A reader writes:
Mickey is cuter. And he's more relaxing to be around. Bugs is better at vanquishing enemies (that's pretty much all he does) but you get the feeling he might practice some of his in-your-face tactics on you if he got bored.
Your reader wrote: "Mickey is happy, while Bugs is cynical. Happiness beats cynicism every time."
This charge cannot stand. Either your reader is unfamiliar with Bugs Bunny or does not understand what cynicism is. Bugs is NOT cynical; he has moxie. There's a difference.
He is not world-weary or bitter; he is wildly enthusiastic and in love with life, no matter where life takes him. Bugs cannot even walk down a dirt road in the middle of nowhere without entertaining himself with a folk song. He's Br'er Rabbit … if Br'er Rabbit grew up in Brooklyn. He is the Trickster, perfected. And he's also the only character I can think of who would consistently beat Superman in a fight (by using kryptonite boxing gloves, natch).
Mickey, on the other hand, can fairly be described as happy, but it is the happiness of the lobotomized. He's never happy about anything in particular; he just grins mildly like an idiot. Nothing is ever fantastic or awful to him, and all things are merely nice.
I've always loved this short but sweet Louis CK bit on why Bugs is way better than Mickey.
Bugs Bunny holds a special niche in the American psyche and his humor was often far more topical and language-driven than Micky Mouse. My ex, who was raised in Puerto Rico, said she always liked Bugs Bunny, but did not always understand the humor. In a classic bit, he asks Elmer Fudd if he'd like "one lump or two" for his coffee, then delivers two blows to the head with a hammer. She told me that until she saw it in English, she had no idea what was happening in that conversation. The Spanish, "Uno o dos," leaves one wondering, one or two *what*?
Mickey Mouse is readily accessible to anyone. With the exception of the war propaganda churned out in the 1940s, the humor is mostly self-contained. Even if you don't understand the appliances they use, the stories are pretty light and the shorts are self-contained pieces of entertainment. Bugs Bunny, on the other hand, often plays off the power of insider humor. Like today's ubiquitous animation for kids with a different level of humor for adults (see: Shrek), there's a constant poke in the ribs that asks the adult viewer, "Get it?" The trouble is, not everyone can, otherwise it loses its edginess. And as your recent post on the short shelf life of topical humor explored, it often doesn't translate well across the generations, either.