Only one comedy acting duo has managed to stand the test of time and appeal to all generations throughout the ages. Laurel and Hardy, Abbott and Costello, Martin and Lewis. All had their days during their run in Hollywood. But try showing them to kids and young adults of today and you may just as likely get a yawn as a laugh.
On the other hand, show a Bugs Bunny/Daffy Duck cartoon and only the most cynical of octogenarians will not get a chuckle at the antics on screen. Over the course of roughly 13 years, from 1951-1964, the duo teamed together to make some of the best cartoons Warner Brothers Studios ever put on the screen.
Unlike most comedy teams, the duo of Daffy and Bugs rarely got along on screen. Also unlike those others, the friendship off screen never deteriorated int a rancorous relationship. Even after they parted ways as an on-screen team, the two remained lifelong friends, and even got together for more on screen antics later in life, including several full-length Looney Tunes movies.
Beginning with Rabbit Fire (which coupled with Rabbit Seasoning and Duck! Rabbit, Duck! comprise what is known as the “Hunter’s trilogy”), Bugs and Daffy played the classic straight man/comic duo that their predecessors such as Abbott/Costello and Laurel/Hardy did, but with much more exaggerated antics, since they were cartoons and could be blown up/shot/fall off cliffs with impunity.
Rabbit Fire was the first pairing of Bugs and Daffy. Elmer Fudd is out in the woods and sneaking along hunting wabbit (as in “Shhh. Be vewy vewy quiet. I’m hunting wabbit. Hahahaha”) Bugs and Daffy go after each other trying to convince Elmer is alternately either duck season or rabbit season. Some of the classic gags include Bugs accusing Elmer of hunting rabbits with an elephant gun, and then telling him to go shoot an elephant. And behind Elmer is an elephant who responds (in a Joe Besser of the Three Stooges voice) “You do and I’ll give you such a pinch!” The show ends with Bugs and Daffy tearing off posters on a tree, shouting “Duck Season!” “Rabbit Season” until the final poster reveals a picture of Elmer and the words Elmer Season. Elmer takes off like a rocket and Bugs and Daffy follow. “Shhh. Be vewy vewy quiet. We’re hunting Elmers…. Hahahaha.”
Rabbit Seasoning was the second in the so-called Hunter trilogy. This one had Daffy trying to convince Elmer that it’s rabbit season when it’s really duck season. The main gag involves a repartee between Bugs an Daffy which has Bugs tricking Daffy into saying “and I say he does have to shoot me now. Shoot Me NOW!” Hmm pronoun trouble… As in the previous episode, it ends with Daffy spluttering to Bugs “You’re despicable.”
Duck! Rabbit, Duck! was the third entry in the trilogy, and once again has the two fighting over whether it’s duck season or rabbit season — including a couple of scenes where Daffy calls Bugs a “dirty rat” and Bugs calls Daffy a “dirty skunk.” Daffy expostulates “I’m a dirty skunk? I’m a dirty skunk?” at which point Bugs holds up a sign that says “Dirty Skunk Season” and Elmer shoots Daffy. Then Daffy says “Well, I guess I’m the pigeon” and of course Bugs holds up a sign, “Pigeon Season.” After Daffy loses his cool, Bugs shows up in a ranger’s outfit and Elmer asks “What season is it really?” Bugs holds up a baseball and says it’s baseball season, at which point Elmer exits enthusiastically shooting the baseball.
But the hunter’s trilogy wasn’t the only appearances by our two battling heroes. Over the next few years there were some more classics, including:
Beanstalk Bunny. Daffy has just been hoodwinked by a huckster into trading the family cow for some beans. This is, of course, a takeoff of the Jack and the Beanstalk fairy tale, so Daffy is named “Jack” in the feature. The beans grow a beanstalk up to the sky and Daffy rubs his greedy hands together thinking about all those “solid gold goodies.” The fly in the ointment is that Bugs, into whose hole Daffy inadvertently threw the beans is on the beanstalk. After Daffy kicks Bugs off the beanstalk, Bugs mutters “I don’t remember there being a rabbit in the story of Jack and the Beanstalk. But there’s going to be one in this one!” The giant turns out to be Elmer Fudd, and various antics ensue as both Bugs and Daffy try to escape the giant. One of the best lines, after Daffy has tried to convince Elmer he’s not Jack, that bugs is. “Jack rabbit!” Elmer’s response is “I guess I’ll have to open with a couple of Jacks.” (Kids won’t get it, probably, but we adults do, and that’s what makes it so funny. But most of the WB cartoons had little references that were designed to appeal to adults).
The Abominable Snow Rabbit. Bugs and Daffy have been tunneling to the coast, but Bugs took a wrong turn at Albuquerque and they end up in the Himalayas. Angrily Daffy jumps back in the tunnel to return to his starting point, but runs into the foot of the Abominable Snowman, who thinks Daffy is a rabbit. Ecstatically, the Snowman picks up Daffy, exclaiming that he has a pet rabbit and that he will name him George (a reference to the character of Lenny in Of Mice and Men.) The usual chaos occurs as Daffy continually tries to get out of his predicament by redirecting his nemesis to Bugs.
The Million Hare. Daffy is visiting Bugs, and is the usual annoying house guest as he watches TV instead of hanging out with Bugs. He is watching a game show that involves two friends who must race to the studio, the winner getting a million bucks. Daffy tries all sorts of shenanigans to win while Bugs plays it cool, and Daffy arrives first. But the prize is not exactly what he expected.
Jim Brymer, AKA Quiggy, runs the movie blog The Midnite Drive-In, check it out for more insights on other classic films.
What’s your favorite Looney Tunes cartoon? Let us know in the comments!
This article originally ran last year and is being reprinted today to celebrate these classic cartoon characters!