It’s a grandiose claim to say that one movie program has something for everyone. But if that phrase were ever true, it’s true for “The Bugs Bunny Film Festival.”
Consisting of two 105-minute programs, respectively titled “Fest of the Best” and “Taz Gone Looney,” the festival boasts 31 cartoons that feature all the classic stars of Warner Bros. animation.
You know who we’re talking about. Opening today for a one-week run at the Spokane Valley Cinema 12, the festival boasts the likes of that carrot-gnawing rascal named Bugs Bunny and his arch foe Elmer Fudd.
You’ll also find the arrogant, vain Daffy Duck; the small and seemingly defenseless Tweety Bird, whose chief task is avoiding the sharp teeth of the overly sibilant Sylvester the Cat; the always angry Yosemite Sam; the whirling-dervish Tasmanian Devil. The stuttering Porky Pig. Plus many others.
And if you’re willing, not to mention able, to sit through all 30 cartoons (average length seven minutes), you’re likely to notice two things.
One, Mel Blanc is a vocal genius. The man whose voice uttered some of the best-known cartoon taglines - “What’s up, Doc?” and “Th-thth-th-that’s all f-f-f-folks” - provided the voices for more than 3,000 shorts during his career.
And each character, from Tweety Bird to the great Bugs himself, is a distinct original.
Second, the earlier shorts, even if they aren’t framed perfectly for modern screens, are better. Besides boasting original scripts (written by the likes of Michael Maltese, Rich Hogan and Warren Foster), they’re more fully realized productions - from story development to the basic presentation of sight gags.
Among the festival offerings, several cartoons are rightfully considered classics. “A Wild Hare,” for example, was directed in 1940 by Tex Avery and is the seminal blueprint for the many subsequent meetings between hunter Elmer Fudd and prey Bugs. “Birdy and the Beast,” directed in 1944 by Robert Clampett, offers up the first appearance of Tweety Bird (paired off against an anonymous cat, a precursor for Sylvester).
Directed in 1957 by Charles M. “Chuck” Jones, “What’s Opera Doc?” was voted No. 1 cartoon in the world by a thousand animation specialists. In it, Bugs and Elmer Fudd play out their hunter-vs.prey script to the tune of Wagner (Arthur Q. Bryan singing “Kill the Wabbit” is a moment to remember).
The later cartoons, affected no doubt by rising costs, are cruder, one-note creations. While cartoons, especially the Warner Bros. kind, always have centered on conflict, many of the early efforts at least tried to blend conflict with cleverness.
Thus Elmer chases Bugs to the operas of Wagner or Rossini, Bugs torments Daffy by taking over the artist’s pen (“Duck Amuck”) or Tweety turns the table on Sylvester by drinking a Dr. Jekyll potion.
This wasn’t always the case. One-note jokes such as those involving the Road Runner and Wile E. Coyote, or Bugs and Yosemite Sam, get old fast. They became only more limited when, thanks to the influence of television, the animation standards plummeted.
This festival, then, provides viewers a chance to experience the whole range of Warner Bros. cartoons. It’s a way for older viewers to enjoy some cartoons that they’ve never even seen on the big screen It’s also a perfect way for parents to entertain their children for three hours and change (Note: each program requires a separate admission).
As I wrote up above, there’s something for everyone.
, DataTimes ILLUSTRATION: Photo
MEMO: This sidebar appeared with the story: “The Bugs Bunny Film Festival” ***-1/2 Location: Spokane Valley Mall Credits: Directed by Chuck Jones et al, starring Bugs Bunny, Elmer Fudd, Tweety Bird, Sylvester the Cat, Daffy Duck, Yosemite Sam, Tasmanian Devil, Pepe Le Pew, Road Runner, Wile E. Coyote, Marvin the Martian, Michigan J. Frog, Porky Pig, Foghorn Leghorn and more. Running time: 1:45 each of two programs Rating: G