Author Archives: Joe

Dec. 5 – The Weekenders – “Worst Holiday Ever”

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“The Worst Holiday Ever” originally aired December 2, 2001.

When I was a kid, and going as far as back as the 1970s, Saturday morning meant one thing:  cartoons! Usually beginning at 7 AM, all of the broadcast networks came at me with full cartoon force. Now, rarely was I awake that early and programmers seemed to know that. The earliest hours were often dominated by shows aiming at a younger audience and as the morning went on the target demographic would shift ever so slightly. Come 11 o’clock was when I really got my jam on as that’s when X-Men would air on the Fox Kids Network. Not long after, Spider-Man would join the party and force me to make sure I was awake by 10.

Fox Kids was where I spent most of my Saturday morning, but it was obviously not the only kid on the block. CBS had cartoons like Skeleton Warriors and eventually Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles. ABC was there as well usually with Disney properties like The New Adventures of Winnie the Pooh and also with the occasional odd-ball like that cartoon based on MC Hammer. ABC was also unique as it would usually devote one Friday per year to its Saturday programming by having TGIF change format to be a preview of the new cartoons coming in the fall. It was smart of the network considering TGIF was largely viewed by children even though it tried to play-up that it was family entertainment.

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The good old days.

In 1997, ABC rebranded its Saturday morning block as ABC’s One Saturday Morning which eventually became Disney’s One Saturday Morning. It’s five hours of summer once per week, which is what the network wanted us to think, but mostly it was just five hours of cartoons I didn’t care about. I was aging out of this stuff, as I explained on the Sam & Max post, and ABC really wasn’t trying to win me back with stuff like Recess and Doug.

Maybe I should have stuck around because Saturday morning cartoons are now dead. Ratings probably played a role, but mostly I think it’s due to the proliferation of cable. Most of the networks are owned by a parent company that also has dedicated cable channels for cartoons and children’s programming. ABC, for instance, is owned by Disney which has several channels. In the 90s, there were still plenty of cable-less households. I was one for some time and I think my next door neighbors resisted the temptation for my entire childhood. Now, if a house doesn’t have cable it’s because streaming was found to be a better, and more affordable, option. In other words, cartoons are everywhere, and Saturday morning lost its novelty as a result. It’s a shame, but I get it and it’s not like kids today can miss something they never had.

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Left to right we have Tino, Lor, Tish, and Carver.

A late arrival for Disney’s One Saturday Morning was The Weekenders. By the time this episode aired, the programming block had changed to just ABC Kids, likely reflecting the fact that Disney had purchased Fox Family Worldwide and wanted to piggy-back on the Fox Kids branding which had been the most popular of the Saturday morning blocks. The Weekenders is an animated sitcom created by Doug Langdale that follows the lives of four seventh graders:  Tino, Lor, Carver, and Tish. Each kid comes from a different background and the differences between each often drive the plot of each episode. Tino (James Marsden) is an Italian-American boy from divorced parents. Lor (Grey DeLisle) is a tomboy from a large family, Carver (Phil LaMarr) is an African-American boy who appears to really be into fashion, and Tish (Kath Soucie) is a Jewish American of Lithuanian descent. And as we’re about to see, these kids all celebrate a different holiday come December.

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Tino explains the lack of snow in their lives.

The Weekenders begins with a song by Wayne Brady, who was still all over ABC in the early part of the millennium. After the upbeat, but long, song concludes we get right down to business. No title cards here, but this thing is titled “The Worst Holiday Ever.” It begins with Tino giving us a chalkboard lesson on how he and his friends celebrate different holidays. He’s voiced by James Marsden, only his voice has been pitched up and it sounds like James Marsden on helium. I don’t like it. We’re about to get a look at one holiday experience shared by all four kids.

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Granny’s beloeved RV: Ol’ Angus.

The setting for this show is a fictional city modeled after San Diego. As such, these kids have never experienced snow and that’s the driving force behind the plot to this one. Lor’s grandmother, simply referred to as Granny (Kerri Kenney Silver), is going to take the kids on a little RV trip to the mountains to find some snow. The kids pile into the rough-looking RV and hit the road. The enthusiasm seems muted, but Granny is certainly a character as she’s rather rough around the edges and seems to have an affinity for powdered foods.

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Granny, the intended comic relief of the episode, is more annoying than funny.

An annoying holiday song plays us through a driving montage that ends at the base of a park. A park ranger by the name of Trooper Sue (Soucie) informs Granny that a big snowstorm is coming and the roads are impassable beyond where they are. Granny tells the kids they’re going to camp here for the night and see how things turn out in the morning. When they wake up on Saturday (I assume most episodes take place over a weekend, given the show’s title) they find themselves surrounded by snow and unable to move. Stuck in the RV, the kids are forced to amuse themselves with stories and that’s the framing device for this sucker.

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I can identify with this.

Lor tells us about the worst Christmas she ever experienced. It involved a holiday gathering and we see a scene of her very large family at Christmas. It looks like chaos and it reminds me of my own holiday gatherings at my grandparents’ house where my dad was one of nine kids. That place turned into a warzone real fast. Lor’s story involves her PE teacher visiting, Coach Colson (LaMarr). He apparently brought a big bowl of mashed potatoes for dinner, and Lor is going to witness him dropping them on the floor and then scooping them back into the bowl with his bare hands.

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If this cartoon had been made in 92 there would probably be puddles of barf all over the place.

At dinner, everyone is enjoying the potatoes except Lor. She knows their horrible secret and refuses to eat them. However, she also fears retribution from the coach should she out his deed. She ends up eating everything on her plate, except the potatoes, and hopes for the best. After dinner though, everyone is getting violently ill except Lor. She’s left to hand out buckets, and all of the gross stuff is merely implied as opposed to shown because we’re no longer in the 90s, folks. Feeling she can’t keep it in any longer, she reveals what happened to the potatoes. Granny corrects her though and says some potatoes falling on the floor won’t make you sick. Then she posits it could have been the liver stew she made for dinner that had apparently been maturing in her trunk since last Christmas. Lor was apparently the only one who didn’t sample that monstrosity.

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Tino’s mom apparently has a thing for red flashlights.

The end result of the night, and Lor’s story, is that she had to clean up after everyone and Coach Colson still punished her anyway with remedial chores during practice. Next up is Tino, who is going to try to top Lor’s awful holiday with a tale of his own. Because we have four kids who all need to celebrate something different, Tino gets to celebrate the Winter Solstice. Normally associated with paganism, Tino’s family just celebrates it because his mom got sick of Christmas. It would have been interesting to see a Pagan or Wiccan family, but Tino gets to distinguish himself by being the child of divorced parents.

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That’s one hell of a hairstyle.

Even though they don’t celebrate Christmas, their house sure looks like one that does. They have a tree, and since Tino’s mom (Lisa Kaplan) grew frustrated with the tangled up lights, she’s hanging flashlights instead (why do they have so many flashlights?) while Tino hangs stockings. He puts up one for his dad, which his mom objects to. She does so in a sensitive manner, but then does the divorced parent no-no of basically bad mouthing the absent parent if front of the kid. She apologizes, and then tells Tino she invited a neighbor over for dinner to share in the holiday.

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She definitely seems like the type of woman who would have that license plate.

That neighbor is Totie Weems (Soucie), and she’s an old, judgmental, lady. She basically bad mouths Tino’s mom to her face for being divorced referencing how divorced moms were essentially shunned back in her day. She’s a pretty awful dinner guest, and things get worse when it’s revealed she invited her nephew over as well. He comes in wearing headphones and sunglasses apparently oblivious to all around him. He just stuffs his face with food and makes a mess of the place while Totie settles in on the couch to do some knitting. In order to have a quiet, holiday, moment, Tino and his mom flee the house to her Jeep where they sit in the darkness and embrace one another. It’s pitifully sweet.

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Carver’s pointless tale. Once again, it’s Kwanzaa that gets the shaft.

With Tino’s story over it’s now time for Carver’s. Seeing as how he’s the black kid, his holiday story is about the worst Kwanzaa ever. His story is also the shortest. It’s just a one-note joke about Carver opening a Kwanzaa gift. He likes it, but then discovers he’s wearing miss-matching socks. The embarrassment results in him declaring it the worst Kwanzaa ever! When the other kids point out how silly his story is, he revises it to include a swarm of insects and aliens. It’s his story, after all.

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I wouldn’t eat that.

Tish now gets her chance to describe the worst Hanukkah ever. She explains how each year her mother bakes names into a knish and serves it in the lead-up to the holiday. When each member of the family eats their piece, they find the name of the person they’re to buy a gift for. Tish gets her aunt, and she’s elated because her aunt is famously easy to buy for as she only loves two things:  cats and mugs. When the day of the celebration arrives though, Tish is thrown a curveball by her cousin who comes baring a gift for Tish even though she didn’t pick her name.

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Someone in Tish’s family has an adorable monkey. That’s the story I want to hear!

Tish doesn’t know how to respond, so she lies and says she has a gift for her cousin too. She races upstairs to dig through her closet and ends up finding a sweater that still has the tags on it. She boxes it and gives it to her cousin, who is angered to find out it’s a re-gift of the present their cat-loving aunt gave the two of them last year. Not only does this anger Tish’s cousin, but her aunt starts to cry, and someone’s pet monkey, Oliver (Robbie Rist), angrily hands over a half-eaten bag of peanuts. Apparently, Oliver drew Tish’s name in the gift exchange. Anyways, there’s a freaking pet monkey with a hat! Talk about burying the lede!

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Must be some of that dreaded quick-snow I keep hearing about.

With Tish’s story concluded, all of the kids have shared an awful holiday experience. That just leaves Sunday to come when the kids find out the roads won’t be cleared enough for them to travel further, so it’s back home they need to go. They wanted to experience the snow though, so they head out to play in the snow outside the now dug-out RV and immediately sink into the ground. That’s not really how snow works, but whatever.

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Granny and her granny.

The grumpy kids then need a lesson from Granny, who shares her own holiday story that took place years ago with her great-grandmother. While picking berries, they happened upon a turkey caught in a trap. They freed the bird and seemed ready to continue on their way, but a horde of angry turkeys caught sight of them. In a scene reminiscent of South Park‘s first Thanksgiving special, Granny and her granny are chased by the birds and forced to seek shelter in a cave. The birds won’t enter the cave because it’s the home of a hibernating bear.

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That’s a menacing group of turkeys, and yet it’s a group of crows that gets to be called a murder.

The two old women (Granny has apparently always been old) make the most of their surroundings and eat snow, make a snow tree, and catch some Z’s. The next morning, they try to make their escape, but the turkeys spot them. They chase them off a cliff. With the two women dangling precariously by a scarf, the turkey from the day before that they rescued shows up and makes the save. And that’s why Granny doesn’t eat turkey at Christmas, but will for basically any other occasion.

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Just let them fall, please.

This all leads into a lesson from Granny that the only thing that matters is spending the holidays with people you care about. It’s a rather conventional, but effective, message. The kids come to realize this adventure wasn’t so bad, and as they journey home Granny decides to pull over so they can play in the snow one more time. There’s far less where they stop, but still enough to make a snowman.

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More grumbling ensues.

So it turns out the kids had a pretty fine holiday, in the end. And that’s how our story ends. This thing is rather packed, so there’s really no attempt at educating the audience on the differences between the holidays celebrated by the main characters. Really, it doesn’t even matter that they were different as all of the celebrations are pretty much the same. Except Granny’s, of course, which was just an oddball story. Of the five, I suppose I liked Tino’s the most. It had the humorous visual gag of hanging flashlights on a tree plus a rather sweet ending. Tish’s was the most conventionally horrifying as no one likes to be surprised with a gift from someone when they don’t have one to give, nor does anyone like getting caught in a re-gift. Lor’s story was mostly fine, while calling Carver’s half-assed would be generous. And I found Granny’s story to be pretty stupid.

The segments in between the stories were mostly intended to be funny with lots of jokes at Granny’s expense. Or rather, through her. Powdered food is referenced several times as well as Granny’s beef jerky. None of it is particularly humorous, but the kids do interact with each other in a rather authentic manner that I found refreshing. The ultimate message of the special is rather bland. I’m not even sure if it was effective.

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In the end, they get their act together and mostly do fine. This is fine.

The Weekenders is a rather interesting show for what it’s attempting. Despite its initial success, dethroning Pokémon in the ratings when it premiered, the show sort of fizzled out and hasn’t really been heard from since. It made the jump to expanded cable via the Toon Disney channel before wrapping in 2004 where it hasn’t been heard from since. Disney is rather notorious for releasing incomplete versions of its television properties to retail, but The Weekenders hasn’t even been gifted with that. If you want to watch this, you’ll have to look it up online. How much you enjoy it probably depends on your level of nostalgia for the program. For me, I have zero nostalgia for it so I just found it all right. The animation is fine, but the character designs are just a touch better than Klasky-Csupo, which I mostly despise. This isn’t the type of cartoon I went for as a kid, but I appreciate that it exists. If you want a more grounded holiday special (excluding the ridiculous turkey segment) you could do worse.

 


Dec. 4 – The Adventures of Sam & Max: Freelance Police – “Christmas Bloody Christmas”

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Original Air Date December 20, 1997

Come 1997 I was moving away from what is largely considered “kid’s stuff.” I was in my teens and gearing up for high school and the Fox Kids I had grown up with was changing. My beloved X-Men came to an end that year and with it came my disinterest in Saturday morning cartoons. I preferred to stay up late on a Friday and sleep in till near noon on Saturday, and when I did wake, I often went straight for the computer or my PlayStation. As a result, I totally missed out on The Adventures of Sam & Max:  Freelance Police. It views like the heir apparent to Fox’s previous version of The Tick. Both are rather offbeat, comedy, comics geared towards a slightly more mature audience than the conventional super hero books and both had to be toned down in order to work on network television. How they both got to where they ended up was quite different though.

Sam & Max were largely created by artist/writer Steve Purcell. They actually originated in a comic his brother Dave created as a kid. He’d leave his unfinished works around the house and Steve would playfully finish them often completely changing the tone and poking fun at what his brother started. Eventually he started coming up with his own stories for the duo and as a birthday present in the 70s his brother signed over rights to the characters for Steve so that he could explore an official way to distribute his stories.

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Sam & Max’s foray into television only lasted one season despite being well received.

Sam is an anthropomorphic dog in detective clothing. He’s sort of the straight man in the pair and takes his work seriously, but is also prone to his natural canine instincts making him excitable and, at times, a touch vicious. Max is an undefined rabbit-like creature who prefers to be called a lagomorph. Where Sam is more straight-laced and serious about their work as police officers, Max is not. He’s violent, crazy, and possesses a very short attention span. The two debuted in 1987 as a counterpart to Fish Police, but when Purcell was hired by LucasArts his characters came with him where they enjoyed their greatest success.

It was at LucasArts that Sam & Max made the leap to video games. They first appeared as comics in a newsletter and due to their success they were given a starring role in their own adventure title. Sam & Max Hit the Road was a point and click adventure for PC in 1995 and it was quite successful. Despite that success though, attempts to create a sequel fizzled and were never released. This was largely due to the genre of game they helped refine falling out of favor with gamers, or at least the publisher losing confidence in the format. When the rights expired in 2005, Purcell took his talents to Telltale Games which had resurrected the adventure game and would find great success with episodic titles for the next decade+, until it eventually closed in 2018. Sam & Max starred in several Telltale titles and pretty much all of them were well received.

In 1997, the duo made the leap to television. The Adventures of Sam & Max is a toned-down take on the pair that strives to maintain the core beats of the source material. The violence is largely absent and the profanity as well, but Sam is still a pretty straight and narrow, albeit ignorant, detective while Max still has a touch of that homicidal nature to him. Neither character was allowed to wield a gun though, but at least the show does a faithful job in adapting the look of the comic. Twenty-four episodes were produced for the first season, with only the first and final episode being a standard half-hour format. The other 22 were approximately ten minutes each and shown in pairs.

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A cozy, Christmasy, setting gets things started.

For the 10th episode, one half was devoted to Christmas. “Christmas Bloody Christmas” is written by Purcell himself and isn’t as violent as the episode title would suggest. It involves Sam reuniting with his grandmother for a trip to Blood Island Maximum Security Penitentiary to bring Christmas cheer to those needing it most:  inmates. What could possibly go wrong?

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That feeling of calm is quickly abandoned.

The episode opens with Sam and Max in a cozy, festive, setting dressed in their pajamas. Max (Rob Tinkler doing a pretty decent Roger Rabbit impression) casually smashes a little music-playing Santa and remarks how Christmas with Sam’s granny will be different from most. Or rather, how each year he wishes it would be different and better and each year he’s let down. Since Max speaks with that diabolical grin at all times it gives all of his lines a bit of dryness to them that’s part of the show’s charm. Sam (Harvey Atkin) informs Max that instead of spending Christmas in front of the TV that Grannie has something special planned for them.

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Grannie Ruth is going to take the lead in this episode.

Just then, a commotion and bright lights appear outside the cozy cabin. Max thinks it’s the mothership of his species finally returning to bring him home, while Sam thinks it’s an ambush. Grabbing Max, he flees for cover instructing the lagomorph that he’ll have to use his endearing charms to distract their attackers so that he can ensure Grannie’s safety. The door bursts open and it’s Grannie (Pam Hyatt). She curtly orders the boys to suit-up because they’re heading out which takes us into the credits.

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I love the festive attire, in particular Max’s three hats.

After the credits conclude, we see Sam, Max, and Grannie are aboard a helicopter being piloted by the old girl. Sam and Max are dressed in festive holiday attire, with Max adorably sporting a Santa hat on each ear. Sam takes the time to inform Max that Grannie was once the warden at Blood Island, and they’re going to bring some holiday cheer to the folks there. Max reacts to this news by declaring he always hoped his last Christmas would be spent as an elf-shaped holiday appetizer. Sam assures him that they’ll be fine since all of the inmates loved his grandmother referring to her as The Iron Maiden.

As the helicopter touches down in the prison yard, the inmates rush it. The guards are prepared to act, but the warden instructs them to stand down – they just love that old girl. They cheer as Grannie and her “elves” emerge from the chopper with Sam and Max tossing candy canes to the prisoners. Off to the side, some tough looking inmates remark this could screw up their plans while a blonde Russian inmate with a wild-looking neck (the thing looks like an elbow) remarks that this might actually work out for them.

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Grannie should really be dressed-up too if she’s going to play Mrs. Claus.

Inside the prison, the inmates are lined up to meet Mrs. Claus who is just Grannie in her normal attire. Sam and Max make quips at the expense of the inmates, and one rather large looking fellow informs the pair he’s in jail because he ate his parole officer with some fava beans and seltzer, an obvious reference to The Silence of the Lambs that may not have been so obvious to the show’s target audience. It’s then that Grannie takes note of the Russian fellow from earlier. She’s not happy to see him and references his 43 escape attempts. She also calls him by his name, but I have no idea how to spell it. It sounds like Hurt-Sock. We’ll just call him Russian guy.

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That is one amazing neck.

Russian guy drops to his knees and begs for forgiveness for his past deeds from Grannie. He claims to be a changed man, and in the spirit of the holidays Grannie accepts. Max then gifts him with the most obvious, and tired, of Christmas gags:  a fruit cake. It’s incredibly heavy as the inmate nearly drops it upon receiving it. The music then gets sinister, and one of the other inmates from earlier is now sporting a baseball glove and making it clear to the Russian dude that he wants the “ball.” He tosses the cake to him who then pitches it to the third inmate from earlier. This guys grabs Max and swings him like a baseball bat, bashing the cake into an electrical switch on the wall and knocking out the power causing the room to go dark. Sam states the obvious in that this can’t be good, while Max sarcastically remarks that nothing could go wrong in a dark room full of violent offenders as he lights a candle.

After a break, Grannie, Sam, and Max are shown running through a hallway. They’re in the underbelly of the prison and Grannie assures the boys she knows this place like the liver spots on the back of her hand. Max breaks the fourth wall to make a dated SNL reference as Grannie leads them to a spot in the wall. Max uses his very large ears to listen for activity, and finding it, he punches a small hole in the stone wall and yanks the inmate who swung him like a bat earlier through the impossibly small hole.

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Max, ever eager to climb insane a human body.

Once the inmate is pulled into the hallway, he claims he won’t talk. Max enthusiastically requests that Grannie let him jump down the man’s throat and prepares to climb inside him, but he’s denied. Grannie then reprimands the man, telling him that his mother would not appreciate him back-talking old Grannie. Sam is then shown calling the guy’s mother on the phone and this causes him to break. He confesses that the Russian guy is planning on taking the warden hostage. With no further use for him, Grannie pinches the fella’s neck causing him to pass out. Max remarks this is a helpful maneuver all parents should know for bedtime.

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The characters are allowed to behave like classic toons when needed.

The trio then apparently head deeper into the prison as they’re shown traveling through the darkened hall by hanging from some pipes. Grannie suspects their target will use the prison’s pipes to get to the warden which is what they’re doing as they enter the pipes. The pipes start off large enough for them to crawl through, but eventually become too small. That doesn’t stop them though, considering they’re cartoons and all, and they eventually emerge from the shower heads. The show then makes a mild prison rape joke as Sam appears to be in awe and wonders aloud what the room would tell them if these walls could talk. Max remarks it’s probably best that they didn’t with a look of disgust on his face.

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Let’s get silly.

Outside the room, the sound of talking and laughter can be heard. Grannie instructs the boys to turn on the hot water making the room steamy. The bad guys enter and are surprised to find Grannie. They’re probably more surprised when Sam and Max emerge from the steam wearing towels and snapping additional towels in a threatening manner. The henchmen inmates, including the one previously knocked out by Grannie’s neck pinch, scream like girls and run away slipping on some stray soap. They crash into a wall and are rendered unconscious. Grannie then beckons the Russian guy to come at her, but he opts to flee by flushing himself down a toilet. Max requests he not be asked to chase after him, while Grannie becomes worried as she concedes he now knows this place better than her. As Sam reassures her, Max’s feet stick out from the toilet.

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No one told Max he had to do that, but he did it anyway.

The trio return to the pipes and are shown above a whirling fan in the ventilation system. They jump in, and the air causes them to hover as if they’re in a wind tunnel. Sam seems to enjoy the blast of cold air on his genitals, though he states it in a PG manner. Grannie instructs them to hang on as she throws a switch on the wall which causes them to get sucked out of the tunnel and into the night air.

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They make this stuff look easy. No wonder why Fox felt like they didn’t need guns.

In the warden’s office, the warden is unable to reach anyone by phone. The three inmates emerge and they have a hostage too. Before they can issue their threats, the Russian guy says he hears something. Just then, Max and Sam burst out of a vent and collide with the two underlings knocking them out, hopefully once and for all. As the Russian guy turns his gun on the pair, Grannie pops up and disarms him. Seeing no alternative, he takes a swing at Grannie, but she produces another fruit cake and his hand smashes into it. While he’s reeling from the blow, Grannie drops the cake on his foot and apparently the pain causes him to pass out.

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You’ve probably heard about your brain on drugs, well this is your fist on fruit cake.

As the gang soak up their victory, some big, red, butt cheeks pop out of a fireplace. They could only belong to Santa, and he surveys the room and confirms who’s been naughty and who’s been nice. He makes Sam sign-off on his naughty and nice list before departing. While they’re distracted by Santa, the Russian prisoner taunts them from a window. He’s got an inflatable kiddie float and laughs as he flees. The warden remarks there’s nothing but open water out there and that he’s most likely shark bait at this point. The others seem unconcerned, and Sam reminds everyone there’s a big spread down in the mess hall.

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I suppose it’s better than solitary.

In the mess hall, we see a gigantic Christmas tree. The two prisoners who were working with the Russian are tied up and hung like ornaments from the tree while Sam and Max reflect on the Christmas they just experienced. Sam is thankful for being able to bond with his dear old grandma for the holidays. Meanwhile, with a tear in his eye, the warden thanks Grannie for bringing some holiday cheer to this old prison. She accepts his thanks, but is disappointed she couldn’t hang that old “Hurt Sock” from the tree too. On cue, Max finds a present under the tree addressed to Grannie. Sam opens it for her and out comes the Russian guy all tied up and bound with wrapping paper. As they all gasp and wonder how this happened, Max gives a “You don’t suppose,” as the camera cuts to a silhouette of Santa flying by the moon with a “Ho, ho, ho! Merry Christmas!” Max then finishes his line with another fourth-wall breaking joke, “we’d even think of employing such a sugary ending!” Sam and Max then do the customary wishing the audience a merry Christmas as well. The camera pans out to end as it started, with a Christmas card and some festive music to take us out.

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Grannie gets her Christmas wish.

“Christmas Bloody Christmas” isn’t as crazy as the title seems to suggest it will be. I knew going in this was a Saturday morning affair, but I did have some expectations of at least mild, cartoon, violence and the episode is actually fairly light on that. Despite that though, I found it rather entertaining. Sam’s matter-of-fact delivery of often bad news is endearing, and Max’s sarcasm was also amusing. Nothing made me laugh out loud, but I did find the whole thing pretty charming. Jokes about fruit cake and prison rape are certainly dated and overdone, but at least they didn’t make me cringe. And the fruit cake bit at least paid off in the end with a pretty comical shot of the inmate’s hand breaking as he struck it.

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Obligatory holiday message.

Visually the episode does a great job with its characters. In particular, Sam and Max. They look just as they should and I’m quite happy the artists opted to put them in festive attire for the episode. Max’s manic grin really helps sell his lines, and the few times his mouth changes stands out to help accentuate those scenes as well. The secondary characters are a bit cheaper looking, though I liked the main villain’s elbow neck which remained consistent throughout the episode. It was a nice, personal, touch for the character. The backgrounds look pretty good as well, though are a bit lifeless at times as well. When the characters first burst into the catacombs of the prison it looks like they forgot to animate a door too. I enjoy the cartoon aesthetic and properties of the show, such as the exaggerated actions of the characters or the very cartoony way they emerged from the shower heads.

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The show’s take on Santa is fine. He’s plump, but not ugly, and gets right down to business.

As a Christmas special, this one is predictably light on holiday sentiment. Sam does remark that he was happy to get a little closer to his grandmother, which is about as far as the episode goes. The warden’s tears of happiness are not at all heartwarming and I think it’s supposed to be played for laughs. And obviously, Santa’s gift for Grannie is intended to be humorous as well and a play on how many a sincere holiday special end. Bringing Christmas to inmates is actually surprisingly noble, but it’s not intended to be here at all. It’s a joke to the writers, and I suppose it’s fine. Some who have more experience with the real thing might view it as being distasteful, but the show does make sure to portray all of these particular inmates as exceptionally violent offenders that are probably hopeless to begin with.

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Santa is, however, missing some reindeer and that is something I cannot forgive.

I’d say overall I enjoyed this one. It’s lack of earnestness and the fact that it isn’t truly hilarious make it an unlikely annual viewing, but a once in a while viewing is certainly acceptable. If you want to view this one yourself this year, the complete series is still available on DVD brand new for about 20 bucks. If you’re willing to settle for a used copy then you can find it for considerably less. It’s a Shout Factory release which tend to be of acceptable quality but light on special features. You can also easily find this one via the usual means online and stream it for free. If you want to indulge in other Sam & Max media, there’s always graphic novels and such. A favorite toy maker of mine, Boss Fight Studio, is set to release action figures of the titular characters. I’m not a big enough fan of the property to indulge in such, but they’re certainly tempting given how well they turned out.


Dec. 3 – Mega Babies – “A Mega Christmas”

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“A Mega Christmas” first aired on November 24, 1999.

Considering how gross a lot of cartoons had become in the 90s, it should come as no surprise that the decade concluded with Mega Babies, a cartoon about literal snot-nosed, super-powered, babies featuring diapers overflowing with excrement in the opening title. Mega Babies was a short-lived production from the Tremblay brothers, Christian and Yvon, who are probably best known from their work on SWAT Kats: The Radical Squadron, a perfectly cromulent action-adventure cartoon from Hanna-Barbera. Mega Babies is quite different from that production, opting for a shorter format (roughly 11 minutes an episode) and taking a comedy bent. The premise strikes me as Rugrats, but crass, and the kids have super powers.

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The show ran from October 1999 through April 2000 on Teletoon (Canada) and the Fox Family Channel.

Mega Babies stars three colorful babies in Derrick (Laura Teasdale), Buck (Sonja Ball), and Meg (Jaclyn Linetsky). All three babies are voiced by female actresses, but only Meg is female in the show. This is fairly common in animation as all of the babies in Rugrats were voiced by women. The babies are orphans granted super powers when the planets aligned, or some such nonsense quickly established by the opening credits. Their caretaker is Nurse Lazlo (Bronwen Mantel), an old lady the babies simply refer to as Nursie, who appears to be of Russian descent and was also granted super intelligence by the same planet thing as the babies. The only other credited members of the cast are Richard M. Dumont, who is an announcer on the program, and Dean Hagopian who is credited on IMDB as simply handling various male voices. Wikipedia lists many other actors who likely handled bit roles on the show, but were frustratingly not credited in the actual program. Since the show isn’t exactly well-remembered, maybe they preferred to not be credited.

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The show is known for being rather gross. Expect lots of boogers and poop.

Mega Babies is a joint US and Canadian production which was common in the 90s as Canadian voice actors famously did not belong to any union. They were often cheaper to employ and studios love saving a buck or two when possible. The production company is CinéGroupe which had been in the business since 1974. A lot of the productions have been Canadian in nature, so your place of origin may impact what you feel is the company’s most notable work, but for me I best know it from Heavy Metal 2000. This particular show has the look of a lot of cartoons from this era. It’s likely digital in nature at a time when animators were struggling to produce digital art on par with traditional hand-drawn animation. It’s a bit cheap looking in places, and also fluid and experimental in others. It has a post 90s vibe to it in that it shares a lot of similarities with other shows of the era, namely contemporary Ed, Edd, n Eddy, but it’s also struggling to push this style further and beyond what’s been done before.

When this show debuted on the Fox Family Channel I was in high school. Cartoon Network was somewhat on my radar due to its programming towards teen audiences, so I was tangentially aware of some its more straight-forward kids entertainment. Fox Family Channel, on the other hand, was pretty far from my mind and I never knew this thing existed. It’s yet another program I’ve discovered via this project of mine as I’m always on the hunt for Christmas shows. The premise is somewhat attractive as I enjoy shows where the main characters are ignorant children. And Rugrats is a show I find mostly charming, so a show that’s basically a mash-up of Rugrats with the gross humor of my favorite Nicktoon Ren & Stimpy sounds more than a little intriguing.

Which brings us to “A Mega Christmas.” This is the 18th episode of the show’s inaugural season, first airing November 24, 1999. Interestingly, the first season would stretch on to contain 26 episodes with the finale airing on Boxing Day, December 26th. I’m a bit surprised this episode wasn’t pushed a little further into the year, but there is a 2-week gap in the episode airing found on the internet so my guess is it was rebroadcast on December 15. This is also the Teletoon airing schedule, so who knows what Fox Family did. I purposely did not watch any other episodes of this show, preferring to see how weird it is going in cold turkey, so let’s see what one can glean from one episode.

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Everyone loves a snot-coated Christmas tree.

The episode opens at the home of the Mega Babies. “Joy to the World” is playing us in, as it so often does with Christmas themed episodes of cartoons. The babies are decorating their tree, and one is stringing brownish-green snot around it like garland. Meg, from atop a ladder, calls down to Derrick (the yellow one) that he’ll ruin the tree if he adds canned snow and the two bicker momentarily. Meg calls for Nursie, and her lips grow to gargantuan proportions as she does, while Nursie simply calls back to the babies to be nice. Derrick interprets this as permission to cover the living room in fake snow before all three babies argue who gets to put the “perfect” angel on top of the tree.

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It would be a nice, traditional, Christmas image if not for the boogers.

Nursie then comes into the room baring presents, but they’re to go under the tree. She tells the kids not to peek as she heads off to the kitchen to continue cooking a traditional Christmas goose. The kids then commence with the peeking until they’re distracted by the TV. Booger Ranger is coming on, and I assume this is a program they watch often in other episodes. The character basically looks like a giant nose with limbs and a mouth with green snot constantly dripping. Plus he’s got a cowboy hat and boots. Lovely.

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These aliens are rather wild looking, but sadly will spend the majority of the episode in disguise.

Meanwhile, at the North Pole Santa Claus is getting ready to board his sleigh to go do his thing. There is no official credit I can find, but this Santa is definitely voiced by John Stocker who you may recall as Toad from the Super Mario Bros Super Show and Graydon Creed from X-Men. As he gets ready to depart, four aliens drop from the sky. They’re hideous, scaly, horned, drooling, aliens and their leader goes by the name of Claw (who I assume is Dean Hagopian doing his best Cam Clarke impression). As such, it seems only natural for him to want to assume the mantle of Santa “Claws.” I get the impression these guys are frequent antagonists in this show, but I could be mistaken.

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Imposter Santa ready to spread bad tidings.

These aliens apparently have a limited ability to shape-shift. They can assume another form, but their skin always remains green. Claws assumes the form of Santa, and his underlings take on the shape of elves. They want to spread chaos and genuinely cause a bad time across the world, and by taking over for Santa that seems like a pretty solid way to accomplish their goal. The fake Santa looks at his list and the first destination is Your City, USA which is home to the Mega Babies, but he’s apparently unaware of that. He declares it’s time to go make kids cry and departs in a sleigh pulled by two, fat, reindeer. This is your first reminder for 2019 that my Christmas special pet peeve is when Santa’s sleigh is pulled by fewer than 8 reindeer (I don’t demand it be 9 to include Rudolph, but there damn well better be 8!).

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Christmas:  the magical time of year when alien Santa turns a lifeless nutcracker into a rampaging goblin.

At the home of the Mega Babies, Booger Ranger has reached its disgusting conclusion. It’s a bit of a tear-jerker apparently, as the babies empty their snot receptacles into some once clean hankies when it’s over. The doorbell then rings as Nursie grapples with the raw goose, and who could it be?! Meg orders Buck to open it stating it could be Santa, but instead it’s a bunch of carolers and Buck promptly slams the door in their face. Meg then seems to correct herself and says Santa only comes down the chimney, and seemingly on cue who drops in? It’s Santa! Only it’s not Santa as the fake one has arrived. After being smothered with affection by the babies, and then Nurse Lazlo, he makes for the tree and magically turns Meg’s nutcracker into some kind of troll-monster that destroys all of the other presents which then drops dead.

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Mrs. Claus says the children caused Santa to “go postal.” I’m surprised they got away with that one.

Santa departs with a “Scary Christmas!” leaving the children confused. Why did he show up just to destroy all of their presents? Nurse Lazlo leads the children to another area where she intends to contact Santa from. Lazlo has a giant telescope from which she can see Santa’s home and a large black hole above it. She produces a comically large rocket with a phone inside it and shoots it off to the North Pole via slingshot. There it crashes into the home of Santa and Mrs. Claus, where Mrs. Claus answers it surrounded by her alien captors dressed as elves. She assures Nurse Lazlo that everything is fine, and excuses Santa’s odd behavior as him “going postal” on account of being screamed at by 2 billion children. The old bird isn’t convinced. She and the babies set off to find out what’s going on with Santa, fearing the worst.

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It’s extra funny since Santa’s VA once voiced Toad who was ga-ga for a snowboard in the Mario Christmas special.

At the North Pole, Mrs. Claus asks her captors if they’re hungry and they reply in the affirmative. She grabs a fruit cake and smashes them in the face with it, given it’s basically a brick. She then frees Santa, referring to him affectionately as Sweet Cheeks,  and tells him to go fix this situation. Without his sleigh though, Santa is at a loss for how he can track down the aliens. She then tells him that all of the kids complain he isn’t hip enough, and tosses him a snowboard. I do not know where she is receiving this information, but I can assure you I have never once questioned Santa’s “hipness.” Apparently a snowboard in the hands of a magical being like Santa, even if he looks a bit disheveled, is more than enough as Santa flies around on it tossing out some bad slang in the process.

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I’m pretty sure it was in the series’ bible that one baby must always have snot visibly dangling from a nose when all three are in the same shot.

Santa soon winds up in Your City where he crosses paths with Nurse Lazlo and the babies. He recognizes Lazlo and even refers to her as Sweet Lips. They went to college together and I guess they shared some good times (and the two appear to be open to sharing some more) during those years. The babies need some convincing though that this is the real Santa, and Derrick orders him to prove his identity by telling them what they want for Christmas. He predictably aces this test, and it’s revealed that Buck adorably just wants a hug from Santa (aww!).

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This is apparently what makes them “mega” babies.

With that out of the way, Santa now has some willing and able super-powered babies to help him save Christmas. He heads back to the North Pole for replacement presents, while the babies enthusiastically prepare to kick some alien ass. As demonstration of their enthusiasm, their arms swell-up to gargantuan proportions and become veiny and beefy (Trogdor!). They head for a nearby toy store where they find the imposter aliens up to no good. With their cover blown, Claws bursts forth from his costume in gross fashion to demonstrate his hideousness.

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One alien gets pressed through a shopping cart. The art directors apparently liked the gag so much they immediately went to it again when another is forced through a net.

The babies then do battle with the aliens and a series of bland visual gags and even worse puns take place. With the visual style of the show being so exaggerated, I had some large expectations for the type of violence we would see, but felt let down. Two aliens get shredded in almost identical fashion as they’re turned into strings of goo similar to Playdoh spaghetti (it sounds a lot more gross than it really is). Claws is saved for last, and the babies just punch into space with their oversized arms.

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These two totally just fucked.

As the babies were doing their job, Santa and Nurse Lazlo were getting cozy on Santa’s reclaimed sleigh. Really, Santa? Your wife beat back some aliens to save you and you repay her by cheating on her with some old flame from college?! The two are fully clothed, but the implication is almost one of post-sex cuddling. The babies then show-up with a shopping cart full of alien parts. They boot that into space as Santa and Nurse Lazlo praise them. Santa then informs them that he still needs their help if they’re going to save Christmas. Too much time has elapsed for him to deliver all of the presents, and Nursie says she has an idea.

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Aww, the little babies fell asleep!

A quick wipe-effect lets us know some more time has past and Nursie and the babies are returning to Santa in their rocket car. She informs Santa that they’ll take the southern hemisphere leaving him the northern one and they’ll meet in Rio when the job’s done. Santa is delighted to have their aid, and thanks them as he departs once again referring to Lazlo as “Hot Lips.” He’s picked up one reindeer during all of this, but that still leaves him five short, as he takes off. Nursie remarks that she loves that man before turning to the babies to tell them they’ve got work to do. She finds the babies are fast asleep on the pile of toys, prompting her to close out this show with a “Merry Christmas to all, and to my babies a good night.”

“A Mega Christmas” is a Christmas special with a pretty loud visual style. The over-exaggerated mannerisms of the characters combined with their pliable anatomy and abundance of snot certainly garners attention. What does not is the bland plot and dialogue and pedestrian visual gags. The art directors seem to think boogers alone are enough to create laughter. The booger garland on the tree felt predictable to me, and I’ve never even watched this show before! The only moment I found genuinely funny was when Buck answered the door to find carolers. Otherwise, I appreciate the show’s embracing of chaos as the plot is nonsensical and no one seems to care about how weird the world around them is, but without quality jokes backing up that randomness it just feels lazy.

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The show’s only attempt at being traditionally heartwarming is when it’s revealed that the number one item on Buck’s Christmas list was a hug from Santa.

Aside from the gags, the visual elements of the show are a mixed bag. Often times the babies are practically inanimate to draw attention to how wild their arms are. They move all over the place stretching when needed. It’s far more elegant than say the George & Junior cartoon I covered two years ago, but it also feels a touch overdone. The mouth animations on the babies are pretty fun though, and Lazlo is well-animated and at-times even takes on a hand-drawn quality. The backgrounds though are fairly bland often populated with large swaths of solid colors and little detail. There’s little warmth to find in what should be the cozy confines of the living room setting, and also no real coldness to find in the outdoor scenes. The world just exists without feeling alive.

The aliens, on the other hand, are a bit more interesting to look at. Perhaps they proved too interesting and complicated since they spend most of the episode in simpler forms disguised as elves and Santa. When they’re not, their design is quite evocative of old MTV interstills or Ed Roth’s Rat Fink. The smooth-talking leader is an interesting subject since his voice does not match his appearance. I don’t know if these guys are reoccurring villains, the babies certainly don’t act like they know who they are, but they at least seemed interesting.

As such, I can’t really recommend “A Mega Christmas.” It’s supposed to be a funny and offbeat Christmas special that is only partially successful in the presentation department, but lacks much in the way of humor. The best thing I can say about it is that if you want to watch it you totally can and it’s free. The Mega Babies YouTube channel has most or all of the episodes available including this one and if you’re curious about it after reading this then I have more good news as it will only consume about 11 minutes of your life, less if you skip the credits.


Dec. 2 – Robot Chicken’s ATM Christmas Special

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First broadcast December 16, 2012.

This is going to be a bit of an experiment. These recaps the last few years have basically focused on cartoons or live-action shows in which a story is told over some duration. I have so far avoided sketch shows, not purposely, but it’s definitely been in the back of my mind that doing a write-up in this style is a bit more challenging with a sketch show. It’s like reviewing or recapping several micro episodes of a TV show.

And when it comes to micro-sized entertainment, Robot Chicken should be the first show that comes to mind. Each episode is about 11 minutes long and contains an irregular number of sketches within that 11 minutes, some of which are literally just a few seconds long. Most of these are animated using stop-motion techniques with action figures in place of true puppets. Often these action figures require modification to animate in a more desirable fashion and when that is needed clay appears to be the medium of choice.

img_4139Robot Chicken is the brain child of Seth Green and Matthew Senreich. Green, as the most visible star associated with the brand, often handles a lot of the voicing duties and appears to get a lot of help from his Family Guy co-stars as well. Senreich, along with writers Douglas Goldstein and Tom Root, are veterans of ToyFare magazine which would often contain a comic in its pages called Twisted ToyFare Theater that is basically Robot Chicken in print form. Those sequences were popular, so it’s not that surprising to see the concept was taken to television where Robot Chicken has had a presence on Adult Swim since 2005.

Robot Chicken has been an ally to Christmas from almost day one. There have been several holiday editions of the show and some themes have sprung up. Santa Claus is a reoccurring character in these shorts and he is, I believe, always voiced by Seth MacFarlane. The show will often poke fun at classic holiday specials or just do something nerdy and goofy like pit Goku from Dragon Ball against a Christmas villain. There’s elements of shock humor to go along with the mostly nerd humor and shorts often get pretty violent for comedic purposes. It’s not a show for everyone, but it’s certainly aided by its brief runtime so when an episode misses the mark it’s usually not around long enough to truly stink up the place.

In 2012 Robot Chicken debuted its ATM Christmas Special, which I assume stands for Ass to Mouth because that’s the sort of humor the show goes for. Even though the show is on Adult Swim, it may have been difficult to actually get that phrase into the episode title and it’s a bit cheeky to make it an acronym anyway.

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Santa is pissed he nearly slept through Christmas.

The special opens in festive fashion with a parody of the old CBS Special logo that leads into a story about Santa (MacFarlane). It seems Santa forgot to schedule a wake-up call as he wakes up late for Christmas. It’s a scramble to the work shop where a ranting Santa takes his anger out on the poor elves. Santa is done as a doll, while most of the elves look like claymation and doll parts or something. The scramble continues to the sleigh and the reindeer are all messed up prompting Santa to fire the elf attendant, who cries, as Santa leaves.

 

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Someone got fired for that one.

From the skies Santa and his assistant chuck presents rather than do the usual infiltration thing. They’re depicted more like bombs as they cause all kinds of destruction, including claiming the life of a poor homeless man. A satellite image from space shows Earth with little tiny explosions dotting the surface. Santa makes it back to the North Pole relieved he pulled it off until he finds a lone present he missed. He vows to make the delivery and races to the home where it apparently belongs. I guess because time’s a factor, he opts to use the front door rather than the chimney, but it’s locked. As Santa pulls and wrestles with the door knob, the scene changed to reveal this is all a nightmare and Santa is at home in bed choking his wife. Some elves race in and use a cattle prod on him to subdue him, causing Mrs. Claus (Elizabeth Banks) to declare she hates Christmas.

 

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And whoa this thing got dark pretty quick!

We then smash cut to the real opening credits, which largely depict the short we just watched, but everything is in red. There’s also some clips of shorts still to come as we head into our next skit.

 

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This guy is angry at Jewish people for making him work on Christmas. That’s the joke.

A Chinese man is shown on the phone at a restaurant. He’s talking to his wife, but we only hear his side of the conversation. He’s bemoaning that he can’t come home and celebrate Christmas because a Jewish family is there and is just hanging out after their meal. We can see them at a table in the background. The man then declares he hates Jews, which is apparently the punchline of the skit.

 

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Well isn’t this a nice holiday setting!

We then jump to a living room setting on Christmas. A delighted Christmas tree (Henry Winkler) is busy declaring how lucky it is to have been adopted by this family. It’s a happy, warm, Christmas setting that ends with a little girl hugging the tree. Then we cut to a woman dragging the browning tree out the front door. It is completely unaware of what is about to happen and the woman tells the tree they’re going on vacation. It’s pretty excited and remains so as she leaves it on the curb for the garbage man to collect. As the tree is tossed into the truck, it insists it’s not garbage, but then it sees the father and daughter watching from a window as they close the curtains.

 

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On Robot Chicken, there are no happy endings.

The tree is taken to a toilet paper factory, and several weeks later we see what became of it. It’s toilet paper and sitting on a shelf in a grocery store. The image of the tree on the packaging is capable of talking and narrating the thoughts of the still sentient plant as it openly hopes it mostly gets used for boogers or urine. Then it recognizes something offscreen, and it’s the mom and daughter of the family who threw it away. It’s actually happy to see them, until the mother declares they’re having Indian food for dinner.

 

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Check it out! He had a big foot! Laugh!

We then get a brief skit of some kids looking at the stockings over the fireplace. One is huge, and they declare “No fair,” as the camera pans to reveal it belongs to Big Foot Danny, a kid with a really big foot.

 

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Well, at least he’s not choking her this time.

Back to Santa, who is seated in a lounge chair with an apparent broken leg. Mrs. Claus comes in to give him his Christmas present:  a candy cane (get it?). Santa is excited and he stands up to test it out and, finding it’s an actual oversized candy cane, collapses to the ground as the cane snaps apart. He then scolds the woman for making a cane out of candy and expecting it to work. The skit ends with Santa wondering if he broke his tibia while I worry for the well-being of Mrs. Claus.

 

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I guess Justin Bieber jokes were still funny in 2012. I guess.

In a warmly lit den by the fire decorated for Christmas, Justine Bieber (Lucas Grabeel) prepares to play us a song. He’s joined by Santa on guitar and a snowman on drums. He then rips into the song, which is probably titled “Fuck Christmas” because that’s what he mostly says. It’s an aggressive, angry, tune that gets its point across. The scene ends with two executives watching this unfold. One remarks they should have just stuck with David Cassidy, while the other enthusiastically declares that Bieber is a true artist.

 

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It’s Santa vs Jason Bourne! The fight you never wanted!

We’re then taken to a more desolate location. It’s Jason Bourne, a convincing looking doll, and he turns his head dramatically to spot someone closing in from behind. It’s Santa Claus, and there are no words spoken as Santa pulls a sharpened candy cane from his coat. The two fight, and the choreography is actually pretty intense. Bourne gets the better of the Kringle though, ending the fight by stabbing Santa with his own candy cane.

 

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How did you expect it to end? The guy is beyond elderly!

Santa is then shown laying on the ground coughing up blood. He remarks that Jason is a hard man to find and pulls out a Christmas present. Okay. Bourne takes it as Santa bleeds out and dies and seems to react enthusiastically to receiving a copy of the board game Parcheesi.

 

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Hey kid, I know how you feel as I had the same reaction to this joke.

A quick skit of a Lego family at Christmas runs. The kid seems unhappy to have received another block for Christmas and reacts with mock enthusiasm. That’s it.

 

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What are you supposed to get a ninja for Christmas? Robot Chicken seeks to answer that very question.

At G.I. Joe headquarters, some of the Joes are sitting around trying to figure out what to get Snake Eyes for Christmas. These appear to be actual toys from the toy line. They don’t know what to get him because he never tells them what he wants (he’s mute, in case you were unaware) and we see a cut-away to last Christmas when they just gave him a coffee mug that says “I Heart Ninjas.”

 

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Storm Shadow has never looked better.

Scarlett (Banks) declares she knows what Snake Eyes really wants, and we cut to the Joes surrounding a building in a snowy environment. They enter and it’s revealed to be the home of Storm Shadow, Snake Eyes’ rival. He’s in his usual white ninja suit, but also is sporting a pink bath robe. The Joes attack, but they get their asses handed to them.

 

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The question remains unanswered.

On Christmas morning, Duke (Skeet Ulrich) approaches a seated Snake Eyes and tosses his present at him. It’s another mug. Meanwhile, we can see the rest of the Joes have all been beaten up pretty bad and look rather miserable. Snake Eyes, even though he’s wearing a mask, seems perplexed by the hostile treatment.

 

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Nothing says “Christmas” quite like Kano.

We’re whisked away to a store where a woman is in the embarrassing position of having her credit card declined. The clerk can’t do anything about it as she bemoans how tough life has been for her and her two boys since their father passed away. The man behind her overhears the clerk say her name, Mrs. Cage, and it causes him to remember. The man is Kano, of Mortal Kombat fame, and a thought bubble appears over his head showing him rip the heart out of Johnny Cage post match.

 

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I knew he was an asshole the moment I first laid eyes on him!

Feeling guilty, Kano helps the woman to her car and accepts an offer to join them for Christmas dinner. At the Cage residence, he uses his somersault maneuver to hang Christmas lights, and when saying “Grace,” he puts on a yamaka as a joke and everyone has a good laugh. As he helps Mrs. Cage put the kids to bed, he confesses he can’t hide from her anymore. He apologizes for what happened to Johnny and gives the widow a gift. She opens the box and is confused. Kano claims it’s Johnny’s heart, but Mrs. Cage informs him it’s not a heart. We then smash cut to Johnny Cage on a beach in a tropical environment relaying how Kano ripped out his appendix by mistake to a group of bikini-clad women. He then grabs one and the skit ends before the orgy can commence.

 

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Possibly Robot Chicken’s most popular character is The Nerd.

In our next sketch it’s Christmas morning at The Nerd’s (Green) home. He awakens excitedly in a festive red onesie and races downstairs only to find that Christmas has been stolen. His parents give him the bad news, but he takes it fairly well. That is until his mom reveals during “Pretend Christmas” what the thief made off with:  a 1985 AFA Graded Snake Eyes action figure.

 

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I like where this is going…

Despondent, The Nerd takes to the streets to find the whole neighborhood has been victimized. He finds a group of people forming a circle and one man explains it’s a vengeance circle as they’re asking The Spirit of Vengeance to violently punish the asshole who stole their stuff. He’s then told by another that he’s mistaken and this is the wrong circle, the vengeance one is nearby. This forces things to click inside The Nerd’s brain. What Christmas story involves a burglary followed by the victims holding hands and singing? He then turns around to gaze at a nearby mountain where the thief is still in the process of getting away!

 

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When you’re down and out and in need of encouragement, look to Larry Hama.

The Nerd heads off after him, and as he climbs the mountain he bemoans his choice in clothing. As he ponders giving up, he looks to Snake Eyes for help. Since Snake Eyes is mute, he doesn’t offer anything encouraging when he appears in a cloud above The Nerd’s head. Larry Hama appears though in a similar vision to encourage him to continue. The line he feeds The Nerd is corny and unoriginal and The Nerd calls him out on it. In a bit of self-deprecation, Hama remarks how he spent his career writing comics that were essentially toy commercials and is able to spur The Nerd along by threatening to read him an excerpt from his unfinished novel.

 

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He really is a stupid looking Grinch.

The Nerd makes it to the summit where he confronts the thief – The Grinch! He moans when he sees it’s not even the good Grinch from the cartoon, but the Jim Carrey Grinch. Grinch (Green) tells him it doesn’t matter, but then The Nerd uses his anger over the film ruining the “greatest cartoon ever” to motivate him to kill this Grinch. Declaring he doesn’t care about his presents, he simply kicks the sleigh (with Grinch in it) off the mountain. He then turns around to see Max whom he refers to him as the little Stockholm Syndrome dog. Max has something for The Nerd, his precious Snake Eyes toy! Only now it has teeth marks which are sure to affect the grading.

 

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And now he’s dead and likely about to get raped.

Back at street level, one of the neighborhood men drags the Grinch’s corpse over and happily displays it. The same man from earlier rejoices that The Spirit of Vengeance answered their prayers. Another man then questions if The Spirit of Vengeance would like them to rape the corpse. The first man declares why not? – it’s Christmas! And that’s how our special ends; with a rape joke.

 

Robot Chicken’s ATM Christmas Special is certainly a sight to behold. The animation is pretty great, even when the source “puppets” are old G.I. Joe toys. I like the little through-lines with reappearing Santa throughout and the G.I. Joe sketch being sort of referenced further in the finale. The big Grinch parody was saved for last and it feels like the right spot for it. I like the self-realization of The Nerd becoming aware that he’s in a Christmas special, and even though internet nerd anger is pretty stupid, I did take some joy in this character hating on the Jim Carrey/Ron Howard Grinch while praising the superior Chuck Jones cartoon.

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There’s a tendency of the show to rely on shock humor, like a homeless guy getting decapitated by a Christmas present, but when that’s your thing it’s hard to remain shocking.

Some of the other stuff hasn’t aged super well. The “I Hate Jews” sketch, in particular, doesn’t play so well. It’s brushed off because a lot of the folks involved with this show are Jewish, and I suppose someone in a similar situation could empathize to a point, but it still felt like poor taste and just shock humor. And rape jokes are just kind of “meh” at this point. It’s another line that’s supposed to create a laugh out of shock, but the show is often so crass that it loses the ability to be shocking. I expected those people to want to desecrate the corpse of The Grinch thus negating the punch of the remark.

 

This special is loaded with guest stars who all do a pretty nice job. MacFarlane is involved with the show so often that it hardly feels right to even consider him a guest star at this point. Elizabeth Banks plays a few characters, and I was surprised to hear the voice of Henry Winkler. Larry Hama’s part isn’t acted all that well, and it was clearly shot on the cheap (maybe even wth a cell phone or something), but his willingness to basically poke fun at his own career helped to sell the moment.

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Henry Winkler’s Christmas tree is the type of character the show’s dark blend of humor works best with. Although the sketch still ended with a poop joke.

The stuff with Santa was mostly enjoyable, though the Bourne sketch wasn’t particularly funny (even though it looked great). I’m not much of a fan of G.I. Joe so that sketch fell a little flat for me. I did find the Mortal Kombat one pretty amusing, if a tad predictable, and the Christmas Tree was tragically funny as well. Overall, there were some laughs found in this tidy little Christmas special and they mostly outweigh the duds. It doesn’t stick around long enough to suck, and by positioning the best short at the end it actually does leave you wanting more. Had it ended on G.I. Joe or the stupid Bieber song I probably would feel different.

If you want to catch this special this year just keep an eye out on Adult Swim. They’re practically guaranteed to air this and the many other Robot Chicken Christmas episodes at some point this month, often even reserving some for Christmas Eve.

 


Dec. 1 – DuckTales – “Last Christmas!”

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Original air date December 1, 2018

It’s that time of year once again! Every day goods are a little pricier, egg nog is invading the dairy case at every grocery store, and red and green versions of every candy in existence flourish in the seasonal section of department stores. Yes, it is Christmas time and it would be obnoxious if it weren’t temporary. Does it come too soon? Maybe, but here the season officially starts now and lasts through the holiday.

Welcome to The Christmas Spot! If this is your first time here then let me tell you what you’re in for. Every day through Christmas, we’ll be spotlighting a Christmas special or holiday themed something advent calendar style. Will we talk about a good special? A poor one? Something in between? We’re quality agnostic, which is a damn fine motto. The only thing this site won’t touch are those made for TV Hallmark movies that are basically shown year-round now. I have no interest in them, plus I like to stick to things that are a half-hour format or less to keep things tidy. After all, this is no small task to find time in my day-to-day life to make 25 blog entries in 25 days for the sheer joy of it. So I encourage you to start your day right here. And if one blog entry isn’t enough, well then may I recommend our Christmas archive? It’s a great companion to that first cup of coffee in the morning, or that first visit to the restroom – don’t forget the peppermint scented toilet paper!

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The opening credits get a festive makeover as well.

This year, we’re kicking things off with a relatively new entry to the world of Christmas specials. DuckTales has been around for quite some time. The original run included 101 episodes, but strangely no Christmas one. This is surprising because future Disney Afternoon shows would often feature one. Plus, the star of DuckTales is one Scrooge McDuck. Not only does Scrooge share a name with another individual associated with Christmas, but the character actually debuted in a Donald Duck Christmas story which we covered for last year’s countdown. Well, the new version of DuckTales launched in 2017 would rectify that, though not in its first season.

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We get to learn about Donald’s enthusiasm for Christmas, Scrooge’s hatred of Santa, and that Launchpad is actually Jewish.

“Last Christmas!” premiered, appropriately enough, last Christmas (December 1, 2018 to be exact) and was a late scratch from that year’s list. See, I don’t actually have time to make a post every day for this thing. What really happens is I keep a master list of any and all Christmas specials I know of. Then I arbitrarily pick and choose which to cover each year, and I make posts in my down time and schedule them to go up when they need to. Did that ruin the magic for you? Hopefully not, as this is actually a fun way to get a little dose of Christmas spirit throughout the year. I’m also the type of person that keeps a Christmas countdown going all year long. Anyway, when I found out there would be a DuckTales Christmas special it was pretty late in the game. I almost squeezed it in, but decided maybe it would be best to save it for 2019. A year’s removal would allow me to better put it in perspective. Is it the type of special that deserves to be revisited year after year? Well, this is where we find out.

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Scrooge is predictably grumpy around the holidays.

When DuckTales made its return in 2017 it wasn’t without some controversy within the fanbase. That’s because Disney made the call to recast all of the characters from the original run with new actors all voicing these characters for the first time. This is different from what Disney usually does with its classic characters where a voice actor is paired with a character or characters and serves in that role basically for life. It’s something though that has apparently fallen out of favor with Disney in the past few years. There are currently two(!) voice actors for Mickey Mouse right now, and probably my most popular post ever concerned the handling of Donald’s Duck’s voice when veteran Tony Anselmo was recast for the pre-school show Mickey and the Roadster Racers. When I wrote that I wasn’t aware that Anselmo had the role actually taken from him, as opposed to passing on it. Thankfully, he was returned to voice Donald in DuckTales, but he’s basically the only member of the main cast to return. Alan Young obviously could not return as Scrooge (R.I.P.), but Russi Taylor was basically not allowed to return as the voices of Huey, Dewey, and Louie.

And that’s what makes “Last Christmas!” so special, in a way. Maybe Disney was right to recast the roles of the nephews as now they are individual characters as opposed to a hive-mind, basically. I think they could have all shared the same voice still, but I guess I’ve made my peace with the series concerning this. Still, that doesn’t help Russi Taylor at all, but this episode allowed her to return in a pretty creative fashion. And we have the magic of Christmas to thank for that!

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Webby is a talented trimmer of trees.

This episode opens with a little extra Christmas spice. I love it when holiday episodes do stuff like this. The lyrics are changed slightly to reference the holiday (“Life is like a candy cane,”) and they’re sung by a Frank Sinatra sound-a-like (could not find a credit, so apologies) and accompanied by snowflakes and happy Christmas scenery. The episode then opens at Scrooge’s mansion where Donald (Anselmo) is looking resplendent in a Christmas sweater as he decorates Scrooge’s lawn. Scrooge (David Tennant) then appears on the front step to admonish Donald for covering his lawn with those “inflatable abominations.” Donald points out that Scrooge has the perfect piece of property for a festive Christmas display, but soon sees the error of his ways when Scrooge points out that he also has a pilot who mistakes Christmas lights for runway lights.

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Webby, just waiting for Scrooge to say “Bah! Humbug!” and he will not disappoint.

Scrooge leaves Donald to apparently suffer an awful fate as Launchpad approaches. Inside, Webby (Kate Micucci) is swinging around a massive Christmas tree dressed as a reindeer as she trims the tree while Huey (Danny Pudi) supervises decked in a stocking cap – I so love the holiday attire. Scrooge storms around looking grumpy while Louie (Bobby Moynihan) makes out his Christmas list which begins with an apology to Santa. Mrs. Beakley (Toks Olagundoye) gives Scrooge the rundown of decorations and the night’s schedule (which includes a reading of Christmas on Bear Mountain) which Scrooge suffers through. He then scolds everyone from a balcony before destroying a polar bear dressed in a Santa costume decoration before retreating to his room. Scrooge apparently has some kind of vendetta against Santa.

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There’s a scene like this in most Christmas specials.

Alone in his own room, Dewey (Ben Schwartz) is reading by the light of the Christmas star in a classic “Christmas Wish” setting. He’s looking a little down and Donald takes notice from the hallway, but sports a curious smile. Dewey is clearly missing the mother he never met, but is roused from his room by an odd sound. He approaches a green-lit door cautiously, unsure of what’s behind, and given this is the home of Scrooge McDuck any manner of spook or spirit could be in there just waiting to curse him for all eternity!

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These aren’t the spirits you’re accustomed to seeing.

When Dewey opens the door he does indeed find some mythical creatures, but not in a setting he was expecting. Three ghost-like bodies surround Scrooge. Dewey assumes the worst, but comes to find out they’re not here for any nefarious purpose. They’re cheering Scrooge on, who’s sporting a mistletoe headband, as he chugs what appears to be egg nog. It’s from a carton, so I guess that’s all the censors required to make it appear like this is an alcohol free activity. Scrooge quickly explains to Dewey these ghosts are actually his friends and they visit him every Christmas Eve. They’re also familiar to anyone who’s seen a Dickens adaptation. There’s a mute Grim Reaper like ghost that’s obviously the Ghost of Christmas Future and a chubby pig who is the Ghost of Christmas Present (Bill Fagerbakke). He’s dressed in attire that is almost identical to Willy the Giant’s from the best version of A Christmas Carol – Mickey’s Christmas Carol. And the third ghost is even more reminiscent of that classic short as he’s a little cricket in a suit, an obvious homage to Jiminy Cricket.

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Past is quite obviously an homage to Jiminy Cricket.

The ghosts explain that one year they confused this Scrooge with another who shares a name with him, but finding this one more fun, they now visit him every year for a good time. Scrooge then explains his whole hating Christmas thing is just an act to keep people away around the holidays so he’s free to spend his evening with these old chaps (the Santa hating thing isn’t an act though, he really detests that jolly old elf). This, he explains, is his one night to cut loose and have fun and it’s especially true of this Christmas now that he has Dewey and his brothers to look after.

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Time for a journey into the Past.

Dewey seems pretty confused, but surprisingly receptive to the story. With that business out of the way, the group decides it’s time to take a trip through time courtesy of the Ghost of Christmas Past (Jack McBrayer) in search of some holiday fun. Scrooge grabs onto him just as his predecessor did 35 years earlier and the cricket even pops open a tiny umbrella and the four fly out of the window and soar over Duckburg. The scenery begins to change as they journey back in time, but the setting surprisingly does not as the ghost leads them right back to Scrooge’s mansion. Only now they’re in the past and will be attending Scrooge’s first big Christmas party at his home. Scrooge likes the idea and he acknowledges his past self as they enter the premises, his past self saluting back without question (apparently he’s expected this).

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Scrooge’s home on Christmas. Note the painting on the wall appearing to depict Scrooge’s first appearance from Christmas on Bear Mountain.

Inside, Scrooge’s home is filled with guests and assorted easter eggs for those with keen eyes. They soon spot a young Mrs. Beakley on the dance floor and Present takes an immediate liking to her. Unfortunately for him, she’s more interested in Future and hauls him out onto the floor. Scrooge tries to make merry himself, but a still alive Duckworth (David Kaye) mistakes him for his younger self and scolds him for trying to act so juvenile in front of many potential business partners. He escorts him to a group of buzzards who are essentially the opposite of fun.

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Scrooge is not really enjoying himself.

Eventually, Scrooge notices Goldie making an entrance and his demeanor perks up. Before he can confront her though he’s accosted by a potential partner who wants to show him some cube he’s got. He makes references about a job that’s another easter egg, this time a reference to a Carl Barks story, but Scrooge pays him no mind. Then another interruption occurs when Grandpappy Beagle (Eric Bauza) barges in with the lesser-known members of the Beagle Boys. They’re here to rob everyone, and Scrooge is officially over this whole thing.

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That would be Grandpappy Beagle and his Beagle Boys.

Informing Past that his idea was a dud, the chipper cricket informs Scrooge he has a better idea. The two depart, apparently leaving Present and Future behind, and end up in a much more quiet setting. It’s a campsite in the woods, and Scrooge recognizes it as his first Christmas in Duckburg, before he was rich. He seems quite nostalgic as he takes a seat on a log beside a roaring campfire and looks contented, until he’s not. Declaring this is boring, he wants to go elsewhere, but Past has other ideas.

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Past takes Scrooge to an even earlier Christmas – his first in Duckburg.

Past chooses this moment to make his heel turn. He apparently doesn’t like this once a year arrangement with Scrooge and wants to spend the whole year having fun with him. His job of showing bad people their past transgressions has apparently worn on him. Scrooge doesn’t want to remain here though, so he goes on the offensive. The two have a spirited sword fight of sorts; Scrooge wielding his cane and Past his umbrella. The two tire themselves out and collapse in the snow, both apparently enjoying this little sparring contest. Scrooge expresses a desire to do it again and suggests they travel back in time the five minutes or so needed to do it over. Past is thrilled by this suggestion and enthusiastic, but when he goes to do the deed he realizes he lost track of his umbrella.

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Got your umbrella.

Scrooge gives him a sly look and produces the diminutive object. He pops it open and with a flash of green light he vanishes, leaving Past sitting there on the log all by himself. He’s cheerful, and assumes Scrooge is just messing with him. As he sits there though the camera zooms out and Scrooge never reappears.

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Dewey was not going to allow Scrooge to go on some Christmas adventure without him.

We then jump back to the future, but 11 minutes in the past. Time travel can be confusing. The important thing to know is we’re back to when Scrooge and the spirits left the mansion. Only now we can see they had a stow-away. Dewey grabbed ahold of Future’s robes as they flew out, but wasn’t able to hold on for very long. He falls down into a snowbank below. Looking up, he sees the mansion and bemoans he’s still in the same boring place, but then notes the “when” may have changed. Congratulating himself on his expert time travel pun, he runs off into the house.

Dewey is obviously interested in finding out how far back in time he’s gone, because if he’s gone back far enough then someone very important to him may be located in this mansion. He races to what I assume is his room in the present and finds, as he describes it, some emo kid.

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Ladies and gentlemen, I present to you adolescent Donald!

The emo kid is wearing a flannel shirt over a black t-shirt with a Nirvana-like logo while strumming a bass guitar. He sings a rather drab song that’s humorous to anyone who remembers grunge and it soon becomes obvious who this kid is. It’s a young Donald Duck, and he’s voiced by none other than Russi Taylor! He appears to be about Dewey’s age, and is annoyed that Dewey has interrupted his playing. He angrily grabs him by the collar and demands to know how much he heard and also demands to know if it was any good. Dewey lies and says it is, makes up a story about being a long removed cousin, then moves on to more pressing matters – where is Donald’s sister, Della?

Donald informs Dewey that Della is where she always is – out back setting a trap for Santa. When Dewey asks why Donald isn’t with her he explains he’s too old for that stuff and thinks Christmas is stupid, a far cry from the holiday obsessed Donald he’ll become. He tells Dewey he can’t go out to look for her because he was close to a breakthrough with his song. Dewey informs him he was not, and cheerily grabs the bass and hops out the window forcing Donald to follow with a “What’s the big idea?”

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Donald doesn’t understand why Della brought so much food and such a large tent. He’ll soon find out why.

Out back, they find a family-sized tent that’s collapsed and the trees are covered with a red goop. Dewey is alarmed, but Donald just views the scene as a sign of Della’s incompetence. He tastes the red goop splattered on the tree and informs the disgusted Dewey it’s just jelly (“What would you have done if it wasn’t?”) before moving on to inspect the tent. He determines Della gave up at trying to put it together and then attempts to fix it, but has just as much luck as his sister. Dewey notices some tracks in the snow clearly belonging to Della, and some that do not. They decide to investigate, but unknown to them some ominous glowing green eyes are watching from the bushes.

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Huey isn’t the only Junior Woodchuck.

As Dewey and Donald trace Della’s steps, Donald is whacked with seemingly every branch Dewey pushes aside. The creature stalking them soon reveals itself as a large, goat-like being:  the Wendigo. Dewey and Donald are forced to run as the creature chases them, and they wind up right in one of Della’s traps.

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Captured by Della Duck.

Now suspended upside down in a large net, Dewey and Donald are greeted by Della who scolds them for ruining her Santa trap. She wants to trap the red guy as a present for Scrooge and now will have to reset it. Donald demands she release them, calling her “Dumbella” as in Dumb Della, but it’s also a reference to her original name. She demands Donald apologize before she sets the two free, even though they can hear the roars of the Wendigo approaching. Donald apologizes for the insult, but it’s not enough. He then lists other things he’s sorry about, like using her toothbrush to clean his combat boots, things Della wasn’t even aware of. Donald is frustrated that his apologies aren’t good enough, forcing Dewey to point out the obvious:  the giant tent, the vast assortment of snacks, Della just wanted to spend Christmas with her brother on her Santa stake-out but he blew her off. Della is angry with Donald for just wanting to sit alone in his room on Christmas rather than spend time with his family, forcing Dewey to also realize he’s guilty of the same back in his own time. Donald acknowledges that Dewey is right and apologizes to Della for not wanting to spend time with her on Christmas and she in turn lets them out.

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Now that the duck siblings have made up, they can turn their attention to more pressing matters.

At this point though, the Wendigo is on top of them. When they ask him what he wants, he roars back with a “When did go?! Scrooge?!” prompting all three to deadpan “Of course.” Donald and Della, demonstrating they’re used to this sort of thing, jump the beast and start wrestling with it while Dewey looks on. They’re tossed from the creature and Della comes to land beside Dewey. She looks at the remnants of the net from earlier and gives Dewey a knowing look. Meanwhile, Donald too is thrown from the monster causing the bass strapped to his back to break. He looks at his beloved instrument and goes into a classic Donald rage. He attacks the Wendigo, and the opening created by his offense allows Dewey and Della to wrap the beast up in the net.

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Problem solved.

The three ducklings drag the beast back to the front steps of the mansion. The whole time Donald and Della maintain a posture that this is all ordinary to them. When Della finally asks just who Dewey is, all he can do is respond with a big, awkward, hug. He almost lets on that he’s her son, but recovers and maintains his story about being a long distant cousin. Della sees right through it and states “You’re a relative from the future.” Dewey tries to deny it, but Della assures him this is only the fourth weirdest thing to happen to them on Christmas. Donald also expresses knowing the whole time he wasn’t who he said he was. Dewey then comes clean about being a relative from the future, but doesn’t elaborate further, and tells Della he should warn her about her future and she refuses to hear him out. The two then head into the house to fetch their uncle leaving Dewey alone with the Wendigo.

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Dewey can’t stop himself from giving his some-day mom a hug.

This is apparently not a good thing, as the beast soon breaks free from its restraints. It looms menacingly over Dewey, but before it can attack Scrooge appears from the sky and gets the drop on him. He pogos off of the beast’s head, just like the Nintendo game, knocking it out. Past and Future then appear and Dewey questions how he found him. Scrooge says he was heading back to retrieve those two when he saw Dewey below. Dewey gives him a hug and tells him he just wants to go home. Scrooge gives him a smile and tells him he just has something to do first.

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Scrooge is always ready to make a save.

They then turn their attention to the Wendigo, which turns to stone and crumbles. From its head emerges a sad looking Past. Scrooge explains, repeating an explanation Della gave earlier, that a Wendigo is a lost soul driven mad by despair. When he left Past back at the campsite, it forced the spirit to just sit and wait for Scrooge to come back, but he never did. Past went crazy every Christmas looking for Scrooge, until he showed up now. He then says he has a Christmas present to deliver and returns Past’s umbrella to him. He then cheers up, and taking hold of the umbrella the group is whisked away back to the future – I mean present.

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The true identity of the Wendigo is revealed.

Everyone is now where they’re supposed to be – gathered around a grand piano in Scrooge’s living room. Launchpad (Beck Bennett) is manning the ivories wearing a blue Hanukkah sweater. The ghosts are hanging around too to join in on the fun. Dewey, now ready to make merry with his family, sees his uncle Donald and gives him a big hug. Donald lets on that he’s been waiting for this for many years, but before Dewey can confirm he’s referring back to Dewey’s trip into the past, he’s pulled away by his brothers into the celebration. We’re also treated to a cut-away of young Della and Donald exchanging Christmas gifts and we see that’s how Donald got his festive Christmas sweater and likely why Christmas came to mean so much to him. While the gang butchers The Twelve Days of Christmas, we also get to see Mrs. Beakley give Future a rather suggestive glance.

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It’s time to celebrate!

As the celebration wraps up, we’re then taken to a much quieter setting. On the moon, Della Duck looks longingly at Earth and at a picture of Scrooge, Donald, herself, and the eggs she left behind. With tears welling in her eyes, she wishes her boys a merry Christmas then resumes work on her spaceship vowing to return to them soon.

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Young Della and Donald exchanging gifts.

“Last Christmas!” is a tremendously fun ride of a Christmas special and a great way to kick things off this year. Time travel stories are often a blast and the show really has fun with it via numerous puns and by introducing a paradox of sorts. Past’s motivations for trying to trap Scrooge with him in the past is a bit rushed, but the results are so entertaining that it doesn’t matter much. It’s a fun twist to put on the Scrooge character, and I’m quite happy to see the writers elected to acknowledge the character’s connection to A Christmas Carol by turning the concept on its head as it would have been supremely disappointing if the show had just done a conventional re-telling.

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Donald and Dewey’s embrace at the end is a nice callback to the look Donald featured at the start of the episode when he was looking in on Dewey.

The first half of the episode is pretty fun, but the second half is where the show finds its emotional core. Dewey going back in time to meet his mother for the first time, but also a younger version of his uncle Donald, was quite sweet. Through their relationship he comes to understand his own with his family. It’s simple, but so effective here as the characters feel so honest, even though they’re cartoon ducks. Russi Taylor being given the role of young Donald is genius and I practically cried when I first heard her voice. It almost takes away from the humorous visual of young Donald. It also makes so much sense that I’m disappointed with myself for never thinking of it on my own. Even though this is a young version of Donald, it puts Ms. Taylor in rather exclusive company as being one of the few to officially voice Donald Duck for a Disney production. A well-deserved honor. It’s sadly all the more poignant too since we lost Taylor to cancer in 2019. Thankfully, we have hours upon hours of her voice to enjoy and to help keep her memory alive for generations to come.

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Della wishing her boys a merry Christmas is the episode’s last effort at inducing tears in its viewers. It’s probably successful.

This episode should also be commended for naturally fitting into the DuckTales continuity. Often holiday specials are a departure from a show’s narrative, sometimes they even feel non-canon. This one is special because it contains Dewey’s first interaction with his mother, even if she is just a child. It also brings the adult version in at the end to remind viewers she’s still out there, and in just a few episodes after this one she’ll finally return to Scrooge and her boys.

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“Last Christmas!” is heartwarming and fun without coming across as cheesy or conventional. Best of all, it doesn’t count if you’re playing Whamageddon! this year.

“Last Christmas!” is one of the best, new, Christmas specials I’ve been exposed to. Not only does it tell a fun and inventive story, it looks fantastic as well and is a supremely rewarding experience for those familiar with the original show and comics. I very much appreciate the obvious nods to Mickey’s Christmas Carol and the meticulous way the episode is crafted. So much of the resolution is hinted at early on, which is a must for any story dealing with time travel. Hopefully the writers of DuckTales return to time travel in future episodes as they appear to have a talent for handling it.

If you want to catch this excellent episode of DuckTales then keep an eye on the Disney Channel. I’m sure it will be shown more than once and may even be On Demand for certain cable subscribers. It’s also available for purchase via streaming platforms and on Disney Plus. Being a relatively new Christmas special in a still-running show, it should be easy to track down. And if this write-up didn’t make it clear enough, you absolutely should track it down this Christmas and every Christmas yet to come.

In one final act of nostalgic bliss, the ending credits are done up in the same style as Mickey’s Christmas Carol.


Batman: Mystery of the Batwoman

mystery of the batwomanOriginal Release Date:  October 21, 2003

Directed by:  Curt Geda, Jennifer Graves (Sequences), Tim Maltby (Sequences)

Written by: Alan Burnett, Michael Reaves, Paul Dini (Chase Me)

Animation:  DR Movie Ltd., Warner Bros. Animation (Chase Me)

Running Time:  75 minutes

The final episode of The New Batman Adventures aired on January 16, 1999. “Mad Love” was the chosen finale and it came more than two months after the preceding episode (Beware the Creeper). It was a bit of an inauspicious end to Batman: The Animated Series, not because the episode wasn’t great (it most certainly was), but that it was never written to be the finale. The staff for the show assumed another episode order was bound to happen, but it never did. Instead, Warner Bros. wanted to try something different. Seeing rival comic company Marvel having success with its younger characters and perhaps fearing Batman’s aura was damaged by the flop Batman & Robin, Warner had the braintrust on the series come up with a new, younger, Batman. That became Batman Beyond which premiered the same month The New Batman Adventures came to an end.

Batman Beyond would produce 52 episodes and a single film coming to a close in 2001. That obviously wasn’t the end for DC Animated productions as team-focused shows would follow. For some reason, Warner decided to revisit Batman: The Animated Series in 2003 with the direct-to-video Batman: Mystery of the Batwoman. From an artistic perspective, there’s never a bad reason to do a Batman film, especially one set in this much beloved universe. From a business end, it’s a bit unclear why this film exists. Following the show’s conclusion, there were a few video games produced including one in 2003, Rise of Sin Tzu, but I can’t see Warner commissioning a new film to promote a video game. My best guess is this was just a little something to keep Batman in the minds of fans as the company was preparing to bring the Caped Crusader back to theaters in 2005 with Batman Begins. It also allowed those who worked on the show to explore a period in time not touched on previously, namely the gap in time between the end of The New Batman Adventures and the death of Joker as explored in Batman Beyond: Return of the Joker.

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Batwoman is the latest vigilante to wind-up in Gotham

Whatever the reason may be, it’s certainly not a bad thing to have more Batman set in this universe. Mystery of the Batwoman, as the title implies, is a mystery tale with the subject being a new vigilante in Gotham, Batwoman. If that sounds too similar to Mask of the Phantasm well then let me point out right away that Batwoman is not a homicidal vigilante getting Batman in trouble. The plots are different enough and the mystery is sound. It’s also preceded on most releases with an animated short titled Chase Me. It’s pretty interesting to see a short subject set in this universe as one had never been done before, even though it would have made a lot of sense to pair the theatrically released Mask of the Phantasm with one. It’s a cute little piece of animation though done in-house at Warner in which Batman chases Catwoman through Gotham. It contains no voice acting and is mostly just a visual treat. It’s been included on basically every release of this film and is worth checking out.

Chase Me runs about five minutes long and its title says it all. When Bruce is shown out of his element at a ball being held at Wayne Enterprises, he slips away from his many suitors and retreats to his office only to find Catwoman robbing him. He gives chase as Batman as the two traverse the city of Gotham winding up at a zoo. Along the way there’s a cameo from Bullock and Batman does battle with some big cats. It ends with Catwoman cornered and she makes her usual play of appealing to Batman in only a way she can. At first he rebuffs her, but then moves in for a long, lingering, kiss as the police arrive. He then gives her a smile and leaves with the sack of money she swiped. She thinks he’s letting her go, but she soon realizes he handcuffed her to a gate. It then returns to the shot it began on with Bruce staring forlornly at the city from the ball implying it was all a fantasy as a blond woman taps him on the shoulder to lead him back to the party.

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Chase Me is brief, but fun.

Chase Me contains no dialogue and is set to an original piece of music. It’s uncharacteristic in nature for the series as it contains elements of jazz and has an obvious Latin flavor to it. It works for the romantic and seductive parts, but not so much for the action bits. The designs for the characters are taken from The New Batman Adventures, which is a bit of a shame as I don’t care for this take on Catwoman. Otherwise though it’s pretty entertaining and provides a little window into Bruce’s mind and what really gets him going.

The actual film, Mystery of the Batwoman, is a procedural mystery. It quickly tasks Batman (Kevin Conroy) with uncovering who Batwoman (Kyra Sedgwick) is, even by having her simply tell him to figure it out when the two first meet. It’s a mostly Batman affair, with a dash of Robin who is slightly older (and now voiced by Eli Marienthal) from when we last saw him. Barbara pops in only briefly to phone Bruce about this new person in Gotham stealing her gimmick and Nightwing is never mentioned.

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Batman and Robin will cross paths with Batwoman, but if you were hoping to hear from Batgirl and Nightwing then you’ll be disappointed.

Batwoman is targeting a weapons ring organized by The Penguin (David Ogden Stiers) and Rupert Thorne (John Vernon, making his first appearance since Season Two of BTAS). They’ve hired Carlton Duquesne (Kevin Michael Richardson) to provide security for their operation and when Batwoman proves to be too much for him they bring on Bane (Hector Elizondo). Batman, for his part, is mostly concerned with Batwoman and what her motives are.

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Kathy Duquesne is suspect number 1. She’ll also have a bit of a romantic fling with Bruce Wayne.

These sort of mysteries are often undone because the list of suspects is often small and limited to whoever is new. Mystery of the Batwoman is prepared for that by introducing three candidates for the role of Batwoman. And to make it harder, they all have different voice actresses including Batwoman herself. The first introduced is the daughter of Carlton, Kathy Duquesne (Kimberly Brooks) who carries a grudge against her father and his choice of work as it was his profession that got her mother killed years before the events of the film. She also has the added wrinkle of being named Kathy Duquesne, with her last name pronounced as “Do Kane,” making her name very similar to Kathy Kane, the name of Batwoman in the comics.

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Rocky works for Bruce, but seems to form more of a connection with Tim than her boss.

The second suspect is an employee of Wayne Tech by the name of Rocky Ballantine (Kelly Ripa). She’s invented a metal that can be programmed to take whatever shape she wants it to, which is pitched to the board of Wayne Enterprises and then utilized by Batwoman in an attack on The Penguin later. She also has the added motivation of wanting get back at Penguin for he framed her fiancé sending him to jail for 9 years.

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Bullock has a new partner in Sonia leaving Montoya out in the cold.

The third is Bullock’s new assistance, Sonia Alcana (Elisa Gabrielli), who is a dead-ringer for Elektra from the Cowboy Bebop movie. She may be a cop now, but she lost her home and her parents’ business to a fire started by Rupert Thorne. Batman saved her, but she and her family lost everything and to make it worse, Thorne escaped prosecution.

All three women will cross paths with either Bruce Wayne or Batman, with Kathy serving as a romantic interest as well. It’s engaging to watch Batman search for clues and even run into apparent dead ends as he focuses on one girl, then is forced to consider another. The film actually reveals who Batwoman is by the end of the second act leaving the third to contain mostly action as Batman is forced to basically save the villains from Batwoman while also facing off with Bane. There’s a bit of a twist to the mystery, but it works and I mostly enjoyed what the film gave me.

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Rupert Thorne makes his first appearance since the second season of the show. He has some new card gimmick for some reason in which he’s always fidgeting with playing cards.

Continuity wise, this film tries to address some of the things opened up by Batman Beyond, but commits to very little. When Barbara calls Bruce from college, it’s clear she harbors a romantic interest in him that he is uncomfortable dealing with. Such was implied by Barbara in Batman Beyond, and it’s odd to see Bruce basically ghosting before the term was invented. I would have liked to see more of this subplot, but it basically amounts to a tease. The end of the film provides a plausible explanation for what happened to Penguin and Thorne, though there’s little there that’s definitive. It’s a bit of a spoiler, but the ending for Bane makes it appear as if he perished, which is somewhat odd considering he’s one of the few villains from this era to show up in Batman Beyond. I suppose it’s possible this is meant to be his final encounter with Batman.

The animation for this feature was handled by DR Movie Co., LTD. in what is its first opportunity to work on this series. The company did do work for The Zeta Project and would go on to do work for Justice League Unlimited. It adheres to the visual look of The New Batman Adventures with little embellishment. One welcomed return is the use of the Dark Deco look for certain exterior shots of Gotham which hadn’t been seen since the first two seasons of BTAS. The level of violence in the show is possibly less than what was present at times in The New Batman Adventures and there doesn’t appear to be any increase in budget for the feature over a traditional episode. The animation itself is good in places, and poor in others. When Kathy is introduced, for example, she’s supposed to have a sexy sway to her as she walks, but the character looks bendy instead. There’s also spots where the camera zooms in on an image that really isn’t detailed enough for the look. And since this was released in 2003, it’s formatted for a 4:3 picture as HD television sets had yet to really take over even though it was created in 1.78:1.

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Batwoman gets to have fun zooming around on a glider like she’s some Spider-Man villain.

The character designs are basically all the same as what we saw in The New Batman Adventures. The only new character is Batwoman and her costume looks like a silver version of the Batman Beyond costume, but with a cape and different colored boots and gloves. She rides around on a giant glider that looks like the oversized glider Hobgoblin utilized in the Spider-Man animated series, only Batwoman chooses to kneel on it rather than stand. It’s also reminiscent of the glider utilized by Nausicaä from Nausicaä of the Valley of the Wind and it would not surprise me if that was an inspiration for the device.

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A lot of people have an issue with Penguin in this one, including me as I don’t like his new voice.

Andrea Romano is back to handle the voice casting duties and she was able to return most of the voices we’re familiar with. In addition to Kevin Conroy as Batman, Bob Hastings returns to voice Commissioner Gordon and Robert Costanzo is at his side as Detective Bullock. Efrem Zimbalist, Jr. is also back to give voice to Bruce’s trusty butler, Alfred and he gets to be as cheeky as always. Eli Marienthal takes over as Robin and this is the only time he voices the character while Hector Elizondo takes over for Henry Silva as Bane. I’m not sure why Silva did not reprise the role of Bane, but Elizondo does fine. In what is a bit of a controversial move, Paul Williams was replaced by David Ogden Stiers as the voice of The Penguin. I do not mean this as an insult to the memory of Mr. Stiers, but my reaction to his Penguin is not favorable. Stiers uses his Cogsworth voice from Disney’s Beauty and the Beast and I do not understand the motivation behind the change. Bruce Timm has stated that writer/producer Alan Burnett felt the character needed more of a “mob boss” type of voice, but I don’t understand how this voice is superior to Williams’ performance given that direction. Timm has been too polite to say what most fans probably felt, but I think he agrees with the sentiment that Williams should have returned.

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The musician Cherie gets to have a cameo in the Iceberg Lounge.

Lolita Ritmanis handled the score for the film. It makes use of Shirley Walker’s Batman theme while also going off and doing it’s own thing. There’s liberal use of a saxophone in the opening segment almost giving this film a Lupin feel at times. Once it gets going, the score largely blends in with the rest of the BTAS feel, though it’s certainly distinctive on its own. The only exception being the use of the licensed track “Betcha Neva” by Cherie, which was taken from her debut album. The song is played during a part that takes place inside Penguin’s Iceberg Lounge with Cherie essentially voicing the performer who is singing the song, even though it’s just her track that’s played. The sequence feels a bit odd for the film, but it does feature some of the best animation in the film in a brief shot of patrons dancing. The song is returned for the closing credits. It gives the film more of a feature feel to it, but in that inauthentic sort of way a lot of features are guilty of when bringing something from television to the big screen.

Batman: Mystery of the Batwoman is ultimately an entertaining ride. The 75 minutes runtime is appropriate for the story, and while it could have held onto the mystery a touch longer, it handles that aspect of the plot well. There’s some solid action pieces, but the presentation is very much in line with what the show produced making it a little disappointing in that regard. And while it seemed to promise a willingness to address some of the things left unexplained in between The New Batman Adventures and Batman Beyond, it ultimately revealed very little making the whole thing feel very inconsequential. It’s less a grand finale for the show as it apparently just wanted to give fans a chance to live in this world one final time. And if that is all it was going for then it turned out fine. It’s not at all comparable to Mask of the Phantasm, but it’s comparable in quality to SubZero.

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This film may or not may not depict Batman’s final confrontation with Bane.

Unfortunately, Mystery of the Batwoman was basically the lone holdout when Batman: The Animated Series was released as a Blu Ray set in 2018. The entire television series plus the other two films were included, but this one was strangely left out. It’s even odder because the film was already available on Blu Ray so it’s not as if it needed a new transfer. Perhaps there were licensing issues due to the Cherie song as it’s odd to leave this, and Chase Me, out of that set. Nonetheless, if you wish to view it yourself you have options. The film was released on both DVD and Blu Ray and it’s also available for paid streaming. The DVD, which I have, is old enough that it came in a snapback case and contains satisfactory visuals. There are some odd scanlines on parts of the image and I’m curious if that is corrected on the HD release. Neither is particularly expensive, so if you wish to own it (and if you already own the entire series you might as well) I’d say go for the Blu Ray as it’s likely a little better to look at and is probably presented in the proper aspect ratio.

This essentially wraps up our look at the complete Batman: The Animated Series. This blog is about to switch over to The Christmas Spot so it’s also the last Batman content for a little while. I will be back in the new year to share my thoughts on the series as a whole before moving onto one of my favorite exercises – ranking! Yes, after viewing all 109 episodes we need to decide which is the best the series produced. And following that, I’m not sure where this blog will take me. Batman Beyond is out there and certainly in play, but after 112 weeks of Batman coverage I may need to take a little break from the guy for a bit.

 


NECA TMNT Bebop and Rocksteady Target Exclusive Series

img_0666I have been rather fortunate when it comes to toy collecting in recent years. When I was a kid, toy collecting meant going to Toys R Us or a similar store and seeing what was on the shelf. Catalogs, commercials, and card backs were my main source of information. I assume there were newsletters and other avenues for the older collectors, but for a kid that was basically it. Today though it’s way different. Kids who collected have turned into adults who collect and it’s become a large market that seems to keep on growing. As a result, there’s extensive coverage of new and upcoming toys at conventions and trade shows. The brick and mortar toy store is also basically dead in the US, and most people get their toys online. The “toy hunts” I used to go on as recently as the 2000s have mostly vanished for me, until recently that is.

When NECA was finally allowed to expand upon their Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles offerings it meant I had a whole new line to dive into. The loosening of the master license by Playmates was still pretty restrictive though and it largely kept NECA to doing annual convention exclusives. That’s how I landed my set of 1987 Turtles two years ago in a gloriously massive set of 8 figures. This year though, NECA was finally allowed to seek distribution through conventional means that still kept the product somewhat separate from whatever Playmates was doing. This meant GameStop exclusive single-carded movie figures which had previously been a convention exclusive or restricted to quarter-scale. It also meant those toon Turtles were coming to retail and for that NECA partnered with Target.

Since Target also sells toys it meant there would be a conflict with Playmates. Even though Playmates is only producing Turtles based on the new cartoon Rise of the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, there’s still a sensitivity there. As a result, NECA was forced to make sure their product is differentiated even more than it already was in the form of two-packs that retail for around $52 each and they had to stock the product in the back of the store, usually behind electronics. Their distribution method is a bit tricky too as the product gets shipped to Target, but is then stocked by a NECA employee. As a means of keeping track, NECA even launched what it called an Ambassador program, which is essentially a Street Team which musical acts and record labels often utilized back in the 80s and 90s, and these ambassadors basically make sure the area looks tidy and sends a picture to NECA on a weekly basis.

I am a part of that program as I have a Target right in my town. I also work from home a few days a week so I have the flexibility to get there. When the Turtle sets started arriving though, I never saw one in my store. I would eventually see some months later at other stores when I thought to look, but they were definitely a bit hard to come by. No matter, as I already had them thanks to the convention set I had previously purchased. That all changed though with wave two. Back at Toy Fair, NECA unveiled the crown jewel of wave two:  a two-pack featuring the dim-witted duo of Bebop and Rocksteady. Based on their cartoon appearance, this was basically the first screen accurate version of the characters ever. Back in 89, Playmates released the duo in their inaugural wave of figures, but they were hardly cartoon-accurate. Bebop mostly looked the part, but Rocksteady had a black tanktop for some reason and his seldom worn helmet was part of his sculpt. As a kid, this bothered me because I was a bit of a pedant when it came to toys, but I still loved them for what they were.

Since this pair was not part of a con exclusive set, it meant I was going to have to hunt for them. The second wave of these figures was set for release on November 26, but due to the unique distribution of the figures it meant some started showing up the week before. They even went up on target.com briefly the prior Friday, though Bebop and Rocksteady either never did or sold out in a flash. The other figures in the wave are all repaints and re-releases:  a two-pack of Leo and Don, Raph and Mikey, and a two-pack of Foot Soldiers. The Turtles have been repainted in a bright green shade to more reflect the promotional art as opposed to the actual show, while the Foot Soldiers are basically army builders. All very cool, but I’m a bit limited by funds so I had to just focus on the new sculpts.

Because NECA basically stocks these figures themselves, Target employees are often unreliable. I found if I called a store the best they could tell me is if they were physically out or not. One employee was actually really helpful and knew that they were in the back, but they were waiting for the NECA rep to put them out. That was on the 22nd, and I made sure to check that Target the next morning. I got there about a half hour after opening and found the Turtles and Foot, but no Bebop and Rocksteady. Kicking myself for not being there right at opening, I proceeded to head to the next nearest Target where I found nothing. I would visit 8 other Targets that day driving over 100 miles in the process and found nothing at all of them. I kept an eye on Target’s website all weekend, and even asked my wife to check out our nearest Target on Monday while I was at work. Finally though, the day of this post, I found what I was looking for and at my store, no less.

What felt like a long and exhausting hunt was really only a few days and largely the result of my impatience. Had I just waited until the official release of yesterday, I would have saved myself a lot of time and money, but it’s all part of the experience. While it’s deflating to walk into store after store and find nothing, there’s also nothing like the rush of excitement when you finally do find what you’re looking for. I would and do trade that for the ease of an online preorder when possible, but it was nice to have that experience again.

All of the figures in NECA’s cartoon wave are packaged in window boxes with a color scheme that brings to mind the Turtle Van. NECA is unfortunately forced to use Nickelodeon’s licensing artwork on the packaging. This means the 2012 logo and character portraits of an unknown origin. The Turtles look fine in this loose style, but Bebop and Rocksteady look pretty terrible. Well, Rocksteady looks fine, I suppose, it’s mostly just Bebop that looks dumb. You don’t want to display these guys in box though, so I recommend just stashing that thing away.

So how are these guys? Well, in short, they’re a pair of beauts! Some might say these are faces only a mother could love, but they sure put a smile on mine. Bebop, largely by virtue of his glasses, has a bewildered expression on his face that I remember fondly. Meanwhile, Rocksteady has more of a disheveled look. There’s a craziness in his eyes that suggests he thinks he’s smarter than he really is, but anyone who watched the cartoon knows that’s not the case. His gut protrudes from under his yellow tank top and if you wish you can have his jaw hang open.

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They’ve got the guns, but make no mistake, the Turtles always have the advantage.

Prying these bad boys loose was a bit of a challenge as they’re big and they’re bulky. Once I had them in hand though I was in love. Bebop is the slightly more impressive of the two just because of what his look involves. He stands about 7″ tall so he towers over the Turtles and is just a bit taller than Shredder. NECA used actual metal chain links for his wrist bracelet and belt which is really neat. The front clasp on the belt is glues to the figure so you don’t have to worry about it sliding off completely while the forearm has a little hook on it to keep the bracelet in place. Every part of his outfit is a separate piece of soft plastic as opposed to just sculpted on, including the bandolier strapped across his chest and under his red jacket. He has a necklace of teeth and those big turtle shells on his shoulders. His hair is even colored correctly with the mohawk on top in purple and his pony tail in brown. His glasses flip up as well to reveal eyes that are almost entirely black, likely to make sure he looks best with the glasses down. His mouth can open into a yell, though I definitely prefer him with the mouth closed. My figure has no paint defects I could find, and NECA used a shading to similar to what it did with the other figures so the back of his arms and head are in a slightly darker brown. The line work and the paint app just makes this guy “pop” no matter what is displayed around him. A true sight to behold.

Rocksteady may be slightly less impressive than Bebop, but he’s no slouch either. This version of Rocksteady is from season two of the show onwards, basically the version most are familiar with. In the first mini series, he sported a helmet at times and also had camo pants. This version has brown pants and no helmet. I know some fans were hoping for an included helmet, but it might have required a different headsculpt to facilitate and this headsculpt is perfect as is. Would I have liked one? Sure, but I don’t know if I would have displayed him with it. Everything else though is pretty much perfect right down to the single grenade on his chest strap and the lone turtle shell on his hip. I love that his belt is slightly askew and also that he’s just a hair shorter than Bebop at 6.5″. He also looks pretty great with his mouth open or closed, and like Bebop I couldn’t find an imperfection on mine. The only disappointing thing about him is that his knife isn’t removable from its sheath, and since it’s a bit loose, don’t try to pull it out. The linework is just as well done as Bebop’s and it really gives the impression that this is a guy with a rather soft physique.

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“I’m surrounded by idiots!”

As these are big boys, one probably expected them to feature less articulation than the Turtles. And they probably do, but if so it’s not by much. A lot of the same joints are in place including ab crunches and ball joints at the hips and shoulders. There’s hinges in the wrists and cut biceps, double-jointed knees and elbows, waist articulation, and ankle pivots and hinges. The sculpt and added costume parts hide a lot of the articulation, but it does also hinder it. They may have a similar amount of points of articulation, but the functional articulation is certainly less. It’s a trade-off that makes sense though given these guys are brutes as opposed to nimble ninjas and the sculpts are really fantastic. The joints on mine were fairly tight when I opened them up. There’s a lot of paint here so that was expected. I was able to loosen things without the aid of hot water or a hair dryer, but just be gentle with your own set. Bebops legs are a touch loose and I do find him harder to stand than Rocksteady. That’s also partly due to his sweet high-tops limiting his range of motion at the ankle which is, again, a trade-off worth making. I can’t really get both feet on the ground and I might end up buying some NECA stands for these guys. Rocksteady is easier to stand, though his head is more forward. He’s limited in his poses as well, and again, a stand may be a wise investment as I’d hate for these guys to take a tumble and chip some paint.

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“Uh oh, looks we’re surrounded.”

Accessory wise, these two come with everything you would expect them to come with. Out of the box both sport fists, but they each have a set of open hands and hands for holding their weapons. These extra hands are the same between the two, just colored differently. Both apparently shoot right-handed as their trigger finger grippers are right-handed parts. There are two rifles and two pistols for the two to share and they’re the same as what was included with Shredder and the Foot Soldiers. They also have a communicator to share between the two of them and affixed to it is an image of the NECA Shredder, which is quite cute and pairs well with Shredder’s communicator that has an image of Krang on it. Maybe a future release will feature these two on communicators, if one doesn’t already exist. Some might lament the absence of Bebop’s drill-gun, but like Rocksteady’s helmet, it was one of those things rarely featured. Usually they just had the nondescript laser weapons you see here. Removing the stock hands is just a matter of twisting and pulling gently. Beware with Bebop though as his left hand is largely responsible for keeping that chain bracelet on and it could go flying off if you’re not careful. I wish the pegs on the hands were a little thicker as they appear a bit fragile to me, but they’ve held up well thus far so my concerns may be for naught. The hands are also painted plastic, and sadly paint is prone to chipping. I had a hard time getting the trigger hand to fit into the handle on the pistol blaster and chipped Bebop’s fingers a bit. I decided from then on to play it safe and just use the more generic gripping hand on the pistols and reserve the trigger finger for the rifle. As an added little touch that may or may not be intentional, there’s a tiny peg on the communicator that can be fit onto Rocksteady’s belt. Pretty cool!

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Rocksteady even has a place for that communicator.

Pairing these guys up with the other figures from NECA is a ton of fun. They look the part and they fit in scale-wise. In the show they might have been a little smaller, but that is largely due to inconsistencies within the show. They certainly look the part here and my bet is NECA was able to source the proportions from the style guide which hopefully dated back to 1987. These guys are in hot demand right now, but I encourage those of you on the hunt to remain patient. NECA knows it has a hit on its hands with these and I would expect they will make every effort to flood Targets around the country with them, and they’re also heading to the UK too. NECA even sent out an email to their ambassadors asking them to check with their local store to make sure these guys are either on the shelf or sold out, which is something they haven’t done for any other release. And if these guys don’t excite you enough, 2020 sure sounds like it’s going to be a blast! We’ve already seen finished, painted, prototypes for Slash, April, Casey, the Triceraton, Leatherhead, Roadkill Rodney, and Metalhead. Krang’s android body is also on the way and NECA hasn’t exactly been shy about confirming that Baxter Stockman should be expected at some point. And if video games are your thing, NECA’s latest in its TMNT video game series is expected to ship in February to specialty shops and includes renditions of Leo, Donnie, and the Foot Solider from the popular Turtles in Time game as well as a version of Slash from that game as well. 2020 is going to be a very exciting, and expensive, year for Turtle fans and we have NECA toys to thank for it. I can’t wait to see what the future holds, but I’m also not losing sight of the present as Bebop and Rocksteady rival anything the company has put out yet. Don’t sleep on these guys, Turtle fans!


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