Easter with... the Duracell Bunny?

The Energizer Bunny was ripped off from a Duracell commercial? The outfits worn by Playboy Bunnies were the first patented work outfits?  No, you're not hallucinating due to a sugar high from all those chocolate eggs and jellybeans. Those facts are true! Here are more details, along with some other information about famous bunnies of the non-Easter variety.

Hef's Bunnies

The Playboy Bunnies who served as waitresses, hostesses, and photographers at the famous chain of gentlemen's clubs were Hugh Hefner's vision of the Perfect Woman, 1960s-style. She was sexy, yet exuded innocence; she had perfectly sculpted hair, healthy glowing skin, and cantilevered cleavage. The Bunny Suit (the first service uniform to be registered with the U.S. Patent Office) was constructed on a Merry Widow corset. Each club employed a full-time seamstress who custom-crafted the wardrobe of each and every Bunny. In order to assure an optimum costume adherence-to-curves ratio, Bunnies were forbidden to gain or lose more than one pound after being hired. The club manager would conduct a weigh-in before each work shift.

Recognize the Bunny above? It's future Blondie lead singer Deborah Harry!

Killer Bunnies

April 1979: Jimmy Carter's presidency had already been beleaguered by setbacks like the Energy Crisis and his admission that he'd committed adultery in his heart (but not with a cigar). So no one could fault the president for seeking solace in a solitary fishing trip near his hometown of Plains, Georgia. Of course, no matter how much privacy he craves, no sitting president is ever truly alone. In this case, several Secret Service agents and a White House photographer were keeping tabs on Carter in a nearby boat. Quite suddenly, what appeared to be an angry rabbit began swimming purposefully toward the President's boat. According to Carter, the bunny hissed loudly, with nostrils flared and teeth gnashing. Carter smacked his oar upon the water in an attempt to frighten the amphibious rabbit, and the bunny switched direction and paddled to shore. The photographer in tow had the presence of mind to snap a few pictures of the incident.

The whole thing might have remained a personal "fish story" for the few who witnessed the event, but Press Secretary Jody Powell unwisely recounted the tale while having lunch with an Associated Press reporter that August. In fact, Carter had barely recovered from the media onslaught of his "killer rabbit" story when 53 Americans were taken hostage in Iran. Ever the optimist, Carter still gamely ran for re-election in 1980.

Cereal Bunnies

General Mills launched Trix, the first fruit-flavored cereal on the market, in 1954. Five years later, Battle Creek's other cereal makers had come up with their own similar cereals in direct competition with Trix. The company turned to ad agency Dancer Fitzgerald Sample to give the brand an "identity," which arrived in the form of the Trix Rabbit.

Joe Harris, a member of the agency's creative staff, came up with the entire concept over a weekend "“ the character, the catch-phrase ("Silly rabbit, Trix are for kids!") and story boards for several commercials. The original voice of the Trix Rabbit was provided by Delo States, who also voiced Stanley Livingston in the Tennessee Tuxedo cartoon series. By the way, the Rabbit did finally get to eat a bowl of Trix in 1976, some 17 years after he first longed for the cereal that originally had just three flavors: raspberry red, lemon yellow and orange orange.

Perpetual Bunnies

Who knew that the Energizer Bunny was actually a knock-off? Such is the power of good ol' American advertising. Way back in 1973, Duracell launched an advertising campaign that compared its batteries to other brands by placing them inside a group of plush pink toy bunnies that played the snare drum. Of course, the bunny that beat his drum the longest was the one with the Duracell battery. That particular advertising campaign was launched worldwide and is still the de facto bunny in Europe and Australia.

In 1989, the Chicago office of the DDB Advertising Agency came up with a parody ad - featuring a "cool" sunglass-wearing pink bunny beating on a bass drum - to promote the long life of Energizer batteries. The Energizer Bunny took on a life of its own and was mentioned in everything from presidential campaigns (Seventy-two year old candidate Bob Dole compared himself to the Energizer Bunny) to TV theme songs (the lyrics to the theme for the final season of Roseanne mentioned "that rabbit with a drum"). Thanks to copyright laws and those execs who were too late to employ them, the Energizer Bunny is basically a North American icon, while Europe and Australia still associate drum-beating rabbits with "copper-top" Duracell.

Smart-Aleck Bunnies

Bugs Bunny was a product of the Warner Brothers Looney Tunes/Merrie Melodies series of animated films. The 1939 animated short Hare-Em Scare-Em was technically the third appearance of the leporine character, but the first to depict him as a grey hare, rather than white, and also the first to mention his name "Bugs" (in honor of animator Ben "Bugs" Hardaway). Director Tex Avery came up with Bugs' catch-phrase "What's up, Doc?", which had been a popular slang greeting at the North Dallas high school he attended. Avery described his vision of Bugs to veteran voice actor Mel Blanc, who decided on a "Flatbush" accent for Bugs "“ a combination of Bronx and Brooklyn dialects. Blanc's characterization gave Bugs' "Ain't I a stinker?" and "Of course you know this means war!" remarks a certain cutting-edge snarkiness that made him an underdog hero to the masses who were feeling the weight of the world on their shoulders as the U.S. struggled to recover from the Great Depression.

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Warner Bros.
19 Shadowy Facts About Tim Burton's Batman
Warner Bros.
Warner Bros.

Superhero movies are bigger than they’ve ever been before, but we arguably wouldn’t be here at all without 1989’s Batman. Produced at a time before comic book movies were considered big business, Tim Burton’s dark look at a superhero then best known for a goofy TV show is a pop culture landmark, and the story of how it was made is almost as interesting as the film itself. So, to celebrate Batman—which was released on this day in 1989—here are 19 facts about how it came to the screen.

1. AN EARLY MOVIE IDEA RELIED ON THE CAMPINESS OF THE CHARACTER.

As development of a Batman movie began, studio executives were still very tied to the campiness embodied by the Batman television series of the 1960s. According to executive producer Michael Uslan, when he first began attempting to get the rights to make a film, he was told that the only studio who’d expressed interest was CBS, and only if they could do a Batman In Outer Space film.

2. IT TOOK 10 YEARS TO MAKE.

Uslan lobbied hard for the rights to Batman, and finally landed them in 1979. At that point, the fight to convince a studio to make the film ensued, and everyone from Columbia Pictures to Universal Pictures turned it down. When Warner Bros. finally agreed to back the film, the issue of developing the right script had to be settled, and that took even more time. In 1989, after years of battling, Batman was finally released, and Uslan has been involved in some form in every Batman film since.

3. AN EARLY SCRIPT FEATURED BOTH THE PENGUIN AND ROBIN.

When Uslan finally got the chance to develop the film, he drafted legendary screenwriter Tom Mankiewicz, who had been a consultant on Superman, to write the script. The Mankiewicz script included The Joker, corrupt politician Rupert Thorne, a much greater focus on Bruce Wayne’s origin story, The Penguin, and the arrival of Robin late in the film. The script was ultimately scrapped, but you can see certain elements of it in Batman Returns.

4. TIM BURTON WASN’T THE FIRST POTENTIAL DIRECTOR.

Though Warner Bros. ultimately chose Tim Burton to helm Batman, over the course of the film’s development a number of other choices emerged. At various points on the road to Batman, everyone from Gremlins director Joe Dante to Ghostbusters director Ivan Reitman was in line for the gig.

5. MANY STARS OF THE TIME WERE CONSIDERED FOR BATMAN.

The casting process for Batman was a long one, and involved a number of major stars of the day. Among the contenders for the title role were Mel Gibson, Bill Murray (yes, really), Kevin Costner, Willem Dafoe, Tom Selleck, Harrison Ford, Charlie Sheen, Ray Liotta, and Pierce Brosnan, who later regretted turning down the role.

6. TIM BURTON HAD TO FIGHT TO CAST MICHAEL KEATON.

At the time, Michael Keaton was best known for his comedic roles in films like Mr. Mom and Night Shift, so the thought of casting him as a vigilante of the night seemed odd to many. Michael Uslan remembers thinking a prank was being played on him when he heard Keaton’s name pop up. Burton, who’d already worked with Keaton on Beetlejuice, was convinced that Keaton was right for the role, not just because he could portray the obsessive nature of the character, but because he also felt that Keaton was the kind of actor who would need to dress up as a bat in order to scare criminals, while a typical action star would just garner “unintentional laughs” in the suit. Burton ultimately won the argument, and Keaton got an iconic role for two films.

7. JACK NICHOLSON WAS THE FIRST CHOICE FOR THE JOKER, BUT HE WASN’T THE ONLY CHOICE.

From the beginning, Uslan concluded that Jack Nicholson was the perfect choice to play The Joker, and was “walking on air” when the production finally cast him. He certainly wasn’t the only actor considered, though. Among Burton’s considerations were Willem Dafoe, James Woods, Brad Dourif, David Bowie, and Robin Williams (who really wanted the part).

8. TIM BURTON WON JACK NICHOLSON OVER WITH HORSEBACK RIDING.

When Nicholson was asked to discuss playing The Joker, he invited Burton and producer Peter Guber to visit him in Aspen for some horseback riding. When Burton learned that was what they’d be doing, he told Guber “I don’t ride,” to which Guber replied “You do today!” So, a “terrified” Burton got on a horse and rode alongside Nicholson, and the star ultimately agreed to play the Clown Prince of Crime.

9. EDDIE MURPHY WAS ONCE CONSIDERED TO PLAY ROBIN.

Though the character of Robin was ultimately scrapped because it simply didn’t feel like there was room for him in the film, he did appear in early drafts of the script, and at one point producers considered casting Eddie Murphy—who, you must remember, was one of the biggest movie stars of the 1980s—for the role. 

10. SEAN YOUNG WAS THE ORIGINAL VICKI VALE.

Burton initially cast Blade Runner star Sean Young as acclaimed photographer Vicki Vale, who would become Bruce Wayne’s love interest. Young was part of the pre-production process on Batman for several weeks until, while practicing horseback riding for a scene that was ultimately cut, she fell from her horse and was seriously injured. With just a week to go until shooting, producers had to act fast to find a replacement, and decided on Kim Basinger, who essentially joined the production overnight.

11. TIM BURTON WASN’T OFFICIALLY HIRED UNTIL BEETLEJUICE BECAME A HIT.

Though he was basically already a part of the production, Burton wasn’t officially the director of Batman right away. Warner Bros. showed interest in him working on the film after the success of Pee-wee’s Big Adventure, but according to Burton they only officially hired him after the first weekend grosses for Beetlejuice came in.

“They were just waiting to see how Beetlejuice did,” Burton said. “They didn’t want to give me that movie unless Beetlejuice was going to be okay. They wouldn’t say that, but that was really the way it was.”

12. DANNY ELFMAN THOUGHT HE WAS GOING TO BE FIRED UNTIL HE PLAYED THE MAIN THEME.

Danny Elfman is now considered one of our great movie composers, but at the time Batman was released he didn’t have any blockbuster credits to his name. He recalls meeting with Burton (with whom he had worked on Pee-wee’s Big Adventure) and producer Jon Peters to go over some of the music he’d already written for the film, and feeling “a lot of skepticism” over whether he should be the composer for Batman. It wasn’t until Burton said “Play the march,” and Elfman went into what would become the opening credits theme for the film, that he won Peters over.

“Jon jumped out of his chair, really just almost started dancing around the room,” Elfman said.

13. THE JOKER WASN’T ALWAYS GOING TO KILL BATMAN’S PARENTS.

In the final film, The Joker (then named Jack Napier) is revealed to be the gangster who guns down Bruce Wayne’s parents in the streets of Gotham City. It’s a twist that some comic book fans still dislike, and according to screenwriter Sam Hamm, it definitely wasn’t his fault.

“That was something that Tim had wanted from early on, and I had a bunch of arguments with him and wound up talking him out of it for as long as I was on the script. But, once the script went into production, there was a writer’s strike underway, and so I wasn’t able to be with the production as it was shooting over in London, and they brought in other people.”

Hamm also emphasizes that it was also not his idea to show Alfred letting Vicki Vale into the Batcave.

14. THE CLIMACTIC SCENE WAS WRITTEN MIDWAY THROUGH SHOOTING.

Though much of the film is still derived from Hamm’s script, rewrites continued to happen during shooting, and one of them involved the final confrontation between Batman and The Joker in a Gotham City clock tower. According to co-star Robert Wuhl, the climax was inspired by Jack Nicholson and Jon Peters, who went to see a production of The Phantom of the Opera midway through filming and watched as the Phantom made his final stand in a tower. Together, they somehow determined that a final fight in the tower was what Batman needed.

“The next day, they started writing that scene … the whole ending in the tower,” Wuhl said.

15. MICHAEL KEATON’S BATMAN MOVEMENTS WERE INSPIRED BY THE RESTRICTIONS OF THE COSTUME.

Batman fans still love to make jokes about the original costume, and Michael Keaton’s inability to turn his head (there’s even a dig at that in Christopher Nolan’s The Dark Knight), but the restrictions of the costume actually inspired how Keaton performed as the Dark Knight. In 2014, Keaton revealed that his performance as Batman was heavily influenced by a moment when, while trying to actually turn his head in the suit, he ended up ripping it.

“It really came out of the first time I had to react to something, and this thing was stuck to my face and somebody says something to Batman and I go like this [turning his head] and the whole thing goes, [rriipp]! There was a big f***ing hole over here,” he said. “So I go, well, I've got to get around that, because we've got to shoot this son of a bitch, so I go, 'You know what, Tim [Burton]? He moves like this [like a statue]!’”

“I'm feeling really scared, and then it hit me—I thought, 'Oh, this is perfect! This is perfect.' I mean, this is, like, designed for this kind of really unusual dude, the Bruce Wayne guy, the guy who has this other personality that's really dark and really alone, and really kind of depressed. This is it.”

16. GOTHAM CITY WAS REAL, AND IT WAS EXPENSIVE.

Production designer Anton Furst put a lot of work into the incredibly influential designs for the film’s version of Gotham City, and the production was committed to making them pay off. The production ultimately spent more than $5 million to transform the backlot of London’s Pinewood Studios into Gotham City, and you can see the dedication to practical effects work in the final film.

17. PRINCE WAS PART OF THE PRODUCTION EVEN BEFORE HE JOINED IT.

Batman famously features original songs by Prince, who wrote so much new material for the production that he basically produced a full album. Even before the Purple One was drafted to write for the film, though, he was influencing it. Burton played Prince songs on set during the parade sequence and the Joker’s rampage through the museum.

18. THE FILM’S MARKETING WAS SO EFFECTIVE THAT IT INSPIRED CRIMES.

By the time Batman was actually on its way to release, it was becoming a phenomenon, and the marketing for the film was inspiring a frenzy among fans. People were buying tickets to other films just to see the first trailer, and selling bootleg copies of the early footage. The poster, featuring the iconic logo, was so popular that, according to Uslan, people were breaking into bus stations just to steal it.

19. IT WAS A BOX OFFICE LANDMARK.

Though studio executives resisted the idea of a “dark” Batman movie for years, the film ultimately set a new standard for box office success. It was the first film to ever hit $100 million in 10 days, the biggest film in Warner Bros.’ history at the time, and the box office’s biggest earner of 1989—and that’s not even counting the massive toy and merchandising sales it generated.

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Underwhelmed Tourists
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