Bunnies who have hopped their way into cinematic history
by Amber Wilkinson, Jennie Kermode
Thumper in BambiPhoto: Disney
As many in the UK turn their thoughts to Easter this week, we are taking our inspiration from the Easter bunny for our streaming spotlight. We took a look at bunnies on film a few years ago - but rabbits are a filmmaker favourite, so we thought it was time they hopped to the front of the queue again.
He may not be the star of the show but Thumper the bunny is just as memorable as the title character in this early Disney tale about a young deer, who loses his mum and goes on a big adventure. The bunny - who was by Disney to the original tale by Felix Salten in order to beef up the comedy - offers a bounding and boundless energy that helps to drive the film as he tries to show Bambi how to do all the exciting stuff... including ice skating. Cutting edge at the time in terms of animation, with the animators studying real-life animals to perfect the look, this has lost none of its charm down the decades. Read our interview with Donnie Dunagan, who voiced Bambi.
Bunny Judy Hopps (voiced by Ginnifer Goodwin) is the epitome of bright-eyed and bushy tailed, when she heads from the carrot farm to the big city to join the police force. Where she might once have been labelled 'prey', she is now benefiting from an equalities push, even if it does seem a lot like lip service from the lion mayor (JK Simmons) - an interesting thread that runs through the whole film. But trouble is brewing in Zootropolis, including an otter-gone-rogue and Judy is soon on the chase, with her career at stake, and only a rogue fox (Jason Bateman, at his finest) on hand to help. There's plenty to enjoy here, from the intricately crafted city itself to the fun nods to Chinatown[f/ilm] and [film]The Godfather but, most importantly, the action hinges on a strong story about self-belief and the importance of friendship. The bunny is brilliant... but, truth be told, it's the sloths who really steal the show.
Jennie Kermode writes: Writers are always told that they should write about what they know. For Jordan Peele, starting work on a horror film, that meant doppelgängers - and rabbits, something he channelled into his voice performance as Bunny in Toy Story 4. In Us, rabbits are kept as a food source for the doubles living down below, but rabbit meat is not sufficient for humans to live on, lacking key nutrients found in other flesh, so there may be a reference to spiritual starvation. More obviously, they reference Alice In Wonderland, and references to them turn up in lots of other places in the film. As much satire as horror, Us focuses on the conflict between a surface-dwelling family and their doubles, who have been raised underground as part of a government experiment and are now ready to revolt. There are obvious analogues concerning race and class, but one must also remember that the Alice who emerged from Wonderland can never be quite the same as the little girl who first went down the rabbit hole.
Satanic PanicPhoto: Courtesy of Fantasia International Film Festival
Jennie Kermode writes: Filled to the brim with Satanic rites, juvenile delinquency, giant dildos and inconsiderate pizza purchasers, Chelsea Stardust's Satanic Panic may be too much for viewers of a more sensitive nature, so - we are advised at the start - should it all prove too much, they should just breathe deeply and picture two fuzzy bunnies. Anybody who remembers the intro to Peter Jackson's Bad Taste will realise that this may not work out well for the bunnies, but nothing here is quite what it seems, and our cute little leporine heroes have more to contribute than just soothing vibes. The film is anchored by Hayley Griffith as a young delivery driver and virgin not too keen on being sacrificed, and by Rebecca Romijn in a ferociously camp turn as a cult leader determined to summon Baphomet, but when all is said and done, it's the image of a bunny on a motorbike that will stick in your mind.
Few rabbits have struck fear into the hearts of men like the The Killer Rabbit of Caerbannog (AKA The Legendary Black Beast of Arrrghh) - or at least the hearts of the hapless group of knights in this very silly Pythons instalment. It might look like a cute white bunny but it'll have your head clean off! Like much of the Pythons' work, this is essentially a string of sketches - of which the bunny is among the most amusing, along with the Knights who say 'Ni' and King Arthur's (Graham Chapman) much-emulated encounter with the Black Knight. They're all loosely hung about the premise of the knights' hunt for the Holy Grail. As the trailer says, "If you are an intellectual midget and you like giggling, you could do worse than watch this".
Wallace And Gromit And The Curse Of The Were-Rabbit
Speaking of killer bunnies, there's trouble brewing along with the tea for inventor Wallace in this Oscar winner. When he comes up with an invention to stop carrot thieves with a humane spot of brainwashing, things of course do not go to plan and an accident leaves him with a monstrous craving for carrots - and a physique to match. Park has an eye for the absurd in the everyday and here he mixes monster movie staples with Ealing comedy flourishes to hilarious effect. With a fine voice cast, including the much-missed Peter Sallis as Wallace, alongside the likes of Helena Bonham Carter, Ralph Fiennes and Peter Kay, this is a fast-paced romp with cross-cutting humour that hits home across the generations.
There may only be a cameo role for rabbits in this gently affecting drama from Debra Granik but they make their calming presence felt in a film that considers the intricacies of a father and daughter relationship for a pair (played by Ben Foster and Thomazin Mackenzie), who have been living off the grid. When they are found by the authorities, father Will struggles to slot back into the world while his daughter, Tom, is much more open to the experience. One key scene shows a local kid take her along to a 4-H youth meeting where the kids discuss looking after their rabbits, like everything about this film it's a small and intimate moment but perfectly crafted in terms of showing the gentle opening of possibilities for Tom as she comes of age. The scene involved a real-life 4-H group and for more on teenage rabbit fancying in the real-world, look out for documentary Rabbit Fever, available on Amazon Prime.
Our short selection this week is bang up to date and nominated for this year's Oscars. Burrow - the tale of a rabbit trying to build her new home - is available to watch in full on Disney+