The 1970s were an absolutely dismal time for animation, especially for TV. Yes, there would be the occasional bit of the old magic through Bill Menendez’s Peanuts series, Friz Freleng’s Pink Panther or a Chuck Jones special, but these were the rare oases that scarcely seeded one gigantic creative desert. Overall, TV executives wanted their cartoons as cheap as possible, and viewers and animators paid for it.
Still, there were some things that the bean counters wanted because they did draw the numbers, and those were the animated holiday specials. Two studios that were always glad to deliver in those days were Warner Brothers (who would then subcontract to DePatie-Freleng) and Rankin/Bass. These two DVDs are Easter-themed representatives of what the creators did with the pennies the networks threw at them.
Bugs Bunny’s Easter Funnies (WB) Not So Funny
Of course, Warners did have one thing going for it, and that was one of the greatest libraries of animated shorts in the history of the field. So what Freleng came up with was a holiday-themed thread from which he would then sew a number of classic Looney Tunes shorts to. In the case of Easter Funnies, he had the Easter Bunny come down sick, so Granny attempts to convince an all-too-busy Bugs to fill in. The problem is Bugs is so busy shooting new shorts, he doesn’t have the time.
Are there some true classics interlaced? Well, two of the shorts are Freleng’s own “Knighty Knight Bugs” and “Birds Anonymous,” which both won Oscars their respective years. Other shorts, featuring Pepe Le Pew, Daffy and Porky, Sylvester and more are classics…in their original form. One big problem with this collection is about two minutes of each, approximately one-third of each one, is clipped out of the shorts.
The interstitial bits, which at least feature the voice work of animation legends June Foray and Mel Blanc, make things look even worse due to the cheap animation. The complete lack of snappy dialogue, a Termite Terrace specialty, doesn’t help either. In other words, this is a cheap collection if you want to keep the knee biters barely entertained. If you really want to enjoy the works of Freleng, Jones, the McKimson brothers and the other maniacs who truly made ‘toons so looney, hunt up the WB’s Spotlight or Golden collections.
The First Easter Bunny (WB)
As for First Easter Bunny, this was a holiday special conceived by Rankin/Bass. They had established themselves as masters of stop motion back in 1964 with Rudolph The Red-Nosed Reindeer. In the dozen years that passed before the creation of this special, about the only thing this one has in common with Rudolph is Burl Ives as its narrator/moderator.
From there, this is a classic limited “traditional” TV product, only 70s style. The plot, about the egg-bearing bunny’s creation, has some original ideas, but otherwise it feels half-baked at best. Outside of Ives, it feels like the voice cast is just there to cash checks and look for their next job. When the cast include the likes of Robert Morse, Stan Freberg, Paul Frees and Don Messick, it’s quite frankly a crime.
The simple truth is there’s much better out there. For instance, if you really want to have an animated Easter, search out 1974’s It’s The Easter Beagle, Charlie Brown. The pretty colors of these two disks might keep your two year-old happy, but otherwise you should leave these rotten eggs in the basket.