The greatest cartoon of all time (as determined by the 1994 book The 50 Greatest Cartoons: As Selected by 1,000 Animation Professionals), "What's Opera, Doc?", celebrated the 50th anniversary of its first screening on July 6, 2007.
But like so many of the greatest achievements in culture, it was an achievement that could never have been accomplished under today's corporate-driven reality. Here is an excerpt from the opening words to an article celebrating "What's Opera, Doc?" that appeared on Sunday:
Imagine the pitch: "Let's steal time and funding from our other projects so we can go way over budget making a cartoon with no jokes, and no real gags. The score will be a German opera. Kids won't get it. Most adults won't get it, but I don't care because I think it's funny."And it is funny, if totally atypical. In a sense, this isn't such an oddity: Warner Brothers cartoons have utilized classical music throughout most of their long history. Imagine the following scene: It's morning. You look out upon a grassy countryside, and the sun is slowly rising. You hear this music. Without realizing it, kids (and adults) the world over have been hearing a fragment of "William Tell" (yes, the same piece which also gives us this popular fragment). But "What's Opera, Doc?" took this element so much further than anyone had ever done it before. It created a whole cartoon comprised entirely of elements of these classic works (actually taken from several of Wagner's operas). And whereas Disney's Fantasia took classical and operatic pieces and set them to animation, "What's Opera, Doc?" actually created something new out of such works, using only the most immediately recognizable bits edited together to create a whole story within the 7-minute time frame a Bugs Bunny cartoon required.
Does it work? Answer whether or not the following quote (which comes at the end of the article I linked to earlier) applies to you:
No one who knows and loves "What's Opera, Doc?" will ever hear Wagner's "Der Ring des Nibelungen" without hearing, in their own minds, "Kill da wabbit ... kill da wabbit.""The Wabbit" is dead. Long live the wabbit! Happy 50th Anniversary, "What's Opera, Doc?"!