When it comes to British imports and the subject of bears is brought up, most probably immediately think of Paddington or Winnie the Pooh. Few probably recall SuperTed, the Welsh teddy bear brought to life by a spotted alien and given super powers by Mother Nature. SuperTed is similar to Mighty Mouse in that he wears a Superman-like costume and can apparently do Superman-like things.
SuperTed was created by author Mike Young in the 70s. Like a lot of children’s characters, SuperTed was initially created by Young for his child before he realized he had something he could potentially turn into a children’s book. SuperTed got started in literature, and come the 1980s was turned into a cartoon series simply titled SuperTed. Towards the end of the decade, Young would partner with Hanna-Barbera to bring The Further Adventures of SuperTed to the US.
SuperTed is one of those characters I had completely erased from my memory until I stumbled upon this Christmas special as I searched for content to pad this website with. I don’t know how I came upon SuperTed as a child, but I did watch and enjoy it and I lamented to some degree the lack of merchandise for me to bug my parents to buy. I probably watched the Hanna-Barbera cartoon on television, though it’s possible we also rented videos of the series from the local library, if such a thing were possible. I remember no specifics about the series and basically I only recall the character of SuperTed and not his allies or enemies.
The general plot for SuperTed (Derek Griffiths) is he and his alien friend Spotty (Jon Pertwee) travel the world looking to help people. Along the way they are constantly running into the villainous Texas Pete (Victor Spinetti) who is out to enrich himself through illegal means. Texas Pete is joined by two bumbling henchmen, the oafish Bulk (Roy Kinnear) and an effeminate skeleton named, appropriately enough, Skeleton (Melvyn Hayes). As a citizen of the US, I am amused to see the villain of the series is a cartoon Texan, though he has a bit of a Cajun accent going on. He looks a little like Dick Dastardly or the Disney version of Captain Hook. Skeleton is a bit odd since they chose to make what appears to be a homosexual corpse a villain. My guess is if SuperTed were made today the character would be altered considerably.
Every episode of SuperTed begins with a narrator (Peter Hawkins) who tells the viewer how SuperTed came to be. Apparently Spotty (who looks like the love-child of C-3PO and Mr. Poopybutthole from Rick & Morty) found a discarded teddy bear deemed defective and used some space dust to bring him to life. He took him to Mother Nature (in space?) who gave Ted his powers. Again, I remember nothing of this, but the one thing that did jar my memory was seeing Ted transform into SuperTed as it’s this horrifying animation of Ted ripping off his skin to reveal the costume below it. This visual has stuck with me because as a kid I found it really confusing, and a bit frightening. I don’t know if the show ever depicted him doing the inverse and how that worked. Does he just rip his costume off and he’s a bear again? Is he wearing a false suit of fur over his costume at all times? It’s certainly different, but leaves so many questions unanswered.
The episode begins with the narrator informing us it’s Christmas and Father Christmas (this is British, after all) is making a stop. His sleigh is parked outside and appears to have just one reindeer. We soon find out though that this is no Father Christmas, but Texas Pete in disguise! And he doesn’t even have an actual reindeer as it’s clearly a horse with some antlers attached to its head. A little boy is waiting inside the home and he’s apparently none the wiser as Texas Pete enters. Just what is Texas Pete hoping to accomplish this night? It’s not clear, but apparently the real Father Christmas has come and gone since the underside of the tree is loaded with gifts.
The little boy comes down the stairs happy to see “Father Christmas,” who is presently trying to rip the head off of a teddy bear left behind by the real Father Christmas. The boy grabs it and clutches it to his face delighted with his new toy. Pete then picks up him by the back of his shirt and proceeds to drop the boy right on his face! It’s pretty harsh adult on child violence, and the crying kid is sent back to bed leaving Pete to indulge in some cookies Father Christmas left behind while laughing at the camera like the evil madman he is.
Elsewhere, Ted and Spotty are trying to get warm in their hideout, which is apparently a tree house. It looks like a rather ordinary tree house, save for the giant communication equipment on one wall. A buzzer goes off and Ted checks the video monitor. The boy we saw earlier tearfully relays to Ted that Father Christmas has made off with all of his toys and ruined his Christmas. Ted won’t stand for this, and quickly transforms into SuperTed while Spotty puts on his jet pack.
SuperTed rockets off from the tree house with an interesting effect. Apparently he doesn’t just fly like Superman, but has rocket boots or something. Spotty flies off to join him and confesses he doesn’t believe in Father Christmas pondering how he’s to look for something he doesn’t believe in. SuperTed is a bit disappointed in his friend’s lack of faith, but before they can have a proper conversation on the subject they spy a sleigh traveling below them.
As Spotty complains about the abundance of trees on Earth, SuperTed goes after the sleigh. He’s apparently not very fast, or observant, as he lands on the ground and can’t seem to find the sleigh. He’s also lost track of Spotty, who crashed into a tree above him. When he calls out, his voice causes the snow to fall from the tree burying him. Spotty soon follows and expresses some distress about being unable to locate SuperTed. As he calls out for him, SuperTed rumbles below and Spotty mistakes him for an earthquake. The two return to the sky to look for the sleigh, so this whole sequence was just done to pad out the episode and make an attempt at physical comedy.
From the sky, the duo of SuperTed and Spotty are unable to spy the sleigh once again, but SuperTed sees tracks heading to a cottage. They head for it quickly and SuperTed flies down the chimney and ambushes an individual in the house. A young girl (with a lit candle, even though this appears to take place in a post electricity era) hears the commotion, and heads for the living room to find SuperTed atop Father Christmas! She shouts for him to stop, but SuperTed assures her this Father Christmas is a fake. Only he’s not, and the clump of hair SuperTed rips from his chin is proof of that. The traumatized old man begs SuperTed to leave him alone, while he hides the clump of beard hair behind his back and feigns innocence. Spotty then notices the sleigh is gone and some ominous music takes us out of the scene.
Texas Pete, Skeleton, and Bulk are hanging out under a street light. Skeleton is delighted he gets to do some acting as he’s also dressed like Father Christmas. Pete then informs us his grand plan is merely to steal presents. As he does so, he lines up Bulk with a fence that is apparently in their way. Pete and Skeleton then lift Bulk off the ground and use his head as a battering ram to blast through the fence. When his head emerges on the other side, festive baubles dance around Bulk’s head which is a nice touch.
SuperTed and Spotty arrive on a nearby rooftop with SuperTed apparently still in some denial over whether or not he just assaulted the real Father Christmas. Down the street, they spy Skeleton and Bulk as they enter a house via the chimney. Skeleton goes down easy enough, but Bulk has some trouble fitting. He still has the hunk of fence stuck around his neck and it’s genuinely amusing to watch him narrate his process for his getting stuck. SuperTed finds him lodged in the chimney and offers to “help” him get out. He lifts and tosses him off the roof and a bunch of snow piles on him when he hits the ground.
Inside the house, Skeleton has fallen to pieces from hitting the ground after descending the chimney. A dog sees him and soon makes off with his arm. Spotty and SuperTed view him through the window basically just to mock him and wish him a Merry Christmas. He begs for help in retrieving his arm, but Spotty and SuperTed care little for the predicament Skeleton finds himself in.
SuperTed hears Texas Pete calling out in a mock-Father Christmas fashion as he rides away. SuperTed and Spotty quickly go after him. SuperTed reminds Spotty to look out for trees this time, and as Spotty assures him he’ll be fine he, predictably, crashes into a tree. SuperTed, on his own now, lands on Pete’s reindeer and quickly discovers it’s a horse. As he gets jumbled around, he tries to convince Texas Pete to stop, but the fake Father Christmas has no intention of doing so.
Texas Pete grabs SuperTed and flings him onto the sack of toys in the sleigh. SuperTed responds by tossing a toy in his face, which enrages Pete. As he threatens to knock the stuffing out of Ted, he misses with a kick and SuperTed grabs him by the leg and tosses him out of the sleigh. He then climbs onto the horse and pulls hard on the reigns to get it to stop. The camera pans to show us Texas Pete buried in the snow as SuperTed makes a crack about him looking like a snowman.
With Christmas saved, SuperTed, Spotty, and both kids they encountered this evening are at the tree house. The girl thanks SuperTed for returning their presents, but remarks there’s one person missing. When SuperTed questions who she is referring to, she responds, “Father Christmas!” As she looks out of the tree house window, the camera pans up and we see Father Christmas on the roof of the tree house. He turns to the camera, the patch of beard still missing following his brush with SuperTed, and gives a wink.
It’s interesting to me that the title of this one is “SuperTed Meets Father Christmas,” when really it’s “SuperTed beats up Father Christmas.” I guess we’re supposed to have some doubts over who he tangled with and that last shot featuring Father Christmas with a bald spot in his beard is the confirmation. It’s just funny because all of the stuff I read on the franchise mentioned how Young wanted SuperTed to be less violent than other cartoons, and yet here he is assaulting Father Christmas.
The whole plot of this one is pretty thin and not really something worthy of much dissection. Texas Pete wants to steal presents either because he thinks he can sell them or because he’s just a bad guy and wants to spread misery at Christmas. It’s odd that SuperTed stopped him and then apparently just left him? Did he bring him to the police off camera? It sure seemed like the gang could have licked their wounds and just went off to another town to resume their thievery. These cartoons are quite short so there’s likely always going to be some lingering questions, but the time it had could have been spent on such details rather than the sequence of Spotty and the trees.
When SuperTed made the jump to animation, Young basically set out to create a studio himself. The animation staff appears to be pretty small based on the credits and the presentation is overall fairly interesting. The backgrounds look great and the colors are nice. The characters have a floaty quality to how they move, but they also emote quite well. The lighting on the early scene of Texas Pete entering the home is really well done. I guess one might call it a touch rough, but I found it pretty fun to look at.
The design of SuperTed is pleasing enough, though quite basic. I found Spotty to be a bit unappealing as he’s a big spotted yellow guy and Bulk was really boring to look at. Texas Pete is fine though and I do like Skeleton. The Father Christmas here looks like a regular old Santa Claus to me. He also has a lone reindeer on his sleigh which is disappointing, though maybe it’s a regional thing? He’s never shown flying in it either, so no Santa passing in front of the moon shot here!
The voice cast is fine, though I mentioned how Texas Pete has a bit of a confusing accent. The audio though is rather quiet and sometimes understated. The music was better and felt appropriate in terms of loudness. There’s some ominous music in this one that caught me off guard at times. There’s also a SuperTed theme used during the ending credits and it’s not great.
SuperTed is yet another bear from the 80s who feels like he has mostly been left behind by time. This is coming from a US person though so maybe things are different across the Atlantic, but it sure feels like SuperTed took a backseat to Teddy Ruxpin here. I don’t foresee a comeback on the horizon for old Ted, despite attempts by Young as recently as 2016 to reboot the franchise, but his show is available on DVD should you wish to give it a look. The company that owns the distribution rights, Abbey Home Media, seems to have most of the episodes streaming for free on Youtube, though they have a banner on them that is a bit annoying. They do not seem protective of the franchise though, so you can find this streaming elsewhere without that banner should you wish to make your Christmas viewing this year a little extra super.
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