Back in 1938, there was a short cartoon called Porky's Hare Hunt, and it had a character in it named "Happy Rabbit." The directors of this cartoon were Ben "Bugs" Hardaway and Cal Dalton. Mr. Dalton is the one who drew the rabbit. In this cartoon, Porky Pig is a hunter who is tracking his rabbit prey, and the rabbit is more interested in driving Porky insane than in escaping. This is pretty much how Bugs Bunny would act. Also in this cartoon, Happy Rabbit says, "Of course you realize this means war!"
Happy Rabbit was in a couple of other cartoons, and then in 1940, he showed up in A Wild Hare as Bugs Bunny, along with Elmer Fudd. This was also the first time when Bugs said, "What's up, Doc?" The name "Bugs" or "Bugsy" was a nickname that was used in those days to mean "crazy" or "loopy." There were some famous people who were called by this name, like for instance, the gangster Bugsy Siegel. But nowadays you only hear it in a phrase like "you're bugging me."
|Elmer and Bugs in A Wild Hare|
Bugs Bunny soon became the number one star of Merrie Melodies. A man named Robert McKimson redesigned Bugs Bunny a couple of times, and gave him more slanted eyes, longer teeth, and a bigger mouth.
During World War II, Bugs Bunny was really popular because everybody liked his free and easy attitude. In 1943, he started getting star billing in cartoons, and in 1944, he began starring in the Looney Tunes series. At the end of the cartoon Super-Rabbit, Bugs wore a Marine Corps dress uniform, and after that, the USMC made him an honorary Marine Master Sergeant. He was also the official mascot of Kingman Army Airfield in Arizona, and of 530 Squadron of the 380th Bombardment Group, 5th Air Force, U.S. Air Force.
After the war, Bugs was in a bunch of cartoon shorts that were shown in movie theaters. Then he started being in feature films, such as Who Framed Roger Rabbit? and Space Jam. In 1960, he got his very own TV show, The Bugs Bunny Show. First it was on in the evening, and then it moved to Saturday morning. It stayed on TV for 40 years, which is a really long time.
The first voice of Bugs Bunny was Mel Blanc, and he did this job for 49 years, which is also a really long time. He said the voice was a combination of Bronx and Brooklyn accents. After Mr. Blanc died in 1989, the other people who have been the voice of Bugs are Jeff Bergman, Greg Burson, Billy West, and Joe Alaskey. These same men also did the voices for other Looney Tunes characters.
|Mel Blanc in 1976|
Bugs Bunny is always getting into some kind of feud with another character such as Elmer Fudd, Yosemite Sam, Willoughby the Dog, Marvin the Martian, Porky Pig, Daffy Duck, Tasmanian Devil, Wile E. Coyote, or somebody else. Usually what happens is that Bugs is just minding his own business, and then another character threatens him or cheats him or does something else that annoys him. So he says "Of course you realize this means war!" which is a phrase that was first used by Groucho Marx in 1933 in a movie called Duck Soup. Then Bugs will proceed to outwit the other character because most of them are pretty stupid, except for maybe Daffy Duck.
The other thing that Bugs Bunny says a lot is "What's up, Doc?" He is usually leaning on a tree and eating a carrot when he says this. The phrase came from Tex Avery, who directed the first Bugs Bunny short. Mr. Avery said that the phrase was used a lot in Texas, where he came from, so he didn't think it was anything special. But audiences really liked it, so Bugs started saying it all the time.
One thing Bugs Bunny likes to do is wear some kind of disguise. He especially likes to dress up as a female. The funny thing about his disguises is that they fool his enemies, but the audience can always tell who he is.
Anyway, that is the story of Bugs Bunny, who is probably the most famous rabbit -- or hare -- who never lived. In 2004, Animal Planet made a list of the 50 Greatest Movie Animals, and Bugs was #3, right after Mickey Mouse and Toto. And in Channel 4's list of 100 Greatest Cartoons, Bugs Bunny was voted number 10. Oh, and he also has his very own star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame, and you can't get much more famous than that!