Thursday, July 27, 2006

Bugs Bunny

Today is the birthday of one of the greatest cartoon characters ever made, namely Bugs Bunny. Today he is 66 years young. (Of course, Warner Bros. doesn't want the Looney Tunes' ages to be known. But, you know what? These are the same people that conceived Baby Looney Tunes, Loonatics Unleashed, caused much unrepairable damage to the projects Space Jam and Looney Tunes: Back in Action (as well as other animated features on their roster) and they most recently brought us the Youtube fiasco. In light of all this: SCREW WHAT THEY WANT!!!) But enough about that, let's get back to Bugs.

I won't get into his creation story because it is too long and too involved with many many names to remember. Not only that, but Bugs essentially has two creation dates. One is April 30, 1938 which is when Ben 'Bugs' Hardaway started the basic idea in the cartoon

Porky's Hare Hunt and the other is July 27, 1940 when Tex Avery refined the idea of Bugs to near perfection in A Wild Hare.

(Since I'm posting this on July 27, guess which of those dates I believe in).

The point of this blogpost is to elucidate about who Bugs is and how he manages to survive. I'll just start out by saying that Bugs' method of survival is the best way to go about it and is infinitely better than any of the comic book heroes made today or since.

For one thing, Bugs can automatically sum up his opponent no matter what the situation. Yes, I know The Terminator has this ability as well but he needs a computer program planted in his robot brain for it to work. Bugs has that ability naturally. One good example where this ability is apparent is the cartoon Hurdy Gurdy Hare (by Robert McKimson c. 1950). When Bugs is first approached by a big gorilla, he looks at him and says "Hmmmm. Obviously a barbell boy." See, right away Bugs knows his enemy and more importantly knows several schemes that could take him down. Most other super heroes have to use the trial and error method, in that they don't always know their enemy's weakness(es) right away. Much battling and pondering is required to even reach that plateau. But Bugs manages to skip that phase and thus concentrate on the imminent victory against a bald hunter, an angry redheaded outlaw, a martian, a jealous duck, or any other miscellaneous villain thrown at him.

Which leads me to another aspect of Bugs: he's playful. Whether he's just out to heckle like in The Wacky Wabbit (by Bob Clampett c. 1942) or is out for vengeance like in Homeless Hare (by Chuck Jones c. 1950) Bugs always takes time to play with his opponent. And of course, the more playful Bugs is the more frustrated his opponent is. This in expotentially much more fun to watch than some bland human in tights taking things seriously all the time.
I'll even add something to this sentiment. Bugs is not only playful, but he's clever as he plays. He possesses more than enough imagination to defeat his enemies with a wide variety of tricks. In Hillbilly Hare (by Robert McKimson c. 1950), he not only carries out some clever gags, he calls a square dance as he does it. In The Unruly Hare (by Frank Tashlin c. 1945), he blocks Elmer Fudd's surveying telescope with girly pictures in Esquire magazine. In Rabbit Hood (by Chuck Jones c. 1949), Bugs actually manages to talk the Sherrif of Nottingham into a house right in the middle of one of the king's flower gardens by pretending to be a high pressure real estate salesman. Who can top such cleverness?

Yet another thing that keeps Bugs alive is his incredible adaptability skills. He can not only take on all opponents while on his own turf (the forest) he can do so on the other guy's turf as well. And when he adapts, he goes all out and definitely makes himself one with the environment. For instance, when he's involved in a Wagnerian opera with Elmer in What's Opera, Doc? (by Chuck Jones c. 1957) he plays it to the hilt, even faking his death at the end just to give it a tragic ending. When he doesn't want to get thrown off a Mississippi river boat as a stowaway in Mississippi Hare (by Chuck Jones c. 1949), he dresses like and practically BECOMES a wealthy southern gentleman in order to stay on the boat. In Southern Fried Rabbit (by Friz Freleng c. 1953) when Bugs tries to go down south for a bumper carrot crop, he has to deal with Yosemite Sam who's a Confederate soldier still fighting the Civil War. Well, Bugs pretty much re-enacts Gone With The Wind while outwitting Sam. Also look at Hare Ribbin' (by Bob Clampett c. 1944). Bugs actually becomes amphibious when he and the Russian dog take their competition under water.

Of course, adaptability alone does not help one survive any environment. Really, anyone who is too adaptable can easily succumb to the ways of that environment and maybe even become it's slave. Bugs, on the other hand, pulls off a dazzling oxymoron each time. Even though he's fully adapted to his surroundings, his bold personality shows through the entire time. In fact, it's not long that he has the environment succumb to his ways in contrast. In Bowery Bugs (by Art Davis c. 1949) Steve Brody starts off in the cartoon as a Victorian era bar-room thug but by the cartoon's end he's hopping around like a Looney Tune repeating "What's up, Doc?! What's up, Doc?!.............". In Knight-Mare Hare (by Chuck Jones c. 1955), Bugs travels back in time with a hit on the head and meets up with a knight in a "cast-iron tuxedo". At first they trade insults in that medieval style which leads to a medieval style joust. The knight charges towards Bugs on a horse whilst Bugs is using a sword he can't even lift. But, instead of using that sword, he manages to thwart the knight in his own style by simply sticking his foot out and tripping the horse. The knight then flies off and into a castle turret where we hear him fall down the entire flight of stairs and many cartoony sound effects. But the best example of all has to be Hair Raising Hare (by Chuck Jones c. 1946). This cartoon starts off as a psychological Peter Lorre thriller. But, Bugs soon exerts his personality while playing around with the big orange hairy monster (later to be named Gossamer).

One off-shoot of adaptability is resourcefulness. If one needs to conquer one's surroundings, one must know how to use those same surroundings to his advantage. Bugs, of course, has this in spades. Take the example Wideo Wabbit (by Robert McKimson c. 1956). Here, Bugs is trying to outwit Elmer Fudd while running around in a TV station. Bugs manages to use the premises of many ofthe TV shows being shot at that station against Elmer easily. One instance of note is when Bugs disguises himself as a page and misleads Fudd into one of the studios. The door closes revaling the title of the show being shot there called "You Were There: Custar's Last Stand". Elmer Fudd then emerges from the studio with arrows and tomahawks lodged in his body. And then there's a divine masterpiece The Rabbit of Seville (by Chuck Jones c. 1950). Bugs uses every barbar tool found on the set of The Barbar of Sevile in order to humiliate Elmer. And, at the end, Bugs uses a giant cake that would later be used for another opera (The Marriage of Figaro to be exact) to dump Elmer in as a grand finale.

Well, that's quite a bit about his fighting style. Let's talk about his personality now. He's definitely NOT a one dimensional hero-type. There's somewhat of a ying-yang aspect to him. He is a good guy and generally tries to be good.

He even comes to the rescue of other characters like in Rabbits Kin (by Robert McKimson c. 1952), Foxy by Proxy (by Friz freleng c. 1952) or Bewitched Bunny (by Chuck Jones c. 1954). But there is a spark of a villainous nature in him. Sometimes this causes him to go out and look for trouble through pranks like in Buckaroo Bugs (by Bob Clampett c. 1944) , Hare Tonic (by Chuck Jones c. 1945), or Bonanza Bunny (by Robert McKimson c. 1959). But, it definitely comes in handy when Bugs must defeat any villain that makes the first move. Bugs practically beats his enemy at his own villainous game much of the time. When Bruno the acrobatic bear wants to kill Bugs during their circus performance and make it look like an accident, Bugs counters with tricks even more despicable (and clever) than Bruno in Big Top Bunny (by Robert McKimson c. 1951). Also, in Hare Splitter (by Friz Freleng c. 1948), Bugs is in competition with a goony rabbit for the affection of Daisy Lou. Bugs is certainly not above using all sorts of dirty tricks like bombs with a girl's face painted on it or a sharp cupid arrow right in the cotton tail.

Another interesting thing to note about Bugs that really makes his personality so complex is that he is indeed an introvert. That's probably why he likes his hole in he ground. There are subtle hints of this all over many of his cartoons, but the one that stands out as the least subtle of these is Haredevil Hare (by Chuck Jones c. 1948. Here, Bugs is blasted to the moon against his will. After a crash landing. He walks out the door of the rocket, looks around and shouts in a panic, "I'M ALONE ON THE MOON!!!" But, he then says it in a more relieved tone and a smile on his face, "I'm alone on the moon." How can someone be so bold and yet so shy at the same time? Only a classic Looney Tunes director could pull that off, that's how.

I'd also like to dispell a myth about Bugs. he is NOT only capable of outwitting stupid characters. Sure, many of Bugs enemies had I.Q.'s lower than Forrest Gump's on valium. But, Bugs came upon some intelligent adversaries as well. Wile E. Coyote is probably the prime example. His I.Q. is up around 207. And yet Bugs is just as cool and confident as he would be with Elmer Fudd's "special" half cousin. So obviously, Bugs' battle techniques are just as effective against geniuses and morons alike (as well as many types inbetween). Marvin the Martian as well is quite an intellectual character. He even possesses a high-tech weapon which he aims at the Earth. Once again, Bugs is undaunted by any of this. He carries out a well executed whoppin' all with a self-assured grin on his face.

I've seen some recent backlash towards Bugs. Some say "he's an arrogant prick". Actually, I've heard that Lorne Michaels of SNL fame is an arrogant prick as well. This isn't just said by people who were fired by him in the past. Even some of his long-time friends and business colleagues regard him in this way as well. But, one of them interjected (I forget who it was) by saying, "Yes he is an arrogant prick, but with all he's accomplished over the years, he's earned that rite."
Well, the same thing can be said for Bugs as well. His superior fighting style, his complex personality, and his long list of film masterpieces earnes him the rite to be as arrogant a prick as he wants to be. (And yes, Bugs can outsmart and defeat most anybody, I don't care WHAT any hardcore Family Guy fan says. >:P )

Wednesday, July 26, 2006

New Animation by Me

I have to make a link to my video file because blogger won't let me embed the damn thing for some reason. >:(

The above is a work in progress. I was hoping to make a commercial that could be used to promote the Saskatchewan Roughriders or failing that something I could use to show potential clients what I can do with Flash to promote their products.

These are just rough keys so this is nowhere near finished. I thought I'd put it up online here in this "pupil" state so as to get critiques about the animation before I go ahead and finish it up. Maybe some astute and/or observant person will spot things I never thought I'd ever see.

Yes, the sound is muffled with a distinctive din and the visuals are somewhat blurry. This was made on a Mac and put online using a PC. That could account for this poor quality. Although, this might not be a problem for those of you viewing this with a Mac right now.

Oh well, enough tying. Let's see some feedback.

Friday, July 21, 2006


The above is a caricature of one Marlo Meekins. For those who don't know, she is a brilliant artist with a tremendous ability towards caricature. Anyone who hasn't seen any of her drawings on her own blog, do so now right here. You'll be glad you did.

Marlo has a tendancy, when it comes to caricarturing herself, to draw herself naked. She's never explained why she does this, nor do I ever think she will. Oh well, I figure it's a good idea to not break the pattern. Therefore, my caricature of her has her naked too. However, as you can see, the twist with my picture is that I placed her in an environment that no naked person would ever dare to venture into, the Arctic.

I hope everyone who visits this blog enjoys this picture of her but I know you'll enjoy her pictures more.

Thursday, July 13, 2006

A Robert McKimson activity

Here's a fun activity. I managed to find a copy of McKimson's cartoon Dog Collared online. I would like you to watch it and enjoy, but also think as you watch. Remember those binary opposites I talked about in the previous post that I said were in all of McKimson's toons? Well, I would live everyone to try and find those elements within this cartoon. Then, leave a comment telling me where they were. Who knows, some of you may find elements that I missed.

Happy watching.

Tuesday, July 11, 2006

Robert McKimson

I would like to take some time and talk about Robert McKimson right now. First off, I'd like to definitely state that yes he was indeed a great animator. He didn't need that car accident to rattle his optic nerve and give him that tremendous ability but it certainly helped. However, this post will deal with Robert McKimson as a director. Yes, there are people out there who feel that Mr. McKimson was a less than ideal director. Leonard Maltin has been known to ramble on for long periods of time about his feelings of Bob's filmography. Inversely, there are others who feel that McKimson's work is woefully under-rated and that he should be revered along-side the other greats. I am one of those people. Actually, not only is his directorial work fantastic, I've noticed an auteur pattern as well. For those of you un familiar with the Auteur Theory, follow the link to a Wickipedia entry on the subject here. Read all that before you read this blogpost any further or else you will get lost and confused.

To everyone else: let's begin!

From viewings (and many repeated viewings) of McKimson's toons, I have discovered two binary opposites that are integrated into all of them (the ones I've seen anyway). They are:

nervy character / high authority
defiance / "cronie"-ism

I'd love to know exactly how much those elements came from his own life and what he observed. Unfortunately, not enough is written about Robert McKimson. Hell, this blogpost alone probably raised the number of McKimson text by about 20% or so. From what I've read on him, the defiance element of his cartoons could have come from how meek he actually was in real life. Not only that, when his colleagues Chuck Jones and Friz Freleng got any flack from producer Eddie Selzer they defied him right to his face. McKimson, on the other hand would simply cave in to Eddie. This is ecatly what happened when Selzer told McKimson to get rid of the Tazmanian Devil. If it wasn't for Jack Warner himself demanding the character's revival, we wouldn't even have the Tazmanian Devil around today. If anyone out there who knows something about him as a person or even knew him personally, any input about him posted here in the comments section would be greatly appreciated. For now though, I'll point out just where I've seen those binary opposites in his cartoons.

Upon reading the first one, I'm sure many people would say, "but don't all the Bugs Bunny cartoons deal with defying authority no matter who was directing?" Maybe so, but I've noticed that McKimson seemed to take it up a notch or two. Many of the characters who defied authority in his cartoons would give an uneasy "ARE YOU NUTS??!!" feeling to the audience.
Take for instance Rebel Rabbit (c. 1949). Bugs is so mad at the Game Commissioner for making the rabbit bounty a measily 2 cents that he commits terrorist acts all over America. Not even Bob Clampett's Bugs would do that. Another good example is Gorilla My Dreams (c. 1948). After Bugs is adopted by a childless family of gorillas, papa gorilla (with a W.C. Fields child-hating complex) takes Bugs for a "walk". While alone in the jungle, the gorilla displays a brute strength capable of much destruction. However, Bugs is unimpressed by this and even taunts the beast further by hitiing him with a shovel. I remeber reading somewhere that McKimson's philosophy about Bugs' character is "He's the kind of guy who would walk up to a lion, hear that mighty roar, and then slap him." McKimson certainly put that philosophy to the test with his first Bugs cartoon Acrobatty Bunny (c. 1946). Bugs deals with a circus lion in that very fashion.
Of course, the most pure example of Bugs' anti-authoritarian stance is his Tazmanian Devil films. Notice how 3 cartoons Devil May Hare (c. 1954), Bedevilled Rabbit (c. 1957), and Dr. Devil and Mr. Hare (c. 1964) all start off with forest animals running for cover as the Tazmanian Devil approaches. This establishes him as King of the Forest for the most part. And even in Bill of Hare (c. 1962), even though Taz starts off in a crate on a boat, the Australian sea captain tells his shipmates to be careful unloading him onto the dock. The reverence in the captain's voice also gives the Tazmanian Devil this authority. All this makes the situation seem more deadly as he approaches Bugs. And yet, Bugs takes care of Taz as he had with the lion and the gorilla in the previous cartoons I mentioned. (Yes, the Tazmanian Devil also appeared with Daffy in Ducking the Devil (c. 1957) except there Daffy is made a coward and immediately starts running. Although, Daffy does confront the Devil when he finds out that music soothes his temper or when Taz-Boy tries to take his money).
But it wasn't just Bugs who defied authority in McKimson's toons. A delightful cartoon called The Unexpected Pest (c. 1956) deals with a poor mouse putting up with Sylvester's self-appointed authority (though he has to answer to a higher authority that being the owners of the house). Sylvester overhears the homeowners talking about getting rid of him since there are no more mice for him to catch. So, Sylvester makes a secret deal with a mouse he finds outside. As long as the mouse runs into the room and scares the wife everyonce in a while and then let's Sylvester beat on him, he won't get eaten. At first the mouse is a slave to this arrangement because he doesn't want to die. But, later on the mouse does some thinking of his own. In his own words, "it seems that you need me to keep your happy home which now makes me boss around here." From this point on, it is Sylvester at the mercy of both the mouse and the homeowners. In The Honey-Mousers (c. 1956), after Ralph and Ed have had no end of trouble trying to evade a cat in the kitchen, Alice simply walks right up to that feline, pulls off a whisker and yells, "BEAT IT!!" Surprisingly, the cat retreats. Also, check out two of Speedy's drunk friends Pablo and Fernando in Tobasco Road (c. 1957). While walking home drunk through a dark alley they come across a huge cat. Instead of running away like they should, they actually pick a drunken fight with him. Without Speedy's help though, they surely would have been eaten.
And, of course, this element is all too clear in the Foghorn Leghorn series, ESPECIALLY the ones where Henery Hawk is present. Initially, it's clever rearrangement of the predator/prey set-up found in many WB toons.

Technically Henery is the predator and Foghorn Leghorn is the prey. But, since Foghorn is so boisterous and Henery is so naive, that relationship becomes moot. Essentially, the whole thing turns into a young infant with "more nerve than a bum tooth" at the mercy of an out-spoken rooster who rules the barnyard (at the expense of that guard dog even). This sort of relationship is there no matter who else approaches Foghorn's authority whether is Egghead Jr. (first seen in Little Boy Boo (c. 1954)), Miss Prissy (first encountering Foggy in Lovelorn Leghorn (c. 1951)), that lint-pickin' weasel (first seen in Plop Goes the Weasel (c. 1953)) or any other one shot characters like the fox (in Fox Terror (c. 1957)), Banty the beatnik (in Banty Raids (c. 1963)) or Kid Banty (in Sock a Doodle Doo (c. 1952)). And, of course, this element is present in Mcimson's creation Speedy Gonzales. His first cartoon Cat-Tails For Two (c. 1953) has Speedy laughing as he deals with two cats that are caricatures of Stienbeck's Of Mice and Men characters.
Interestingly, in many of McKimson's toons, the authority figure to be defied is the father. This is most obvious in the cartoons where he gave Sylvester a son, namely Sylvester Jr. But there are some other toons that deal with this as well such as Sleepy Time Possum (c. 1951), Gorilla My Dreams (c. 1948), and Strife With Father (c. 1950). And then there's Henery Hawk's relationship with his father. In Walky Talky Hawky (c. 1946) the toon starts off by portraying Henery's father as a mellodramatic goof who reads Looney Tunes comics (while Henery reads the more risque Esquire magazine). In The Foghorn Leghorn (c. 1948), Henery actually has an arguement with his father about hunting chickens. When his father puts his foot down saying "You're NOT going and that's a that.", Henery defies his father and goes along anyway. There was even a father/son relationship between Foghorn Leghorn and Henery in Strangles Eggs (c. 1961), which Foggy had previously gone through with Egghead Jr. Compare that with the ralationship between Henery and his dad in You Were Never Duckier (c. 1948). In that, Chuck Jones gives the two a very loving and fuctional relationship. (By the way, Chuck Jones as well as some other Looney Tunes directors are also auteurs. But that's a subject for a whoooooole other post.)
From this evidence, I'm guessing that Bob McKimson may have had an estranged relationship with his own father. Unfortunately, I only have the evidence of the toons to support that. Anyone who can shed some light on this apsect of his life, please comment here.

Okay, I've typed quite a bit about the defiance of authority aspect of McKimson's toons. Now, I'd like to talk about the other element: "cronie"-ism. Basically, along with those characters defying authority, there are other characters that are either hapless victims or willing slaves to the authority. In one example Hurdy Gurdy Hare (c. 1950) Bugs disciplines a monkey for trying to embezzle his hurdy gurdy money. Right away, the little monkey runs off to a nearby zoo and tells a big gorilla about the nasty thing that rabbit did to him. The gorilla thusly breaks through the bars and goes after Bugs as the little guy cheers him on. In the Tazmanian Devil series, the animals that run and/or hide from him are the cronies, in that they show him respect by getting out of his way. In Good Noose (c. 1962), the captain of the ship has a little cronie parrot who helps the captain give Daffy a rough time. In Hippety Hopper (c. 1949), a little mouse becomes great friends with Hippety after he saves his life. They both go on to defeat Sylvester and a bulldog. In Bell Hoppy (c. 1954), Sylvester will do ANYTHING to get into the Loyal Order of Alley Cats Mouse and Chowder Club no matter how many times they blackball him. In McKimson's Speedy Gonzales cartoons, the mice act as absolute cronies to him. In Tobasco Road (c, 1957), they throw a party in his honour.
In Tortilla Flaps (c. 1958) they OOH and AAH as he plays ping-pong with himself. In Message to Gracias (c. 1964) however there is another authority figure with many cronies around him. There is a mouse leader named El Supremo with girls all around him and all his servants address him while on their knees.
But, of course, the most blatant and gushing cronie of them all is Sylvester Jr.

No matter how badly Sylvester gets thrashed around by Hippety Hopper, a dwarf eagle (Cat's Paw c. 1959) or a loud southern lady (Claws in the Lease c. 1963) Junior is always cheering for his pop. That's the main reason Junior must put a bag over his head every once in a while. His love and respect for his father is so great that seeing him thwarted is very traumatizing to him.

Of course, in order for Robert McKimson to be a full fledged auteur, one has to look at his entire filmography, including the cartoons he directed at the DePatie-Freleng studio. One such example is Pink Da Vinci (c. 1975). Here we have the oh so great Leonardo Da Vinci painting the Mona Lisa but with an ugly frown on her face. Leo is quite satisfied with that. However, the Pink Panther knows better. So, when Da Vinci isn't looking, Pink rubs off that ugly frown and replaces it with the famous smirk we know today. Leo's friend only manages to see this painting when Pink's smile is on it. He calls it a masterpiece and gives Leo a big hug. However, when Leo sees that it is not his frown on there, he throws a tantrum and instructs his friend to leave. When both Da Vinci and Pink go back and forth changing the mouth, things escalate until Leo lands himself in jail. It's then the Pink Panther who submits the finished Mona Lisa to the Louvre museum and gets the fame.
Well, that's quite a bit of examples for now. Any more and I think blogspot would burst. But, feel free to add any more observations of McKimson's binary opposites in the comments section along with any other info on McKimson like I asked before.

Wednesday, July 05, 2006

King-Sized Kyle

The above graphic is a picture of Kyle Marshall that I have drawn. I've seen some pictures of him on various blogs portraying him as a huge fat guy. However, when I last saw him back in animation school a few years ago he was just a little shrimp. Oh well, if he's put on some weight by now, I can go along with that. (Keep in mind I haven't seen this guy in person or even a photograph of him in like 3 years. I'm not 100% certain I drew him accurately. I just scribbled down what I remember. Those big frizzy things on his face are his eyebrows by the way. Or should I say his 'unibrow'?)

For those who don't know, Kyle and I have had many many arguements on the internet. Some were minor squabbles that got resolved quickly and some that were drag-'em-out verbal brawls that went on for posts and posts with absolutely no resolution. But, y'know, of all the people I've tangled with online, he's been the only one who has actually backed his statements up with something. Like a competant lawyer, he presents the arguement as well as the proof. Everyone should take this lesson from Kyle. You can shut someone up much faster with a well presented fact than you can just by saying "SHUT UP SHUT UP SHUT UP......." constantly. I live by that, and so should you.

Anyway, if you know Kyle, leave a comment. I'd like to know if I 'captured' him or not.

Saturday, July 01, 2006

Happy Canada Day!!!

Yes indeed a happy 139th birthday to this great nation known as Canada. Bring out the fireworks and wave those maple leaves proudly.

I'm sure that some of you Yanks or anyone in any other country who's reading this blog is thinking that "Oh, Canada made their birthday July 1st so that they can ride on the coat-tails of America's July 4th birthday." NOT SO!!!

The men known now as "the Fathers of Confederation" (one of which was our first Prime Minister Sir John A. MacDonald *pictured above*) had a meeting in Charlottetown in September of 1864 and drew up the British North America Act. This act brought together the regions of Upper Canada and Lower Canada to create one new province of Canada. Later, provinces were established within Canada those being Ontario, Quebec, Nove Scotia, New Brunswick, and Prince Edward Island.
The BNA act was brought to the attention of Queen Victoria in England on March 29, 1867. After much thought, she declared Canada it's own dominion on July 1, 1867. Canada was not seperate from England. We still had to confer with England's parliament through a Governor General. But, for the most part, we were a self-governing nation from that day forth and that is what we Canadians celebrate today.

Oh, and this picture explains why Canada's land mass stretches from Nova Scotia to as far as Vancouver like it does:

Blogger makes this picture blue somehow. >:(

Any Canucks or those who know and enjoy Canucks definitely post a comment on this blog shouting HAPPY BIRTHDAY or WHOOPIE, EH!