Elmer Fudd

From Academic Kids

The fictional cartoon character Elmer Fudd, now one of the most famous Looney Tunes / Merrie Melodies characters, also has one of the more convoluted and disputed origins in the Warner Brothers cartoon pantheon (second only to Bugs Bunny himself).

In 1937, Tex Avery introduced a new character in his cartoon short Egghead Rides Again. Egghead had a bulbous nose, funny/eccentric clothing, a voice like Joe Penner, and an egg-shaped head. Many cartoon historians believe that Egghead evolved into Elmer over a period of a couple of years.

Egghead made his second appearance in 1937's Little Red Walking Hood and then in 1938 teamed with Warner Brothers' newest cartoon star Daffy Duck in Daffy Duck and Egghead. Egghead continued to appear in a string of cartoons in 1938: The Isle of Pingo Pongo, Cinderella Meets Fella, and A-Lad-In Bagdad. However, it wasn't until A Feud There Was (1938) where his character was identified as "Elmer Fudd, Peacemaker", though he still maintained his Egghead-ish appearance.

Egghead (or the prototypical Elmer Fudd) made four more appearances in Johnny Smith and Poker-Huntas (1938), Hamateur Night (1939), A Day At The Zoo (1939), and forty-nine years later in the 1988 compilation film Daffy Duck's Quackbusters.

In the 1939 cartoon Dangerous Dan McFoo, a new voice actor Arthur Q. Bryan was hired to provide the voice of the hero dog-character and it was in this cartoon that the popular "milk-sop" voice of Elmer Fudd was born.

In 1940, Egghead/Elmer's appearance was refined giving him a chin and a less bulbous nose (although still wearing Egghead's style of clothing) and Arthur Q. Bryan's "Dan McFoo" voice in what most people consider Elmer Fudd's first true appearance: a Chuck Jones short entitled Elmer's Candid Camera. A prototypical Bugs Bunny drives Elmer insane. Later that year, in Tex Avery's A Wild Hare, Bugs reappears, but this time with carrot, Brooklyn/Bronx accent, and "What's Up, Doc" all in place for the first time. Elmer has a better voice and a trimmer figure, too.

For a short time in the early 1940s, Elmer's appearance was modified again. He became a heavy-set, beer-belly character, patterned after Arthur Q. Bryans's real-life appearance, and still chasing Bugs (or vice versa). Audiences didn't accept a fat Fudd, so ultimately the slimmer version (which was only fat in the head, literally and figuratively) returned for good.

Elmer's role in these two films, that of would-be hunter, dupe and foil for Bugs, would remain his main role forever after and although Bugs Bunny was called upon to outwit many more worthy opponents, Elmer somehow remained Bugs' classic nemesis, despite (or because of) his legendary gullibility, small size, short temper, and shorter attention span. Somehow knowing, not only that Elmer would lose, but knowing how he would lose, made the confrontation, counterintuitively, more delicious.

Fudd was originally voiced by the radio actor Arthur Q. Bryan, but after Bryan's death in 1959, was reluctantly assumed as yet another voice by the versatile Mel Blanc (although other voice actors have alternated as Fudd's voice). Bryan's characterization remains the definitive one. He was never credited onscreen, because only Blanc had the clause in his contract that required a screen credit.

The best known Elmer Fudd cartoons include Chuck Jones' masterpiece What's Opera, Doc?, (one of the few times Fudd succeeded in getting Bugs), the Rossini parody Rabbit of Seville, and the "Hunter Trilogy" of "Rabbit Season/Duck Season" shorts with Fudd himself, Bugs Bunny, and Daffy Duck.

He nearly always misplaced r and l with w when he would talk in his slightly raspy voice. That characterization seemed to fit his somewhat timid and childlike persona. Naturally, the writers often gave him lines filled with those letters, such as doing Shakespeare's Romeo as "What, wight on yonduh window bweaks!" or Wagner's Ride of the Valkyries as "Kiww the wabbit, kiww the wabbit, kiww the wabbit...!"

The easily-mimicked voice lends itself to endless takeoffs. In recent times, Robin Williams has parodied Elmer doing a rock song "I'm dwivin' in my cah... a man comes on the wadio..." or as Marlon Brando's character in A Streetcar Named Desire saying "Stewwa!"

On some occasions, Bryan would slip and forget to round off the r or l.

One example occurs in The Old Grey Hare (1944). The aging Elmer, having slept for decades a la Rip Van Winkle, until the year 2000 A.D., is going through a photo album. He shows the equally-aging Bugsy, "...a pictuRe of me when I was a wittow baby!"

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