Roman Legion-Hare is a Looney Tunes animated short released in 1955. The title is a play on the words Roman Legionnaire. After being ordered by Emperor Nero to find a victim to be tossed to the lions, Yosemite Sam tries to capture Bugs Bunny.
The setting is Rome, 54 A. D.; the camera pans past a billboard announcing "Another Appian Freeway for Your Safety (Slow Chariots Keep Right)" before settling on an exterior view of the Coliseum. As spectators file into the Coliseum, their shadows fall on a poster describing the day's sporting event:
- "Detroit Lions in Season Opener & Undefeated Lions out for First Taste of Victory"
The sign was a reference to the NFL team with the same name, which was a league powerhouse at the time.
A radio-style sportscaster describes the scene for his audience and the entrance of Emperor Nero into the arena (in a chariot with tail fins from a 1950s Cadillac). Nero is represented as a caricature of actor Charles Laughton who had played the character in The Sign of the Cross in 1932.
The announcer reports that Nero has "consented to throw out the first victim". When it turns out they are all out of victims, Nero commands Captain of the Guard Sam to take his legion out to get one (informing Sam that if he fails to provide a victim for the lions, Sam will be the victim).
Along the way, Sam and the legion (which looks more like a squad) cross paths with Bugs Bunny who is looking at them expecting a parade. Sam sends his troops after Bugs but he trips them with his foot.
Sam then chases after Bugs in a chariot where he once again is victim of the "giddyap! horse/whoa! horse" routine.
Through the rest of the picture, Sam and Bugs are running through the labyrinth of the Coliseum where the lions seem to be lurking behind every other door. Sam ends up near a lion's cage and hits it on the head as Bugs opens the cage causing the lion to attacks Sam. Sam goes through a door and locks it only to for the lion to grab the rug underneath him and pull him into attack him. Yosemite then chases Bugs into a room full of lions. Sam unknowingly follows him in and sees Bugs sneaking toward the ladder. Bugs gets out and uses an alarm clock which wake the lions who attack Sam as Sam escapes. He then near a pit of lions with Bugs at the other side. As Sam makes is way across with stilts, Bugs gives the lions some saws and axes which they use to cut the stilts down and attack Sam as he tries to get back to the other side.
Bugs finally escapes but accidentally gets himself in the middle of the arena. Sam victoriously joins Nero in his box as the lions are released. The lions run by Bugs (who quickly protects himself) and straight to Sam and Nero who take refuge atop a tall column. Bugs puts on a Roman crown and says, "Well, as the Romans say, E Pluribus Uranium". As the enraged lions slowly chop down the column, Nero plays "Taps" on his fiddle as he and Sam await their fate, with the cartoon fading to black.
This cartoon represents the eighteenth time Bugs Bunny was pitted against Yosemite Sam. As with Sahara Hare released earlier the same year, it was an attempt to move Sam and Bugs Bunny out of the contexts of westerns or pirate movies where most of their previous pairings had occurred. The 1950s were the golden age of sword and sandal and Roman Epic movies which provided a good new locale for the two characters. The film is notable as it was the first one where the director is credited as Friz Freleng instead of Isadore or I. Freleng.
There is a slightly altered version of the cartoon that was made for the "Bugs Bunny Show".
- The lions in this cartoon previously appeared earlier in 1955 in Tweety's Circus, also a Freleng short.
- When aired on ABC, the part where Yosemite Sam beats the lion ("How many times do I have to tell..you...to....shut.....up?") before realizing that there are no cage bars separating him from the lion was shortened from eight beatings to two.
- On CBS, same as ABC's, but the beatings were cut from eight to one and a half.
- For reasons unknown (possibly time constraints), Cartoon Network's airing cuts out Bugs's line (after Nero and Sam are chased to the top of the column by the lions), "Well, like the Romans say, E. Pluribus Uranium." -a spoof of E pluribus unum.
- On the syndicated Merrie Melodies, based on ABC's, the beatings were reduced from eight to four.
Roman Legion Hare was released on the Bugs Bunny's Wacky Adventures VHS as part of the Golden Jubilee video set. The short is also part of the Looney Tunes Golden Collection: Volume 4 DVD set.
- Beck, Jerry and Friedwald, Will (1989): Looney Tunes and Merrie Melodies: A Complete Illustrated Guide to the Warner Bros. Cartoons. Henry Holt and Company.
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