Bugs Bunny is one of the most beloved cartoon characters ever. But that name … where did that name come from?
It starts with Ben Hardaway, who was a writer and director at Termite Terrace, the hub of animation for Warner Brothers Studios in the 1930’s and 40’s. In 1937, the legendary animator Tex Avery had produced a short with Daffy Duck and Porky Pig called “Porky’s Duck Hunt.” Unlike the audience’s expectation of the day, Daffy didn’t flinch when confronting Porky the hunter. Daffy went wild and crazy in an over the top way which viewers had never seen before. Audiences loved the mayhem and begged the studio for more.
In 1938, Hardaway was tapped to direct a follow-up cartoon, “Porky’s Hare Hunt.” Porky Pig was now set on catching a rabbit. But, in classic WB style, this particular rabbit was to be no easy prey. This rabbit appeared next in the cartoon “Prest-O Change-O.” The studio knew it had a hot property and decided to develop even more content around the hare. The brain trust then decided that this character needed a name. So after great debate and discussion, the name was “Happy Rabbit” was chosen.
While the third cartoon was in development, animator Gil Turner wrote on the top of his model sheet to indicate which character he was sketching. Rather than write out in full Hardaway’s name, Turner wrote only his director’s nickname to describe his sketch and who it was for: “Bugs’ Bunny.” In the 30’s, the nickname “Bugs” or “Bugsy” was a popular term to describe someone who was crazy or loony, which fit the Rascally Rabbit to a T.
The studio dropped the apostrophe and the rest is animation history.