8 forgotten Easter television specials from the Seventies and Eighties

Did you grow up watching these animated specials with Bugs, Snoopy and Burl Ives?

Image: The Everett Collection

Christmas and Halloween specials hog the spotlight. There are far more of them. But in springtime, we like to remember the more overlooked holiday specials of the Easter season. Of course, the Easter Bunny is the center of attention in most of these, and writers came up with all kinds of unique stories to explain why a rabbit was a central figure in Easter.

The heyday of the Easter special was the Seventies, bleeding over a bit into the early Eighties. Let's take a look.

Which ones do you remember best?

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1. Here Comes Peter Cottontail (1971)

One of the earliest stand-alone easter specials came from the masters of the holiday special, Rankin/Bass. Singing, dancing Hollywood legend Danny Kaye narrated this stop-motion tale, which also featured the voices of Casey Kasem (as Peter Cottontail) and Vincent Price, who, naturally, was the villain, January Q. Irontail. A month later, in May 1971, Kaye went on The Dick Cavett Show and showed some behind-the-scenes footage from making the special.

Image: The Everett Collection

2. It's the Easter Beagle, Charlie Brown (1974)

If you want to get a sense of which holidays television networks prioritize, check out the Peanuts filmography. A Charlie Brown Christmas came first, in 1965, followed by a couple of Valentine's Day specials, Thanksgiving and then Easter. Easter Beagle was the 12th overall animated special in the Peanuts franchise. Arbor Day came a couple of years later.

Image: The Everett Collection

3. Easter Is (1974)

Benji's (not that Benji) dog Waldo is kidnapped! So begins the plot of the bizarre, now-buried special Easter Is. "A five dollar ransom!" the videocassette box declared on the back, luring renters. The dog-napping somehow teaches Benji (again, not that Benji) the true meaning of Easter. Leslie Uggams was the big voice talent attached.

Image: Family Films / Lutheran Television

4. The First Easter Rabbit (1976)

Rankin/Bass took the Frosty approach to its second Easter special, going with traditional cartoon animation in The First Easter Rabbit. Burl Ives narrated this one, marking his first return to the Rankin/Bass universe since Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer in 1964. Stuffy, the stuffed rabbit who becomes the Easter Bunny, was voiced by Robert Morse, who modern TV fans will known best as Bert Cooper on Mad Men.

Image: Rankin/Bass Productions

5. The Easter Bunny Is Comin' to Town (1977)

A year later, Rankin/Bass went back to its bread-and-butter, stop-motion animation, for a special that was essentially a sequel to 1970's Santa Claus Is Comin' to Town. Fred Astaire returned in his role as S.D. "Special Delivery" Kluger, the fellow who delivers letters to Santa and, now, the Easter Bunny. Adding that extra layer of Seventies surreality, there is a hobo named Hallelujah Jones and a talking train named Chugs, who is a bit like something from Thomas.

Image: Rankin/Bass Productions

6. Bugs Bunny's Easter Special (1977)

This Looney Tunes entry into the Easter canon utilized clips from classic cartoons, inserted into a new story. Granny is looking for a replacement for the Easter Bunny, who is under the weather. Naturally, she thinks of Bugs. Naturally, Daffy is jealous and wants the gig for himself. The classic cartoons seen throughout were largely from the 1950s, including gems like "Hillbilly Hare" and "Bully for Bugs."

Image: The Everett Collection

7. The Berenstain Bears' Easter Surprise (1981)

The Berenstain Bears (yes, with an A, all you Mandela Effect sufferers) had a particularly snowy Easter in this special. It was the third of five Berenstain Bears specials, which largely featured obscure actors in the voice roles.

Image: NBC

8. A Family Circus Easter

Jazz trumpet legend Dizzy Gillespie voiced the Easter Bunny in this animated adaptation of the popular newspaper comic strip. That's him hugging Missy Hope, the voice of Dolly. Classic line from Dolly: "Dyeing eggs isn't the same as killing them, is it, Daddy?"

Image: The Everett Collection

 
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Wiseguy 9 days ago
Yes, it's not that Benji. We heard you the first time. Why didn't you just rewrite the sentence to say "Easter Is" is about a boy named Benji and his dog? Problem solved.
Buggs 9 days ago
Yes it's pretty sad that they don't air these specials
dth1971 10 days ago
Skip Hinnant of the original Electric Company did the voice of the Easter Bunny in the Rankin-Bass "The Easter Bunny is Comin' to Town".
Moverfan dth1971 10 days ago
He is (or was) also the longest-serving president for his New York chapter of SAG (guess the decoder business faded and Fargo North had to find something else).
Renakatywark 11 days ago
Those Specials were Awesome indeed and touching when their came together as family. Especially the Looney Tunes Versions 👌 🎶 👸🏼🐕‍🦺🏡🌎🌈💗📖🙏🙏🙏🙏🙏🌟🌟🌟🌟🌟👋👍
concon6286 11 days ago
I love the memories ❤️, I remember watching those specials. Except in 1981 I was in the Army already.
Moody 13 days ago
I remember a couple of the titles but I never watched these either as a kid or later raising my own family. My parents weren't into the Easter bunny & Easter basket thing when I was growing up and my wife & I didn't celebrate Easter that way with our kids.
Bricat2001 13 days ago
We still have the stop motion Peter cotton tail on DVD :D and as for the Snoopy one, I've only seen it on TV once when ABC aired it a few years ago , hoping PBS shows it this year
SheriHeffner 13 days ago
I still loved wat hing It's The Easter Beagle Charlie Brown on ABC. But unfortunately they quit showing it. I guess crappy Apple TV Plus bought all of Charles Schultz rights. Gee thanks a LOT! I used to look forward to all of the Charlie Brown Specials. But I'm not about to pay all that money for Apple TV Plus.
dth1971 SheriHeffner 10 days ago
Apple TV plus is on my iPhone. I have seen 3 episodes out of 6 currently of "The Snoopy Show" and all the 10 episodes of "Snoopy in Space".
moax429 SheriHeffner 10 days ago
"The Easter Beagle" *is* on DVD, paired with "It's Arbor Day, Charlie Brown."

I'm looking forward to watching those again tomorrow night, after I visit with my family. "The Easter Beagle" and "Arbor Day" now have to be the two funniest "Peanuts" specials in my book.
SheriHeffner 13 days ago
When I was a small child in the late sixties and early 70s I faithfully watched Here Comes Peter Cottontail and It's The Easter Beagle Charlie Brown. I did watch The Easter Bunny Is Coming To Town, but at 12, almost 13 I didn't believe in him anymore. I remember Easter Is and Bugs Bunny Easter. But I don't remember the rest of them because by then I was a teenager and didn't watch Easter cartoons.
idkwut2use 13 days ago
OMG, I love holiday specials so much. Every year I watch Peter Cottontail (and even the weird "sequel"), The First Easter Rabbit, The Easter Bunny Is Comin' to Town, & the Berenstain Bears (along with their Valentine's special and the other one on the same tape.) Plus "Easter Yeggs" and a few other things.
I had the Easter Beagle on my old DVR and have to get it again now. Love them all so, so, so much and hope to be able to share them with my step-niece & -nephew this year. I just watched The Muppet Show on Disney+ and not only was Danny Kaye's episode one of the best, but it just struck me how his voice instantly places me in springtime and happy Easter memories.
"Easter Is" doesn't seem to be available, but I think I saw it either because of another list here or the holiday specials podcast...unless I only watched the "Christmas Is" one. Seen the Bugs special online though it's gone now. The Family Circus one is on YouTube; time to check it out in case, again, I only saw the Christmas one.
moax429 idkwut2use 10 days ago
I think "Easter Is" is available on DVD. Check Ebay or Amazon.

I didn't like "Easter Is" all that much, though, because - I was 12 then - I had just come off of a bad bout with pneumonia, and it reminds me of that unpleasant incident. So it's a little hard for me to enjoy because of that.
John37 14 days ago
There is another special that was not on this list, from the same era - Daffy Duck's Easter Egg-Citement, from 1980. It is included in the Looney Tunes Golden Collection, Volume 6 (Disc 1 - Special Feature), and can also be found online.
LittleMissNoName 14 days ago
Below is an article link just posted today from Cartoon Research about the Rankin Bass Easter specials.

https://cartoonresearch.com/index.php/rankin-bass-peter-cottontail-50-years-of-yestermorrows/
MrsPhilHarris 14 days ago
How did I miss Here Comes Peter Cottontail? 🤔 As a kid I loved those stop-motion shows.
Andybandit 14 days ago
I only remember the Charlie Brown one. I don't remember the other ones.
Peter_Falk_Fan 14 days ago
I remember "It's the Easter Beagle, Charlie Brown" and "The Easter Bunny Is Comin' to Town". I wish that I'd seen "Here Comes Peter Cottontail" with Casey Kasem. I used to listen to Casey Kasem's American Top 40 every week with his tidbits. I would look forward to that and Dr. Demento.
15inchBlackandWhite 14 days ago
I remember seeing Easter Is once as a kid. It had a very Christian message and I believe it was produced by the same Lutheran Church television group that gave us the Davey and Goliath stop action series.
robyni23 14 days ago
Easter Beagle was my favorite Easter special.
Stoney 14 days ago
I remember all the ones attached to "established" cartoon characters (Peanuts, Looney Tunes, Berenstain Bears, Family Circus), but that’s about it.

I'd have to say the Family Circus specials as a whole a pretty much forgotten today, but it seems like I remember there being more than just the Easter one...
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