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Happy Rabbit (simply known as: Prototype-Bugs Bunny, Prototype-Bugs, or simply just Proto-Bugs) is a character from the Looney Tunes and Merrie Melodies series who later evolved into the Warner Bros. cartoon studio's most famous character, Bugs Bunny. Created by Ben Hardaway in 1938, Happy Rabbit first appeared in the short Porky's Hare Hunt.
Happy Rabbit is more like Bugs Bunny in this short, except he has apricot-colored gloves and mouth, furrier tail, black nose, black-tipped ears, and a different voice. Happy's voice sounds "rural", and at times sounds rather like Daffy Duck's early voice. The laugh at the end of the cartoon, "Heh-heh-heh-HEH-heh!", is similar to the early version of Woody Woodpecker.
Like most of the other Looney Tunes characters, Happy Rabbit was voiced by Mel Blanc and later Joe Alaskey. No one remembered the name of the Bugs Bunny prototype until Blanc spoke of Bugs' origins in a 1970s interview.
Happy Rabbit made his screen debut in the 1938 Looney Tunes cartoon Porky's Hare Hunt, directed by Ben Hardaway. Similar in tone and execution to the previous year's Porky's Duck Hunt, which introduced Daffy Duck, Porky's Hare Hunt involves Porky hunting a white rabbit whose wild antics drive him mad. Mel Blanc would later use his "Happy Rabbit" voice characterization as the voice of Walter Lantz's Woody Woodpecker. Charles Jones used Happy Rabbit as a foil in his 1939 short, Prest-O Change-O, which marked the rabbit's second appearance. Happy was the focal point of his fourth cartoon, Hare-um Scare-um (1939), for which he was redesigned as a gray rabbit with large buck teeth. Happy Rabbit made his sixth appearance in Elmer's Candid Camera (1940), a cartoon which marked the first appearance of the "official" version of Elmer J. Fudd. The cartoon set into play the antagonistic relationship that would develop between Elmer and Happy's successor, Bugs Bunny, over the years. Throughout Elmer's Candid Camera, Happy Rabbit is very similar in appearance and personality to Bugs; the only major differences between the two were that Happy had apricot-colored gloves and muzzle, a furrier tail, a black nose, black-tipped ears, and a different voice. Happy appeared one last time with a cameo role in 1940's Patient Porky. The same year, Tex Avery directed A Wild Hare, a cartoon featuring Elmer Fudd hunting a rabbit, he had Happy Rabbit redesigned and revised with a new personality. The resulting rabbit character was given a new name - Bugs Bunny - in Chuck Jones' 1941 follow-up to A Wild Hare, Elmer's Pet Rabbit.