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"What's up doc? My doctor told me to eat more carrots.
He said I don't have enough orange in my diet."

- W.J. Flywheel, Webporium Curator


Bugs Bunny is the street-smart gray rabbit that appears in the Looney Tunes and Merrie Melodies series of cartoons produced by Warner Bros., and is one of the most recognizable characters, real or imaginary, in the world. According to his biography, he was "born" in 1940 in Brooklyn, New York and the product of many fathers: Ben "Bugs" Hardaway (who created a prototypical version of the character called Happy Rabbit in 1938's "Porky's Hare Hunt"), Bob Clampett, Tex Avery (who developed Bugs' definitive personality in 1940), Robert McKimson (created the definitive Bugs Bunny character design), Chuck Jones, and Friz Freleng. According to Mel Blanc, his original voice actor, his accent is an equal blend of someone from the Bronx and someone from Brooklyn. He is noted for his catchphrase of "Eh, (carrot chewing sounds) ... what's up, doc?" and his feuds with Elmer Fudd, Yosemite Sam, Marvin Martian, Daffy Duck, Witch Hazel, Rocky and Mugsy, Wile E. Coyote and a whole score of others.

Almost invariably, Bugs comes out the winner in these conflicts, because that is in his nature. This is especially obvious in films directed by Chuck Jones, who liked to pit "winners" against "losers". Worrying that audiences would lose sympathy for an aggressor who always won, Jones found the perfect way to make Bugs sympathetic in the films by having the antagonist repeatedly bully, cheat or threaten Bugs in some way. Thus offended, (usually three times) Bugs would often drawl "Of course you realize, this means war" (a line which Jones noted was taken from Groucho Marx) and the audience gives Bugs silent permission to inflict his havoc, having earned his right to retaliate and/or defend himself. Other directors like Friz Freleng had Bugs go out of his way to help others in trouble, again creating an acceptable circumstance for his mischief. When Bugs meets other characters who are also "winners", however, like Cecil the Turtle in Tortoise Beats Hare, or, in World War II, the Gremlin of Falling Hare, his record is rather dismal; his overconfidence tends to work against him.

A number of animation historians believe Bugs Bunny to have been influenced by an earlier Disney character called Max Hare (left). Max, designed by Charlie Thorson, first appeared in the Silly Symphony The Tortoise and the Hare, directed by Wilfred Jackson. The story was based on a fable by Aesop and cast Max against Toby Tortoise, and won the Academy Award for Animated Short Film for 1934.

Max also appeared in the sequel Toby Tortoise Returns and the Mickey Mouse cartoon Mickey's Polo Team. The only solid connection between Max and Bugs however is Charlie Thorson. He was also responsible for the redesign of Bugs from a white to a gray rabbit for his third appearance Hare-um Scare-um, thus the similarity in design.

Bugs Bunny first appeared in the cartoon short Porky's Hare Hunt, released on April 30, 1938. The short was co-directed by Cal Dalton and Ben Hardaway whose nickname was "Bugs". The cartoon had an almost identical theme to a 1937 cartoon, Porky's Duck Hunt, directed by Tex Avery and introducing Daffy Duck. Following the general plot of this earlier film, the short cast Porky Pig as a hunter against an equally nutty prey more interested in driving his hunter insane than running away. But instead of a black duck, his current prey was a tiny, white rabbit. The rabbit introduces himself with the expression "Jiggers, fellers," and Mel Blanc gave the rabbit a voice and laugh that he would later use to voice Woody Woodpecker.

In his third appearance in the 1939 cartoon, Hare-um Scare-um, directed by Dalton and Hardaway. Gil Turner, the animator for this short, was the first to give a name to the character. He had written "Bugs' Bunny" on his model sheet, meaning he considered the character to be Hardaway's.

Following this short he was given the name "Bugs" by the Termite Terrace animators in honor of his creator, Ben "Bugs" Hardaway. "Bugs" or "Bugsy" as a name also fit the Bunny's early characterization, as it was popular vernacular for "crazy".

By his fourth appearance in the 1940 short Elmer's Candid Camera by Chuck Jones, both Bugs and Elmer Fudd were redesigned to the appearances that would become familiar to audiences. It was also the first meeting of the two characters.


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Bugs' true personality would then emerge in Tex Avery's A Wild Hare, released on July 27, 1940. It was in this cartoon that he first emerged from his rabbit hole to ask Elmer Fudd, now a hunter, “What's up, Doc?" It is considered the first fully developed appearance of the character. Animation historian Joe Adamson counts A Wild Hare as the first Bugs Bunny short, with the previous shorts being different one-shot bunnies bearing only coincidental resemblance to Bugs.

By 1942, Bugs had become the star of the Merrie Melodies series, which had originally been intended only for one-shot shorts. Among Bugs' 1942 shorts included Friz Freleng's The Wabbit Who Came to Supper, Robert Clampett's The Wacky Wabbit, and Clampett's Bugs Bunny Gets the Boid (which introduced Beaky Buzzard). Bugs Bunny Gets the Boid also marks a slight redesign of Bugs, making less prominent his front teeth and making his head look rounder.

The man responsible for this redesign was Robert McKimson at the time working as an animator under Robert Clampett. The redesign at first was only used in the shorts created by Clampett's production team but in time it would be adopted by the other directors and their units as well.

Since the 1940's, Bugs has appeared in numerous cartoon shorts in the Looney Tunes and Merrie Melodies series, making his last appearance in the theatrical cartoons in 1964 with False Hare.

Considered an ideal actor, he was directed by Friz Freleng, Robert McKimson, Tex Avery and Chuck Jones and starred in feature films, including Who Framed Roger Rabbit (which featured the first-ever meeting between Bugs and his box-office rival Mickey Mouse), Space Jam (which co-starred Michael Jordan), and the 2003 movie Looney Tunes: Back in Action.

In the fall of 1960, The Bugs Bunny Show, a television program which packaged many of the post-1948 Warners shorts with newly animated wraparounds, debuted on ABC.

The show was originally aired in prime-time, and after two seasons it was moved to reruns on Saturday mornings. The Bugs Bunny Show changed formats frequently, but it remained on network television for 40 full years.

When Mel Blanc (right) died in 1989, Jeff Bergman, Joe Alaskey and Billy West became the new "voices" to Bugs Bunny and the rest of the Looney Tunes, taking turns doing the voices at various times.

Bugs had several comic book series over the years. Western Publishing had the license for all the Warner Brothers cartoons, and produced Bugs Bunny comics first for Dell Comics, then later for their own Gold Key Comics. Dell published 58 issues, and several specials from 1952 to 1962. Gold Key continued for another 133 issues. DC Comics has been publishing several comics since 1990.

Like Mickey Mouse for The Walt Disney Company, Bugs has served as the mascot for Warner Bros. Studios and its various divisions. He and Mickey are the first cartoon characters to have a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame.


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