Tuesday, July 27, 2010
“Ehhh, what’s up, Pruneface?” A grizzled Bugs confronts an ancient Elmer in “The Old Grey Hare.” ©1944 Turner Entertainment Co., a Time Warner company.
There is a classic 1944-vintage Bugs Bunny cartoon - a great favorite of mine from back in my Snot-Nose Years unto this very day - entitled “The Old Grey Hare.” Directed by the immortal Bob Clampett, it flashes us forward to the far future, with the Voice o’ God intoning “Come, Elmer. Come past the years 1950, 1960, past 1970, ’80, ’90... When you hear the sound of the gong, it will be exactly 2000 A.D.!” It is there that we meet an elderly Bugs Bunny and Elmer Fudd who - in a flashback within the flashforward - reminisce about their childhood and the beginnings of their rivalry.
Watching that cartoon as a child, it was amusing enough to imagine that far future world, and to picture a wrinkled, moustachioed Elmer Fudd... and a grizzled, arthritic (“dern this lumbago!”) Bugs Bunny, complete with white Abe Lincoln beard. But, just as with the science fiction of the Golden Age, reality has a way of catching up with those archaic Future Visions. And as with SF, so with the world of cartoons.
This is a long-winded way of mentioning that today is Bugs Bunny’s seventieth birthday.
Yes! Bugs, the irrepressible bunny with the Brooklyn accent, is officially a septuagenarian... for it was on July 27, 1940 that the theatrical cartoon short “A Wild Hare” was released.
Although several earlier Looney Tunes films had featured a rabbit (“Porky‘s Hare Hunt” in 1938 being the first), “A Wild Hare,” directed by Tex Avery, is the first film to show Bugs Bunny in his fully-developed form, complete with his well-known design, voice, and catchphrase (“Ehhhh, what’s up, Doc?”). And, appropriately enough, it also features the ever-frustrated Elmer Fudd in the first of many fruitless Lapine Pursuits.
It’s hard to imagine Bugs Bunny being seventy, but time, like shit, happens. At least he’s younger than Ringo Starr... by a few weeks, anyway.