Western Animation / A Wild Hare

The Birth Of An Icon.

"A Wild Hare" is a 1940 Warner Bros. Merrie Melodies animated short film. It was produced by Leon Schlesinger Productions, directed by Tex Avery, and written by Rich Hogan, and originally released on July 27, 1940. A Wild Hare is considered by many film historians to be the first "official" Bugs Bunny cartoon, and set the basic comedy formula for the rest of Bugs Bunny's shorts, solidifying Bugs as a Karmic Trickster and finalizing Elmer Fudd's personality and design. The opening lines of both characters—"Be vewy, vewy quiet, I'm hunting wabbits" for Elmer, and "Eh, what's up Doc?" for the rabbit—would become catchphrases throughout their subsequent films.

The short begins with Elmer Fudd setting out to hunt for wabbits, and instead encountering Bugs, who after not falling for Elmer's first trick to lure Bugs out of his hole with a carrot comes out of a separate hole, and as Elmer is still peeking down the first rabbit hole, he chews on his carrot and nonchalantly asks "Eh, what's up Doc?" This sets the tone for the rest of the short, in which Bugs manages to outsmart Elmer at every turn and foil every trap. After Elmer becomes overly frustrated Bugs offers him a free shot with his shotgun, and when Elmer misses Bugs plays dead ("Everything's gettin' dark..."), which leaves Elmer sobbing and calling himself a murderer. Bugs gets up, kicks Elmer in the rear and shoves a cigar in his mouth, before tip-toeing away ballet-style. This leaves Elmer storming away in mental anguish. Bugs asides to the audience, "Can ye imagine anyone acting like that? Ya know, I think the poor guy's screwy!" Bugs then begins to play his carrot like a fife, and marches with one stiff leg towards his rabbit hole.

The short was nominated for the 1940 Academy Award, but lost out to an MGM Harman and Ising short, "The Milky Way".

This short contains examples of:

  • Annoying Laugh: This is the cartoon that established Elmer Fudd's machine-gun chuckle.
  • Aside Glance
  • Bowdlerise: In the original version, during Bugs' game of "Guess Who?" with Elmer, Elmer's second guess was "Carole Lombard." Carole Lombard was a blond, comic actress of the 1930s and 1940s who died in a plane crash in 1942. In the re-release of this short, "Carole Lombard" was replaced with "Barbara Stanwyck." The "Barbara Stanwyck" version is the one shown a lot on television and most home video and DVD releases. The original "Carole Lombard" version was thought to be lost to the ages, until it appeared on The Essential Bugs Bunny DVD and the Looney Tunes Platinum Collection volume 2.
  • Box-and-Stick Trap: Elmer tries to catch Bugs with one, but gets a skunk instead.
  • Butt Monkey: Elmer
  • Casual Danger Dialog
  • Cradling Your Kill
  • Early Installment Weirdness: Bugs' design looks a bit odd if you're used to his finalized design from the Fifties. But alternatively, one could look at the 'Happy Hare' shorts that preceded this as Early Installment Weirdness which was finally lifted in this short.
  • Elmuh Fudd Syndwome
  • Faking the Dead
  • Final Speech: After Elmer supposedly shoots Bugs, he gives a long speech, along the lines of "Ya got me doc...everything's gettin' dark...dark..."
  • From Bad to Worse: A surprising aversion for such an early work. When Elmer realises he's holding a skunk instead of Bugs, there's a long moment in which it's obvious that he's going to be sprayed. Elmer gently lowers it to the ground, softly lowers its raised tail, gives it a light push away... and the skunk walks off, never to be seen again.
  • Karmic Trickster
  • Literal Ass Kicking
  • My God, What Have I Done?: Elmer is reduced to a sobbing mess after he thinks he killed Bugs, despite the fact that it was what he'd set out to do in the first place.
  • No Fourth Wall: Both Elmer and Bugs speak to the audience at different points.
  • No Name Given: Surprisingly, Bugs is not named in this short, be it in the cartoon or in the titles. He wouldn't get his name until the next short, "Elmer's Pet Rabbit".
  • Please Wake Up: Elmer reacts this way when he thinks Bugs is dead, before crying.
  • Pun-Based Title: Complete with the opening using the song "I'm just wild about Harry", obviously keeping in sync with the "hare" theme naming.
  • Punctuated! For! Emphasis!:
    Bugs: "Now don't spread this around, but uh...confidentially...I AM A WABBIT!!!"
  • Remake: This short is very much a remake of the Proto-Bugs short "Elmer's Candid Camera", with Avery improving on what he felt was wrong with "Camera".
  • Smelly Skunk: When Elmer catches a skunk in his rabbit trap instead of Bugs, he walks right up to Bugs and proudly brags about it, before slowly realizing that he's holding a skunk.
    Skunk: "Confidentially... uh, you know..."
  • Stock Animal Diet:
    Elmer: "Wabbits wove cawwots, huhhuhhuhhuhhuh..."
  • Take-That Kiss