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Friday, December 18, 2015

Bugs Bunny Does Japan

I've been a Bugs Bunny cartoon fan for more decades than I care to discuss, suffice to say that when I was a kid, the Grand Island, NY television station we could pick up in Toronto (Channel 29 via UHF) would play Bugs and Porky and Daffy cartoons out the ying-yang... stuff from the 1930s and 1940s.

They didn't play any of the more racy stuff like Inky or the Bugs and Daffy toons where they embarrass the Japanese and Germans. But... they played all the other early stuff... and man was it funny.

That comedic genius continued through the late 1950s until such time that television truly came into its own, and then cartoons went, for the most part into decline... The Flintstones, Jetsons and Scooby-Doo first season being the exceptions.

Cartoons, to be perfectly blunt, sucked donkeys from the 1960 on up until 1990 or so. The younger generation who swear that the Thundercats and He-Man and Transformers were great are deluding themselves. Poor animation along with story lines that were re-used... rare was the moment that a plot device was original. It's why I hold that era up to such ridicule.

Come the 1990s... The Simpsons... Batman Adventures... Backyardigans... Roly Poly Oly... heck even Thomas the Tank Engine... Dinosaur Train...Teen Titans Go!... Family Guy... American Dad... Archer... the list goes on and on... there are so many great animated programs on television nowadays that it boggles the mind.

As for Bugs Bunny et al... they did come up with a couple of good reboots in the 1990s - Tiny Toon Adventures, Animaniacs (not a reboot, but good new characters done in classic Warner Bros.-style humor), and The Looney Tunes Show, the last one being driven by more adult-related jokes, as the characters had girlfriends and jobs in the real world.
But, with the new 2015 show wabbit... all lowercase... we get to see Bugs Bunny at his wacky and newest best.

For the very first time in ages... Bugs Bunny is the star... with no other characters daring to steal his limelight.

Bugs is, however, partnered up with the squirrel-talk-speaking Squeaks the squirrel. The Bugs Bunny show is designated as 'wabbit' as an homage to the 1940's and 1950's cartoons depicting the human being and hunter Elmer Fudd's, whose speech impediment causes him to replace his 'R' and 'L''s with "W's".

wabbit debuted in the U.S. back in September of 2015, and about one month later in Canada, and already it is one of my favorite cartoons... with the writers and animators managing to capture that special flavor that initially made Bugs Bunny great.

He's not a pest this time... nor is a cross-dressing, man-kissing male rabbit. No... he's a wabbit... a wabbit that watches sports, drinks from a glass, and can't stand bullies...

And the world of wabbit always seems to filled with bullies for Bugs to teach a lesson to in a funny way.

Like I said... smart writing. And... there are Japan references.

The very first and second cartoons on the very first episode of wabbit featured full-blown elements of Japan.

Cartoon #1 - Buddha Bugs

After Yosemite Sam robs a Buddhist temple, he searches for the greatest of riches after encountering a monk version of Bugs Bunny.

Cartoon #2 - Now And Zen

Bugs and Squeaks face off with ninja after inadvertently disturbing their peace while gathering acorns.

Cartoon #26 - The Spy Who Bugged Me

Bugs is sightseeing in Washington D.C., while a female spy is after Bugs' green messenger bag. Hunh... a redheaded fox with a nice tail wearing a short black dress... not that I enjoy dabbling in water colors. That's a Who Framed Roger Rabbit joke, by the way.
What's the Japanese connection in each?

Well... Buddha and Buddhism help bring peace and harmony to the town... there's the ninja that look like daruma prayer dolls (modeled after Bodhidharma, the founder of the Zen sect of Buddhism) battling in a bamboo forest... and finally a nice scene of Washington, DC with those nice cheery trees donated to the U.S. capital by Japan.

Also... how do I know the writers are smart? Because, rather than follow traditional ninja designs, they went a way I never saw before... with daruma-style ninja who lack both arms and legs, but still fight with much verve. wabbit is kewl.

Andrew Joseph

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