He looks spry enough, but your old friend Bugs Bunny is over the hill. The beloved cartoon rabbit, made famous by artist and animator Chuck Jones, is in his seventies! We set out to discover what this iconic character's "bunnyhood" was like:
1938: Warner Bros. director Ben “Bugs” Hardaway created a rabbit character for the film Porky’s Hare Hunt.
1939: For Bugs’s next appearance, in Hare-um Scare-um, character designer Charles Thorson made a model sheet and referred to the rabbit as “Bug’s Bunny.” This bunny was screwball, antic, and cute. Two of Chuck Jones’s early cartoons, Prest-O Change-O and Elmer’s Candid Camera, featured this proto-Bugs.
1940: Tex Avery conceived the iconic, cocky Bugs Bunny in A Wild Hare, establishing the character’s personality traits. Avery left Warner Bros. in 1941, leaving Jones and his fellow Warner Bros. directors to fully realize Bugs’s potential.
1943: Bugs Bunny’s enduring physical characteristics were established in a model sheet drawn by Robert McKimson.
In later films such as Rabbit of Seville, Bully for Bugs, and Rabbit Fire, Chuck Jones established Bugs Bunny as an imperturbable comic hero. Jones’s Bugs has a subtle but distinctive arrogance in the way he moves, and is always smarter than his adversary. He gives the impression that if everyone would just leave him alone, he would happily spend his time eating carrots and studying philosophy. To explain the difference between the earlier, more antic versions of Bugs Bunny and his own, Jones noted, “The early Bugs is truly crazy. My Bugs pretends to be crazy, which is, I believe, arguably far funnier.”
Bugs Bunny is front and center in the new Smithsonian traveling exhibition What's Up, Doc? The Animation Art of Chuck Jones. The exhibition is a partnership between the Smithsonian Institution Traveling Exhibition Service, The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences, the Chuck Jones Center for Creativity, and the Museum of the Moving Image.