Bugs Bunny in “Fresh hare” a classic! This is Public Domain.
Is a funny animal cartoon character, best remembered for his starring roles in the Looney Tunes and Merrie Melodies series of theatrical short films produced by Warner Bros. during the Golden age of American animation. His popularity during this era led to his becoming a corporate mascot of Warner Bros. Entertainment. Bugs is an anthropomorphic gray hare or rabbit who is famous for his flippant, insouciant personality, a pronounced New York accent, his portrayal as a trickster, and his catch phrase “Eh… What’s up, doc?” (usually said while chewing a carrot). Bugs has appeared in more films than any other cartoon character and is the ninth most portrayed film personality in the world.
According to his 1990 “biography” Bugs Bunny: 50 Years and Only One Grey Hare, Bugs was born on July 27, 1940 in Brooklyn, New York in a warren underEbbets Field, home of the Brooklyn Dodgers. In reality, he was brought to life by the animators and staff of Leon Schlesinger Productions (later Warner Bros. Cartoons): including Tex Avery, who directed Bugs’ early definitive short A Wild Hare (1940); Robert McKimson, who created Bugs’ definitive character design; and Mel Blanc, who originated the voice of Bugs.
History – Bugs’ precursor
A rabbit with some of the personality of Bugs, though looking very different, first appears in the cartoon short Porky’s Hare Hunt, released on April 30, 1938. It was co-directed by Ben “Bugs” Hardaway and an uncredited Cal Dalton (who was responsible for the initial design of the rabbit). This short has an almost identical plot to Tex Avery‘s 1937 cartoon Porky’s Duck Hunt, which had introduced Daffy Duck. Porky Pigis again cast as a hunter tracking a silly prey who is more interested in driving his pursuer insane and less interested in escaping. Hare Hunt replaces the little black duck with a small white rabbit. The rabbit introduces himself with the odd expression “Jiggers, fellers,” and Mel Blanc gave the character a voice and laugh much like those he would later use for Woody Woodpecker. Hare Hunt also gives its rabbit the famous Groucho Marx line, “Of course you realize, this means war!” The rabbit character was so popular with audiences that Leon Schlesinger‘s staff decided to use it again.
The rabbit returns in the 1939 short Prest-O Change-O, directed by Chuck Jones, where he is the pet rabbit of unseen characterSham-Fu the Magician. Two dogs, fleeing the local dogcatcher, enter his absent master’s house. The rabbit harasses them, but is ultimately bested by the bigger of the two dogs.
The rabbit’s third appearance comes in Hare-um Scare-um (1939), directed by Dalton and Hardaway. This short—the first in which he is depicted as a gray bunny instead of a white one—is also notable as the rabbit’s first singing role. Charlie Thorson, lead animator on the short, gave the character a name. He had written “Bugs’ Bunny” on the model sheet that he drew for Hardaway. In promotional material for the short, including a surviving 1939 presskit, the name on the model sheet was altered to become the rabbit’s own name: “Bugs” Bunny (quotation marks only used, on and off, until 1944).
In the 1970s, Mel Blanc stated that another proposed name for the character was “Happy Rabbit.” In the actual cartoons and publicity, however, the name “Happy” only seems to have been used in reference to Bugs Hardaway. In Hare-um Scare-um, a newspaper headline reads, “Happy Hardaway.”
In Chuck Jones’ Elmer’s Candid Camera (1940) the rabbit first meets Elmer Fudd. This time the rabbit looks more like the present-day Bugs, taller and with a similar face—but retaining the more primitive voice. Candid Camera’s Elmer character design is also different: fatter and taller than the modern model, though Arthur Q. Bryan‘s character voice is already established.
Bugs’ “official” debut
Bugs’ first appearance in A Wild Hare (1940).
A Wild Hare, directed by Tex Avery and released on July 27, 1940, is widely considered to be the first official Bugs Bunny cartoon. It is the first short where both Elmer Fudd and Bugs are shown in their fully developed forms as hunter and tormentor, respectively; the first in which Mel Blanc uses what would become Bugs’ standard voice; and the first in which Bugs uses his catchphrase, “What’s up, Doc?” The short was a huge success in theaters and received anAcademy Award nomination for Best Animated Short Film.
Immediately following on A Wild Hare, Bob Clampett‘s Patient Porky (1940) features a cameo appearance by Bugs, announcing to the audience that 750 rabbits have been born. The gag uses Bugs’ Wild Hare visual design, but his goofier pre-Wild Hare voice characterization.
The second full-fledged role for the mature Bugs, Chuck Jones’ Elmer’s Pet Rabbit (1941), is the first to use Bugs’ name on-screen: it appears in a title card, “featuring Bugs Bunny,” at the start of the short (which was edited in following the success of A Wild Hare). However, Bugs’ voice in this cartoon is noticeably different, and his design was slightly altered as well. After Pet Rabbit, however, subsequent Bugs appearances returned to normal: the Wild Hare visual design returned, and Mel Blanc re-used the Wild Hare voice characterization.
The 1941 short Hiawatha’s Rabbit Hunt, directed by Friz Freleng, became the second Bugs Bunny cartoon to receive an Academy Award nomination for Best Animated Short Film. The fact that it didn’t win the award was later spoofed somewhat in What’s Cookin’ Doc? (1944), in which Bugs demands a recount (claiming to be a victim of “sa-bo-TAH-gee“) after losing the Oscar toJimmy Cagney and presents a clip from Hiawatha’s Rabbit Hunt to prove his point.
World War II
By 1942, Bugs had become the number one star of Merrie Melodies. The series had originally been intended only for one-shot characters in shorts after several early attempts to introduce characters (Foxy, Goopy Geer and Piggy) failed under Harman–Ising (in 1937, under Leon Schlesinger, Merrie Melodies started introducing newer characters). Bugs Bunny Gets the Boid (1942) shows a slight redesign of Bugs, with less-prominent front teeth and a rounder head. The character was reworked by Robert McKimson, then an animator in Bob Clampett’s unit. The redesign at first was only used in the shorts created by Clampett’s unit, but in time it would be taken up by the other directors, with Friz Freleng and Frank Tashlin the first. When McKimson was himself promoted to director, he created yet another version, with more slanted eyes, longer teeth and a much larger mouth. He used this version until 1949 (as did Art Davis for the one Bugs Bunny cartoon he directed) when he started using the version he had designed for Clampett. Chuck Jones would come up with his own slight modification, and the voice had slight variations between the units. Bugs also made cameos in Tex Avery’s final Warner Bros. short, Crazy Cruise.
Since Bugs’ debut in A Wild Hare, he had appeared only in color Merrie Melodie cartoons (making him one of the few recurring characters created for that series in the Schlesinger era prior to the full conversion to color), alongside Elmer predecessor Egghead, Inki, Sniffles, and Elmer himself. While he made a cameo appearance in Porky Pig’s Feat (1943), this was his only appearance in a black-and-white Looney Tune cartoon. He did not star in a Looney Tunes short until that series made its complete conversion to only color cartoons beginning in 1944. Buckaroo Bugs was Bugs’ first short in the Looney Tunes series, and was also the last Warner Bros. cartoon to credit Schlesinger (as he had retired and sold his studio to Warner Bros. that year).
Bugs’ popularity soared during World War II because of his free and easy attitude, and he began receiving special star billing in his cartoons by 1943. By that time Warner Bros. had become the most profitable cartoon studio in the United States. In company with cartoon studios such as Disney and Famous Studios, Warners put its characters against Adolf Hitler, Benito Mussolini, and the Japanese. The short Bugs Bunny Nips the Nips (1944) features Bugs at odds with a group of Japanese soldiers. This cartoon has since been pulled from distribution due to its racial stereotypes of Japanese people. He also faces off against Hermann Göring and Hitler in Herr Meets Hare (1945), which introduced his well-known reference to Albuquerque as he mistakenly winds up in the Black Forest of ‘Joimany’ instead of Las Vegas, Nevada. Bugs also appeared in the 1942 two-minute U.S. war bonds commercial film Any Bonds Today, along with Porky and Elmer.
At the end of Super-Rabbit (1943), Bugs appears wearing a United States Marine Corps dress blue uniform. As a result, the Marine Corps made Bugs an honorary Marine Master Sergeant. From 1943 to 1946, Bugs was the official mascot of Kingman Army Airfield, Kingman, Arizona, where thousands of aerial gunners were trained during World War II. Some notable trainees included Clark Gable and Charles Bronson. Bugs also served as the mascot for 530 Squadron of the 380th Bombardment Group,5th Air Force, U.S. Air Force, which was attached to the Royal Australian Air Force and operated out of Australia’s Northern Territory from 1943 to 1945, flying B-24 Liberator bombers. Bugs riding an air delivered torpedo served as the squadron logo for Marine Torpedo/Bomber Squadron 242 in the Second World War.
In 1944, Bugs Bunny made a cameo appearance in Jasper Goes Hunting, a Puppetoons short produced by rival studio Paramount Pictures. In this cameo (animated by Robert McKimson, with Mel Blanc providing the voice), Bugs (after being threatened at gunpoint) pops out of a rabbit hole, saying his usual catchphrase; after hearing the orchestra play the wrong theme song, he realizes “Hey, I’m in the wrong picture!” and then goes back in the hole.
Although it was usually Porky Pig who brought the Looney Tunes shorts to a close with his stuttering, “That’s all, folks!”, Bugs replaced him in the end of Hare Tonic and Baseball Bugs, bursting through a drum just as Porky did, but munching on a carrot and saying in his Bronx-Brooklyn accent, “And that’s the end!”