Monday, December 21, 2015

Short film: Bunnicula: the Vampire Rabbit

Director: Charles A. Nichols

First aired: 1982

The animation of Bunnicula was part of the ABC Weekend Specials and was based on the children book series that began with Bunnicula: A Rabbit-Tale of Mystery, written by Deborah and James Howe. The cartoon diverged radically from the book both in story and in the fact that it gave Bunnicula overtly vampiric powers, which the rabbit did not possess in the book.

For this article I watched the video rip that was on YouTube and the video quality was not the best, so apologies for the screenshots in advance. However it was good enough to view.

our narrator, Harold
The story is narrated by Harold (Jack Carter) the family dog who lives with The Munroes: mom (Janet Waldo), dad (Alan Young) and two kids, as well as the well-read cat Chester (Howard Morris) . Mr Munroe is a scientist at the World Co Food Processing Plant. The plant has been suffering from accidents and as the cartoon begins there is another, with a metal container nearly crushing Munroe and his boss (Alan Dinehart); the rope it was held by has been chewed through. Spooked out locals blame ghosts, one swears he spotted a wolf in the factory. The boss closes the factory down – which is the town’s main source of employment.

Bunny in a box
The family go to pick Mr Munroe up from his final day at the factory. Whilst there, the boys find a shoebox containing a rabbit (sleeping on a bed of earth) and a note – which is unreadable, due to it being in Romanian, except for the name Bunnicula (in the book the rabbit is named by the family as they found it in a cinema when they went to watch a Dracula film). One of the boys comments on Bunnicula sounding like Dracula. Harold, being part Russian Wolfhound (!), can read the note. It says “take good care of my baby”.

drained veg
Anyway, as things progress we see a pattern of vegetables turning white, having been drained of juice. Chester becomes convinced that the rabbit is a vampire. He is sleeping on earth, that sleep is through the day (Harold reminds him that they both sleep most of the day too) and the vegetables have a single puncture like a rabbit’s buckteeth (Harold points out they both have fangs and we should note that, despite the dialogue, the bunny is actually drawn with fangs when in vamp mode and not buckteeth).

using telekinesis
Eventually the neighbours decide that their drained vegetables are down to a vampire rabbit and head to the Munroe’s house as a mob. The dog and cat run with the rabbit to save it (in the books the cat repeatedly tries to kill the rabbit), unfortunately ending up at the plant. The source of the accident reveals itself to actually be wolves breaking in through a pipeline in the forest and looking for food. Bunnicula (out of sight of the cat and dog) reveals it has the ability to sprout batwings, have glowing red eyes and use telekinesis as it saves the cat and dog. That mystery solved, the Munroes then realise that the kids had not been feeding the rabbit and the drained vegetables were due to hunger, Bunnicula sucking the juice as it is a baby, which is accepted as a reasonable explanation and deposits us at the end of our journey.

The animation was passable, the story was just plain silly (and it feels strange to complain about that when the premise was a vampire rabbit) and, if we take the premise as read, the exposition around it was lazy and ultimately, as I say, silly. That said, it did have a degree of charm.

The imdb page is here.

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