Does Hollywood Hate the Easter Bunny?

Creators of some of the few bunny-centric mainstream films explain why the magical rabbit has gotten so few moments in the spotlight

By Rebecca Macatee Apr 15, 2017 2:00 PMTags
Rabbits, Easter BunnyUniversal Pictures, Paramount Pictures

Ask anyone to name his favorite Easter movie, and chances are you'll get a blank stare.

A few people might say Here Comes Peter Cottontail (which was actually a 1971 stop motion animated TV special) or its 2005 animated sequel of the same name (a direct-to-video release that made its television debut on Cartoon Network the following year). Then of course, there's Hop, the 2011 live-action/animated movie that holds the honor of being the only Easter-themed feature film since the Judy Garland-Fred Astaire musical Easter Parade in 1948 (which didn't really involve the bunny).

There's been a Disney Channel Original Movie about practically every fantastical creature—leprechauns, mermaids, vampires, Hannah Montana—but we've yet to see one about the rabbit. And while there are countless Thanksgiving, Christmas and Halloween-themed movies, the Easter genre has never really taken off, despite it being a major holiday.

In fact, it begs the question: Why doesn't this cuddly, seemingly camera-ready creature who's all about bright-colored eggs and chocolate get the star treatment? Could it be that Hollywood… hates the Easter Bunny?

Stars Celebrate Easter

Well, it turns out the answer isn't that simple.

Hop creators Cinco Paul and Ken Daurio have a theory, for instance, that perhaps the issue is with the nature of the holiday more than the hare himself.

"I think because Easter is still considered more…of a religious holiday, than just a holiday of fun…it just doesn't have that sort of universal spirit of fun and magic that Christmas has, or Halloween," Paul tells E! News exclusively.

Daurio notes, too, that we really don't know a lot about the Easter Bunny. "Like, we all know how Santa works," he explains. "We know where he lives, we know where the toys come from, we know who his helpers are, we know everything. We know the whole story.

"But with Easter, it's really kind of up in the air…There's no one thing that everybody agrees on as the mythology of the Easter Bunny."

Celebrity Kids Meet Santa Claus

It's quite possible, though, that the mystery surrounding him is intentional. William Joyce, author of The Guardians of Childhood books, is the creator of Bunnymund—who, according to Joyce, is actually a Celtic creature of mythology called a Pooka. Bunnymund is the real Easter Bunny, Joyce tells E! News, and unlike some of his contemporaries, he's simply too busy to carefully curate a public image.

"I don't think he likes that cute, fuzzy little bunny [caricature] at all, because he's actually quite tall and rather regal," Joyce says. Hugh Jackman voiced Bunnymund in 2012's Rise of the Guardians (based on The Guardians of Childhood series), and Joyce maintains that that version of a buff, badass bunny is much closer to the real deal. 

Bunnymund finds the idea of mall Easter Bunnies to be "ludicrous and ridiculous," says Joyce, but the character—whose full name is E. Aster Bunnymund, thank you very much—is not planning on doing any sort of publicity tour to set the record straight.

"That seems frivolous and it takes time, so he's willing to let a lot of goofy stuff happen," the author says.  "Occasionally, he will intervene and let the truth out…but [the Guardians] don't want to be too understood. It makes them, in some ways, more powerful the less we know about them."

The fact that we don't know a lot about the Easter Bunny's background also allows filmmakers some room to get creative. Hop's co-creators "saw this as an opportunity," Paul tells E! News. Not being bound to an already existing storyline "was freeing to us."

"That's why we immediately said he lives on Easter Island. We declared that. So now, that's what it is," says Paul laughingly, "and he poops jelly beans! That's a fact now."

But not everyone's onscreen interpretations of the Easter Bunny have been so warm and fuzzy. In 2007, South Park's "Fantastic Easter Special" made a mockery of some fanatical Easter Bunny fans (aka "The Hare Club for Men"), and the 2006 indie slasher flick Easter Bunny, Kill! Kill! went so far as to put a murderous man in a rabbit mask.

That doesn't mean people aren't protective of their childhood memories, however.

Comedy Central

Chad Ferrin, the writer and director of Easter Bunny, Kill! Kill! tells E! News he received "death threats" after the movie's cable release. "I got all these calls of people watching it and wanting to kill me for [making] a film that should be about, you know, a happy bunny hopping around delivering kids Easter eggs, and here you display a killer."

Ferrin, whose latest movie Parasites is available on Amazon, says his intention was not to "cast Easter [or the Easter Bunny] in a negative light." His reason for making an Easter Bunny-themed slasher—as opposed to say, a Santa Claus horror film—was simple: It "was because it hadn't been done," he says. (A lot of murder does occur around Christmas in the horror genre.)

Horror Movie Stars: Then and Now

There are numerous theories on why the Easter Bunny seems to be underrepresented on screen. Kirk DeMicco, who cowrote the screenplay to 2005's Here Comes Peter Cottontail: The Movie, thinks it all comes down to the competition. 

"Santa Claus is A-list—you just can't beat that," he tells E! News. "He comes with bags full of stuff, you know what I mean? With reindeer! And the Easter Bunny's like, 'Yeah, yeah, go in the bushes and try to find my eggs.' You're like, 'You know what? I'm not into that, dude. Thanks a lot, but I'll wait for Santa Claus.' I think you just can't top him."

But the Easter Bunny is not resentful. According to Joyce, who is working on the final novel in The Guardians of Childhood series now, Bunnymund loves North (aka Santa) and "even helps out somewhat" with the December holiday. "But, yes," admits the author, "he has always felt a little bit in the shadow of Christmas." 

Ultimately, though, the Easter Bunny "prefers to be underground," says Joyce. "You know, he's less concerned with public image than he is with getting the job done. There are a lot of ancillary things about what he does…He invented chocolate…and he's always working on making things taste better. He's always working on efficient ways to make deliveries. He's always working on a way to make egg dye more substantial, but he still suffers, I think somewhat, with freshly dyed eggs and when they get slightly wet and the dew tends to run. He's been working for a really long time trying to make that better."

Comedy Central

So it seems to us that it's been the Easter Bunny's choice to shy away from the spotlight. While he's been working tirelessly to better holiday operations, he's allowed Bugs Bunny and Roger Rabbit to emerge as the famous hares of Hollywood. He doesn't demand fame or even credit, which is why he's never complained about Disney-Pixar animators borrowing his shtick and hiding so-called Easter eggs in their movies.

Hollywood can't hate the Easter Bunny, because he is an artist in the truest form, like an indie star who's sworn off the big-budget superhero flicks.

He's passionate about his craft and couldn't care less about being a "celebrity." And in this culture of extreme oversharing, the Easter Bunny might be wise for not spilling his jelly beans. Insta-fame is fleeting, and overexposure could compromise the rabbit's enduring mystique.