Monday, 27 July 2015

He's 75


...I am a wabbit.

The internet loves celebrating birthdays, anniversaries, deathiversaries, to the point of overkill. So it is with some trepidation that we join the huge throng of fans marking the 75th anniversary of the official release date of the first Bugs Bunny cartoon, “A Wild Hare.” The short could very well have been in theatres before then. And then there’s the argument that the Hardaway Hare of the late ‘30s was marketed as Bugs Bunny. Regardless, Bugs became Warner Bros.’ number-one animated star (and, arguably, cartoon-dom’s). His image started appearing in trade ads in September 1940 (the one to the right is from 1941). Trade papers reported Leon Schlesinger was rushing “Elmer’s Pet Rabbit” through production and had four other Bugs cartoons in development. Bugs eventually got his own series of “Bugs Bunny Specials,” though title animation on the cartoons themselves placed them with the rest of the Merrie Melodies.

Bugs’ exposure hit new heights in 1956 when Associated Artists Productions bought the TV rights to a pile of pre-1948 Warners cartoons and put the wabbit in practically every American home where a child could control the channel knob (the deal was signed March 1st between Warners and PRM, Inc., a shell company of AAP).

In keeping with 1940 practice, credits on “A Wild Hare” are sparce (but are now happily restored and available for all to see). Virgil Ross received the only animation credit, but experts today know that Bob McKimson and Sid Sutherland were among the artists under Avery’s eye at the time. Johnny Johnsen, who joined Avery at MGM, handled the backgrounds with nary a mention. And while at this point the studio didn’t give voice credits, C.E. Butterfield’s radio column published by the Associated Press dated September 17, 1940 reveals that “two of Al Pearce’s gang provided voices—Arthur Q. Bryan for the hunter and Mel Blanc for the hare.”

There are certainly greater Bugs Bunny cartoons than this one, but the relationship between Bugs and Elmer Fudd was instantly solidified by Avery and Hogan, providing a solid base to be adapted and parodied for years to come.


  1. While it seems slow-paced by later standards, one of the great things about the cartoon is even before we ever see Bugs' face or hear Bugs' voice, he is the Bugs Bunny everyone knows, in Avery's pantomime gag with Bugs' hand vs. Elmer's gun in the battle for the carrot. That's some amazing personality animation.

  2. AAP picked a strange endorsement letter to use in that trade ad. The Dumont network was in a shambles by the Spring of 1955, and the last regularly scheduled program aired August 6, 1956. Judging by the date on the letter, Mr. Cott must've been burning off the last of the Dumont letterhead. Not exactly the ringing endorsement I would chose to put in a trade ad. And if Associated Artists Productions bought the TV rights to pre-1948 Warner's cartoons in 1956, how did any TV station air them in October of 1955? As Elmer would say, there's something awfully scwewy going on here.

    (I work at a former Dumont affiliate)

    1. Steve, I'd have to dig through papers to get an answer, but it sounds like WABD ran the Guild package of Looney Tunes in 1955 and augmented it with the AAP cartoons when they were first sold to stations in May 1956.
      Regardless of the network's fate, the numbers did go up because of the cartoons and that's what AAP was using as a selling point. ("If a loser like DuMont can get numbers, think of what YOUR station could do!" might not have made a good sell line).

    2. Makes perfect sense when you phrase it like that.