Bugs Bunny

From Academic Kids

Bugs Bunny on a United States stamp
Bugs Bunny on a United States stamp

Bugs Bunny is a fictional street-smart gray rabbit appearing in the Looney Tunes and Merrie Melodies series of cartoons, and is one of the most recognizable characters, real or imaginary, in the world. According to his bio, he was "born" in 1940 in Brooklyn, New York and the product of five fathers: Bob Clampett (who is given credit of creating the "wabbit"), Chuck Jones, Friz Freleng, Arthur Davis, and Robert McKimson. 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.

He is noted for his signature line of "Eh, what's up, doc?" and his feuds with Elmer Fudd, Yosemite Sam, Marvin the Martian, 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 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 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, 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.

Bugs Bunny is a modern equivalent of the mythological trickster figure.

"Bugs" or "Bugsy" as a nickname means "crazy". Bugs' real name (according to a comic book) is George Washington Bunny.



A suggested early influence

A number of animation historians believe Bugs to have been influenced by an earlier Disney character called Max Hare. Max, designed by Charlie Thorsen, 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 malso 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 Thorsen. He was also responsible for the redesign of Bugs from a white to a gray rabbit for his third appearance Hare-um Scare-um (see below), thus the similarity in design.

Proto-typical rabbits

A sketch of Bugs by artist Mark Farinas in the style of director Robert Clampett.
A sketch of Bugs by artist Mark Farinas in the style of director Robert Clampett.

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, 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. 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 this cartoon, he also quoted Groucho Marx for the first time (from the movie Duck Soup): "Of course, you know, this means war!"

His second appearance was in 1939's Prest-O Change-O, directed by Chuck Jones, where 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, 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. 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 gray bunny instead of a white one; the redesign having been done by Charlie Thorsen (see above). 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. "Bugs" or "Bugsy" as a name also fit the Bunny's early characterization, as it was popular vernacular for "crazy".

His fourth appearance was in the 1940 short Elmer's Candid Camera by Chuck Jones. There, 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.

Bugs emerges

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.

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 name Bugs Bunny, which up till then was only used among the Termite Terrace employees. It was Chuck Jones' Elmer's Pet Rabbit, released in January 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.

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 Blackfaceesque stereotype of a Black man as Bugs' protagonist; The Heckling Hare, the final Bugs short Avery worked on before defecting to MGM; and Wabbit Twouble, the first Bugs short directed by Robert Clampett. Wabbit Twouble was also the first of four 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.

Popularity during World War II

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.

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 Bunny was popular during the World War II years because of his bombastic attitude, and began receiving special star billing in his cartoons by 1943. Like Disney and Famous Studios had been doing, Warners put Bugs in opposition to the time's biggest enemies: Adolf Hitler, Mussolini, and the Japanese. The 1944 short Bugs Bunny Nips the Nips, features Bugs at odds with Herr Goring, Hitler's right-hand man.

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, Falling Hare, and What's Cookin' Doc?; and Chuck Jones' Superman parody Super-Rabbit, and Friz Freleng's Little Red Riding Rabbit. The 1944 short Bugs Bunny and the Three Bears introduced Chuck Jones' The Three Bears characters.

After the war

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. 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.

The Bugs Bunny short Knighty Knight Bugs (1958), in which a medieval Bugs Bunny traded blows with Yosemite Sam and his fire-breathing dragon, won the Academy Award for Best Short Subject: Cartoons of 1958. Chuck Jones' 1957 classic, What's Opera, Doc? (1957), features Bugs and Elmer parodying Wagner's Ring, 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 have achieved this honor. It is also remembered for Elmer's unique take on "Ride of the Valkyries:" "Kill the wabbit, kill the wabbit, kill the wabbit...!"

In fall 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 30 full years.

Also when Mel Blanc died in 1989, 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 holiday specials including 1980's Bugs Bunny Busting Out All Over which featured the first new Bugs Bunny cartoons in 16 years with "Portrait Of The Artist As a Young Bunny", which features a flashback of Bugs as a child thwarting a young Elmer Fudd, and "Spaced Out Bunny", with Bugs being kidnapped by Marvin the Martian to be a playmate for Hugo the Abominable Snowman. Also, ther have been new compilation films made by Warner Bros., including Bugs Bunny, Superstar, The Bugs Bunny/Road Runner Movie, The Looney Looney Looney Bugs Bunny Movie, Daffy Duck's Fantastic Island, Bugs Bunny's Third Movie: 1001 Rabbit Tales and Daffy Duck's Quackbusters. He also made guest appearances in episodes of the television program Tiny Toon Adventures as the principal of Acme Looniversity and the mentor of Babs and Buster Bunny.

Like Mickey Mouse for The Walt Disney Company, Bugs has served as its mascot for Warner Bros. Studios and its various divisions.

Missing image
Bugs Bunny in Space Jam.

Bugs made an appearance in the 1990 drug prevention video Cartoon All-Stars to the Rescue.

In 1997, Bugs appeared on a U.S. postage stamp. 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. A younger version of Bugs is the main character of Baby Looney Tunes, which debuted on Cartoon Network in 2002.

Also, Bugs has appeared in numerous video games, including Bugs Bunny's Crazy Castle, Bugs Bunny: Rabbit Rampage, Bugs Bunny: Lost in Time, and its sequel, Bugs Bunny & Taz: Time Busters.

Greatest cartoon character?

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. [1] (http://archives.cnn.com/2002/SHOWBIZ/TV/07/30/cartoon.characters) [2] (http://archives.cnn.com/2002/SHOWBIZ/TV/07/30/cartoon.characters.list/index.html)

In a CNN broadcast on July 31, a TV Guide editor talked about how they went about going about the list. The editor also talked about Bugs being named the greatest toon character. He said that "his stock...has never gone down...Bugs is the best example...of the smart-alec 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." [3] (http://transcripts.cnn.com/TRANSCRIPTS/0207/31/lt.20.html)

Further reading

  • Bugs Bunny: 50 Years and Only One Grey Hare, by Joe Adamson (1990), Henry Holt, ISBN 0805018557
  • Looney Tunes and Merrie Melodies, by Jerry Beck and Will Friedwald (1989), Henry Holt, ISBN 0805008942
  • 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, ISBN 0446390895 (Softcover) ISBN 0446512443 (Hardcover)
  • Of Mice and Magic: A History of American Animated Cartoons, Leonard Maltin, Revised Edition 1987, Plume ISBN 0452259932 (Softcover) ISBN 061364753X (Hardcover)

External links


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