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Bugs Bunny

Bugs Bunny is a fictional character, appearing in the Looney Tunes series of cartoons. According to his bio, he was "born" in 1940 in Brooklyn, New York. But according to Mel Blanc, his voice actor, his accent is an equal blend of someone from the Bronx and someone from Brooklyn. He soon wound up on the Warner Brothers studio lot.

According to film and animation historians, Bugs Bunny first appeared in the cartoon short Porky's Hare Hunt[?], first released on April 30, 1938. The short was co-directed by Cal Dalton[?] and Joseph Benson Hardaway, the later better known as Ben Hardaway[?] and nick-named "Bugs". The cartoon was more or less a copy of Porky's Duck Hunt[?], first released on July 7, 1937, directed by Tex Avery and introducing Daffy Duck. Following this earlier film, the short cast Porky Pig as a hunter against an equally nutty prey, who was more interested in driving his hunter insane than running away. But instead of a black duck, his current prey was a tiny, white rabbit. This unnamed new character , with Mel Blanc already acting as his voice actor, would hardly be recognizable to today's audiences. And his introductory words were "Jiggers, fellers!". Perhaps more characteristicaly he quotted Groucho Marx in saying "Of course, you know, this means war.". Porky was the first of Bugs' opponents to end up hospitalized.

His second appearance was in Prest-O Change-O[?], first released on March 25, 1939, directed by Chuck Jones. There he serves as the pet rabbit of Sham-Fu the Magician, an unseen character. When two dogs enter the house of his absent master while seeking refuge from a storm, the rabbit starts harassing them. Bugs kisses one of the dogs twice. This is considered the first time where Bugs kisses his antagonist in order to confuse him. This is also the first time where his antagonist manages to defeat him.

His third appearance was in Hare-um Scare-um[?], first released in August 12, 1939, again 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. This short was also the first where Bugs was depicted as a grey bunny instead of a white one. The plot of the short was simple, Bugs was confronting another hunter and his hunting dog. But the short is notable as featuring Bugs' first singing role and also the first time where he dresses in drag to seduce his antagonist. Following this short he was given the name "Bugs" by the Termite Terrace[?] animators in honor of his creator, Ben "Bugs" Hardaway.

His fourth appearance was in Elmer's Candid Camera[?] by Chuck Jones,first released on March 2, 1940. There both Bugs and Elmer Fudd were redesigned to the appearances that would become familiar to audiences. It was the first meeting of the two characters. Elmer is just interested in taking photos of the country landscape but Bugs has found him a convenient victim to harass, just for the fun of it. Bugs true personality would then emerge in Tex Avery's A Wild Hare[?], first 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.

Bugs then made a cameo in Robert Clampett's Patient Porky[?], first released on September 14, 1940 to announce the birth of 260 rabbits. His seventh appearance, finally introduced the audience to the nme Bugs Bunny which up till then was only used among the Termite Terrace. It was Chuck Jones' Elmer's Pet Rabbit[?], first released on January 4, 1941. It was also the first short where he got top billing. 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.

Since then Bugs has appeared in numerous cartoon shorts in the Looney Tunes series as well as in a Saturday morning and syndicated animated series. Considered an ideal actor, he was directed by Friz Freleng, Robert McKimson, Tex Avery and Chuck Jones and starred in feature films, including Space Jam[?] which co-starred Michael Jordan.

He is noted for his feuds with Elmer Fudd, Yosemite Sam, Daffy Duck, and even Wile E. Coyote, who usually takes on the Road Runner. 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 likes 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 3 times) Bugs would often state "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. When Bugs meets other characters who are also "winners", however, like Cecil the Turtle or, in WWII, the Gremlin, his record is rather dismal; his overconfidence tends to work against him.

The Bugs Bunny short, Knighty Knight Bugs, in which a medieval Bugs Bunny traded blows with Yosemite Sam (as the Black Knight) and his fire-breathing dragon, was awarded an Oscar. What's Opera, Doc?, Chuck Jones' cartoon starring Bugs and Elmer parodying Wagner's Ring, has been deemed "culturally significant" by the United States Library of Congress and selected for preservation in the National Film Registry. It was, at the time, the only cartoon short to have achieved this honour.

Recommended reading

  • Bugs Bunny: 50 years and Only one Grey Hare, by Joe Adamson (1990), Henry Holt, ISBN 0805018557
  • Chuck Amuck : The Life and Times of an Animated Cartoonist by Chuck Jones, published by Farrar Straus & Giroux, ISBN 0374123489
  • That's Not All, Folks! by Mel Blanc, Philip Bashe. Warner Books, ASIN 0446390895 (Softcover) ASIN 0446512443 (Hardcover)

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