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Published on August 7th, 2009 | by darraghdoyle


Bugs Bunny on Broadway: rehearsals and interviews

I sat watching the RTÉ Concert Orchestra perform Looney Tunes tunes yesterday. It was one of the best experiences I have ever had.

Those that know me will generally say three things – the first is not suitable for a family friendly site, the second would be enthusiastic and the third is that I’m a big child sometimes. That’s very true. I like to think there’s a wonder, a surprise, a revelation and above all something to enjoy in everything. Yesterday certainly fit into those criteria.

I loved Looney Tunes as a child. Never a Disney kid really, Bugs Bunny, Elmer Fudd, Daffy Duck, Tom & Jerry, Road Runner and Wile E Coyote were always on RTÉ and therefore always on my to-watch list.

I’ll still sit and watch Elmer chase Bugs, watch Daffy try his oneupmanship on Bugs and watch Wile E construct the most elaborate contraptions available from the ACME catalogue. I have a huge ghrá for them. They’re as intrinsic to my childhood as Bosco, as Mr Freezes in the summer and discovering the Three Investigator books.

More importantly what these concerts started in me was a lifelong passion for classical music. This is where I first heard so many great composers and orchestras and easily why I still get a surge of emotion every time I hear the opening bars of certain pieces.

Hang on, you may say, classical music? The boring stuff? In cartoons? Oh come on, that’s just all sound effects and whistles and stuff, isn’t it? Absolutely not. The music of Wagner, Rossini, Liszt, Tchaikovsky, Smetana, Strauss, Donizetti, Mendelssohn feature in these cartoons.

Don’t believe me? Here’s the opening bars of Richard Wagner’s Ride of the Valkyries from Die Walkure:

You can imagine my delight so yesterday to get to hear this music live and conducted by someone I find quite inspiring and fun – creator and conductor of Bugs Bunny on Broadway, Emmy award-winning Mr George Daugherty, in anticipation of their concerts at the National Concert Hall this weekend. The concerts, bringing the extraordinary amimation scores by legendary Warner Bros Studio composers Carl Stalling and Milt Franklin, are set to delight audiences young and old alike.

George Daugherty has been travelling around the world bringing Bugs Bunny on Broadway to audiences around the world for twenty years now. From a fairly simple start – him as an adult remembering how much he loved the cartoons and the music as a child – he has deen delighting auduences with shows that has been critically acclaimed around the world. The New York Times called it ‘Hilarious’, the New York Post ‘Spectacular’ while Newsday gave it ‘Four carrots, highest rating!’

Image courtesy of the Sydney Opera House

This concert has been played by some of the world’s best orchestras in some amazing venues. There was an audience of 20,000 people in the Hollywood Bowl. It was played on top of a three storey building in Times Square where the entire square was blocked from traffic and they used the gigantic Times Square Diamondvision screen as their props.

It’s been in The Kremlin, The Royal Festival Hall, The Sydney Opera House, The Gershwin Theatre on Broadway and played by The Philadelphia Orchestra, The Royal Philharmonic, The San Francisco Symphony, The Los Angeles Philharmonic, the Moscow Philharmonic and now our own RTÉ Concert Orchestra, one that Daugherty feels is remarkably close to the original Warner Bros Orchestra.

So, fresh from a concert with the San Francisco Symphony, George is bringing Bugs, Elmer, Daffy, Porky et al to the NCH with two evening concerts and a Saturday matinee.

It’s a concert bringing the musical masterpieces of Rossini, Wagner, Strauss, Tchaikovsky and others to accompany the cartoons What’s Opera, Doc?, The Rabbit of Seville, Corny Concerto, Baton Bunny, Long-Haired Hare, High Note and many more. I booked my tickets almost as soon as I heard about it. I’m very excited.

I sat down with George – admittedly with an awkward camera angle and with the dismantling of the studio happening beneath us – to find out more. We talked about the origins of the concerts, of how the music would have been performed originally by the studio orchestras, how Warner Bros had reacted to his idea, how it ended up debuting on Broadway in 1990 and more. This is part one of the interview:

You’ll have heard George talking about Chuck Jones in that interview, and indeed, he plays an important part in these concerts.

Chuck Jones (1912 – 2002) was a master animator, cartoon artist, screenwrite, producer and director who created or developed many of the Warner Bros. classical cartoon characters. His grandson Craig Kausen is visiting Dublin for the performances and will mark the occasion by presenting both the RTÉ Concert Orchestra and the National Concert Hall with a giclée oil painting of Bugs Bunny which his grandfather painted prior to his death in 2002.

I sat down with Craig (not Charles!) to find out more about his grandfather, one of the fathers of Bugs Bunny and the man who created characters like Wile E Coyote, Road Runner, Pepe Le Pew and more.

Starting his career as a cell washer, he moved on to direct many of the classic Warner cartoons, then worked with MGM producing Tom & Jerry shorts and the television adaptation of Dr Seuss’ How the Grinch stole Christmas.

Chuck was nominated for an Academy Award eight times (winning thrice for Scent-imental Reasons, So Much For So Little and The Dot and the Line) and received an honorary Oscar in 1996 for the “creation of classic cartoons and cartoon characters whose animated lives have brought joy to our real ones for more than half a century”. Robin Williams, presenting the award called him “The Orson Welles of cartoon”.

He also worked on Mrs Doubtfire, Who Framed Roger Rabbit, Sleeping Beauty and so much more.

His grandson is justifiably proud, as you’ll see from this interview:

Sitting in the balcony of the studio at RTÉ yesterday, I can understand the enthusiasm that both Daugherty and Craig have still for the work that men like Chuck Jones, like Carl Stalling, like Milt Franklin and like Friz Freleng and Bob Clampett and how it still entertains so many people – young and old around the world.

Looking around to see exactly what instrument makes what sound, where particular instruments come in to form the music and just the enthusiasm of the musicians as much as the conductor and executive producer David Ka Lik Wong didn’t spoil the concert tonight but made me look forward to it all the more.

Seeing the cartoons, laughing with the audience, having fun with friends and above all enjoying the music – well that’s the magic right there, isn’t it?

YYou’ll find out more about the RTE Performing Groups including the RTÉ Concert Orchestra on their website, by following them on Twitter or by being a friend on Facebook.

My WARMEST thank you’s to Angela and Pauline out at RTÉ, to George and Craig for the interviews and the laughs and to Chuck Jones, whose creations made my childhood just that much better.

For those of you who can’t be there, here’s a taste of what you’re missing:

Looney Tunes and all related characters and elements are trademarks of and © Warner Bros. Entertainment Inc.

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About the Author

Blogger, event addict and fan of street and performance art. You can contact me directly at darraghdoyle[at]gmail[dot]com or @darraghdoyle on twitter.

One Response to Bugs Bunny on Broadway: rehearsals and interviews

  1. Brian says:

    The William Tell overture will always bring back memories of the movie Brassed Off.

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