Baseball Bugs (1946)
Director: I. Freleng
Story: Michael Maltese
Animation: Manuel Perez, Ken Champin, Virgil Ross, Gerry Chiniquy
Layout and backgrounds: Hawley Pratt, Paul Julian
Voice Characterisation: Mel Blanc
Musical Director: Carl W. Stalling
Cast: Bugs Bunny
Following yesterday’s toon made in 1944 this 1946 cartoon shows just how far the team had progressed in 2 years. It’s a riot of gags and clever animated jokes it’s not practical to list them all. The premise centres around a baseball game between the aging home-side the Tea Totallers and the visiting brutish villains the Gas-House Gorillas. The ball literally screams as it is knocked out of the park! The characterisation of the Gorillas is brilliantly animated with saggy trousers, cigars and gaping mouths. Bugs Bunny heckles the Gorillas from his rabbit hole claiming he could beat them single handed. The upshot is that Bugs ends up being forced into playing every position including speeding from the mound to behind the plate to catch his own pitches.
The cartoon is full of great shots, such as the slow ball that Bugs releases with the most brilliant wind-up. It moves at a snail’s pace accompanied by the sound of a jalopy engine popping and spluttering as it travels across the field, being vainly sliced at by a long line of opposing Gorilla hitters. One Gorilla tries to catch one of Bugs’ reality-defying pitches and is dragged under the earth and buried complete with a headstone reading “He Got It”. Another Gorilla gets his cigar flattened across his face and is left senselessly grinning sat beneath an advertisement that reads “Does your tobacco taste different lately?”
The most notable scene for me was the final play from the Gorillas where Bugs is forced to run for a ball, catch a taxi, a bus and climb the “Umpire” State Building and the flagpole on its roof and throw his glove in the air to catch it. Even the Statue of Liberty gets in on the celebrations (featuring the uncredited voice of Betty Rubble herself Bea Benaderet).
Bugs himself closes the show by bursting from a drum and announcing “And dat’s de end!” this is one of only two toons to feature a Bugs sign off.
Apparently this cartoon owes something to an earlier Tex Avery cartoon called “Batty Baseball” from 1944, maybe we should take a look at that one tomorrow.