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Western Animation / Rhapsody Rabbit

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"Eh, what's up, doc? Who? Franz Liszt? Never heard of him. Wrong number."

Rhapsody Rabbit is a 1946 Bugs Bunny cartoon short, released in the Merrie Melodies series and directed by Friz Freleng.

The plot is simple. Bugs is a concert pianist performing Franz Liszt's "Hungarian Rhapsody No. 2". While playing, he begins to be bothered by a mouse that is living inside his piano. The mouse interrupts Bugs's recital repeatedly, sometimes jumping out from a hole to play a note that doesn't fit, sometimes playing an entirely different piece. Bugs tries to get rid of the mouse, at one point shoving a stick of dynamite into the piano, but the mouse always escapes. In the climax, Bugs flips the pages of his music only to find a tangled morass of notes all over the page. After a brief silent prayer, Bugs sits down to play—only to hear the mouse over on stage right, pounding out the frantic ending of the rhapsody on a toy piano that sounds real. Bugs plays the last three notes of the rhapsody, and the cartoon ends.

This cartoon is notable for two things:

  • It was the very first cartoon to air on Cartoon Network back when that channel premiered in October 1992.
  • It was accused of plagiarizing the Tom and Jerry short "The Cat Concerto", since both were released at around the same time, both center on a pianist being bugged by a mouse while playing Franz Liszt's "Hungarian Rhapsody No. 2", some of the same gags are used, and the cartoons visually resemble each other. MGM and Warner Brothers accused each other of plagiarism. To this day, no one knows who ripped off whom, or whether this was a deliberate act of plagiarism or just a coincidence. Friz Freleng himself insisted that the latter was the case, because Technicolor, who was already swamped with work, accidentally sent finished footage of "Rhapsody Rabbit" to MGM. When they saw that Warner Bros. was making a similar cartoon, they rushed "The Cat Concerto" to its completion and put that short up for Oscar consideration.

"Rhapsody Rabbit" provides examples of:

  • Actually Quite Catchy: When the mouse starts a "boogie woogie" number, Bugs are surprised at first but slowly begins to join in.
  • Alliterative Title: "Rhapsody Rabbit".
  • Asshole Victim: Absolutely nobody cared when Bugs shot the coughing man.
  • Bowdlerise: The scene where Bugs shoots an audience member was cut on the former WB channel.
    • Some airings on Cartoon Network and Boomerang cut straight to the title card.
  • Curse Cut Short: After the mouse beats him into playing the finale, Bugs angrily plays the last few notes and appears to mouth "son of a bitch!".
  • Disproportionate Retribution: An audience member keeps bothering Bugs by coughing and clearing his throat repeatedly, so Bugs resorts to pulling out a gun and shooting him just to silence him.
  • Expy: The mouse is basically Jerry.
  • Half-Dressed Cartoon Animal: Bugs dons a white tie and tails (but no trousers) along with his usual gloves.
  • Knuckle Cracking: Done for a gag as Bugs sits down to play his difficult piece.
  • Mickey Mousing: Used throughout the cartoon, like when the mouse is running down the keys of the piano, playing the rhapsody as he goes.
  • No-Dialogue Episode: Bugs Bunny cartoons usually had plenty of talking and wisecracks, but this one is mostly silent. The mouse never talks, and Bugs only has three lines:
    "Eh, what's up, doc? Who? Franz Liszt? Never heard of him. Wrong number."
    "Fi-ga-ro! Fi-ga-ro!"
    "Look, one hand! No hands!"
  • Oddball in the Series: One of only a few Bugs Bunny cartoons in which Bugs was the butt of the joke.
  • Offing the Annoyance: Bugs shoots the audience member who won't stop coughing.
  • Piano Key Wave: Has quite a few of these, including the piano keyboard acting like a typewriter carriage and, at one point, Bugs literally picking up the keys and letting them fall back down.
  • Public Domain Soundtrack: Actually averted. Renowned pianist Jakob Gimpel performed the Liszt "Rhapsody" for the cartoon. Although, there is a brief moment in between the lassan and friska sections where Bugs and the mouse play some boogie-woogie. After trapping the mouse inside the keys, the mouse taunts Bugs by playing "Chopsticks". When he throws some dynamite into the case, the mouse plays "Taps".
  • Standard Snippet: During the opening credits, the first few notes of "Merrily We Roll Along" are briefly heard, before transitioning into Wagner's Siegfried funeral march.
  • The Show Must Go Wrong: The mouse continually interrupts and upstages Bugs, eventually playing the finale in Bugs's place.
  • Wolf Whistle: Bugs, flipping through his book of sheet music, stops on a picture of a pin-up girl hidden inside. A wolf whistle emits from the audience, and Bugs flashes an embarrassed grin before flipping the pages ahead some more.