During a news break this morning while listening to the radio it was announced that today marked the 75th birthday of Bugs Bunny. Doing the math, 2013 minus 75 is 1938. It was on April 30, 1938 that an as yet to be named rabbit character appeared in an animated theatrical cartoon titled Porky's Hare Hunt. This rabbit character would evolve over the course of 2 years and visually start to resemble the character we all know as Bugs Bunny. The rabbit got it's name through a chain of events where an employee at Warner Brothers had written the phrase Bugs's Bunny on a model sheet of the yet to be named character. Ben Hardaway's nickname at the studio, according to those who worked with him, was Bugs. Today many historians refer to him as Ben "Bugs" Hardaway.
Anyway, the alliterative name stuck and from then on Bugs Bunny became the character's name.
However, longtime fans, historians, and those who worked on the cartoons cite 1940 as the official birth year of Bugs Bunny for it was in a July 27, 1940 cartoon directed by Tex Avery titled A Wild Hare which introduced the basic visual appearance that Bugs Bunny has kept over the last 73 years. Porky's Hare Hunt was directed by Ben Hardaway and Cal Dalton. A Wild Hare was directed by Tex Avery. Research shows that there were four theatrical cartoons released between April 1938 and March 1940 starring the future Bugs Bunny. Those cartoons are as follows:
1. Porky's Hare Hunt; 1938 (Ben Hardaway and Cal Dalton)
2. Prest-O Change-O; 1939 (Chuck Jones)
3. Hare-um Scare-um; 1939 (Ben Hardaway and Cal Dalton)
4. Elmer's Candid Camera; March 2, 1940 (Chuck Jones)
A Wild Hare, with the new design of the rabbit, soon followed in July 1940. This is probably the only animated character that has two birthday's. April 30, 1938 and July 27, 1940. Given that the 1940 cartoon by Tex Avery is almost always universally accepted as the first official Bugs Bunny cartoon, 1940 is considered his official 'birth year'. This is why, in 1990, there was a lot of media hype surrounding the character's Golden Anniversary...hitting 50. Ten years later ABC-TV cancelled the long running Saturday morning Bugs Bunny Show franchise (which had evolved into The Bugs Bunny and Tweety Show). This particular series, which ran on various networks and time-slots since 1960, had turned 40 in the year 2000. Since that point in time the Looney Tunes characters have mostly aired on cable television, off and on, in addition to a long list of DVD compilation projects. Down through the years I've been able to purchase several items pertaining to Bugs Bunny and his numerous co-stars plus a couple of items about the man who gave voice to Bugs Bunny from 1938 through 1989, Mel Blanc.
At this time I'd like to put on display some of my Bugs Bunny/Looney Tunes/Mel Blanc items from my personal collection...
HERE. June had quite an impact in the Looney Tunes series as she gave voice to a few characters that have since become animation icons. The original voice actress of Granny and Witch Hazel was Bea Benaderet. Bea would later give voice to Betty Rubble in The Flintstones. Like June, Bea had a lengthy career in radio and on records in addition to the cartoon work. Bea, however, would become even more recognizable as a face actress in the 1950's and 1960's appearing in an assortment of early television comedies. Bea's longest running television role was as matriarch Kate Bradley on the rural sitcom, Petticoat Junction. June stepped into the roles of Granny and Witch Hazel during the 1950's and she's been the voices of those characters ever since. Unlike Mel Blanc, though, June wasn't tied to just one animation company exclusively for so many years. In addition to her Warner Brothers work she concurrently gave voice to another animated icon, Rocky the Flying Squirrel, on the Bullwinkle series of cartoons by the Jay Ward company. She became even more busy in the 1980's. She gave voice to Jokey Smurf and Mother Nature in the Smurfs series throughout the decade. For the Disney company June was the voices of several characters in the mega hits The Adventures of the Gummi Bears and Duck Tales from the mid '80s onward. You can read more about her by getting the autobiography!
However, the exclusive contract applied to animated cartoons only...it didn't prevent him from using his voice on radio and on records. In radio, Mel was heard on dozens of radio programs playing a wide variety of recurring characters. Given that his radio characters were as animated as the characters in the cartoons it wasn't uncommon for the writers of the cartoons to blend both worlds together and have in-jokes flowing all over the cartoons about various radio comedies that Mel was featured on. References to Jack Benny were used the most given that Jack's radio program was the #1 comedy show for so many years and that Mel provided many character voices on that series. One cartoon in particular, 1959's The Mouse That Jack Built, must have seemed surreal to audiences at the time. It was directed by Robert McKimson and featured the actual cast of The Jack Benny Program providing their character voices, drawn as mice. Mel provided the voice of the Maxwell jalopy as well as the unseen Ed, the Vault Keeper. On radio Joseph Kearns provided the voice of Ed. Considering that Ed only had a brief exchange with the cartoon Jack Benny it was probably decided that it wouldn't make much sense to bring in Joseph Kearns for just one single line reading. Later that year he would take on the role of Mr. Wilson on Dennis the Menace.