Pardon Bugs Bunny if he gets a bit, well, animated when it comes to being an Honorary United States Marine.
After all, fewer than 100 have received the honor, and that wascally wabbit is part of an elite group that includes the late entertainer Bob Hope, movie star and veteran advocate Gary Sinise, and TV stars Chuck Norris and the late Jim Nabors, the latter for his portrayal as Marine Gomer Pyle.
Bugs, however, is the only toon among them. His ascent to Honorary Marine-dom began 80 years ago, (JULY 27, 1940) when he co-starred with nemesis Elmer Fudd in an eight-minute Merrie Melodies cartoon titled “A Wild Hare.” In fact, it was so early in their careers that neither Bugs nor Elmer received film credit by name. At the end of the cartoon, after foiling Fudd as usual, Bugs marched off to his wabbit hole while imitating a Revolutionary War-era fife player in what became his first military mimicking.
It would not be the last for the California-drawn and colorized star. To the contrary, it represented the beginning of his military career. In 1943, with the United States deep into World War II, Bugs starred in a cartoon titled “Super-Rabbit.” His character, a knockoff of the Superman comic hero, relied on super-charged carrots for his super powers. He dropped them while flying and fell from the sky only to find his enemies had eaten them and now possessed those powers.
Undaunted, he uttered, “This looks like a job for the REAL Superman!” as he emerged from a building in full Marines dress blues, rifle on his shoulder, and begins singing the Marines Hymn: “From the halls of Montezuma to the shores of Tripoli … .”
Soon after that cartoon premiered, he “enlisted” in the Marine Corps, and became a great morale builder on the home front. Given the rank of private, Bugs promoted throughout the war until reaching Master Sergeant by the time it ended and he mustered out.
He received his honorary title after the Marines formally established it in 1992. (No, he doesn’t qualify for federal veterans benefits or for a CalVet Home Loan.)
Bugs continued to star in cartoons until 1964, then made some animated (what else?) films including the 1996 “Space Jam” with basketball star Michael Jordan. He is now back in cartoons in HBO Max’s Looney Tunes, which reprises the same character, but without the guns.
That‘s all Folks!