What’s Opera, Doc?

Film Review by Dean Duncan Jul 13, 2015

Well, here it is. The Cartoon of All Cartoons? You can actually make that claim, especially if you keep rotating lots of other C. o’ all C.’s on and off of that platform. But What’s Opera Doc really does have some formidable reputation. And it really stands up, doesn’t it? Look at the thing! Shadows! Abstractions! Elmer! Elmer’s voice! That run! Yo-oh-toh-oh!

The lyrics here really are terrific. That horse! Did you notice the annoyed expression on his face, just for an instant there? Bugs has classic monumental 1950s’ breasts. “Yes I know it,” he intones. “I can’t help it.” What an impressive pastiche of all those powerful, beautiful Wagnerian themes. The combination, high and low, etc., makes perfect conceptual sense. These pictures have been providing satire, puncturing various forms of pretense, since their inception. But there’s much more than just puncturing going on. There’s also magnitude! Look at Bug’s amazingly designed departure shot. There’s a joke in there, and it’s a very good one. But the expanse of it. What’s Opera Doc lampoons epics—think of American film, ca. 1957—but it also quite effortlessly achieves epic status, and finally ends up fully justifying the form. Some piece of work!