The Old Grey Hare is a 1944 Warner Bros. cartoon in the Merrie Melodies series, directed by Bob Clampett, written by Michael Sasanoff, music by Carl W. Stalling. Starring an older and young Bugs Bunny and Elmer Fudd (voiced by Mel Blanc and Arthur Q. Bryan respectively). It was the first Bugs Bunny cartoon to credit Warner Bros. Cartoons as producer after Leon Schlesinger sold the studio to WB.
The title is a double play on words. One is the typical pun between "hare" and "hair", with the bunny (who was already grey-haired) rendered "old and grey" for this cartoon. The title also refers to the old song, "The Old Gray Mare". Some theater cards for this cartoon gave the alternate spelling, The Old Gray Hare.
The cartoon starts with Elmer sitting under a tree, crying over never being able to catch Bugs. The "voice of God" (also the voice of Mel Blanc) tells Elmer that he would eventually catch him, and proceeds to transport him "far into the future" past the years 1950, 1960, 1970, etc., until reaching the then-distant year of 2000 Anno Domini.
This offers the chance to use some contemporary gags with a futuristic twist, as Elmer finds a year 2000 newspaper. One headline says, Smell-O-Vision Replaces Television: Carl Stalling Sez It Will Never Work!" In sporting news, "Bing Crosby's Horse Hasn't Come In Yet!" (Crosby was known for investing in racehorses that did poorly).
By now, both Elmer and Bugs are very old and wrinkled ("What's up, prune-face?") - Bugs even has a large white beard and a cane - and lumbago - but their chase resumes. This time Elmer is armed with a "Buck Rogers" ray gun. After a short chase (at slow speed, due to their ages), Elmer gets the upper hand, shooting Bugs with his ultra-modern weapon.
At the moment when it seems Elmer has finally beaten his nemesis, the apparently dying Bugs thinks back to when he and Elmer were much younger. This leads to a flashback sequence with a baby Elmer hunting a baby Bugs (both are still in diapers; Bugs, whose "baby" voice is virtually identical to the normal voice of Blanc's Tweety, is drinking carrot juice from a baby bottle; Elmer is crawling and toting a pop-gun; and they interrupt their chase to take a baby nap-time together.)
After the flashback is over, a tearful Bugs starts to dig his own grave, with Elmer getting equally emotional. Just at the point where it seems that Bugs is going to bury himself, he switches places with the weeping and distracted Elmer, and cheerfully buries him alive instead ("So long, Methuselah!") The buried Elmer quips, "Weww anyway, that pesky wabbit is out of my wife [life] fowevew and evew!" However, Bugs suddenly pops in and repeats the popular catchphrase of the "Richard Q. Peavey" character from The Great Gildersleeve, "Well, now, I wouldn't say that," plants a kiss on Elmer, then hands him a large firecracker with a lit fuse, and quickly departs. While Elmer shivers and doesn't do anything, the screen immediately fades out and Robert Clampett's famous vocalized "Bay-woop!" is heard with the firecracker still hissing. The ending "That's all, Folks!" card appears already pre-written and the firecracker explodes off-screen, rumbling and shaking the on-screen title card.
Censorship and Title alterations
- On Cartoon Network (except for the first "June Bugs" marathon and The Bob Clampett Show), the shaking ending card is replaced with the generic "Dubbed Version" end card (though the explosion can still be heard), thus ruining the ending gag.
- The WB! airing of this cartoon cut the part where baby Elmer points his toy gun at baby Bugs and baby Bugs breaks his bottle of carrot juice over baby Elmer's head.
The short is available in its entirety (with the shaking end card) in the documentary Bugs Bunny: Superstar Part 2, which is available as a special feature on Disc 2 of the Looney Tunes Golden Collection: Volume 4, and was released independently on the Looney Tunes Golden Collection: Volume 5.