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What's up, doc? Bugs set to wow fans in 3D debut

He first made his name as the nonchalant, fast-talking rabbit from Brooklyn, in sharp animated "shorts" of the 1940s.

Now Bugs Bunny is to make his 3D, CGI cinematic comeback. The Warner Brothers studio is believed to be developing a film starring the inimitable rabbit, which will be a mixture of live action and CGI, designed to revive the character for a contemporary audience.

It will be written by David Berenbaum, who scripted the 2003 comedy Elf, starring Will Ferrell.

While Bugs Bunny has made a couple of cinematic appearances since his post-war heyday -- he was last seen in Looney Tunes: Back In Action, a 2003 film featuring a host of classic animated characters -- he has not been the central star in a film for many decades.

Some might question the success of his 3D reincarnation, and whether young audiences still have an appetite for the 70-year-old bunny rabbit. Bugs was among the most memorable characters to emerge in the golden age of American animation in the late 1930s and early 1940s, which continued until the 1980s when the Saturday morning cartoon slot began to lose its audience appeal.

His first "official" appearance was in the 1940 film A Wild Hare, when he emerged from his hole to ask his gun-toting arch enemy, Elmer Fudd, "What's up, Doc?" The line later became his catchphrase.

Chuck Jones, who directed the Looney Tunes cartoons for Warner Brothers, is believed to have said that Bugs Bunny's carrot-chomping, relaxed standing position was inspired by a scene from the film It Happened One Night, in which the actor Clark Gable leans against a fence eating carrots at a rapid rate and talking to his female co-star with his mouth full. This scene was well known at the time of Bugs Bunny's conception, and viewers may have recognised the cartoon character's behaviour as a spoof of the Gone With The Wind star.

The character's original voice was a blend of New York's Bronx and Brooklyn accents. Audiences instantly fell for his insouciant character, calm even in the face of Elmer's aggression, and he became the most prominent of the Looney Tunes characters.

By 1942, Bugs had become the No 1 star of the Merrie Melodies cartoon series, and Warner featured him in opposition to the period's biggest enemies including Adolf Hitler and Benito Mussolini, during the war.

hnews@herald.ie