Sunday, 3 March 2013

254. Hare-Um Scare-Um (1939)

Warner cartoon no. 253.
Release date: August 12, 1939.
Series: Merrie Melodies.
Supervision: Ben Hardaway and Cal Dalton.
Producer: Leon Schlesinger.
Starring: Mel Blanc (proto-Bugs Bunny/John Sourpuss/Dog).
Story: Melvin Millar.
Animation: Gil Turner.
Musical Direction: Carl W. Stalling.
Sound: Treg Brown (uncredited).
Synopsis: Hunter John Sourpuss is disgusted of the soaring meat prices--and so he goes to hunt himself a rabbit. But, he ends up targeting a screwy rabbit who just pesters him.

The new redesign of the proto-Bugs Bunny as the final is similar enough to the final design of Bugs Bunny as we would see a year later in A Wild Hare. However, it has been over discussed and debated that this cartoon was the first to star Bugs Bunny...but I'm not going to count it here. Although he has been named that in public material as well as Charlie Thorson's model sheet--but I don't want it over discussed here, I'm still going to refer the character as still the proto-Bugs; and it is!

Of course, this is Hardaway's attempt on using the rabbit character again, but has redesigned him - as designed by Charlie Thorson who named him 'Bugs' Bunny' in the model sheet. With the cartoon's importance asides; this is probably the most well-known of the Hardaway-Dalton cartoons they directed for that reason. The cartoon has also had a notorious history for its ending eliminated since 1939; and it wasn't until 2009 Dave Gerstein managed to REVEAL the original lost ending to the cartoon - as well as ending the rumour of decapitated heads rolling down a hill. The original version will be reviewed here, as it was recently released to the public on the Looney Tunes Platinum Collection, Volume 2.

So let's start the epic cartoon: - the cartoon begins as we find our antagonist character, John Sourpuss reading a newspaper headline. The newspaper headline reads: Meat Prices Soar. John Sourpuss throws the newspaper to the ground fuming of the meat prices that have increased.

He bellows, 'They can't do this to me! I'm a citizen! And a taxpayer. Who do they think they are?!' He then walks over to collect his shotgun and owes, 'I'll show 'em. I'll get my own meat!'.

He walks behind the curtains to change into his hunter outfit, and whistles for his dog to arrive. It turns out the dog was resting under the armchair that John Sourpuss had just sat on. Jesus, and the dog isn't even suffocated? He then asks him, 'You and me are going hunting! Rabbit hunting! I'll show 'em!'. They leave the house to begin their hunting. This is already a neat introduction on the character: John Sourpuss; and we certainly get a lot of his personality in a matter of 30 years; who is seen as selfish, tight on money and would just kill animals for that cause. The opening sequence I suspect looks a bit like Rod Scribner's timing and the way Sourpuss uses his arm expressions are very similar to his Tortoise Wins By a Hare animation.

The next scene (where you can hear Stalling's cue for A-Hunting We Will Go used for hunting scenes) John Sourpuss and his dog are on the hunt. His dog is already sniffing for rabbit tracks and in the path he manages to find tracks. John Sourpuss turns and then watches his dog follow the tracks.

Then we find our introduction to the proto-Bugs Bunny; Happy Rabbit...I mean, the rabbit (I guess). You can really tell this is Thorson's design, and it certainly does have a Disney-esque look to it (Max Hare anyone??).

We find the rabbit is already stamping rabbit tracks with a stamper, and is already screwy from the first moment; by masquerading the tracks to trick the hunter. The rabbit then stamps tracks on top of and under the rock. The rabbit chuckles crazily and then rushes out of the scene. The dog arrives at the spot and sniffs on top of the rock, and then digs under. Some funny animation where the dog's tail is holding the spot, which oddly feels realistic and has weight, even if it is impossible. He turns to find the rabbit but the rock drops and the dog then makes a yelp that has given him a fright.

The dog then hides under a log to avoid and prevent himself from pain. The rabbit then pops out on top of the hole and covers the dog where we see a 'Guess who?'. Of course; that would've been a hilarious gag of the time, as it was really goofy--but then again, Tex pulled it off much better when he made the first official Bugs

The dog barks on the first guess, 'Guess again' asks the rabbit. The dog barks again, and the rabbit responds: 'You're getting warmer'. As if the dog barks 'its the rabbit' we won't know, but the rabbit is crazy enough to shout 'You're correct absolutely correct' and jumps around like a lunatic.

The rabbit then ends up pushing the log where the dog is still inside, and the log ends up falling down a hill. Interesting camera movement of the background tilting to make it as though the hill is really falling, instead of having it animated through perspective animation. The log continues to fall, as it continues to bump a few times whilst rolling. There is a stone sitting in the middle of the path, where the rock strikes and lands out of the scene and crashes into a tree with the log cracked open and the dog dazed.

The dog gets up and walks away from the tree feeling very dizzy after rolling down the hill. He walks near a fishing stand, the rabbit arrives at the spot where in doctor uniform. He brings out a stethoscope to test his body. He tuts, 'Too bad. Do you have dizzy spells? Do you see spots before your eyes? Do your ears ring? Are you succumb to fits?'

The dog nods at every question the rabbit asks him...but his responds is, 'So am I...maybe that's what's the matter with me'. He chuckles heartily. He then jumps around the lake acting please -- seriously?? Hardaway is using the Daffy Duck routine for a rabbit to jump out of the lake - may as well be a Daffy Duck cartoon with a gag like that!

John Sourpuss is then the next victim of the rabbit's antics; and he spots 'the rabbit' hopping around hills and shoots straight at it. Believing he has got his target; he rushes over towards the back to check, but has been had when it turns out they are displayed rabbits on moving cartwheels.

He looks towards the rabbit who is seen sleeping. He grabs out a saltshaker and the rabbit immediately wakes up and places a celery stick. He acts crazy, and places a celery in his mouth. John Sourpuss gets mad and tries to rush inside a warren, but an automatic door slams on him. The rabbit opens up and comments, 'Main floor - leather goods, pottery, washing machine, etc. - going up'. He opens up again, 'You don't have to be crazy to do this - but it sure helps', and chuckles once more. Now that is a funny line itself. Now, Sourpuss has already been a target--then it is back to the dog!

The dog is then sniffing around the forest looking out for the rabbit. The rabbit watches what the dog does and then decides to disguise himself as a bitch by placing a female dog costume. He has the costume completely on, and then starts to walk like a posing dog. The dog sniffing already has his attention caught on the rabbit in disguise and follows it.

He walks over towards the log, where he finds her on top of the log and his heart pounds. He sits besides her, and then picks her a couple of posies as a gift. The bitch in disguise then kisses the dog on the face, and he makes a take and already falls the ground, and reacts mildly.

The dog then embraces the rabbit and kisses the dog costume, but has fallen out of the rabbit costume. The rabbit remarks: 'I think you've something there, buddy'. The dog look at the outfit and finds it was a dummy. He tosses it down to the ground and chases fiercely after the rabbit. On a less than educated-guess on these cartoons,  I'm suspecting that the sequence was done by Rod Scribner, with the way he draws eyes but I'm not going to prone that.

As the rabbit is running away from the dog, he hides behind a rock and the dog is still on the run searching for him. The rabbit arrives at the spot dressed as an officer and parking him a fine for speeding. He walks over and gives him a bollocking, 'Goin' a little fast - aren't you buddy? You're on the wrong street, too'.

The rabbit then accuses the dog of being intoxicated by sniffing him, and asks for a licence but quickly moves on. 'You know what this'll cost you? Thirty days. He then appears to list the months as well as Montana (reference anyone) and he whoops around very crazily. I didn't humble at the scene, not understanding the last part; but its just the rabbit coming up with one of his cretinous tricks.

The rabbit then slides down the path and picks up posies; and then starts off in song. Get ready folks for the most obnoxious part of the whole cartoon where he sings his most annoying song which is such a din! Get ready for your earmuffs: 'All the world goes by, swinging on its way...things were looking brighter day-by-day'.

He jumps over the rocks through the pond and comes across a billboard sign that advertises the Looney Tunes cartoons and Porky is on the cover. He then sings, 'I'm going cuckoo - whoo-whoo! Here comes the choo-choo! with a reel of a steam train riding at the scene.

He jumps on a fence and sings, 'I'm so goony-looney-tooney, hatched in the head!' (more like f*cked in the head).  I'll admit the comic timing of Bugs' legs balancing on the gates is very funny. It gets even wackier as a ketchup bottle pops out by MAGIC and he whizzes it around...mmm, Bob McKimson would revive the ketchup gag in some Daffy cartoon I can't remember.

This is a minute of torture -- just imagine if they used the exact same rabbit all through the 40s and 50s with that song played...oh god. That sequence must've pissed off a lot of people in the audience. The song is also substitute lyrics to Corn Pickin'. Again, this is pretty much Hardaway copying Tex with the Daffy Duck song in Daffy Duck and Egghead. He then continues to sing (hiding behind a scarecrow) until John Sourpuss stops the song.

As John Sourpuss aims his gun towards the rabbit's back; he turns and begs him not to be blasted. 'Don't shoot, don't shoot--I was only foolin', honest I was'. Sourpuss responds, 'Oh yeah, well I'm not foolin'. Tomorrow morning you'll be sizzling in my frying pan!'. Great line, and I love the way Blanc delivers a mad cackle on the hunter.

The rabbit begs and gives his reasons in not to be shot (and acts overdramatic). 'Listen chief, you don't want to eat me--why I'm nothing but skin and bones'. He stretches his own flesh where he looks as skinny as a Darfur child.

The pose and even drawing of the rabbit looking extremely skinny is very effective, and even has weight--it feels rather out of there for 1939. He even shows his feet; 'Even the government turned me down' and his foot is printed as 'rejected'.

The whole sequence itself is some original satire of wackiness. Then the rabbit starts to overdramatise of his illness and performs some fake coughing. In close-up John Sourpuss then starts to break down and weep. The rabbit - feeling sorry, offers to shake his hand (with a hand buzzer on him). 'Lets shake and forget the whole thing' the rabbit warmly asks. He shakes his hand and then reacts to the buzzing...knowing that is was just one of the many pesky rabbit's antics being pulled towards him.

At that point - John Sourpuss has finally lost his temper and shouts towards him, 'Come back here and fight like a man! I can whip you and your whole family!'. At that point, a whole group of rabbits arrive at the spot swinging their fists towards John Sourpuss. Of course, in the MANY versions we've grown up to over the ends right at that spot...which I think is really good comic timing--an ending we all have known for over 70 years.

But here - there is more. The whole family beat him up and there is dust that covers up the fighting, and the whole dust flies out of the scene. John Sourpuss is already knocked down in the soil and lost the fight.

Gunshots are heard in the background, and then the rabbit arrives at the spot and responds sternly, 'You oughta get that fixed...somebody's liable to get hurt'. He then jumps around the hill chortling wildly. At that point - John Sourpuss has completely lost his senses. He then jumps around the hill bouncing with his head as the cartoon irises out.

Now for my own thoughts of that original ending: personally, I prefer the cut ending MUCH more than the lost version. If you think about it, the family arriving at the spot (where it cuts to black) - the timing is very funny. It's more of an 'oh shit' ending; while in the extended and original ending: you can tell that Hardaway is already ripping-off Tex Avery's ending to Daffy Duck and Egghead. In my opinion the whole ending slows down the whole cartoon; and it did ruin the funny moment (where the cut version was much funnier). I think it was better off cut, but then again...the fact it still existed is extraordinary.

Overall comments: I'll understand as to why the cartoon is considered a guilty pleasure or a cult amongst enthusiasts and fans. For one thing, this is still a prototype of the Bugs Bunny designs, and the design he is given is certainly not a far cry from the original cartoon. As for me, this cartoon just reminds me of just another crappy Hardaway/Dalton cartoon that they made. Hardaway is clearly strongly influenced from Tex's Daffy Duck cartoons; and he's basically using Daffy Duck; but he's wearing a rabbit costume. I suppose that Porky's Hare Hunt was very successful that it already inspired him to make this cartoon, but with a different hunter. The cartoon is really short of gags - well funny gags anyhow. I'm also not a fan of how the pacing of the cartoon flows: it feels like just a whole gag-after-gag cartoon with no climax until its ending - while when Tex made his Daffy Duck cartoons, he paced them leisurely and at least had climaxes going on.

I just felt there were too many gag-to-gag situations that could've been done much better and funnier...but I'm sure of the time when it was released, it appealed to many audience members. I find the animation there to be more up to standard than the other Hardaway-Dalton cartoons are usually are..though the design of the proto-Bugs isn't very appealing at all..very crude. To me, I thought in the version we were all familiar with; the cut ending was really the only really funny gag as it is delivered very well...whilst when it is extended, it isn't as funny. Nevertheless, this cartoon is already at the peak of Bugs Bunny in gaining his first official appearance. Chuck of course used the Charlie Thorson design for Elmer's Candid Camera. Overall, I wasn't really a fan of the overall cartoon itself as it was just rather tiresome to watch; and the song sequence is already obnoxious enough.


  1. “Bob McKimson would revive the ketchup gag in some Daffy cartoon I can't remember.”

    BOOBS IN THE WOODS is what you’re thinking of.

    “The song is also substitute lyrics to Corn Pickin'.”

    I don’t think that is the song used as a melody for the “woo-woo” song. However, that is the song that underscores the scene with the rabbit heckling the hunter (“Celery – mighty fine nerve tonic...”).

  2. The melody was used in the earlier "Daffy Duck and the Dinosaur" as I noted in the comments to that entry.Also used in "Easter Yeggs" with new Easter lyrics and "Hop, Look, and Listen" (which was also the debut of Hippety Hopper and got remade ITSELF a year or two LATER as "Hippety Hopper".But we'll cross that bridge when we get to it.)

    I actually think both the song AND Mel Blanc's hilarious vocalization of it's a real show stopper myself, and I used to sing it as a child in the mid-1960s.This is yet another WB cartoon with the odd banner WB logo (seen on "Porky and Teabiscuit" and others.)Steve

  3. "Thirty Days Hath September" is a Mother Goose nursery rhyme designed to teach children the length of each calendar month:

    "Thirty days hath September,
    April, June, and November.
    All the rest have thirty-one,
    Excepting February alone,
    And that has twenty-eight days clear,
    And twenty-nine in each leap year."

    Bugs/Happy of course substituted the nonsense lines regarding Montana and cold weather.

  4. Also, the rabbit hops madly on all fours and John Sourpuss's salt shaker bit is a riff on the old "Salt on a bird's tail" (though he IS ALSO hungry to CATCH rabbit as we found out in the first place.) The rabbit's fake rabbit display on cartwheels, as the blogger best describes that gsadget, is an imaginative device of the rabbit (and writer Melvin Tubby Millar) and of course Steven (the blogger's) use of the word bitch is nothing to bitch about (ahem), since in his native UK and here in the USA (and Canada and elsewhere) the term in this context and its original meaning just means "female dog".Lastly, I agree that the cartoon ending is fine the way it turned out as cut.SC

  5. " wasn't until 2009 Dave Gerstein managed to REVEAL the original lost ending to the cartoon."

    Not quite—I was the first to publicly illustrate it, but I was not its first "discoverer." Jerry Beck, Mark Kausler and others screened it at Warner in the late 1970s, but after that the print got misplaced. Mark later told me that he thought it was lost.

    I "discovered" the same print at an archive in 2008, where it was unexpectedly lurking among some Warner holdings without its special status noted. So while I found it, I wasn't the first to see it.

    (Or write about it: as I noted in my 2009 blogpost, Jerry and Will Friedwald described it in _The Warner Bros Cartoons_ in 1981.)

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  7. The Daffy Duck and Egghead ending was not that close to Hare Um Scare Um David Gerstein's theory was wrong, they've reused footage and gags from other cartoons and that's way closer to "ripping off" than the original ending for this cartoon. My theory is that maybe they thought the ending would ruin the comedy, or maybe they didn't like the whole cloud of dust thing because in The Cat's Tale (1941 cartoon) reuse one scene twice. Reply & say if you agree or disagree!

  8. The bit with Proto-Bugs in the dog costume was Dick Bickenbach.

  9. It wasn't this cartoon in which John Sourpuss and his dog get beheaded after a fight with the rabbits. I remember well it was actually Elmer Fudd and some other dog who ended up decapitated and their heads rolled down the road in the sunset at the end. I recall watching that cartoon featuring that moment with them on TBS and/or TNT, when those channels used to air Looney Tunes and Merrie Melodies shorts in the '90s. I just don't remember the title as well and I wish I could so I could find it again.

  10. Ben Hardaway is caricatured on the newspaper page as "Happy Hardaway".