Saturday, 23 March 2013

An Interview With Bugs Bunny

Hollywood is a hype machine, and there’s no end of press agents, handouts, interviews, leaks to gossip writers. It’s been a part of the movie business for decades. Today you can add tweets (some of them bafflingly obtuse or illiterate) to the list. Not much modern publicity seems terribly original or creative.

One fresh way in the ‘40s to conduct an interview was to have the interviewee in character. Radio rags did this; you’ll find someone giving the inside scoop on a soap opera as if they’re the soap opera character. Here’s a cute puff piece where Bugs Bunny is interviewed as Bugs Bunny.

It has no byline, which makes me wonder if it was a standard release from the Warners P.R. department where a newspaper could simply fill in the name of a Bugs cartoon playing at a local theatre. It doesn’t have a lot of hard content and seems to have been meant as a playful parody of interviews; it adds a non-existent romance than never appeared on screen. And I highly doubt that a local newspaper writer would spell Tedd Pierce’s name with two d’s. I like the fact the writers and directors are given some credit, though it’s interesting there’s no mention of Warren Foster or Art Davis. While Davis only directed one Warners cartoon (and it seems probable that was by design), Foster wrote some of the funniest Bugs cartoons of all time.

This story was published in the The Portsmouth Times, December 21, 1946.

Bugs Bunny Relates Hare-Raising 'From Rabbits To Riches' Saga

Probably none of Hollywood’s top stars realizes it, but they’re all in grave danger of losing their favored positions to a four-footed fugitive from a cartoonist’s ink bottle.
This long-eared pretender to the cinema throne is Warner Brothers’ popular leading man, “Bugs Bunny”, whose rabbity escapades have zoomed him to film-town heights. In a dressing room between scenes of his latest picture, “Rhapsody Rabbit”, which began Friday at the Laroy theater, America’s No. 1 carrot connoisseur gave his own version of “from rabbits to riches”.
“Yeah, Doc, I’ll be glad to tell ya about my hare-raising exploits,” began Mr. B. “If there’s one thing I love to talk about, it’s myself. What’s more interesting, anyway?
It’s Strictly Platonic
“But Doc, keep your nose clean and don’t go sayin’ t’ings about yours truly dat ain’t true. I’m on to youse guys—first t’ing ya know you’ll be startin’ a big romance up between me and dat cute little number I was visitin’ out in de cabbage patch, las’ night. Dat’s stric’ly Platonic, Doc, so don’t go getting’ any ideas!”
Mr. B. stopped momentarily to select another carrot and then continued in a reminiscent mood:
“Ya know, Doc, for my age I’ve come a good long way . . . but dat’s to be expected from someone of my caliber, eh? It all began back in 1936 [sic] when I made my deboo as an extra in a cartoon featurin’ dat big bum, Elmer Fudd. I was one of Elmer’s intended victims, but somehow I didn’t create any furor.
“Agony, agony, I was completely forgotten for over two years while de world did its best to get along widout me. But class will tell, and den I returned to de screen in a ‘quickie’. I wowed ‘em dat time, Doc Knocked ‘em right in de aisles as dey say in de movie business. An’ I kept right on goin’ from dere!”
Admits He’s Modest
Pausing to pick out a sliver of carrot from his prominent bicuspids, Mr. B. went on: “Of course, Doc, I’m a modest character. I’ll admit dat I’m de combined product of over 200 men and women of Warner Brothers’ Cartoons, Inc., in Hollywood. You might quote me as saying dat de Messrs. Charles M. Jones, Isadore Freleng, Bob McKimson, Tedd Pierce and Michael Maltese are all responsible. Even my voice is not me own—it belongs to Mel Blanc, a swell gent who’s allergic to carrots!”
Bugs smiled and added: "Don't know how I do it, Doc. I’m just wot de American public loves. Dey call me de ‘Bogart of de Cartoons’ or de ‘Errol Flynn of de Drawing Board.’
"But you'll have to excuse me now, Doc. I see I'm due back on t set. Ya know how wit is wid artists, Doc, de show must go on!

Perhaps not coincidentally, Bogey and Flynn were under contract to Warners when this was written.

Bugs mentions in his interview that Mel Blanc’s allergic to carrots. Actor (voice and otherwise) Craig Crumpton asked me where the rumour started about Mel’s allergy. Judging by this story and one posted a while ago on the blog, the answer is at least 1946. Here’s another short piece, from the Portland Press Herald, March 10, 1947, where the situation is discussed further.


Prior to the launching of his own starring vehicle this past Fall, Hollywood’s Mel Blanc gained wide recognition as the voice of numerous movie cartoon characters. Among them is the well-known Bugs Bunny. If you’re a moviegoer, you’ve probably enjoyed the antics of Bugs and marveled at his capacity for carrots. This brings us to the point of our little secret.
Mel had been making these particular cartoons for several months but in every instance where the script called upon him to munch carrots while reading his lines he became ill. Puzzled, Mel consulted a doctor who began a series of tests to determine if an allergy existed and sure enough the answer proved to be—carrots.
Informed of this turn of events studio technicians began at once to test all manner of fruits and vegetables to obtain an exact duplication of the carrot crunch. Apples, beets, celery, asparagus all were tried—but to no avail. Finally studio chiefs came up with the following solution: Since the sound couldn’t be duplicated would Mel agree to record all dialogue wherein carrots were used in one session. Seemingly the only answer Mel consented. And to this day whenever Bugs has to gnaw and talk, his creator must undergo a rather unpleasant time with his allergy.

However, Mel’s own autobiography, That’s Not All, Folks, published several decades later, doesn’t say anything about an allergy or illness at all. Mel simply states he doesn’t like the taste of raw carrots. It repeats the story above of Treg Brown being unable to get the right sound from other things and Mel goes on to write he ended up spitting out the carrot in order to read his next line. While Mel is known for really stretching the truth (eg. how he came up with the name “Bugs Bunny”), the carrot expectoration sounds perfectly plausible. So perhaps Mel’s being honest about carrots in his book. Bugs Bunny being allergic to them may have been just another concocted irony of Hollywood’s hype machine.


  1. In an interview that was published in a 1989 issue of FILMFAX, Mel said that the story about him being allergic to carrots was a creation of the Warner Brothers publicity department.

    I wonder if he knew that he didn't have much longer to live and wanted to set the record straight about certain things in this interview? For instance, instead of saying that he thought up the name Bugs Bunny, he said he told them "Why don't you call him Bugs Bunny, after Bugs Hardaway?".

  2. He evidently didn't have the "record straight" feeling altogether when he wrote his autobiography, published a year earlier. He claimed he ad-libbed the line "What's up, Doc?" Does anyone believe that?
    And while he mentions Hardaway, he still maintains the character was called "Happy Rabbit" where there's no evidence to suggest that was ever the case. Studio publicity materials show "Bugs Bunny" was already being used.