Bugs Bunny: Cartoon Icons of American TV
The brainchild of cartoon director Tex Avery, Bugs Bunny is a world-famous cartoon character who starred in the Looney Tunes and Merrie Melodies series of animated films produced by Leon Schlesinger Productions, which later became Warner Bros.
Recognized by his trademark carrot, quick and often ironic whit, and his love for costumes, Bugs Bunny has been part of American pop culture for over 70 years, voted the "greatest cartoon character of all time" by TV Guide.
Starring in 167 film shorts during the Golden Age of American animation (as well as appearing in several non-animated films including Space Jam and Who Framed Roger Rabbit), Bugs evolved from a less developed character who first appeared in the 1938 Warner Brothers cartoon Porky’s Hare Hunt. Two years later, on July 27, 1940, Bugs made his first official appearance--sharing top billing with co-star Elmer Fudd--in A Wild hare, the film short where the famous “hunter vs. tormentor” paradigm was born. In was in this now classic cartoon that Bugs first emerges from his rabbit hole to ask Elmer the immortal, "What's up, Doc?" while chewing a carrot.
Bugs Bunny (in his Wild Hare persona) went on to appear in five more shorts in 1941, Tortoise Beats Hare, Hiawatha's Rabbit Hunt, All This and Rabbit Stew, The Heckling Hare, and Wabbit Twouble. Rocketing to stardom, Bugs became Merrie Melodies number one cartoon celebrity by 1942, starring in The Wabbit Who Came to Supper, The Wacky Wabbit, and Bugs Bunny Gets the Boid (which introduced the recurring character Beaky Buzzard).
Between 1942 and 1949, Bugs went through several slight redesigns--less-prominent front teeth and a rounder head, then more slanted eyes, longer teeth, and a much larger mouth--before an ultimate design was chosen.
Other 1942 Bugs Bunny shorts included Hold the Lion, Please, Freleng's Fresh Hare, and The Hare-Brained Hypnotist (with Elmer Fudd), and Jones' Case of the Missing Hare. Bugs also made cameos in Tex Avery's final Warner Brothers short, Crazy Cruise, and had the honor of starring in the two-minute United States war bonds commercial Any Bonds Today.
During World War II (1939 to 1945), Bugs became more popular than ever due of his “American” free and easy attitude, and began receiving special star billing in 1943. By that time, Warner Brothers had become the most profitable cartoon studio in the United States. Like Disney and Famous Studios, the Warners matched their characters against the world's biggest enemies, Adolf Hitler, Benito Mussolini, and the Japanese, so Bugs was pitted against group of Japanese soldiers in Bugs Bunny Nips the Nips in 1944; a cartoon that has since been pulled due to its racial stereotyping. He also faced off against Herman Goering and Hitler in Herr Meets Hare, which introduced his well-known reference to Albuquerque as he mistakenly winds up in the Black Forest of “Joimany” instead of Las Vegas, Nevada.
Among Bugs' most notable “civilian” shorts of this period are Bob Clampett's Tortoise Wins by a Hare (a sequel to Tortoise Beats Hare), A Corny Concerto (a spoof of Disney's Fantasia), Falling Hare, What's Cookin' Doc?, Chuck Jones' Superman parody Super-Rabbit, and Freleng's Little Red Riding Rabbit--all now considered super-classics. The 1944 short Bugs Bunny and the Three Bears introduces Jones' The Three Bears characters.
After World War II, Bugs appeared in numerous cartoon shorts in the Looney Tunes and Merrie Melodies series, making his last appearance in the theatrical cartoons False Hare, in 1964.
The late 50s brought Knighty Knight Bugs, Rabbit Fire, Rabbit Seasoning, and Duck! Rabbit, Duck!, and the super-classic, What's Opera, Doc?, casting Bugs and Elmer in a parody of Richard Wagner's Der Ring des Nibelungen, which has been deemed "culturally significant" by the United States Library of Congress and selected for preservation in the National Film Registry, the first cartoon short ever to receive this prestigious honor. Then in 1958 Bugs even won the Academy Award for Best Short Subject (cartoons)--a milestone for any character, animated or flesh and blood.
In the fall of 1960, ABC gave Bugs his own prime-time television show, The Bugs Bunny Show, which garnered an instant loyal following. This show packaged many of the post-1948 Warner’s shorts with newly animated “wraparounds.” After two seasons, it was moved from its prime-time evening slot to reruns on Saturday mornings. The Bugs Bunny Show--though frequently changing titles and formats, remained a beloved mainstay of television for the next 40 years, a favorite of kids, moms and dads of all ages.
Beginning in the 1980s, Bugs began making cameo appearances in numerous specials including How Bugs Bunny Won the West, and The Bugs Bunny Mystery Special, with Bugs Bunny's Busting Out All Over featuring the first new Bugs Bunny cartoons in 16 years. (It opened with "Portrait of the Artist as a Young Bunny,” featuring a flashback of Bugs as a young rabbie thwarting a young Elmer Fudd, and "Spaced Out Bunny,” with Bugs being kidnapped by Marvin the Martian to be a playmate for Hugo, an Abominable Snowman-like character.
The late 1980s saw the first in a series of Bugs Bunny movies, Bugs Bunny: Superstar, followed by The Bugs Bunny/Road Runner Movie, The Looney Looney Looney Bugs Bunny Movie, Daffy Duck's Fantastic Island, and Bugs Bunny's 3rd Movie: 1001 Rabbit Tales.
In 1990 Bugs lent his talents and star power to the drug prevention video cartoon All-Stars to the Rescue. He also made guest appearances in episodes of Tiny Toon Adventures, and would later make occasional guest cameos on spinoffs Taz-Mania and Animaniacs. He also appears in the beginning of Gremlins 2: The New Batch, where he tries to ride the opening Warner Bros logo--but is interrupted by Daffy Duck.
Receiving one of the highest accolades of the entertainment industry, in 1997, Bugs appeared on a US postage stamp, the first cartoon character to be so honored, beating out Mickey Mouse for this prestigious spot. The stamp is number seven on the list of the ten most popular US stamps (calculated by the number of stamps purchased but not used). The Bugs Bunny stamp sheet, which featured a special ten-stamp design, was the first self-adhesive souvenir sheet issued in U.S. Postal Service history.
Bugs and the rest of the Looney Tunes gang returned to Cartoon Network in 2011 in a brand new show called The Looney Tunes Show, debuting on May 3, 2011.
Mel Blanc voiced Bugs Bunny character for 49 years, from Bugs' debut in A Wild Hare (1940) until Blanc's death in 1989.
Jeff Bergman was the first to voice Bugs Bunny (and several other Looney Tunes characters) after Mel Blanc died in 1989.
Greg Burson first voiced Bugs in later episodes of Tiny Toon Adventures. He was then given the responsibility of voicing Bugs in 1995's Carrotblanca, a well-received 8-minute Looney Tunes cartoon originally shown in cinemas alongside The Amazing Panda Adventure (US) and The Pebble and the Penguin (outside the US)
Billy West, once the voice of Beany and Cecil, West provided the voice of both Bugs Bunny and Elmer Fudd in the late 1990s and went go on to reprise the roles of Bugs in subsequent Looney Tunes productions including his cameos on Histeria!
Joe Alaskey's first performance as Bugs Bunny came in the 2003 feature film Looney Tunes: Back in Action. Best known for voicing Daffy Duck, Alaskey has also gone on to do Bugs' voice in several productions including Daffy Duck for President and several recent video games and Looney Tunes cartoons including Hare and Loathing in Las Vegas.
Samuel Vincent served as the voice of Bugs in the Cartoon Network TV series Baby Looney Tunes.
Noel Blanc, Mel Blanc's son, voiced Bugs for the Tiny Toons special It's a Wonderful Tiny Toon Christmas Special. Noel can also be seen doing Bugs' voice with his father in the documentary on the making of the film Who Framed Roger Rabbit.
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