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

    The Warner Brothers kept Bugs a "nice person" by keeping his temper down and not making him overreact about the other characters lives. He would trick people but would never make fun of someone. But the Warner Brothers did give him some facial expressions that made him look sad and mad.

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

    They had to keep bugs a good person so that people would always like him and keep watching. To do that they had to make sure that he was never a bully and always playing nice tricks on people.

  • nolann-mcc
    9/21/2015 - 11:51 a.m.

    The Warner brothers keep bugs bunny as "a nice person" with is personality never changing and his way clever way that made so many people laugh. They also didn't make him a mutant or have any weird and unshapely physically differences, they keep him a normal rabbit. Finally they developed "bad guys" or disagreeing within bugs bunny films that game him plenty of time to try and help.

  • sydneyw-mcc
    9/21/2015 - 11:56 a.m.

    They made him nice by keeping clean and not a bully or a push-over at all. They wanted him to be funny enough that it wouldn't get mean or hurtful to the hunter.

  • shaylab-dav
    9/21/2015 - 01:14 p.m.

    They decided to keep bugs a nice person because audience showed that kids like nice characters better than the mean ones.

  • isaiahg-mcc
    9/21/2015 - 01:20 p.m.

    Warner Brothers kept Bugs a "nice person" by making sure that he was always provoked before doing mean things like pranking or hurting people.

  • gavinp-15-
    9/21/2015 - 01:56 p.m.

    If he would say something mean he had to be provoked so that he wasn't mean. He would only say or do something mean under certain circumstances. That was how Warner Brothers kept Bugs Bunny a "nice person".

  • reillye-rei
    9/21/2015 - 03:42 p.m.

    Bugs was suppose to be nice by not being a pushover. If he did play tricks he made sure he did to the people who most deserved it. (I love this show!!!!! )

  • bensenbergt-rei
    9/21/2015 - 03:50 p.m.

    bugs wasn't mean he just had is own personality and opinions on things. he is a bright and wonderful character in a show everyone made popular that's why Warner bros keep bugs bunny.

  • andreww1-mcc
    9/21/2015 - 06:26 p.m.

    They kept Bugs a nice person by having Bugs get provoked before hurting someone. They didn't want Bugs to be a bully. The Warner Brothers made sure whenever he hurt someone the person deserved it. Bugs never seemed nasty.

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