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Sunday, April 05, 2015

The Berenstain Bears' Easter Surprise

Well, everybody...allow me to be the first to wish all of you out there a very...

Happy Easter!!!

And for today's special Easter blog and the conclusion of Easter week, I thought that I would do a blog on a particular piece of pop culture that I had absolutely no idea even existed!

It's a television special that features one of the most famous bear families in the whole world.  I have absolutely no idea how many books that have been released starring this bear family.  I think I lost count at a hundred or so.  And no, I certainly didn't own every single book ever published.  I had a lot of them, but not all of them.  I suppose I can thank the Scholastic Book Club order forms for the ones that I did have.

No wonder the Berenstain Bears are so beloved worldwide!  Even though the creators of the bears - Stan and Jan Berenstain have long since passed away, but their son, Mike Berenstain, has taken over authorship, and continues to work on the series today.

And of course, I not only remember reading the Berenstain Bear books, but I remember watching them on television too!

Of course, the version that I remember the most was the one that aired on CBS on Saturday mornings in the mid-1980s.  That series was based on some of the earliest Berenstain Bear books, and I was heartbroken when they cancelled it. 

There's also the revamped version of the show that first debuted on PBS in 2003, and that version is still shown on some cable channels like Treehouse TV.  I haven't seen as many of the newer episodes as I have the older ones, but the ones that I have seen seem to stay true to the books.

So, here's where you might be confused.  If I've read most of the books, and watched the Berenstain Bears on television - then how can there be something that I have NOT seen before until now?

Well, apparently, prior to the CBS series debuting, NBC held the rights to televise "The Berenstain Bears" on television.  And between 1979 and 1983, NBC aired five Berenstain Bears specials on television. 

Now, given the timeline, I understand why I never saw any of these specials.  The first one debuted two years before I was born, and I was only two years old when the last one aired.  And I would wager a guess that these specials aired only once, as I can't remember seeing any of them air on television in my childhood.

It's really too bad, because the third special happened to be Easter themed, and today would have been the perfect day to air it.

Oh, what the heck?  Let's watch it right now!  Just click on the link below.  Don't worry.  We'll have a discussion about it a little bit later.  For now, enjoy...

This special originally aired on April 14, 1981 on NBC - which I completely missed on account of being trapped in the womb.  Not that I remember that part of my life much...but admit it, it's a good reason for missing it!

And believe me, this is one of those years in which this special was surprisingly appropriate.  Believe me, I know exactly how Bear Country felt that particular Easter.  I swear, the year 2015 is going to be known as the year with the never ending Easter.  It may say April 5 on the calendar, but here in Ontario, we STILL have some spots where there is still a little bit of snow hanging around. 

But unlike us, in which we rely on the prediction of a troublesome rodent with a cutesy-poo name, the residents of Bear County rely on the actions of a special bunny.

Interestingly enough, in this special, the bunny in question is not referred to as the Easter Bunny, but by Boss Bunny.  Doesn't sound like the most friendliest of names, but when we first meet him, we completely understand why his moniker isn't exactly sunshine and daffodils.

Ah, but we're getting ahead of ourselves.

This story takes place in the past, long before Sister Bear comes into the picture.  The Bear Family is just made up of Papa, Mama, and Brother Bear.

(Side note:  Couldn't the Bear family come up with more original names than Brother Bear and Sister Bear?  How about Brian and Stephanie?  Benjamin and Sarah?  Brendan and Saskia?)

Anyway, Brother Bear is feeling rather conflicted.  When he hears that his family have a very special Easter surprise for him, he is really excited and anxious for Easter to arrive.  At the same time, he is feeling rather lonely as he has nobody to play with.  Most of his friends hibernate for the winter, and his one true friend, Billy Bunny even decided to go somewhere else for the winter, leaving Brother Bear all alone.

(Side note:  Why didn't they call him Small Bear in this one?  That's what he was called in the books that pre-dated Sister Bear?  Sigh...semantics.)

Whatever the case, the surprise that Brother Bear is expecting seems to be put on a permanent hold, as Bear County has been experiencing a permanent frost.  You see, the residents of Bear County know when Easter (and Spring for that matter) is coming because Boss Bunny will twitch his ears, flick a couple of switches, and ta-dah - instant Spring.

So when the word gets out that Boss Bunny has resigned from official Spring beared of Bear County, everyone is confused, saddened, and questioning why Boss Bunny would leave them in a lurch.  Things got so bad that even Papa Bear tried dressing up as a bunny to try and salvage the Easter celebration.

When that didn't work, Brother Bear decided to launch an investigation of his own.  That investigation reunited him with his old pal Billy Bunny, who just happened to be the son of Boss Bunny!  And Billy Bunny, being ever so polite, decided to invite Brother Bear over so that Brother Bear could convince Boss Bunny to bring back Spring.

Of course, that proved to be a challenge, as the normally jovial and peppy Boss Bunny has devolved into a cranky, bitter, worthless excuse of a rabbit.  I'm telling you, he's more depressed and pathetic than the Trix bunny.

Seriously, we're supposed to believe that this "poser" is Boss Bunny - the happy bunny that can melt snow and cause flowers to bloom? 

Of course, Brother Bear refuses to give up on bringing Spring back.  Partly because he wants his Easter surprise, but partly because he doesn't want to live in a "marshmallow world" any longer.  But the bunny refuses to budge.

That is until he gets zapped with a rainbow that magically appears out of thin air.

(Side note:  Where DID that rainbow come from?  Did the Care Bears notice Boss Bunny's tantrum?  Did they see that the caring meter was decreasing so they decided to send a Care Bear Stare from Care-a-Lot to Bear County?  Actually, that would make a really brilliant crossover!)

Anyway, rainbow zaps bunny.  Bunny becomes less depressed and more productive.  Spring arrives.  Easter is saved.

And now comes the surprise.  Brother Bear got a chocolate bunny and a basket, which was nice.  But the real surprise came from Papa and Mama.  Sister Bear was born on Easter Sunday, and she promptly greeted Brother by bopping him on the nose!  Isn't that precious?  But in the end, Brother got his greatest wish of all.  Now with a sister, he was never alone.

And then the special ends with Brother Bear asking where babies came from, which cues the end of the show.

But man...I'm really sorry that I missed this special the first time around.  I mean, granted, I had a really good reason for missing it - but still...I think it's a television special that should be played more often.  At least with this blog entry, you will all have a chance to watch it again!

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