If you need an Easter Bunny to know it’s spring, the Aero American Cinematheque is offering an family matinee of cartoons on Saturday April 3 at 4pm starring the world’s most famous long-eared critter, Bugs Bunny.
All in 35mm, the program includes the Warner Brothers classics: “Duck! Rabbit! Duck!” “Devil May Hare,” “Rabbit of Seville,” “Operation: Rabbit,” “Bedeviled Rabbit,” “Rabbit Hood,” “My Bunny Lies Over the Sea,” “Bugsy and Mugsy,” “Really Scent,” “Forward March Hare” and “Hare Lift!” Also on the program is a great cartoon minus Bugs but starring his frequent rival Daffy Duck, “Duck Dodgers in the 24 1/2 Century,” the short that George Lucas requested be shown with Star Wars.
Bugs Bunny, for sure, is no cutesy, fluffy Easter rabbit. Since the late 1930s, the “wascally wabbit” has been one of the most enduring of cartoon characters. He starred in more than 160 Warners shorts and a couple of feature films, had his own early 1960s TV show, was a TV commercial pitchman for various products, was featured on records and in comic books, and even had his own postage stamp. To quote Steve Schneider, in That’s All Folks! The Art of Warner Brothers Animation, “Bugs is the character whom, if he were to come to life, you would want to spend time with.”
Bugs started out as a rather squat, white bunny with a manic manner in a 1938 cartoon, “Porky’s Hare Hunt,” that found the genial Porky trying in vain to hunt the anarchistic rabbit. The director of that cartoon was Ben “Bugs” Hardaway and the rabbit took his monicker from a model sheet for the character that had been labeled “Bug’s (sic) Bunny.” Several other cartoons followed in which the rabbit’s appearance gradually changed, although he still had a wild and crazy demeanor and a voice and laugh that presaged Woody Woodpecker (no coincidence as Mel Blanc, Warner’s resident voice genius, created the Woody voice after Warner’s discarded the original Bugs style).
It was Tex Avery, one of the greatest cartoon animators, who reshaped Bugs into the prototype of the rabbit we now know, in 1940’s “A Wild Hare.” Mel Blanc created a new voice, with a tough “Brooklyn or Bronx” accent. Avery gave Bugs his famous introductory line “What’s Up Doc?” a popular Texas expression, because as Avery told his biographer Joe Adamson: “Everyone expected the rabbit to scream or anything but make a casual remark.”
With his carrot-chomping insouciance and clever manipulations of dangerous situations, Bugs Bunny became the favorite animated hero of the World War II years. His M.O. was always to mind his own business unless threatened by the mixed-up Elmer Fudd or the short-tempered Yosemite Sam. Then he fought back, but always with style and frequently with episodes of cross-dressing.
So if blue-skinned aliens and CGI mini-monsters are causing your eyes to glaze over, come to the Aero’s program and enjoy a trip back to the days of movie matinees with short subjects and cartoons galore. And remember not to make the wrong turn at Albuquerque!
Bugs Bunny Cartoons and Egg Hunt, 4pm, tickets: $11 adults, $9 students/seniors, $7 members, Aero American Cinematheque, 1428 Montana Avenue, 323.466.FILM
Mirror Contributing Writerlynne@smmirror.com