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Cartoon History Lesson #2: Babs Bunny

Babs Bunny

Her full name is Barbara Ann Bunny and her voice belongs to voice actress, Tress MacNeille (Agnes Skinner on The Simpsons), but you would know her best as “Babs” from the 1990s hit cartoon show Tiny Toon Adventures.

She is the pink & white, female rabbit co-host with Buster Bunny on Steven Spielberg’s Tiny Toons. She is a clown who will do anything for a laugh. She is an ace at improvisational comedy, and is a rapid-fire comedic impressionist in the style of Robin Williams. Babs has impersonated or parodied many different actors and fictional characters including: Joan Rivers, Jessica Rabbit, Mae West, Elmer Fudd, Pete Puma, Groucho Marx, Dr. J. Watson, Wonder Woman and Madonna.

In “Born To Be Riled”, her friends become annoyed with her accurate but unflattering impersonations of them and they retaliate by impersonating her in turn. Like Buster, Babs is usually willing to go out of her way for her friends, such as when she sabotages a troupe of swan ballet dancers who are trying to thwart Shirley’s debut. She often does quick costume changes, usually achieved by spinning quickly in a circle. Babs also can speak in a deep, sultry voice, often used to seduce Buster. She distinctly hates being called “Barbara Ann”, preferring just “Babs”.

Her mother (also voiced by Tress MacNeille), was heard but only shown from the waist down (similar to the appearance of Nanny in the animated series Muppet Babies and the characters of Mom and Dad from Cow and Chicken). She has a father (also seen only from the waist down), who appeared in one episode as a monstrously large fellow who intimidated Buster when he dated Babs. However, in another episode (‘Love Disconnection‘) where he drops Babs and her friends off at a party, Babs’ father is portrayed differently as a goofy and clueless man who appears way out of touch with his daughter. Although Babs has been seen with dozens of brothers and sisters, only one has ever been named: Mortimer. Unlike Buster, Babs has far less patience for Plucky and often takes any chance to clobber or humiliate the duck when he steps out of line.

Lola Bunny in Space Jam (1996)

Lola Bunny in Space Jam (1996)

In “Fields of Honey”, Babs searched for a female mentor, as nearly all prominent classic Looney Tunes characters are male. She eventually found one: Honey, a forgotten character from the old Bosko cartoons. At the time, Bugs did not have a regular female counterpart; Honey Bunny had not officially appeared in any Looney Tunes shorts while Lola Bunny was not created until 1996 with the debut of the feature film Space Jam. The relation between Bugs and Lola is very similar to Buster and Babs, so even though Babs Bunny was created long before Lola, Lola Bunny can be considered Babs’ adult counterpart in the current time. Given that the last of the Tiny Toons specials and Space Jam were being produced at approximately the same time, it is possible that Lola coexisted with Babs for at least a part of the series, but as an unseen character.

Her official outfit includes a yellow blouse and a purple skirt, with matching bows on the tips of her rabbit ears, and her body is pink and white. Unlike Bugs and Buster, she doesn’t wear white gloves most of the time, but for some of her disguises, such as in parts of “The Vanderbunnys”, “SuperBabs”, “Strange Tales of Weird Science”, “The Acme Acres Zone” and a few others, she does wear white gloves. Like Buster, Babs has large white marking on her front, usually seen when she is not wearing her usual outfit i.e. swimwear]; she also has a small pink and white fluffy tail.

Shirley, Babs, & Fifi

Her catchphrase is like “I just can’t help myself” which is endemic to her frequent inability to exercise self-control, ultimately leading to trouble for herself, Buster, and/or anybody else around her. Her friends’ names are Fifi Le Fume and Shirley the Loon, along with Acme Loonerversity‘s trio of cheerleaders for most of “The Acme Bowl” (until all three abruptly join the football team).

Babs often appeared in cameos on the show Animaniacs. Babs has been shown many times to have a crush on Buster; sometimes Buster will nervously retreat from her advances, sometimes he returns her affection, and sometimes he even goes out of his way to impress her. Aside from taking her to the prom in one episode, towards the end of the series, in the episode “Thirteensomething” he shows that he harbors deep feelings for her, which he only realizes after she has left Acme; he rescues her and welcomes a kiss from her at the end of the episode. In the episode “Love Disconnection” when Buster (as the host) interviews Babs about her ideal boyfriend, he slyly remarks to the viewer “as if we don’t already know” (indicating that he knows Babs is attracted to him). In the short, `The Anvil Chrous’, Buster Bunny tells Plucky to be careful as Babs might have been hurt, showing that Buster cares about Babs.

Early in the series, Buster is shown to be easily attracted to Babs when he kisses her during her sultry Jessica Rabbit impression in “The Looney Beginning,” or just decides to fix herself up to look nicer (her dress and what not for the prom in “Prom-Ise Her Anything”). In the last episode, “It’s a Wonderful Tiny Toon Christmas Special”, Babs states that Buster is indeed her boyfriend while she’s singing with Cher; Buster discovers that Babs’ life would be trite and miserable without him, and towards the end of the episode, he willingly initiated a kiss and recognizes the value they have to each other. Presumably after this, he will no longer retreat from her in any way at all.

Roderick and Rhubella Rat with Babs Bunny

On another occasion their Perfecto Prep rivals, Roderick and Rhubella Rat (also voiced by Adler and MacNeille), refer to Buster and Babs as “Mr. No Money Bunny… and his No Money Bunny Honey”, indicating that others perceive Buster and Babs as a couple. In “The Looney Beginning” and elsewhere, he calls her Babsy, showing that he holds a soft romantic spot for her.

Unfortunately Tiny Toon Adventures was cancelled, but you can still find the seasons on DVD or on VHS in yard sales this summer. I’m introducing the first season to my son as I write this.

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