On This Day

bugs bunny, elmer fudd, a wild hare
Looney Tunes: Collection Vol. 3
Elmer Fudd and Bugs Bunny in “A Wild Hare.”

On This Day: Bugs Bunny Makes Debut in “A Wild Hare”

July 27, 2011 05:00 AM
by findingDulcinea Staff
On July 27, 1940, Bugs Bunny appeared opposite Elmer Fudd in “A Wild Hare,” the first of over 175 animated shorts starring the Warner Brothers’ cartoon rabbit.

“What’s up, Doc?”

The scene is now familiar to anyone who has watched Looney Tunes cartoons: the bumbling Elmer Fudd tiptoes through the woods and tells the audience, “Shhh, be vewy, vewy quiet, I’m hunting wabbits.” The “wabbit” in question, Bugs Bunny, will no doubt outsmart his rival, but first there’s his famous catchphrase.

The world first heard Bugs Bunny’s utter “What’s up, Doc?” when the cartoon “A Wild Hare” was released by Warner Brothers on July 27, 1940.

Bugs was developed in the late 1930s by a host of cartoonists at Warner Brothers. Animator Ben “Bugs” Hardaway drew the earliest sketch of the rabbit, which was dubbed “Bugs’ Bunny” by other Warner Brothers employees. An early form of Bugs appeared in Hardaway’s 1938 black-and-white feature “Porky’s Hare Hunt.”

The character “was short, simply drawn, white, and acted like a cross between Daffy Duck and Woody Woodpecker,” describes Matthew Hunter of the site “Too Looney.”

Friz Freleng, Tex Avery and Chuck Jones developed the character, and famed voice actor Mel Blanc gave Bugs his “familiar wisecracking, Brooklynese delivery,” writes Encyclopedia Britannica. The finished Bugs featured in “A Wild Hare” was an immediate hit and producer Leon Schlesinger called for new Bugs Bunny cartoons.

The Appeal of Bugs Bunny

Bugs Bunny developed into one of America’s most popular characters during World War II, and has maintained that status over the following seven decades. Since his first appearance, Bugs Bunny has appeared in full-length motion pictures, prime-time specials, and over 175 animated shorts.

Unlike other cartoon characters that came before him, Bugs didn’t shy away from confrontation. “The gregarious but truly lovable Bugs Bunny always wins, no matter who he's battling, and no matter what the situation,” writes the Looney Tunes Web site. “No bully is too big, no hypocrite safe, no pompous adversary so powerful, that Bugs can't joyfully whittle him down to kindling wood.”

Bugs’ multifaceted personality is also part of his appeal, says NPR’s J.J. Sunderland. “Bugs is nice, but a bit of a bully, appealing and scary, high culture and low; he morphs from one to the other seamlessly.”

Mel Blanc, the voice of Bugs and characters such as Woody Woodpecker, Daffy Duck, Porky Pig, Tweety Pie, Sylvester the Cat and the Road Runner, said of Bugs: “He's a little stinker. That's why people love him. He does what most people would like to do but don't have the guts to do.”

Related Topic: Superman’s debut

Just two years before Bugs Bunny made his first appearance, Superman made his debut on the cover of Action Comics. The superhero captivated readers across the country who were in need of a hero.

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