Dec. 18 – Little Dracula – “The Bite Before Christmas”

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Original air date September 6, 1991, the rare Labor Day Christmas special!

There was a huge demand for cartoons in the early 90s. Cable was expanding and needed content for all ages while a new broadcast network was also making noise. That network was Fox, and after scoring primetime hits with Married…with Children and The Simpsons, the network started to look at other areas where it could compete. It would end up placing a premium on original sports content and also children’s programming. Before long, Fox Kids was the premiere destination for cartoons and other kid’s shows forcing the more venerable networks like CBS and ABC to play catch-up. Out of this success came a lot of cartoons people remember fondly, but Fox’s “try anything” philosophy also meant a lot of shows came and went.

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Little Dracula produced a total of 13 episodes, but only 6 aired in 1991 with the rest seeing broadcast in 1999.

One such show is Little Dracula. The Walker Hahns Productions show ran for a mere six episodes in the fall of 1991. Based on a book series of the same name by Martin Waddell, the tagline present on IMDB refers to the titular character as a green-skinned, child, vampire who aspires to be like his father, Big Dracula, yet also enjoys rock ‘n roll and surfing. Sure sounds like a winner! Fox aired just five episodes on its network basically over one week in September and then brought it back for a Halloween special the next month. Despite that, a full 13 episode season was produced and the remaining seven episodes went unaired until 1999 when the show was brought back on Fox Family, likely to fill some time during the Halloween season. The show was released across several PAL VHS tapes (as the books originated in the UK), sometimes paired with other cartoons, and was generously merchandized as well with action figures and various toys. It’s the toy commercial I remember most, which isn’t surprising considering how quickly the show came and went. I know I saw at least a little of this show as a kid and was likely perplexed when it went away, but I moved on and never really thought about the show again. That is, until now!

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This one is going to be a bit different from your normal Christmas special.

Airing in that first group of episodes on Fox Kids was a Christmas episode, “The Bite Before Christmas.” It’s a bit perplexing that Fox elected to air a Christmas episode in September, but my guess is maybe it was going to be held until December but someone at the network just did not like this show and wanted to just get it over and done with. The show was essentially replaced by Beetlejuice, so it’s not as if the network was against horror themed cartoons, but maybe they just didn’t see the appeal of this particular cast of characters. The show may have been short-lived, but it appears the producers at least sprung for a decent cast of actors. They brought in Joe Flaherty from SCTV to handle the role of Big Dracula and gave the roles of Granny and Igor to veteran comedian Jonathan Winters. It’s an amusing little quirk for the show to possess, but obviously it wasn’t enough to impress anyone into ordering more episodes.

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Little Dracula can apparently tolerate sunlight, which I assume has something to do with that ridiculous hat.

How does a family of vampires celebrate Christmas? Well, we’re about to find out. This episode begins with Little Dracula (Edan Gross), his friend Werebunny (Joey Camen), Igor (Jonathan Winters), and Deadwood (Melvyn Hayes) out chopping down a Christmas tree. Little Dracula, sometimes called LD, is wearing a weird looking hat and Werebunny looks more like a bat than a bunny. I don’t know what Igor’s relationship is to everyone, or if he’s even a vampire. He looks like a less gross version of the Walter Cobb character who will show up on The Ren & Stimpy Show eventually. I think he’s the castle’s handyman and inventor. I remember his action figure featured an action in which his brain popped out, so maybe he’s some kind of undead thing. Deadwood is a purple skinned guy in torn shorts and the way he takes orders makes me assume he’s a vampire’s thrall, but during the opening credits it’s shown that Igor may have brought him to life in a Frankenstein’s Monster way.

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Igor and Deadwood are probably my favorite characters. Deadwood likes to make little offhand comments which Igor seems to frown upon, likely because he views him as something akin to a slave or dog, at best.

Igor makes a remark how he loves it when they fight it, in reference to the tree being difficult to chop down, which is rather creepy. He’s going to hitch the tree to a sleigh and makes Deadwood, dressed up as Rudolph, haul it back to the castle. Before doing so, Deadwood makes a remark to the camera so he’s apparently our character capable of breaking the fourth wall. As the sleigh heads back to the castle high up on a hill, Little Dracula informs Werebunny what Christmas is to them. Basically, Big Dracula has been trying to capture Santa for 10,000 years so their custom is to lay traps. Werebunny is horrified by this, but Little Dracula sees no reason to reevaluate his position on Christmas.

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Garlic Man is a wonderfully terrible villain.

As they make their way into the castle, a snowbank rumbles and inside is one of the villains of the show. Maggot (Neil Ross), who looks like a wart-covered goblin, is spying for his boss Garlic Man (Brian Cummings) to see what’s going down at Christmas. Garlic Man resembles a man in a radiation suit, only his head is a bulb of garlic with sunglasses and some kind of mouth apparatus that makes his breathing sound a little like Darth Vader’s. He’s rather absurd looking, but it’s also a bit funny so I like it. At his side is another henchman by the name of No Eyes (Danny Mann). He’s just a big, ugly, dude with no eyes and a cybernetic hand. Garlic Man wants to spring a trap on the Dracula family and I guess destroy them? I don’t know if he possesses a higher purpose. It’s interesting to see the family of monsters who feed on humans as the good guys, which is probably why the villains are so ugly and obviously bad so viewers aren’t confused.

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Mrs. Dracula’s television special is the B plot of this one. The payoff isn’t particularly good so don’t get your hopes off.

Inside the home, Big Dracula (Joe Flaherty) awakens. It’s nighttime, and as he rises from his crypt he hears his wife talking to someone. Mrs. Dracula (Kath Soucie) is speaking into a television camera as she’s apparently hosting a Dracula Christmas program. There’s also a narrator, though he is only heard and not seen which confuses Big Dracula. Mrs. Dracula makes some comment about filling time now that a shopping network is gone and I don’t know if that’s just a one-off remark or if that refers to a previous episode. She hands her hubby a sweater to give him that “Arsenio Hall casual look” which helps to date this one. Dracula rightly points out he’s not a casual guy, but he’ll relent and put it on.

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Even the undead appreciate a nice tree.

The others return and it’s basically time to decorate the house. Their Christmas décor is surprisingly traditional, and we get a look at some other secondary characters. There’s Granny (Winters), a toothless old vampire who apparently wants to smooch Santa. She remarks she hasn’t been kissed in quite a while which is essentially kid’s show speak for saying it’s been awhile since she got laid. We also see the family has a little pet that’s just essentially Thing from The Addams Family. Igor is the one who is going to be responsible for putting together a trap, while Little Dracula and Werebunny are expected to clean up.

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I’m sure this will work.

On the roof, Garlic Man is on the scene dressed as Santa. No Eyes is wearing a reindeer or moose head over his and the eyes are marked with an “X” which is clever. Maggot is there as well dressed as an elf, and they’re a bit confused why Garlic Man wants to pose as Santa when the Draculas intend to capture him. He brushes their concerns aside while pointing out that Dracula is “0 for 10,000” in regards to capturing Santa and jumps down the chimney. In the room below, Little Dracula uses his magic wand to make the base of the fireplace disappear leaving a hole that goes into the basement or somewhere. He does this to sweep a bunch of dirt into it, but it also causes Garlic Man to extend his fall. As Maggot and No Eyes listen above, Maggot comments on how fast Garlic Man must be going while No Eyes sees this as an opportunity to get drunk with their boss gone. He removes his mechanical hand and affixes a tap handle to it instead which dispenses black eggnog. The liquid is coming from somewhere in his body, which doesn’t seem to concern Maggot.

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Horn-ball Granny has some ookies to tame first if she wants to get her man tonight.

Big Dracula and the kids have crafted a massive cage to trap Santa. Little Dracula baits it with hot cocoa while Granny brings in the cookies. Only there was come confusion and she made Christmas “ookies” instead. They’re basically little monsters with adorable stocking hats. Granny tries to subdue them with her hypnotic powers, but she’s apparently well past her vampire prime as the little devils resist until her eyes literally pop out of her head. Those bounce everywhere and the family is forced to track them and the ookies down. Igor also enters to announce he’s finished his part of the trap, and stumbles into the chaos. He adds he built a loveseat for Granny and Santa to enjoy inside it as well, so apparently everyone is in on this whole “get Granny laid” subplot.

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I think Igor just put a sign on the washing machine and called it a Santa trap.

When things are settled down the family gets to celebrating Hawaiin style, apparently for Mrs. Dracula’s show. They’re having a grand old time until their Santa trap is sprung! Excitedly, they go to see what’s inside and Granny dives in first to get her kiss. We hear her smooching up a storm, but when she pulls away a beard and mask are stuck to her kisser. The mask belongs to Garlic Man, who then emerges angrily and retrieves his mask and proceeds to blowing garlic on Big Dracula. Maggot and No Eyes emerge as well and they’re able to round up the family, except for Little Dracula and Werebunny. They run for it, but LD promises they will return, as he uses his wand to create another hole to escape through. I guess that’s all the wand can do? They wind up in LD’s fancy flying car, which I know was released as a toy, and take off. High in the sky, LD radios to some spirit guide network to inform them what happened and request help. He’s pointed to a truck stop, because truckers are apparently tough and nothing else is open on Christmas Eve.

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Your stereotypical tough guys.

Little Dracula and Werebunny enter the truckstop and find a whole bunch of tough looking folks. As the camera pans, we see a Rambo look-alike arm-wrestling with a tough looking dude. There’s a table of ninjas swinging swords and an angry looking muscled woman drinking alone. Even Popeye appears to be enjoying a cold one at the bar. Little Dracula announces to the bar that they require assistance. In the background, we can see the bar TV tuned to the Dracula Christmas Special, which Garlic Man has taken over. A lone voice answers Little Dracula’s call. He sounds like John Wayne, but all we see are his boots.

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You’re in trouble now, Garlic Man, because here comes the big man!

At the Dracula residence, Garlic Man is finally ready to apparently kill Big Dracula. Little Dracula makes his triumphant return though, and he’s brought some backup. The backup he brought is none other than the big man himself, Santa Claus! He jumps from his sleigh to confront Garlic Man who cowers in fear because Santa represents goodness. He wails that he’s melting, but maybe something was lost in translation as he doesn’t melt at all, but rather shrinks until he’s just an ordinary bulb of garlic. Maggot then approaches Santa to ask if he brought him the bicycle he asked for, and Santa produces. He brushes aside Maggot’s badness and essentially puts it all on Garlic Man. Meanwhile, No Eyes has picked up their boss and jumps on Maggot’s handlebars and tells him to get going before anyone notices.

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It just wouldn’t be Christmas if Dracula and Santa didn’t end the night as friends.

With the bad guys departed, attention turns to Big Dracula and Santa. Dracula thanks Santa for his help and expresses a willingness to put their rivalry to bed. Before they can shake hands though, Mrs. Dracula’s show gets his attention once again as the narrator is signing off. He demands to know where the voice is coming from, as this has been a running gag all episode, and Little Dracula picks up a microphone and opens it up to reveal a tiny person with a huge mouth inside, a rather tepid payoff though I don’t really know where they could have gone with this. Granny then goes after what she wants, and gets it. As she smooches Santa her head pops off when he recoils. The camera quickly pans to a group shot of the rest of the family who wave and do the customary wishing of a happy holiday as the episode ends.

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The special ends with perhaps the least festive “Merry Christmas” I can recall seeing.

Well that was certainly something. Horror themed Christmas specials are pretty interesting and a welcomed change of pace, even if the horror elements are rather minimal. The best gag was probably Deadwood reaching into a stocking and pulling out a severed foot. The books apparently had lots of gross gags like this that the cartoon really couldn’t get away with. This show visually is all right, no better or worse than what was common in the era. Igor had some fun lines here and there, and it was bizarre watching the characters try to corral Granny’s eyes, but little else stood out as memorable. The lead character, Little Dracula, is possibly the worst part of the show as he doesn’t contribute much. The cliché vampire accent he speaks with makes it tough to understand what he’s saying, not that he’s ever saying anything worth hearing. He makes too many puns involving the word “Drac” (his favorite being Drac Attack) to the point where it feels like each episode had a quota on them or something that they needed to hit.

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Garlic Man turned out to have a rather major weakness.

I mostly liked the villains, even if their motivations are a bit perplexing. Garlic Man’s plan worked, but he just kind of sits on his hands and waits for Little Dracula to save the day. Maggot and No Eyes are actually refreshing as they were not depicted as comically inept henchmen. Instead they’re more like abused help and it shows when Garlic Man takes his fall and they see it as an opportunity to essentially drink on the job rather than go to their boss’s aid. Santa had a fairly conventional design with the only notable element being he goes sleeveless in this universe. The John Wayne voice was an interesting choice. I don’t know that it works, but at least it’s different. The ultimate resolution of the episode was quite weak though as Santa literally just had to stand in Garlic Man’s presence to defeat him. The show may not have had the budget for a true action scene, but man, is that weak.

As for Christmas cheer, there’s not a whole lot here. Sure, Santa saves the day, but he doesn’t impart any message or anything. We don’t even get the full Santa experience as the show apparently lacked the budget for reindeer. They appear briefly and don’t appear to be even animated. It did avoid the Santa in front of the moon sequence though, which is notable in and of itself. There is some festive décor going on in this episode, but that’s rather minimal as well. Most of the Christmas stuff is basically contained to the opening moments where the characters chop down a tree and a group of zombies moan carols briefly.

Still, horror tinged Christmas shows are hard to come by and if that’s something you like then this might be worth a look. Little Dracula is not a highly regarded cartoon or one that is well-remembered, despite it seemingly being average as opposed to poor. As a result, it’s not streaming on any of the major platforms nor is it available on DVD. Since it’s essentially a dead IP, you can find this and other episodes on YouTube for free. Your only other option would be to track down a PAL VHS cassette and I don’t even know if this episode was released on any of them. You probably wouldn’t want to do that anyways so YouTube is your best option.


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