BEHIND THE STORY...
While Disney was looking into the idea of sequels, I suggested bringing back the characters from SONG OF THE SOUTH. The studio, for fear of protest groups making an issue out of the racial atmosphere, had long buried the feature. My thought was to do a new film featuring the characters. The books are filled with lots of great ideas for films, and especially a TV series. Sadly, the studio felt even new animation with the characters would raise the racial issue and opted not to do anything. In 2005, a different studio is releasing an animated feature based on the characters of Joel Chandler Harris (aka Uncle Remus).
And now my pitch...
THE RETURN OF BR’ER RABBIT
An Animated Feature Proposal by John Cawley
Br’er Rabbit, returning to his briar-patch home after his honeymoon, has more trouble with Br’er Fox, so figures the best way to have Br’er Fox settle down is to get the Fox a bride.
BR’ER RABBIT ¬ Still sassy, but a bit settled down with a new wife, Br’er Rabbit is one of nature's happy creatures. Believing he can still out-think and out-con any critter in his vicinity, he continues to find Br’er Fox "good sport."
BR’ER FOX ¬ Still the rogue, Br’er Fox is a devilish character who is not truly evil. Always down on his luck, Br’er Fox is the butt for most of the critters' jokes. No wonder he is always out to prove he is superior.
BR’ER BEAR ¬ As slow in thought as Br’er Rabbit is quick, Br’er Bear seems to get the worst of everything. Trying to mind his own business, he continually gets pulled into every battle the Rabbit and the Fox have.
BR’ER WOLF ¬ The consummate ladies man, Br’er Wolf is always in a romantic mood. He is never without a kind word for a lady, and epitomizes the "Southern Gentleman."
BELLE ¬ a lady-like vixen, Belle is truly a "Southern Belle". She has grace, manners and looks.
Uncle Remus' characters have shown a continual popularity for over 10 years. The recent re-issue (1986) of Disney's SONG OF THE SOUTH found the film opening in the #3 slot, just behind An AMERICAN TAIL and CROCODILE DUNDEE. Br’er Rabbit, Br’er Fox and others are highly visible in children's books around the world and at Disney's theme parks. (Disneyland will soon have a new attraction that features the characters. This new tale brings to the screen several characters found in the original stories as well as some new creations.
THE RETURN OF BR’ER RABBIT
Br’er Rabbit returns to his briar-patch home with his wife, a gentle rabbit he met and married on his travels. The not-so newlyweds hold a gala party to celebrate his return and let friends meet the bride. Things soon turn angry as Br’er Rabbit hears about the various problems Br’er Fox has been causing. To make matters worse, the critters tell Br’er Rabbit that a female fox has reportedly moved into the area, but few have seen her. All agree that times are not good.
The next day, Br’er Rabbit is visiting some of his favorite haunts when he runs directly into Br’er Fox. Br’er Fox is not surprised to see his old nemesis and appears somewhat friendly. The pair talk over old times as each tries to out-maneuver the other. However, it seems married life has made a softer Rabbit and Br’er Fox is able to grab him. Br’er Rabbit, flustered, tells the excited Fox to settle down a moment. As the Rabbit's mind races for a plan, he sees the new vixen in the distance. "Yes," states Br’er Rabbit, more slowly, "you ought to settle down."
Calling attention to the figure in the distance, Br’er Fox is at first reluctant to look, figuring it is a trick. However when he does look, he is astounded to see the lady-like Vixen. Br’er Rabbit can see that Br’er Fox is hooked. The Rabbit figures a married fox would be too busy with household chores to bother with other critters. Br’er Rabbit calls to the vixen who looks in their direction.
Assuming Br’er Fox called, she comes over and introduces herself as Belle. Br’er Fox attempts to strike up a conversation but fails miserably, causing Belle to giggle and walk away. Br’er Rabbit seizes on the opportunity and tells his captor that she found Br’er Fox unattractive due to the Fox's lack of manners and romance. The Rabbit says what the Fox needs is some lessons on how to win a lady, and that he, Br’er Rabbit can do it.
The next day, Br’er Rabbit enlists the aid of Br’er Wolf, known to be a ladies man. As the Wolf gives tips on dating, the Rabbit teaches manners. Br’er Bear reluctantly assists by "playing" Belle. The training goes slowly and painfully (for the fox), but he finally appears to be ready. As a final test, Br’er Rabbit has the Fox plan a small dinner party for Belle and a few other critters. Br’er Rabbit and Br’er Wolf agree to be there to help out. Noting that Br’er Fox has thought of nothing but the lady for days, Br’er Rabbit feels his plan is a success.
Unfortunately the rest of the river folk aren't as pleased. When questioned about the current love affair, Br’er Rabbit states all is fine and before tomorrow night is over there will be no more trouble from Br’er Fox. The group then asks if the Rabbit had consider the fact that a marriage will bring more foxes in the form of children. Br’er Rabbit's eyes pop open. He hadn't considered it. The Rabbit now begins to consider how to break up the perfect romance.
He convinces Br’er Fox to let Br’er Bear be butler for the evening, knowing the clumsy bruin will make the event a shambles. Next, the Rabbit invites Br’er Skunk and wife, who always argue. His final attack is inviting Br’er Possum and his very large family. Br’er Rabbit figures if he can show the Fox that marriage is not all good, Br’er Fox may get cold feet. If nothing else, the irritations could cause Br’er Fox to revert to his old self.
The night of the party comes and Br’er Bear, Mr. and Mrs. Br’er Skunk and Br’er Possum's family perform as expected. That, along with some secret help from Br’er Rabbit, manage to make the affair a disaster. Br’er Fox reverts to his old self and attacks Br’er Bear for spoiling things and Br’er Rabbit for setting up the dinner. However, Belle is taken with the fox's desires for her and his attempts to change that she does become "taken" by him. Before the critters can say "Zip-a-dee-doo-dah," wedding bells ring for the foxes.
Time passes quickly, and soon the rabbit couple are discussing the wedding, which apparently did not seem to go too smoothly either. Mrs. Rabbit asks if her husband was ever sorry for playing matchmaker. The Rabbit smiles slightly and states that he always knew he was doing the best thing for everyone. As he speaks the viewpoint shifts outside where young rabbits, foxes and other critters§ are playing together as friends.
text, image and format © John Cawley
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