What's Cookin' Doc?

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What's Cookin' Doc?
Merrie Melodies (Bugs Bunny) series
What's Cookin' Doc Lobby Card.PNG
Lobby card
Directed by Robert Clampett
I. Freleng (clip from Hiawatha's Rabbit Hunt)
Produced by Leon Schlesinger
Story by Michael Sasanoff
Voices by Mel Blanc
Robert C. Bruce (uncredited)
Music by Carl W. Stalling
Animation by Bob McKimson
Rod Scribner (uncredited)
Studio Leon Schlesinger Productions
Distributed by Warner Bros. Pictures, Inc.
Release date(s) January 8, 1944 (USA)
Color process Technicolor
Running time 8:08 (one reel)
Language English

What's Cookin' Doc? is a 1944 Warner Bros. cartoon in the Merrie Melodies series, directed by Bob Clampett and starring Bugs Bunny. The title is a variant on Bugs' catch-phrase "What's up Doc?". It also hints at one of the scenes in the picture.

Synopsis[edit]

The plot centers on the Academy Awards presentation. The action begins with actual color film footage of various Hollywood scenes (edited from A Star Is Born), narrated by Robert C. Bruce. It leads up to the Big Question of the evening: Who will win "the" Oscar? The film shows the stereotypical red carpet arrivals of stars, as well as a human emcee starting to introduce the Oscar show.

Bugs learns that James Cagney won the Oscar instead of him

At this point the film switches to animation, with the shadow of a now-animated emcee (and now voiced by Mel Blanc) continuing to introduce the Oscar, and Bugs (also Mel Blanc's voice, as usual) assuring the viewer that "it's in da bag; I'm a cinch to win". Bugs is stunned when the award goes instead to James Cagney (who had actually won in the previous year's ceremony, for Warner's Yankee Doodle Dandy). Shock turns to anger as Bugs declares the results to be "sa-bo-TAH-gee" and demands a recount.

Bugs then tries to make his case by showing clips from Hiawatha's Rabbit Hunt (which includes clip of Hiawatha attempting to "cook" the rabbit) as proof of his allegedly superior acting (an inside joke, as the cartoon had actually been nominated for an Oscar and lost). He hurls a set of film cans off-screen and tells someone named "Smokey" to "roll 'em!"[1] Bugs tells the audience that these are some of his "best scenes". Immediately a "stag reel" (with the title card depicting a grinning stag) starts to roll, and the startled Bugs quickly stops it and switches to the right film.

Finally, he pleads with the audience, "What do you say, folks? Do I get it? Or do I get it?" (echoing Fredric March's drunken appeal to the Academy Award banquet audience in A Star Is Born). The emcee asks the audience (in an affected nasal voice), "Shall we give it to him, folks?" and they yell, "Yeah, let's give it to him!" whereupon they shower Bugs with fruits and vegetables (enabling him to briefly do a Carmen Miranda impression)... and an ersatz Oscar labeled "booby prize", which is actually a gold-plated rabbit statue. Bugs is so pleased at winning it, he remarks, "I'll even take youse to bed wit' me every night!" The statue suddenly comes alive, asks in a voice like that of radio character, Bert Gordon, "Do you mean it?", smooches the startled bunny, and takes on an effeminate, hip-swiveling pose. The screen fades out, Clampett's famous vocalized "Bay-woop!" is heard, and the "That's all, Folks!" card appears.

Analysis[edit]

The subtext of the short is the self-consciousness of Warner Bros. Cartoons about their lack of success at the Academy Awards. The studio had yet to win an Academy Award for Best Animated Short Film.[2] The clips from Hiawatha's Rabbit Hunt (1941) allude to this subtext. It was a former nominee for the award and had lost to Lend a Paw (1941).[2]

The live-action film footage derive from the film A Star Is Born (1937).[2] Footage depict the footprints of the stars at the Chinese Theatre, and nightlife at the Trocadero and the Cocoanut Grove.[2]

The premise of the film is that Bugs Bunny is competing for the Academy Award for Best Actor. He demonstrates his acting ability by transforming into Jerry Colonna, Bing Crosby, Cecil B. DeMille, Katharine Hepburn, and Edward G. Robinson.[2] As the announcer lists the winner's traits, Bugs transforms to illustrate that they all apply to him: dramatic acting, refined comedy, skill at character roles, and prowess as a screen lover. He demonstrates his character acting by becoming Frankenstein's monster and his romantic acting by changing into Charles Boyer and romancing a carrot.[2]

Bugs campaigns for the award by addressing the people in the movie audience. His methods of campaigning include dispensing cigars, drum beating, and glad-handing. He thus earns a booby prize, a second-class award reminiscent of the miniature Oscars awarded to Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs (1937).[2] The implication is that awards are not won by the most talented and deserving, but those capable of lobbying.[2]

The short includes a subtle reference to World War II. There is a newspaper headline announcing the Academy Awards. A sub-headline on the same page reads "Jap [Japanese] Cruiser Blown Up". This is a reference to the contemporary Imperial Japanese Navy.[3]

Edited versions[edit]

Availability[edit]

The short occurs in its entirety in the documentary Bugs Bunny: Superstar Part 1, which is available as a special feature on Discs 1 and 2 of the Looney Tunes Golden Collection: Volume 4, although it has not been refurbished or released independently in that series. It also appears as a bonus short on Warner Bros. Home Entertainment Academy Awards Animation Collection disc 3.

Sources[edit]

References[edit]

Footnotes[edit]

  1. ^ According to IMDB, this is a reference to Schlesinger cameraman/projectionist Henry "Smokey" Garner. Director Bob Clampett later confirmed this in a later 1969 Funnyworld magazine interview. That small clip is now used frequently in the special features for the first volume of the Looney Tunes Golden Collection.
  2. ^ a b c d e f g h Crafton (1998), p. 116
  3. ^ Shull, Wilt (2004), p. 177
  4. ^ Even though this was on the list of "banned" Bugs Bunny cartoons, What's Cookin' Doc? was aired on Cartoon Network on June 2, 2001, late at night. [Source: http://www.davemackey.com/animation/wb/1944.html]

See also[edit]

Preceded by
Little Red Riding Rabbit
Bugs Bunny Cartoons
1944
Succeeded by
Bugs Bunny and the Three Bears