Category Archives: Film

Dec. 25 – Mickey’s Christmas Carol

Original release date October 20, 1983

We made it! Another year in the books, and another Christmas has come. Indulge in it. Bask in it, for it only comes once a year, and not to get too dramatic, but you never know how many you’re going to get. And we’re ending this year’s edition of The Christmas Spot with another throwback to a terrific holiday classic: Mickey’s Christmas Carol.

When it comes to Christmas specials, there’s no shortage of A Christmas Carol adaptations. It’s the most frequently utilized framing device for a holiday special, be it animated or live-action, and there’s no shortage of just straight retellings too. Even Disney has released multiple theatrical versions of the Charles Dickens classic, and for my money, the best version of A Christmas Carol is the one released in 1983 starring a duck and mouse.

Mickey’s Christmas Carol is basically a trimmed down version of the Dickens tale faithfully retold through animation. The familiar Disney characters we all know and love are essentially actors in this story as Mickey Mouse isn’t referred to as Mickey by the characters in the story, he’s Bob Cratchit. It’s essentially what the Muppets would do a decade later, only this isn’t really a comedy as it basically plays it straight. When it released to theaters in 1983 it was a pretty big deal for the simple fact that it was the first Mickey Mouse cartoon in 30 years to be released in theaters. It unfortunately didn’t lead to a new era in theatrical short-form animation, but the following decade was certainly better than the preceding ones as far as quantity goes.

Scrooge McDuck is the star, but Mickey still gets top billing and his image before the cartoon.

Being that this was the first Mickey Mouse cartoon in 30 years, it marked an era of new beginnings and ends. This was the directorial debut for writer/artist Burny Mattinson. Mattinson would go on to co-direct The Great Mouse Detective, but after that basically returned to his role as a writer for the remainder of his career. For many, this was the first time people were hearing Wayne Allwine as Mickey and Alan Young as Scrooge McDuck. Allwine, who worked in the sound department under his Mickey predecessor Jimmy MacDonald, had started voicing the mouse in some uncredited appearances on The New Mickey Mouse Club, but this theatrical short (which was essentially designed to go right to television given its running time) offered more exposure and a true credit, too. For Young, this was actually his second time voicing Scrooge in the role of Ebenezer Scrooge as he first took on the role for an LP release titled An Adaptation of Dickens’ Christmas Carol, Performed by The Walt Disney Players in the 1970s. He even voiced Mickey on that release. This cartoon was obviously more far reaching than what was essentially an audio play and Young would retain ownership of the role into DuckTales later in the decade and really for the rest of his life. As for ends, this would be the final credited appearance of Clarence “Ducky” Nash as Donald Duck. He had been the sole voice of the character since creation, but would turn it over to animator Tony Anselmo (who was an uncredited assistant on this production) in 1985.

Other notable performances include Hal Smith voicing Goofy for the second to last time. He didn’t voice the character a ton, but Goofy is still a character with a fairly exclusive list of actors credited as performing his voice. This was also the first time Will Ryan would voice Willie the Giant and that’s a role he filled until his death earlier this year (RIP). For actor Eddie Carroll, this was arguably his most exposure as Jiminy Cricket since taking over the seldom used character in 1947. He would voice the character in his other appearances following this pretty much right up until his passing in 2007. Lastly, this is seemingly the first, and only, time Patricia Parris voiced Daisy Duck. Daisy was somewhat of a seldom used character in the 80s and 90s who had multiple voice actors playing the role until Disney seemed to settle on Tress MacNeille as the one and only Daisy sometime around the year 2000. The only credit missing is one for Minnie Mouse, but that’s because her role is silent in this one. Yeah, it wasn’t the best look to see Minnie reduced to a silent cameo, but this was during her silent era which had been going on for decades. Russi Taylor would eventually be cast as Minnie later in the decade finally putting an end to the madness, but we were denied such a performance in this one.

Time to find out if a man, err duck, who literally hugs his money is redeemable.

After it’s theatrical release alongside a re-release of The Rescuers, Mickey’s Christmas Carol would go on to have a long run as a prime time television special around the holidays. That was how I first encountered it and also how I fell in love with it. Even though the special seems to be purposefully crafted to fit into a half hour broadcast, it would actually be aired as an hour long special with some Christmas or winter themed shorts attached. The version I am most familiar with aired on NBC and was preempted by the following classic shorts: Donald’s Snow Fight, Pluto’s Christmas Tree, and The Art of Skiing. In between the shorts, there would be narration from Mickey describing the favorite Christmas memory of his friends, which would lead into that character introducing their own short (including Pluto who can be heard barking at Mickey). They would also show clips from other shorts like Toy Tinkers and Mickey’s Good Deed before eventually getting to Mickey’s favorite Christmas memory, the year they all got together to tell the story of A Christmas Carol. “Ha ha, we called it Mickey’s Christmas Carol,” he adds a bit sheepishly, almost like he’s a little embarrassed that his name went on this thing. Especially since Scrooge McDuck is the real star!

This one begins with some rousing horns and the classic Mickey head logo only it’s been dressed up with a hat and scarf. From there, we go into a lovely little opening title sequence. Still images in a monochrome, sepia, style from the cartoon to come are displayed along with the credits. It’s set to the song “Oh What a Merry Christmas Day” by Irwin Kostal (lyrics by Fredrick Searles), who conducted all of the music for the cartoon. The song really is quite nice and I think it’s been underserved by Disney ever since it was released. This should be their Christmas song, but I don’t think I’ve ever heard it outside of this cartoon. The final image of the sequence eventually dissolves into some scenery that is just gorgeous. This one seems to be set in the same era as the original story, 1843, as we get a little multi-plane camera action that zooms into a street setting where the sidewalks are populated by beggars and busy bodies and the streets by horse drawn carriages. It’s important to note that all characters in this cartoon are personified animals from past Disney films and shorts. You’ll probably immediately see the three little pigs and the big, bad, wolf as well as many faces from Robin Hood and The Wind in the Willows.

Scrooge pausing to break the fourth wall.

Ebenezer Scrooge is strolling down the street looking rather unapproachable. A beggar (Young) asks him if he has a penny for the poor and Scrooge just scoffs at him. He eventually comes to the front door of his counting house, and before entering he knocks the snow off of his sign which reads Scrooge & Marley, only Marley’s name has been scratched out. It’s then Scrooge informs us (I’m not sure if we’re to read this as him breaking the fourth wall or him just talking to himself) that his old partner, Jacob Marley, died seven years ago today. He boasts the man left him enough money in his will to pay for a tombstone, but he had him buried at sea! Not said, is that Scrooge is so cheap he’d rather just cross his name off of the sign than get a new one. I also wonder if he’d bother to knock the snow off of the sign if it was covering Marley’s name instead of his own.

Cratchit is apparently allotted one piece of coal every two weeks.

When Scrooge enters the counting house, he finds his lone employee, Bob Cratchit, up to something over by the fireplace. He demands to know what he’s doing, and Cratchit indicates he’s just trying to thaw out the ink for his quill which is coated with ice. Scrooge is apoplectic that Cratchit would dare to use two pieces of coal in the span of a week and demands he get back to his work. Cratchit takes it in stride and hops up onto a tall chair and appears to make do with the frozen quill as Scrooge begins to remove his coat and hat. Cratchit then brings up the topic of Christmas, very gingerly as Scrooge bristles at the mere mention of the holiday. Cratchit meekly requests a half day off for the holiday, which is tomorrow, and Scrooge reluctantly obliges. Only it’s on the condition that he only receive half a day’s pay. He then tries to recall what he even pays his one, and only, employee and Cratchit has to correct him that he’s up to two shillings and a ha’penny per day on account of a raise he got three years ago when he agreed to start doing Scrooge’s laundry. Scrooge smiles to himself at the confirmation, likely quite satisfied to have such cheap help, before his scowl returns as it reminds him the sack he’s had slung over his shoulder is a bundle of shirts for Bob to wash.

Scrooge heads over to his desk and starts making entries in his log. He starts tallying up interest payments (he’s nailing one guy for 80%) and basically playing with the coins on his desk laughing to himself. He goes so far as to embrace a pile of coins remarking “Money, money, money,” to himself in a sequence that would be adorable if it wasn’t so illustrative of his excessive greed.

The duck we’ve all been waiting for!

A bell attached to the door, I suppose that makes it a doorbell, rings with the opening of the door. It’s Scrooge’s nephew, Fred, played by the character Scrooge McDuck also calls a nephew, Donald Duck. Fred arrives by shouting “Merry Christmas!” which his uncle responds to by shouting “Bah! Humbug!” Fred refuses to let his sour uncle get him down and he has Cratchit cheering him on. When Scrooge demands to know what Bob is doing by clapping for Fred he suggests he’s just trying to keep his hands warm. Scrooge demands to know why his nephew is there to bother him and Fred tells him that he came to bring him a wreath and to invite him to Christmas dinner. Scrooge seems actually delighted at the invitation and starts asking Fred about the menu. As Scrooge inquires about each dish, Fred enthusiastically confirms that he’s serving it as his excitement builds up until he finally asks “Are you coming?!” Scrooge then reveals he’s just been toying with the lad by saying he can’t eat that stuff. Fred is clearly hurt, but Scrooge feels he’s wasted enough of his time as shoves the wreath over Fred’s head and literally kicks him out the door. We hear the unmistakable quacks of anger from Fred as he apparently soars off of Srooge’s stoop, only he quickly returns to open the door to shout, once more, “Merry Christmas!” and slip the wreath over the doorknob. Scrooge angrily shoots back, “And a bah humbug to you!”

I’m guessing they’ll never hit Scrooge up for money again.

Cratchit reflects on how kind Fred is, but Scrooge suggests he’s always been a little peculiar. The bell by the door rings again as Scrooge angrily adds that his nephew is quite stubborn, but his mood does a total 180 when he sees that two potential customers have entered. It’s the most personable we’ve seen of Scrooge yet, but unfortunately for him the two gentlemen who just entered are not looking to secure a loan with unfavorable rates. They’re two solicitors for the poor and they’re played by Ratty and Moley (voiced by Smith and Ryan) from The Wind in the Willows. Scrooge sort of recoils at the mere suggestion he just donate money to the needy, but seeing as how he has a business to run, he doesn’t toss the two out like he did his nephew. Instead, he uses some rather twisted logic to indicate that the job of these men are dependent on there being poor, and if Scrooge gives money to the poor, well then they won’t be poor anymore! He then practically begs them not to ask him to put them out of a job, especially not on Christmas Eve! The two completely fall for it as Scrooge gently nudges them outside, but just before closing the door, the real Scrooge emerges as he tells them “I suggest you give this to the poor and be gone,” and tosses the wreath Fred gave him in their direction before slamming the door. We get one lingering shot of the two collectors looking shocked as the wreath swings back and forth on the nose of Moley.

An exasperated Scrooge slumps against the door as he asks his employee, “What’s this world coming to, Cratchit? You work all your life to get money, and people just want you to give it away!” Cratchit doesn’t respond as Scrooge heads to his desk and time passes. It’s dark in the counting house and the clock strikes 7, a long work day is apparently over. A very tired Bob Cratchit is able to smile a bit as the clock bells go off and he begins to head out. Scrooge, checking his pocket watch, then remarks the wall clock is two minutes fast. Cratchit says nothing and quickly jumps back into his chair and into his logs. Scrooge then tells him not to mind the two minutes, but adds that he better be here all the earlier the next day. The animation seems to suggest that Scrooge’s watch and the clock on the wall are in agreement. I wonder if that’s an animation goof or if Scrooge is so manipulative he’d make his employee think he’s leaving early to encourage him to arrive for work earlier in the future? Either way, Cratchit seems positively giddy to be getting out a whole two minutes early and tells his boss that he is so kind. This is clearly the nicest thing Scrooge has probably done for him since that raise three years ago. Cratchit bundles up in his tattered hat and scarf and nearly wishes his boss a “Bah! Humbug,” but corrects himself to “Merry Christmas!” before departing. Scrooge just scoffs and returns to his work.

I like how Goofy’s ears form the handle on the knocker.

When the clock strikes 9, Scrooge finally calls it a day. He puts on his coat and hat and heads out into the snowy, now deserted, streets for a lonely walk home. This walk cycle always floors me with how gorgeous it looks as the snow looks so authentic and the movement of Scrooge so accurate to how this character would move if he were real. He eventually reaches his home, a fairly large looking house with a gaudy, gold-colored, door knocker. As Scrooge goes to unlock it, the visage on the knocker changes to resemble what we, the audience, know to be the face of Goofy, but here he’s Jacob Marley. He calls out in a low, mournful, manner for Scrooge which certainly gets his attention. Scrooge just says “Jacob…Marley?!” at the sight, and when the knocker returns with another wail, Scrooge squeezes his nose which causes him to yell out in pain. This frightens Scrooge into the house while we’re left to see Goofy scrunch up his nose and remark in typical Goofy fashion, “Gwarsh!”

A shaken Scrooge enters his dark and cold house. Wide eyed, he jumps onto a tall staircase and peers through the darkness frantically, but seeing nothing, cautiously begins his ascent up the stairs. As he climbs, a shadow of Marley appears on the wall behind him. The shadow is loaded with heavy chains and makes quite the noise as it moves and Scrooge notices almost immediately. When he stops, the shadow stops, and when he spins around it disappears! Scrooge then resumes his climb and the shadow respawns, only now it’s feeling playful as it lifts Scrooge’s hat off of his head. Scrooge then carefully sticks his cane out behind him and basically tickles the shadow. As it laughs, Scrooge is able to spin around and catch sight of it. The shadow drops his hat while Scrooge yells and races up the stairs into his bed chambers.

Aww, c’mon, Scrooge! He doesn’t look so scary.

Once inside, Scrooge engages numerous locks on his bedroom door (that’s kind of irregular) before retreating to a large chair. Shaking, he pulls his hat low as Marley’s haunting calls for Ebenezer Scrooge return. Scrooge barks back for him to go away, but the ghost enters. As he walks through the door, he fails to negotiate the cane Scrooge hastily left on the floor and trips over it coming to land right beside Scrooge’s chair. Marley pops up remarking it’s kind of slippery as Scrooge lights a candle in disbelief. The ghostly apparition confirms to Scrooge that he is indeed the ghost of Jacob Marley. Scrooge then softens a bit and starts recounting how Marley was a class act who bravely robbed the widows and swindled the poor. Marley seems rather proud of himself before something reminds him that basking in such praise is not what he came here for. He snaps out of his contented state to correct Scrooge. Declaring he was wrong to live his life in such a manner, he reveals he was punished for all eternity for his crimes against humanity as he flings his chains about. They’re his curse, but wrapped around one is a piggy bank that Scrooge takes interest in. When Marley, deep in his dramatic recounting of his cursed state, yanks on the chains they wrap around Scrooge’s neck drawing him closer to Marley and choking him in the process.

It’s at this point that Marley reveals to Scrooge that the same is in store for him when his time is up. Scrooge seems legitimately scared of such a fate and begs his old partner for help. It’s at this point Marley gives him the old “You will be visited by three spirts,” routine, only since this is Goofy he holds up just two fingers when saying “three.” He warns Scrooge that if he doesn’t heed the advice of these spirits that his chains will be even heavier! He then departs with a haunting “Farewell,” and as he vanishes through the door Scrooge calls outs out for him to “Watch out for that first,” before we hear the sound of Marley falling down the stairs with the familiar Goofy yell accompanying it. When the crashing sounds end, Scrooge finishes his warning, “…step.”

A clearly spooked Scrooge searches for ghosts before bed.

Scrooge, now dressed in a gown and cap for sleeping, is inspecting his room for spirits, it would seem. He flashes a candle in the fireplace and under the bed, but seeing nothing he climbs into bed scoffing at the notion of spirits as he blows out his candle. He quickly falls to sleep, and then the camera starts bouncing! We’re clearly seeing the point of view of another creature, which heads for Scrooge’s nightstand. It’s Jiminy Cricket, who rings the bell on Scrooge’s clock to wake him from his slumber. A groggy Scrooge turns to regard this individual who informs him that he’s the Ghost of Christmas Past. Jiminy even displays a fancy badge, like the one he receives at the end of Pinocchio, confirming his identity. Scrooge rather casually remarks he thought he’d be taller, then turns to go back to sleep. The cricket fires back that if men were measured by kindness, then Scrooge would be no bigger than a speck of dust! Scrooge tells him what he thinks of kindness and its usefulness, which Jiminy reminds him he didn’t always feel that way. Declaring it’s time to go, Scrooge encourages him to get out, but when the ghost opens the window Scrooge is suddenly out of bed.

Despite the fact that he’s a duck, Scrooge clearly does not enjoy flying.

Confused, Scrooge asks the ghost (which he always addresses as Spirit) what he’s doing. He tells him they’re going to visit his past, but Scrooge lets him know he can’t go out the window without falling. The ghost just tells him to hold on, and when he opens his tiny umbrella the two sail out of the window with a gust of wind! They fly through the night sky with Scrooge becoming ever frantic like a cat that accidentally wandered onto a motor boat or something. The spirit actually laughs at him, suggesting he thought Scrooge enjoyed looking down on the world.

Scrooge clearly wasn’t very smooth with the ladies.

Eventually, the two come to rest outside a tavern. It belongs to an individual named old Fezzywig, Scrooge’s former employer. Scrooge is excited to peer through the window and the sights are full of Disney cameos. Scrooge remarks that Fezzywig couldn’t have been a kinder person to work for, which is interesting since he doesn’t appear to find that trait useful for himself as an employer. He then gets excited when he spies a younger version of himself seated in the corner. The spirit points that this is the version of Scrooge that hasn’t yet become a miserable miser consumed by greed which doesn’t seem to offend Scrooge in the least as he casually responds “No one’s perfect.” Scrooge then narrows his focus on Isabelle, as played by Daisy Duck. He refers to her as “lovely Isabelle,” and we see her pull the young Scrooge out onto the dance floor. She rather unapologetically begs Scrooge for a kiss by pointing out she’s primed and ready and under the mistletoe, but Scrooge instead takes note that she’s standing on his foot. She doesn’t allow herself to be bothered as she takes Scrooge’s hands and the two dance. When the song ends, Belle plants a kiss on Scrooge which he rather clearly enjoys.

Scrooge isn’t even willing to pause his counting and come out from behind his wall of money to talk with Belle.

The present day Scrooge is left swooning too as he recalls how he was madly in love with her. The spirit then reminds him that in ten year’s time he came to love something else. Scrooge looks around and realizes they’re in his counting house on a dark, and rainy, evening. The young Scrooge is seated at his desk behind a mountain of money he’s counting out as Belle enters. She has to interrupt his counting to get him to acknowledge her, and he won’t even stand up to look at her from behind his wall of coins. She then delivers in rather unforceful terms an ultimatum. She’s been waiting for Scrooge to keep his promise to marry her as she’s been holding onto a cottage for the two of them for years. She asks if he’s come to a decision, and Scrooge rather angrily indicates he has. Belle’s last payment on the cottage, which she apparently financed through him, was an hour late allowing Scrooge to foreclose on the mortgage. As he waves the document in her face, Belle begins to sob and head for the door as broken hearts flutter about in the air – a little corny, but effective. She casts one, last, look in Scrooge’s direction and her face morphs from sadness to anger as she slams the door behind her causing all of the coins to scatter on Scrooge’s desk.

The spirit pushes the knife in deeper by pointing out that Scrooge loved his gold more than Belle causing him to lose her forever. Scrooge then begs the spirit to take him home declaring he can no longer bare these painful memories. The spirit adds that he fashioned them himself, as the scene shifts back to Scrooge’s bedroom. He’s in bed asking himself how he could have been so foolish when he’s roused from his thoughts by a loud, booming, voice. The voice shouts “Fee! Fi! Fo! Fum!” and the being indicates it’s puzzled by the smell of something unpleasant. Scrooge peers out from behind his bed curtains to see a massive man (the only human looking denizen of this world) surrounded by food. He quickly shuts the curtains, before pulling them open carefully again and a giant eye fills the opening.

This is the part of the cartoon where the viewer gets hungry. Well, a little. That pig is more disturbing than anything.

The titanic spirit (portrayed by Willy the Giant from Fun and Fancy Free) reaches into the bed to confirm that he has, indeed, smelled a stingy, little, Englishman. Scrooge emerges from the creature’s grasp and has it confirmed that he’s the Ghost of Christmas Present. Scrooge then takes note of the delicious looking, giant-sized, food before him. He asks where it all came from and is informed that it’s “The food of generosity, which you have long denied your fellow man.” Scrooge scoffs at the notion as he passes through a bundle of grapes, getting one stuck on his foot. He suggests no one has ever shown him generosity, and the spirit is forced to correct him that, despite his not being deserving of it, there are still some out there who do indeed extend good tidings to him. Scrooge tries to assure the spirit that this is not the case, but he’s just told. “You’ll see.”

Time to go meet this adorable little fella.

With Scrooge in the pocket his festive, green, robe, the spirit leaves Scrooge’s home. Since he is a literal giant, he has to lift the roof of the house off to step out. He then grabs a street lantern, which magically functions like a flashlight, as he goes on a search for a specific home. He checks one and the screams of a woman from inside alerts him that he’s not in the right place. He soon finds the home he’s looking for and dives onto his knees outside of it. One would assume a giant jumping around outside would get the attention of the whole neighborhood, but no one seems to notice.

“Hey mom, where did Polly go? She’s not in her cage…”

The spirit removes Scrooge from his pocket and deposits him outside the home. Scrooge, rather angrily, demands to know why he brought him to this old shack. The spirit then tells him it’s the home of his overworked, underpaid, employee: Bob Cratchit. Scrooge looks inside and sees Mrs. Cratchit placing dinner on the table. He cracks a joke by asking if she’s cooking a canary, then, perhaps sensing the ire of the giant, says they must have more food than that and points out a pot boiling over a fire. The spirit corrects Scrooge by telling him that’s his laundry, and the two go quiet and just observe as Bob tells his two children they must wait for Tiny Tim (Dick Billingsly). The small boy tells his father he’s coming as he slowly descends the stairs with the aid of a cane. His father whisks him over to the table where the boy enthusiastically declares there’s a lot of wonderful things to eat. Then reminds his family that they must thank Mr. Scrooge. His mother can’t muster up a response except just to smile politely and avoid his gaze, she probably spends many hours of her day cursing that name. Bob sits down and begins cutting a single pea for himself. Seeing that this is apparently all his dad has to eat, Tiny Tim offers him the drumstick from his plate, but Bob, sort of sadly, just hugs the child refusing to take the offering.

The final spirit is far less friendly than the first two. He also has a bad habit, but if you’re already dead, then why not enjoy a cigar?

Scrooge asks the spirit what’s wrong with Tim, and he responds, “Much, I’m afraid. For if these shadows remain unchanged, I see an empty chair where Tiny Tim once sat.” Scrooge can only respond with “Tim will…?!” but there’s no spirit to answer him. He looks around and the scenery grows foggy as Scrooge begs for the spirit to return through coughing. A shadowy figure appears smoking a cigar, the apparent source of all the smoke. Scrooge, clearly terrified of this new apparition, asks if he’s the Ghost of Christmas Future. The spirit only nods as Scrooge, rather carefully, begs to know what will happen to Tiny Tim.

That’s the one! The shot that breaks me every time.

The spirit simply raises an arm and gestures. A cemetery comes into view and a small headstone sits beneath a tree. Bob is beside it, clutching Tim’s can, as his wife and other two children lower their heads and walk away. The camera focuses on Bob as he sniffles a bit and a tear runs down his cheek. It’s a truly heartbreaking sight. He then lays the cane on the headstone and slowly walks away.

Scrooge can only wail “Oh no!” at the sight, before turning to the spirit. He declares he didn’t want this to happen and begs to know if these events can yet be changed. The spirit doesn’t respond as a raspy pair of voices fill the air. Two weasels (voiced by Allwine and Ryan) are laughing about a recent funeral they just witnessed. They’re grave diggers, and the person they’re digging a grave for apparently had a funeral with no mourners. One laughs and says they should take a break, since “He ain’t going no where,” as they laugh and walk away. Scrooge and the spirit approach the open grave and Scrooge, likely knowing the answer given how spooked he sounds, asks to know whose lonely grave this belongs to.

Dying sure seems like it sucks.

The spirit strikes a match and as he lights his cigar his hood falls away. It’s Peg Leg Pete (Ryan), and he lets him know that the grave belongs to him! He holds the match beside the headstone so Scrooge can see his own name. The spirit then slaps his back, knocking Scrooge into the grave, as he shouts, “The richest man in the cemetery!” and breaks out into laughter. As Scrooge cries out for help, the spirit only continues to laugh harder. Scrooge, holding onto a root, dangles above his own coffin which soon billows with smoke and an eerie red light shines from within. It begins to open, and as Scrooge falls towards it he shouts “I’ll change! I’ll change!”

He’s never looked better!

Scrooge tumbles out of bed tangled in his own curtains. He’s shouting demands for the spirit to let him out before he realizes he’s back in his own room. He runs to the window declaring it’s Christmas morning! He shows his elation by hugging a pigeon that was on his window sill and declares the spirits have given him another chance. He frantically searches for his robe, accidentally stepping through his hat and ripping through the top, as he tosses on a scarf and runs out the door. He then runs back in and declares “I can’t go out like this!” Mind you, Scrooge is in his nightgown and slippers with a red coat, scarf, and busted hat. He then grabs his cane and declares “There!” in a bit of a fake out before running back outside.

Okay, maybe they will come hit Scrooge up for many in the future.

Scrooge gleefully slides down a short, snow-covered, banister and crashes into the individuals who showed up at his counting house the prior day collecting funds for the poor. Scrooge is happy to see them, though they don’t appear to feel the same way about running into Scrooge again. He tells them he has something for them, but they try to deflect him as they likely assume it’s more insults or another wreath, but Scrooge surprises them with gold. He fills the mole’s hat and slaps it down on his head as the rat reacts with shock and punctuates it with an “Oh no!” in disbelief. Scrooge thinks, or acts like he thinks, that the rat thinks this isn’t enough and starts tossing more money. This schtick goes on until Scrooge literally fills the mole’s pants with money leaving them with 100 gold pieces. As Scrooge cheerfully heads to his next destination, the two call out a “Merry Christmas to you!”

Scrooge is just spreading happiness now and it’s lovely.

Scrooge merrily dances through the streets greeting people who are clearly shocked to see this side of Scrooge until his nephew nearly runs him over while riding a horse. Scrooge, not bothered by this at all, simply calls out “Ah! Nephew!” Fred, like the other denizens of town, is shocked to see his uncle in an apparent good mood. He’s even more shocked when Scrooge tells him he’s looking forward to that wonderful meal he’s preparing. Fred, almost sweetly, shouts “You mean you’re coming?!” and Scrooge tells him he’ll be over promptly at 2 and to keep it piping hot as he balances his cane on his nose and scampers off. Fred, with a huge smile across his bill, assures his uncle that he will keep it hot and wishes him “…a very merry Christmas to you!”

Scrooge feels the need to torture Bob mildly before changing his life for the better.

Some kids scamper by, two of the three little wolves chased by one of the little pigs wielding a pop gun, as Scrooge emerges from a toy store with a huge sack over his shoulder. Declaring, “And now for Cratchit’s” he merrily makes his way down the street and to the home of Bob Cratchit. He giddily knocks on the door, but then forces himself to put on a serious face. Bob answers the door and is pretty shocked to see his boss standing there on Christmas morning (he probably shouldn’t be that shocked given how terrible his boss is). He somewhat sheepishly offers a “Merry Christmas” towards Scrooge, who snorts and brushes past him causing Bob to sort of whimper “Won’t you come in.”

Toys! We’ve got toys here!

Scrooge adds a “Merry Christmas, indeed,” in an angry tone. He tells Bob he has another bundle for him as he slams the sack on the ground. A teddy bear pops out, which Tiny Tim takes notice of. Scrooge scoops it up and stuffs it in the pocket of his jacket as he tugs the sack closer to himself trying to ignore the curious child. He then goes into a rant, declaring he’s had enough of this “half day off stuff” He then starts to act like he’s going to fire Cratchit, who looks pretty terrified. As he hollers, “You leave me, no alternative, but to give you,” the last part he can’t get out without a bit laughter as Tim finishes the sentence by exclaiming, “Toys!”

The other shot that breaks me, but in a good way!

Scrooge confirms to a confused Bob that, yes, he is giving him toys. He also tells him that he’s giving him a raise, and making Bob his partner as he doffs his cap and puts an arm around him. Bob can only muster up a “Partner?!” as he clearly didn’t expect this. Scrooge basically just announced that he’s lifting his family out of poverty, for heaven’s sake. He can only respond by saying, “Thanks, Mr. Scrooge” as we see his wife lift a fully cooked turkey out of that same sack (those toys must be gross). Tiny Tim then goes in for his line, “And God bless us, every one!” as Scrooge embraces the kid. They tumble into a rocking chair as Scrooge places his hat on the kid’s head and the other two kids run in to join the fun. “Oh What a Merry Christmas Day” returns as the Cratchits look on as their children pile onto Scrooge and the cartoon comes to an end.

Now, if only this could happen to every other greedy, rich, asshole the world would be a better place.

If that ending doesn’t leave you all warm and happy on Christmas Day, then I’m guessing nothing does. The way that Scrooge toys with Bob at the end doesn’t come across as cruel, though I can see some perhaps thinking that it does. It serves to draw out the suspense of the moment as Bob Cratchit discovers that his boss has made a truly life altering decision for him and his family. Did Disney intend for us to put it in such context? Maybe, I don’t know, but it’s how I’ve always approached that last scene. That family was starving to the point where their malnourished son was essentially a goner if things didn’t change, and fast. Now, assuming Scrooge keeps his word, the Cratchits will basically get half of every dollar Scrooge makes and presumably have a much easier life. And the adorable Tiny Tim gets to live.

Scrooge is also practical in his Christmas Day delivery, though they could really use some sides.

It’s a very satisfying conclusion to a well-worn story. I, like probably many, do not care to see another version of A Christmas Carol come along ever gain. We have enough. This cartoon though was my first introduction to the story which is probably why I like it so much. I do think it has value beyond that and my affection isn’t solely attributed to nostalgia, but I do acknowledge it plays a role in just how much I adore this one. I just think it’s wonderfully paced, beautifully animated, and the cast is exceptional. I love how this one looks, even when I’m watching it on a 35 year old VHS my mother made for my sister and I. I especially love the backgrounds which are so detailed and almost weathered looking to reflect the setting. As a result, the special loses a little something in the HD transfer Disney did a few years ago that brightens everything up and dulls some of the linework. Not that it isn’t still worth watching, but I almost prefer my ancient tape or cheap DVD I bought more than a decade ago. The actual animation is also wonderful. The characters are so expressive and the animators did an amazing job of conveying emotion through them. You could watch this thing on mute and know what every character is feeling at every moment. And even though this re-telling plays it straight, there’s some exaggerated, animated, flourishes here and there like when Scrooge is terrified of Marley or when he kicks Fred out of the counting house. It feels like Disney had something to prove with the first Mickey cartoon in 30 years and it really nailed it here.

Mickey’s Christmas Carol is available to stream all year round on Disney+. It probably aired this month on cable too, but at this point those airings may be over. I wish it still got the broadcast network timeslot it occupied 30 years ago, especially with the added shorts (only two of which are on Disney’s streaming network), but that’s how it goes.

The end of the cartoon, and the end for this year’s countdown!

I hope you enjoyed this year’s edition of The Christmas Spot, whether you read one entry, or all 25. Or whether or not you’re reading this in 2021, or 2025. In December, or March. It doesn’t matter, it’s always nice to do a little Christmas reading and reflect on the specials that warmed our hearts as kids and adults. And it’s even fun to look at the not-so-good ones, and that’s why I do this every year. A lot can change in a year, but I plan on being back here next year so I hope to see you then. Merry Christmas, everyone!


Dec. 20 – Toy Tinkers

Toy Tinkers (1949)

We’re rounding the corner to Christmas. With just five days left until the big day, that means we have time for just five more specials after this one! And since we’ve hit another multiple of five, it’s time to do another retro-lookback (or whatever I’m calling these things) at an all-time classic: Toy Tinkers.

Toy Tinkers is forever linked with the Mickey Mouse cartoon Pluto’s Christmas Tree, which we covered earlier in this countdown. The premise for both is nearly the same, it’s just that Pluto’s Christmas Tree subs out Donald Duck in favor of Mickey’s famous canine. In both cartoons, Chip and Dale serve as the antagonists as they enter a home at Christmas and cause some mayhem. In Pluto’s Christmas Tree, they’re almost fully in the wrong in that they begin the cartoon behaving like assholes towards Pluto and end up in the home of Mickey merely by accident. It’s different from how they enter the home of Donald Duck in their official, named, debut Chip an’ Dale when Donald chops down the tree they live in for firewood. In this one, they’re just going to enter Donald’s house because they want what he has. It kind of makes them jerks, but at the same time, this world the characters inhabit is a weird one in which chipmunks are expected to live outdoors while a duck is important enough to own a home. And for some reason, chipmunks apparently haven’t mutated like mice have into human-sized creatures.

It’s a beautiful sight.

Despite being a self-admitted Donald Duck fan, I’ve always been partial to Pluto’s Christmas Tree, but that’s almost wholly due to exposure. That cartoon was featured on television at Christmas time when I was a kid and I had a copy of it recorded on VHS. Even since then, the cartoon has been released on various Christmas compilations while Toy Tinkers has been less represented. It was included on a pair of VHS and DVD compilations and is featured on the 30th anniversary release of Mickey’s Christmas Carol. Where it’s not featured is on Disney+ and I think that has to do with the level of violence in the short. I think that is also what has kept it from seeing repeated television airings. The two cartoons are so similar that Disney and other networks probably saw little reason to air both, so why not go with the one that doesn’t feature a gun?

The duck needs a tree.

Whether you’re familiar with Pluto’s Christmas Tree or not, Toy Tinkers is absolutely worth watching and is one of the best Christmas anythings ever created, so let’s get to it. The short opens with the catchy Donald Duck theme song added midway through the character’s solo run and settles on a scene of a snowy woods. Chip (Jimmy MacDonald) and Dale (Dessie Flynn) are snoozing in a hollowed out log when the ground beneath them begins to shake. It’s shaking so much that Chip starts to hop involuntarily and finds himself outside of the log under a pile of snow. He looks and spies Donald (Clarence Nash) chopping down a nearby evergreen. Apparently, Donald is so strong that just the mere act of driving an axe into a small tree is enough to shake the entire woods.

Wholesome, but kind of lonely too.

Chip runs back inside to wake Dale and the two watch as Donald ties the tree to a sled (while singing “Jingle Bells”) and proceeds to ride it down a hill towards a cabin. Intrigued, the two slide down the hill after him utilizing the tracks left in the snow by Donald’s sled. They reach the cabin and peer through the window to see Donald in his bathrobe trimming a Christmas tree. It’s a wholesome sight, but what really catches the attention of the chipmunks are the various nuts and desserts strewn about. Donald clearly must be planning on having company for Christmas, though it’s worth pointing out there’s no sign of his nephews.

Now that’s a sight.

Dale immediately starts trying to open the window, but he’s much too small to do so. Chip, always the wiser of the two, and also the more abusive, kicks his partner in the butt causing him to land on his head. He motions for Dale to be quiet and heads to the edge of the structure they’re on while Dale follows by walking on his hands. The two collide and Chip finds himself beneath the ass of Dale and blows his tail out of his face to illustrate his frustration.

Dale is feeling good about himself. It’s amazing what a new wardrobe can do for one’s confidence.

The two head for the front door and Chip indicates to Dale they can use the mail slot to enter the cabin. The two peer through and we see the shadow of Donald pass by indicating he’s no longer in the door’s vicinity. The two quickly sneak in and head for the walnuts. Chip fills Dale’s arms with nuts and sends him on his way. As the little chipmunk runs he collides with a teddy bear knocking it over and the top hat from its head. Dale quickly positions it as he found it, but then stops to regale the hat. It’s sized right for a chipmunk, so he puts it on and takes the cane from the bear for good measure.

I suppose it’s important to remember that Dale is not the smart one.

Dale struts around like a big shot twirling his cane and mugging for the camera. His preening leads him between a doll and a clown, and as he bows to greet each they tumble over slightly as if they’re returning his bow. He continues strutting and twirling the cane, which accidentally strikes an elaborate music box causing it to turn on. Two figures move along the toy that also are dressed in fancy clothing. It’s clearly a duel scene, but Dale being an ignorant chipmunk, hops on the toy and returns their bows. The two toys then fire pop guns at each other knocking Dale’s head around. He tumbles away like a punch-drunk boxer and collides with Chip who literally slaps some sense into him.

Oh, you clever duck!

In another room, Donald is getting more Christmas ornaments when he hears a peculiar sound. He looks into the living room and sees Chip using a toy to load walnuts into the back of a toy truck. Dale is driving the truck and he heads out with a full load. Donald seems amused by this, but he being Donald, he’s not about to make merry with some chipmunks. Instead, he heads over to a toy train set on the floor and lowers the gate before Dale reaches it. He pauses to let the train go by, while Donald sneaks behind him and empties the contents of the truck into a bowl. When the train passes, Dale resumes his travels and Donald has a laugh at his expense only for Chip to then come along on one of those hand-pump cars on the tracks. Before Donald can react to the sight of the chipmunk, Chip snatches the bowl, places it on the car behind him, and promptly thanks the duck before taking off.

I know I just called him a clever duck, but this is legitimately clever of Donald to play the two against each other.

Donald begins to throw one of his classic tantrums while Chip and Dale celebrate, but before he goes too far into his fit he appears to get an idea. He disappears for a moment only to then reappear as Santa Claus! Chip and Dale seem confused, but Santa Donald runs up to them bringing gifts so they let their guard down pretty quick. Donald produces a walnut for Dale wrapped with a red ribbon. He seems happy with the gift until Donald hands Chip his gift: a walnut the size of a football wrapped with a green ribbon. Dale looks at Chip’s nut, then his own, and tosses his own to try to steal Chip’s. As the two bicker, Donald has a laugh, but then things get serious.

Is this why we can’t have this on Disney+?

This whole time, Donald’s hand has been in the giant nut he gifted Chip. When Chip swats Dale away and removes the green ribbon, Donald’s hand is revealed holding a revolver! Chip reacts in a comical manner by having his body go stiff and parallel to the ground. He then tries pointing the gun at Dale, who pushes it back towards Chip, and so on. Donald then discards the Santa guise and forces the two to put their hands up and marches them into the back of a toy paddy wagon. It’s self-driving, and as it speeds away with the chipmunks inside, Donald races out in front of it to cause it to crash into his foot.

That car must have really been flying!

We see the wagon spin, but we don’t see the actual impact as it crashes into the wall leaving the car wrecked and Chip and Dale looking a bit worse for ware. Donald, not satisfied, grabs a pop gun and taunts the pair by saying, “So you want some nuts?!” as he pours a bowl of them into the barrel of the gun. It basically turns into a machinegun as Donald blasts walnuts at Chip and Dale forcing them to seek cover as nuts and Christmas ornaments (I guess they were mixed in with the nuts?) rain down on them.

They sure do look smug now that they have a gun.

The two chipmunks take refuge behind some wrapped gifts. It turns out to be a great spot because a toy canon happens to be setup there as well. It even has a seat for Chip to sit in while he aims it. Donald soon creeps over to see what the two are up to and gets shot in the face with a tomato for his curiosity. I don’t know where the chipmunks got that tomato, but they apparently have more as they hit Donald again forcing the duck to flee.

We just saw him decorating a tree by himself and now we see how happy he is to receive a phone call, I am starting to feel pretty bad for Donald Duck.

Donald creates his own wall of presents and puts on a soldier’s helmet as he calls out, “Prepare to defend yourselves!” The battle is on as both parties appear to be armed with Christmas ornaments as ammo. While Chip gleefully blasts away, Dale grabs a telephone and carries it behind enemy lines. He returns to his shelter and calls Donald on the phone who just can’t help himself. He answers it with an excited “Hello?” only for Chip to blast the receiver on the other end ringing Donald’s head like a bell.

Who gets stuck with all the bad luck?

The battle resumes until the phone rings again. This time, Donald answers it, but holds the earpiece away from his head. When he hears the pleasant sound of a waltz coming through it, he places it against his ear and enjoys the music. Until he doesn’t, for Chip simply blasts the other end again. Donald throws the phone down in anger and shakes his whole body at it before racing off-camera. He returns with dynamite! He shoves a stick into the receiver on the phone and dials Chip and Dale. Once it starts ringing he lights the fuse of the dynamite which is just barely sticking out of the phone. When he doesn’t hear an explosion, he gets frustrated and hangs up. The phone then rings and Donald gets excited once again for a phone call. He answers it, only for the dynamite to finally go off leaving behind a charred duck waving a white flag beside a ruined Christmas tree.

Dale might be embellishing his injuries just a tad.

With Donald’s surrender, Chip and Dale emerge from their hiding spot. Dale has a bandage wrapped around his head while he limps along playing a flute though Chip looks no worse for ware. They lead a line of toys all carrying nuts and other things while the camera moves outside of Donald’s house and back to the top of the hill where the cartoon began. From there, we can see the small army exiting the house as the ending title card comes into view.

I guess they’ll be eating good this winter.

Toy Tinkers is just a fun, slapstick, cartoon set at Christmas time. There are multiple instances of “Jingle Bells” utilized and Donald’s home is very much decorated for the holiday. No one is clearly in the right, and no one is clearly in the wrong, and no one learns a lesson. Chip and Dale wind up with a bunch of nuts and assorted junk food for the long winter ahead and I guess they also have some toys too. Donald, on the other hand, loses everything, sees his home ruined, and probably suffered some serious burns too. There was not a happy Christmas in the home of Donald Duck in 1949.

What makes this cartoon so enduring is it’s just fun. Donald and Chip and Dale work so well together which is why they starred in numerous shorts against each other. The cartoon is able to have a lot of fun with the setting by turning to toys as a framing device. The all-out war in the final act is probably what keeps it from Disney+. Is it offensive to see Dale act like a wounded soldier in the end? Perhaps for some, though not personally for me. Instead this is just an entertaining cartoon with terrific animation. The characters are so expressive and the gags are humorous. I love seeing Chip and Dale amongst the toys so much that I wish Disney had returned to it without Donald. Just Chip and Dale trapped in a toy store has a lot of potential.

I don’t know why Chip and Dale are small like real chipmunks as opposed to Mickey, but I do like seeing them inhabit a world much bigger than they are.

Even today, I’m still partial to Pluto’s Christmas Tree, but recognize Toy Tinkers as being an indispensable Christmas classic as well. Toy Tinkers just brings the funny, while Pluto’s Christmas Tree has those enduring images from within the tree that just puts me in the proper mood for the holiday. What’s great is I don’t have to choose between the two, though Disney does make it slightly more challenging to watch this one. And that has everything to do with it not being on Disney+ like Pluto’s Christmas Tree and if they haven’t added it yet I’m not sure we can expect the company to anytime soon. Which is a shame, because this should be there. There’s plenty of cartoon violence already on the platform and if they need a disclaimer or something then so be it. The only positive about it not being there is it seems to mean the company is less protective of it so if you don’t have one of the out-of-print DVD releases this short is featured on then at least you can stream it on YouTube for free. And since Pluto’s Christmas Tree can also be found there, why not make it a double feature?!


Dec. 14 – Gifts from the Air

Released sometime in 1937. Maybe at Christmas? Maybe not?

For today’s subject, we’re going all the way back to 1937 to talk about the Columbia Pictures Gifts from the Air. This particular cartoon comes from an era dominated by Disney, Warner Bros, and MGM with a tip of the cap to Noveltoons. The Color Rhapsody Theatrical Cartoon Series is not particularly well-remembered outside of animation circles and it seems a lot of these shorts (if not all) have found their way into the public domain. Gifts from the Air would appear to be one such toon as I can recall finding it on VHS sets of Christmas cartoons back in the 80s and 90s which were filled with public domain cartoons and produced on the cheap. A particularly common and popular 1991 release was Christmas Comes but Once a Year which featured this cartoon as well as Bedtime for Sniffles, Madelaine’s Christmas, and the cartoon the VHS took it’s name from, among others. The cover artwork for this release is so engrained in my brain that it leads me to believe this was produced in substantial numbers, so much so that it would surprise me if one were to go to a flea market and sift through boxes of VHS tapes and not find that release among them.

Gifts from the Air is a Charles Mintz produced theatrical short animated by Manny Gould and directed by Ben Harrison. The internet seems to agree that this short was released in 1937, but no one seems certain about when in ’37 it was released. One would assume around Christmas, but I’ve seen enough of these released pretty far removed from the holiday that I’m not willing to make that assumption. This particular short reminds me a lot of the 1933 Looney Tunes The Shanty Where Santy Claus Lives as both start out pretty much the same and feature Santa in a similar role. The only difference is the scamp in that short gets to go on a ride with Santa while the kid in this one will never lay eyes on the big man. Both though feature a downtrodden, poor, kid who gets rewarded with a great Christmas. It’s not a surprising plot point considering the Great Depression was having an impact on a lot of people’s lives at the time and it was reflected in the art produced.

Who wants to bet this down-on-his-luck kid is going to wind up having a good Christmas in the end?

A big difference with this short compared with the Looney Tunes one is that this was done in Technicolor. Disney’s iron grip on the technology had loosened and more studios were able to take advantage come 1937, something the Warner short from ’33 was unable to benefit from. It helps to give this one a more contemporary presentation, but one viewing will probably do enough to remind people why some outputs from that era are quite memorable, and some are not.

This is the toy parents were willing to trample each other for in 1937.

The short begins with some carolers singing “Silent Night.” They’re outside in the snow and nearby a warmly lit building features a massive Christmas tree with children dancing around it. Our protagonist, an obviously poor kid judging by the rags he’s wearing, watches from outside in the snow before turning his attention to a nearby toy store. The music picks up in tempo from the more somber “Silent Night” as the boy peers through a window to look at the toy display. A pair of wind-up soldiers seem to notice his teary-eyed stares and start dancing for his amusement. He seems pretty delighted at the display (sentient toys should probably warrant some excitement) and one of the soldiers really gets into it and seemingly falls apart. The boy looks shocked and a bit sad at the sight, but the soldier picks himself back up and turns the crank on his back to literally pull himself back together. He resumes the dance, but his spring-loaded head keeps popping up and eventually he falls apart again.

I hate when that happens.

The shop owner takes note of the defective toy and with a scowl on his face removes it from the display. He then pops out of the store to discard it in a trash can and the little boy runs over to check on it. He picks the toy up by its head which soon separates from its body. The soldier even cries and the tears freeze on the end of its nose as it regards its shattered form. The boy returns the head to the body and it seems no worse for ware. With a smile on his face, he tucks it into his coat and heads across the street to his home, a dilapidated little shack that at least appears to have working electricity.

This kid is certainly resourceful.

Inside the shack, the boy places the toy on a crate and informs it they’re going to have a real Christmas! There’s a wood stove in one corner of the room and a small bed in the foreground. In the corner by the door is a battered looking wooden barrel. The kid pulls a ragged umbrella out from behind it and opens it up. It’s tattered, green, form kind of resembles a Christmas tree and the kid shoves the handle into the top of the barrel. He then grabs a wash bowl and uses it to blow bubbles. The multi-colored globes hang in the air before settling on the “tree” while one comes to rest on the point and explodes into a yellow star – is this kid a wizard? After hanging his “ornaments,” a black and white cat comes out from behind the barrel and rubs up against the kid. He scoops it up and then runs his hands vigorously over the feline’s fur and charges the cat with static electricity. He sticks its tail into a hole on the barrel and the electricity shoots it’s way up the barrel and illuminates the umbrella tree.

Resourceful, but unwise.

Satisfied with his makeshift and impossible Christmas tree, the kid sits on his bed and removes his shoe. His sock barely qualifies as a sock for it’s missing a heel and a toe. He regards it sadly for only a moment, before improvising a stocking by removing the exhaust pipe from his stove and shoving it into the sock and hangs it on the wall. He closes the flue at the bottom so whatever gets placed into the pipe-stocking actually stays in the pipe-stocking, and then he jumps into bed and pulls his meager blankets over himself.

No chimney? No problem!

Once the kid is asleep, the toy soldier turns on his radio and speaks into it and says “Calling all stars,” over and over. The camera zooms into the radio which basically turns into a portal of some kind. We see the snow and three reindeer bound through it pulling a sleigh behind them. From it emerges Santa who grabs his sack of toys and steps through the portal and into the shack. With a big smile on his face, he empties the contents of his sack into the kid’s makeshift stocking before departing back through the apparent portal. It’s a nice gesture on the part of Santa orchestrated by the toy soldier, though it’s unfortunate the kid won’t wake up to enjoy it since carbon monoxide poisoning has made sure that he’ll never wake up. He really shouldn’t have removed that pipe.

Don’t walk around bare foot in that shack.

Of course, that’s not where the cartoon goes and when the kid wakes in the morning he’s shocked to see a stuffed stocking. He opens the flue and toys come pouring out and cover his small area. There are cars that drive, toys that sing and dance, and even a full band. A bunch of the toys are clearly references to celebrities from the era, the only one I recognize is Bing Crosby who is portrayed by a goat that pokes the kid in the butt and then gets hit by a toy truck. Others alleged to be included are Eddie Cantor, Joe Penner, and Kate Smith. Everyone is having a rather swell time though, and best of all, no racist toys! At least none that I noticed. The song “Auld Lang Syne” breaks out as the kid returns to his stocking to find a large, wrapped, box. When he opens it, he finds a small dinner table complete with a turkey, cake, and a quart of milk. He rips off a drumstick and hands it to his drooling toy soldier buddy and takes one for himself. The kitty comes over to get his attention by holding a bowl in its mouth and the kid fills it with milk. Everyone preens for the camera for a moment and the short comes to an end.

That looks like a lot of food, but apparently toys in this world need to eat so don’t expect it to last long!

Gifts from the Air is a totally fine little Christmas special. It wasn’t exactly what I would picture based on the title. For me, gifts from the air suggests presents from Santa who flies around in a sleigh pulled by eight, tiny, reindeer. Instead, I’m pretty sure the word air is a reference to air waves as the soldier uses the radio to call Santa and a bunch of radio personalities are then featured amongst the gifts the kid receives in return. This is essentially a poor kid getting rewarded with a nice Christmas. I’m left to assume he’s a good kid, we don’t really know anything about him, and I was happy to see Santa just didn’t drown him in toys, but also provided a feast as well. The short isn’t concerned with setting this kid up for a good Boxing Day to follow. I suppose he could sell some toys since he probably doesn’t need all of them, but at least for one day he likely won’t feel so poor.

The short is definitely dated, but it’s held up reasonably well over the decades. The visuals are fine, though not particularly impressive when weighted against some of its contemporaries. There’s a lot of characters just trying to show off with dancing, but few do anything clever or impressive. The one shot that stood out to me was the toy soldier’s tears freezing on its nose, but even that is hardly profound. There’s very little spoken dialogue, but plenty of music, which is lively and appropriate. The presentation, like the story, just come across as perfectly acceptable cartoon fair for 1937.

Did you think it would end any other way?

Gifts From the Air is barely 7 minutes in length so it doesn’t require much of an investment this holiday season. If you like watching old holiday cartoons or really enjoyed The Shanty Where Santy Claus Lives then you’ll probably like this too. Most will probably find it a tad forgettable, which is fine since there is certainly no shortage of holiday cartoons to indulge in. As a public domain cartoon, it’s not something you have to pay money in order to view, but since it’s rather obscure it’s not as easy to come across as others. Still, a search engine can probably point you in the right direction simply by typing the title of the short into it. And like I’ve said before, at such a short running time, why not give it a look?


Dec. 11 – One Ham’s Family (1943)

Original release August 14, 1943

Tex Avery is one of the most influential animators in cartoon history. Beginning his career at Universal, he would make the jump to Warner Bros. when he famously convinced producer Leon Schlesinger he was an animation director when he actually had little or no experience at such. While working under Schlesinger, Avery was influential in creating many of the famous Looney Tunes stars and is credited with bestowing Bugs Bunny with his catchphrase, “What’s up, Doc?” Avery worked at the famous Termite Terrace until 1941 when a spat with Schlesinger over the ending to The Heckling Hare lead to his suspension from the studio and eventual departure. After a very brief stint with Paramount, Avery would resurface with MGM quickly becoming their lead director on cartoon shorts where he further cemented his legacy by assisting in the creation of other famous characters like Droopy Dog and the duo of George and Junior.

Avery was famous enough that he even had his own show on Cartoon Network spotlighting his work. The Tex Avery Show began airing in 1997, and in a pre-Adult Swim world, I recall catching it during the late night hours when Cartoon Network would air other Golden Age cartoons and lesser, forgotten, shows like Sealab 2020. The show would also pop up during morning blocks, specifically weekends, and it was an interesting program because it blended Avery’s work with both Warner and MGM since Cartoon Network’s parent company came to own it all.

It was during Avery’s time at MGM that he directed the short One Ham’s Family, a Christmas cartoon about a wolf trying to get into a house to eat a pig. One of Avery’s most famous character creations is the unnamed wolf from Red Hot Riding Hood famously depicted in The Mask, for you 90’s babies. The wolf here isn’t necessarily the same character, though he does look pretty similar. His design with an elongated face and curved posture makes him an ideal foil for an Avery cartoon as the director is probably most known for really playing with the animated form. Characters stretch and squish and make outlandish facial gestures when doing something like screaming or expressing pain. And having a wolf go after a pig makes this one basically an offshoot of The Three Little Pigs, an often revisited story by animators (including Avery himself).

This wolf was apparently too tired to go down the chimney and wind-up in the pot of turnips or whatever, but he will eventually go down the chimney!

The cartoon begins like it’s going to be yet another retelling of The Three Little Pigs. There’s a book motif going on with a narrator reciting the story, until he gets sped up and the screen just blasts on by the story and ends with the Big Bad Wolf trying to blow down the brick house. He’s out of breath and on the verge of giving up, but as a pig smiles at him from behind a big, wooden, door he vows to return and get in some how, even if it takes until Christmas! This is the cue for the passage of time, as we see the mailbox that reads Mr. Pig change to read Mr. and Mrs. Pig. As the seasons rapidly change further and snow covers the landscape, a second, little, mailbox sprouts up that reads “Jr.”

Looks like Papa Pig is enjoying the view.

Inside the home, Mama (Sara Berner) and Poppy Pig (Pinto Colvig, using the same voice he utilized previously for Practical Pig in the Silly Symphonies shorts based on The Three Little Pigs) are putting little Jr. (Kent Rogers) to bed on Christmas Eve. It’s his first Christmas, and Poppy Pig is explaining to his son how Santa Claus works while Mama lets her heaving bosom rest on the edge of the crib. This is the moment where I remind you that Tex Avery was also a fan of buxom women and apparently pigs qualify. Once their explainer is complete, the parents quickly jump into bed and commence with the snoring. Meanwhile, little Jr., who had sprouted a halo at the mere mention of being a good little boy for Santa, turns a dark red and the halo is replaced with horns. He moves over to the bedside of his parents and starts smacking a wash basin and fires a shotgun just to make sure his parents are sound asleep. Now, he informs us, he can go check out what this Santa business is all about. This is also setting up how Jr. is going to break the fourth wall over and over in this one.

I will say, he wears the suit well.

Jr. slides down an impossibly long banister given the outside dimensions of the house and comes to a screeching halt before he can crash into a vase placed at the end. He remarks how he has good brakes, then heads over to the fireplace (which must have about thirty stockings on it) to look for Santa. Outside, the wolf (credited to Rogers in some places, but he sure sounds like he’s voiced by Pinto Colvig to me) has returned and is peering through the window and admiring the hams on Jr.’s posterior. He’s drooling profusely and his tongue hangs out to reveal a welcome mat at the end of it as he’s clearly fantasizing about devouring this little pork loin. He then tiptoes towards a tree and disappears behind it, despite how thin it is, and then reappears dressed as Santa Claus. He ascends the house and plunges down the chimney.

A bit Grinch-like, wouldn’t you say? Well, technically, I should say the Grinch looks a bit wolf-like when doing the same.

Jr. is pretty elated to see Santa pop out of his fireplace, which takes on the appearance of an elevator. He assures the wolf in Santa’s clothing that he’s been a good boy and requests he be provided a present. The wolf Santa is happy to oblige and implores the young porker to look in his sack for his present. Jr. heads inside and the wolf quickly snaps the sack shut, tosses it over his shoulder, and tiptoes across the room towards the door. As he does so, I can’t help but wonder if this little piece of animation influenced Chuck Jones some 20 years later when it came time to animate the Grinch doing the same thing. Anyway, he tiptoes towards the door, and it’s actually Jr. who opens it for him and lets him out. He even acknowledges the kid before leaving because he’s your typical stupid antagonist. When the wolf gets outside, he opens the bag in hopes of finding a snack, but instead he finds a giant sucker while Jr. looks on from inside the home.

The “sucker” insult will occur multiple times in this one like it’s some sort of sick burn.

Pissed off, the wolf tares off the beard and coat and barrels through the door. Jr., with his bum now hanging out of his little jammies, turns and runs away by climbing up the Christmas tree. The wolf gives chase up the impossibly large tree only to find a sign placed at the top that reads, “You’re still a sucker!” The unmistakable sound of an axe striking a tree trunk can be heard, and of course Jr. is chopping down the tree with the wolf on top of it. He gives out a cry of, “Timber,” which is required in a cartoon, and the wolf plunges into a bunch of Christmas stuff and looks the part of a punch-drunk tree when all is said and done.

It’s a Christmas catastrophe!

The wolf comes to his senses and gives chase as Jr. races into the kitchen. There, he moves at an impossible speed as he prepares a pie of some kind (possibly pumpkin) and bakes it incredibly fast so that he’s able to meet the wolf’s face with it when he comes bursting into the room. He taunts the wolf by asking if he enjoyed the pie he baked all by himself, and then runs off leading to maybe my favorite gag of the short. The wolf, rather than give chase, pulls out a large butcher’s knife from a drawer and sharpens it on his tongue before tossing it. Jr, standing casually on the other side of the room, pulls out a large revolver which is enough to scare the sentient knife in mid-flight, causing it to turn around and dive back into the drawer instead.

This, I like.

The wolf is flabbergasted at the sight and decides to give chase, but Jr. apparently possesses the ability to teleport as he appears behind him, grabs his suspenders, and when they stretch out as the wolf runs he slips a vase inside them. The wolf spins around to see the vase coming right for him and ducks into his trousers to avoid it. He pops up and spits his tongue out at Jr, just as the vase rebounds in his suspenders and crashes into the back of his head sending him flying into the living room. Jr, casually leaning against the doorframe, informs the audience that he’s going to bang the wolf around all through this picture, which only has about 2 minutes left anyway.

I’m sure most saw this one coming.

The wolf comes to beside the front door just as someone starts knocking from the outside. He opens the door and it’s Jr. in an oversized postal worker hat informing the wolf he has a telegram for him. The wolf takes it and it reads: Dear Mr. Wolf, don’t look now – but your tail is on fire. Love, Jr. P.S. Sucker! The image stays on the screen long enough for most people to read it two or three times. The wolf then turns to look at his tail and it is indeed in flames. He screams and runs to the kitchen where he fills a bucket with water in-between his howls. As he goes to sit in the bucket, Jr. yanks it away and replaces it with a bucket of gasoline. Just as a contented expression crosses his face, the wolf explodes and crashes through the ceiling.

Jr. looks up at the wolf-shaped hole in the ceiling and then remarks that since he can’t heckle the wolf right now, he might as well heckle the audience. Because we’re apparently supposed to hate this character, he pulls out a large chalkboard and scratches an X onto it. It’s intended to be pretty annoying since the scratching chalkboard sound lasts nearly 10 full seconds. When he’s done, Jr. seems pretty satisfied with himself and proudly remarks, “Boy, I sure am a mean little kid!”

It is not recommended to kick an anvil.

The wolf then returns as he sneaks up behind Jr. His tail is wrapped in bandages, which is a rare example of cartoon continuity. His body coils around as he prepares to level Jr. with a giant, roundhouse, kick, but Jr. disappears under the chalkboard replacing himself with a staple of cartoon violence: the anvil. The wolf howls in pain after striking the anvil and we see an X-Ray image of his boot which reveals his foot has been crushed. It also reveals that his foot looks like a human one and it’s very similar to a shot in the Goofy short The Art of Skiing. I only mention this because the voice of Goofy is Pinto Colvig who is featured in this cartoon.

Vicious.

Jr. then confronts the wolf who is still in obvious pain. He tells him he has something for him, but he needs to guess which hand it’s in. The wolf picks the left one, which is a bad move since that’s the evil side and this kid is clearly evil, and sure enough a tiny mallet is revealed to be in Jr.’s left which immediately grows to cartoonish proportions. He smashes the wolf over the head with surprising vigor and then runs off into another room. The wolf recovers and gives chase armed with an axe and once he disappears into the room, Jr. pops out to tell the audience we can’t see what’s about to transpire in there because it would be too gruesome. The wolf’s hand emerges to grab Jr. by the tuft of red hair on his head and pulls him into the room as raucous sounds fill the air and items like pots and pans mingle with stars and come firing out of the darkness.

Now there’s an idyllic Christmas image.

This is finally enough noise to wake the parents and Mr. and Mrs. Pig race down the stairs to survey the carnage in their home. The camera pans across the destroyed Christmas display to find Jr. waving at his parents from across the room. He wishes them a merry Christmas, but it’s not a nice enough gesture to appease his mother who stomps over promising a beating. Jr. then yanks out a present for his mother, and this softens her mood. She unwraps it to find a brown, fur, coat which she happily puts on. As she models the garment, we see it features a bandaged wolf tail on the rear so we know where this came from. As Mr. Pig looks on holding Jr., mama Pig remarks that this is just what she needed. The wolf then appears and announces, “You and me both, sister!” He’s naked, but still wearing his Santa hat and boots, as he holds a towel to cover himself with one hand and snatches the coat with the other. He appears surprisingly happy as he dances out the door. It slams shut behind him revealing a sign that reads: Corny ending, isn’t it? Not really, but it’s an ending!

What’s he so happy about?

One Ham’s Family is a zany, violent, manic, cartoon short that features Christmas, though is fairly light on Christmas spirit. That’s not to say I’m arguing that it’s not a bonafide Christmas cartoon for it surely is, it just uses the holiday as a setup for the macabre to follow. Jr. is a bit of a screwball protagonist in the same vein as Bugs Bunny and early Daffy Duck. I read him as more sinister than either and he almost possesses supernatural abilities to avoid danger and harm beyond what his more famous predecessors can even attest to. There are a lot of clear cheats where Jr. just magically appears somewhere, which isn’t unusual for this style of cartoon, but it’s relied on a bit too heavily in this one to the point that it’s not really funny. Jr. is also intentionally unlikable, or at least it had to have been intentional, because he certainly does suck. It’s not unusual for the audience to root for the villain in some of these shorts, but I definitely can’t say I’ve ever felt for Bugs the same way I do about Jr. I would have been perfectly content to see him get some sort of comeuppance in the end and I feel like my feelings are justified, as opposed to how I sometimes feel about the Road Runner who really isn’t guilty of anything in his cartoons.

So how do we feel about sweet, innocent, Jr.?

In the Road Runner shorts, some of that feeling of rooting for the coyote comes from him being at least a touch sympathetic. After all, he’s a scrawny coyote who needs to eat something to survive and nature decrees it be a road runner. When it comes to the wolf in this short, I feel no such sympathy. He’s breaking and entering to try and eat a kid. He could have conceivably ignored Jr. and gone for the parents, though Jr. is so “powerful” that he probably would have foiled that as well. Unless he truly is evil and cares not for the wellbeing of his parents. Some of the gags utilized to inflict misery upon the wolf don’t read as particularly original, but some of that is made up for by the sheer violence with which that misery befalls the wolf. The mallet shot in particular is delivered with such force that it’s a touch surprising, while the gag with the gun and knife is just plain clever and amusing.

Ultimately, I feel like this short tries a bit too hard to be a signature Tex Avery-directed cartoon. It’s wacky and violent, but a lot of it feels conventional which probably isn’t aided by the framing device of The Three Little Pigs. It also feels like it’s forcing Jr. upon the audience as some sort of omniscient screwball and he’s force-fed a few too many fourth-wall-breaking lines in the process. Still, this style of Christmas cartoon is hard to come by, and since it’s only a little over 7 minutes in length it’s hardly a waste of time to check it out. And checking it out is both easy and difficult. Officially, this short appears to have received one, physical, release and it was a laserdisc of Avery cartoons. Because of that though, there’s no real oversight for the short online so it’s easily found with a simple Google search. It aired as part of the Tex Avery Show on Cartoon Network and Boomerang, so viewers had plenty of opportunities over the years to acquire a good copy. It’s not one of Avery’s best, but it also possesses some charm of its own.

I guess?

Dec. 7 – Bedtime for Sniffles

Original release November 23, 1940.

Not every Looney Tunes or Merrie Melodies star had to be inherently funny. Sure, most of them were and that’s often what many cartoon enthusiasts will point to the Warner catalog of cartoons as having over Disney, but it wasn’t some hard and fast rule. That’s why when a guy by the name of Chuck Jones was getting into directing cartoon shorts he envisioned creating a star out of a character that was cute first, funny second. It was Jones along with Disney import Charles Thorson that created Sniffles, a little mouse character designed to make audiences go “aww!” The little guy was distinct from a more famous mouse, but was very much in-line with other Disney mice as Thorson basically ripped himself off when designing Sniffles as he looks an awful lot like the mice from The Country Cousin.

They set out to make a cute character and it would appear they succeeded.

Sniffles debuted in the 1939 short Naughty but Mice and would go on to star in 12 additional short films, all but one released under the Merrie Melodies umbrella. He was an unassuming character that often stumbled into, and out of, danger in his cartoons or he just went on a little adventure with low stakes. Eventually, Jones seemed to become disinterested in “cute” and moved towards comedy. Towards the end of his run, Sniffles underwent a change in personality in which he became a chatterbox who often annoyed other characters with his incessant questions and explanations. It’s that version of the character some may remember since that was the persona he possessed for a brief cameo in the movie Space Jam.

Sniffles was conceived as a Merrie Melodies star since he wasn’t looney enough for Looney Tunes.

In 1940, Sniffles was still very much in his cute phase and he was handpicked to star in a Christmas short that year. Bedtime for Sniffles is a simple little cartoon about trying to stay up late on Christmas Eve to catch Santa Claus in the act. Sniffles seems a bit like a child, but he’s actually an adult mouse who lives alone. This short relies on his cuteness and the capabilities of Jones to put the viewer in Sniffles’ shoes. It’s definitely short on laughs, but it’s also not going for them.

A solid looking house for a mouse.

The cartoon begins with “Joy to the World” being sung. It’s implied the song is coming from carolers as we see a snowy cityscape illustrated in just a still. As the camera pans the animation comes in and the song fades and is replaced by Sniffles (Margaret Hill-Talbot, probably, as it’s uncredited) singing “Jingle Bells.” The camera pans to a rooftop and a little, wooden, barrel on its side with warm light escaping from it. A door has been fashioned out of the bottom of the barrel and it’s adorned with a Christmas wreath. Sniffles pops out to brush snow away from his welcome mat before heading back inside.

Gotta make sure Santa can see your welcome mat.

Once in the cozy confines of his little home, Sniffles takes note of the time. It’s Christmas Eve, and Santa is due to arrive in about an hour and a half. He decides if he’s going to stay awake for Santa he’ll need to brew some coffee. He heads over to a large container of Haxwell Mouse (this sort of pun-based humor is basically it for comedy in this one) and fills up a little coffee percolator positioned over a lighter. Most of the home of Sniffles is cleverly designed with every day items repurposed into something a mouse could use, but the coffee percolator just looks like a mini coffee percolator.

I hope you enjoy the sight of a yawning mouse, because you’re going to get a lot of it in this one.

Sniffles continues to sing “Jingle Bells” to himself as he waits for his coffee to brew. He heads over to a radio, which is massive in his house, and turns it on. He appears to be dozing off as his voice kind of trails a bit, but then some classical music comes on the radio and he decides to dance with himself. He waltzes over to a makeup compact setup like a dresser on top of some matchstick boxes and looks himself over in the mirror. He then starts talking to himself and even flirting with himself (poor guy must be pretty lonely) before going into a shadow boxing routine. A sleepy song (“Sleep Baby Sleep”) comes on the radio and seems to instantly tire him out as he turns towards the mirror and starts to nod off. His head comes to rest on a little brush as he drifts into sleep.

If he pulls out a bottle of lotion I’m turning this one off.

The sleepy song ends and a lively rendition of “Jingle Bells” comes on to rouse Sniffles from his brief slumber. As he pops his head up, the brush has left a bunch of dot marks on his cheek. He exclaims “Measles!” at the sight, and it sure must have sucked to not have a vaccine for them back in the day! As he rubs his face, he soon figures out the culprit and smiles to himself. He then saunters over to the radio and slumps against it. He’s in bad shape now as sleep is making a hard play for him. The animation takes over as we close in on the face of Sniffles as his eyes grow heavy and his posture slumps, only for him to snap himself back awake with a big smile. He can’t convince himself he’s wide awake though as his face quickly starts to sag once more.

Pictured: not measles.

Sniffles stumbles over to his makeshift sink, two eyedroppers over some cup-like structure. He washes his face to try to and wake himself up and reaches for a box of cigarette paper on the wall to use as a towel. He discards it in an empty walnut shell he uses as a trash receptacle then walks over to his door to get a blast of cold air and probably search the sky for Santa. As he mumbles to himself about the need to stay awake, his posture slumps and he leans against the frame of the door for support. By now, I’m already thinking about that open flame under the coffee percolator and wondering what that will mean for Sniffles should he fall asleep, thankfully the thing whistles like a tea kettle though and Sniffles wakes up. He turns to the camera and his face is covered in white snow and he looks like…well, I could make a filthy joke right now, but this is a Sniffles cartoon!

Here you go Internet, do your worst!

Sniffles heads over to retrieve his coffee with a little bit of pep in his step. He tries to convince himself a thimble of coffee is just what he needs and he sits in a chair to nurse it. We pan over to the radio and a chime comes on to indicate this is the end of the broadcast day. It’s now 11:30, and the departing DJ doesn’t even wish the listeners a “Merry Christmas,” which just seems wrong. The camera then pans back over to Sniffles. The coffee is all over the floor in a puddle, he’s slumped forward in his chair barely clinging to the thimble he used as a mug, as he barely clings to semi-consciousness. Sniffles then lifts his head and turns to a magazine to keep him awake. It’s titled Good Mousekeeping, and he immediately spies another visual pun encouraging him to go sleep, this one a cartoon of a yawning baby carrying a tire with the caption “Time to Re-tire.” He then looks up from his magazine and spies his bed. It looks so inviting, but he turns his head with a frown to avoid it. Only his eyes then rest on his mirror, and the bed is reflected in it. He turns again, but now he can see the shadow of the bed on the wall!

It’s time to give in, Sniffles.

Sniffles then returns to his sink and plunges his head into the bowl of water. He can see through the side of the sink his bed once again, only now it’s inhabited by Sniffles! Now, my head cannon is Sniffles drowned himself in the sink, and the rest of the cartoon is his ghost trying to call out to his body. Sniffles lifts his head out of the sink, and the Sniffles in the bed is semi-transparent, like a ghost! It sits up and beckons for him to come to bed. Sniffles is resistant at first, but soon he starts to head that way. He starts with a couple steps, then floats across the floor as the ghost Sniffles gets out of the way allowing for tangible Sniffles to get into bed. The ghost pulls the covers over him and climbs in beside him, their bodies merging. The ghost then pops back up to blow out the candle because this mouse seems determined to start a major fire. Good thing he has ghosts looking out for him.

This is how he died.

We then pan over to a window as “Joy to the World” returns. The sound of sleigh bells soon fill the air and we see the silhouette of Santa pass by a chunk of the moon. He has six reindeer, because eight are just too hard to draw, and the short comes to an end before he can pay old Sniffles a visit. Or pull his corpse from the sink.

If you’re relying on a hallucination to keep you safe then you probably shouldn’t be living alone.

And that’s all folks! A simple, little, situational Christmas cartoon starring a cute little mouse. Sniffles doesn’t really get to do or say enough in this one to become annoying, and while this cartoon is short on laughs, it’s pretty involving from an animation point of view. Jones and his staff do a terrific job of just animating the slowly deteriorating condition of Sniffles. I liked how he battled his fatigue, and I especially thought introducing the bed as an antagonist was a nice touch towards the end. The way the character frowns as he spins away from even looking at his bed is done well, though the ghost Sniffles was a little weird. I do wish we saw a little more of Santa, but I guess it would have been a challenge to try and draw a human character interacting with this miniature world crafted by the short. Even just a little gift dropping onto Sniffles’ welcome mat would have been appreciated though.

Gotta get that moon-shot in!

Bedtime for Sniffles, being a cartoon that stars one of the lesser Warner stars, is pretty easy to come by today. I believe it’s officially streaming on HBO Max and it’s been included on various VHS, DVD, and even Blu Ray releases over the years, most notably the Chuck Jones focused Looney Tunes Mouse Chronicles: The Chuck Jones Collection. And if you don’t think it’s worth paying for, you can find it easily enough online streaming for free in various places, though I do recommend that Blu Ray if you’re still into physical media (like I am). This is a solid, low energy, Christmas short you could sandwich in between something like Gift Wrapped and The Night Before Christmas. It’s probably no one’s favorite Christmas short, but it’s a hard one to truly dislike.


Dec. 5 – Pluto’s Christmas Tree

Original release date November 21, 1952.

Today we’re doing the second look-back to one of the best Christmas specials ever conceived, as chosen by yours truly, and it’s one of my all-time favorites: Pluto’s Christmas Tree. Despite being titled Pluto’s Christmas Tree, this Jack Hannah-directed cartoon short from 1952 is actually considered a Mickey Mouse cartoon. Mickey apparently had it written into his contract with The Walt Disney Company that anytime he had a speaking role in a short it was to be considered a Mickey Mouse cartoon, because this could have easily just been a Pluto cartoon. Also showing up in this one is the duo of Chip and Dale. The chipmunks seem to be mostly associated with Donald Duck, but the pair’s unofficial debut came in the short Private Pluto where the two agitate the canine. In that short, they looked more like generic chipmunks and they were identical, it wasn’t until the 1947 Donald Duck cartoon conveniently titled Chip an’ Dale that the pair was more developed.

Today, we go where no special has gone before: inside the Christmas tree!

Pluto’s Christmas Tree is also interesting for being the first Mickey Mouse short with the second, official, voice of Mickey, Jimmy MacDonald, doing the voice of the mouse. Walt Disney famously voiced that character to start, and over the years there was the occasional fill-in, but the role was never handed off to anyone else until Walt did so with MacDonald during the production of Fun and Fancy Free. Walt Disney was a pretty busy man with his hands in all kinds of projects and being the voice of Mickey just wasn’t a priority come the 1950s. MacDonald was already an accomplished sound effects engineer and provided voice work as well, in fact, he was the first voice of Chip.

Just look at how happy they are!

Pluto’s Christmas Tree is the Disney short most likely to put the viewer in the Christmas mood. It opens on a softly lit title card with “Deck the Halls” playing over it. It then zooms in on a Christmas card featuring a home that just happens to be Mickey’s house all covered in snow. The mouse and his dog are about to set out to find a Christmas tree. These were simpler times when a man, or mouse, could just walk out the back door with an axe and find what he was looking for. Pluto (Pinto Colvig) is especially excited to go running through the woods in search of the perfect tree and Mickey lets him go out ahead.

Chip and Dale are mostly going to act like jerks in this one. Here they are making fun of the happy puppy.

It’s not long before the dog is spotted by some would-be agitators. Chip (MacDonald) and Dale (Dessie Miller) are foraging for nuts and they take interest in mocking the dog. One of them pegs Pluto in the butt with an acorn, and the two mock him by jumping around a twig that resembles a Christmas tree and barking. This, of course, gets Pluto’s attention and he chases after them with the two forcing him to smash into a snow drift. On the opposite side, a perfectly formed “snow Pluto” slides out with the real dog behind. Pluto is unnerved by his snow doppelganger and seemingly forgets about the chipmunks. Meanwhile, the pair have taken refuge in a tree. As they have a laugh at Pluto’s expense, the tree begins to shake! It soon falls down as we see the two happened to pick the tree Mickey also settled on. He calls for Pluto, still checking out the snow dog but quickly gets freaked out when it collapses, who is happy to follow Mickey back home. As the pair march along, Dale tries to sneak out of the tree, but upon seeing Pluto trotting along behind him, immediately jumps back into it.

Happy times from before the chipmunks would disrupt their lives.

At home, Mickey sets up the tree and he and Pluto get down to decorating it. He starts hanging candy canes and ornaments as Chip and Dale come out of hiding from deep within the tree to check out their new surroundings. The two stroll along in the tree with Dale remarking, “Well, what do ya know?” as he takes in all of the pretty lights and colors. He then sees the candy canes getting placed on the tree and gets excited. Grabbing a twig, he stick it out of the tree in hope that Mickey will hang a candy cane on it, but he instead places a glass, blue, ornament. Dale inspects it, and while he may have preferred the candy, he seems pretty impressed with the bauble (after momentarily getting freaked out by his own reflection) and retreats deeper into the tree to go show Chip. He finds his fellow chipmunk inspecting a tiny bell, and dangling the ornament over his head, he whistles for his attention. Chip pops up and his head smashes through the bottom of the ornament. Dale, embarrassed, pulls open a cracked portion of the ornament to check on Chip, only to get punched in the face! Chip collapses into a pile of broken glass and then runs over and punches Dale on the top of the head for good measure as Dale gives a sheepish shrug.

Not where Dale was looking to find himself.

Mickey declares his work as done and leaves Pluto to admire the pretty tree. As he lays on a nearby rug, he then notices a light has started to blink. Apparently their lights are not the blinking kind, so Pluto goes over to the tree to check it out. There, we see Dale is twisting a light bulb to make it turn off and on. Pluto sticks his nose through the brush and Dale mistakes it for another bulb. He gives it a twist, causing Pluto to recoil from the tree with the chipmunk still attached. Dale spins around and finds himself eye-to-eye with the canine, and Pluto immediately starts to growl. Before he can snap his jaws shut on the rodent, Chip happens to walk by and uses a candy cane to snatch Dale from harm’s way.

I don’t think Mickey appreciates how amazing his dog is.

Pluto and Dale then bark back and forth at each other before Dale gets an idea. Grabbing an ornament, and tapping on it first to make sure it’s as fragile as the last one, Dale hurls it towards the ground. Pluto, apparently quite fond of Christmas trees, refuses to let the ornaments hit the ground. He dives for it, but Dale quickly tosses another one, and then another, forcing Pluto to stand on one leg with an ornament in each foot. Mickey then comes strolling in with gifts to place under the tree. He takes one look at this awkward position Pluto has gotten himself into and gives a chuckle. Playfully telling the dog to “cut it out,” Mickey places the ornaments back on the tree, only he hung one from Dale’s nose. Pluto points and stammers at the tree hoping Mickey will turn and see the chipmunk, but of course by the time he does Dale has already ascended the tree and retreated inside. Mickey just brushes aside Pluto’s behavior with an “Ohh, Pluto,” and leaves.

That getup might have worked on Goofy, but not Pluto!

Pluto is momentarily irritated, but he turns back to the tree and spots Dale once again. This time he’s left the tree in search of some nuts left out on a table. Pluto cuts him off, blocking his access to the tree, so Dale drops his nuts and runs ending up on the mantle above the fireplace. There, Mickey had set out some Santa candles and Dale positions himself among them and swipes the hat and beard from one in a bid to disguise himself. Pluto races over and finds that Dale’s disguise may have fooled the eyes, but they can’t fool his nose. He sniffs at Dale, causing the chipmunk to sneeze, and Pluto has him right where he wants him.

Mickey is surprisingly dumb in this cartoon.

Mickey then comes strolling back in and finds Pluto gesturing towards the chipmunk candle. Mickey mistakes Pluto’s actions as him wanting the candles lit, so Mickey lights them. When he gets to Dale, the chipmunk blows out his match. Mickey just shrugs, picks up Dale as if he were a candle, and uses an already lit candle to light the Dale candle. Mickey then leaves and Pluto looks broken-hearted that his master failed to notice the disguised vermin. He then turns back to the mantle and brushes all of the candles onto the floor, which seems like a real fire hazard.

Chip takes notice of what’s going on by the fireplace and races over to his friend’s aid. He stands on Pluto’s tail and gives it a tug. It makes a bell sound and Pluto lifts his tail all the way up with a curious expression on his face. Chip salutes him, thanks him, then hops on the mantle to snuff out the flame and snatch his buddy from harm’s way.

How do we not have a stuffed animal of Pluto with presents for feet?

Now the real chase is on as Pluto and the chipmunks race around the room. Pluto crashes into the presents Mickey had set out, his feet going through the boxes. As he tries to run with boxes on his feet, Chip and Dale get back into the tree. Pluto races up a ladder that Mickey had left out and starts barking at the tree, seemingly out of ideas. Dale hops out from the bottom of the tree while Chip pokes hi head out to release the tension on the middle brace of the ladder allowing Dale to push the bottom back together. Pluto tumbles over and crushes the remaining gifts he hadn’t already trampled while Chip drops the star from the top of the tree onto his tail.

Now that’s just adding insult to injury.

Pluto, who has seemingly has had enough, emerges from the mess and dives into the tree. Mickey sees him and races over screaming for him to get out and gets pulled into the scrum. The tree shakes and contorts as if it were in an electric dryer. Soon everything falls off of the tree, Mickey and Pluto included, leaving just the skeletal remains of what was a pretty nice tree. Mickey calls Pluto a dumb mutt and then does something pretty shocking for him: he strangles Pluto! Mickey grabs his own dog, man’s best friend, by the throat and begins to shake! As he orders Pluto to take a look at the mess he made, he finally sees Chip and Dale who are holding each other and staring in bewilderment. Clearly, the two are just as shocked as I am to see Mickey strangle his pet.

I’m honestly shocked this act of violence by Mickey didn’t land this one in “The Vault” or at least get edited out over the years.

Declaring, “Pluto! We have chipmunks in our tree!” Mickey scoops up Chip and Dale and presents them to Pluto, who slaps his own head in frustration. Mickey characterizes them as “cute little fellows,” but Pluto just barks in their face. Mickey pulls them back and scolds Pluto, reminding him that it is Christmas. The sounds of carols then fill the air and Pluto races over to the window. Outside, Goofy, Donald, and Minnie are singing “Deck the Halls” (Clarence Nash can clearly be heard in his Donald voice among the voices, but I don’t know if Minne or Goofy’s voice actors contributed) by a street light. Pluto and Mickey seem to enjoy the caroling, while Chip and Dale join in with a little dance and someone saw fit to have them sing the “Don we now our gay apparel,” line which feels like a hint about the nature of their relationship. Pluto decides to sing as well, only since he’s a dog, he just kind of howls. The chipmunks cover their ears and look at Pluto angrily, then slap a “Do Not Open Till X-Mas” sticker over his muzzle. The dog then looks at the camera in shock as the short comes to an end.

It looks like Christmas is once again the salve for all wounds.

Pluto’s Christmas Tree is a gag-infused short that’s over in the blink of an eye, and usually leaves me wanting more, so I watch it again! What I appreciate most about it is that virtually all of the gags incorporate the holiday theme in some way. We have smashing ornaments, candy canes, Christmas candles, and more all contributing to poor Pluto’s misery. It’s a Chip and Dale vehicle in which the pair create mischief, and really don’t receive any sort of comeuppance. Oftentimes the two are wronged somehow, but on occasion they’re basically just jerks taking advantage of a situation. And in this case, they’re taking advantage of an animal they clearly possess intelligence over, which just raises further questions since a chipmunk and a mouse should be on relatively equal footing, but Mickey clearly towers over the pair. They also live like animals, despite possessing human intelligence, and the whole thing really stops making sense if you give it much thought.

This is basically the only bad thing to happen to a chipmunk in this one. They really are the antagonists.

This one does celebrate Christmas and it’s quite possibly the best Christmas short Disney ever produced. It might even be the best Christmas short ever! The only rival really is Toy Tinkers, which is very similar to this one only swap in Donald for Pluto. I prefer this one just a little bit more, despite my love of Donald Duck, because it’s a touch sweeter and the setup is a little better. And it is also just gorgeous. If I had an endless amount of money to throw at things that I love, I would absolutely track down a production cel of Chip and Dale inside the Christmas tree. It is just drawn and painted so beautifully. It makes me wish I could shrink myself down to the size of a chipmunk to experience Christmas from that perspective. No wonder why my cat always liked sitting under tree.

I love this short so much that I just had to get the ceramic statues. I can’t bring myself to box them up during the off-season.

If you want to experience this fantastic holiday short this year, and you really should, then you have quite a few options. This being one of Disney’s best and most famous Christmas cartoons, it’s been released several times over on VHS, DVD, and Blu Ray as part of holiday collections. Most recently, it was included on the Blu Ray release of Mickey’s Christmas Carol. If you’re a subscriber to Disney+, it’s also available on there 365 days a year. Disney also still isn’t particularly protective of its theatrical shorts. It’s really surprising considering how litigious the company can be over the silliest things, but I suppose it’s a good thing that this short (and many others) can often be found streaming in various places on the web for free. In short, there’s no good reason to miss out on this one this year or any year.


NECA TMNT Movie Ultimate April O’Neil – Signature Edition

The coat you’ve all been waiting for!

NECA’s Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles line has so been so successful that it’s allowed the company to branch out. It wasn’t that long ago that Playmates was the only game in town when it came to TMNT action figures and the company showed little to no interest in releasing anything other than the turtles themselves. If it was a toyline tied into a current cartoon, sure, there were secondary characters to get ahold of. The Playmates Classics line? Shredder and Krang were sculpted and shown off, then quietly cancelled. They did do Bebop and Rocksteady, but when it came to the movie line it was just the four turtles and fans were left wanting.

When NECA first started making figures based on the 1990 movie Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, they too focused on the usual subjects. The line was so popular though, that they soon found the courage to branch out. And that decision was made even easier when actress Judith Hoag, who played the turtles’ ally April O’Neil in that film, was enthusiastic about seeing herself molded in plastic. She was so eager to make it happen that she even talked Elias Koteas, who played Casey Jones in the same film, to give his consent to do a proper Casey Jones figure which I reviewed just last month. Judith is pretty active on social media and was very active during the pandemic of 2020 so she was well-aware of the NECA experience and how frustrating it could be to acquire these figures. Her only conditions then for giving permission to use her likeness was that the figure had to be put up for preorder and she wanted to document the process through her social media channels. NECA was more than amenable to those requests and Judith, with coordination via NECA, was able to reveal the figure over a series of video installments earlier this year culminating in a preorder when all was said and done.

The figure comes in a box most should be familiar with (though now with a cool lenticular cover) and an ID badge in a padded envelope.

As NECA promised, the April O’Neil figure was put up on their webstore for preorder in April (obviously). Anyone who wanted one had a couple of weeks to log in and secure a copy. And, like clockwork, people were pissed. The online toy collecting community does not have a great track record when it comes to reacting in a calm, rational, manner when faced with disappointment. In this case though, there was some reason for the anger. During the reveal process, and even back to the announcement a figure was coming, a common request on Twitter and other outlets was for April to come with her yellow raincoat. The raincoat was worn by the character in her first scene when she stumbles upon a robbery and has to be saved by the turtles. It’s a scene that lasts maybe 3 minutes and then the coat is never seen again. A small detail, especially considering most expected NECA to depict April in a different outfit from later in the film when she’s properly introduced to the turtles, but one fans had a connection to. I don’t know if it was on purpose, though I suspect it was, that yellow coat was put on the character as an homage to the April kids were used to seeing in the cartoon when she almost always wore a yellow jumpsuit. They weren’t going to put Hoag in that outfit, an outfit no reporter has ever worn, but the yellow raincoat was plausible enough. It practically screamed to the kids in the audience, “Hey! It’s April!” and it felt right to see her in that color. I know it worked on me when I saw it in theaters as a wee lad, and yeah, I’d prefer a figure of April come with the coat than not.

I have to hand it to NECA, they did a solid job of finding stuff to pack-in with a news reporter figure.

When the figure was put up for order, the coat was included. However, it was included in the special “Signature” edition of the April action figure. What was the “Signature” edition? Well, as you could have probably guessed based on the name, it’s a version of the figure that comes signed by Judith Hoag. Or rather, it comes with a replica press badge signed by Hoag. The figure and packaging is the same, except NECA added the raincoat behind the blister in the box. It’s also limited, and fans were irritated that what was being billed as an easy purchasing process was being mucked-up with a special edition containing an accessory most fans wanted. The real kicker, though, was the price. The standard edition of the figure retailed for the usual $30. The signature edition was $100. Sixty bucks for an autograph and a tiny raincoat seemed excessive at the time, and still does. And yet, this edition sold out relatively quickly so if you didn’t make up your mind right away you missed out. I, being a sucker and completist, grabbed the signature version. We actually didn’t know the price until it went up for sale, so it felt like a hostage situation. The adrenaline got the best of me, but I was also holding out hope that we’d get a nicer product. Maybe something with the packaging, just anything. Instead, we got delays.

With the signature edition you get an autographed ID badge and a rain coat for your figure.

2021 has really been marked by issues with the supply chain, and toys have been hit especially hard. That’s not surprising as they’re nonessential goods and thus aren’t going to take priority over essential ones. It’s still frustrating to deal with. The April figure actually, remarkably, stayed on track. Most who ordered it in April with an expected release of July/August got their figure in that window. Unfortunately, those who paid for the more expensive option did not. NECA did not elaborate, but that version was delayed and one has to assume it was a production issue with the coat. The coat is a soft goods addition as opposed to a plastic one so it was probably manufactured in a different factory. The delay was described as a several months delay, and that came true as the figure started shipping in late October and I suspect most will get them in November. Mine arrived the first week of November putting an end to the lengthy wait, but the delay ended up bringing about another issue we’ll get to.

Some would say if you spend extra money on a special edition you should keep it mint-in-box. I am not one of those people.

If you stuck with me this long, well now I can actually tell you about the figure. April O’Neil comes in the standard five-panel Ultimates box NECA is known for. The front flap features the Shredder’s wall of TVs he famously tosses a knife at when April comes on the screen and the rest of the box is reserved for product shots of the figure. The front is a lenticular image and the TV screens transition from static to April’s visage and it’s pretty cool. April O’Neil is depicted in her outfit she wears when she’s rescued by Raphael in the subway and is brought to the turtles’ lair. It’s a skirt, vest, and blouse combo that is definitely of its era. As is April’s full perm hairdo. This is a seven inch scale line and April comes in right around that 7″ mark. She’s wearing high heals which help push her past the turtles in terms of height and basically puts her on equal footing with Casey. Where scale was a large issue with the Danny Pennington figure, it’s basically spot on here with April.

Portrait one: serious April.
Portrait two: fun-loving April!

The overall sculpt and looks of the figure definitely reflect April from the first film. The likeness is quite good, maybe not on par with NECA’s Doc Brown figures, but definitely good enough. She comes with two portraits: neutral and smile. Both have a slight wide-eyed quality to them, but they also both work pretty well. The difference between the two is a bit subtle and thus hard to pick a favorite, but they’re both appropriate for the character. The hair piece is the same on both, and I do wish one featured her hair pulled back slightly as it was when she was interviewing the police chief and assaulted by the Foot. The clothing, especially the blouse, is well-sculpted and the detail looks terrific. She’s sporting the somewhat infamous NECA double-elbows, but with bunched up sleeves the joints look fine. The knees are a different story. NECA opted for double-jointed knees and while the overall shape looks good, the joints above and below the knee are a bit awkward. Some may designate them an eyesore, but I wouldn’t go that far. Normally, I think the trade-off in articulation is worth the added cuts. This is an action figure, after all, not a statue. Here though it’s probably not the right joint as this is a character that doesn’t need tremendous range in her knees. A single joint would probably look better and would be similar to the change NECA made with the Casey figure and his elbows. And NECA apparently agrees as a running change has already been made to April that does just that. It eliminates the double-jointed knees for single hinges and this is presumably what collectors will see when the figure hits Walmart at some point (right now, she’s only out in Asia). And that’s the other issue I was referring to had this come out on time we’d have already had the figure before this change was revealed. Collectors probably still would be irritated, but it’s a little added salt in the wound to see a better version of the figure in the hands of collectors before you’re extra expensive version ships.

The knees I’ve heard far too much about at this point.
The rear of the knees are definitely unpleasant.

Knees aside, the sculpt is good enough. There will be variations though when it comes to the paint, as is the case with all mass produced figures. NECA painted on nylons onto April’s legs, a curious decision since casting them in the color they’re painted would have achieved the same end result. They still could have painted them, as NECA often does, but by not casting them in a similar color you get ugly chunks of flesh tone in the joints. The paint flakes off easily, or was never there to begin with as it is with the back of the knees and was on my figure’s left ankle. It’s an error NECA continues to make and is a frustrating one. It’s obviously a cost saving measure, but it’s also one of the lesser costs associated with figure production and an expense most collectors would rather shoulder than not. There are other small paint imperfections with my figure. The default portrait has a blueish mark on her forehead (and I don’t think it’s supposed to be a bruise) while her right shoe has a black blob near the toe. Beyond the paint, the shin on my figure’s left leg appears to be warped slightly and I can’t get her toe aligned with her knee on that side. I could try to heat and reform it, but considering her whole leg is painted I’d rather not risk it.

There’s a lot of articulation on this figure, but for the most part, she’s only suitable for fairly neutral poses like this.
You can certainly try though.

I suppose we should talk about the articulation though, since it bled into the talk about the sculpt. April is fairly conventional, though limited by her attire. The head is on a normal ball peg and the range is okay, but her hair is obviously going to present some posing challenges. The shoulders are simple ball-hinges and the double-jointed elbows provide bend slightly better than 90 degrees with swivels as well. At the wrist are horizontal hinges and swivels. There are no vertical hinged hands for April, which may not seem like a big deal since she’s not a fighter, but vertical hinges would work better with a microphone than horizontal. I wish NECA would just make that hand direction the default rather than horizontal. There’s likely a diaphragm joint in the figure, but the overlay for her clothing renders it useless. She does twist with a slight ability to pivot at the waist, and the hips feature the older style of joint, like every figure in this line so far. Her skirt is going to really limit what she can do there, so the range is almost inconsequential. The knees do give her bend past 90 and rotation above and below the knee, and the feet are hinged. There are ankle rockers on this figure, but again, be careful with the painted hinges. Because she has heals, she’s going to be a challenge to stand. NECA foresaw this and included a simple, black, disc stand that pegs into her foot. It’s all right, but she really would have benefitted from a more robust stand that grabs around the waist. Even if it was like a Barbie stand that didn’t pose, that would have been far more functional. She obviously doesn’t need a dynamic action stand, but she does need to stand.

Frozen pizza!
The bag is unfortunate.

In addition to the stand and alternate portrait, April comes with a few expected accessories. She’s got her microphone for conducting interviews and it has a long, bendy, cord on it. In the box, she has open hands, but she also has a set of gripping hands. The open hands can grip the mic, while the tighter hands get a more sturdy grip. NECA also included a pointing left hand and a right fist, because sometimes she needs to get her hands dirty. She also has a stack of frozen pizza for when the boys are hanging out at her apartment. In true NECA fashion, they’re parody brands and in this case we have Smellio’s, an homage to Elio’s (which I loved as a kid, but I bet it was awful), and Josh Pizzas. She also has her handbag and the sai she snatched from the crime scene. The sai is the same as what we’ve seen packed with Raphael, only the paint job seems lesser. Mine even has a silver blob on one of the tines. If you want to stash it in the handbag you’re in for a challenge. I couldn’t get it all the way in and I’m not sure if it’s even possible. You will want to be careful if you try though because the printing on the bag, which looks great, is also prone to peeling. I don’t know what the failure here is, if it needed an acrylic coating or if the printing isn’t suitable for softer plastic, but it’s a bummer. I’ve seen a few bad ones online so I at least had the gift of foresight as stressing the plastic obviously makes the problem worse. And even so, mine had cracking right out of the box anyway. If you want it to look as nice as it can, definitely go easy with it. No word yet on if the running change with the legs improved upon this aspect as well.

Not the fit I was hoping for.
Don’t you dare bad mouth my yellow coat!

Since this is the signature edition, we have the additions to speak of. First up is the press badge. It’s signed by Judith and looks fine, though it’s also paper. I was expecting an actual badge like what every office gives out to its employees, so this was a bit disappointing. This might be accurate to the film though, so that would certainly be one reason to do it this way. It’s in a plastic sleeve with a clip like a functiong badge would have and if you’re into cosplay then I guess this is just what you needed. The much talked about coat is also here and it’s certainly yellow. It fits on the figure, and if you really dislike those knees then here is a way to conceal them a bit. The fit is a bit bulky, but I suppose it’s better to be on the larger end than small as that would just make it hard to put on and take off. And I would argue it’s less bulky than the actual coat in the film. It’s stitched in several places and made of a shiny, vinyl, material so it certainly looks the part. The sleeves are permanently rolled up and there is a sash, but it’s mostly for decoration and not really functional. Honestly, the figure looks better without it, but I basically paid 70 bucks for the stupid thing so you’re damn right I’m displaying the figure with it on.

She can be a challenge to stand, but she does fit-in just fine with the rest of the line.

NECA’s movie April O’Neil figure from Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles is a bit of a tough one to properly rate. If this were just a figure I picked up at Walmart for 30 bucks then I’d probably be more enthusiastic about it. I think the peeling on the bag though is inexcusable and disappointing. That’s the type of thing a company can really affect its reputation with. It’s one thing for it to be poor, but to not address it is almost a worse sin. Had NECA come out and said it was replacing all of the handbags then it would possibly raise people’s opinion of the company and do more good than the harm of the faulty product. Similarly, NECA had an opportunity to do better with this signature release. Suppose they just tossed in the new legs as a way to make-up for the delay and to add a little more value to the set. I think fans would have been singing the company’s praises had it pulled such a move. The reality is, I don’t know how easy a fix that would be for the average collector, but presumably anyone paying 100 bucks for April is either a mint-in-box collector or an experienced one capable of switching out some legs. Doing so also isn’t unprecedented. Yeah, it would cut into NECA’s bottom-line on the release, but that’s exactly what Super7 did when it shipped out some Thundercats parts when the final release of those figures didn’t live up to their expectations. It’s the type of move that really helps foster good customer relations, but it’s also unnecessary since this stuff sells and likely will continue to sell well regardless.

It’s a shame they didn’t last.

Setting aside some of my disappointments with this release, I do want to say I think the figure is fine. A figure of April was never going to set the world on fire since she’s not a ninja turtle or a hideous monster. The likeness is well done and this April should fit in with the rest of your display. She poses well with Casey, and she also looks great beside the turtles so you have options. Most of the errors with the figures are of the unforced kind. NECA was way too ambitious with those knees and should have learned from the first Casey release that less is more. And the paint issues are also something the company repeats too often. If you’re just looking for this figure to hang out in a display though and look good, then I think most will be happy.

This shelf is pretty much full and there’s more on the way. What’s a guy to do?!

NECA TMNT Movie Ultimate Casey Jones

He’s back ready to teach JV lowlifes everywhere a lesson or two.

I swear this blog is not just a NECA Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles blog, even though that’s what it has looked like lately. I’ve just been getting crushed with new releases lately, but it looks like a drought of some length will be incoming soon. Before that can happen though we need to talk about everyone’s favorite vigilante: Casey Jones!

It was over a year ago that NECA released its Casey Jones and Raphael two-pack from the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles movie line. The Jones figure came with a masked portrait, golf bag, assorted melee weapons, and a whole bunch of hands. It was basically everything a fan would want of a Casey Jones figure based on his appearance in the first film, a figure that had never been done before despite the character’s popularity. There was just one thing missing: an unmasked face.

When it comes to producing action figures based on a real life actor certain legal hurdles must be cleared in order to recreate the likeness of a real person. When it came to Casey Jones actor Elias Koteas, he apparently had no desire to be cast in plastic. The message was relayed to fans through NECA and Koteas would expound on that on social media a bit basically just saying he thought it was a bit weird to be turned into a toy. It’s probably not something the average person ever considers, but I guess it is weird for random people to just have a small version of you that they can do whatever they want with. Enter Judith Hoag, the actor who portrayed April O’Neil in that film and has been a bit of a champion of that film for the past few years. She was rather enthusiastic about the prospect of an April O’Neil figure and when she found out Koteas wasn’t onboard she reached out. She’s apparently a very convincing woman because soon after he was onboard and NECA was cleared to create the Casey Jones figure it and the fans wanted from the start.

This is what you want, right?

The only problem there is that approval from the actor came too late to incorporate that into the first edition figure. It was really right around the time that figure was hitting retail that Koteas shared on social media that he was now onboard. I’m sure NECA was happy to have that approval, but probably not super excited for that information to come out while they were trying to sell the masked version. It ended up not mattering as that set was a bear to track down at retail as it sold out almost immediately. NECA would eventually open it up for preorder though on their site, so I’m assuming that everyone who wanted that two-pack at the time now has it.

He brought the mask though in case you miss it.

With that figure already done, what was NECA to do with the actor likeness? Well, they felt a re-release was in order, but rather than update that two-pack and ask collectors to rebuy Raph, they decided to single pack him as one of their Ultimates releases. Ultimate Casey Jones is basically true to that expression as he’s now equipped with everything you need. He has all of the same weapons and hands as before, but now he comes with an unmasked head and a loose mask for good measure. It’s a very familiar release as a result, but if you must have that unmasked portrait here is your chance. It was, after all, a bit easy to dismiss the likeness issue because most likely agree that Casey looks cooler with the mask on. Had the original come with the unmasked head from the start, how likely were collectors to actually display him without the mask? Personally, I wasn’t likely to, but it’s also worth noting he wears the mask in the film for maybe 5 minutes. Probably less. He’s introduced with the mask, but quickly removes it to deal with Raph. When he rescues April and the turtles from the Foot he once again dons the mask, but that scene is brief and once it’s over the mask is put away for good. That’s why it’s entirely defensible for collectors to want the unmasked version. Plus, Koteas isn’t a bad-looking dude. He deserves to have that face uncovered.

Still technically hasn’t even looked at another guy before since he’s looking at himself.
The grill on his mask didn’t come out as clean as the first release, which is odd because it’s likely the same piece as the included loose mask which looks terrific.

Ultimate Casey Jones is nearly the same figure as before, so I suppose this review should be brief. There are some changes though, so it’s not just a straight re-release. Now the figure comes in the Ultimates styled packaging, the five panel box with numerous product shots all around with a neat mask picture (like a photo of NECA’s own prop replica) on the cover. The figure comes with the masked portrait on and he’s still in his main attire in the film: white shirt, tattered vest, gray sweatpants. The sculpting and paint job is handled pretty well. This isn’t a knock your socks off kind of release, because the character isn’t some crazy mutant, but what is here is handled well. My only gripe when it comes to the paint is that the shoulder joints are just painted white which flakes off so he looks like he has rips in his armpits when raising his arms out. The same paint flaking issue also affects the ankles as his socks are painted over a black hinge, but it’s not that noticeable due to his footwear. Otherwise, it’s great as the white shirt has this dingy quality to it like the character just puts this on every night without washing it. The texture and paint on the fingerless gloves is well down, though there’s some minor paint imperfections on some of the fingers, and the sweatpants look like sweatpants. If the knee joints were less visible it would be easy to mistake them for soft goods.

“I’ll never call golf a dull game again.”

Of course, what we need to talk about is the face. That’s the main selling point, after all. And as far as the likeness goes, this is well done. Actor likenesses are hard and NECA certainly knows that. Their Back to the Future line contains a tremendous likeness with its Doc Brown character, but those Marty McFly figures are pretty rough. For Casey, the likeness isn’t as breathtaking as the Doc Brown figures, but it is very good. This looks like Elias Koteas and he has a hint of a smile on his face that’s suitable for the character. The hair looks good, it’s well-painted, and I think collectors (and hopefully Koteas) will be pleased with this one.

Those old elbows (right) were a point of contention with the original release. You definitely get more range out of them, but it is awkward looking.

The other difference with this release is with the articulation. This guy is largely the same, so I’ll run down what is the same as the prior release: ball-jointed head, ball-hinged shoulders, wrist swivels with horizontal hinges, waist twist, hips, single-hinged knees, hinged ankles, ankle swivel. The big change, is in the elbows. The prior release had double-jointed elbows and it was the odd NECA-styled double elbow which rotate above and below the joint, but contains a huge (relatively speaking) joiner in-between. The end result is the elbow doesn’t really point like a real elbow should and instead looks square when bent. The range is awesome, but the aesthetics not so much. NECA agreed so this release just has a single hinge and swivel at the elbow. This means Casey can’t really bend his elbow past 90 degrees, but it does look better. It’s a trade-off worth making, in my opinion, and it looks like NECA is about to make a similar change to it’s April O’Neil movie figure only with her it’s the knees and not the elbows.

Since he lacks vertical hinges for his hands, he can’t really properly swing a club, but he can still look cool!

The actual articulation on this release works okay. He’s not a truly dynamic figure which could frustrate some. Part of that is due to the limited torso articulation. I didn’t include it in the list of joints, but there’s almost certainly some diaphragm joint in this guy, but it’s functionally useless. That’s due to NECA using an overlay for the shirt, which certainly looks more authentic, but results in lesser poses. His feet also can create problems because he’s wearing high tops, which just don’t move as well as some other styles of foot wear. You get little ankle rotation and the hinge only affords so much as well. I will say this one seems to stand better than my previous release, so maybe something has been changed in there, but if so I can’t pinpoint what that change would be. The other articulation shortcoming rests in the hands, which all feature horizontal hinges. Again, we saw this with the Shadow Warriors set, NECA is really good about giving someone like Leonardo vertical hinges to properly wield his katana, but seemingly everyone else who would benefit from the same is left wanting. He even has two sets of gripping hands that are almost identical. I thought maybe with the original release it was a factory error and one set was supposed to have the vertical hinge, but apparently that wasn’t the case.

This is a neat little inclusion and basically the only new accessory in the set.
Though the loose mask isn’t something he can actually wear.

The accessory count should feel familiar to anyone with the first Casey release. He has a boat load of hands for starters that include pairs of gripping hands, slightly looser gripping hands, and fists. He also has an even looser left gripping hand for supporting his goalie stick and a pointing right hand. The plastic is rather pliable on the hands which makes it nice and easy to work the weapons in and out, making one set of gripping hands feel truly extraneous. Since the paint can get a little sloppy on the hands though, it’s not bad to have a second pair. For weapons we’ve got two baseball bats, a hockey stick, goalie stick, cricket bat, and a golf club. They all fit into his golf bag which can also fit over his head, though it is easier to remove the head first to slip it on. If you stuff everything into it the end result is pretty ridiculous, but it can be done! He also has the masked head, if you prefer that. It looks to the be same as the previous one, but for some reason it didn’t come out as clean when it comes to the vents over the mouth. I don’t know why that is, but it is noticeable when comparing it with the previous release. Lastly, he also has a loose mask this time to hold or hang off of the handle of one of his weapons as he does when running from Raph. It’s actually a pretty cool little accessory and, unlike the second portrait, it came out nice and clean. You cannot put it over the figure’s head, but why would you want to? It’s just a neat thing to have and it’s not like there was much else NECA could have tossed in.

Now we can finally properly recreate the infamous Jose Canseco bat scene.
As well as educate others on the finer points of cricket.

Ultimate Casey Jones is easily summarized as the Casey we all wanted from the start. It’s an improved version of what was already a good figure. Yeah, there are some areas one can nitpick, but I think most will be quite happy to have him. There are also probably some folks who don’t see this release as a necessity and that’s understandable too. I certainly questioned how much I “needed” this release, but when presented with an opportunity to own it I went for it, and I’m happy to have done so. This figure is currently being sold by Walmart which appears to be in the midst of a restock at an MSRP of 30 bucks. NECA has not made the figure available on its website, but there’s always a possibility that it will down the road. There’s also a mysterious listing on Walmart’s website for a farm two-pack of April and Casey, but NECA has not confirmed the existence of that so for now it’s just a picture-less listing. A special shoutout to a user at thefwoosh.com, Detrimental_Fig, who was able to find this figure locally and ship it to me after I failed to track one down. Collectors, help each other out and don’t feed those scalpers! There should be plenty to go around.

You can’t have too many Caseys!

TMNT Loot Crate Series 2 Vol. 1 – The “It’s Dan now” Crate

They’re back!

Loot Crate’s first series of Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles crates in 2020 were a massive success. The crates sold out and anyone who missed out found out acquiring them on the secondhand market would be most expensive, and that’s because each crate came bundled with a NECA exclusive action figure. NECA’s parent company rescued Loot Crate from bankruptcy a couple of years ago, so the two are kind of one in the same. It made sense for the two to team-up and for TMNT collectors it meant there were actually figures out there that were easy to obtain, provided you actually jumped in when the crates were first solicited.

Considering they were such a success, it’s no surprise that Loot Crate is back for round two. This wave went up for preorder earlier this year and it includes four crates. Each crate will take inspiration from one of the four main pillars of TMNT media: film, video games, comics, and cartoon. And to be more specific, the themes are Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles (1990), Tournament Fighters, Mirage Studios, and the ’87 cartoon. Basically, all are returning from themes from last year with the exception of Turtles in Time exchanging places with Tournament Fighters. And unlike last time, Loot Crate was pretty upfront with what the figures featured in each crate would be rather than just providing the theme. And also just like last time, subscribers who prepaid for all four get a bonus fifth figure, Scrag, from the cartoon to ship alongside the fourth crate. And also, just like last time (I know, I sound like a broken record at this point), the first crate out the door is the one based on the 1990 film and the figure is one Danny, or Dan, Pennington.

Never did I expect to own a Danny figure.

NECA and Loot Crate’s approach to the figures in this series is to give collectors something that might not make sense at retail. When it comes to the original movie, all of the heavy hitters have seen a retail release and even some not-so-heavy hitters have too. The only exception is Tatsu, but the actor who played him just isn’t interested in playing ball with NECA. Enter Danny. The youth in search of a father figure recruited by the Foot who has a change of attitude when he meets the turtle dad Splinter is a solid choice for a Loot Crate. He’s not in a ton of the film, but he plays a role and might even have more screen time than Shredder. He’s not a fighter, so he’s not the sort of character who needs a bunch of accessories and extra parts and he’s just not someone that excites retail partners. Of course, the flipside is that Walmart can’t seem to keep anything from the film line in stock, so why should Danny be viewed any differently? And that might be true, but the good news is that Danny has two looks in the film so if NECA ever wants to test him at retail they could release his other look there and find out.

Now, I grabbed the Shadow Warriors set, so I’m basically willing to buy anything from the first film. Danny wasn’t the figure that excited me the most when this round of crates was unveiled, but he was also someone I was more than willing to welcome into my collection. Plus, I wanted that bonus figure. If you’re unaware, each crate retails for $50 and the included figure is something lesser than a NECA Ultimate release. These figures are basically half of that $50 and the rest of the “value” comes from pins, a shirt, and other assorted stuff. Your mileage may vary with that stuff, but to me it’s mostly junk. The figure is what makes or breaks each crate and I’m happy to say that I was satisfied with each of the previous crates. With Loot Crate, I think the fear on the consumer end is that we’re paying more for a lesser product and any figure is going to be severely compromised with reused parts that don’t make sense or they’ll just be variants no one asked for. They’re being bought sight unseen, so there’s a trust element at play. Last year’s crates included two straight repaints: Spirit Splinter and First Appearance Shredder. I passed on Splinter, but the Shredder was a rather stunning repaint of a figure previously only available as a convention exclusive, so I was satisfied. The other figures included a glow-in-the-dark “shell shock” turtle and the bunny boys, Bebop and Rocksteady. I wasn’t too excited by the shell shock turtle, but it was a neat idea. The bunnies I loved because they’re just so silly, the exact kind of figure I want from something like this.

This…is not good.

Because of my positive experience with the 2020 crates, I had few concerns this time. The promo shots of Danny looked good, but myself and many others were concerned about the scale. The scale in this line is a bit funny largely due to the turtles themselves probably being too big, but for the most part NECA has been able to work around that by making sure the other figures (like Casey) are at least a little taller than the green dudes. Danny, portrayed by actor Michael Turney, is a little tricky. He shares scenes with his dad, Charles, who is not in figure form (yet?) as well as some with April and Casey. He’s not around the turtles a lot, but he’s definitely shorter than Casey and a little shorter than April. We also see him with Shredder and Splinter. That said, I was fine with Danny coming in as the shortest character in the line, but I still wasn’t prepared for this.

At least his shirt looks nice.

Danny (no way I’m calling this short stack Dan) comes in at a “whopping” 5 3/4″. For comparison, Oraku Saki is a touch over 6 3/4″ and he uses the same body as Shredder and the Foot. He towers over Danny, as does Casey and the turtles. In the scenes he shares with April, he doesn’t appear to be much more than an inch shorter than she. With Casey, the top of his head is right around the eyes. Here he looks like a 10 year old next to basically anyone in this line. It’s fine to quibble over a quarter inch or so, but this is pretty bad. And it’s made worse when one realizes why. Danny is so damn short because NECA opted to reuse the legs (and possibly more) of its John Connor from Terminator 2 figure. They’re denim, and they’re loose-fitting, so they look the part, but they’re way too small. And everything about the figure just seems small as a result like the arms and the head size. I expect some parts reuse with these figures, but it’s irresponsible on NECA’s part to reuse parts that just aren’t suitable for the character. They could have recycled parts from someone like Marty McFly and that would have been better, even if the fit of the pants is tighter than they want. As it stands, this figure looks ridiculous whether right next to another figure or off on his own and that’s a real shame.

Yuck.

And my issues with Danny don’t end there. He comes with two portraits: one with the Foot bandana and one without. The default one with the bandana leaves something to be desired. The paint on the eyes is not perfectly aligned with the sculpted out area for them and just looks sloppy. Mine isn’t as bad as some of the ones I’ve seen online, but if I was at the store sifting through a row of Danny Pennington figures I would have passed on this one. The other head is much better, but both also feature no flesh-colored paint. The prototype had a nice, matte, appearance, but this one is rather shiny and plastic looking. There’s also some brown from the hair on the ears of the alt head, so neither option for me is ideal. The arms on this guy are also really spindly and the forearms look excessively long. They’re very awkward looking, and the hands are curled into hooks as I think they too are recycled from the John Connor figure who was meant to hold onto handlebars. The only positives I can find with the aesthetics of this figure is that the facial likeness, on a basic level, is acceptable and the paint on the denim and sneakers looks nice. NECA also struck a deal with the Sex Pistols to recreate Danny’s Sid Vicious shirt and the quality of the print looks fantastic. I just wonder if they blew too much of the budget on that piece of authenticity and not on making a quality figure.

The alt head is a little better, at least.

Danny’s articulation is nothing to write home about. His head is on a tiny ball-peg and moves around okay, but he can’t look up which is a bit of a problem for such a short guy. His shoulders are ball-hinged and are quite stiff. He can’t raise his arms too far, but can rotate around. The elbows swivel and are single-hinged while the wrist rotates and hinges as well, but it’s tight and gummy and at times it’s hard to tell if the hand is rotating or the plastic is just bending. There’s a waist twist, but it’s severely limited by the oversized t-shirt. He has the old style hip joints and they’re rather tight and potentially fragile, so buyer beware. The thighs rotate a bit and the knees are single-hinged with swivels. The ankles probably do something, but his high tops prevent basically all movement down there. I would advise not forcing the issue because if it breaks who knows if Loot Crate can replace it (they had to cancel some orders of this crate because they oversold it).

You should probably stick your head in those things because you’re not going to like what I have to say about you.

In terms of accessories, Danny is very light. He has the second head I mentioned before and in addition to that he has a Walkman, or personal tape player. It’s cast entirely in a rubbery plastic, which feels really cheap. I think if he were a retail release, just the wire connecting the headphones would be cast in this while the rest would be a harder material. The chord is super long, but I suppose that’s better than the alternative. The paint is a bit sloppy on the headphones, but they do kind of fit on his head if you like that look. That’s it though. No extra hands, no Whopper, no nothing. I’m a little surprised they didn’t slip in a low cost item like a small picture of Leonardo like the one April gave him or maybe April’s wallet or the money he took from it. A bandana for him to hold, and drop at his feet, might have been fun too. And basically any extra hands would have been welcomed because the ones he has just don’t look natural.

Go ahead and do it, Shredder. I don’t care.

Well, Danny might be a dud, but what about the rest of the contents? Like I said, the figure makes or breaks this thing, but even so the rest of the items offer little. This is the smallest crate yet as the only other items are a shirt, set of coasters, and a set of pins. The shirt is this neon green, the same color as a TMNT camera I had back in the day, and features the manhole art from the theatrical poster of the film. It’s very loud, but since it’s long sleeved it has a chance of sneaking into my wardrobe. The pins are just two, oversized, portraits of a masked Casey and Raph. The coasters though are weird. They’re kind of soft and bendy, not really the type of material one associates with coasters, and the artwork on them is Mirage artwork. Why are we getting comic coasters in the movie crate? I don’t hate the choice or anything, it just surprised me.

If you were hoping for the rest of the crate to pick up some of the slack, well, you’re going to be disappointed.

If you can’t tell, I’m pretty disappointed with this crate. It’s easily the worst one yet and since it’s the first one from Series Two it’s hard not to worry about the ones to follow. I have three more to look forward to and if they all leave me feeling like this one did then I’ll probably have to bow out of this subscription service. This crate, to me, is what consumers fear when they sign up for these blind box type of releases. We all worry we’re just getting junk for our money, and this time that is mostly true. It’s just one though, so I’m trying to keep that in perspective, but this one isn’t up to the standards NECA and Loot Crate established last year.

Jerk can’t even sit. I give up.

Unfortunately, the wait to see if crate two is any better is going to be a long one. This crate was already pushed back from August, and now crate two isn’t expected to begin shipping until December meaning consumers aren’t likely to see it until 2022. This crate was marked as “shipped” on September 13th for me and I didn’t get it until October 6th. It is what it is as shipping overseas is crazy right now and it’s getting bad domestically as well. One thing I will say in Loot Crate’s favor is their communication is great when it comes to the delays and that’s all I ask for when it comes to such. Of course, it has to be said some people are having worse experiences as I alluded to. Some had their orders cancelled or delayed indefinitely, which is inexcusable for an item that was thought to be made-to-order. Loot Crate did have to close orders earlier than expected, but the fact that it couldn’t deliver on every order placed is not a good look. Yeah, we’re definitely not off to a good start here.

At least someone is willing to put their arm around him.

It’s just a start though and there’s time to recover. The hope here is that NECA and Loot Crate take the criticism to heart and that most give them constructive feedback. I’m happy to inform people when I get a good product from both, and for the most part my NECA reviews have been overwhelmingly positive, so hopefully this experience is the exception. And if that proves to be the case, that’s obviously better than the alternative, but it’s still disappointing that Danny received such a bummer of a release because he’s probably not getting a redo. Hopefully, his dad didn’t have kittens when he got a look at how his son was treated.


NECA TMNT Movie Shadow Warriors

The set everyone has been waiting for! Okay, maybe not everyone.

NECA’s line of Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles action figures at retail began with quarter scale figures based off of the 1990 film. Since then, things have opened up for the company and toon and video game figures have followed as well as a line of movie figures in a 7″ scale line. And of the lines NECA has released to retail, I would still argue the movie line has been the best and most well-received, even if the cartoon line might be more profitable. The problem with that though is there just isn’t a lot of characters to mine from. Cartoons and video games are full of one-off and reoccurring characters to turn into action figures, but the movies are basically just the turtles, a handful of villains, and their allies. And some of them aren’t exactly exciting action figure options, while some that would be aren’t available due to licensing restrictions.

Bad News: You can only find this set at Walmart. Good News: it still retails for $50.

Given that, I suppose it’s not that surprising that NECA decided to turn the Shadow Warriors into their own two-pack. In the film, Master Splinter tells his origin to young Danny Pennington about his master, Hamato Yoshi, and describes him as one of Japan’s finest shadow warriors. Yoshi had a rival, Oroku Saki, who very much wanted to win the affections of Yoshi’s lover, Tang Shen. When it became apparent there would be blood, Yoshi and Shen fled to America, but Saki followed eventually murdering the lovers and taking Splinter’s ear for good measure. It’s a short scene in the film, but since we already have the turtles, Splinter, Shredder, Casey, and the Foot in toy form, why not give this a shot? And if some parts can be reused then all the better.

These two are essentially the same figure, which isn’t much different from the previously released Foot ninja.

The Shadow Warriors two-pack is essentially a Hamato Yoshi vs Oroku Saki two-pack, with an unmutated Splinter as well. Saki and Yoshi are both depicted in their training gi, which is black with a slight shimmer to it. Some of these pieces are recycled from the Shredder and Foot we’ve already received, but a lot is new too. It’s just that both figures are essentially the same save for the headsculpt. Saki comes packaged with his robe on while Yoshi is bare-chested. Both are capable of being displayed the same way though as NECA made the robe removable as well as the arms so you can just swap them with the included extra bare arms or sleeved arms, even though each character was only depicted in the film as packaged, and not together. Yoshi is displayed as he was in the flashback when training alongside Splinter, while Saki is basically in murder mode. Yoshi’s face is rather stoic, while Saki’s default portrait has a faint hint of a smile.

If you want to, you can have both figures dressed the same. Note: Honor not included.

When it comes to both figures, there are things to like and things to dislike about the presentation. I do like the texture of the clothing and the folds give off the illusion of real cloth. The robe portion of the gi works well-enough, and if you want to go off-script they look pretty cool if you make them sleeveless. The faces look fine too, though it’s certainly helped by the fact that the scenes in the film are shot in near blackness with the audience really only getting a good look at Saki. James Saito played Shredder in the film, but it looks like a different actor played him for the flashback this set is based on and he went uncredited. The actor who played Yoshi also wasn’t even credited so I can’t even look up an image to see how the likeness turned out. At any rate, Saki as represented by this figure looks like Saito, but I wish NECA had done a better job with his smile. When we first see him spin and look at the camera he has a wicked grin. I think they tried to do it justice, but it doesn’t look as good as it does on camera. He has a second face that’s bloody and scratched and looks fine, though again, it’s not the expression I would have chosen. In the film, he sports more of a scowl as he slices off Splinter’s ear, but here he has gritted teeth and looks quite enraged.

I enjoy the “shimmer” of the gi.
But bare-chested is also a solid look.

The only other issues I have with the presentation of these figures is tied into the articulation. NECA made some interesting choices when it comes to the torso. The head is on a ball-peg, but the neck is static. Below that is a diaphragm joint with the cut right above the abs and along the rib cage. It looks odd, and what is unfortunate is that you get nothing out of it. The figures barely pivot and twist there and there is almost no ab crunch achieved. NECA apparently thought articulating the base of the neck would look bad, but didn’t think the torso did, but also didn’t make it functional. It’s just a poor design. The shoulders are a little funky too as they slope down quite a bit. I think they do this to make the articulation at the shoulders appear more seamless on a shirtless body, since they also did the same with Goliath. It also may have been done to make sure the gi isn’t too bulky, but again, it does make the figure look odd in some poses. The good news is, you can always use the robe and problem solved, but Yoshi never wore the robe in the film.

Just a man doing ninja stuff with his pet rat. Nothing to see here.

The rest of the articulation at least works fine. Those shoulders peg into the body so they’re easy to remove and they’re just hinged. There’s no biceps swivel, but the arms swivel above and below the elbow as NECA is using those controversial elbows here. These guys are more ripped than Casey Jones was, so I think the arms look better, but they’re still weird as you get this big, middle, piece when bending the elbows all the way. They are partially hidden by the wrist-guards on the bare arms, and obviously totally hidden by the sleeved ones. At the hands, we have rotation and horizontal hinges on every included hand. Since these guys come loaded with melee weapons, this strikes me as a huge oversight on NECA’s part to not include vertically hinged hands. The horizontal hinges on the gripping hands are borderline useless. At the waist is a twist and below that are the old styled hips. These are ratcheted and caution needs to be taken with them. I was able to get Yoshi into a high kick, but I was pretty scared in doing so as these hips are notoriously fragile. The thighs do rotate a bit and the knees are double-hinged with a swivel above them. At the feet we’ve got a hinge and ankle rocker, which works really well and is nice and tight. Unlike some of my complaints with the aesthetics of the upper body, I will say the legs look terrific and these may be the best sculpted pants I’ve seen NECA release.

It’s murder time!

Despite the lack of neck articulation and the poor abdominal joint, these guys are able to achieve some pretty convincing martial arts poses. You won’t have much luck getting them to balance on one foot or anything, but that’s what stands are for. Because of the lack of properly hinged hands, these arguably display better in hand-to-hand combat poses. They both come packaged sporting fists, and if you want to you can swap them for chop pose hands or gripping hands. The right fist that came on Yoshi in my set ended up with some paint rub on it from his vambrace, which sucks. The other set of hands are gripping hands and they’re very tight. I could not get most of the weapons into their hands without first softening the hands with hot water which is annoying, but oh well. NECA at least included each set of hands for both figures, so they don’t have to share gripping hands or anything like the SDCC set did with the Foot Soldiers.

Get him, boy!
Okay, that might have been a bad idea.

If hand-to-hand combat is not your preference, NECA did see fit to include a fairly large assortment of weapons. The weapons, though, should be rather familiar if you’ve purchased the other movie figures as they’re all duplicates. You get in this set a pair of axes, a pair of katana, a pair of black staves, a pair of black tonfa, black nunchaku, and studded nunchaku. The black nunchaku has a plastic chord connecting the handles so it’s more posable, but potentially more fragile, while the studded set features a short chain. Again, this feels like a set that exists because it was fairly cheap to produce so it’s not surprising to see recycled weapons. We only see Saki in the film wield the katana, so it’s hard to be disappointed with the selection. Again, my only disappointed rests in the difficulty in getting the weapons into the hands and the fact that we don’t have the right hinges for most of them. At least if you have the weapons rack you should have little trouble filling it now.

Only sadness, and a thirst for vengeance, remains.
The martial arts pose Splinter is cool, the other one looks like a poop.

The other accessory is basically a third character: Splinter. And you get not just one Splinter, but two! That’s because this is pre-mutated Splinter so he’s just a little, unarticulated, sculpted lump of plastic. One Splinter is in a martial arts pose clearly inspired by the portion of the flashback, “Mimicking his movements from my cage,” which is a line my dad always repeated for some reason. Maybe because it was just so ludicrous, but the film plays it off so naturally. The other Splinter is a grieving Splinter after Saki slices off his ear and leaves him to mourn the death of his master. It’s rather odd looking as his body is just super long and definitely not the one I plan to display. Both rats have a peg hole in the base of them which allows them to peg into the base of a cage. The cage is done in a thin plastic and the bottom pops off rather than have an articulated door. It looks okay, but also rather cheap and I’m surprised NECA opted not to paint it. Maybe they feared the paint would just gum up between the bars? It does come with a stand though that the cage can be suspended from which is welcomed and even though it does look cheap, it might actually be my favorite part of the set. The only downside is NECA didn’t come up with a way for Splinter to easily get into scratching position on Saki. It can be done, but I wish they had included one more hand that was specifically for grabbing Splinter so that Saki could look like he’s trying to pull him off of his face.

I suppose we should do this.

The Shadow Warriors two-pack is a set that I didn’t need, and in fact, wasn’t actively seeking out. I happened across it at Walmart, the only retail location allowed to sell the movie line, and picked it up for a friend only to find out another friend found him a set that very same day. I ended up keeping it rather than trying to offload it onto someone else or return it, and I’m fine with the decision. These guys look pretty cool, they’re just characters I didn’t need for my display to feel complete. It’s also worth noting, we never saw Yoshi and Saki face off in the film as depicted here. When Saki actually attacks Hamato Yoshi he’s in a construction outfit. This set is capturing both characters independent of each other as Yoshi is really meant to tie-in with Splinter. Does this mean we’ll get a figure of Yoshi in overalls and a hardhat? Never say never, though I wouldn’t hold my breath.

And we can end on a comparison shot too.

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