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Bob Givens, Designer of the Iconic Bugs Bunny, Dies at 99

Career of key member of the team of animators that created the iconic Bugs Bunny and Elmer Fudd characters spans 60 years.

Bugs Bunny and Elmer Fudd in a 1940 cartoon that debuted the wascally wabbit’s trademark personality and look. (Warner Bros. Animation)

Bob Givens, a key member of the team of animators that created the iconic Bugs Bunny and Elmer Fudd characters, has died at the age of 99.

One of the last surviving figures of note from the golden age of animation, Givens died on December 14 of acute respiratory failure at Providence Saint Joseph Medical Center in Burbank, according to a report by The Los Angeles Times.

Bob Givens

Born Robert Herman Givens on March 2, 1918, Givens worked for a number of animation studios during the course of his 60-year career, including Disney, Warner Bros., Hanna-Barbera and DePatie-Freleng Enterprises. He got his start at Disney during the 1930s as an animation checker on a number of shorts featuring Donald Duck, before working on the studio’s first animated feature, Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs (1937).

Givens subsequently joined Warner Bros., working under Chuck Jones and Tex Avery, where he was asked to redesign a rabbit character for A Wild Hare (1940) that became the first official design for the iconic Bugs Bunny. (Learn more about the development of Bugs Bunny in this sidebar on animation historian Michael Barrier’s blog.)

Following a stint in the Army during WWII, Givens returned to Warner Bros. Animation, working at the studio until its 1954 shutdown. He then worked at UPA, Hanna-Barbera and the Jack Kinney studio before joining fellow former Warner Bros. staffers at the newly-launched DePatie-Freleng Enterprises. Givens also continued to work with Jones on the Tom and Jerry series, and at the Warner Bros.-Seven Arts cartoon studio up until its closure. He then joined the reformed Warner Bros. Animation studio for The Looney Looney Looney Bugs Bunny Movie (1981), Bugs Bunny’s 3rd Movie: 1001 Rabbit Tales (1982) and Daffy Duck’s Fantastic Island (1983), followed by stints at Filmation and Film Roman.

In the 1990s, Givens reteamed with Chuck Jones at the director’s production company to handle production design on the Looney Tunes cartoons produced for Warner Bros. His final animation credit was on the 2001 direct-to-video animated feature Timber Wolf, written and produced by Jones. After Jones died the following year, Givens largely retired from active animation work, although he continued to teach and give animation talks well into his nineties.

Givens is survived by his daughter, Mariana, who serves as president of Platinum Pathways; a son, Christopher; a grandson, Sam Givens; step-granddaughters Karen Pingipore and Paula Santangelo; and many great-grandchildren, nieces and nephews.

The Animation Guild will memorialize the storied animator in a special program scheduled for February 10. Be sure to also check out TAG’s two-part podcast with Givens, recorded as part of the Oral History Archives.