I get a storyboard script from Jim Riswold featuring Bugs Bunny and Michael Jordan.
‘Why are you sending me this script? It’s boring.’
‘I’m sending you this script because it’s boring.’
‘I don’t get it.’
‘Warner Brothers is giving us shit about Bugs’ character. They did that boring board.’
‘So, we have to make it better.’
‘We have to do a board that works. That thing you got was the best they could do.’
I get Jim Lima to help. Jim is a great concept artist/designer who is working with me on an idea for a Michael Jackson movie. Lima is knowledgeable about the latest techniques, what can be done, and who can do it. Our problem is manifold. Bugs needs a visual redo and also a return to his irascibility after being neutered for quite some time. We start to work.
The work takes several months of Lima redoing Riswold’s ideas in design and storyboard fashion and having them rejected by the Warner Brothers ‘thought police.’ To the two Jims’ credit, they never give up and Warner Brothers relents.
Cartoon characters evolve through time and changing technology. ROGER RABBIT’s brilliant animator, Richard Williams, trashed Bugs’ character with Roger’s and that may have been purposeful on Disney’s part. It also showed that Bugs should revert back to his old, dangerous, and subversive self. Riswold was himself a pop culture icon, and recognized as such by Newsweek Magazine. The thought of a marriage between the other two icons, Bugs Bunny and Michael Jordan, was brilliant and I didn’t understand it at the time. Michael had not yet ascended to mythic status and Bugs Bunny had dropped from sight.
A big issue was that animators are their own breed and intensely loyal to one another. The WB animators were very reluctant to envision Bugs in any way in deference to Bugs’ animator Chuck Jones. Jones hadn’t worked at Warner Brothers for thirty years but was still revered, and reasons for Bugs’ character’s stagnation may have been Jones’ extended absence from the character’s development. Bugs did not reflect changing times. Riswold fixed all that.
The actual filming was a little primitive because digital compositing wasn’t a factor yet. The animators were a little paranoid as well because of my freeform style. Big corporations like Warner Brothers are risk-averse and hierarchical so their employees are constantly distracted by looking over their shoulders. In the end, the animators had to use Jim Lima’s drawings for some of the extreme animation, as they were not capable of seeing Bugs in that way (or just claimed not to be).
The commercial was a huge success on the SUPER BOWL, winning the notorious USA TODAY poll. It revitalized Bugs Bunny but got a certain notoriety because Porky Pig stuttered. That was not PC.