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Western Animation / Tortoise Wins by a Hare

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"Tortoise Wins by a Hare" is a 1943 Bugs Bunny short, part of the Merrie Melodies series, and directed by Bob Clampett.

The short is a direct follow-up to Tortoise Beats Hare, and the second of the "Bugs Bunny vs. Cecil Turtle" trilogy. It begins with Bugs watching footage from "Tortoise Beats Hare" and going berserk from his loss and the accompanying wounded ego.

In an effort to thwart him, Bugs disguises himself and discovers after a talk with Cecil that the turtle's natural streamlined shell allows Cecil greater speed. Bugs immediately constructs himself a metal shell, and challenges Cecil to a second race.

Trouble brews, however, when the local rabbit mob, who have decided to bet money on the race, targets the "turtle", with Cecil disguising himself in a rabbit suit.


"Tortoise Wins by a Hare" provides examples of:

  • 1-Dimensional Thinking: The mob exploits this by hastily painting a road stripe into a brick wall, which veers Bugs off the road into a head-on collision, and the mob uses this chance to stall him for time.
  • Aside Glance: While waiting for Cecil to open the door, Bugs briefly looks at the audience and pulls off his beard as if to say "It's me in disguise, folks!"
  • Ass in a Lion Skin: Both Bugs and Cecil do this, although Cecil tricked Bugs into doing the latter.
  • Beardness Protection Program: Bugs wears a fake beard when asking Cecil for the secret of his win. Cecil recognizes him, but plays along.
  • Berserk Button: Bugs was already pissed from losing the last race. While looking into Cecil's secret, the Turtle points out that "Rabbits aren't very bright", instigating another race.
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  • Bowdlerization: The ending where the gambling ring shoots themselves after realizing that they've been trying to sabotage Bugs throughout the cartoon has been cut from most American TV prints. In addition to the gun suicide ending, the TBS version also shortens the part where the rabbits pounce on Bugs before he can reach the finish line.
  • Break the Haughty: Bugs gets this through the entire cartoon—first being reminded of how he lost the previous race, Cecil seeing through his disguise and insulting his intelligence, being tricked by Cecil into unintentionally dressing himself up like a turtle so the Rabbit mafia targets him (including beating him, firing tommy guns and even artillery shells at him) he gets his chain yanked just before crossing the finish line, and the mob hurries along Cecil (who is dressed up a lumpy rabbit suit) to the finish line, so Bugs loses again.
  • Cassandra Truth: Throughout the cartoon, Bugs shouts at the rabbit gangsters that he's the wrong target, but they refuse to listen. It's only at the end that the gangsters realize their mistake- and promptly kill themselves.
  • Cheaters Never Prosper: The rabbit mafia, who have waged everything on Bugs, spend the entire race try to rig the outcome in a not-so-subtle manner, ranging from steering the turtle off track to outright attacking him with a machine gun. Their methods do actually succeed in the end, however, they only then realise that they had sabotaged the wrong guy, and they promptly shoot themselves over their losses.
  • Comically Missing the Point: Cecil telling Bugs that his secret is a streamlined shell is clearly made up to trick Bugs, but Bugs is way too obsessed with finding any way to beat him to realize it. This costs him the race, big time.
  • Continuity Nod: The opening directly references the events of "Tortoise Beats Hare" by having Bugs watch the actual cartoon on a home movie projector. This is very rare for Looney Tunes, a franchise that thrives on Negative Continuity. Curiously, it overlooks the fact that Cecil blatantly cheated to win the previous race, making it seem like he won fairly—even Bugs seems to have forgotten this, since he goes to Cecil in disguise to grill him for his secrets, but that may have been just sacrificing a few details to preserve the humor of the short.
  • Crouching Moron, Hidden Badass: Cecil is easily the smartest foe Bugs has ever faced, being just as wily as he is, and knows how to exploit Bugs' arrogance and bruised ego to bring about Bugs' own defeat while remaining very laid back and levelheaded himself, as well as how to take advantage of the stupidity of the local rabbit mob. Near the end, we also see that he's a lot faster than he lets on.
  • Deliberately Jumping the Gun: Played for laughs. Bugs and Cecil Turtle are at the starting line for the race.
    Bugs: One for the money! [Tiptoes a bit past the line] Two for the show! [Tiptoes a bit further] Three to make like ready! [Tiptoes a bit further] And four to... [Runs a long way past the line] Go!
  • Deranged Animation: Some of Rod Scribner's animation of Bugs watching "Tortoise Beats Hare" in frustration.
  • Downer Ending: Bugs suffers a humiliating defeat by Cecil again, and the rabbit mafia kills themselves when they find out their target was Bugs.
  • Driven to Suicide: The mobsters when they discover Bugs isn't the "toitle". It's almost always cut from TV airings, but is uncut on the first Golden Collection.
    Mobsters: he tells us! (they line their heads up and fire a single bullet through them)
  • Early Installment Weirdness: This was one of the first Bugs Bunny cartoons produced by Warner Brothers (the character had debuted in 1940). Besides the fact that his look isn't quite the same as the character was drawn after World War II, latter-day viewers who are used to Bugs being the hero, the trickster, and the guy who always outwits his opponents might be puzzled to see him here as the antagonist and butt of jokes. (In other words, the kind of role Daffy Duck would play a lot in later years.) It's been said though that even at this early point in Bugs' career, the writers were struggling with how not to let Bugs become an Invincible Hero, thus deciding to have Bugs lose every now and again. In fact the later creation of Yosemite Sam was in part an effort to give Bugs a more threatening villain to go up against.
  • Evil vs. Evil: Both Bugs and Cecil are willing to play dirty.
  • Freeze-Frame Bonus: The newspaper about the race has a smaller article which reads "Hitler commits suicide".
  • Hoist by His Own Petard: Cecil tricks Bugs into doing this by revealing to Bugs the "secret" of his speed (his streamlined shell) so Bugs unintentionally dresses himself up like a turtle to win the race, which draws the attention of the local rabbit mob, who are too stupid to tell the difference and give him one heck of a beatdown.
  • Hope Spot: Bugs when he sees he's just about to cross the finish line, only for the rabbit mobsters to stop him in his tracks.
  • Irony: According to Cecil, rabbits aren't very bright. As far as all of the other rabbits except Bugs are concerned during the race, he's not that far off.
  • Karma Houdini: Cecil gets off scot free again after indirectly tricking Bugs, while exploiting the mob's stupidity by dressing up as a rabbit in order to win the race. Granted, compared to his other two appearances, where he blatantly cheats, he merely lets Bugs' ego set himself up for failure here.
  • Meaningful Name: As the title implies, Cecil wins because of the other rabbits.
  • Mood-Swinger: Bugs in the beginning:
    Bugs: [irate] I'll find out his secret if is the last thing I ever do! (calmly, smiling) And I will, too.
  • No-Holds-Barred Beatdown: The rabbit mafia is so determined for the "rabbit" (Cecil) to win the race, they go out of their way to try and kill the "toitle" (Bugs) by physically beating him, firing machine guns and even firing artillery shells at him!
  • Now You Tell Me: The mobster rabbits say this when Bugs rips off the chassis to show he's the rabbit, however, he had been telling them that the whole time.
  • Offscreen Teleportation: Bugs hides behind a tree while Cecil runs some distance away in the background. The moment he goes off screen, however, his head peeks into the foreground to say "Time's a wastin', Speedy."
  • Oh, Crap!: Cecil when he sees Bugs hot on his trail, prompting him to pick up the pace enough to briefly stay ahead of Bugs.
  • Paper-Thin Disguise:
    • Bugs pulls his typical bout of this in an attempt to get information from Cecil. In a surprisingly astute move, Cecil sees right through Bugs' disguise. Of course, he was counting on Bugs to disguise himself.
    • Cecil himself puts on a rabbit costume during the race which shouldn't be so convincing (and doesn't hide the fact that he still moves so slow). The Rabbit Mafia buys it completely.
  • Public Domain Soundtrack: "Under the Spreading Chessnut Tree", a staple song for blacksmiths, plays when Bugs is working on his metal shell.
  • Shout-Out: Bugs' line, "That ain't the way I heered it, Johnny!" is cribbed from the old Fibber McGee and Molly radio show.
  • Smug Snake: Cecil has shades of this, although his insults are very passive-aggressive and laid back.
  • Sore Loser: Bugs, of course.
  • Stock Footage: Footage from "Tortoise Beats Hare" is used in the opening, but it's for the sake of the story, and (probably) not a mere cost-cutting move.
  • Stupid Crooks: The rabbit mafia are all collectively imbeciles. They buy completely into Cecil's poor disguise, mistake Bugs as a tortoise, and completely sabotage him at every step in the race, costing him the win (and all the money they bet on him).
  • Sudden Anatomy: In the close-up of Cecil's shell blueprint, we see that he has fingernails!
  • Suicide as Comedy: "Hitler Commits Suicide." (what's funnier is that this came out two years before that became a reality). Also, the ending, which is almost always edited from television. See Driven to Suicide.
  • Too Dumb to Live: The rabbit gangsters who mistake Bugs for Cecil. They refuse to believe Bugs, thwart his victory and help Cecil (who is wearing a Paper-Thin Disguise of a rabbit) cross the finish line. That said, they end up not living at the end. That said, Bugs isn't that intelligent either.
  • Took a Level in Jerkass: Bugs is downright nasty in this cartoon, and is one of the very few times in the franchise ("Elmer's Pet Rabbit being another notable instance) where he's portrayed as such, a stark contrast to his typical characterization.
  • Turtle Power: Who else but Cecil?
  • Villainous Breakdown: Bugs at the end. After the mafia ruins his victory, he is so distraught he throws the whole mob off, screaming at them while tearing his costume, making it clear and obvious they got the wrong contestant. The mob suffer a subdued one from this revelation and shoot themselves for their loss.
  • Villain Protagonist: Bugs is at the high point of his bouts of this trope during this short. He is positively bombastic, nasty, egotistical and foul tempered due to his bruised ego and hotheadedness, a stark contrast from the more well known cool, collected Bugs. However justified, as his foe is just as wily as he is, and isn't afraid to cheat either or play off Bugs' flaws.
  • Volumetric Mouth: After being tricked into running head first into a brick wall and being held down by the rabbit mobsters as they bash him over the head with a large mallet, Bugs shouts that he isn't the "toitle", he's the rabbit. The mobsters yell "TOITLE!" while Bugs counters with "RABBIT!"; the fourth time, he opens his mouth so wide that we can't see his eyes.
  • Wartime Cartoon: One of the headlines on a newspaper in the short is "Hitler Commits Suicide," predicting Der Führer's suicide two years after this short was released.
  • Worst News Judgment Ever: A rabbit vs. turtle race gets billed over Adolf Hitler committing suicide?! Then again, it makes for a great Take That! against Hitler.
  • Yank the Dog's Chain: Bugs almost crosses the finish line, but the mob stops him and then rushes Cecil ahead to it.
  • You Fool!: Bugs to the rabbits after they prevent him from winning.