Everyone’s favorite carrot-chomping, wise-cracking rabbit is celebrating his 67th birthday today. Bugs Bunny first appeared in Tex Avery’s much-loved short, A Wild Hare, on July 27, 1940. In this monumental short, Bugs actually comes out of his rabbit hole and asks hunter Elmer Fudd the famous question, ‘What’s up, Doc?’ It’s considered the first fully developed appearance of Bugs according to toon historians and also the first time Mel Blanc actually uses the standard version of the character’s voice. (An earlier rendition of Bugs starred in five Happy Rabbit shorts from 1938-1949).
He was finally introduced to viewers as Bugs Bunny and got top billing in Chuck Jones’ Elmer’s Pet Rabbit that same year. Before long, the cool, sharp-minded rabbit became the most popular and prominent of all of the Looney Tunes charcters. He has appeared in numerous shorts in the Looney Tunes and Merrie Melodies series?a period which wrapped with False Hare in 1964. Friz Freleng, Robert McKimson, Tex Avery and Chuck Jones were among the toon legends who directed shorts featuring Bugs. Through the years, Bugs has starred in over 175 shorts The ‘Wascally Wabbit’ graced several feature projects such as Who Framed Roger Rabbit, Space Jams and Looney Tunes: Back in Action.
In interviews, Jones and Freleng have talked about the famous Bugs pose of leaning against a fence and chewing his carrot and how it was inspired by a similar scene in Frank Capra’s It Happened One Night, in which Clark Gable’s character does the same thing to woo Claudette Colbert. Bugs topped TV Guide’s 2002 list of the most popular animated characters of all time. If you need to brush up on your Bugs trivia, he won the Oscar for 1958’s Knighty Knight Bugs (1958) and was nominated three times for 1940’s The Wild Hare and 1941’s Hiawatha’s Rabbit Hut. In addition to Blanc who voiced Bugs from 1940 until 1989, Jeff Bergman, Greg Burson and Joe Alaskey have also portrayed the famous rabbit. He is currently voiced by Billy West.
If you need to brush up on your Bugs history, you can check out the following books: Bugs Bunny: 50 Years and Only One Grey Hare by Joe Adamson (Henry Holt Pub.), Looney Tunes and Merrie Melodies by Jerry Beck and Will Friedwald (Henry Holt Pub.) and Chuck Amock: The Life and Times of an Animated Cartoonist by Chuck Jones (Farrar, Straus and Giroux). You can also relive your favorite hare-raising moments by viewing the fantastic four-volume DVD collections Looney Tunes: Golden Collection (1 thru 4) and Looney Tunes Movie Collection which includes Bugs Bunny-Road Runner Movie and 1001 Rabbit Tales.
To quote the rabbit, himself, ‘Silly, ain’t he?’ And that’s exactly why we love him. Happy Birthday, Bugs!