Easter is nearly here, and what better reminds us of Easter than the heart-warming thought of fluffy little bunnies hopping around in a blossoming field? As we shrug off Winter and head for Spring, here’s a tribute to these cutesy carrot-loving creatures: a list of my favourite rabbit-related films.
Let’s begin with 2001’s Donnie Darko, memorable for featuring the most disturbing rabbit in cinema history. In this fantasy drama, teenager Donnie Darko (Jake Gyllenhaal) is awoken and led outside by a sinister individual in a hideous rabbit costume. Calling himself ‘Frank’, the rabbit, in its chilling whispery voice, informs Donnie that the world will end in twenty eight days. A product of Donnie’s schizophrenic delusions, Frank accompanies him over the next few weeks, as a series of unusual and unsettling events unfold, culminating in a mysterious vortex right above his house. Perhaps the best piece of dialogue is when Donnie asks Frank, ‘Why do you wear that stupid bunny suit?’, only to hear Frank’s unnerving response: ‘Why are you wearing that stupid man suit?’ Shiver.
Moving on to a more cheerful rabbit brings me to Robert Zemeckis’ Who Framed Roger Rabbit? In this bizarre treat, traditional live-action footage is melded with hand-drawn animation to create a visually-stunning cinematic experience. In a version of 1947 Los Angeles where humans coexist with cartoon characters, known as ‘toons’, private detective Eddie Valiant (Bob Hoskins) investigates a case where the head of the cartoon studio, R.K Maroon, was murdered. Rumours that Maroon was having an affair with Roger Rabbit’s wife, the incredibly glamorous Jessica Rabbit, leads to Roger being the prime murder suspect, and it’s up to Eddie to clear Roger’s name. The film also includes Christopher Lloyd’s creepy performance as the villainous Judge Doom, who wants to tear down Toontown to build a freeway, as well as cameos from Bugs Bunny, Mickey Mouse, Daffy Duck and Droopy. Who Framed Roger Rabbit? has it all: jokes, romance, scares, and a fantastically rewatchable blend of live action and animation.
“Perhaps the best piece of dialogue is when Donnie asks Frank, ‘Why do you wear that stupid bunny suit?’”
But, what’s top of my list of best rabbit-themed movies? Well, in my opinion, few films are as funny, delightful, and beautifully crafted as Wallace and Gromit in The Curse of the Were-Rabbit. In Aardman’s 2005 animated gem, the nation’s favourite plasticine characters take on the role of pest controllers, and when a plague of rabbits threatens to ruin the villagers’ gardens, weeks before the annual vegetable-growing competition, it’s up to Wallace and Gromit to save the day. To prevent the rabbit infestation, the absent-minded inventor and his trusty dog create a hypnotic device to put a stop to the rabbits’ hunger for carrots and cucumbers. However, horror ensues when they discover the side-effect of this invention: a huge, beastly were-rabbit has been let loose in the village, causing all manner of vegetable carnage.
With a cast that includes Peter Sallis, Helena Bonham-Carter, Ralph Fiennes and Peter Kay, The Curse of the Were-Rabbit is the first and only British film to win the Oscar for Best Animated Feature. Packed to bursting with delightful puns, horror movie references, and veg-related innuendo, it’s hard not to be charmed by this plasticine masterpiece. It’s definitely the best bunny-based film out there. Cracking job, Aardman!