The First Easter Rabbit (1982) (DVD)

8839Rankin Bass are a humongous part of my childhood. Every single year during the holidays we were treated to their holiday specials on CBS and ABC here in America, and we’d tune in every single time. It was an event. Over the years Rankin Bass have shown that they’re really not the most original studio to have ever dabbled in animation. Stepping back to look over their specials, they’re all basically the same thing with an identical formula that is successful but kind of obvious. There’s the story of a holiday icon born out of coincidence, a supporting cast of children, the evil villain anxious to stop or tarnish the holiday, and of course most of the story is told by an older legendary film icon.

This time its Burl Ives as a pretty weird looking Easter Rabbit who narrates the tale of the first Easter Rabbit. The production qualities behind this movie are just as outdated and poor as you can imagine. The animation is stilted and rigid, Ives’ narration is lackluster, and the voice acting is pretty awful (particularly from Dina Lynn). And the origin of the Easter Rabbit is pretty lame. He’s a teddy bear with a conscience who is pretty much a rejected toy who is brought to life by a fairy and becomes a hero fighting Zero a mean old Grinch bent on destroying Easter Valley. So that’s “Pinocchio,” “Winnie the Pooh,” “The Island of Misfit Toys,” “The Grinch that Stole Christmas,” and “Santa Claus is Coming to Town” combined in to twenty four minutes. I’m probably being too hard on this movie but it’s because I expect a lot from Rankin Bass.

When they’re at their high they really provide some excellent entertainment like “Frosty,” and “Santa Claus is Coming to Town.” When they’re at their all time lows, they give us this. And there’s not a lot of explanation about the purpose of Stuffy. Why does he have a conscience? Why does Zero hate Easter Valley? Is he the first Easter Rabbit or the new Easter Rabbit? What happened to the old Easter Rabbit? If he is the first Easter Rabbit, why is Easter Valley even there? Is Burl Ives the old Easter Rabbit or Stuffy? Why would a girl be so lazy to name her bear “Stuffy”? And why does Santa show up at Easter Valley with Blitzen? Aw, I guess it’s best not to think about it too much. But what can I say, it was either asking those questions or turning the movie off halfway.

As for the DVD features, we get another interactive puzzle that’s really very easy, and a trailer for the Peanuts Valentine’s special. I want to say that it’s good because I owe many of my fondest memories to Rankin Bass but since there’s no nostalgia attached to this I can safely say it’s a pretty terrible little concoction lacking the emotion and nuance of the best from their company. I wouldn’t suggest re-watching it. Even for the kids.