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Witch Hazel (Looney Tunes)

Witch Hazel is a animated cartoon character in the Warner Bros Looney Tunes and Merrie Melodies series of cartoons. Disney, MGM, Famous Studios, and the Little Lulu comic book also had characters named Witch Hazel, and Rembrandt Films had one named Hazel Witch. This article is chiefly concerned with the character who appeared in Warner Bros. films.

Witch hazel is a pun on the name of a North American shrub and the herbal medicine derived from it.

Animator Chuck Jones, of his own admission, got the idea of Witch Hazel from the Disney cartoon "Trick or Treat" (1952), which featured a good-natured witch squaring off with Donald Duck. Enamored of the character's voice characterization, provided by June Foray, Jones developed his own Witch Hazel character for the Bugs Bunny short "Bewitched Bunny" (1954). The story retells the classic fairy tale, "Hansel and Gretel", and Witch Hazel, naturally, plays the witch who tries to cook and eat the children. Bugs Bunny witnesses her coaxing the children inside, however, and saves the youths from Witch Hazel's clutches. However, once the witch realizes that Bugs is a rabbit, she chases him to put him into her witch's brew. Bugs eventually uses Hazel's own magic against her and transforms her into a sexy female bunny, prompting the comment, "But aren't they all witches inside?" As Jones was unable to get Foray to play the role, Bea Benaderet supplies the witch's voice.

Despite their common name, Jones' Witch Hazel is a much different beast from her counterpart in the earlier Disney film. The Looney Tunes character is highly stylized. Her rotund, green-skinned body is wrapped in plain, blue cloth and supported by twiglike legs. She has wild, black hair (from which hairpins fly whenever she moves), and she wears a crumpled black hat. Her nose and chin jut bulbously from her face, and her mouth sports a single tooth. She's a more villainous creature than Disney's witch, as well; the Looney Tunes Hazel lures children into her house to eat them.

Jones finally succeeded in wooing Foray into taking on the role of Witch Hazel for the 1956 cartoon "Broom-Stick Bunny". Foray had reservations about Jones "stealing" a character from Disney, but Jones knew that there was no way for Disney to establish ownership of the name since "witch hazel" is the name of an alcohol rub. Foray would perform the character for the final two cartoons in the series.

"Broom-Stick Bunny" is usually cited as Jones funniest Witch Hazel outing. The cartoon begins with Bugs trick-or-treating on Halloween. When he visits the isolated house of Witch Hazel, she mistakes Bugs-in-witch-costume for the genuine article. Jealous that this newcomer is uglier than she, Witch Hazel invites the "witch" inside of her strange home (beautifully rendered by layout artists Ernest Nordli and Phil DeGuard) for some "Pretty Potion" disguised as tea. Bugs removes his mask to drink, sending Witch Hazel into a frenzy -- it seems that rabbit is the missing ingredient for her witch's brew. In the end, Hazel takes the Pretty Potion, a fate worse than death for a woman who relishes her croneliness. Critics have praised the film's witty dialogue, written by Ted Pierce, such as Hazel's question to Bugs-in-costume, "Tell me, who undoes your hair? Why, it's absolutely hideous!"

Jones would pit Bugs against Witch Hazel in one final cartoon, "A Witch's Tangled Hare" (1959), a parody of Macbeth. Rabbit is once again the missing ingredient to Witch Hazel's brew, and Bugs happens to be in the area. Meanwhile, William Shakespeare observes the action in search of inspiration.

Witch Hazel has since appeared in cameos in various Warner Bros. productions, such as the movie Space Jam (1996) and the video game Looney Tunes Collector: Alert (2000).