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. He 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 and appearance. And, a 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. He has earned a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame. And he 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. A team of artists, directors and voice actors collaborated on the classic cartoons.  Bugs was unlike Disney's Mickey Mouse and Donald Duck. They came with their own set of physical characteristics but with little 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."  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. They appeared in a separate category called "Bugs Bunny Specials."
 
In that same era, Bugs successfully straddled the world of entertainment and politics. He sneaked his way into World War II propaganda and advertisements for war bonds. The Marine Corps gave him honorary status as a private. That came 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. He 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. Rather, it is 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.
 
More recent animated characters from Bart Simpson to Eric Cartman have established themselves through a sliding scale of meanness. But 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 (180)
  • ians-mcc
    9/21/2015 - 10:34 a.m.

    Warner Brothers gave Bugs Bunny a personality rather than physical characteristics so they had an easier time keeping Bugs as a "nice person" in context to the cartoon.

  • heidia-mcc
    9/21/2015 - 10:36 a.m.

    The Warner Brothers kept Bugs as a "nice person" by not having him be mean to the other characters but by playing tricks on them only when they deserved it so this didn't make him a bully but a smart and funny guy

  • connors2-mcc
    9/21/2015 - 10:37 a.m.

    They made him a childhood character that kids would love and enjoy to watch but made the things he did to other people seem so out of proportion it was funny.

  • leop-mcc
    9/21/2015 - 10:40 a.m.

    Warner Brothers decided to keep Bugs Bunny as a nice character becasue it was important to his popularity. While several directors were attempting to put unique spins on the Bugs Bunny Character, they all agreed that he couldn't be mean or a pushover. They did this to make sure that the audiences and directors would enjoy Bugs Bunny.

  • fitzk-mcc
    9/21/2015 - 10:40 a.m.

    They kept his positive image by writing the story so someone provokes him and he has to fight back or defend himself. This way he's not just some bully picking on people

  • ethanl-was
    9/21/2015 - 11:21 a.m.

    They kept him a nice person with always having him be provoked instead of him starting the fight and making him look like a jerk. He also has been helpful through out his carer. Like when he saved the earth by destroying a bunch of alien carrots and putting them in a black hole. He also stopped Acme from taking over the world. That's how Warner bros kept bugs a nice person.

  • christinaz-mcc
    9/21/2015 - 11:48 a.m.

    They always kept him a nice person by provoking him before he hurt someone or did a trick on someone.

  • lukes14-mcc
    9/21/2015 - 11:49 a.m.

    Warner Brothers kept Bugs a "nice person" by having Bugs get provoked before he pranked or hurt someone. They made sure that whenever Bugs hurt someone, that person deserved it. Also Bugs has characteristics that make him seem nice and make the audience know he is the good guy.

  • annac1-mcc
    9/21/2015 - 11:50 a.m.

    The Warner Brothers kept Bugs Bunny a nice person by only having Bugs do pranks on those who most deserved it. They wanted him to be funny but not in a way that he would be a bully. They sure succeeded in doing so!

  • charlies1-mcc
    9/21/2015 - 11:50 a.m.

    Warner Brothers keeps Bugs a "nice person" by having him be provoked. They also keep Bugs a nice person by only playing tricks on those who deserved it most. They also didn't want Bugs to be a push-over so they had to have him playing these tricks.

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