75 years later, celebrating Bugs Bunny – and looking at his contentious history

Today marks the seventy-fifth anniversary of Bugs Bunny, Warner Bros.’s de facto cartoon mascot and a symbol of the golden age of animation (and maybe LeBron James’s future co-star?). Though Bugs is an immediately recognizable icon today, it took hundreds of theatrical animated shorts and countless years of Saturday morning television shows to get there. And those decades have left behind countless historical artifacts of the birth of popular animation that Warner has thankfully preserved and shared for future generations – including the unseemly current of prejudice and xenophobia that sadly defined Looney Tunes for years.

This DVD set, the Looney Tunes Golden Collection, remains the best collection of Looney Tunes and Merrie Melodies shorts available anywhere. Across six volumes, the compilation includes a breathtaking 360 animated shorts, spanning from 1929 (before the Looney Tunes name even existed) up to the 3D, CG-created Road Runner shorts from 2010. Each disc includes audio commentaries for select shorts from famous animators, as well as fascinating Looney Tunes ephemera such as interviews and behind-the-scenes footage. If you ever wanted to see Mel Blanc recording the voice of Bugs Bunny, you can find some candid footage on the first disc of Volume 1.

But as mentioned, many of these earlier Bugs Bunny shorts were produced at a time far, far less attune to the hurtfulness of racist and sexist stereotypes. A number of the shorts in this collection traffic in insensitive and damaging racial humor that was unchecked, and Warner Bros. has thankfully included those unedited where possible. Several cartoons known as the Censored Eleven have never been released on home media. Warner Bros. eloquently defends their inclusion in the collection with a message that appears at the top of each DVD:

The cartoons you are about to see are products of their time. They may depict some of the ethnic and racial prejudices that were commonplace in American society. These depictions were wrong then and are wrong today. While the following does not represent the Warner Bros. view of society, these cartoons are being presented as they were originally created, because to do otherwise would be the same as to claim these prejudices never existed.

That’s a powerful statement in defense of artistic history, and with that unfortunate past acknowledged, it’s easier to appreciate the wealth of animated joy Bugs Bunny and directors Tex Avery and Chuck Jones helped bring into the world.

The AU Library proudly circulates three volumes of the Looney Tunes Golden Collection, as well as a massive collection of Tex Avery’s adjacent work from the golden age of animation. Any are suitable viewing for Bugs’s big milestone.

Looney Tunes Golden Collection, Volume 1 – HU DVD 3231 – 3234
Looney Tunes Golden Collection, Volume 2 – HU DVD 3235 – 3238
Looney Tunes Golden Collection, Volume 6 – HU DVD 8181 – 8184
The Compleat Tex Avery – DVD 9781 – 9789
Space Jam – HU DVD 7990

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