Opera_Doc_Cowboys Opera_Doc_Cowboys

Dallas Opera to Hold the World’s Largest Screening of “What’s Opera, Doc?”

After drawing a crowd of 15,000 attendees to Cowboys Stadium for a live simulcast of Mozart’s The Magic Flute, the Dallas Opera aims for repeated success this April with Turnadot. This year’s curtain-raiser, however, will be the world’s largest screening of What’s Opera, Doc?, displayed on the Stadium’s record-breaking 160-foot wide, 72-foot tall HD screens. 

Surprisingly, Cowboys Stadium was planned from the outset to bring high art into the lives of sports fans—Gene Jones, the wife of Cowboys owner Jerry Jones, is almost solely responsible for the Stadium’s museum-quality collection of contemporary art. This arena-turned-cultural center will provide the setting for the latest chapter in the love-hate relationship between animation and classical music.

With Fantasia, Walt Disney quite literally tried to align animation with the high arts, with ostriches unironically performing ballet pas de deuxs set to the “Dance of the Hours” from the opera La Gioconda. Eventually, animation and classical music became a tongue-in-cheek pairing; during the early 1950s it was commonplace to see Wile E. Coyote assemble a spring-loaded rocket launcher to the sounds of a lilting oboe. By the time Chuck Jones produced What’s Opera, Doc? in 1957, it was a way of saying “Screw ’em,” to the established arts. “I never made a cartoon that didn’t contain some flick-of-the-wrist at the establishment of the day,” said Jones in Chuck Jones: Conversations.

This April, in a very public arena, Jones and his work will be embraced by the very establishment he parodied. Only now, as opera faces its biggest identity crisis, does it wholeheartedly embrace the exaggerated cultural conventions we’ve established over the years: busty valkyries, lovesick brutes and overdone pageantry. Keith Cerny, the CEO of Dallas Opera acknowledges that What’s Opera Doc? is “still creative, interesting, fresh, plays off the same stereotypes about opera that we’re addressing today.” Proponents of opera have realized that the best chance of fruitful survival is to laugh with us—if you can’t beat ’em, join ’em.

  • Have you actually seen Fantasia’s Dance of the Hours segment? That is most certainly tongue-in-cheek and not intended as straightforward unironic presentation of ballet. It’s the funniest segment in the entire movie precisely for it’s parody of ballet conventions.

    • RobertCas18

      I do like Rabbit of Seville. Just the bald head massage by Bugs is pure classic hilarity.

  • Well, I’ll be darned. This is wonderful news for us animation fans from Texas. Too bad I live in Houston and not Dallas. Oh well. At least one of our local theaters is screening It’s Such a Beautiful Day. It’s not as big as the Cowboys Stadium, but it sure as heck is better than watching it alone in my bedroom on this computer.

  • Jason

    Kill the Waaabbit

  • Larry Lauria

    What a wonderful continuation of the centennial celebration of Chuck’s birth (1912).

  • Inkan1969

    Does anyone else beside me disagree with the conventional wisdom that “What’s Opera, Doc” was the greatest cartoon short ever made? I do think it’s a well made short, but I’m underwhelmed with the premise. The short seemed to be just two very long setups for two small punchlines (the helmet falling off, and “what were you expecting, a happy ending?”). Not that interesting, and not very cartoony.

    My favorite Warner shorts are “Baseball Bug”, “Yankee Doodle Bunny”, and “Buccaneer Bugs”. I really love Friz Freleng’s comic timing. I’m also a big fan of the Hubleys’ “Rooty Toot Toot”, with its beautiful art.

  • I wouldn’t rank What’s Opera, Doc? at the top of the heap for sheer quantity of laughs. But it has some of the best character animation and design that Warner or anybody else ever did, and both Blanc and Arthur Q. Bryan are amazing in it.

    I think Maurice Noble would be delighted by this screening; in fact, I can almost hear him telling me about it.

    • kiptw

      I certainly do appreciate the laughs that are there, and there are more than two. I find the set design hilarious — it’s those 1940s Victor opera album covers on steroids. I like the interaction between Bugs and Elmer. I like Elmer’s climactic elemental curse: “SMOG!!” And the fact that all the music and scenery and special effects are in the service of Bugs Bunny Plot #1 tickles me on a meta level. (That said, I certainly watch FEED THE KITTY more often.)

  • Joseph_Hudak

    What? No “Long-Haired Hare”?

  • JodyMorgan

    Aside from the $40 DVD set, where can the UPA cartoons be seen? I think it’s less a matter of them being overlooked as it is of them being underexposed.

  • Never claimed “What’s Opera, Doc?” was the best, just that it’s one of my favorites along with “One Froggy Evening” and “The Scarlet Pumpernickel.” What fun to see it with a few thousand people in Cowboy Stadium before The Dallas Opera’s TURANDOT on April 13. *** As to where to find it for under $40, check the prices for used copies on Amazon.com.