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|Merrie Melodies (Bugs Bunny) series|
|Directed by||Bob Clampett|
|Produced by||Leon Schlesinger|
|Story by||Warren Foster|
|Voices by||Mel Blanc|
|Music by||Carl W. Stalling|
Virgil Ross (uncredited)
Thomas McKimson (uncredited)
Robert McKimson (uncredited)
Phil Monroe (uncredited)
|Studio||Leon Schlesinger Productions|
Warner Bros. Pictures |
The Vitaphone Corporation
|Running time||8 minutes (one reel)|
Falling Hare is a 1943 Warner Bros. cartoon directed by Robert Clampett, and starring Bugs Bunny in the Merrie Melodies series. As with many Bugs Bunny cartoons, the title is a play on words; "falling hair" refers to impending baldness, while in this cartoon’s climax the title turns out to be descriptive of Bugs’s situation (a hare falling / crashing to earth).
This cartoon opens with the title credits over the strains of “Down by the Riverside”, then into an extended series of establishing shots of an Army Air Force base, to the brassy strains of “We’re in to Win” (a World War II song also sung by Daffy Duck in Scrap Happy Daffy two months before). The sign at the base reads "U.S. Army Air Field", and below that is shown the location, the number of planes and number of men, all marked "Censored" as a reference to military secrecy. Beneath those categories, the sign reads "What men think of top sergeant", which is shown with a large white-on-black "CENSORED!!", as the language implied would not pass scrutiny by the Hays Office.
Bugs is found reclining on a piece of ordnance next to a bomber plane, idly reading Victory Thru Hare Power (a spoof of the 1942 book). Bugs Bunny, leaning on a blockbuster bomb, is seen laughing uproariously; he turns to the audience and shares what he is reading: an accusation that gremlins wreck American planes through "di-a-bo-lick-al saa-boh-tay-jee," a notion that Bugs finds ludicrous. A little orange humanoid with airplane wings on a large blue helmet scuttles by and begins striking the bomb with a mallet, whistling "I've Been Working on the Railroad." Noticing the creature's lack of success, Bugs offers to take a shot at the bomb and takes a long hard swing, stopping immediately before making contact in sudden realization that he had nearly been hoodwinked. He then ponders if the creature in question were a gremlin, and the gremlin affirms with a shout: "It ain't Vendell Villkie!"
The gremlin knocks Bugs out with a monkey wrench, and when the gremlin revives him, Bugs initially responds as if he were Little Matilda ( from the Abbott and Costello radio show). Quickly regaining consciousness, a now infuriated Bugs gives chase, repeatedly getting slighted by the gremlin, which includes repeated strikes with a monkey wrench and laughing to the tune of "Yankee Doodle." Upon chasing the gremlin inside a bomber, Bugs finds himself locked from the outside, and then the gremlin takes the plane to the air, unbeknownst to Bugs. Bugs manages to burst out of the exit door and narrowly escapes plunging to his death when he realizes the plane is airborne (realizing he has made himself a jackass as the Private Snafu theme plays). He manages to get back in, only to slide right out the other door due to strategically placed banana skins; when the gremlin opens the door again, he finds a terrified Bugs clinging to it with his heart pounding "4F" (Army code for drastically limiting medical condition, hospitalization required, and/or ineligible to be inducted via the draft).
By this point, the gremlin is flying the plane through a city with large skyscrapers. Bugs rushes into the cockpit, takes control of the airplane, rolls it vertically, and flies through an extremely narrow slot between the towers to avoid what seemed to be an inevitable impact.
The plane goes into a tailspin, its wings ripping off during its descent, with only the fuselage remaining, making Bugs both airsick and terrified. The gremlin, believing his work is done, nonchalantly awaits the plane's crash. However, the plane sputters to a halt, half a short distance above the ground and hanging in mid-air, defying gravity. Both Bugs and the Gremlin then casually address the audience: the gremlin apologizes for the plane's fuel depletion, while Bugs points to a wartime gas rationing sticker on the plane's windshield and remarks: "Yeah. You know how it is with these A cards!"
Falling Hare went into production under the title Bugs Bunny and the Gremlin. Walt Disney was developing a feature based on Roald Dahl’s novel The Gremlins, and asked other animation studios not to produce any films involving gremlins. However, Warner Bros. was too far into production on this cartoon and Russian Rhapsody to remove the references to gremlins, so Leon Schlesinger merely re-titled the cartoons as a compromise.
Release and reception
Because of the cartoon’s public domain status, it can be found on budget compilations in lower quality prints, while Warner Home Video issued a restored print on Looney Tunes Golden Collection: Volume 3, with optional audio commentary by John Kricfalusi and Bill Melendez (Melendez was one of the animators on the episode). In 1989, it was included in the MGM Home Video release Bugs & Daffy: The Wartime Cartoons.
Elements from the short have been used in other Warner Bros works.
- Footage of this cartoon's climax was incorporated as a flashback into a later Bugs Bunny cartoon, His Hare-Raising Tale (1951). Bugs, narrating to his nephew Clyde, describes himself as a World War II test pilot who narrowly escaped death in a near-crash (fortunately, as in Falling Hare, he ran out of gas). There is no mention of the Gremlin character, and one of Bugs' screams ("Yow-ooo-ooo-ooo-ooo!!") from earlier in the cartoon is inserted into the soundtrack. The scene fades out as it zooms in on the stalled aircraft suspended inches above the ground.
- Black-and-white footage from the cartoon was featured in the second trailer for Gremlins 2: The New Batch (directed by Joe Dante). Though no footage was used in the theatrical cut of the film, a clip from the cartoon appeared in the VHS version.
- The Gremlin nemesis makes two reappearances in the “Tiny Toon Adventures”. In "Journey to the Center of Acme Acres", the Gremlin appears (with several look-alikes) as the cause of earthquakes in Acme Acres after their gold is stolen by Montana Max. Clampett is given an acknowledgement in the credits for their design. In the special “Night Ghoulery”, a singular Gremlin antagonizes Plucky Duck in the segment titled "Gremlin on a Wing" (a spoof of the Twilight Zone episode "Nightmare at 20,000 Feet").
- It also made a brief cameo in "Plane Pals" (episode from Animaniacs) as a passenger.
- The scene in which a flattened Bugs mutters "I’m only 3½ years old" and rolls on the floor flat as a pancake is used in "Who Bopped Bugs Bunny?" (episode from “Tiny Toon Adventures”).
This cartoon had a scene where a 2-engine USAAF bomber was flown directly at a skyscraper in what looked to be a certain impact. Two years after its release, a USAAF B-25 Mitchell bomber was inadvertently flown into the Empire State Building on a foggy day.
In popular culture
The climactic scene in Falling Hare is described in detail in the novel The Long Dark Tea-Time of the Soul.
- List of films in the public domain in the United States
- The Gremlins
- List of Bugs Bunny cartoons
- Shull, Wilt (2004), p. 61
- Army Regulation 40-501: Standards of Medical Fitness (pp75,84)
- (An 'A card' was the lowest priority, entitling 3-4 gallons of gasoline per week)
- "Gremlins 2: The New Batch". Movie-Censorship.com. 2010-05-11. Retrieved 2015-08-08.
This article includes a list of references, related reading or external links, but its sources remain unclear because it lacks inline citations. (February 2008) (Learn how and when to remove this template message)
- Shull, Michael S.; Wilt, David E. (2004). "Seeing Red, White 'n' Blue:1943". Doing Their Bit: Wartime American Animated Short Films, 1939-1945. McFarland & Company. ISBN 978-0786481699.
- Van Ripper, A. Bowdoin (2002). "Acceleration". Science in Popular Culture: A Reference Guide. Greenwood Publishing Group. ISBN 978-0313318221.
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