I fondly remember the ABC Weekend Specials and the CBS Storybreaks on Saturday mornings as a kid (oddly, NBC didn’t have anything similar), but strangely I don’t recall having seen this episode before (which I surely would have remembered, since I also loved the book it was based on).
As the title implies, the tale is about a vampire rabbit named Bunnicula (when reading the books I always pronounced it as “bun-ee-CYU-la”, but the special pronounces it as “bun-ICK-yu-la”, I have no idea which (if indeed either) is correct). The premise is markedly similar to the much later Count Duckula cartoon. The titular character is a rabbit who is a vampire, but only drains vegetables. I remember reading the first three books (only three at the time) when I
was in 4th or 5th grade, I absolutely loved them & desperately wished for more. I think I may have read the fourth book in the series, the description sounds somewhat familiar & the timeframe would have been about right, but I don’t recall for certain.
I came upon this special on Youtube the other day. At first I couldn’t believe that an animated version of the book even existed, then I couldn’t believe that I had never heard of it before. It’s been many years since I’ve read the books so I can’t tell how accurate the special is, but it mostly matches up with what I recall (except for the fact that the special blatantly shows Bunnicula as a vampire at certain points, whereas the book always left it as a bit of a mystery). The special was well made & holds up nicely to the test of time, I find it quite fun and charming. As I was watching it, the style seemed familiar & I tried to place it. At first I though the animation felt like Hanna/Barbera, but the art was a little too detailed & the animation a little too fluid (H/B has created many great cartoons over the years, but both their artwork & their animation are decidedly minimalist). As I continued watching,
something in the music & sound effects felt very familiar, I eventually realized that it reminded me of Thundarr the Barbarian. It was then that the pieces fit together & I realized who must have done the special, Ruby-Spears. Ruby-Spears are the same ones who did Thundarr along with many others, most notably Scooby-Doo, and they got their start working for H/B which is no doubt why there are strong similarities between any R/S cartoon and most H/B ones.
This is not officially a holiday special, but it could easily serve as a Halloween special. It could also serve as a crossover special for Easter (similar to The Nightmare Before Christmas being Halloween/Christmas), though the Easter connection is weak, nothing stronger than the fact that it features a rabbit. There is nothing expressly Halloween in the special (besides the obvious vampire connection), but there is a big display of pumpkins in the store, so it clearly occurs at that time of year.