Friday, April 29, 2011

Here Comes Peter Cottontail


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.
The night before Easter, Peter parties with friends, until very late at night.  He stumbles to bed, setting his alarm-rooster to wake him up at 5:30 am.  Irontail and his pet bat Montresar show up and give the rooster bubble gum.  This causes his beak to be stuck closed, so the rooster is unable to wake Peter in time.  

Peter sleeps all through Easter.  Irontail is only able to give away one egg, but that's one more than Peter.  Irontail wins the contest and takes over April Valley.
Easter is canceled forever, eggs will now be colored "the color of mud."  Chocolate bunnies will be replaced by tarantulas and octopi.

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.
He offers Peter the use of his time machine, the Yestermorrowbile, piloted by Antoine the Caterpillar (Kaye yet again). It has buttons for every holiday, pressing them takes them to Christmas, Easter,etc. Peter can use it to travel back in time and beat Irontail in the egg delivery contest.

They set off, but Irontail sees this and sends a spider flunky to sabotage the Yestermorrowbile, which causes a crash that damages the controls.  Peter and Antoine can no longer choose which Holiday to visit, they just end up on random Holidays.
Along the way, Peter runs into an old friend from April Valley, Bonnie, a talking Easter Bonnet, who joins his quest.  He also meets a bunny named Donna on Valentine’s Day. They are smitten with each other and go on an ice skating date.


While they’re skating, Irontail steals the eggs, and proceeds to dye them green.

Will Peter Cottontail figure out a way to regain the eggs and become the new Easter Bunny?

J.A. Morris says:
This is the best of Rankin-Bass’ three Easter specials. The presence of Vincent Price’s voice alone makes it worth watching, and Casem provides a good voice for Peter.  In some ways, it’s “The Mother Of All Rankin Bass Holiday Specials”, since we see Peter visit virtually every Holiday.  I think the songs are all pretty good & memorable.

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.
But I do have one quibble:
We learn early on that Peter is sort of irresponsible and has a bad habit of telling fibs.  He parties too late on the night before Easter. But he doesn’t oversleep on Easter JUST because he’s irresponsible and stays out too late.  He oversleeps because Irontail sees to it that his alarm clock rooster is unable to wake Peter on time. So, it’s not all his fault that he loses the contest, since Irontail had to cheat to win. The lesson about “responsibility” falls a little flat here.
At least during the Valentine segment, Donna tells him he should be forgiven, because anyone can make a mistake.
The muddy lesson is the only thing that keeps this special from getting a 4-Easter Egg rating. 

J.A. Morris' rating:






3 and a half Easter Eggs.

Monday, April 25, 2011

Hop




Released April 1st 2011

Directed by Tim Hill


Hop centers on the story of two characters who are disappointments to their fathers, who bond over this and (eventually) save the Easter Bunny from a usurper.
The film opens on Easter Island, where we’re introduced to a young rabbit named E.B.(Russell Brand). We soon learn that his father is the Easter Bunny(Hugh Laurie), who is hard at work preparing for his worldwide Easter journey. His candy factory(located inside one of Easter Island’s “head” sculptures)is operated by a chick named Carlos(Hank Azaria). The Easter Bunny tells E.B. that someday he’ll take over his job, Carlos is angry thinking he should be the successor.
The story moves to the suburbs of Los Angeles. A little boy named Fred, wakes up early on Easter and catches a glimpse of the Easter Bunny delivering eggs & candy. It’s a memory he’ll treasure all his life.
We cut to 20 years later, Fred(James Marsden) is now an adult slacker who can’t keep a steady job and moved back in with his parents (Gary Cole and Elizabeth Perkins), who are frustrated with his lack of ambition. His sister Samantha (Kaley Cuoco) gets him a job interview with a videogame company, and asks him to house sit at her boss’s mansion. He’s not interested in the job but tells Sam he’ll humor her and apply.
At the same time, E.B. is due to be appointed Easter Bunny, but he’d rather play drums in a rock band. He doesn’t think he’s cut out to take over for his father. Using a magic rabbit hole, he flees to Hollywood to pursue his rock n roll dream.
The Easter Bunny is furious at E.B. and sends his Pink Berets (a team of rabbit-ninjas) to bring him home. Meanwhile, Carlos and his fellow chicks are plotting a coup against the Easter Bunny.
Fred is driving and accidentally hits E.B.. When he picks up a rock to put him out of his misery, E.B. shocks Fred by asking him not too. E.B. needs a place to stay, so he uses Fred’s guilt to let him join in on his housesitting gig.
Fred tells E.B. not to go upstairs. He disobeys this order, leaving carrot stems all over the house and running a jaqcuzi until it overflows, making a mess upstairs. E.B.’s antics make Fred late for his job interview at the videogame company. The Pink Berets show up and chase E.B. around the office and run into Fred, causing him to botch the interview. E.B. asks Fred to help him get to an audition for a talent show overseen by David Hasselhoff, Fred agrees but says he’s wants E.B. to leave him alone after the audition.
The audition is a success,but the Berets show up again and attack both of them. They escape and E.B. tells Fred his backstory and his reluctance to take over for the Easter Bunny. Fred doesn't believe him until he poops jelly beans. Fred remembers his childhood encounter with the Easter Bunny and decides that he will take over as Easter Bunny. He begins vigorously decorating eggs and gathering candy in preparation for his Easter journey around the world. But before he can do that:
The Berets invade the mansion, E.B. escapes by faking his own death. Fred is accused of killing E.B. and taken to Easter Island. At this point, Carlos takes over, imprisons Fred and the Easter Bunny and is magically transformed into a rabbit-chick hybrid.
Spoiler Alert: E.B. regrets abandoning Fred, so he returns to Easter Island just in time to save his father and Fred. He overthrows Carlos and becomes the new Easter Bunny, just in time for Easter. Fred accompanies E.B. on the journey and becomes his new fulltime assistant, thus finding a job he loves.
JA Morris says:
Hop is entertaining, but just good enough to be disappointing. At “press time”, Marsden is 37 years old and too old to play a “20-something” character, but he’s still convincing as a wide-eyed manchild. It’s not easy acting with animated characters, but he pulls that off too. I don’t care much for Russell Brand, but he’s okay as E.B., but E.B. isn’t very sympathetic as a protagonist. He takes a bit too long to “wake up”, accept his role as Easter Bunny and save the day.
Having the Easter Bunny based on Easter Island was cute, and the candy factory assembly line scene is how I imagined candy was made when I was a kid. And the Easter Bunny’s sleigh was cool too, a nice way of showing how he travels around the globe.
But ‘Hop’ is ultimately not a very good movie. The story jumps around and E.B. isn’t very sympathetic as a protagonist. He takes a bit too long to “wake up” and save the day.
“But won’t kids like it? And isn’t that what matters about a movie like this?”
If I was a kid, I probably would have enjoyed it once, but not cared too much if I ever saw it again. Which is too bad, because the list of Easter movies & tv specials is short.
My review:
2 and ½ Easter Eggs
RigbyMel says:

On the surface this movie had a lot going for it (good voice cast, neat computer animation, pretty good live action cast, fun concept) but the execution left me wishing it was better than it was. As it was, it was mildly entertaining but kind of empty, which is a shame.

My rating: 1 and 1/2 Easter eggs

Thursday, April 21, 2011

The Pop Singer's Fear of the Pollen Count

Since spring is the season of allergies here in Virginia, I've had this song stuck in my head on and off for the past several days (especially as I've been trying to rid my car of evil, yellow pollen dust ...).

So Holiday Film Reviews now presents a musical interlude linked for your listening/viewing pleasure: "The Pop Singer's Fear of the Pollen Count" by The Divine Comedy.



This is a fun pop song by the British band The Divine Comedy. It was originally released on their Liberation album in 1993, but the linked version is a re-recording that was done for their 1999 best of compilation entitled A Secret History ... The Best of the Divine Comedy. The single peaked at #17 in the UK charts.

Interestingly, the song points out a bit of a geographical difference as I tend to associate allergy season in Virginia with spring and autumn, but this song is about summer. Summer is generally more of a pollen-filled season in the U.K. than in the eastern U.S. actually, so this makes some sense.

Something to mull over with your U.S. (Virginia) allergies and congestion today.

TTFN

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Jim Henson's The Tale of the Bunny Picnic



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.


My rating:



3 Easter Eggs

Monday, April 18, 2011

Spring has sprung on the HFR blog!

Spring has sprung on the Holiday Film Reviews blog and we've updated our look. Now we can change the background to look all seasonal. Spiffy, isn't it?

And after a bit of a long absence, we will be returning shortly with exciting new posts about specials relating to Spring!