Porky’s Hare Hunt is a 1938 animated short movie directed by Ben “Bugs” Hardaway and Cal Dalton, which starred Porky Pig as a hunter whose prey is an unnamed rabbit. The rabbit’s hyperactive personality and laughing voice provided by Mel Blanc predated the 1940 Walter Lantz/Universal Pictures release Knock Knock which starred Andy Panda and introduced cartoon audiences to Woody Woodpecker which was created for the Lantz studio by Hardaway after his departure from the Leon Schlesinger/Warner Brothers studio.
This cartoon marked the first appearance of the rabbit that would evolve into Bugs Bunny, who is barely recognizable compared to his more familiar later form. Bugs’ first official appearance would come two years later in A Wild Hare. Additionally, this marks the only time the prototype was seen chewing on a carrot.
This cartoon also introduces the rabbit repeating a well-known Groucho Marx line for the first time that would become part of Bugs Bunny’s lexicon. The exact wording, in this first appearance, is “‘Course you know that this means war!” The proto-Bugs’ rendering in this cartoon is a direct impression of Groucho, including dropping the trailing “r” of “war”.
The rabbit’s first appearance was essentially the same as the early Daffy Duck. He appeared in four cartoons before finally becoming the well-known character of Bugs Bunny in Tex Avery’s A Wild Hare.
Several published first person accounts, encyclopedic references, and Warner Bros.’ own published material describe the inception of the name and of the character. A model sheet by Charlie Thorson describes this prototype character as “Bugs’ Bunny” (note the apostrophe) but in most of the cartoons the character is unnamed.
Virgil Ross, the animator for A Wild Hare describes how the character came to be named in the interview published by Animato! magazine #19. Mel Blanc often told the story of the creation of the character and its name. He suggested that the character be named after the character’s initial director, Ben “Bugs” Hardaway. Blanc’s own book, That’s Not All Folks published by Warner Books in 1989, describes the “tough little stinker” that was the eventual version of the redesigned character as directed by Tex Avery.
Warner Brothers’ own published descriptions of the creation of the character’s name can be found in Animation Magazine published in 1990. Therein it is described that the Hardaway unit’s model sheet came to be known by fellow animators as “Bugs’ Bunny”.