Bugs and Private Snafu via Wikimedia Commons // Public Domain
Bugs and Private Snafu via Wikimedia Commons // Public Domain

11 Mischievous Facts About Bugs Bunny

Bugs and Private Snafu via Wikimedia Commons // Public Domain
Bugs and Private Snafu via Wikimedia Commons // Public Domain

Bugs Bunny, one of the most iconic cartoon characters of all time, has been around for three quarters of a century. Warner Bros. began featuring smart-talking rabbits in its cartoons as early as the 1930s, but it wasn't until 1940 that the rogue we know and love began to take shape on the screen. Here are 11 facts about the impish rabbit, who debuted 75 years ago this week. 

1. He first appeared as an extra in a Porky Pig cartoon. 

The then-unnamed rabbit was created in 1938 for a cartoon in which Porky Pig went hunting, but the actual character wouldn't appear until years later. 

2. Bugs Bunny might not exist if not for a time crunch. 

Merrie Melodies - A Wild Hare (1940) by Cartoonzof2006

In 1938, Warner Brothers wanted to make a cartoon as quickly as possible. The previous year, they had released Porky’s Duck Hunt, which introduced Daffy Duck. Faced with the deadline, Bob Clampett decided to reuse some of the jokes that he had left over from Duck Hunt. And someone suggested that they “dress the duck in a rabbit suit.” The result was Porky’s Hare Hunt.

Over the next few years, they tinkered with the character until it wound up with Tex Avery, Bob Givens, and Mel Blanc, who together would create Bugs Bunny. He showed up in a 1940 short called A Wild Hare.

3. His voice was originally designed to mimic Daffy Duck’s. 

During his inception, Bugs director I. Freling decided the rabbit’s voice would be similar to Daffy’s, since the duck was already a popular character. The voice actor who played Bugs, Mel Blanc, also provided the voice for Daffy Duck, as well as most other Looney Tunes favorites like Tweety Bird, Speedy Gonzales, and Marvin the Martian. 

4. His mannerisms were partially inspired by Clark Gable. 

Bugs’ nonchalant, carrot-eating manner was inspired by a scene in It Happened One Night, when the fast-talking Clark Gable snacks on carrots while leaning on a fence. The character also took inspiration from Groucho Marx.

5. The creators were worried he would seem like a bully. 

“It was very important that he be provoked, because otherwise he’d be a bully,” director Chuck Jones said in an interview in 1998. “We didn’t want that. We wanted him to be a nice person.”

6. He does occasionally lose to Elmer Fudd.  

What's Opera Doc by MistyIsland1

Notably, Bugs loses the battle in his constant war with bumbling hunter Elmer Fudd in What’s Opera, Doc, the 1957 short that parodies Wagner’s operas. 

7. He made cameos in World War II military propaganda.  

Bugs Bunny shows up in several Private Snafu shorts, instructional cartoons designed to educate U.S. military troops about things like proper sanitation and not leaking American secrets. The films were classified information, and even workers who put together the animations at Warner Bros. were not allowed to see the finished product. 

8. Bugs shows up on Seinfeld

When the Seinfeld gang goes to the opera in the fourth season of the show, Jerry sings part of the theme song from The Bugs Bunny/Road Runner Hour. “All your knowledge of high culture comes from Bugs Bunny cartoons,” Elaine tells him. 

9. Psychologists use him to study false memories.

In several psychological studies about false beliefs, scientists have shown people fake advertisements for Disney World featuring Bugs Bunny. A significant portion of subjects then claimed to remember going to Disney and meeting Bugs, even though a Warner Bros. character would never be on display at a Disney theme park. 

10. The man who voiced him wasn't allergic to carrots. 

The story that Mel Blanc was allergic to carrots dates back at least to 1945, when animators told the New York Times that Mel Blanc would chew a carrot and spit it out, otherwise he’d get sick. But both his autobiographyThat's Not All, Folks!—and Chuck McKibben, operations manager at Mel Blanc Studios, give a different story: McKibben told The Straight Dope that Blanc wasn’t allergic to carrots—he just chewed one and spat it out so that he could keep recording his lines (although McKibben does point out that Mel didn’t like “anything healthy”).

11. Bugs Bunny has saved lives. 

In 1961, Blanc got in a serious car accident that left him in a coma for weeks. Eventually, a doctor tried to get the unresponsive patient to talk by asking him, “Bugs Bunny, how are you doing today?” Blanc responded in Bugs’ voice, “What’s up, Doc?” Later, the doctor would say of the incident,“It seemed like Bugs Bunny was trying to save his life.”

British Film Institute
Pop Culture
Where to Watch Over 300 British Animated Films for Free Online
British Film Institute
British Film Institute

The history of animation doesn’t begin and end with studios in Japan and the U.S. Artists in the UK have been drawing and sculpting cartoons for over a century, and now some of the best examples of the medium to come out of the country are available to view for free online.

As It’s Nice That reports, the British Film Institute has uploaded over 300 films to the new archive on BFI player. Dubbed "Animated Britain," the expansive collection includes hand-drawn and stop motion animation and many distinct styles in between. Viewers will find ads, documentaries, films for children, and films for adults dating from 1904 to the 21st century. Episodes of classic cartoons like SuperTed and Clangers as well as obscure clips that are hard to find elsewhere are represented.

The archive description reads:

“Through its own weird alchemy, animation can bring our wildest imaginings to life, and yet it can also be a powerful tool for exploring our everyday reality. Silly, surreal, sweet or caustic, this dizzyingly diverse selection showcases British animation's unique contribution to the art form, and offers a history ripe for rediscovery.”

This institution’s project marks their start of a whole year dedicated to animation. UK residents can stream the selected films for free at BFI player, or check out their rental offerings for more British animated classics.

[h/t It’s Nice That]

Pop Culture
Why Mickey Mouse Could Soon Be in the Public Domain

Mickey Mouse debuted to the world in the 1928 animated short Steamboat Willie, and has since transformed into an icon recognized around the world. But the mouse’s status as Disney's exclusive property is under threat. As Ars Technica reports, Steamboat Willie is set to enter the public domain in 2024, and unlike in previous years, there have been no moves from Congress to stop that from happening. Once it does, in theory, anyone could use Mickey's image for free.

This is the third time the cartoon has been on the verge of losing its copyright protection. The first came in the 1970s, back when copyright terms only lasted 56 years. That meant every book, song, and movie made in 1923 was scheduled to lose its protected status in 1979, and Steamboat Willie would follow on its 56th anniversary in 1984. But in 1976, under pressure from companies like Disney, Congress extended the statute to 75 years, keeping all works made after 1923 from becoming public domain until 1998 or later. Mickey remained safely out of the public domain for another two decades. Then, when copyright terms were again scheduled to expire in 1998, Congress extended them a second time, this time to 95 years.

Now, the clock is ticking down for these older works once again as the 2018 expiration date of that copyright extension nears. Only this time, it looks like Congress may let them become public property without a fight.

Today’s constituents tend to care more about copyright law now than they did in 1976 or even in 1998. The rise of online streaming and easily accessible pirated content has made the issue more relevant to the life of the average person than ever before. The defeat of the Stop Online Piracy Act (SOPA) in 2012 made this clear to legislators. That bill, which would have empowered law enforcement to punish or block sites sharing pirated content, was so controversial that it sparked protests across the web. Because of the sheer scale of that public response, lawmakers are now hesitant to change any existing copyright protections, including those set to expire on January 1, 2019.

But even if those protections expire, Disney could still find a way to prevent rival studios from using Mickey’s image when 2024 rolls around. While copyrights are designed to be temporary, trademarks have the potential for serious lasting power. That’s because copyrights only protect a single work of artistic expression (in this case, the film Steamboat Willie), while trademarks are attached to images and logos that represent a brand (so Mickey Mouse, the character). As long as Disney can prove that Mickey has evolved beyond his first screen appearance into a symbol that’s synonymous with its corporation, he’ll remain a protected property. And if you take a look at their theme parks, cruise ships, media, and the dozens of Hidden Mickeys they've hidden in their movies, you’ll see that they can easily make that case.

But few works of art made in the 1920s have taken the same path to corporate dominance as Mickey Mouse, even other works made famous by Disney (like Winnie the Pooh, first introduced in A.A. Milne's stories in 1926). Even if Disney manages to protect Mickey, the public should have a big new batch of copyright-free content to access in the next few years.

[h/t Ars Technica]


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