Thursday, August 18, 2011

The Five Best Cartoons

In choosing The Five Best Cartoons, I considered the quality and popularity of the cartoons, heavily tinged by the fact that they are my favorites.  It will not be hard to figure out that Warner Brothers' fantastic cartoon shorts rate high on my list.  There are so many really good cartoons, from the movies and from television, and everybody has at least five they love.  Here are my top choices:

"Oh Bwunhilde, you're so wuvwy!"
"Yes I know it, I can't help it!"
(1)  What's Opera, Doc (1957).  Directed by the great Chuck Jones, I believe it to be Number One in cartoon creations.  The voice we all love, Mel Blanc, is in top form with this spot-on hilarious spoof of Wagnerian opera, with Bugs Bunny and Elmer Fudd in their greatest roles.  Elmer's "Kill the Wabbit!" has become one of the most well-known cartoon quotes ever.  IMBD's succinct and hilarious description of this cartoon is worth a quote:  Bugs is in drag as the Valkyrie Brunhilde who sits on an overwieght (sic) horse. "She" is pursued by Elmer playing the demigod "Siegfried".
Interesting fact:  This cartoon has approximately 104 cuts, more than any other Warner Brothers cartoon.

"That lovin' R-A-A-A-G !!"
(2)  One Froggy Evening (1955).  Director Chuck Jones again, this time with the story of the most lovable and frustrating frog that ever lived.  Only one voice is ever heard in the cartoon, that of Michigan J. Frog, the eternal little amphibian who sings and dances, but only when nobody but his owner is listening.  Michigan's singing voice is provided by Bill Roberts, popular '50s nightclub singer, in a series of great old songs, including "I'm Just Wild About Harry" and "Please Don't Talk About Me When I'm Gone."  His most famous is "The Michigan Rag", which sounds old but was actually written for this cartoon.
Interesting Fact:  Due to the cartoon, "Dancing Frog" is now computer terminology for a computer problem that will not appear when anyone else is watching.  (Quoted from IMDB.)  Happens to me all the time!

"That's strange.  All of a sudden I don't quite feel like myself."
(3)  Duck Amuck (1953).  Who else? ... Chuck Jones and Mel Blanc.  Daffy Duck finally got the starring role he always dreamed of when he had to play second banana to Bugs.  This is a most unusual cartoon short, spotlighting the ability of the invisible cartoonist to make Daffy do anything he wants, and tearing down the usual "fourth wall" between film and audience.  Poor Daffy.  He just goes through hell in this hilarious cartoon.  In one burst of extreme frustration, he screams, "... I've never been so humiliated in all my life!", only to realize that his invisible nemisis has taken away the sound. 
Interesting Fact:  This cartoon nearly didn't get made because there was resistance to the idea of using Bugs Bunny in such a limited role near the end.  (Quoted from IMDB.)  Poor Daffy ... he just can't get out from under Bug's shadow!

(4)  Long-Haired Hare (1949). (I won't even bother to name them again.)  Bugs Bunny at his tormenting best, this time bedeviling an opera singer trying to practice at home, while nearby, Bugs is playing the banjo and singing at the top of his voice.  Bugs even follows the enraged and nervous singer to the Hollywood Bowl for his performance.  With hair and tuxedo disguise, Bugs appears to the orchestra.  He says nothing, but the musicians whisper "Leopold!" in awe, convinced that Bugs is the great Leopold Stokowski.  Bugs' conducting style and what he does to that poor man on the stage is no less than comedy at its best.  The voice of singer Nikolai Shutorov is heard as the opera singer belting out the longest one-note in cartoon history.
Interesting fact:  Leopold Stokowski never conducted with a baton. This is the reason why Bugs Bunny breaks the baton before conducting.  (Quote from IMBD.)

These guys look even creepier when they walk!
(5)  Popeye In Goonland (1938).  Directed by the marvelous Dave Fleischer, and with the unforgettable voice of Jack Mercer, I just plain love this one from my days as a kid watching cartoons on TV.  Even then, my favorite Popeye cartoons were the old black and whites, with the credits displayed behind ship cabin doors that open and bang shut.  Nobody could mutter like Popeye, and it is imperative to listen carefully to his hilarious mumbling to really get the fun that is Popeye.  In this story, Popeye is forced to go to Goon Island to rescue his Pappy.  Those goons just creeped me out when I was little.  Actually, they still do!
Interesting Fact:  This short marked the first animated appearance of both Poopdeck Pappy and of the Goons, both of which Popeye comic strip creator 'Elzie Segar' introduced in the late nineteen thirties. (Quote from IMBD.)

All of these cartoons are available on Youtube. I have the best versions of each saved in my Favorites, and would be happy to provide the links to anyone who is interested. 

    (Th-that-th-that-th-that-that's all, folks!)


Laura said...

I've said it once, and I'll say it again: there's not a woman alive who doesn't secretly want to look as slammin' hot as Bugs Bunny does when he's in drag, particularly as Bwunhilde.

Excellent, top-drawer choices! I'd also like to add two of my personal faves, Rabbit of Seville and the classic Betty Boop Old Man of the Mountain.
"Whatchya gonna do now?"
"Gonna do the best I can."

Anonymous said...

I love Bugs as Bwunhilde. I love Bugs the best.

Caftan Woman said...

You can't trust people who don't love Chuck Jones. It's a fact.

Some other faves:
Rabbit of Seville
Feed the Kitty
Rabbit Seasoning
Boyhood Daze
Steal Wool
Robin Hood Daffy
High Note

Overture, curtain lights...

Anonymous said...

Great picks! I love One Froggy Evening and What's Opera, Doc! Thanks for a great post! Now I want to go watch all my favorite cartoons!

Rick29 said...

Becky, good choices...the WB cartoons ruled! The ones with Bugs were my favorites, especially those done by Tex Avery and Fritz Freleng. There are too many to list, but one I dearly loved is where Bugs, sporting Bette davis lips, slicks back his ears and says: "I'd like to ya, but I just washed my hair." Or, maybe it's "hare"!

Grand Old Movies said...

Splendid post, with great choices (I'm going to check up on that Popeye one). Other faves I'd add are Betty Boop (the one where she's Snow White and when Cab Calloway performs Minnie the Moocher as a kind of ghost Walrus) and the great Tex Avery (who could forget Red Riding Hood and the Wolf?). I once was at a film theater showing the cartoon of "What's Opera, Doc"; at the point where Elmer Fudd starts singing that he's going to kill the wabbit, about half the audience started singing along with him - one of my most unnerving movie experiences. Thanks for your terrific review!

Yvette said...

LOVE LOVE LOVE all of these. Don't remember seeing the Popeye one, though, for about a hundred years. If I had to pick just one I'd pick the Opera one.

Although the Barber of Seville would be my second choice. I still remember bits of the song that crack me up.

Welcome to my shop,
Let me cut your mop,
Let me trim your crop!


My daughter learned to love this music from watching the cartoons with me.

Did I ever tell you that I worked on Popeye cartoons way back when in the early sixties when Paramount had a studio in NYC on 45th street?
Well, I did. I was just out of art school and I was hired as an 'opaquer' to paint in the inked figures drawn by the animators. The cartoons were awful though. Not the original Popeyes at all. Just the pale imitations of the later TV show. Dreadful. I was fired after six months. Which was just as well.

I may have told you this already, if so, ignore it. :)

Tom said...

I was kind of hoping to see a Tasmanian Devil cartoon or two. Maybe even a Rocky the mobster cartoon mentioned. Oh well, I've got it filed away in my scrapbook of memories.

ClassicBecky said...

What wonderful suggestions everybody has! Yvette, that is so cool about working on the Popeye cartoons, and somehow even cooler that you got fired - Popeye too was a non-conformist to the MAN! LOL!

Obviously Chuck Jones was reincarnated from an ancient god of comedy--no doubt! Boy it is hard to do these posts, having to leave out so many I love - Rabbit of Seville, Betty Boop and Cab Calloway (what a WEIRD cartoon, and I love it), and Tasmanian devil. Love 'em all!

toto2 said...

My favorite of the ones you posted would have to be "What's Opera, Doc." Elmer Fudd is a lot of fun, whether he's wanting to kill the wabbit or kiss her/him! Bugs, of course, is top bunny all the time with his 14 carrot performances. Fabulous Five Best choice, Becky!

ClassicBecky said...

Hi Toto! Oh yes, this one is not only fun, it's also No. 1 on most lists of great cartoons. I love it when Elmer regrets what he has done and runs down the jagged rocks singing: "I've killed the wabbit....poor widdle bunny." I hope Wagner had a sense of humor about what Bugs and Elmer did with his great operatic music! If so, I bet he actually did roll in his grave, laughing! ("14 carrot performance"? Groaaannn -- good one!)

DorianTB said...

Becky, I love your choices for your favorite cartoons, especially that so many of them are the work of Chuck Jones! In fact, I've met very few Jones cartoons I DIDN'T like! :-) Our whole family adores Bugs Bunny (after all, he's from New York! :-)). In particular, my mom and I would laugh our derrieres off over WHAT'S OPERA, DOC, hearing Mom sing "Oh, Bwunhilda, you're so lovely/Yes, I know it, I can't help it!" Other Chuck Jones Looney Tunes I love because they're so deliciously evil and hilarious include CHOW HOUND ("What? No gravy?!") and THE HYPO-CHONDRI-CAT ("He's toinin' plaid!" "Don't overdo it!"). Fine choices, Becky -- further proof of your superb taste in toons and so many other great things in life! :-)

Laura Ess said...

Classics all, but only one Fleischer cartoon in there. That might be because in general, you seldom see the Fleischer stuff on local TV any more, whereas Warner Bros stuff is on a tight rotation (at least it is here in Australia).

Spurwing Plover said...

KNIGHTS MUST FALL with Bugs Bunny in a funny jousting tournment with Sir Pantsalot of Drop seat Manor its played like a football game

Anonymous said...

My favorite cartoon of all time is "Cock-a-Doodle Dog". Tex Avery went all out with this one, and many of the gags are just so over - the - top that you are boggled at the madness. I still search it out whenever I need a good laugh, and I suggest everyone give it a look. I assume no responsibility for sides splitting or entering orbit.