Happy Rabbit (also known as Prototype-Bugs Bunny, Prototype-Bugs, or simply just Proto-Bugs) is a character from the Looney Tunes and Merrie Melodies series who later evolved into the Warner Bros. cartoon studio's most famous character, Bugs Bunny. Created by Ben Hardaway in 1938, Happy Rabbit first appeared in the short Porky's Hare Hunt.
Happy Rabbit is more like Bugs Bunny in this short, except he has apricot-colored gloves and mouth, furrier tail, black nose, black-tipped ears, and a different voice. Happy's voice sounds "rural", and at times sounds rather like Daffy Duck's early voice. The laugh at the end of the cartoon, "Heh-heh-heh-HEH-heh!", is similar to the early version of Woody Woodpecker.
Like most of the other Looney Tunes characters, Happy Rabbit was voiced by Mel Blanc. No one remembered the name of the Bugs Bunny prototype until Blanc spoke of Bugs' origins in a 1970s interview.
Happy Rabbit made his screen debut in the 1938 Looney Tunes short "Porky's Hare Hunt", directed by Ben Hardaway. Similar in tone and execution to the previous year's "Porky's Duck Hunt", which introduced Daffy Duck, "Porky's Hare Hunt" involves Porky hunting a white rabbit whose wild antics drive him mad. Mel Blanc would later use his "Happy Rabbit" voice characterization as the voice of Walter Lantz's Woody Woodpecker.
Happy was the focal point of his fourth short, "Hare-um Scare-um" (1939), for which he was redesigned as a gray rabbit with large buck teeth. In this cartoon, a hunter goes after him for food upon learning about high meat prices.
Happy Rabbit made his sixth appearance in "Elmer's Candid Camera" (1940), a short which marked the first appearance of the "official" version of Elmer J. Fudd. The cartoon set into play the antagonistic relationship that would develop between Elmer and Happy's successor, Bugs Bunny, over the years. Throughout "Elmer's Candid Camera", Happy Rabbit is very similar in appearance and personality to Bugs; the only major differences between the two were that Happy had apricot-colored gloves and muzzle, a furrier tail, a black nose, black-tipped ears, and a different voice. In addition, Happy Rabbit was much more aggressive and malicious than Bugs.
Happy appeared one last time with a cameo role in 1940's "Patient Porky".
That same year, Tex Avery directed "A Wild Hare", a short featuring Elmer Fudd hunting a rabbit, he had Happy Rabbit redesigned and revised with a new personality and even a different voice. The resulting rabbit character was given a new name - Bugs Bunny - in Chuck Jones' 1941 follow-up to "A Wild Hare", "Elmer's Pet Rabbit".
Happy Rabbit appeared in the deleted scenes of the 2003 film Looney Tunes: Back in Action.
Happy Rabbit made a brief cameo in the New Looney Tunes episode "One Carroter in Search of an Artist" when Bugs was given a makeover by an offscreen animator (which was later revealed to be Daffy at the end), which the rabbit dismissed it as "too retro". In this brief sequence, Happy Rabbit looked like he did in "Hare-um Scare-um", but with white fur from his earlier two shorts. In addition, this sequence was produced in black-and-white as a homage to "Porky's Hare Hunt", the character's debut cartoon which was originally in black-and-white.
The classic shorts:
- "Porky's Hare Hunt"
- "Prest-O Change-O"
- "Hare-um Scare-um"
- "Naughty Neighbors" (cameo)
- "Elmer's Candid Camera"
- "Patient Porky" (cameo)
- Looney Tunes: Back in Action (deleted scenes)
The New Looney Tunes episode:
- "One Carroter in Search of an Artist" (cameo)