Bob Givens, a key member of the animation team that designed the first true Bugs Bunny cartoon, has died at age 99. Givens, who was one of the last remaining artists from the golden age of animation, passed away from acute respiratory failure at a medical facility in Burbank, California, according to the Hollywood Reporter.
During a career that spanned more than 60 years, Givens worked for all of the major animation studios, including Disney, Warner Bros., and Hanna-Barbera. In 1937, Givens started his career right out of high school as an animation checker for Walt Disney Studios on the film Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs before being drafted into World War II where he helped produce animated training films. During his storied career, Givens worked as a layout and story artist for animation greats Friz Freleng, Chuck Jones, and Robert McKimson.
Bob Givens illustrated a slew of beloved cartoon characters, including Tom and Jerry and Popeye the Sailor, but his biggest claim to fame was Bugs Bunny. Although an incarnation of the “Wascally Wabbit” had been previously created and shown in the 1938 cartoon “Porky’s Hare Hunt,” in 1940, Givens was hired by Tex Avery as the character designer for the first true Bugs Bunny short, “A Wild Hare,” which marked the official debut of Bugs alongside his nemesis Elmer Fudd.
In an interview with Animation Archive, Givens said the first drawings of Bugs Bunny were really “Daffy Duck in a rabbit suit.” Bob and his team went on to transform the character, creating the first official design for the Looney Tunes icon that would be the basis for all future incarnations of the character.
In addition to his work with Warner Bros. Merrie Melodies, Bob Givens’ IMDB page lists more than 100 animation credits, including the 1960s Post cereal-inspired cartoon series Linus! The Lion Hearted, multiple episodes of Quick Draw McGraw, and ’70s Saturday morning cartoons Help…It’s the Hair Bear Bunch and The Great Grape Ape Show. In the 1980s, Bob was layout supervisor for the animated Mr. T. series and She-Ra: Princess of Power.
Givens’ work was also seen in countless television ads, starting with one of the very first animated TV commercials in 1947, according to The Animation Guild. Givens, an animated advertising pioneer, worked on a long-running campaign for Raid bug spray among many others.
You can see Bob Givens talking about the origins of Bugs Bunny in the video below.