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The Sound of an Anvil Dropping

Late one night, after a long day, long week, and even longer month, with the family room to myself, I sat down and did something I haven’t done in a while. I started flipping around the TV channels.

Normally, when I do watch TV, it’s something available on-demand, or that I’ve specifically recorded in advance. This makes it easier to control the amount of time I spend and to do it at times that are most convenient for me.

But last night, for whatever reason, I felt the urge to take my chances. To step out of my bubble of preferences and choose from whatever was available.

What I landed on was something that took me back to my childhood.

 

It was some old Bugs Bunny cartoons. And when I say “old” here, I mean older even than me. These were cartoons created back in the 1940s and 50s, although I watched them in syndication (during pre-cable times) more than a couple of decades later. But I watched them A LOT. In fact, I’ve probably seen every single “Looney Tunes” cartoon from that era at least a dozen times. Maybe more. In a contest between how many times I’ve seen these or every Brady Bunch episode, it would be a really tight race.

In many ways, Bugs Bunny shaped for me not only my sense of humor but of what’s possible. And how a story doesn’t always have to make sense.

Case in point, in one of the shorts I watched last night, Bugs is trying to keep away from Yosemite Sam, who is a pirate, and who wants to kill Bugs because the rabbit knows where his treasure is buried. That’s the premise.

At one point, Bugs is up in the crow’s nest of Sam’s ship and refuses to come down. Eventually, he relents (or seems to), and says he’ll agree to jump down if the pirate will catch him. Sam says yes to this. At the last second, Bugs reaches into the crow’s nest, picks up an anvil, and throws it over the side. Sam catches it and, the bizarre laws of Looney Tunes physics being what they are, the entire ship sinks into the ocean. All except the crow’s nest, of course, which still pokes up safely out of the water.

Okay, let’s rewind back there, in case you missed it …

Bugs Bunny picks up AN ANVIL. In the crow’s nest of a pirate ship.

Did I have any problem with this when I a kid? Did I even know what an anvil was, except for a heavy and humorous plot device frequently used by cartoon characters to drop on somebody’s head? After all, everybody was pretty much driving cars by the 1970s and 80s, effectively putting blacksmiths and horseshoes (and even most horses) out of business. I’d probably never even seen an actual anvil in real life.

The “in-universe” explanation, of course, is that Bugs needed an anvil at that moment, and so there it was. In that regard, Bugs was always a bit of a wizard. It’s possible he went to Hogwarts with Dumbledore, but I can’t be certain.

Like me at the age that I watched those cartoons, Bugs was never the strongest or the fastest. But he was always the most imaginative.

In another short I watched last night, Bugs needed to keep the Tasmanian Devil from eating him. So after all other plans hadn’t done the trick, he pulled a phone out of a tree(!), called Tasmania, and placed a classified ad in the newspaper there for a female Tasmanian Devil looking for a husband. A few seconds later, a plane flew in, dropped her off, Bugs conducted a hasty marriage ceremony in Devil-ese, and Taz and his lovely wife flew off in the plane a few seconds after that. Problem solved.

Because why not?

So how did Bugs find an anvil in a crow’s nest? Because why not?

What I learned from this is that in strange and stressful times, like when a pirate wants to kill you or a beast that can turn itself into a mini-tornado wants to eat you, a strong imagination can be your best (and maybe only) friend.

I’ve had to think about this with my own business lately. What can I do differently? What can I try that I’ve never tried before? And I know that many others out there, freelancers and small businesses, have had to do the same. Grocery stores and restaurants have had to redefine how they help people get food. Companies that rely on live events have had to suddenly take a crash course on gathering large groups of people online. Schools and teachers have had to figure out how to teach children exclusively via Google Docs and Zoom calls.

Many of us are trying to find our Anvil Solution. Not just the little tweaks we can make, like working remotely instead of in an office. But the big, heavy solution that makes the stress go away.

WWBBD? What would Bugs Bunny do?

Finding the Anvil Solution can be harder than it sounds, of course. Because it usually means being willing to let go of the story we tell ourselves. About ourselves. About our industry. About our customers. About the world. And telling a new one. Bugs Bunny didn’t ask himself, “Why the heck would there be an anvil in a crow’s nest?” He just decided there was one because he needed there to be one, and it was there.

Now, I’m by no means suggesting that having magical cartoon powers is the solution to anybody’s problems right now. If only. But we do all have access to imagination. To letting go of the old story and considering the possibilities of a new one.

And if we don’t have enough imagination ourselves, then we can always borrow some from other people. Our friends, family, employees, business partners, and the millions of people on social media are all teeming with imagination.

We just need to be willing to reach out to the Bugs Bunnies in our lives for help tapping into it.

Now … in case anybody thinks I’m making light of the current health crisis by talking about cartoons and cartoon solutions, it’s important to understand something …

Bugs Bunny debuted to movie theater audiences in 1938. That’s the same year Hitler marched into Austria. Which came after almost a decade of the Great Depression. It was during World War II that Bugs grew into the iconic character that has persisted in our collective memory ever since.

So besides the mindless humor offered by these cartoons, I found myself last night understanding a little better what the appeal of a Bugs Bunny must have been back then.

Faced with a world at war (with soldiers and tanks then rather than a coronavirus) and people dying and resources being rationed, here was this clever, wisecracking rabbit with a Bronx/Brooklyn accent, who (almost) always had a solution to whatever problem was facing him at the moment.

“If all else fails,” Bugs might say, “just drop an anvil on it.”

Because why not?

Randy Heller
Randy Hellerhttps://randyheller.com/
Randy Heller is a writer and storytelling guide for small and solo businesses who aren't sure where to get started. Randy began his career with a Master's degree in Creative Writing and a love of computers, which then translated into 25 years as a digital marketer, web developer, and Marketing Director. Most of those years were spent in publishing, bibliographic data, trade magazine, and libraries space, always keeping him close to the world of written words and ideas that are his lifeblood. In 2018, Randy shifted gears to focus entirely on writing and storytelling and is now able to leverage his natural creativity and decades of corporate marketing experience and insights to help small businesses pursue their dreams. He can be found posting weekly about the secrets to business storytelling and owning one's personal narrative (often with a decidedly nostalgic bent) at StoryHeller.com, as well as on LinkedIn, Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram (see links above). He can't wait to meet you and ask that magical question: "So ... what's your story?"

5 COMMENTS

  1. Part of me smile broadly from remembering the Looney Tunes of yesteryear, Randy, and another part cringes when I recall how violent, sexist, racist, and generally normalizing of all things we really don’t want our kids to learn today.

    Why is an anvil heavier in the arms of Sam than it is in the crow’s nest? Unless, naturally, that the speed sends it and Sam through the bottom of the ship. After all, a cannon ball put gently down on the deck does not do any damage. Oh dear, I am too logical.

    Never would the thought “where did that anvil come from?” occur to me any more than I would question who might have lost their safe/grand piano/cow/… regularly dropping out of the sky in cartoon world. I think the theatrical term is “deus ex machina”: a miracle in the final act.

    All that said, I really liked how the cartoon made you think of alternative solutions. Being creative – like being good at finding alternative used for e.g. a brick – is a skill children for whatever reasons are gradually loosing more and more. Perhaps because they don’t watch non-P.C. Looney Tunes?

    • Yeah, one could go down a real rabbit hole (pun intended) looking too closely at some of the more socially cringeworthy aspects of many old cartoons and TV shows, Charlotte. For instance, it’s not lost on me that pretty much ALL of the main Looney Tunes characters, the good ones and the bad ones, were male like me. Yeah, they would throw in female counterparts every once in a while, but they only served as a foil to the main character in some way. Later versions of the franchise, like Tiny Toons, balanced this out much better, while still managing to be quite edgy and creative and fun. But those older episodes, PC or not, will still always be my favorites. :-)

  2. This brings me back to a question I used to ask myself when something unplanned, or “bad” happened. That question was “Why me?” But as I started to figure things out, I reframed that question to “Why NOT me?” It was liberating. It was an anvil.

    Great story, Randy! BTW, we regularly still watch the old loony tunes episodes on Saturday Mornings with our kids. Since syndicated Saturday mornings are no longer a thing, we stream cartoons for a few hours each Saturday morning. Last week one of the episodes was “Falling Hare” which featured Bugs at a air base and his disbelief in “di-a-bo-lick-al saa-boh-tay-jee” and the Gremlin sabotaging the plane. At one point, as the plane was plummeting to the earth, Bug’s heart was beating out of his chest with “4F” embossed on the image, I had to explain to my kids what “4F” meant in the context of WWII.

    Good Stuff!

    • I remember that “Falling Hare” episode all too well, Aaron. (And of course had to go watch it again just now.) Like many episodes, it’s loaded with all sorts of dated references that I had to go our World Book Encyclopedia set or the library to understand. Like who’s Wendell Willkie? And who’s George (I hadn’t watched “Of Mice and Men” yet by that point)? And then at the very end, there’s the reference to an “A” card for gasoline rationing, which of course isn’t something that a kid in the 70s would know anything about (although of course we did have some gas rationing then too, but it was handled differently).

      What’s also interesting about that episode is that it’s one of the ones where Bugs is NOT the one in charge. We see this a lot whenever he races the tortoise too. Which I always appreciated. Because it meant he had bad days too.

      And I think it’s awesome that you do Saturday morning cartoons with your kids. It didn’t even occur to me until a few years ago that that isn’t a thing for kids anymore. After a long week of school, I used to love getting up early on Saturdays (on purpose!) to sit in front of the TV in my pajamas for a few hours and watch all my favorites. Looney Tunes. The Super Friends. All the Hanna-Barbera stuff. Which were often then followed by either the classic old horror movies (Frankenstein, Dracula, The Wolfman) or comedies like Abbott & Costello. Or the Bowery Boys. Or the Little Rascals.

      Those were the days!

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