Chuck Jones gave this animator credit for Bugs Bunny's "spark"
"The Bugs that evolved stood upright—he's a guy who's not going to go anyplace. He was sure of himself."
In 1997, Knopf published Who the Devil Made It: Conversations with Legendary Film Directors. Among the selected movie men were such luminaries as Robert Aldrich, Howard Hawks, Sidney Lumet, and Alfred Hitchcock. The book was assembled — and its interviews conducted — by Peter Bogdanovich, award-winning director, screenwriter, actor and critic. His career as a filmmaker would qualify Bogdanovich's inclusion alongside his famous subjects, but his skills as an interviewer made the book consistently compelling and revelatory. While movies like The Last Picture Show and What's Up Doc? frequently land Bogdanovich on lists of film's great auteurs, his career as a critic and cultural commentator is often overlooked.
Whereas many other writers may have chosen to write exclusively about live-action features, Bogdanovich interviews one luminary of the animation world, Chuck Jones. While all his interviewees are clearly held in high regard, Bogdanovich has such an obvious affinity for Jones' work, frequently finding kinship with the animator and his cartoons. That respect led to a more candid interview style; Jones was open to Bogdanovich in a way that he wasn't with other journalists. Because Jones knew Bogdanovich respected his work, he was generous with his time and his thoughts. As such, Bogdanovich was able to pull some interesting conclusions from his hero. Specifically, he was able to get Jones to speak openly about his artistic process.
"It seems to be my fate," said Jones, "that I've been more successful with happy accidents than I've ever been with any other kind of intellectual process... My belief is that the artist is basically identifiable by his ability to recognize a happy accident when he sees it."
Their first recorded interview took place in December 1971. At the time, Bogdanovich had an office at the Warner Bros. lot, much like Chuck Jones had years prior. The spot must have had some nostalgic significance for Jones, who spoke at length about how Bugs Bunny came to be.
"You have to find out who the character is and how he walks, what his intentions are. All this has to be built into him — you have to decide who he is. So, in order to find that out, we'd have to experiment with the characters. Now a fellow named Bugs Hardaway did a rabbit picture, but it was a crazy rabbit, more like Woody Woodpecker's personality. Bugs didn't draw it very well, so he had a man by the name of Charlie Thorson make a drawing for him, and Thorson sent it back to him labeled with a possessive: Bugs' bunny.
"So the name came from Bugs Hardaway. But it was a completely different character because of the way he was drawn and moved. Hardaway's Bugs would stand in a crouched, ready-to-leap fashion, like somebody who's afraid and prepared to get the hell out of there. The Bugs that evolved stood upright — he's a guy who's not going to go anyplace. He was sure of himself. Tex Avery was really the one who put the spark into Bugs Bunny, that absolute certainty of himself. He caught this spirit because Tex was that kind of man himself. Tex brought Bugs' line, 'What's up, Doc?' with him from Texas. It became a common phrase around our unit, and Tex gave it to Bugs Bunny."