This cartoon opens with the title credits over the strains of “Down by the Riverside”, then into an extended series of establishing shots of an Army Air Force base, to the brassy strains of “We’re in to Win” (a World War II song also sung by Daffy Duck in Scrap Happy Daffy two months before). The sign at the base reads "U.S. Army Air Field", and below that is shown the location, the number of planes and number of men, all marked "Censored" as a reference to military secrecy. Beneath those categories, the sign reads "What men think of top sergeant", which is shown with a large white-on-black "CENSORED!!", as the language implied would not pass scrutiny by the Hays Office.
Bugs is found reclining on a piece of ordnance next to a bomber plane, idly reading Victory Thru Hare Power (a spoof of the 1942 book) and laughing uproariously at the book’s claim that gremlins wreck American planes through "di-a-bo-lick-al saa-boh-tay-jee." He immediately encounters one of the creatures, who is experimentally striking the unfused nose of a bomb Bugs is sitting on with an oversized mallet to the tune of “I've Been Working on the Railroad”. Bugs casually asks the gremlin what he’s doing. The gremlin replies that blockbuster bombs like the one in question do not detonate unless they’re struck with perfect precision. Noticing the gremlin’s lack of success, Bugs offers to help him. But after taking the mallet and raising it in preparation to strike the bomb, Bugs suddenly comes to his senses and refrains from following through milliseconds from striking it, screaming "WHAT AM I DOING?!" as he does so. He then ponders if the creature in question was a gremlin. The gremlin replies as loud as he could: "It ain’t Vendell Villkie!"
The Gremlin ties up Bugs’s ears leaving him confused and hits his foot with a monkey wrench, further taunting Bugs by "laughing" the first seven notes of "Yankee Doodle" once aboard the aircraft. Bugs recovers and gives chase, repeatedly getting slighted by the gremlin, which includes repeated strikes with a monkey wrench and the "laughed" musical taunt. Bugs chases the gremlin inside a bomber, and finds himself locked from the outside. Then the gremlin takes the plane to the air, unbeknownst to Bugs. Bugs manages to burst out of the plane’s exit door, narrowly escaping plunging to his death when he realizes the plane is airborne. He manages to get back in, only to slide right out the other door due to strategically placed banana skins; when the gremlin opens the door again, he finds Bugs (who has apparently and humorously aged several years through sheer terror) clinging to it with his heart beating "4F" (Army code for drastically limiting medical condition, hospitalization required). His cat-and-mouse game with the gremlin continues, until Bugs realizes that the Gremlin is flying the plane toward a pair of skyscrapers. Bugs rushes into the cockpit, takes control of the airplane, rolls it vertically and flies through an extremely narrow slot between the towers to avoid what seemed to be an inevitable impact.
The plane goes into a tailspin, its wings ripping off during its descent, with only the fuselage remaining, making Bugs both airsick and terrified. However, the plane sputters to a halt, half a short distance above the ground and hanging in mid-air, defying gravity. Both Bugs and the Gremlin then casually address the audience: the gremlin apologizes for the plane's fuel depletion, while Bugs points to a wartime gas rationing sticker on the plane's windshield and remarks: "Yeah. You know how it is with these A cards!"
Mel Blanc as Bugs Bunny and The Gremlin
Falling Hare went into production under the title Bugs Bunny and the Gremlin. Walt Disney was developing a feature based on Roald Dahl’s novel The Gremlins, and asked other animation studios not to produce any films involving gremlins. However, Warner Bros. was too far into production on this cartoon and Russian Rhapsody to remove the references to gremlins, so Leon Schlesinger merely re-titled the cartoons as a compromise.
Release and reception
Because of the cartoon’s public domain status, it can be found on budget compilations in lower quality prints, while Warner Home Video issued a restored print on Looney Tunes Golden Collection: Volume 3, with optional audio commentary by John Kricfalusi and Bill Melendez (Melendez was one of the animators on the episode). In 1989, it was included in the MGM Home Video release Bugs & Daffy: The Wartime Cartoons.
When the Southern Television broadcast interruption occurred in the United Kingdom, the interruption ended shortly before the start of this episode.
Elements from the short have been used in other Warner Bros works.Footage of this cartoon's climax was incorporated as a flashback into a later Bugs Bunny cartoon, His Hare-Raising Tale (1951). Bugs, narrating to his nephew Clyde, describes himself as a World War II test pilot who narrowly escaped death in a near-crash (fortunately, as in Falling Hare, he ran out of gas). There is no mention of the Gremlin character, and one of Bugs' screams ("Yow-ooo-ooo-ooo-ooo!!") from earlier in the cartoon is inserted into the soundtrack. The scene fades out as it zooms in on the stalled aircraft suspended inches above the ground.
Black-and-white footage from the cartoon was featured in the second trailer for Gremlins 2: The New Batch (directed by Joe Dante). Though no footage was used in the theatrical cut of the film, a clip from the cartoon appeared in the VHS version.
The Gremlin nemesis makes two reappearances in the “Tiny Toon Adventures”. In "Journey to the Center of Acme Acres", the Gremlin appears (with several look-alikes) as the cause of earthquakes in Acme Acres after their gold is stolen by Montana Max. Clampett is given an acknowledgement in the credits for their design. In the special “Night Ghoulery”, a singular Gremlin antagonizes Plucky Duck in the segment titled "Gremlin on a Wing" (a spoof of the Twilight Zone episode "Nightmare at 20,000 Feet").
It also made a brief cameo in "Plane Pals" (episode from Animaniacs) as a passenger.
The scene in which a flattened Bugs mutters "I’m only 3½ years old" and rolls on the floor flat as a pancake is used in "Who Bopped Bugs Bunny?" (episode from “Tiny Toon Adventures”).
This cartoon had a scene where a 2-engine USAAF bomber was flown directly at a skyscraper in what looked to be a certain impact. Two years after its release, a USAAF B-25 Mitchell bomber was inadvertently flown into the Empire State Building on a foggy day.
The climactic scene in Falling Hare is described in detail in the novel The Long Dark Tea-Time of the Soul.