Reviewed by Colin Jacobson (November 22, 2020)
Back in 1940, a certain wascally wabbit made his first formal appearance. We celebrate that occasion via this three-disc Bugs Bunny 80th Anniversary Collection Blu-ray set.
Across those platters, we get a whopping 60 shorts from that 1940 debut through 1991, though all but the last one come from the span of 1940 to 1964.
For each short, I’ll offer the following information: the year in which it was produced, the director, and what kind of extra audio track if offers (if any). A “C” designates an audio commentary, while an “AAP” connotes an “alternate audio program”. I’ll also provide a quick synopsis of the cartoon plus my number grade on a scale of 1 to 10.
Elmer’s Candid Camera (1940, C. Jones - C): Elmer Fudd decides to take up wildlife photography. Along the way he runs into troubles with a rabbit who looks and acts – but doesn’t sound – like a certain legendary Bunny.
A proto-Bugs appeared earlier than Camera, and it’s too bad we don’t see any of those shorts here. Still, Camera becomes his formal launch, and it’s a terrific first salvo. 9/10.
A Wild Hare (1940, F. Avery - C): Elmer continues to hunt rabbits and he butts heads with a rabbit who looks, acts and sounds like a certain legendary Bunny. With traditional catchphrases in tow, this short delivers much closer to “classic Bugs” than its predecessor. 9/10.
Hold That Lion, Please (1942, C. Jones - C): To prove his status as “king of the jungle”, a lion hunts rabbits and gets more than he bargained for when he meets Bugs. The Bugs side works but the lion seems like a less than stellar antagonist. 7/10.
Bugs Bunny Gets the Boid (1942, R. Clampett - C): A mama vulture sounds out her kids to fetch some eats. Slow-witted Killer resists but she forces him to at least bag a little rabbit. He attempts to sic Bugs, with the usual results. 9/10.
Super-Rabbit (1943, C. Jones – C): Bugs gains superpowers not unlike those possessed by a certain Man of Steel. Though the story veers toward the usual “Bugs Vs. Rabbit-Hater” motif, the Bunny’s abilities add a fun twist. 8/10.
Jack-Wabbit and the Beanstalk (1943, I. Freleng): As he steals enormous carrots, Bugs confronts an unhappy giant. This large antagonist reminds me a little of the lion from the earlier short, but the plus-sized setting adds creativity. 7/10.
What’s Cookin’, Doc? (1944, R. Clampee, I. Freleng – C): Bugs demands a recount when he doesn’t win the Oscar. Doc deviates from the usual “Bugs battles a foe” template and mocks Hollywood in a delightful manner, though it loses some points because a large chunk reuses the Little Hiawatha short. 6/10.
Bugs Bunny and the Three Bears (1944, C.Jones – C): The Three Bears lack for food, but they plan to trap – and apparently eat – Goldilocks. With only carrots as bait, they instead lure Bugs. He then needs to evade their attempts to bag him. 10/10.
Hare Ribbin’ (1944, R. Clampett – C): A posh pooch hunts a particular rabbit. Given how many of these shorts come with the same basic concept, it seems remarkable how much creativity the Warner crew churned out of them. Ribbin’ delivers laughs, though I admit I don’t love the vaguely Russian canine antagonist. 7/10.
The Old Grey Hare (1944, R. Clampett – C): Frustrated with his inability to slaughter Bugs, Elmer gets a view of his distant future – in the year 2000! This becomes a terrific twist on the standard Bugs/Elmer battle. 10/10.
Baseball Bugs (1945, I. Freleng - C): When the Gas-house Gorillas obliterate the hometown Tea Totallers on the diamond and Bugs heckles them, the monsters force him to play them on his own. 9/10.
Hair-Raising Hare (1945, C. Jones – C): An evil scientist tries to lure Bugs to his lair so his horrible monster can eat the rabbit. Naturally, Bugs prefers to avoid this fate. 10/10.
Racketeer Rabbit (1946, I. Freleng): When Bugs holes up in a remote house, he runs up against gangsters. With spoofs of Edward G. Robinson and Peter Lorre, we find a delightful take on the genre. 9/10.
Bugs Bunny Rides Again (1947, I. Freleng - C): When Yosemite Sam terrorizes an Old West town, only Bugs stands up to him. The two engage in an ever-escalating battle. 9/10.
Haredevil Hare (1947, C. Jones – C): As scientists send a rocket into space, they recruit Bugs to man it against his will – until he sees the mass of carrots stocked in it, that is. He soon lands on the moon, where he attempts to stop a mission by Marvin the Martian to destroy the Earth. 10/10.
Hot Cross Bunny (1948, R. McKimson): Scientists attempt to swap the brain of “Experimental Rabbit No. 46” with that of a chicken. This mostly revolves around a doctor’s attempts to corral Bugs, but it becomes reasonably entertaining. 7/10.
Hare Splitter (1948, .I. Freleng): Bugs dresses up like his would-be girlfriend Daisy to ward off a competitor for her affection. Though this essentially pits Bugs against an antagonist he must outsmart, the premise gives it juice. 8/10.
Knights Must Fall (1949, I. Freleng): Medieval Bugs offends Sir Pantsalot and finds himself stuck in a jousting duel. Again, this short uses the standard theme, but the Olde Dayes theme brings a fun twist. 8/10.
What’s Up Doc? (1949, R. McKimson - C): Movie-star Bugs gets a request for his life story. He tells this tale as we watch flashbacks to his childhood and career on his path to stardom. 7/10.
8 Ball Bunny (1950, C. Jones – C): Bugs attempts to help a lost penguin find his way to the South Pole. I always appreciate a shift from the usual “Bugs avoids predators” theme, and this one becomes a cute endeavor. 8/10.
Rabbit of Seville (1949, C. Jones - C): On the run from a gun-toting Elmer Fudd, Bugs ends up as part of an opera production. Bugs performs and lures Elmer into the piece as well. 8/10.
Rabbit Every Monday (1951, I. Freleng – C): Yosemite Sam stalks Bugs. No gimmicks this time, as we find a pretty basic short in which Bugs just attempts to avoid his death. While not an original theme, the short manages laughs. 7/10.
The Fair Haired Hare: (1951, I. Freleng – C): When Sam builds a house atop Bugs’ hole, the two butt heads. This devolves to the usual “Sam tries to kill Bugs” motif, but it comes with some clever twists along the way. 7/10.
Rabbit Fire (1950, C. Jones – C, M): Elmer Fudd hunts rabbits, and Daffy Duck does his best to lead the little guy to Bugs’ door. The Bunny fends off the attacks and tries to send Fudd to bag Daffy instead. 9/10.
His Hare Raising Tale (1951, I. Freleng): Bugs tells his nephew a slew of tall stories about his life. While entertaining, Tale relies largely on clips from old shorts, so it loses points for a lack of much new material. 4/10.
Hare Lift (1952, I. Freleng): Sam mistakes Bugs for an Air Force pilot and forces him to take him on an aerial escape. That’s certainly a twist on the usual battle, and it brings some entertaining escapades. 8/10.
Upswept Hare (1953, R. McKimson): When Elmer uproots a special plant, he accidentally brings Bugs home with him. Inevitably, this leads to Elmer’s usual attempts to murder Bugs, but the scenario brings life to the old theme. 8/10.
Robot Rabbit (1953, I. Freleng): Tired of Bugs’ attempts to steal his carrots, Elmer sends a mechanical bunny to take care of him. Though more of the usual “foe assaults Bugs” material, the automaton brings new twists. This one works if just for the sight of the mechanoid’s attempts to woo “Robot Bugs”: the rabbit with a bucket on his head. 8/10.
Captain Hareblower (1954, I. Freleng): Cowboy Sam becomes Pirate Sam, and he battles with Bugs at sea. Because each character occupies his own vessel, this one puts Bugs and Sam on more equal footing in terms of firepower, and it manages some lively escapades. 8/10.
No Parking Hare (1954, R. McKimson): A construction worker attempts to evict Bugs from his hole in the ground. This one can feel a little more Road Runner than usual, as the worker stands in for Wile E. Coyote, but with plenty of verbal humor, it works. 7/10.
Yankee Doodle Bugs (1954, I. Freleng): As his nephew tries to learn about American history, Bugs gives him the “real story” – one that involves rabbits. A nice break from the usual “Bugs avoids death” scenario, it offers a clever spin on its topics. 9/10.
Lumber Jack-Rabbit (1954, C. Jones – C): Bugs meets Paul Bunyan and spars with his dog. This one feels a bit reminiscent of Beanstalk. While not a rehash, it seems a bit less creative than I’d like. 5/10.
Baby Buggy Bunny (1954, C. Jones – C, M): A bank robber impersonates a baby to escape the authorities. When his ill-gotten gains accidentally wind up in Bugs’ rabbit hole, the crook uses his infant shtick to fool the Bunny and retrieve his cash. 5/10.
Hare Brush (1955, I. Freleng): Corporation CEO Fudd believes he’s a rabbit and manages to swap places with Bugs, who eventually comes to think he’s Elmer. No one can call this one derivative, as it takes some quirky twists. 8/10.
This Is A Life? (1955, I, Freleng): A spoof of TV”s This Is Your Life, Elmer leads us through a look at Bugs’ history, much to Daffy’s jealous chagrin. This acts as an excuse to feature clips from old shorts, though it comes with enough “new” content to redeem it – sort of. 5/10.
Rabbitson Crusoe (1956, F. Freleng): Sam finds himself stranded on a desolate island, and he envisions rabbit stew when a shipwrecked Bugs arrives. This takes us back to the old “Bugs attempts survival against foe” theme, but the Robinson Crusoe inspiration adds cleverness. 7/10.
Napoleon Bunny-Part (1956, F. Freleng): Bugs takes a wrong turn and ends up in… 19th century France, where he wrangles with Emperor Napoleon Bonaparte. The short eventually explains this wacky concept, and you’ll find a reasonably entertaining historical farce. 6/10.
Half-Fare Hare (1956, R. McKimson): As Bugs takes a train from LA to Chattanooga, two hungry vagrants try to eat him. The big spin here comes from the fact Bugs’ antagonists act as doppelgangers of the two male leads from The Honeymooners. The short seems to assume this gimmick will carry it, but it doesn’t, so we end up with a lackluster cartoon. 4/10.
Piker’s Peak (1957, F, Freleng): Sam volunteers to climb a mountain for a prize, but Bugs attempts to beat him to the top. That offers a decent spin on the usual competition, even if it still involves Sam’s attempts to harm Bugs. 7/10.
What’s Opera, Doc? (1957, C. Jones - C, M): To the strains of Wagner, Elmer attempts to “kill the wabbit”. An operatic battle ensues. 8/10.
Bugsy and Mugsy (1957, F. Freleng): Bugs ends up in a gangsters’ hideout and he attempts to teach them that crime doesn’t pay. This short puts Bugs in the driver’s seat more than usual, and it comes with fun twists as Bugs messes with the outlaws’ heads. 8/10.
Show Biz Bugs (1957, F. Freleng - C): Bugs and Daffy play a musical show together. The Duck becomes irritated because the Bunny receives top billing and all the adulation. 8/10.
Hare-Less Wolf (1958, F. Freleng): Badgered by his wife, a forgetful wolf tries to shoot Bugs – if he can remember his mission. Even in the wild world of Looney Tunes, it seems weird that an animal predator goes out with a rifle to stalk his prey. We’re used to humans like Sam and Elmer, but a wolf?
The wolf’s absent-minded nature manages a twist on the usual “Bugs outfoxes murderous rival” aspect, but I still think it’s more illogical than it needs to be. 6/10.
Now, Hare This (1958, R. McKimson): A wolf tries to catch Bugs. Now there’s an original concept! “Hare” uses Little Red Riding Hood as a turn on the theme, but it’s not a great twist. 5/10.
Knighty Knight, Bugs (1958, F. Freleng - C): King Arthur needs a champion to retrieve a magical sword, and he forces court jester Bugs to do the deed. Hey, I’m all over shorts that alter the standard template, even if Medieval Sam makes this one more traditional that it might initially appear. 7/10.
Hare-Abian Nights (1959, K. Harris): Bugs winds up in an Arabian kingdom and he needs to entertain the sultan to survive. Unfortunately, this just becomes a framework for a short mainly composed of clips from older cartoons. 3/10.
Backwoods Bunny (1959, R. McKinsom): Bugs finds himself in the Ozarks and he needs to contend with ravenous buzzards. This feels like a country-fied twist on Bugs Bunny Gets the Boid. 6/10.
Wild and Wooly Hare (1959, F. Freleng): Yosemite Sam takes on all gunslinging rivals, and Bugs confronts him. This smacks awfully closely to Bugs Bunny Rides Again, though it finds some new gags along the way. 5/10.
Bonanza Bunny (1959, R. McKinson): Set during the late 19th century Klondike Gold Rush, Bugs strikes it rich and fends off bandit Blacque Jacque Shellacque. Jacque comes across as a French-Canadian Yosemite Sam, though he seems wilier. Bonanza makes Bugs less clever than usual, but he still remains smart enough to outwit his opponent. 6/10.
People Are Bunny (1959, R. McKinson): When a TV station offers $1000 for the first rabbit kill of the season, Daffy tries to use Bugs for the cash. Though this uses the standard “Bugs tricks a foe” theme, the presence of Daffy gives it zing, and other twists add to the fun. 8/10.
Person to Bunny (1960, F, Freleng): Bugs appears on a TV interview show, and his comments offend a vengeful Elmer. “Cedric R. Burroughs” acts as a stand-in for Edward R. Murrow, and Daffy steals the show when he tries to take over the broadcast. 7/10.
Rabbit’s Feat (1960, C. Jones – C): Wile E. Coyote stalks Bugs. I guess this counts as a “crossover”, one of five times Buys and Wile E. faced each other. It’s an uneasy match, especially because it allows the normally mute Coyote to speak. 5/10.
From Hare to Heir (1960, F. Freleng – C): “Duke of Yosemite” Sam stands to win a fortune if he can stay calm around Bugs for an extended period of time. Given Sam’s temper, his attempts to remain sedate in the face of Bugs’ provocative moves creates mirth. 7/10.
Compressed Hare (1961, C. Jones, M. Noble): Wile E. Coyote tries to cook and eat Bugs. The fourth of their five collaborations, these two still feel like an awkward fit, though Bugs’ methods of attack on Wile E. manage some creative moments. 6/10.
Prince Violent (1961, F. Freleng, H. Pratt): Viking Sam terrorizes a medieval castle and Bugs attempts to stop him. The setting brings some flavor, as does the presence of an elephant (!) as Sam’s sidekick. 6/10.
Shishkabugs (1962, F. Freleng): Sam cooks for a king who demands Hasenpfeffer – or rabbit stew – and attempts to use Bugs as the main ingredient. What’s with the Olden Dayes theme of these shorts? It’s not a great concept, and “Shishkabugs” doesn’t elevate the concepts. 5/10.
The Million Hare (1963, R. McKimson): Bugs and Daffy race to win a cash prize offered by a TV show. The Bunny and the Duck always combined well, so this becomes a pretty good romp. 7/10.
The Unmentionables (1963, F. Freleng): Federal Agent “Elegant Mess” pursues gangsters. A spiritual heir to Racketeer Rabbit, this one obviously acts to capitalize on the popularity of TV’s Untouchables, but it doesn’t match up to the earlier organized crime-related short. 5/10.
False Hare (1964, R. McKimson): Big Bad Wolf and his nephew attempt to bag Bugs. This short reprises the wolves from Now, Hare This, and they still don’t seem like winners. 5/10.
Blooper Bunny (1991, G. Ford, T. Lennon - C): As his friends create a birthday message for Bugs, we get rough footage from behind the scenes. Blooper seems to go with the Roger Rabbit view of toons as actors, so we get a view of them “off-screen”. 6/10.