Archives On The Air 233: What’s Opera, Doc? — Michael Maltese Papers

Dec 9, 2020

A cartoon set to epic opera? Why not?

Michael Maltese of Warner Brothers Studios devised a story featuring hunter Elmer Fudd chasing Bugs Bunny through a parody of 19th-century composer Richard Wagner's operas. [RIK-ard VAHG-nər]

"What's Opera, Doc?" was released in 1957 and was an immediate hit.

The studio condensed Wagner's massive four-opera work into a six-minute cartoon complete with ferocious storms and tragic romance.

The cartoon is also called "Kill da wabbit" after Elmer Fudd's frequent refrain.

Director Chuck Jones later revealed extra production time was secretly allotted to the challenging project.

It is now known as the greatest cartoon Warner Brothers Studios ever released.

Learn more in the Michael Maltese papers at UW's American Heritage Center.