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Bugs Bunny: Yes, There Are Facts/Stories You Didn't Know About Him

1940s | July 27, 2020

Bugs Bunny debuted 80 years ago today. (Warner Bros.)

Happy 80th birthday, you wascally wabbit! Bugs Bunny made his official debut on July 27, 1940, and he's been chomping on carrots and thwarting hunters to the amusement of kids and adults alike ever since. You probably think you know the beloved cartoon rabbit as well as anyone you've known since you were a kid, but if there's anything this stinker is known for, it's always having a few tricks up his sleeve.

"Porky's Hare Hunt." (Warner Bros.)

Bugs Is Actually Older Than He Appears

Officially, Bugs Bunny debuted in 1940's A Wild Hare, but he is actually a bit older than that. A 1938 Porky Pig cartoon called Porky's Hare Hunt featured a distinctly Bugs-like bunny, but the character, which was unnamed in this short, may not have appeared at all had it not been for the willingness of artists under pressure to take lazy shortcuts. The studio wanted a new Porky Pig film, so in a time crunch, they simply swapped the duck character in the previous year's Porky's Duck Hunt (which marked the debut of another future famous Looney Tune, Daffy Duck) with the rabbit.

Did Tom and Jerry copy Bugs, or did Bugs copy Tom and Jerry? (Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer)

Was Bugs Bunny A Plagiarist?

In 1947, Warner Bros' Rhapsody Rabbit and MGM's The Cat Concerto, starring Tom and Jerry, were both in the running for an Oscar. There was only one problem: The films were nearly identical. In both, the anthropomorphic hero (Bugs or Tom) dons a tuxedo with tails to play a grand piano, where he is harassed by a mouse (Jerry in the MGM film and an unnamed mouse in the Warner Bros. piece), leading to a series of comedic gags and stunts. The dramatic similarities between the two naturally led to allegations that one cartoon company plagiarized the other, but just who copied who? The short answer is that no one knows. Warner Bros. noted that they produced their film earlier, but MGM countered that Bugs was uncharacteristically cast as the victim in Rhapsody Rabbit and it seemed odd that a rabbit would instinctively chase a mouse.

Clark Gable's carrot scene inspired Bugs Bunny. (Columbia Pictures)

Famous Inspirations

In a memorable scene from It Happened One Night, Clark Gable's character nonchalantly leans against a fence post, talking fast and chomping on carrots. Warner Bros. animators found the performance so brilliantly cartoonish that they used it as a model for Bugs Bunny's carrot-chomping shenanigans. Funny guy Groucho Marx also inspired some of Bugs's mannerisms and speech, and his personality was rumored to be patterned after Charlie Chaplin. 

Bugs Bunny officially debuted in 1940. (Warner Bros.)

He Could Have Been A "Happy Bunny"

When Bugs Bunny was still nameless, animators toyed with calling him Happy Bunny, but he was often referred to as "Bug's bunny" because he drawn by an animator named Ben Hardaway who went by the nickname Bug. Although the character is often happy, "Bugs" seemed like a more fitting name, so it stuck.

There was a reason why Bugs and Mickey appeared alongside each other in "Who Framed Roger Rabbit?" (Touchstone Pictures)

A Rivalry With Mickey

Warner Bros. and Disney produced some of the most beloved cartoon characters of all time, so it's understandable that the two companies would develop a rivalry of sorts. This competition was referenced in the cameo appearances of both companies' brightest stars in the 1988 movie Who Framed Roger Rabbit? Warner Bros. only allowed Bugs Bunny and Daffy Duck to appear in the movie if they were given the exact same screen time as Disney's characters, which is why Daffy Duck always appears alongside his Disney counterpart, Donald, and Bugs Bunny shares every scene with the almighty Mouse.

Bugs is one of the few and the proud. (Warner Bros.)

Bugs Is A Military Man

During World War II, the United States military worked with Warner Bros. to produce a series of short instructional films to educate the troops on a wide variety of subjects. The films were classified information, and even the folks at Warner Bros. couldn't see the finished products. In the made-for-the-public short film Super-Rabbit in 1943, however, Bugs Bunny donned a U.S. Marines uniform after the Marines made Bugs an honorary private. They continued to promote him until he retired with the rank of master sergeant. 

Mel Blanc voiced Bugs Bunny. (pdxpeople.com)

Did Bugs Bunny Save Mel Blanc's Life?

One day in 1961, Mel Blanc—the actor responsible for Bugs Bunny's unmistakable voice, as well as those of numerous other cartoon characters—was involved in a terrible accident. He was hurt so badly that he spent two weeks in a coma until one of his doctors got the idea to try to reach Blanc in the part of his brain where his characters lived, asking him, "Bugs Bunny, how are you doing today?" To his surprise, Blanc responded, in the voice of Bugs Bunny, "What's up, doc?"

Tags: 1940s | cartoons | hollywood

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Karen Harris

Writer

Karen left the world of academic, quitting her job as a college professor to write full-time. She spends her days with her firefighter husband and four daughters on a hobby farm with an assortment of animals, including a goat named Atticus, a turkey named Gravy, and a chicken named Chickaletta.