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Wednesdays with Wade: Funny Little Bunnies

Wednesdays with Wade: Funny Little Bunnies

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If Disney really knew what to do with Oswald the Lucky Rabbit, they would have planned this Easter to have all the Disney rabbits from Thumper to the White Rabbit to Roger Rabbit to all the others welcoming Oswald back to the Disney rabbit family. They might even have had Oswald reveal all the "easter eggs" hidden on Disney DVDs (and don't get me started on how much I hate "easter eggs" and feel they are unfair and not a "fun" discovery).

Does anyone else remember when Bill Justice painted a Disney themed easter egg for the White House Easter Egg Roll in 1985? (They liked it so much that they asked him to design the program cover that year and his artwork was later used on merchandise like shirts.) I guess it was too late this year for Oswald to be included in this year's festivities.

Anyway, to celebrate this Easter season, I thought I would comment on the only Easter themed cartoon made by the Disney Studios.

"Funny Little Bunnies" was released on March 24, 1934 just in time for Easter as part of the "Silly Symphonies" series. The premise of the cartoon is a visit to rainbow's end where in the magical land of the Easter Bunnies, they prepare for the holiday by decorating colorful eggs and other goodies. They weave and fill baskets. They make chocolate eggs and rabbits. That's pretty much the full story. No evil villain disrupting the process. No unrequited love story between the bunnies. Just seven minutes of mild, predictable gags (painting plaid and polka dots eggs) with a variety of bunnies (and some birds and other animals) engaged in a series of colorful activities.


Copyright Disney Enterprises LLC

Directed by Disney veteran Wilfred Jackson who had worked on "Steamboat Willie," the cartoon features animation by Woolie Reitherman (later to become an animated feature director) and Dick Huemer (who would find fame as a storyman on such films as "Dumbo" and "Der Fuerher's Face"). By the way, this was the very first Disney animated cartoon on which Woolie animated.

To release an Easter cartoon was a risk for the new Disney Studio because not all countries celebrate this holiday or even celebrate it as it is done in America. Try to imagine going to the movie theater and seeing a seven minute cartoon celebrating "Guy Fawkes Day" or "Chinese New Year." While an audience might be intrigued by the character design or the colors, the foreignness of the concept might not provide the level of enjoyment or emotional investment that takes place with a more familiar topic from defeating a bully to falling in love or any of the similar story situations that Mickey Mouse found himself in during the Thirties.

The purpose of the "Silly Symphonies" was experimentation whether it was with synchronized sound in "The Skeleton Dance" or the multi-plane camera in "The Old Mill" or how to portray speed in "The Tortoise and the Hare" or how to animate a realistic female figure as in "The Goddess of Spring". All of these experiments were successful either in finding a solution to an animation challenge or as in the case of "The Goddess of Spring" discovering the wrong way to approach a problem. The female figure in that "Silly Symphony" had "rubbery" limbs that convinced Walt that a different method was needed for "Snow White."

In fact all the experimentation in the "Silly Symphonies" was successfully utilized in Disney's first animated feature, "Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs". So it is not surprising that the "Silly Symphony" series slowly disappeared after the animated features since further experimentation was now being done in the features themselves from the creation of animals with a realistic bone structure in "Bambi" to discovering how to have dialog sound as if it were being said underwater in "Pinocchio."

While attention has been given to "Flowers and Trees" as the first three-strip Technicolor film, it was actually "Funny Little Bunnies" that was used to experiment with the full possibilities of Technicolor.

Herbert Kalmus
, the founder of Technicolor, used this cartoon as his sales tool for convincing other studios on the value of Technicolor. In 1938, Kalmus told a group:

"I have said to producers and directors on many occasions: 'You have all seen Disney's 'Funny Bunnies'; you remember the huge rainbow circling across the screen to the ground and you remember the Funny Bunnies drawing the color of the rainbow into their paint pails and splashing the Easter eggs. You all admit that it was marvelous entertainment. Now I will ask you how much more did it cost Mr. Disney to produce that entertainment in color than it would have in black and white?' The answer is; of course, that it could not be done at any cost in black and white, and I think that points to the general answer. A similar analogy can be drawn with respect to some part of almost any recent Technicolor feature."

However, those cute little Technicolor bunnies should be avoided as Easter gifts for children. A bunny can live for up to ten years. While Disney rabbits may spend their days romping through wooden glens with other animal friends, domestic rabbits (which come from the European wild rabbit that we see in "Alice in Wonderland" and "Winnie the Pooh") are companion animals. That means that the rabbit should be kept inside not in a hutch in the backyard. Keeping a rabbit in an outside hutch will shorten the animal's life span so that may only live for about two years according to some sources.

Although bunnies may seem like the ideal Easter pets, they are really too fragile for most children. They are prey animals, which means that they are easily startled. A rabbit can actually be so startled that it can literally be scared to death. Although they are easily frightened, they are not equipped to yowl or scream when frightened so they are likely to scratch or bite when scared. Children, who are likely to move suddenly and grab the rabbit often end up scratched and bleeding. So a better gift would be a plush Disney toy rabbit.

By the way, when a rabbit stamps its hind foot, it means he's frightened, mad or trying to tell you that there's danger ... like a poor straight-to-video sequel is heading your way. Contrary to Disney's portrayal of rabbits in "Bambi", rabbits don't thump repetitively but give one, loud stamp of the foot .

So unlike the Christmas season that is filled with some nice choices of Disney cartoons to brighten the holidays, when it comes to Easter, there is only "Funny Little Bunnies" to help lull you off to sleep when you are stuffed with chocolate bunnies and yellow chicken PEEPS.

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  • Thank you so much for this piece, Wade.  Not just for the examination of a somewhat less well known cartoon, but for the message about why real rabbits don't make good Easter gifts.  I have two rabbits of my own and do a little volunteering with the rescue group I got them from.  Thanks again for helping to spread the message that rabbits are a serious commitment.
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