Friday, April 22, 2011



Easter means different things to different people. For some, it’s about commemorating the Resurrection of Jesus; for others, it’s a time for chocolate rabbits, jellybeans and psychedelic eggs; for many, it’s both. One thing’s for sure: For most of us, the day at some point will involve the consumption of ridiculous amounts of ham.

What to do after three helpings of cheesy potatoes have turned you into a couch potato? While you’re sitting around waiting for your belly to recede so you can re-button your pants, why not add some timely movie viewing to your Sunday celebration?

No column about Easter movies should overlook such praiseworthy films as “The Passion of the Christ,” “The Greatest Story Ever Told,” and “The King of Kings.” But if your sights are set on the secular scene, here are some screen gems to put in your basket:

It's the Easter Beagle, Charlie Brown” (1974)
The Peanuts Gang is gearing up for Easter with visions of rainbow-hued eggs dancing in their heads – except for perpetual wet blanket Linus, who’s telling anyone within earshot that the Easter Beagle will take care of everything. Fortunately, things pan out a little better for young Mr. Van Pelt than in the embarrassing Great Pumpkin Debacle of 1966.

Easter Parade” (1948)
Don Hewes (Fred Astaire) is crushed when his partner (Ann Miller) ends their partnership to go solo. To prove he can make it without her, he goes all Simon Cowell and vows to make a star of a random performer. He chooses Hannah Brown (Judy Garland) and the dancefest is on like Donkey Kong. The Irving Berlin score includes the well-known tunes “Steppin' Out With My Baby” and “We're a Couple of Swells.”

Animated seasonal specials are a trademark of the legendary Arthur Rankin Jr. and Jules Bass, so here’s a triple tip o’ the hat to the gentlemen who produced these Easter classics:

Here Comes Peter Cottontail” (1971)
Pete goes toe-to-toe with the evil Irontail in a competition to be the chief Easter Bunny. The top-notch casting includes the voices of Danny Kaye as Seymour S. Sassafras, Antoine and Col. Wellington B. Bunny, Vincent Prince as January Q. Irontail, and Casey Kasem as Peter Cottontail.

The First Easter Rabbit” (1976)
Any cartoon narrated by the great Burl Ives is a good time. Loosely based on “The Velveteen Rabbit,” it’s the tale of a stuffed rabbit that comes to life and accepts a mission to deliver Easter treats to the children of Easter Valley, a beautiful land where it’s always sunny – kinda like Palm Springs without the retirees. When a villain tries to cancel Easter by freezing the valley, Stuffy triumphs with the help of friends including Rankin/Bass’ most often recurring character, Santa Claus.

"The Easter Bunny is Comin' to Town" (1977)
Featuring the voice of Fred Astaire, this is the story of Sunny the Bunny’s efforts to deliver Easter treats to a town with no kids, aided by his friends from Kidville, a town populated ONLY by kids – kinda like “Children of the Corn” without the killing.

Friday, April 08, 2011



Once upon a time, there was a Little Mermaid who fell in love with a prince after saving his life. But if you’re thinking the prince loved her back, she became human and they lived happily ever after in a fairyland where unicorns breathe clouds of cotton candy, you’ve fallen hook, line and sinker for the romanticized version of this story.

While watching the 1989 Disney blockbuster with my nine-year-old niece, I didn’t have the heart to tell her the truth according to Hans Christian Andersen: “Happily ever after” only happens for the prince – that cad – who marries a princess while the Little Mermaid and her stomped-on heart float away to spend eternity as a blob of sea foam.

Disney movies occasionally show the darker side of the tales upon which the films are based (e.g., the death of Bambi’s mother), but for the most part, the end results bear little resemblance to the originals. After researching some of the stories that spawned the sanitized silver screen adaptations, I decided this is one instance when ignorance really IS bliss. A comparative look at the original and Disney-fied versions of two more tales will convince you to keep those kiddies na├»ve, Mom and Dad, unless you’re ready for months of sleepless nights and a huge therapy bill.


According to Disney: A little wooden boy goes through trials and tribulations (including, of course, lying-induced nose extension), and learns valuable life lessons along the way to becoming a real boy. He and beloved father/creator Geppetto live happily ever after.

Originally: Carlo Callodi’s ending found Pinocchio hanged from a tree (which may or may not have been his father; DNA results from Maury Povich are pending). Depending on which version you read, Puppetboy is turned into a donkey, tossed into the sea, devoured by a school of ravenous fish, and/or gets his feet burned off. To put it mildly, the kid’s life is one bummer after another.


According to Disney: Though Bambi loses his mother, he goes on to become a stud who offs a rival buck and a pack of hunting dogs, lands a hottie named Faline, and becomes the new prince of the forest, as well as the proud father of twins.

Originally: In Felix Salten’s novel, not only is Bambi traumatized by his mother’s death, he seems to be a death magnet for small woodland creatures. His squirrel buddy (whom Disney changed to Thumper the rabbit) gets shot and dies. Bambi then befriends another squirrel … who also gets shot and dies. The moral of the story: If you’re a squirrel with a friend named Bambi, keep your life insurance policy current.

I won’t even get into the truth about “Rapunzel” (hint: It’s a weave). Kinda makes you long for the simpler days when the worst thing that happened to a fairytale kid was being kidnapped, force-fed and almost cooked by a witch.