Bugs Bunny is the reason people think that rabbits eat carrots, but it was just a movie spoof

Bugs' carrot chomping was a Clark Gable parody, not based on nature.

Everett Collection / Warner Bros.

LOONEY TUNES and all related characters and elements are ™ of & © WBEI

Today, director Frank Capra is best remembered by his perennial Christmas favorite It's a Wonderful Life. At the time of its release, however, in 1946, the film was a bit of a bomb. The studio lost money on the movie at the box office. At the peak of his career, Capra was far better known for his earlier comedy It Happened One Night

That screwball romantic road trip swept at the 7th Annual Academy Awards, becoming the first film to ever win all five Oscars for Best Picture, Best Director, Best Actor, Best Actress, Best Writing. It was the highest-grossing picture of 1934. Clark Gable, the handsome star, became a household name.

In short, what we're saying is, just about all of America knew about It Happened One Night. Like any smash comedy, it was quoted and copied. Gable's character, the out-of-work reporter Peter Warne, had a quick-talking wit — and a few particular quirks. In one scene, he eagerly chomped carrots while explaining how to hitchhike to Claudette Colbert. He chewed and gabbed with his mouth full of vegetable.

Jump forward to 1940. Tex Avery produced one of his most important pieces of animation, A Wild Hare. This Merrie Melodies short is now considered the official debut of the fully realized Bugs Bunny (early iterations of the "Happy Rabbit" character had appeared in earlier Looney Tunes cartoons). Here was the Bugs we all know and love — gray, chomping on a carrot, and asking, "What's up, Doc?"

Here's the thing — the carrot, the voice and even the line "What's up, Doc?" were all references to It Happened One Night. Yes, Bugs Bunny was essentially a movie spoof.

In an early scene of It Happened One Night, Colbert's upper-crust character, Ellie, sits on a Greyhound bus next to a fellow named Oscar Shapeley (Roscoe Karns). He hits on Ellie who has no interest whatsoever. Gable's character comes to Ellie's rescue, pretending to be her husband.

"I, uh, didn't mean anything, Doc," Shapeley says. "No offense, Doc." And, yes, Mel Blanc's Bugs Bunny voice sounds an awful lot like Shapeley.

When Bugs pops out of his rabbit hole, grabs a carrot, and asks Elmer, "What's up, Doc?", Tex Avery is working in two references to a hit movie. Audiences at the time, watching this animated short in movie theaters, would have picked up on the nods.

In fact, the Bugs spoof of Clark Gable became so popular, that people started to believe that rabbits eat carrots. You read that right — rabbits in the wild do not naturally eat carrots. Veterinarians warn that carrots are unhealthy for rabbits. They have a high sugar content and should only be rarely given to a pet as a treat. 

Nevertheless, pet owners feed their bunnies carrots. Because of Bugs Bunny. Because Bugs Bunny was spoofing Clark Gable.

See how a little joke can shape society? Who says cartoons aren't powerful?

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Runeshaper 10 months ago
Wow! That is really something! Had no idea about the reference or the carrots. Thanks, MeTV!
LooneyTraceGG 42 months ago
A Wild Hare is pretty much a Preparation for Bugs Bunny, Since It's the last cartoon to feature Happy Rabbit(The Predecessor to Bugs Bunny).
lynngdance 43 months ago
So if Bugs Bunny is a spoof a Clark Gable movie, I wonder what it would be like if Bugs Bunny spoofed other Clark Gable movies...
lynngdance lynngdance 43 months ago
lynngdance 43 months ago
Hello MeTVers! I’m posting my first quiz “Connect The Dots” (Sorry I’m a bit late, I was watching the news and got distracted 😆)
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lynngdance MrsPhilHarris 42 months ago
Hi, sorry my “Connecting the Dots” Quiz will be a little late, but I’m posting it now so it will be there whenever anyone wants try guessing. It will be on the Columbo article. 🙂
Hi, sorry my “Connecting the Dots” Quiz will be a little late, but I’m posting it now so it will be there whenever anyone wants try guessing. It will be on the Columbo article. 🙂
lynngdance Moody 42 months ago
Hi, sorry my “Connecting the Dots” Quiz will be a little late, but I’m posting it now so it will be there whenever anyone wants try guessing. It will be on the Columbo article. 🙂
justjeff lynngdance 10 months ago
Your needle is stuck---needle is stuck---needle is stuck---needle is stuck---needle is stuck---LOL!
Dizzydude 43 months ago
Rabbits do eat carrots!! Really i raised rabbits
JDnHuntsvilleAL Dizzydude 43 months ago
"rabbits in the >>>WILD
OldTVfanatic 43 months ago
Another hidden fact: Mel Blanc actually hated carrots.
justjeff OldTVfanatic 10 months ago
Not hated... but not fond of them either. He said:

"First of all, I don't especially like carrots, especially not raw," Blanc wrote in his 1988 book That's Not All, Folks! "And second, I found it impossible to chew, swallow, and be ready to say my next line." They tried to find other options, but there was just no replacement for that carroty crunch..."

...and that came from a MeTV article!
Cowgirl 43 months ago
It's a dumb cartoon character & who cares what cartoon characters think? If it gets more kids to eat carrots, that's a good thing. MeTV needs to put the dumb cartoons on Sunday mornings & bring the westerns back.
Wiseguy Cowgirl 43 months ago
People don't seem to realize that stations/networks have to show E/I (educational/informational) programming on Saturday or Sunday mornings. That's the function Saved By the Bell serves. (How Saved By the Bell is E/I programming is another topic.) If MeTV moved the cartoons to Sunday then Saved By the Bell or other E/I programming would be shown on Saturdays, NOT Westerns.
Cowgirl Wiseguy 42 months ago
They don't need 3 hours of Saved by the Bell, which is hardly educational or informative, 2 hours of the Flintstones & another 3 hours of the Brady Bunch. Why not an hour of Saved by the Bell & then the cartoons?
justjeff Cowgirl 10 months ago
The same argument in reverse could have been made when MeTV did an overload of Westerns. The bottom line is there are so many diverse tastes and preferences in TV watching that *someone* eventually feels disenfranchised when *their* choices are not front-and-center...

Personally, I think MeTV overdoes quite a lot of its programming blocs - whether Westerns, M*A*S*H, Gomer Pyle, morning cartoons, etc.

I've often said what would make quite a lot of folks happy would be a "daily schedule" where shows are rotated out... Such as Andy Griffith on Mondays at 8PM, Gomer Pyle on Tuesdays at 8 PM, The Lucy Show on Wednesdays at 8 PM, etc.

However, because of licensing and broadcast contracts, this is probably not very feasible...
CH 43 months ago
This morning was a trip down memory lane! I was taken back to the late 1970’s when my sister and I would rush to the TV room on Saturdays. The only things missing were my little sis and a bowl of Cookie Crisps!
DLM2829 43 months ago
WOW--so much ado about NOTHING!
JosephScarbrough 43 months ago
I've raised bunnies for a good portion of my life, and yes, I can confirm that carrots aren't really something they're crazy about; leafy greens are more their preference, but different bunnies favor different kinds. I've had bunnies who loved parsley, while another one of my bunnies absolutely could not get enough of dandelion greens. But one thing that bunnies really love more than anything? Bananas! It may seem strange, but bunnies looove bananas! However, if you're going to feed them bananas, it should be no more than a little slice per day - trying to eat a whole banana for a bunny would be the equivilent of a small child eating an entire gallon of ice cream topped with a five pound bag of sugar.
All my wild rabbits love carrot peels I put out for them. Hope I didn't harm them! I'm sure they get much more nourishment from other things they eat, so that's just a treat. They also eat the dried corn that was for the ducks!
Dizzydude JosephScarbrough 43 months ago
Rabbits do eat carrots
Barry22 43 months ago
All I can say, really enjoy the cartoons on Saturday morning.
RandySkretvedt 43 months ago
No, no, no. Go read the interview with director Tex Avery in Joe Adamson's book "Tex Avery: King of Cartoons." Avery says that when he was a high school lad in Texas, "Doc" was the popular slang word. (Much as "boss" was when I was in elementary school in 1965.) "Everything was 'Doc'!" Avery says. He was searching for a phrase that indicated how nonchalant Bugs was while being faced with a hunter, and what came to him was "What's up, Doc?" That is the origin, not "It Happened One Night."
KevinButler 43 months ago
A friend of mine..(who is sadly no longer with us)Frank Melfo..who adopted two rabbits"Smurf" and "Harvey"..he told me that rabbits shouldn't eat alot of carrots or lettuce..it makes them sick..they could stop hopping and die..they should eat rabbit pellets(special rabbit foods prepared for them by pet food companies like "Purena")and..they should have..only a small piece of lettuce and some water.
AaronSpringer KevinButler 43 months ago
Our rabbits have carrots as treats, and lettuce (non-iceberg. That variety is not good for them. We stick to Romaine and Greenleaf) quite regularly. The major component of their diet is hay, with a small amount of pellets.
Iceberg lettuce isn't particularly good for anyone.
* Iceberg lettuce low in nutritional value & darker lettuce such as raw spinach is healthier. BUT a slice of crunch iceberg indeed dandy as a hamburger topping! ☺
AgingDisgracefully 43 months ago
Bugs lied?
Suddenly, my whole world doesn't make sense.
Almost like Jerry Springer Show Re-Enactors attacking a building.
Pacificsun 43 months ago
Rabbit diet (no more than 15% carrots, rotated with other veggies listed).


I learned something today!!
Eddie03 43 months ago
Interesting, I never knew this at all. Good to know. Love Metv for this same reason!!
JoeTyria 43 months ago
Oh, carrots are divine
You get a dozen for a dime
It's magic!
JoeTyria 43 months ago
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Jeffrey 43 months ago
Well, I learned a lot that I didn't know about Bugs Bunny. Thank you MeTV!!
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