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Film / The Tale of the Bunny Picnic

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The Tale of the Bunny Picnic is a 1986 television special created by Jim Henson and aired on HBO in the United States and BBC in the UK. It introduces the character of Bean Bunny, who would later go on to make appearances in several other Henson-related productions. Henson got the idea for the movie when he and his daughter were in a park and saw a dog chasing rabbits. Afterward, Henson decided to make up a story about bunnies being afraid of dogs.

The story concerns the annual Bunny Picnic, which the rabbits of the forest hold to celebrate the coming of spring. Young Bean is deemed too little to help his older siblings Lugsy and Twitch with decorations, and so he wanders off, and encounters a (seemingly) ferocious dog in the lettuce patch. When he runs back home, no one believes his story, least of all Lugsy. Everyone insists there haven't been any dogs in the woods for years. Bean, though, is determined to prove he's right. And in so doing, he just might save the Bunny Picnic... because the dog is actually the pet of an evil farmer who wants the bunnies to put in his stew!

The special features songs written by Dennis Lee and Phil Balsam, best known for their concurrent work on Fraggle Rock, and Fraggle fans will easily recognize Bean's voice as Wembley Fraggle's (Steve Whitmire). One of the lesser known works in the Muppet pantheon despite being rerun on HBO a few times after its initial airing and the short-lived Breakout Character success of Bean Bunny, it has yet to be released on DVD, but the VHS version (which removes Henson's introduction) is available to view in its entirety on YouTube.

This work provides examples of:

  • All of the Other Reindeer: Bean's older brother Lugsy deems him "too little" to help out with anything. Despite this, it's a Subverted Trope because aside from Lugsy, Bean seems to be well-liked and has a few friends.
  • An Aesop: "Those who hurt others hurt themselves." Also, the small standing up to the big, and being yourself.
  • Annoying Laugh: Bean's friend Snort.
  • Bad People Abuse Animals: The farmer berates and insults the dog, refuses to feed him until he brings him a sack full of bunnies, and can't even be bothered to give him a name. He's the only truly villainous character in the special.
  • Because You Were Nice to Me: The dog decides to befriend the bunnies instead of chasing them after Bean helps him hide from his abusive owner and leads the rest of the bunnies in driving him off.
  • Big Brother Bully: Lugsy.
  • Big Eater: Bean's friend Bulbous. He even eats while sleeping.
  • Breakout Character: Bean Bunny became a canon member of the Muppet Show clique (including Muppet Babies) after this special and was somewhat popular for a time, though his character never evolved much beyond "being cute." His appearances became much less frequent in the early 1990s, after his performer, Steve Whitmire, took over the roles of Kermit the Frog and Ernie following the death of Jim Henson.
  • Cassandra Truth: No matter how hard he tries, no one, not even his, Lugsy's, and Twitch's great-great-great-great-grandmother believes Bean about the dog. Until it attacks the picnic, that is, when it becomes a case of The Cuckoolander Was Right.
  • Cool Old Lady: Great-Great-Great-Great-Grandmother Bunny may be getting on in years, but she can still beat any of the youngsters in a race.
  • Creator Cameo: The original HBO broadcast included an appearance and introduction by Jim Henson himself.
  • Crowd Song: A few of them, including the main theme song.
  • Deadpan Snarker: Lugsy, Bean being the most frequent target of his jokes and sarcasms.
    Bean: The dog chased me all around the lettuce, it was horrible!
    Lugsy: Oh, oh, and did he have horrible teeth?
    Bean: Yeah!
    Lugsy: Oh, and horrible eyes?
    *Bean shakes, covers his eyes and makes a frightened noise*
    Lugsy: And horrible ears?
    *Bean cringes and cowers*
    Lugsy: ...Are you sure you weren't looking in the mirror?
  • Dub Name Change: Except for Bean, Bulbous and Bebop, most characters are completely renamed in the German dub: Lugsy ("Hufsa"), Twitch ("Kuschel"), Babble ("Blabbermouth"), and Mayor Bunnyparte ("Burgermeister LaFour").
  • Everyone Calls Him "Barkeep": The Storyteller.
  • Evil Redhead: The farmer.
  • Extreme Omnivore: Bulbous eats anything and everything, even if it isn't supposed to be edible.
  • The Faceless: The Farmer's head is out of frame or in shadow for most of the special.
  • Generation Xerox: The young bunnies elderly Bean tells the story to reuse many of the puppets for the story's characters, including both of his siblings.
  • Happily Married: Bean's parents.
  • "I Want" Song: Bean has one early on ("I Had a Dream").
  • Imagine Spot: Bean has these frequently. Him being Mr. Imagination is one of the reasons nobody believes him about the dog.
  • Informed Attribute: Bean isn't actually much smaller than most of the other bunnies. In fact, he's bigger than his older sister Twitch.
  • Jerkass: Lugsy, to Bean. He gets better.
    • The Farmer, to the dog. He doesn't.
  • Mad Libs Catch Phrase: Bean's "I'm not really Bean, I'm a (whatever he's imagining to be at the moment)."
    • The dog tends to end his promises or decisions with "or my name's not... whatever it is."
    • And Babble tends to begin her ramblings with "If I've said it once, I've said it a thousand times."
  • Meaningful Name: Babble, Snort, and Bebop.
  • Mook–Face Turn: The dog turns good after the farmer is defeated and driven away.
  • Motormouth: True to her name, Babble does this twice.
  • Mr. Imagination: Bean. He imagines himself to be various things such as dragons, weasels, owls and a tree.
  • Narrator All Along: The ending reveals the tale is being told by an elderly Bean to his grandchildren.
  • No Name Given: A few characters, but especially the farmer's dog. The dog's lack of a name is intentional; his mean owner never bothered naming him. When he befriends the rabbits, though, he does get a name: Mister De-Dop-De-Diddly-Dog-Bop.
  • Novelization: A storybook adaptation written by frequent Muppet collaborator Louise Gikow was released as a tie-in, with dialogue sticking very close to the film. It includes a short note to the reader from Jim Henson himself on the back cover.
  • Or My Name Isn't...:
    Dog: I'll get those bunnies, or my name's name's not...whatever it is.
  • Plot Allergy: The farmer is allergic to rabbits, which is why the bunnies succeed in driving him away in the end
  • Punch-Clock Villain: The dog only chases the bunnies because his owner tells him to. Otherwise, he bears them no ill will.
  • Ridiculously Cute Critter: All the bunnies are cute, but cuteness actually became the main character trait for Bean once he became part of The Muppet Show universe in subsequent years.
  • Running Gag: The dog naming the wrong body parts.
  • Saying Sound Effects Outloud: The dog doesn't actually bark or growl, he just says "bark" (occasionally "woof") and "growl" over and over again.
  • Small Name, Big Ego: Lugsy thinks he's the best, the coolest and the bravest bunny around, and even describes himself as the "hero of the family." He's wrong.
  • Sugar Bowl: This may be one of the most saccharine Henson specials ever. The bunnies are all extremely cutesy, the forest impossibly idyllic, and everything's very happy, cheerful and colorful. The only real sour notes in the happy song are Lugsy, the dog and the mean farmer — and Lugsy Takes A Level In Kindness, the dog turns out to be friendly once he's saved from the farmer's tyranny, and the farmer himself is so allergic to the bunnies that just coming near them makes him helpless with sneezing fits. Possibly justified by the revelation that the story is being told by an elderly Bean to a group of very young bunny children.
  • Sunglasses at Night: Bebop always wears his shades. Even when he's sleeping!
  • They Call Me MISTER Tibbs!: At the end of the story, the bunnies agree to give the dog a name. Be-Bop suggests "De-Dop-De-Diddly-Dog-Bop." The dog likes it, but adds: "That's Mister De-Dop-De-Diddly-Dog-Bop to you!"
  • Verbal Tic: Bebop, who talks pretty much like his name implies.
  • Villain Song
    Dog: You're gonna be a bunny stew!
  • With Catlike Tread: The dog isn't quite as stealthy as he thinks he is. Luckily for him, Bean is under the effect of a sleeping potion at the time.

Alternative Title(s): The Tale Of The Bunny Picnic