Bugs Bunny is an animated cartoon character, created in the late 1930s by Leon Schlesinger Productions (later Warner Bros. Cartoons) and voiced originally by Mel Blanc. Bugs is best known for his starring roles in the Looney Tunes and Merrie Melodies series of animated short films, produced by Warner Bros.
Bugs is an anthropomorphic gray and white rabbit or hare who is famous for his flippant, insouciant personality. He is also characterized by a Brooklyn accent, his portrayal as a trickster, and his catchphrase "Eh...What's up, Doc?". Due to Bugs' popularity during the golden age of American animation, he became not only an American cultural icon and the official mascot of Warner Bros. Entertainment but also one of the most recognizable characters in the world. He can thus be seen in the older Warner Bros. company logos.
History with the Macy's Parade
Plans to bring the famed Looney Tunes character to the Parade have dated for 11 years, back in 1978, Warner Bros. decided to pitch a Bugs Bunny balloon to the Goodyear Tire and Rubber Company to appear in that year's Parade in honor of his 40th birthday in 1979, however, the idea did not last very long as after the concept was shown to Goodyear officials, they rejected it because of the character's skinny body. As a result, the idea was temporarily shelved.
Even if the idea for a Bugs Bunny balloon was rejected, the character would still have a presence in the parade from the late 1970s to the mid 1980s, most notably as a costumed character in 1977, 1981, 1986 and 1987.
Then in 1989, with Raven Aerostar now at the helm of Macy's Parade balloon-making business, Warner Bros. decided to revive the idea of Bugs Bunny balloon to celebrate the character's 50th anniversary. After months of hard work, the Bugs balloon was finally completed. The balloon featured the beloved "wasically wabbit" sitting upon a shimmering golden star which was marked with the number 50, as he was dressed in a fancy blue tuxedo and top hat with a carrot in his hand.
While the Bugs Bunny parade balloon was in production, a cold-air version of the trickster was created for the 1989 Macy's Flower Show. The inflatable was placed upon Macy's Broadway marquee, and promoted a specialty plush that was sold exclusively at select Macy's department stores. This cold-air balloon was later refurbished into a generic brown rabbit inflatable for the 2006 Flower Show.
After completion at Raven Aerostar's headquarters in Sioux Falls, South Dakota, the Bugs balloon made his first public test flight alongside two White Macy's Stars at the Great Lawn located in New York City's Central Park. To witness the first public appearance of the humongous hare, veteran Looney Tunes crew member Chuck Jones would participate to watch Bugs Bunny take to the skies. Here, the footage of the balloon's inflation and test flight were filmed, and would later be sped up for a special segment that would be used in that year's edition of the NBC Parade telecast as a part of the pre-parade entertainment.
Weeks later, Bugs Bunny, alongside many other giant helium balloons, were inflated at 77th Street and Central park West in preparation for the following day's big parade. After every balloon had been inflated and the media crews returned to their stations, snow began to fall throughout New York City. While first thought to be a wonderful sight, the precipitation started to cause problems. The snow caused the sandbags on Bugs to slack, causing the 75-foot tall balloon to slowly turn over on its side.
Then-Parade director, Jean McFadden, grabbed on to one of the balloon's handling lines in an attempt to lower the balloon. However, the balloon continued to rise up, causing McFadden to rise nearly two and a half stories above the ground. Spotting a reporter with a camera, she cried for help. The reporter continued recording, leaving McFadden in the air. She eventually slid down the balloon's line, causing her to receive rope burn on her hands. By the time McFadden made it to safety, the balloon's 36-foot side had been punctured by nearby trees, and Bugs had to be deflated and removed from the line of march.
Despite the balloon's demise, NBC featured footage of the balloon's test flight in place of its planned appearance. Additionally, a costumed version of Bugs Bunny appeared atop a float that also celebrated his 50th anniversary.
By the time the 1990 Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade had arrived, Bugs was patched up and was able to make his first appearance in the Parade. After this appearance, the 50 on the balloon's star was removed, and the balloon continued to appear throughout the early 1990s, making his final appearance in 1992. During the balloon's final parade appearance, the leaves on the carrot were ripped off by a tree and his carrot was slightly deflated, but the rest of the balloon remained intact.
The Bugs Bunny balloon was initially planned to appear in the 1993 Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade, alongside fellow toon Betty Boop. However, the large amount of balloons caused Parade officials to remove the two from the line of march, with promises for the balloon to return in 1994. The 1994 Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade came and went, with no sign of Bugs Bunny. As a result, 1992 marked the last time that Bugs made an appearance in the Parade which means Bugs has made only 4 appearances. Since then, the balloon has sat dormant at Macy's Float Warehouse, with its existence last being confirmed in 2016.
For the Parade's 75th anniversary, a specialty float known as the Toon Balloon-Abration was created, and boasted costumed characters of many characters who have had balloons in the Parade. Included on the float was Bugs Bunny, among other characters such as Pikachu, Kermit the Frog and Garfield. A costumed version of Bugs Bunny would later appear on the Hats Off To Our Heritage float in 2011, another float that celebrated a Parade's anniversary year. Since this appearance, the Parade has been without anything relating to Looney Tunes or Bugs Bunny.
Listed below are the music tracks that played during the balloon's appearances on the NBC annual telecast.
- "The Merry-Go Round Broke Down" (1989-1992)