Leave it to the Berenstain Bears to take a grizzly-sized dump all over our most holy of holidays. It isn’t bad enough that they make only the vaguest, most passing of references to the religious aspect of Easter, mentioning something about spring being a time for miracles, but then they have to slander the Easter Bunny, turning him into a disgruntled boss, ranting about all the benefits his employees want! And what kid doesn’t want to watch a holiday special with a constipated-looking rabbit singing “Who Cares About Easter”?
In Bear Country, the Easter Bunny is called Boss Bunny and he’s in charge of flipping the switch to turn winter into spring. When the winter never seems to end, everyone heads over to Boss Bunny’s lair to see what the hold up is and guess what? There’s a note up that says he quit!
The gravity of the situation is not lost on Papa Bear when he realizes that without a Boss Bunny to handle Easter and spring time, no one is going to be bringing him his jelly beans! Brother Bear proves that he is his father’s son when he starts weeping because the Easter surprise his mother promised probably won’t happen and imagines that it was probably something along the lines of a lifetime supply of lemon sticks. What’s funny is that Mama Bear’s surprise is actually worse than 50 years worth of pucker-inducing sugar cylinders. It’s Sister Bear!
Brother Bear had been wondering why Mama Bear’s lap wasn’t as big as it used to be. It wasn’t because she’d been raiding Papa’s stash of Jelly Bellys or because she was skipping her Pilates class. It was because Papa finally managed to do one thing right! And it was Mama Bear!
The show goes to great pains to demonstrate how great a new sister for Brother Bear is going to be since he’s an only cub. Even though he has some friends, he’s bored and lonely. Mainly because his friends are a bunny who just wants to hop all the time, a lazy frog and a firefly who only cares about turning his butt light on and off. As anyone who has siblings will tell you, dude you need some kick ass friends, not a crying baby sister!
Despite whether Mama Bear can push out her second kid or not doesn’t really depend on Boss Bunny getting his act together, Brother Bear goes off to save Easter. Papa Bear already attempted it his way, with a completely ill-advised DIY Easter candy factory that of course ended with him decorated as an Easter egg and half buried in a pile of trashed equipment.
With the help of Boss Bunny’s son, Brother Bear locates Boss Bunny and has to endure his lunatic ravings about how he’s done with the Easter biz. Just when all seems lost though, he sees a rainbow and is moved to flip the season switch. Easter is saved, sister bear is born, and everyone is flush with jelly beans again.
The Berenstain Bears’ Easter Surprise was the third Berenstain Bears animated special to air on NBC, coming after The Berenstain Bears Meet Bigpaw and followed by The Berenstain Bears Comic Valentine and by this point in the series they’d settled into a comfortably crappy zone with the expected terrible songs, predictable stupidity by Papa Bear and an holiday-centric story that is destined to be forgotten even before the credits roll a mere 24 minutes after it begins.
These late 1970s/early 1980s Berenstain Bears efforts (including this one) fare poorly against their contemporaries, lacking the smarts and heart of the Peanuts specials, the fun of the Rankin/Bass series or even the unintentional subversive lunacy of those scary Family Circus shows. With its aw-shucks goofy Papa, the ever understanding and sensible Mama and bland regular kids Brother and Sister, these shows are too genteel for their own good. The Bear family’s animated adventures are just boring, colorless exercises in niceness. (For instance, this episode sidesteps addressing anything potentially interesting about Brother Bear adjusting to the idea of having a baby sister, including blowing off his question about where Sister Bear came from.)
After the following year’s The Berenstain Bears Comic Valentine, the Bears would give up on the holidays for good, the final special in the series being devoted to something they could handle with even less excitement – baseball.
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