Animation historian Jerry Beck penned a 1994 book titled The 50 Greatest Cartoons: As Selected By 1,000 Animation Professionals. We probably don’t need to tell you what the tome entails, but we can tell you that thanks to Mubi, we’ve uncovered the list of animated shorts in Beck’s book online. Almost all of the films are under 30 minutes long, were made in North America, and were released before 1960 (minus a handful). We’ve combed through Beck’s best-of list and highlighted a few gems past the break. A jazz icon, Edgar Allan Poe, and a famous Japanese monster all make an appearance. Grab your cereal bowl, fake like it’s Saturday morning, and tell us what cartoon greats win you over in the comments below.
What’s Opera, Doc? (1957) #1
Many of the films on Beck’s list were produced for Warner Bros.’s Looney Tunes and directed by animation legend Chuck Jones — including the number one pick of the bunch, What’s Opera, Doc?. The six-minute short (give or take a few) is part of Warner’s Merrie Melodies series, which started in 1931 and became a musical, cartoon extravaganza featuring the hits of the day. Opera was probably Jones’ greatest work and many consider it to be the best thing Warner Bros. ever released. It’s easy to see why when you witness how Jones skillfully parodied the ponderous, epic stylings of Richard Wagner — featuring Bugs Bunny in drag (Valkyrie Brünnhilde!) and all the forlorn Elmer Fudd you can stand. In case you’re still not sure which cartoon we’re talking about, one thing may ring a bell: “Kill the Wabbit!”