18 Fictional Bunnies That Haunt the Dreams of Nerds

Friday, April 18, 2014 at 6:00 am

12. Oswald

But Crusader, in his turn, has nothing on Oswald the Lucky Rabbit, created in 1927 by Ub Iwerks and Walt Disney for Universal. The following year Disney, weary of wrangling with studios, conceived the very similar Mickey Mouse as a property he could control himself, and the rest is quite literally history. Had he decided to make that move a little earlier, generations of people might have returned from trips to Anaheim or Orlando wearing rabbit ears instead of mouse ears.

The intrepid Oswald nevertheless had a long career, often alongside his Pluto-esque dog Elmer, in nearly 200 cartoons, some directed by luminaries like Walter Lantz and Friz Freling. For a brief period in the early '30s he was voiced by Mickey Rooney. He'd been forgotten by all but cartoon buffs, but this may be changing: In 2006 Disney re-acquired the rights to Oswald from NBC Universal, in what amounted to a trade for the services of sportscaster Al Michaels. He was featured in the 2010 Wii game Epic Mickey (Oswald, that is, not Michaels), and also turned up in last year's excellent, Oscar-nominated Mickey short Get a Horse! He's proved a survivor.

11. Saber Tooth Rabbit

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This creature was originally a bit player in the Aurora Monster Scenes model line of the early '70s, which featured generic horror characters like "Dr. Deadly" or a scantily clad terrified victim known only as "The Victim" (except in Canada, where for an extra unsavory touch the poor woman was known as "Dr. Deadly's Daughter"). The kits were seen as glorifying instruments of torture and sadistic scientific apparatus, notably in the "Gruesome Goodies" kit of 1971, in which the rabbit first appeared, thus providing grist for editorial writers and headaches for Aurora and its retailers.

In the decades since, it need hardly be said, the Monster Scenes have become objects of nostalgic affection, and have been reissued and even expanded upon. Thus the Saber Tooth Rabbit, presumably a product of Doc Deadly's biological tinkering, now gets his own kit, as does his fellow abomination the Feral Cat, with whom his head is interchangeable!

10. The Sexy Beast Beast

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This terrific 2000 British noir, if any movie so sunlit can properly be called a noir, stars Ray Winstone as Gal, a professional thief who has taken his loot and retired to sunny Spain with a beautiful ex-porn-star wife. Poor Gal is plagued now and again by visions of a terrifying bipedal rabbit, arguably the title character, who menaces him with firearms. Apparently it's meant to symbolize Gal's un-expiated shady past.

Two different people I know have furrowed their brows, by the way, when I referred to this creature as a rabbit. To them, it was just a monster of no specific species. But I say, if it has long ears and fur...

9. Night of the Lepus

Thanks to a laboratory snafu, rabbits the size of Volkswagens wreak havoc in the desert. Through its editing, the trailer tries valiantly to disguise the nature of the monsters, likely on the grounds that audiences wouldn't find them all that terrifying.

This proved to be the case, but that's not to say that this (loose) adaptation of Russell Braddon's satirical 1964 Australian novel Year of the Angry Rabbit isn't entertaining. A wonderful veteran cast, including Janet Leigh, Rory Calhoun, Stuart Whitman, Paul Fix and I. Stanford Jolley, liven up this late-show laugh-riot, filmed in Arizona. DeForest Kelly is in it too, once again getting flabbergasted by oversized rabbits.

8. Harvey

One of James Stewart's signature roles was in this 1950 film version of Mary Chase's Broadway play. The family of Stewart's eccentric Elwood P. Dowd wants him tossed in the nuthouse just because he keeps introducing people to his good pal, a six-foot-tall invisible rabbit-spirit he calls Harvey.

Sorry, make that six-foot three and a half inches. As Elwood says, let's stick to the facts.

7. Uncle Walt's Rabbit

Joe Dante's remake of "It's a Good Life" for 1983's anthology film Twilight Zone: The Movie wasn't as creepy as the original TV episode. But it did have this moment in which the wonderful Kevin McCarthy, as Uncle Walt, gets a surprise while performing the classic rabbit out of a hat trick for his scary nephew's entertainment.

If Ed "Big Daddy" Roth of Rat Fink fame had drawn a rabbit instead of a rat, it might have looked a bit like Uncle Walt's friend.


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