What’s Up, Doc? All The Things You Never Knew About Your Favorite Cartoon Rabbit

Warner Bros. created Bugs Bunny in the 1930s, and the slick rabbit has been dominating TV screens around the world ever since. Bugs Bunny is fast-talking, smart, and always getting into trouble. But there’s more than meets the eye when it comes to the legendary rabbit.

Who would ever think that a cartoon character would have so much scandal and history behind them? Lean up against a fence, pull out a carrot, and enjoy these entertaining facts about Bugs Bunny. From his humble origins to a possible clothesless scene (yes, it’s possible), there is more to Bugs than just two big ears and a fluffy tail.

Bugs Looks Different In His First Appearance

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Warner Brothers
Warner Brothers

Bugs Bunny appeared kind of by accident. Warner Bros. had success with Daffy Duck and wanted to reuse some of his jokes in a new short. Someone suggested they “dress the duck in a rabbit suit” and Bugs was born.

On April 30, 1938, Bugs appeared with Porky Pig in Porky’s Hare Hunt, and the rest is history. As you can see, this version of Bugs looks nothing like the one we know today.

He Got His Name From His Animator

Photo credit: Don Perdue / Getty Images
Photo credit: Don Perdue / Getty Images

Chuck Jones is the longtime animator of all things Looney Tunes, but Bugs Bunny’s original designer was Ben “Bugs” Hardaway. When he was making the initial design, he named the character Happy Rabbit.

When Hardaway was tinkering with the original design of Bugs, fellow employees would refer to the new cartoon character as “Bugs’ Bunny.” The name caught on, and Warner Bros. changed the cartoon name from Happy Rabbit to Bugs Bunny.

The Creators Didn’t Want Bugs To Look Like A Bully

Warner Brothers
Warner Brothers

The creators were really worried about making sure that Bugs didn’t come off looking like a bully. It was an unwritten rule that Bugs didn’t start the fights, but that he would only be defending himself against people who were bothering him.

That’s why many of the shorts start with Bugs minding his own business before Elmer Fudd or Daffy Duck begins to pick a fight.

Creators Say He Was Born In Brooklyn, New York

Photo credit: Kim Kulish / Sygma / Getty Images
Photo credit: Kim Kulish / Sygma / Getty Images

Even though he’s always trying to get to Albuquerque, Bugs Bunny was officially born in Brooklyn, New York. That’s why he is portrayed as a fast-talking trickster with a Brooklyn accent.

Of course, Bugs was actually born in the mind of Mel Blanc and the creators at Warner Bros. That, of course, means that even though they can claim that Bugs was born in New York, he was actually given life in Los Angeles.

Bugs Changed The Meaning Of The Word “Nimrod”

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Warner Brothers
Warner Brothers

Bugs Bunny is so influential in American culture that he is the sole reason why America uses the term “nimrod” to mean idiot. Before Bugs, nimrod referred to a mighty hunter, named after the Biblical figure Nimrod.

Bugs would sarcastically compare Elmer Fudd to Nimrod, and America picked up the phrase. The fact that the cartoon was able to change the definition of an established word shows just how much of a lasting impact it had on the world.

Bugs Saved His Creator From A Coma

Photo credit: Bettmann / Contributor / Getty Images
Photo credit: Bettmann / Contributor / Getty Images

Okay, Bugs Bunny himself didn’t come to life and perform CPR. But In 1961, Mel Blanc was in a car accident that left him unconscious in a coma.

Doctors couldn’t wake him up for weeks until on surgeon, as a joke, said “Bugs! Bugs Bunny! How are you doing today?” and Blanc replied, “Eeee, what’s up Doc?” Fortunately, Blanc recovered. He continued working even while he was in a full-body cast.

He Holds The Record For Most Film Appearances For A Cartoon Character

Photo credit: Lawrence K. Ho / Los Angeles Times / Getty Images
Photo credit: Lawrence K. Ho / Los Angeles Times / Getty Images

As of January 2013, Bugs Bunny has officially appeared in more films than any other cartoon character and is the ninth most-portrayed film personality in the world. In fact, the lovable rabbit has starred in more than 160 theatrical animated short films of the Looney Tunes and Merrie Melodies.

Of course, we all know his most iconic film role was as the leader of the Toon Squad in 1996’s Space Jam.

He Has Only “Lost” A Fight Four Times

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Warner Brothers
Warner Brothers

Bugs doesn’t pick the fights, and he rarely loses them either. Cecil Turtle always beats Bugs because the two are supposed to be like the Tortoise and the Hare. A Gremlin and a nameless mouse are the other two to win against Bugs.

He’s also only lost once to his arch-nemesis Elmer Fudd, in What’s Opera, Doc. This was the final appearance of Elmer Fudd in a Chuck Jones cartoon.

Clark Gable Inspired Bugs’ Carrot Eating Habit

Photo credit: @guribotto / Twitter
Photo credit: @guribotto / Twitter

Quite a few actors inspired Bugs’ mannerisms, but one of the easiest to compare is Clark Gable in It Happened One Night.

In the film, Gable plays a fast-talking, city slicker reporter. For one scene, he is shown leaning on a fence and chomping away on carrots. Sound familiar? That’s one of Bugs Bunny’s most iconic trademarks. Hey, at least it’s a healthy habit! It could have been a cigar.

He Has A Star On The Walk Of Fame

Photo credit: @KSLA / Twitter
Photo credit: @KSLA / Twitter

Bugs Bunny is one of the first two cartoon characters to land a coveted star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame. Bugs got his star in 1985, just seven years after his rival cartoon character Mickey Mouse. Now, he is one of seventeen fictional characters with a star, and the only character from Warner Bros. entertainment.

Now, he is one of seventeen cartoon characters with a star, and the only character from Warner Bros. entertainment.

Bugs Is An Honorary Member Of The US Marines

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Warner Brothers
Warner Brothers

During Super Rabbit, of his many WW2 propaganda shorts, Bugs Bunny appears to be wearing the dress blues of the US Marines. Because of this, the Marines named him an honorary Marine Master Sergeant.

Bugs also served as the mascot to several divisions of the US Marines for years following WW2. For example, from 1943 to 1946, Bugs was the official mascot of Kingman Army Airfield located in Arizona. Charles Bronson and Clark Gable both trained there!

Mel Blanc Would Eat Carrots While Recording

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Photo credit: Michael Ochs Archives / Getty Images
Photo credit: Michael Ochs Archives / Getty Images

One rumor that seems never to go away is that the creator and voice of Bugs Bunny, Mel Blanc, was ironically allergic to carrots. Well, the rumor isn’t true.

In fact, Blanc was known to get so into character that he would chomp on carrots during recording sessions to make the sound more realistic. There’s just not another food that would have sounded like a carrot being chomped! It’s really a good thing Blanc wasn’t allergic.

Bugs Bunny Is Officially A Rabbit, Not A Hare

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Warner Brothers
Warner Brothers

Even though Bugs debuted in A Wild Hare, he is most definitely not a hare. A hare doesn’t live in a burrow, and their fur color will change over time. Also, rabbits and hares even eat different foods. Rabbits like grass and veggies such as carrots, but hares eat twigs and bark.

Even though biologist rule that Bugs is most definitely not a hare, the cartoon uses the terms interchangeably because there are no rules in the Looney Tunes universe.

Charlie Chaplin And Groucho Marx Inspired His Personality

Photo credit: Max Munn Autrey / Getty Images
Photo credit: Max Munn Autrey / Getty Images

Two personalities from the 1930s that served as inspiration for Bugs’ personality. Charlie Chaplin’s goofy but witty character was the basis for animating Bugs.

Groucho Marx’s line, “Of course you realize this means war!” was lifted straight from Hollywood and became a classic phrase for Bugs Bunny. Marx first used the line in the 1933 film Duck Soup and then again in 1935’s A Night at the Opera.

He Made It Onto A Stamp Before Mickey Mouse Did

Photo credit: Evan Agostini / Liaison / Getty Images
Photo credit: Evan Agostini / Liaison / Getty Images

Mickey may have beat him to a Walk of Fame Star, but Bugs Bunny was the first cartoon character to appear on an official US Postal Service stamp. The stamp debuted in 1997 and managed to become quite a controversy.

Many people thought that the stamp was too “commercialized” and Mickey Mouse fans weren’t happy about the fact that Bugs had beaten them to it. Gee, ain’t that a stinker.

You Can Visit Bugs Bunny World!

Photo credit: RameyPix/Corbis via Getty Images
Photo credit: RameyPix/Corbis via Getty Images

If you’re itchin’ to meet Bugs in person, you can do so at Six Flags Magic Mountain in California. The park has a Bugs Bunny World, renamed for the cartoon varmint in 1985.

In 1999, the park hosted a huge celebrity-filled bash. It gave proceeds to Comic Relief and to the Comprehensive Childhood Diabetes Center at Children’s Hospital Los Angeles. Here is Bugs with his pals Rhea Perlman and Danny Devito at the event.

He’s Officially A Senior Citizen

3rd Annual My Brother Charlie Family Fun Festival
Araya Diaz/FilmMagic
Araya Diaz/FilmMagic

Bugs Bunny “officially” turned 75 years old on July 27, 2015. The date marks the first time he made his appearance in Tex Avery’s short “Wild Hare.”

Warner Bros. doesn’t celebrate animated characters’ birthdays so there wasn’t a big public fuss. But we hope that Mr. Bunny was able to enjoy himself some carrot cake for the big day, and for his 80th birthday which took place in July of 2020.

Bugs Is Still Popular Among Celebs

Photo credit: Mathew Imaging/WireImage
Photo credit: Mathew Imaging/WireImage

Bugs Bunny is still a popular attraction at Six Flags Magic Mountain. In this 2008 photo we see a young Justin Beiber visiting the park and saying hello to Bugs and Daffy. Other Looney Tunes characters with rides or attractions include Tweety, Yosemite Sam, Speedy Gonzales, and Daffy Duck.

Magic Mountain opened its 19th roller coaster in Bugs Bunny world in 2014. There are many places where Bugs’ fans can go to visit their favorite rabbit!

TV Guide Thinks Bugs Is The Bees Knees

Artexpo New York 2007
George Napolitano/FilmMagic
George Napolitano/FilmMagic

TV Guide named Bugs Bunny the #1 cartoon character of all time in 2002. As one editor explained, “His stock…has never gone down…Bugs is the best example…of the smart-aleck American comic.”

He continued, “[Bugs] not only is a great cartoon character, he’s a great comedian. He was written well. He was drawn beautifully. He has thrilled and made many generations laugh. He is tops.” Those are words of high praise!

The Voices After Mel

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Photo credit: Bettmann / Contributor
Photo credit: Bettmann / Contributor

A lot of voice actors have been Bugs Bunny over the years. Mel Blanc, of course, was the original voice. Sadly, Mel passed away from Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease in 1989.

There’s a pretty lengthy list of all the actors who have voiced Bugs over the years. Seth MacFarlane, Darrell Hammond, Dave Barry, Eric Bauza, Bill Farmer, Jeff Bergman, Joe Alaskey, Greg Burson, John Kassir, and Billy West are just a few!

Billy West And Space Jam

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Photo credit: Frank Trapper/Corbis via Getty Images
Photo credit: Frank Trapper/Corbis via Getty Images

Billy West played Bugs in 1996’s Space Jam. He later told Vice that he got lots of input when it came to voicing the iconic character.

Space Jam was weird because everybody has their own perception of what Bugs Bunny should sound like. Everybody. Somebody would just stick their head in the door and say, ‘He sounds too Jewish.’ Or, ‘He’s too tough, he’s off-putting. You gotta seduce kids, not scare them out the door.'”

The Looney Tunes Inspire Graffiti

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Image credit: Edward Berthelot/Getty Images
Image credit: Edward Berthelot/Getty Images

Bugs Bunny, the Tasmanian Devil (Taz), and many of the other Looney Tunes cartoons continue to inspire graffiti artists. There are even tutorials online that tell you how to tag a building with your favorite character.

This particular graffiti version of Bugs is from Paris, taken in April of 2018. People pay good money for prints, photos, and merchandise of Looney Tunes graffiti art, too. What’s up with that, doc?

Bugs Got To Conduct The Symphony

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Photo credit: Jay L. Clendenin/Los Angeles Times via Getty Images
Photo credit: Jay L. Clendenin/Los Angeles Times via Getty Images

In 2015, The Los Angeles Philharmonic held a special event called “Bugs Bunny at the Symphony II.” Bugs has appeared in many of his cartoons as a symphony conductor, and for this event, his image was projected onto the screen.

The evening’s true conductor, George Daugherty, was gracious to share the stage with our favorite bunny. The LA Phil even has a page on its website dedicated to “Artist” Bugs Bunny.

Chuck Jones Made A Ton Of Animated Films

Photo credit: Kim Kulish/Sygma via Getty Images
Photo credit: Kim Kulish/Sygma via Getty Images

Although many consider Ben Hardaway to be Bugs’ official creator, Chuck Jones was a contributing developer. Jones was a prolific filmmaker, with 300 titles and three Oscars to his name. He’s responsible for many of the most beloved animated characters we know today.

Just a couple of the titles he worked on are How the Grinch Stole Christmas! and 1979’s The Phantom Tollbooth. Jones received an honorary Oscar for Lifetime Achievement in 1996.

The Chuck Jones Experience

Photo credit: Ethan Miller/Getty Images for The Chuck Jones Experience
Photo credit: Ethan Miller/Getty Images for The Chuck Jones Experience

Fans of Chuck Jones (and animation) got a special treat in 2012 when Circus Circus Las Vegas opened an exhibition showcasing his art. The gallery featured lots of Jones’ artwork and some interactive elements.

Here, visitors can see how they stack up against some of the most famous Looney Tunes. According to Vegas Inc, the exhibition was “an offshoot of the Chuck Jones Center for Creativity in Orange County, California.”

Bob Givens Was Instrumental In Bugs’ Design

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Photo credit: @silverscreenseers / Instagram
Photo credit: @silverscreenseers / Instagram

Animator Bob Givens worked alongside Tex Avery and Chuck Jones at Warner Bros. Studios. Ben Hardaway had already designed the initial version of Bugs Bunny, and for a new animation called “A Wild Hare,” Givens was asked to redraw the character to be less “cutesy.”

Givens was responsible for the version of Bugs Bunny that we’re all the most familiar with. Fellow animator and sometimes collaborator Robert McKimson then tweaked Givens’ design a bit.

Givens Had A Long Career

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Photo credit: Alberto E. Rodriguez/Getty Images
Photo credit: Alberto E. Rodriguez/Getty Images

During his 60+ year career, Bob Givens worked at Disney and Hanna-Barbera studios, in addition to Warner Bros. Before joining up with Avery and Jones on the Bugs Bunny character, he’d worked on Disney’s classic film Snow White.

He also did the layout for seasons 1 through 4 of the popular series Garfield and Friends, from 1988 to 1992. Sadly, Givens died in December 2017. He was 99 years old.

Psychologists Use Him In False Memory Studies

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Warner Brothers
Warner Brothers

Psychologists have used Bugs Bunny to dupe their patients for years. In studies, the scientists will show the test subjects fake advertisements of Disney World that features Bugs Bunny.

Of course, Warner Bros. has no connection to Disney, so Bugs will never be featured at Disney World. If the patient says they remember meeting Bugs at Disney World, so the psychologists know the memory is false. That’s pretty tricky, doc!

Bugs, Back in Action

Photo credit: Vinnie Zuffante/Getty Images
Photo credit: Vinnie Zuffante/Getty Images

You just can’t keep a good Bugs down. He returned to the big screen for the 2003 animation/live-action film Looney Tunes: Back in Action. The star-studded cast of this movie included Steve Martin, Jenna Elfman, Joan Cusack, Heather Locklear, Brendan Fraser, and more.

It was the last film to be produced by Warner Bros. Feature Animation. Joe Alaskey voiced Bugs Bunny and Daffy Duck in the film. More about him next…

Joe Alaskey Was A Longtime Voice For Bugs

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Photo credit: Mathew Imaging/FilmMagic
Photo credit: Mathew Imaging/FilmMagic

Joe Alaskey was one of Mel Blanc’s successors at the Warner Bros. He was also one of Bugs’ long-running voice actors. He also did voices for Tweety Bird, Elmer Fudd, some of the Rugrats characters and many more. Alaskey won a Daytime Emmy Award for Outstanding Performer In An Animated Program in 2004. He was nominated for many other awards.

He was also nominated for many other awards. Unfortunately, he was only 63 when he died of cancer in 2016.

You Can Hear Bugs Bunny Through Your GPS

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Photo credit: @vsmoothe / flickr

Thanks to the miracles of modern technology, you can now download Looney Tunes voices through your TomTom navigation device. Characters such as Bugs, Daffy Duck, Yosemite Sam, and Pepe Le Pew are available. Here’s a sampling of what some of the Loonified directions might sound like, from the TomTom website:

Bugs: “Say doc, after 600 yards stay in the right lane. What’s this rabbit’s foot doin’ in the glove box?” Yosemite Sam: “Sharp left, ya humpbacked muley. Then go straight on. This ve-hicle ain’t big enough for the two of us!”

Bugs Has Fans Everywhere

Photo credit: Rich Schultz/Getty Images
Photo credit: Rich Schultz/Getty Images

Bugs Bunny has fans all over the world, young and old alike. These cleats belong to Didi Gregorius, a shortstop for the New York Yankees. Previously a New York Yankee, he created the shoes himself for a game the team had against the Seattle Mariners.

Gregorius said to mlb.com, “I like watching Bugs Bunny and especially Road Runner and the Coyote, because he’s always trying to get him. It’s always fun.”

Bugs In The Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade

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Photo credit: Visions of America/UIG via Getty Images
Photo credit: Visions of America/UIG via Getty Images

A larger-than-life Bugs Bunny debuted in the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade in 1989. This commemorated the rabbit’s 50th year anniversary. Bugs is eating a huge carrot. We just hope he got to feast on something more substantial after the parade.

The song that accompanied Bugs’ float down the parade route was “The Merry-Go Round Broke Down.” The Bugs Balloon made an appearance every year until 1992. It is now stored at Macy’s Float Warehouse.

Many Video Games Feature Bugs Bunny

Warner Brothers
Warner Brothers

There are a lot of video games starring Mr. Bunny himself. A few of the titles include “Bugs Bunny Rabbit Rampage,” “Crazy Castle,” “The Bugs Bunny Birthday Blowout,” “Operation Carrot Patch,” and ‘Lost in Time.”

Many of the games have Bugs rescuing Honey Bunny from other Looney Tunes characters while collecting prizes (such as carrots). And most of the video games, but not all, feature Billy West providing the voice for Bugs.

A Modern Artist ‘Skinned’ Bugs Bunny

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Photo credit: Sefa Karacan/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images
Photo credit: Sefa Karacan/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images

Don’t worry — Bugs is just fine. But a Korean sculptor named Hyungkoo Lee created a series of popular cartoon characters exposed down to their skeletons. Bugs Bunny, Huey, Dewey, and Louie, Wile E. Coyote, and The Road Runner are just some of the animated creatures who got the unusual transformations.

Bugs Bunny, Huey, Dewey, and Louie, Wile E. Coyote, and The Road Runner are just some of the animated creatures who got the unusual transformations. Lee made the sculptures with resin and aluminum and displayed them in 2015.

Bugs Bunny Had A Stalker

Photo credit: Warner Bros. / Cartoon Network
Photo credit: Warner Bros. / Cartoon Network

In a version of The Looney Tunes Show that ran from 2011 to 2014, Bugs Bunny’s old flame Lola Bunny makes a return. Played by Kristin Wiig, Lola develops a serious stalker vibe toward Bugs. She even took pictures of him in the shower at one point.

Don’t worry, though, Lola fans. She and Bugs eventually made amends. There’s even a video game featuring them together, “Bugs Bunny & Lola Bunny: Operation Carrot Patch.”

Popeye Made His Comic Strip Debut In 1929

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ullstein bild/ullstein bild via Getty Images

Popeye the Sailor debuted in comic strip form in January 1929. He was created by Elzie Crisler Segar (a.k.a. E.C. Segar) in a comic series called Thimble Theater, which at that point had been around for 10 years. Popeye was 34 years old and was distinguished by his one eye and a pretty bad speech impediment.

Popeye was born in a typhoon in Santa Monica, Calif. Fans quickly embraced the character, and before long the comic strip was renamed Thimble Theater Starring Popeye before it was just named Popeye in the 1970s.

Popeye’s Creator Used A Creative Signature

Popeye's Creator Used A Creative Signature
Keystone/Hulton Archive/Getty Images
Keystone/Hulton Archive/Getty Images

Segar created Popeye when his character Castor Oyl needed help navigating a ship to Dice Island. That’s when Castor Oyl encountered Popeye, whose first line in the comic strip was: “‘Ja think I’m a cowboy?” Segar’s other memorable characters included J. Wellington Wimpy and Eugene the Jeep.

Segar was known to sign his work with just his last name or as “E. Segar” above a drawing of a cigar. That’s because people sometimes got confused about how to pronounce his surname.

Robin Williams’ First Big-Screen Starring Role Was 1980’s Popeye

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PA Images via Getty Images
PA Images via Getty Images

In the 1970s, two major film studios competed to get the rights to make a film based on the Broadway musical Annie. Paramount lost the bidding war and instead decided to create a film based on Popeye. The film performed well at the box office but did not do as well as the studio projected.

The film earned just under $50 million at the U.S. box office, which was more than double the film’s budget. The live-action Popeye movie was the first starring film role for comedian/actor Robin Williams.

The Popeye Comic Strip Introduced The Words ‘Wimpy’ And ‘Dufus’ Into The English Vernacular

The Popeye Comic Strip Introduced The Words 'Wimpy' And 'Dufus' Into The English Vernacular
Jesse Grant/WireImage
Jesse Grant/WireImage

One of Popeye’s friends was the hamburger-loving J. Wellington Wimpy. The character was known to be a little timid and cowardly, thus people like him are often described as “wimpy” or “wimps.” A hamburger fast-food chain in England is also called Wimpy’s.

The Popeye comic strip also had a character named Dufus. He was either Popeye’s nephew or a friend’s nephew, depending on which source you read. In the 1960s the term “doofus” came about when describing someone who was stupid or a silly fool.

It’s Not Entirely Clear If He’s Squinting Or Actually Has Just One Eye

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LMPC via Getty Images
LMPC via Getty Images

In the comic strip, Popeye has just one eye that’s the result of “The mos’ ‘arful battle.” The thought is that he lost one of his eyes during a fight. However, it’s debatable if that’s truly the case. Some believe Popeye is simply squinting and that it appears as though he only has one eye when he actually has two.

However, in at least one cartoon Bluto calls him a “one-eyed runt,” which would indicate that Popeye has, in fact, just one eye.

A Boxer Was The Real-Life Inspiration Behind Popeye

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Segar was inspired to create Popeye from a real-life boxer named Frank “Rocky” Fiegel, who was from his hometown in Chester, Ill. Just like Fiegel, Popeye had a strong chin, smoked a pipe, and liked to fight. In 1996, the International Popeye Fan Club put a headstone on Fiegel’s unmarked grave.

Fiegel’s 1947 obituary read: “In his younger days he performed amazing feats of strength. Because of his hardened physique he was affectionately known as ‘Rocky.'” Fiegel, however, wasn’t a sailor and didn’t know that he inspired the character Popeye until late in life.

Olive Oyl Initially Didn’t Like Popeye At All

Olive Oyl Initially Didn't Like Popeye At All
LMPC via Getty Images
LMPC via Getty Images

Before Popeye entered the scene, Segar’s Thimble Theatre comic strip centered on the misadventures of Olive Oyl and her boyfriend Harold Hamgravy. Olive was the youngest sibling of Castor Oyl and Crude Oyl.

When Popeye became popular, Olive Oyl started focusing her attention on him instead. Olive Oyl had long black hair that was often held back in a bun. She was very committed to Hamgravy until Popeye came on board. Initially, the pair didn’t get along; her first words to him were, “Take your hooks offa me or I’ll lay ya in a scupper.”

Popeye’s Pet May Have Inspired The ‘Jeep’ Brand Name

Popeye's Pet May Have Inspired The 'Jeep' Brand Name
LMPC via Getty Images
LMPC via Getty Images

If you’ve ever wondered where the name of the vehicle “Jeep” came from back in 1941, you may want to look at the Popeye comic strip. There’s a theory that American soldiers loved off-road vehicles so much that they named them after a character called Eugene the Jeep.

The Jeep was Popeye’s magical pet, and he made his first appearance in the comic strip in 1936. One of his skills was traveling anywhere he wanted to. This characteristic could also apply to the off-road military vehicles that became what we know today as Jeeps.

A Texas Town Made History By Erecting The First Ever Statute Of A Cartoon Character (Popeye!)

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Carol M. Highsmith/Buyenlarge/Getty Images
Carol M. Highsmith/Buyenlarge/Getty Images

Pictured above is a photo of the Popeye the Sailor Man sculpture in Crystal City, Texas. The South Texas town is surrounded by huge spinach farms. In the late ’30s, Popeye cartoons were really popular, so the Texas town decided to erect a statue to celebrate the renowned character.

What’s particularly interesting about this event is it marked the first time a city ever built a statute specifically to honor a cartoon character. Popeye obviously made such a big impression that an entire town wanted to give him special recognition.

Quakers Opposed Popeye’s Affiliation With Quaker Instant Oatmeal

Quakers Opposed Popeye's Affiliation With Quaker Instant Oatmeal
Fox Photos/Getty Images
Fox Photos/Getty Images

Initially, Popeye got “luck” by rubbing the head of the Whiffle Hen. That all changed in 1932 when he started gaining strength from eating spinach. In the late ’80s, Popeye was featured in advertisements for Quaker Oatmeal, where he’d fight villains after eating one of the flavors of the company’s instant breakfast.

The Quaker religious group was offended by his catchphrase, “I’m Popeye the Quaker Man!” The Quakers are a peaceful people who didn’t want to be associated with a character known for fighting.

An Apprentice Animator Gave Popeye His Best Voice

An Apprentice Animator Gave Popeye His Best Voice
LMPC via Getty Images
LMPC via Getty Images

In the 1930s, the cartoon Popeye was voiced by William “Billy” Costello, a.k.a. Red Pepper Sam. Paramount allegedly fired Costello due to his erratic behavior and because he was difficult to work with. They replaced him with Jack Mercer, an apprentice animator, after the head of Fleischer Studios’ music department heard Mercer imitating Popeye’s voice in the studio.

Many agree that Mercer was the best voice actor for Popeye due to his amusing ad libbing and remarks that became a signature part of the show’s humor. Over the series’s run, Popeye, Bluto, and Olive Oyl were voiced by several actors and actresses.

The Actors Who Voiced Popeye And Olive Oyl Got Married In Real Life

The Actors Who Voiced Popeye And Olive Oyl Got Married In Real Life
Julien Behal/PA Images via Getty Images
Julien Behal/PA Images via Getty Images

The real people who provided the voices of Popeye and Olive fell in love and ended up tying the knot. Starting in 1935, Jack Mercer was the voice of Popeye, and Margie Hines voiced Olive Oyl. The pair ended up getting married on March 8, 1939. Hines was the voice for Olive until 1943 when the studio was renamed Famous Studios and returned to New York.

Mercer voiced the one-eyed sailor in the cartoons until 1957. While it seemed like a match made in cartoon heaven, the pair divorced in 1944.

During The Depression, Kids Loved Eating Spinach Because Popeye Did

During The Depression, Kids Loved Eating Spinach Because Popeye Did
Paramount Pictures/Courtesy of Getty Images
Paramount Pictures/Courtesy of Getty Images

As we mentioned earlier, spinach was Popeye’s magic serum. It made him strong but also allowed him to do things such as play the piano or dance like a star. During the Depression, spinach sales increased by 33 percent due to Popeye’s popularity. At one point, it was the third most popular food among children, following ice cream and turkey.

Today, Popeye brand spinach is the second largest-selling brand of the vegetable in the United States. Popeye first showed a love for spinach after he was beaten up and thrown into a spinach field.

During WWII, Popeye Cartoons Were Definitely Not Politically Correct

During WWII, Popeye Cartoons Were Definitely Not Politically Correct
LMPC via Getty Images
LMPC via Getty Images

During World War II, Popeye cartoons included some racially offensive content regarding the Japanese. The cartoons were used to boost the morale of U.S. soldiers during the conflict. In the cartoons the Japanese were pictured with buck teeth and thick glasses and referred to as “jap-pansies” instead of Japanese.

In another cartoon, Popeye and Bluto ate spinach and beat up Japanese soldiers. There were also instances in which the Popeye cartoons included racist and offensive portrayals of African-Americans, which is now edited out of the programs when they air on television.

With ‘Friends’ Like This…

With 'Friends' Like This...
LMPC via Getty Images
LMPC via Getty Images

One of Popeye’s foils is Brutus, originally called Bluto, who is mean spirited and depicted with a beard and muscular physique. They both compete for the love of Olive Oyl. Bluto uses brute force to get what he wants. While he is a bully and obviously the arch nemesis of Popeye, the pair occasionally get along.

In several instances Bluto and Popeye start out as pals. But it doesn’t take long for Bluto to double-cross his “friend,” which makes you wonder why Popeye hangs out with the guy at all.

Betty Boop (Partially) Helped Catapult Popeye’s Popularity

Betty
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LMPC via Getty Images

As you already know, Popeye was originally popular as a comic strip character. But he became even more well known when he entered the film business as a cartoon movie star. He made his first appearance on film in a 1933 Betty Boop cartoon by Paramount called Popeye the Sailor.

Popeye cartoons were a regular part of Paramount’s release schedule for a quarter-century. He became even more famous than he had been in comic strips. By 1938, Popeye was Hollywood’s most popular cartoon character, according to polls.

Popeye Was Curiously Absent From ‘Who Framed Roger Rabbit?’

roger
Buena Vista/Getty Images
Buena Vista/Getty Images

The 1988 live-action film Who Framed Rober Rabbit? was set in a Hollywood in 1947. In the movie, cartoon characters and people co-exist side by side. The film centered on Eddie Valiant, a private detective who had to prove that cartoon character Roger Rabbit was not guilty of murder.

At the end of the film, nearly every famous and popular cartoon character in animated history appeared on the screen except for Popeye. But the glaring omission was not an oversight. The reason why is because Disney was unable to get permission from Paramount studios to use the sailor’s likeness.

Later Popeye Cartoons Lacked The Humor Of The Originals

Later Popeye Cartoons Lacked The Humor Of The Originals
LMPC via Getty Images
LMPC via Getty Images

The best Popeye cartoons were produced until the late ’50s and early ’60s. Then King Features took over and released several cartoons that just didn’t stand up to the originals. They didn’t have the same humor and simply weren’t as funny. Some were so bad they were labeled “unwatchable.”

Interestingly, the producer, Al Brodax, also made some mediocre Beatles TV cartoons before going on to co-write and produce the 1968 film Yellow Submarine, which is now considered a classic. Pixar co-founder and former chief creative officer John Lasseter has even said he was inspired by that film. Too bad Brodax didn’t use the same ingenuity in his Popeye features.

Popeye Is A Public Domain Character Everywhere Except In The United States

Popeye Is A Public Domain Character Everywhere Except In The United States
LMPC via Getty Images
LMPC via Getty Images

In 2009, Popeye became part of the public domain in Europe, meaning that anyone in those countries can use the image of the popular cartoon character without having to pay royalties. However, Popeye is still under copyright in the United States until 2025.

The reason why is because Popeye is included in the “work for hire” rules under U.S. copyright law. His creator, Segar, was employed by King Features Syndicate when he first put Popeye in his Thimble Theatre comic strip. So be careful if you use any Popeye images without permission!

Popeye’s Girlfriend Olive Oyl Was Indeed Named After Cooking Oil

Popeye's Girlfriend Olive Oyl Was Indeed Named After Cooking Oil
LMPC via Getty Images
LMPC via Getty Images

Olive Oyl is named after cooking oil as are several members of her family, including her brother Castor Oyl, mother Nana Oyl, father Cole Oyl, Castor’s estranged wife Cylinda Oyl, nieces Diesel Oyl and Violet Oyl, and two uncles Otto Oyl and Lubry Kent Oyl.

Lubry gave Olive and her brother Castor the lucky Whiffle Hen that led to her introduction to Popeye. Between 1986 and 1992, comic strip artists Bobby London introduced Olive’s cousin Sutra Oyl and a distant relative named Standard Oyl, who was a rich corporate magnate.