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Behold! Bugs Bunny on Blu-ray

If Tex Avery and Chuck Jones had a son, he would have looked something like Elmer J. Fudd

Bugs Bunny 80th Anniversary Collection: Funko Cwap
Bugs Bunny 80th Anniversary Collection: Funko Cwap

Before we discuss three of the better Bugs and Elmer shorts contained in the numbered, limited edition blu-ray set, The Bugs Bunny 80th Anniversary Collection, a word about packaging. The Looney Tunes gang has morphed considerably since the closing of Termite Terrace in the early 60’s, but none more disturbingly than Bugs. The zombified Funko Pop vinyl wabbit contained within the Diamond Collection is enough to petrify any child. The glitter topped collectible is advertised as “full-size.” (Without the aid of packaging, the hydrocephalic figurine can’t stand on its own two paws.) Were that the case, rather than waste bullets, Elmer could have squashed the 2-inch varmint like a bug.

It doesn’t stop at the packaging. Better children elbowing piano keys than the cacophonous rendition of The Merry-Go-Round Breaks Down that underscores the menu. I’m never one to judge a Bugs Bunny Box by its shabby cover: Doc, there are 28 previously unreleased shorts to behold! For what it cost to design and create this hollow-eyed monstrosity — his peepers have the emotive power of black stoppers found atop a BIC Cristal — I’d have settled for another 10 remastered shorts. It lists for $74.99 on Amazon, but you can do better.

Elmer’s Candid Camera (1940)

If Tex Avery and Chuck Jones had a son, he would have looked something like Elmer J. Fudd. As it is, it was Egghead who begat Elmer. The curious-looking creation — an egg-shaped nose protruding from an otherwise ovular noggin — made his big screen debut, and earned title billing, in Avery’s Egghead Rides Again (1937). It wasn’t until his sixth cartoon that the Fudd moniker was introduced. Elmer’s Candid Camera saw the birth of the prototypical Fudd, voiced for the first time by Arthur Q. Bryan. For his initial foray into the forest, Elmer stalks his prey with a camera, not a gun, so for now, rather than an oversized hunter’s cap, a derby will do. This was the fourth go-round for Bugs, and with no rabbit hole for him to call home amid the Disney-decor bucolic backgrounds, the rock-hard earth was where he made his bed. The vulcanized-treated tips of his ears would soon vanish; ditto the husky-throated lisp Mel Blanc was still fine-tuning into Bugs’ instantly recognizable Brooklyn twang. (We fade out on Bugs letting loose with a decidedly Woody Woodpecker guffaw.) Under Jones’ direction, Bugs would adopt a “passive until pushed” demeanor. (It was under Jones’ tutelage that Bugs uttered his first, “Of course you know, this means war.”) This mean-spirited variation leans more in the direction of studio bad boy Bob Clampett, particularly when, for no reason other than the opportunity to be a jerk, Bugs plants his rabbit’s foot squarely in Elmer’s keester.

The Old Grey Hare (1944)

Bob Clampett had always dreamed of producing an animated version of Jon Carter on Mars, so it’s not hard to understand why this futuristic glimpse into the lives of cartoons’ most enduring duo ranks high amongst his crowning achievements. Sixty years in the future, Bugs and Elmer are still pulling the same schtick, now with the addition of rubbery, age-defining wrinkles. Elmer has traded his trusty rifle for a Buck Rogers Lightning-Quick Rabbit Killer, while Bugs speaks through a cottontail beard. The lumbago that plagues him forces the aged hare to walk with a cane before the Wackyland backdrop. As if the look into the future were not enough, Clampett hops a slingshot and transports us back in time for a Bugs & Elmer origin story. What begins with the christening of Baby Elmer’s bonnet by the breaking of a glass bottle of carrot juice over his skull ends with a uniformed Bugs pimp-slapping Elmer to oblivion in his baby buggy before sealing the deal with a kiss on the lips. (Are you sure you want children to see this stuff?) It ends happily enough, with Elmer and Bugs buried alive. A mere four years into their relationship, and already Clampett is undertaking what animation historian Greg Ford called “a cradle-to-grave biopic.”

Hare Brush (1955)

One of the best of the “wabbit-weversal” shorts, in which Elmer gets the upper hand. If the E. J. Fudd building that opens the show is any indication, Elmer has invested his money wisely. The only problem being, after all these years spent chasing a rabbit, Elmer thinks he is one. It’s hard to imagine a contemporary cartoon set in a mental institution, particularly one called the “Fruitcake Sanitarium.” And why Bugs is strolling inside the grounds of an insane asylum is anyone’s guess. What’s important is that inmate Elmer spots him and offers to switch places in exchange for a lifetime’s supply of carrots. Bugs is the perfect patient, downing any pill German-sounding Dr. Oro Myicin hands him — in this case, a narcotic strong enough to instill in the bunny a new mantra: “I am Elmer J. Fudd, millionaire. I own a mansion and a yacht.” Once acclimated, Bugs spends his Hump Day in the wild, hunting a billionaire in a bunny suit. For two solid minutes, Fudd earns his retroactive payback as seemingly every violent act played out against him turns about in the direction of his enemy. There’s even a Tashlin-esque bear, reminiscent of the one that tormented the duo in The Unruly Hare (a short in sore need of making its disc debut). The end finds Bugs being carted away, not to Bellevue, but to jail. Fudd lets his guard down long enough (and returns to humankind just long enough) to partake in a dance sensation that once swept the nation: the bunny hop.

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Bugs Bunny 80th Anniversary Collection: Funko Cwap
Bugs Bunny 80th Anniversary Collection: Funko Cwap

Before we discuss three of the better Bugs and Elmer shorts contained in the numbered, limited edition blu-ray set, The Bugs Bunny 80th Anniversary Collection, a word about packaging. The Looney Tunes gang has morphed considerably since the closing of Termite Terrace in the early 60’s, but none more disturbingly than Bugs. The zombified Funko Pop vinyl wabbit contained within the Diamond Collection is enough to petrify any child. The glitter topped collectible is advertised as “full-size.” (Without the aid of packaging, the hydrocephalic figurine can’t stand on its own two paws.) Were that the case, rather than waste bullets, Elmer could have squashed the 2-inch varmint like a bug.

It doesn’t stop at the packaging. Better children elbowing piano keys than the cacophonous rendition of The Merry-Go-Round Breaks Down that underscores the menu. I’m never one to judge a Bugs Bunny Box by its shabby cover: Doc, there are 28 previously unreleased shorts to behold! For what it cost to design and create this hollow-eyed monstrosity — his peepers have the emotive power of black stoppers found atop a BIC Cristal — I’d have settled for another 10 remastered shorts. It lists for $74.99 on Amazon, but you can do better.

Elmer’s Candid Camera (1940)

If Tex Avery and Chuck Jones had a son, he would have looked something like Elmer J. Fudd. As it is, it was Egghead who begat Elmer. The curious-looking creation — an egg-shaped nose protruding from an otherwise ovular noggin — made his big screen debut, and earned title billing, in Avery’s Egghead Rides Again (1937). It wasn’t until his sixth cartoon that the Fudd moniker was introduced. Elmer’s Candid Camera saw the birth of the prototypical Fudd, voiced for the first time by Arthur Q. Bryan. For his initial foray into the forest, Elmer stalks his prey with a camera, not a gun, so for now, rather than an oversized hunter’s cap, a derby will do. This was the fourth go-round for Bugs, and with no rabbit hole for him to call home amid the Disney-decor bucolic backgrounds, the rock-hard earth was where he made his bed. The vulcanized-treated tips of his ears would soon vanish; ditto the husky-throated lisp Mel Blanc was still fine-tuning into Bugs’ instantly recognizable Brooklyn twang. (We fade out on Bugs letting loose with a decidedly Woody Woodpecker guffaw.) Under Jones’ direction, Bugs would adopt a “passive until pushed” demeanor. (It was under Jones’ tutelage that Bugs uttered his first, “Of course you know, this means war.”) This mean-spirited variation leans more in the direction of studio bad boy Bob Clampett, particularly when, for no reason other than the opportunity to be a jerk, Bugs plants his rabbit’s foot squarely in Elmer’s keester.

The Old Grey Hare (1944)

Bob Clampett had always dreamed of producing an animated version of Jon Carter on Mars, so it’s not hard to understand why this futuristic glimpse into the lives of cartoons’ most enduring duo ranks high amongst his crowning achievements. Sixty years in the future, Bugs and Elmer are still pulling the same schtick, now with the addition of rubbery, age-defining wrinkles. Elmer has traded his trusty rifle for a Buck Rogers Lightning-Quick Rabbit Killer, while Bugs speaks through a cottontail beard. The lumbago that plagues him forces the aged hare to walk with a cane before the Wackyland backdrop. As if the look into the future were not enough, Clampett hops a slingshot and transports us back in time for a Bugs & Elmer origin story. What begins with the christening of Baby Elmer’s bonnet by the breaking of a glass bottle of carrot juice over his skull ends with a uniformed Bugs pimp-slapping Elmer to oblivion in his baby buggy before sealing the deal with a kiss on the lips. (Are you sure you want children to see this stuff?) It ends happily enough, with Elmer and Bugs buried alive. A mere four years into their relationship, and already Clampett is undertaking what animation historian Greg Ford called “a cradle-to-grave biopic.”

Hare Brush (1955)

One of the best of the “wabbit-weversal” shorts, in which Elmer gets the upper hand. If the E. J. Fudd building that opens the show is any indication, Elmer has invested his money wisely. The only problem being, after all these years spent chasing a rabbit, Elmer thinks he is one. It’s hard to imagine a contemporary cartoon set in a mental institution, particularly one called the “Fruitcake Sanitarium.” And why Bugs is strolling inside the grounds of an insane asylum is anyone’s guess. What’s important is that inmate Elmer spots him and offers to switch places in exchange for a lifetime’s supply of carrots. Bugs is the perfect patient, downing any pill German-sounding Dr. Oro Myicin hands him — in this case, a narcotic strong enough to instill in the bunny a new mantra: “I am Elmer J. Fudd, millionaire. I own a mansion and a yacht.” Once acclimated, Bugs spends his Hump Day in the wild, hunting a billionaire in a bunny suit. For two solid minutes, Fudd earns his retroactive payback as seemingly every violent act played out against him turns about in the direction of his enemy. There’s even a Tashlin-esque bear, reminiscent of the one that tormented the duo in The Unruly Hare (a short in sore need of making its disc debut). The end finds Bugs being carted away, not to Bellevue, but to jail. Fudd lets his guard down long enough (and returns to humankind just long enough) to partake in a dance sensation that once swept the nation: the bunny hop.

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