Here Comes Peter Cottontail is a 1971 Easter stop-motion television special made by Rankin-Bass, based on a 1957 novel by Priscilla and Otto Friedrich entitled The Easter Bunny That Overslept. The title of the special is from the Easter song "Here Comes Peter Cottontail," which is also heard in the special. The name "Peter Cottontail" comes from a series of books by Thornton W. Burgess (1874–1965), although the special is not based directly on his books.
It was originally broadcast on ABC-TV, and in later years, appeared on CBS. In 2006, 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 the other 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 his successor, despite his boasting and fibbing, exemplified when his left ear droops. Peter, who has dreamed of being Chief Easter Bunny almost his entire life, gladly accepts. However, January Q. Irontail, an evil, reclusive rabbit, wants to be Chief Easter Bunny, only so he can ruin it for children everywhere, as revenge for the loss of his tail, which was run over by a small child who roller-skated over it and had to be replaced with a hard iron tail, thus giving him his name. He then goes to April Valley where Colonel Bunny is about to crown Peter the new Chief Easter Bunny and proposes a contest to see who delivers the most eggs and wins in order to be the new Chief Easter Bunny, so the Constitution of April Valley states. Peter, eager to prove his worth accepts the challenge, though the Colonel refuses. Although Peter promises the Colonel that he won't fail, he stays up late partying with his friends. Though he tells his rooster to wake him up at 5:30 AM, Irontail sneaks into his house and feeds magic bubblegum to it, causing the crows to float so far away that Peter can't hear them, resulting in sleeping through and losing the contest.
Even though Irontail manages to deliver only one egg, it's still one more egg than Peter delivers and so Irontail is named the new Chief Easter Bunny, as per the constitution and begins passing laws that will doubtlessly make Easter a complete disaster, such as painting eggs brown and gray, chocolate tarantulas and octopuses instead of bunnies and chicks, and Easter galoshes instead of bonnets. Meanwhile, Peter, ashamed that his overconfidence and irresponsibility led to this tragedy, leaves April Valley in disgrace. The next morning, he meets Seymour S. Sassafras, an eccentric and friendly peddler and inventor who supplies April Valley with the dyes it uses to color its Easter eggs with, which he gets from the vegetables he grows in his Garden of Surprises from red, white, and blue cabbages and purple corn to striped tomatoes and orange string beans.
Proving to be very compassionate and understanding, Sassafras lets Peter use his time machine called the Yestemorrowbile, which can transport anyone to yesterday or tomorrow. With the help of its pilot, a French caterpillar named Antoine, Peter will be able to go back to Easter and deliver his eggs, win the contest, and defeat Irontail. Unfortunately, Irontail finds out about Peter's plan and sends his spider to sabotage the Yestemorrowbile's controls, thereby making it so that Peter and Antoine can go to any holiday but Easter. While Antoine tries to fix the machine, they find out that the rules of the contest, however, don't specifically say the eggs must be delivered on Easter, so Peter begins trying to give his eggs away at other holidays without success. On the Fourth of July, he lies to two boys when he tries to sell his eggs as fireworks. On Halloween, he meets Madame Esmeralda the witch and gives her a Halloween egg. When she calls the other creatures of Halloween together, Irontail sends his pet bat, Montresor, out to steal and smash Peter's eggs. Fortunately, Peter and Antoine recover all of the eggs.
Unfortunately, Peter cannot go back to Halloween to give out the rest of his eggs since Antoine has to land the Yestermorrowbile to keep up with the repairs. On Christmas Eve, Peter, who continues to fail to sell his "Christmas eggs" while dressed like Santa Claus, meets Bonnie Bonnet, who left April Valley years ago, all alone in a hat shop, crying because no one will buy her at Christmas. Peter makes a deal with the hat shop owner, trading her his Christmas eggs for Bonnie. However, Irontail steals the eggs and Peter and Bonnie go after him, accidentally leaving Antoine behind. After demanding Irontail return the eggs to Peter, Santa returns the eggs to Peter without Peter thanking him. On Valentine's Day, Peter meets Donna, a lovely girl bunny who immediately takes an interest in one of his Valentine eggs. However, Irontail finds the eggs and casts an evil spell on them, turning them all green, inside and out. Everyone who had gotten a Valentine-egg returned it to Peter--even Donna returned hers.
In the end, Peter finally manages to give the green eggs away on St. Patrick's Day, since they're the appropriate color. As a result, Peter's made the new Chief Easter Bunny while Antoine returns as a butterfly Irontail's forced to work as a janitor in April Valley.
- Here Comes Peter Cottontail
- The Easter Bunny Never Sleeps
- The Easter Bunny Always Sleeps (Irontail's Reprise)
- If I Could Only Get Back to Yesterday
- When You Can't Get All Together, Improvise
- Be Mine Today
- In The Puzzle of Life
- Danny Kaye - Seymour S. Sassafras/Antoine/Col. Wellington B. Bunny
- Casey Kasem - Peter Cottontail
- Vincent Price - January Q. Irontail
- Paul Frees - Santa Claus/Fireman/Bunny/Rooster/Man at Thanksgiving dinner
- Joan Gardner - Madame Esmeralda/Bonnie/Hat Seller/Mother
- Iris Rainer - Donna
- Greg Thomas - Boy
- Jeff Thomas - Boy