Every Bugs Bunny Ever: Mississippi Hare (1949)

Mississippi Hare (1949)
Directed by Chuck Jones
Written by Michael Maltese
Animation by Ben Washam
Music by Carl W. Stalling

“Mississippi Hare” is so problematic in the first twenty seconds that you have to constantly remind yourself of the context upon which this short was produced. There’s so much cringe inducing material that sets up the general premise for “Mississippi Hare” that it actively destroys any momentum it tries to pick up. And it’s not that the whole set up is extreme, it’s just that it’s so of its time, that I can imagine this short only ever appearing on Beta and VHS compilations in the eighties and nineties. Those VHS compilations often included shorts like this without editing anything out.

Already in the opening shot, we’re introduced to Mississippi, fade in to an establishing shot on a plantation, cut to montage of faceless black slaves picking cotton. They accidentally pick Bugs out from a bushel of cotton dropping him on to a river boat where Bugs bears witness to a poor man being kicked off the boat for not having a ticket. I mean hot damn that is some heavy material and the animation and attempts at light comedy can’t really dampen the depressing set up all too much. Even Bugs is a victim of light animal cruelty, if you want to really pick a part this whole set up.

And once again the animators introduce us to a variant of Yosemite Sam, when it’s so unnecessary. Why do they keep trying to invent iterations of the character when they’ve done some great work with them already? Yosemite Sam and Bugs have such a bang up dynamic and rivalry, and Yosemite Sam is hilarious, they didn’t have to keep including these one and done versions of Yosemite Sam. It irritates me because I love Yosemite Sam, while the variants haven’t really clicked with me at all. They even recycle a lot of the gags from previous Yosemite Sam starring shorts, with none of the comedic timing or originality.

Col. Shuffle is just Yosemite Sam all over again, except here he’s just a white plantation owner whose mustache, and whiskers are stark white rather than red. I just keep wondering why. What is the point? Col. Shuffle is sadly not even a funny character, and the whole short seems to be intent on establishing him as Bugs’ obstacle of being on a ship without a ticket is resolved not only quickly, but far too easily to have any real comedic effect. Any comedy he pulls off feels incidental because he’s so similar to Yosemite Sam, all the while the short doesn’t really pick up steam until the final minutes.

Bugs dressing in drag as a blond Belle, encouraging a bigger man to hurt Col. Shuffle and then losing he losing his mind when he notices Bugs is a bunny and not a belle, is pretty darn funny. I even like Bugs’ sign off “Oh well! We almost had a love story!”

The animation is on point, granted, but “Mississippi Hare” is another patently lazy, uncreative addition to the Bugs Bunny library packed with so much except actual laughs.

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