Robert McKimson designed the character after the real-life Tasmanian Devil, an animal native to Australia; however, the only real resemblance between the marsupial and McKimson's beast is their ravenous appetite. In fact, it is this appetite that serves as the Tasmanian Devil's main characteristic. The Devil devours everything in sight, including boulders, trees, shrubs, and hills, all the while whirling about like a miniature cyclone that sounds like a dozen motors all whirring in unison. The Tasmanian Devil also harbors a special craving for rabbit.
It is this hunger that serves as the impetus for McKimson's 1954 cartoon "Devil May Hare". The Devil stalks Bugs Bunny, but due to his dim wits and inability to frame complete sentences, he serves as little more than a nuisance. Bugs eventually gets rid of him in the most logical way possible – matching him up with an equally insatiable female Devil. The character's speech, peppered with growls, screeches, and raspberries, is provided by Mel Blanc.
Producer Edward Selzer, head of the Warner Bros animation studio, ordered McKimson to retire the character since it was "too obnoxious". After a time with no new Devil shorts, Jack Warner asked what had happened. He then saved the Devil's career when he told Setzer that he had received "boxes and boxes" of letters from people who liked the character.
McKimson would go on to direct four more Tasmanian Devil cartoons, beginning with "Bedeviled Rabbit" in 1957. The she-devil returns in this cartoon, now as Mrs. Tasmanian Devil, but she still proves to be the character's weakness when Bugs uses a sexy female devil costume to deliver some explosives to the ever-hungry brute. McKimson would also pair the Devil with Daffy Duck in 1957's "Ducking the Devil" before pitting the character against Bugs once again in 1962's "Bill of Hare" and 1964's "Doctor Devil and Mister Hare".
After Warner Bros. closed its animation studio in 1964, the Tasmanian Devil would remain a nostalgic favorite for many fans. In the late 1980s and early 1990s, Warner Bros. marketers seized upon this, and through their efforts, catapulted the character, now dubbed "Taz", to greater popularity than ever before. Today, Taz is one of the most recognizable Looney Tunes stars, and his image appears on more merchandise than many more prolific Warners characters such as Porky Pig and Elmer Fudd.
This late-blossoming popularity would pay off for Taz in Warner Bros. television animation. For example, his miniature understudy, Dizzy Devil, was introduced as a recurring character in the 1990 Fox TV series, Tiny Toon Adventures. In 1991, Taz got his own show, Taz-mania, which would run for three seasons on Fox. The show recast the Devil as a dim-witted teenager living in a warped 1950s-era sitcom household. Taz now had an angsty teen sister, a rambunctious little brother, a June Cleaver-esque mother, and a decidedly nonchalant father. An infant version of Taz is currently one of the regulars of 2002's Baby Looney Tunes series.