I’ve had this song in my head all day, so I thought I’d share. And since last year at Easter I told you about the infamous “Creamed Eggs on Toast” incident I thought I’d counter that trauma with something a little more upbeat.
The version of the song above is Gene Autry’s original, although the one I remember most is from the 1971 Rankin/Bass Easter special, appropriately titled, “Here Comes Peter Cottontail”.
Animators Arthur Rankin and Jules Bass turned quite a few beloved Christmas songs, like “Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer” and “Santa Claus is Coming to Town”, into stop-motion childhood memories, so this did seem like the natural progression of things.
Based on a 1957 novel by Priscilla and Otto Friedrich entitled “The Easter Bunny That Overslept”, the special introduces us to Seymour S. Sassafras (voiced by Danny Kaye), who tells us the tale of an Easter Bunny (voiced by Casey Kasem) who lives in April Valley, where the Chief Easter Bunny, Col. Wellington B. Bunny (also Kaye) supervises the making of colored eggs and chocolate candy.
The retiring Chief names young Peter his successor, “despite Peter’s propensity for boasting and telling fibs”. (Like Pinocchio’s growing nose, Peter’s drooping left ear is his “tell”.) Of course, not everyone in April Valley is happy with the Colonel’s decision. January Q. Irontail (voiced by Vincent Price – hamming it up and having a ball), an evil, reclusive rabbit villain who lives in a tree with his assistant, a bat named Montresor, also wants to be the Bunny-in-Chief, only so he can ruin it for children everywhere as revenge for the loss of his tail, which was run over by a roller skating child and replaced with one made of iron.
Well, you can probably guess the rest. Or not. The story ticks off every holiday of the year, including Christmas, St. Valentine’s Day and St. Patrick’s Day, but it does, of course have a happy ending, which culminates in a joyous rendition of the title song, sung by Danny Kaye.
You can watch the whole thing here, if you’ve a mind to. (The song starts at 48:39 if you don’t).
Maybe the song has more resonance for me because my brother’s name is Peter. That may be stretch. I may be remembering through the center of a sandy crystal sugar egg-with-a-marizpan-diarama-inside. But I also know I sang it at other times of the year, too.
All of this was just my way, long-winded as usual, of saying “Happy Easter”. I don’t mean to make light of the true Christian meaning of Easter, but even non-believers can appreciate what the Easter Bunny and his eggs represent: the arrival of vibrantly-colored spring and the circle of life, including the rebirth of the earth itself and all of her creatures.
Now go have some chocolate.
Do you remember watching those Rankin/Bass specials? What are your fondest Easter memories? Drop us a line in the comments below.