Literature / Bunnicula
Today vegetables... tomorrow the world!

Bunnicula is the name of a series of children's books written by Deborah and James Howe about a "vampire bunny" who is adopted by the Monroe family, who give him the name "Bunnicula" when they find him on a seat in the theater while going to see the movie Dracula. The story centers on the family's pets, Harold, an old, good-natured mongrel, who is the narrator of the story, Chester the cat, who has a vivid imagination and suspects Bunnicula of being a vampire, and the eponymous bunny, who never displays any overt vampiric traits despite constant accusations by Chester.

The series is something of an Affectionate Parody of the horror genre, with equal parts mystery and comedy as well. The first book, simply titled Bunnicula, was written together with Howe's late wife Deborah.

In 1982, the first novel was adapted into a half-hour animated adaptation for the ABC Weekend Special by Ruby-Spears. However, the special had many differences from the novels.

In 2016, Warner Bros. Animation produced a Bunnicula animated series, adapted fairly loosely from the original novels, which premiered on Cartoon Network's Saturday morning block.

Books in the series:

  • Bunnicula (1979)
  • Howliday Inn (1982)
  • The Celery Stalks At Midnight (1983)
  • Nighty-Nightmare (1987)
  • Return to Howliday Inn (1992)
  • Bunnicula Strikes Again! (1999)
  • Bunnicula Meets Edgar Allan Crow! (2006)

There is also the spin-off series Tales From The House of Bunnicula:
  • It Came From Beneath the Bed!
  • Invasion of the Mind Swappers from Asteroid 6!
  • Howie Monroe and the Doghouse of Doom
  • Screaming Mummies of the Pharaoh's Tomb II
  • Bud Barkin, Private Eye
  • The Odorous Adventures of Stinky Dog

There is also a series of Bunnicula books for very young readers:
  • The Vampire Bunny
  • Hot Fudge
  • Scared Silly
  • Rabbit-Cadabra
  • The Fright Before Christmas
  • Creepy Crawly Birthday
  • Bunnicula Escapes!: A Pop-up Adventure

As well as several non-fiction books:
  • Bunnicula's Wickedly Wacky Word Games: a Book for Word Lovers & Their Pencils!
  • Bunnicula's Frightfully Fabulous Factoids: a Book to Entertain Your Brain!
  • Bunnicula's Pleasantly Perplexing Puzzlers: A Book of Puzzles, Mazes, & Whatzits!
  • Bunnicula's Long-lasting Laugh-alouds: a Book of Jokes & Riddles to Tickle Your Bunny-Bone!

The franchise provides examples of:

  • Agent Mulder: Chester
  • Affectionate Parody: Both series are a parody of horror novels. Also, the Fleshcrawler books Howie reads are clearly parodies of R.L. Stine's Goosebumps.
  • Amateur Sleuth: Chester fancies himself one
  • Artistic License Biology: Harold's favorite food is chocolate cupcakes, even though a lot of chocolate can be dangerous to dogs. Whether this is artistic license on the part of the character or the author is debatable. It's specifically pointed out in both Bunnicula Strikes Again! and Hot Fudge that you should never give your dog chocolate in real life. It is also noted that some dogs can eat chocolate just fine, and Harold happens to (thankfully) be one of these. See also Breaking the Fourth Wall.
  • Big, Friendly Dog: Harold is a more laid-back version, but definitely qualifies. Especially when the Munroe kids have junk food.
  • Book Within A Book: The spin-off series Tales From The House of Bunnicula are Howie's novels and writing journal entries.
  • Brilliant, but Lazy: Harold the dog makes a lot of obscure references, and can even read Carpathian. He would just rather eat the books instead of read them.
  • Cats Are Mean: Chester manages to both subvert this trope and play it straight, particularly in the first book. He makes numerous attempts to subdue and/or kill Bunnicula and can come off as rather cruel in some of his methods, but on the other hand he was acting out of a desire to protect his family and the world, thinking Bunnicula was truly evil.
  • Conspiracy Theorist: Oh, Chester.
  • Cute Little Fangs: Bunnicula, both in-story and in all the artwork.
  • Darker and Edgier: While still very much a children's book, Howliday Inn does qualify somewhat when compared to its predecessor. Whereas Bunnicula merely dealt with Chester madcap theories regarding the titular rabbit, Howliday Inn features an honest to goodness mystery involving petnapping and the implied - but false - death of one of the characters.
  • Entertainingly Wrong: Near the end of the first book, the Monroes conclude that Chester's behavior was rooted in a sibling rivalry he allegedly has with Bunnicula.
  • Fantastic Racism: Chester, in the "Vampires = Always Chaotic Evil" sense.
  • Friendly Neighborhood Vampire: Bunnicula only vampirizes vegetables by sucking out their juices.
  • Getting Crap Past the Radar: In Howliday Inn, Louise calls Georgette "Hester Prynne". It's an obscure reference that hardly any kid would get, but she's essentially calling Georgette a slut.
    • In Bunnicula, when Chester mentions how vampires bite their victims on the neck, Harold says "Wait a minute. I saw Mrs. Monroe bite Mr. Monroe on the neck once." But Chester says that Mrs. Monroe is not a vampire. She's a lawyer.
  • Hair-Raising Hare. Possibly. Chester assumes Bunnicula is an evil, vampiric bunny who will take over / destroy the world given enough time. To anyone else, he's not really terrifying.
  • Heroic Dog: Harold is single-handedly responsible for thwarting Chester's attempt to starve Bunnicula.
  • It Was a Dark and Stormy Night:
    • Inverted in The Celery Stalks at Midnight:
    "IT WAS NOT a dark and stormy night. Indeed, there was nothing in the elements to foreshadow the events that lay ahead."
    • It was implied that it was in the first chapter, "The Arrival", in the first book.
  • Killer Rabbit: Bunnicula is a vampire-like rabbit that Chester assumes is a killer rabbit, hiding his malevolent nature behind a cute exterior, but there's no evidence that he ever actually does any harm whatsoever besides draining vegetables.
  • Know-Nothing Know-It-All: Pete trying to explain to his family that the white vegetables are caused by "vegetables that aren't organic".
  • Lame Pun Reaction: In "Bunnicula Strikes Back" Howie cracks that "You're no bunny until some bunny loves you" and Harold narration notes that he could hear Chester grind his teeth.
  • Literary Agent Hypothesis: The prologue claims that Howe is merely the literary agent for Harold the dog.
  • Maybe Magic, Maybe Mundane: Bunnicula may or may not be a blood-sucking fiend, though it becomes less debatable as the series goes on. Much of the humor in the series comes from Chester's belief that Bunnicula's eating habits mean that the world around them follows horror tropes.
  • Meaningful Name: Harold mentions that Chester was named after G. K. Chesterton.
  • Metaphorgotten: Chester in Bunnicula Strikes Again:
    "You can lead a horse of a different color to water but it's still a horse."
  • Noodle Incident: In Howliday Inn, Chester remarks that he read the other animal's personal files while being held hostage. On the subject of Lyle (another cat who's more than a little off-kilter), he'll only say Lyle has "had a rough life".
  • Not So Above It All: Despite being the Only Sane Man, Harold usually begins to get sucked into Chester's delusions toward the end of each book, when confronted with weirder and weirder goings-on with no ready prosaic explanation.
  • Only Sane Man: Harold, the viewpoint character and in-universe narrator. While not very well-read, he certainly has a better grip on reality than Chester, and tries to keep the cat's wild notions in line- emphasis on "tries". Chester, meanwhile, thinks he's one of these, but his imagination and cynicism tends to stir things up.
  • Papa Dog: Harold goes to great lengths to protect Bunnicula against Chester whenever he has a "Kill the wab-bit" attack.
  • Predator Turned Protector: Chester, who spends much of the series seeing himself as the Van Helsing to Bunnicula's Dracula, ultimately saves him from the wreckage of a building once he finally accepts that Bunnicula isn't dangerous. Harold later comments on his new friendliness towards Bunnicula; Chester chooses to spin it as protecting the rabbit against his own dark nature.
  • Puns:
    • Howie enjoys making punny remarks, much to Chester's exasperation.
    • An absolutely dreadful one happens when Chester mistakes "driving a stake through a vampire's heart" with a steak, and winds up pounding some meat on Bunnicula's chest while the rabbit sleeps.
  • "Scooby-Doo" Hoax: Most of the paranormal shenanigans are attributable to either this or Chester's paranoia, though there's a significant amount of Maybe Magic, Maybe Mundane where Bunnicula is concerned.
  • Sliding Scale of Vampire Friendliness: Half-rabbit, half-vampire, all terror! He sucks the juice out of carrots. Or so Chester, the extremely high-strung family cat, believes. Harold the dog, who is The Watson to Chester's Holmes, is less convinced of the bunny's vampirism, though he admits that it has an odd way of feeding.
  • Stealth Pun: The Latin word for rabbit is "cuniculus" and the scientific name for the European rabbit is Oryctolagus cuniculus; stick a feminine ending on it and it's "cunicula".
  • Vampires Hate Garlic: Chester succeeds at keeping the titular vampire wabbit away from the Monroes' vegetables by using garlic. Of course, this gets him in trouble the next morning when Mrs. Monroe catches him and gives the irate cat a bath. Later on, he uses a garlic necklace and blocks Bunnicula's way so he can't get at the vegetables. This subtler approach does not alert the Monroes and it's only thanks to Harold that Bunnicula survives.
  • Vegetarian Vampire: Literally! Bunnicula doesn't feed on blood at all. Instead, he sucks vegetables of all their juices.
  • The Voiceless: Bunnicula himself never says a word, despite all other animals (cats, dogs, one weasel and a parrot) being able to talk just fine. It's hypothesized something terrible happened to him in his childhood and rendered him mute, and even after they find out what's causing his vampirism, he never talks.
  • The Watson: Harold to Chester, though he still manages to get sucked into Chester's fantasies in every book.
  • Well-Intentioned Extremist: Chester. Does Bunnicula suck the juice out of vegetables? Yes, but that's the most nefarious thing he ever gets up to. Chester goes to incredible lengths to prove Bunnicula's vampirism and get rid of the "dangerous" rabbit, assuming that eventually the bunny will try to take over the world.
  • Wrong Assumption: Chester sees himself as Van Helsing to Bunnicula's Dracula, when the truth is a lot more benign.

The Bunnicula series provides additional examples of:

  • Breaking the Fourth Wall: In Bunnicula Strikes Again!, Harold reminds the audience that he, like the books he writes, is a work of fiction.
  • The Cloudcuckoolander Was Right: In Howliday Inn, Chester determinedly thinks something horrible is going to happen, and is proven right when Louise goes missing, believing it to be foul play. While not murder, the poodle did not vanish of her own will.
  • Creepy Crows: Horror writer M.T. Graves has a bird who he calls Edgar Allan Crow. Chester, of course, thinks that both of them are up to no good. However, it ultimately turns out to be a subversion; Edgar Allan Crow is just an ordinary crow and not at all scary (except in Chester's runaway imagination).
  • Hell Hotel: Chateau Bow-Wow in Howliday Inn and Return To Howliday Inn
  • Heroic Dog: Played with in The Celery Stalks at Midnight; Harold tries to save Mr. Monroe from drowning, but it turns out he's misinterpreted the situation; Mr. Monroe was participating in a dunking booth and was never in any actual danger.
  • Mad Scientist: Parodied (and ultimately subverted) with Dr. Greenbriar. Jill could even be seen as his beautiful daughter, and Harrison as his Igor.
  • No Celebrities Were Harmed: M.T. Graves is an Affectionate Parody of Stephen King and R.L. Stine.
  • Obfuscating Stupidity: Bud and Spud, who come across as dumb hicks, but are actually well educated. Of course, most of the obfuscation comes from Chester's overactive imagination.
  • Pounds Are Animal Prisons: ...So are the kennels in Howliday Inn.
  • Pun-Based Title: One of the chapters in the later books is titled "Gruel and Unusual Punishment", a reference to the phrase "cruel and unusual punishment". It receives a title drop from Howie.
  • Punny Name:
    • Edgar Allan Crow, who was named after horror writer Edgar Allan Poe.
    • Pete's favorite horror writer, M.T. Graves, has another pun for a pseudonym ("empty graves").
  • Shout-Out: M.T. Graves and the Fleshcrawlers series are clearly a reference to R.L. Stine and Goosebumps.
  • Ten Little Murder Victims: Parodied in Howliday Inn.

The Tales From The House of Bunnicula series provides examples of:

  • Affectionate Parody: Howie is a parody of fanfiction writers, and The Doghouse of Doom is mistakenly seen as a parody of Harry Potter by Howie's editor.
  • Aliens Speaking English: The Mindswappers From Asteroid 6 speak English. "Justified" in that Howie is the author and he wants them to.
  • Animal Superhero: Howie is a wire-haired dachshund puppy (and Dean is a sparrow) so Stinky Dog and Little D are an animal superhero and an animal sidekick.
  • Author Avatar: Howie's books star himself and his friend Delilah.
  • Award Snub: invokedHow Howie views his failure to win a Newboney award for his fourth book.
  • Death by Newbery Medal: Howie tries to make Tales #4 more tragic in order to win a Medal. It doesn't work.
  • Depending on the Writer: Used in-universe as the quality, direction, focus, and title vary depending on if Howie or Delilah is writing Tales From The House of Bunnicula.
  • The Power of Love: It's only when Stinky Dog starts thinking about how much he loves Delilah that Bathman is destroyed.
  • Product Placement: Howie likes to promote his previous books, though he claims to be simply giving helpful references to the reader.
  • Purple Prose: Lots in Howie's books. Even Harold tells him that he's going overboard, especially with self-description.
  • They Do: After several books of being good (if argumentative) friends, Howie and Delilah make the change to Official Couple at the end of The Odorous Adventures of Stinky Dog.
  • Title Drop: "Mindswappers From Asteroid 6" is always emphasized and trademarked.

Tropes specific to the 1982 Ruby-Spears animated special:

  • Adaptational Heroism: Chester, in a characterization different than how he was depicted in the novels, actually helps Harold defend Bunnicula from the angry mob.
  • Crouching Moron, Hidden Badass: In the climax, just when it seems that Bunnicula was about to get attacked by the wolves, Bunnicula is suddenly able to use vampire powers which trap the wolves in a vat at the plant.
  • Expy: Harold appears to bear a resemblance to that of Colonel from Disney's 101 Dalmatians. In addition to that, one of the Monroe sons wears clothes similar to that of Fred Jones.
  • Narrator: Much like the novels, Harold narrated the special.
  • Oh, Crap!: This was Harold and Chester's reaction upon discovering the wolf pack in the plant.
  • Savage Wolves: The climax of the special had Harold, Chester, and Bunnicula getting chased by a pack of wolves that were roaming around the vegetable processing plant.
  • Torches and Pitchforks: A lot of the neighbors suspect Bunnicula of being the culprit of draining all of the vegetables in the neighborhood as well as the accidents at the plant, despite not actually having torches and pitchforks.