Composers Inspiration
Silly Symphonies, Loony Tunes, and Merrie Melodies
Classical Music in Animation III

Bugs/Leopold versus Giovanni Jones, tenor

Bugs/Leopold versus Giovanni Jones, tenor

It’s a testimony to the public knowledge of classical music when we look at a couple of Bugs Bunny classics as part of the Merrie Melodies series. One of the first cartoons where Bugs takes on the classics is Long-Haired Hare (1949), where his singing of various pop songs (A Rainy Night in Rio (1949), My Gal is a High-Born Lady (1896)) interrupts the tenor, Giovanni Jones, singing Largo al Factotum from The Barber of Seville. The tenor takes it out on Bugs and after his third chastisement, Bugs says his immortal words “Of course, you know, this means war!” and so the battle continues at the Hollywood Bowl, where the tenor is to be performing. Bugs imitates Leopold Stokowski (note the hair on the hare) and it all ends with Bugs triumphant.


Rabbit of Seville

Rabbit of Seville

In Rabbit of Seville (1950), the audience not only knew the character of Figaro from Rossini’s The Barber of Seville, but also be familiar enough with the music to see the joke in the new lyrics. The first ‘aria,’ “Welcome to my Shop, let me cut your Crop” sets lyrics to the Overture to the opera and through the entire cartoon, the Overture is set almost in its entirety.

Il barbiere di Siviglia (The Barber of Seville): Sinfonia

Our Hero!

Our Hero!

In the classical music realm, nothing tops Warner Bros.’ take on Wagner in What’s Opera, Doc? This 1957 cartoon used music from all 4 of the Ring operas, Tannhäuser, Rienzi, and The Flying Dutchman to create the immortal story of Elmer Fudd hunting, as usual, Bugs Bunny. This is one of the three cartoons where Elmer is successful in his hunt (or so he thinks.)


The Tragic ending

The Tragic ending

Listen again to the music in your pop culture – there may be more classical there than you think!

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