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.