If you live in Seattle you have probably seen or heard about the unusual design of the newly built Ballard library, its literally green architecture crowned with a softly sloping grass-covered roof. On sunny days, this roof is a golden meadow replete with bees and even butterflies. When I’m feeling whimsical, I embellish the scene with rabbits–two or three of them. In my mind, they bound joyfully through the tall grass, nibbling the foliage and sunning themselves high above the cares of the terrestrial world.
It is probably just as well that the library confines its rabbits to the pages of books and to TV screens. Real rabbits are as tricksy as they are cute, just as Peter Rabbit, Bugs Bunny, and other famous literary lagomorphs suggest. A real rabbit on the Ballard library roof would probably nibble phone lines as well as grass stems, sending little showers of dirt over the eaves to pepper the heads of confused passers by. As amusing as this might be, it would wreak havoc upon the architecture.
Here is a selection of movies available from The Seattle Public Library that star famously impish live-action and animated rabbits. Some make mischief, some have mischief thrust upon them, and some strike fear into the hearts of men.
The Adventures of Oswald the Lucky Rabbit
Created by Walt Disney and Ub Iwerks
Oswald the rabbit is a comic hero born in the Disney studios in 1927, prior to the more famous Mickey Mouse. This collection features 13 of the original 26 short adventures of the rabbit, who has a detachable “lucky” foot and often finds himself in touble-figuring out how to get the stork to stop delivering baby rabbits, for example, in a play on the species’ famous reproductive rates.
Alice in Wonderland
Produced by the Walt Disney Corporation
This animated classic from 1951 features two rabbits whose actions lead to trouble: the white rabbit whose race to make an appointment leads Alice down the rabbit hole into Wonderland, and the mad March Hare who appears as a fellow guest at a tea party. Based on the novels Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland and Through the Looking Glass by Lewis Carroll.
Bugs Bunny’s 1001 Rabbit Tales
Produced by Friz Freleng
Bugs Bunny and Daffy Duck both work for the publishing company Rambling House and compete to see who can sell the most books. Target customers include Elmer Fudd and Sultan Yosemite Sam, who captures Bugs in an Arabian Nights scenario and making him tell stories to Sam’s son, Prince Abba-Dabba.
The Complete Beatrix Potter
Produced by TVC London
Originally produced for television, this animated rendition of nine Beatrix Potter classic stories faithfully adheres to the style of the author’s original watercolor drawings. Each story is introduced by a live-action segment portraying Beatrix Potter in her studio at work, surrounded by the animals that were her inspiration.
Written and directed by Richard Kelley
The boundaries between dreams and reality blur in this surreal story of a high school misfit, Donnie, who sleepwalks out of his house at the moment that a jet engine crashes through the ceiling of his bedroom. Guided in a kind of vision quest by a six foot tall purple rabbit named Frank, Donnie searches for meaning in his escape from death, wrestling with what may be mental illness or an extended encounter with the supernatural. Extensive discussions of the nature of the purple rabbit and the meaning of the film can be found online.
Directed by Henry Koster
Jimmy Stewart stars as Elwood P. Dowd in this black-and-white classic about a man and his friend Harvey, a 6’3 ½” white rabbit who only Mr. Dowd can see. Friends and associates are divided over Dowd’s mental state, since he is very fond of and regularly mentions this invisible rabbit friend, but the man is so pleasant and amiable that he gets along pretty well anyway. Oscar winner.
Monty Python and the Holy Grail
Directed by Terry Gilliam and Terry Jones
King Arthur and his nights encounter the fearsome Killer Rabbit of Caerbannog, popularly known as the “vorpal bunny,” at the entrance to a cave where it stands guardian, surrounded by piles of the bones of its defeated enemies. After the fluffy white bunny bests one of the terrified knights in combat, it must face the infamous Holy Hand Grenade.
Wallace and Gromit: The Curse of the Were-rabbit
Written and directed by Nick Park
When prized vegetables grown for an annual contest begin to go mysteriously missing, Wallace and Gromit are called in to provide “humane pest control.” But when the infestation proves to involve not only a vast and increasing population of impish rabbits but a giant, vegetable eating monster, the duo’s skills as detectives and inventors are stretched to the limit. Both the story and the claymation characters hold appeal for audiences of all ages.
Directed by Martin Rosen
This dark, philosophical animated film tells the story of a community of rabbits living in a warren that is in danger, the runt whose prophetic visions go unheeded by the dominant warrior caste, and the struggle of a small band of rabbits to escape the violence of their old society, evade dangers human and animal, and establish a new, peaceful colony in Watership Down. Violent scenes may be very disturbing to young viewers. Based on the eponymous novel by Richard Adams.
Who Framed Roger Rabbit
Directed by Robert Zemeckis
A good-hearted but mischievous cartoon rabbit named Roger has been framed for murder in Toon Town, a ghetto for animated characters that exists within live-action 1947 Los Angeles. Seeking evidence to clear his name, Roger and his voluptuous wife Jessica enlist the help of Eddie Valiant, a human detective on the skids who hates ‘Toons but needs the cash the job will bring. This Oscar-winning film broke new ground in 1988 by combining live actors with animated stars and featuring cartoon characters from several studios in a single production. Based on the book Who Censored Roger Rabbit by Gary Wolf.