THE BOOTLEG FILES: RABBIT STEW AND RABBITS TOO!

BOOTLEG FILES 501: “Rabbit Stew and Rabbits Too!” (1969 animated short from the Warner Bros. studio).

LAST SEEN: The film is online at Dailymotion.com and OVGuide.com.

AMERICAN HOME VIDEO: None.

REASON FOR BOOTLEG STATUS: A dismal sign-off for a once-vibrant production unit.

CHANCES OF SEEING A COMMERCIAL DVD RELEASE: Nope.

From the 1930s through the 1950s, the creative artists responsible for the Warner Bros. animated films generated a happy parade of brilliantly eccentric characters. Sadly, all parades have to come to a close, and for the Warner Bros. animation unit the end of the line came in 1969 with characters called Rapid Rabbit and Quick Brown Fox.

The 1960s was not a cheerful time for Warner Bros. animation. Tighter budgets, the defection of longtime talent and a shrinking theatrical market for short films contributed to the malaise. Even worse, the remaining creative artists at the studio were all but played out – original ideas were few and far between, and most of the cartoons created in this period were repetitive and stale. A vain attempt was made in the late 1960s to invent new characters, which brought about the appearances of Merlin the Magic Mouse, Cool Cat and Bunny and Claude.

Rapid Rabbit and Quick Brown Fox were introduced during this time to carry on the tradition created by the Road Runner and Wile E. Coyote. The first (and only) film in their series was “Rabbit Stew and Rabbits Too!” and it was a near-facsimile of the Road Runner-Wile E. Coyote misadventures, except for one small detail: it was completely unfunny.

Rapid Rabbit was a curious character, if only that the studio’s mini-wave of new characters already included rabbits with Bunny and Claude – and, of course, there was the lingering shadow of the studio’s most famous creation, Bugs Bunny. Rapid Rabbit was a diminutive and smiling hero that made his presence known by honking a bicycle horn, an obvious riff on the Road Runner’s “beep beep” but also a vague tribute to the irreverent Harpo Marx. Rapid Rabbit was brown, which is odd because Quick Brown Fox was closer to an orange hue (or at least that’s how he looks in a bootlegged print that is available online). The fox shares Wile E. Coyote’s lack of brainpower, but he is not as physically shabby or emotionally obsessed as the celebrated desert predator.

“Rabbit Stew and Rabbits Too!” opens in Quick Brown Fox’s cave, where the foxy villain is reading a cookbook that includes a rabbit stew recipe. The cookbook opens with the advice: “First, catch a rabbit.”

The remainder of the cartoon involves Quick Brown Fox’s bumbling attempts to capture Rapid Rabbit. The fox’s ploys are initially on the simple side – a noose hanging from a tree, a box trap with a carrot as a lure – but they quickly become more complex, with a bulky cannon brought in to annihilate the horn-honking rabbit. Needless to say, each plan goes badly awry for the fox, and he winds up suffering painful humiliations in his own traps.

Unlike the Road Runner films, this one brings in a human character. In this case, Quick Brown Fox somehow gets smashed across the front fender of an automobile. The vehicle pulls into a service station, where an attendant nonchalantly unscrews the fox’s nose as if it was a radiator cap and fills him with water from a hose.

The fox recovers and builds a Rube Goldberg-style contraption that includes an anvil and a frying pan set atop a gas stove. Of course, the rabbit surprises the fox, who winds up banging his head on the anvil and sitting in the center of the heated frying pan.

Ultimately, the fox proves no match for the rabbit. In the film’s closing moment, Rapid Rabbit wraps Quick Brown Fox in a blanket, attaches a balloon to the blanket, and then watches as his adversary is launched into the sky.

The strange thing about “Rabbit Stew and Rabbits Too!” is that nothing quite fits right. Robert McKimson’s direction is sluggish, and many of the gags used to capture the rabbit were copied from Wile E. Coyote’s bag of failed tricks. Bill Lava’s score is an odd rehash of the music from the Road Runner soundtracks with a light-pop instrumental beat that permeated the AM radio stations of the era.

And, ultimately, the characters are just not amusing. Rapid Rabbit’s blandly laid-back presence is eons removed from the edgy self-confidence of the Road Runner, while Quick Brown Fox is a pale and sneering cousin of the desperately obsessed Wile E. Coyote. It is hard to imagine that the film’s creators believed that this could have been the start of a successful new franchise.

Warner Bros. shut down its animation output shortly after “Rabbit Stew and Rabbits Too!” was dumped into cinemas. For years, the film was not included in the television syndication packages of the Warner Bros. cartoons. And while it has since turned up on both The Cartoon Network and Boomerang, it is nowhere to be found on commercial DVD. However, copies of the film that were videotaped from TV broadcasts can be found on Dailymotion.com and OVGuide.com.

Rapid Rabbit and Quick Brown Fox represent a sad conclusion to a glorious animation story. Mercifully, most people are unaware of these characters, and only the most encyclopedic of animation completists would want to unearth this cartoon duo from their well-deserved obscurity.

IMPORTANT NOTICE: The unauthorized duplication and distribution of copyright-protected material, either for crass commercial purposes or profit-free shits and giggles, is not something that the entertainment industry appreciates. On occasion, law enforcement personnel boost their arrest quotas by collaring cheery cinephiles engaged in such activities. So if you are going to copy and distribute bootleg material, a word to the wise: don’t get caught. Oddly, the purchase and ownership of bootleg DVDs is perfectly legal. Go figure!




Posted on October 11, 2013 in Bootleg Files, Features by
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One Comment on "THE BOOTLEG FILES: RABBIT STEW AND RABBITS TOO!"

  1. Chris Sobieniak on Mon, 18th Nov 2013 3:25 pm 

    “The vehicle pulls into a service station, where an attendant nonchalantly unscrews the fox’s nose as if it was a radiator cap and fills him with water from a hose.”

    That was kinda weird, just so they could have a water bloat joke no doubt (toppers always work I suppose). Also interesting the effect of the car coming into view when the fox first sees it, I wonder if they started using a xerox machine on these cartoons (if only for that one moment)?

    Speaking of Warner Bros.’ waning animation years…
    http://cartoonresearch.com/index.php/the-last-warner-bros-cartoons/


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