Wednesday (7/27/10) marked the 70th anniversary of the first ever animated short featuring the legendary Bugs Bunny. Created by Tex Avery and Produced by Leon Schlesinger Productions, “A Wild Hare” is considered by many animation historians to be the first appearance of the famous bunny that in 2002 TV Guide would go on to call the most important cartoon character ever created, it’s also noted for being the first short to give Elmer Fudd his notable voice and distinct look, though it was not Fudd’s first appearance in a cartoon. Some would argue the claim that “A Wild Hare” is the first appearance of Bugs Bunny because of a piece of footage from 1938 titled “Porky’s Hare Hunt” which features an unnamed rabbit that bears strong resemblance to what would become Bugs, as well as many characteristics and mannerisms that could construed people to think that the two were indeed one in the same. Many changes were made to the prototype rabbit for “A Wild Hare” and characteristics such as his trademark look and voice going forward would be based off of this appearance, it’s also the first short to have the famous rabbit mutter his trademark saying, “What’s up Doc?”.
The first Bugs Bunny animated short would go on to be nominated for an Academy Award alongside the first ever prototype of a Tom & Jerry short, though both would lose out to a piece of animation called “The Milky Way”, which was an MGM release. In an odd move for it’s time, “A Wild Hare” was even turned into a radio broadcast which was loosely adapted on the animated short and was aired in 1941 on a show hosted by a famous comedian named Al Pierce, this kind of thing was not the norm in the 40’s and was actually followed up with an interview by the shorts producer, Leon Schlesinger. The now famous short would eventually be one of many classic shorts that would be reissued through Merrie Melodies for what would become Warner Brothers
Cartoons in 1944.
Bugs Bunny was officially a hit, more and more animated shorts would be made using the character and by the time it was all said and done Bugs had gone on to star in a total of 163 Looney Tunes/Merrie Melodies cartoons during the original production. Throughout the next few decades many animators would play around with Bugs Bunny’s design and add a few things that would modernize the character, some have grown to love the changes while others hated it, but as the animation industry evolved it was necessary to keep Bugs relevant to new potential viewers. Things such as bigger front teeth, fatter cheeks and a more upright standing posture would be added to give Bugs the look that people know today, but also his voice would change multiple times throughout the years all while keeping his beloved sarcasm and classic catch phrases. Personally, I would like to thank those who have voiced this character over the past 70 years, so my admiration and respect goes out to Mel Blanc, Jeff Bergman, Greg Burson, Billy West, Joe Alaskey, Sam Vincent and Noel Blanc, you have all played a part in the success of quite possibly the greatest character in animation history. Over the years some of these great men have passed away, but their contribution to the Bugs Bunny character will continue to live on in our minds and hearts forever. I would like to say the same for the producers and the animators who are responsible for the character to see the light of day, animation is a true team effort and all of the men involved in Bugs Bunny’s rise to the top deserve a round of applause.
Animation aside, I wanted to discuss some of the cool feats within pop culture that everyone’s favorite hare has achieved, some of them quite big, some of them rather small, but all of them adding to the legacy of Tex Avery’s classic cartoon character. Getting away from animation for a bit, Bugs Bunny once starred in a number of comic books that were produced throughout the years from various comic book companies, most notably by Gold Key Publishing where the character enjoyed a run of 133 issues. Dell Publishing also released a number of comics based on the legendary Rabbit, 58 issues were published as well as multiple one-shot specials bearing the likeness of the world’s most famous rabbit. One tidbit of information that may surprise some people is that Bugs Bunny is one of the first two cartoon characters to have a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame, the other famous character alongside Bugs Bunny would be Disney’s Micky Mouse. Another fun fact for the readers of this blog would be that Bugs Bunny was the first ever cartoon character to be featured on a U.S stamp, and believe it or not, the stamp currently stands as the 7th most purchased stamp in United States history. Pretty neat, huh? The rascally rabbit has also seen parts in over 14 different video games throughout the years spanning many different consoles, most of which he was a playable character embarking on missions, while in others of which he was just making a small cameo. Going back to animation for a moment, Bugs Bunny is also an Academy Award winner for a short titled, “Knighty Knight Bugs” (1958), and was nominated on 2 other occasions for “A Wild Hare” (1940) and “Hiawatha’s Rabbit Hunt” (1941).
Well, that’s about it. To be honest, there isn’t much more I can say about the legendary Bugs Bunny that I haven’t said already, I just wanted to celebrate his 70th Birthday with a short blog touching upon his evolution as well as some of his achievements throughout the 70 years the world has known the character. The great thing about Bugs is that his greatness isn’t nearly over yet, there is even more to come from Warner Brothers and I think we will continue to see Bugs Bunny throughout many different media outlets for years to come. To bring this post to an end I would like to thank the voice actors, producers, animators and everyone else responsible who have helped to bring this classic character to life, without these great individuals we may have never been treated to such an amazing piece of history.