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Western Animation / Tortoise Beats Hare

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"Tortoise Beats Hare" is a 1941 Merry Melodies short starring Bugs Bunny and directed by Tex Avery (here credited as his real name, Fred). It's a twisted retelling of the famous Aesop's Fable "The Tortoise and The Hare."

The short begins with Bugs reading the title card and throwing a fit at the mere thought that a turtle could beat a rabbit. He then proceeds to literally tear down the fourth wall to find one Cecil Turtle and bets him ten bucks that a turtle can't beat a rabbit, unaware that Cecil has a few tricks up his sleeve.

Chuck Jones reportedly hated the cartoon and considered it a failure, feeling that Tex had swapped Bugs' in-control, defensive personality in favor of making him the loser à la Elmer Fudd while giving Cecil Turtle Bugs' personality. It's undoubtedly a very different take on the character.

Received two sequels, Tortoise Wins by a Hare and Rabbit Transit.

"Tortoise Beats Hare" provides examples of:

  • Accent Upon The Wrong Syllable: The short opens with Bugs reading the names on the title card and mispronouncing all of them (save Carl Stalling, whose name is rather hard to mispronounce - Bugs instead calls him "Carl Dubya Stalled") - "Charles MAHKimson", "Dave MoNAHhan", "Fred AVEHry".
  • Angry Collar Grab: Bugs grabs Cecil by the shell, and ends up pulling it right off his body.
  • Beware the Nice Ones: Neither Bugs nor the audience suspects quiet, timid Cecil of being the Manipulative Bastard he turns out to be.
  • Breaking the Fourth Wall: Frequently.
    • It opens with Bugs walking in front of the title card, then ranting to the audience when he gets to the title. He then tears down the title card, revealing a wooded background which he runs through in order to find Cecil.
    • After seeing (who he thinks is) Cecil ahead of him, Bugs stops and turns to the audience to go on about how crazy it was.
    • At one point, Cecil turns to the audience and chuckles "We do this kinda stuff to [Bugs] all through the picture."
  • Break the Haughty: This was the first cartoon to break the mold of Bugs the Rascally Rabbit and instead presents him as an egotistical sore loser.
  • Cheaters Never Prosper: Averted for the sake of comedy. Cecil counts on Bugs's inflated ego to not stop to realize that his many identical turtle friends are making it look as though he's faster than a rabbit until it's too late.
  • Cluster Bleep-Bomb: Bugs, furious about losing the race to Cecil, strangles him while angrily grunting "YOU BLANKITY BLANK BLANK TURTLE!!"
  • Early-Installment Weirdness: Bugs' voice and personality aren't quite there yet, with the voice being rather sonorant and lacking the nasal pronunciation, while the character... well, look up the original fable and see who loses. Tex Avery doesn't change a thing about that.
  • Explain, Explain... Oh, Crap!: After Bugs is done reading the names of the people who worked on the cartoon in the title card, he finally reads the title, leading up to...
    Bugs: Tortoise Beats Hare. (realizes the meaning of the title) Tortoise... tortoise beats hare? (spits out carrot chunks) TORTOISE BEATS HARE?!
  • Fractured Fairy Tale: A Tex Avery-ified retelling of "The Tortoise and The Hare."
  • Goofy Print Underwear: Cecil slips out from his shell when Bugs meets him for the first time, revealing he has white underwear adorned with red spots. The first relative of Cecil Bugs meets during the race is also shown to have white underwear with thin stripes when the latter takes off his shell and flings it away.
  • I Am Spartacus: Cecil Turtle calls up his identical-looking relatives who show up just ahead of Bugs at each checkpoint, finally revealing themselves to Bugs at the very end after Cecil has already won the race and the $10.
  • Ironic Echo: Cecil says a line Bugs previously used in Wabbit Twouble against Elmer.
    Cecil: We do this kind of stuff to him all through the picture.
  • Late to the Realization: Bugs doesn't realize he's been conned until the very end.
    Bugs: Hey, I wonder if I was tricked! (turns to see a huge group of turtles, all of whom Cecil has paid off with Bugs's money)
    Turtles: Mmmmm, it's a possibility!
    (The turtles all give Bugs a "Take That!" Kiss.)
  • Ooh, Me Accent's Slipping: Bugs briefly drops his trademark Flatbush accent while screaming the cartoon's title in Mel Blanc's normal voice.
  • Rage Against the Author:
    Bugs: (aghast) "Tortoise Beats Hare"?! Why, these screwy guys don't know what they're talkin' about! Why, the big bunch'a joiks!note 
  • Reaching Between the Lines: Cecil, in his phone call to Chester, leans over the split screen to emphasize that he wants Chester and the other turtles to "give [Bugs] the works."
  • Removable Shell: Thrice throughout the short.
    • Upon meeting Cecil for the first time, Bugs tries to pick him up to confront him angrily, but Cecil slips out and drops down, leaving Bugs ranting at an empty shell until he catches on, puts the shell back on his rival and resumes his tirade.
    • During the montage of Cecil phoning his identical relatives, one of them is seen getting out of the shower with a towel wrapped around his lower half, and after receiving Cecil's phone call, he runs over to his bed, which has his shell placed on it, and puts it on before running off.
    • When Bugs meets the first of Cecil's identical relatives during his way to the finish line, he removes his shell and tosses it away.
  • Sore Loser: Bugs tells Cecil to "choke on" his ten bucks and makes a face at him when he loses. Subverted in that Cecil cheated.
  • Spit Take: When Bugs notices the cartoon is called "Tortoise Beats Hare", he is so shocked that he spits out the very large mouthful of carrot he has been chewing throughout the introduction.
  • Split-Screen Phone Call: Cecil calls his cousin to rally the gang against Bugs. Lampshades when Cecil leans through the split screen to poke his cousin in the chest.
  • "Take That!" Kiss: Several of Cecil's cousins plant a kiss on Bugs while he is paralyzed with the shock of having seemingly been passed by Cecil again. At the end of the cartoon, all ten turtles give him a great big one.
  • Telecom Tree: Bugs Bunny has challenged Cecil Turtle to a footrace. Cecil calls his cousin Chester and together they set up a Ringer Ploy over a phone tree.
  • Title Reading Gag: The cartoon opens on Bugs walking in front of the title card and reading the credits. Then he gets to the title and goes on an angry tirade.
  • Troll: Cecil challenges Bugs to a race that he knows he'll lose, then pays off all of his identical friends to stand all over the running path to screw with Bugs's head and think that he's losing despite never seeing the turtle pass him, all just to bruise his ego.
  • Twin Switch: Cecil wins by having nine identical cousins pose as him and appear ahead of Bugs in the race.
  • Wrong Genre Savvy: As Bugs pounds on Cecil's door, he bellows "Open up, or I'll huff and I'll puff and I'll blow your house i-!" before catching himself and sheepishly apologizing.


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Tortoise Beats Hare

One of the most popular openings in Tex Avery history.

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