A sequel, and not a remake, to the 1971 Rankin/Bass TV special, "Here Comes Peter Cottontail: The Movie" follows the misadventures of Peter's son, Peter Jr., as he journeys across the seasons in order to rescue spring itself. The CG-animated feature premiered on Cartoon Network in 2006, and despite the music video interludes and one or two ADD-driven action bits, it's actually a lighthearted, enjoyable little story that fits well with the stop-motion original.
Seymour S. Sassafras returns as our narrator, this time with the voice of Christopher Lloyd. After reminding us of the original story, we pop into the present: Peter's running a booming business in April Valley, a factory of Easter goodies that runs like clockwork. His son, however, keeps neglecting his duties, preferring instead to wander off and work on his inventions, like the automatic egg delivery system (a catapult). Peter Sr. (Tom Kenny voices both characters) hopes to inspire responsibility in his son by giving him the key to the Clock of Spring, a very important timepiece that helps regulate the seasons.
Ah, but that nasty grump Irontail (Roger Moore!) has teamed up with femme fatale Jackie Frost (Molly Shannon) to ruin Spring forever. With great ease, they manage to steal the very heart of the clock, the Spring of Spring, which turns April Valley into a winter wasteland. As they set off to steal the other seasons, Peter Jr. decides to leave April Valley and atone for his mistake by stopping the villains and saving the day. Along his journey, he meets a summer robin named Flutter (Kenan Thompson) and an autumn mouse named Munch (Miranda Cosgrove) - they're three kids who get to save the world.
A few times, the movie comes a bit close to falling into that "trying to hard to be modern" trap that's ruined many a cartoon. Jackie's introduction ("Jack Frost is soooo last century") is a little too winking for its own good, and her main song is a piece of trashy Euro dance-pop that feels way out of place. Other musical numbers - including a crunchy-guitar-and-whiny-vocals pop-rock cover of the "Peter Cottontail" song - also threaten to date the piece very quickly.
Fortunately, director Mark Gravas and his screenwriters back off from more such trappings; the only real pop culture reference I could find was in Moore's introduction ("Tail. Iron Tail.") that most kids won't get anyway. The rest is refreshingly absent of "Shrek"-style humor. Sure, it's plenty lightweight, and there are still a few too many dips into cartoon cliché (when desperate for an action sequence, toss in a long ride down a cavernous slide), but the filmmakers mainly prefer a straightforward story that will hold up just fine in the coming years. (Surprisingly, it's also quite funny when it wants to be, especially with its take on Antoine the French caterpillar, also voiced by Kenny, or a running gag involving the mysteries of nougat.)
Most impressive is the animation itself, strong and colorful and beautifully detailed despite its use of simplistic forms. For a low-budget CG effort, it looks delightful, with characters that flow and colors that beam. The animators even throw in some nifty touches; watch how Flutter hops just like a real robin, or how Jackie's evil penguin minions (!) waddle around on cute overload. Our first look at April Valley is a visual treat, as is our heroes' flight through the night sky, all swirling clouds and stars.
For a project that could have been a throwaway work, something cheaply constructed for a quick buck, this upgraded "Peter Cottontail" instead works hard to deliver charming storytelling and quality animation. It's successful on both counts. This is a charming little sequel.
Video & Audio
"Peter Cottontail" looks absolutely stunning in this anamorphic widescreen (1.78:1) transfer that perfectly captures the crayon-color look of the piece. It's bright and cheery with a cartoony look that pops off the screen.
The soundtrack is offered in Dolby 5.1 and 2.0, although the surround mix is fairly restrained (with little use of the rear speakers), leaving little difference between the two mixes. However, the 5.1 track delivers a fuller, richer sound. A flat Spanish dub (in 2.0) is also included, as are optional English subtitles. Note: the film's songs are not dubbed into Spanish for that track.
The "Peter Cottontail Jukebox" allows you to play, in any order, the four songs from the movie (or less, or the same song four times, if you choose); a "shuffle all" choice is also included. After setting up your order, the "jukebox" will then play the musical scenes from the movie.
Storyboards for three scenes - "Calendar Day", "The Clock Has Stopped!", and "Cat in the Cornfield" - play out as an overlay over the final product, a nice way of comparing the two. There's also a text introduction explaining to kids what storyboards are.
The "Development Art" section includes another text intro for kids, then offers "turnarounds" (3D character models) and "rigging tests" (character motion tests), which play over dialogue from the film.
A three-minute deleted scene - fully rendered with completed animation - reveals an extended, alternate opening. I actually prefer this version, set to the song "Bring On the Blue Sky," as it offers a little more Sassafras and provides a smoother introduction to the movie's rock soundtrack.
A set of stills from the movie play out in slideshow fashion (while instrumental versions of the movie's songs play under it).
A preview for "Casper's Scare School" plays as the disc loads; unfortunately, it's coded so you can't skip past it at all.
This new "Peter Cottontail" makes for fun holiday viewing, the animation is impressive, and the presentation is quite solid for such a bargain disc. Recommended.