Premiered April 4, 1971
"Don't be so depressed, Peter. When you are depressed, it's gets to be very...depressing!."
-Seymour S. Sassafras
Narrator Seymour Sassafras (voiced by Danny Kaye), a peddler of "magic and moonbeams" begins by telling us of April Valley, home of all current and past Easter Bunnies. Chief Easter Bunny Col. Wellington B Bunny (also voiced by Kaye) is retiring and has designated Peter Cottontail (Casey Kasem) to be his successor. His advisors don't think Peter is a good choice, but Wellington says Peter reminds him of his younger self.
Peter has one glaring flaw: he tells fibs. Whenever he tells fibs, his left ear droops. Another bunny named January Q. Irontail (Vincent Price) objects to Peter's appointment and wants to "rule" April Valley as Easter Bunny. Irontail hates children, because a child skated over his tail, he now wears a tail made of iron. He hates Easter and all its trappings. When he takes control of April Valley, Irontail plans to cancel Easter forever. Wellington holds a ceremony where he declares Peter the new Chief, and presents him with the official basket of the Easter Bunny.
Irontail shows up and tells them the constitution of April Valley states the chief bunny will be the one who delivers the most eggs. He challenges Peter to a contest:whoever delivers the most eggs will be the new Easter Bunny. Peter accepts the challenge, Wellington agrees, telling Peter he must win to save Easter.
Peter is ashamed of himself. His irresponsible behavior allowed Irontail to win. Peter walks for miles until he collapses & falls asleep. When he wakes up, Peter finds himself in the Garden of Surprises. Turns out the Garden is run by Sassafras.
The music and songs by Maury Laws are as good as anything he’s done. Kaye does a nice job voicing multiple characters, and Kasem delivers a solid performance in the title role. During the Christmas segment, Santa Claus makes a cameo, voiced by Paul Frees (who voiced him in several other Rankin-Bass specials).
Most of the Rankin-Bass specials feature "Celebrity Narrators", but this is the only time I can think of where the narrator interacts with the protagonist, making it unique. And of course, there’s a strong nostalgia factor, for people who grew up in the 70s.