Wednesday, April 10, 2013

The First Easter Rabbit

 Premiered April 6, 1976.
"We came within a hair's breadth if you'll excuse the pun of never having an Easter rabbit at all."

A bunny named G.B. () narrates the story of how the Easter Bunny began his career.

Exuberant narrator G.B.

A little girl named Glinda () gets a stuffed animal bunny for Christmas. She names the bunny Stuffy. 

Stuffy in Glinda's stocking with a sprig of holly between his paws

Stuffy becomes Glinda's favorite toy.

Glinda later contracts scarlet fever. The doctor tells Glinda's mother Elizabeth ()  that all of Glinda's possessions must be burned to prevent a relapse of the disease.  Stuffy is among the items that will be destroyed.

While waiting on the rubbish pile, Stuffy is visited by a fairy named Calliope (Gardner again). She turns him into a real bunny and tells him he will become "the First Easter Rabbit."

Calliope sends Stuffy to Easter Valley, where it's always Spring, despite its location near the North Pole. She says Stuffy must "beware of Zero" as she flies away.

On the way to Easter Valley, Stuffy encounters three rabbits of questionable morals (the narrator calls them "con-rabbits").  They're names are Spats (), Flops () and Whiskers (Don Messick).   They're skeptical of Stuffy's story, but they offer to help him find Easter Valley, thinking there might be some way for them to profit from the adventure.

Stuffy meets Flops, Spats & Whiskers.
We meet Zero (Frees again): He is responsible for keeping the North Pole cold, but he can't access Easter Valley.  He asks his toady, a snowball named Bruce (Messick) to find a route to the valley.  Zero plans to make Easter Valley as icy as the rest of the Pole.

Zero, with his flunky Bruce.
Stuffy and the other rabbits meet a bird who directs them to the secret entrance to Easter Valley, which happens to be under a tree. When they arrive, Santa Claus (Frees again) stops by to welcome his new neighbor.

Santa Claus welcomes Stuffy
Stuffy worries that they don't have enough time to prepare for Easter. The other rabbits ask "What's in it for us?" Santa says that if they give presents to children, they'll feel good by doing good.

A little bird tells Stuffy how to access Easter Valley.
Zero observes the rabbits from afar. He conspires to capture the Golden Lily, which enables Easter Valley  to stay Spring-like year round.  Once in possession of the lily, Zero causes winter to descend upon Easter Valley. Stuffy and company are snowed in.

Will stuffy be able to deliver eggs, candy and presents to children on Easter?  Will he get to see Glinda again?

Zero captures the Golden Lily, Bruce regrets helping him obtain the lily.
J.A. Morris says:
I had not seen The First Easter Rabbit in more than 30 years and found it was better than I remembered.  I've always felt that Rankin-Bass' "traditionally" animated specials were inferior to their Stop-Motion "Animagic" offerings.

Stuffy puts on a Santa suit while performing "There's That Rabbit".
But the music is nice, the special is full of beautiful Spring colors and the voice actors do a great job.  Paul Frees, Don Messick and Stan Freberg are among the best voice actors of all time and they bring their A-game to this special   Burl Ives does a good job as narrator here.

Jonathan & Elizabeth (Glinda's doctor & mother, respectively) enjoy the Easter Parade.
 Additionally, his character GB's outfit  bears a strong resemblance to the clothes worn by Snowman Sam in Rudolph, The Red Nosed Reindeer.  Fans of the series Mad Men may be surprised to learn that Robert Morse (yes, Bert Cooper himself) voices Stuffy the Easter Rabbit.

Robert Morse, who plays Bert Cooper in Mad Men...

...also voices Stuffy, the First Easter Rabbit!
 I always enjoyed the supporting role Santa Claus plays in this special.  As a kid, it was a reminded that Christmas was not as far away as it seemed.  And I also thinks it's cool the way Santa helps Stuffy & friends deliver their Easter goodies.  Wouldn't it be nice if we could call up Santa if we were stuck in a snowdrift?

Santa & his reindeer (yep, led by Rudolph) arrive in Easter Valley to help Stuffy.
The introductory song "There's That Rabbit" isn't the best thing Maury Laws wrote, but it's catchy and memorable. Which is good, because the song pops up throughout the special.  The inclusion of Irving Berlin's classic song "Easter Parade" gives this special a real "major league" feeling.  And the "Easter Parade" scene is a nice finale, the reunion of Glinda and Stuffy is touching.

Stuffy & Glinda reunite at the Easter Parade.
All in all, The First Easter Rabbit is a very good Easter special and is recommendedAnd if you're a fan of Mad Men, you may find it particularly amusing to hear the voice of "Bert Cooper" coming out of a cartoon rabbit.

Stuffy dances & charms the crowd at the parade.

J.A. Morris' rating:

3 Easter Eggs

RigbyMel says:

This special is relatively new to me - the first time I saw it was last year.  The story is an interesting mixture of elements, including similarities to the 1964 Rankin-Bass classic Rudolph The Red-Nosed Reindeer with plot  from Margery Williams' 1922 tale The Velveteen Rabbit  and a bit of Irving Berlin thrown in for good measure.   The polyglot nature of the special works better than one might expect.

Stuffy and friends working on Easter goodies to share
 On a side note, I am amused at how often Santa Claus seems to show up in various Easter related specials.  (It makes sense considering the origins of both holidays.)    That being said,  Santa's message to the sidekick bunnies about making others happy being more rewarding than personal gain is one that bears repeating year-round.

Off-Season Santa is around for help and advice!
 I do find the villain in this special to be a bit lacking in motivation compared to some other Rankin-Bass bad guys.   Brrruce the anthropomorphic snowball is a creative addition, though.

The Macguffin Golden Easter Lily
As J.A. Morris says,  the voice acting is very appealing, the songs are fun and the bright spring colors are delightful. 

This might not be required viewing every year, but it is certainly an enjoyable way spend a half an hour.

RigbyMel's rating:

2 1/2 Easter eggs

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