Baton Bunny

Film Review by Dean Duncan May 31, 2015

This is a fun one, quite distinct from WB’s various familiar formulae. Bugs is developing the old Leopold (Stokowski) stuff, one of the elaborations of which is that he’s also the Giovanni Jones character—powerful and put upon both. Very healthy. We talk endlessly about an antagonism, which certainly exists. But in so many ways, and for so long, pop culture is not really grappling with the classical. Why, how wouldn’t you be grateful for both? They certainly can and do co-exist peacefully, as with this piece.

Bugs’ conductor’s batons are stored like pool cues, and he chalks the one he picks. The orchestra readies in a very nice montage that doesn’t have any hands or people or anything. The object suggests its operator. Synecdoche, right? The animation follows the lead of Von Suppé’s composition. These cartoons are sometimes on the brink of having the music come first anyway. This particular one pushes that right through, and instructively inverts the usual hierarchy.

Bug’s fly swatting causes the orchestra to increase tempos and play the wrong music (echoes of Disney’s The Band Concert, of course). A vaudevillian gag, isn’t it? It’s a very simple concept, and effective if effected with any skill or affection at all. As here. At this point Baton Bunny proceeds to demonstrate some of the conventions of silent film music, and early sound-musical Mickey Mousing. We also get musical typage, and associative quotes (as in the war sequence). That’s kind of professorly, probably, but this stuff is interesting! It’s its own kind of fun to concentrate, or chase things down.

Bugs has sabotaged his own performance by letting that fly get to him. In the end, the fly’s the only one left in the concert hall. It’s a pretty good cadence, structurally speaking. But unlike the crickets that chirp after Daffy Duck lays an egg in Show Biz Bugs, it doesn’t actually make much sense.