The Easter Bunny That Overslept
By Priscilla Friedrich, Otto Friedrich; illustrations by Donald Save
Imagine a story of how a rabbit named Peter came to be called the original Easter Bunny of a place called April Valley. Filmed in what was billed as “Animagic,” a stop motion animation project using figurines, Animagic’s original claim to fame came in 1964 for the mother lode of Christmas animation specials, second only to “A Charlie Brown Christmas”. It was called “Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer.” Sound familiar now?
But for this particular 1971 hour-long, made for TV special that the team of Rankin/Bass also put together, it was titled “Here Comes Peter Cottontail.” It featured an all-star voice cast heralded by such notables as Danny Kaye, Vincent Price and Casey Kasem as the voice of Peter.
From numbers topping five hundred thousand hits on the YouTube space where it appears, as well as purchase on DVD, many enjoyed this made for TV special as children. Now, they revisit it with their own children. I remember seeing it for the first time in the 1970’s with my own kids. By my calculations, that’s more than 44 years ago. Yikes!!!
Then, imagine in 2015, you discover the original story, probably began from a picture book from 1957, called “The Easter Bunny That Overslept.” Why is it so hard to fathom that many of these animation ideas always begin with the written word? Liz, you’re a goose!
Nine times out of ten, the movie starts with the book!! I guess what I’m getting at is: “Always go back to the source material and give it a read.” Witness the current hit movie, “Cinderella.” Please have children read The Brothers Grimm version, plus Hans Christian Andersen’s “The Snow Queen” that generated the movie “Frozen” and also his story of “The Little Mermaid.” Did you think that the story of Ariel just popped from the sea? Nope.The original story was a creation of Hans Christian Andersen that morphed into the movie for modern audiences. Please don’t let your young readers miss out on the original stories!
It’s only, oh about 40 years from the TV debut of “Here Comes Peter Cottontail”, that I discovered a copy of the original story from whence, I believe, rose the TV tale. The picture book tells the tale of the Easter Bunny that arises from a snooze on Mother’s Day to discover he’s missed Easter entirely! It’s called “The Easter Bunny That Overslept” by Priscilla and Otto Friedrich with illustrations by Adrienne Adams although other editions have illustrations by Donald Saaf.
The Easter Bunny post nap goes through the holiday themed calendar with his egg basket. Imagine trying to palm off eggs on July 4th? Halloween? Pretty tough sell for this bunny, no? It takes a gift from Santa himself to prevent a repeat of the napping lepus the next year.
Here’s a link to the original Rankin/Bass special, plus another that features three songs from the special that are, well, endearingly comforting and sweet.
My absolute favorite is “In The Puzzle of Life.” Great philosophy behind its lyrics for young readers today! Enjoy!
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