Happy Rabbit is the name sometimes used for an early rabbit character from the Looney Tunes and Merrie Melodies series who evolved into the Warner Bros. cartoon studio's most famous character, Bugs Bunny. Created by Ben "Bugs" Hardaway in 1938, the rabbit first appeared in the short "Porky's Hare Hunt".
Like most of the other Looney Tunes characters, the rabbit was voiced by Mel Blanc. The name of the Bugs Bunny prototype was not used publicly until Blanc spoke of Bugs' origins in a 1970s interview, though there is some doubt that it was ever an official name.
The 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.
The rabbit was the focal point of his third short, "Hare-um Scare-um" (1939), for which he was redesigned as a gray rabbit with large buck teeth, apricot-colored gloves and mouth, black nose, black-tipped ears, and a different voice. In this cartoon, a hunter goes after him for food upon learning about high meat prices.
The prototype made his fifth appearance in "Elmer's Candid Camera" (1940), a short which marked the first appearance of the "official" version of Elmer Fudd. The cartoon set into play the antagonistic relationship that would develop between Elmer and Bugs Bunny over the years. By this time, the appearance and personality of the rabbit had become very like the classic Bugs, though the rabbit is portrayed as more malicious than would become the standard for Bugs.
The rabbit 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, where he had the rabbit given a revised design 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".
In the deleted scenes of the 2003 film Looney Tunes Back in Action, Bugs is zapped by the Blue Monkey diamond, which regresses its targets to more primitive forms. Bugs briefly appears as the prototype form.
In a scene in the New Looney Tunes episode "One Carroter in Search of an Artist", Bugs is given a makeover by an offscreen animator (which was later revealed to be Daffy at the end). In this brief sequence, Bugs looked like the rabbit in "Hare-um Scare-um". In addition, this sequence was produced in black-and-white as a homage to the earliest appearances. Bugs dismisses it as "too retro".
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)