Dec. 16 – Bugs Bunny’s Looney Christmas Tales

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BUGS BUNNY’S LOONEY CHRISTMAS TALES
Original Air Date: November 27, 1979

SYNOPSIS:
Bugs and the partially assembled Looney Tunes gang go through the Holiday motions!

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BACKSTORY:
Although many people are given credit for the creation of Bugs Bunny, only one man brought him an Oscar. While Tex Avery popularized the version of Bugs we now know and love, Friz Freleng was the one who directed him to his only Academy Award, in 1958’s Knighty Knight Bugs.

bugs-frelengFreleng and Bugs during better times

When Warner Bros. shut down its cartoon division in 1963, it allowed Freleng and the previous WB animation director, David DaPatie, to set up shop in its old animation facilities for a nominal fee, where they operated under the name of the DaPatie-Freleng Enterprises.

bugs-logoLogos that accompanied many a DFE cartoon

Rather than let their characters die, however, Warner licensed out the use of the Looney stable of characters to DFE and Chuck Jones Enterprises for several television projects – Bugs Bunny’s Looney Christmas Tales was a joint product of both studios.

BREAKDOWN:
As much as I like the idea of “getting the band back together,” there’s a reason Bug Bunny’s Looney Christmas Tales has been lost to time. These were the cheap years, the Speedy-Gonzales-versus-Daffy-Duck times most Looney Tunes fans don’t like to talk about.

bugs-groupBugs opens the special by leading a group of drunks in song

Given the budget for what was essentially a heavily licensed, made-for-TV freelance assignment, I sure as shit didn’t expect a whole lot going in. So in a way I was not let down.

bugs-coyote3Love the backgrounds here

Both Jones and Freleng were well beyond their prime and, I’d guess, basically resurrecting old tricks for the money. It’s animated pretty poorly and the gags are, for the most part, simple retreads going through the motions.

bugs-kissIt’s okay to feel uncomfortable

Looney Christmas Tales features three cartoons made fresh 30 years ago – two by Freleng and one by Chuck Jones. Now, I was faced with an overwhelming sense of dread at having to watch another adaptation of A Christmas Carol, especially at a run-time of seven or so minutes…

bugs-carol1This is the most Bugs ever moves

But I sorta dug it since it was a surprisingly fresh take. Sure you’ve got the same old Dickens classic, recast with the Warner Bros. menagerie. Yosemite Sam is Scrooge, Porky Pig is Bob Cratchit, etc.

bugs-porkyI noticed it, too, Bugs

Oh, and one role that hints at a adulterous Petunia Pig:

bugs-tweetyYep, Tweety Bird as a genetically impossible Tiny Tim

But Bugs Bunny is pretty much Bugs Bunny. The only time a ghost even appears is when Bugs dresses like one.

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It’s not unlike the old formula where they simply insert Bugs into any situation just to watch him torment another asshole, so I’ve got no complaints there.

bugs-carol-moneyThis is how it ends – on Christmas night for a change

Only problem is, there’s no fluidity to the animation, nor to the Stalling-esque score we’ve come to associate with the rabbit’s escapades. Mel Blanc is on hand to provide all the recognizable character voices, but the sound effects seem to be on loan from Hanna-Barbera.

bugs-coyote4Spirited, but stupid

Chuck Jones’ Road Runner cartoon fares a bit better. By his own admission, there really isn’t much more to the Road Runner-Wile E. Coyote duo than concocting new ACME products and FAIL gags.

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The only real premise at work is that Wile E. Coyote chases the Road Runner to the top of a mountain under the assumption that road runners hate snow.

bugs-rr2In fact, he takes to it quite well

And no offense to the Road Runner or Wile E. Coyote, but it’s undeniably cool to see them running around someplace other than an art-deco desert for once. Plus the animation is a cut above.

bugs-coyote5Because Chuck Jones knows snow, bitches!

But probably the most notable cartoon is an all-new Tasmanian Devil short. Due to his latter-day popularity in commercials, mudflaps and television appearances, people tend to forget that Taz only starred in five theatrical shorts. (By comparison, Bugs was in almost 150!)

bugs2Great! Now I have a new phobia

In a bit of contrived self-awareness, even the pilots wonder why they’re shipping a Tasmanian Devil from Australia over the North Pole on Christmas Eve. But hey, that’s what gets him where he needs to be!

bugs-tazAnimal cruelty?

Ever-afraid to portray cartoon characters as married – and thereby unattainable – Bugs is made to be caring for his nephew over the Holidays.

bugs-homeWho could forget Bugs’ nephew, “Nephew?”

Bugs proceeds to torment Taz, who actually seems even more punch-drunk and lost than usual on this occasion, to the point where you almost feel sorry for him.

bugs-taz3Taz’s don’t know that table’s not food!

Either way, The Fright Before Christmas is the only short from this special that found its way in to regular airings on Saturday mornings alongside Warner Bros.’ popular, much better looking, theatrical shorts.

bugs-taz-lightsNot unlike the tree, this scene was trimmed in subsequent airings

The half-assed wraparound that bookends the three shorts fizzles out with Bugs riding off into the Christmas night with the rest of the Looney Tunes…

bugs-sleigh“Goodbye, Docs”

Right before Taz eats the sleigh, for a last-ditch comedic effort before the buzzer.

bug-endObligations

jesus template

What kind of goofy God would make a rabbit who could talk?! Keep your religion the hell away from my Looney Tunes!

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Plenty of characters don the famous red suit, but only the big guy’s hoause makes an actual appearance.

bugs-santaAll dressed up with no one around

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Every time I beat back my Holiday cynicism, something like Bugs Bunny’s Looney Christmas Tales comes along to keep me on my toes. Even thirty years later it resembles the shameless cash-in it always was: The Godfather III of Christmas specials. And above all, NO DAFFY!

PRODUCT INFORMATION (Support the Site!)

Bugs Bunny’s Looney Christmas Tales is available on its own only on VHS, so it should be easy to avoid. However, it’s also included as a special feature on the Looney Tunes: Golden Collection, Volume 5, part of the phenomenal DVD series that contains nearly seven hours of Warner Bros. bliss. While you’re at it, pick up the latest volume as well – Warner has just announced that they’re discontinuing the Golden Collection,  so even a mild interest could turn into an extremely valuable collectors item! (Don’t believe me?  Peep the price on this similar Disney series that went on sale just two years ago.)

15santacominYesterday’s Christmas Special:
SANTA CLAUS IS COMIN’ TO TOWN

3 thoughts on “Dec. 16 – Bugs Bunny’s Looney Christmas Tales

  1. It’s sad. You can really see the dropoff in Warner’s animation quality as time goes on… While technically sound, it loses a lot of the brilliance of it’s early years and starts to feel phoned in.

    Something that wouldn’t be rectified until the 90s.

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