Early Wabbits

Following the history of the Warner Bros. cartoon studio, particularly the development of Bugs Bunny, can be downright dizzying. One book says one thing, another says something else, one interview contradicts another, Wikipedia goes off on some strange tangent (of course, if you're reading Wikipedia hoping for accuracy on anything, you're already in trouble), and some of the things that turn up on some lunatics' blogs out there...oh bruddah. The fact remains that Bugs Bunny is perhaps the most celebrated and most enduring cartoon character of all time, and well, lots of people have wanted to claim credit for him.

In this section we will trace the evolution of the rabbit character that eventually became the Bugs Bunny we all know and love. We'll stick to the facts, weed out all the junk, and follow the cartoons that were released along the way.

We do NOT consider any of the following shorts to be official entries in the Bugs Bunny catalog (and again, some books may disagree). As far as we're concerned, the eventual character of Bugs Bunny was created by Tex Avery and debuted in 1940's A Wild Hare. Everything before that production is nothing more than a prototype.

KEY

How to read the guide

Film's Title (Year of Release)Director (see below)

Short synopsis (or is that "short's synopsis?")

Cast (click here to learn about our new ongoing project, The Mel Blanc List)

Video Release of the Cartoon (Video Studio, Video's Year of Release)

Video titles in red are out of print. Titles in black or presented as entire ordering links are still in print. Links will go to the releases' respective product pages on Amazon. Since most out-of-print titles are offered either new or used by Amazon's individual sellers, order links are provided for most (just click on the video's release information). We also recommend eBay for your out-of-print needs. When you shop online for older videos, do take caution and know exactly what you are buying, as many sellers usually aren't sure what they're selling!

Shorts with the phrase PUBLIC DOMAIN in their synopses are (obviously enough) shorts that are in the public domain and can be found on many ultra-budget video releases produced by unheard-of fly-by-night companies. Since it would be futile to track down and list every single public domain video release, we have listed a very scant number of key releases to help point you in the right direction. A few public domain video releases use film prints that may be unintentionally missing scenes. We will do our best to note such edited versions.

All releases listed here are in the NTSC color format, the North American standard. All titles are VHS unless noted.


Following the success of Tex Avery's short Porky's Duck Hunt from 1937, director Ben "Bugs" Hardaway becomes inspired to construct a derivative sequel with a rabbit in place of the previous picture's black duck. Mel Blanc gives the new character a squeaky, high-pitched wiseguy voice with a laugh that Blanc would later use for another character at another studio, Woody Woodpecker.

An ad for the cartoon appearing in the Spartanburg Herald-Journal in Spartanburg, SC on June 19, 1938.
Porky's Hare Hunt (1938)

Porky and his dog, Zero, go rabbit hunting. A wisecracking white rabbit with a stuttering laugh protects the rest of the wildlife by heckling and harassing the pig, tormenting him all the way to the hospital. Features the rabbit imitating the Groucho line "Of course you know this means war!" Directed by Ben Hardaway.

Mel Blanc: Porky Pig, Rabbit, Zero, Shotgun

NOTE: This short has been colorized twice, once in 1968 and again in 1992.

Looney Tunes Platinum Collection Volume Two (WHV DVD, 2012)
Looney Tunes Platinum Collection Volume Two (WHV Blu-ray, 2012)
Porky Pig 101 (WHV/Warner Archive DVD, 2017)

Despite the lack of originality and the less-than-inspired gags, audiences nevertheless respond kindly to Porky's Hare Hunt and ask for more shorts featuring the rabbit.

An ad for the cartoon appearing in the Altus Times-Democrat in Altus, OK on April 17, 1949 at the time of the short's "Blue Ribbon" rerelease.
Prest-O Change-O (1939)

The two Curious Puppies hide out in the house of magician Sham-Fu to escape a dogcatcher, but they find themselves at the mercy of a white rabbit who subjects them to tricks involving vases, balloons, and a Hindu rope trick. Features the rabbit kissing an opponent in ridicule. Directed by Chuck Jones.

Mel Blanc: Big Puppy, Little Puppy, Rabbit, Cuckoo Clock

NOTE: All home video releases of this short so far have contained the 1948 Blue Ribbon reissue print, which removes the short's original title sequence.

PUBLIC DOMAIN

Inside Termite Terrace Volume I: Daffy the Commando (Bosko Video, 1988)
The Golden Age of Looney Tunes Volume 2 (MGM Laserdisc, 1992)

Looney Tunes Platinum Collection Volume Two (WHV DVD, 2012)
Looney Tunes Platinum Collection Volume Two (WHV Blu-ray, 2012)

Ben Hardaway attempts one more hunting picture and has studio character designer Charlie Thorson create an all new look for the rabbit. After coming up with a squatter, grayer design for the character, Thorson creates a model sheet of various poses. Solely to indicate which unit the drawings were for, Thorson writes at the bottom of the model sheet "'Bug's' Bunny," referring to the director by his nickname. Producer Leon Schlesinger's assistant gets a kick out of the model sheet's label and suggests to her boss that the new rabbit character be named "Bugs" Bunny. The name would be officially tied to the character in studio publicity materials by year's end.

Hare-Um Scare-Um (1939)

Outraged by the soaring prices of meat, John Sourpuss and his dog go rabbit-hunting. In a semi-remake of Porky's Hare Hunt, a gray wisecracking rabbit heckles and ridicules the hunter and then seduces the dog with a female dog costume. Features the rabbit singing "I'm Going Cuckoo, Woo-Woo." Directed by Ben Hardaway and Cal Dalton.

Mel Blanc: Rabbit, John Sourpuss, Dog

NOTE: Upon its release, the original ending to this short was edited out, in which the rabbit's family beats up Sourpuss, the rabbit returns to scold him, and then both the rabbit and Sourpuss bounce on their heads out of the picture a la Daffy Duck. For the videos listed below, titles with an asterisk include the original extended ending restored, and titles without an asterisk include the edited ending.

The Golden Age of Looney Tunes Volume 2 (MGM Laserdisc, 1992)
Warner Bros. Pictures Gangsters Collection Vol. 4 (WHV DVD, 2008)
Humphrey Bogart: The Essential Collection (WHV DVD, 2010)
*Looney Tunes Platinum Collection Volume Two (WHV DVD, 2012)
*Looney Tunes Platinum Collection Volume Two (WHV Blu-ray, 2012)

Returning from a brief directing stint at MGM, Warner Bros. veteran Friz Freleng takes over the unit Ben Hardaway was a part of. With Hardaway out of the picture, the fate of the "Bugs" Bunny character is left to the remaining directors.

Elmer's Candid Camera (1940)

Wisping everyman Elmer Fudd decides to take up wildlife photography. He eyes up a "wabbit" as his first subject, but the animal objects and taunts him. After failing to capture the rabbit with a net, Elmer eventually goes insane and jumps into a lake...only to be saved by the "heroic" rabbit. First official appearance of Elmer Fudd, who evolved from Tex Avery's pint-sized Elmer character, and first appearance of Arthur Q. Bryan in the role. Directed by Chuck Jones.

Mel Blanc: Rabbit
Arthur Q. Bryan: Elmer Fudd

Elmer! (MGM, 1988)
Bugs! & Elmer! (MGM Laserdisc, 1988)
The Golden Age of Looney Tunes Volume 2 (MGM Laserdisc, 1992)
Looney Tunes the Collector's Edition: Wabbit Tales (WHV/Columbia House, 2001)
Looney Tunes: The Golden Collection (WHV DVD, 2003)
Looney Tunes: The Premiere Collection (WHV DVD, 2003)
The Essential Bugs Bunny (WHV DVD, 2010)
Looney Tunes Platinum Collection Volume Two (WHV DVD, 2012)
Looney Tunes Platinum Collection Volume Two (WHV Blu-ray, 2012)

And things come full circle. Tex Avery puts a new hunting picture into production and decides to start from scratch on the rabbit character. Avery gives the rabbit a cooler, deceptively laid-back personality, making him more in control and less outwardly "screwy." Character designer Bob Givens is given the task to create a brand new rabbit look, one less childlike than the previous rabbit designs. Mel Blanc is shown the storyboard and is told that the rabbit is a tough little character, which inspires him to combine Brooklyn and Bronx accents to give him a tough urban wiseguy voice. The short, A Wild Hare, would become wildly popular and even earn an Academy Award nomination. Much to Avery's chagrin, the decision would be made to retain the name Bugs Bunny, finally dropping the unnecessary quotations around the first name. The wascally wabbit has arrived.

Patient Porky (1940)

In this semi-remake of The Daffy Doc, a stomach-ached Porky goes to the hospital and is at the mercy of an insane cat patient who regards himself as a doctor. The prototypical rabbit makes a cameo in the maternity ward for a gag about multiplying, marking the final appearance of that version of the character. Directed by Robert Clampett.

Mel Blanc: Porky Pig, Dr. Chilled-air, Elevator Operator, Rabbit, Olley Owl, Scottish Dog, Herbie Hippo, Program Vendor, Patients
Sara Berner: Switchboard Operator

NOTE: This short has been colorized twice, once in 1968 and again in 1992. For the videos listed below, titles with an asterisk include the 1940 version, and titles without an asterisk include the 1992 version.

Porky Pig: Days of Swine and Roses (WHV, 1992)
*Looney Tunes Golden Collection Volume Five (WHV DVD, 2007)
*Porky Pig 101 (WHV/Warner Archive DVD, 2017)


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