A rabbit (named as "Happy Rabbit") with some of the personality of Bugs, though looking very different, first appears in the cartoon short Porky's Hare Hunt, released on April 30, 1938. Co-directed by Ben "Bugs" Hardaway and an uncredited Cal Dalton (who was responsible for the initial design of Happy), this short has an almost identical plot to Tex Avery's 1937 cartoon Porky's Duck Hunt, which had introduced Daffy Duck. Porky Pig is again cast as a hunter tracking a silly prey less interested in escape than in driving his pursuer insane. The latter short replaces the little black duck with a small white rabbit. Happy introduces himself with the odd expression "Jiggers, fellers", and Mel Blanc gave Happy a voice and laugh almost like that he would later use for Woody Woodpecker. This cartoon also first uses the famous Groucho Marx line, "Of course you realize, this means war!" This rabbit was so popular with its audience that the Schlesinger staff decided to use it again. In fact, many of Groucho's film characters' attitude and mannerisms would be an inspiration for Bugs.
Happy appears again in 1939's Prest-O Change-O, directed by Chuck Jones, where he is the pet rabbit of unseen character Sham-Fu the Magician. Two dogs, fleeing the local dogcatcher, enter his absent master's house. Happy harasses them, but is ultimately bested by the bigger of the two dogs.
His third appearance is in another 1939 cartoon, Hare-um Scare-um, directed by Dalton and Hardaway. This short, the first where he is depicted as a gray bunny instead of a white one, is also notable for Happy's first singing role. Charlie Thorson, lead animator on the short, gave the character a name. He had written "Bugs' Bunny" on the model sheet that he drew for Hardaway, implying that he considered the rabbit model sheet to be Hardaway's property. In promotional material for the short, including a surviving 1939 presskit, the name on the model sheet was altered to become the rabbit's own name: "Bugs" Bunny (quotation marks only used at the very beginning). In his later years, Mel Blanc stated that a proposed name was "Happy Rabbit". Oddly, "Happy" was only used in reference to Bugs Hardaway. In the cartoon Hare-um Scare-um, a newspaper headline reads, "Happy Hardaway".
In Chuck Jones' Elmer's Candid Camera Happy first meets Elmer Fudd. This rabbit looks more like the present-day Bugs, taller and with a similar face. This rabbit, however, speaks with a rural drawl. The early version of Elmer is also different from the present-day one, much fatter and taller, although Arthur Q. Bryan's voice is the same as it would be later. In Robert Clampett's 1940 Patient Porky, a similar rabbit appears to trick the audience into thinking that 750 rabbits have been born.
Bugs Bunny emerges
A Wild Hare, directed by Tex Avery and released on July 27, 1940, is the first cartoon where both Elmer Fudd and Bugs are shown in their fully developed forms as hunter and tormentor. In this cartoon Mel Blanc first uses what would become the standard voice of Bugs. And Bugs first emerges from his rabbit hole to ask Elmer, "What's up, Doc?" Animation historian Joe Adamson counts A Wild Hare as the first "official" Bugs Bunny short.
Bugs's second appearance in Jones's Elmer's Pet Rabbit introduces the audience to the name Bugs Bunny, which until then had only been used among the Termite Terrace employees. It was also the first short where he received billing under his now-famous name, but the card, "featuring Bugs Bunny", was just slapped on the end of the completed short's opening titles when A Wild Hare proved an unexpected success. The rabbit here is in look and voice identical to the one in Jones' earlier Elmer's Candid Camera.
Bugs in his Wild Hare likeness appeared in five more shorts during 1941. Tortoise Beats Hare, directed by Tex Avery, features the first appearance of Cecil Turtle; Hiawatha's Rabbit Hunt, is the first Bugs Bunny short directed by Friz Freleng; All This and Rabbit Stew, directed by Avery, has Bugs tracked by a little African-American hunter (based heavily on racial stereotypes); The Heckling Hare was the final Bugs short Avery worked on before being fired (Avery and producer Schlesinger vehemently disagreed over the ending gag of The Heckling Hare, and Avery refused to compromise his creative principles) and leaving for MGM; and Wabbit Twouble, the first Bugs short directed by Robert Clampett. Wabbit Twouble was also the first of five Bugs shorts to feature a chubbier remodel of Elmer Fudd, a short-lived attempt to have Fudd more closely resemble his voice actor, comedian Arthur Q. Bryan.
World War II
By 1942, Bugs had become the number one star of Merrie Melodies. The series had originally been intended only for one-shot characters in shorts after several early attempts to introduce characters (Foxy, Goopy Geer and Piggy) failed under Harman–Ising. (In 1937, under Schlesinger, it had started introducing newer characters.) Bugs' 1942 shorts included Friz Freleng's The Wabbit Who Came to Supper, and the Robert Clampett shorts The Wacky Wabbit and Bugs Bunny Gets the Boid (which introduced Beaky Buzzard). Bugs Bunny Gets the Boid shows a slight redesign of Bugs, with less-prominent front teeth and a rounder head. The character was reworked by Robert McKimson, then an animator in Robert Clampett's unit. The redesign at first was only used in the shorts created by Clampett's unit, but in time it would be taken up by the other directors, with Freleng and Frank Tashlin the first. When McKimson was himself promoted to director, he created yet another version, with more slanted eyes, longer teeth and a much larger mouth. He used this version until 1949 (as did Art Davis for the one Bugs Bunny cartoon he directed) when he started using the version he had designed for Clampett. Jones would come up with his own slight modification, and the voice had slight variations between the units.
Other 1942 Bugs shorts included Chuck Jones' Hold the Lion, Please, Freleng's Fresh Hare and The Hare-Brained Hypnotist (which restores Elmer Fudd to his previous size), and Jones' Case of the Missing Hare. Bugs also made cameos in Tex Avery's final Warner Bros. short, Crazy Cruise, and stars in the two-minute United States war bonds commercial film Any Bonds Today.
Bugs became more popular during World War II because of his free and easy attitude, and began receiving special star billing in his cartoons by 1943. By that time Warner Bros. had become the most profitable cartoon studio in the United States. In company with cartoon studios such as Disney and Famous Studios, Warners put its characters against the period's biggest enemies, Adolf Hitler, Benito Mussolini, and the Japanese. The 1944 short Bugs Bunny Nips the Nips features Bugs at odds with a group of Japanese soldiers. This cartoon has since been pulled from distribution due to its racial stereotypes. He also faces off against Herman Goering and Hitler in Herr Meets Hare, which introduced his well-known reference to Albuquerque as he mistakenly winds up in the Black Forest of 'Joimany' instead of Las Vegas, Nevada.
Since Bugs' debut in A Wild Hare, he had appeared only in color Merrie Melodie cartoons (making him one of the few recurring characters created for that series in the Leon Schlesinger era prior to the full conversion to color), alongside Elmer's prototype Egghead, Inki, Sniffles, and Elmer himself—who was heard but not seen in the 1942 Looney Tunes cartoon Nutty News, and made his first formal appearance in that series in 1943's To Duck or Not to Duck. While he made a cameo appearance in the 1943 Porky and Daffy cartoon Porky Pig's Feat this was his only appearance in a black-and-white Looney Tune cartoon. He did not star in a cartoon in the Looney Tunes series until that series made its complete conversion to only color cartoons beginning with 1944 releases. Buckaroo Bugs was Bugs' first cartoon in the Looney Tunes series, and was also the last WB cartoon to credit Leon Schlesinger.
Among his most notable civilian shorts during this period are Bob Clampett's Tortoise Wins by a Hare (a sequel to 1941's Tortoise Beats Hare); A Corny Concerto (a spoof of Disney's Fantasia); Falling Hare; What's Cookin' Doc?; Chuck Jones's Superman parody Super-Rabbit; and Freleng's Little Red Riding Rabbit. The 1944 short Bugs Bunny and the Three Bears introduces Jones' The Three Bears characters.
At the end of the cartoon Super-Rabbit, Bugs appears wearing a United States Marine Corps dress blue uniform. As a result, the Marine Corps made Bugs an honorary Marine Master Sergeant. From 1943 to 1946, Bugs was the official mascot of Kingman Army Air Field, Kingman, Arizona, where thousands of aerial gunners were trained during World War II. Some notable trainees included Clark Gable and Charles Bronson. Bugs also served as the mascot for 530 Squadron of the 380th Bombardment Group, 5th Air Force, U.S. Air Force, which was attached to the Royal Australian Air Force and operated out of Australia's Northern Territory from 1943 to 1945, flying B-24 Liberator bombers. Bugs riding an air delivered torpedo served as the squadron logo for Marine Torpedo/Bomber Squadron 242 in the Second World War.
In 1944, Bugs Bunny made a cameo appearance in Jasper Goes Hunting, a short produced by rival studio Paramount Pictures. In this cameo (animated by Robert McKimson, with Mel Blanc providing the voice), Bugs pops out of a rabbit hole, saying his usual catchphrase; Bugs then says, "I must be in the wrong picture" and then goes back in the hole. He also appears fleetingly in the 1947 Arthur Davis cartoon The Goofy Gophers
The post-war era
After World War II Bugs appeared in numerous cartoon shorts in the Looney Tunes and Merrie Melodies series, making his last appearance in the theatrical cartoons in 1964 with False Hare. He was directed by Friz Freleng, Robert McKimson, Arthur Davis and Chuck Jones and appeared in feature films, including Who Framed Roger Rabbit (which features the first-ever meeting between Bugs and his box-office rival Mickey Mouse), Space Jam, and the 2003 movie Looney Tunes: Back in Action.
The Bugs Bunny short Knighty Knight Bugs (1958), in which a medieval Bugs Bunny trades blows with Yosemite Sam and his fire-breathing dragon (which has a cold), won the Academy Award for Best Short Subject (Cartoons) of 1958. Three of Chuck Jones' Bugs Bunny shorts—Rabbit Fire, Rabbit Seasoning, and Duck! Rabbit, Duck!—comprise what is often referred to as the "Duck Season/Rabbit Season" trilogy, and are considered among the director's best works. Jones' 1957 classic, What's Opera, Doc?, cast Bugs and Elmer in a parody of Richard Wagner's Der Ring des Nibelungen. It has been deemed "culturally significant" by the United States Library of Congress and selected for preservation in the National Film Registry, the first cartoon short to receive this honor.
In the fall of 1960, ABC debuted the prime-time television program The Bugs Bunny Show. This show packaged many of the post-1948 Warners shorts with newly animated wraparounds. After two seasons, it was moved from its evening slot to reruns on Saturday mornings. The Bugs Bunny Show changed format and exact title frequently, but remained on network television for 40 years. The packaging was later completely different, with each short simply presented on its own, title and all, though some clips from the new bridging material were sometimes used as filler.
After the classic cartoon era
After Mel Blanc died in 1989, Jeff Bergman, Greg Burson, Billy West, and Joe Alaskey became the new voices of Bugs Bunny and many of the other Looney Tunes cast members, each taking turns doing Bugs' voice for various projects over the years.
Bugs has made appearances in animated specials for network television, mostly composed of classic cartoons with bridging material added, including How Bugs Bunny Won the West, and The Bugs Bunny Mystery Special. 1980s Bugs Bunny's Busting Out All Over, however, contained no vintage clips and featured the first new Bugs Bunny cartoons in 16 years. It opened with "Portrait Of The Artist As a Young Bunny", which features a flashback of Bugs as a child thwarting a young Elmer Fudd, while its third and closing short was "Spaced Out Bunny", with Bugs being kidnapped by Marvin the Martian to be a playmate for Hugo, an Abominable Snowman-like character. (A new Wile E. Coyote and Road Runner short filled out the half hour.) Compilation films included the independently produced Bugs Bunny: Superstar, using the vintage shorts then owned by United Artists; as well as Warner Bros. efforts The Bugs Bunny/Road Runner Movie, The Looney Looney Looney Bugs Bunny Movie, Daffy Duck's Fantastic Island, Bugs Bunny's 3rd Movie: 1001 Rabbit Tales and Daffy Duck's Quackbusters. He also made guest appearances in episodes of the 1990s television program Tiny Toon Adventures as the principal of Acme Looniversity and the mentor of Babs and Buster Bunny, and would later make occasional guest cameos on spinoffs Taz-Mania and Animaniacs. He appears in the beginning of Gremlins 2: The New Batch, where he tries to ride the opening Warner Bros logo, but is interrupted by Daffy Duck.
Bugs has had several comic book series over the years. Western Publishing had the license for all the Warner Brothers cartoons, and produced Bugs Bunny comics first for Dell Comics, then later for their own Gold Key Comics. Dell published 58 issues and several specials from 1952 to 1962. Gold Key continued for another 133 issues. DC Comics, the sister/subsidiary company of Warner Bros., has published several comics titles since 1994 that Bugs has appeared in. Notable among these was the 2000 four-issue miniseries Superman & Bugs Bunny, written by Mark Evanier and drawn by Joe Staton. This depicted a crossover between DC's superheroes and the Warner cartoon characters.
Being an Icon
Like SpongeBob SquarePants for Nickelodeon and Mickey Mouse for Disney, Bugs has served as the mascot for Warner Bros. Entertainment and its various divisions. He and Mickey are the first cartoon characters to have a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame.
In the 1988 animated/live action movie Who Framed Roger Rabbit, Bugs was shown as one of the inhabitants of Toontown. However, since the film was being produced by Disney, Warner Bros. would only allow the use of their biggest star if he got an equal amount of screen time as Disney's biggest star, Mickey Mouse. Because of this, both characters are always together in frame when onscreen. For the same reasons, Bugs never calls Mickey by his name, only referring to him as "Doc," while Mickey calls him "Bugs."
Return to Stardom
Bugs Bunny came back to the silver screen in Box Office Bunny in 1990. This was the first Bugs Bunny cartoon short since 1964 to be released to theaters, and it was created for the Bugs Bunny 50th anniversary celebration. It was followed in 1991 by (Blooper) Bunny, a short that has gained a cult following among some animation fans for its edgy humor.
Bugs made an appearance in the 1990 drug prevention video Cartoon All-Stars to the Rescue. This special is notable for being the first time that somebody other than Mel Blanc voiced Bugs Bunny and Daffy Duck. (In this video, both characters were voiced by Jeff Bergman.)
In 1997, Bugs appeared on a U.S. postage stamp, the first cartoon to be so honored, beating the iconic Mickey Mouse. The stamp is number seven on the list of the ten most popular U.S. stamps, as calculated by the number of stamps purchased but not used. The introduction of Bugs onto a stamp was controversial at the time, as it was seen as a step toward the 'commercialization' of stamp art. The postal service rejected many designs, and went with a postal-themed drawing. Avery Dennison printed the Bugs Bunny stamp sheet, which featured "a special ten-stamp design and was the first self-adhesive souvenir sheet issued by the U.S. Postal Service."
Also in '97, he appeared as the deuteragonist of Space Jam, with Michael Jordan as the protagonist.
In 2003, Bugs and Daffy appeared in Looney Tunes: Back in Action as the tritagonists, third in place behind DJ and Kate. In this story, Bugs and Daffy are up to their feuding ways again. Suddenly a sidekick without a hero, Daffy joins DJ to relocate his superspy father Damien, even if they have to beat Mr. Chairman to the Blue Monkey. All the while, Kate and Bugs tag along, both hoping to make amends with their friends.
A younger version of Bugs is the main character of Baby Looney Tunes, which debuted on Cartoon Network in 2002. In the action comedy Loonatics Unleashed, his definite descendant Ace Bunny is the leader of the Loonatics team and seems to have inherited his ancestor's Brooklyn accent and comic wit. Strangely, Bugs was one of the few Looney Tunes characters who never appeared in the 2003 Duck Dodgers series.
In Bah, Humduck: a Looney Tunes Christmas, Bugs is the tetartagonist, with Daffy as the protagonist, Porky as the deuteragonist, and Priscilla as the tritagonist.
Bugs has appeared in numerous video games, including the Bugs Bunny's Crazy Castle series, Bugs Bunny Birthday Blowout, Bugs Bunny: Rabbit Rampage and the similar Bugs Bunny in Double Trouble, Looney Tunes B-Ball, Space Jam, Looney Tunes Racing, Looney Tunes: Space Race, Bugs Bunny: Lost in Time, and its sequel, Bugs Bunny and Taz: Time Busters, Looney Tunes: Back in Action and the new video game Looney Tunes: Acme Arsenal.
On August 13, 2010, Warner Bros. Pictures announced that they are planning a live-action/CG-animated combo feature film based on the Looney Tunes character.
Return to television
Bugs Bunny and the rest of the Looney Tunes gang returned to Cartoon Network in 2011 in a brand new show called The Looney Tunes Show, with Jeff Bergman returning to voice both Bugs and Daffy Duck. This series will also feature the characters singing original songs as well. The show debuted on May 3, 2011. A large difference between Bugs and Daffy's friendship in the show is that, whereas Bugs would hardly mind Daffy's flaws in the original cartoons, in the show Bugs is often and openly annoyed at Daffy's antics, sometimes to the point of aggression when Daffy becomes too obnouxious.
Bugs appears as a baby bunny in 2 episodes of Castaras Babys.
Baby Looney Tunes
Bugs Bunny appears in Baby Looney Tunes as a baby when he was taking care by Granny.
In AVGN Review of Bugs Bunny Birthday Blowout and Bugs Bunny Crazy Castle Bugs Bunny is a rival of Angry Video Game Nerd.