, and a pile of firewood under the other. I guess this is the big, non-TNT-based explosion to end the film, but like car crashes on the news, they wouldn't show it if someone got killed, would they?
Next scene: now here's an unusual moment in a Looney Tunes film. Well, Taz is an extraordinary character, to be sure. A Bambi-like actual young deer (but different enough to avoid a Disney lawsuit) comes up and starts licking Bugs' hand. I think that's based on something that actually happened, probably to one of the screenwriters. The deer functions as a surrogate for the audience. This isn't the ending of Hare Tonic, after all. After all is said and done. And so, somehow knowing that Taz isn't dead, Bugs starts trying to impress upon the deer that danger is imminent. Taz-based danger, that is.
Bugs tries to explain to the deer, but, you know... I mean, it's like a deer caught in the headlights. They take a while to get out of the way. Bugs flails his arms about as he tries to paint Taz in the worst possible light possible. But then, Bugs' hand touches something and, like Billy Crystal saying "...he's behind me, isn't he?" Bugs realizes that Taz's standing there, and that he heard the whole thing. Bugs turns around and says "Yeesh!"... something like that. Mind you, this was from a simpler time, and people, and the cartoon characters they created, still felt shame. We seem to be living in a post-shame society now... on steroids. And the steroids are on crack.
...guess it's a bit too soon for the epilogue. Besides, there's feats of greatness ahead yet! But before we get to that, Taz has got something to say. To Bugs. Taz says "Flattery will get you nowhere." Again, Taz continues to impress. In between the spinning, he keeps up on the latest catch phrases! But now it's warning time, as he tells Bugs "...and ya CAN'T fool me again!" I'll skip over what Bugs says next, even though it is indeed a fine example of ... oh, what would you call it? A strategic lie? Okay, so Bugs says, "Oh, why uh, yeah yeah, that's right, Doc! This little bitsy animal's made out of straw!" Something like that. "But YOU'RE not!" sneers Taz right back. And THEN, Taz tries to bite Bugs' head off... or maybe it was just for show. But Bugs is indeed taken aback, as only a cartoon character can.
Next scene: not quite as legendary as the finale of "Breaking Bad," say, but legendary on a geological scale. While Bugs is seen running over the mountains, like A Walk in the Woods on crack-steroids, Taz is under them, like the ring party in Lord of the Rings, Part One. or something. Eventually, the range drops down after Tropical Storm Taz has passed.
Next scene: now, you'd think that a Tasmanian devil's hunger pangs would slow down a little bit, even after eating a teeny fraction of a mountain range... apparently, not so! Taz's rage levels are still on the high end of the rage spectrum and, a few bowel movements later, the mountain range is but a distant memory. Nothing like volcanic rock to really help the ol' stomach churn up the ol' food, ya know.
Note the large tree with the hole in it. Bugs is darting through the trees in the background, with a spinning Taz close behind. Bugs ducks behind the be-holed tree and Taz zips past, like the two cop cars at the beginning of Two if By Sea... honestly, I can't vouch for the rest of that movie, except that it chronicles the lives of some douchebags. And so, Bugs reaches into the hole of the tree to see what Boo Radley left for him... why, an old timey telephone, of course! Well, this is the end of the film, which means it's time for the plot-meisters to come up with the big paradigm shift, one befitting the end of the film. You can sort of guess what's coming from the ad that Bugs posts in the Tasmania Post-Dispatch over the telephone, but I mean, hey. Why spoil the surprise, right? While he's waiting on the phone, Bugs kvetches a little bit... wow! The spell-checker's got "kvetch"?
And so, the lady devil promised in Bugs' classified ad shows up, holding a teeny ring in its hand and sounding a bit like June Foray. Oh, but those kind of roles are rare for lady voice actors, aren't they? Taz and the lady devil share a kiss, then the bickering begins. Bugs had better act fast, or he'll find himself getting chased by two Tasmanian devils. But Bugs is at least one step ahead and, now wearing a Justice of the Peace outfit, blows a coach's whistle and begins this wedding ceremony. It's the short version and... well, let me just say this. If this little bit of film doesn't exist in Heaven, well... clearly it's Hell in disguise. I don't care who knows it. Why, I might have to spend a separate eternity listening to the audio from this part over and over and over again, my friend. Plenty of worse ways to celebrate the eve of destruction, no? I should probably point out that Mel Blanc does the lady devil's voice when she says "Uh huh." And does Taz have June Foray's voice when he says "Uh huh"? Oh well. Must be all part of the sanctity of Tasmanian devil marriage.
And so, with a stop-over at LAX to refuel, Taz returns to Australia with his new bride. The Milt Franklyn Orchestra plays that post-wedding song awfully damn fast, but doesn't that befit a Tasmanian devil wedding somehow? Bugs has kind of a weak line to end the film on, but after what he's been through in this pic, I guess we can let it slide.
-so sayeth The Movie Hooligan