I found a book recently that I'd heard of but never seen. It's titled, "That's Not All Folks" and was published by Warner Books in November of 1989. It was written by Mel Blanc and Philip Bashe.
The book offers a first person account of the evolution of the character Bugs Bunny, as witnessed and told by Blanc. Mel Blanc's testimony is particularly pertinent as a result of his involvement from the very beginning of the Warner Brothers/Schlessinger rabbit. As the sound was recorded after the story was written, but before the animation was created, there can be no denying that Blanc was an involved witness to the genesis of the character's personality.
I'd found several interviews, published in magazines and newspapers, wherein Blanc described both Hardaway's style of speech and the fact that he was the artist who "drew the first picture"। The description Blanc offers in "That's not All Folks" is the strongest endorsement of Hardaway's contribution thus far.
Pages 84 through 89 describe the evolution and creation of the personality of the character.
"Happy Rabbit?" I exclaimed, nearly gagging while reading the script for Porky's Hare Hunt. "That's terrible," I said to Leon Schlessinger. "I Hate it."
"What would you suggest then, Mel?"
"Why not call him Bugs, after Ben Hardaway?" Hardaway had drawn him so it only seemed fair
...."Settling on a definitive characterization was a lot more difficult than selecting a name...
He goes on; "By the time A Wild Hare (1940), which is considered Bugs Bunny's debut, he'd obviously had some work done: His posture had improved, he'd shed some weight, and his overbite wasn't as pronounced. The most significant change, however, was in his facial expression. No longer just goofy, he was a sly-looking rascal. ""A tough little stinker, ain't he?" Hardaway remarked while admiring his portrait of the new Bugs.
"And the boisterous laugh I'd originally given him no longer fit. It was redeposited in my memory bank, to be withdrawn several years later for another Ben Hardaway creation: Woody Woodpecker"
Blanc's description of Hardaway's involvement coincides with the first person account of the history offered by Virgil Ross in the interview posted on this blog. The statements of three contemporaries of Hardaway (Virgil Ross, Mel Blanc, Robert McKimson) are also significant because they're crediting someone other than themselves. Such credit was very unusual within the culture of the animation industry at the time, as most directors and artists seemed to overstate their own contributions while diminishing the contributions of others.