Kill the wabbit! Kill the wabbit! Kill the wabbit!

Two rare hand-inked and hand-painted production cels from the classic 1957 Warner Brothers cartoon What’s Opera, Doc? in which Bugs Bunny and Elmer Fudd exposed many children to the first and possibly only Wagner arias they’d ever known, will be going under the hammer at Heritage Auctions on April 9th, 2015. Only a handful of cells from this instant classic have survived the callous treatment they received in their time. These two have the advantage of being iconic images and having been rescued by a legendary animator who has kept them safe at home for all these decades.

What’s Opera, Doc? was directed by Chuck Jones (legend), voiced by Mel Blanc (legend) as Bugs with animation by Ken Harris (legend). Just six minutes long, the cartoon took seven weeks to produce, two weeks more than scheduled. Jones was so committed to this story that he made his crew falsify their time cards to say those extra two weeks were spent on a Road Runner cartoon that wasn’t in production yet. “For sheer production quality, magnificent music, and wonderful animation,” Jones said, “this is our most elaborate and satisfying production.” His instincts were unerring. Voted number one of the 50 Greatest Cartoons of all time by 1,000 members animators in 1994, What’s Opera, Doc? was also the first cartoon Congress deemed worthy of preservation in the National Film Registry in 1992.

One lot captures Elmer in his Siegfried outfit lifting up Brünnhilde Bugs during their dance inspired by the Bacchanal ballet in Richard Wagner’s Tannhäuser. It’s seven inches tall and while there is some paint loss and paint separation, it’s still graded in Good condition.

The second cel is from the beginning of the cartoon and features Elmer as Siegfried holding on to his helmet and spear. It’s 6.5 inches square and only has slight spots of paint separation in the horns and spear. There is no paint loss so it’s graded in Very Good condition. Both cels have pre-sale estimates of $5,000 and up.

The animation cels were saved from the dustbin of history by another animation legend, Jerome Eisenberg, who worked as an animator on Jones’ unit at Warner Bros. in the mid-to-late-1950s, the Golden Age of Looney Tunes cartoons and who has held on to the cels for almost six decades.

Eisenberg moved from MGM Studios cartoon unit and joined Jones’ Warner Bros. unit just after “What’s Opera, Doc?” was completed, coming to Warner specifically to work with Jones.

“It was special to me to work in his unit,” said Eisenberg. “We had tremendous fun.”

One afternoon, to the best of his recollection, he was in one of the artists’ rooms, or in the room of the unit’s layout man, when he saw a group of cels on a table. The art appealed to him and, knowing that most animation art was simply stored and eventually trashed, he took a few.

“In those day I never thought much about saving them,” he said. “I really just saved them for the artwork.”

Bless his good taste.



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Comment by John
2015-03-27 10:02:43

One of my all time favorite episodes of Bugs!

Thanks for posting these!


Comment by livius drusus
2015-03-27 18:59:31

You’re welcome!

Comment by sidthecat
2015-03-27 17:27:51

I’ve been in animation long enough to remember when cels were considered a waste product.

Comment by livius drusus
2015-03-27 18:58:40

Oh wow, I hope you stuffed a few in your pockets on the way out the door at night.

Comment by Classof65
2015-03-27 17:33:01

Thanks for going all the way and providing a link to the cartoon itself — you made my day!

Comment by livius drusus
2015-03-27 18:58:15

I watched it three times last night alone. :boogie:

Comment by Annie Delyth
2015-03-27 19:13:38

Wah, broken link. “This video is no longer available because the YouTube account associated with this video has been terminated.”

Comment by livius drusus
2015-03-27 19:29:32

NOOOO! Let me see if I can find another copy somewhere.

Comment by livius drusus
2015-03-27 19:31:15

Okay watch now before this one gets killed too.

Comment by CA
2015-03-27 21:41:27

Kill the Wrabbit, not the wideo! It’s wonderful to think that the fun and accomplishment were what made him take those cells, not other motives as one hears so much about today.

Thank you for reminding me of a childhood favorite.

Comment by livius drusus
2015-03-27 22:47:57

I love that Jones was so inspired by the subject that he essentially conspired to defraud the Road Runner to make sure it got done properly. :giggle:

Comment by Stretch
2015-03-27 22:16:10

“$5,ooo and up.”
Ya think?
They’ll go for no less than $25,000 … each.
I wouldn’t be the least bit surprised if they see 6 figures each.

Comment by livius drusus
2015-03-27 22:46:57

I think the one with Elmer and Bugs dancing will go for significantly more than the one of Elmer alone. Online bidding is open and the dancing cel is already at $3,500 while Elmer is at $1,100. Those figures are sure to skyrocket on auction day, of course.

Comment by bort
2015-03-28 01:30:56

Does Bunnhilde make anyone else feel funny, like when they climbed the rope in gym class?


Comment by livius drusus
2015-03-29 08:30:30

Of course! Everyone knows that until Jessica Rabbit stole her thunder and ran with it, Bugs in drag was the hottest.

Comment by James
2015-03-28 06:32:06

A good book about Jones and those guys is “Chuck Amok”. The other opera one I love is where bugs conducts: Leopold, Leopold!

Comment by livius drusus
2015-03-29 08:28:02

I have added it to the list. :thanks:

Comment by James
2015-03-28 06:33:28

Sorry, that should be “Chuck Amuck”.

Comment by Tcheuchter
2015-03-28 14:28:17

Without doubt the best precis of the Ring cycle was by the wonderful Anna Russell. I never tire of hearing it.

She did much other good stuff too, but that is her most famous.

Comment by livius drusus
2015-03-29 08:16:22

I’ve never heard of her before but I am now officially in love with Anna Russell. That was genius. Thank you so much!

Comment by Annie Delyth
2015-03-28 16:00:53

Thank you, livius! I am happy now. Just need a box of popcorn to make it perfect. Oh, and I get to watch it without my little brothers bugging me. Er, so to speak…

Imagine how much fun the animators had making this!

Comment by livius drusus
2015-03-29 08:15:37

You always want these kinds of artistic endeavours to be full of fun and experimentation and creativity, but so many times you find out that behind the scenes it was a horrible nightmare or an assembly line devoid of spirit or some other tragedy. It’s great to hear from people who were there that Chuck Jones’ shop really was as joyful and brilliant as their work suggests.

Comment by sidthecat
2015-03-28 18:12:35

I didn’t…they were waste.

Comment by livius drusus
2015-03-29 08:10:56

That’s a damn shame.

Comment by Urspo
2015-03-29 11:35:41

Wow. Look at all the comments.
I remember going to the movies to see the film version of La Triviata. In front of me sat two elderly dames, apparently opera lovers who hadn’t been in the cinema in a while. Prior to the movie, they ran “What’s Opera, Doc?” the women cracked up. After it ended, they got up to leave. I asked why. They said that was so wonderful they couldn’t stay for anything so sad and familiar as Verdi.

Comment by livius drusus
2015-03-29 12:08:29

That is brilliant. La Traviata is one of my favorites, but I totally get that they would want to spend the rest of the day on a Bugs high instead of a Verdi downer.

Comment by Sujay Rao Mandavilli
2015-03-31 23:22:00

pleased to present my new paper’ historiography by objectives’ this delineates a theoretical framework for the study of history in the 21st century and exposes the perils/pitfalls of all ideology driven approaches. it also probes the histirians duties towards society

My previous papers on the Aryan problem are here.. calling more mainstream researchers to take up research on Ancient India.
Sujay Rao Mandavilli

Comment by bort
2015-08-26 00:20:44

Recently, WB/DC solicited for Looney Tunes & Justice League covers. I guess they’re okay, but this one has to be my favorite:

Comment by Trey Evitt
2016-05-22 20:44:41

Many don’t realize this was a way for the Jewish Warner Brothers to poke fun at National Socialism’s favorite opera.

Sieg Hahahahahahaha….

Idiot Nazi Scum!

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