Hare Ribbin' is a 1944 animated short film in the Merrie Melodies series, directed by Bob Clampett and featuring Bugs Bunny. The plot features Bugs' conflict with a red-haired hound dog, whom the rabbit sets out to evade and make a fool of using one-liners, reverse psychology, disguises and other tricks. It was released in theaters by Warner Bros. Pictures on June 24, 1944. The title is a pun on "hair ribbon".
The short opens with a dog with a Russian accent (a la Bert Gordon's "Mad Russian") hunting for a rabbit by sniffing a trail. He happens upon Bugs who begins to torment the dog. This prompts a chase, which leads to a nearby lake where the rest of the story continues. Most of the action takes place underwater.
Eventually, after a few gags, the dog corners Bugs and demands he give him a rabbit sandwich. Bugs obliges, and the rabbit places himself between two giant slices of loaf bread with his legs curled next to his body. The dog takes a bite and Bugs screams and fake his death. The dog becomes instantly grief-stricken and sobs, declaring that he should be the one to die. With this statement, Bugs springs back to life asking, "Ehhhh...do you mean it?", and obliges the dog's death wish (see Censorship and Differences Between Versions below) The dog falls to the ground, Bugs plants a flower on his chest and dances away into the distance. As the cartoon is about to "iris out" the dog sits up (revealing that he is still alive), holds the iris before it closes, and declares "This shouldn't even happen to a dog!". He then lets the iris go, but it closes on his nose in the process, making him yelp in pain.
Although this cartoon short is a typical Bugs Bunny chase plot, there are a number of things that stand out:
- Bugs is pursued by a dog with a frizzy hair and a Russian accent. The accent is a play on The "Mad Russian" character originated by comedian Bert Gordon (with his catchphrase, "How DO you DO?") that was popular on radio at the time (the voice here is provided by Sammy Wolfe.
- When the dog sniffs Bugs' armpit, he says "body odor" in a foghorn-like voice. That was inspired by radio commercials for Lifebuoy soap.
- This is sometimes called the "Underwater Short." Early in the short Bugs is chased into a lake by the dog and the rest of the cartoon takes place at the bottom of the lake. This may be to set up a long gag in which Bugs disguises himself as a sexy mermaid. Bugs as the mermaid greets the dog in a high-pitched voice, saying 'hello, big boy', pretending that he fell in love with him. The dog also falls in love with the 'mermaid' and offers Bugs to play games with him. Bugs replies 'ok, Don Juan' and they play hide and seek together. The dog closes his eyes and Bugs knocks him with his mermaid tail, but that makes him even more happy and the dog and the 'mermaid' continue playing romantic games happily. The dog says to his love that is her turn to chase him and Bugs knocks the dog with his mermaid tale, sending him into a rock. In any case, the action remains underwater for the rest of the film.
- The cartoon has two endings, both of which are considered too objectionable to be shown on TV nowadays (see Censorship note below) and one of which was rejected before it even premiered in theaters. The two alternate versions of the ending were based on the perception of someone -- most likely a studio administrator -- that Bugs could not be seen killing another animal.
- This cartoon short holds the distinction of having two endings, both of which are too violent by today's standards to be shown on children/family-friendly television in the United States:
- The original ending—where the Russian Dog, distraught over Bugs' "death", wishes he were dead too, and Bugs obliges by giving the dog a gun so he can shoot himself in the head—once played in theaters to a general audience, is now commonly cut from television versions on network TV and cable TV (specifically Cartoon Network, Boomerang, TBS, TNT and The WB, excluding an episode of Cartoon Network's The Bob Clampett Show and two appearances on Cartoon Network's New Year's Day Looney Tunes marathons in 2009 and 2010, where the cartoon played with its general release ending uncut and uncensored). The censored version has an edit occurring between the scene where Bugs says "Do you mean it?" and the dog laying down, making it seem as if the dog had dropped dead out of guilt without shooting himself.
- The "director's cut" ending—where the Russian Dog, distraught over Bugs' "death", wishes he were dead too, and Bugs obliges by pulling out a gun and shooting the dog through the mouth—did not make it pass the Hays Office censors and was never shown in theaters or on television. An episode of Cartoon Network's The Bob Clampett Show that aired "Hare Ribbin" with its general release ending mentioned that "Hare Ribbin'" had an alternate ending that was never shown (and due to its violence, never will be). Despite this claim, the version of "Hare Ribbin'" with the "director's cut" ending was previously discovered on the fifth volume of the "The Golden Age of Looney Tunes Volume 5" laserdisc set and is now on the fifth volume of the Looney Tunes Golden Collection DVD set as a special feature.
- To a lesser extent, the general release version also added in a scene between Bugs using a triangle and saying "Come and get it!" to the dog relating to the "rabbit sandwich" and the dog about to bite down on the sandwich; Bugs Bunny looks at the camera and winks to the audience as he lifts up part of the sandwich and curls up to just beyond the dog's reach. This was presumably added in to assure audiences that Bugs was never in any real danger of being bisected and killed by the dog, but Bugs was actually in grave danger of being killed in the "director's cut" version. However, eagle eyed viewers can note that in the general release version the scene was just spliced in on close examination.
The Looney Tunes Golden Collection: Volume 5 of the Looney Tunes Golden Collection DVD set has the original cut of Hare Ribbin, and the director's cut as a special feature; with the former restored and remastered and the latter unrestored and unremastered (you can tell the difference between both cuts by the tinting of the color).
- In Batman Beyond: Return of the Joker when Bruce Wayne's dog Ace is recovering from the Joker's attack he is shown watching this cartoon on TV, it's at the part where the dog thinks he killed Bugs and says "I don't deserve to live!, I wish I was dead!".
- When Bugs Bunny tells the "chef" to get a Bunny, audio of the chef talking was captured from Bugs Bunny Nips the Nips.
- This is the first cartoon to have the WB shield change to a face of Bugs.
- The animation when Bugs dances away at the end is reused from A Corny Concerto.
- The "director's cut" version has a Blue Ribbon WB 1944 opening which skips to the original opening halfway through the MERRIE MELODIES title card. The video below is the restored general release print.