History of Animation

Post #8: Rabbit Season. Duck Season. Fire!

Posted on: March 22, 2010

A classic "Rabbit Season/ Duck Season" scene, as Daffy's about to cause Elmer Fudd to shoot him.

Although there was only 3 episodes made, the famous Bugs Bunny, Daffy Duck, and Elmer Fudd “Rabbit Season/ Duck Season” cartoons, also known as the “Hunting Trilogy” by Chuck Jones, are considered some of Jones’ best and most important cartoons that he’s directed. Looking back on my childhood, I distinctly remember these three cartoons being the most-played during the days when both Nickelodeon and Cartoon Network used to run their own Looney Tunes block programs. Now that I’m much older, I can definitely see why these cartoons are easily considered some of Chuck Jones’ best and are so re-watchable; although the plot is essentially the same throughout the cartoons, the rapid-fire jokes, set-ups, and interactions between the characters are all perfectly timed and well-written.

The tables seem to have turned on Elmer Fudd. Turns out it wasn't either Rabbit Season OR Duck Season...

The first cartoon that was made, Rabbit Fire (1951), is essentially the classic archetypical “Rabbit Season/ Duck Season” cartoon. Daffy Duck lures Elmer Fudd to Bugs Bunny’s home due to “survival of the fittest… plus, it’s fun!” However, Bugs Bunny tells Elmer Fudd that it’s duck season instead of rabbit season, which irritates Daffy Duck and initiates the whole “Rabbit Season/ Duck Season” debate. Personally, Daffy Duck steals the show in these cartoons, although some may argue that he became stereotyped from his typical screwball personality and into a self-serving foil for Bugs Bunny’s jokes and set-ups. However, his facial expressions and the gags where he gets shot in the face are part of why these are so hilarious. Also worth noting is the ending to this cartoon, which has Bugs and Daffy ripping off papers declaring “Rabbit Season” or “Duck Season”, all culminating with them seeing a paper for “Elmer Season”, teaming up and turning the tables on a now-frightened-for-his-life Elmer Fudd.

Daffy Duck, just realizing that he'll walk into the same trap if he argues.

The next cartoon that was made was 1952’s Rabbit Seasoning, which takes place in the same location (though it’s now taking place in autumn, while Rabbit Fire took place in spring) with very similar conditions, only this time having Bugs and Daffy argue who Elmer has shoot now (or, as Daffy puts it in one scene as he’s falling into Bugs’ insidious grammar trap, “pronoun trouble”). Much like Rabbit Fire above, the strongest points about this cartoon are the shotgun gags, the banter and interactions between Bugs, Daffy, and Elmer, and for visual comedic effect, Daffy’s hilarious facial expressions.

Another running gag in the series, featuring Bugs Bunny disguising himself as a women to trick Elmer Fudd.

1953’s Duck! Rabbit! Duck! is the final cartoon in the trilogy, this time having the scenario take place during the winter season and having the main “Rabbit/ Duck Season” argument be what hunting season it really is (of course, it’s Duck Season, but Daffy’s not about to admit that). What makes this cartoon hilarious is its steady buildup to the ultimate punchline: Daffy keeps getting shot as the result of his own arrogance and Bugs’ clever tactics, and finally breaks down, telling Elmer Fudd to keep shooting him. Elmer Fudd, just as confused as Daffy, asks Bugs Bunny dressed as a Game Warden what hunting season it really is, with Bugs simply replying, “It’s Baseball Season!” The scene of a now-mentally snapped Elmer Fudd chasing after and shooting a baseball is still one of the funniest things I’ve ever seen in my life.

Elmer Fudd mentally snaps after Bugs Bunny (dressed as a Game Warden) tells him it's Baseball Season instead of Rabbit or Duck Season.

The whole Bugs Bunny/ Daffy Duck rivalry that these episodes produced also paved the way for more cartoons in which these two teamed up as comedic foils, as well as the fact that, on a personal note, they stand out as a sort of memorable aspect out of my childhood. It’s just very interesting to know that something that’s so popular and iconic with these two characters simply started with only 3 cartoons, but then again, Chuck Jones certainly knew how to make some of the most hilarious and memorable Looney Tunes cartoons.

I commented on Emily Witt’s blog and Amanda Cole’s blog.

Rabbit Fire:

Rabbit Seasoning:

Duck! Rabbit! Duck!:

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