Animation

Houston Symphony Bring Bugs Bunny To The Big Screen

During what has been dubbed "The Face Off," Bugs Bunny will appear to conduct the orchestra.
During what has been dubbed "The Face Off," Bugs Bunny will appear to conduct the orchestra. Photo by Chris Lee Photography
The world’s most famous rabbit will be making an appearance on the projector screen at Cynthia Woods Mitchell Pavilion on Tuesday alongside the Houston Symphony for Bugs Bunny at the Symphony. Rewatch all the favorite gems like “Long-Haired Hare,” “The Rabbit of Seville” and “What’s Opera, Doc?” while the orchestra plays the live score under the direction of Guest Conductor George Daugherty.

“We've assembled, arguably, the greatest Looney Tunes ever produced, and one of the things that makes them so great, not only in terms of animation, but as the music and the fact that the music is so incredible that it allows us to produce an entire symphony orchestra concert,” Daugherty said. “All of these cartoons that we all grew up with, the audience will be able to see these on the gigantic, big screen at The Woodlands, but instead of the music coming from the cartoon, the music will be played by the spectacular, phenomenal Houston Symphony and me conducting.”

This production is one that Daugherty started working in in the 1980s.

“Around 1989 or 1990, there was no streaming or digital devices. Home video at that point was just getting big, and you had to have a Betamax or a VHS machine,” he recalled. “But suddenly, these cartoon video collections were coming out. When I heard this music again, I thought it wais incredibly brilliant and that I wanted to conduct this music. But then I really realized that just playing the music would not be enough, because the brilliance of the music is the way it works with the animation. If you don't see the animation with the music, it's only half the story. So at that point, I knew I had to do a concert where the animation would be projected with the live music.”

The original production was a comedy of errors that is just as zany as some of the Looney Tunes that were being played. Daugherty's first setting was performed at the Hollywood Bowl.

“Video projection was in its infancy back then, so it wasn't that easy to project things in the concert hall. Back in 1990, the projectors were as big as refrigerators. Now the projectors are the size of a suitcase, and they're 100 times as strong and clear as the ones we had in 1990,” Daugherty said. “The crew had never done video projection at the Hollywood Bowl ever, and they had to be water cooled [because of their size]. Nobody anticipated that when 20,000 people went to the bathroom at intermission, that the water pressure would drop off, and it almost burned up the projectors.”
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"The Rabbit of Seville" is making his way to The Woodlands this week.
Photo by Chris Lee Photography
But just like Bugs Bunny's fate when encountering Elmer Fudd in the Looney Tunes series, things had a way of working out. The show was a booming success and within a month, it was mounted on Broadway, and Daugherty has presented it to audiences for the last 30-plus years.

True to form, the cartoons hit a little differently when adults rewatch them. Some jokes that go over the heads of young ones often bring a chuckle to the mature members in the audience.

“One of the unique things about these cartoons is they play to audiences of all ages. Kids see one thing in them. Adults see something else in them. Everybody sees something in the middle,” he said. “There's a lot of witty, very kind of sophisticated humor if you're an adult. These cartoons are really unique in their ability to hold the love of everybody for their entire lives.”

Houston Symphony presents Bugs Bunny at the Symphony 8 p.m. Tuesday at the Cynthia Woods Mitchell Pavilion, 2005 Lake Robbins Drive. For information, visit houstonsymphony.org. Free.
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Sam Byrd is a freelance contributor to the Houston Press who loves to take in all of Houston’s sights, sounds, food and fun. He also loves helping others to discover Houston’s rich culture.
Contact: Sam Byrd