Herr Meets Hare

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Herr Meets Hare
Merrie Melodies/Bugs Bunny series
Directed by Friz Freleng
Produced by Edward Selzer
Story by Michael Maltese
Voices by Mel Blanc
Music by Carl W. Stalling
Animation by Gerry Chiniquy
Jack Bradbury
Manuel Perez
Virgil Ross
Richard Bickenbach
Layouts by Hawley Pratt
Backgrounds by Robert Gribbroek
Studio Warner Bros. Cartoons
Distributed by Warner Bros. Pictures
The Vitaphone Corporation
Release date(s) January 13, 1945 (United States)
Color process Technicolor
Running time 7 minutes 15 seconds
Language English
Preceded by Stage Door Cartoon
Followed by The Unruly Hare

Herr Meets Hare is a 1945 Merrie Melodies cartoon directed by Friz Freleng. This short, coming a few months before the collapse of the Third Reich, was one of the last major wartime cartoons from Warner Bros. Pictures. It was released 4 months and 27 days before the death of Adolf Hitler. Herr Meets Hare also set up for two important facets of Bugs Bunny: It was the first time that Bugs would realize he "should have made a left toin at Albukoykee",[1] and the extended dance sequence in the middle of the film would later be retooled by Chuck Jones into his Bugs Bunny cartoon What's Opera, Doc?.

Synopsis[edit]

The cartoon opens with a faux Walter Winchell voice discussing the end of Germany, saying that "Germany has been battered into a fare-thee-well", and musing about where the high leadership, and "Fatso" Göring in particular has gone. The scene soon cuts to the Black Forest, where Hermann Göring, in bemedalled lederhosen, is "soothing his jangled nerves" marching while on a hunt. Nearby, a familiar furrow in the ground appears, with a hole at the end.

Bugs pops out of the hole, and sees no sign of the Black Forest on his map. (Variants on this comment would be used in later cartoons as the lead-in to the joke that Bugs while tunneling did indeed turn wrong somewhere in New Mexico, usually by not taking a left turn at Albuquerque, this cartoon being the first time Bugs uses the line, "I KNEW I 'shoulda' made that left 'toin' in 'Albakoikie'"). Bugs asks Göring about the directions to Las Vegas, oblivious to his location. Göring is almost tricked into going to Las Vegas but then quickly realizes that he's being tricked and replies "Las Veegas? Why, there is no Las Veegas in Chermany!" For once genuinely alarmed by his mistaken destination, Bugs hightails it, saying "'Joimany'? Yipe!", with Göring chasing after him shooting at him with his musket.

A few chase gags go by in which Bugs insults the integrity of Göring's medals by bending one with his teeth. Göring, suckered into bending one himself, declares them ersatz and mumbles all sorts of anti-Hitler sentiments ("Oh, how I hate that Hitler swine, that phony führer, that...").[2] Bugs masquerades as Adolf Hitler using a bit of mud, and faces the surprised Göring. Göring disappears offscreen in a flash to change into his Nazi uniform adorned with all sorts of medals. After the usual Nazi salute, Bugs berates him in faux German as he strips Göring of his medals (Klooten-flooten-blooten-pooten-meirooten-tooten!) and even his belt, causing Göring to "kiss" in reverence, saying in order: "Look! I kiss mein Führer's hand. I kiss right in der Führer's face!", the joke being the wildly popular song of the time of the same name composed by Oliver Wallace and played by Spike Jones's band, and the subject of a rival short animated subject from the Walt Disney Studios. Afterwards, Göring exclaims, "Oh, I'm a bad flooten-boy-glooten!", a variant on Warner cartoons' frequently-cited Lou Costello catchphrase, "I'm a baaad boy!".

Later, when the gig is up, Bugs rides in on a white horse, dressed as Brünhilde, from Wagnerian opera, to the tune of the "Pilgrims' Chorus" from Tannhäuser. Göring, entranced, responds by dressing up as Siegfried. The two dance, before Bugs once again makes a fool of Göring and escapes (a scene later re-used in the Bugs and Elmer cartoon What's Opera, Doc?).[3]

Eventually, Göring gets a hawk to capture Bugs. Bugs asks "Do you think he'll catch me, doc?", to which Göring replies "Will he catch you? He'll have you back here faster thank you can say Schicklgruber." (Schicklgruber was the original surname of Hitler's father, Alois.) The hawk imitates Jimmy Durante[citation needed] and captures Bugs in a bag. Göring brings the bag to Hitler, who is playing solitaire in front of a map depicting the decline of Fortress Europe.[2] Göring identifies the captive in the bag as "Bugsenheimer Bunny" (as opposed to "Weisenheimer" or "wise guy") to der Führer.[4] As Herr Hitler talks of the great rewards he is going to pile upon Göring for this act of heroism, he peeks inside the bag and is shocked. Göring goes and looks inside the bag as well, to be shocked as well. Out of the bag comes Bugs dressed as Joseph Stalin—complete with an enormous pipe and a large moustache—staring back at them.[2] Göring and Hitler flee. As the cartoon ends, Bugs glances back at the camera and asks, in a Russian accent, "Does your tobacco taste different lately?" citing an ad slogan of that era for the "Sir Walter Raleigh" pipe tobacco manufactured by the Brown & Williamson Tobacco Company.[2]

Analysis[edit]

Bugs dresses as Hitler to assert control over his German opponent. This is a repetition of a scene from Bugs Bunny Nips the Nips, where Bugs dresses up as a Japanese general.[5]

Daniel Goldmark cites the film as a significant precursor to What's Opera, Doc? (1957) and a source for its visual imagery. After running off, Bugs re-enters the scene dressed as Brünnhilde. The costume includes a blonde wig with braids and a Viking-style helmet. Bugs rides on a white horse, visually based on the Clydesdale horse. Musically, the scene is accompanied by the Pilgrim's Chorus from the Tannhäuser (1845).[3]

In response, Hermann Göring changes clothes. His lederhosen is replaced by a long brown loincloth. He wears a horned-type Viking helmet. The horns grow in size as if erect, as he lustfully gazes at "Brünnhilde". The duo dances to the tune of two waltzes by Johann Strauss II: Vienna Life and You and You, the latter originating in Die Fledermaus (1874).[3]

The entry of Bugs and his white horse into the scene is repeated in What's Opera, Doc?. The dance with the male suitor is, however, changed from a slapstick-rendition of the waltz to a refined ballet.[3] The motivation of the dancers also changes. Göring is "lost in the moment" and follows his partner's lead. In the later film, the dance is part of an artistic performance.[3]

Both films were written by Michael Maltese, which may account for the similarities. In the older film, the musical references were intended as a criticism of Germany, Richard Wagner serving as "a suitable musical backdrop". The second film makes Wagner and opera itself as its targets.[3]

Critical reaction[edit]

Like other American movies, Herr Meets Hare was available to German prisoners of war in the United States. The Germans did not like it; prisoner of war Hans Goebler said, "You saw Hermann Göring standing there full of decorations, then all of a sudden a rabbit showed up and took all the decorations off, and stuff like that. And we didn't care for that."[6]

Controversy[edit]

As with many of the World War II-themed cartoons put out by the major studios, Herr Meets Hare was placed under an unofficial ban from broadcast or video distribution by Warner Bros. and other rights-holders (including Turner Broadcasting and AOL Time Warner). In 2001, Cartoon Network had planned on showing each and every Bugs Bunny cartoon made so far as part of its yearly "June Bugs" festival. However, AOL Time Warner refused to allow the broadcast of Herr Meets Hare, on the grounds that the cartoon was offensive (by today's standards) as it dealt with the Nazis in a joking manner. The cartoon did see limited broadcast (unlike more objectionable cartoons such as Bugs Bunny Nips the Nips) on a special one-hour episode of ToonHeads about cartoons from the World War II era (coincidentally, Bugs Bunny Nips the Nips was shown, albeit in clips while a voiceover explained how grotesque and cruel the Japanese stereotypes in cartoons tended to be in that era). It has also appeared on Turner Classic Movies' Cartoon Alley as recently as January 20, 2007.

Availability[edit]

See also[edit]

References[edit]

Footnotes[edit]

  1. ^ "Herr Meets Hare". BCDB. 2013-01-10. 
  2. ^ a b c d Shull, Wilt (2004), p. 181-182
  3. ^ a b c d e f Goldmark (2005), p. 143-145
  4. ^ During this final sequence, realistic hand prints are visible on a wall map. These prints represent a signature of background artist Robert Gribbroek, who is not credited in this film.
  5. ^ Lerner (2010), p. 220
  6. ^ Waters, Michael R., Mark Long, and William Dickens. Lone Star Stalag: German Prisoners of War at Camp Hearne. 2004, Texas A&M University Press. ISBN 978-1-58544-545-5, page 27.

External links[edit]

Preceded by
Stage Door Cartoon
Bugs Bunny Cartoons
1945
Succeeded by
The Unruly Hare