Tuesday, February 07, 2006

WB Animation: "Hillbilly Hare"

It's time for another who-animated-who analysis of a great Warner Brothers cartoon, Robert McKimson's "Hillbilly Hare." I am not enough of an expert on animation to tell you exactly who animated what, so (with his permission), I have drawn on an old post by animator and WB animation expert Greg Duffell, who knows more than anyone I've encountered about the styles of individual animators. What follows is in my own words, with mostly my own comments, but the identifications of who animated what is based on Greg's original post (available here courtesy of Google Groups). My thanks to Greg for his permission to draw on his expertise.

"Hillbilly Hare" is one of the all-time great Bugs Bunny cartoons, culminating in perhaps the funniest sustained sequence in any cartoon: the three-minute sequence where Bugs poses as a square-dance caller and leads two hapless hillbilly brothers through a sadistic square dance ("Whop him low and whop him high/Stick your finger in his eye"). McKimson, who would later be stuck with the "B" grade animators, had a definitely A-level crew at this time. The great Rod Scribner had just re-joined the studio after several years away due to illness, and this was his first cartoon for McKimson's unit; other animators who worked on this cartoon were the great Lantz and Disney animator Emery Hawkins (shuffling from one unit to another after the WB unit he was in, Art Davis's, had shut down) and three McKimson regulars, John Carey, Phil DeLara and the director's brother Charles.

The opening scene, with Bugs walking through Cornett Wood's hyper-realistic design environment and singing "I Like Mountain Music," is by Emery Hawkins, who gives us a skinnier, more fluidly-animated Bugs than most:

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After the first hillbilly sticks a gun in Bugs's face, Charles McKimson takes over. One of the immensely talented McKimson brothers (the third brother, Tom, was an animator and layout artist at Warners), Chuck McKimson was given a lot of the close-ups and "characterization" moments in Bob's cartoons; his animation of Bugs seem to stick the closest to Bob's pose drawings, and reflect some of Bob's own preferences as a director, like giving Bugs heavy eyelids and a kind of wise-ass Groucho Marx attitude:

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The scene with the second hillbilly (voiced by John T. Smith is by John Carey; the scene also seems pretty close to McKimson's own preferences in terms of drawings and poses, but is a little looser than Chuck McKimson's:

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Some real looseness takes over as Rod Scribner gets his first piece of animation, with the two brothers looking for Bugs; Scribner was never as wild for McKimson as he was for Bob Clampett, but his preference for full body motion and broad acting still comes through:

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Phil DeLara, who made characters a little cuter than usual for a McKimson cartoon (Greg writtes: "some nice, cute-faced Bugs here....quite different than the way
that Bob McKimson usually draws him in his layouts") gets the shot of Bugs singing "Pop Goes the Weasel":

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Emery Hawkins, always good at having a character stretch and bend while he's running, gives us Bugs running into an explosive powder house:

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Most of the next scene with the hillbillies falling for Bugs in drag is Phil DeLara, though Greg says that one close-up shot of Bugs in drag may be Chuck McKimson. DeLara does some fine work on the lecherous hillbillies:

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Chuck McKimson gets another close shot, of a jukebox with (apparently) animatronic humans inside it:

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For the square dance scene, Emery Hawkins animates the whole dance inside the house, up to and including the part where Bugs takes over calling the dance:

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When we cut to outside the house, Rod Scribner has taken over, with his body-contorting animation starting to really get a workout (again, he can't cut loose the way he did in the '40s, but it's certainly funny and expressive animation and very much the kind of thing only Scribner would do):

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Scribner keeps going up to the bit where the hillbillies "wallow around in the old pig-pen," which is handled by Chuck McKimson, including some more vaguely Groucho-esque poses from Bugs:

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Now Scribner takes over again for the extreme violence of Bugs making the hillbillies pummel each other and poke each other's eyes:

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And the last scene of the cartoon ("right hand over, left hand under") brings back Emery Hawkins and his skinny, fluid Bugs...

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...right up to the final shot where Bugs bats his eyelashes at us as he plays the violin.

"Hillbilly Hare" is available on DVD on the "Looney Tunes Golden Collection, Volume 3."

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

^^ nice blog!! ^@^

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