The First Easter Rabbit [Remastered Deluxe Edition]
(2010, Warner Home Video)
Originally Aired: 1976, NBC
Run time: 25 minutes
6 Fun Menu-Based Puzzles for Kids
I’m a member of Columbia House’s DVD program. Yeah, I know it’s somewhat off a ripoff but considering the free DVDs I was able to get when signing up I figure I can usually break even when these types of “clubs”. I used to make a KILLING with BMG’s music service by constantly signing up, canceling, then signing up again.
Anyway, I just happened to be digging around on Columbia House’s website and came across this DVD. The First Easter Rabbit is one of the few Rankin Bass holiday specials I don’t own and for good reason: to my knowledge it hasn’t showed up on TV for as long as I can remember, the VHS copy is out of print and it wasn’t until February 16th of this year that it was finally released on DVD!
I’m not sure why it took so long for this to get the DVD treatment. The Easter Bunny Is Comin’ to Town and Here Comes Peter Cottontail were released on DVD years ago. Here Comes Peter Cottontail even got one of those “unofficial” RB sequels back in 2005 so why couldn’t an original Rankin Bass Easter feature get a proper release any sooner? No matter, it’s here now and for that I can be thankful. C’mon Sony and Warner Bros– you just need to knock out the rest of those Rankin Bass cartoons you own the rights to!
To the story at hand, Rankin Bass once again puts their spin on the origins of the Easter Bunny. In this particular cottontail tale (animated in the traditional hand-drawn 2D format that is quite similar to Frosty the Snowman and Twas The Night Before Christmas), Stuffy is a girl’s stuffed toy bunny given to her for Christmas but when the girl catches scarlet fever, Stuffy is set to be burned along with the rest of her belongings. Fortunately for Stuffy there are greater plans for him as a symbol for the Easter holiday. A fairy comes along and brings him to life and tells him he only has a few weeks to be ready to go for Easter and he has to get down to Easter Valley to prepare.
Of course, there’s someone plotting to ruin things for everyone else. In this instance, we have the antagonist Zero who looks like a cross between a Soggy from Cap’n Crunch and the Winter Warlock from Santa Claus Is Comin’ To Town. His sidekick is a giant snowball known as Brrruce (I assume that’s the spelling because of how they kept pronouncing his name). Zero is in charge of keeping the North Pole frozen and for whatever reason, Easter Valley is in the North Pole and remains a wonderfully springy place because Zero has never found the road into town.
Christmas? North Pole? I don’t have to tell you that Santa Claus himself makes an appearance to give Stuffy a hand and suffice to say, everything comes out okay and Zero sees the error of his ways.
To further connect this special with previous Rankin Bass efforts, Burl Ives returns in the role as narrator as a rabbit that looks very much like Sam the Snowman from Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer. Come to find out as the special comes to a close, he is actually narrating his own life! Yes! He’s Stuffy– the very first Easter Rabbit!
As a whole, I thought this was pretty enjoyable. As any movie involving Easter should be, everything was bright and vibrant and it’s a welcome change of pace to see a spring setting from Rankin Bass. As far as the “remastering” goes, I think this video looks pretty good if you’re into that kind of stuff. Pretty clean all throughout but I don’t know if having interactive puzzles as a bonus feature is enough to say this DVD is a “deluxe edition”.
I have to point out here that for as little time Stuffy had to get acquainted as the Easter Bunny, we viewers have even less time. That’s my one gripe. The story seems pretty rushed and I would have like for this to have been an hour long special to further explore Spring Valley and the origins of Easter traditions along with much more mischief from Zero.
If you’re interested in more Easter offerings from Rankin Bass, check out my appropriately titled Rankin Bass Easter Specials post.