What’s Up, Doc? A Look at the Texas Roots of Tex Avery and Bugs Bunny

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Tony Maples Photography


Tex Avery was one of the most influential animation directors in history. Ever hear of Bugs Bunny? Avery created him. Droopy Dog? Yep, Avery created him too. Daffy Duck also sprung from Avery’s fertile imagination. Saturday morning wouldn’t have been the same without him.

He lived most of his life in California, where he worked for many studios, including Universal and Warner Brothers. Finally, he passed away in Los Angeles, at the age of 72.

But he was born in Texas. With a name like “Tex” Avery, it makes sense. Avery was born in Taylor. His father, George Avery, worked for the railroad.

After a while, the Averys moved to Dallas. Tex lived there for a while and ended up going to school at North Dallas High. At North Dallas, calling someone “doc” was the equivalent to calling them “dude” a few years ago.  Kids used it as a slang term when talking to their peers.

So, teenagers at the time were saying things like “Hiya, doc,” or “What’s up, doc?” Of course, we know Tex Avery used that phrase for his most famous creation.


Photo: @thejaf_04 via Twenty20

Bugs Bunny originally said “Ehh, what’s up doc?” when Elmer Fudd pointed a gun in his face. He was leaning up against a fence, chewing a carrot. Very calm.

The crowd went nuts. Rabbits weren’t supposed to act like this!

When Tex Avery heard that “Ehh, what’s up, doc” was so popular, he decided to have Bugs say it in every cartoon. It became a catchphrase. People still say it today.

By the way, Bugs was apparently spoofing Clark Gable’s character from “It Happened One Night” in that scene. Gable had a similar scene in the film. He was leaning against a fence, eating carrots, although he was acting opposite Claudette Colbert, not Elmer Fudd. Also, no firearms were involved.

Avery also claimed that Daffy Duck was conceived while he was duck hunting on White Rock Lake. Considering White Rock lake is in Dallas, this must have been in high school. Avery was athletic in high school. So, a bunch of Warner Brother cartoons concern hunting and other athletic sports.

Video: YouTube/Лариса Чупрова

After he worked at Warner Brothers, Avery moved on to MGM. While at MGM, Tex Avery came up with other beloved characters, including Droopy Dog and Screwy Squirrel.

Then he bounced over to Universal again, where he worked on Chilly Willy cartoons.

One of Avery’s final creations was the animated cockroaches for Raid TV commercials.

His career had a downward trajectory in the latter half of his life. Tex Avery ended up as a writer and artist for Hanna/Barbera at the end. But his most famous contribution to animated history was Bugs Bunny and the famous catchphrase “Ehh, what’s up doc?” The next time you hear that phrase, realize it wouldn’t exist if it wasn’t for Tex Avery… and Texas!