‘What’s Up, Doc?’: 15 Trivia Tidbits About Bugs Bunny

Wait, is Bugs Jewish?
‘What’s Up, Doc?’: 15 Trivia Tidbits About Bugs Bunny

You’d probably be hard-pressed to find a single person who wouldn’t recognize the phrase, “What’s up, Doc?” Bugs Bunny was once rated the second most famous character in the world, losing only to the 16th President of the United States, Abraham Lincoln. That’s star power right there. The nonchalant cartoon character who can make a carrot look the coolest has assumed the spotlight for over 80 years in countless shorts, features, comics, and every piece of merchandise imaginable. 

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Leaving no doubt about the long-eared icon’s impact on the world at large, Warner Bros.’ wascally wabbit was not only the first-ever animated drag queen, but the hammy hare is also responsible for changing the way Super Bowl commercials are made today. So, let’s dive into some trivia about the famous toon who first popped up in a Porky Pig cartoon as the “Happy Rabbit.”

His First Live-Action Feature

Long before Bugs would show up in Who Framed Roger Rabbit or ball alongside MJ and LeBron in Space Jam, the character would make his first live-action appearance during a dream sequence in a 1949 musical called My Dream Is Yours starring Doris Day. The bold move was made because studios at the time were reportedly worried about losing their audiences to television, with this reality-bending crossover being unleashed as a solution.

His Top-Secret World War II Propaganda Films

During America’s years fighting fascism in World War II, Bugs showed up in Private Snafu, a collection of short animations created by the First Motion Picture Unit in conjunction with Warner Bros. Animation. Directed by Chuck Jones and starring Mel Blanc, these shorts were used to coach soldiers on military safety and keep them in line. The films were created under tight secrecy and security, with different departments responsible for different aspects of the production so that no individual without military clearance would end up seeing the finished product. Bugs Bunny showed up in a short called Gas, which you can watch below.

He Was Synonymous With Mel Blanc

While the famous actor voiced many great cartoon characters (including Daffy Duck, Elmer Fudd, Porky Pig and Barney Rubble from The Flintstones), everyone knew him as the voice of Bugs. Following a terrible car accident in 1961, the hospital switchboard where Blanc was being treated was flooded with calls, and thousands of letters were sent addressed to “Bugs Bunny, Hollywood, USA,” wishing Bugs/Blanc well. 

The story goes that Blanc was in a coma and unresponsive until his neurosurgeon, Dr. Louis Conway, tried a novel tactic, asking the actor, “How are you feeling today, Bugs Bunny?” To which Blanc meekly replied, “Eh, just fine, Doc. How’re you?” As Conway told it years later: “Mel was dying, and it seemed as though Bugs Bunny was trying to save his life.”

Veggie Producers Reportedly Tried to Get Him to Eat Their Stock

It’s been claimed that carrot consumption in the U.S. shot up following Bugs’ first appearance. This supposedly led to the Utah Celery Company of Salt Lake City asking Warner Bros. to have their cartoon rabbit switch to celery instead to boost their sales. The broccoli folks apparently tried, too, but carrots seemed to work just fine for the animators.

Is He Jewish?

According to historian, film scholar and now Rabbi David Yehuda Stern, Bugs is top-to-bottom Jewish. During a lecture at Britain’s University of Warwick, the Bugs aficionado once argued that the rabbit was not only created by a Jewish producer (Leon Schlesinger) but also lived in a Jewish neighborhood, had a characteristic Jewish New York accent, and displayed the kind of witty humor synonymous with the Jewish community. For what it’s worth, Blanc was also Jewish.

He Was the First Cartoon to Get a U.S. Postage Stamp

Smithsonian National Postal Museum

In 1997, the wily rabbit would become the first of his kind to get their own postage stamp. In 2020, the USPS introduced 10 new Forever stamps for the character’s 80th birthday featuring Bugs in some of his most iconic dress-ups.


The ‘Bugs Bunny Specials’ Dominated Theaters in the 1940s

The Bugs Bunny Specials — as the cartoons featuring our main hare were called back in the day — were collectively voted by theater owners in both the U.S. and Canada as the most popular cinematic shorts in 1945. They kept that honor for 16 years straight.

All of His Influences

The coolness of Humphrey Bogart and the loud mouth of Groucho Marx served as inspiration for Bugs, who even uttered one of Marx’s famous lines in Duck Soup (watch below).

Another famous inspiration was Clark Gable as Peter Warne, eating his carrots in the 1934 comedy, It Happened One Night.

Chuck Jones Called Him a Comic Hero

“Bugs is a comic hero, you see, as compared with a comic wimp, which would go back to all the great comedians, starting with Chaplin and Buster Keaton and all the rest of them,” the Looney Tunes writer, producer and director once explained to NPR. “They were — they’re all kind of semi-losers, aren’t they? They’re more like us.”

The Controversial Cartoon

Rhapsody Rabbit was a Bugs Bunny short film released in 1946 as part of the Merrie Melodies series, and it later became the very first cartoon to be broadcast on Cartoon Network on October 1, 1992. However, MGM produced a Tom and Jerry short called The Cat Concerto that was laughably similar and released the same year Rhapsody Rabbit came out, leading to speculation of plagiarism. It’s widely believed today that the nearly identical cartoons were the result of either one major coincidence or a mistake in footage delivery. Either way, The Cat Concerto was deemed the better short, winning the Oscar for Best Animated Short Film that year.

He Has Been Named the Greatest Athlete in Movie History

In 2020, The Athletic ranked Bugs as the greatest sportsman in cinematic history, arguing that his shorts, in combination with Space Jam, more than earned him the title. “If Bugs could play not only baseball but also every position, if he could help Michael Jordan beat The Monstars in Space Jam, if he could bullfight, box, wrestle, golf, ski, race Yosemite Sam from Alaska to Fort Knox, and, if you consider hunting a sport, never get the worst of it from Elmer Fudd or Daffy Duck, there is one logical conclusion: Bugs Bunny is the greatest athlete in the history of the movies.” Truly, a sound argument.

The Secret to Creating the Great Cartoon Character

The makers of Bugs were wary about the sly rabbit coming across as a bully. “He’s such a powerful character that he could become a terrible bully,” Jones said. “So, in every picture, we started him in a natural rabbit environment, minding his own business, a quiet-living rabbit, something like Rex Harrison, perhaps, before he got involved with My Fair Lady ladies. And then someone comes along and tries to deprive him his food or his life or his, you know, or sending him up on a rocket or something. And then he has to fight back. And once engaged in the war, then he’s happily engaged. But without that, he would just be a bully.”

How the Voice of Fry in ‘Futurama’ Ended Up Playing Bugs in ‘Space Jam’

Voice actor Billy West once said that he got the coveted role simply for being in the right place at the right time“I was working in radio in New York. This was after I had done Ren & Stimpy and Doug,” West explained. “I was working on The Howard Stern Show, and Ivan Reitman was producing his film Private Parts. Ivan was also getting ready to cast for Space Jam. He got a load of me in the studio and asked if I would audition, and I said, ‘Yeah.’ So he gave me the parts of Bugs and Elmer (Fudd).”

Warner Bros. Is Working on a New Bugs Bunny Movie

A new live-action animated hybrid is reportedly in the works over at Bugs’ studio, with Robert Rugan (The Curse of Bridge Hollow) set to write the script.

Eric Bauza’s Unique Way of Voicing Bugs

The Canadian voice actor (who’s done everything from Ren & Stimpy to The Flintstones) has been voicing various Looney Tunes characters for a little over a decade now. On how he does Bugs in the Looney Tunes Cartoons, he once told Screen Rant: “When I do Bugs Bunny’s voice, most of the time, I’m holding my breath, like pushing all the air out of my lungs. And what’s funny is that when I was doing that voice, you do that for four hours in a session, you’re kind of exhausted.”

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