Rhapsody Rabbit

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Rhapsody Rabbit
Rhapsody Rabbit.png
Bugs Bunny prepares to play the piano.
Directed byI. Freleng
Produced byEdward Selzer (uncredited)
Story byTedd Pierce
Michael Maltese
StarringMel Blanc
Music byCarl Stalling
Animation byManuel Perez
Ken Champin
Virgil Ross
Gerry Chiniquy
Layouts byHawley Pratt
Backgrounds byTerry Lind
Color processTechnicolor
Distributed byWarner Bros. Pictures
The Vitaphone Corporation
Release date
November 9, 1946 (1946-11-09)
Running time
7m 33s (one reel)

Rhapsody Rabbit is a 1946 American animated comedy short film in the Merrie Melodies series, directed by Friz Freleng and starring Bugs Bunny. The short was originally released to theaters by Warner Bros. Pictures on November 9, 1946. This short is a follow-up of sorts to Freleng's 1941 Academy Award-nominated short Rhapsody in Rivets, which featured the "Hungarian Rhapsody No. 2" by Franz Liszt. The "instrument" used to perform the Hungarian Rhapsody in Rhapsody in Rivets is a skyscraper under construction, while this short features Bugs Bunny playing the piece at a piano, while being pestered by a mouse.

Rhapsody Rabbit was the first cartoon to be broadcast on Cartoon Network when the channel launched on October 1, 1992.

Plot synopsis[edit]

The cartoon opens with a bar of "Merrily We Roll Along", followed by a segment of the "lively" portion of Wagner's Siegfried funeral march, as Bugs walks onstage to applause and prepares to play the grand piano. Throughout the cartoon he runs through a large assortment of visual gags while continuing to play the Hungarian Rhapsody. The first gag involves an (off-screen) audience member who coughs and hacks loudly just as Bugs is poised to play. When it happens a second time, Bugs pulls a revolver out of his tailcoat and shoots the audience member. After blowing the smoke from the barrel and returning the gun to his pocket, Bugs resumes the concert.

Although the film is mostly pantomime, Bugs speaks a few times (voice of Mel Blanc). At one point he is interrupted by the ring of a phone, timed to echo a short fluttering strain that Bugs is playing at that moment. The phone is inside the piano: "Eh, what's up doc? Who? Franz Liszt? Never [heard] of him. Wrong number." When playing a notable triad in the middle of the piece, which happens to be the same triad notably used in the unrelated Rossini aria "Largo al factotum" (from The Barber of Seville, which would be spoofed in a later Bugs cartoon), Bugs accompanies his piano playing by singing, "Fi-ga-ro! Fi-ga-ro!"

A mouse appears and pesters Bugs the rest of the way, although the first ("slow") half of the piece is played nearly "straight", with just a few small gags. Bugs stops at the very short pause in the piece, acknowledging the applause of the audience. Before he can begin the "fast" part of the piece (where the gags accelerate), the mouse instigates a major musical shift, to a "Boogie-woogie" number. Bugs joins in, although he eventually traps the mouse (which responds by playing "Chopsticks" while still trapped) and seemingly disposes of the pest with dynamite; when the mouse begins quietly playing "Taps" and stops 1 note short, Bugs peeks inside and the mouse "plays" the final note by hitting Bugs with a mallet. Bugs then returns to playing the Rhapsody. As the pace picks up, he speaks to the camera (for the last time in the cartoon): "Look! One hand! ... NO hands!" The camera pulls back, and he is deftly playing the piano keys with his toes.

Nearing the end of the Rhapsody, he is in shock after turning to the finale page which consist of scrambled, quick playing, nearly impossible to read notes after which he takes off his shirt, oils his hands, and prays. Then, preparing to play the intense part, he is startled to hear the frenzied finalé playing, behind him. It is the mouse, complete with tie and tails, playing a toy piano that plays like a normal-sounding piano. Cut back to Bugs after the full-orchestra finalé, and he disgustedly plays the three single notes that actually end the piece, and then mutters inaudible profanity which can be lip-read.


The short is available on disc 4 of Looney Tunes Golden Collection Volume 2, with an optional commentary track by musical historian Daniel Goldmark. Also, it is available on disc 2 of Looney Tunes Spotlight Collection Volume 2.

Plagiarism dispute[edit]

The same year Warner Bros. released Rhapsody Rabbit, MGM produced a very similar Tom and Jerry cartoon called The Cat Concerto, which features Tom being distracted by Jerry while playing in a concert.[1] Most of the gags are identical to both cartoons, and they used the same music that was played.[2] The Cat Concerto won an Academy Award for Best Animated Short Film.[1]

Both MGM and Warner Bros. accused each other of plagiarism, after both films were shown in the 1947 Academy Awards Ceremony.[1] Technicolor was accused of sending a print of either cartoon to a competing studio, who then plagiarized their rival's work.[1] This remains uncertain even today: though Rhapsody Rabbit has an earlier MPAA approval number and release date, MGM's cartoons took longer to make.[1] The massive similarities could be coincidental.[1] The controversy was mentioned in an episode of the Cartoon Network anthology series ToonHeads.[3][4]

See also[edit]


External links[edit]

Preceded by
The Big Snooze
Bugs Bunny Cartoons
Succeeded by
Rabbit Transit