A Corny Concerto is an American animated short produced by Warner Bros. Cartoons and distributed by Warner Bros. It was directed by Bob Clampett, written by Frank Tashlin, animated by Robert McKimson and released as part of the Merrie Melodies series on September 25, 1943. A parody of Disney's 1940 feature Fantasia, the film uses two of Johann Strauss' best known waltzes, Tales from the Vienna Woods and The Blue Danube, adapted by the cartoon unit's music director, Carl Stalling and orchestrated by its arranger and later, Stalling's successor, Milt Franklyn. Long considered a classic for its sly humor and impeccable timing with the music, it was voted #47 of the 50 Greatest Cartoons of all time by members of the animation field in 1994. The title, in tune with the name of the unit's other cartoon series, Looney Tunes, suggests another Disney titling parody, that of the pioneering series Silly Symphonies. Some prints of the cartoon consider it a Bugs Bunny cartoon.
This cartoon was a milestone as it was the first Warner Bros. cartoon ever to feature more than two of their major characters in starring roles (though not all appeared on screen at the same time); not counting I Haven't Got a Hat, which was the debut for a number of characters, of which only one became a major star. Elmer Fudd appears as the musicologist/composer (as Deems Taylor was in Fantasia) introducing each segment. The first segment, Tales from the Vienna Woods, stars Bugs Bunny and Porky Pig, the former as the prey and the latter as the hunter. In addition, a number of people consider the main character in the second segment, The Blue Danube, to be a young Daffy Duck.
This was the only cartoon in the "classic" era to feature Bugs and Porky starring together. Two other cartoons have one making a cameo in the other's cartoon: Porky Pig's Feat features Bugs in a cameo as another patron locked in the hotel Daffy and Porky stayed at, and the 1964 version of Dumb Patrol (with Bugs and Yosemite Sam) has Porky cameoing as a World War I soldier. Also, in 1938's Porky's Hare Hunt, Porky hunts a Bugs Bunny prototype.
The film's name is explained in the first shot as Carnegie Hall, now called "Corny-gie Hall", becomes the setting for the stately appearance of a distinguished musicologist, most notably exemplified by Deems Taylor, who introduced Fantasia. Piotr Tchaikovsky's Piano Concerto No. 1 is heard over the opening credits. The "eminent personality" here, presented in the same grandiose fashion as Taylor, turns out to be none other than Elmer Fudd (voiced by Arthur Q. Bryan) who, while wearing Deems Taylor-style eyeglasses, although notably oversized, exhibits all of his own familiar mannerisms, including the nervous giggle and characteristic derhotacism: "Wisten to the wippwing wefwain of the woodwind, as it wolls awound and awound, and it comes out here..."(quoting the lyrics to the popular song The Music Goes Round and Round). In a staple of cartoon humor, Elmer is unable to control his starched tuxedo shirt front, which keeps rolling up in the manner of a window shade into his face while he tries to introduce the Vienna Woods segment. Returning for the introduction of the slightly-longer Blue Danube segment, he continues to be frustrated by the incessantly recalcitrant front and finally rips it away, causing his trousers to fall down and eliciting a final giggle of embarrassment. The two introductions contain the only spoken words in the cartoon since, apart from a few isolated non-verbal vocal sounds, the soundtrack of the musical segments consists of the Strauss waltzes.
Tales from the Vienna Woods
In tune with the rhythm of Strauss' waltz, Porky Pig and his unnamed hunting dog are in the presumed woods of the title, as Porky, in the role usually reserved for Elmer Fudd's rabbit/duck hunter character, holds up the sign "I'm hunting that @!!*@ rabbit!!" (which turns out to be none other than Bugs Bunny) and the dog holds a sign of his own which simply states "DITTO". Other than the 1930s incarnation of Porky hunting a Bugs Bunny prototype in Ben Hardaway's and Cal Dalton's Porky's Hare Hunt (1938), this is Porky's sole outing as a "rabbit hunter", but since both Porky and Bugs are also bereft here of their familiar voices, the primary motivator of the plot becomes the expressiveness of the characters' "balletic performance". The "@!!*@ rabbit", dancing to the beat of the music, manages to continue outwitting both Porky and his dog and, at one point, as the dog points to Bugs' hiding hole, a sign stating "It ain't polite to point!" emerges from the hole, along with Bugs' hands holding a book of etiquette, which he slams shut on the spherical nose at the tip of the dog's snout. Bugs then emerges from his hole, standing on a theater-style elevated platform, pirouettes out like a ballerina, dance-kicks the dog in the face and ties his tail to a tree, making the dog spring back and crash into the flimsy stump, breaking it.
Porky and the dog hide in a bush, only to find Bugs already there. Bugs confuses the duo and makes the dog jump in the bush, then runs out and pretends to be the dog, pointing to the bush. The dog pops out just before Porky pulls the trigger, followed by Bugs' grabbing the shotgun and throwing it into a tree's knothole, where a squirrel, irked by the entry of the object into his abode, fires the weapon. The impact of the gunshot causes each main character to assume his own fatal wounding. As Porky and the dog examine themselves and find no bullet mark, Bugs, appearing to be mortally hit, falls to the ground. Porky and the dog start mourning him, with Porky trying to undo Bugs' fingers around his chest. However, once he does so, Bugs is revealed to have a bra underneath! Emitting a scream of feminine modesty, he rises as a ballerina wearing a tutu and pointe shoes, slapping Porky's face three times, ties them to each other with the bra, and pirouettes into the distance, leaving his two antagonists with puzzled and dismayed expressions on their faces.
The Blue Danube
Set upon a cartoon representation of the title waterway, this parody of Disney's Silly Symphony cartoon, The Ugly Duckling, is perfectly timed to the strains of the Strauss waltz. As the story opens, a mother swan is gliding with her brood, when a small black duck (which some animation historians have described as a possible representation of baby Daffy Duck, anticipating Baby Looney Tunes by nearly 60 years) tries to join them. The mother shoos him away, and when the lonesome little duckling tries again, using his underwater bubble tactic, the mother becomes angry at the little pest, now floating encased in a big bubble, and slaps him back to the water.
A large buzzard in "hep cat" hairdo spots the troupe using his eyes which can extend like binoculars. Salivating in anticipation of a meal, he sprinkles salt and pepper on one of the little swans, but the powdery substance makes the baby swan sneeze. Then, one by one, the buzzard picks off the baby swans (one propelled by a tiny outboard motor). He also picks up the little black duck, but immediately puts him back, stamping the apparently unpalatable creature with, as befits a World War II cartoon, an "unfit-for-military-service" 4F label. The mother swan turns around and, seeing her charges gone, panics, looks all over and even lifts the little duckling and peers underneath him, as if he were an inanimate object, and then falls into a faint. The duckling sees the buzzard taking the baby swans away, and becomes enraged. Suddenly turning into a super-duck, briefly shown morphed into a representation of the P-40 Warhawk fighter, he chases the buzzard, who flies past a clasp of trees which suddenly become alive as they react to the passing object. The buzzard sees the enraged duckling chasing him in the manner of a fighter plane and literally turns yellow, dropping the baby swans, each of whom opens a little parachute on the way down, allowing them to drop safely. The duckling continues chasing the buzzard, now seemingly a symbolic representation of our wartime enemies and, as the buzzard is knocked out, hands him a drum of TNT and drops him from the sky. The big boom explodes the buzzard who is then seen strumming on a harp and floating towards some form of afterlife, held aloft by a balloon tied to his tail.
The final scene shows the heroic black duckling, savior of the family, as part of the mother swan's brood, "quacking" along to the beat rhythm of the waltz's finalé—with only his own little water-borne reflection having a hard time keeping up with the rest of them and banging into a tree.
Since this cartoon has fallen into public domain, it can also be seen on various low-budget VHS cartoon releases. There is a public domain a.a.p. print that says it was a Blue Ribbon. However, this is a damaged print as the cartoon was never reissued. There is an original a.a.p. print, not a damaged one, that exists on YouTube.