Hardaway, Joseph Benson (“Bugs”)

Posted in WB Cartoon Companion on March 22, 2004


    Hardaway had a long and checkered career in animation. Like fellow Kansas City natives Ub Iwerks, Carl Stalling, and Walt Disney, Hardaway had worked for the United Film Ad Service, in his case between 1922 and May, 1931. Between August, 1931 and October, 1933, he was a writer for Ub Iwerks. After a very brief sojourn with Disney (October-November 1933), he was lured away by the promise of more money to work for Leon Schlesinger, for whom he worked initially from November, 1933 to March, 1939. Between October, 1939, and December 1947, he worked for Walter Lantz. His most significant contribution at the Lantz studio was to Knock Knock (1940), directed by Walter Lantz, which featured the debut of Woody Woodpecker. Hardaway supplied Woody’s voice for a brief period after Mel Blanc ceased playing the part. Hardaway returned to Warner Brothers in November, 1948 and stayed through April, 1949. By the summer of 1949, he was seeking help from his former commanding officer, Harry Truman, for a government job.

    During his tenure at the studio, Hardaway was mostly a writer, though he served two stints as a director, first in 1934-1935, when he supervised some cartoons in the Buddy series, and again between 1937-1939, when he teamed with Cal Dalton to replace Friz Freleng, who had left to work for MGM. Hardaway is credited in a number of cartoons as writer, including the following:

        Daffy Duck and Egghead (Avery, 1938)
        The Penguin Parade (Avery, 1938)
        The Bear’s Tale (Avery, 1940)
        Confederate Honey (Freleng, 1940)
        Porky’s Baseball Broadcast (Freleng, 1940)
        Little Blabbermouse (Freleng, 1940)

    Hardaway also received story credit for the 1951 Freleng cartoon, A Bone for A Bone.

    Hardaway is probably best remembered for directing two cartoons featuring prototypes of Bugs Bunny: Porky’s Hare Hunt (1938) and Hare-Um Scare-Um (with Dalton, 1939). Some sources list Porky’s Hare Hunt as the first Bugs Bunny cartoon (The Guinness Book of Movie Facts and Feats among them.) Some copies of the model sheet drawn by Charles Thorson for the rabbit in Hare-Um Scare-Um, is (ungrammatically) labeled “Bug’s Bunny”, which some sources consider the origin of the character’s name.

    Hardaway was nicknamed Bugs in his days as a sergeant in Battery D of the Second Battalion, 129th Field Artillery in World War I. This unit, known as the “Dizzy D”, had a reputation for running through commanders, which was only stopped when future president Harry S. Truman took command. Hardaway seems to have kept up his relationship with Truman, who was known for having warm feelings towards his wartime comrades.

    Hardaway, along with what appears to be a caricature of him, are featured in the newspaper being read by the angry meat-eating consumer at the beginning of Hare-Um Scare-Um.

    Note: Adamson, for some reason, gives Hardaway’s middle name as “Benjamin”. I have opted to go with the name that Hardaway himself used. Much of the information in this entry comes from material that was supplied to me by the extremely helpful personnel at the Harry Truman Presidential Library in Independence, Missouri.

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• The Warner Brothers Cartoon Companion is © (copyright) 1996 E. O. Costello. All rights reserved.

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