Tortoise Beats Hare, Happy Anniversary! March 15, 1941; Revised Hare

tfmgtageoantbig Tortoise-vs-Hare


Work on Tortoise Beats Hare was “well under way,” so said Merrie Melodies and Looney Tunes producer Leon Schlesinger at the first of February 1941;[1] it was normal practice for animated shorts to be finished and stockpiled upwards of six months in advance, but not so in this case. There appears to have been some confusion between the publicity and distribution departments at Warner Bros., regarding the premiere date. The national release had not been scheduled as of the end March; this according to a one paragraph report in the Showmen’s Trade Review in early April.[2] Tortoise was not issued its copyright until March 22, 1941; as “looney” as it may seem Tortoise Beats Hare was shown without a copyright. The Motion Picture Herald in their review of this color cartoon states it was released on March 15,[3] and the evidence shows that it was ready for that date and was seen a day earlier on Friday, March 14, 1941 at the State Theater, in Greenwood, South Carolina.[4]

The_Index-Journal, Greenwood, South Carolina, Mar 9, 1941

The_Index-Journal, Greenwood, South Carolina, Mar 9, 1941


As with any cartoon during that era, the release of Tortoise Beats Hare was a soft roll-out, having city premieres all through the year; here are a few of those:

Albuquerque Journal, Albuquerque, New Mexico, Mar 21, 1941

Albuquerque Journal, Albuquerque, New Mexico, Mar 21, 1941

News Journal, Mansfield, Ohio, Mar 21, 1941

News Journal, Mansfield, Ohio, Mar 21, 1941

Amarillo Daily News, Amarillo, Texas, Apr 10, 1941

Amarillo Daily News, Amarillo, Texas, Apr 10, 1941

Cumberland Evening Times, Cumberland, Maryland, Jul 14, 1941

Cumberland Evening Times, Cumberland, Maryland, July 14, 1941


Director, Tex “Fred” Avery (Tex seems and sounds so much better for this merrie-looney guy) and crew appropriated the Aesop (Dave Monahan wrote the story and screenplay, leaving Aesop, un-attributed… poor Aesop) fable, “The Tortoise and the Hare,” and along the way made one of the most memorable animated short-films in moving-picture history with  Tortoise Beats Hare.

Fred "Tex" Avery

Fred “Tex” Avery


Mel Blanc voiced the characters (introduction of Cecil Turtle), Carl W. Stalling directed the music but went uncredited for his musical composition, while Treg Brown edited the cartoon (uncredited) and handled the sound effects, again going uncredited. The usual suspects brought to life with their pencils and paint, this watershed toon: Charles McKimson (animator), Robert Givens (character designer, uncredited), John Didrik Johnsen (background artist uncredited), Robert McKimson, Virgil Ross, Rod Scribner and Sidney Sutherland animated but went uncredited.

Mel Blanc

Mel Blanc


What great moments were created in 1941 when frustration, anger, slyness, intelligence, ingenuity, execution and more played significant roles (yes turtles everywhere) in a ‘roller-coaster’ ride of emotions in this short-subject; the feelings generated by the delicate sure handed professional (are you kidding me? I just had a lapse in my train of thought and began to write about the abilities and style of director George Cukor) bold, hyper-active direction of Avery was stellar! Here for your viewing pleasure then, is Tortoise Beats Hare. I caution you though, that the watching of Tortoise Beats Hare does leave one inclined to blurt out such bunny-ite and turtle-ish idioms as: “Big bunch of jerks, I oughta know, I work for ‘em,’” “give ‘him’ the works!” It’s a possibility,” “how did you get up here anyway?” “Oh sorry, pardon me, wrong story;” the excuses for such inappropriate outbursts are solely the responsibility (which may include one or more of the following in required restitution: financial, emotional, familial and or professional) of the reader along with any accompanying apologies that might (most likely will) be needed.

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By C. S. Williams


[1] Showmen’s Trade Review, February 1, 1941

[2] Showmen’s Trade Review, April 5, 1941

[3] Motion Picture Herald, April 5, 1941

[4] Index-Journal (Greenwood, South Carolina) March 9, 1941


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