SUMMARY: Elmer Fudd goes “hunting wabbits” and a classic battle that will last for decades begins.
WHY IT’S HERE: It’s a classic set-up. A round-headed, bulbous-nosed hunter creeps through the woods brandishing his gun, briefly turning to the audience to inform them “Be vewwy, vewwy quiet, I’m hunting wabbits”. Coming across a rabbit hole, the hunter begins to dig while from an adjacent hole a grey bunny emerges, casually moseys up to the hunter and, with a breathtaking confidence that suggests he sees the hunter as no threat whatsoever, asks “What’s up, Doc?” And cinema history is changed forever.
Tex Avery’s ‘A Wild Hare’ not only created a universal superstar in Bugs Bunny but also remains the quintessential Bugs cartoon to this day. Mention the name Bugs Bunny to anyone and 90% of them will immediately picture a rabbit hole in a forest and Elmer Fudd stalking towards it. Not only does ‘A Wild Hare’ open exactly this way, the first line is Elmer’s most famous catchphrase. When Bugs puts in an appearance, his opening line is perhaps the most famous catchphrase of all time. So the scene is set, the template established for a rivalry that will continue for decades. There’s enough history in the opening couple of minutes of ‘A Wild Hare’ to make any serious cartoon fan’s heart swell with joy but there’s plenty more to recommend it. While it may seem like a comparatively no-frills cartoon for those who grew up watching the many, many variations on this set-up that followed, keep in mind that this was Bugs’s debut and these now familiar routines are being tried out for the first time. Bugs has rarely been cooler or looked more handsome than he does in ‘A Wild Hare’, his nonchalance really striking a chord with audiences and ensuring his place in cartoon history.
While there were a handful of cartoons that predate ‘A Wild Hare’ starring prototype Bugs Bunnys, Avery’s cartoon is undoubtedly the first time he was the character we all know and love and, therefore, clearly his official debut. Avery’s expert timing, Mel Blanc and Arthur Q. Bryan’s instant chemistry as Bugs and Elmer and a solid script by Rich Hogan all contribute to creating an Academy Award nominated classic and the smell of history that now lingers around ‘A Wild Hare’ makes it positively electric. ‘A Wild Hare’ is an experience to treasure which, for me, will never lose its heart-stopping air of excitement.