Entry: What's Opera Doc 7.19.2006

I know this is supposed to be strictly a "rock music" blog, but I got an idea from a friend for a post I should write that has to do with classical music. Now, I know what your'e probably thinking (what a snooze fest), but really, I'm not going to pretend to be an expert on opera or the "1812 Overture." So just hold your horses, because yes this entry is about Wagner's operas, but it is also about our favorite loveable, kooky 70 year old rabbit: Bugs Bunny. Yes, you read that last sentence correctly: Bugs Bunny.

I'm sure many of you readers have grown up with with the antics and shenanigans of the Looney Tunes characters. Back before everything became so bland and "PC" for children,  I couldn't wait till Roadrunner found a way to twart Wile E. Coyote and send him flying over the nearest cliff. I always thought Daffy Duck was a bit too close to the edge of insanity with his angry, quacking rants and tirades...but I still enjoyed every moment he shared with my television set.

Until recently though, I had forgotton about my childhood friends, forsaking them for newer cartoons like Daria, Invader Zim, and Drawn Together. Then, I was chatting with a friend the other day, asking him what I should write next for this blog. He ended up sending me a video for "What's Opera Doc" and said I should write a piece on that. I decided, sure, why not? What a great way to travel back to my childhood and my first real exposure to classical music. I know that I feel really satisfied and happy when my mind reverts to my childhood, back to days when my most important priority was waking up early enough on Saturday morning so I could catch all the Saturday cartoons before my parents made me go outside and play in the sandbox.

What's Opera Doc: The Story Behind One of the Greatest Cartoons

researched and written by Kristy Parker

Click here to watch "What's Opera Doc?"

Chuck Jones, a renowned animator for Warner Brothers, was best known for creating the characters Pepe' Le Pew, Roadrunner, and Wile E. Coyote. Before Jones created these humorous and beloved characters, he was stuck trying to recreate the cutesy animation style of the Disney shorts of the day. It wasn't until the cartoon, The Dover Boys, that Chuck Jones said he "learned to be funny." That particular cartoon was also very inovative, because up until that point, animators had been trying to copy Disney's realistic animation style (example: Walt Disney's Snow White). Chuck decided to stylize his drawing, making it seem more outlandish and fun for viewers. He understood that the point of cartoons wasn't to mantain realism, but to transport viewers to another world altogether...one in which the trees don't look like the ones knocking against our windows.

In the early 1940's, Chuck Jones worked with Theodore Geisel (Dr. Seus) on "Private Snafu" for a time, creating edgy educational films for WWII soldiers. Also, without Chuck's collaboration with Seus, who knows if the Christmas classic, How the Grinch Stole Christmas, would have been the same film we know and love today?

His most highly regarded work were the cartoons he created that were written and conceived by Michael Maltese. His trilogy of greatness includes the three following critically acclaimed six minute cartoons: Duck Amuck, One Froggy Evening, and (the cartoon on which this article is based) What's Opera Doc?.

The basic plot of "What's Opera Doc" revolves around some key themes:

  • Parody of Wagner's Operas and the over-dramatization of opera plots
  • Parody of Disney's Fantasia (which I admit took itself too seriously)
  • The stylized dancing of ballet
  • The basic, over played "Elmer must kill Bugs" plot

This cartoon, created in 1957, spiced up the by then tired Elmer Fudd and Bugs routine of hunter vs. rabbit by incorporating high brow entertainment such as opera and ballet into the perfect comic atmosphere for Elmer and Bugs Bunny to interact in. Michael Maltese should be commended for exposing children to classical music. He made Wagner's operas comical and adapted the lyrics hysterically. Today, as I discover more and more that I don't want to run screaming at the sound of an orchestra, I begin to wonder what opened my mind. I think part of the reason I enjoy classical music now has to do with the realization of how familar the classical music seemed when I really listened to it. I guess I have animators like Chuck Jones and writers like Michael Maltese to thank for that.

What's Opera Doc? is particualry special to me as artist because the animation is extremely well done. If the screen were lacking the characters, I would probably be just as entraced by the beautiful, majestic background work done by artist, Maurice Noble. Its no suprise to me that this was the first animated short to be be deemed culturally significant by the Library of Congress. What's particualary notable about this cartoon is that this is one of the few times Elmer Fudd actually captures Bugs Bunny. But, as Bugs Bunny says at the end of the cartoon, "Well, what did you expect in an opera? A happy ending?"

songs included in this cartoon:

the overture from The Flying Dutchman - opening storm scene

the overture and Pilgrims' Chorus from Tannhäuser - "Return my love"

the Ride of the Valkyries from Die Walküre - "Kill the wabbit"

Siegfried's horn call from Siegfried - "O mighty warrior of great fighting stock"

the Bacchanal from Tannhäuser - ballet scene between Elmer and Bugs

Sites referenced:

Wikipedia: What's Up Doc?

Wikipedia: Chuck Jones


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August 26, 2006   08:38 AM PDT
You've totally inspired me to write an entry on my favorite show of woebegone youth -- Miami Vice. Now if that isn't prime Vintage material, I don't know what is! I love this entry btw, just haven't been online enough to comment! I love your stuff, and I *do* read it a lot, even if I don't leave comments. I'll spam comments to everything you write from now on, if it'll make you feel better and continue writing :-D

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