Aside from that name, this character has had many a number of different monikers over the years. Happy Rabbit, Happy Hare, (much too tame for him) Prototype-Bugs Bunny, Prototype-Bugs, (much too clunky) Bugs’ Bunny (yes, with the apostrophe) and even just Bugs Bunny.
So… isn’t he just Bugs? Some would say so, but I’m not like some people. (And proud of it.) When I was first learning about the fine art form that is the Looney Tunes, one of the first things I learned was that Bugs’s first cartoon was “A Wild Hare.” If that is indeed true, and this rabbit made appearances before, then he can’t possibly be Bugs Bunny. So… who is he exactly?
Well, as I previously titled, he is Proto-Bugs. A cartoon rabbit that came before the more modern, sleek design, and helped pave the way for his successor. He was a rabbit who made his debut in “Porky’s Hare Hunt.” A cartoon directed by Cal Dalton, and Ben Hardaway. Ben there, had the nickname of Bugs, and so it wasn’t long before the studio model sheets were labeling the character as “Bugs’ Bunny.”
P.B. may look a bit like Bugs, but he behaves a bit more like Daffy. He doesn’t take anything seriously, he laughs at the drop of a hat, heck, his laugh sounds an awful lot like a famous woodpecker I know of. (Not too much of a coincidence. Ben would go on to help create Woody, and Mel would be the first voice of the character.)
Once Tex Avery used his own take of the rabbit in the aforementioned “A.W.H.” there really was no need to keep the prototype. Audiences loved Bugs, and really, he did do everything his predecessor did, but better. Besides, they already had Daffy as the resident screwball, so there just was no need to keep using the old model. (Don’t cry though. It really was for the best.)
Proto-Bugs has a bit of a legacy. He did appear in “Elmer’s Candid Camera.”, The first cartoon to feature the man. He was going to appear in “Back in Action.” before the scene was deleted. (It was a clever joke, but I doubt the general audience would have understood it. You know who you are and should be ashamed.) He even had a bit of a callback during “New Looney Tunes” when Bugs received a retro makeover. (But the whole scene was in grayscale, so even the uninitiated could understand the joke. Still be ashamed, though.)
All in all, if you love Bugs (And you do. YOU. DO.) then you owe a lot to his forefather, here. Maybe Bugs could have existed without his ancestor, but there’s a chance he wouldn’t have ended up as wonderful as he is today. And we probably would have “lost” WWII to boot, and then where would we be?