Monday, March 24

Which Witch Hazel is Witch Hazel?

In covering Who Framed Roger Rabbit, I stumbled upon an interesting tidbit about Witch Hazel, one of my favorite female Looney Tunes. There was never just one Witch Hazel. Disney had their own version, but the Warner Bros. appeared in Roger Rabbit... well actually, in deleted scenes. Animator Chuck Jones (one of my favorite animators), of his own admission, got the idea of Witch Hazel from the Disney cartoon.

In the Disney cartoon Trick or Treat (1952), which featured a good-natured witch squaring off with Donald Duck inhelping Huey, Dewey and Louie get candy from him. Enamored of the character's voice characterization, provided by June Foray, Jones developed his own Witch Hazel character for the Bugs Bunny short Bewitched Bunny (1954). As Jones was unable to get Foray to play the role, he got Bea Benaderet. The Disney Witch Hazel has a broom named Beelzebub which acts as both her servant and her mode of transport. She also appeared in the Carl Barks's comic book adaptation and two sequels to that story, "Too Late for Christmas" in Donald Duck Adventures (Gladstone Series) #30 in December 1994 and "The Poorest Duck in Duckburg" in Donald Duck Adventures (Gladstone Series) #35 in October 1995. The Disney Witch Hazel never became as popular as Magica De Spell or Mad Madam Mim. This may be because she was essentially a good witch, but it's also possible that the popularity of the Looney Tunes version affected hers. She was often used in the Disney Italian comics.

Bea Benaderet supplied the witch's voice for Bewitched Bunny (1954), which was a re-telling of Hansel and Gretel. Bugs Bunny saves the youths from Witch Hazel's clutches. However, once the witch realizes that Bugs is a rabbit, she chases him to put him into her witch's brew. Bugs eventually uses Hazel's own magic against her and transforms her into a sexy female bunny, prompting the comment, "But aren't they all witches inside?" The Looney Tune Witch frequently says things that cause her to break into hysterical, cackling laughter. My favorite part was that everytime she left, a bunch of hairpins would be left. Jones wooed June Foray into taking on the role of Witch Hazel for the 1956 cartoon Broom-Stick Bunny. Foray had reservations about Jones "stealing" a character from Disney, but Jones knew that there was no way for Disney to establish ownership of the name since "witch hazel" is the name of an alcohol rub. Foray did the character for the final two cartoons in the series (Hazel only appeared in 3 shorts). Broom-Stick Bunny (above) is usually cited as Jones' funniest Witch Hazel outing. Jones would pit Bugs against Witch Hazel in one final cartoon, A Witch's Tangled Hare (1959), a parody of Macbeth. After that, Witch Hazel would do cameos in Transylvania 6-5000, A Haunting We Will Go, Space Jam, Tiny Toon Adventures, The Sylvester and Tweety Mysteries (in which Foray played Granny) and Duck Dodgers.

the Little Lulu comic book also had characters named Witch Hazel, and Rembrandt Films had one named Hazel Witch. As for June Foray, I remember hearing her voice in an episode of "Married With Children" as Scarry Mary, where Al Bundy was selling shoes he thought God wore when he was in a dream.

Cute Creeps from Pop Culture: Witch Hazel's which?