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“Bugs Bunny is who I would like to be. Daffy Duck is what I am.”–Chuck Jones.

As someone who has all of the Warner Brothers’ dvds and Blu-rays I debated acquiring this collection because over half the cartoon shorts on it are ones most of us already possess. In the end I bought the collection for the new cartoons it contains which includes a personal favourite, BONANZA BUNNY with Black Jacques Shellaque, the roughest, toughest Canuck in the Klondike.

In the 1980s a local film dealer offered me a 16mm Technicolor print of it of which he said, “This is the first Bugs Bunny cartoon.” It wasn’t. I knew that. But I bought it. I was glad I bought it.

I am glad I bought this collection as well. The previously available titles are justifiable because they are essential to Bugs.

Included with the collection is a new documentary, BUGS BUNNY’S 80TH WHAT’S UP, DOC-UMENTARY!

It would be great if Warner Archives restored this classic Bugs Bunny cartoon to 3D. Warner Brothers possesses many of the finest 3D motion pictures made during the 1950s. They have released HOUSE OF WAX (1953), DIAL M FOR MURDER (1954) and KISS ME KATE (1953) in stunning restorations. It would be wonderful to see them offer up the rest. THE 3D FILM ARCHIVE has shown there is a market and a strong one for these pictures.

This is superb.

Leon Schlesinger, the original producer of LOONEY TUNES (1930) and MERRIE MELODIES (1931) , never spent a dime when a penny would do.

While I appreciated and loved (still do) the characters his studio produced my question was how did these people with the lowest budgets in the industry do such great work.

The secret to having an interesting life is not to do what we think will be of interest to others (more than likely it will not be) but to do what is of interest to us. Of course, if we do that most will say we are crazy. There has been no shortage of people saying that of me.

If we do what is of interest to ourselves the people who do things solely for business reasons will say, “No one is interested in that but you.”

The winter 1975 issue of FILM COMMENT magazine completely changed my thinking on Hollywood Cartoons (including those of the New York Studios). What I read made me want to see the films. When I went to the people who distributed 16mm films for the non-theatrical market I was told it cost more in paper work than the rentals produced. The films had been tossed in the trash.

Then fate stepped in. A woman called. Her husband had died. He had a 16mm film collection. Was I interested in buying it. Included in that collection were some of the films I had read about. They were films I had thought I would never see.

Only a handful of people came to my first cartoon festival. When I did it again the people I worked with said, “You only got a handful of people last time. Why are you doing it again?”

The people who had come included one, Greg Duffell who knew a lot and who shared what he knew with me.

I said, “They were a handful of interesting people.” They said, “You’re crazy.”

That second show pulled about 100 people. I was asked, “How did you know so many would show up?”

The truth is that none of us know what will happen until we after we take that risk. Money will always say it not worth the investment. With love leading us it always is.

Much has been written about Walt Disney. All of it is deserved.

At that time very little had been published about the artists at the other studios. The one man who made the biggest difference in rectifying that was Michael Barrier with his magazine FUNNYWORLD in which he published interviews with Bob Clampett, Chuck Jones and others: http://www.michaelbarrier.com/   .

Then another fellow stepped up, David Mruz out of Minneapolis. His fanzine, MINDROT, the journal of the animated cartoon, was a labor of love that introduced Jerry Beck, Jim Korkiss, myself and many others to each other.

Slowly I acquired 16mm prints of more and more cartoons. One 16mm print of a colour cartoon cost more than a dvd with 12 to 15 cartoons on it today. I work with my own money and do not have any. Love always leads the way. Being callrtd crazy is a compliment.

When I finally assembled the key films from Ben “Bugs” Hardaway’s PORKY’S HARE HUNT (1938) to Tex Avery’s A WILD HARE (1940) out of which Bugs Bunny evolved I used the information I had found in Michael Barrier’s FUNNYWORLD interview with Bob Clampett to flesh it out. I sent my program notes to David Mruz who published them in MINDROT. Then the stuff hit the fan.

Inadvertently I had stepped on an animation landmine. What I did now know was that there was a huge animus against Bob Clampett among animation fans. The word “fan” is short for fanatic. Fanatics don’t think.

The chronology I gave then is the chronology we are given here.

We aren’t given all the cartoons in that chronology in this stellar collection. Well, something has to be held back for the Bugs Bunny 100th ANNIVERSARY COLLECTION for which I, being 74,  probably won’t be here.

Those films are in my archive however and when Covid 19 is finally behind us it’s worthwhile program to offer.

Bugs Bunny is the Cary Grant of animation. Frankly, Grant is the only major star who equals the wascally wabbit. If Grant had not started his career much earlier I’d say Cary Grant was the Bugs Bunny of live action films.

By that I mean most male comic stars are frightened bumblers. Think of any movie with Bob Hope.

The great ones are not. Those great ones, those supremely great ones are Charlie Chaplin, Buster Keaton, Stan Laurel, Oliver Hardy, Cary Grant and Bugs Bunny.

In fact if you come from a dirt poor background and seem to have in front of you a hopeless future you would be well advised to study the film careers of these people (yes, Bugs Bunny is a person).

They are survivors.

More than that they are survivors who survive with grace, with style.

Charlie may be dirt poor in his movies but he’s not so poor he cannot help another.

The first true Bugs Bunny cartoon, the one in which all the elements came together more by chance than by design is Tex Avery’s wonderful A WILD HARE (1940). The last original studio produced cartoon, Robert McKimson’s FALSE HARE (1964) still has all those wonderful elements firmly intact. Both are in this collection.

That is 24 years of solidly getting it right. That is a miracle.

When I brought the great Warner Brothers directors Bob Clampett and Friz Freleng to Toronto, when I spoke with Tex Avery and spoke and met with Chuck Jones I finally learned the answer to my question of how they were able to produce such magnificent work with such meagre means. They loved what they were doing. That love shows in every frame of each film on this set.

I recognized that because for decades in Toronto, from the mid 1960s right up to now, it is love that inspires me to do what I do.

Work for pay you will be called a professional Work for love we are called an amateur.

No amount of money can buy the wit, ingenuity and integrity that infuses the LOONEY TUNES/MERRIE MELODIES catalogue of films from the first, Sinking In The Bathtub (1930) to the last, Señorella and the Glass Huarache (1964).

It’s a marvellously delirious body of work. All of it, including those currently suppressed (the censored eleven and the banned Bugs Bunny cartoons) more than deserves to be in the public eye. In fact the heavy hand of self censorship is keeping Bob Clampett’s brilliant COAL BLACK (recognized as among the top greatest cartoons of all time) and TIN PAN ALLEY CATS and Friz Ferleng’s wonderful GOLDILOCKS AND THE JIVING BEARS out of view.

These are errors than could and should be corrected.

But for now we have theis magnificent set for which I say, “Thank you.”

Note: I have self published the talks given in Toronto by Bob Clampett, Friz Freleng, Shamus Culhane and Grim Natwick. As always people in the business tell me, “No one is interested in that but you.”

If you are interested contact me at reghartt(2)gmail.com.

I learned a lot from these artists. So too will you.

You will mightily enjoy BUGS BUNNY’S 80TH ANNIVERSARY COLLECTION.

Bugs Bunny is who we all would like to be. Daffy Duck is who most of us are.

A few years back I had to stand up to a bully.

I’m standing up to a particularly ugly one right now.

I do it by becoming Bugs Bunny. I love that rabbit.

When you find yourself forced to face a bully become Bugs.

–Reg Hartt

FRIZ FRELENG at Reg Hartt’s  CineForum, Toronto 1980: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NbZwISKdfnQ

BOB CLAMPETT at Reg Hartt’s CineForum 1979: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=EkvcLCIYf8E

 

This issue of FILM COMMENT magazine changed completely my thinking on Hollywood Cartoons. It also made me want to see the films I read about.

 

This ad, which I posted in ANIMATION INDUSTRY DIRECTOR 1990, resulted in the animation industry honouring the great Grim Natwick on his 100th birthday.

When the ACADEMY OF ARTS AND SCIENCES honoured Grim Natwick I was there. His landlady Mrs. French (who was the mother-in-law of animation artist Richard Williams and who came with Grim on his visits to Toronto) not only gave me one of her apartments she refused to allow me to spend a dime. These were great people. After the event at the Academy Grim hauled out his bottles of hard liquor and his art books. He was 97 and drank like he had at 21. It was a privileged night to remember.

Grim gave me this. It hangs here still.

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