Today is the 75th birthday of one of the great characters in the history of the animated genre, and in many ways, one of the greatest comedians of all time, the irrepressible Bugs Bunny, whose slick, extremely sharp and cunning personality, in which he employed a take-no-prisoners approach in the most side splitting ways to mow down his numerous adversaries in countless animated shorts, has endeared him to countless generations of fans to this very day.
Without question the top draw and flagship character of the myriad of many colorful ones to come from the legendary minds of Warner Brothers’ cartoon division (and realized by men like animation pioneers Tex Avery, Friz Freleng, Bob Clampett, Robert McKimson, and Chuck Jones), Bugs Bunny is a reflection of a Groucho Marx come to life. A vivid radical, break-all-the-rules, set new ones and smash those as well, and live every nanosecond as unorthodox as possible and on the fringes of the fringes of life, in which he did whatever it took to destroy his many adversaries (Elmer Fudd, Daffy Duck, Yosemite Sam, etc). Bugs did it all for simply hitting the bullseye of achieving a level of self fun which stretched to the apex on a mission to simply eradicate boredom, and in which by doing so, he ultimately did the same for us as well.
Bob Clampett, one of the true pioneers of American animation, who had directed Warner Brothers cartoons (and helped design characters like Bugs Bunny, Daffy Duck, and Porky Pig) and had massive success with the children’s program Beany and Cecil, died 30 years ago today on May 2, 1984.
Although not one of the more readily household names when it comes to rattling off animation legends (legends like Chuck Jones, Friz Freleng, Tex Avery, Walter Lantz, and Walt Disney among others), Bob Clampett nonetheless took a stranglehold on the genre, infusing it with a wide array of visual absurdities only rivaled by the eclectically demented works of the aforementioned Tex Avery. For Clampett, anything BUT tradition and playing it safe were the true orders of the day. While many of his colleagues at Warner’s during his tenure there (during the 1930s and 1940s) decried Clampett’s alleged plagiarism and a propensity to steal ideas, Bob Clampett still nonetheless carved his niche in a steel block of titanium as some of his cartoons still hold up as not only the best Warner Brothers had to offer — and that’s saying a lot considering the overflowing wellspring of talent that emanated from there — but also some of the best the entire animation field itself had to offer.
A Princess of Mars, Edgar Rice Burroughs‘ timeless novel of intergalactic adventure and intrigue that introduced one of science fiction’s most enduring and iconic heroes in Captain John Carter, has seen many fits and starts in its journey from page to screen that will end in less than two months when Andrew Stanton‘s live-action debut John Carter hits the big screen. Prior to Stanton’s involvement the property passed through the hands of directors such as John McTiernan, Robert Rodriguez, Kerry Conran, and Jon Favreau over the years.
But when talk first began of bringing the adventures of John Carter to life via the magic of celluloid it was a much different time, and it wasn’t intended to be a live-action adaptation. In 1931, nearly two decades after the publication of A Princess of Mars, author Burroughs approached early animation pioneer Bob Clampett about possibly making a full-length animated John Carter feature. Working with Burroughs’ son John Coleman, Clampett spent a year beginning in 1935 producing a reel of test footage for the proposed John Carter feature hoping to garner the interest of a major Hollywood studio.
You can watch Clampett’s test footage, complete with the animator’s narration, here below.