Easter with... the Duracell Bunny?

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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.

April 4, 2010 - 10:55am
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