Thursday, 12 March 2015

Shrinking Pupil Take

Chuck Jones liked employing a take where a character’s pupils grow wide then shrink to tiny dots. It happens twice in the Bugs Bunny/Wile E. Coyote cartoon “Operation: Rabbit” (released by Warner Bros. in late 1951, regardless of what web sites say).

Here’s one of them. The smug coyote thinks he’s thwarted a dynamite explosion by putting out a fuse only discover the stick has a fuse on the other end, too.

And here we are later in the cartoon when Super Genius realises a steam locomotive is headed directly toward him.

I am likely in the minority, but I love the Bugs vs. Wile E. cartoons. The Roadrunner vs. Wile E. shorts bored me as a kid and they were a cue to go the kitchen and get something. The Roadrunner was a nothing. Who cares about him? Bugs, on other hand, was battling intellectual snobbishness. You wanted to see Bugs win over the patronising jerk. And the dialogue helped because it took the sameness out of the “plan-fail-stare-boom/splat” that happened again and again in the silent Roadrunner pictures.

Lloyd Vaughan, Ben Washam, Phil Monroe and Ken Harris are the credited animators on this.


  1. I think "Operation: Rabbit" gets a lot of love from a lot of people (and the Bugs model sheets from this one eventually became pretty much the default design for all of Warners' clip art from the 1990s on). The others are a little less loved because for some, Bugs is seen as too prissy (Michael Barrier's complaint from the second Bugs-Wile E. effort).

    The only one I dislike with a passion is the final teaming in "Hare-Breadth Hurry", where Chuck's decision to use the mute Wile E. turns Bugs into the 1960s version of what Jones said was all wrong with how Bob Clampett used the rabbit, as he comes across as a smug bully because the coyote is voiceless to sing his own praises. Chuck should have set up the short where as soon as Bugs stops imitating the Road Runner, Wile E. should have stopped being mute, and gone back to the arrogant chatterbox he was in the other Bugs cartoons.

  2. One of the takes in Beep Beep is just the opposite - Wile E. pulls a trip wire for his water glass trap, and his pupils slowly widen as he realizes his mistake. Even after dozens of viewings, still makes me laugh. Every. Single. Time.

  3. Yowp, I much prefer the Bugs/Coyote pairings over almost ALL the Roadrunner/Coyote ones (with first few, and later1960's "Fastest with the Mostest", due to the use of only four long gags, the opening and three others, and 1961's "Lickety-Splat", with the recurring needle dart bit, which ALL haters of the series should really re-assess, being exceptions), and this was the first.

    J.Lee, rkight with you on "Harebreadth Hurry",1963. Bugs is a bully and a CONSTANTLY verbose character.

  4. I'd say of all the Bugs / Wile E. pairings, nothing came better than "Operation: Rabbit." As for the Road Runner oeuvre, one of my favorite moments had to be from "Gee Whiz-z-z-z-z-z-z" (1956) where Wile E. was flying around in an Acme "Bat-Man's outfit" (this, years before Warners' acquired what was then National Periodical Publications, one of whose major characters was - you guessed it - Batman).