“Attention! Ah say Attention! German scientist knocked unconscious by large frying pan! Important document stolen!”
US / 8 minutes / color / Warner Bros. Animation Dir: Douglas McCarthy Pr & Scr: Timothy Cahill, Julie McNally, Kathleen Helppie-Shipley Voice cast: Joe Alaskey, Bob Bergen, Greg Burson, Maurice La Marche, Tress MacNeille.
A riff (obviously) on CASABLANCA (1942), with the central characters of that movie played here by our favorite Warner Bros. animated characters: Bugs Bunny in the Humphrey Bogart role (Humphrey Bugsart?), Tweety Bird in the Peter Lorre role, Pepe le Pew in the Claude Rains role, Daffy Duck in the Dooley Wilson role, Penelope in the Ingrid Bergman role, Sylvester in the Paul Henreid role, etc. (There’s even, in the background, Porky Pig in the Sydney Greenstreet role.) What could possibly go wrong?
Tweety Bird as Peter Lorre.
Porky Pig as Sydney Greenstreet.
In wartime Carrotblanca, people of all sorts and conditions gather in the Café au Lait Americain, proprietor Bugs Bunny (Burson). One day the self-deprecating lowlife Usmarte/Tweety Bird (Bergen) brings him a document stolen from the Germans, telling him he must give it to Sylvester Slaszlo (Alaskey), who’ll be arriving in the café that evening in company with a dame. That dame proves, naturally, to be the love of Bugs’s life, Kitty/Penelope (MacNeille):
Bugs: “Of all the juice-joints in all the towns in all the countries in all the woilds, she picks this one.”
Sam/Daffy: “I know what you mean. I had a girl once. She dumped me for a pool-supplies salesman.”
Pepe le Pew as Claude Rains.
Of course, before Bugs can clap eyes on Kitty and be plunged into tearful reminiscence of their time together, and before Daffy (Alaskey) can play more than a single note of “that song” for her, Commander Louie/Pepe le Pew (Burson) has descended:
Louie: “My liddle Swedish meatball, it is love at first sight, no?”
Sylvester as Paul Henreid and Penelope as Ingrid Bergman.
Daffy prepares to play it again.
In hot pursuit of the document is General Pandemonium/Yosemite Sam (La Marche); Bugs gets him out of the way using tricks that rely on much-diluted imitations of the sort of visual gags that the likes of Chuck Jones and Friz Freleng deployed decades earlier. Later General Pandemonium reappears, and Bugs deploys the same sort of tactics, albeit this time more imaginatively. (The latter sequence concludes with a borderline homophobic joke that left a bit of a nasty taste in this viewer’s mouth.)
This feeling that the elements of the classic Warner cartoons have been merely recycled and diluted alas permeates the piece as a whole: it seems an exercise in missed opportunities. The only successful impersonations, if I can call them that, are by Penelope as Ilsa Lund, Sylvester as Victor Laszlo (although really the caricature here is less of Laszlo than of the actor who played him, the notoriously egotistical Paul Henreid) and especially Tweety Bird as Ugarte—in fact, if you’re looking for a single reason to watch this short, Tweety’s rendition of Peter Lorre is undoubtedly it. (Other characters, like Bugs and Daffy, make no attempt to impersonate the originals.)
Bugs recalls his affair with Kitty, and its sorrowful finale.
Perhaps I’m being a tad unfair. One or two pieces of dialogue made me smile:
Bugs: “Listen, Kitty, if you don’t go with him you’ll regret it. In this crazy woild the lives of tree people don’t amount to a . . .”
Slaszlo/Sylvester (butting in): “Yeah, yeah. A hill o’ greens, hill o’ greens.”
Overall, though, I had the constant sense that the makers of this parody—and I hesitate to use the term, because it seems less to miss the mark than not to have been aiming for it—were merely going through the motions, assuming that our affection for the original would somehow spark an affection for the lampoon.
A great disappointment.