Tag Archives: television

HERE COMES PETER COTTONTAIL (1971)

Happy Easter, readers! On this Easter Sunday, I bring you a look at Here Comes Peter Cottontail, a movie that signifies childhood for many of us. The movie was originally made for television in 1971, but its re-release on VHS in 1990 made it such a huge hit that that many of us who grew up in the era of VHS tapes remember this movie with great fondness.

Featuring the voices of Danny Kaye, Vincent Price, and Casey Kasem, the movie is a family-friendly story told by eccentric narrator Seymour S. Sassafrass (Danny Kaye) about Peter Cottontail, a young bunny in egg-producing April Valley who is about to be named Chief Easter Bunny and supervise all the egg-making that happens there. But his plans are foiled by evil Iron Tail (Vincent Price), who wants to name himself Chief Easter Bunny and ruin Easter, as revenge for his tail being run over by a child and replaced with a ball of iron.

Iron Tail.

As the constitution of April Valley states that whoever delivers the most eggs on Easter morning gets to be Chief Easter Bunny, Iron Tail proposes a contest…and wins. But with the help of Seymour S. Sassafrass and his time machine, along with a few friends he meets along the way, Peter is able to travel back in time and change the outcome of the contest.

Though created as a children’s movie, Here Comes Peter Cottontail has some wonderful things for adults to look out for as well. Those familiar with the personas of Danny Kaye and Vincent Price will notice that Seymour S. Sassafrass displays many of Danny Kaye’s unmistakable features–including his prominent nose and red hair. Vincent Price is the perfect Iron Tail, with his background in macabre pictures and villainous voice.

In addition, the film is a wonderful example of production company Rankin/Bass’ signature stop-motion animation. “Animagic,” as the company called it, was put to use in several Rankin/Bass productions including Willy McBean and His Magic Machine (1965) and Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer (1964), and this technique has become synonymous with the company. The animation was nearly all created by pioneer Japanese animator Tadahito Moshinaga, whose MOM Studio in Japan partnered with Rankin/Bass to create animation for the stories written by the studio. Moshinaga has become a legend in Japanese animation circles, and Moshinaga and Rankin/Bass collaborated on over 130 titles.

Tadahito Mochinaga at work on WILLY MCBEAN AND HIS MAGIC MACHINE (1965).

Here Comes Peter Cottontail is a testament to how great films are able to achieve a renaissance because of home viewing media. In addition to its reissue in 1990, it has seen several DVD releases and the entire movie has been uploaded to YouTube. I am embedding it here, so that you and any children in your life may watch this fun movie right here on the site.

Happy Easter! See you next time!

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The Rise of getTV and the Accessibility of Classic Film

For more than 12 years, the accessibility of classic film on mainstream television has been limited to a single channel. Following the change of direction that American Movie Classics (AMC) undertook in 2002, Turner Classic Movies (TCM) has been the classic film fan’s holy grail, the one station showing classic films 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. Due to its near monopoly on the showing of these films, it has attracted legions of devoted fans and become a brand unto itself–with the annual TCM Classic Film Festival and TCM Classic Cruise drawing participants by the thousand.

Now there is another channel on the market, just launched in February of this year in major U.S. cities and expanding quickly across the country, that may have all that to look forward to. GetTV, owned by Sony Pictures Television Networks, is the newest channel to make classic film programming its primary business model. Like TCM, GetTV shows classic films around the clock, but there is one significant difference–GetTV is available to viewers completely free, no cable subscription required. For this reason, GetTV shows 3 hours per week of educational programming in order to comply with FCC standards on public broadcasting, and this consists of quality entertainment directed toward a demographic crucial to the survival of classic films–children.

For the vast majority of hours in the week, GetTV shows films primarily from Sony Pictures’ Columbia Library and has had in its lineup thus far such notable films as To Sir With Love (1967), Picnic (1956) and Anatomy of a Murder (1959). I was also thrilled to see The Fuller Brush Girl, one of my favorite lesser-known Lucille Ball comedies on the schedule a few days ago, cementing my notion that GetTV is a market force to be dealt with.

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As a general access public broadcasting network, GetTV has certain restrictions as to what they are and are not able to show. At the present time, the network is focusing on films from the mid-1930s through the late 1960s, which aligns more or less with the time frame of the Production Code’s enforcement in Hollywood. This allows the channel to comply with broadcasting standards and the needs of advertisers (the channel does carry commercials).without editing a film for content. In addition, GetTV is committed to never editing a film for time. In an interview with Will McKinley over at Cinematically Insane, they state:

We are trying not to get into the zone of editing. We’re trying to present the whole movie, but at the same time, we are on broadcast TV, which has tighter restrictions than cable, and tighter rules in terms of community standards.  And we’re not editing films for time. So if something runs from 10 a.m. until 12:40 p.m., that’s when the next movie is going to start.”

For classic film lovers, this is great news. Though I have not as yet seen any silent movies on the schedule for GetTV, this doesn’t mean that silent films are off the table for the future. I would love to see GetTV tap into the lucrative silent film market, as in this way they could reach several crucial demographics–the huge community of silent film devotees that make pilgrimages every year to events like the San Francisco Silent Film Festival, the Kansas Silent Film Festival, and the Pordenone Silent Film Festival in Pordenone, Italy, as well as the deaf community, many members of which have a huge passion for silent cinema and would likely tune in as regular viewers.

A scene from King Vidor’s THE PATSY (1928), a silent film that I think would work wonderfully on GetTV. Funny, engaging, and appropriate for public broadcasting, it would be a fantastic gateway film to introduce many viewers who might not be familiar with silent cinema to this beautiful art form.

We have great reason to be excited about this new development in the classic film world. I will stay on the pulse of GetTV and update readers with any news.

Thanks for reading! See you next time!