Sunday, 2 June 2013

278. Elmer's Candid Camera (1940)

Warner cartoon no. 277.
Release date: March 3, 1940.
Series: Merrie Melodies.
Supervision: Chuck Jones.
Producer: Leon Schlesinger.
Starring: Arthur Q. Bryan (Elmer Fudd) and Mel Blanc (Proto-Bugs Bunny).
Story: Rich Hogan.
Animation: Bob McKimson.
Musical Direction: Carl W. Stalling.
Sound: Treg Brown (uncredited).
Synopsis: Elmer Fudd takes on a new hobby of photographing wild animals; however, in a attempt to photograph a wacky rabbit: Elmer's attempts backfire.

Before anymore useless debates about which was the first 'Elmer' cartoon: I still strongly believe this is the first official appearance of Elmer Fudd. Hell, it has Arthur Q. Bryan's voice for Elmer, for God's sake. Arthur, at the time, was very popular on the Grouch Club with Phil Kramer, on KFWB. Chuck thought that he was the perfect voice for Elmer, whose redesigned after the 'Egghead/Elmer' concepts prior that which Tex Avery heavily worked on.

Friz Freleng, that same year, who use the cartoon's character design for Confederate Honey and The Hardship of Miles Standish; before his Dopey-ish design appeared in A Wild Hare. In fact, Elmer has been redesigned rather frequently, hasn't he? They couldn't agree on a appropriate design for him until at least 1942: when the 'fat Elmer' design, created by Tex Avery, himself...was used in a few cartoons, though it proved to be unpopular.

You could also say this is the last short to use the proto-Bugs Bunny design, unless you want to count Patient Porky to be the last. Chuck Jones is using the Charlie Thorson design for the Hardaway-rabbit, one last time, before Bob Givens and Bob McKimson, themselves would give Bugs the standard design in A Wild Hare - his first official appearance. But this short is definitely the first where Elmer is manipulated or screwed by a rabbit.

An opening shot opens in a extreme-close up of Elmer's hands presented as a layout reading the book: How to Photograph Wild Life. Elmer's first few scenes, already show his personality has been established from the very beginning from the WB crew, and Q. Bryan himself, whose notorious Brooklyn-esque rhotacism already play a huge part of the character.

In a extreme close-up shot; he exclaims: 'Gowwy, that sounds simple enough!'. Elmer walks over towards the his box where he contains his requirement for animal photography. He walks over his checklists and lists them out: 'Twipod, film, camewa, butterfwy net, etc.'.

The opening sequence is a good example in introducing the character: as the 1940 audience are already aware that Warner Bros. have based Elmer heavily on Arthur Q. Bryan, the voice and all..since he was such a hit in radio. However, his redesign (Bob Givens or Charlie Thorson, anyone?)..already shows the crew are a little indecisive in their approach towards the character's design. The crew had already been working around the concept of 'Elmer' since 1937...with Danny Webb and Mel Blanc voicing the characters; and it's obvious his personality is already established by this cartoon, as they already found their star.

As Elmer is already out into the countryside, he whistles merrily to the tune: Sticks and Stones; which was a very popular time by Al Hoffman of the time the cartoon was made. The walk cycle timed by Chuck, shows it has a slow-paced appeal towards it; with the bobbing hat. However, for this cartoon: it's relevant to say, it's the only Disney-ish walk cycle that works for Elmer; in that design.

Elmer stops, and in a point-of-view shot: he spots 'wabbit twacks' well as mentioning so, and could go on to be one of his famous quotes. He follows the rabbit tracks, where he finds the trail, as the proto-Bugs is seen asleep in the field. Elmer walks over and prepares the camera stand.

Fo any fan, whose completely unaware of the chronology of the Warner cartoons; Elmer is portrayed as a civilised human being, where he aims to take photograph of animals in the forest, instead of hunting animals, which is his most standard personality.

I suppose it was Chuck's nature, of the time, to use Elmer as a harmless human being, and this short is still early days, so he hasn't been completely reformed. As the rabbit is asleep, and Elmer's camera is all ready: in another shot from the camera's view; Elmer moves the rabbit at different angles so he could fine the most established shot to picture. The camera shot is amusing in a subtle way, considering how the rabbit is too big to fit into the image capture.

A small bird, appears out of the blue and whistles merrily: Elmer moves the curtain off his head where he signals for the bird to hush. The rabbit then deliberately mocks Elmer's signal, and makes a 'hush' sound--where we already know he was pretending to be asleep.

Elmer resumes with his photography, and this time from the camera lens: the rabbit's behind is being pointed at towards him.

At what is intended to be a little crude in terms of humour, Elmer takes, although his reaction was a little slow. The rabbit then walks towards Elmer, in a attempt to fool him. He walks towards Elmer, starting off a conversation: 'What'ya doing, taking pictures?'.

Elmer nods, not knowing be is being spoken of. The character animation of Elmer nodding is a little weak of the covers, where it doesn't show any proper signal to an audience watching this, even if it was difficult to animate. 'Nice hobby. Mind if I watch?'. Elmer shakes his head, covered from the cover. The rabbit asks what picture he's taking a picture of, and then Elmer pulls the cover to reply: 'A wabbit'. He responds: 'What rabbit?'; and Elmer points slowly before realising: 'That little gwey wabbit over there!'. Knowing the sequence, it's the first short where Chuck already has a shot of the rabbit with a tamed personality, and outsmarting his antagonists casually: apart from acting screwy constantly, like Daffy Duck, which was how Bugs Hardaway interpreted him.

Elmer stares towards the rabbit--cross-eyed. The rabbit then pushes him away, disturbed. 'Please, sir'. In a extreme-close up shot, which Chuck loved to use in that time-period; the rabbit speaks to the audience with a crack-up: 'Gosh, I don't even know the guy'. After the awkward moment, Bugs looks towards Elmer with disgust and walks away.

After what appeared to be an uncomfortable situation for Elmer, the acting in the next scenes are a little spotty, but we communicate with Elmer much more clearly where he turns his attention on a cutesy, realistic looking squirrel, holding a chestnut.

Elmer brings his camera which has been grounded to the field, off and carries it closer towards the defenceless squirrel which he resumes his hobby, and gives up on the rabbit. Too difficult to even debate with Elmer's personality on these scenes, I meant his personality being established because of the Arthur Q. Bryan resemblance, although here, he is just a gentlemen who isn't even a threat to the rabbit.

The rabbit, hiding under a log, pops out and prepares himself to bully poor Elmer, in this cartoon, whereas the rabbit is more or less a sadist than a menace. He pulls the camera len attached the bellows which, and has it stretched to a extent. He lets it go, and pokes Elmer straight out of the scene. He hits into a tree, where a bunch of apples land and pile on top of him.

The rabbit walks over towards the scene where he is chewing his apple. He finishes off much of the apple, and menacingly targets it straight at poor Elmer's face.

Elmer makes an eye-take and ducks under the pile of apples, and the apple splats; missing his face. Judging the eye-take; Chuck was already tamed those down apart from those extreme ones he used in Prest-O Change-O or Daffy Duck and the Dinosaur. After ducking under the pile of apples, it turns out his bad luck arrives when one apple, left hanging onto the tree lands and drops on top of his head. Elmer then shows a disgruntled look on his face.

Much later on in the cartoon, we find the same Elmer Fudd, who has given up on the rabbit, again, and is resuming with his photography. The rabbit walks over and finds Elmer in that spot; 'Oh, there ya are!' he notices. He walks over towards Elmer where he leans his elbow on Elmer's behind. As part of his game, the rabbit asks: 'You wouldn't consider taking a picture of a rabbit, would ya?'.

In a close-up shot the rabbit goes on: 'I know a rabbit who wouldn't mind posing for ya. That is if you are at all interested'. Afterwards, Elmer finds the rabbit and is growling towards him, and is at the pinnacle of snapping.

Acting rather cool, the rabbit goes on: 'Of course, if you don't like rabbits, you don't like rabbits' and walks off. Just as Elmer was about to grab the rabbit, he pauses and regains self-control when he watches the rabbit leave. He looks around, and then grabs a butterfly net, and in vengeance: plans to trap the rabbit. Mmm, this probably explains why Elmer turned down animal photography, and turned to hunting. All solid acting work from the likes of Mel Blanc on the rabbit (even if the voice is annoying); though the rabbit manages to keep calm, and already has the ability to cause Elmer to nearly snap.

After finding the butterfly net, he walks over searching for the rabbit who's ruined his day. The camera pans to the rabbit, pondering as to why he isn't wanted for animal photography; but just in time: Elmer traps the rabbit with his butterfly net. The sequence has been attributed to Bob McKimson, from Jerry Beck, and a lot of his staging and timing is particularly distinctive in those scenes.

In the sequence which shows some great character animation of the rabbit's acting on nearly going insane. The comic timing is rather tamed down, although some of the facial expressions of the rabbit, first noticing he is trapped, is classic. 'What's this? What's this?!' wails the rabbit: 'I'm trapped!'.

The rabbit continues to put on the performance, from going almost completely berserk, to dying. He coughs in agony, and croaks: 'Come here! Come here! I can't breathe!'. The rabbit continues to put on the performance shouting out: 'Hold yourself, hold yourself! Easy!'. At that point, Elmer's vengeance face already turns to pity. After the rabbit plays dead, Elmer breaks down, and that part of his personality already kicks in where he bawls over the rabbit's dead body. 'I didn't mean to hurt the poor wittle grey wabbit!'.

Afterwards, the rabbit finishes his death performance and traps Elmer inside the butterfly net...and casually walks away from Elmer. As he walks off, the rabbit protests: 'The SPCA shall hear about this!'..which is a funny one-liner suggesting Elmer is at the cost of being punished.

At that point, a great sequence pours in where Elmer has snapped. His eyes widen, and ends up chantings: 'Rabbits, rabbits! I'm going mad! Rabbits! I'm going crazy! '..and then breaks out of the nest. For a slow-paced Chuck Jones cartoon, this is rather off-model and loose for his cartoons.

After breaking out of the net, he rushes off towards his camera as well his book and stampedes on top of them, damaging them. He continues shouting out: 'Wildlife! Rabbits!' and then, in a extremely off-model looking Elmer, he rushes out of the damaged equipment and then dives into a river. Though the single dreaming look rather off and crude, whoever animated that, showed a great understanding of Elmer reflected into a twisted state of mind.

After Elmer falls into the water; he ends up drowning and blubbers 'Rabbits' with river water inside his mouth. The rabbit, asleep, then wakes up to rescue Elmer, though wearing a swimsuit. He dives into the river and then grabs Elmer to drag him out of the river, where his safe is spared.

The rabbit pulls him out of the river, where Elmer is standing up, recovering from his outburst. The rabbit asks: 'Now how are ya?'. Elmer responds: 'I'm feel pretty good?'. After a few assurances, the rabbit continues: 'Are you positive?', 'Absolutely sure?'.

As Elmer passively responds he feels better: the rabbit only asks just to kick him back into the river again, where he performs the obnoxious laugh Hardaway came up with, that pre-dates Woody Woodpecker. Instead of just snapping enough, Elmer just shows an irritated look on his face, sitting in the river as the 'How to Photograph Wild Life' book is tossed on top of his head.

Overall comments: The first appearance of Elmer Fudd, and this approach is certainly a unique introduction. Whilst Elmer is still being developed with various personalities: before becoming a hunter, and antagonist towards Bugs..the staff already have the whole Elmer/rabbit concept which started off from that short. Bugs Bunny had also been floated around from a few cartoons the previous year from Chuck and also Hardaway; except after Hare-Um Scare-Um; the concept for 'Daffy Duck in a rabbit costume' was dropped, and here personality plays a huge part in this cartoon. The rabbit is certainly a lot more tamed down, and the WB animation studios were very close towards finding their own star, except he just wasn't yet established in this cartoon.

Some of Bugs' quirks towards his antagonists are rather evident in this cartoon, particularly where he fakes his own death...however, Bugs is just presented as a rather sadistic character: who bullies Elmer which he doesn't deserve, whereas Bugs would only be menacing whenever he felt threatened amongst his antagonists. Whilst being the same design used from Hare-Um, or the same character: Chuck has completely tamed down as he shows his experimentation of the character. Blanc's voice for the character also toned down where it sounds rather relaxed. My thoughts: it works well as we finally get to see the rapid development going on with the rabbit character, before he would change into Bugs. With that asides, the cartoon was also another attempt for Chuck to try about comedy, except his rather sluggish pacing and timing.


  1. Warners was all over the place in the first year of using Bryan's character as to how they wanted the audience to react to him. If you take the Fuddian voice and personality of Avery's "Shooting of Dan McFoo", plus Freleng's initial two turns with the character, the audience's sympathies are supposed to be with Byran's character. But in "A Wild Hare", Avery designs the story so your sympathies are with Bugs.

    With Jones here, and again in "Elmer's Pet Rabbit", your sympathies also are supposed to be with the bunny in the end ... but you feel guilty about it, and so does Jones. Outside of the Woody laugh here, you could transpose the voice Mel gave Bugs for the second cartoon, which better fit a grumpy, chronic complainer, and it would be right at home here. You have a dour rabbit who only seems to get his jollies out of annoying someone who means him no harm -- Jones borrowed the end gag from the 1934 Popeye cartoon "The Two-Alarm Fire" and timed it better than Willard Bowsky did in the original. But Popeye reviving Bluto just to knock him out again feels like it's more justified than Bugs booting Elmer back into the lake (no wonder Elmer went from shooting rabbits with a camera here to a gun in the next picture).

    Jones admitted in later interviews he was lost at sea for a while in understanding Bugs, as re-imagined by Avery. He gets pretty close to the mark with Elmer here, but having Fudd as basically the prey instead of the predator is why grumpy Bugs and his relationship with Elmer never caught on the way Tex'a version did.

    1. From what I recall, Chuck despised this cartoon above all the others he made in his first few years at WB.

  2. Has the blog stopped now?