Saturday, April 2, 2011

The cinematic debut of the Easter Bunny



How can we have had over 100 years of movies, and never had a movie about the Easter Bunny?

Can Hop really be the first one?

It would seem so.

When I first saw the posters for Hop a couple months back, they were abstract, and I didn't know what they were. An Easter affiliation was not immediately clear. Then when I saw the bunny materialize -- followed by a pretty aggressive ad campaign in general -- I thought "Wait ... has there never been a movie about the Easter Bunny?" It was like when I first saw the ads for Wimbledon years back, and couldn't think of any other tennis movies. It was such an obvious topic for a movie that I couldn't imagine Hollywood collectively failing to capitalize on it for all these years.

A friend and I were theorizing last weekend about why the Easter Bunny had never been the star of his own movie. I put forth the idea that it was too much of a risk with Christians, who tend to overreact to things, and hold Easter as a particularly sacred day on their calender. A whimsical bunny rabbit who delivers candy on the date their savior rose from the dead? Nope, they're not on board with that.

My friend offered a different theory: "I just think no one's ever thought of it before."


No one's ever thought of it?

I'm not saying he's wrong, but how could that be? The idea simply abounds with cross-promotional marketing opportunities. It's a good time of the year for movies, when audiences are almost primed for the summer season to start. And bunnies are just plain cute. It's not like we're talking about the Easter Snail or something. Bunnies are fluffy and cute and easy to turn into stuffed animals and other things children want their parents to buy them.

So I dug a little further to see if this is really the only movie about the Easter Bunny. My favorite go-to place for that these days is Wikipedia. If there's been movies or TV shows made about the thing you're interested in, there will usually be a section near the bottom devoted to representations in popular culture.

Under the "Media" section of the Easter Bunny entry on Wikipedia it says the following:

"The media often uses the Easter Bunny in various Easter advertisements and films, such as Hop, Here Comes Peter Cottontail: The Movie and Rise of the Guardians."

The "such as" part means that the previous list is not 100% thorough, but it does offer two other movies. So I looked them up. Here Comes Peter Cottontail is actually a computer animated film that premiered on The Disney Channel in 2005. Because the money-making potential of a TV movie is limited, this hardly counts, and it's actually a sequel to a TV special, the 1970 Rankin/Bass special of the same name. Then Rise of the Guardians is a movie that hasn't even come out yet -- it's not due out until the end of 2012. The animation looks cool and it has A-list vocal talent, but the Easter Bunny (voiced by Hugh Jackman) is only one of a handful of similar characters. Plus, there's that little detail about how it didn't beat Hop to the theater, so doesn't qualify in the current discussion. (Let's also hope people don't confuse it with Legend of the Guardians: The Owls of Ga'Hoole.)

I did some other relevant searches, and one list came up that I thought was useful: the top ten Easter movies for kids and families. This was sure to remind me of the Easter Bunny's previous appearances on the silver screen. But nope. These "movies" were mostly TV specials, like It's the Easter Beagle, Charlie Brown and Yogi the Easter Bear. Again, this was not what I was looking for. Nor was the last movie on the list, a 1948 Fred Astaire movie called Easter Parade. Even the synopsis did not explain what if anything this had to do with Easter, let alone the Easter Bunny.

So congratulations, Russell Brand ... your Easter Bunny debuting today is the standard by which all future Easter Bunnies will be measured.

Oh, the Easter Bunny has shown up here and there as a secondary character over the years. The one that comes to mind is in The Santa Clause 2, where character actor Jay Thomas has what amounts to a cameo, appearing alongside other fairytale beings like the Tooth Fairy and Mother Nature. But you're always going to be second banana in a movie that also features Santa Claus, especially when his name is in the title.

It just amazes me when there are these very rare situations where Hollywood drops the ball -- or maybe the egg -- for so long. Although who knows, perhaps there's a reason. We'll find out this weekend whether the Easter Bunny is a character audiences really want to see up on screen.

My guess is yes, yes they will. And maybe in a couple years, I'll be writing a post that says "Enough of the damn Easter Bunny, already!"

No comments: