Each week (or not), Dan McQuade reviews a baseball movie. This week in Cinema Varitek: Baseball Bugs, a 1946 cartoon starring Bugs Bunny. Almost all voices by Mel Blanc. Written by Michael Maltese and directed by Friz Freleng. These reviews usually contain spoilers, but if you can't guess who wins when Bugs Bunny takes on an entire team in a baseball game... well, yikes.
I love cartoons. I grew up watching the Ninja Turtles eat pizza, Garfield eat lasagna and Heathcliff eat... I dunno, garbage, maybe. (Didn't he live in a garbage dump -- or was that some supporting character?) I still love The Simpsons; the recent HD episodes look fantastic. I sat through all four Futurama movies, even that horrid second one. I was also a daily watcher of the Super Mario Bros. Super Show.
Growing up, of course, there were also great classic cartoons that would run on UHF stations (sometimes during The Bozo Show). Like you (probably), one of my favorites was the classic Looney Toons short where Bugs Bunny strikes out the side on one pitch. I recently came across the short, Baseball Bugs, and since it has been taken down from YouTube, I think it's only right to review it here. While I cannot expect to match U.S.S. Mariner's sabermetric review of the game, I will do my best. (NB to Glenn Stout: This review of Air Bud: Seventh Inning Fetch is the best sports article of the year. Maybe ever. And I'm pretty hard on myself, usually.)
Baseball Bugs opens with the Gas-House Gorillas defeating the Tea Totallers at the Polo Grounds. Let this be a lesson to you, kids: If you abstain from alcohol and tobacco, you will totally suck at baseball. I particularly liked one of the opening shots from the grandstand:
You don't see fans toss their hats and beers into the air anymore, since their 59Fifty hats cost like $29.95 and their beers even more (at least at Fenway).
The game continues, and there's the best scene in the whole cartoon, with the entire Gas-House Gorillas team doing a combo home run hitting contest/conga line (bunny hop?) against one horrible pitcher.
This wouldn't be the last time baseball rules are broken in the game. Nor is it the last time simple decorum is thrown out the window. Why, after the Gorillas take nearly a 100-run lead, Bugs Bunny pops out from underground in the middle of the outfield and starts heckling. Nowadays, he'd be ejected, arrested -- and if he tried it during "God Bless America," he'd probably be killed.
I particularly like the carrot on a hot dog bun Bugs is eating. What's also great about Bugs is despite complaining about the Gorillas being a bunch of cheaters, when he replaces the Tea Totallers at all nine positions he definitely bends, if not breaks, many rules himself. And he certainly isn't a good sport. Down 95 runs, he smacks a pitch out of the Polo Grounds for a homer; what does he do?
That's right. Bugs celebrates while going down the first base line (in a game he's trailing by a considerable margin). You think one of the Gas-House Gorillas would hit him with a pitch, but we don't see any such thing. We do, however, see a hard hit line drive that a Gorillas player yells "I got it, I got it!" and attemps to catch. Here's what happens:
Yes, Bugs Bunny actually kills a member of the other team during this game. Citi Field should play this clip every time Daniel Murphy makes another error.
Bugs also manages to get another run by distracting the opposing catcher with a pin-up poster.
I bet we're going to see Jason Kendall start doing this next time he's caught lumbering between bases.
You'll note that the player for the Gas-House Gorillas is actually smoking a cigar while playing the game. While tobacco is an underrated performance enhancer -- mainly for the calming effect -- few players in MLB history have actually smoked while playing the game.
Baseball Bugs is actually full of drug references, none of which would make it into a cartoon in 2009. Mainly, it's outfield wall advertising.
This is also another example of a player being injured (though not killed, this time) by Bugs Bunny's playing style. Let's just be happy Bugs wasn't using an aluminum bat.
Yes, there is an ad for Manza Champagne in the background -- but Bugs Bunny also looks extremely stoned. He later became a law-abiding citizen again, encouraging kids not to smoke crack (really) in Cartoon All-Stars to the Rescue.
You know how this one ends: Bugs rallies for a win, catches a fly ball at the top of the Umpire State Building (cute), and the Statue of Liberty tells the Gas-House Gorillas player he's out. I'd just like to close with another of my favorite gags in this short when I was a kid: The batboy.
Ha ha! Too awesome.
On deck for next week: Rhubarb, and The Pen's fourth episode. (It didn't air this week.)