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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lissainlenoir1 3 months ago
I just watched the Lutheran TV special "Easter Is" online. It breaks my heart to realize how far from our Christian heritage we have fallen as a nation. It showed Christianity as a totally accepted part of the elementary school, and I can confirm, that's exactly hiw it was in the early and mid 70s because I was a child then. We had huge Christmas and Easter pageants in the school auditorium that were Christ centered and well attended by the parents and other family. Then the 80s arrived and everything began to change. We didn't realize then that atheistic people were starting to infiltrate the schools, eventually followed by the sexually deviated and predators. "HOW ARE THE MIGHTY FALLEN"...our country is doomed.
lynngdance 27 months ago
I actually watched “The Easter Bunny’s Coming To Town” this Easter. 😆
lynngdance lynngdance 27 months ago
RichLorn 27 months ago
I don't like posting negative comments on this board, but the fact is one or two of these specials laid an egg. But they made an effort.
timothys71 27 months ago
How cool would it be if MeTV could get their hands on some of these classic holiday specials and show a block of them? I have seen a couple excerpts from the Looney Tunes ones on the third hour of "Saturday Morning Cartoons." Incidentally, the Peanuts gang may have made the only special for my favorite holiday, Arbor Day.
Michael timothys71 27 months ago
Because if this post, I wondered why MeTV didn't have a day of Easter episodes. I can remember a St Patrick's Day theme some years ago. And then I assume there just aren't Easter episodes.
lissainlenoir1 timothys71 3 months ago
I just watched the Charlie Brown Arbor Day special on YouTube. I hadn't seen it in 45 years!
ELEANOR 27 months ago
Well, I was in high school and college in the '70's so no, did not watch. More interested in watching Tricky Dick as he was up to his tricks.
Zip 27 months ago
I honestly don't remember watching ANY Easter specials.
I guess I was too busy with church and decorating, finding, and then eating Easter eggs.
I tell ya, there was nothing better to a kid than eating a room temperature hard-boiled egg that had been sitting out all night.
Blondie7 27 months ago
Why don't they show these anymore?
Andy Blondie7 27 months ago
Probably issues on who owns the rights and how much money can be made, if any, especially in the case of "Easter Is", which was shown in syndication only.
moax429 27 months ago
Lucky for me I have "The Easter Beagle" - paired with "It's Arbor Day, Charlie Brown" - on DVD. At least now I'll never have to worry about missing those specials ever again. (Do you suppose the "political correctness army" has something to do with why "The Easter Beagle" isn't shown on regular broadcast TV anymore?)

I remember my Mom (may she rest in peace) watched "The Easter Beagle" with me and my younger sister when we were kids in the 70's. She especially liked the scene where Sally tries on those oversized, out-of-style clogs at the department store and falls down. I liked when Marcie made "egg soup" and Peppermint Patty got steamed - *so* funny.
AndreaZ moax429 27 months ago
I remember the egg soup and thought it was so funny. I didn't know it at the time, but she was actually poaching eggs...LOL
SJENKI30 moax429 15 months ago
Apple TV bought all rights to Charle Brown specials. That’s why they aren’t broadcasted on regular tv anymore. Sometimes on the actual holiday they let PBS air them.
Margaret 27 months ago
I remember watching Here Comes Peter Cottontail back in the 1970s, when it was broadcast on CBS-TV in repeats before every Easter. I was in my 20s at the time, and back in the '70s I loved me some Price (Vincent Price, that is.), because I had a big crush on him, from late 1973 to mid-1978, and I became a fan of his back then. I loved hearing his voice on my TV back then too, even in the Here Comes Peter Cottontail special.
top_cat_james_1 27 months ago
"A Charlie Brown Christmas came first, in 1965, followed by a couple of Valentine's Day specials..."

Uh, "You're in Love, Charlie Brown" (1967) is NOT a Valentine-themed special. It debuted in June--Do some research!
CouchSloth top_cat_james_1 27 months ago
Not to mention “It’s The Great Pumpkin…” and “Charlie Brown’s All-Stars” were before that one,
Garyboz 27 months ago
Looney Toons did create an original special in 1980 called "Daffy Duck's Easter Egg-Citement." It had a couple bonus Easter cartoons on the DVD release as well. I'm really surprised that special isn't included on this list. I think it's better than the Bugs Bunny special.
Barry22 27 months ago
....and yet, not one Passover special. Sigh. Rugrats did one in the 90's.
L Barry22 26 months ago
Well, if they did one for Passover, you'd HAVE to do one for Hanukah.

Next, you'll have to have Muslims wanting to do one for (whatever holidays THEY have).
WordsmithWorks 27 months ago
Rankin/Bass was/is the best. So many memories. Watching them in pajamas before bedtime, then watching them with my kids... in pajamas before bedtime.
Pacificsun 27 months ago
I didn't realize until I got to "Wiseguy's" comment from 12 months ago, that this is a reused story posted with a new date.
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Zip nd1irish 27 months ago
Agreed. But I don't think they have. I have been writing the leaders of Germany to plead for their release, but they haven't been replying to my mail or taking the phone calls that I make 20 to 30 times a day.
nd1irish Zip 27 months ago
They would all be over 100 years old at this point so I think you can stop the letter writing to Germany. Plus a good Gov’t source told me they blew up the camp when they all escaped on VE Day 🇺🇸
Coldnorth Pacificsun 27 months ago
Off topic: I don’t understand what the difference is between MeTV and MeTV+. I can’t find the channel. Is it in a certain demographic or am I hoping for another channel like this one. Anyway hope you can shed some light on this for me. Thank you
Pacificsun Coldnorth 27 months ago
Title: Weigel expands memorable entertainment menu with MeTV Plus.
Link: https://www.robertfeder.com/2021/05/03/weigel-expands-memorable-entertainment-menu-metv-plus/

Other than the read, I can't explain it and don't receive it in this marketplace.
Pacificsun 27 months ago
Very cute. I remember when the children I sat for couldn't wait for the these specials to come on!
Michael Pacificsun 27 months ago
I remember when PBS would run movies during the day for holidays. I remember watching "Return to Oz" that way with someone who was the right age. I think it aired under the "Wonderworks" banner.
Runeshaper 27 months ago
Haven't seen any of these, but I'd be interested in watching Here Comes Peter Cottontail, The First Easter Rabbit, and The Easter Bunny Is Comin' to Town (-:
LoveMETV22 Runeshaper 27 months ago
You might find a few with a search, either youtube or streaming. Haven't seen any OTA or cable listings as they do with some other Holiday specials.
Freeform channel sometimes airs the Rankin Bass specials on Easter weekend. Check their local listings.
Runeshaper LoveMETV22 27 months ago
Thanks for the suggestion!
Excellent, thanks!
vinman63 27 months ago
I had a shelter childhood didn’t see anyone of them.
Pacificsun vinman63 27 months ago
Maybe you were missing a TV.
Michael 27 months ago
Easter was much bigger back then. As I mentioned in the comments about spring break films, Easter was when we got "spring break" in the sixties and seventies. Often not the greatest weather, but no school.
Coldnorth Michael 27 months ago
Weather here during Easter is always snow. As a kid I hated commercials showing kids riding new bikes and beautiful dresses for the girls to show off at church. Here you need to cover that dress up with winter coat, boots and knitted hat. I don’t ever remember a warm Easter no matter if is March or April. But I do remember a big family dinner. Family time
Coldnorth Michael 27 months ago
As I am typing this there is snow on the ground. An pretty cold out
KJExpress 27 months ago
I mostly just remember the first one, which I really liked, but I did see #5 once or twice. It didn't really have the same appeal for me as "Santa Claus is Coming to Town," though.
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