11 wild little details you never noticed in Bugs Bunny cartoons
The artists hid all sorts of stuff in these classic Looney Tunes.
Animation is a labor-intensive process. Especially back in the early days. The Looney Tunes gems you grew up watching were handcrafted by a team of talented artists. If you spent weeks painting backgrounds for a Bugs Bunny cartoon, you would probably slip in a few little inside jokes to amuse your coworkers, too.
Sure enough, throughout the Looney Tunes masterworks, astute viewers will spot numerous nods to the creative minds behind the cartoons. You might also spot some shockingly unexpected details.
The core group of animators were routinely adding their "signature" to their work, slapping their names on buildings, products, advertisements and whatnot. Let's take a closer look!
1. A shocking newspaper headline in "Tortoise Wins by a Hare"
"Tortoise Wins by a Hair" hit theatres in February 1943. Just two days earlier, Joseph Goebbels had declared a "Total War" against the Allies in a Berlin speech. The Warner Bros. team crafted propaganda cartoons for the Allied cause during World War II — and also snuck war content into their humorous shorts. In this race between Cecil the Turtle and Bugs, a newspaper headline under the rabbit declares, "Adolf Hitler Commits Suicide."
2. "Baseball Bugs"
Michael Maltese was the writer behind "Baseball Bugs," an all-time classic. Pay attention to the advertising on the outfield wall. A billboard for a detective named "Mike Maltese, Ace Dick" is painted on the wall next to an ad for cough drops.
3. "Racketeer Rabbit"
No Bugs creator was more fond of sneaking his name into cartoons than Friz Freleng. You can find references to "Friz" or "Frisby," his nickname, in most of his cartoons. Take this ad for "Hotel Friz," for example. (Also note the funny ad for "Krool Cigarettes.") Elsewhere in the Looney Tunes universe, you'll spot products like "Frisby Pure Jam," "Friz Sardines," "Friz — America's Favorite Gelatin Dessert," etc.
4. The animator's carvings in "Bugs Bunny Rides Again"
As Bugs leans on a door frame in this Western with Yosemite Sam, you will spot numerous carvings in the wood. Behind Bugs there are several names and initials carved into the door frame. To the right, someone has "carved" Mike, Friz and Ted for Michael Maltese, Friz Freleng and Tedd Pierce. The "P.J." initials on the left are for Paul Julian, a background artist who also loved sneaking his initials and name into backgrounds. Always look for Paul Julian's personal touch.
5. The topless woman in "Bugs Bunny Rides Again"
Here's something you might not expect — but remember, these cartoons were originally released in theaters for adults. Also in that Yosemite Sam cartoon, a rather revealing piece of artwork hangs above the bar in the saloon. There is a painting of a topless woman. Yes, it's "art," but we censored it just in case.
6. The movie poster and buildings in "Hare Do"
In this movie theater romp with Elmer chasing Bugs, you will spot all kinds of easter eggs in the posts, the signage on buildings, etc. A movie poster in the lobby is promoting a new flick called Backwash. It stars "Pete Burness." Pete was an animator at Warner Bros., who would go on to work on Mr. Magoo shorts. He even won an Oscar for his Mr. Magoo work.
7. The plaque in "Ballot Box Bunny"
Yosemite Sam releases some ants in his plot to get Bugs. He hides behind a statue of man riding a horse. The plaque on the statue is another litany of WB creatives — (Warren) Batchelder, (Ken) Champin, (Jack) Farren, (Paul) Julian, (Sam) Nicholson, (Manuel) Perez, (Hawley) Pratt, (Virgil) Ross. It's essentially the credits for all the background artists, layout artists, and animators who worked on the short.
8. The union in "Bugs and Thugs"
Private Eye Bugs has a certificate on the wall showing that he is a member of "Detective Guild Local 839". This number wasn't chosen at random - the cartoonists at WB belonged to a cartoonists union local 839.
9. The writers in "Wackiki Wabbit"
Two castaways wash up on an island in this tropical short. The two fellows are no mere random humans. They are Tedd Pierce (left) and Michael Maltese (right), the two writers of the cartoon. Oh, well, they not only wrote the thing, but they also voiced the characters, too! It's essentially a self-portrait.
10. Richard Nixon in "Haredevil Hare"
"Haredevil Hare" introduced the planet to Marvin the Martian. It also likely gave many Americans their first look at a future president. Early in the short, a newspaper headline declares, "Heroic Rabbit Volunteers as First Passenger." Richard M. Nixon appears in a photo on the Daily Snooze front page. He had recently been elected as a Congressman to California's 12th District. They animators doodled on the image a bit to change the appearances, it seems.
11. This missing 3-D effect in "Lumber Jack-Rabbit"
This short was the only classic Looney Tunes released in 3-D. Warner Bros. attached the cartoon to its 3-D film The Moonlighter in 1953. Obviously, you can't see it in that format anymore, but there are still obvious nods to the technology. The "WB" logo bulges and bursts out of the screen in the opening.