What struck us about Chuck Jones' 1950 short animated cartoon, "The Scarlet Pumpernickel" was not just that he's paying homage to Errol Flynn sword & dagger-type melodramas that were so popular with movie-goers of the time (and coincidentally, skewering them), but also how contemporary this kind of costume drama is (you know the kind, where every actor — usually British — has a major/minor/cameo role all wrapped up in the service of art.) Here's the first page of the script, edited, we imagine, on the fly, during the recording (remember, there was no extra money for post-production work); it should give you a good idea of the machinations and inside workings of both Jones' and Maltese's creativity. (The cartoon is below this, you can read along…)
This photo of animation pioneer Chuck Jones (left) and the brilliant writer Michael Maltese with record albums of Wagner's operas is dated October 1954; the note on the back (see below) indicates that they are standing in front of storyboards for Jones' "Rocket-Bye Baby" which was released in August of 1956, which means that at least three years were devoted to the making of "What's Opera, Doc?" We know that while creating "What's Opera, Doc?" Jones' unit manipulated their time cards, utilizing time from a Wile E. Coyote and Road Runner film to work on the extravaganza (106 different camera shots!) that became the first short animated film inducted into the Smithsonian's National Film Registry in 1992. (Since then two of Jones' other films, "Duck Amuck" and "One Froggy Evening," were also added to the Registry.)
Here is Jones' list of music to be used in the film, please note the "chase stuff" (which makes me giggle, because you know it was shorthand between Jones and the music director, Milt Franklyn.)
“Who Scent You” premiered in theaters nationwide
along with writer Michael Maltese continued their examination of all things le
Francais. With classics like “Your
aloneness is almost ovair” and “You are my peanut, I am your brittle,” who
could argue with the e’scent’ial reasoning of this amorous skunk? This original layout drawing by Chuck Jones includes his dialog notes (graphite on 12 field animation paper, 10.5″ x 12.5″).
Bunny, Bugs Bunny, rah, rah, rah!” So
goes the game as Bugs coaches the Gas House Gorillas in a cheer for himself
(well, he is playing against them.)
Long on gags, short on plot; the Statue of Liberty makes a cameo appearance at
the end. Story credit for the 1946 Friz Freleng directed “Baseball Bugs” goes to Michael
Maltese who soon found his stride in the Jones crew.
Taking a bow in theaters nationwide on December 16, 1950, the Chuck Jones cartoon “The Rabbit of Seville” is based upon the Rossini opera, “The Barber of Seville” which premiered in Rome on February 20, 1816. (The libretto of the opera, in turn, was based upon the 1775 novel “Le Barbier de Seville” by Beaumarchais.)
The cartoon, written by Michael Maltese and Chuck Jones, was animated by Phil Monroe, Ben Washam, Lloyd Vaughn, Ken Harris and Emery Watkins with background layouts by Robert Gribbroek and painted by Philip DeGuard.