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Monday, July 27, 2020

Happy Birthday to Bugs Bunny ... from Walt Disney?

by Chris Lucas
Guest Column
July 27, 2020

Happy 80th birthday to Mickey Mouse’s corporate “rival” Bugs Bunny - who officially made his on-screen debut with that name in the Looney Tunes short “A Wild Hare,” on this day in 1940.

Courtesy of Top Disney

Bugs partly evolved from a popular Disney character of the 1930s, Max Hare. 

Max was a wisecracking, sarcastic rabbit who was featured in a series of Disney’s Silly Symphony cartoons. One of the artists who worked on Max - Charlie Thorson, who’d also created the look of Disney’s Snow White - was asked to develop a similar looking bunny for Warner Brothers. 

He christened him “Bugs.”

The folks at “Termite Terrace” (which is what the Warner Brothers animation building was dubbed early on) had an astounding output that revolutionized cartoon comedy. 

Some of the creative staff members at WB, including directors and animators such as Chuck Jones, Friz Freleng (an old friend and co-worker of Walt’s from the Kansas City studio), Robert McKimson, Tex Avery, Robert Clampett, Arthur Davis and Frank Tashlin had Disney connections, and are considered major figures in the art and history of traditional animation.

The humor in those Looney Tunes cartoons was off the wall, zanier than anything Disney was putting out. With constant repeats of them airing on television from the 1950s to the 1990s, they influenced generations of comedians and comedy writers.

Courtesy of Top Disney

The legendary Mel Blanc - voice of Bugs Bunny and all of the other classic WB characters - actually played a major role in a Disney film the same year Bugs debuted. He was Gideon the Cat from Pinocchio.

Blanc recorded hours of dialogue for Disney. Unfortunately, Walt himself thought that Gideon - like Dopey - would be funnier if he stayed silent. The only remnant of Blanc's work in the film are three hiccups. 

Walt made it up to Blanc years later by hiring him as the voice of kooky Uncle Orville for the bath tub scene in the Carousel of Progress. To this day, you can still hear Blanc's distinctive voice in the show as it revolves all day long at Walt Disney World.

Though the rivalry between Disney and WB is a mostly friendly one, Mickey Mouse and Bugs Bunny have only ever made one big screen appearance together, in 1988’s Who Framed Roger Rabbit

Courtesy of Top Disney

Happy Birthday, Bugs! Thanks for the laughs!


On the PRESS CLUB C Podcast, enjoy Ray’s recent discussion with Chris Lucas about his career as an actor, author and Disney expert. Tune in right here!

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