The Five: Bugs Bunny's greatest moments
Bugs Bunny is by far the most unflappable character in cartoons, an insouciant thorn in the side of anyone who seeks to do him harm, and the only one able to maintain his cool while everyone around him is going insane. I've come up with five of my favorite Bugs Bunny shorts of all time, and it wasn't easy. I managed to pare the list from eleven down to seven, and finally, down to five. Here they are:
What's Opera, Doc? (1957): "Spear and magic helmet?" A later entry into the Looney Tunes library, this has come to be recognized as one of the best animated shorts of all time. The basic plot of Elmer hunting Bugs and Bugs thwarting his every attempt is still evident here, but it's amplified by the great musical score, Maurice Noble's amazing background art, and a tragic love story that's actually rather touching in its own unbalanced way. I also love this exchange between Elmer (as Siegfried) and Bugs (disguised as Siegfried's love interest, Valkyrie Brunhilde):
Elmer: [singing] Oh Brunhilde , you're so lovely.
Bugs: [singing] Yes I know it, I can't help it.
Hillbilly Hare (1950):
Bugs: And just who might you be?
Hillbilly: I might be Teddy Roosevelt, but I ain't.
This is probably my favorite Bugs Bunny short of all time, especially the last couple minutes when Bugs leads two dim-witted hillbillies on a sadistic square dance that has them punching one another, yanking on beards, being put through a baling machine, and finally, sailing off the edge of a cliff. There's some great voice acting by Mel Blanc when Bugs becomes the square dance caller and affects a corny southern drawl, and the slapstick is made even funnier by the fact that the two men feel an obligation to do whatever Bugs sings to them, even if it means bodily harm.
Rabbit of Seville (1950): The first cartoon on this list where Bugs plays an effeminate barber. The cartoon begins with Bugs being chased by Elmer and ducking into a nearby theater. Before Elmer knows what's going on, he finds himself on the set of Rossini's "Barber of Seville" opera, with Bugs playing the barber ("Yoooou're so next!"). There's very little dialogue in this cartoon, a testament to how well-animated these characters were and how their actions alone could carry a cartoon. I loved the part where Bugs makes a salad on Elmer's head, and the rapid fire scene towards the end in which Elmer and Bugs each threaten one another with bigger and bigger cannons until it inexplicably culminates in Elmer donning a wedding gown and the two getting married on stage (and then blown up).
Water, Water Every Hare (1952): I don't know if this is the first appearance of the big orange monster with sneakers, but it's a good episode either way. Bugs Bunny's rabbit hole has become flooded, but Bugs is too busy sleeping, underwater, to notice. He even sleepwalks to his water cooler, while still underwater, and gets a drink. Eventually the water rises and Bugs is washed away on his mattress to a the fortress of a mad scientist who decides he wants to use Bugs' brain for his giant robot. When Bugs decides to bolt, the scientist sics his monster on him. In one of Bugs' finer moments, he begins to do the monsters hair (because he's such an innnnnteresting monster). The scene is incredibly funny, but what really sells it for me is the way the monster spreads the bobby pins apart with its teeth, as if it's had its hair done numerous times before. The final slow-motion chase between Bugs and the scientist after they both inhale ether is very creepy and surreal.
Bewitched Bunny: (1954): I can sum up why this is one of my favorite Bugs Bunny cartoons with one word: "HAWN-sel?" Oh yeah, and the phrase "your mother rides a vacuum cleaner" is pretty good too, especially when spouted by two German kids through a mouthful of chocolate. In this one, Bugs finds himself stumbling into the story of Hansel and Gretel. He manages to help the kids escape, but then must deal with Witch Hazel, voiced by June Foray, a renowned voice actor who also provide the voice of Granny, as well as Rocky in Rocky and Bullwinkle, among several others.