On July 27, 1940, a wisecracking, carrot-chewing rabbit with a Brooklyn accent and a lot of sass took on a befuddled hunter for the first time, introducing himself with a line that’s now iconic: “What’s up, Doc?”
“A Wild Hare” was the very first appearance of Bugs Bunny as we’ve come to know him. Though the Warner Bros. Merrie Melodies series had introduced anthropomorphic rabbits as main characters before (and Elmer Fudd was already a mainstay by the late 1930s), this Tex Avery-directed color short is considered his first official appearance.
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The eight-minute film establishes a lot of what ends up defining Bugs and what makes up a classic Bugs Bunny cartoon: his Mel Blanc-voiced Flatbush accent (according to lore, he was born in a rabbit warren under Ebbets Field); his slender, gray-white design; sly, mocking behavior that’s somewhere between Groucho Marx and Clark Gable; his catchphrase; his street smarts; and the upended hunter-prey format, usually with a flustered Elmer. By 1942, Bugs was the undeniable star of the Merrie Melodies lineup, and he has gone on to earn Warner Bros. tens of millions a year — as well as becoming the official mascot of Warner Bros. Entertainment.
Watch Bugs Bunny’s first appearance here, and see why this slick lagomorph has stolen the show for the last eight decades.
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