Dec. 16 – Ace Ventura: Pet Detective – “The Reindeer Hunter”

Original air date December 9, 1995

The year 1994 feels like it belonged to Jim Carrey. Prior to ’94, Carrey was just another actor trying to make his way through Hollywood. He did some stand-up and even starred in a film, but he had yet to really make it. After being cast on the sketch comedy series In Loving Color, Carrey’s status began to rise. He stole the show, and soon found himself entertaining roles from Hollywood. His first big hit, arriving in February of 1994, was Ace Ventura: Pet Detective. The film was largely nonsensical, but the role of Ace Ventura allowed Carrey to basically just do what he did best at the time: act like a screwball cartoon character. There wasn’t much separating the character of Ace Ventura from Carrey’s stand-up or even his characters from In Living Color, such as Fire Marshall Bill. While the film wasn’t exactly a hit with the critics, it was at the box office and Carrey soon found himself among the ranks of the Hollywood A-Listers.

Following Ace Ventura, came The Mask in July and then Dumb and Dumber closed out the Year of Carrey in December of 1994. For Carrey, he began the year as a budding comedian on television and finished it as a big-shot. A sequel for Ace Ventura was fast-tracked for release in 1995 and it too performed well. Though by the time the credits rolled on the sequel, Carrey was likely priced-out of any future sequels for the franchise, just as he was for The Mask.

Whenever a film is a hit, studios naturally look to extract as much money as possible from it. With an Ace Ventura 3 starring Carrey unlikely, Warner Bros. turned to television writer Duane Capizzi to craft a cartoon series based on the character. When a film makes the jump from the big screen to the small screen, there’s always a risk audiences will reject it. Especially when we’re talking about a character like Ace Ventura who was basically just Jim Carrey. Will audiences accept what is essentially a caricature? It’s an important question to ask since there’s virtually no chance of an actor of Carrey’s stature coming with the project, and Ace Ventura: Pet Detective the animated series was no exception. Still, the mere subject of a pet detective leading a wacky cartoon has some promise. Kids like animals and comedy, so perhaps it had a chance? CBS was certainly banking on that when it committed to 13 episodes for the fall 1995 television series and the show did well enough to return for another 13 episodes in 1996. Following that though, CBS apparently lost interest and the Saturday morning block was waning. The show did find new life on Nickelodeon with 15 new episodes produced to air in 1999-2000, along with the returning 26 episodes previously aired. In that sense, the show was a modest success it would seem, though it did fail to get to that magical syndication number of 65 episodes.

The show forgoes opening credits and gets straight to it. Oh, joy.

For the show’s very first episode, it turned to Christmas. This is not unprecedented as the most famous cartoon series ever, The Simpsons, did the same thing. In the case of that more illustrious show, it premiered with the Christmas episode because the show’s first episode was rejected due to how it had been animated. The Christmas episode was ready, and it was also December. It basically had to air on time, so the decision was made to delay the official series premiere to January and air the Christmas episode as a “Sneak Peek” in December of 1989. Fox would repeat the trick with Life with Louie years later. As far as I know, this particular episode of Ace Ventura, “The Reindeer Hunter,” is the first episode in production order. It doesn’t feel like a series premiere though, so it wouldn’t shock me if it wasn’t. It premiered on December 9, 1995 with the second episode not airing until January 20, 1996. I suppose I could have watched that episode to see if it operated like more of a series introduction, but I really don’t want to. And you’ll soon see why.

The cartoon version of Ace Ventura is basically no different from his film counterpart, save for the fact that he’s voiced by Michael Daingerfield (then credited as Michael Hall), a fellow Canadian as well. His voice wouldn’t be confused for Carrey’s, but he seems to have the timing and inflections down. Expect to hear plenty of “All-righty-then” from him. Ace is still a pet detective and he’s joined by his monkey, Spike (Richard Binsley). For this premiere episode, Ace has to take a very important case for someone has abducted perhaps the most famous pets of all: Santa’s reindeer!

This one gets right to the Santa-moon shot, only with a crescent moon instead of a full moon.

The episode begins with a cheery Santa up at the North Pole preparing for Christmas. The image pans out and we see this was just a television. Soon, the real Santa passes overhead and soars past the rare Christmas Eve crescent moon to land on a nearby building. This isn’t exactly an idyllic Christmas image as we’re in hot, sticky, Miami and Santa expresses his displeasure at that almost immediately upon exiting his sleigh. He’s an appropriately chunky Santa, though his reindeer are a bit on the ugly side. It’s sort of in-line with a lot of post Ren & Stimpy cartoons looking to be a bit on the ugly side as the heads of the reindeer are quite triangular with ugly teeth jutting out of their mouth.

Someone wants to abduct these ugly-ass reindeer.

As Santa squeezes his bulbous form down the chimney, a shadow appears over the reindeer. A large figure tosses a sack over them and we smash-cut to the episode’s title card. We’re then introduced to the hero of the show: Ace Ventura. He’s in his apartment and he’s apparently cranked the air conditioner as he has penguins joining him as he’s seated on the couch with his monkey, Spike. It’s so cold in the apartment that there is actually snow falling from the ceiling.

An uncommon sight for Miami, though really, an uncommon sight inside any apartment.

Ace is called upon to answer the door and it’s the building superintendent, Mr. Schickadance (Vince Corazza). He has a problem with the snow, which is something a good super would have concern with. He apparently lives next door as he gestures to his wall which is covered with ice. Ace points out that there’s no “No Snow” designation on the sign for the complex as there is with a “No Pets” (though he has pets, so he obviously wouldn’t feel beholden to such a proclamation anyway). In short: the snow stays.

Old Santa apparently keeps Ace on the speed dial for just such an occasion.

Ace then receives a phone call and he’s skeptical of its source. The gentleman on the other end is claiming to be Santa Claus, so Ace tests him by asking him what he got for Christmas last year. Santa “aces” the quiz as he brought Ace a salon chair for crafting his unique hairstyle. With that out of the way, Ace hears him out. Turns out, Santa’s reindeer have gone missing in Miami and he needs Ace to help him find the reindeer. Surprisingly, the timing of this whole thing isn’t played up as much as it could be considering it’s Christmas Eve. You would think one little hang-up would really throw Santa off schedule, and this is hardly a little hang-up.

Cheeky.

Ace agrees to meet with Santa so he heads out to his car with Spike at his side. There we see that his license plated reads “Pet Dick,” and while I understand that dick is another name for detective, I’m still surprised CBS let the show get away with that. Mr. Schickadance is outside as well changing the sign to read to “No Snow. ” He’s on a ladder, so you can probably guess what happens next as Ace drives away…

Don’t worry, kids, we got Ace on the case!

Ace joins Santa at the scene of the crime. Finding no clues, he begins questioning Santa in order to deduce a motive. He asks him who might hate his guts, and Santa seems rather shocked at the mere suggestion someone might dislike him. Ace asks him to produce his naughty list and is then dismayed when he unfurls it and it’s long enough to roll off the side of the building and continue on down the street. He hands Santa the keys to his apartment, noting this investigation could take a while, and then starts with the top name on the list, a certain Akak the Clown.

A good, sneaking, disguise at Christmas time, I suppose.

Akak is apparently the clown mascot of a local burger joint. Ace spots him leaving his restaurant with a bag of food. Declaring they need disguises, Ace emerges from a costume shop dressed as a snowman and stalks Akak through the streets. When the clown removes a large sack from the back of his trunk, Ace pounces on him only to find the bag filled with toys. He then rules Akak out, and proceeds down the list. A sequence of slamming doors is then presented as Ace apparently finds no leads. He them enters a museum looking for a Larry Asta…something. He’s dismayed to find he’s not out of the “A’s” yet, but does find this Larry fellow in the midst of a heist. Pointing his carrot nose like a gun and doing an Al Capone impression, he holds the crook up and demands answers. It would seem there’s a big caper going down tonight, but it’s not related to any reindeer. When Ace asks where they are, the crook is dumb-founded, but suggests he asks the shady looking guys on the roof across the street who are about to get into a getaway chopper.

The monkey is definitely the smartest one.

Ace races over to the roof of the department store and finds three dudes placing a sack into a helicopter. One is kind of green and monstrous looking, another is your typical giant lug, and the third looks like a little scientist type. Ace demands they cease what they’re doing, but they disregard him. As they take-off, Ace grabs onto the lab coat of the science guy. The thug simply pulls the little man into the copter, while letting him out of his coat, causing Ace to plummet to what should be his death. Rather he lands atop a giant Christmas tree, which was on the roof of the building, which then bends causing him to land on the roof of a police cruiser below.

It’s at this point I think I’ll be okay with them killing off the star 8 minutes into the series.

There Ace is confronted by Officer Emilio (Bruce Tubbe) and Sargent Aguado (Al Waxman). They know Ace from around town and aren’t exactly happy to see him. Emilio helps him up and when Ace tells them to put out an “APB” for a helicopter, Aguado laughs at him and taunts him with, “Why? Have Santa’s reindeer been kidnapped?!” between laughs. When Ace confirms that’s exactly what happened, it doesn’t change the situation. Emilio actually tries to tell him when he talks crazy it makes it harder for him to be of any assistance, and Ace responds by talking through his butt. The two officers have a function to attend that night and they drive off with the giant star still lodged in their car leaving Ace alone with his piece of evidence. Ace then notices the lab coat has the unmistakable odor of lady’s perfume on it, so he runs into the department store to conduct some research.

This is Ace Ventura, so expect some ass-play.

At the cosmetics counter, Ace sprays various perfumes in his face trying to find the right fragrance. All the while, a female clerk tries to warn him against perfume overdose, apparently a thing. Ace doesn’t listen and ends up passing out. A doctor has to come help revive him, and when he awakens he notices a display with an unusual looking woman holding a perfume bottle. It’s the fragrance he’s looking for! The clerk is able to tell him that the woman is Atrocia Odora (Pam Hyatt) and it turns out her factory is in town.

That’s no reindeer!

Ace heads over to the Odora plant and finds the helicopter from earlier on the roof. Spike gets to work sabotaging the chopper so it can’t be utilized as an escape route later, which is far smarter a plan than I would have expected of Ace. He then enters the factory from the roof and finds a big, white, sheet with “No Peeking” printed on it draped over a cage. Thinking this is where the reindeer are, Ace triumphantly removes it only to find an albino alligator roaring at him. The goons from earlier then spot him and are surprised he survived the fall. As Ace goes into some posing routine explaining his death-defying prowess, the big guy does a butt stomp on him. With Ace subdued, the green guy puts on a Santa outfit to go alert the boss.

The villain of the episode (series?), Atrocia Odora.

As the fake Santa enters another room, we see it’s a police officer function hosted by Odora herself. Disguised as Santa, the little guy is able to get over to Odora to alert her of what’s happening in the factory. She excuses herself to go check things out. Inside, Ace has been freed from the large buttocks and is using his karate maneuvers on the big guy, to no effect, while Spike is harassing the scientist guy. Once Odora enters the big guys retrains Ace in a more conventional manner than before by simply grabbing his arms.

Odora immediately notices the various odors on Ace’s shirt and warns him about the dangers of mixing fragrances noting he smells “louder than his shirt.” Ace demands to know where the missing reindeer are, but Odora instructs her men to dispose of him. As she walks away, Ace declares he knows her type and that she is eager to reveal her sinister plan. She deadpans it doesn’t bother her and continues out the door. Ace counts down aloud from 3, and she enters on 1 declaring that she does indeed need to tell him all about it.

That is certainly a sight.

Odora then explains she intends to create a treatment for aging. As she goes into her big, villain, speech, Ace plugs his ears and sings “We Wish You a Merry Christmas” via a sequence of “La’s.” This just enrages and annoys Odora and she has her men restrain him once again. Odora then explains her enemy is aging for as we age things become loose and sag, as she describes the various body parts starting with the face that fall victim to this Ace stops her before she can get past the neck. She then explains that Santa’s reindeer possess the unusual ability to defy gravity and reasons the secret must be in their glands. The professor then wheels in a contraption containing all 8 of Santa’s reindeer. They’re confined with their rear pointing up and a giant syringe is poised above them. It’s pretty kinky, though the reindeer do not look like they’re into these kinds of reindeer games.

At least Spike is enjoying himself.

Odora leaves Ace with an explanation about a death trap she has laid for him as she heads back to the party. As she does though, Spike hitches a ride on the back of her blazer while the goons drag Ace off to certain death. As they do, he reveals to them, out of a sense of moral obligation, that his monkey has escaped and is undoubtedly seeking help. We then cut to Spike at the party stuffing his face with food.

I really don’t like Ace’s character model.

Ace is then dragged away, all the while pleading, and in the process he opens the cage of the albino alligator. The ornery, and surprisingly bipedal, reptile chases the two goons up onto a giant chemical vat. Ace dusts himself off and informs the crooks this is what happens when you mess with him, mistaking the alligator for an ally. It then takes note of him and starts chasing him around the factory forcing Ace to exit into the party. Seeing all of the police in one place, he gets the sensible idea to inform them what’s going on in the other room. When Ace reveals that Odora should be arrested for abducting Santa’s reindeer, the suggestion is met with laughter.

At Ace’s apartment, we check-in with Santa to find him watching TV while one of Ace’s penguins searches for food in his beard. While channel-surfing, Santa stumbles onto apparent live coverage of the function and Ace pleading with the cops to arrest Odora. They’re not taking him seriously, and Emilio tries to reason with Ace by letting him know he’s not helping his cause. Ace then decides they’d probably like to arrest him, and he goads them into doing so while Aguado shouts “he’s disturbing the peace! Arrest him!” As Ace runs off, it’s clear he intends to lead the pursuing officers into the factory. Odora catches wind of the plan and counters in a fiendishly clever way: the dessert tray!

Never fear, Santa is here!

Ace races over to the captive reindeer, but all of the officers have abandoned the chase in pursuit of something sweet. The two other goons have also somehow returned the alligator to his cage, and the third goon still dressed as Santa re-enters the room. With Ace surrounded, it looks like his goose is cooked, but here comes Santa Claus! He swoops in like Tarzan to take out the impostor Santa, then turns his attention to the big guy. He takes him out with a series of kicks, leaving the professor for Ace. He yanks off the little guy’s glasses, and since this is a cartoon, this renders him blind.

Ace living out every kid’s fantasy.

With that guy out of the way, Ace is able to free the reindeer and not a moment too soon as they were about to be “penetrated” by the giant needles. The impostor Santa grabs one of the giant needles and charges towards Ace, but he’s saved by the reindeer. Flying high in the factory, Ace notices the fake Santa has turned his attention to the real Santa. As he charges Santa, Ace swoops in on his reindeer and crashes into him causing the needle to stab into the machinery. This apparently causes an overload of some kind, and the goons beat a hasty retreat.

That’s unfortunate.

Or they would, if it not for the fact that their helicopter was sabotaged! As Ace compliments Santa on his fighting prowess, the copter explodes and the three goons fall from the sky. They land right on Mr. Schickadance, who was still hanging from his sign after Ace took out his ladder. Santa then bids Ace farewell with an uncharacteristic “Heigh-ho, reindeer away!” He thanks Ace, and Ace responds with a “Wait until you see my bill!” He then remembers Spike is still in the building, and he’s been eating this whole time and apparently it’s caught up to him as he gets sick all over Odora’s lap.

I’m surprised we had to wait until the final act for a vomit gag.

Ace stops in front of the giant Odora #5 tank to declare it’s about to blow in a comedic fashion. He then heads into the party to pass this warning on to the police inside, though he’s more interested in making puns. He warns Aguado he’s about to receive a white Christmas as the whole thing blows up covering everyone in white cream. It also frees the rare, albino, alligator which was likely stolen from somewhere and is enough to get Odora arrested.

Ever see an albino alligator covered in cosmetics?

We then catch-up with Ace on the beach as his skin is now bone white. He needs to catch some rays in order to return his skin to some form of normal, and he has Santa along beside him. Ace gives Santa a Christmas present and it’s a shirt just like Ace’s to go along with Santa’s new hairstyle, which Ace reveals by yanking off Santa’s hat. Apparently Santa has co-opted Ace’s signature ‘do, and he goes into a nervous, stammering, explanation as the episode ends.

Now that’s a Miami Christmas.

And that is how Ace Ventura rescued Santa’s reindeer and saved Christmas! All in all, it was mostly what I expected. For better or worse, the Ace Ventura presented here is true to its big screen counterpart. He’s constantly rambling, sometimes its nonsensical, but mostly it’s surprisingly lucid. He’s a far more capable detective, I mean dick, than expected despite his slightly unorthodox approach. It’s a solid premise to incorporate Christmas into the show, and I suppose it was entertaining to kids who liked the films. For me, I was definitely ready for it to be over as a little Ace goes a long way.

The character designs did little for me.

Visually the show is rather ugly. It’s at least bright with a fairly robust color palette, but it’s also super basic. No shading or lighting to speak of and the character designs are a bit crude and ugly. There’s nothing really unique about it as even the three bad guys have a very bland look to them. The voice cast is serviceable, and I think Daingerfield does a good job with what he has, but none of the other cast members do much to stand out. I did like Pam Hyatt’s performance as Odora. And that’s a fun name for a villain too: Atrocia Odora. She has a little Cruella in her and it’s not very subtle.

I think Ace Ventura is just a character you either love or hate, with little room for in-between.

Given all of that, it’s not at all surprising that the cartoon version of Ace Ventura is rarely referenced. The show basically came and went, airing in the waning days of the CBS Saturday Morning before heading to cable to die. I am rather surprised it ever made it to a major network, but that was the power of Jim Carrey in the mid-90s, even if he had nothing to do with the cartoon. This one feels more like a USA show. Regardless, if you like the movies then there’s a reasonably good chance you’ll like this portrayal. And if you want to view it, you’ll probably have to track down a DVD or pay for a streaming option. It’s not terribly expensive, but I also wouldn’t really call it worth it either.


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