Remembering the classic “Rabbit of Seville”

It’s no surprise that Rabbit of Seville, a Warner Bros. Looney Tunes theatrical cartoon short released in 1950, was voted #12 of the 50 Greatest Cartoons of all time by members of the animation field.

Director Chuck Jones and writer Michael Maltese draw on Rossini’s opera The Barber of Seville for inspiration, playing six minutes of Rossini’s opera while Bugs Bunny and Elmer Fudd battle onstage at the Hollywood Bowl, occasionally even singing along. The constant onscreen gags are punctuated mostly by Rossini’s famous overture, “Largo al fac­totum.”

The musical arrangement is remarkable in that the overture’s basic structure is kept relatively intact; some repeated passages are removed and the overall piece is conducted at a faster tempo to accommodate the cartoon’s standard running length.

The cartoon opens with people filing in to see The Barber of Seville in an amphitheater. In the back of the theater, Bugs is chased by Elmer, who is shooting his gun, and runs through an open stage door. Elmer, now on stage behind the curtain, does not see it rise when Bugs raises the curtain. The conductor, after a brief confused look at his watch, shrugs, then starts the orchestra, which causes Elmer to turn wide-eyed towards the audience. Bugs then steps out from behind the door of a stage barber shop, dressed in a barber’s outfit, and forces Elmer into getting a shave, rendering him “nice and clean, although [his] face looks like it might have gone through a machine.”

Watch the full carton below.