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What's Up, Doc? Bugs Bunny's Age. Cartoon Rabbit Turns 80

DAVID GREENE, HOST:

At the age of 80, you'd think some might be slowing down a little bit but not one famous rabbit.

(SOUNDBITE OF FILM, "A WILD HARE")

MEL BLANC: (As Bugs Bunny) What's up, doc?

ARTHUR Q BRYAN: (As Elmer Fudd) Shh. There's a wabbit down there, and I'm twying to catch him.

GREENE: You probably recognize him. His name is Bugs Bunny, and he made his official debut in the Oscar-nominated short "A Wild Hare" in July of 1940.

STEVE INSKEEP, HOST:

His voice first came from the actor Mel Blanc, who spoke with NPR back in 1972 about how he found the tone and attitude for Bugs.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED NPR BROADCAST)

BLANC: So I thought, which is the toughest character in the United States? And then I thought of Brooklyn. I thought of the Bronx, and I said, well, why don't I combine the two, put the two together? (As Bugs Bunny) And that's how the voice of Bugs Bunny come out, doc (laughter).

INSKEEP: The New York swagger has amused viewers both young and old as he outwits the ever-exasperated Daffy Duck and eluded Elmer Fudd.

(SOUNDBITE OF FILM, "FRESH HARE")

BRYAN: (As Elmer Fudd) Come on out, you wabbit. Come on now. You're under awwest.

GREENE: He even enlisted the help of the basketball great Michael Jordan to fight off aliens in the 1996 movie "Space Jam."

(SOUNDBITE OF FILM, "SPACE JAM")

BILLY WEST: (As Bugs Bunny) What I'm trying to say is we need your help.

MICHAEL JORDAN: (As Michael Jordan) Yeah, but I'm a baseball player now.

WEST: (As Bugs Bunny) Right, and I'm a Shakespearean actor.

GREENE: With the support of the six-time NBA champion, Bugs and his Tune Squad narrowly defeated the Monstars.

INSKEEP: No stopping Bugs. Here's how Mel Blanc described his character's popularity.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED NPR BROADCAST)

BLANC: I think that he's more of the suppressed desire of what a man would like to do but doesn't have crust (ph) enough to do (laughter).

INSKEEP: You sure wouldn't think he's 80 by the look of HBO Max's new "Looney Tunes" series, which the streaming service debuted in May.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

ERIC BAUZA: (As Bugs Bunny) I just love these new streaming channels.

GREENE: And we love you, Bugs. Happy birthday.

(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC) Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.