"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
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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
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.