First aired on HBO on March 26, 1986 in the U.S. (and 3 days later on the BBC according to Muppet Wiki)
This charming special tells the story of Bean Bunny (as performed by Steve Whitmire), an imaginative but small rabbit who does not feel appreciated by his family or peers. His older brother Lugsy and sister Twitch seem to find him a bit of a nuisance and tell him he's too little to help out with their preparations for the upcoming Bunny Picnic.
The Bunny Picnic is an annual spring festival that involves elaborate preparations on the part of all the bunnies as well as a much anticipated visit from the Bunny Storyteller.
Frustrated that his siblings won't let him help out, Bean wanders off to a nearby farm where he is frightened and chased by a Dog. Bean manages to get away and returns to warn the other rabbits about the Dog, but no one believes him since a dog has not been seen near the warren for years (and also, one surmises, because Bean's imagination has been known to run away with him in the past).
Dog, as it turns out, isn't really a bad fellow(and is amusingly performed by Jim Henson) , but has been coerced by the mean Farmer - who is allergic to rabbits and resents the bunnies' incursions on his lettuce patch. Dog needs to catch bunnies so the Farmer can have some bunny stew (yuck! & possibly not smart in light of Farmer's apparent bunny allergies) so that the Farmer will feed him and possibly deign to give Dog a real name.
Dog eventually finds his way to the warren, peril is averted by Bean's bravery and imagination (with an assist from a cute story about a wise Giant Hedgehog courtesy of the Bunny Storyteller), the mean Farmer is defeated and the bunnies become friends with Dog and even give him a real name and the Bunny Picnic is a success.
To my mind, this cute hour of television was intended as a secular Easter special (bunnies, springtime, etc) and functions quite well. It's sort of in the same stylistic vein as Emmet Otter's Jug Band Christmas, but with songs that are not quite as strong as the songs in Emmet (lack of Paul Williams as composer will do that though). Although the songs are not quite as strong as in other Henson movies and specials, they are perfectly adequate to the purpose and you may well find yourself humming the bunnies' “Hello Sunshine” song for days after the fact. It may not quite be a “classic” per se, but this is a very fun special that you may have missed & well worth a look, especially if you are Jim Henson/Muppets fan. I was almost 10 when this special first aired and I find it still holds up well for jaded thirtysomething me.
Sadly, it has not (yet) been released on DVD (what's the hold up, Disney?), but The Tale of the Bunny Picnic did receive a VHS release and is readily obtainable from various internet sources.
3 Easter Eggs