A small child once said to me: “You don’t draw Bugs Bunny; you draw pictures of Bugs Bunny.” That’s a very profound observation because it means he thinks that the characters are alive, which as far as I am concerned is true. And, I feel the same way about animation… Animation isn’t an illusion of life. It is life.”-Chuck Jones
“Eh! What’s up, Doc?” Hot News! Preparations are on at The Burrow for Bugs Bunny’s birthday bash on July 27th. Originally, Bugs Bunny was introduced by director Ben “Bugs” Hardaway as a daft rival for Porky Pig in Warner Bros.’ cartoon, “Porky’s Hare Hunt” in 1938. In 1940, he was moulded into a protagonist in his own right and debuted in the Academy Award nominated, “A Wild Hare” by Tex Avery. Mel Blanc created his voice and Herman Cohen conjured up his signature statement, “What’s up Doc?”
Since then, there’s been no looking back for Bugs. He’s had a longer career than most movie artists and still continues to steal the hearts of youngsters and elders alike, with his wit, ingenuity and sheer spirit with which he takes on his antagonists. He’s been called everything from a silly cartoon, a classic character, an American institution and national hero, wascally wabbit and long-eared galoot, to simply Bugs. He’s been in almost all forms of films, be it movies, cartoon strips, prime-time television shows or advertising features. He’s been nominated for at least three Academy awards. Bugs received an Oscar nomination for “Hiawatha’s Rabbit Hunt” in 1942 and won the award for “Knighty-Knight Bugs” in 1958. Friz Freleng directed both.
Bugs has always been enjoyable because he is the perfect alchemy of a hero and comedian in one. He always wins… he makes mincemeat of his rivals, but not in a Batman or Superman kind of way. He’s different. He’s a smart aleck. There’s something about the way Bugs wins. There’s this generous sprinkling of speed and comedy. Mel Blanc, who dubbed for Bugs, once remarked “Bugs Bunny appeals to the rebel in all of us. Everybody loves a winner and Bugs Bunny always wins”.
Though Bugs is not yet history, his history is quite a disputed one. First arose the evergreen debate about his creator – was it Hardaway or was it Avery? The name however suggests a dedication to Ben “Bugs” Hardaway. Next came the question of whether he was cute or macho. I do not blame them for wondering… a rabbit is usually a cute and cuddly creature, but a rabbit that makes droll statements at gunpoint? When Rose Horsely, a famous publicist remarked that the name ‘Bugs Bunny’ was very cute, Tex Avery is known to have flown off the handle. “That’s sissy,” he said, “Mine’s a Rabbit! A tall, lanky, mean rabbit. He isn’t a fuzzy little bunny.” Nevertheless, the name stuck since the first time he was addressed as ‘Bugs Bunny’ onscreen, in Elmer’s “Pet Rabbit” directed by Chuck Jones in 1941.
The carrot-chomping hero, who has starred in many all-time favourites, directed by luminaries such as Tex Avery, Chuck Jones and Friz Freleng has undergone many changes in his appearance since his debut. By 1942, he had grown out of his baby-phase and evolved into the Classic Bugs Bunny, so popular today. Directors realised that Bugs was not just another cartoon but a complex character, with an identity to be looked up to.
For many, Bugs stood for more than a cool hero. He radiated the spirit of victory and the belief that the World War II could be won. It was during those war years that Bugs Bunny raced Disney and MGM for the first time to top the popularity charts. Whatever the reason, people just love to watch the cool rabbit casually rise from his hole, chewing on a carrot, gaping down the barrel of a gun and flippantly saying “Eh! What’s up Doc?” through the corner of his mouth. But he does work some magic that appeals to people of all ages; it’s not easy to stay on the top for close to 70 years from the days of “A Wild Hare” to “Space Jam” and later. There seems to be no end in sight for his stardom.
And I bet… that’s not all, folks!