Baiting title aside, Mickey Mouse really is more popular than Bugs Bunny. He sells a lot more merchandise, appears in far more places around the world and is lauded as a mascot for the company that operates ‘The Happiest Place on Earth.’ Bugs never even got such opportunities and yet as a character, he is far superior to Mickey. Why is that?
Coming by way of Richard OConnor’s Ace & Son blog, is this quote from Rob Long:
People don’t seem to be able to get their fill of that little rat, him with his squeaky voice and gee-whiz attitude. Mickey is completely inoffensive, involved in a long-term, caring relationship, optimistic. Bugs is the opposite: he’s a wild man with a raging carrot-dependency, big with the exploding props and the verbal abuse, and one of these days he’s going to go over the edge. Mickey never will. He and his girlfriend will spend their days in inoffensive, unfunny bliss. But it is Bugs who makes us laugh, and isn’t that, after all, enough?
Is it really down the characterisations though? Bugs is a hugely popular character on his own, as is the rest of the Looney Tunes gang. What it really comes down to is how Bugs’ and Mickey’s respective owners have treated the characters down through the years.
Mickey was turned into a mascot; placed on a pedestal and held up to be admired by all. Disney and Mickey are synonymous with each other, which is exactly how the studio would like it to be. Mickey does represent a wholesomeness and innocence that a corporation such as Disney would be more than happy to exploit. The benefits are too great to ignore. Mickey could never possibly be a bad character, and neither would his owner, right?
Disney have also merchandised the living daylights out of Mickey since day dot. He is anywhere and everywhere and on just about everything too.
Contrast that with Bugs. Even though his character is impeccable, his place as a mascot/spokesman for Warner Bros. is/was limited at best. Sure he appears in the opening logo, but he doesn’t really do anything else for the studio outside of that. He is on merchandise, but nowhere near as many items as Mickey. The proof is in the pudding: Mickey has about 63,500 items on Amazon; poor Bugs can barely crack a tenth of that.
The suspect is that Disney is better at managing Mickey in all his roles as entertainer, mascot and salesman. The mechanisms have been in place for decades and Disney is quite adept at keeping them turning. Warners on the other hand, have permitted the Looney Tunes to stagnate on occasion and despite big-budget feature films in the 90s, the characters required an attitude adjustment for their return to TV. All in all, Bugs should be out there flogging as many things as Mickey, but the truth is that he doesn’t even have that much to sell.
What kind of lesson can be gleaned from this? Bugs and the Looney Tunes gang may have suffered from the old line of thinking at Warners that the animation department existed solely to help sell the live-action stuff (back when shorts were included with features). They never really escaped that down through the years, and to an extent still do today; the mural at the Warners’ lot features mostly superheroes now. Mickey was lucky in that Disney originated and succeeded thanks to animation, and his part in the success hasn’t been forgotten, even to this day. That’s why Mickey is more popular than Bugs, even if he doesn’t deserve to be.