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Tuesday, October 15, 2013

Bugs and Daffy Try Vaudeville


The Bunny/Duck Rivalry Continues: Show Biz Bugs (1957)

Bugs is subdued witness to Daffy's utter breakdown and ultimate death caused by jealousy nurtured since war's end and Chuck Jones influence over Looney Tune characters. But Show Biz Bugs was directed by Friz Freleng, who followed Jones' lead to furthering of one-note Daffy madness. Let's put it this way: I liked things better when this Duck was plain Daffy, even as Show Biz Bugs easily ranks among best of WB cartoons from any period. Must Daffy be so humiliated? The dressing room he's given for a vaude engagement with Bugs turns out to be a toilet (literal), and crickets instead of applause greet his stage entrance. Sound fx and clever lines took place of fuller animation once cash for cartoons got tight. Average cost for Warner reels during the 1957-58 season was $25,942, down from a previous year, so belts were tightening, and why not with execs arguing that reissued cartoons could earn a same as new ones? Show Biz Bugs' greater value came of television feeding off it and others of the Warners library. No telling how much revenue can be attributed to Show Biz Bugs once $ made since '57 are factored in.

4 Comments:

Blogger Dave K said...

Geez, one of my all time faves! A slightly beat up Technicolor 16mm print was a star of my collection for years (ALWAYS got a great audience reaction!) I'm sure some other cartoonatic can tell us how many times Friz used that 'Endearing Young Charms' routine (it pops up as early as the Pvt. Snafu wartime stuff) but it always kills. Hilarious!

10:47 AM  
Blogger rnigma said...

The closing gag ("I can only do it once") was borrowed from "Curtain Razor."

12:33 PM  
Blogger John McElwee said...

Donald Benson delves into "Show Biz Bugs" and how it led to "The Bugs Bunny Show" on network television:


This particular short carries more nostalgic weight because it was almost a pilot for the original "Bugs Bunny Show." The original prime time version laced shorts together with a newly animated Muppet Show-type framing story (the Muppets' opening is a bigger and shaggier version of Bugs and Daffy's snappy "This is It" number).



On one of the Golden Collections there's a complete episode, with Bugs settling in to watch TV and viewing the mouse-based "Honeymooners" parodies. Other episodes played with the Bugs/Daffy rivalry, offered guest hosts such as Pepe LePew, and had the Tasmanian Devil running loose backstage.


Like the other early prime-time animations, the show drifted to Saturday mornings, where only the song-and-dance opening remained in place (awkwardly tweaked to incorporate the Road Runner theme song). Generic title cards were stuck on the shorts (the fate of most theatrical cartoons on networks), additional shorts were added to create new episodes, and the framing story bits became random bumpers, eventually vanishing altogether.


Jerry Beck over at Cartoon Research has written about the show and has championed restoring the series. While it's great to have the original shorts restored and uncut, "The Bugs Bunny Show" shouldn't be ignored. The new TV material was lower budget, but it was created by a lot of the same talent behind the shorts.



Years later Warner returned to the gimmick of mixing old animation with new. First Chuck Jones did "The Bugs Bunny Road Runner Movie," featuring a laid-back Bugs presenting assorted Jones clips (including several Road Runners edited into a single long chase). Then Friz Freleng did "The Looney Looney Looney Bugs Bunny Movie," where chunks of his own shorts were edited into three long "acts", each with a story. Several direct-to-videos and TV specials of wobblier quality followed.

4:11 PM  
Blogger Reg Hartt said...

I had thought that animated characters were not vulnerable to the ravages of time that we physical characters are.

The rough and tumble of young Chaplin, Keaton, Laurel and Hardy, The Three Stooges, etcetera could not be engaged in as they got older.

What I did not figure in was the restrictions brought about by budget decreases. Given smaller budgets to work with the artists focus on doing more with less as a result thus we get the marvelous poses and looks of late Warner animation with this film as a prime example.

3:32 PM  

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