As a kid, I ate up these cartoons, enjoying the antics of Bugs and Elmer. When I got older, I recognized the genius behind these miniature works of art. I also realized that I had been painlessly indoctrinated into the world of symphonies and opera.
I mention Bugs Bunny cartoons and classical music today because two of the best examples of these cartoons are now available on iTunes.
I purchased them immediately.
The first is "The Rabbit of Seville," which sets a Bugs Bunny-Elmer Fudd chase to the music of Rossini's "Barber of Seville."
The cartoon doesn't borrow any plot points from "Barber of Seville" -- instead, it just puts Bugs and Elmer in a barber shop. (Actually, it puts Bugs and Elmer on a stage, acting out scenes as if they were in a barber shop. If you watch the cartoon, you'll get my gist.)
Here's a screen grab.
The second example, "What's Opera, Doc," introduces Bugs and Elmer to the world of Richard Wagner's "Ring" opera cycle. Bugs and Elmer actually portray archetypes from the Ring operas: Elmer brandishes a spear and wears his mighty helmet, and Bugs makes a cross-dressing Viking-horned appearance on the back of a fat white horse:
As far as I'm concerned, "What's Opera, Doc?" is the best thing to come from the works of Wagner. I'll begrudgingly admit that he was a genius, but he was also an egotistical anti-Semite who was lionized by Adolf Hitler and whose music was used extensively in Nazi propaganda.
In college, I was astonished to learn that the professor of my Introduction to Opera course had never seen "What's Opera, Doc?" I showed him the cartoon on videotape. He loved it so much he showed it to the entire class. It was a hit.