Since his debut in the short-subject cartoon “A Wild Hare” in 1940, generations of audiences have cheered Bugs’ gleeful gusto, quick wit and endless clever resourcefulness. To outwit the opposition, he can conjure dynamite, cherry pies and mallets out of thin air; dance like a seasoned hoofer; play piano; and conduct orchestras. He summons up any talent — and any costume — that will help him thwart his relentless foes.
Born of a team of young animators who produced Looney Tunes and Merrie Melodies cartoons for Warner Bros., Bugs’ name came from one of those early cartoonists; “Bugs” and “Bugsy” were trendy nicknames at the time, signifying a crazed or wacky disposition. The catchy alliterative sound of “Bugs Bunny” partnered well with the names of cohorts Porky Pig and Daffy Duck.
Bugs’ very first line, “What’s up, Doc?” — unusual slang blurted out with the accent and wise-guy attitude of a street-smart New Yorker — had audiences howling and became the instant catchphrase of the “wascally wabbit,” as he was called by his first foe, the hapless hunter Elmer Fudd.
With global star power, Bugs Bunny has graced screens of all sizes, from television and movies to phones and tablets. Eighty 11-minute episodes of the new “Looney Tunes Cartoons”reintroduce Bugs Bunny along with other marquee Looney Tunes characters in gag-driven shorts that include classic storylines adapted for present-day audiences. The Oscar-winning rabbit has also been honored with a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame.