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“Kill da wabbit, kill da wabbit”

Posted by Richard on July 8, 2007

This is quite the year for important anniversaries. It was fifty years ago this week that Warner Brothers released the greatest cartoon of all time, "What's Opera, Doc?" Steve Watt wrote a marvelous tribute to the Wagnerian classic and to Chuck Jones and his associates at the "Termite Terrace" animation studio:

It is the antithesis of the routine cartoon. In place of snappy one-liners we see Elmer Fudd and Bugs Bunny singing their parts with complete sincerity and commitment. The backgrounds are beautifully textured paintings. The score is powerful and moving. Bugs cuts a striking figure in a metallic brassiere before Madonna was even born. It's audacious and decadent and beautiful and bold and everything the vast majority of cartoons would never dare to be.

Chuck told me he and his team of writers and animators never saw themselves as making cartoons for anyone but themselves. … It was because they made cartoons to humour themselves, and because studio executives didn't much care what they did so long as they stayed on time and on budget, that "What's Opera, Doc?" was possible.

The key was placing it between two Wile E. Coyote and Road Runner cartoons in the production schedule. Formulaic by design, those ones could be done fast and cheap. Knock off the Coyote films ahead of schedule and under budget, reallocate the time and money to "What's Opera, Doc?" so the overall budgets remained intact, and voila! A masterpiece created right under the noses of studio executives who would have vetoed the idea long before Elmer Fudd could have raised his spear and donned his magic helmet.

Read the whole thing. (HT: Fark)

I'm sure Watt is right — this really should be experienced on the big screen (I've seen it on TV, but not in a theater). This YouTube video is a poor substitute, but if you've never seen it, you just have to watch. If you have seen it, you'll probably want to watch it again.

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