April 2012

Silly Wabbit - A Look at Some Famous Bunnies

Author: Courtney Hampson

I always found it odd that Easter was celebrated with a white bunny. I mean really; Lent ends, and the second you are allowed to consume meat again, there’s a potential meaty delicacy handing you colored eggs, marshmallow peeps, and chocolate versions of itself?

Apparently, I didn’t pay attention in catechism classes, or I would have known that like the origin of Easter, the origin of the Easter Bunny has roots that go back to pre-Christian, Anglo-Saxon history. The holiday was originally a pagan celebration that worshipped the goddess Eastre, who represented fertility and springtime. Eastre’s earthly symbol was the rabbit. So, folks worshipped the rabbit believing it to be Eastre’s earthly incarnation. When the Anglo-Saxons were converted to Christianity, the two combined their respective celebrations (the pagan holiday and the Christian memorial of Jesus’ resurrection from the dead) and dubbed it Easter. Today, Easter is often commercialized with all the gooey chocolate delights that the bunny bears, similar to Santa Claus a.k.a. Father Christmas.

When you think about it, famous bunnies abound. But of course they do! After all, rabbits and hares are prolific breeders. Female hares can conceive a second litter of offspring while still pregnant with the first, thus making those lucky rabbits’ feet mighty swollen. Hence, their springtime mating antics enter Easter lore.

Speaking of mating antics, the Playboy Bunny spun onto the sex scene in 1960 when Playboy Clubs began opening in major U.S. cities. Playboy Bunnies raised an eyebrow or two (and that’s not all that rose) as the saucy waitresses who served drinks at the clubs. The bunny hierarchy was such that different types of bunnies held different jobs, including the Door Bunny, Cigarette Bunny, Floor Bunny, Playmate Bunny and the Jet Bunnies. (Jet Bunnies were the handpicked bunnies who were trained as flight attendants to serve on the Playboy “Big Bunny” Jet. No joke.) Becoming a Bunny was no easy task. Following a stringent audition process, Bunnies endured a strict training regimen, which included being able to identify 143 brands of liquor and know how to garnish 20 cocktail variations. Bunnies also had to master a number of maneuvers in order to work—the “Bunny Stance” was the posture that was required in front of patrons, where the Bunny has to stand “with legs together, back arched and hips tucked under.” The “Bunny Perch” was enacted while resting or waiting to be of service and required that the Bunny “sit on the back of a chair, sofa, or railing without sitting too close to a patron.” Finally, the “Bunny Dip,” required the Bunny to “gracefully lean backwards while bending at the knees with the left knee lifted and tucked behind the right leg.” This maneuver allowed the Bunny to serve drinks while keeping her low-cut costume in place. I’m exhausted just thinking about it.

But even before the racy rabbits at Playboy, Bugs Bunny was born on a drawing board in 1940. With his Brooklyn accent and sarcastic wit he, he often found himself feuding with every other character he came into contact with, including one bacon bit, Mr. Porky Pig. Bugs’ arrogance sometimes bordered on disrespect, but nonetheless, in 2002, when TV Guide compiled a list of the 50 greatest cartoon characters of all time, Bugs was given the top honor.

As the summer of 1959 was heating up, General Mills cereal sales were cooling off and Joe Harris was asked by General Mills to create an identity for its corn cereal with fruit flavors named Trix. On one August evening, Harris created an entire storyline for the Trix Rabbit, including character and catch phrase, which was immediately folded into Trix’s marketing plan. Cereal sales skyrocketed and the catch phrase “Silly Rabbit; Trix are for kids” embedded itself into the national consciousness. Today, the Trix Rabbit is the oldest commercial mascot to continue to exist on commercial television.

In the 1970s, perhaps hoping for a similar result as Trix, Nestlé’s Quik Rabbit bounded into TV commercials in an effort to get across the message that Quik was quick to make and fun to drink. In the eighties, Quik co-starred with Superman in ads, and later tubed his way through cascading chocolate milk in the 1990s. Quik remains a chocolate milk icon today.

In the 1988 film, Who Framed Roger Rabbit, Roger straddles the juxtaposition of living as a 1940s Hollywood cartoon in the ghetto-like “Toontown” where he and his other toon friends are monitored by the human establishment. Toons and humans living together create quite the power struggle, which culminates when Roger Rabbit, one of Toontown’s leading citizens is framed for the murder of human nightclub owner. The private detective on the case, whose previous prejudice against Toons stems from the time that his brother was killed by a falling cartoon piano, reluctantly agrees to clear Roger of the accusation and so the story goes.

That over-confident hare who lost to the tortoise gave rabbits everywhere a bad rap for some time. After arguing with the tortoise about who was faster, the hare chided the tortoise as he slowly ambled along. The hare napped, took a little time to smell the roses, and by the time he got back on track (literally), the tortoise was waiting for him at the finish line. And the moral of the story, “slow and steady wins the race,” was born.

Speaking of slowpokes, Lewis Carroll’s fictional white rabbit scurries past Alice, tapping his pocket watch and exclaiming, “I’m late, I’m late, for a very important date.” Alice takes the bait and follows the white rabbit into his rabbit hole, eventually landing in Wonderland, where in a seemingly drug-induced haze (if you believe everything Jefferson Airplane sings), she navigates a spike in size, after downing the bottle labeled “Drink me,” before she becomes a mini-me version of herself and eventually lands at a croquet tournament. It’s all making me dizzy.

Talk about dizzy; this guy has been spinning in circles for years. Born in St Louis in 1989, the “Energizer Bunny,” known to his friends as E.B., is turned on by marathons, hot air ballooning and drum solos. His pet peeves are stop signs and waiting rooms. Wearing sunglasses and flip-flops, he is ultra-cool under the constant pressure to keep going, and going, and going…

So, as Easter nears and the bunny over-population besieges us all, let’s remember what the bunny truly symbolizes: sex, cartoons, cereal, and lots o’ imagination. Heck, Jon Bon Jovi’s mom was a Playboy Bunny, so I say we celebrate like we’re “Livin’ on a Prayer.”

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