Bugs Bunny is back on the big screen this coming weekend with “Space Jam: A New Legacy” from Warner Bros., an AT&T T subsidiary.
To celebrate Bugs’ return to movies, here are 10 fun and off-beat facts about Bugs Bunny that you may have never known.
1. Bugs, Not Ben: The character was introduced in the 1938 short “Porky’s Hare Hunt,” but wasn't given a name. Ben Hardaway, whose nickname was Buggsy, co-directed that film, and when the character was revived for another cartoon, designer Charlie Thorson titled a model sheet drawing as "Bug's Bunny." The rest, as they say, is movie history.
2. Bugs and Oscar: Bugs Bunny appeared in more than 150 animated shorts, more than any other cartoon character in film history. However, only three of those films were ever nominated for the Academy Award: “A Wild Hare” (1940), “Hiawatha’s Rabbit Hunt” (1941) and “Knighty Knight Bugs” (1958). The latter won the Oscar, but some animation scholars believe “What’s Opera, Doc?” (1957) was more deserving – although that classic made history as the first animated short added to the Library of Congress’ National Film Registry.
3. Bugs and Porn: Pornographic films have been around since the beginning of movies, but were only available through gray market channels and shown in private clubs and all-male parties, which gave them the name “stag films.” These were filmdom’s dirty secret that were never mentioned in any Hollywood film – until Bugs Bunny accidentally included a “stag reel” in his collection of films shown to an Oscar-voting audience in the 1944 “What’s Cookin’ Doc.”
4. Bugs in Feature Films: During the Golden Age of Hollywood, Warner Bros. never considered making feature-length animated films. However, Bugs Bunny was used in dream sequences in two Warner Bros. features: “Two Guys from Texas” (1949) with caricatures of Jack Carson and Dennis Morgan, and “My Dream is Yours” (1949), where he sings and dances with Doris Day and Jack Carson (who are dressed in rabbit costumes).
5. Bugs and Marriage Equality: In the closing gag of “The Rabbit of Seville,” Bugs and Elmer Fudd are trying to annihilate each other with oversized weapons when Bugs unexpectedly presents Elmer with a floral bouquet, then a box of chocolates, then a diamond engagement ring. Elmer instantly changes into a wedding dress and Bugs puts on a tuxedo while a justice of the peace unites them in wedlock. While their union is over as quickly as it began – Bugs dumps Elmer head-first into an oversized cake – this marked the first time in movie history that courtship between two male characters brought about a matrimonial state.
6. Bugs And The Monkees: During the 1960s, Bugs became the spokesrabbit for the Kool-Aid drink mix. In 1969, the brand decided to expand its marketing to feature the Monkees, who had downsized into a trio following Peter Tork’s departure from the band. Kool-Aid combined its celebrity endorsers in two commercials, but by 1970 Bugs and the Monkees were dropped from the brand’s advertising.
7. Bugs’ “Citizen Kane”: When filmmaker Larry Jackson was tasked in making the 1975 documentary “Bugs Bunny Superstar,” he envisioned a riff on “Citizen Kane” that would involve a reporter investigating the life and times of the carrot-munching icon. Jackson brought his idea to Orson Welles for his approval, but the great actor-filmmaker wasn't enthusiastic about an animated parody of his 1941 classic. Nonetheless, Welles admired Jackson’s imagination and agreed to narrate the film, which became the first feature-length production with Bugs as its central star.
8. Bugs Is Not Wanted?: In 1993, the executives behind the launch of The WB Television Network rejected the idea of Bugs as the startup’s mascot because he was too familiar to audiences. A national poll of cartoon lovers was held to determine with Looney Tunes character should be the mascot and the winner was a total surprise: Pete Puma, Bugs’ ridiculously stupid adversary in “Rabbit’s Kin” (1952). The WB execs were uncomfortable with that choice representing the network and opted for Michigan J. Frog from the 1955 “One Froggy Evening.”
9. Bugs In The Mailbox: In 1997, Bugs was the first cartoon character to be featured on a U.S. postage stamp. The announcement of this stamp was greeted by some vocal stamp collectors with concern, who felt the commemorative stamp program would be cheapened by having a cartoon character in a philatelic tribute previously reserved for presidents, military leaders and dignified historical figures. It turned out to be one of the most popular stamps in U.S. Postal Service history and Bugs returned in 2020 on a pane of 20 commemorative stamps.
10. Bugs And The Shrinks: Bugs’ catchphrase “What’s up, doc?” had new resonance in a 2005 psychological study on false beliefs that used Bugs to prove a medical point. Participants in a study were shown fake advertisements for Disney World that included Bugs Bunny at the theme park, even though the Warner Bros. character isn't part of the site’s attractions. A surprisingly high percentage of the study’s participants would later claim they clearly remembered meeting Bugs at Disney World, even though he was never there.
Photo: Bugs Bunny marries Elmer Fudd in "The Rabbit of Seville," courtesy of Warner Bros.
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