Looney Tunes have been part of our childhood, no matter what generation we come from. Also, being grown-ups won’t even stop us from enjoying those “Merrie Melodies” marathons. You’ll find yourself humming some Chopin or Wagner before you can say, “That’s all, folks!” These short films from the “Merrie Melodies” feature music from classical piano pieces to opera to accompany the unrealistic slapstick gags, which have lost none of their humor even many decades later.
Check out some of the classical music pieces heard on Looney Tunes.
1) Waltz in D-Flat Major, Op. 64, No. 1 (aka “Minute Waltz”) by Frédéric Chopin (1847)
As heard in Hyde and Hare (1957)
In a particular scene, Bugs Bunny spots a piano inside Dr. Jekyll’s house, places a candelabra on it, and utters: “I wish my brother George was here.” (the “George” reference was to Liberace, whose brother George was also his musical conductor). Then he starts to play Chopin’s “Minute Waltz” (which pronounces as “my-nute” and “Choppin’”), until Mr. Hyde shows and chases after the poor bunny with an axe.
2) Dance of the Comedians from The Bartered Bride by Bedřich Smetana (1866)
As heard in Zoom and Bored (1955)
As always, the constantly hungry Wile E. Coyote tries to catch his nemesis, the Road Runner. This time around, the climax is set to the Dance of the Comedians from Bedřich Smetana’s comic opera The Bartered Bride.
3) The Barber of Seville overture by Gioachino Rossini (1816)
As heard in The Rabbit of Seville (1950)
Rabbit hunter Elmer Fudd chases after Bugs Bunny across the theater stage when the curtain suddenly rises, signaling the beginning of Rossini’s operatic masterpiece. Without missing a beat, the wapscallion wabbit assumes the title role, humiliating Elmer along the way.
4) Largo al Factotum from The Barber of Seville by Gioachino Rossini (1816)
The second theme from the Prelude to Act III of Lonhegrin by Richard Wagner (1850)\
The overture of Die schöne Galathee by Franz von Suppe
As heard in Long-Haired Hare (1949)
In the Long-Haired Hare, a big-time opera star named Giovanni Jones rehearses at his home. Meanwhile, Bugs loudly sings and strums his banjo at a distance. Annoyed, Jones angrily storms out of the house and proceeds to destroy Bugs’ banjo, and then the harp, then the tuba, and finally ties him up to a branch with his long, pointed ears. When the scorned Bugs declares war, he proceeds to take his revenge by humiliating Jones during the latter’s concert.
5) Hungarian Dances by Johannes Brahms
As heard in Pigs in a Polka (1943)
Looney Tunes’ hilariously slapstick take on the fable “Three Little Pigs” and Brahms’ famous Hungarian Dances (specifically Nos. 5, 7, 6, and 17, which appear in that order) is played almost throughout this short animated film. It is also a parody of Disney’s 1940 film Fantasia.
6) William Tell Overture by Gioachino Rossini (1829)
As heard in Bugs Bunny Rides Again (1948)
William Tell Overture was to be Rossini’s last opera, which he wrote when he was only 37 years old. Afterwards, he lived in a semi-retirement and spent the rest of his years composing cantatas as well as sacred and secular vocal music (he lived to be 76 years old). One hundred nineteen years later, Warner Bros. used the sample of William Tell Overture in a horseback chase scene in Bugs Bunny Rides Again, featuring the always angry Yosemite Sam.
7) Hungarian Rhapsody No. 2 by Franz Liszt (1847)
As heard in Rhapsody Rabbit (1946)
Franz Liszt’s iconic Hungarian Rhapsody No. 2, from his 19 set of Hungarian Rhapsodies, has a comedic potential. No wonder, it has been used in several funny scenes, particularly in animated films and TV shows. Mickey Mouse, Tom and Jerry, Woody Woodpecker and others did their own routines to the tune of the same musical piece.
In Rhapsody Rabbit, Bugs runs through a series of visual gags while continuing to play the Hungarian Rhapsody. At one point, Bugs is playing it before an adoring crowd only to be pestered by a rodent who decides to help him out by dancing on the keys.
8) Ride of the Valkyries by Richard Wagner (1870)
As heard in What’s Opera, Doc? (1957)
The famous prelude of Act 3 of “Die Walküre,” the second of the four operas of Richard Wagner’s Ring cycle, is named Ride of the Valkyries. These four operas combine to tell an epic, 15-hour fantasy about gods, men, and power. In What’s Opera Doc?, Elmer Fudd puts a spin to it by adding new lyrics: “Kill da wabbit, Kill Da Wabbit, KILL DA WABBIT!”