Wednesday, April 25, 2007


Velociman, being the Lazy Turd Thoughtful Individual he is, is attempting to kick-start a new meme over at his place.

The Theme o’ th’ Meme is Cartoons of our Childhood...the ones that made a deep and lasting impression...the ones that may have damaged our psyches irreparably...the ones that we may even laugh at today.

I was a Warner Brothers cartoon disciple. Once I grew old enough to disdain the treacly output of the Disney studios, I began to develop a keen appreciation for the Warner’s cartoon shorts, especially the ones produced in the early 1940’s under the direction of geniuses like Bob Clampett and Tex Avery (before the latter’s defection to MGM, where he also did some inspired work). It was obvious which cartoons were made for showing in movie theatres and which were made for TV: The made-for-TV cartoons all sucked. Cheap-looking.

Boomers get nostalgic for old Hanna-Barbera ’toons. Huckleberry Hound. Yogi Bear. Quick Draw McGraw. Not me. I though that stuff was shite (though I watched it avidly anyway). But the vintage Warner’s stuff was jaw-droppingly good.

The Warner Brothers characters had an edge that was lacking in Mickey Mouse and his cohorts. They were sassy. Obnoxious, even. And Bugs Bunny was the best of them all.

One of my all-time favorites is Hare Ribbin’, a 1944 short in which Bugs tangles with a dog modeled on a popular comedian of the time, Bert Gordon, who played a character known as the Mad Russian. Complete with Gordon’s red shock of Brilloesque hair, his accent, and his catchphrases (“How doooo you do?” and “Do you mean it?”), the dog runs afoul of Bugs and spends most of the movie chasing him underwater (!) - with Bugs attired appropriately in a mermaid costume. It was directed by Bob Clampett and animated by Robert McKimson - an unbeatable combination.

The movie is rarely seen uncut, thanks to a violent ending in which the dog, convinced that he has killed Bugs, tears out chunks of his hair and remorsefully wails, “Oh, what have I done? I killed the little rabbit! I don’t deserve to live! Ohhhhh, I wish I were dead! I wish I were dead!”

“Ohhh, I wish I were dead!”

To which Bugs retorts, stealing a Mad Russian catchphrase, “Nyeeeeh, do you mean it?” He then hands the dog a pistol and the dog shoots himself in the head. The short closes with the dog sitting up and saying “This shouldn’t even happen to a dog!

But the original ending - seen only at the end of the rare Director’s Cut - is even more violent: Bugs, instead of handing the dog the pistol at the end, simply blows the dog away. You won’t see that one on TV these days. Ever.

Try to imagine that happening to one of Mickey Mouse’s friends. Walt Disney would’ve shit a peach pit if one of his animators came up with it.

For a brief time, you could see this cartoon on YouTube, but Warner Brothers, citing copyright infringement, made them take it down.

All is not lost, however. On this page at Toon Zone, you can find a link to the Real Thing - just scroll down to “Hare Ribbin’ (Director’s Cut).” [You’ll need RealPlayer to view it.]

What cartoons did you love as a kid?

[Tip o’ th’ Elisson fedora to John Kricfalusi for the screenshots.]

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