Published: July 27, 2022

Bugs Bunny

On April 30, 1938, Warner Bros. released under their Looney Tunes imprint an animated short titled Porky’s Hare Hunt, in which our porcine hero comes upon a group of rabbits greedily wolfing down ears of corn pilfered from a farm. Suddenly, a shot fires through their midst, but it hardly registers with their corn-drunk brains. Then another shot and another whiz by. Suddenly, a larger, wiser rabbit appears and shouts “Jiggers, fellas!” It’s time for the rabbits to leg it. What follows is seven minutes of torment for our man Porky, as he tries fruitlessly to hunt down this unnamed leporine nutter.

Watching it today, one might easily dismiss it as a cheap Bugs Bunny knockoff. The voice is all wrong (it’s Mel Blanc, but it’s not Bugs), the look is way off, the personality imbued with far too much of Daffy Duck’s early mania (recall that Daffy was a fucking lunatic before petty jealousies turned him angry).

And so the mad scientists at Warner went back into the lab, and emerged on July 27, 1940 with the greatest cartoon character of all time making his world premiere in A Wild Hare, directed by the great Tex Avery, voiced by Blanc, with music by Carl Stallings. Though still an early iteration, it is unmistakably Bugs—the voice, the look, the cool, the low-level homoeroticism and the legendary tagline: “What’s up, Doc?”

This time the predator is Elmer Fudd, whom we meet tiptoeing through the forest before he turns to face us and say, “Shhh… Be vewy, vewy, quiet, I’m hunting wabbits.” It's a firehose of glorious mayhem as Bugs outwits Elmer at every turn, so befuddling Fudd that when Bugs fakes his own death at the hunter’s hands, Elmer breaks down sobbing, wracked with guilt.

“I’m a wabbit killer, why did I do it?” he wails as he stumbles off. A beat later Bugs pops to his feet, chomps on a carrot, looks into the camera and says, “Can you imagine anybody acting like that? You know, I think the poor guy’s screwy.”

Over the next quarter-century, Bugs would appear in more than 160 cartoons, and over his career, appear in more episodes than any other character ever, while setting the gold standard for animated entertainment.

It remains unclear how or why, but somewhere along the way, Western culture took a wrong turn and kids who were raised on Bugs Bunny thought it would be a good idea to have their kids watch shit like The Octonauts and Paw Patrol. It's sad, really.

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