“And if you go chasing rabbits, and you know you’re going to fall… tell ’em a hookah-smoking caterpillar has given you the call.”—Jefferson Airplane
Every Christmas as a child, the TV airwaves for the month of December were flooded with holiday programing to keep this festive kid amused. At the top of the list of these themes of televised treats, was none other than Rankin Bass Productions’ (1960-1987) staples, Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer (1964) and Frosty the Snowman (1969). I was always excited around Christmas to visit these shows every year, but I always hoped they would have made other seasonal classics to get me through the rest of the year. As I grew, I came to realize my wish had been answered years before my birth and the fine people at Rankin Bass did indeed make other films focused on other holidays. Sadly, between the transition of being played on ABC to CBS securing the rights, some titles were not shown anymore and stowed away in the attic of youth nostalgia, failing to be passed on to other generations. Well fret no more my little peeps, today’s Easter stop-motion themed feature is none other than Here Comes Peter Cottontail (1971).
When the Chief Easter Bunny, voiced by Danny Kaye of White Christmas (1954) retires, he chooses Peter Cottontail, voiced by Casey Kasem of Scooby Doo (1969), to succeed as the Numero Uno Chief Easter Bunny when his predecessor retires. However, the envious and diabolical Irontail, voiced by Vincent Price of The House on Haunted Hill (1958), wants to be “The” Easter Bunny, and seeks revenge upon the world because he is a bitter bunny over the traumatic tale of his missing tail. Irontail proposes he and Peter have a race to see who is the quickest at delivering eggs. Peter lacking situational awareness and grit, falls victim to
Irontail’s scheme resulting in getting sacked from his new job.
In a strange and trippy twist, a peculiar man hanging around with a worm (no clue) happen to conveniently have access to a time machine (no Delorean), so Peter travel back to stop Irontail and retrieve his old job. A battle of wits and cunning play ensue putting Peter against Irontail in a showdown in hopes of saving Easter.
Here Comes Peter Cottontail was directed by Jules Bass and Arthur Rankin Jr, both of Santa Claus is Comin’ to Town (1970), with a screenplay by Romeo Muller of the TV cult favorite, The Hobbit (1977). Cottontail is based on a novel by Priscilla and Otto Friedrich The Easter Bunny That Overslept (1957), and the name inspired by the book series by Thornton Burgess and the popular children’s Easter song, Here Comes Peter Cottontail.
After watching Cottontail, it’s safe to say where filmmaker Tim Burton of Edward Scissorhands (1990) was inspired by Rankin Bass stop animation films like Rudolph, Mad Monster Party? (1967), and Cottontail for his seasonal classics, The Nightmare Before Christmas (1993). Like other Rankin Bass favorites, Cottontail’s narrative is carried through with several musical numbers with the majority sung by Kaye. Of course, Price is over the top, hilarious, and his voice is always delightful to hear. A sequel, Here Comes Peter Cottontail: The Movie (2005) was released but fails to charm as does the first installment. Overall, Cottontail should be fun for enthusiasts or your kiddies. It was nice to see Easter get its fun special.
So, have a great Easter, don’t sprain your ankles looking for eggs and be mindful to brush your teeth after you eat the ears off your chocolate bunny. But seriously, Easter has a deeper meaning for some of us, if you are one of those people like me, remember what journalist Janine di Giovanni said, “Easter is meant to be a symbol of hope, renewal, and new life.” Enjoy your day.