Santa and the Ice Cream Bunny
Santa and the Ice Cream Bunny is a 1972 American musical fantasy film directed by R. Winer. It contains two film-within-a-film 1970 Barry Mahon adaptations of Hans Christian Andersen's Thumbelina and Benjamin Tabart's Jack and the Beanstalk (which has never saw a home video release along with this film) and was filmed at the long-defunct Dania, Florida theme park Pirates World, which went defunct in 1975 due to competition from Walt Disney World in Orlando, Florida.
This film would have fallen into obscurity had The Agony Booth not recapped the film in 2002 (they covered the version with Thumbelina), but it was also covered by Rifftrax in 2015 using the Jack and the Beanstalk version. We will cover both versions of the film.
The Main Plot
At Santa's workshop in the North Pole, Santa's elves sing about Christmas nearing and Santa's absence. Meanwhile, on a beach in Florida, Santa's sleigh has become mired in the sand, and his reindeer have flown away to escape the heat, leaving him stuck. Santa sings a song bemoaning his troubles, then falls asleep.
Several local children hear Santa calling them telepathically and run to him. Santa awakes and explains his predicament. One boy asks why Santa does not fly back to the North Pole on a plane; he explains that he cannot abandon his sleigh and needs their help pulling it out of the sand. The kids bring him several animals, including a pig, a sheep, a donkey, a horse, and a gorilla.
Meanwhile, Tom Sawyer and Huckleberry Finn watch and comment on the action from a distance.
When all the children's attempts fail, Santa encourages them not to give up hope, and tells them a story about a girl who visits the theme park Pirates World and hears the story of Thumbelina as an example (or alternatively, the story of Jack and the Beanstalk, depending on which version you watch).
Since this part of the film was taken from another 1970 adaptation of the story, it still has the opening credits and ending credits from that film. It also takes up a majority of the film.
After the opening credits, a beggar woman giving a peasant's wife a barleycorn in exchange of food. Once planted, a tiny girl comes out of the flower named Thumbelina and seems to have a happy life with the woman, even going so far to refer her as her mother. But one night, Thumbelina, asleep in her walnut-shell cradle, gets kidnapped by a toad who wants to make her a bride for her son. Thankfully, a friendly fish and butterfly comes to Thumbelina's rescue from the toads and stays on a lily pad until she gets stopped by a group of beetles.
Thumbelina tries to protect herself from the elements, but when winter comes, she is in desperate straits. She is finally given shelter by an old field mouse and tends her dwelling in gratitude. The mouse suggests Thumbelina to marry her neighbor, a mole, but Thumbelina finds repulsive the prospect of being married to such a creature because he spent all his days underground and never saw the sun or sky. The field mouse keeps pushing Thumbelina into the marriage, saying the mole is a good match for her, and does not listen to her protests.
She gets saved at the last minute by a swallow she nursed back to health during the winter and escapes to a sunny field of flowers. This leaves the mole depressed because he had swore that he would do everything to make Thumbelina happy (though the end narration suggests that he married the mouse instead).
In the sunny flower field, Thumbelina finds a tiny flower-fairly prince just her size and likes him to point that they marry each other. She receives a pair of wings to accompany her husband on his travels from flower to flower and has a new name, Maia.
The segment is then padded out for another 5 minutes of people enjoying their time at Pirates World; at the end, they advertise to the viewer to go visit the theme park and then the segment finally ends.
Jack and the Beanstalk
Like the Thumbelina segment above, this one is actually a 1970 adaptation of the story as it still has the opening credits and ending credits from that film. Also like above, it takes up a majority of the film.
Jack is a young, poor boy living with his widowed mother and a Sheep as their only source of income. When the sheep stops giving wool, Jack's mother tells him to take it to the market to be sold. On the way, Jack meets an old man named Honest John who offers "magic beans" in exchange for the sheep, and Jack makes the trade. When he arrives home without any money, his mother becomes angry, throws the beans on the ground, and sends Jack to bed without dinner.
During the night, the magic beans cause a gigantic beanstalk to grow. The next morning, Jack climbs the beanstalk to a land high in the sky. He finds an enormous castle and sneaks in. Soon after, the castle's owner, a giant, returns home.
Jack climbs the beanstalk twice more. He learns of other treasures and steals them when the giant sleeps: first a goose that lays golden eggs (see the idiom "to kill the goose that laid the golden eggs."), then a harp that plays by itself. The giant wakes when Jack leaves the house with the harp and chases Jack down the beanstalk. When the giant tries to set up his own trap, he accidentally hits his head against it and gets knocked out, making it easy for Jack to escape.
Jack and his mother live happily ever after with the riches that Jack acquired.
Unlike the Thumbelina segment, there is no advertisement for Pirates World, making this version go back to Santa immediately after the segment is finally over.
After the stories of either Thumbelina or Jack and the Beanstalk are done being told, Santa encourages the kids to "always believe". One girl tells Santa that her dog, Rebel, can do anything. The kids leave. Santa takes off his coat and falls asleep once more. He wakes up and puts his coat back on when the kids return in an antique fire engine, singing about how they will help Santa. The engine is being driven by the titular Ice Cream Bunny, whom Rebel has summoned. The Ice Cream Bunny offers to drive Santa to the North Pole and they depart. The children realize Santa's sleigh is still stuck in the sand and wonder what to do before it teleports to the North Pole, waiting for Santa's arrival.
Why It Sucks
- False advertising: It's not a story about Santa meeting the Ice Cream Bunny (they do meet in the end, but the film's advertising tries to make it look like they've already met before), nor is it the movie's plot since it uses other films to pad out the running time.
- The title makes no sense because the bunny in this film looks nothing like ice cream, shows no involvement with ice cream, nor is there any ice cream in the entire film.
- The bunny does not show up until the last 5 minutes of the film.
- Cheap and poor production values.
- It barely even qualifies as a film; if you removed all footage of Thumbelina or Jack and the Beanstalk, the film would literally only be 9 minutes long.
The Main Story
- The Santa segments only exist to justify him telling the stories of Thumbelina or Jack and the Beanstalk.
- In several shots, you can see the sleigh being in different spots than the shot before it.
- At one point, when Santa is frustrated about not being able to move his sleigh, you can see sweat under his pants.
- Tom Sawyer and Huckleberry Finn serve no purpose to the film except to serve extra padding, and are never seen or mentioned again.
- The intended message Santa tries to send to the kids in the film (always believe and never give up), is easily broken by the fact that Santa gives up several times to try getting the sleigh out of the sand.
- The bunny is a cheap, creepy mascot costume who has trouble keeping his eyes to stay straight.
- Numerous plotholes. The most noteworthy one is at the end is as soon as Santa gets onto the Ice Cream Bunny's fire truck, it's revealed that the sleigh could literally teleport back to the North Pole the entire time, making the viewer question why Santa didn't ask for the sleigh to return to the North Pole earlier.
- No real ending; we never know if Santa makes it back to the North Pole.
- Abysmal acting.
- Crappy special effects; the animals Thumbelina comes across are poorly made animal costumes with people in them, and when she flies away with swallow, you can see air conditioners below making the swallow fly.
- The musical numbers are boring and drag the film's running time.
- As soon as the film segment ends, we get a recap of everything we already just saw, to pad out the film's running time.
- Important parts of the story sometimes are explained by the narrator or the characters by explaining what happened instead of showing us.
Jack and the Beanstalk segment
- Abysmal acting.
- Crappy special effects.
- Laughable dialogue, such as the giant saying to his wife "Wife, bring me my creepy-crawlies! Mmmm-mmmmmm!"
- Honest John is never punished for being a con-man, despite showing the peasants organizing a lynch mob against him, but is somehow forgiven by joining in on singing the film's final song.
- The musical numbers are forgettable and boring.