#3 -- To Beep or Not to Beep

Title - To Beep or Not to Beep
Director - Chuck Jones
Released - 1963

Interesting Fact -- The only WEC/RR short to not feature their "Latin" names

Reason for Placement --

Ok, I've probably got some explaining to do.

This was one of the last WEC/RR shorts to be directed by Jones and his co-director Maurice Noble, and in my opinion, probably one of their best. Rather than opening in mid-chase, we start on Wile E. looking through a cookbook, only to be startled by the Road Runner. This is actually a great visual start to the chase, the viewer is given a real initiative as to why the coyote is going after this bird in the first place.

I'll go ahead and admit that To Beep or Not to Beep was easily my favorite cartoon when I was a kid. Not just one of the top 5 shorts, this was it. So what made this short so special to me? Plain and simple: the catapult sequence.

When it came to Wile E.'s traps and tricks, the coyote would try it once, it would backfire/blow up in his face, and he'd move onto the next idea. Not so in this short: he keeps trying and trying again with the same catapult, hoping that the next time he would be successful. After all, if at first you don't succeed, try and try again. But of course, for the poor coyote, it doesn't matter how many times he tries; the Fates have spelled it out nice and clear: NOT GONNA HAPPEN!

I'm sure I'll get some backlash on this one, but I guess I'm just about as stubborn as the coyote, because for me, To Beep or Not to Beep will remain one of the best Looney Tunes shorts of all time.

#4 -- One Froggy Evening

Title - One Froggy Evening
Director - Chuck Jones
Released - 1955

Interesting Fact -- Selected for preservation in the National Film Registry by the United States Library of Congress

Reason for Placement --

I know I've mentioned one-shot cartoon characters before on the countdown, but in the realm of Looney Tunes, there is no bigger one-hit-wonder than Michigan J. Frog and his debut toon, One Froggy Evening.

A construction worker comes across a black box containing a single frog, who dons a top hat and starts to sing! Thinking he has a chance at turning the frog into a quick profit, the worker takes the frog to a talent agent, and later rents out a theater for his performance, but runs into a small problem: the frog refuses to perform for anyone but the worker.

Critics and animators all over the world consider this short to be one of the greatest ever created; Steven Spielburg, at one point, called this short the "Citizen Kane of animated film." And despite only appearing in one short during the Golden Age of animation, Michigan J. Frog has gone on to become one of the most recognized characters in the business, and was featured as the mascot for the WB Network for 10 years.

Though some may not know it, Michigan did in fact make one more cartoon: 40 years after his debut, Jones released Another Froggy Evening into theaters, which shows various men through history (whom all bear a striking similar appearance to the worker in the original film) as they encounter our favorite singing amphibian... and all find out the same way just what happens when they try to get him to sing.

Either way, the shorts do teach us a valuable lesson: when you are blessed with a gift, treasure it for what it is, not what it could become.

#5 -- What's Opera, Doc?

Title - What's Opera, Doc?
Director - Chuck Jones
Released - 1957

Reason for Placement --

Where do I begin? What's Opera, Doc? is widely considered one of the best, if not the best, cartoon ever created. It was the first cartoon selected for preservation by the Library of Congress, was voted the #1 cartoon of all time by a selection of 1000 members of the animation field, and many consider it to be director Jones' greatest creation ever.

The story starts with a fast-paced chase between Elmer and Bugs, set amongst parodies of classic Wagner operas, with select parts of dialogue sung to well-known pieces (probably the most popular being Elmer's "Kill da Wabbit!" set to the Ride of the Valkyries).

The production behind this piece is nothing short of amazing. Whereas production units at Termite Terrace were only allowed to work on one specific cartoon for 5 weeks (to maximize the output of cartoons), Jones and his team doctored their timecards to read that they were working on Wile E. Coyote/Road Runner cartoons for an extra two weeks so they could continue working on this short. To help create the dance sequence between the characters, actual ballet dancers were studied to depict realistic movements. Maurice Noble's backgrounds are, as always, breathtaking, and the musical arrangements by Milt Franklin work incredibly well with Michael Maltese's dialogue.

And of course, even after you strip it down, you have the basic storyline that we all love: a classic chase between Elmer and Bugs (complete with Bugs in drag, of course).

While it didn't get the appreciation it deserved when it was first released (it was never nominated for an Oscar), What's Opera, Doc? remains one of the greatest pieces of animation ever created, a classic triumph of art and music that will continue to be loved by fans for years to come.

#6 -- The Hunting Trilogy

Title - Rabbit Fire, Rabbit Seasoning, and Duck! Rabbit! Duck!
Director - Chuck Jones
Released - 1951, 1952, 1953

Reason for Placement --

I know, I know, I'm technically cheating here, I'm sorry!! I know I established the rules, but try as I might, I just couldn't split these three cartoons up.

These three cartoons make up Jones' 'Hunting Trilogy', the three cartoons to feature Bugs, Daffy, and Elmer as they go up against one another during hunting season. All three have the same core plot line (in fact, the only major difference between them is that Duck! Rabbit! Duck! takes place during the winter, while the other two take place during the spring/summer & fall): Elmer is hunting in the woods, Daffy doesn't want him to find out that it's actually Duck Season, so he manages to trick the hunter into going after Bugs... which, of course, does not work out that well.

So what's so great about these shorts? Well, for starters, they were the first toons to really showcase a rivalry between Bugs and Daffy, and they were the first cartoons to feature Daffy's new catchphrase, "You're desthpicable!".

Taking them apart, each of these shorts gave us some of the most popular and famous jokes ever to come out of Termite Terrace. Whether it's Rabbit Seasoning's "Pronoun Trouble" scene, Duck! Rabbit! Duck!'s gag of pulling out new hunting season signs, or even the now infamous "Duck Season/Wabbit Season" scenes from Rabbit Fire, there's no denying that these are some of the most influential cartoons of all time.

Oh, and how could I forget! These were also the first shorts to showcase a new gag: every time Daffy got shot, his bill would fly off in a different style. Probably worth mentioning that this part was parodied in the opening scene of the movie Looney Tunes: Back In Action (and I want it on record that was probably the funniest part of the whole movie, not a good sign).

So we can debate for hours about which of these shorts was the best and whether or not I should have separated the three on the countdown (and whether it's Duck, Goat, Dirty Skunk, Mongoose, or even Baseball Season), but there is really no question that these are, without a doubt, three of the best Looney Tunes cartoons ever released.

#7 -- Operation: Rabbit

Title - Operation: Rabbit
Director - Chuck Jones
Released - 1952

Reason for Placement --

Wile E. Coyote had made his debut 3 years prior in the classic Fast and Furry-ous, and having proven himself such a great character and classic villain, it seemed only natural to have him go up against everyone's favorite wascally wabbit.

It's pretty debatable whether Wile E. makes a better foe for Bugs or the Road Runner, but I personally have always loved it when he went up against Bugs, not only because he could now talk, but Jones and Maltese really gave us a character to hate. Wile E. is so stuck-up and full of himself that we love it all the more when his traps misfire and he gets it in the end. During his first introduction to Bugs, he goes on a long (obviously prepared) speech about why Bugs won't stand a chance against him, and Bugs gives him a look that clearly says, "Buddy, you deserve everything you're going to get... and more." The more he gloats about being a genius, the more we love it when Bugs gives him his comeuppance.

While Wile E. would return to hunting the Road Runner later that year in his next cartoon, Beep Beep, and would not be paired with Bugs again until 1956's To Hare Is Human, there is no doubt that Operation: Rabbit is one of the coyote's (and Bugs') best shorts. Wile E. may be a super-genius, but it's clear from the start of this short that as smart as he may be, he never stood a chance against one well-prepared rabbit.

#8 -- Now Hear This

Title - Now Hear This
Director - Chuck Jones
Released - 1963

Interesting Fact -- Nominated for Academy Award in Best Short Subject, Cartoons

Reason for Placement --

This was the first Warner Bros. cartoon to use a brand new opening animation with a new abstract logo and modern rendition of "Merry Go-Round Broken Down". This alone should make it abundantly clear that what we're about to see is very VERY different.

An elderly gentlemen comes across a brand new hearing horn, only to discover that by using it normal everyday sounds are magnetized and the man starts experiencing increasingly strange aural and visual hallucinations. It isn't until the end we see the cause of all his grief: the horn he found isn't a hearing horn, but is quite literally the devil's left horn!

Now Hear This is an amazing cartoon, not only because of its incredible animation, but also because of sound effects created by film editor Tregoweth "Treg" Brown. Unlike other non-dialogue cartoons, this short doesn't rely on music, but rather on Brown's outstanding sound effects. There are two parts of this short that use music created by Bill Lava, but the rest of the sound all belongs to Brown (any other music not supplied by Lava is stock music that Brown edited in). The randomness of the sound showcases real creativity and spontaneity: a single bug sounds like a train, an inquisitive look brings out the sound of morse code being tapped over a wire, a man's heartbeat sounds like a traffic jam, and in the climax, the animators give Brown a little help by putting the words "GIGANTIC EXPLOSION" on the screen, just to make sure we get the full emphasis of what's going on.

So while Jones and co-director Maurice Noble get the credit for this incredible creation, I've got to give credit where credit is due, and it's Brown's work with the sound effects that allows this cartoon to leave such an impact. Now Hear This is a great short that really grabs our attention, and we hear every little bit of it.