Hiawatha’s Rabbit Hunt

“Imagine a joik like that tryin’ to catch a smart guy like me.”

Supervision by I. Freleng; Story by Michael Maltese; Animation by Gil Turner; Musical Direction by Carl W. Stalling. A Merrie Melody released on June 7, 1941.

Warner Bros. certainly hit gold with their wascawy wabbit! Only four shorts in, and he’s already gotten his second Oscar nomination! (Out of three total, but still…) I can’t say this was better than the year’s winner (Disney’s “Lend a Paw”), but I’d have given the award to “Rhapsody in Rivets.”

Bugs is reading the classic and harmonious “The Song of Hiawatha,” and while he does find it enjoyable, he’s a little bit terrified that the piece tells of the mighty warrior hunting a rabbit. I mean, Bugs is a rabbit, and Hiawatha is right there! Or a facsimile of one who looks like he might have some Elmer Fudd in his ancestry. Still, a bow and arrow can hurt something fierce, and with an intention to make rabbit stew, it’s probably in Bugs’s best interest to hide.

But that cooking pot makes a pretty good tub, and living in wilderness can get a guy rather filthy, so you can’t fault Bugs too much for treating himself to a bath. Just what Hiawatha was planning, so why question the good fortune. He prepares the fire with Bugs’s help and the rabbit eases himself into the just right (for now) temperatures. Awwww! And the hunter is feeding him too! Why would anyone need to fear him- oh, yeah. Those carrots are ingredients. Just like Bugs. He bolts.

Bugs tries to make an escape via one of his holes, but this being early in his career, he actually fails to complete the whole stunt. (I love how ashamed and embarrassed he looks. We’ve all looked like that.) Hiawatha plans to tie Bugs up with a rope. (And his hand? Either he slipped on a glove at falcon speed, or he accidentally cut off all circulation to it for a second. Both are feasible.) Bugs ties him up and does the worst kind of mocking: dance mocking. (Though I love his dance. The butt bouncing is the cherry on the icing on the cake on the plate.)

When the little guy actually manages to point an arrow at Bugs’s cranium, the rabbit finds that hopping away won’t work, as the man follows his jumps precisely. Bugs challenges him to take on his finisher, a series of rapid hops and landing on a branch growing out of a cliff. It’s that last part that is the trickiest, and so it’s the part that slips up Hiawatha. (Oh, and thanks for calling him a sucker, Bugs. I wouldn’t have understood the classic transformation gag if you weren’t commenting. Do it verbal or visual, not voth. Er, both.)

You gotta know when to accept defeat, and Hiawatha does. Time to canoe home and get some takeout from Bison King, or Buckdonalds, or maybe even Kentucky Fried Trout. (Much simpler.) Bugs recites the end of the poem, as he watches him leave. But Hiawatha is determined to have the final say, and he paddles back to give Bugs one of those smooches he’s always giving out. Seems like we’ll have to declare a truce.

Favorite Part: When told he is going to be tied up, Bugs bursts into laughter. The best way to take all pluck out of one’s plan. (Plus, it sounds funny.)

Personal Rating: 3

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