Elmer Fudd, carrying a spear, wearing his magic helmet and bounding after Bugs Bunny, intoning "Kill the Wabbit! Kill the Wabbit!" to the tune of Wagner's "Ride of the Valkyries." It's an indelible pop culture moment and possibly the most famous moment from the most famous cartoon of all time, Warner Bros. 1957 short cartoon "What's Opera, Doc?", directed by Chuck Jones, the greatest Bugs Bunny director of them all.
On April 9, 2015, in Heritage Auctions
' Animation Art Signature® Auction, two incredibly rare animation cels from What's Opera, Doc? the first cartoon recognized by the Library of Congress and selected for preservation in the National Film Registry will cross the block. One cel features Elmer Fudd as Siegfried and Bugs Bunny as Brünnhilde in their dance sequence from the short and the other features just Elmer Fudd with his "spear and magic helmet!" Both cels carry pre-auction estimates of $5,000+.
"I cannot stress enough how rare and important any artwork from What's Opera, Doc? is, let alone two cels from the cartoon," said Lentz. "These are historic pieces. Most of the art to this cartoon was trashed half a century ago, but these pieces, among the few, have survived. It just doesn't get any better."
The animation cels were saved from the dustbin of history by another animation legend, Jerome Eisenberg, who worked as an animator on Jones' unit at Warner Bros. in the mid-to-late-1950s, the Golden Age of Looney Tunes cartoons and who has held on to the cels for almost six decades.
Eisenberg moved from MGM Studios cartoon unit and joined Jones' Warner Bros. unit just after "What's Opera, Doc?" was completed, coming to Warner specifically to work with Jones.
"It was special to me to work in his unit," said Eisenberg. "We had tremendous fun."
One afternoon, to the best of his recollection, he was in one of the artists' rooms, or in the room of the unit's layout man, when he saw a group of cels on a table. The art appealed to him and, knowing that most animation art was simply stored and eventually trashed, he took a few.
"In those day I never thought much about saving them," he said. "I really just saved them for the artwork."
Eisenberg would go on to work on some of the biggest cartoons of the 1960s, 1970s and early 1980s, working primarily for Hanna-Barbera and Ruby-Spears Productions as a producer, animator, storyboard artist and character designer on such legendary cartoons as The Peter Potamus Show, Wacky Races, Super Friends, The Jetsons, The Huckleberry Hound Show, Jonny Quest, Fangface, The Plastic Man Comedy/Adventure Show and Thundarr the Barbarian.
What's Opera, Doc was voted the #1 cartoon in Jerry Beck's 1994 book, 50 Greatest Cartoons, chosen through votes from 1,000 animation professionals.