Judge Brett Cullum revels in this animagical exploration of pagan symbology.
Our review of The Easter Bunny is Comin' to Town: Deluxe Edition, published February 27th, 2008, is also available.
King Bruce: What do you do with these Easter eggs?
In 1977, Rankin and Bass studios delivered an Easter stop motion animation classic called The Easter Bunny is Comin' to Town. The story of the origins of Sunny the Easter Bunny isn't as well known as its Christmas counterpart Santa Claus is Comin' to Town, but that's to be expected. Still, if you're looking for something to put you into the spirit of the Spring Holiday season, this DVD should fit the bill (and the basket) nicely.
Facts of the Case
The Mailman (Fred Astaire, Easter Parade) decides to answer some long-asked questions about how the Easter Bunny and his traditions came about. He tells the story of Sunny, an orphaned rabbit who is raised by the residents of Kidville. Kidville is a remote city in the mountains run by children. They are sometimes terrorized by a giant grizzly bear-like creature named Gadzooks, but live peacefully enough on their own. Sunny decides the town needs to start exporting some of their goods to nearby towns, and first on the list are eggs. To fool the big bear monster they dye the eggs. The story continues with Sunny finding another town where the kid ruler, King Bruce, is being suppressed by his evil aunt who only gives him beans. A plot hatches to smuggle in candy that looks like beans, and using decoy chocolate rabbits to fool any enemies. Nearly all the Easter traditions are given a fanciful origin, and some catchy tunes are sung in the process.
I don't know why, but anytime I pop in a Rankin and Bass stop-motion special a smile instantly forms from start to finish. This one's a sweet, breezy affair popping with plenty of Easter colors and simple songs. The bunny named Sunny lives up to his name, all bright and cheerful no matter what happens. The Easter Bunny is Comin' to Town is just a whole lot of fun, and there's no denying it.
You'll recognize the herky jerky charming "Animagic" stop-motion puppets that look exactly like Rankin and Bass classics like Rudolph the Rednosed Reindeer and Santa Claus is Comin' to Town. It's funny that this special was made almost a full decade after those projects, and yet still looks like it would fit right in. These were not animators who wanted to become cutting edge artists, but reveled in their homemade, folksy interpretations of holiday classics. Half the charm of Rankin and Bass productions lie in their dated techniques, and I still find them far more artistically satisfying than the best Pixar has to offer. It's all more quaint and childlike, filled with innocence and creativity.
Beyond the trademark visuals, there is a lot to recommend this production. Astaire is charming as the postman, and the voices are well done. You like the music? Well The Easter Bunny is Comin' to Town has six songs with music by Maury Laws and lyrics by Jules Bass. You'll find "Someone's Got to be First," "Big Rock Candy Mountain," "Somebody Will Love You, If You Do," "The Easter Bunny is Coming to Town Today," "All You Have to Do is Think Can Do," and "What Came First, the Chicken or the Egg?." The story is cute enough to engage young tikes without being too idiotic to send adults packing off to another room.
The DVD is simple, but well done. You get the original fullscreen transfer, remastered to be clean and bright. There's a little edge enhancement, but not much to detract from the bright Easter colors and lovable production design. Sound is a clear mono, fine for a production that was meant to be broadcast in the '70s. The only thing I found troubling was a lack of extras: nothing here to explain how the production was made, or anything further than a couple of trailers for it and other animated offerings from Warner Brothers. The menus are simple with static screen captures and Easter egg icons.
The Rebuttal Witnesses
Unfortunately Rankin and Bass had already created the cel animated The First Easter Bunny and the "Animagic" Here Comes Peter Cottontail to celebrate the Easter season. The Easter Bunny is Comin' to Town was thought of as a sequel to Santa Claus is Comin' to Town, but it never quite caught on as a holiday tradition like some of the other specials they produced. Truly the villains weren't all that memorable, and the songs weren't quite as catchy. It always felt like a second tier special from the studio in comparison to some of their stronger efforts.
Despite it being not quite up to Santa Claus is Comin' to Town, there's enough here to warrant a sentimental purchase. You won't find many Easter specials as charming as this, and The Easter Bunny is Comin' to Town is certainly a heck of a lot less troubling than a screening of The Passion of the Christ for the young ones in your house.
It's cute, it's fluffy, it's not guilty.
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Scales of Justice
Studio: Warner Bros.
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