As difficult as it may be for you Merrie Melodies fanatics to accept, Bugs Bunny is not the most artistically accomplished cartoon character in the Warner Brothers stable of animated icons. Using the Academy Award for Best Animated Short as a measure, Bugs is woefully underrepresented when it comes to Oscars on the mantle.
In fact, Warner Brothers didn’t even sniff a Best Animated Short Oscar for the first 15 years the award existed. Two production houses split the sole cartoon Oscar for its inaugural decade-and-a-half: Disney (which won 10 of the first 15, including the first eight) and Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer (which claimed the other five). MGM won four straight Animated Short Oscars from 1943 to 1946, all of them going to Tom & Jerry cartoons. So far as Academy Award voters were concerned, this cat and mouse duo was the sole rival to Disney’s animation powerhouse throughout World War II.
That all changed in 1947 when a third studio finally won an Oscar by outdoing MGM at its own game. Warner Brothers brought home the golden statuette with its own feline vs. prey tandem: Tweetie Pie, the first animated showdown between Tweety Bird and Sylvester the Cat. Another Tom & Jerry short would bring the Oscar back to MGM in 1948, but in 1949, Warner Brothers again stole the show with For Scent-imental Reasons, which starred the lascivious skunk Pepe LePew.
The 1950s saw more diversity in animation Oscar representation, though Warner Brothers would still bring home three of them. In 1955, Speedy Gonzales won for its inaugural pairing of the hyperfast title character with Sylvester the Cat. In 1957, Sylvester and Tweety won their second Oscar together for Birds Anonymous. Finally, in 1958, a certain wild hare won his first and only Academy Award for Knighty Knight Bugs.
Thus, Bugs Bunny is the fifth and final Warner Brothers cartoon character to win an Academy Award, and he’s tied for third amongst his fellow Merrie Melodieans in number of statuettes, as Sylvester has three, Tweety has two, and Bugs, Speedy, and Pepe are all tied at one apiece.
If that seems a grave artistic injustice, Bugs Bunny fans, take heart. The infamous rabbit has one distinction that no other cartoon character can match: an official rank as a member of the U.S. armed services.
WHAT IS BUGS BUNNY’S OFFICIAL MILITARY RANK?
What is the rank and branch of service for Bugs Bunny — the sole cartoon character ever bestowed an official position in the U.S. military?
Bugs Bunny is currently listed as an honorably discharged Master Sergeant in the United States Marine Corps (USMC). He was awarded an honorary enlistment in the USMC following his appearance in the 1943 animated short Super-Rabbit.
In that cartoon, Bugs is a test animal for a new strain of super-carrots, which bestow him with powers reminiscent of Superman — in a direct riff of the 1940s Fleischer Superman cartoons. With his newfound abilities, Bugs sets out to defeat Cottontail Smith, the most feared rabbit hunter in all of Texas. Unfortunately, Bugs allows the super-carrots to fall into Smith’s hands. With the now-mortal rabbit staring down a super-powered hunter (and his super-powered horse, too), Bugs flees into a phone booth declaring, “This looks like a job for a real Superman!”
Bugs emerges in full U.S. Marine dress uniform, singing the Marine Hymn. He pauses the refrain long enough to inform Cottontail Smith that he “can’t play with you anymore. I got some important work to do.” Bugs then marches into the distance, following a sign that directs him to “Berlin, Tokyo and points East.” In 1943, the implication is clear: Bugs is entering the Allied fight against the Axis powers.
The Marines were so honored by Bugs’ intimation that a Marine was more superman than Superman — and also were cognizant of the great public relations and recruitment opportunity that Super-Rabbit presented them — that they issued an honorary enlistment order for one Private Bugs Bunny. The Marines even went so far as to issue Bugs his own dog tags. Through the course of World War II, Bugs was regularly promoted following minimum time in grade standards until he attained the rank of Master Sergeant, the second-highest enlisted rank in the USMC. Bugs was then honorably discharged and is still listed as a former Marine.
Not bad for a Warner Brothers cartoon character who got out-Oscared by Sylvester and Tweety. That’s not just some apropos honoraria, it’s a militarily multimedia mashup of Geek Trivia.
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