A Year: Day to Day Men: 27th of July


July 27, 1940 was the release date of the film “A Wild Hare”.

An early version of a Bugs Bunny-like character appeared in the 1938 “Porky’s Hare Hunt”. It was co-directed by Ben Hardaway and an uncredited Cal Dalton, who was responsible for the initial design of the rabbit. Porky Pig is cast as a hunter tracing his prey who is more interested in driving his pursuer insane rather than escaping. The white rabbit had an oval shaped head, a shapeless body, and was voiced by Mel Blanc.

This rabbit character appeared in “Prest-O Change-O”, directed by animator Chuck Jones and released in 1939. This version of the character was cool, graceful and controlled. He retained the laugh but was otherwise silent in the film. The third appearance of the rabbit was in the 1939 “Hare-um Scare-um” directed by Dalton and Hardaway. This time he was gray and had his first singing role.

“The Wild Hare” is considered to be the first official Bugs Bunny cartoon. It is the first film where both Elmer Fudd and Bugs, both redesigned by animator and developer Bob Givens, are shown in fully developed forms as hunter and tormentor. The film is the first in which Mel Blanc uses what becomes the standard voice for Bugs, and says Bugs’ famous catchphrase, “What’s up, Doc”. A huge success in the theaters, the film received an Academy Award nomination for Best Cartoon Short Subject.

Since Bugs’ debut in “ A Wild Hare”, Bugs appeared only in color Merrie Melodies films, alongside Elmer and his predecessors. Bugs made a cameo in the 1943 “Porky’s Pig Feet”, but that was his only appearance in a black-and-white Looney Tunes film. He did not star in a Looney Tunes film until that series made its complete conversion to only color cartoons beginning in 1944. “Buckaroo Bugs” was Bugs’ first film in the Looney Tunes series and was also the last Warner Bros. cartoon to credit Schlesinger, who had produced the film of the original rabbit. The Leon Schlesinger Productions studio was sold to Warner Brothers in1944 after the release fo “Buckaroo Bugs”.

The cartoon 1958 “Knighty Knight Bugs”, directed by Fritz Freleng, in which a medieval Bugs trades blows with Yosemite Sam and his fire-breathing dragon, won an Academy Award for Best Cartoon Short Subject, becoming the first Bugs Bunny cartoon to win that award. Three of Chuck Jones’ films —“Rabbit Fire”, “Rabbit Seasoning” and “Duck! Rabbit, Duck!”— compose what is often referred to as the “Rabbit Season/Duck Season” trilogy and are famous for originating the historic rivalry between Bugs and Daffy Duck.

Chuck Jones’ classic 1957 “What’s Opera, Doc?”, casts Bugs and Elmer Fudd in a parody of Richard Wagner’s opera “Der Ring des Nibelungen”. This cartoon was deemed “culturally significant” by the United States Library of Congress and selected for preservation in the National Film Registry in 1992, becoming the first cartoon short to receive this honor.

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