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Friday, July 21, 2006

Chuck Jones on Bugs Bunny

July 27, marks the 66th birthday of the greatest cartoon character ever, Bugs Bunny! 1940 was the year, the wascawwy wabby first outsmarted the dim-witted hunter Elmer Fudd, and questioned audiences, "What's up, Doc?" Chuck Jones knew the character very well, and wrote about the history of the character in his autobiography book "Chuck Amuck" in 1989, published by Farrar Straus Giroux in New York. Here are some excerps from the "Rabbit Transit" passage:
"In Bugs's case, there appeared in a few cartoons a sort of unfertilized half-cel of creativity, wandering wanly around our films, searching for its better-or-bitter-half. A crude crrature, half-or perhaps only a quarter-completed, but within it was a tiny spark of creativity.
The development of a major character such as Bugs, Daffy Duck, Porky Pig, etc.-unlike most forms of life-was a hop-scotch affair, moving from director to director to director, picking up and dropping comic turns and comedic characteristics of possible use to the mature character. But none of this was deliberate. We not only didn't know that there was a comic genius brewing in our group, we didn't even know we were pregnant. For me, certainly, the idea that any film of mine would contribute any useful trait to an immortal cartoon character like Bugs or Daffy would have carried pretentiousness to absolute absurdity.
A Wild Hare (July 1940), directed by Tex Avery. In this film, through the brilliant, wild, and stimulating mind of Tex Avery, we catch a remarkable first glimpse of the possibilities implicit in the personality of Warner Bros. Cartoons' first true star. A Wild Hare had certainly won all filmic baby contests so far, but he was still a baby, still incomplete. It was up to us to find out, during the painful growth period-babyhood through childhood-so nervously recognizable to all parents. Wh had to find out who Bugs was. We already knew what he was.
Bugs Bunny was the wise guy that comes out on top over his enemy in "A Wild Hare", but his next appearence in "Elmer's Pet Rabbit", he is grouchy and irritable. This film was directed by Chuck Jones, unsure of what the personality should be. This character is almost what Robert McKimson would use for his early shorts. Tex Avery had Bugs be the loser in Tortise Beats Hare, and Friz Freleng had the wabbit be a troublemaker, who only gets his just-desserts in the end. But, then Tex Avery dished out "The Heckling Hare", which has the rabbit over his dog nemisis from start to finish. This is the Bugs Bunny we know and love, and have recognized this persona in 98% of his cartoons throughout his career. And it hwas Tex Avery, Chuck Jones, and Friz Freleng, who were the three early "parents" raising their "child", with Bob Clampett and McKimson doing weekend babysitting, and rubbing off their own traits onto the character. Bugs really is the best cartoon character ever. Well, that's what TVGuide said.
-Brandon "Falling Hare" Pierce


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