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Hollywood's bunny hop

'Hop' joins a long line of films featuring rabbits, from 'Harvey' to 'Who Framed Roger Rabbit' to 'Bambi.' And then there's Bugs Bunny, of course.

March 31, 2011|By Susan King, Los Angeles Times
  • In "Piglet's Big Movie," Eeyore, Winnie the Pooh, Rabbit and Tigger study Piglet's scrapbook.
In "Piglet's Big Movie," Eeyore, Winnie the Pooh, Rabbit… (Disney Enterprises Inc.,…)

With this being the Chinese Year of the Rabbit, and with "Hop," Russell Brand's tribute to the Easter Bunny, out this weekend, it felt like the right time to get a little hopped up ourselves. Bunnies have long been a favorite subject of writers — think Beatrix Potter and Lewis Carroll — and don't forget American folklore's Br'er Rabbit of the Uncle Remus stories. They've had an impact on the big screen as well. So, while Brand romps across theaters as E.B., the son of the Easter Bunny who doesn't want to follow in his father's paw prints, we take a look at some of the most memorable rabbits in movies.

"Bambi," 1942

Paws down the most adorable movie rabbit, Thumper gets his name from the rapid thumping of his left hind foot. Angelically voiced by the then-4-year-old Peter Behn, Thumper is Bambi's best friend in Disney's animated masterwork. His appearance and personality were based on Beatrix Potter's Benjamin Bunny.

"Harvey," 1950

Jimmy Stewart earned a lead actor Oscar nomination for this comedy based on Mary Chase's Broadway play as Elwood P. Dowd, a sweet, slightly tipsy middle-aged man whose best friend is Harvey, a 6-foot-31/2 -inch white rabbit who nobody else can see. Elwood describes his best bunny bud as a pooka — a mischievous creature from Celtic mythology that is fond of social misfits like himself.

"Alice in Wonderland," 1951, 2010

The White Rabbit is a pivotal character in Carroll's classic book, which has been adapted many times for film and TV, including Disney's 1951 animated film and Tim Burton's more recent extravaganza. Dressed in a waistcoat, it is the White Rabbit who launches Alice on a series of wondrous adventures with the Mad Hatter, the Red Queen and others as she follows the scurrying (and apparently, very late) creature down a rabbit hole.

"Night of the Lepus," 1972

What's scarier than gigantic rabbits? Well, a lot of things, and that's what makes this sci-fi thriller based on the novel "The Year of the Angry Rabbit" such a camp classic. To create the small Arizona town battling thousands of humongous carnivorous killer bunnies, domestic rabbits were filmed against miniature models, but for the attack scenes, the filmmaker used actors in rabbit costumes. Needless to say, it took a thumping from the critics.

"Watership Down," 1978

This British animated film based on the bestselling book by Richard Adams certainly isn't a warm and cuddly cartoon. It revolves around a young runt rabbit named Fiver who is a seer. And what he's seeing is the imminent destruction of the warren. But the chief rabbit won't listen to Fiver's warnings that they need to leave the warren. So Fiver, his brother Hazel and a small band of hoppers set out to find a peaceful home in Watership Down.

"Fatal Attraction," 1987

What's an erotic thriller doing in this warren of bunny movies, you ask? It may not be a rabbit-themed tale, but what's the only scene people remember nearly 25 years later? That would be when Michael Douglas discovers his daughter's pet rabbit boiling in a pot on the stove, thanks to his vengeful former fling (Glenn Close).

"Who Framed Roger Rabbit" 1988

Robert Zemeckis' live action-animation comedy about Roger Rabbit (voiced by Charles Fleischer), a high-maintenance, nervous cartoon superstar with a va-va-va-voom wife, Jessica Rabbit (voiced by Kathleen Turner), was a blockbuster. It starred Bob Hoskins as a private investigator, and Bugs Bunny even makes a cameo.

"Space Jam," 1996

Two pop-culture icons — Bugs Bunny and basketball star Michael Jordan — headline this crazy live action-animation blend of a comedy. What's it about, doc? It's a big-budget bit of silliness in which Bugs and the Looney Toon characters enlist Jordan to coach them in a basketball game against the alien Nerdlucks.

"Donnie Darko," 2001

Richard Kelly wrote and directed this cult psychological thriller starring Jake Gyllenhaal as a troubled young man who not only has Doomsday visions but he also knows exactly when it's coming, thanks to Frank (James Duval), a demonic-looking rabbit that informs poor Donnie that the world is ending in 28 days, 6 hours, 42 minutes and 12 seconds.

"Winnie the Pooh," 2011

Rabbit is a good friend of A.A. Milne's beloved bear and the self-appointed leader of the band of animals living in the Hundred Acre Wood who have appeared in numerous Disney movies, including one releasing this summer. Practical and an organizer, Rabbit loves vegetables, hates being bounced by Tigger and tries to avoid the honey-loving Pooh at lunchtime. He is always telling Owl, "You and I have brains, the others have fluff." Still, there's always a lesson for Rabbit to learn.

susan.king@latimes.com

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