Bob said, “Apart from getting the story right, and the movie right as a film, what this picture is going to stand or fall on is the relationship of the main character to the Rabbit.” Roger had to be a fully developed equivalent of Bugs Bunny or Porky Pig, or Mickey or Donald. Those characters developed over a period of time, whereas we had to do it in one lump. The Rabbit and his wife Jessica and Baby Herman have to look like real 1947 characters, and famous, with absolute distinctive personalities. So the audience thinks, “Oh, yes, we’ve seen these characters before.” I think we did it. We sure worked hard enough on it. Trying to get the Rabbit right. And the voice too. Charlie Fleischer did this amazing voice. All the cartoon characters have speech impediments. But the Rabbit has this “what are we going to do?” look. Charlie did a thing – I can’t do it – his cheeks wobble and he goes “Plebubububububububese.” Nobody could do it but Charlie. So the Rabbit has this built in deficiency which kids can try to Imitate.
Bob said when we’d finished, “Well, we did it, didn’t we. We actually got that Rabbit so you think you’ve seen it before.” And one of the journalists for Newsweek was doing a big story – it was on the cover over there in the summer – said, “Surely, Baby Herman, I’ve seen him before.” So I said, “Well, you haven’t, but you have because it’s Elmer Fudd and Tweety Pie crashed together in the form of a baby. So it’s a series of clichés pushed into new forms. But those guys in the Forties drew in clichés anyway. Formula drawings. So we just re-Frankensteined the formula, a bit from this, a bit from that, and then just shook it until it came out fully cooked.
The third scene in the movie really shows what the Rabbit is like. It’s a full introduction to the character’s personality in fifteen seconds. The woman is instructing him to look after the baby or she’s going to send him back to the science lab and he’s going to be in big trouble. He is terribly willing, telling her how well he’s going to look after the baby. He’s looking after the baby like it was his own brother or his brother’s sister and then, because he’s a rabbit with this immense amount of relatives, he gets so involved he fails to notice the woman has gone out and shut the door. He turns too late and crashes his head into the door. You see that he’s a well meaning disaster, and you like him.
That scene was the last one we animated, and it nearly got cut out of the movie. Bob said, “We’re running out of time here, I could cut that out.” I said, “For God’s sake, don’t cut that out, let me at it, I’ve been trying to do that for a year. That’s the key to setting up the character.” He said, “I know that but it comes out.” But I kept up, and eventually he agreed. I did an all-nighter and I was pretty tired in the morning but I knew that it was going to make the difference.
The animation is quite subtle but I feel it is good enough now, thank you God and Milt. I had drawn quite elaborate colour story sketches of the scene which I’d had in the film for a year. It told the story and everybody thought they knew what it would be like, everybody just accepts “they’re going to animate it later.”