Reviewed by Colin Jacobson (April 10, 2006)
Though the Rankin-Bass holiday specials concentrated on Christmas, they occasionally made forays into other holidays. Their first Easter program came out in 1971 with Here Comes Peter Cottontail, a forgettable look at the holiday. Rankin-Bass tried again six years later with 1977’s The Easter Bunny Is Comin’ to Town.
Bunny acts as something of a sequel to 1970’s enjoyable Santa Claus Is Coming to Town. Both trace the origins of the respective holidays’ icons and both also feature Fred Astaire as the voice of postman turned narrator SD Kluger. He introduces us to a place called Kidville, a town occupied only by children. Though occasionally threatened by a giant bear named Gadzooks (Allen Swift), they lead decent lives.
One day the children find a baby rabbit they name Sunny (Skip Hinnant). When he mature, Sunny becomes a community leader and he espouses the financial growth of Kidville. He plans to sell their special eggs across Big Rock Mountain. Along the way, he meets a hobo named Hallelujah Jones (Ron Marshall) and they head toward a dull burg called Town.
Unfortunately, Sunny loses his eggs to Gadzooks before he gets to Town. There he finds that dour Dowager Duchess Lilly Longtooth (Meg Sargent) won’t allow kids in the city even though her nephew young King Bruce the Frail (James Spies) is the proper ruler.
The rest of Bunny follows related threads. We see how Sunny foils Gadzooks and also learn how all of this affects Town and Kidville. Along the way we check out how various Easter traditions developed.
At no point does Bunny ever turn into anything more than mediocre holiday entertainment. The main flaws come from its lack of originality. Virtually every aspect of the show feels borrowed from other Rankin-Bass specials.
Obviously, Santa Claus Is Coming to Town displays the most prominent similarities since Bunny borrows its structure. This show’s Town also echoes Santa’s Sombertown, and Lilly is little more than a rehash of Burgermeister Meisterburger. Gadzooks feels like a mix of Santa’s Winter Warlock and Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer’s Abominable Snowman.
Don’t expect a memorable cast to enliven Bunny either. Once we get past Astaire, Bunny suffers from virtually no star power. Santa boasted Mickey Rooney, Keenan Wynn and legendary voiceover actor Paul Frees. Other than Astaire, no recognizable names pop up in Bunny. That doesn’t automatically mean they’ll not provide good work, but the performances do seem relentlessly ordinary.
Add to that some bland songs, lame characters and a forgettable story and you find a mediocre holiday show. Perhaps Easter just doesn’t serve as a good launching ground for memorable specials. This one sure doesn’t make me look forward to the holiday.