Mel Blanc was a genius, and with the driving force of his multi-faceted voice work for Warner Bros. on the Looney Tunes library, he managed to pack a lot of power and life in to some of the most iconic cartoon characters of all time. From Porky Pig, Daffy Duck, Foghorn Leghorn, and Tweety, to Sylvester, Elmer Fudd, and yes, Bugs Bunny, he gave them personality, idiosyncrasies, and quirks that made them feel alive, even though they were animated.
Originally a wacky ne’er do well, Bugs Bunny turned in to a sly and quick witted under dog hero whose humility and charm was contradicted by his sharp wit, and ability to out match any villain mentally. Except for that damn tortoise. But that’s another story for another day. Bugs Bunny is easily the best cartoon character of all time, and he’s managed to pack more laughs than most iconic cartoon characters combined. Paying tribute to ol’ Bugsy in the new year, we count down our top ten Bugs Bunny toons of all time!
10. RACKETEER RABBIT
Directed by: Friz Freleng
This isn’t the first time Bugs has had the run in with the mafia, as he’s well known for duking it out with gangster pair Rocky and Mugsy in a few hilarious shorts in the Bugs Bunny library. While those shorts are hysterical in their own right, it’s Bugs’ confrontation with Edward G. Robinson lookalike gangster Rocky and his Peter Lorre-esque sidekick Hugo. After camping out for the night at an abandoned farm, Bugs awakens to discover it’s the hide out for gangster Rocky and Hugo, and slyly cuts himself in on the loot they just stole during a robbery.
After Rocky catches on, he demands to know where Bugs stashed the cash, and hilarity ensues in some of the best gags imaginable. Hugo takes Bugs for a ride, literally. Bugs poses as a gangster and reveals that it’s “coitains” for Rocky (“Aw, they’re adorable!”), to which Bugs promises loyalty to Rocky by engaging in a hysterical fight with an imaginary police officer who proceeds to trash and thrash Rocky hiding in a chest. Dick Nelson’s voice work as Rocky is fantastic, and Mel Blanc is as top notch as ever as the duplicitous Bugs who will outwit any crony at the drop of a hat. Nyah! Nyah! Nyah!
9. LONG-HAIRED HARE
Directed by: Chuck Jones
It’s weird that most of my top ten Bugs Bunny tunes involve run ins with villains that were only included in the Bugs Bunny library once. Take for example Giovanni Jones, a blowhard opera singer who has a run in with Bugs by mere circumstance. Giovanni is practicing his opera singing in his lush house when during his mid-opera, he overhears Bugs Bunny in his rabbit hole strumming on his banjo singing a little pop song. Giovanni finds the song disturbing but continues on, and soon the song is so infectious, Giovanni begins singing along with Bugs without realization.
The animation is genius and the comedy so spontaneous that it still manages to derive racous laughter from me. Giovanni clearly loves what Bugs is singing, or Bugs is just showing more enthusiasm for music than he is. Nonetheless, Giovanni attempts to thwart Bugs’ enthusiastic performances with violent rebuttals, and Bugs of course wages war on the egomaniac. Bugs infiltrates Giovanni’s big opera performance posing as Leopold, and hilarity ensues, as Bugs wreaks havoc on the devoted singer, demanding high pitches and hysterical low chords that drip of brilliance. Giovanni is a great one time villain in a hilarious short.
8. DUCK AMUCK
Directed by: Chuck Jones
Yes, I cheated with this entry, but you have to admit not only does it count, in some form, but it’s a wonderful representation of the animation medium. Chuck Jones really challenges the conventions of comedy and animation by presenting a surrealist look at the world of Looney Tunes, where the characters on-screen are our subjects, and there is a creator of some kind controlling their fates. The short completely breaks any semblance of a fourth wall and features Daffy Duck for the majority of the short, who is preparing to take part in a swashbuckler feature.
Before he knows it, things go completely awry and he becomes the victim of a chaotic omnipotent creator who is altering his very existence and reality, and for seemingly random reasons. “Duck Amuck” doesn’t rely on the staples of Looney Tunes, or a villain per se, it just gives Daffy free reign to be as wacky and insane as he wants to be, and struggles with the perceptions of the space around him by the unseen creator of the short. “Duck Amuck” is brilliant but utterly hysterical as Mel Blanc’s voice work for Daffy is top notch, providing hilarious one-liners, and sharply timed reactions that just sell this animated experiment successfully. The final scene reveals that it’s not only one really funny meta-short, but that the creator really does enjoy torturing Daffy Duck.
7. RABBIT HOOD
Directed by: Chuck Jones
“Arise, Sir Loin of Beef! Arise, Earl of Cloves! Arise, Duke of Brittingham! Arise, Baron of Münchhausen! Arise, Essence of Myrrh! Milk of Magnesia! Quarter of Ten!” and of course who can forget “Don’t you worry, never fear, Robin Hood will soon be here!” But I can quote Bugs Bunny all day if I wanted to. Let’s talk about “Rabbit Hood” which ends in a wonderful cameo from Errol Flynn (“Nah, that’s silly! It couldn’t be him.”)!
While “Robin Hood Daffy” has the slight edge in laughs over “Rabbit Hood,” this take on the classic tale featuring Bugs is no slouch either, as Bugs does battle with the Sheriffof Nottingham who is so easily tricked, he’s fooled in to building a house on his garden. So easily fooled is he that he’s midway in to constructing the house before he wises up and comes to his senses. Sheriff of Nottingham is another one time villain for Bugs who supplied some good laughs for his ability to be so gullible and easily fooled. And you have to appreciate how he endeth every wordeth with an ‘eth.”
6. RABBIT OF SEVILLE
Directed by: Chuck Jones
Arguably the most popular Bugs Bunny short of all time (that and “What’s Opera, Doc?”), “Rabbit of Seville” is an artistic masterpiece of the animation medium. It perfectly demonstrates the Looney Tunes abilities to synchronize wonderful music with animated hijinks and create a twisted demented amalgam of comedy and classical music. Music has always been as much of a character in the Looney Tunes shorts as Porky Pig or Daffy Duck, and here it arrives in full force, as Bugs Bunny evades attacks by Elmer Fudd to the tune of “Barber of Seville.”
Comprised of various spoofs of musical numbers from the famous production, there are rivetiny scenes, and hilarious variations of songs from Bugs. The best moment of the short by far is Bugs Bunny’s orchestration of his fingers along Elmer Fudd’s scalp to the tune of the piano solo mid-way. Like anyone who grew up with the Looney Tunes, it’s because of the folks at Termite Terrace that I grew to appreciate, love, and respect classical music of all kinds.
5. RABBIT FIRE
Director: Chuck Jones
Daffy Duck on his own provided some of the funniest and wackiest comedy shorts in the Looney Tunes library. Solo, he was a force to be reckoned with, a really fierce and over the top character who schemed and tricked and often experienced his own confrontations with vicious villains. But for some reason when paired with any one of the Looney Tunes characters, he played wonderfully off of whomever he was paired up with, and provided some truly laugh out loud moments. “Duck Amuck” is proof that Daffy can offer raucous laughter all on his little lonesome, but when teamed with Porky Pig, he gives us “Robin Hood Daffy.” With Porky, he was the great thorn on his side testing his sanity.
With Bugs Bunny, he was the Butch to his Sundance. The Newman to his Redford. Just an all around hysterical nemesis who competed with Bugs for attention, and tried desperately to outwit the furry protagonist quite often. Daffy’s undoing is his own egomania, while Bugs stands back and lets him become his own worst enemy. It’s a wonderful dichotomy that offered up some excellent adventures with Bugs and Daffy that became a staple of the Looney Tunes library. The first in Chuck Jones “Hunting Trilogy” that includes the equally hilarious Rabbit Seasoning and Duck! Rabbit, Duck!, “Rabbit Fire” is the introduction of the unlikely comedy duo that delivers on hysterical laughter, brilliant animation, and the classic “Duck Season,” “Rabbit Season” sign gag that became an iconic gag for animation.
4. LITTLE RED RIDING RABBIT
Director: Friz Freleng
She’s going to be red in other places when she drops on to those hot coals, I’ll tell ya that much! You have to appreciate the final scene of “Little Red Riding Rabbit,” where the utterly obnoxious Red is left clinging to dear life with her spread legs conveniently turned from the camera. While “Little Red Riding Rabbit” is a wonderful adventure featuring Bugs battling the evil wolf, This is one of the few times Blanc doesn’t provide every single voice, but the trio of voices work wonderfully off of one another. Billy Bletcher is utterly hysterical as the inept wolf who shoos away a slew of other wolves awaiting Red, and is anxious to feast on her pet rabbit.
Of course, Red is an obnoxious bobbysoxer who is loud, shrill, and intrusive. Everything the stories told us she wasn’t. Bea Benaderet is fantastic as the awfully irritating Red who is going to bring Bugs to her grandmother. Ta HAVE! When the chase and antics ensue between Bugs and the nasty wolf (I love when the two begin singing “Put on your old gray bonnet”), Red continuously walks in during their battle to confront the wolf or Bugs, and eventually it becomes an absolute nuisance. “Little Red Riding Rabbit” is a rare departure from the Merrie Melodies norm, and the trio of voice performers create comedy gold.
3. HAIR RAISING HARE
Director: Chuck Jones
Ever since I was a kid, I just love to imitate Bugs mocking hairdressers during the antics of “Hare Raising Hare.” In his usual methodical madness, Bugs manages to throw off a fiending giant red monster named Gossamer by pretending to work on his nails and hair. The monster of course is compelled while Bugs trails off. “My, I bet you monsters lead interesting lives. I said to my girlfriend just the other day – Gee, I’ll bet monsters are interesting, I said. The places you must go and the places you must see, my stars! And I’ll bet you meet a lot of interesting people, too. I’m always interested in meeting interesting people. Now let’s dip our patties in the water!”
The Looney Tunes shorts managed to master a lot of the great and iconic comic devices, and one of them was the notable breaking of the fourth wall. Whenever they did it, they used it sparingly. And when they implemented the device it was often hysterical and the stand out scene of the short. In “Hair Raising Hare” as Bugs is foiled by Gossamer, Bugs calls attention to the audience looking at the duo battle. With that moment, Bugs reaches down in to Gossamer’s deepest fear: stage fright. He reveals that even the most fearsome monster has a phobia they can’t cure, and Gossamer screeches “People! Aaaaah!” running off through wall after wall in the dreaded castle. Bugs just knows how to tamper with even the most cunning villain.
2. SLICK HARE
Director: Friz Freleng
Termite Terrace was genius in many aspects of animation and comedy, but they excelled in satirizing modern Hollywood royalty. They often lampooned big celebrities from the golden age of Hollywood while also paying tribute to what made them so legendary and appealing. Ray Miland and Frank Sinatra cameo, and Bugs performs a riveting call back to Groucho Marx and Carmen Miranda. It’s a wily and brilliant formula that was mastered by Warner animation and was respectfully homaged in episodes of “Animaniacs” in the nineties. This time not only does Elmer Fudd have Bugs Bunny to contend with, but he has to face the wrath of Humphrey Bogart.
“Baby,” as he called his wife Lauren Bacall, wants fried rabbit for dinner in twenty minutes, and whatever baby wants, baby will get. Horrified at Bogart’s insistence on giving Baby what she wants, Fudd–working as a waiter at the Mocrumbo club–comes across Bugs in a carrot crate and the war to get Bugs in to the fry pot is waged between the duo, one of whom is consistently intimidated by Bogart who walks over to Fudd periodically to check on the progress of the Fried Rabbit. “Slick Hare” is a speedy paced and incredibly funny look at what happens when Looney Tunes crosses Hollywood, and Friz Freleng masters the art of subtle comedy which include the Leopold gag with the jukebox, and the dance number performed by Bugs and Elmer mid-way. With a hilarious final scene, “Slick Hare” is an instant gem.
1. WACKIKI WABBIT
Director: Chuck Jones
No matter how many times I dig in to my library of Bugs Bunny episodes, I always tend to go back to this short. True, the villains for this short were a one and done nemesis for Bugs Bunny, but I always found their dynamic to be quite hilarious, and it continues to draw laughs from me no matter how much I re-watch it and go over its plot points time and time again. We don’t know how these two men ended up adrift on the sea, but there they are, and they’re about to resort to cannibalism if they don’t find food soon. Thankfully, they land on “Humuhumunukunukuapua’a’a’a island” where Bugs Bunny is hanging out and they make a play for him to gobble him up.
The animation from Chuck Jones is brilliant as always, and the way the comedy is conducted through most of the short is seamless and flows without a single caveat. I love the gag that the heavy villain just doesn’t catch on in time, so he has to be slapped. I love Bugs’ Native tongue that translates in to text that’s just beyond the norms of human language, and I love the voice work behind the two villains of the piece, both of whom are voiced by Tedd Pierce and Michael Maltese. They’re real saps, bordering on lunacy who just don’t catch on until it’s too late. And that’s likely due to starvation.
Oh, but Looney Tunes is always dark if you really break down every short they’ve ever produced. That’s the genius of Looney Tunes. They dared to be dark and risqué quite often, and “Wackiki Wabbit” delves in cannibalism and skids the surface of racial stereotyping to create a hilarious romp featuring Bugs trying to outwit two desperate palookas that want him for dinner. “Wackiki Wabbit” has unfortunately been subdued to the public domain, but it’s still my favorite Bugs Bunny short of all time, one that I consistently watch and laugh to every single time. Bugs in his prime was a comic creation who put Mickey Mouse to shame.
SUPERMAN & BUGS BUNNY
Could this be? Someone took my favorite cartoon character of all time and my favorite fictional character of all time and turned them in to a crossover event? And in the process they completely destroyed the dignity of both characters at the same time? How interesting. How grotesque. How utterly shocking. No, that is not a joke image made by a master artist on the net, that is an actual cross over between the Justice League and Looney Tunes with Bugs and Superman taking the top billing of the title. I cringe looking at that cover every single time. Sure DC provides an explanation that is also a deus ex machina using Mr. Mxy to change reality and bring together both realities, but it’s probably the worst cross over since Punisher and Archie. It’s almost as bad as Godzilla and Charles Barkley or Eminem and Punisher. It’s just awful.
And the comic book crossover when read is not any better and doesn’t convince you to take it seriously. Batman being perplexed by the penguin from Looney Tunes, Mxy battling with Elmer Fudd, and the cover showing Superman looking over the cartoons with a goofy smirk like an old comedy movie. How embarrassing. And this is why people don’t take Superman or his fans at all seriously. We have to see an amazing character be reduced to gimmicks like this. I love Superman and Bugs but you don’t mix them. I love Peanut Butter and fried chicken, but I’m not about to mix them. Flash meets Speedy Gonzales, Pepe LePew tries to woo Wonder Woman. There’s even a scene of Green Arrow trying to convince someone that his red box has a frog that sings and dances that falls on deaf ears… okay that’s kind of funny, but still, it’s so laughable and ridiculous. For shame, Warner bros. For shame DC.