"What's Opera, Doc?" lampoons classic opera by using its elements to set up the latest chapter in Elmer Fudd's hapless pursuit of Bugs Bunny. We open with a silhouette of a mighty Viking arousing ferocious lightning storms ... only to find it's Elmer -- this time as the demigod Siegfried. Elmer admonishes the audience (in classical verse) to "be vewwy quiet, I'm hunting wabbits!" It's not long before Elmer comes upon Bugs' hole and sings out "Kill the wabbit!" not realizing that the hare has already climbed out and is viewing Elmer spearing fruitlessly in said hole. Bugs joins in the fun, querying his tagline in operatic verse and leaving Elmer in his dust (but not before "Siegfried" shows us an example of supposed "mighty powers" from his spear and magic helmet). Elmer goes after the wascally wabbit, but his pursuit is ended when he sets his eyes on the stunningly and awesomely beautiful Valkyrie Brunhilde (Bugs in disguise). After a "hard-to-get" pursuit" (brought on by Elmer's ...Written by
Brian Rathjen <firstname.lastname@example.org>
A masterpiece, but not for the reasons some people think
This is a classic short cartoon, all right. It's the art direction that does it - it's VERY 1950s (some would say it's pinched from UPA, but this is false: look at the previous work of Maurice Noble, and the direction in which background design was tending at Disney and to a lesser extent Warner Brothers before UPA was even formed, and you'll see that UPA was merely the most extreme expression of a zeitgeist which arose for as yet unexplained reasons) - but it fits the roasted twilight setting of Wagner like a glove. Colours, sets, linework, framing; all are marvellous.
The cartoon is not, as is commonly asserted, Wagner's fourteen-hour Ring cycle compressed into seven minutes, since none of the content of the story is taken from Wagner (also, the disappointingly lame "Weturn, My Wuv" lyrics are set to a tune from "Tannhäuser"). It would be better still if it WERE a true parody of Wagner. As it is, wonderful and self-contained as the short is, it's also a bit baffling; not funny, but lacking the final ounce of courage required to be truly thrilling or moving, either. It IS a pity that it wasn't even nominated for Best Animated Short of 1957, especially in the absence of serious competition: Disney had shut down its short cartoon unit the previous year, UPA was churning out Mr. Magoo and nothing else, it wasn't a particularly outstanding year for MGM, and (the final indignity) the cartoon that actually WON the award that year was yet another worthless Sylvester and Tweety effort.
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