Here Comes Peter Cottontail

1971 Easter television special

Here Comes Peter Cottontail is a 1971 Japanese-American Easter stop-motion animated television special produced by Rankin/Bass Productions, currently distributed by Universal Television and based on the 1957 novel, The Easter Bunny That Overslept, by Priscilla and Otto Friedrich.[1] The special is narrated by Danny Kaye, and stars Casey Kasem, Vincent Price, Joan Gardner and Paul Frees. The special also features Steve Nelson and Jack Rollins's Easter song, "Here Comes Peter Cottontail".

It was originally broadcast in the United States April 4, 1971, on the ABC television network.[2] Subsequent airings have appeared on CBS, Fox Family, The CW, and Cartoon Network.[3]

In 2005, it was followed by a computer-animated sequel Here Comes Peter Cottontail: The Movie.


Peter Cottontail is a young Easter Bunny who lives in April Valley, where all Easter bunnies live and work, making Easter candy, sewing bonnets, and decorating and delivering Easter eggs.

Colonel Wellington B. Bunny, the retiring Chief Easter Bunny, names Peter as his successor. Peter, who has always dreamed of being the Chief Easter Bunny, accepts.

Meanwhile, an evil, reclusive rabbit villain named January Q. Irontail lives alone with his bat Montressor. Irontail wants Peter's job, so that he can ruin Easter for children as revenge for a child who once accidentally roller-skated over his tail, forcing him to wear a prosthetic tail made of iron. Irontail demands that Colonel Bunny hold a contest to see who delivers the most eggs, according to April Valley's Constitution. Peter accepts the challenge, but stays up all night, partying with friends. Although he tells his rooster, Ben, to wake him up at 5:30 a.m., Irontail sneaks into his house and cheats in the contest by feeding the rooster magic bubblegum, sealing his beak. Peter sleeps, not hearing the crows from the popping bubbles.

Due to his appearance, Irontail tries all day long to deliver eggs, but manages to deliver only one (to a sleeping man). Because it is still one egg more than Peter delivered, Irontail becomes the new Chief Easter Bunny, passing laws to make Easter a disaster, such as painting eggs brown and gray, ordering the candy sculptors to make chocolate tarantulas and octopuses instead of bunnies and chicks, and having Easter galoshes instead of bonnets.

Ashamed that his bragging and irresponsibility led to this tragedy, Peter leaves April Valley. He eventually meets Seymour S. Sassafras, an eccentric peddler and inventor who supplies April Valley with colors for egg painters from the colored vegetables in his Garden of Surprises. Sassafras lets Peter use his Yestermorrowbile, a time machine piloted by a French caterpillar named Antoine, who will take Peter back to Easter to deliver his eggs, win the contest, and defeat Irontail. Irontail learns about Peter's plan, and continues his cheating by sending his spider to sabotage the Yestermorrowbile, allowing Peter and Antoine to go to any holiday but Easter.

Since the contest's rules do not specifically say the eggs must be delivered on Easter, Peter tries to give them away at other holidays, to no avail. On the 4th of July, Peter paints the eggs red, white and blue, and lies to two boys by passing them off as firecrackers, which ultimately fails. On Halloween, Peter meets Madame Esmeralda, a witch, and gives her a Halloween egg as a gift, making the score a tie. When she calls the other Halloween inhabitants, Irontail sends Montressor out to steal Peter's eggs (which Peter leaves unattended on multiple holidays before he learns to become responsible). Peter gets the eggs back and wants to return to Halloween and deliver the eggs to Esmeralda's friends. But Antoine still cannot run the Yestermorrowbile backwards and has to land the craft to fix it.

After failing to give away any of his eggs on Thanksgiving, Peter and Antoine go to Christmas Eve, at which Peter, dressed as Santa Claus, tries to give eggs on the streets, which are deserted. Peter hears sobbing from a hat shop, and meets Bonnie, an Easter bonnet who left April Valley years ago. Bonnie is sad that nobody wants to buy her, so Peter tells the shopkeeper that he will trade his Christmas eggs for Bonnie. However, Irontail steals them again. Peter and Bonnie go after him, accidentally leaving Antoine behind.

During the chase, Irontail and Montressor crash into Santa's sleigh. Santa returns the eggs to Peter, who cannot stop the Yestermorrowbile and is too sad to thank him since leaving Antoine behind. After missing New Year's Day, Peter and Bonnie find the stop button and land on Valentine's Day. There, Peter meets a bunny named Donna, and gives her a Valentine egg. However, Irontail finds the eggs again and casts a spell on them, turning them all green, inside and out.

After failing to give away the green eggs on Presidents' Day, Peter vows to be more honest and responsible. He and Bonnie land on St. Patrick's Day, which gives Peter another chance to give away his eggs. Peter is successful and wins the contest, becoming the Chief Easter Bunny. Antoine returns as a butterfly, and Irontail works as the janitor of April Valley, while Peter leads a parade.


An original advertisement for the television special.

The special featured the following cast members:[4]

Actor/Actress Role
Casey Kasem Peter Cottontail
Danny Kaye Seymour S. Sassafras, Colonel Wellington B. Bunny, Antoine
Vincent Price January Q. Irontail
Joan Gardner Mom (on Mother's Day and at Thanksgiving table), Sue, Madame Esmeralda, Bonnie Bonnet, Hat shop owner, Martha Washington
Paul Frees Colonel Wellington's assistant, Dad at Thanksgiving table, Santa Claus, Firefighter, Rooster
Iris Rainer Donna
Greg Thomas Tommy, Boy 1 (Independence Day)
Jeff Thomas Boy 2 (Independence Day)


Although not commercially released, a soundtrack album for the special was released for demonstration and promotional purposes by ABC.

  1. Here Comes Peter Cottontail – Seymour S. Sassafrass
  2. The Easter Bunny Never Sleeps – Colonel Wellington B. Bunny, Chorus
  3. The Easter Bunny Always Sleeps (Irontail's reprise; the diabolical version of The Easter Bunny Never Sleeps) – Irontail
  4. If I Could Only Get Back to Yesterday – Seymour S. Sassafrass, Chorus
  5. When You Can't Get It All Together, Improvise – Antoine, Peter Cottontail, Chorus
  6. Be Mine Today – Peter Cottontail, Donna, Chorus
  7. In The Puzzle of Life – Seymour S. Sassafrass, Chorus
  8. Here Comes Peter Cottontail (reprise) – Seymour S. Sassafrass, Chorus


  • Producers/Directors – Jules Bass, Arthur Rankin, Jr.
  • Teleplay – Romeo Muller
  • Music and Lyrics – Jules Bass, Maury Laws
  • Based on "Here Comes Peter Cottontail" – Steve Nelson/Jack Rollins © 1949 Hill & Range Songs, Inc.
  • Based on "The Easter Bunny That Overslept" – Priscilla and Otto Friedrich © 1957 Lothrop, Lee & Shepard Company
    • Illustration – Adrienne Adams
  • Character Design – Paul Coker, Jr.
  • Continuity Design – Steve Nakagawa
  • Editorial Supervisor – Irwin Goldress
  • Sound and Effects Recording – John Boyd, Jim Harris
  • "Animagic" Supervision – Kizo Nagashima
  • Character Model Sculptor – Ichiro Komuro (uncredited)
  • Animators – Yutaka Mikome (uncredited), Takeo Nakamura, Hiroshi Tabata
  • Musical Director – Maury Laws

Home media releases

Despite the acclaim, such as TV Guide's comment that the special had "one of the best scores in children's special history", no original soundtrack album was ever released commercially. ABC and Rankin/Bass did produce a private promotional vinyl LP of the entire soundtrack recording in 1971, but no record company has released an official, legitimate audio version to date.[5]

On video, the special has seen multiple releases in various formats. In 1990, 1992,[6] 1993, 1998 and 2002, it was released on VHS by Family Home Entertainment and Sony Wonder. It has also seen the following releases on DVD:

The 2014 release is the first to include the sequel, Here Comes Peter Cottontail: The Movie.

A Blu-ray was released by Universal Pictures Home Entertainment February 22, 2019, as a Walmart exclusive, containing a heavily edited version that runs nearly ten minutes shorter. In 2020, this same release with the same edited version was extended beyond Walmart to all media retailers.[citation needed]

See also


  1. ^ Lenburg, Jeff (2009). The Encyclopedia of Animated Cartoons (3rd ed.). New York: Checkmark Books. p. 318. ISBN 978-0-8160-6600-1.
  2. ^ Woolery, George W. (1989). Animated TV Specials: The Complete Directory to the First Twenty-Five Years, 1962-1987. Scarecrow Press. pp. 194–196. ISBN 0-8108-2198-2. Retrieved 27 March 2020.
  3. ^ "Archived Cartoon Network TV Schedule (4/11/04)". 6 April 2004. Archived from the original on 2004-04-06. Retrieved 13 August 2023.
  4. ^ Terrace, Vincent (2013). Television Specials: 5,336 Entertainment Programs, 1936-2012 (2nd ed.). McFarland & Co. p. 185. ISBN 9780786474448.
  5. ^ "Rankin/Bass' "Peter Cottontail" – 50 Years of Yestermorrows |". Retrieved 2021-04-03.
  6. ^ Clarke, Eileen, ed. (March 23, 1992). "Activities for Children – Videos". New York Magazine. 25 (12): 104.


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