SUMMARY: In search of “west and wewaxation”, Elmer Fudd goes to a picturesque campsite, unaware that a wascally wabbit lies in wait there.
WHY IT’S HERE: Bob Clampett’s ‘Wabbit Twouble’ is an oft overlooked masterpiece which exemplifies everything that is great about Warner Cartoons. Animation, colour, sounds, music and dialogue are all used to hilarious effect. The cartoon is so packed with gags that they spilled over into the credits, which are presented in Fudd-ese with W’s replacing all the R’s and L’s. ‘Wabbit Twouble’ stars early incarnations of Elmer Fudd and Bugs Bunny and fans will notice immediately that they are quite different from the characters they would later become. Elmer (in his quickly abandoned obese form) does nothing at all to provoke the hard time which Bugs metes out to him. He is merely a sweet-natured holiday maker at a small campsite looking for “peace and wewaxation”. Bugs is a complete sociopath here, his eyes gleaming with a “now for some fun” look the moment Elmer arrives. In this respect Bugs resembles a less manic version of early Daffy Duck. Audiences naturally felt sorry for Elmer which lead to Bugs nearly always being provoked before unleashing the full force of his heckling in later cartoons.
The fact that we feel sorry for Elmer does not diminish how hilarious ‘Wabbit Twouble’ is, however. Bugs’ tormenting of Elmer is inspired throughout from his gentle glasses-painting stunt to the more violent moments which implicate a grizzly bear. All my favourite moments in ‘Wabbit Twouble’ involve character’s interacting with the audience. The cartoon’s most classic moment and its most enduring legacy is the moment Bugs breaks off for a second during one of his pranks to confide in the audience “I do this kinda stuff to him all through the picture”. In a later gag involving Bugs sitting on a terrified Elmer and snarling like a bear, he turns to the camera once again and remarks “Funny situation, ain’t it?” In another of the film’s funniest jokes, Elmer hurriedly packs away his belongings and mistakenly take a huge tree with him. Realising his mistake, he returns to the screen, replaces the tree, looks at the audience and shrugs. It’s a priceless moment and a refreshing signal that even the cartoon’s dupe knows we are out there.
‘Wabbit Twouble’ is an exceptional piece of work. Bob Clampett’s typically brilliant direction and Dave Monahan’s fabulous script combine beautifully to make a remarkably handsome, considered but very fast paced gem which overcomes its essentially mean-spirited premise by virtue of its impeccable execution of every single element. Although it is a critically acclaimed work, ‘Wabbit Twouble’ is infrequently mentioned in polls of the greatest cartoons ever. It deserves to be mentioned in the same breath as the great classics.