The Top 10 Looney Tunes Shorts
Twenty-five years ago, the world lost Mel Blanc, who is still synonymous with the term “voice actor.” While Blanc did work on The Jack Benny Program, The Flintstones, and some Tom & Jerry shorts, he’s best remembered as voice of the Looney Tunes. Blanc voiced Bugs Bunny, Daffy Duck, Tweety Bird, Sylvester the Cat, Foghorn Leghorn, Marvin the Martian, and so many others that I could fill up a page just listing their names. I don’t have to tell you who all he voiced because you already know his resume. He played an integral role in countless children’s lives, and continues to do so as Looney Tunes shorts still air on television each day.
Being that the number of Looney Tunes shorts is well into the hundreds, making a definitive list of the greatest ones is a fool’s errand. While this article is titled “The Top 10 Looney Tunes Shorts,” a better title would be “10 Great Looney Tunes Shorts,” but that’s bland, and more importantly, less likely to get those sweet, sweet clicks. If there are any shorts you think are missing from this list (and again, with hundreds of shorts that most certainly will happen), feel free to list them in the comments.
With that out of the way, let’s begin with number ten.
10. High Note (1960) Director: Chuck Jones
“High Note,” probably the only surprising entry on this list, is also one of three not to feature Mel Blanc. In fact, it doesn’t feature any voices – there are hiccups, but those were probably stock sounds. Instead, this Chuck Jones-directed short relies on the Looney Tunes basics: music and very clever animation. It follows a production of “The Blue Danube” that is interrupted after one of the musical notes arrives late and drunk, having spent time in the sheet music for “Little Brown Jug.” He causes havoc, leading to a chase throughout the sheet music for “The Blue Danube” that makes creative use of a crotchet rest and many other musical notations. It’s smart, it’s funny, and considering the simple setting of a piece of sheet music, it’s wonderful to look at.
9. Gee Whiz-z-z-z-z-z-z (1956) Director: Chuck Jones
The toughest part of putting together this list was choosing which Wile E. Coyote and Road Runner short to include. I attempted to find the one with the best gags, and after that failed I ended up with “Gee Whiz-z-z-z-z-z-z.” It’s the one featuring Wile E. Coyote in the bright green ACME Bat-Man’s outfit. There’s only so much one can say about a Coyote/Road Runner short. The Coyote gets hurt and it’s very funny, and since Chuck Jones is involved the animation is stunning. This could’ve been any of the Coyote/Road Runner shorts, but I’m happy going with “Gee Whiz-z-z-z-z-z-z,” despite its difficult name.
8. Rabbit Seasoning (1952) Director: Chuck Jones
“Rabbit Seasoning,” the second entry in Chuck Jones’ “Hunting Trilogy,” is only number eight on this list. That speaks volumes to how good Looney Tunes could be, and how good the remaining seven shorts on this list are. “Rabbit Seasoning” is what you think of when you think of Looney Tunes. It’s Bugs Bunny, Daffy Duck, and Elmer Fudd arguing with violence as punctuation. It’s Bugs confusing Daffy so severely that Daffy forces Elmer to shoot him. It’s Daffy correcting his beak and telling Bugs, “you’re despicable.” It’s all these memorable moments and so much more, and it’s undoubtably one of the best.
7. The Great Piggy Bank Robbery (1946) Director: Bob Clampett
Though Looney Tunes weren’t as egregious with pop culture references as current cartoons, there were the occasional references that younger me didn’t understand. It’s impressive that “The Great Piggy Bank Robbery” works as well as it does given that it’s riffing on Dick Tracy and I am largely unfamiliar with the character. But Daffy’s love of Dick Tracy isn’t an impediment for “The Great Piggy Bank Robbery,” and is instead a source of imaginative fun. Even though it is a Looney Tunes short, “The Great Piggy Bank Robbery” feels especially cartoony, from Daffy’s use of a Tommy gun to the visually interesting rogue’s gallery of villains.
6. Birds Anonymous (1957) Director: Friz Freleng
As the name implies, “Birds Anonymous” takes Sylvester’s obsession with eating Tweety and likens it to alcoholism. It’s a fascinating concept given that every other Sylvester and Tweety short plays his attempts for laughs. There’s still plenty of humor here, but it’s especially dark considering Sylvester truly tries to avoid his primal urges. Friz Freleng briefly tries to make the audience root against the slapstick chases we usually crave, and though the short doesn’t actually say anything, it’s still an interesting detour from the usual Looney Tunes formula. More importantly, this was Mel Blanc’s favorite short to voice, and when producer Eddie Selzer died, he left his Oscar to Blanc because of his work here.
5. Baseball Bugs (1945) Director: Friz Freleng
Only Bugs Bunny could earn laughs and adoration while making a mockery of America’s pastime. “Baseball Bugs” is the quintessential Bugs Bunny cartoon (excluding his duo/trio shorts with other Tunes like Daffy or Elmer Fudd) and a reminder that he doesn’t need anyone else. There are ball playing goons, but they’re generic, hulking adversaries that only exist so Bugs can one-up them. And Bugs does one-up them, repeatedly and an increasingly silly fashion. There’s a high success rate for the jokes in this heavily gag-based short, so much so that it earns a high spot on this list just for its humor (well, and its protagonist).
4. Rabbit of Seville (1950) Director: Chuck Jones
An understood part of Looney Tunes shorts – and most cartoons – is that they usually aren’t offering up anything new. Especially when it’s the Road Runner versus Wile E. Coyote or, in this case, Bugs Bunny versus Elmer Fudd, the jist will always be the same. Bad guy will try to catch good guy, bad guy will painfully fail. Even though “Rabbit of Seville” is no different than countless other Bugs vs. Elmer shorts, especially the earlier “Stage Door Cartoon,” it’s nonetheless a delight. Whimsically set to the overture of The Barber of Seville and featuring some of the series’ best slapstick, “Rabbit of Seville” takes the Looney Tunes mold and crafts something familiar, but still wonderful.
3. What’s Opera, Doc? (1957) Director: Chuck Jones
I’m expecting my decision to make “What’s Opera, Doc?” my number three choice and not my number one will cause controversy, but so be it. Though it is one of the all time great pieces of animation – and it deserves some props for making young kids enjoy a few minutes of opera – I don’t consider “What’s Opera, Doc?” to be the best Looney Tunes short. However, it is still deserving of all the praise it has received in the fifty-seven years since its release and more. “What’s Opera, Doc?” takes the well-worn rivalry between Elmer Fudd and Bugs Bunny and elevates it to, well, operatic heights, resulting in a short that is full of slapstick but also beauty.
2. One Froggy Evening (1955) Director: Chuck Jones
What I love about “One Froggy Evening” is that it takes place outside the Looney Tunes realm of reality. This isn’t the same universe that would let a rabbit play baseball or a pig wear a shirt but no pants. This is the real world, with one exception: there is a frog that sings and dances. So when a man crosses paths with Michigan J. Frog and devises a way to make money, it doesn’t work and he briefly ends up in an insane asylum. Besides being a wonderful, silly piece of animation, “One Froggy Evening” is a cautionary tale that advises viewers to leave the cartoon world alone.
1. Duck Amuck (1953) Director: Chuck Jones
Besides a brief appearance by Bugs at the end, the greatest Looney Tunes short only features one character: Daffy Duck. Daffy isn’t my favorite Looney Tunes character, so this isn’t the best simply because it’s six minutes of Daffy. Still, it’s impressive that no matter what happens during this short, Daffy is still Daffy. He might become mute or a weird flower creature, but he’s such a distinct creation that his character shines through. Of course, “Duck Amuck” is also a mind-altering short for a child because of its fourth wall-breaking elements. The idea that a show could make one of its character’s lives a living hell for our amusement is a fascinating one. This is to cartoons what The Cabin in the Woods is to horror films. Number one on this list could’ve gone to multiple shorts, but in picking one to hold above the rest, I’m going with “Duck Amuck.”
That’s all folks!