What’s up, Doc!?! And, thanks, Bugs

Published 1:52 pm Sunday, March 17, 2019

I don’t get to watch cartoons on TV much anymore; not just because I’ve outgrown them (I knew the time was near when I just couldn’t relate to the ‘Mysterymobile’ – Sorry, Scooby – I guess things just kind of went south for me, cartoon-wise, after Space Ghost, or the Herculoids).

But one animation group will forever stand the test of time – I believe they’re even in the Smithsonian! – and that’s Warner Bros. Looney Tunes; specifically, Daffy Duck, Elmer Fudd, Road Runner & Coyote, Porky Pig, and, the one who reigns supreme: Bugs Bunny.

Recently, I was perusing one of those online pop-up ad websites that seem to feature all- knowing and all-seeing mindless trivia for millennials (I don’t care what Tiger Woods’ wife looks like now, or the daughter of Crocodile Dundee all grown up, or what the cast of ‘Lost In Space’ have been doing for the last 20 years). What caught my eye was a site containing information on things you never knew about America’s favorite cartoon rabbit, or Lagomorpha mammal, if you prefer a proper name.

I never would’ve known that Bugs got his name from his original animation creator, artist Ben Hardaway, nicknamed ‘Bugs’ (don’t ask!?!). Seems other artists’ around the shop came to call Hardaway’s drawings, “Bug’s bunny”. The name caught on, and Warner Bros. soon changed the cartoon character’s name from Happy Rabbit to Bugs Bunny.

Or, that one time, his vocal creator, the great Mel Blanc, was left in a coma following an auto accident, and weeks later the surgeon that finally awakened him did so by whispering in his ear, “Bugs!?! Bugs Bunny! How are you doing today?” and Blanc replied, “Eeeeh, what’s up, Doc?”

Did you know that Bugs is one of only two cartoon characters to have their own star on the ‘Hollywood Walk of Fame’ on the Sunset Strip in Los Angeles? The other, naturally, is Mickey Mouse. Since one’s from the Disney studios and another from Warner Bros., I guess it’s only appropriate. I mean, you don’t see a star for Tony the Tiger, or Huckleberry Hound!?!

Or that Bugs was the top cartoon character used in World War II propaganda shorts during the 1940’s. So much so that the Marine Corps named him an honorary Marine Master Sergeant. And he proved his patriotism, earning his stripes by serving as the mascot to several divisions of the US Marines for years following WW2.

Blanc was so into method acting that he would actually chomp on carrots in the studio between takes just to maintain the characterization.

He is also the ninth-most portrayed film personality in the entire world (Yes, ahead of Tyler Perry’s ‘Madea’, though somebody in the Marvel Universe has to be inching closer to second-place!). And that his most iconic motion picture role was that of leader of the Toon Squad in Space Jam (good thing they had Michael Jordan on that basketball team!). And not just the movies, TV Guide named Bugs as television’s “#1 Cartoon Character of All-Time” in 2002.

At least six different actors have voiced Bugs since Blanc passed away in 1989. Bugs, however, is 77 years old and counting; appearing in his first motion picture on July 27, 1940. The date marks the first time he made his appearance in Tex Avery’s short film “A Wild Hare.”

And, finally, Bugs is actually not a hare, but a rabbit. Why? Because a hare doesn’t live in a burrow, and their fur color will change over time. Bugs color will always be 49-less shades of grey.

Bugs also knew how to get his ‘Romeo chops’ on in his time; bouncing romantically between Lola Bunny and Honey Bunny. Ah, the life of a ‘wabbit’.

Funny, the little things you learn when you’re trying to fight boredom.

Th-th-th-th-that’s all, folks.

Gene Motley is a Staff Writer at Roanoke-Chowan Publications. Contact him at gene.motley@r-cnews.com or 252-332-7211.