Kieran Moore – If there’s one thing a holiday loves it’s food. Hallowe’en has pumpkin spice, candy corn and, well, candy in general. Meanwhile, Christmas is all about roast goose, candy canes and, well, candy in general; and Easter is the season for hot cross buns, candy eggs and, well, candy in general! Oh, and Peeps! I love Peeps! But how do I get them? Walking to the store is too much like hard work, so every year I have to wait for the Easter Bunny and hope he’s feeling generous…
In a bid to increase my chances of getting an Easter basket full of Peeps this weekend, I’m trying to curry favor with my favorite benevolent bunny and writing all about rabbits. Every song here features lovely leporines in some of their biggest and best Muppet moments. So, shall we hop to it?
10 – Hello Sunshine – The Tale of the Bunny Picnic
What better way to start a top 10 list than a song called Hello Sunshine? Not only does this piece open today’s article, it also introduces us to the world of The Tale of The Bunny Picnic. I’ve often commented that this show feels like the Fraggle Rock special that never happened, and watching this song simply reinforces that assertion. With Fraggle performers Steve Whitmire, Richard Hunt, Karen Prell and Jim Henson heading up the cast; as well as Jocelyn Stevenson, Philip Balsam and Dennis Lee on writing/music duties there are some obvious parallels. Just look at how this song is staged and tell me it doesn’t remind you of the opening of Fraggle Rock? I’m not complaining. It just annoys me that, despite being wonderful, this special often gets overlooked and if it featured Fraggles I’m sure would be more fondly remembered.
9 – 14 Carrot Love – Sesame Street
There’s a real game of connections going on with today’s list as lots of Muppet performers appear again and again. Here we find Camille Bonora and Kevin Clash singing as Polly Darton and Benny Rabbit respectively, both of whom appeared in lead roles in Tale of the Bunny Picnic. Kevin has been highlighted lots of times in my charts, including having one of his own, but Camille features less frequently so I’m happy she’s getting some love today. Polly Darton is such a fun character. Anytime Sesame Street gets to be out and out silly, whilst also delivering an educational message, is a joy to me. As a parody character Dolly gets to have tongue-in-cheek fun whenever she appears. I wonder what Dolly Parton thinks of her?
8 – Give Your Friend an Easter Egg for Christmas – Elmo Saves Christmas
I must admit I wasn’t sure this song should really be included in this chart, but it is sung by the Easter Bunny and, ultimately, I couldn’t resist the charms of Harvey Fierstein. He’s brilliant in everything, but I must admit I really enjoy his performance here. He’s throwing himself into the role and song 100% and it pays off brilliantly. Every word and action and note is perfect – even if his voice does sound like he’s been gargling glass! In fact, it’s a tribute to Harvey’s talent that he’s managed to create a successful musical career for himself with his very unconventional voice. I also love his look as the Easter Bunny; it’s slightly rag-tag and amateurish, but works perfectly with the feel of this special.
7 – Bunny Go High and Go Low – The Tale of the Bunny Picnic
This song truly is something special and I feel a bit bad listing it in only 7th place. Any fan of “the Rock” will agree with me that this piece and its arrangement is very Fraggley, but where this gets interesting is in the performance. Kevin Clash (who I think has featured in some way in all 4 of these videos so far) and Louise Gold never appeared in Fraggle Rock and lend their trademark vocals to this Balsam/Lee song, making it sound both new and familiar at the same time. Kevin and Louise can sing and harmonize like crazy and the harmonies really are what sell this piece. They are phenomenal and give me goosebumps in a way that Fraggle Rock only managed when it was really at it’s best (Dream a Dream and See, for example). As with just about every Balsam and Lee song, this is too short. We need more!
6 – Run, Rabbit, Run – The Muppet Show
I’m not really sure how well this song is known outside of the UK – I always think of it as being very British, although I know it gets used in movies etc. from time to time. The song itself has roots in British World War 2 pop culture and was said to be Churchill’s favorite song during the conflict. The lyrics were occasionally changed to “Run Adolf” and it’s difficult to know quite how much of a role this song played in the propaganda of the time, but it was definitely a part of it… Away from this rather dark past, The Muppet Show turned this song into something altogether much lighter, funnier and sillier. And that’s why it’s made the list today up against some very tough competition. Fozzie (in today’s only appearance by a Muppet Show character) and the bunnies are brilliant as they run around panicking backstage.
5 – I Had a Dream – The Tale of the Bunny Picnic
As if to reinforce my Fraggle Rock/Bunny Picnic assertion, here’s a song that sounds so like it’s from the show it’s actually bugging me what it reminds me of. I can hear Cotterpin Doozer singing in my head… Possibly not helped by the fact I think Bean Bunny in his early days sounds like a mix of her and Wembley Fraggle. Despite driving me mad trying to think what it sounds like, this is a sweet little song that can be taken as the “I Want” song of Bunny Picnic. No one does melancholic soulfulness like the Muppets and this number (as short as it is) carries on that tradition. I love the yin and yang between this side of Jim Henson’s work and the weird craziness that goes along with it.
4 – The Story Show – The Tale of the Bunny Picnic
Where do I start writing about this song? I guess the first thing to touch on (because it’s the first thing you’ll hear) is the instrumentation. The calliope-esque pipes instantly bring to mind the circus when it rolls into town; which matches up perfectly with the characters’ excitement as the Storyteller Bunny arrives. Next we get a glorious group sing from the collected bunnies and a brilliant solo from Ron Mueck, who in this performance has one of my favorite Muppet voices ever. I love that accent! Other than some assistant/alternative work for Uncle Travelling Matt, this is Ron’s only Muppet work. It’s a shame we didn’t get more from him. I love the design of the Storyteller’s vehicle and the hanging carrot on a stick – what a neat character point! Is it a coincidence there’s a Storyteller in Fraggle Rock too? The links and similarities between Henson “storyteller” characters is a Muppet Mindset article waiting to happen. Someone just needs to write it.
3 – Life as a Pet – Kermit’s Swamp Years
Along with Kevin Clash, I think we can all agree that Steve Whitmire is a huge presence on today’s chart. This song and performance as Jack Rabbit couldn’t be more different from his gentle turn as Bean Bunny. Steve’s really letting rip here! Am I the only one who finds this song a bit disturbing? It’s a strange one really. As long as you have a conscientious owner, life as a pet should be wonderful and for a special aimed at younger viewers that message is perfectly fine. However, singing it in this manner to two wild animals makes me a feel little uneasy. Jack goes from being a simple rabbit to pretty much a full on cult leader in the space of one song! Don’t drink the Kool-Aid in his water bottle… What really drives it home to me though is that the local mice are so convinced by his preachifications they are willing to ignore that the song literally just said a mouse gets eaten every day and join up anyway. Talk about brainwashed! Or… This could just be a fun Gospel style song in a direct-to-video kids’ special – you decide.
2 – Don’t Touch Me – Sesame Street
To a certain extent Benny Rabbit is a character that passed me by while he was on the show, but I’ve come to really appreciate him since. His curmudgeonly grumpy attitude (which actually hides a heart of gold) is a refreshing change from most Sesame Muppets and is subtly different from Oscar the Grouch. He’s clearly not happy here, but you can’t blame him. This song is really clever because it works perfectly for Benny not wanting to be petted – it’s absolutely in character; but it also serves as an important message to kids that it’s ok to stand your ground when something makes you uncomfortable. It’s a vital lesson to learn and this song does it in a wonderful, character-led way. Kevin Clash gets to rock out with this song and I enjoy hearing that side of his voice. Sesame Street often flirts with rock music and this is a worthy addition to the oeuvre. Speaking of rock, I’ve just found a literal garage band on YouTube performing a hard metal cover of this song and it really works!
1 – Drum of Time – The Tale of the Bunny Picnic
You know that moment at the end of a movie when the underdogs have scored the winning basket, picked up their bobsleigh or become true Wilderness Girls? This song is the Muppet version of that. It’s an excellent, rousing number that can’t help but stir my soul, even when it’s watched in isolation like this. It’s an emotional tour de force. If the opening few lines (as Bean Bunny starts softly singing) don’t get you, the beautiful harmonies between Steve Whitmire and Richard Hunt most certainly will. Apart from the fact this marks the moment Lugsy stands by Bean and gives his backing to his brother, the incredible singing will surely make the hairs on the back of your neck stand on end. Once the rest of the rabbits join in, I’m just about gone. I swear if any political party used this as their anthem I’d vote for them. You can’t really make out every word in this clip, but the lyrics are incredibly powerful and forthright, with mentions of marching to free our brother and leading the fight all in the mix. This is an amazing song and I’m so happy it’s now a number one.
Hopefully that rousing song has spurred on the Easter Bunny – I really want some Peeps on Sunday (truth be told, we don’t get them in the UK, but I do love them). If it hasn’t and I have to make do with something from my own candy drawer I really don’t mind. I’ve had tremendous fun listening to these songs and reliving the Tale of the Bunny Picnic in particular. It’s absolutely required viewing this holiday weekend. So it only remains for me to say a huge Thank You to everyone who worked on the productions featured – especially those behind the music. Thank you for leading me down such a wonderful rabbit hole. It’s been a very “hoppy” experience!