Since it’s Chinese New Year, and it’s the Year of the Rabbit, this is totally not gratuitous. Besides, we could all use a little more wholesome, fluffy cuteness in our lives. However, not all the creatures on this list are quite so cuddly.
To kick things off, we have the cinematic world’s most illustrious rabbit…
Everyone knows Bugs. Or do we? The wascally wabbit that we’re grown to know and love began life in a very different incarnation. His very first screen appearance was in a 1938 Warner Bros. cartoon short entitled “Porky’s Hare Hunt”. The rabbit character that made his debut here had all the trademark attitude and snappy quips, but went unnamed and had a voice more akin to Woody Woodpecker’s. And he was white, not grey. It wasn’t until “A Wild Hare”, released 2 years later, that the name Bugs Bunny was finally used, and his voice (by the legendary Mel Blanc) took on that familiar wise-guy drawl. It was here also that audiences were first introduced to his trademark phrase “What’s up, Doc?”. By the way, fascinating factoid: you sharp-witted readers might’ve noticed both titles using the word “hare” instead of “rabbit”. That’s because rabbits are not indigenous to America, only hares are. The term was accepted much later.
Bugs’ sly wit made him an instant hit with both kids and adults. He was always more interested in tormenting his hunter (who eventually evolved into the hapless Elmer Fudd) than escaping capture. This resonated with the World War II generation, because they could identify with a personality who smirked in the face of death. Bugs soon became the most popular Looney Tunes character on the “Merrie Melodies” show. In fact, he almost single-handedly improved the profit margin of Warner Bros Studios during the difficult wartime period. To borrow a Feng Shui term, this was one Golden Rabbit.
More than 70 years later, Bugs Bunny continues to be a popular and welcome presence on both the small and big screens. His evergreen appeal lies in his very desirable (human) ability to make light of any situation, no matter how dire. I’ve always loved Bugs for exactly that reason. He just seemed like a really cool friend to have in a tight spot.
He also had a streak of unpredictability that kept him fresh and more importantly, relevant, to audiences across the generations. Other Looney Tunes like Tweety and Daffy remain popular too, but they’ve never really managed to capture the mood of any given decade like Bugs has. His zig-zagging nature lends itself to the swinging 60s as much as it does to the cynical 90s.
And to top it all off, Bugs is just one lovable-looking fella.