“You don’t have to be crazy to do this. But it sure helps.”
Supervision by Ben Hardaway and Cal Dalton; Story by Melvin Millar; Animation by Gil Turner; Musical Direction by Carl W. Stalling. A Merrie Melody released on August 12, 1939. (Unusual title card. It appears to be night on an iced over pond. Which I wouldn’t doubt Proto-Bugs doing, but I can’t tell if my guess is intentional.)
If you look at today’s paper, you’ll find that meat prices are rising. You’ll also find Hardaway self inserting himself and advertising his work. (I think. He spells ‘merrie’ “right.”) This angers the man holding the paper, who if the copyright is anything to go by, is named John Sourpuss. I don’t know if the voice Mel’s supplying is the best choice. Makes him sound forty years older than he probably is. He decides that the only thing to do is go out and hunt his own meat. Good thing he has a gun casually leaning against the wall. (That’s not safe.) He takes the dog he was sitting on, and they head out to get some rabbit. We literally barely knew him. (What’s that picture on his wall? A giant parrot in a tricorn stuck in a galleon?)
Being pre-1940 means our rabbit of the picture will be played by Proto-Bugs. He’s kind enough to leave some stamped prints for his pursuers to follow, and crazy enough to have already placed one stamp ahead of his progress. He also plays ‘Guess Who’ with the dog. Smart little feller is able to figure out who it is eventually, and his prize is a log roll down the hill. Coming out dizzy and weak gives P.B. the opportunity to play doctor. You can tell he’s medically licensed because he doles out the best medicine: laughter.
When John finds the hare/rabbit lying in the sun, he decides to salt him up right then and there. (It’ll make his death all the more tasteful.) Proto-Bugs holds out his celery to catch the seasoning, while changing he feet’s fur color for a half second. Jeff can’t follow him into his burrow, because it’s now an elevator. (And yes, Jeff will continue to have those purple rings around his eyes for the rest of the short. This was the moment where I gave up thinking this was another coloring error.)
It’s the dog’s turn again, and Proto-Bugs does something the Definitive-Bugs will become well known for: dressing in drag. Puppy likes what he sees and eagerly accepts the lady dog’s invitation to sit down. When he’s ready to make-out, Proto-Bugs is completely unfazed that the costume is ripped off, and just supports the dog’s choice in mates. Angry, the dog gives chase, but the bunny in cop attire and invisible motorbike pulls him over for speeding. Then he just blatantly reveals who he is and runs off. Song time!
Nope, I’m not trying to be as screwy as him. (I couldn’t compare.) He really does sing a catchy little ditty. The same tune with different lyrics would eventually be sung by Bugs. (This picture is instrumental in shaping up the rabbit we would all come to love and secretly wish to be. But upon finishing his song, he finds John right behind him with gun pointed. Proto-Bugs lays on the details on why he wouldn’t be good eating: being thin and sick. Oddly enough, this gets John crying too. Maybe he’s just upset that this guy won’t make a decent meal after all? Looks like he’ll have to pay the $20.00 a pound for the porterhouse, after all.
The rabbit then gives him a joy buzzer handshake and flees again. Angry, John demands he come back and fight. He is also stupid enough to keep running his mouth and states that he can beat the hare and his whole family. They eagerly accept his challenge, and if you were watching this cartoon on T.V., things would abruptly end here. But the actual ending is thus: They thrash him. Driven mad, John imitates Proto-Bugs, hopping and hooing into the distance. Which got cut because it’s too similar to this ending? Odd reasoning.
But before I go, I want to mention what I was originally told was the real ending. I don’t remember where I read this, and looking back, I don’t recall any sources backing it up, but it was so out of left field that I’ve never been able to forget it. The ending I was told of has the rabbit clan beating the hunter (and dog) all right, but after the dust clears, all that is left is their severed heads! Which would then roll away into the distance. Whoever came up with that must’ve had the worst day in recorded history. Or they were an angsty teen. (Friggin’ psyco.)
Favorite Part: During the song, P.B. finds a Looney Tunes billboard, complete with Porky cameo! *Fanboy squee*! Shame he tears it up. I needed some wallpaper.
Personal Rating: 4. The writing is top-notch! I was deliberately leaving out Proto-Bugs’s wisecracks because you’d love hearing them much more than reading them. Almost makes me wish he stuck around more before evolving. But Daffy really was the more fleshed out screwball, and I’m glad they gave their next one his own distinct version of the personality. It holds up better in a historical context.