Category Archives: christmas

Dec. 25 – Sonic Christmas Blast

Original air date November 24, 1996

It’s Christmas morning, and if you woke up to a tree packed full of presents you have only one person to thank for that – Sonic the Hedgehog! What? You didn’t know that Sonic took over for Santa back in 1996? Oh, well find yourself a comfy chair and a plate of chili dogs while I tell you the tale of An X-Tremely Sonic Christmas Sonic Christmas Blast!

Back in 1993, Sonic the Hedgehog was so popular that he warranted two separate cartoon series: The Adventures of Sonic the Hedgehog and the more plainly named Sonic the Hedgehog. Adventures was the direct-to-syndication cartoon and aired on weekday afternoons, while the other cartoon aired on Saturday mornings as part of ABC’s block of cartoons and came to be known as Sonic SatAM. Both cartoons were produced by DiC and both featured everyone’s favorite nerd (at the time), Jaleel White, as the voice of Sonic. The executive producer on both was Andy Heyward, who you may recall was also the executive producer for The Super Mario Bros. Super Show. He may be the first person to work on official productions of both Mario and Sonic, which I guess is pretty cool. While the Saturday morning program had a more serious tone, the afternoon Adventures was more of a typical screwball comedy where the wily Sonic outsmarted and outwitted his nemesis, Dr. Robotnik (Long John Baldry), on the regular.

Sonic has arguably never been as popular as he was in 1993. That’s because he had a host of games on the Sega Genesis that were well received. In 1996, Sega was promoting the Sega Saturn console and looking to unleash its mega-popular hedgehog on that machine. The game was to be called Sonic X-treme, and in order to market it, someone got the bright idea to commission a Christmas special. It would be in the style of Adventures and would be produced by DiC, though it would no longer be in conjunction with Bohbot Entertainment. The problem was, the game was never released. Sonic X-treme was cancelled, but Sega still had a cartoon it paid money for and intended to air. The solution: simply change the title!

This one is like a regular episode of the show, but it’s Christmas!

Sonic wasn’t leaving the 16-bit world in the dust just yet as Sega was prepping a title for the Genesis: Sonic 3D Blast. It was an experimental game that attempted 3D on the aging Genesis hardware via an isometric perspective. If you do not remember it there’s a good reason: it was terrible. Bad game or not, it was still worthy of promotion so the Christmas special was re-named Sonic Christmas Blast and released on VHS and aired on the USA network.

A few days ago we did Mario Christmas, so it only felt right to do Sonic as well. Plus, Sonic has the distinction of being the best movie I saw in a theater in 2020. No, it’s not a fantastic film, but it got to win that coveted crown by simply being the only film I saw in a theater in 2020! Thanks, COVID!

Meet today’s audience surrogate: Ugly Kid. He has no name, but an ugly character model, therefore we shall call him Ugly Kid.

This one starts off with a festive remix of the traditional intro, except most of the footage has been removed and just replaced with clips from the special to come. Boring. It then picks up in the city of Robotropolis, a city from Sonic SatAM that I do not believe was ever depicted in Adventures. At any rate, it doesn’t resemble the city from the other show, it just shares a name.

Something’s not right with this Santa…

Citizens are gathering to view a giant television that is apparently about to broadcast a message from Santa (do they not have malls here?). The camera is rather focused on an ugly little boy with no name (Eric Pospisil). I don’t mean he’s ugly as far as Sonic Society is concerned, just that his character design is rather offensive to the eyes. Santa (Jay Brazeau) appears on the big television screen with a rather important announcement. For one, he’s clearly a robot as he has pins in his elbows and he doesn’t appear to move very well so I am rather suspect of this forthcoming announcement.

Robotnik has somehow become even more insane looking.

And that announcement is that he is retiring! Yes, the unthinkable is happening at Christmas! Not to worry though, for Santa has already named a replacement. And that man is: Robotnik Claus! Yes, the evil Dr. Robotnik is set to take over for Santa and he is introduced to a stunned audience. For some reason, he looks like a homeless Santa as his suit fits rather poorly exposing his hairy gut and his shoes are torn. Robotnik’s first announcement as Santa is that this year things will be different. Rather than Robotnik Claus delivering presents to all the good little boys and girls of the world, they are to deliver presents to him! The madness!

Judging by that smile on Ugly Kid’s face, it would seem he was initially hopeful about this whole Robotnik Claus thing.

Scratch (Phil Hayes), the robotic chicken with the incredibly annoying voice, and Grounder (Garry Chalk) are positioned as cheer leaders for Robotnik Claus, but they annoy him more than support him. We then have it confirmed that this world does indeed possess malls as we see Robotnik Claus seated in a chair with a line of children waiting to see him. Ugly kid from earlier hops on his lap and Robotnik rather enthusiastically asks the child what he’ll be giving him for Christmas. The kid responds by punching him in the gut and informs him that he will do no such thing. Robotnik is rather pissed, but apparently he is still only cartoonishly evil as he doesn’t kill the little squirt, but he does order him imprisoned in his robot factory.

Hey! Look! It’s Princess Sal, in her original pilot colors! She looks like she has something to say in this image, but she actually has nothing to say. Absolutely nothing.

Elsewhere, Sonic is gearing up for Christmas with Princess Sally Acorn (Tabitha St. Germain is credited, but the character has zero lines). Apparently Sally gave Sonic a fancy ring last Christmas and he gave her squat, so he’s dead-set on getting her a bunch of stuff this year, even though she apparently wants nothing. Before she can utter a word of rebuttal, Sonic takes off with his buddy Tails (Chris Turner) to go do some shopping. While he runs, he decides to jump up and grab onto a tree branch for no particular reason and just dangle there. A bird in its nest takes notice of Sonic’s ring that Sally gave him which features an unusual marking. Ah, he grabbed the tree as a plot device since this ring is going to be important. Logical.

These two clowns are up to no good, but at least they’re well dressed.

In town, Scratch and Grounder are going door-to-door Sheriff of Nottingham style to collect presents for Robotnik Claus. They confront one poor sap who claims he has nothing to give, so they tell him they’ll be taking his house. And not in a way a bank would, but by literally using an excavator to take the man’s house while he begs them not to. Vicious.

Oh, good. Ugly Kid made it out of Robotnik’s factory unharmed. I was real worried for a sec.

Sonic and Tails arrive at a mall to find it completely barren. Someone has taken all of the wares and Sonic is apparently out of the loop. Outside, they run across Ugly Kid who tells them that he escaped from Robotnik Claus and informs Sonic of what’s going on. Scratch and Grounder then appear and like good, ineffective, hench-robots, inform Sonic of Robotnik’s plan to take over Christmas and get lots of presents for himself. They also tell him that they kidnapped Santa and used a robot to transfer his role over to Robotnik without a hitch. They even brought the robot with them as proof of their misdeed. They also brought some giant tank too.

Well, at least they seemed to have come prepared. Not that it will make any difference.

Scratch then wishes Sonic and his pals a “Merry Crush-mas!” as he tries dropping a big, spiky, block on the trio. Sonic is too fast for it though, and he goes all buzz-saw and lands in their cockpit. He then controls the giant arm of the tank to position a magnet over them sucking up the three robots and then dropping them to the ground in a heap of parts.

Nothing puts me in the Christmas mood like a pile of broken body parts.

As Scratch and Grounder begin reassembling themselves, while mostly ignoring the destroyed Santa robot, Sonic comes waltzing by dressed as a janitor. He’s a bit like Bugs Bunny in this show in that he can always produce a not-so-clever disguise that fools the bad guy every time. He plays friendly and gets the two to spill the beans on where Robotnik is keeping Santa before splitting, but not first without revealing his identity to Scratch and Grounder and smashing them to bits again with a garbage can.

Why does he have a butt?

Scratch and Grounder head to the home of Robotnik which is currently being outfitted with many, many, chimneys. Robotnik is even demanding more of his robot minions for he wants enough chimneys on his home so that every citizen in the city can enter his home at once with big sacks of presents. The brainless duo flags down Robotnik with the bad news, and they’re informed that they can no longer expect a Christmas card this year. Robotnik then orders his defenses be increased while also informing the duo that they are to bring him the most important of Christmas presents this year: Sonic the Hedgehog! Hey, that’s the same thing my kid asked for!

Some “scary” looking robots.

Sonic and Tails are shown in a cold environment heading to the location of the kidnapped Santa. It’s surrounded by Swatbots, but they do not at all resemble the Swatbots from Sonic SatAM. They just look dumb. Sonic gets past them rather easily and finds Santa in a frozen cell. He tells Sonic they need to get to his workshop fast if they intend to save Christmas.

A clever use of exponents.

At Santa’s workshop (apparently titled Ho cubed), the heroes find out that Robotnik Claus has already paid a visit to the workshop and stolen everything! Santa is rather despondent, but Sonic thinks there’s still time to recapture the presents and save Christmas! As they sit and think, Santa notices Sonic’s ring. He recognizes the marking on it from the cave Robotnik had kept him at (how convenient!) and they return to consult some glyphs. Apparently, Sonic needs to complete a series of trials to unlock the secret of ultimate velocity. I don’t know how Santa got that much out of the wall, but it should fill some time.

Well, that was hardly a challenge.

They head to the location of the first trial: Ice Pick Peak. Sonic merely has to race up a mountain – no problem. Trial number two is to snowboard down Calamity Cliffs. This is amusing since the Mario Christmas special rather prominently featured a snowboard as well, and it too was orange!

Nothing’s more “X-Treme” than snowboarding, man!

As Sonic snowboards, Scratch and Grounder spy him and place a giant bear trap in his way. Sonic sees it, and just swerves out of the way spraying a bunch of snow in their face which buries them with the bear trap. Sonic then grasps a hang-glider and soars over the pair and dumps his snowboard on them.

This Santa is a real buzz kill. I think I like Robotnik Claus better.

The last piece of the trial is a bike ride. Sonic rides over the frozen tundra dodging moving icebergs. The animation is offensively bad and little of interest occurs during Sonic’s ride. When all is said and done, they’re back at Santa’s workshop and Sonic has apparently attained super speed. He didn’t physically receive anything, there was no flash of light, he just is faster, I guess. Santa still thinks all is for naught though, but Sonic is ever the optimist!

I am legitimately shocked at the absence of exposed butt-crack.

Sonic speeds off to Robotnik’s home where the jolly, fat, man is rummaging through the presents under his tree. He’s in an impossibly good mood, so it’s the perfect time for Sonic to swipe everything! He moves as a blue blur taking not just the presents and ornaments, but Robotnik’s clothes as well, leaving him to stew in his underwear proclaiming his hatred for that hedgehog.

Well, looks like he’s happy. I don’t know what I would have done if Ugly Kid didn’t get to have a merry Christmas.

We then check in on Ugly Kid, who is in his living room with a naked Christmas tree. The blue blur whizzes inside and decorates the tree while depositing a large amount of gifts under the tree. The kid can’t believe it, but he knows who to thank. He opens his window and shouts out thanks to Sonic.

Once again, you would think she’d have something to say.

Alone on a snowy hill by a campfire, Sally does her best Karen impression from Frosty the Snowman as she looks cold and lonely. Sonic then pops in with an arm full of presents he promptly buries her under. She says nothing, just looks surprised, while Sonic rambles on about wanting to give her a merry Christmas. He removes a present to expose her head, waves some mistletoe over her, and smooches her forehead before re-burying her. He then runs off before she can even react to his gesture. Honestly, I don’t know why they bothered including her if she wasn’t even going to say a word.

And now Sonic is Santa, how’s that for a resolution?!

Sonic returns to Santa’s workshop to celebrate a Christmas well done. There he receives some rather shocking news: Santa does indeed intend to retire! Sonic can’t believe it, but Santa informs him there’s no need to worry, for he has found a suitable replacement: Sonic! Tails slaps a hat on his head proclaiming him Sonic Claus. He seems unsure at first, but one look in a mirror seems to convince Sonic that this is the way. He and Tails then stand and wave at the camera while Sonic wishes us an “X-tremely Merry Christmas,” the one relic of the original title, as the credits roll.

And that’s the story about how Sonic came to be Santa Claus! If your tree is looking rather bare and has been for years, that’s likely because you’ve been leaving out a plate of milk and cookies as opposed to chili dogs and Mountain Dew (I just assume Sonic would do the Dew). I suppose I should have filled you in on that important piece of information prior to today, but there’s always next year!

Sonic Christmas Blast is a terrible Christmas special. Things just happen to advance the plot, and almost everyone is dumb and annoying. Sonic is fine, and I have no issue with Tails, but all of the other characters are just too stupid to even be funny. I’ll give it credit for coming up with an original plot. It’s sort of like The Grinch, except Robotnik is direct and open about his thievery, with a dash of unconvincing trickery too. It’s still not entertaining, and the resolution of Sonic becoming Santa is rather preposterous. I guess it’s the kind of thing you can do when you know there are no more episodes of this particular show coming.

I will say, as ridiculous as he is, I do mostly like this take on Robotnik.

Adding further insult to the special is the fact that it looks pretty bad. It’s definitely in style with Adventures of Sonic the Hedgehog, but it was also handled by a different animation studio. Believe it or not, this actually looks slightly better than a typical episode as far as character animation goes. The backgrounds though are terrible, and the non-regular characters (like the ugly kid and various robots) look like they were designed in five minutes, and drawn just as quickly. There isn’t any one scene or piece of animation that I’d call fun to look at while the audio is basically what you would expect of any episode from the show.

If you wish to ignore my warnings and spend Christmas with Sonic, Sonic Christmas Blast is X-tremely easy to come by. It’s currently included with a subscription to Amazon Prime so you can freely stream it there. It’s also available for free on YouTube along with apparently every other episode of Adventures of Sonic the Hedgehog and in great quality at that. It also was released on DVD and will probably be in discount racks tomorrow for five bucks, but the only folks who should own this one are Sonic diehards and they probably already have it.

This concludes the 2020 edition of The Christmas Spot! It was a truly bizarre and eventful year and I’ll be happy to kiss it good by in a week, but hopefully these past 25 days have helped bring you a little Christmas joy. Thanks for reading, and merry Christmas!


Dec. 24 – The SpongeBob Christmas Special

Original air date December 6, 2000

When I listed out the best Christmas specials over a week ago, I included the stop-motion A SpongeBob Christmas. And I stand by that as that special is pretty great. Before there was A SpongeBob Christmas, there was The SpongeBob Christmas Special. Confused? Well, there are only so many ways to title a Christmas special. To make things a bit easier (or more complicated) it’s also titled “Christmas Who?” This was a milestone episode of sorts for the now long-running SpongeBob SquarePants as it introduced Patchy the Pirate and his parrot Potty and told the story of how Christmas came to Bikini Bottom. It was also the first double-length cartoon for the show as most episodes are split into two segments. It’s probably not quite double-length though due to the live-action segments featuring Patchy, but you get the idea.

Meet the president of the SpongeBob fan club, kids!

SpongeBob Squarepants was created by the late Stephen Hillenburg, who got a lot of coverage on this blog in 2020 since I went back and revisited Rocko’s Modern Life, a show he was intimately involved with. It was due to the success of that show that Nickelodeon took a chance on a cartoon headed up by Hillenburg himself. Other veterans of Rocko joined him on SpongeBob, including Tom Kenny and Doug Lawrence, and his show has largely eclipsed the former in terms of popularity. It’s probably become Nickelodeon’s most recognizable show at this point and I’m not even sure another show could really challenge it for that title at this point.

Do you like alternate titles, because we’ve got one here.

In spite of SpongeBob’s popularity, the show has mostly been a blind spot for me. The show just came at a time when I wasn’t watching the channel, and even though I have kids of my own now, they’ve yet to really latch onto anything on Nickelodeon. Maybe they will in time, though with everything moving towards a streaming format I’m less certain of that. Even though SpongeBob SquarePants isn’t my childhood, I can recognize it for what it is: a pretty solid comedic cartoon. I see a lot of influences from past cartoons in it the few times I watch it, and I’ve never really had much of a reaction to it beyond that.

For today’s special, we’re heading to the home of Patchy the Pirate located in the unfestively warm California (I have a cold weather bias when it comes to Christmas).

Even though I’ve seen very little of SpongeBob SquarePants, I still really enjoyed the stop-motion special so I’ve always wanted to check out this one. It just took me going out of my way to make sure I saw it. Thankfully, I have cable still so I didn’t have to go out and buy this thing, and with 2020 just being a tenacious pile of misery, I actually welcomed Nickelodeon’s Christmas in July programming during the summer. That’s how I finally experienced the first SpongeBob Christmas special. Maybe it’s not the authentic, December, experience it was meant to be, but it also meant I got to re-experience it later in the year too thanks to the wonders of DVR!

The bird is the real star.

After a festive rendition of the show’s theme, the special begins at the home of the president of the SpongeBob fan club: Patchy the Pirate. Played by Tom Kenny, Patchy is happily preparing for Christmas in the not idyllic setting of southern California. Even though there’s no snow to speak of, Patchy’s house is pretty well decorated and he’s got his parrot, Potty (voiced by Hillenburg) by his side as well. Patchy is a pretty conventional looking pirate, while Potty is an intentionally obvious puppet. Patchy is welcoming, like a classic holiday special would be, though he has an antagonistic relationship with his parrot. He’s in the process of making cookies, and isn’t eager to share the dough with Potty.

R.I.P. Potty…

The segment is pretty long and probably overstays its welcome. There’s some visual jokes, like a predictable bubble pipe joke, but little truly lands. I did like that Patchy flips his eyepatch up to read a letter, revealing a perfectly functional right eye, and dons a pair of glasses with the right lens blacked out. The setup for the introduction of the cartoon is created when a letter received by Patchy asks about Christmas in Bikini Bottom, prompting Patchy to tell the audience that the dwellers of Bikini Bottom didn’t always celebrate Christmas. Before we can get to the cartoon though, Potty has to consume the cookie dough, and explode. It leads to the very bizarre image of Potty’s dismembered head suspended in the air while Patchy looks on with amusement. Poor Potty, Patchy is the asshole in this segment and yet it’s the bird who gets blown up.

Well Sandy, if you’re going to live underwater you should expect to get wet now and again.

The actual cartoon begins with SpongeBob (Kenny) outside the home of Sandy Cheeks (Carolyn Lawrence). Sandy is a squirrel living in the outskirts of Bikini Bottom, and being a squirrel, she needs oxygen in gas form to breath, so she lives in a bubble. SpongeBob is looking to infiltrate the bubble to drop some karate moves on her. I assume this is supposed to be a good-natured prank as SpongeBob doesn’t have a mean pore in his body.

Turns out, oak trees make pretty nice Christmas trees!

As SpongeBob prepares to enter the bubble, he notices Sandy lighting up a tree with lights. Mistaking this for fire (he’s not very smart), SpongeBob grabs a bucket of water and races inside only to douse Sandy herself. She’s rightfully annoyed, but soon realizes that SpongeBob has never seen a Christmas tree before. Not only has he never seen one, he’s never even heard of Christmas before. We then receive a montage of Sandy explaining Christmas to SpongeBob. We don’t actually hear what she’s telling him and can only see her pantomiming various parts of her lesson, most of which appear to have nothing to do with a discussion on Christmas (that’s the joke).

I love Squidward’s energy here.

SpongeBob is quite taken with the whole concept of Christmas (and who wouldn’t be?) and races over to The Krusty Krab to inform the others what Sandy has taught him. There he regales Squidward (Rodger Bumpass), Patrick (Bill Fagerbakke), and Mr. Krabs (Clancy Brown) a tale of Christmas with emphasis on Santa Claus. Mr. Krabs thinks it’s pretty great to hear about a guy who will give you whatever you want for Christmas and he’s eager to write a letter to the jolly, fat, man. Patrick is equally excited and sets out to write a letter to Santa as well.

SpongeBob is shockingly literate.

Squidward is the lone holdout. He finds the story preposterous and refuses to participate. SpongeBob tries to talk him into it, but he’s not coming around. All the while, Patrick keeps interrupting their conversation because his piece of paper has split in half. After he requests a new page a few times, we see what’s causing the problem. Patrick is sitting down with the pencil in between his legs pointing up. He then presses the paper down against the pencil in order to write on it. I’m now curious if he often has problems with the written word in other episodes.

Is he an inventor? I’m so confused by the existence of this competent machinery.

After the letter-writing is over, SpongeBob shows Patrick the machine he’s come up with to deliver the letters to Santa. They place each letter in a bottle and the machine fires it up to the surface of the ocean. It (shockingly) works just fine, and SpongeBob starts sending the letters to the surface. For his gift, he just wants to bring Christmas to Bikini Bottom, but the others want something more material. Patrick wishes to have more paper, and the message in his bottle is clearly ripped in half, while Mr. Krabs wants a pony…with saddlebags full of money. He gets it!

This is probably going to ruin the life of some castaway.

The other townsfolk get involved too and soon the surface of the water above Bikini Bottom is full of letters. Squidward is still holding out, and SpongeBob and Patrick get set to making the town look merry for Christmas via song. It’s called “The Very First Christmas,” and it’s plenty catchy. It’s not as good as “Don’t Be a Jerk,” but it’s fine. During the song, we see SpongeBob and Patrick chop down Squidward’s coral “tree” to set it up in town and decorate it with glowing jellyfish. Patrick is a natural fit for the top of the tree as the star.

Time for an image blitz because there’s a lot going on. First, SpongeBob and Patrick chopping down Squidward’s…tree?
At least they made it look nice.
Mr. Krabs coming in with the high notes.

When the song is over, Squidward is relieved that he can now peacefully go to bed. Only he can’t, because the entire town is outside his house to sing another song welcoming Santa. It’s basically “Jingle Bells” only with the words changed to reflect their Santa-eagerness. Time passes though, and as Squidward sleeps peacefully the folks outside sing all night to no avail. When the morning comes, everyone is still there, but there’s been no sign of Santa. The crowd angrily turns on SpongeBob, who shrinks before their gaze.

So who told them they should all stand outside and wait for Santa? Maybe that’s why things start to go wrong from here.
I admire that one fish in the front row still looking pretty hopeful.
This is how I felt right around noon of every Christmas Day for much of my youth.

Squidward rises to the misery, and is delighted! When the crowd leaves, he races outside to taunt SpongeBob about how wrong he was about Santa. SpongeBob doesn’t put up a defense and just stands there looking miserable. Squidward snaps a photo to remember this moment, and for some reason he gets off by putting his ass in SpongeBob’s face and slapping it. The cartoon literally tells us he’s being a jackass by superimposing an image of a donkey over him.

Squidward, feeling pretty god damn fabulous!
I don’t think SpongeBob can possibly be drawn any sadder.
Whoa Squidward! This is trending towards harassment here.
You’re lucky SpongeBob didn’t give you any advice on where to shove that thing. Don’t you feel like an ass now, Squidward?!

With Squidward’s antics mostly over, SpongeBob hands over the gift he made for him. SpongeBob was concerned that Squidward would be the only member of Bikini Bottom to not receive a present since he didn’t write a letter to Santa so he made him one instead. SpongeBob drags himself away leaving a stunned Squidward to stand there alone holding his gift. He opens it to find a clarinet that SpongeBob had made himself and instantly feels bad. Meanwhile, SpongeBob is miserable as he begins to take down the Christmas decorations he put on his own house as well as Squidward’s.

Raining underwater? It’s a Christmas miracle!
Looks like someone’s been hiding a secret Santa fetish…

Uncharacteristically, Squidward decides he needs to make things right. He goes home and puts on a Santa costume. I have no idea why he had such a costume in his house, but hey, it’s needed for the plot! He calls out to SpongeBob from his roof, before falling, leaving SpongeBob stunned with silent glee.

What’s with that look, Squidward? What did you think would happen?

Squidward gets SpongeBob to snap out of his trance long enough to tell him he’s here to thank SpongeBob for bringing Christmas to Bikini Bottom. He has to endure a pair of hugs from SpongeBob, but the exchange goes well for Squidward as SpongeBob heads back to his house. Feeling pretty good about himself, Squidward turns to enter his own home, but a little girl is standing in his way. She asks for her gift, and SpongeBob then reappears to encourage “Santa” to bestow a gift on this deserving young girl. Not knowing what else to do, Squidward ducks into his house for a present and ends up giving away a monkey wrench.

Squidward was not prepared for this contingency.
And he especially was not prepared for this!
Everyone seems to take their crappy gifts in stride, like this woman who wanted a new hairstyle, but instead was gifted a bowl of mashed potatoes.

Unfortunately, this doesn’t solve Santa Squid’s problem. A line of citizens has formed outside of his house and they all want a present. He goes in and out of his house getting items and gifting them to the people outside. They’re never what is asked of Santa, but the fish receiving them make do with what they have. They all seem to leave pretty happy, but they also leave behind an empty house for Squidward.

More or less how I feel every year when Christmas is over. Only there’s more stuff, a lot more stuff, in my house thanks to my kids.

With the crowd gone, Squidward removes his costume and wonders why in the world he just got rid of all of his personal belongings just to make SpongeBob happy. Oh Squidward, you just got caught by the Spirit of Christmas! A knock on the door comes from SpongeBob, who excitedly tells Squidward all about Santa, apparently oblivious to the fact that it was Squidward he encountered and not the real Santa. He mostly keeps repeating that Santa has a really big nose, though Squidward seems to take this all in stride.

Apparently someone was watching.

When SpongeBob finally returns home, Squidward notices a letter has been left outside his door. It’s from Santa! It thanks Squidward for bringing Christmas to Bikini Bottom, though makes no excuse for why Santa passed them by. Squidward can hardly believe it, but sure enough, up in the…sky?…is Santa in his sleigh. He’s portrayed with a live-action actor, played by Michael Patrick Bell, and he does a lot of “Ho ho ho’s” and waves. Squidward thinks he’s going insane and returns to his empty house. He breaks out his lone material possession, the clarinet SpongeBob gifted him, and seems to enjoy insanity. Above, we see Santa fly in front of a setting sun.

Santa, surprisingly being played by someone not named John Goodman or Ed Asner.
Squidward’s just taking it all in stride.
Hey look! A twist on the old moon shot!

At Patchy’s house, the special is over. He’s acting out some sea wreck thing and we interrupt him. He finds a present from a reassembled Potty has been left on his head, a nest full of wrapped eggs. Patchy doesn’t seem too interested and is more focused on the mistletoe hanging in his home. He stands under it hoping a woman will magically appear and give him a kiss, but instead Potty comes soaring in to do the honors. The episode ends with Patchy basically running from the sex-crazed puppet. The special ends on an external shot of Patchy’s ranch with a “Happy Holidays” message spelled over it.

A last bit of chaos at Patchy’s house lets us know we’re done.

The SpongeBob Christmas Special is a pretty satisfying piece of Christmas comedy. It starts with a solid premise, and then does a good job of playing with the viewer’s expectations. Squidward was setup to be a Scrooge, and I even found his choice of pajamas to be very Scrooge-like. I thought for sure we were going full parody when he went to sleep on Christmas Eve, but instead we got something very different. Squidward had to learn on his own that wishing misery upon others really doesn’t bring about good feelings in himself. It was sweet to see him affected by SpongeBob’s sadness, and he actually had to learn about Christmas the hard way when he gave all of his stuff away to maintain his ruse. I liked that he wasn’t rewarded with anything material in the end, he just did what was necessary (albeit, in a comedically exaggerated fashion), and found the true meaning of Christmas within himself.

When I saw this outfit I thought we were going full Scrooge. I’m glad I was mistaken.

The odd part of the special is the fact that Santa apparently planned all of this? Did he decide to fulfill SpongeBob’s wish through Squidward? Or maybe we’re supposed to assume that SpongeBob’s unorthodox way of getting everyone’s letters to Santa was simply a flop? SpongeBob did wait until the last minute to get those letters out and Santa is only capable of so many miracles.

The part of the special that didn’t add much for me was the live-action component. I just don’t find Patchy all that funny. I’m also not 7, so maybe it’s just not for me. The cartoon was entertaining, just that component felt a bit long. It doesn’t ruin it or anything, I could just do without.

The Christmas card ending; a tried and true classic.

This Christmas special isn’t as good as the one that follows, but it’s plenty entertaining for an annual viewing. And I feel confident in saying that anyone who likes SpongeBob probably enjoys this episode too. If you have cable, this one should be very to easy to view even this late in the game. It’s possibly available for streaming on Nickelodeon’s website, and it may even air today! It’s also available on various holiday themed DVDs and as part of the second season of the show. It’s also available digitally because it’s SpongeBob, one of the most accessible shows around. If you have yet to view it this year then find 20 minutes today and rectify that.


Dec. 23 – The Super Mario Bros. Super Show! – “Koopa Klaus”

Original air date October 23, 1989

During the late 80s Nintendo was on fire in the US. The Nintendo Entertainment System came storming into living rooms, basements, and dens across the country making Mario and Luigi household names. In addition to video games, there were tons of licensing deals for clothing, school supplies, bedding, you name it. If it could be sold to a kid, then it had a Mario on it. This naturally made everything associated with Nintendo desirable for things like cartoons. Other older video game stars made that leap before Mario and found success, so it’s no surprise that Nintendo was willing to take the plunge as well.

Good old DiC was the first to come calling. By now, DiC is practically on top of the cartoon world in the US. The company has had some big hits while the former Hanna-Barbera juggernaut is starting to flounder and will soon be purchased by Ted Turner. Because of their stature in the world of animation, it wasn’t a surprise to see Nintendo go with DiC. Well, it’s not when you ignore that there are plenty of far more talented animation studios in Japan that Nintendo could have turned to, but their cartoon was clearly being targeted towards Americans so that likely explains the choice.

Danny Wells loves being Luigi.

For DiC’s first stab at a Nintendo cartoon it turned to the Super Mario Bros. It handed things over to Inspector Gadget creator, Andy Heyward, and trusted him to bring Nintendo’s mascot to the world of cartoons. That was hardly a surprise, but what was a bit surprising was the decision to include a live-action component in the show. The Super Mario Bros. Super Show! would begin with a segment featuring actors playing the brothers Mario and Luigi. They would have their own plot to untangle that would be setup in the opening act before the show would transition to the cartoon segment. The cartoon featured Mario, Luigi, Princess Toadstool, and her attendant Toad as they traveled through the vast Mushroom Kingdom always crossing paths with the evil King Koopa. When the cartoon concluded, the show would go back to the live-action portion where it’s story would progress and then resolve in the final act.

Why did DiC feel the show needed this live-action component? Well, it probably didn’t, rather DiC just saw an opportunity to knock the costs down. Who knows what Nintendo charged for the license, but my guess is the live-action was a lot cheaper to produce than animation. The actual cartoon in each episode is only 12 minutes or so in length. And the live-action part is just shot on a soundstage. There’s no on-location filming, wardrobe is pretty consistent, and they could probably bang out a few of these things in a day. Plus, it also allowed for the show to have some guest stars when the opportunity presented itself.

Monday through Thursday 1989, little dudes like me were “treated” to a Super Mario Bros. cartoon as part of the Super Show.

To add another wrinkle to the program, is that the show was actually 3 shows in one. It was a direct-to-syndication program that aired on weekday afternoons in most markets. Monday through Thursday featured a Mario cartoon and on Friday the Mario cartoon was swapped out for a Zelda one. During the lead-up to Friday, a sneak peek of the Zelda cartoon would be featured too so that when Friday came it almost felt like a re-run. It was an odd setup, but Mario and Zelda were like a packaged deal during this era, if cereal could be believed.

This is not a show with a large budget.

The Super Mario Bros. Super Show! lasted just the one season before it was replaced with a show based on Super Mario Bros. 3. The show produced 52 Mario cartoons and 13 Zelda ones. It also produced a pair of Christmas segments. One of which is the subject of today’s post, “Koopa Klaus,” in which King Koopa tries to ruin Christmas. The other Christmas segment was the live-action “Santa Claus is Coming to Flatbush.” Why the two weren’t paired up I have no idea. It makes no sense, especially since this one aired before Halloween in 1989 and the other on the more appropriate date of November 29. Instead, this one was paired up with “Little Marios” which is actually one of the more memorable segments for me since it features a ridiculous flashback in which the same actors portray kid versions of themselves. At any rate, it has nothing to do with Christmas so I’m just going to ignore it.

Better than a toilet…

Every episode opens with the very catchy theme song, “The Plumber’s Rap.” There are actually two versions of the rap, the one at the beginning of the show and then a different, much shorter one, that introduced the cartoon itself. Let’s just get it out of the way right now: this show sucks. However, I unironically love “The Plumber’s Rap.” It is perfect for what it is. When the opening credits are done, the episode begins with the first segment in the “Little Marios” plot. Now, I already said I’m going to ignore it, but while we’re here, I’ll just make some observations. For one, Mario is played by former professional wrestler Lou Albano and Luigi by Danny Wells. Both men are, unfortunately, no longer with us. They mostly look the part, I suppose. They’re definitely a little older than how I would have pictured the Mario brothers, but they have the colored overalls, blue undershirt, and big moustache. Albano even shaved his signature beard for the role, which was quite a commitment for him. Their home, which doubles as their place of business, makes no attempt to disguise itself as something other than a set. It’s very open. For some reason, the telephone is always shown in the middle of an actual pizza and it’s covered in cheese and pepperoni. The Mario brothers basically speak in Italian stereotypes and seem to consume nothing but pizza and spaghetti. The show makes very liberal use of a laugh track which makes it feel even more dated than it is.

Behold! Koopa Klaus!

When we get to the cartoon, we get the other opening credits with the modified rap. The lyrics are different and tell the viewer how the Mario brothers came to be in the Mushroom Kingdom (they found the secret warp zone while working on the drain). When the cartoon itself finally begins, we’re dropped into a factory where Koopa Troopas are dumping toys into a machine to grind them up into junk. King Koopa (Harvey Atkin, easily the best part of this show) is decked out in a Santa suit and is delighted to see the toys being smashed. He hates Christmas and he’s made it his mission to ruin the holiday for everyone. The three-headed serpent, Triclyde, approaches and he’s wearing a reindeer outfit. Koopa addresses him as Randolph the red-nosed triclyde. Apparently, Koopa’s sleigh is ready for him and he announces he’s off to Santa’s workshop to bomb it. He takes off with a sleigh full of bob-ombs being pulled by a pair of albatross with bicycle handles for reindeer antlers, a superior solution than what the Grinch settled for.

Mario gets to wear this stupid outfit the whole episode.

Mario and the gang have just popped up out of the ground like fucking Bugs Bunny for some reason in a very cold environment. Mario is dressed for some place much warmer and we find out that Toad (John Stocker) gave him some bad directions which has taken the four to The North Pole instead of Hawaii-Land. It would seem Toad may have done this on purpose for when Princess Toadstool (Jeannie Elias) realizes where they are Toad eagerly suggests they pay Santa a visit. Mario (voiced by Albano, Wells voices Luigi to keep things consistent with the live-action portion) then adds an entry in his “Plumber’s Log” as the gang starts walking towards the work shop. This is an obvious homage to Star Trek, though we never see a physical log book for Mario so maybe he just does this in his head to feel important.

FYI: if you didn’t already hate Toad, you’re about to.

Toad is rather excited about the whole thing with a major focus of his holiday love being the presents. Oh Toad, will you ever learn the true meaning of Christmas? He hopes Santa will give him his present now, which reminds the Princess that she has a gift for the little shroom and pulls it out. It’s a snowboard, and Toad is more than pleased with this development. He zooms around on the thing without so much as a “Thank you,” but the Princess seems to be enjoying this new development that has left her loyal attendant in a more infantile state.

Toad grave. Sadly, it’s short-lived.

The sound of sleigh bells get the attention of the Princess, but when she looks to the sky it isn’t Santa she spies, but Koopa Klaus! He drops some bombs which explode on impact and appear to be a direct hit on Toad. He’s not blown into bits though, he just goes soaring through the air and lands in a pile of snow. His snowboard follows and lands with one end in the ground forming a crude tombstone. When Toad emerges from the snow, he shrieks about his precious present and gives it a hug. The others then surround him and the Princess is rather pissed he doesn’t seem to care about their well-being. When confronted by this, Toad can’t even muster much of a defense aside from “well, it is Christmas” before finally asking the Princess if she’s ok.

This shot of everyone staring angrily at Toad is going to be repeated a lot in this one.

Luigi then rightly forgets about the dumb, little, fungus and wonders what Koopa is up to. Mario realizes that Koopa was flying towards Santa’s work shop which sets Toad off once again. As expected, he’s worried about the toys and the others have to glare at him to get him to add “…and Santa” to the list of things he’s worried about. No one is concerned for the elves.

The icy work shop, and our first animation gaffe of the episode as Mario is depicted in his red overalls.

The gang then comes across Santa’s work shop only to find it encased in ice. I guess somehow Koopa’s bombs can freeze stuff as well as blow up? I don’t know. They’re all pretty shocked at what they see, but worse, there’s no sign of Santa! They then spy Koopa Klaus (and I find it funny they keep calling him Koopa Klaus) flying away with Santa hogtied on the back of his sleigh. Toad starts crying about never getting another present while Koopa (rightfully) laughs his ass off.

That son-of-a-bitch kidnapped Santa Claus!

The Marios give chase as Koopa is heading…to the frozen work shop? I don’t understand his strategy. Mario is also so committed to saving Santa that he’s still in his vacation attire. Anyway, they happen upon a playground and Mario declares it’s a playground for the elves. Usually elves are little old men and women, but okay. Mario especially eyes a teeter-totter, only it’s not what I would call a teeter-totter, but a seesaw. Maybe it’s a regional thing? He tells Luigi to get a block of ice, only it’s too heavy for Luigi to toss over to Mario so he has to hobble it over. Mario then places it on the seesaw and instructs Luigi to jump off of his shoulders and onto the other end. Luigi does as he’s told and the block gets launched through the air and strikes Koopa’s sleigh. He and Santa fall, but Koopa uses his empty bomb sack as a parachute to slow their descent. I guess Mario was counting on Koopa doing that otherwise Santa would have just plunged to his death.

It’s Snoweegi!

When they hit the ground, Koopa keeps a firm grasp on Santa and uses his sack like a wind sail and lets the breeze pull he and Santa across the snow. Mario and Luigi respond with…snowballs. Koopa, who has a big, spiny, shell on his back could probably just weather the storm here, but he actually stops. He catches some snowballs in his sack, then throws it back at the Marios. Mario gets knocked over, while Luigi ends up covered in snow resembling a snow Luigi.

And I bet you thought Bender did it first.

Koopa Klaus carries Santa across the tundra, and it’s at this point I am just now realizing they aren’t leaving footprints in the snow – cheap animation budget! Mario and the others are right behind them, so Koopa does the reasonable thing of using Santa as a taboggan. As Mario and the others watch Koopa race away on his Santa-sleigh, Luigi worries aloud about the potential for thin ice ahead. Luigi, you’re at the North Pole. I’m pretty sure that ice is plenty thick. Toad then says something smart and points out if the ice can hold Santa and Koopa then it must be pretty thick. It must have been standards and practices that demanded they acknowledge the possibility of dangerous ice ahead or something.

This little guy doesn’t have much of a threatening aura to speak of.

The gang slides down on their rumps and crash land on the ice. Koopa then summons his Koopa Flurries, the little ice skating guys from the US version of Super Mario Bros. 2. They enter to the boss theme from the same game and spin-up some ice blocks to toss at the Marios. Their aim sucks, and Mario declares they must fight fire with fire! No, he’s not whipping out a fire flower, but tossing the ice block back at the flurries. Luigi makes the obvious observation that they’re actually fighting ice with ice, while he and Toad help Mario give it a push. All three wind up on top of the block as it whizzes towards the flurries who just…stand there. In tight formation, so we can get a bowling pin joke. No wonder why Koopa always loses.

Looks like certain death awaits you if you go in the cave.

Lamenting the defeat of his flurries, Koopa races into a cave still dragging Santa behind him (Koopa must be absurdly strong considering how easily he yanks this obese man all around the frozen north). The good guys arrive at the mouth of the cave, but hesitate once there. Luigi seems to be afraid of the dark, but the Princess declares the whole world will be a dark place without Christmas! Toad chimes in with a reminder they need to save the presents or some shit, but really this thing is sending mixed messages at this point. It would seem, per the Princess, that there’s no Christmas without Santa. Since Santa is just a jolly fat guy who brings presents, it would also seem that the implication is there will be no Christmas without presents! Hah! Check-mate, Princess!

It’s worth pointing out that it’s only the bad guy who has festive, holiday, attire.

They go after Santa and slide through the cave, though not smoothly. They end up essentially just going through a tunnel and emerge back out on the tundra. Koopa Klaus is above them though with Santa and he’s ready to dump the fat man over a cliff. He also slips into an Edward G. Robinson impression for some reason, as he spells it out. He ends his evil monologue with his catchphrase of the episode, “Bah Hum-koop,” which he shouts over and over until the predictable occurs: he starts an avalanche.

Is the background ice or water? Eh, it’s just a kid’s show.

The horribly animated avalanche falls on Koopa and Santa. In order to save Santa, Mario relies on that tool he’s most famous for, a plumber’s snake! Yeah, not a power star or flower or even a Koopa shell, but a plumber’s snake. He uses it like a whip to retrieve Santa, while leaving Koopa Klaus. When he asks what he’s supposed to do, Mario just makes a diving gesture. Koopa refuses, but has no choice in the end, so he jumps into…the ice? The background looks like more frozen tundra, but the animators layer a splash effect on it and Koopa behaves like he’s in water, but it looks ridiculous. Koopa hauls himself out of the water and onto some ice to feel sorry for himself. He asks “What else could go wrong?” and is greeted by an angry polar bear. We now leave Koopa to die.

Koopa’s new friend.

Back at Santa’s work shop, the big guy is pretty happy about being rescued, but things look dire. Santa (Stocker) doesn’t see how he could possibly unfreeze the work shop in time for Christmas. Surprisingly, no one seems concerned about the elves or reindeer encased in ice. They should be pretty dead at this point. Toad doesn’t give a shit though since he has his snowboard. He races around like a show-off, while Santa cries.

That is one punchable face.

Toad the infinite moron, then asks “What’s wrong?” when Santa walks off to be sad. The Princess has to dumb it down for him, and then Toad gets to flip a switch in his stupid little brain. He hands over his snowboard to Santa and tells him to give it to someone for Christmas. Santa, in an extreme overreaction, embraces Toad and tells him he’s never seen anything quite like the gesture Toad just made. His exact words are, “In all my life, I’ve never seen anyone express the true spirit of Christmas quite like you did.” What an astoundingly stupid thing to have Santa say. The little mushroom donated a snowboard, not a kidney!

Toad using Santa’s beard to dry his tears feels way too clever for this show.

Santa starts crying, and then everything melts because of Christmas. The Princess and Santa spell it out for the kids at home, in case they couldn’t figure it out, that the spirit of Christmas has warmed Santa’s heart to the point where the ice is thawing. It’s dumb, and an easy out. The elves and reindeer even seem fine, and Santa is able to prep his sleigh for Christmas Eve.

Looks like they saved Christmas after all.

Santa is ready to depart, and once again gives all of the credit to Toad for saving Christmas. Never mind that the little brat did almost nothing to actually rescue him from Koopa Klaus. That was pretty much all Mario. He then declares he has a special present for the lot of them and invites them to ride with him tonight to deliver presents. Toad gets to sit beside Santa, while the other three get stuck in the back. Santa is running lean too since he only has four reindeer and apparently two elves. They take to the sky and Santa calls out “Mario Christmas to all and to all a good night!” and does a moon fly-by to close it out.

Don’t worry, I wasn’t expecting the show to have an eight reindeer budget so I’m not even mad about it.

That’s how the Mario brothers saved Christmas. This is a profoundly stupid and cheap Christmas cartoon. I hate the Toad character as he’s annoying even when he isn’t acting like a child and he’s also kind of dumb looking, if I’m being honest. His arc is plainly obvious from the get-go and his selfishness at the beginning is just so over-the-top. Santa should just boot him out of the sleigh when they’re over the ocean.

The rest of the characters are fine, though none are particularly entertaining. Mario, who sounds like he was recorded over the phone or something, is the leader with all of the right ideas. Luigi is just there to be a sidekick and question Mario while the Princess is mostly along for the ride. She explains things, I guess, but in a cartoon lacking subtlety explanation is rarely needed. We don’t get any fun Mario power-ups in this one, and there’s a real lack of bad guys outside of Koopa Klaus. I did enjoy the Triclyde and birds with handlebar antlers, at least.

King Koopa, or Koopa Klaus, is the only redeeming part of the show. He’s over-the-top as well, but it works. He’s just an entertaining villain, even if he’s mostly inept, and the voice of the late Harvey Atkin is just so unique in this role. He and Stocker were pretty much the only voice actors that DiC would hang onto for the other Mario cartoons, as everyone else would eventually be replaced.

The Super Mario Bros. Super Show! is a relic of its era, a licensed cartoon designed to simply boost the profile of the main characters leading to sales of other merchandise. It’s not a good show, and this isn’t a good Christmas special. It is a widely available one though as Netflix currently has the streaming rights. It’s also available, cheaply, on DVD if you for some reason need to own this thing physically. You could also just stream it for free too, as it’s available on YouTube without the need for payment. Like I said, it’s not any good, but sometimes you just have to DO THE MARIO!

Swing your arms…

Dec. 22 – Extreme Dinosaurs – “Holiday on Ice”

Original air date December 24, 1997

After looking at what I considered to be a pretty good cartoon yesterday, I’m feeling like I need to take-in some trash today. It’s to the late 90s we go and the Bohbot/DiC Street Sharks spin-off Extreme Dinosaurs! Ah yes, everything was extreme around this time. Surge was packing the soft drinks aisle in stores, the X-Games were coming to ESPN, and even the Ghostbusters were getting extreme, or should I say X-treme? And what could be trashier than a Street Sharks spin-off? That unapologetic Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles rip-off started as a toyline and migrated to television and was truly abysmal in almost every way. The characters were just piles of muscles with mouths full of sharp teeth with easy to market personalities. I didn’t even know there was a spin-off until I came across this show, and my expectations could not be lower.

It was a just few days ago we looked at Inspector Gadget, DiC’s first big hit from the 80s when its animation was actually pretty good. Come 1997 though, DiC was all done with good and was only interested in cheap. Extreme Dinosaurs is an ugly show with poor animation, simplistic writing, and adequate voice acting. It was supposed to sell toys, and it shows. The character designs are in-line with Street Sharks in that it’s just muscles upon muscles with a dinosaur head on top. The show produced 52 episodes which aired as part of the Bohbot Kids Network, a package of syndicated cartoons that at one point was featured in about 75% of the US. I have no idea what channel carried this block in my market, but I do remember coming across Extreme Ghostbusters so it must have aired around me.

They’re dinosaurs, and they’re extreme!

The plot for Extreme Dinosaurs is some aliens created humanoid dinosaurs for nefarious purposes. They rebelled and became the heroic Extreme Dinosaurs on Earth. Opposing them are more mutated dinosaurs, these ones all velociraptors (again, this was the 90s and a post Jurassic Park world) that want to accelerate global warming and return Earth to a habitable environment for dinosaurs. The Extreme Dinosaurs live at a ranch/museum in the middle of no where with a kindly old man named Porcupine.

The 52nd and final episode of this dumpster fire was a Christmas episode. Titled “Holiday on Ice,” the evil raptors are taking their talents to the North Pole to set off a bomb of some kind that will melt the polar ice cap and flood the world. The Extreme Dinosaurs need to stop them for the obvious reason of not letting the world become flooded, and because Santa lives up there! Duh!

And you thought Charlie Brown had a pathetic little tree.

The episode begins in a cave with the bad guys. Haxx (Lee Tockar) is working on his letter to Santa. He is apparently the dim-witted portion of the bad guys as he doesn’t seem too bright and almost sounds a tad infantile. Bad Rap (Gary Chalk) enters to admonish him for his foolishness. He also explains their new plan to melt the polar ice caps using some device Spittor (Terry Klassen), the third Raptor of their little team, cooked up. When Haxx questions what this will do to Santa, Bad Rap predictably doesn’t care.

There’s something you don’t see in every Christmas special.

At the museum, Bullzeye (Jason Gray-Standford), a pteranodon, is trimming the Christmas tree when Spike (Cusse Mankuma), a blue triceratops, enters the room. He’s confused why Bullzeye would erect a tree in the house, and he goes on to explain it’s a Christmas tree. It would seem Porcupine’s nephew is coming to visit them and he figured the kid would want to see a Christmas tree. Not knowing what holiday the kid is into though, he’s also prepared by having a menorah on hand and even some Kwanzaa decorations!

“All right, lunch is here!”

Outside a car pulls up and some guy in a blue suit drops his kid off. The kid is Matt (couldn’t find a credit for him, but he sounds super familiar and it’s driving me nuts) and he’s not very happy about spending Christmas Eve at this place. His uncle Porcupine (Chalk) comes out to greet him followed by Spike and Bullzeye. The kid has basically no reaction to these dinosaur guys which is just insane! They look horrifying! Any reasonable human, kid or not, would flip out at the sight of these things.

The most unrealistic thing about this image is the fact that the kid isn’t shitting his pants.

They head inside and because the kid doesn’t seem to care I just assume his dad prepared him for them. Nope, as he ends up suggesting they take off their masks. The other members of the team, Stegz (Sam Vincent, you can probably guess what kind of dinosaur he is) and T-Bone (Scott McNeil), a T-Rex, introduce themselves, but also have some information. They received a distress signal from way up north and want to check it out. Matt wants to go too so he grabs his coat and hat and the gang heads out.

The dinosaurs meet the “mysterious” Claus Nicholas. What a dumb, fucking, name.

The dinos ride some flying contraptions to reach a research station in the North Pole. A bald guy with a white beard and lab coat greets them and he too is apparently not frightened by gigantic dinosaur creatures. Oh, and he’s obviously Santa Claus. He’s thankful the dinosaurs have arrived as he’s all alone for Christmas and noticed a disturbance. They head inside and check out the place, and Matt soon discovers the raptors up to no good when he checks some security terminal. It’s decided that Matt will stay with “Mr. Nicholas” while the Extreme Dinosaurs confront the raptors.

These raptors have style.

The Extreme Dinosaurs head out and at this point I feel the need to point out that these guys are likely cold-blooded and they’re running around the polar ice cap in short sleeves. I know they’re “extreme” and all, but come on! Bad Rap, Haxx, and Spittor are up to something, and it would appear they’re drilling into the ice. They’ve also at least put on some clothing to better prep them for the cold. Bad Rap looks quite nice in his baby blue vest and stocking cap.

Time to get X-treme!

To emphasize their extremeness, the Extreme Dinosaurs descend upon the raptors via snowboards. T-Bone and Bad Rap square-off with each other, as I assume they probably often do as leaders of their respective factions, which results in Bad Rap getting tossed into a snowbank. Declaring it’s too cold for this stuff, he activates some device and a bunch of robot dinosaurs attack. They make the stock “dragon” sound you’ve probably heard in many shows and cartoons (think the Dragonzord from Power Rangers, and the dragon unit from Warcraft II) and quickly surround the good guys.

Oh goodie, robots!

With the cyber raptors occupying the Extreme Dinosaurs, the raptors slip away to resume their operation. The good guys take a bit of a pounding at first, but once they get extreme and hop back on those snowboards the tide of battle turns. They even find one of Spittor’s devices and Bullzeye is tasked with taking it back to Santa before returning to deal with the raptors.

“Ok Matt, lets watch your new friends freeze to death.”

At the research station, Santa (they keep calling him Claus or Mr. Nicholas, but I’m just going to call him Santa because he’s obviously Santa) brings Matt some hot cider while he busies himself at the computer keeping an eye on things. Bullzeye drops by with the device and takes off. Matt shows concern for the dinos since it’s getting really cold out. Santa confirms it’s probably getting too cold, but if anyone can handle it, it’s the Extreme Dinosaurs! Yes, they actually refer to themselves as the Extreme Dinosaurs.

“Don’t get too attached Matt, food is scarce up here so you’re hugging Christmas dinner.”

Santa’s husky enters the room and Matt thinks it’s a wolf at first, but warms to the dog quickly. He mentions how he wants a dog, and Santa replies, “No shit you want a dog. Don’t you think I already know that – I’m fucking Santa Claus!” Ok, not really, but he gets a lecture on doing his chores and showing his father he’s responsible and all of that crap so he can get a dog. And we now know how this episode is going to conclude. An alarm goes off to interrupt their conversation. Apparently now it’s too cold for the dinosaurs, but all they can do is watch a monitor.

I tried to warn them. Cold-blooded and all.

The Extreme Dinosaurs then come upon the raptors who are finishing up with their operation. The snow is really coming down though and everyone sounds cold. Spittor shows off why he has that name, and what all of the hoses and stuff are for on his body, as he blasts the good guys with water. Normally, this would just be annoying, but since it’s well below freezing the Extreme Dinosaurs ice-up. Bullzeye arrives and narrowly avoids the same fate. Even though they have the Extreme Dinosaurs practically dead to rights, the raptors retreat as it’s just too cold. Stegz is then the first to succumb to the cold as he falls on the ground declaring he can’t stay awake. Santa and Matt watch this all unfold and by now the kid is pretty worried.

Santa tells Matt he has to have faith in the Extreme Dinosaurs in order for them to prevail. Matt thinks this is a load of bull, but decides it can’t hurt. Miraculously, the storm stops and the sun emerges. He accuses Santa of being responsible, and he in turn accuses Matt as the frost on the window starts to melt.

Stegz is apparently not extreme enough to handle the heat.

Bullzeye emerges from a pile of snow and looks around for his comrades. He finds them frozen solid, but with the sun now out he’s hopeful. He apologizes in advance for what he’s about to do, and lets out a mighty scream to shatter the ice prison each of his buddies is in. They emerge, seemingly no worse for ware, and Spike passes around a thermos of hot sauce to really get them going. With the temperature a balmy 50 below, the Extreme Dinosaurs set out to find the raptors.

It’s time for another fight, but this time they’re taking it TO THE EXTREME!

The raptors are prepping the last of Spittor’s disrupters when the Extreme Dinosaurs come upon them. Before the detonator can be activated, it’s knocked from Spittor’s hands and the Extreme Dinosaurs take hold of it. Inside the research station, Santa informs Matt he’s figured out the frequency of Spittor’s device and announced he can jam it. A crash outside alerts the two of the rumble taking place, and Matt excitedly races outside to see the Extreme Dinosaurs in action.

Matt: a kid who is clearly not extreme.

This proves to be a bad move, as Bad Rap gets a hold of him almost immediately. With a hostage in hand, T-Bone hands over the detonator and Spittor is happy to activate it and plunge the world into a new reality. Unfortunately for him, Santa is ready and activates his own device which cancels it out. When nothing happens, Matt happily informs the evil dinos that Santa messed things up for them. Defeated, they race to their personal flying devices taking Matt with them and toss their last remaining disruptor behind them. They detonate it burying the Extreme Dinosaurs in snow. As they fly away, Matt actually asks Bad Rap if they’ll be okay and he shoots back, “I certainly hope not!”

“Don’t worry about it. People go missing all of the time up here at the North Pole.”

The Extreme Dinosaurs emerge from the snow to find Santa. Bullzeye is especially upset that the raptors got Matt, as he just wanted to help the kid be less jaded, as he puts it. Santa assures him that Matt has come a long way and has learned to believe in others. The dinosaurs are skeptical, but Santa leads them back inside assuring them that Matt will be back in an hour.

Ahh yes, the bad guy moved to do good on account of Christmas.

Inside the research station, the dinosaurs can be seen pacing about while Santa sits contently at a computer. Spike informs him the hour is up, but Santa informs him there’s still five minutes to go. T-Bone expresses his displeasure at this course of action, but a knock at the door gets their attention. It’s Haxx, and before the Extreme Dinosaurs can “fossilize” him, Matt runs in waving them off. Haxx has apparently brought him back in exchange for something, and Matt promised him he’d be able to leave unharmed.

Always a good move to give Santa a hug when the opportunity presents itself.

After Haxx departs, T-Bone reminds the others (and us) that it’s Christmas Eve. They need to get the kid home as Spike invites Matt to ride with him. Before he boards Spike’s personal transportation thing, he informs him he has one last thing to do. He runs over to Santa and gives him a hug and thanks him for his lesson on believing. He also hands Santa a note, and I think we can figure out what the deal between Haxx and Matt was. Santa gives him a wink and a chime sound effect is even played when he does it which always means magic. Matt and the dinosaurs then head home. Except for Bullzeye who stays behind to request a favor of Santa that we’re not privy to just yet.

Uncle Porcupine should probably give that cider a sniff.

Back at the ranch, Matt is excited to tell his uncle what happened, but also upset that Bullzeye is apparently going to miss his first Christmas Eve. Spike tells him not to worry, and gets him some cider. Later, Matt is passed out on the couch beside a now shirtless Spike (this is kind of weird) who is watching TV. A Santa report pops onto the news and we see that Santa has apparently traded in his eight reindeer for one pteranodon. Matt wakes up to recognize that it’s Bullzeye pulling the sleigh, and Spike reminds him he better get to bed before Santa arrives.

A puppy – who would have guessed?

The next morning, Matt steps out onto the porch to get the paper. There he finds a little dog with a ribbon tied around him. He’s pretty excited and knows this is the work of Santa Claus. His uncle is there to suggest that maybe the dog is a stray as people apparently often leave them here (probably for the dinosaurs to feast upon), but Matt knows better. His dad arrives to pick him up, and he’s surprisingly not pissed about the whole dog thing. He tells Matt he can keep him, and everything is wrapped up in a neat, little, package.

Sadly, the show was cancelled before it could do a proper Kwanzaa special.

After Matt leaves, the Extreme Dinosaurs are able to reflect on their first Christmas a bit. Spike is actually disappointed they have to wait a whole year to do it again, but Bullzeye informs him that Kwanzaa starts tomorrow!

The lesson here is it’s okay to take a hostage as long as you return them unharmed. At least, as far as Santa is concerned.

Elsewhere, Haxx finds a little tarantula under his makeshift tree. Apparently this is what he asked Santa for and he’s delighted that Matt gave Santa his list. Spittor walks in to throw cold water on his moment saying the bug probably just wandered in. Bad Rap also enters to suggest the whole Santa thing is nonsense since he didn’t get what he wanted: a boiling, hot, warming, trend. Haxx informs him that he probably didn’t get what he wanted because he’s on Santa’s naughty list, and Bad Rap responds by throwing one of those disrupter things at him. Only he misses and hits the wall of their cave causing a bunch of lava to come flowing in. As the three take shelter, Haxx explains to Bad Rap that he got what he wanted after all and he reasons he must not have been a bad, little, raptor after all. Bad Rap responds by saying if he wasn’t bad, he’s going to start being bad right now and chases Haxx. And that’s apparently the joke the series decided to end on.

Well, I went looking for a trash cartoon and I mostly found one. This episode of Extreme Dinosaurs hits on a lot of the Christmas special tropes we’ve come to know (and love?). We get a bratty kid who doesn’t believe in Santa who ends up learning to not only believe in Santa, but in everything, apparently. The kid is so bratty that towards the end Spike even tells Porcupine he thought his nephew sucked, which actually made me laugh out loud. And in order to reach that end we get to watch a pair of warring factions of mutated dinosaurs do battle and out scheme one another. The animation sucks and so do the character designs. I could see how these creatures could make for interesting toys, but as cartoons they mostly look awful. T-Bone looks like an oversized Poppler from Futurama. I will say the bad dinosaurs looked better than the heroes, but not by much.

The Santa radar from the news broadcast is the closest we get to a proper moon shot.

As far as Christmas goes, for an episode that takes place at the North Pole there’s very little Christmas to be found. We basically just get the beginning and end which features some decorated interiors and that’s it. We don’t even get to see Santa fly in front of the moon with his snazzy dinosaur ally! It’s fine though, and I did appreciate the winter clothing worn by the bad guys.

I had a little fun laughing at this one, but I’m not going to tell you that Extreme Dinosaurs is a good show. Or that it’s even worth watching. If you want a dose of 90s extreme then go for it, I suppose. No one is protective of it, so just punch the episode title into your search engine of choice. This is sometimes just labeled episode 52, and if you actually want to relive the Extreme Dinosaurs experience in its full then worry not as this episode was only the final episode in broadcast order. Production wise, it’s in the middle and feels like it’s pretty stand-alone at that. I don’t think Matt ever returns, which is probably why I can’t confirm a voice credit on the role, and it’s the only Christmas episode the show did. What a pity.


Dec. 21 – Buzz Lightyear of Star Command – “Holiday Time”

Original air date December 16, 2000

When Pixar set out to create competing, fictional, toys in its debut film Toy Story it settled on cowboys and space rangers. The thought being that once upon a time cowboys were the most popular fantasy toy among boys, but were soon replaced by fantastic space voyagers once real-life space travel became possible. In order to really set the mood for the film, Pixar created Buzz Lightyear. He had a fictional back story that felt like it came right off of the back of an action figure blister card in 1990. He had a fictional TV show in the film, though we saw little of it. He had a nemesis, and the lore of the Buzz character was added to for the sequel, Toy Story 2.

Both films were a huge success for Pixar and Disney. And since the films were popular with kids, it meant licensing was super easy. After all, every character in the film was a toy! Toys were created and sold and even more money was earned. Pixar didn’t stop there though. Kids liked Buzz and they had interest in the fictional lore of the character that the films only touched upon, so why not turn that into a real world cartoon series? That’s how the world ended up with Buzz Lightyear of Star Command. This is the story of the fictional Buzz created and sold to kids like Andy of Toy Story. He’s supposed to be a cartoon in that universe, so in our real world he too is a cartoon (and because animating the show like a Pixar film would probably be way too expensive). The only thing the show couldn’t do was preserve his voice, since star Tim Allen was either too expensive (probably) and also probably didn’t want to be tied down to an animated series.

Enter Patrick Warburton, who has a better voice for the character than Allen himself. He’s a natural fit for the regal, yet brash, space ranger that is Buzz Lightyear. The show was, like many Disney Afternoon shows that came before it, a direct-to-syndication order. And like DuckTales and Gargoyles, it premiered in an extended format as a mini film of sorts which spanned multiple episodes when aired on television and could be sold at retail and marketed as a movie. The show was part of the One Saturday Morning block and also aired on week day afternoons (though not as part of the famed Disney Afternoon) from 2000-2001 and likely in reruns there after across various Disney platforms. For a long time, it was the only Pixar television series, though Disney+ is expanding that. It also has the distinction of being one of the few hand-drawn, 2D, animated offerings from Pixar.

Every episode begins with the gang racing to the TV to watch the show, a cute addition.

As a syndicated program, Buzz Lightyear of Star Command totaled 65 episodes with the 62nd being a Christmas one. We’re going to find out how the denizens of space celebrate the holiday. And if you thought the Santa who lived on earth had it bad, the one we’re about to meet has to deliver toys to an entire galaxy! And since this is a cartoon series with Buzz in the starring role, we’re going to have to meet some unfamiliar supporting characters along the way. The big, baddie is obviously Zurg, but he figures to have some minions or something, I would assume. I’m going into this show pretty cold as it’s a blind spot for me, but it at least has a solid pedigree to start.

This little robot is XR and today he’s going to learn a lesson about giving, because someone has to in a holiday special.

Each episode begins with a cute little piece of animation where the characters of Toy Story are rushing to get to a television set to watch the show. The episode begins on what I assume is the home planet of Buzz, or at least the home planet where the Space Rangers are headquartered. There’s a Santa ringing a bell in the center of town and this Santa is not the real deal, but is actually Buzz. He strikes a nice pose, though he’s lacking in the whole bowl full of jelly department. Fellow space ranger Mira (Nicole Sullivan) is educating her colleague XR (Neil Flynn) about the holiday season. Mira is pretty basic looking as she’s just a blue human, though XR is some sort of robot. He looks kind of like Earthworm Jim to me. He thinks all of this holiday stuff is pretty dumb as he buys a gift for a friend and they do the same (he’s pretty cheap since he cites the gift as being ten bucks) and doesn’t see the point. Mira stresses it’s the giving that matters, and we’re probably setting up for a holiday lesson that will pay off in the end. Some kid then goes running by and mistakes XR for a toy snatching him up and thus proving his point for him. I also can’t help but notice that the characters have yet to say “Christmas” and instead use the generic term “holiday.” It’s sort of weird to have a holiday just named “The Holiday,” but apparently there was no Space Christ for a Christmas to arise from.

Buzz is a pretty solid looking Santa.

They soon turn their attention to Santa Buzz who’s working the crowd. A large man in a red suit soon approaches needing Buzz’s help and it’s plainly obvious that this guy is going to turn out to be Santa (Earl Boen). And sure enough, he claims to be Santa! Buzz thinks he’s crazy and isn’t eager to help him out with whatever problem he currently has. Fellow ranger, Booster (Stephen Furst), then calls for backup and Buzz bails. As Santa calls out to him practically begging for help he refers him to Mira to provide a statement.

But this guy is a better looking Santa.

Buzz then happens upon Booster who too was playing Santa in a different part of town to collect donations. The kids have turned on him though as they recognized the big, red, alien is not Santa. He’s hiding in terror behind his collection bucket as the locals pelt him with snowballs. When Buzz arrives, they stop momentarily to regard him and soon claim he isn’t Santa either. When Buzz insists that he is they ask him to explain how he can possibly get toys to every kid in the galaxy in a single night, and Buzz confesses that he can’t. They ready their arms, and Buzz distracts them with promises of destruction by offering to show off his wrist laser. Problem solved!

Booster is apparently not the most reliable member of the force.

Mira is still taking “Santa’s” statement back in town. He had something stolen, but can’t say what. While Buzz is regaling the children with tales of his exploits until Star Command sends out a signal for him to return to base. They all return to an orbiting space station where Commander Nebula (Adam Corolla) hands over a list of crimes Zurg apparently intends to commit. It’s the usual sort of stuff, but ends with Buzz’s newspaper being stolen on the list which really seems to piss him off.

Diabolical!

The first item was to sabotage the fleet, so Buzz and team head to where they think Zurg is going to strike only to find nothing. Buzz thinks he was scared off, and then a flash of white light and snowflakes appear for a second. When it fades all of the space ships are in disarray. Buzz is in disbelief over what he just witnessed, but has no time to ponder how Zurg did it because next on the list was busting out everyone in a space prison. The fleet is scrambled and Buzz and team are shown surrounding the jail. Once again, a flash of light and snowflakes occurs and when it fades Buzz and his subordinates are surrounded by escaping criminals! And then to top it off, the next morning Buzz emerges from his home in his robe to find his paper waiting for him. He’s comforted by its presence, but as he reaches for it a flash of light and snowflakes once again occurs, and Zurg (Wayne Knight) appears with newspaper in hand. He offers a quick pleasantry and then vanishes!

Never mess with a man’s paper.

Back in town, Buzz is overseeing the lighting of a giant, holographic, Christmas tree. It lacks the charm of an evergreen, but at least it’s environmentally friendly. Soon the man claiming to be Santa reappears to once again request Buzz’s aide. Buzz is in a grumpy mood on account of the Zurg stuff and is in no mood to even entertain this guy’s request. The rest of the team bails too since they think this Santa guy is literally insane. Santa pushes back though and is pretty insistent on who he is. He does allow himself to get frustrated though as he wonders aloud why no one believes him. Clearly, no one realizes they’re in a Christmas special. Buzz then explains he stopped believing when he was 9 because he didn’t get the laser he wanted. Santa knows, and he knows why he didn’t get what he wanted. For one, he wasn’t going to gift a 9-year-old a weapon for Christmas, and two, Buzz was actually on the naughty list for shooting the fur off of his cat’s tail.

Nice tree, would be a shame if something were to happen to it…

Buzz is pretty shocked that Santa knows this as blasting Fluffy was something only he knew about. Now that he finally believes this guy is Santa, it’s the perfect opportunity for Zurg to strike again. He’s going full Grinch this time as he steals the giant, hologram of a tree with the same flashing lights and snowflakes as before. And it’s not just the tree, as Buzz receives a transmission from Star Command that Zurg has hit all of the other planets in the galaxy and stolen everything related to the holiday! They keep teasing the line too that Zurg stole Christmas, but no one actually goes so far as to say it as they still insist on not saying Christmas. They had me on the edge of my seat just waiting for it!

Well this puts every version of The North Pole to shame.

Santa then has Buzz hop into his Christmas tree-shaped spaceship to take him to his work shop on North Polaris. It looks like a snowglobe of a planet, which is pretty near. There Buzz meets the elves, which are actually “LGMs” or Little Green Men (the squishy aliens from Toy Story). They are decked-out in elf attire (and also voiced by Warburton, but with his voice sped up) and apparently serve Santa. They finally spill the beans on what Zurg stole from Santa. Apparently, if you haven’t figured it out yet, Santa uses a device that stops time to deliver presents. He used to use some impossibly fast jetpack contraption, but apparently he’s too old for it. The elves are working on a replacement, but it’s still a week away from completion and Christmas is just two days away. Buzz takes one look at the old hyper-speed accelerator and requests it be strapped to his back.

Buzz is a character that seems quite comfortable in the spotlight.

Buzz radios ahead to his teammates and instructs them to meet him on Trade World. Their the group rendezvous with Buzz and Santa, only the rest of the team still wants to discuss the whole Santa thing. There’s no time though, and Santa demands they help decorate the place for the holiday. As they do, they broadcast out a message designed to infuriate Zurg and basically challenge him to come wreck their holiday again. Zurg sees the broadcast and acts accordingly, while Buzz shows off his new toy. Santa’s hyper-speed whatever thing has been strapped to Buzz’s back and looks ridiculous. It’s a giant snowflake, but the side is what is strapped to Buzz so it extends off of his back twice his height. The other rangers aren’t sure of this plan, but Buzz tells them they just need to go at Zurg when he shows up to make him think they don’t have any real plan for dealing with him.

This jetpack thing is pretty ridiculous.

Zurg then arrives on Trade World flying around in this Dr. Robotnik-like ship. He’s predictably pompous, and I have to say I love the choice of Wayne Knight for his voice. Santa informs Buzz he has to activate the hyper-speed accelerator at the exact moment Zurg uses his stolen device to stop time. Zurg readies his item as the other rangers surround him and engages it. Everyone appears to freeze in place, including Buzz! Oh woe, Christmas is ruined! As Zurg starts wrecking up the place and celebrating his victory, the frozen Buzz comes to life!

This battle and chase sequence is pretty awesome.

Buzz breaks out the one-liners (“I’d say the yuletide has turned!”) and the rock music kicks in. It’s battle time! Zurg chases after Buzz and opens fire with his laser blaster. Buzz does some Matrix moves to avoid it demonstrating his impressive speed. As the two zoom around the city, Zurg blasts a bunch of holiday decorations that Buzz apparently feels compelled to save. Zurg laughs at him and tells Buzz his devotion to his holiday has made him weak. Oh, that’s where you’re wrong Zurg, it’s made him more powerful! They do the Dragon Ball Z thing of zooming around as lights and eventually come to blows.

Yes! Give me more of this!

When the dust settles, Buzz’s hyperspeed accelerator is destroyed and Zurg has lost his grip on the time stopping device, which frees everyone else. Buzz and Zurg meet in a standoff in front of a billboard lit up red as the snow begins to fall. It’s quite an impressive visual. Zurg then finds out he’s out of ammo, and as Buzz declares victory, he summons his little buggy thing which knocks Buzz over. Zurg jumps into it ready to escape, but Buzz tells him he lost since he doesn’t possess the ability to stop time any longer. Zurg points out that the device is broken so Santa can’t either. He’s ruined everyone’s holiday! XR even admits that Zurg has won.

With morale at its lowest, it’s time for XR to get his lesson in believing.

Zurg escapes and the rangers return to Santa’s work shop. They’re all pretty down as without the ability to stop time Santa can’t bring everyone their gifts. XR then asks what Santa did before he had all of this fancy tech, and he shows them. A bright, red, sleigh is summoned and Buzz is pretty taken by it right away. He jumps in and ponders what it uses for fuel, and Santa predictably confirms it runs on belief. The belief in Santa.

Who needs reindeer when you have…lights…on sticks..?

Everyone starts to proclaim they believe, and apparently it takes very little to fill the tank. With Buzz, Mira, and Booster all professing their belief it’s nearly full, but they need one more person. Santa confronts XR about his lack of belief and basically tells him he knows that he believes in him more than anyone, even though he’s rather insistent that he does not. When he asks how Santa knows that, he replies simply that he’s Santa! It’s kind of cheap as the sleigh then fills with power without XR actually declaring his belief. With it at full power, some lights extend off of the front of it. It kind of looks like an old TV antenna that used to adorn every house, but it’s in the shape of a Christmas tree. There are lights where the reindeer would be, though only six. A seventh, red, light is at the tip.

This is like Christmas porn for someone like me.

With the sleigh powered-up, Santa just needs some helpers. Buzz and the gang dawn space helmets and they take off for other planets. Buzz even gets to drive the sleigh! We see a montage of the gang sneaking into houses to leave presents, the best of which is a reverse of a scene from How the Grinch Stole Christmas. A bunch of fish aliens are sharing a bed in a manner similar to Cindy Lou Who and her siblings. Mira slides a candy cane under the hands of one of the fish kids, rather than stealing a candy cane out from under her.

A toast to a job well done. No whiskey here, though.

The gang ends up back at the work shop where Santa toasts hot chocolate to a job well done. The only thing is one person is missing: XR. Apparently he had a special task to attend to and we cut to a little boy’s room where XR is the actual present. It would seem he gifted himself to the little kid from the beginning of the episode which is…weird. We don’t get to see how he untangles himself from that situation to return to work as the episode ends on a shot of the family’s tree with a Space Rangers logo where a star would normally be. That’s actually kind of weird and is like placing a police badge or something at the top of one’s tree. If you do that at your house well more power to you, I guess. I stick with a star.

If some weird guy pops out of one of my kids’ Christmas presents and goes for a hug it’s not going to be a happy ending.

Buzz Lightyear of Star Command is a show I wish had existed when I was younger. It has a nice pace to it and the dialogue is rather witty. I love Warburton as Buzz and his supporting cast is solid as well. Knight is fantastic as Zurg and I wouldn’t mind seeing more episodes where he has an even bigger presence. The animation is also way beyond what I expected. Perhaps Pixar had something to prove because everything looks great. The lighting especially is dynamic and I had a great time just taking this one in. The action scene with Zurg and Buzz was set to techno music and gave off some serious Samurai Jack vibes, even though this show actually predates that one.

It’s almost a blink and you’ll miss it, but we do get the moon shot in this one.

As a Christmas story, this one is both fun and odd. The characters never actually say Christmas during the episode. It’s just referred to as a holiday and obviously shares a lot of the same imagery and even an icon. The animators kind of screw up though as the word “Noel” is present during the city fight between Buzz and Zurg. If they were avoiding the term Christmas because it references Christ, then they should have avoided noel as well since it translates to “to be born,” and is a reference to Christ as well. The lack of reindeer is almost bizarre, but I get that they wanted to do their own space thing with it. Santa does have decorative reindeer antlers on his seat in his spaceship, so maybe he had them once upon a time and now they’re dead. I definitely like that the show went for a Grinch plot with Zurg, made all the more obvious by the visual gesture during the montage near the end. How the Grinch Stole Christmas is the best Christmas special ever, why more shows don’t borrow from it confuses me. We have a million different versions of A Christmas Carol, and hardly any Grinch plots. It’s 50 years old at this point, it’s fair game!

Despite there being no “Christmas,” there’s still plenty of the usual imagery.

This special could have been pretty manipulative since it telegraphs everything that’s coming our way. We know XR is going to come around on the holiday, we know Santa is telling the truth about who he is before he ever opens his mouth, and we also know that the heroes will prevail. The episode does a good job though of not really staying with anything too long. It does come close with the Santa/XR confrontation, and that bit is probably the weakest part, but at least it doesn’t get too sappy. They also made room for humor during the exchange, such as Buzz declaring you can’t force someone to believe in anything followed by him ordering XR to believe in Santa. The montage was a good move, and making the kid get XR as a present is more funny than heart-warming so it works and doesn’t betray the spirit of the show.

Bizarrely, Buzz Lightyear of Star Command is pretty hard to come by. Disney never released it on DVD or Blu Ray, and has yet to add it to Disney+. It doesn’t make much sense to leave it off, but for now the company is not being protective with it. That means you can find it online rather easily, though everything is going to be a rip from a TV broadcast. I assume it’s only a matter of time until Disney brings it to their streaming platform, but for now it’s basically YouTube or bust. If you like Toy Story then give it a look. It’s pretty fun and visually it’s definitely worthwhile. I think I even like it more than Toy Story That Time Forgot and if Disney were smart it would start airing that special alongside this one during the holidays. Of course, I’m the type of person that thinks Disney should be running a ton of its holiday themed episodes and specials on ABC this time of year so maybe I’m biased.


Dec. 20 – Inspector Gadget Saves Christmas

Original air date December 4, 1992

Once upon a time, Hanna-Barbera ruled the cartoon television universe. The company was one of the first to prioritize television over film when it came to cartoons, and it was a strategy that worked quite well. Come the 80s, cartoons were a Saturday morning staple and were taking over the weekday afternoon as well. Hanna-Barbera had been challenged by other companies, but was still holding strong. Then along came a little French company called DiC. DiC had a few shows airing in France, but wanted to expand to the US. In order to do so, it would hire ex-Hanna-Barbera story writer Andy Heyward, who would go on to create the character Inspector Gadget.

Inspector Gadget was DiC’s break-out hit in America. The cartoon was about a cyborg detective tasked with stopping the nefarious M.A.D. which was lead by the villainous Dr. Claw. The catch was that Inspector Gadget was an idiot completely oblivious to what was going on around him. His gadgets, while neat, were prone to malfunction and Gadget would find himself in perilous situations he would either rescue himself from via dumb luck, or with the help of his niece Penny and her dog Brain. Penny is a smart kid who comes with a lot of tech while Brain is apparently a super-smart dog capable of everything a human is save for speech. Brain would basically shadow Gadget to keep him safe while Penny did a lot of the real sleuthing. Gadget would inevitably spy Brain in one of his disguises, mistake him for the real crook, and somehow Dr. Claw’s plots would be foiled. Every episode would end the same way with Gadget getting the credit and Dr. Claw flying away in his car screaming “I’ll get you next time, Gadget! Next time!”

The theme song is definitely the most fondly remembered part of the show, for me.

The show is basically Get Smart for kids, with Gadget even sounding a lot like Maxwell Smart. That’s because he pretty much is! Don Adams played Smart on Get Smart and is also the voice of Inspector Gadget. Since this happens to be a cartoon, Gadget’s spy tech gets to be a lot more extravagant than what Smart had. The old shoe phone is now a phone embedded in Gadget’s glove, for example. It also looks pretty great for an 80s TV cartoon since DiC had the fortune of partnering with Tokyo Movie Shinsa for the animation. TMS would utilize its connections to outsource the animation to various satellite studios, but it means Inspector Gadget looks better than pretty much everything Hanna-Barbera was doing. DiC would eventually take over animation in an effort to cut costs (those in the business often referred to the company as Do It Cheap) so the era of TMS DiC cartoons on US television was brief.

A lot of people who worked on the original series were willing to come back for the special, including writer Jack Hanrahan.

Inspector Gadget was a direct-to-syndication show that only produced new episodes from 1983 to 1986. It was quite popular though so it remained on television in various markets for pretty much the entire duration of the 1990s. When I was a kid, the show felt inescapable. I watched a lot of Inspector Gadget as a result, though it was never one of my favorites. It was just on. Well after the show ended production, DiC went back to the well and produced a Christmas special for 1992. Titled Inspector Gadget Saves Christmas, DiC was able to get Adams back to voice the title character as well as the other mainstays Frank Welker and Maurice LaMarche. Hung Long Animation Company was contracted to produce the animation and was likely fed a bigger budget than a typical episode. It premiered in prime time on NBC on December 4, 1992 before heading to VHS were it was probably sold for an obscene amount (television shows and Christmas specials were often 25 bucks an episode in 1990 dollars) and then eventually forgotten. I don’t recall seeing this re-aired much at all after 1992 as the Inspector Gadget craze was apparently over. At least until a movie was made in 1999.

This is Santa, and he’s about to have a not so great day.

The special begins up at the north pole. It’s early in the morning, and Santa Claus (Frank Welker) is seated in his control tower as he rouses the elves awake. He’s a pretty traditional looking Santa; short, fat, big beard, kind eyes. The elves are roused from their slumber and they’re also pretty typical looking. They’re not little old men, save for at least one, but instead look quite young, and they all pretty much look the same. There’s a lot of inbreeding up there. They have mostly green outfits with tall hats that curl like a candy cane and end with a bell. They wake up quite happy and sing their own version of “Jingle Bells” with the lyrics altered to just describe what they’re doing.

These guys looks pretty happy considering they have a boss who literally possesses a machine to extract them from their beds and put them to work.

Unbeknownst to them all, Dr. Claw (Welker) has infiltrated the work shop and he’s up to no good. His trusty M.A.D. Cat (Welker) is at his side looking a little off model from what I remember, as he dawns a Santa outfit of his own. This is quite possibly the most we’ve ever seen of Dr. Claw as he rather famously avoided the camera during the show. We get to see his fully body with only his face obscured. He whips out a little device that when turned on activates a hidden, mind control, device in the bells of the elf hats. The elves enter a zombie like state and cease their wretched singing. Santa is confused, and then even more confused when a mechanical claw on the ceiling grabs him, pulls him from the command tower, and dumps him into a frozen dungeon. Why does Santa have a dungeon?

Dr. Claw is now Santa Claws. It writes itself.

Dr. Claw then enters the command tower and begins taking over. His plan is to sabotage the toys of Christmas and ruin Santa’s reputation. The elves start dismantling the toys on Claw’s orders and reassemble some into horrible toy abominations. As Dr. Claw enjoys the view and strokes his cat, he informs us only one man can stop him, and he’s deployed his highly ineffective M.A.D. Agents to stop him!

Christmas comes to…Gadget Land…All right, I confess, I have no idea where they live.

We then head to the home of Inspector Gadget (Don Adams). He and niece Penny (Erica Horn) and dog Brain (Welker) are busy decorating their home for Christmas. As they do, a corny Inspector Gadget theme plays that just sounds like a parody of other spy properties. Why they didn’t just use the catchy theme from the main series, I do not know. While the song plays though, we see Claw’s agents attempt to take down Inspector Gadget, only every one that tries gets tossed aside by a completely aloof Gadget. One bounces off of his springs, another gets accidentally gift-wrapped, and we also see the classic ice gag of an agent cutting a hole around Gadget as he ice skates only for the rest of the ice to fall away freezing the bumbling henchman. It ends with Gadget getting launched into his own logo as we get a second title card.

I don’t recall Gadget possessing a child-like demeanor. Maybe the cancellation of his show broke his brain?

Off to the mall, the most sacred place at Christmas time, where Gadget is seated on Santa’s lap reading him an exceptionally long list of Christmas wants. Only, this Santa isn’t the real Santa, but Gadget’s boss, Chief Quimby (Maurice LaMarche), in disguise. He tries to tell Gadget who he is, but Gadget is an idiot so Quimby calls him instead to relay the ruse. Gadget is then confused why Quimby called when he’s presently seated on his lap and I have no idea how Quimby hasn’t just snapped and murdered Gadget at this point. He hands Gadget a note, that will self-destruct, and details to Gadget how Dr. Claw has kidnapped Santa and dispatched M.A.D. agents to take him out. Gadget is confused why the agents never came for him, but declares he’s always on duty and tosses the note aside before heading out. As is always the case, the note finds a way back to Quimby, this time bouncing off of the trash can and landing on his pipe, where it explodes. Serves him right for smoking around children.

What a dope.

Gadget, Penny, and Brain then head for the north pole. They take some giant airplane that can carry the Gadget mobile, or whatever it’s called, and also flies itself. Gadget informs the plane it can drop them where they are, and the A.I. takes Gadget literally and drops the car. Gadget tries to summon the Gadget Plane, but his Gadget Copter activates instead and whirling propellers pop out his hat and remove him from the car. A calamity of errors follow, with Gadget deploying his parachute, then the copter again, which just cuts up the chute. Penny is the one who saves the day activating the plane function of the car. Gadget plummets through the roof no worse for ware, though he declares there’s a lump in the seat. That’s just Brain though, whom Gadget landed on. He doesn’t seem concerned, and now I’m wondering if Gadget has just been playing dumb all of these years and really harbors a secret hostility towards the dog.

Inspector Gadget: the agent so dumb he wouldn’t know his nemesis if they were face-to-face.

The trio then enter Santa’s work shop, and Dr. Claw is understandably irritated to see Gadget is still alive (though really he should expect it). Gadget uses his extendable legs to approach the control tower where he introduces himself to Santa Claws. Gadget is, again, a moron so he doesn’t see through Dr. Claw’s disguise. He’s so dumb that he’s even fooled by M.A.D. Cat’s antlers and thinks he’s a tiny reindeer who does a mean cat impression. While Gadget and Claw exchange pleasantries, Penny and Brain take note of how odd the elves are acting. She soon realizes that something is off, and then spies Dr. Claw in his Santa suit. Gadget informs Santa he’s going to inspect the work shop to make sure everything is operating smoothly. Penny approaches and tries to tell him what’s up, but before she can the ceiling hook grabs Gadget and takes him away.

If Brain could speak I bet he’d have a Brooklyn accent.

Penny tells Brain to keep an eye on Gadget, while she investigates what’s going on with the elves. Meanwhile, Gadget thinks he’s on a tour of the facilities and begins his inspection. Unfortunately, this is set to a rendition of “The Twelve Days of Christmas.” LaMarche takes over as Gadget’s singing voice and the audio quality dips. Maybe this was recorded last and on the cheap? LaMarche is a fantastic voice actor, but he can’t save this horrible song. It mercifully ends after five days with Gadget dumped into the same dungeon as Santa. Upon seeing the real Santa, Gadget does what you would expect: he arrests him.

I expected no less.

Brain dresses up as an elf to take a look around while Penny hides in a giant jack-in-the-box to observe what’s going on. She realizes the elves are sabotaging the toys and figures out what Dr. Claw is up to pretty quickly. She radios Brain with her Apple Watch (not really, but the similarities are pretty insane) to relay her findings, while he informs her that her uncle has been imprisoned with the real Santa, and has arrested him. She takes the news well as she’s apparently used to this sort of thing. Unfortunately for her, the elves take notice of her and slam the lid the shut on the jack-in-the-box. They’re just as inept as Dr. Claw’s usual minions though and fail to alert him of what they found.

If this show were to come back, they’d have to get creative with Penny’s tech if they want her to stay ahead of the curve.

The elves place the box in a warehouse with the real toys. Penny radios to Brain that she’ll be fine, but he needs to get the key to the cell to free Gadget and Santa. And that key is currently dangling off of the antler of of M.A.D. Cat. Dr. Claw watches the presents getting sabotaged and relays the predictable news to the audience (via talking to his cat) that he wants to ruin Santa’s reputation because he didn’t get the toy he wanted as a kid. It’s always that. As he revels in his own villainy, we see Brain lurking in the rafters.

How do they know which one is Rudolph?

In the cell, Gadget continues to interrogate Santa. He has a long list of qualifications he expects Santa to possess, but they’re unreasonable demands as, for instance, he wants Santa to descend a chimney, but there’s no chimney present. There are reindeer, which just look like a palette swap of Brain with antlers, but Gadget remains unconvinced. He then declares it’s time to get rough, but don’t worry kids, he just deploys a bird from his hat which supplies a feather for cartoon torture: tickling. Santa is apparently exceptionally ticklish as Gadget doesn’t even remove a boot and just tickles the jolly, old, man’s beard and achieves the desired effect.

Poor kitty.

Dr. Claw enjoys watching the torture via his monitor which provides the perfect distraction for Brain. As he hangs from the ceiling by his feet, he extends a candy cane to try and slip the key ring off of M.A.D. Cat’s antlers. Instead, he hooks the elastic portion of the antlers which is around the cat’s neck. As he tugs, the cat gets strangled. Dr. Claw is completely oblivious though as Brain continues to yank on it. Brain bites the candy cane in half freeing the cat and also letting him snatch the key. M.A.D. Cat winds up on Claw’s face, and when he removes the cat he also removes his beard and hat which end up on the cat. How cute? Claw notices Brain though and orders…someone…to go after that elf. As he bangs the terminal, poor M.A.D. Cat gets knocked off.

Gadget has officially moved into “bad cop” territory. He’s assaulting Santa!

Back in the cell, Gadget has now begun trying to remove Santa’s beard. He’s got a foot in the poor guy’s belly while he tugs all the while taunting him for not actually being Santa. This is pretty damn cruel. Brain arrives dressed as a guard and unlocks the cell. Gadget is happy to finally see some security around here, but when Brain grabs Santa and takes off, he assumes he’s just an accomplice to Santa’s crimes. Gadget deploys his lasso, which actually works perfectly and entangles both Brain and Santa. Gadget then leaves the two bound together to go tell the “real” Santa he’s cracked the case.

A job not well done for Inspector Gadget!

Gadget then helps Dr. Claw load his sleigh. He’s confused that no reindeer are hooked up to the sleigh, and even names a few using incorrect names (the real Santa must have supplied the real names to no effect earlier). Dr. Claw tells him he’s taking care of things himself this year to make sure nothing goes wrong. Back in the jack-in-the-box, Penny has figured out how Dr. Claw is controlling the elves. She did so by looking in her computer book thing that’s basically magic. She then deploys the creepy “jack” she’s been stuck with which pops the box open and sends her sailing into a pile of teddy bears.

Thankfully, the real heroes are on the case, no thanks to Inspector Gadget.

Back in the cell, Brain is trying in vain to free he and Santa. He disappears into a classic cartoon cloud complete with whirling sounds only to emerge each time in a different sort of knot. Penny radios him to relay the info and Santa is initially confused to hear a little girl’s voice coming from the dog. They then realize Brain has actually untied the knot. Santa then summons his first four reindeer (I’m guessing they didn’t want to draw all eight) as they head for Dr. Claw hoping to catch him before he takes flight.

I can definitely relate to that elf smiling happily pulling on Gadget’s right foot.

Topside, Gadget has finished loading the sleigh and is trying to convince Dr. Claw to let him come with. Claw is finished with Gadget though and he orders the elves to seize him. True to his character, as the elves ineffectively grab him he just assumes they’ve grown attached to him. Meanwhile, Penny storms the warehouse alongside Brain. They’re being pursued by elves, which are pretty slow. The ones who have Gadget though are basically pulling him apart now like a torture rack, though he still isn’t bothered. Penny slips into the command tower and finds Dr. Claw’s mind control device and disables it. Immediately, the elves resume their stupid rendition of “Jingle Bells,” but at least they stop dismantling Gadget. Actually, I wish they had been successful.

Here come the reindeer!

It’s too late though, as Dr. Claw is in his M.A.D. Mobile ready to take off. That is, until Santa appears! He deploys the reindeer with a “Go-go-Santa’s reindeer!” As Claw speeds away with Santa’s sleigh hooked up, Santa jumps into the sleigh and disconnects the cable. Gadget sees the cable go by and connects it to a giant candy cane pole (perhaps THE north pole) in a bid to help Santa keep his odd looking car from getting away. Santa then orders the reindeer to “bash away all!” since Claw’s vehicle is resting on ice. The reindeer use their antlers to smash the ice allowing for Dr. Claw to simply drift away. They basically just let him go for no good reason. Claw calls out as he often does that he’ll get Gadget, only he drops the “next time” since this is evidently the end for this series.

Once Claw calms down he’s just going to disconnect that cable and fly away. Sure seems like they wasted an opportunity to finally nail him here.

Santa then thanks Gadget for his help. Why? I have no idea. Surely the old man remembers how awful Gadget treated him in the cell, and he should be aware of how he didn’t really contribute anything to take down Claw. Chief Quimby parachutes in to congratulate Gadget on solving the case and to declare that Inspector Gadget has indeed saved Christmas, as the title of the cartoon promised. Gadget has no time for congrats though as he instructs the reindeer to take off with a “Go-go-eight-tiny-reindeer!” Santa takes to the sky with Penny and Brain in the sleigh with him. Gadget soon joins them and we’re treated to an accurate depiction of Santa’s sleigh, complete with 8 reindeer, as he passes by a full moon. We return to the sleigh itself for one final shot of the whole gang wishing us a merry Christmas as we say goodbye to Inspector Gadget.

Time for the usual end of Christmas special pleasantries.

Inspector Gadget Saves Christmas is essentially a holiday themed exclamation point for the old cartoon series. It stays true to the spirit of that show with Gadget being comically inept while Penny and Brain save the day, with some help from the real Santa Claus. And in keeping with most Christmas specials, the writers and animators happily turn to song to kill some time and basically keep it in the public domain so there are no significant added costs. The story is super basic and adds nothing to the Santa legend, but at least it doesn’t contribute with ugly elf designs or something.

First up is the moon shot. Very nice!

The animation is noticeably different from the main series, but is largely acceptable. Some characters appear slightly off-model when compared with the old show, and Gadget’s coat looks slightly “off” to me, but for the most part I have no complaints. Gadget gets to deploy his most popular and recognizable gadgets, even if most are crammed into the one segment of Gadget falling from the sky, though it also doesn’t get to add any fun ones. At least they didn’t give him a love interest for a “Go-Go-Gadget-mistletoe” sequence. The special is so true to the spirit of the show that it’s even super familiar for someone like me who hasn’t watched an episode of Inspector Gadget in probably 30 years.

Followed by the standard farewell. Nice job, folks!

And that’s basically the crux of Inspector Gadget Saves Christmas. If you have fond memories of the old cartoon, then you’ll probably be okay with this. All of the old voices, save for Penny, are here and the special follows the usual beats. Few will probably enjoy the musical moments, but at least there’s some slapstick involved with them. Even if the slapstick isn’t particularly inventive. For me, this special mostly reminded me how annoying I found the character of Inspector Gadget. He’s so impossibly dumb, but also dangerously arrogant, that I actively root against him and wonder why any of the characters around him actually enjoy him. At least we get to see the elves attempt to dismantle him, though he unfortunately seems impervious to pain.

As always, the cat was the best part.

If you wish to set aside 20 minutes or so for Inspector Gadget this Christmas, this special has been released a few times on DVD. The first version contains some bonus episodes of the original series while a stand-alone version also followed. It’s cheap too and shouldn’t even run you ten bucks, should you wish to own it. It’s also available to stream for free online without any need for piracy. Sometimes, just being easy to watch is enough reason to take in a Christmas special if you have the time.


Dec. 19 – Christopher the Christmas Tree

Allegedly released December 24, 1993.

We look at a lot of Christmas stuff pulled from every day cartoons, for the most part. On occasion though, I suppose we should throw the Christians a bone and look at something a bit more secular. Yes, I think most people know Christmas was basically co-opted by the church many years ago, but it’s certainly because of that faith that it’s as popular as it is today. Or maybe it’s Coke’s fault. I don’t know. Either way, for many people Christmas is a time for worship so lets see if something intended to acknowledge that aspect of the holiday can be entertaining.

Christopher the Christmas Tree is a 1994 television special from the folks at Delaney and Friends Cartoon Productions. Look at the credits for that studio and you will find some other secular items, and also a Pfish and Chip cartoon (that feels like a mistake, but maybe they were looking to broaden their base). It was in conjunction with Chuck Glaser Productions and this is the only credit attributed to that entity. This thing is practically a one-off filled with voice actors of little renown, for the most part. Basically, the only one I recognized was Scott McNeil who was all over cartoons during the early 90s. According to a few sources, this thing aired on Fox and was relegated to VHS after that. It was possibly rebroadcast on Fox Family, but it’s definitely not a popular Christmas special

There’s scraggly little Christ, I mean Chris, the tree no one wants for obvious reasons.

Christopher the Christmas Tree is about a tree named Christopher – naturally. His wish is to be a Christmas tree some day, but when our feature begins (with narration by Bill Reiter who also voices the titular tree), he’s a scrawny, little, sapling. The other trees around him are large and lush and all feature a name that begins with the letter “C,” which must be standard in tree society. They’re all just trees with faces, but they also have strands of snow to distinguish them from one another and some feature pine cones. It’s not unpleasant.

“Ha ha, there’s no freakin’ way I’m letting you pick this tree, kid!”

A young boy and his grandpa come strolling up to the trees. The little kid wants Christopher, but his grandpa says he’s too small for the star they have at home. The kid then asks why they put a star on the tree, and here’s our first religious lesson. The grandfather says it’s to remind them of the star the three wise men followed long ago to reach Christ, and leaves it at that. That wasn’t too bad! They then get a tree, and leave Christopher to himself. Soon all of the trees are gone, except poor Christopher who just wants to die for a cause (that’s totally where this special is going).

This pathetic little creature is Hootie. Not pictured: The Blowfish.

We’re then taken to another area of the fictional Hidden Hollow. There we see a family of owls reading because owls are wise and all that. One owl, though, is not. He’s Hootie (very original), and he’s dumb. His book titled “How to Fly” is upside down and when his dad tells him to turn it around he just spins it in a 360 degree manner. His dad is so angry at his son’s stupidity that he tells him to get lost. Which is convenient, since a bindle has been sitting beside Hootie the entire time. I have no idea what sort of lesson this is supposed to impart, but poor, dumb, mute, Hootie leaves the confines of the tree for the snowy ground below. There he encounters some raccoons who want to play ball with him. They’re very hostile though, but without really an end goal, it would seem. When Hootie demonstrates that he can’t fly, they laugh at him so he scoops up his little bindle and trudges off into the woods.

He’s kind of like Rudolph, except no one cares.

We then get a montage set to a terrible song. All of the songs are originals and have a pop-country flair to them. Hootie just walks sadly through the forest as the seasons change and eventually encounters some bears on one occasion, but the mother bear chases him away. He winds up frozen and near dead on some family’s doorstep. A little kid brings him into their warm, Christmas-decorated, home and his parents instruct him to place the owl by the fire. This kid then, without really much prompting, asks his dad about the star on the tree and we learn the dad is the kid from before. The kid then makes a wish on the star for Hootie to survive, and what do ya know, it works! A wild animal isn’t a pet, though, so the kid’s dad makes him set Hootie free the next day, even though Hootie is in tears over the whole thing.

Note how Hootie is placed before a nativity scene prior to his miraculous recovery, except it’s just a red herring. The owl isn’t Jesus (spoiler: it’s the tree!).

Sad, rejected, Hootie is back to being sad in the woods, which is when he comes across Christopher. Now a big, full, tree, Christopher is happy to make friends with Hootie. The two even make a wish on a star for Hootie to fly and be able to talk, which seems a bit greedy. Christopher still wants to be a Christmas tree some day, though he seems resigned to just being a tree in the forest since he’s grown too large for most homes.

It’s Christopher! No longer a sapling, but a perverted old tree who loves having animals crawl up inside of him!

Some animals come across the two and they’re apparently in search of shelter. Being that Christopher is the only tree in a sea of stumps, they look to him to provide said shelter. He’s more than willing to be of some help as the various birds and rodents happily settle in. They do a bunch of dancing around Christopher, and this is becoming a really easy special to do a write-up on because it’s just full of empty songs and dancing!

That is not how fire works.

The next day, the animals head off to do animal stuff. A fox and a weasel happen by and they for some reason are wearing clothes to make them look like ruffians. They’re just here to crap on the dreams of Christopher and Hootie, and taunt him by saying the only thing he’ll amount to is fire wood. Proving their point, they set him on fire and leave. It’s a bit odd because they literally set ablaze the snow on Christopher. Christopher is pretty calm for a burning tree, and Hootie puts the fire out. He’s fine, and he even encourages Hootie to go find some food. He’ll be okay by himself.

Note how the setting sun has a cast the snow in a blood, red, hue for the execution scene.

Not (this was made in the 90s, I’m allowed a “Not!” joke)! A big red truck pulls up and a guy with a chain saw emerges. It would seem Christopher’s time has come, and he’s a bit distraught over it. Assuming he’s destined to become firewood, Christopher pleads with the man to not cut him down, but trees can’t talk so the guy doesn’t care. Hootie returns and tries in vain to stop what must be done, but he predictably fails and Christopher is hauled away. This thing just got dark.

Oh good, the little owl learned how to fly. I was really worried he never would.

As the truck speeds away, Hootie tries to follow, but he can’t keep up since he’s unable to fly. He just walks along sadly in the middle of the road and at this point it would not shock me if he gets run over. He doesn’t though and instead he starts flying! And talking! His wishes came true! He catches up to the truck and is even able to untie Christopher, who is still alive. Try as he might though, he can’t push Christopher off of that truck so he leaves to get help.

Hootie returns to rally the troops. Lucky for him this is a Christmas special and woodland animals are always extremely useful in such productions.

By now, the other animals have returned to find the stump that once belonged to Christopher. They’re pretty bummed, but Hootie arrives to tell them what’s up and soon they’re all racing down the road to catch the truck. They eventually find where the truck headed, and Christopher.

Hey! It’s Christopher! And he’s not on fire!

Now, apparently this where things can divert. If you were watching the original Fox broadcast, the animals find Christopher outside The White House. I am watching the VHS version and Christopher has been erected outside the United Nations. He is to be the Christmas tree for all of the children of the world, apparently even those heathens who don’t celebrate Christmas. And the little kid from earlier who helped Hootie is also there to put the star on Christopher. Someone with the UN is addressing the crowd and he declares the tree’s name to be Christopher. Not one for subtly, he goes on to say he is named so because a man named Christopher discovered America (lies) and because it contains the name of Christ who died for us all. He even remarks that Christopher had to be sacrificed in the name of Christmas. This is a special that doesn’t want to confuse anyone.

And look! The little boy from before is here to place the star on Christopher. What a happy, Christmas, ending!

Christopher is pretty damn happy to be the world’s Christmas tree. It was his destiny, he declares. Hootie though realizes this means it’s his first and last turn as a Christmas tree since this ends with him dead. Christopher reassures Hootie that this is what he wanted, and that he also shook out a bunch of pine cones before he left the forest. He wants Hootie and the animals to return to that spot and make sure they’re planted. Hootie and the animals do as instructed, and during the ending credits we see little saplings grow and a tiny, personified, tree emerges not unlike the version of Christopher we started with. The end.

Oh yeah, that’s right, he’s basically dead now. Well, one last hug before he goes!

Christopher the Christmas Tree is about what I expected; a bland cartoon about a lonely tree that just wants to die. Actually, it’s a little better if we’re just talking animation. It looks fine and the characters animate well, even if the character designs are about as boring as it gets. Christmas is all about the birth of Jesus, so it’s a bit weird to see this special focus on sacrifice, that’s usually more of an Easter thing, but whatever. Some of the backgrounds are a bit drab, and in one place the characters are in a lush forest and then in the next shot it looks like a meadow, but for the most part it’s error free.

This one may be a Christian special, but that doesn’t mean it can’t get a little freaky!

The music was all done by George T. Bowers. It’s fairly disposable, though I suppose the main “Christopher the Christmas Tree” song is fine. It definitely gets a bit tiresome towards the end, but the special is mercifully only about 20 minutes worth of content. Since this one is religious in nature, there’s no Santa to speak of. It’s not particularly over-the-top with the religious messaging either choosing to mainly focus on the role of the star in the whole thing. Only at the end does all of the sacrifice stuff pop up. The only thing I was confused by was the origins of Hootie. His intellectual family is portrayed as the bad guys, are we supposed to interpret that as a dig on academics who teach “pesky” things like evolution? I could be reading too much into that scene, but it struck me as dumb. If you have small kids and don’t consider yourself a Christian household you might not want to put this on lest you confuse your children.

Or, you could just not put it on because it sucks! I do feel bad for families looking for a Christmas special that is more secular, because so often what they get is junk. I hesitate to call this one junk, but I definitely wouldn’t call it good. It’s not as cloyingly sweet as something like The Chucklewood Critters, and it at least feels earnest in its attempt to tell a story. I just personally take issue with how a lot of Christian media places so much emphasis on sacrifice, like it’s something to aspire to. At least for families that want to watch it, Christopher the Christmas Tree is easy to find online for free so have it. If you’re more of a Santa, Frosty, Grinch kind of household then you should probably just ignore this one. If you do consider your household a Christian one, maybe just watch A Charlie Brown Christmas again.


Dec. 18 – Dumb and Dumber – “Santa Klutz”

Original air date December 16, 1995

After doing write-ups for the two cartoons inspired by Jim Carrey films from 1994, you must have figured I’d do the third today! Just as Carrey stormed the cinematic gates with Ace Ventura: Pet Detective, The Mask, and Dumb and Dumber in ’94, the television world followed suit in ’95 with an animated series based on each of those three films. While the first two were made for CBS to air on Saturday morning, Dumb and Dumber went a different route. Still proving that anything relating to Carrey was worth investing in, Dumb and Dumber found itself on another broadcast network, in this case ABC. Thematically and visually, it didn’t really fit-in with the whole One Saturday Morning vibe the network was rolling with, so it’s probably no surprise to find out it wound up on Cartoon Network.

And that’s where the show probably belonged as this is a Hanna-Barbera produced toon. In the mid-90s, ABC was under the Disney banner so it was odd to have a non-Disney developed cartoon on ABC, where as Cartoon Network was owned by Turner which owned Hanna-Barbera. This ended up being the final Hanna-Barbera cartoon produced to air on a broadcast network for a Saturday morning block, an interesting little factoid since Hanna-Barbera was once the king of Saturday morning cartoons.

Because this series went a different direction, it has no affiliation with the other two cartoons we looked at so if you were hoping Harry and Lloyd would meet Ace, I regret to inform you it never happened. Dumb and Dumber probably wouldn’t have survived long enough to pull off that trick any way, since only 13 episodes were produced. Once ABC had seen enough, Cartoon Network was willing to take the re-runs, but not commission more episodes, so it’s safe to say this one was a flop.

The cartoon basically picks-up where the movie left off. Harry (Bill Fagerbakke) and Lloyd (Matt Frewer) are back home after their adventures in Aspen along with their dog-shaped van. Joining them is a new pet, a beaver they think is a cat, and each episode is split into two segments where Harry and Lloyd wind-up in some odd misadventure owing to the fact that they’re a pair of men with very limited intelligence and observational skills. As a mid-90s Hanna-Barbera production, it has a familiar art style to those who were watching the various cartoons premiering under the What a Cartoon banner. The character designs here remind me a lot of Dexter’s Laboratory, only with a touch more ugliness. Even though Harry and Lloyd had pretty similar builds in the film, for the cartoon it was decided to make Lloyd tall and lanky and Harry short and stocky. They’re both rather ugly, with Harry a walking mess and Lloyd a collection of sharp angles and teeth. While one can certainly argue this wasn’t a show that should look like The Mask or Recess, it’s still understandable to not be particularly taken with the visuals here.

The eighth episode of the series is the one to feature a Christmas plot. The first segment is dedicated to the holiday via “Santa Klutz.” The episode begins with Harry and Lloyd out and about with Kitty in their van. They’re both confused to see Kitty cutting down a Christmas tree and slapping it on top of their van, even though they refer to it as a “Christmas tree” and not as an evergreen or pine tree. Harry panics and wonders if Christmas is in December again, and quickly confirms that they’re only three days away from Christmas! Both men need to get a present for the other, but both are also faced with the problem of not having any money to get that present. Neither wants to admit this fact to the other, so Lloyd casually suggests they head to The Big City and look for a part-time job just because.

Lloyd likes to dream big.

The two arrive at Big Department Store and head in seeking employment. Along the way, Lloyd fantasizes about buying Harry a space shuttle for Christmas, proving he has no idea how much a part-time job around the holidays pays, or that he has no concept of how much a space shuttle would cost, or maybe both? Lloyd ends up with a 2 dollar-an-hour job handing out perfume samples, while Harry stumbles upon the store’s Santa who is fed up with the job. He hands over his costume to Harry and he immediately gets sent into the fray.

I hope he gets paid per kid.

Harry is seated in front of an impossibly long line of customers barely looking the part. The costume comes without a beard, it would seem, and Harry has trouble remembering the line “Ho Ho Ho.” His first child turns out to be homicidal, while the second is a degenerate gambler. Meanwhile, Lloyd finds out women don’t like being sprayed with perfume at random. The men don’t either, and when Lloyd angers a large male customer the two grapple over a perfume bottle until the top pops off. It is apparently now a grenade, and as it bounces away Lloyd does the noble thing of falling on top of it. Though since it’s perfume, it explodes rather tamely leaving Lloyd with a pleasant taste in his mouth.

Pictured: not a nice old lady.

As kids cry on Harry’s lap or sneeze on him, Lloyd attempts to sell some perfume to an old woman (Ed Asner per the credits, though it sounds nothing like him). She immediately takes offense to anything he says, even though it’s all innocent. When she informs the manager (Harvey Korman) that Lloyd accused her of smelling of cheap perfume, he asks if she’d like the man fired and she does. Lloyd them imagines a Christmas in which his space shuttle gift is repossessed by an army general (Ed Asner) leaving him despondent.

Lloyd’s Didi cosplay is on point.

Lloyd takes a walk over to the Santa area and spies Harry seated on the throne. Upon seeing his friend dressed as Santa, he comes to the totally reasonable conclusion that Harry IS Santa! And he has been this whole time! He then tries to go have a chat, but finds out from security that Santa is reserved for children. After a couple of failed attempts to sneak up, Lloyd dawns a disguise. I already said this show visually reminded me of Dexter’s Laboratory, but seeing Lloyd in his costume really drives that home as he’s basically in the same outfit as Dexter’s sister, Didi.

Upon reaching Harry Claus, Lloyd tells him he wants Santa to bring him a bunch of money so he can buy his best friend Harry a gift. Harry sees through the disguise which leads to a confrontation as Lloyd is angry with Harry for holding out on him. The two get into a fight and the store manager shows up. He reminds Lloyd that he already banned him, and fires Harry for good measure. Despondent outside the store, the two men hang their heads in shame. Only Lloyd hasn’t given-up on Harry as Santa, so Harry does the only reasonable thing he can to convince Lloyd he’s not who he thinks he is – they take a ride to the North Pole.

I think this is where they live.

The two arrive at Santa’s Work Shop on Christmas Eve. The only problem is Santa isn’t there since it’s, duh, Christmas Eve! They have that confirmed to them by an elf (Scott Menville), and Lloyd sees this as proof that he’s right. The two then head back to wherever they’re from to have a little camp out. Harry is hopeful they’ll be able to catch the real deal in action. Sure enough, he does indeed show up, but Lloyd still isn’t convinced. In fact, he had the foresight to assume Harry would try something like this so he called ahead for Officer Doohickey (Harvey Korman) who shows up and arrests Santa on the spot.

How to get on the naughty list.

Santa (Asner) is pretty surprised that anyone would mistake Harry for him, so Lloyd asks him to prove he’s really Santa. He uses some magic to get out of the police cuffs, which magically appear on Doohickey who remarks “This happens more often than you think.” Still not convinced, Santa whips out his portable PC to check his naughty list. He looks up Doohickey and finds him on the naughty list for lying to his wife about his doughnut habit. Doohickey declares he’s the real deal and scrams leaving Santa alone with the morons. He then asks the two what they want for Christmas and both gleefully whisper into one of his ears.

The next day, Kitty is opening his present from his car seat while Lloyd tells Harry he asked Santa for a gift for Harry. Harry confesses he did the same for Lloyd and the two trade identical boxes. Inside are identical gifts: best friend in the world trophies! Kitty also got a log with a plaque that reads “Best Kitty in the World.” Lloyd then declares there can be only one best friend in the world, and it’s Harry, as he tries to hand over his trophy. Harry does the same, and we zoom out on the two arguing over who is the better friend.

Everything worked out in the end, and all it took was a little divine intervention.

“Santa Klutz” is short and sweet. While I think very little of the art style, I can’t say I hate this. Maybe it was the fact that it’s only around 10 minutes, but I think I’d rather watch that again than either of the specials from the past two days. The humor is not as slapstick as I expected as it’s mostly derived from the two not correctly reading a situation or just getting into arguments stemming from the fact that they’re both stupid. Lloyd mistaking Harry as the real Santa is a bit clever as most shows aiming for such an error would have Lloyd tricked by the costume. Instead, he just thinks his best friend has been lying to him this whole time. It goes for a happy ending when I actually expected it to be a bit darker. If this were a true Farrelly brothers production, Santa probably gets victimized in some way instead of just mildly inconvenienced.

Even though I didn’t hate this, it’s not at all surprising to see a show about two grown men of limited intelligence failed as a cartoon. It’s basically 2 Stupid Dogs, but with humans instead, and how is that any more fun? I don’t think anyone walked out of a viewing of Dumb and Dumber wanting an animated series, but that didn’t stop folks from trying! If you want to check this out, it’s mostly been discarded by Hanna-Barbera. You won’t find it on Boomerang and it also isn’t on HBO Max with some of the other Cartoon Network shows. Instead, you can purchase it through Amazon and Apple if you want to stream it. Warner Bros. did make it available in a manufacture-on-demand release back in 2015 on DVD. Because of that format, it’s never really come down in price, though there also isn’t enough demand to cause it to go up. Even so, I doubt very much anyone would stumble upon this and decide they needed to spend 25 bucks on this cartoon, but in the event one person did, at least you have that option.


Dec. 17 – The Mask – “Santa Mask”

Original air date November 4, 1995

In the world of film, 1994 belonged to Jim Carrey. On television, 1995 belonged to TV shows based on those 94 movies. Well, not exactly, since all of the shows based on Jim Carrey movies made little impact, but like yesterday’s show I’d hesitate to call today’s subject a failure.

The Mask began life as a comic book by John Arcudi and was turned into a film of the same name. It then made the journey to the small screen for a cartoon also called The Mask. Like the Ace Ventura cartoon, this one was developed by Duane Capizzi and aired on the CBS network alongside Ace Ventura: Pet Detective. Unlike its network-mate, this show had a much more grounded visual style. Perhaps influenced by other superhero cartoons, most of the people in The Mask look like actual humans as opposed to oddly proportioned and exaggerated cartoon characters. Wang Film Productions Company handled the animated for this particular episode, but it looks like the show relied on multiple overseas studios for the animation.

The cartoon series of The Mask is basically an extension of the film. Stanley Ipkiss (Rob Paulsen) is a milquetoast bank teller frequently pushed around by his boss Charlie (Mark L. Taylor) and landlady Agnes (Tress MacNeille), but when he puts on the titular mask he morphs into a Tex Avery cartoon character come-to-life known as The Mask. Unlike the film, the cartoon series basically turns The Mask into a superhero who does battle with other super-powered individuals and freaks of nature. At his side is his trusty dog Milo (voiced by Frank Welker, as if there’s another choice for a cartoon canine) who also finds himself turned into The Mask on occasion, as he did in the film. All the while, The Mask is dogged by Lt. Mitch Kellaway (Neil Ross) who basically serves as the true foil for The Mask. He’s accompanied by the somewhat dimwitted Detective Doyle (Jim Cummings) who seems to have a positive impression of The Mask and does more harm than good as far as Kellaway is concerned.

The Mask aired from 1995-1997 over three seasons totaling 54 episodes, a bit more than Ace Ventura, but still short of the magic number of 65. Unlike Ace, it was a CBS show that never migrated to another network and the fact that it ended up with a few more episodes seems to jive well since I think of it as just a bit better than Ace Ventura. Even though the two shows clashed visually when compared side-by-side, it didn’t stop the two from having a crossover episode in each series. The series finale for The Mask was actually dedicated to the crossover, and oddly enough, Ace appears in this show as he does in his own, which is a truly bizarre sight to take-in. That is the third season though, and this Christmas episode actually takes us back to the first season.

Poor Stanley, out in the cold.

“Santa Mask” begins with Christmas descending upon Edge City. Stanley is being forced to dress as Santa and stand in the freezing cold outside of the bank he works at to attract customers. He badly wants to come in out of the cold, but his jerk boss, Charlie, has no time for complaints. He tries to make the best of things by calling out to a fellow Santa across the street, but unfortunately for Stanley he is no friend.

I don’t think he’s friendly.

The other Santa is actually a villain in disguise. Walter, I believe, is the strong silent type who saunters over to Stanley with an evil look on his face. He was apparently in the midst of a robbery, and likely has his eyes set on the bank now. Before he can do Stanley any harm, another pair of Santas show up. Dak (Cam Clarke) and Eddy (Jeff Bennett), also known as Putty Thing and Fish Guy, are here to rip-off the town dressed as Santa. It’s such a good idea that fellow villain Kablamus (Jim Cummings, using a slightly altered version of his Winnie the Pooh voice) is about to do the same thing! The scene keeps getting more ridiculous as more villains dressed up as Santa emerge, including a Zorro knock-off and apparently Rocky?!

This is actually a common problem around these parts.

The whole episode causes Mayor Tilton (Kevin Michael Richardson) to declare that anyone dressed as Santa be arrested and jailed. Apparently this is a regular problem for Edge City around Christmas time as we see video of many phony Santas causing mayhem over the years. This lands Stanley in jail as this new ordinance must have been retroactive. He’s stuck in a holding cell with all of the Santas from earlier, and also a new one. This guy (Cummings) looks like the real deal though, and he is not happy about being locked-up on Christmas Eve. He has some harsh criticisms of Edge City’s criminal justice system and turns to Stanley as someone he can dump on. Stanley obviously doesn’t think he’s the real Santa, but this guy has some pretty convincing credentials including pictures of his elves and a North Pole sleigh-driver’s license (we also learn that parallel parking eight reindeer is quite a bitch).

If he’s the real deal, he’s the most intimidating Santa I can recall!

Stanley is soon set free as the police were finally able to figure out he meant no harm, but this Santa guy isn’t as lucky. Before Stanley can exit the cell, Santa pulls him aside to let him know that while he may not believe in Santa, millions of kids do and they’re all about to have a pretty crummy Christmas with Santa locked-up. He tells Stanley that he needs someone to fill-in for him, and unfortunately he’s the best he can do on short notice. Stanley still isn’t sure what to believe, and as he exits the cell he begs the guard to confirm for him that there is no Santa, but the guy just shrugs his shoulders.

It wouldn’t be much of an episode if he didn’t put it on.

On his way home Stanley encounters a father and son pair (both voiced by Clarke) with the kid mistaking Stanley for Santa at first. Stanley pulls up his beard and puts on a smile, but the kid sees right through it. At his apartment, Stanley is torn on what to do as he doesn’t want to be known as “the jerk who couldn’t save Christmas.” Feeling he has no other alternative, he turns to The Mask!

Well, I certainly wasn’t expecting a traditional sleigh.

The Mask (also voiced by Paulsen) takes to the Santa thing with open arms. He puts on the suit, complete with padding so he looks like a big, red, blob, and even comes up with a sleigh. How did he produce a sleigh? I don’t know, but this is a character who can seemingly pull a mallet out of his trousers with no regard for the rules of physics so I guess maybe he just did the same for a sleigh? It’s a rather slapstick looking affair as it has a whirling propeller over the top of it and one lone reindeer. That reindeer is, of course, Milo suspended by balloons with antlers and a red light bulb placed over his nose – poor little guy.

Chimneys are for chumps.

The duo heads to the first little house on the square, home to some little girl. Rather than go down the chimney, The Mask instead jacks up the roof and hops into the girl’s bedroom. She’s surprisingly not terrified to see this loud, green-faced, man enter her room, but she is looking forward to a Christmas present. She’s a bit frustrated with Mask Claus though as he doesn’t seem to know what she wants, even though she told “him” when she sat on his lap at the store. Eventually, she reminds him that she wanted a rocking horse, so The Mask one-ups her request and removes a real, live, racing horse from his rather massive sack. She’s pretty thrilled by this development, and The Mask hands her a stack of bills to wager on an upcoming race for him before exiting.

Elsewhere, Lt. Kellaway and Detective Doyle are out patrolling the streets for more renegade Santas. Doyle, being the “dumb” one, is rightfully concerned they may lock up the real Santa and mess up Christmas for a whole bunch of kids. Kellaway thinks he’s an idiot and tells him there is no Santa. His evidence? He never got some dumb train as a kid, so you can bet he’ll get it before the episode is over.

Well, at least he noticed his face was green. That makes him smarter than Cindy Lou Who.

The two soon run across The Mask as he was attempting to scale the next house on his list and Kellaway is eager for a chase. The Mask rides along beside their car and Doyle questions why Santa’s face is green. Kellaway breaks the news to him that it’s not Santa, but The Mask, and a chase is underway! It ends on a nearby pond that’s frozen over with the two officers exiting the car only to have The Mask ice skate over to them. The Mask gifts the pair a present each; a VCR for Doyle and a flannel shirt for Kellaway. The Mask informs him it matches his flannel underwear, which is when The Mask gives him a giant wedgie. The Mask laughs and skates a circle around the pair, and their car, and since he operates under the laws of cartoons you know this means he just cut a large hole in the ice. Kellaway and Doyle seem to be well-aware that the usual laws of nature do not apply here as they run from the car as a giant hole appears in the ice to swallow the vehicle up. The Mask leaves and Kellaway makes a call to the rest of the force requesting a helicopter and a very large crane to remove his car from the pond.

It’s wedgie time!

The Mask gleefully takes to the sky, but soon finds himself targeted by a rather odd looking police helicopter. Seriously, this thing looks more like a Transformer than any real world helicopter I’ve seen. The Mask instructs Milo to provide a diversion as he bails on the sleigh in favor of running across the rooftops. Fearing his city has become hostile towards Santa, he’s elated to see a smoke stack with neon lights welcoming Santa. He turns into a whirlwind and shoots up the smoke stack, leaving behind the word “No” added in lights to indicate that there are actually no Santas present inside.

Well that’s convenient.

The Mask disappears down the smoke stack only to find out it was all a trap! It would seem the villainous Doctor Septimus Pretorious (Tim Curry) has laid a trap with the intent to capture Santa Claus! This guy is a recurring villain who is some sort of robot with outlandish eyebrows and what looks like a cat sphincter in the middle of his forehead. Anyway, he wants to uncover the secrets of Santa’s magic sack since it can seemingly carry trillions of toys inside of it while looking mostly like an old pillow case. He’s eager to take a look and is apparently oblivious to the fact that he’s actually captured The Mask, and not Santa.

They just couldn’t leave Dickens out of this one.

The Mask rather effortlessly breaks free and then takes Pretorious on a Scrooge-like journey that wraps up in roughly a minute as opposed to the usual running-time such a thing entails. He changes wardrobes rapidly with the story, and when he needs Pretorious to do the same he simply rips his head off and shoves it where he needs it to be. Pretorious seems totally flabbergasted by the whole affair and basically just lets everything happen. When The Mask is done, or maybe just bored, he leaves, but not before he gives Pretorius his present: a bomb. As he exits the smokestack he also changes the lettering on it once again this time instructing the police to check there.

Admit it, you forgot about these guys. I know I sure did.

Outside, The Mask is unable to call for Milo, so he whips out a remote to summon him instead. The poor dog arrives out of breath and the two return to the sky with The Mask a bit dismayed to realize he’s only delivered one present this evening. Elsewhere, the other incarcerated Santas have devised a way to escape. Kablamus has let the others in on the fact that he’s a living bomb and the Rocky guy is rather impressed. For those who don’t watch the show, Kablamus is a supervillain who can make himself explode without harm. You would think the cops would have taken some precautions there. They blow the wall open and all of the Santas are free, including the real one.

I would really like to know who decided fruit cake was funny.

The Mask is then preparing to enter a home, but the sound of looting disturbs him. The Mask is forced once more to abandon his Santa duties to put a stop to these miscreants and does so by taking on the role of a drill sergeant to get their attention, then a Spanish singer to whip them into a frenzy. It’s basically all a performance to distract the crooks and group them all together (there’s a method to his madness) until they figure out they’re villains and shouldn’t be singing and dancing. The Mask then switches tactics and begins a speech about turning to some aspect of Christmas that is unloved, and the second it begins I catch myself saying aloud “not fruit cake!” Yes, it all builds to a dumb fruit cake joke. Actually, a joke basically utilized by another Paulsen show, Animaniacs, as a giant fruit cake magically falls from the sky to land on the villains. The Mask them wraps them up with a bow complete with a “Do Not Open till X-Mas” card, though I have to believe we’re past midnight at this point. Kellaway and Doyle then come upon the scene, driving a tow truck, and Doyle is predictably the only one to express affection for fruit cake.

Well, would you look at that?

With that mess taken care of, The Mask is finally able to get to the next house on his list. The only problem is right after he lands the sleigh (on the lawn, for some reason) he realizes that it’s actually dawn. He pulls off his face and The Mask is once again just Stanley Ipkiss. He’s dismayed that he’s let down Santa and realized his destiny as “the jerk who couldn’t save Christmas,” but as he peers through the window of the house he was about to enter he sees the same kid he encountered on the street earlier. Only this kid is excited because Santa left him some new action figures that look a lot like G.I. Joes. Stanley is relieved to see this and at that moment realizes that Santa must have escaped with the other inmates and set everything right.

Honestly, Stanley is lucky the worst that happened to him was his faith in Christmas was crushed. You go around grabbing people like that in the city and you’re liable to get stabbed. Or worse.

Stanley returns to the city proper and is eager to share the news that Santa is real! Most people on the street regard him suspiciously, and he even runs into Kellaway outside the police station. Kellaway has no interest in entertaining Ipkiss. He’s not even content to let Stanley think what he wants and instead informs him that all of the Santas who escaped were recaptured and takes him into the precint to show him. Stanley flips through the mug shots and doesn’t see the real Santa and begins to doubt himself. He leaves and Kellaway enters his office smugly to retrieve his bowling ball as that’s how he’s spending Christmas. There he finds the dumb train he wanted as a kid sitting on his desk. With tears welling up in his eyes, he looks to the sky hopefully, and then dismisses the possibility of an actual Santa. We don’t have room for two miracles in this one.

That’s the toy that made him lose faith in Santa?! Even the weenie whistle is better than that!

A somewhat down Stanley is then shown walking home. His experience at the police station has left him thinking there really isn’t a Santa, and that’s just sad. A present then lands on the sidewalk in front of him and Stanley picks it up. We hear a Santa voice-over thanking Stanley for at least trying to help out. His true gratitude is apparently expressed on the tag as Kellaway has been crossed out and replaced with Stanley. Inside is the flannel shirt The Mask had gifted Kellaway and Stanley is happy to have it. He picks up Milo and tells him, “Yes, Milo, there is a Santa Claus!” As the camera zooms out and we see the snow falling, the little girl from earlier goes riding by on her new race horse and Stanley gives her a wave.

The part of Virginia will now be played by Milo.

For Christmas, writer Dean Stefan basically took The Santa Clause approach, or Flintstones approach if you prefer, for The Mask. It’s a solid premise as imagining The Mask in the role of St. Nick certainly seems like it has some comedic appeal. In spite of that, I really didn’t find much to laugh at. Maybe if I were 7 this would be funny, but most of the jokes were too familiar. I liked some of the inexplicable humor, like Rocky being a villain (he’s apparently named Dynamite Joe), but few actual jokes did much to move me. The fish guy seemed like he had potential, as he’s basically just a fish, and there were some jokes at his expense once the Santas were captured as he apparently does not possess a pleasant odor. The Mask as a character isn’t really that funny though. He reminds me of The Tick, only instead of aloof he’s self-aware. He’s certainly loud and the nature of the character means he can lend himself well to gags, but few were present here. The fruit cake joke was dumb and it’s a punchline relied upon way too much in cartoons. Same with The Mask calling out fake reindeer names at one point which included Nixon instead of Blitzen – I think that’s another gag we can retire.

That’s not to say I did not enjoy the performance of Rob Paulsen. He’s a voice acting legend and he’s certainly able to match the intensity of the film performance. The other performance I quite enjoyed belonged to Tim Curry, which isn’t much of a surprise since he tends to be terrific whenever he takes on a voice role. He really didn’t have many lines as Dr. Pretorius in this one, but the way he emphasized the word “sack” was one of the few moments I actually chuckled aloud. Some words are just inherently funny when spoken a certain way, and Curry certainly found that with “sack.”

Her parents must have been pissed.

Otherwise, this episode does at least make an attempt at some Christmas feels with its resolution. There’s some cynicism present though, and it’s even embodied by the show’s real Santa character. And re-inserting the horse girl into the end was a good touch. Even though I found this one a bit short on laughs, it is written competently and I liked how it kept coming back to the fact that The Mask was so awful at playing Santa he only delivered one present.

Even though I consider The Mask to be superior to Ace Ventura: Pet Detective, it’s a bit harder to come by. Only the first season was released on DVD, but at least this episode is a part of that. And because of that, it’s also available streaming. The good news is that there’s also less protection of it. If you look at the credits, there were a lot of different companies involved in this series and I’m guessing that’s why it’s not more readily available. There are just too many parties to compensate in order to make it worthwhile. Instead, no one cares about it and you can find this online streaming for free should you wish to spend Christmas with The Mask.


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

Original air date December 9, 1995

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Someone wants to abduct these ugly-ass reindeer.

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

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

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

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

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

Cheeky.

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

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

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

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

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

The monkey is definitely the smartest one.

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

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

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

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

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

That’s no reindeer!

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

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

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

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

That is certainly a sight.

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

At least Spike is enjoying himself.

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

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

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

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

Never fear, Santa is here!

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

Ace living out every kid’s fantasy.

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

That’s unfortunate.

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

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

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

Ever see an albino alligator covered in cosmetics?

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

Now that’s a Miami Christmas.

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

The character designs did little for me.

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

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

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


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