Here Comes Peter Cottontail (1971) starring Casey Kasem, Danny Kaye
Here Comes Peter Cottontail is the classic Rankin-Bass animated TV special that you likely remember from your childhood. It’s the story of young Peter Cottontail (Casey Kasem) who wants to be the new Chief Easter Bunny. He’s young, irresponsible, and prone to fibbing …. But he has a good heart, and with a little maturity, he will make a fine chief Easter Bunny. Unless the villainous Irontail (Vincent Price) can stop it!
Danny Kaye stars as the narrator of “Here Comes Peter Cottontail“. He’s Seymour S. Sassafras, a peddler and tinker, living in April Valley. In addition to being the narrator, he voices several other characters:
- Colonel Wellington B. Bunny – the retiring Chief Easter Bunny. He chooses Peter as his successor, despite Peter’s flaws. In someways, he reminds the Colonel of himself when he was younger.
- Antoine the caterpillar. He’s the pilot of the Yestermorrow mobile. An invention of Sassafras, that’s crucial to solving the problem.
Vincent Price stars as the villain of the movie, Irontail. As a young rabbit, a child unintentionally ran over his tail. This caused his fluffy cottontail to be replaced by an ugly, noisy iron tail. Hence, the name. And also, his hatred of all children. That’s the motivation behind his desire to be the new Chief Easter Bunny. He wants to destroy the holiday for children (and adults). And make everyone as miserable as he is. Irontail is a fairly one-dimensional villain, but he’s played by Vincent Price with his typical flair. Making him very enjoyable to watch.
Casey Kasem plays the title character in “Here Comes Peter Cottontail“. Peter’s young, and likable. But he’s brash and overconfident. And he has a very nasty habit of fibbing, which keeps getting him into more and more trouble. Irontail has challenged him to a race on Easter morning. Whomever delivers the more eggs will become the new Easter Bunny. But Peter, being overconfident, parties with his friends the night before. Instead of getting a good night’s sleep as the Colonel recommended. He likely would have still won the contest …. But Irontail sabotaged his alarm clock, so he sleeps through the contest. And Irontail wins — by giving away a single egg to a sleeping person.
Like a great many adults, and children, Peter’s first thought is to run away. During a thunderstorm, as he feels ever more sorry for himself. And he promises that he will make everything all right. Somehow.
After three days, he finally collapses from exhaustion. And the following morning, he wakes up …. Only to find that he’s been sleeping on the foot of a stranger. A stranger named Seymour Sassafras.
Sassafras to the rescue
After spending a little time introducing himself and his magical garden, Sassafras takes Peter to a special vehicle. The YesterMorrow mobile, piloted by Antoine the caterpillar, that can travel through time! Giving Peter the chance to go back in time, not party all night, and win the contest fair and square. Of course, Ironheart has no intention of letting that happen! He launches a spider in a rocket ship 🙂 to sabotage the time machine. And so, Peter and Antoine are forced to visit all of the holidays on his way. Ironheart interferes where he can …. But Peter’s propensity for fibbing causes him to lose opportunities to give away his eggs and win the contest as well.
The holidays visited
- Mother’s Day. Peter fibs again.
- Independence Day. Peter fibs to young boys about his “fireworks” eggs, and gets them thrown back at him!
- Halloween. Irontail calls the witch Esmeralda for help – but she becomes Peter’s friend.
- Thanksgiving. Peter’s lying costs him another opportunity.
- Christmas. Santa Claus helps, but even so Irontail tries to steal Peter’s eggs. Poor Antoine is left behind, and Bonnie Bonnet comes along.
- Valentine’s Day. Peter meets, and falls in love with, Donna Bunny. Irontail takes the opportunity to cast a spell on Peter’s eggs, turning them green inside and out. Who would want green eggs?
- George Washington’s Birthday. Where Peter’s fibbing gets him contrasted with George Washington, who couldn’t tell a lie.
- St. Patrick’s Day. Where, after Peter swears to never fib again, and put work before pleasure, he can finally find a holiday where he can give away his green eggs!
Peter is made Chief Easter Bunny, and hall ends on a happy note. Even for the missing Antoine, who fell asleep for several months, and wake up as a butterfly!
Editorial review of Here Comes Peter Cottontail courtesy of Amazon.com
Peter Cottontail wants to be the chief Easter Bunny, and everyone in April Valley agrees…except for Evil Irontail. Peter must deliver more eggs than this archrival to earn the top spot…and save Easter for children everywhere! Hop along with Peter and his friend Seymore S. Sassafrass as they race through time to overcome Irontail’s terrible plans and restore the magic of Easter Sunday. This remastered version is an Easter classic loved by all!
- Danny Kaye (The Inspector General, The Court Jester) … Seymour S. Sassafras / Antoine / Col. Wellington B. Bunny
- Paul Frees (King Kong Escapes, The Man Called Flintstone) … Colonel Bunny’s Assistant / Fireman / Father at Thanksgiving Table / Santa Claus
- Joan Gardner … Bonnie / Esmeralda / Shopkeeper
- Casey Kasem … Peter Cottontail
- Iris Rainer … Donna
- Vincent Price (Comedy of Terrors, The Raven) … January Q. Irontail