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Watching Bugs Bunny bring down the house at the Hollywood Bowl

July 14, 2010 |  3:30 pm

What's up, maestro?

Bugs Bunny will be returning to the podium this week to help the Hollywood Bowl celebrate Warner Bros.' cartoon classics and the history of movie music.

The Bowl has made a tradition of showcasing soundtracks through programs including singalongs and concerts at which the audience can watch scenes on the big screen while listening to the Los Angeles Philharmonic or the Hollywood Bowl Orchestra.

Since it opened in 1922, the hillside venue also has shown up in many films, providing a setting for everyone from star-crossed lovers (Janet Gaynor and Fredric March in the 1937 "A Star Is Born") to sailors on shore leave (Gene Kelly and Frank Sinatra in the 1945 "Anchors Aweigh.")

One memorable Bowl appearance -- and example of movie-music magic -- occurs in Chuck Jones' 1949 "Long-Haired Hare," in which Bugs Bunny wages war against opera star Giovanni Jones. Their battles culminate in a faceoff at a Bowl concert (on the video above, about 2 1/2 minutes in), where the white-wigged wabbit takes command of the stage by impersonating Leopold Stokowski. Watch as Bugs ends up trouncing Jones and wreaking havoc on the amphitheater shell.

The Looney Tunes short has been shown at the Bowl regularly--nine times since 1992--as part of George Daugherty's "Bugs Bunny on Broadway," which features classic cartoons accompanied by a symphony orchestra. Audiences have gotten a kick out of seeing art imitate life, especially in 2003 when Bugs and "Broadway" appeared at the end of the season, just before the famous shell was demolished before being rebuilt.

Bugs-logo-vertical "Long-Haired Hare" will be back at the Bowl on Friday and Saturday when Daugherty conducts the LA Phil  in "Bugs Bunny at the Symphony," the successor to the 20-year-old "Broadway."

The show -- which is having a double-premiere here and in Sydney, where it debuted in May -- consists of favorites from the original as well as new material including "Tom and Jerry in the Hollywood Bowl" and cameos from "The Flintstones" and "Scooby-Doo."

"When we decided what to take out and leave in, everyone had 'Long-Haired Hare' first on the list to stay," Daugherty tells Culture Monster. "It's really the epitome of this incredible fusion of animation and the classical music tradition."

Listen closely, he says, and you can hear the music of Rossini, Donizetti and Wagner, among others, as well as popular tunes such as "A Rainy Night in Rio." "There's more music packed in from more composers than in any other cartoon" -- all woven together by music director Carl Stalling with high notes provided by Nicolai Shutorov, who voiced Giovanni Jones. (The identity of who sang for Giovanni was forgotten for years, says Daugherty. "Even now, we know little about him.")

While the Bowl figures in a number of cartoons -- several of which will be seen in "Symphony" -- "in 'Long-Haired Hare' it really becomes a character more than a setting," says Daugherty. "That's why it's so much fun to see it at the Bowl."

To find out more about the Hollywood Bowl's tradition of celebrating movie music and to check out this season's film-related offerings click here to see my story.

--Karen Wada

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