“Right there in that very house is where our story begins. The story of the first Easter Rabbit. And, you know we came within a hair’s breadth, if you’ll excuse the pun, of never having an Easter Rabbit at all.”
Rankin & Bass brought us some of the most memorable holiday specials ever made. Most of us grew up watching these cartoons and stop motion shorts no matter what age we grew up in. You see, this stuff has been on television non-stop for 50 years. There are so many classics. There’s Rudolph The Red-Nosed Reindeer, Frosty The Snowman, and so many others that we could fill the page with our own memories. For the most part, just putting the Rankin & Bass name to a special pretty much guaranteed an entertaining and enduring tale. Unfortunately, The First Easter Rabbit just isn’t one of those.
It starts off so promising. Burl Ives voices the narrator character just as he did for Rudolph. Combined with his heartwarming singing voice and Christmas classics, Ives forged an iconic place for himself in the heart of every child in this country for nearly 50 years. But Ives can’t save this one. I’m afraid no one likely could. It’s a muddled story without any of the charm and imagination of the other shorts.
I’m a Night Stalker fan; the original, that is. There was an episode where Kolchak was being drugged by the feds so he would forget what he saw. He’s trying to tell the story on his tape recorder before he completely forgets. That’s how I feel here. This short is so unmemorable that I find the experience with all of its tedious details slinking away faster than I could write them down.
It seems there was this girl Linda, and she caught scarlet fever. The doctor orders her clothes and her bedstuff burned to avoid spreading the infection. Among the items to be destroyed is Stuffy, her stuffed rabbit. Now Stuffy always wished he was a real rabbit. Sound like a certain puppet we know? So, before he can be burned, Calliope, a fairy godmother of sorts, comes to him. She allows toys that children have loved to become real when they have finished their usefulness to the child. But she has special plans for Stuffy. She is going to make him the first Easter Rabbit. He has to find his way to Easter Valley and protect the Golden Lily.
It seems that Easter Valley is a secluded valley at the North Pole. Winter makers Zero and Bruce are responsible for keeping the North Pole cold and covered with ice and snow. But the Golden Lily protects Easter Valley from their icy touch. So, the first Easter Rabbit has to protect the Lily from the winter makers or lose Easter Valley forever. With a little help from three reformed carrot thieves and Jolly ol’ Saint Nick himself, he just might pull it off.
This special is presented in a broadcast full frame aspect ratio. Like the Bugs release, you can clearly see many examples of print damage throughout the running time. Colors aren’t even very good here. They are washed away and rather dull. But there is still too much compression artifact and shifting levels of brightness.
The mono audio track represents what the film likely offered on television for most of us at the time. It carries the dialog just fine, although there is some rather annoying higher frequency distortion.
An interactive puzzle.
I’m usually a huge fan of Rankin & Bass as you can likely tell. This one just falls flat for me. The animation even appears a bit sub par. Of course, for many there will be the value of nostalgia that all of these specials can bring out in us. I don’t think this one got a lot of coverage, as I honestly do not recall seeing it before. Burl Ives is always entertaining in these things, and he remains so here. Perhaps it’s just that Easter doesn’t have that cartoon special quality to the holiday. I can imagine a group of animators and writers sitting around trying to come up with an idea and one of them jumps in and says, “How about that Rabbit?”