Rhapsody Rabbit

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Rhapsody Rabbit
RhapsodyRabbit-TC.png
Directed byI. Freleng
Produced byEdward Selzer (uncredited)
Story by
StarringMel Blanc
Music byCarl W. Stalling
Animation by
Layouts byHawley Pratt
Backgrounds byTerry Lind
Color processTechnicolor
Production
company
Distributed by
Release date
  • November 9, 1946 (1946-11-09)
Running time
7:33
LanguageEnglish

Rhapsody Rabbit is a 1946 American animated comedy short film in the Merrie Melodies series, directed by Friz Freleng and featuring Bugs Bunny.[2] The short was originally released to theaters by Warner Bros. Pictures on November 9, 1946.[3] This short is a follow-up of sorts to Freleng's 1941 Academy Award-nominated short Rhapsody in Rivets, which featured the "Hungarian Rhapsody No. 2" by Franz Liszt. The "instrument" used to perform the Hungarian Rhapsody in Rhapsody in Rivets is a skyscraper under construction, while this short features Bugs playing the piece at a piano, while being pestered by a mouse.

In 1946, film critic James Agee wrote in The Nation that the short is "the funniest thing I have seen since the decline of sociological dancing," saying, "The best of it goes two ways: one, very observant parody of concert-pianistic affectations, elegantly thought out and synchronized; the other, brutality keyed into the spirit of the music to reach greater subtlety than I have ever seen brutality reach before."[4]

Rhapsody Rabbit was the first cartoon to be broadcast on Cartoon Network when the channel launched on October 1, 1992.

Plot[edit]

The cartoon opens with a bar of "Merrily We Roll Along", followed by a segment of the "lively" portion of Wagner's Siegfried funeral march, as Bugs walks onstage to applause and prepares to play the grand piano. Throughout the cartoon he runs through a large assortment of visual gags while continuing to play the Hungarian Rhapsody. The first gag involves an (off-screen) audience member who coughs and hacks loudly just as Bugs is poised to play. When it happens a second time, Bugs pulls a revolver out of his tailcoat and shoots the audience member. After blowing the smoke from the barrel and returning the gun to his pocket, Bugs resumes the concert.

Bugs Bunny prepares to play the piano.

Although the film is mostly pantomime, Bugs speaks a few times. At one point he is interrupted by the ring of a phone, timed to echo a short fluttering strain that Bugs is playing at that moment. The phone is inside the piano: "Eh, what's up doc? Who? Franz Liszt? Never [heard] of him. Wrong number." When playing a repeated, descending three-note sequence in the middle of the piece, which happens to be the same three-note sequence (Mi-Re-Do) notably used in the unrelated Rossini aria "Largo al factotum" (from The Barber of Seville, which would be spoofed in a later Bugs cartoon), Bugs accompanies his piano playing by singing, "Fi-ga-ro! Fi-ga-ro!"

A mouse appears and pesters Bugs the rest of the way, although the first ("slow") half of the piece is played nearly "straight", with just a few small gags. Bugs stops at the very short pause in the piece, acknowledging the applause of the audience. Before he can begin the "fast" part of the piece (where the gags accelerate), the mouse instigates a major musical shift, to a "Boogie-woogie" number. Bugs joins in, although he eventually traps the mouse (which responds by playing "Chopsticks" while still trapped) and seemingly disposes of the pest with dynamite; when the mouse begins quietly playing "Taps" and stops 1 note short, Bugs peeks inside and the mouse "plays" the final note by hitting Bugs with a mallet. Bugs then returns to playing the Rhapsody. As the pace picks up, he speaks to the camera (for the last time in the cartoon): "Look! One hand! ... NO hands!" The camera pulls back, and he is deftly playing the piano keys with his toes.

Nearing the end of the Rhapsody, he is in shock after turning to the finale page which consist of scrambled, quick playing, nearly impossible to read notes after which he takes off his shirt, oils his hands, and prays. Then, preparing to play the intense part, he is startled to hear the frenzied finalé playing, behind him. It is the mouse, complete with tie and tails, playing a toy piano that plays like a normal-sounding piano. Cut back to Bugs after the full-orchestra finalé, and he disgustedly plays the three single notes that actually end the piece, and then mutters inaudible profanity which can be lip-read as the short ends.

Cast[edit]

Mel Blanc as Bugs Bunny and Coughing Audience Member

Availability[edit]

The short is available on Looney Tunes Golden Collection: Volume 2, with an optional commentary track by musical historian Daniel Goldmark. It is also available on volume 2 of Looney Tunes Spotlight Collection, as well as the WarnerMedia Entertainment video streaming service HBO Max.

Plagiarism dispute[edit]

The same year Warner Bros. released Rhapsody Rabbit, MGM produced a very similar Tom and Jerry cartoon called The Cat Concerto, which features Tom being distracted by Jerry while playing in a concert.[5] Several of the gags are identical in both cartoons, and both cartoons use Hungarian Rhapsody No. 2 as the piece being played.[6] The Cat Concerto won an Academy Award for Best Animated Short Film.[5]

Both MGM and Warner Bros. accused each other of plagiarism, after both films were shown in the 1947 Academy Awards Ceremony.[5] Technicolor was accused of sending a print of either cartoon to a competing studio, who then plagiarized their rival's work.[5] This remains uncertain even today: though Rhapsody Rabbit has an earlier MPAA approval number and release date, MGM's cartoons took longer to make.[5] The massive similarities could be coincidental.[5] The controversy was mentioned in an episode of the Cartoon Network anthology series ToonHeads.[7][8]

See also[edit]

References[edit]

  1. ^ "Warner Cartoon Breakdowns #1!". Retrieved December 19, 2020.
  2. ^ Beck, Jerry; Friedwald, Will (1989). Looney Tunes and Merrie Melodies: A Complete Illustrated Guide to the Warner Bros. Cartoons. Henry Holt and Co. p. 173. ISBN 0-8050-0894-2.
  3. ^ Lenburg, Jeff (1999). The Encyclopedia of Animated Cartoons. Checkmark Books. pp. 60–61. ISBN 0-8160-3831-7. Retrieved June 6, 2020.
  4. ^ Agee, James (September 14, 1946). "Films". The Nation: 305.
  5. ^ a b c d e f Pianist Envy, Thad Komorowski, February 26, 2013
  6. ^ Rhapsody Rabbit (1946) Trivia, imdb.com
  7. ^ Rhapsody Rabbit VS The Cat Concerto
  8. ^ The Great Cartoon Controversy, tv.com

External links[edit]

Preceded by
The Big Snooze
Bugs Bunny Cartoons
1946
Succeeded by
Rabbit Transit