Three voices of Bugs Bunny — Billy West, Jeff Bergman and Eric Bauza — joined “Looney Tunes Cartoons” executive producer Pete Browngardt, movie historian/author/TV personality Leonard Maltin, animation historian/author Jerry Beck, and George Feltenstein, SVP, theatrical catalog, Warner Bros. Home Entertainment, for a Comic-Con@Home panel July 23 to discuss Bugs Bunny’s history, the new HBO Max series “Looney Toons Cartoons” and the character’s upcoming Blu-ray collection.
Warner Bros. Home Entertainment Dec. 1 (moved from Nov. 3) will release the “Bugs Bunny 80th Anniversary Blu-ray Collection,” featuring 60 remastered cartoons starring the wily rabbit.
“This is gonna be something that fans have wanted for a very long time,” Feltenstein said. “It’s been many years since the company has put together a collection on Blu-ray Disc dedicated to what I consider to be one of the most popular Warner Bros. cartoon stars, Bugs Bunny. He’s right up there with Bette Davis and [Humphrey] Bogart, who created the DNA of the studio’s history. What we meant to do here is have 20 cartoons that had been out before, but that are basically essential, and then have 40 cartoons that either had never been on Blu-ray or never been remastered at all or they were not released in the proper aspect ratio. … It goes from the great classic early cartoons to the very end of Bugs’ tenure [in the mid-60s].”
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The collection includes some titles not available previously, including “Racketeer Rabbit” (1946), “Rabbit Every Monday” (1951), “Jack-Wabbit and the Beanstalk” (1943) and “What’s Cookin’, Doc?” (1944).
“If you’re collecting Bugs Bunny, as you should be on video, I can’t say you’re going to complete the collection, but you’re going to have literally most — 90% or more — of all the Bugs Bunnys when you get this set,” added Beck.
Panelists mused about the lasting appeal of the cartoons, which were designed as mere amusing precursors to the main feature.
“These cartoons were considered throwaways as far as the industry at large,” said West (Space Jam, “Futurama,” “Doug”). “While people were getting popcorn and Coca-Colas, that was what was playing on the screen. … They’re more famous and more well-known than any of the movies they opened up for.”
“If something is great entertainment, it will transcend time,” Feltenstein said.
The online panel screened “A Wild Hare,” considered the first official appearance of Bugs Bunny, supervised by Tex Avery.
“When Tex Avery arrived on the scene … he started pushing the cartoons toward wackier, crazier gags,” noted Maltin.
It’s those early Bugs iterations that inspired the new “Looney Toons Cartoons” on HBO Max, said executive producer Browngardt.
“We kind of tried to go back in time to a Bugs that was sort of before the [director Chuck] Jones Bugs had sort of taken over,” he said. “We felt like the character was a little bit more dynamic then. He had flaws. He would actually lose from time to time in a few cartoons and was a little bit surreal at times as well. We purposefully went back to that.”
They gave the character yellow gloves, which created controversy on the web, but helped differentiate the new Bugs. Bugs also got an updated vocabulary, saying things such as “fake news” and “Is that organic, Doc?”
“’Looney Toons Cartoons’ was definitely a different direction as far as getting out of the half-lidded, sarcastic Bugs from the Jones era and into more of the manic, unhinged energy that [voice actor] Mel Blanc had,” added Bouza, the voice of Bugs in the new series.
Each discussed their favorite Bugs Bunny cartoons, the many adversaries he has faced over the years and what they liked about the character.
“He’s a genuine, great hero,” Browngardt said. “He stands up for the little guy when he’s put upon. We all wish we could be the smartest guy in the room, wish we could take on every bully and not be cut down to size.”
“We all want to be Bugs Bunny, but we’re stuck with Daffy Duck is who we are,” added Bergman (“Tiny Toon Adventures,” “Our Cartoon President”).
Feltenstein credited Warner Bros. for taking care of these gems of cartoon history.
“I’m so grateful to our company that we have a preservation program that will see to it that they will remain available for people to see for years to come,” he said.