Tortoise Wins By A Hare (1943)

Supervision: Robert Clampett
Animation: Bob McKimson, Rod Scribner
Story: Warren Foster
Musical Direction: Carl Stalling
Voice Characterisations: Mel Blanc
Starring: Bugs Bunny, Cecil Turtle

This 1943 cartoon is the sequel to the Warner Bros. Fred “Tex” Avery cartoon “Tortoise Beats Hare” from 1941.

The feature starts with silhouettes of Bugs and Cecil racing on the spot, I like the way we get into the action with silhouettes even before the credit have disappeared.

The race commentator adds a certain newsreel flashback quality to the race sequence. Everything up until we see Bugs watching the footage on a projector is lifted straight out of the original cartoon from two years earlier.

Boy is Bugs bitter in this cartoon. He looks more feral than I can ever remember him. We regularly see his molars and gums throughout the short, particularly in his monologue, where he swears he’ll “find out his secret if it’s the last thing I do…” the monologue is a long one. Around 30 seconds of ranting. Some lovely animation too.

Bugs dresses up as an old timer and visits Cecil at his home (which is in the truck of a tree). Cecil obligingly reveals his “secret” via a blueprint that shows how his shell acts as an airflow chassis. “Now take rabbits, they’re built all wrong for racing. Those ridiculous ears.” The animators help the audience to appreciate that Bugs is taking notes by having bugs periodically type away at a typewriter concealed under his voluminous fake beard. The typewriter carriage appears from under his disguise as Bugs reaches the end of each line. He hastily returns the carriage with a “ding!” and is even finally assisted by Cecil.

I couldn’t help but notice when Cecil goes inside his house and talks to his wife. That “Sweety-face” is playing Patience with a deck of cards, as Cecil tells her that another race with Bugs is on, she is moving cards around, and you can clearly see that all the cards are being laid in the correct positions.

“Danger a Twerp at Work”. A lovely matte painting of Bugs’ ramshackle pottering shed is revealed. Sparks fly from the chimney into the night sky to the beat of a hammer on an anvil. Bugs is wearing a home-made metal tortoise shell and is wearing a green swimming hat in an effort to make himself more streamlined.

We see the race being advertised on the cover Chicago Sunday Tribunk along with pictures of Cecil and Bugs, who proceed to argue like prize fighters from within their newspaper columns.

We are then introduced to a delightful gambling ring of rabbits with a diminutive leader, I was reminded of Clyde and the Anthill Mob from Hanna Barbera created 25 years later. They clearly have their money on Bugs to win, they sharpen their knives in readiness.

Phew what a set up! Sadly the race is a bit of an anti-climax. Aside from the delights of Cecil’s lolloping running style and the screwball jalopy music that accompanies him, I felt a desire to get it over with and skip to the end.

The gambling ring re-route the lines into the road and Bugs, now in his turtle suit is mistaken for Cecil. In a classic case of mistaken identify they pounce on him. Meanwhile Cecil has changed into a rabbit costume and is carried to victory by the hoods.

According to Wikipedia the ending, where the gambling ring shoots themselves after realising that they’ve been trying to sabotage Bugs throughout the cartoon has been cut from many TV prints of this cartoon. The edited version ends with an abrupt fake blackout immediately after the gambling ring members say “Eh, NOW he tells us!”.

All in all an enjoyable sequel to the superior original, which I confess to watching while researching this viewing. I’ll share my thought on “Tortoise Beats Hare” with you tomorrow.

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