What gives Bugs Bunny his lasting power? In the cartoon masterpiece Duck Amuck, a rogue animator tortures Daffy Duck by constantly changing the background around him. The ending reveals Bugs Bunny as the animator. (Smithsonian.com)
What gives Bugs Bunny his lasting power?
Lexile

Seventy-five years ago, a gangly, gray rabbit hopped out of a hole in the ground, knocked on a bald man's head and asked, "What's Up, Doc?" to the tune of the crunch of a large carrot.
 
Though the rabbit had appeared in previous short films, this fateful scene in the 1940 Warner Brothers animated short "A Wild Hare," introduced the version of the rabbit that would become the cultural icon of Bugs Bunny. (Earlier shorts referred to "Happy Rabbit," and while "A Wild Hare" didn't use the name Bugs Bunny, it was the first where the character had a specific personality, appearance and catchphrase.) In the short film, Bugs takes great pleasure in eluding the "wabbit" hunting Elmer Fudd.
 
In the decades since, Bugs has appeared in over 150 films, earned a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame and was the first animated character to get his face on a postage stamp. TV Guide ranked him number one atop a list of the 50 greatest cartoon characters.
 
The "Looney Tunes" and "Merrie Melodies" films came out of the Warner Brothers animation studios, where a team of artists, directors and voice actors collaborated on the classic cartoons.  Unlike Disney's Mickey Mouse and Donald Duck, who came with their own set of physical characteristics but lacked much personality, Bugs was defined by his wiseacre attitude and witty banter.
 
According to Linda Jones Clough, the business partner and daughter of famed animator Chuck Jones, Bugs rocketed to fame because he was "character driven, rather than gag driven," Jones Clough said. And while every director put his own spin on Bugs Bunny, they all agreed on one thing: Bugs was never to be mean-spirited.
 
That quality was critical to his fame. "It was very important that he be provoked," said Chuck Jones in a 1998 interview, "because otherwise he'd be a bully and we didn't want that. We wanted him to be a nice person." 
 
They wanted him to be a nice person, but not a pushover. But for the directors and audiences alike, Bugs was more than just a cartoon character.
 
"[My father's] attitude was that Bugs already existed and they were just writing about him," said Jones Clough. "He would come home in the evening and say to my mother, 'You won't believe what Bugs Bunny said today!' "

"'What do you mean?' she would say. 'You wrote it.' "
 
"'No, I discovered under the circumstances that this is what he would say."
 
For years after Bugs first uttered his signature question, it seemed as though America couldn't get enough of the character and his trickster ways. Within four years, films starring Bugs from the "Merrie Melodies" and "Looney Tunes" series were popular enough to be sold to theaters in a separate category called "Bugs Bunny Specials."
 
In that same era, Bugs successfully straddled the world of entertainment and politics, sneaking his way into World War II propaganda and advertisements for war bonds. The Marine Corps gave him honorary status as a private after he appeared in a marine uniform exclaiming that a marine was a real superman, in the 1943 film "Super-Rabbit."  But like any public figure, Bugs has engaged in his fair share of controversial activity. War-era films star Bugs as the hero pitted against offensively caricatured Japanese and German soldiers.
 
Still, Bugs moved past that questionable phase and continues to win the hearts and laughs of the people all over the world.
 
Perhaps what audiences love the most about Bugs Bunny is not his unique personality, but his ability to stay true to it. From his opera debut in "What's Opera, Doc?" to his jaunt in live action films, such as "Space Jam", Bugs Bunny doesn't change. 
 
Though more recent animated characters from Bart Simpson to Eric Cartman have established themselves through a sliding scale of meanness, Bugs remains the lovable character that only plays tricks on those who deserve it most.


Merrie Melodies - A Wild Hare (1940) by Cartoonzof2006
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CRITICAL THINKING QUESTION
How did Warner Brothers keep Bugs a "nice person?"
Write your answers in the comments section below


COMMENTS (99)
  • mathewb-day
    9/18/2015 - 01:35 p.m.

    Bugs Bunny remained the hero through Warner Brothers by only pulling his pranks on those who messed with him first and in doing so created a character that not only was funny but also stood up for him self, creating a role model for kids who watched cartoons religiously every morning. Bugs become an American icon through his shenanigans and always remaining calm and collected even if he was shot, crushed or whatever happens to him in the episode.

  • tylers-day
    9/18/2015 - 02:22 p.m.

    This is very interesting because the makers of Bugs Bunny wanted to make his character a role model to people around the world. As Bugs Bunny established his role in the world and people began to respect and acknowledge what he is for, the creators were able to mend his use as a role model to get people to help the war and other important things. Also Bugs showed others how to be true to their selves and be genuine. Bugs really showed this after the creation of other characters such as Bart Simpson.

  • rowens-cel
    9/21/2015 - 10:06 a.m.

    Though there is no real lead, and it's not in the inverted pyramid style, the author does a good job of drawing the reader in by making the title and the article itself interesting. A character everyone knows - Bugs Bunny - and an interesting first sentence to pull the reader in makes the article effective in getting people to read it.

  • brandonw-1-ver
    9/21/2015 - 10:08 a.m.

    It was very important that he be provoked, because otherwise he'd be a bully and they didn't want that. So Bugs Bunny would be a nice person.

  • clark,cole-cas
    9/21/2015 - 10:28 a.m.

    Bugs Bunny keeps a nice personality by never doing anything unprovoked. Bugs Bunny has a nice spirit and isn't mean to any characters unless they're mean to bugs, making him a "wise guy" kind of character. He is always happy about life but doesn't get pushed around. Also Bugs Bunny is still a nice person because of the attitude that's been set for him, he can never be seen as a angry person.

  • alexb1-rei
    9/21/2015 - 10:36 a.m.

    Bugs Bunny wouldn't have bean famous if he was a bully.

  • jessed-mci
    9/22/2015 - 08:46 a.m.

    The Warner Brothers kept Bugs a nice person because Bugs was only mean to the people who deserve it the most.

  • mackc-mci
    9/22/2015 - 08:46 a.m.

    Bugs Bunny managed to stay a "nice person" because he always stuck to his true personality. He would only play pranks on people who deserved it, and was a role model for many kids.

  • laurenc-bag
    9/22/2015 - 05:57 p.m.

    The Warner Brothers kept Bugs a "nice person" by making him be PROVOKED if he had to be "mean."

  • morgant-lam
    9/23/2015 - 09:43 a.m.

    This article caught my attention. I completely agree with the authors opinion. It made me think about Bugs and the whole Loony Tunes family a little more in depth. Bugs Bunny is a great character and a figure not only of my childhood but as my life continues. I hope Bugs Bunny keeps influencing children, teens and adults for many generations to come.

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