When I was a kiddo, I was obsessed with the covers of books from series like Bailey School Kids and, of course, the Scary Stories books by Alvin Schwartz. I wasn’t much of a reader, but I loved a book illustration that allowed me to imagine the stories inside. Yes, it is ironic that my day job consists entirely of me reading children’s books.
One series that always grabbed my attention was Bunnicula by James and Deborah Howe. The first in the series being published following Deborah’s death.
It wasn’t until I was in my adult years that I read Bunnicula: A Rabbit-Tale of Mystery. Even without the glasses of nostalgia, this series holds up as an adorable gateway horror read. And, of course, when I learned of the TV special adaption, I had to watch it.
It’s not the most faithful adaption, but it still remains very cute. Chester the cat and Harold the dog live with a very nice nuclear family, the Monroes. One day, Mr Monroe loses his job when there’s yet another accident at the factory he’s employed at. In fact, the entire factory is shut down by the owner. Why no one bothers to ask OSHA for advice or something isn’t totally clear.
The family, who is waiting for him, learn of the closing. But before they can get too upset, they discover a bunny in a box by a tree. The bunny has a note with him, written in Romanian. Unfortunately, the Monroes aren’t worldly enough to know a lick of Romanian, but they can make out the name “Bunnicula”. Howard the dog, however, is able to read the note and reads, “Take care of my baby.” (So threatening!)
Soon after Bunnicula is at the Monroes’ home, things begin to get strange. The vegetables are all white and drained of their juice. Chester is certain that it’s Bunnicula, as Chester knows a lot about vampires. (He spends his days reading, as all cats do.)
They agree to take turns watching Bunnicula at night, but when it’s Chester’s turn, he fails big time and the bunny escapes. They head off to search for the rabbit. But during the search, Chester sets off a neighbour’s boobytrap. When the humans find vegetables with little rabbit tracks, they know Bunnicula is the culprit.
It’s up to Chester and Howard to find Bunnicula first and keep him safe from the mob. Oh and somehow save the factory in the meantime.
Short, sweet and to the point, Bunnicula is a fun special. Bunnicula in particular is adorable, but the animators made both Howard and Chester great characters. The humans I could do without, but that’s probably not an issue specific to this special. You can watch it on YouTube (with commercials!) on the Museum of Classic Chicago Television’s YouTube channel. They’re raising money to help with transfers and preservation at the moment.
Being made in 1982, the animation has a wonderful vintage feel. The company that made the special, Ruby-Spears, is the one behind the animated segments in Child’s Play. Which is a nice horror link, if you ask me. I would have loved to see more horror nods, but I think for a 30-minute special, this does all you can really hope for.