BY BELINDA M. PASCHAL
(HOPPIN’ DOWN THE BUNNY TRAIL)
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.