Every Bugs Bunny Ever: Hare Conditioned (1945)

2023 marks the 85th Anniversary of Bug Bunny’s first animated appearance in 1938’s “Porky’s Hare Hunt.” Debuting originally as Happy Rabbit, Bugs eventually became one of the most iconic animated characters of all time. In honor of the landmark anniversary, we’re discussing every animated appearance by Bugs Bunny. We’re big fans of Bugsy and we hope that you are, too.

Follow us on this massive journey where we discover and re-discover Every Bugs Bunny Ever.

Hare Conditioned (1945)
Directed by Chuck Jones
Written by Tedd Pierce
Music by Carl W. Stalling
Animation by Ken Harris

One of the things I love about Bugs Bunny shorts is that though he has a lot of one and done villains, his one and done villains are usually quite good. In the gallery of Bugs Bunny foes, Bugs has a surprisingly small amount of bad guys that have stayed the course and lived on in the legacy of Looney Tunes. Meanwhile there are so many one and done villains that are there for their intended purpose and never quite appear for a second go. It’s a shame because the bad guy for “Hare Conditioned” is a fun foil, even if he’s a bit one note when all is said and done.

He doesn’t even really have an official name.

The set up for “Hare Conditioned” is a fun and clever bit that allows for Bugs to actually kind of spend the majority of his screen time basically fighting for his life. After spending his time working for the “Stacey’s Department store” (a spoof of “Macy’s Department Store”) camping display, the sale is over and he’s given a new “job” by the store manager. He escorts Bugs to the “Taxidermy” department and once Bugs realizes what his role in the new “Rabbit” display will be, he decides to flee. But the store manager gives chase, allowing for a pretty raucous and funny string of gags that are just top notch all around.

Along with the great animation and excellent direction from Chuck Jones, “Hare Conditioned” is another of those Bugs Bunny shorts where the gags are rapid fire, and you have to see it twice to catch everything. The centerpiece of the jokes, and arguably the most quotable, is the store manager cornering Bugs declaring “Kind of Outsmarted you, eh, little chum?” Bugs then asks him to repeat the declaration, and in surprise explains that he sounds like the radio personality “The Great Gildersneeze.” The Great Gildersleeve was a famed radio personality during this period, and the actor playing the store manager gives a pretty bang up impersonation with his inflection and everything.

There is a lot of contention apparently about who plays the store manager with the popular opinion being actor Dave Barry. Nevertheless Barry does a great job here playing someone who isn’t as low brow as Elmer, and much more of a smug individual who kind of gets off on stalking Bugs. I always imitated his line “Kind of Outsmarted you, eh, little chum?” a lot when I was a kid, and loved to repeat it as a referential joke to my uncle who is also a hardcore Looney Tunes geek. In either case, the jokes don’t stop there as there’s a great gag where Bugs appears dressed as a female customer.

The manager begins to flirtatiously tickle his feet and Bugs gets so in character laughing hysterically to where the reveal of his leg is actually a mannequin part. The delivery is just genius. There’s also a great chase involving switching of clothing through different departments that I just loved. They go through a Boys department dressed as young boys, a Turkish department dressed in hair caps and towels, a sports department in sports fatigues and the manager chasing him on skis. The final department is the lingerie department, a great raunchy end to the running joke where the manager comes out dressed in a negligee running in horror as Bugs chases him whistling like a wolf.

The way the animators introduce the manager as this smug over confident villain and then just destroy his persona in mere seconds is just genius. Along with a great gag involving handy uses of an elevator (I love the subtle humor of the manager adjusting Bugs’ uniform, and Bugs casually reciprocating with the manager), Bugs manages to outwit his villain once and for all with a pretty familiar gag. Bugs’ method here is similar to how he would later ward off his horrifying monster villain Gossamer. It’s recycled later to a similarly hilarious effect, in either case, so I don’t mind that the jokes are re-used.

To add icing on the cake Bugs even falls prey to his own scare gag, which just seals the lunacy in to a nice bow. It’s too bad we didn’t see the store manager in future shorts, but “Hare Conditioned” is a sharp, very funny Bugs Bunny exploit with just a string of memorable comedy and gags from beginning to end.

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