The unnamed, prototype Warner Bros. rabbit
Main article: Evolution of Bugs Bunny
An unnamed rabbit bearing some of the personality, if not physical characteristics of Bugs, first appeared in the cartoon short Porky’s Hare Hunt, released on April 30, 1938. Co-directed by Ben Hardaway and an uncredited Cal Dalton (who was responsible for the initial design of the rabbit), this short had a theme almost identical to that of the 1937 cartoon, Porky’s Duck Hunt (directed by Tex Avery), which had introduced Daffy Duck. Porky Pig was again cast as a hunter tracking another silly prey who seemed less interested in escape than in driving his pursuer insane; this short replaced the black duck with a small white rabbit. The rabbit introduces himself with the odd expression “Jiggers, fellers”, and Mel Blanc gave the rabbit nearly the voice and laugh that he would later use for Woody Woodpecker. This cartoon also features the famous Groucho Marx line that Bugs would use many times: “Of course you know, this means war!” The rabbit developed a following from the audience viewing this cartoon which inspired the Schlesinger staff to further develop the character.
First incarnation of the rabbit debuts in Porky’s Hare Hunt (1938)
The rabbit’s second appearance came in 1939’s Prest-O Change-O, directed by Chuck Jones, where he is the pet rabbit of unseen character Sham-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.
His third appearance was in another 1939 cartoon, Hare-um Scare-um, directed by Dalton and Hardaway. This short, the first where he was depicted as a gray bunny instead of a white one, is also notable both for the rabbit’s first singing role. Charlie Thorson, lead animator on the short, was the first to give the character a name. He had written “Bugs’ Bunny” on the model sheet that he drew for Hardaway, implying that he considered the rabbit model sheet to be Hardaway’s property. In promotional material for the short (such as 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 at the very beginning), evidently named in honor of “Bugs” Hardaway.
In Chuck Jones’ Elmer’s Candid Camera the rabbit first encounters Elmer Fudd. This rabbit has more of a physical resemblance to the present-day Bugs, being taller and having a more similar face. The voice for this rabbit, however, was not similar to the well-known Brooklyn-Bronx accent, but spoke in a rural drawl. In Robert Clampett’s 1940 Patient Porky, a similar rabbit appears to trick the audience into thinking that 750 rabbits have been born (however the design is of the earlier white rabbit).
In his later years, Mel Blanc stated that a proposed name was “Happy Rabbit”. Ironically, the only time the name “Happy” was used was in reference to Bugs Hardaway. In the cartoon Hare-um Scare-um, the newspaper headline reads, “Happy Hardaway”.
Bugs Bunny emerges
The official debut of Bugs Bunny in A Wild Hare (1940)
Bugs’ appearance in A Wild Hare, directed by Tex Avery and released on July 27, 1940, is considered the first appearance of both Elmer and Bugs in their fully developed forms. It was in this cartoon that he first emerged from his rabbit hole to ask Elmer Fudd, now a hunter rather than a photographer, “What’s up, Doc?” Animation historian Joe Adamson counts A Wild Hare as the first “official” Bugs Bunny short. It is also the first cartoon where Mel Blanc uses a recognizable version of the voice of Bugs that would eventually become the standard.
Bugs’ second appearance in Jones’ Elmer’s Pet Rabbit finally introduced the audience to the name Bugs Bunny, which up until then had only been used among the Termite Terrace employees. However, the rabbit here is absolutely identical to the one in Jones’ earlier Elmer’s Candid Camera, both visually and vocally. It was also the first short where he received billing under his now-famous name, but the card, “featuring Bugs Bunny”, was just slapped on the end of the completed short’s opening titles when A Wild Hare proved an unexpected success. He would soon become the most prominent of the Looney Tunes characters as his calm, flippant insouciance endeared him to American audiences during and after World War II.
Bugs would appear in five more shorts during 1941: Tortoise Beats Hare, directed by Tex Avery and featuring the first appearance of Cecil Turtle; Hiawatha’s Rabbit Hunt, the first Bugs Bunny short to be directed by Friz Freleng; All This and Rabbit Stew, directed by Avery and featuring a young African-American hunter (based heavily on racial stereotypes) as Bugs’ antagonist; The Heckling Hare, the final Bugs short Avery worked on before being fired and leaving for MGM; and Wabbit Twouble, the first Bugs short directed by Robert Clampett. Wabbit Twouble was also the first of five Bugs shorts to feature a chubbier remodel of Elmer Fudd, a short-lived attempt to have Fudd more closely resemble his voice actor, comedian Arthur Q. Bryan.
World War II
By 1942, Bugs had become the number one star of the Merrie Melodies series, which had originally been intended only for one-shot characters in shorts after several early attempts to introduce characters failed under Harman-Ising, but had started introducing newer characters in 1937 under Schlesinger. Bugs’ 1942 shorts included Friz Freleng’s The Wabbit Who Came to Supper, and the Robert Clampett shorts The Wacky Wabbit and Bugs Bunny Gets the Boid (which introduced Beaky Buzzard). Bugs Bunny Gets the Boid also marks a slight redesign of Bugs, making his front teeth less prominent and his head 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, with Freleng and Frank Tashlin the first to adopt this design. Upon his own promotion to director, McKimson created yet another version with more slanted eyes, longer teeth and a much larger mouth, which he (and, for the one Bugs Bunny cartoon he directed, Art Davis) used until 1949, when he started using the version he had designed for Clampett. Jones would come up with his own slight modification, and the voice as well would vary mildly between the units.
An alternate version of Bugs used by Robert McKimson and Art Davis between 1946 and 1949.
Other 1942 Bugs shorts included Chuck Jones’ Hold the Lion, Please, Freleng’s Fresh Hare and The Hare-Brained Hypnotist (which restored Elmer Fudd to his previous size), and Jones’ Case of the Missing Hare. He also made cameo appearances in Tex Avery’s final Warner Bros. short, Crazy Cruise, and starred in the two-minute United States war bonds commercial film Any Bonds Today.
Bugs was popular during World War II because of his free and easy attitude, and began receiving special star billing in his cartoons by 1943. By that time, Warner Bros. was the most profitable cartoon studio in the United States. Like other cartoon studios, such as Disney and Famous Studios had been doing, Warners put Bugs in opposition to the period’s biggest enemies: Adolf Hitler, Benito Mussolini, and the Japanese. The 1944 short Bugs Bunny Nips the Nips features Bugs at odds with a group of Japanese soldiers. This cartoon has since been pulled from distribution due to its racial stereotypes.
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 Leon Schlesinger era prior to the full conversion to color, alongside Elmer’s prototype Egghead, Inki, Sniffles, and Elmer himself – who was heard but not seen in the 1942 Looney Tunes cartoon Nutty News, and made his first formal appearance in that series in 1943’s To Duck or Not To Duck). While he did make a cameo appearance in the 1943 Porky and Daffy cartoon Porky Pig’s Feat marking his only appearance in a black-and-white Looney Tune cartoon, he did not star in a cartoon in the Looney Tunes series until that series made its complete conversion to only color cartoons beginning with 1944 releases. Buckaroo Bugs was Bugs’ first cartoon in the Looney Tunes series, and was also the last WB cartoon to credit Leon Schlesinger.
Among his most notable civilian shorts during this period are Bob Clampett’s Tortoise Wins by a Hare (the sequel to Tortoise Beats Hare from 1941), A Corny Concerto (a spoof of Disney’s Fantasia), Falling Hare, and What’s Cookin’ Doc?; and Chuck Jones’ Superman parody Super-Rabbit, and Freleng’s Little Red Riding Rabbit. The 1944 short Bugs Bunny and the Three Bears introduced Jones’ The Three Bears characters.
In the cartoon Super-Rabbit, Bugs was seen in the end wearing a USMC dress uniform. As a result, the United States Marine Corps made Bugs an honorary Marine Master Sergeant.
A scene from George Pal’s Jasper Goes Hunting (1944).
From 1943-1946, Bugs was the official “mascot” of Kingman Army Air Field, 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, USAF, 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.
In 1944, Bugs Bunny actually made a cameo appearance in Jasper Goes Hunting, a short produced by rival studio Paramount Pictures. In this cameo (animated by Robert McKimson, with Mel Blanc providing the voice), Bugs pops out of a rabbit hole, saying his usual catchphrase; Bugs then says, “I must be in the wrong picture” and then goes back in the hole. He also appeared fleetingly in the 1947 Arthur Davis cartoon The Goofy Gophers.
The post-war era
A scene from Bewitched Bunny (1954)
A slight variation of how the character was drawn in the 1950s can be seen in the frame from Bewitched Bunny (1954). The inner pinkish parts of the ears have been reduced becoming more v-shaped at the top end and the ovalness of the eyes also replaced with a more top v shaped look. His cheeks protrude out more, and body is more compacted, when compared how he was drawn in the 1940s, arising to the distinct look of how he is drawn today.
Since then, 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. He was directed by Friz Freleng, Robert McKimson, Arthur Davis and Chuck Jones and appeared 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.
The Bugs Bunny short Knighty Knight Bugs (1958), in which a medieval Bugs Bunny traded blows with Yosemite Sam and his fire-breathing dragon (which has a cold), won the Academy Award for Best Short Subject: Cartoons of 1958. Three of Chuck Jones’ Bugs Bunny shorts–Rabbit Fire, Rabbit Seasoning, and Duck, Rabbit, Duck!— comprise what is often referred to as the “Duck Season/Rabbit Season” trilogy, and are considered among the director’s best works. Jones’ 1957 classic, What’s Opera, Doc?, features Bugs and Elmer parodying Wagner’s Der Ring des Nibelungen, and has been deemed “culturally significant” by the United States Library of Congress and selected for preservation in the National Film Registry. It was the first cartoon short to receive this honor.
Bugs appeared in the 1957 short Show Biz Bugs with Daffy Duck, which features a controversial finish in which Daffy Duck, in an attempt to wow the (partisan) audience, did a dangerous magical act in which he (in sequence) drank gasoline, swallowed nitroglycerine, gunpowder, and uranium-238 (in a greenish solution), jumped up and down to “shake well”, and finally swallowed a match that detonated the whole improbable mixture. That incident caused some TV stations, and in the 1990s the cable network TNT, to edit out the dangerous act, fearing that young kids might try to imitate it.
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. After two seasons, it was moved to reruns on Saturday mornings. The Bugs Bunny Show changed format and exact title frequently (the packaging was completely different, with each short simply presented on its own, title and all, though some clips from the new bridging material was used as filler), but it remained on network television for 40 years.
After the classic cartoon era
When Mel Blanc 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 has also made appearances in animated specials for network television, mostly composed of classic cartoons with bridging material added, including How Bugs Bunny Won the West, and The Bugs Bunny Mystery Special. 1980’s Bugs Bunny’s Busting Out All Over, however, contained no vintage clips and featured the first new Bugs Bunny cartoons in 16 years. It opened with “Portrait Of The Artist As a Young Bunny”, which features a flashback of Bugs as a child thwarting a young Elmer Fudd, while its third and closing short was “Spaced Out Bunny”, with Bugs being kidnapped by Marvin the Martian to be a playmate for Hugo, an Abominable Snowman-like character (a new Wile E. Coyote and Road Runner short filled out the half hour). Also, there have been various compilation films, including the independently produced Bugs Bunny: Superstar (utilizing the vintage shorts then owned by United Artists), while Warner Bros. assembled The Bugs Bunny/Road Runner Movie, The Looney Looney Looney Bugs Bunny Movie, Daffy Duck’s Fantastic Island, Bugs Bunny’s 3rd Movie: 1001 Rabbit Tales and Daffy Duck’s Quackbusters. He also made guest appearances in episodes of the 1990s television program Tiny Toon Adventures as the principal of Acme Looniversity and the mentor of Babs and Buster Bunny, and would later make occasional guest cameos on spinoffs Taz-Mania, Animaniacs and Histeria!
He appears in the beginning of Gremlins 2: The New Batch, where he tries to ride the opening Warner Bros logo, but is interrupted by Daffy Duck.
Bugs has 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, the sister/subsidiary company of Warner Bros., has published several comics titles since 1994 that Bugs has appeared in. Notable among these was the 2000 four-issue miniseries Superman & Bugs Bunny, written by Mark Evanier and drawn by Joe Staton. This depicted a crossover between DC’s superheroes and the Warner cartoon characters.
Bugs Bunny’s star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame.
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.
In the 1988 animated/live action movie Who Framed Roger Rabbit, Bugs is shown as one of the inhabitants of Toontown. However, since the film was being produced by Disney, Warner Bros. would only allow the use of their biggest star if he got an equal amount of screen time as Disney’s biggest star, Mickey Mouse. Because of this, both characters are always together in frame when onscreen. They appear in a scene where they are skydiving while Eddie Valiant (Bob Hoskins) has no parachute, so Bugs offers him a “spare” which turns out to be a spare tire. They appear in the end as well, along with all the other toons. For the same reasons, Bugs never calls Mickey by his name, only referring to him as “Doc” (while Mickey calls him “Bugs”).
Bugs Bunny came back to the silver screen in Box Office Bunny in 1990. This was the first Bugs Bunny cartoon short since 1964 to be released to theaters, and it was created for the Bugs Bunny 50th anniversary celebration. It was followed in 1991 by (Blooper) Bunny, a short that has gained a cult following among some animation fans for its edgy humor.
Bugs made an appearance in the 1990 drug prevention video Cartoon All-Stars to the Rescue. This special is notable for being the first time that somebody other than Mel Blanc voiced Bugs Bunny and Daffy Duck (they were voiced by Jeff Bergman.)
In 1997, Bugs appeared on a U.S. postage stamp, the first cartoon to be so honored, beating the iconic Mickey Mouse. The stamp is number seven on the list of the ten most popular U.S. stamps, as calculated by the number of stamps purchased but not used. The introduction of Bugs onto a stamp was controversial at the time, as it was seen as a step toward the ‘commercialization’ of stamp art. The postal service rejected many designs, and went with a postal-themed drawing. Avery Dennison printed the Bugs Bunny stamp sheet, which featured “a special ten-stamp design and was the first self-adhesive souvenir sheet issued by the U.S. Postal Service.”
A younger version of Bugs is the main character of Baby Looney Tunes, which debuted on Cartoon Network (United States) in 2002. In the action comedy Loonatics Unleashed, his definite descendant Ace Bunny is the leader of the Loonatics team and seems to have inherited his ancestor’s Brooklyn accent and comic wit. Lexi Bunny who is Lola Bunny’s confirmed descendant seems to be his second in command and likely love interest. Danger Duck, a descendant of Daffy, has a similar relation with him to that between Bugs and Daffy – envy (jealousy in the extreme case) mixed with a grudging respect.
Bugs has appeared in numerous video games, including the Bugs Bunny’s Crazy Castle series, Bugs Bunny Birthday Blowout, Bugs Bunny: Rabbit Rampage and the similar Bugs Bunny in Double Trouble, Looney Tunes B-Ball, Space Jam, Looney Tunes Racing, Looney Tunes: Space Race, Bugs Bunny Lost in Time, and its sequel, Bugs Bunny and Taz Time Busters, and Looney Tunes: Back in Action and the new video game Looney Tunes: Acme Arsenal.
Personality and catchphrases
Bugs has feuded with Elmer Fudd, Yosemite Sam, Marvin the Martian, Beaky Buzzard, Daffy Duck, Tasmanian Devil, Cecil Turtle, Witch Hazel, Rocky and Mugsy, Wile E. Coyote, Count Blood Count, and a host of others. Bugs almost always wins these conflicts, a plot pattern which recurs in Looney Tunes films directed by Chuck Jones. Concerned that viewers would lose sympathy for a protagonist who always won, Jones had the antagonist characters repeatedly attempt to bully, cheat or threaten Bugs who has been minding his own business. He’s also been known to break the 4th wall by “communicating” with the audience, either by explaining the situation (ex. “Be with you in a minute folks!”), describing someone to the audience (ex. “Feisty, ain’t they?”), etc.
Bugs will usually try to placate the antagonist and avoid conflict, but when an antagonist pushes him too far, Bugs may address the audience and invoke his catchphrase “Of course you realize, this means war!” before he retaliates, and the retaliation will be devastating. This line was taken from Groucho Marx and others in the 1933 film Duck Soup and was also used in the 1935 Marx film A Night at the Opera. Bugs would pay homage to Groucho in other ways, such as occasionally adopting his stooped walk or leering eyebrow-raising (in Hair-Raising Hare, for example) or sometimes with a direct impersonation (as in Slick Hare).
Other directors, such as Friz Freleng, characterized Bugs as altruistic. When Bugs meets other successful characters (such as Cecil Turtle in Tortoise Beats Hare, or, in World War II, the Gremlin of Falling Hare), his overconfidence becomes a disadvantage.
During the 1940s, Bugs was immature and wild, but starting in the 1950s his personality matured and his attitude was less frenetic. It’s worth noting, however, that some feel this shift in Bugs’s personality marked a significant decline in the quality of his cartoons. Though often shown as highly mischievous and violent, Bugs is never actually malicious, and only acts as such in self-defense against his aggressors; the only cartoon where Bugs ever served as a true villain was Buckaroo Bugs.
Bugs Bunny’s nonchalant carrot-chewing standing position, as explained by Chuck Jones, Friz Freleng, and Bob Clampett, originated in a scene in the film It Happened One Night, in which Clark Gable’s character leans against a fence, eating carrots rapidly and talking with his mouth full to Claudette Colbert’s character. This scene was well known while the film was popular, and viewers at the time likely recognized Bugs Bunny’s behavior as satire.
The carrot-chewing scenes are generally followed by Bugs Bunny’s most well-known catchphrase, “What’s up, Doc?”, which was written by director Tex Avery for his first Bugs Bunny short, 1940’s A Wild Hare. Avery explained later that it was a common expression in his native Texas and that he did not think much of the phrase. When the short was first screened in theaters, the “What’s up, Doc?” scene generated a tremendously positive audience reaction. As a result, the scene became a recurring element in subsequent films and cartoons. The phrase was sometimes modified for a situation. For example, Bugs says “What’s up, dogs?” to the antagonists in A Hare Grows in Manhattan, “What’s up, Duke?” to the knight in Knight-mare Hare and “What’s up, prune-face?” to the aged Elmer in The Old Grey Hare. He might also greet Daffy with “What’s up, Duck?” He used one variation, “What’s all the hub-bub, bub?” only once, in Falling Hare. Another variation is used in Looney Tunes: Back In Action when he greets a lightsaber-wielding Marvin the Martian- “What’s up, Darth?”
Several Chuck Jones shorts in the late 1940s and 1950s depict Bugs travelling via cross-country (and, in some cases, intercontinental) tunnel-digging, ending up in places as varied as Mexico (Bully For Bugs, 1953), the Himalayas (The Abominable Snow Rabbit, 1960) and Antarctica (Frigid Hare, 1949) all because he “shoulda taken that left toin at Albukoikee.” He first utters that phrase in Herr Meets Hare (1945), when he emerges in the Black Forest, a cartoon seldom seen today due to its blatantly topical subject matter. When Hermann Gring says to Bugs, “There is no Las Vegas in ‘Chermany'” and takes a potshot at Bugs, Bugs dives into his hole and says, “Joimany! Yipe!”, as Bugs realizes he’s behind enemy lines. The confused response to his “left toin” comment also followed a pattern. For example, when he tunnels into Scotland in 1948’s My Bunny Lies Over The Sea, while thinking he’s heading for the La Brea Tar Pits in Los Angeles, California, it provides another chance for an ethnic stereotype: “Therrre’s no La Brrrea Tarrr Pits in Scotland!” (to which Bugs responds, “Uh…what’s up, Mac-doc?”). A couple of late-1950s shorts of this ilk also featured Daffy Duck travelling with Bugs (“Since when is Pismo Beach inside a cave?!”).
Bugs Bunny has some similarities to figures from mythology and folklore, such as Br’er Rabbit, Nanabozho, or Anansi, and might be seen as a modern trickster (for example, he repeatedly uses cross-dressing mischievously). Unlike most cartoon characters, however, Bugs Bunny is rarely defeated in his own games of trickery. One exception to this is the short Hare Brush, in which Elmer Fudd ultimately carries the day at the end; however, critics note that in this short, Elmer and Bugs assume each other’s personalitieshrough mental illness and hypnosis, respectivelynd it is only by becoming Bugs that Elmer can win. However Bugs was beaten at his own game. In the short Duck Amuck he torments Daffy Duck as the unseen animator, ending with his line, “Ain’t I a stinker?” Bugs feels the same wrath of an unseen animator in the short Rabbit Rampage where he is in turn tormented by Elmer Fudd. At the end of the clip Elmer gleefully exclaims, ‘Well, I finally got even with that scwewy wabbit!”
Although it was usually Porky Pig who brought the WB cartoons to a close with his stuttering, “That’s all, folks!”, Bugs would occasionally appear, bursting through a drum just as Porky did, but munching a carrot and saying in his Bronx-Brooklyn accent, “And dat’s de end!”
The name “Bugs” or “Bugsy” as an old-fashioned nickname means “crazy” (or “loopy”). Several famous people from the first half of the twentieth century had that nickname. It is now out of fashion as a nickname, but survives in 1950s-1960s expressions like “you’re bugging me”, as in “you’re driving me crazy”.
Bugs wears white gloves which he is only known to remove in Long-Haired Hare. In this episode, Bugs pretends to be the famed conductor Leopold Stokowski and instructs opera star “Giovanni Jones” to sing and to hold a high note. As Giovanni Jones is turning red with the strain, Bugs slips his left hand out of its glove, leaving the glove hovering in the air in order to command Jones to continue to hold the high note. Bugs then nips down to the mail drop to order, and then to receive, a pair of ear muffs. Bugs puts on the ear defenders and then zips back into the amphitheater and reinserts his hand into his glove as singer Jones is writhing on the stage, still holding that same high note).
Bugs Bunny is also a master of disguise: he can wear any disguise that he wants to confuse his enemies: in Bowery Bugs he uses 5 disguises: fakir, gentleman, women, Baker and finally policeman. This ability of disguise makes bugs famous because we can recognize him while at the same time realizing that his enemies are trapped. Bugs has a certain preference for the female disguise: Taz, Elmer Fudd, Yosemite Sam were fooled by this sexy bunny (woman) and in Hare Trimmed, Sam discovers the real face of “Granny”(Bugs disguise) in the church where they attempt to get married.
Rabbit or hare?
The animators throughout Bugs’ history have treated the terms rabbit and hare as synonymous. Taxonomically they are not synonymous, being somewhat similar but observably different types of lagomorphs. Hares have much longer ears than rabbits, so Bugs might seem to be of the hare family, and many more of the cartoon titles include the word “hare” rather than “rabbit.” Within the cartoons, although the term “hare” comes up sometimes (for example, Bugs drinking “hare tonic” to “stop falling hare” and being doused with “hare restorer” to bring him back from invisibility), Bugs as well as his antagonists most often refer to the character as a “rabbit”. The word “bunny” is of no help in answering this question, as it is a synonym for both young hares and young rabbits.
In Nike commercials with Michael Jordan, Bugs had been referred to as “Hare Jordan.”
The opening and closing
In the opening of many of the Bugs Bunny cartoons, the Merrie Melodies and Looney Tunes rings contain Bugs Bunny’s head after the Warner Bros. shield (generally from 1944 and 1949 onward). Others have Bugs Bunny relaxing on top of the Warner Bros. shield: He chews on his carrot, looks angrily at the camera and pulls down the next logo (Merrie Melodies or Looney Tunes) like a window shade (generally on cartoons between 1945 until early 1949). Then he lifts it back up, to now be seen lying on his own name, which then fades into the title of the specific short. In some other cases, the title card sometimes fades to him, already on his name and chewing his carrot then fade to the name of the short. At the finish of some, Bugs breaks out of a drum (like Porky Pig) and says, “And that’s the end”.
The following are the many voice actors who have voiced the character Bugs Bunny over the last seventy years:
Mel Blanc voiced the character for 49 years, from Bugs’ debut in A Wild Hare (1940) until Blanc’s death in 1989. Blanc described the voice as a combination of Bronx and Brooklyn accents; however, Tex Avery claimed that he asked Blanc to give the character not a New York accent per se, but a voice like that of actor Frank McHugh, who frequently appeared in supporting roles in the 1930s and whose voice might be described as New York Irish. In Bugs’ second cartoon Elmer’s Pet Rabbit, Blanc created a completely new voice for Bugs, which sounded like a Jimmy Stewart impression, but the directors decided the previous voice was better. Though his best-known character was the carrot-chomping rabbit, munching on the carrots interrupted the dialogue. Various substitutes, such as celery, were tried, but none of them sounded like a carrot. So for the sake of expedience, he would munch and then spit the carrot bits into a spittoon rather than swallowing them, and continue with the dialogue. One oft-repeated story, possibly originating from Bugs Bunny: Superstar, is that he was allergic to carrots and had to spit them out to minimize any allergic reaction but his autobiography makes no such claim; in fact, in a 1984 interview with Tim Lawson, co-author of The Magic Behind The Voices: A Who’s Who of Cartoon Voice Actors (University Press of Mississippi, 2004), Blanc emphatically denied being allergic to carrots.
Jeff Bergman was the first to have the honor of voicing Bugs (and several other Looney Tunes characters) after Mel Blanc died in 1989. He got the job by impressing Warner Bros. higher-ups with a tape of himself re-creating the voices of several of Blanc’s characters, including Bugs Bunny. He had rigged the tape player so that he could use a switch to instantly toggle back and forth between the original recording of Blanc and Bergman’s recording of the same lines. Upon doing this, it was almost impossible for the producers to tell which voice was Blanc’s and which voice was Bergman; thus his vocal ability was established and his career launched.
Bergman first voiced Bugs during the 1990 Academy Awards and then in Box Office Bunny, a 4-minute Looney Tunes short released in 1990 to commemorate Bugs’ fiftieth anniversary. Bergman would next voice Bugs Bunny in the 1991 short (Blooper) Bunny, a Greg Ford-directed cartoon also produced to coincide with Bugs Bunny’s fiftieth anniversary. However, the short never received its intended theatrical release and was shelved for years, until Cartoon Network rediscovered it and broadcast it on their channel several years later. (Blooper) Bunny has since garnered a cult following among animation fans for its use of edgy humor. Other works for which Bergman provided Bugs’ voice include Invasion of the Bunny Snatchers (an obvious parody of the 1950s sci-fi classic Invasion of the Body Snatchers), Tiny Toon Adventures (a popular television program of the early nineties that featured the classic Looney Tunes characters as mentors to their younger counterparts) in the first season, and Cartoon All-Stars to the Rescue (a television special exposing children to dangers of marijuana). Bergman would continue to do the voice of Bugs Bunny until 1993.
Greg Burson first voiced Bugs in later episodes of Tiny Toon Adventures. He was then given the responsibility of voicing Bugs in 1995’s Carrotblanca, a well-received 8-minute Looney Tunes cartoon originally shown in cinemas alongside The Amazing Panda Adventure (US) and The Pebble and the Penguin (non-US); it has since been released on video packaged with older Looney Tunes cartoons and was even included in the special edition DVD release of Casablanca, of which it is both a parody and an homage. Burson next voiced Bugs in the 1996 short From Hare to Eternity; the film is notable for being dedicated to the memory of the then-just deceased Friz Freleng, and for being the final Looney Tunes cartoon that Chuck Jones directed. Greg Burson also provided Bugs’ voice in The Bugs and Daffy Show, which ran on Cartoon Network from 1996 to 2003. He died in 2008.
Billy West has been in television since the late 1980s. His first role was for the 1988 revived version of Bob Clampett’s Beany and Cecil. West’s breakthrough role then came almost immediately, as the voice of Stimpy and later Ren in John Kricfalusi’s Ren & Stimpy. West has since been the voice talent for close to 120 different characters, including some of the most iconic animated figures in television history. Perhaps West’s most notable film work came in the 1996 movie Space Jam. Starring alongside Michael Jordan, West provided the voice of both Bugs Bunny and Elmer Fudd. West would go on to reprise the roles of Bugs in subsequent Looney Tunes productions, including his cameos on Histeria!, the Kids’ WB! promotional spots, and the 2006 Christmas-themed special Bah, Humduck! A Looney Tunes Christmas and the DVD compilations “Reality Check” and “Stranger Than Fiction”, along with several Looney Tunes-centric CDs, cartoons, and video games. Billy West is, along with fellow voice artist Joe Alaskey, credited as one of the current successors of Mel Blanc in impersonating the voice of Bugs Bunny.
Joe Alaskey, like Jeff Bergman, is well-known for his ability to successfully impersonate many Looney Tunes characters. In fact, Alaskey voiced Yosemite Sam in Who Framed Roger Rabbit, as original voice actor Mel Blanc had found it too hard on his vocal cords. (This makes Sam one of the few voices created by Blanc to be voiced by someone else during his lifetime.) Joe Alaskey’s first performance as Bugs Bunny came in the 2003 feature film Looney Tunes: Back in Action, although he had tested performing the role in a few earlier projects, such as Tweety’s High-Flying Adventure. While still best known for providing the voice of Daffy Duck, Alaskey has also gone on to do Bugs’ voice in several subsequent productions, including Daffy Duck for President (which was released on The Looney Tunes Golden Collection: Volume 2 and dedicated to then-just deceased Chuck Jones) and several recent video games. Joe Alaskey is, along with fellow voice actor Billy West, credited as one of the current successors of Mel Blanc in impersonating the voice of Bugs Bunny.
Samuel Vincent served as the voice of Bugs in the Cartoon Network TV series Baby Looney Tunes.
Noel Blanc, Mel Blanc’s son, voiced Bugs for the Tiny Toons special It’s a Wonderful Tiny Toon Christmas Special. The elder Blanc claimed in his later years that Noel substituted for Mel in various cartoon studios, including doing Bugs at Warner Bros., while he was recovering from a near-fatal car wreck. Noel can also be seen doing Bugs’ voice with his father in the documentary on the making of the film Who Framed Roger Rabbit. Noel voiced Elmer Fudd in a cut-away scene for the animated TV series Family Guy (in “Stewie Griffin: The Untold Story”).
Bugs Bunny has had cameo appearances in several cartoons, including one Private SNAFU short. For his appearance in The Goofy Gophers his voice was sped up.
Crazy Cruise (1942)
Porky Pig’s Feat (1943) This marks Bugs’ only appearance in a black-and-white Looney Tunes short.
Jasper Goes Hunting (1944, for Paramount)
Odor-able Kitty (1945)
The Goofy Gophers (1947)
The Lion’s Busy (1950)
Duck Amuck (1953)
Justice League: The New Frontier (2008, as one of the forms of The Martian Manhunter )
Bugs Bunny cartoons air in countries outside of the United States. In most cases, the original US cartoons are simply redubbed in the native language and the characters are usually given names more fitting for the country in which they are appearing. For example, in Finland, Bugs Bunny is called Viski Vemmelsri.
In 2002, TV Guide compiled a list of the 50 greatest cartoon characters of all time as part of the magazine’s 50th anniversary. Bugs Bunny was given the honor of number 1. In a CNN broadcast on July 31, 2002, a TV Guide editor talked about the group that created the list. The editor also explained why Bugs pulled top billing: “His stock…has never gone down…Bugs is the best example…of the smart-aleck American comic. He not only is a great cartoon character, he’s a great comedian. He was written well. He was drawn beautifully. He has thrilled and made many generations laugh. He is tops.” Additionally, in Animal Planet’s 50 Greatest Movie Animals (2004), Bugs was named #3, behind Mickey Mouse and Toto.
Bugs Bunny’s enduring impact on comedic actors also cannot be overestimated. During an interview for Inside the Actors Studio, comedian Dave Chappelle cited Bugs Bunny as one of his earliest influences, praising voice actor Mel Blanc.
According to Time Warner, Bugs Bunny became the current official mascot for Six Flags theme parks beginning with their 45th anniversary.
Knighty Knight Bugs (1958)
Academy Award nominations
A Wild Hare (1940)
Hiawatha’s Rabbit Hunt (1941)
List of Bugs Bunny cartoons
^ a b “Bugs Bunny tops greatest cartoon characters list”. CNN.com. 2002-07-30. http://archives.cnn.com/2002/SHOWBIZ/TV/07/30/cartoon.characters/index.html. Retrieved 2008-02-27.
^ Carragher, Sarah (2002-07-29). “Nearly One-Third of TV Guide’s ’50 Greatest Cartoon Characters Of All Time Come From Warner Bros.”. TimeWarner.com. http://www.timewarner.com/corp/newsroom/pr/0,20812,669402,00.html. Retrieved 2008-02-27.
^ a b c Barrier, Michael (2003-11-06). Hollywood Cartoons: American Animation in Its Golden Age. United States: Oxford University Press. p. 672. ISBN 978-0195167290.
^ “”Bugs Bunny’'″. Encyclopdia Britannica. Britannica.com. http://www.britannica.com/eb/article-9095426/Bugs-Bunny. Retrieved 2009-09-20.
^ “Leading the Animation Conversation Rare 1939 Looney Tunes Book found!”. Cartoon Brew. 2008-04-03. http://www.cartoonbrew.com/classic/rare-1938-looney-tunes-book-found. Retrieved 2009-09-20.
^ a b Blanc, Mel; Bashe, Philip (1989). That’s Not All, Folks!. Clayton South, VIC, Australia: Warner Books.
^ “Looney Tunes Hidden Gags”. Gregbrian.tripod.com. http://gregbrian.tripod.com/hidden/hid04.html. Retrieved 2009-09-20.
^ Adamson, Joe (1990). Bugs Bunny: 50 Years and Only One Grey Hare. Henry Holt. ISBN 0-8050-1855-7.
^ Lehman, Christopher P. (2008). The Colored Cartoon: Black Representation in American Animated Short Films, 1907-1954. Amherst, Massachusetts: University of Massachusetts Press. p. 73. http://books.google.com/books?id=xMWhTUFFuqoC&pg=PA73&lpg=PA73&dq=”any+bonds+today”+”bugs+bunny”+theatrical+cartoon&source=bl&ots=gEClzGwbx4&sig=P8w8dPT-Wy3Y0hZIDzIOrtT4rg0&hl=en&ei=qf2kSaW7NJm1jAeWk-XQBQ&sa=X&oi=book_result&resnum=10&ct=result#PPA73,M1. Retrieved 2009-02-25.
^ Audio commentary by Paul Dini for Super-Rabbit on the Looney Tunes Golden Collection: Volume 3 (2005).
^ “History of the 380th Bomb Group”. 380th.org. http://380th.org/380-History.html. Retrieved 2010-01-07.
^ a b “”Jasper Goes Hunting” information”. Bcdb.com. http://www.bcdb.com/cartoon/36556-Jasper_Goes_Hunting.html. Retrieved 2009-09-20.
^ Looney Tunes: Bugs Bunny stamp. National Postal Museum Smithsonian.
^ “Transcript of ”Duck Soup””. Script-o-rama.com. http://www.script-o-rama.com/movie_scripts/d/duck-soup-script-transcript-marx.html. Retrieved 2009-09-20.
^ “”It Happened One Night” film review by Tim Dirks”. Filmsite.org. http://www.filmsite.org/itha.html. Retrieved 2009-09-20.
^ Adamson, Joe (1975). Tex Avery: King of Cartoons. New York: De Capo Press.
^ a b Knight, Richard. “Consider the Source”. Chicagoreader.com. http://www.chicagoreader.com/movies/archives/2001/0101/010126.html. Retrieved 2009-09-20.
^ “Piirroselokuvien taitaja Chuck Jones kuollut”. Mtv3.fi. February 23, 2002. http://www.mtv3.fi/uutiset/arkisto.shtml/arkistot/kulttuuri/2002/02/101933. Retrieved 2009-12-06.
^ “List of All-time Cartoon Characters”. CNN.com. CNN. July 30, 2002. http://archives.cnn.com/2002/SHOWBIZ/TV/07/30/cartoon.characters.list/index.html. Retrieved April 11, 2007.
^ “CNN LIVE TODAY: ‘TV Guide’ Tipping Hat to Cartoon Characters”. CNN.com. CNN. July 31, 2002. http://transcripts.cnn.com/TRANSCRIPTS/0207/31/lt.20.html. Retrieved April 11, 2007.
Adamson, Joe (1990). Bugs Bunny: 50 Years and Only One Grey Hare. New York: Henry Holt. ISBN 0-8050-1855-7.
Beck, Jerry; Friedwald, Will (1989). Looney Tunes and Merrie Melodies. New York: Henry Holt. ISBN 0-8050-0894-2.
Blanc, Mel; Bashe, Philip (1989). That’s Not All, Folks!. Clayton South, VIC, Australia: Warner Books. ISBN 0-446-39089-5.
Jones, Chuck (1989). Chuck Amuck: The Life and Times of an Animated Cartoonist. New York: Farrar Straus & Giroux. ISBN 0-374-12348-9.
Maltin, Leonard (1987). Of Mice and Magic: A History of American Animated Cartoons (Revised ed.). New York: Plume Book. ISBN 0-452-25993-2.
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