27 April 2009

Legendbreakers: Hare-um Scare-um

I've always had a soft spot for Hare-um Scare-um (1939), Bugs Bunny’s third cartoon. As a kid, I actually ranked it among the best Warner Bros. shorts: I liked the gags, I liked the goony formative version of Bugs, I even memorized the song he sang. While I grew out of considering the film a classic, I remained interested by new discoveries related to it. Michael Barrier learned, for example, that Hare-um marked the first time the new star was advertised as Bugs Bunny (even though he wasn’t named in the film itself). More recently, Mike Van Eaton and Jerry Beck found original art to a promo brochure that was part of that ad push.

When I first heard talk of Hare-um—a cartoon I thought I knew inside and out—perhaps having an extra scene or scenes, I didn't believe it. I went into denial. But soon, an urban Internet legend had developed to the point where I finally became curious. Could I get to the bottom of it? What would Duck Twacy do? What would... Snopes do?

Legend: Hare-um Scare-um (1939), the third cartoon to feature a prototypical Bugs Bunny, has been edited for violence in the print we usually see (above). The full, original version ended with Bugs and his "whole family" beating the stuffings out of hunter John Sourpuss and his dog, perhaps so violently that only their decapitated heads are left to roll away over the hill for the closer.


[Jerry Beck and Will Friedwald, The Warner Brothers Cartoons, 1981]

"The censored ending has the hunter being beaten up by the rabbit and his whole family."

[Visitor to The Unofficial Looney Tunes and Merrie Melodies Page, c. 1998]

"This is what I was told was missing at the end: All of the rabbits attack the hunter (not Elmer Fudd, but a one-shot hunter) and his dog. The smoke clears and we see two heads—the hunter's and the dog's—rolling off down the same roadway into the sunset as the iris brings the toon to a close."

[Visitor to Toon Zone, 2002]

"Supposedly the rabbits beat up the hunter and dog, causing a cloud of smoke. When the cloud clears you see the heads of the hunter and dog rolling down the road."

[Visitor to Misce-Looney-Ous blog, 2008]

"I don't know about 'heads rolling into the sunset,' but in the version I've seen, the rabbits just start beating the heck out of the hunter and his dog, then iris out. If there's a longer version (and there could be), I haven't seen it."

[Visitor to YouTube, 2009]

"yea i think i have seen both on cartoon network in 2000 when i wuz 4 im 13 now iand i think i remember seein both in my long term memory i remember the dog and hunter gettin beat up and their heads are rolling down a hill." [SIC!]

Origins: The 1998 version of the rumor, posted to the Censored Cartoons Page and recovered through the Wayback Machine, turned out to be the earliest mention I could find anywhere of "rolling heads.” As such, it's notable for its "I was told" qualifier: the writer made clear that he hadn't seen the unedited ending himself; he was just quoting an anonymous source. Neither perfect understanding nor certainty was implied.

But the Censored Cartoon Page got around, and the iconic mental image of disembodied, rolling heads obviously stuck in film geeks' memories. Even the modern version of the Censored page describes the "rolling heads" scene as common knowledge, at least in the context of hearsay.

Yet there are obvious problems with it. One commonly referenced element—the dog's presence—is extra-unlikely, as the dog exits the film two full minutes before Sourpuss issues his challenge to fight. And while the goofy, Egghead-like Elmer prototype could remove his head for a gag in 1937 (Cinderella Meets Fella), would Schlesinger animators really decapitate Sourpuss permanently—even for a scene that was nixed?

Sometimes an obvious clue is right in front of your nose. As you’ll see above, years before any reference to rolling heads, Jerry Beck and Will Friedwald referenced a less explicitly gruesome version of the final sequence in their seminal book, The Warner Brothers Cartoons (1981). How had I forgotten that? If I wanted more details, why not simply try to watch what they’d watched?

Luckily, at least one original print of Hare-um Scare-um still existed. I cornered and screened it recently in a film archive. Here’s what I saw.

"I can whip you and your whole family!" shouts John Sourpuss.

Bugs and his infinite family appear and put up their dukes. We hear the same musical flourish that marks the fadeout in the standard version—but there's no fade this time.

The bunnies rush Sourpuss...

...and fight in a cloud of dust. There's no sign of who's winning at first.

At the end of the battle, the bunnies rush away as one, down the road and over the horizon—visible only as a dust cloud trail.

The remaining smoke of battle clears to reveal a disheveled, but intact Sourpuss.

A critical-looking Bugs zips back onto the scene alone...

...to return Sourpuss' battered rifle to him, throwing it down on the ground hard. Smack!

Bugs (sternly): "You oughtta get that fixed. Somebody's liable to get hurt!"

His sternness vanishing, Bugs reverts to his former looney attitude.

He laughs and whoops his way down the road toward the horizon—bouncing on his head all the way, pogo-stick style.

John Sourpuss, left alone, does a long, furious slow burn...

...then snaps like a twig, and—now insane—bounces on his head toward the horizon, too. Iris out.

How many copies of the original are out there? Surely not many; I can state with surety that Cartoon Network never aired one. On the other hand, it seems possible that some thirty years ago, when Beck and Friedwald did their original research, the news of what they'd seen got around. Maybe some cartoon fan remembered the scene in full, described it vaguely to another...

...and a statement like "they bounce over the hill on their heads" was simply misheard as the more grotesque "heads bounce over the hill." After all, the scene was snipped from most versions of the film. If one hasn’t seen a censored moment, it’s easy to presume it must have been yanked for the ugliest reasons. Maybe that’s how the rumor got started.

Given that the scene seems non-controversial, why was the edit done? I can only make an educated guess: it’s so much like the ending of the earlier Daffy Duck and Egghead (1938) that it comes across as completely unoriginal.

"Hold onto your seats, folks! Here we go again..."

[Thanks to Jerry Beck and Mark Kausler for a lot.]


Nic Kramer said...

Great coverage, Dave! I hope they put the complete version of this film on DVD next year.

Duck Dodgers said...

What the...I stay away a few days to screen a few cartoon rarities in Naples' Comicon and when I return home I find this?
You rule as usual, David boy!
Now if only a complete print of "The Stupid Cupi" could be found somewhere (some sort of homosexual gag must be in here for sure, maybe with the rooster falling in love for Daffy or vice versa).

Kevin W. Martinez said...

Hi, Dhave! How's it goin', mhan?

Given how notorious of a tightwad Leon Schlesinger was, someone at the higher hierarchical levels had to have protested to the ending in order for it to be missing from the released version. Maybe the rabbits beating up the hunter ticked off Jack Warner or something.

Gianfranco Goria said...

Thank you, David! So... I'll talk about your blog tomorrow at www.afnews.info . :-)

Yeldarb86 said...

Some interesting insight. It's easy to assume that the proto-Bugs was a clone of Daffy, especially since they both debuted in a Porky Pig hunting cartoon.

J Lee said...

Great find, David.

If the studio already was trying to push Bugs as a new starring character, the reason for the edit could be the same reason the ending of Clampett's "Hare Ribbin'" was changed five years later -- someone (Leon? J.L.?) didn't want their 'star' to beat the crap out of their adversary just prior to the iris out (which admittedly isn't as bad as sticking a gun in your adversary's mouth and pulling the trigger, but it falls in the same general area).

Jon Cooke said...

Amazing find, David! The legends can be put to rest now. Thanks for alerting me to this!

Thad said...

Wonderful find, I'm pretty certain the extended ending of CATCH AS CATS CAN survives somewhere, though damifino where.

And Leviathan, only Tom Stathes and I have permission to use the name "Dhave", so blow off. Hur-hur-hur-HAHA!

Glowworm said...

Wow,that's amazing-and somewhat disapointing. I honestly wanted to see heads rolling down a hill!

Gruesome,aren't I.;)

Bugsmer said...

You just blew a perfectly good urban legend so far out of the water that it hit the sky. Way to go, Dave! Your research has really paid off. I'm another person who can't wait to see it on DVD, which wouldn't be possible if you hadn't have found an original print. Thanks.

Ricardo Cantoral said...

I guess it's an instance of editing for time allotted when it was broadcasted on TV.

ramapith said...

Rick: I'd rather not jump to any conclusions about when the edit was done (theatrical era vs TV era). I'm hoping that one day we'll know for sure.
Bugsmer and others: I'm glad my research paid off, but I won't take too much credit—as I noted, Jerry and Will Friedwald viewed a print years ago. It's just that its scarcity since then led to rumors arising about its content.

Chris Sobieniak said...

Great discovery Dave! Yes, the ending is so much like that other cartoon it stuck out greatly in my mind while seeing those pics, yet, I'm compelled to have a sigh of relief in FINALLY knowing what happened to those last few moments of "Hare-Um Scare-Um" that left me confused for years. It's nice when these things get unearthed before they're gone forever.

Mark Kausler said...

The edit in "Hare-um, Scare-um" was a theatrical edit, not a television one. I had a 35mm safety print of the cartoon at one time, with the original credits, but the truncated ending. That would lead you to believe that the edit happened before release, like the edit in "The Heckling Hare". By the way, the original ending to "The Stupid Cupid", according to Greg Ford, has Daffy popping up between the kissing rooster and hen, with the rooster kissing the back of Daffy's head as he kisses the hen. The hen points this out to the rooster, and Daffy says: "If you haven't tried it, don't knock it."

Your pony pal Pokey,too said...

Hi, Dvae, saw the Golden Age Cartoon Forums page, am a big Hareum Scareum fan, and was VERY suyrprised to see that such an ending EXISTED. Now if only we could see the endings for.

"Mosue Wreckers"
"Caatch as Cats Can"
"Stupid Cupid"

I can dream can't i?

Your pony pal Pokey, too.

Joe Torcivia said...

A lost ending to a seminal cartoon for one of animation’s superstars?

This could be the find of the century!

But, David, to paraphrase Black Pete, you could probably unearth “finds of the century, every day!”

Great find! Great post! Great Blog! Great Scott! Great taste! Less filling! Etc.

Please ask Jerry Beck to help get this on DVD… assuming there are going to BE more DVDs.

Unknown said...

Nice piece, David. It definitely puts the "censored-for-extreme-violence" theory to rest. Fact is, "Hare-um, Scare-um" (even with the longer ending) is pretty tame violence wise compared to the standard WB fare.

But I don't buy the "ending-cut-because-it's-unoriginal" (stolen from "Daffy Duck and Egghead") theory either. As good as the classic Warner cartoons are, they reuse bits more times than I'd care to count (and that's not even considering the Roadrunner!).

No, I'd bet "Hare-um" was cut for a far-more prosaic reason -- running time (which translates into higher film costs for the prints). The cut version you embedded runs 7:41, which is already long for Schlesinger (how long is the uncut version?). In "Of Mice and Magic" (page 247) Chuck Jones says the Warner directors were only allowed 6 mintues, which obviously can't be gospel truth, but I'll bet Jones' statement was based on ol' Leon pinching the film cost pennies.

Unknown said...


Wow, wow, wow.

David you deserve a medal for uncovering and dispelling the old urban myth about the ending of "Hare-um Scare-um". With enough of us out there trying to dig up old artifacts and original prints, sooner or later someone would uncover this. Glad it was you... Nice job!

Outside of the fact that the ending is too similar to an earlier cartoon, I can't see why it was shortened. Hopefully the print you screened can be restored and put on an upcoming DVD release. This is really a rare find.

By the way, the original ending to "The Stupid Cupid", according to Greg Ford, has Daffy popping up between the kissing rooster and hen, with the rooster kissing the back of Daffy's head as he kisses the hen. The hen points this out to the rooster, and Daffy says: "If you haven't tried it, don't knock it."Mark is there anything you don't know? :) Thanks for this information!

Craig D said...

"Hold onto your seats, folks! Here we go again..."Oh, you tease!

Jan said...

Hi, David,

I'm very sorry to be veering off topic here, but I have a question for you that I thought you might know the answer to.
You see, I have a conviction that Mickey Mouse always had whites in his eyes, that his eyes were never just solid little black dots like so many people believe them to have been before his make-over in 1939. I am of the opinion that the whites of Mickey's eyes were so enormous in those years that people mistook them for his upper face and forehead, and that the little black dots were pupils, rather than the whole eye in itself. This explains why Minnie's eyelids cover her whole face in 'The Brave Little Tailor' rather than just the black dots, it explains why Mickey's eyes appear to dart all over his face when he is swatting flies in the aforementioned cartoon or conducting in the 'Band Concert', and it also explains why the whole white bit of his face is visible when he gets covered in oil in 'Mickey's Circus'. Mickey had huge eyes with whites in them in 'Plane Crazy'; by the 2nd half of 'Galloping Gaucho' it seems that the animators couldn't be bothered with drawing the outlines of those eyes, and hence they appear to have been reduced to the little black dots.
I'd be very interested to know what you think of my theory. You have a brilliant blog there!!

ramapith said...

Jan, you're correct.

Disney muddied the waters in 1936 when (at first only occasionally) they began making Mickey's entire face pink.
But yes—the original concept was that the whites of Mickey's eyes remained as huge as in PLANE CRAZY, they just weren't outlined in full.

Prior to 1935, when the color cartoons standardized things, many merchandise items and early King Features Sunday comics reflected the original intent of the design by giving Mickey a pink lower face and white upper face.
Trivia: since some European comics used the early King color model into the modern era, you'll now and then see that white upper face on the contemporary Mickey!

Example here (his pre-1936 yellow gloves survive in this color scheme, too).

ramapith said...

Hey Byron,

You needn't accept my theory about HARE-UM being shortened due to its derivative nature. It's just a theory.

I thought I'd check up on your theory about it being edited for length. Hmm; even the standard, shortened version of Hare-Um, at 7:47, runs long for its era already, and the original ending adds about another :30. But less than six months away on either side, Mighty Hunters and Old Glory run longer at 8:42 and 9:03, so one can't be sure...

Mark Newgarden said...

Good one David!

Unknown said...

Not to belabor the point (much), but both "Mighty Hunters" and "Old Glory" were "special" cartoons (and no, not because the early Chuck Jones was going through his "Disney" phase, including copying the glacial pacing : )

Brandon said...

Avery's "Isle of Pingo pongo" is another cartoon that runs over 8 minutes.

Thad said...

ALL of the cartoons of 1939 are like 8 or 9 minutes long. I know this because I had to watch them all in a row once. NOT fun.

Paul F. Etcheverry said...

Great stuff, Dave. You're on my blogroll!

I'll bet those Harman and Ising cartoons made in 1939 are more than 10 minutes long. Some have beautiful animation, but still provoke the "OK - get on with it" response.

Uncle Fletcher said...

I think that the only safe generalization that can be made about running times is that most of the studios standardized to approx. 6.5 - 7 minutes in the early '40s. In the '30s, running times were all over the map, though usually shorter for black & white subjects (particularly from Fleischer), while color subjects like Avery's "Cross Country Detours" lumbered in at 9.5 minutes.

HB said...


No, I'd bet "Hare-um" was cut for a far-more prosaic reason -- running time (which translates into higher film costs for the prints). The cut version you embedded runs 7:41, which is already long for Schlesinger (how long is the uncut version?). In "Of Mice and Magic" (page 247) Chuck Jones says the Warner directors were only allowed 6 mintues, which obviously can't be gospel truth, but I'll bet Jones' statement was based on ol' Leon pinching the film cost pennies.It's been my observation for years that the most popular cartoon stars at most of the studios tended to get the longer playing times. However, at this point that wouldn't really apply, since this daffy rabbit is not yet a star. (He really seems more like Daffy to me than Bugs.)

But, as you suggest, length can be a factor in the distribution expense. Moreover, it can be a factor in the projection booth. At a time when they were doing manual changeovers and not platters, shorts were one of the few situations where the films, usually shipped on cores, were physically spliced together. It takes time to unload one reel of film, thread up another, and fire up the arc lamp and let it burn a little to reach color temperature. Further the carbon rods usually only lasted about the length of one theatrical reel or 22 minutes. So the only time a short would stand alone on a reel would be if it was the first item on the program and nothing else could be fit on the reel with it.

Now, if you imagine a reel with a cartoon, a newsreel or other short subject or two, and some previews, length could have become a factor. If the theater or projectionist were planning their reels against average expectations, overly long cartoons might have upset a few apple carts. In that context, it could make sense that a short like this one with a transitional character who couldn't be counted on to draw in patrons, would be edited for the reissue or second-tier distributions.

Of course, that's all just armchair quarterbacking, but an explanation based on prosaic, as opposed to censorship or artistic ones, makes more sense to me.

Kristian H said...

Very nice article, David. Great stuff, great stuff!

The "Chase" said...

Why wont you put this on Youtube??????????

ramapith said...


I'm afraid I don't actually have video on this—only individual screenshots.

Michael Beohm said...

What happens in the missing scenes of "You're an Education"?

Acme Girl said...

Finally! Now, I know the true ending to "Hare-um Scare-um"! After all this time, I was getting grossed out visioning the rolling heads down the road. Thanks for debunking that ol' rumor and bringing me relief. I'll be able to sleep peacefully tonight. (Not that I didn't before, but hey, you'd find it hard to sleep, too, thinking about rolling heads down the road.)

Anonymous said...

Thanks for sharing this cartoon.
2 things come to mind:
The hunter looks a lot like the guy with the dinosaur, and Bugs laughs a lot like woody woodpecker... is it a coincidence?

Chynna Moore said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Pokey said...

That ending is a tad like "Daffy Duck and Egghead". The length conjecture seems logical to me; and those like Acme Girl, I agree, I too thought about decapitated hunters heads. The rabbit runs on all fours before doing that goofy novelty theme of his, and it's one of the first times with Mel Blanc doing all the voices [well, both].

And I like that version of Bugs, design-wise.

Steve J.Carras, not a millionaire, doesn't own mansion and yacht, but with the same inital as Elmer Fudd, Homer Simpson, and Rocky the Squirrell.