Mississippi Hare Looney Tunes (Bugs Bunny) series Directed by Chuck Jones Produced by Edward Selzer Story by Michael Maltese Voices by Mel Blanc
Billy Bletcher (uncredited)
Music by Carl W. Stalling Animation by Ben Washam
Distributed by Warner Bros. Pictures Release date(s) February 26, 1949 (USA premiere) Color process Technicolor Running time 7 min.(one reel) Language English Preceded by Hare Do Followed by Rebel Rabbit
In the story, Bugs Bunny, asleep in a cotton field, is picked up by his cottony tail (which a worker mistakes for actual cotton) and bundled into a shipment put on a riverboat going down the Mississippi River. The cotton-picking scene is accompanied by presumably African-American voices singing "Dixie".
After seeing a steward forcibly eject a ticket-less passenger ("What? No ticket? We'll have no stowaways on this boat, sir!"), Bugs acquires some clothes and presents himself to the steward as a top-hatted gentleman. His self-assurance so clearly implies that he belongs on the boat that the steward hesitates to even ask for a ticket, but rather than browbeat him with his presumed superior station, Bugs simply gives the man a ticket.
At this point Bugs could simply relax and enjoy the unexpected trip, which must eventually take the boat back to its starting point and allow him to disembark, but he prefers to seek an adversary with whom he can match wits. He finds one in the Yosemite Sam-esque Colonel Shuffle, a neurotic riverboat gambler played by Billy Bletcher (referring himself as "the rip-roarin'-est, gold-diggin'-est, sharp-shootin'-est, poker-playin'-est riverboat gambler on the Mississippi!"). After Shuffle's gunplay clears out the customer base in the casino (when another player had topped Shuffle's hand of three queens with four kings), Bugs remains as his only challenger in a poker game. Beginning with a hundred dollar stake (which amounts to only half a chip), Bugs soon stands to win all of Shuffle's money. When the cheating Shuffle offers a hand of five aces, Bugs casually tops him with six aces. Literally beaten at his own game ("Ifn't I had four feet and went yee-haw, what would I be?", "Why, uh, you'd be a jackass"), Shuffle challenges Bugs to a pistol duel and an explosion from an exploding cigar ("And the gentlemen wins a cigar!") leaves Shuffle in "blackface" and Bugs leads him in a dance to "De Camptown Races" (with Shuffle literally dancing off the boat, banjo in hand).
After Colonel Shuffle falls into and then comes back into the ship ("Why for did you splash me in the Mississippi mud?"), and a failed attempt to shoot Bugs with a waterlogged pistol (water flows out instead with the bullet sporting a sail as well), Bugs tricks Shuffle into buying a ticket to see "Uncle Tom's Cabinet" (word play referring to Uncle Tom's Cabin), only to fall back into Old Man River. Shuffle again tries to shoot Bugs ("Why did you dunk my poor old hide in Old Man River, when I bought a loge seat?"), only to be reminded that his pistol is wet ("Ah, ah, doc! It's full of water!"). Shuffle points the bullet at himself, only to get blasted in the face, apparently leaving only his clothes, but it's revealed not long after that he hid in his hat. Angry, Shuffle chases Bugs down to the boiler room, only to end up in it himself (causing the smoke from the smokestacks to warp into the word "YIPE!") and being forced to get change from Bugs for a cup to get water ("I seem to be in a terrible quandary, sir. Could you change a ten-spot, sir? I'd prefer a profusion of pennies"), only to shoot at Bugs again when he puts out his fire ("Thank you, sir. Keep the change.").
Bugs dons southern belle garb and appeals to another passenger to rescue "her" from Shuffle, whom the passenger throws overboard. However, after realizing that the "lady" he has assisted is a rabbit, the dumbfounded man has a nervous breakdown and steps overboard himself. Still in drag, Bugs notes: "Oh well, we almost had a romantic ending."
- There was a long-standing rumor that Virgil Ross animated the scene where Bugs dances to "Camptown Races" while a blackfaced Colonel Shuffle plays the banjo. However, according to Eric Goldberg's audio commentary on the fourth volume of the Looney Tunes Golden Collection DVD set, the scene was animated by Ken Harris (Virgil Ross wasn't even credited for being an animator for this short, nor was Ross, who animated under Friz Freleng's unit, ever an animator under Jones' unit).
Censorship and Controversy
- When this cartoon aired on ABC, the scene of Bugs rewarding Colonel Shuffle with a cigar that explodes, and Bugs giving him a banjo and the two perform Camptown Races was cut (though that censored scene was shown as a "Comedy Classics" clip shown in between cartoons in the 1989-1990 season of "The Bugs Bunny and Tweety Show"), with the scene where the Colonel re-emerges onto the ship being moved to after he walks off the ship. Also cut on ABC was the part where Colonel holds a gun to Bugs's face after falling off the boat (in the "Uncle Tom's Cabinet" scene) and Bugs warns him that the gun is filled with water and Colonel Shuffle ends up supposedly getting shot in the face and the scene where Bugs Bunny (dressed as a Southern belle) whacks Colonel Shuffle with an umbrella was shortened.
- On the now-defunct WB channel, the beginning where it shows the black sharecroppers singing "Dixie" and picking cotton (and Bugs) was cut as was the part where Colonel Shuffle supposedly shoots himself in the face after Bugs tells him the gun is filled with water that was edited on ABC.
- Cartoon Network had this cartoon on its list of 12 Bugs Bunny cartoons that were pulled from airing on the 2001 "June Bugs" marathon by order of AOL Time Warner that purportedly was supposed to show every Bugs Bunny cartoon ever made, presumably due to its offensive depiction of African Americans (i.e. plantation farming, the "Camptown Races" song that was censored on ABC, and the "Uncle Tom's Cabinent" scene).
- Although it wasn't shown on Cartoon Network, this cartoon did air at least once on Boomerang in the USA  and aired uncut on a Boomerang station in Europe.
Mississippi Hare is available, uncensored, uncut, and the original end card restored, on Looney Tunes Golden Collection: Volume 4. On an audio commentary track, Eric Goldberg explains why the cartoon has been banned (though the racism in this cartoon is, according to Goldberg, "tastefully done", and not as blatant as in some other cartoons) and points out the presumably racist scenes (specifically the beginning with the cottonpickers, the Camptown Races scene, and the Uncle Tom's Cabinet gag) and the gun gag that was cut when it aired on ABC and the WB.
Bugs Bunny Cartoons
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