When you think of the highest profile Disney animals, what are the first ones you think of? Chances are that mice, ducks, dogs, cats, and horses will be high on your list, and with good reason – there are plenty to choose from in the Disney universe. Jungle animals and fish score high points as well. But this is the season of spring, and on the Chinese calendar it’s the Year of the Rabbit. The most popular chocolate shaped animal is on the shelf in every store. During this sweet season, let’s take a look at the most well known rabbits in the Disney universe.
Oswald the Lucky Rabbit
A true Walt Disney original, Oswald was created for Charles Mintz and Universal Studios in the old black and white days of animation. Animated cats were the popular character of the day, with Felix the Cat and Krazy Kat topping the list. So a rabbit provided an opportunity for a slightly different character personality. Walt saw immediate success, with the Oswald short Trolley Troubles being Universal’s biggest animated success to date. Walt’s studio staff multiplied to keep up with demand for more Oswald shorts.
Unfortunately, Walt never owned the rights to Oswald, and when Charles Mintz undercut Walt and hired away several members of his staff Walt was forced to cut ties and start over. But from the ashes of Oswald, a mouse was born.
Oswald remained the property of Universal for many decades, until 2006, when Disney COO Bob Iger “made a trade”, bringing Oswald home to Disney, and sending sportscaster Al Michaels from Disney-owned ABC to Universal-owned NBC in exchange. I’d say it was a fair trade!
Oswald has since appeared in several Disney video games and animated shorts, and he occasionally greets guests in Disney California Adventure and Tokyo DisneySea. And Oswald merchandise is everywhere in the Disney parks and on shop Disney (check out this festive jersey).
Max Hare – The Tortoise and the Hare
Over the years, Disney has created unique interpretations of many children's story classics, such as the tale of The Tortoise and the Hare. Following in line with the story’s spirit, Max Hare is very talented, and not afraid to boast about it, running circles around his slower racing counterpart Toby Tortoise. But the distraction of bragging about himself proves to be too enticing, and Max loses his focus on the race at hand, allowing Toby to pull out victory. Due to this short’s popularity, Disney produced a sequel short, Toby Tortoise Returns.
Max’s confident and brazen persona is widely considered to be a major inspiration for Warner Bros.’ own Bugs Bunny. Ain’t he a stinker!
Thumper – Bambi
This tiny gray rabbit with restless feet is one of the first – and best known – Disney sidekicks. Only Pinocchio’s Jiminy Cricket and Dumbo’s Timothy Q. Mouse came sooner. Thumper was by Bambi’s side right from the beginning, helping the young fawn learn to walk and talk, what to eat, and even how to skate on ice. Thumper’s got a lot of spunk, and a healthy dose of self confidence. Think of him a little like Rudolph’s friend Fireball in the Rankin Bass Christmas classic Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer.
Thumper occasionally makes an appearance in Disney Parks – usually related to Easter festivities, or in parades.
White Rabbit – Alice in Wonderland
“I’m late, I’m late! For a very important date! No time to say 'hello, goodbye,' I'm late, I'm late, I'm late!“
This little guy wins the award for the most nervous rabbit on this list (with Winnie-the-Pooh’s Rabbit a close second). Lewis Carroll, author of the story Alice in Wonderland (from which the Disney film was adapted) notes the White Rabbit to be Alice's opposite in temperament and personality, saying “For her 'youth,' 'audacity,' 'vigour,' and 'swift directness of purpose,' read [contrast] 'elderly,' 'timid,' 'feeble,' and 'nervously shilly-shallying'.”
I might suggest that, if I were employed as royal herald for the Queen of Hearts, I might be constantly nervous too.
This soft and cuddly character is much more laid back when you can find him in a Disney park. In facts, the White Rabbit holds the distinction of being the very first character our kids ever met in a Disney park!
Jefferson Airplane released a trippy 1967 track about the confusing world of Alice in Wonderland called White Rabbit. Check it out here:
March Hare – Alice in Wonderland
White Rabbit wasn’t the only cottontail Alice met in her journey through Wonderland. She also met the March Hare (along with the Mad Hatter), where the absurdity meter turned up to 11. Whether it’s your birthday, or your “unbirthday”, this mad duo is always ready to break out the tea and biscuits, 365 days a year. Why is their long party table mostly empty? Well, it could have something to do with their over-exuberant personalities.
March Hare has been known to make occasional appearances at the parks, primarily in Disneyland Paris (which makes sense considering it is the location of Alice’s Curious Labyrinth). He also shows up occasionally at runDisney race events. Seeing him in person in a Disney park is indeed a unique experience.
If you are a big fan of rabbits (especially those in Alice in Wonderland), you’ll want to check out this adorable Dooney & Bourke collection, available now (Spring 2023).
Rabbit – Winnie the Pooh
Ok, I’ll admit it. I’ve never been a big fan of this Rabbit. I much prefer just about any other friend in the Hundred Acre Wood. He’s fussy, worrisome, and has a compulsive grip on his precious vegetable garden. But he is a cherished friend of Winnie-the-Pooh, and a friend of Pooh’s is a friend of mine.
Rabbit is unique in the Hundred Acre Wood, in that he is traditionally portrayed as a real animal, rather than a stuffed toy like Pooh, Piglet, or Tigger.
Rabbit is tough to find in the Disney parks, but he can be seen occasionally in Disneyland and Disneyland Paris.
Roger Rabbit – Who Framed Roger Rabbit
Image: Disney (and others – it’s complicated)
“P-p-p-please!” To say I went through a Roger Rabbit phase as a kid would be a gross understatement. 1988 was a previous the Year of the Rabbit on the Disney calendar, and in my own life. With the release of Who Framed Roger Rabbit, Roger was – for a short time – more popular than Mickey Mouse. Clothes, merchandise, parks appearances – you name it, Roger was there. I even had a “Roger Rabbit for President” t-shirt (hey, it was an election year).
Roger’s zany, off-the-wall personality was a huge hit with millions worldwide, and Disney CEO Michael Eisner did everything he could to incorporate Roger into the Disney parks. Roger stood right up there with Mickey alongside Eisner in promotional photos.
But Roger is, shall we say, complicated. Disney shares the rights to Roger with Steven Spielberg’s Amblin Entertainment, as part of an agreement that produced the film. Creative and business differences between Disney and Speilberg led to more and more difficulty getting anything Roger Rabbit-related produced.
In the end, we have the film, three shorts (Tummy Trouble (1989), Roller Coaster Rabbit (1990), and Trail Mix-Up (1993)), one loopy parks attraction (Roger Rabbit’s Car Toon spin in Disneyland and Tokyo Disneyland), and a handful of other minor appearances.
Honorable Mention: Jessica Rabbit
“I’m not bad. I’m just drawn that way.”
Roger Rabbit’s animated wife, Jessica Rabbit, redefined the way many adults could view animated characters. This presumed femme fatale’s surname is “Rabbit” but that’s the only part that gets her on this list. Beautiful and alluring – Jessica was an attractive animated woman in the midst of mostly cartoonish looking characters. How Roger got so lucky is anyone’s guess!
Judy Hopps – Zootopia
The neverending optimism Judy Hopps exudes is contagious, and I dare you to walk out of Zootopia and not feel like the stereotypes and pre-set character notions of the world could really change someday. Judy is the little bunny that could – growing up in a quiet rural town and going to work as law enforcement in the urban city of Zootopia. She was the first rabbit to achieve placement on the city’s police force, and through hard work, perseverance, and a little fortunate luck meeting the right people along the way, she made an indelible positive stamp of the culture of her community.
Judy has historically met for greetings in Disneyland and Walt Disney World. And this year, she has been added to the Garden of the Twelve Friends at Shanghai Disneyland.
Clover – Sofia the First
If you take the multi-talented comedian, actor, performer, and writer Wayne Brady and turn him into a cartoon character – this is what you get. Clover has the potential for all of Brady’s rich talent, though unfortunately the Disney Junior program’s writing just didn’t quite do justice to his large personality. Still, Clover is an adorable sidekick, able to verbally communicate with Sofia through her use of the magical Amulet of Avalor.
File under “plush culture.” StellaLou is a friend of Duffy the Disney Bear – a parks-exclusive character who made his debut in 2002. Duffy has made his way around all the parks worldwide, but he is by far the most popular in the Asian parks. Duffy’s popularity has brought along several friends, including StellaLou in 2019. This cheerful, lavender-colored rabbit is a mainstay at Disney’s Aulani resort. She loves to dance with Duffy and their other friend ‘Olu – a ‘ukulele-playing turtle.
Friends – enjoy the Year of the Rabbit, and Happy Easter to those who celebrate. May your days be filled with chocolate ears and marshmallow chicks!
Where do rabbits rank in your list of Disney animal preferences? Let us know by joining the conversation on Twitter or Instagram (links below) or by leaving a comment here. And if you enjoyed this post, please feel free to share using one of the buttons below (or you can always go old school by copying/pasting the URL for this post).