"You can't tell where one animator leaves off and the other begins."
September 20, 2008 6:33 AM   Subscribe

56 years ago today, Rabbit Seasoning hit movie theaters for the first time. This cartoon classic is the work of Mike Maltese, (whose centennial birthday was celebrated earlier this year) a cartoon writer whose work is arguably far more well known than his name, having brought the world works such as One Froggy Evening, What's Opera Doc?, the downright surreal Duck Amuck and many others. He even makes an appearance in the live action/animation blend "You Ought To Be in Pictures" (as the security guard at 3:50). Despite his relative obscurity, Maltese downplayed his own role: "In the cartoon business, no one can take the credit for the finished product."
posted by Marisa Stole the Precious Thing (32 comments total) 37 users marked this as a favorite
Rabbit Seasoning is one of a trilogy of cartoons, ranked by director Chuck Jones in his autobiography Chuck Amuck as among his favorite cartoons he made at Termite Terrace. The other two are Rabbit Fire and Duck, Rabbit, Duck! They each focus on a Bugs vs. Daffy vs. Elmer dynamic. They all are among the best cartoons WB produced.
posted by JHarris at 7:11 AM on September 20, 2008

I just rented a Looney Tunes Daffy/Porky compilation DVD for my son and we both ended up laughing away...
posted by KokuRyu at 7:16 AM on September 20, 2008

Just noticed, in the entry for Rabbit Fire on the 'Pede:
Network television channels (particularly ABC, CBS, WB, FOX, and the syndicated "Merrie Melodies Show") have edited this cartoon (and the other two cartoons in the "hunting trilogy"—Rabbit Seasoning and Duck! Rabbit, Duck!) to remove the many times Daffy is shot in the face by Elmer. While ABC and "The Merrie Melodies Show" would simply replace each occurrence with a frozen shot of Bugs looking on while the gunshot can be heard, CBS and WB would cut the entire scene of Daffy getting shot (sound and all).

This is far and away worse than the usual cartoon censorship. It's quite aggravating.
posted by JHarris at 7:35 AM on September 20, 2008

Cutting all the scenes of Daffy getting shot? That's criminal. And it would leave a cartoon that was what -- 30 seconds? Including the opening credits?
posted by PlusDistance at 7:45 AM on September 20, 2008

He even makes an appearance in the live action/animation blend "You Ought To Be in Pictures" (as the security guard at 3:50)

I've heard that voice too in some of the early cartoons!
posted by vacapinta at 7:55 AM on September 20, 2008 [1 favorite]

PlusDistance writes "And it would leave a cartoon that was what -- 30 seconds? Including the opening credits?"

No. They generally cut the opening credits too - I haven't seen opening credits on any Saturday WB cartoons since the mid 80s or so, near as I can remember. There's essentially no credit given to the people that created these shorts, despite the fact that many of them are award winners. Lately all that's present are MTV-style clip names + occasionally the director in the lower corner, but that's it.

My plan for a kid? Buy some DVD sets of these classics, plus some MGM stuff, and some of the old Disney shorts (the Donald Duck, Goofy and Mickey collections, most likely). Let the rugrat watch those, and skip the Saturday morning overly-edited lame stuff, not to mention the crass, poorly animated 30-minute trading card commercials that pass for cartoon entertainment today.
posted by caution live frogs at 7:59 AM on September 20, 2008 [2 favorites]

I've heard that voice too in some of the early cartoons!

The voice you hear is that of Mel Blanc - they dubbed it in over Maltese's. Even the three studio people you see later on (played by Looney Tunes animators) have their voices dubbed by Blanc. Schlesinger's is the only recorded voice in the piece.
posted by Marisa Stole the Precious Thing at 8:18 AM on September 20, 2008 [2 favorites]

It's Saturday morning, and I'm delighted to find Bugs, Daffy and Elmer once more on my screen.

I'm no longer a kid, and the screen is a computer monitor... but that feeling of a Saturday morning full of cartoons just washed over me. And I'd forgotten how good that feeling was.
posted by avoision at 8:27 AM on September 20, 2008 [8 favorites]

Wabbit Season!
posted by device55 at 8:28 AM on September 20, 2008

DAFFY: If you're a duck, then I'm a stinky skunk!

BUGS: (holds up sign) ::Stinky Skunk Season::


DAFFY: You're dethpicable...
posted by briank at 8:37 AM on September 20, 2008

The Looney Tunes Golden Collection is an excellent series of four-disc box sets of uncut, unedited, and digitally restored original cartoons. (Volumes one, two, three, four, and five. Volume six, apparently the last Golden Collection set, comes out next month.)
posted by kirkaracha at 8:56 AM on September 20, 2008 [3 favorites]

It is frightening that I can quote almost every word of "Rabbit Seasoning" by heart.


Thanks for posting this.
posted by BitterOldPunk at 9:49 AM on September 20, 2008 [1 favorite]

I was going to write something about the dates of the songs in One Froggy Evening, but then I thought: this is the internet; surely someone else has covered this in detail. And of course I see that's true -- here.

In short, though: Michigan J. Frog was thrown into the cornerstone on April 16, 1892, but about half of the songs he sings were written later than 1892. "Hello Ma Baby", for example, was written in 1899. One was written as late as 1930. How did he learn them?

Yes, yes, I realize I'm trying to talk sense about a magic singing frog in a cartoon. But, still.

My hypothesis is that he heard the songs played on piano, gramophone, or radio and coming through the box and stone.
posted by pracowity at 9:58 AM on September 20, 2008

Obama and Stephanopolis do the "Duck Season! Rabbit Season" bit.
posted by 445supermag at 10:09 AM on September 20, 2008

Pronoun trouble...
posted by ROU_Xenophobe at 10:56 AM on September 20, 2008 [1 favorite]

I always thought that Michigan J. Frog was a sort of everlasting, necessary evil in the world. I didn't know the term at the time... but Lovecraftian. He exists to drive men mad, because it is necessary to the fabric of the world that madmen exist.
posted by sonic meat machine at 10:57 AM on September 20, 2008 [2 favorites]

Excellently timed. As avoision said above, this is a bright burst of happiness reminding me of quiet mornings before the parent(s) got up, seeing how long we could watch the long block of Bugs Bunny & Friends before we had to start chores.

And considering he did soooo many of my very favourite cartoons and I had *no idea*, I'm even properly schooled.

posted by batmonkey at 11:00 AM on September 20, 2008

By the way, Rabbit Seasoning in Polish.
posted by pracowity at 11:40 AM on September 20, 2008 [1 favorite]

I cannot help but weep with laughter as the would-be impresario has to kick Michigan J. Frog's legs out with his fingers because he's mysteriously stopped his singing and dancing right when it was most needed, at the talents agent's office.

I can't even guess how many times I've injected, "I demand you shoot me now!" into a conversation.

These cartoons were my best friends when I was a kid.
posted by SaintCynr at 11:47 AM on September 20, 2008 [1 favorite]

I'm sitting here watching these in my pajamas, on a cool Saturday morning, in my mid-30s. It takes me back to such a happy place. I remember sitting cross-legged on the floor in front of our enormous HeathKit, struggling with the fine tuning so's to get the picture just right.

It was indeed a simpler time. Or I was simpler, maybe, unmarred by life experience. The Warner Bros cartoons were seeming fluff -- a pleasant way to spend Saturday morning, before the folks were up and before the chores had to be undertaken -- but they were the Shakespeare of childhood entertainment. They were smart and complex. I can see that now. They're much better than anything my hypothetical children could find if they were surfing through my 150+ channels right now, as I type this.

And so it pisses me off to no end that the modern reading of these cartoons, for many idiots who have forgotten the magic of a Saturday morning, would be "Oh no! Gun violence!" [BLAM! Stupid Daffy gets shot *again*. Will he never learn?] Or "Oh no! Beastiality and homosexuality!" [Dastardly Bugs dresses up as a girl and tricks unwitting Elmer into -- GASP -- kissing him! That's two sins in one! Protect traditional marriage!!!11!]

I really hate what we've become, and sometimes I want to go back.
posted by mudpuppie at 12:28 PM on September 20, 2008 [3 favorites]

I can't count the times my mom would intone "We seem to be having some pronoun trouble..." when I was a kid and would use the plural when referring to a chore that had been delegated solely to me.

My very favorite Bugs Bunny cartoon, by the way, is Rabbit Hood. "Don't you worry, never fear...."
posted by Oriole Adams at 12:40 PM on September 20, 2008

I wouldn't be too down-hearted about modern cartoons. Ed, Edd & Eddy is genius and Foster's Home for Imaginary Friends is pretty sweet too. Samurai Jack? Wow.

That said, I demand that you shoot me now.
posted by jackiemcghee at 12:43 PM on September 20, 2008 [1 favorite]

No, wait 'til you get home.
posted by wendell at 2:02 PM on September 20, 2008

This early Merry Melodies stuff broke me up when I was a kid and later as a pot smoking teenager. I am 50 something now and it still has the same effect.
I watch it now with my 12 year old daughter and we both whoop it up whenever we get the early Bugs stuff of this vintage.
Rabbit Seasoning is one of the best.
posted by dougzilla at 2:26 PM on September 20, 2008

If you're looking for fun
You don't need a reason
All you need is this post
It's good
posted by LinusMines at 3:02 PM on September 20, 2008

Duck Season.
posted by AsYouKnow Bob at 3:35 PM on September 20, 2008

Wabbit Season!

Duck Season!
posted by spoobnooble at 3:40 PM on September 20, 2008

I absolutely must mention the various Super NES games made by Sunsoft based on the Looney Tunes license. Rabbit Rampage borrows elements from a whole slew of classic shorts and casts players as Bugs Bunny. Players must navigate Bugs through a series of levels while the unseen animator paints new hazards and traps around him. Enemies include Elmer Fudd, Yosemite Sam, Wile E. Coyote, Crusher, Bruiser, Taz, the bull from that short where Bugs was a matador, and many other familiar characters. The final boss battle is against the animator himself (guess who?).

Duck Dodgers in the 24 1/2 Century stars Daffy Duck set against Marvin the Martian's plans of world conquest. Porky Pig appears as a sidekick and those instant martians that spring to life when wet are recurring foes. Road Runner's Death Valley Rally puts players in the role of the Road Runner as part of a road race. The race is secondary though; the idea is to avoid Wile E. Coyote's many traps and gadgets including the big green flying bat costume, rocket skates, and other gimmicks from the original shorts. The end of each world ends in a boss fight against one of the coyote's really large inventions, such as a catapult or large coyote robot.

After cranking out these games Sunsoft had plans for more, but financially collapsed before both could be complete. Porky Pig's Haunted Holiday was released, but there's not much of a game to it. Porky must work his way through a series of levels based on the short where he stays at a "haunted" hotel. It feels unfinished, and considering the company's fate, it probably is. Sunsoft published as many as it could afford at the time and then sold the license to rival Acclaim. Acclaim swapped out the Sunsoft logos for their own and re-released it otherwise unchanged.

Two more Looney Tunes games were canceled after Sunsoft's troubles. Sylvester and Tweety was advertising some some magazines of the era, but seems to only exist as a technical demo. A Road Runner sequel was also in the works, but this time the player was cast as the coyote himself in pursuit of the road runner. Warner Bros. ruled that at no time in a road runner game could the coyote actually catch and keep the road runner, so it was rather pointless to create a game where the "hero" could never actually win.
posted by Servo5678 at 4:50 PM on September 20, 2008 [1 favorite]

Let me check...umm...yes! It must have been Mike Maltese who gave the world the Illudium Q36 Explosive Space Modulator!
posted by Kronos_to_Earth at 9:06 PM on September 20, 2008 [2 favorites]

This FPP and thwead awe fuww of awesomeness. Thanks, MStPT!
posted by not_on_display at 11:13 PM on September 20, 2008

That was great, Kronos—thanks!
posted by languagehat at 8:47 AM on September 21, 2008

That made my morning. Thanks!
posted by Space Kitty at 11:41 AM on September 21, 2008

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