ELMER FUDDMedium: Theatrical Animation
Released by: Warner Bros.
First Appeared: 1938 (name) or 1940 (everything else)
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appeared in several late 1930s cartoons. His voice — including that unique laugh — was created by voice actor Arthur Q. Bryan (Major Hoople on radio) for Dangerous Dan McFoo (1939), a oneshot cartoon directed by Tex Avery. And his name was written on a vehicle ridden by someone who, if not Egghead, could easily have been mistaken for him, in Avery's 1938 cartoon, A Feud There Was, and in 1938-39 promotional material about that guy.
It all came together in Elmer's Candid Camera (1940), directed by Chuck Jones. The character still had a little evolving to do, but you'd know him anywhere.
It was in that cartoon that Elmer first met the Bunny that was to become Bugs. Appearance-wise, the "Wabbit" was still in his formative stage. But his character was almost fully formed, and Elmer's Candid Camera set the tone for a partnership that was to last decades. To this day, phrases first heard there, such as "Wabbit twacks!" and "Be vewy, vewy quiet! I'm hunting wabbits!" will evoke a smile from cartoon lovers throughout the English-speaking world.
Bugs was not Elmer's only intended prey. He often locked horns with Daffy Duck, starting with Jones's To Duck or Not to Duck (1943). Occasionally, he didn't hunt anybody at all, as when he parodied Leopold Stowkowski's Fantasia role in Corny Concerto (1943), directed by Robert Clampett. But it was Bugs with whom he shared the majority of his cartoon appearances. Elmer's dimwitted wimpiness contrasted beautifully with Bugs's casual confidence in his ability to control any situation.
Elmer's only Oscar nomination was for Avery's A Wild Hare (1940), which introduced the fully-formed Bugs. But perhaps his finest moment occurred in Jones's What's Opera, Doc? (1957), in which he hunted Bugs to the strains of Wagner's Ring Cycle. By that time, audiences were so familiar with the relationship between the two, that it could be parodied and stylized almost to the point of abstraction, and still get tremendous laughs.
It was perhaps because of this familiarity that Elmer was used less often in the 1950s than he had been in the '40s. Or perhaps it was because Bryan died in 1959, and even the amazingly versatile Mel Blanc was unable to replace him satisfactorily. (Hal Smith, the dog on Davey & Goliath, did Elmer in a few cartoons, but very imperfectly.) In any case, Elmer's last cartoon was What's My Lion? (1961), directed by Friz Freleng. After that, it was just TV reruns for him, until 1988, when he made a cameo in Who Framed Roger Rabbit. Two years later, in Tiny Toon Adventures, he became the mentor and favorite teacher of his counterpart there, Elmyra Duff. He was more recently seen, along with the majority of his Looney Tunes cohorts, with Michael Jordan, in Space Jam.
Elmer followed a similar path in comics. Although he headlined about a dozen and a half issues between 1953 and '62, in the vast majority of his comic book appearances, starting with Dell's Looney Tunes & Merrie Melodies Comics #1 (1941), he was basically just a foil for Bugs Bunny.
And so he remains — not truly a star in his own right, perhaps, but one of the best-known second bananas in cartoondom.