Thursday, September 23, 2010

It Shoulda Been on a Golden Collection

I'm not going to complain any more than I already have about the state of Looney Tunes/Merrie Melodies on home video. I just wish, looking back, that the final Golden Collection had included more "mainstream" cartoons. The idea of having a Bosko/Buddy disc was that there would never be another chance to get them out on DVD, and that seemed like a reasonable thing -- except it turns out there may never be another chance to get many of the great Bugs Bunny/Daffy Duck/pre-1954 Foghorn Leghorns either.

Here's a decent-looking (though slightly sped-up) print of a cartoon I would have loved to see on a DVD collection: "The Unruly Hare," the first of only two Bugs Bunny cartoons Frank Tashlin directed. It's not the Bugs cartoon I would most like to have in a properly restored print, though; that's "Racketeer Rabbit," which I've already written about.



One thing about "The Unruly Hare" that I always like to point out is that it reflects how much less violent WB cartoons were in the early-to-mid-'40s than they later became. There's some violence and shooting, but nowhere near the level of Bugs/Elmer cartoons from the '50s. And the final part of the cartoon is devoted to a dynamite gag where the dynamite doesn't blow anybody up. If you look at cartoons from this period you'll often see that: dynamite that doesn't blow people up, characters walking off a cliff and then running back to safety without falling. The level of cartoon violence got amped up exponentially in the late '40s, maybe because of the Tom and Jerry influence.

10 comments:

Thad said...

Art Davis's animation of Bugs Bunny in this film is up there with anybody's animation of the character. It's telling that the guy nailed the character on his first try, and a shame he didn't do more.

Over the years, Tashlin has grown more and more on me. He was straight and to the point more than Jones ever was in his direction, had a better sense of timing than Freleng, and had a wit Clampett could never hope to have. I'm glad he's getting more deserved attention.

Scott said...

I imagine that we'll see more pre-54 cartoons released, but through the Warner Archive rather than mainstream outlets. Jerry Beck himself made a comment to the effect that the future of these cartoons lay there. The main drawback to Warner Archive releases, though, is that they are DVD-R's rather than pressed DVDs.

Thad, do you have any idea why Davis made only one cartoon with Bugs Bunny during his time as director?

Thad said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Thad said...

Thad, do you have any idea why Davis made only one cartoon with Bugs Bunny during his time as director?

No idea, but I think being the 4th man on the totem pole may have had something to do with it, because Tashlin complained that he couldn't use him for the longest time. Clampett said something to the effect that he 'gave up' Bugs for a year to let Tashlin use the character, which smells like B.S. to me.

Brian said...

About the violence thing... do you think that the WB cartoons suffered from adding more and more later on or was it a good choice on their part to do so?

(Unruly Hare is great, by the way. It's too bad that like Davis Tashlin didn't get much of an opportunity to make Bugs cartoons).

ramapith said...

Jaime, it's a bit odd to me that you should state that the violence level is lower—I'd argue UNRULY HARE has about as much violence and shooting as most 1950s shorts, with the added element of a violent atmosphere; as in EASTER YEGGS, Elmer is played as a genuine rabbit-hater rather than a good-natured dufus who happens to be rabbit-hunting.

Jaime J. Weinman said...

ramapith - What always struck me is simply that the amount of harm that gets done to characters is lower. It's not that there's no violence, but there are fewer things that happen to characters that, in real life, would kill them -- even when Elmer shoots Bugs, the implication is Bugs somehow managed to avoid being shot, not (as with Daffy in the '50s) that he actually did take the bullet and came out all right.

ramapith said...

Interesting point about harm. But it cuts both ways...

In the 1940s, actual harm is done less often—but because we don't see the characters encountering and surviving that harm over and over, it remains a bit more threatening in feel.

In the 1950s, Daffy is shot point-blank again and again; one can see that it's not a pleasant experience—but it's plainly not deadly, either. He always survives.

So there's no menace worse than funny embarrassment. Daffy may get blasted, but he isn't going to end up as a roast; he's effectively unkillable.

Aaron Long said...

Count me among those who are starting to appreciate Tashlin. He's right up at the top spot along with Clampett and Jones, in my opinion. This has got to be one of the funniest Bugs/Elmer cartoons I've ever seen, if not the single funniest. I can't believe I've never seen this one before!

It really is too bad Tashlin didn't get to do more with Bugs. Seems like he, more than anyone, was able to have Bugs retain some of his old craziness and do insane things just for the hell of it, while they were transitioning him into a cool level-headed character. I can't imagine any other director having Bugs do most of the things he does here by 1945, except Clampett.

I love the weird ways he jumps into his hole in this cartoon. Tashlin's sense of posing and timing was truly unique.

paul etcheverry said...

I have never quite comprehended why Tashlin isn't mentioned more often in the same breath with Tex, Jones, Clampett, and Freleng. He was responsible for original, very funny, brilliantly staged and designed cartoons: PORKY PIG'S FEAT, SWOONER CROONER, PLANE DAFFY, STUPID CUPID, NASTY QUACKS and more.