Nostalgia is an easy thing to market and sell, so when a piece of media comes around that’s really going hard after the nostalgia market I feel like it’s my duty to weigh-in. And when it comes to 90’s nostalgia, I am as qualified as anybody to talk about it and such is the case with the new Disney+ movie Chip ‘n Dale: Rescue Rangers.
If you’re reading this, I can probably go ahead and assume that you’re familiar with the television show of the same name which premiered in the late 80s and ran into the 90s. Just in case though, Chip ‘n Dale Rescue Rangers was one of the inaugural Disney Afternoon cartoons and it starred the characters Chip and Dale from Disney’s classic collection of shorts and paired them up with some newcomers in Gadget, Monterey Jack, and Zipper. As the theme song informed us, they basically solve the crimes and help those who are not being helped by the usual law enforcement operations out there. It didn’t really make much sense for the characters of Chip and Dale to star in such a program, but the same is easily said of the classic characters utilized in most Disney Afternoon shows. It was just a way for Disney to leverage its own intellectual property and sell shows that at least had some familiar faces in them. And it seemed to work rather well. While I will say the show Rescue Rangers doesn’t really hold-up when viewed as an adult in 2022, it’s at least quite gorgeous for a TV show and no one would question the production values. Plus that theme song is still a banger.
It was announced some time ago that Disney wanted to bring the show to the big screen as a live-action/animation hybrid which is all the rage these days. It turned out, Disney was actually aiming a little smaller as the film was ticketed for its streaming platform Disney+ pretty early in the reveal. Unlike a lot of recent films, I do not believe this was kicked to the streaming service because of COVID. The film was written by the team of Dan McGregor and Doug Mand, two guys mostly known for their work in television. With Akiva Schaffer as director and Andy Samberg onboard as the voice of Dale, the title basically started being referred to as The Lonely Island Rescue Rangers. The third member of The Lonely Island, Jorma Taccone, is also here doing some small voice roles too. Given their presence, I found myself quite curious how this movie would turn out. It was obviously going to be a comedy, but the initial trailer also revealed it was going to set its characters in a world inhabited by toons and real people like a certain famous 80s film about a rabbit. Inviting such a comparison is almost a death sentence because how is a film in 2022 with a streaming budget going to measure up to the classic Who Framed Roger Rabbit? It’s a fool’s game to try to match that film, Disney can only hope this one proves it’s worth existing.
Chip ‘n Dale: Rescue Rangers is neither a reboot nor a sequel to the television show. It actually views the characters from the show as actors who played those roles. Early in the film we’re shown how a young Dale (Juliet Donenfield) met a young Chip (Mason Blomberg) at school and instantly became friends. From there, they became a comedy act that was eventually given its own show making these versions of the famous chipmunks quite different from the characters in the theatrical shorts. Much of the movie is set in the present and centers on Dale (Andy Samberg) as he tries to recapture his glory days after a falling out with Chip when the Rescue Rangers show came to an end.
It’s when we catch-up with Dale and eventually Chip (John Mulaney) that we see how this world sort of works. This isn’t a lore-heavy film like Who Framed Roger Rabbit? Toons exist alongside humans and over the years toons have changed. Dale at some point got surgery to make himself look like a CG generated character, while his co-stars did not so they’re presented in a more traditional manner. Cartoon stars are basically all real and much of the film relies on that. The general plot is that Monterey Jack (Eric Bana) has gone missing and Chip and Dale fear he’s been caught in a bootlegging ring. For a toon in this world, that means he’s going to be modified surgically so that he only resembles his old self and shipped off to somewhere in Asia to star in bootleg films against his will, which sounds pretty horrifying. The rodents will work with a human police officer in Ellie (Kiki Lang) to try and find their friend before he’s presumably sent out on a boat which is expected to take roughly 48 hours making this the Chip ‘n Dale version of The Frist 48.
The plot is surprisingly high stakes if you place any sort of value on the life of Monterey Jack, but despite that the film is squarely a comedy. Chip and Dale play-off of each other with Chip being the straight ‘munk and Dale the more carefree. It’s admittedly odd to hear the two voiced by actors who aren’t being pitched way up to do the squeaky voice. That is canonically revealed to be an act from the old show and just a funny voice they did. Their interplay is fine and mostly amusing, but things slow way down whenever the plot has to involve Ellie. There it becomes a poor man’s cop show where little of value takes place. Working against is the performance of Lang as Ellie because she comes off as wooden and distant. Working with actors who aren’t physically present is a skill, and maybe that’s the reason for it. The script also isn’t very interested in making her into much of a character so that’s not helping matters. Aside from the pair, the movie relies quite heavily on references to generate laughs. This means the film is a case of diminishing returns from the start as most viewers will likely be charmed by the cameos at first, but come the second hour the novelty has largely worn off. The film is definitely intended for an adult audience that grew up on the Disney Afternoon, so if you loved Rescue Rangers there’s a bit of payoff towards the film’s climax, but this film is largely a riff on that show which might rub some the wrong way.
The entertainment value derived from the humor and references can only take the film so far. Unfortunately, what doesn’t add a whole lot are the visual effects. The CG characters, like Dale, look fine. Dale’s model is not on par with Disney or Pixar feature films, but I suppose he looks no better or worse than the chipmunks from the Alvin and the Chipmunks films. The 2D characters, on the other hand, mostly look pretty unimpressive. There’s no attempt at shading them to make them plausible as 3D beings, but they’re also clearly not hand-drawn. For some characters, like Gadget oddly enough, the model is too obvious and the character ends up looking like a cel-shaded model from a PlayStation 2 game. I got some real Sly Cooper vibes from Gadget and I’m not sure why it is that her model suffered the most. Maybe it’s the hair? Either way, the 2D characters just don’t impress, but we are talking about a film with a streaming budget so it’s not surprising to see. I am left to wonder if the film would be appreciably better with more money attached to it. The other aspect of the film’s production that might rub some the wrong way is the inconsistent casting choices. Tress MacNeille was allowed to reprise her role as Gadget, but few others were granted the same opportunity. Jim Cummings is in this film voicing some cameos, but for some reason was recast as Monterey Jack. Zipper was also recast to Dennis Haysbert basically for a gag, but I can’t say that bothered me too much since it fit with the choice for Chip and Dale. And I suppose there are folks out there who would have preferred them to have their chipmunk voices and I don’t know if I’m one of them. I definitely would have been fine with that approach, but I didn’t hate Mulaney and Samberg in the roles and I actually adjusted to them much easier than I expected.
Chip ‘n Dale: Rescue Rangers is the sort of vapid, of the moment, streaming movie designed to be digested, meme’d for a weekend, and then mostly forgotten. It doesn’t really do anything unexpected and is mostly smart to keep the running time under 2 hours and to lean heavily into nostalgia-laden jokes and cameos. How much you’re amused by the cameos and references will influence how entertained by the film you are. I would even go so far as to say, for adult viewers, you need to be familiar with the era the original Chip ‘n Dale Rescue Rangers aired during to get much out of this. For kids, that’s probably not necessary if my own children are a reasonable barometer as they seemed to like the film quite a bit. As for me, the film was fine. It was no better or worse than I expected, though actually if I’m being fair it was better than I initially expected when I heard a Rescue Rangers movie was in development. I definitely do not want or need a sequel or reboot following this, nor do I really want to see other Disney Afternoon properties get the same treatment (unless it’s with a much bigger budget). If you go into it wanting a poor man’s Who Framed Roger Rabbit? that’s more interested in meme culture than celebrating classic era animation then you’ll likely not regret the hour and a half spent. If you’re expecting something more sincere or on the same technical level as Who Framed Roger Rabbit? then prepare to be disappointed.
Our third and final figure of the inaugural wave of Disney Ultimates! from Super7 is the most surprising of the bunch: Prince John, the phony King of England! Super7 often surprises with its deep cuts, and Prince John certainly fits the bill. While it’s hard to argue much from Disney could be considered a true deep cut, it’s certainly surprising to see the villain of Robin Hood in the first wave of the line without the film’s protagonist. This supposedly caused some confusion in the Disney fanbase which had little familiarity with Super7 prompting founder Brian Flynn to take to the internet to assure the fans that Robin Hood himself was coming, he’s just not in Wave One. Prince John is apparently Flynn’s pick and it’s a character he has a lot of affection for and when you run your own toy company you get to do stuff like put Prince John into the first wave of Disney figures. As someone who grew up watching the film over and over, I can’t say I’m disappointed to see the prince so early.
Prince John stands a full seven inches making him, by far, the largest figure in the first wave. He absolutely dwarfs Mickey and towers over Pinocchio. I suppose that’s appropriate considering he’s a lion and all, but it will be interesting to see how he scales with the upcoming Robin Hood. Prince John, or PJ, is not particularly big in the film. Robin is pretty close in size while Little Jon and the Sheriff look down on him. That’s an issue for another day, for now, he looks great at this scale and his big, soft goods, robe is particularly lovely. What’s not, and stop me if you’ve heard this criticism before, is the lack of paint. The body of PJ is cast in a yellowish plastic and with no shading or embellishments I can’t help but feel that it looks an awful lot like those Lion King toys from the 90s. Those things were probably five bucks at Toys R’ Us, but this is a $45 collectible and it just needs something more. Beyond that feeling, the head looks nice and his crown is painted well with gold paint and gems, but he’s missing his whiskers on all three heads. His hands feature the gemmed rings and his default expression is rather neutral. Beneath the robe is his soft, blue, gown (I guess that’s the proper term?) that’s all sculpted. Unfortunately, there’s already some color transfer from the robe to the gown and I don’t know if that’s likely to get worse or if it was mostly an issue of being confined to a box. Since the robe hides it, it’s not that great an issue, but hardly encouraging.
Excepting the feeling of a lack of paint, PJ really looks the part. That robe goes a long way in adding to that which is soft and just the right shade of red. The trim is more dense as the white is clean and the black dots within look nice. As was the case with Mickey, it’s also plenty big to allow the figure to move underneath it. Unlike Mickey, the robe doesn’t close with a belt, but it’s heavy enough that it basically closes on its own. Most importantly, it behaves as it does in the film and since it’s comically large on PJ it’s practically a character all on its own.
And speaking of characters all their own, we have Sir Hiss! And not just one Sir Hiss, but two! The first features a smiling Hiss partially coiled up that can sit on a surface. He has a ball-hinge at the base of his neck so he can swivel and look up and down, but is otherwise non-articulated. He’s very well painted, and the likeness is quite possibly the best of any character in this first wave. The same can be said for the second Sir Hiss which is elongated and features a strangulation expression. This is for John to grip and it’s pretty damn funny and also a little surprising that Disney let them do this, but since it’s from the film and the violence is bad guy on bad guy I guess that made it okay. As much as I love these additions, I feel like we need a Sir Hiss accessory pack! Or more versions with other characters from the film. Flying Sir Hiss, drunk Hiss, scared Hiss – the possibilities are nearly endless!
Aside from Hiss, PJ doesn’t come with much else. He does have his mother’s mirror, which has a slightly reflective, foil-like, sticker for the mirrored surface and the back of the mirror is well painted and sculpted. PJ can hold it with his lone, right, gripping hand or you can finagle it into the coils of Hiss. PJ has open hands in the package, but can swap to two different sets of fists: one with the gems in his rings, and one without from when Little Jon steals them. As for heads, we have two extra: angry John and a perplexed John where the crown is tipped forward covering his eyes. His neutral head has a removable crown which pegs into his ears, but the other two feature a permanently affixed crown. I do like the comedic one, but I feel like the angry one could have been embellished more. He gets really mad in the film where as this expression is more menacing than angry, and maybe that’s what they were going for? What’s missing though is plainly obvious: no thumb-sucking hand or expression! Considering how much Flynn seems to love the character, I am shocked that Super7 didn’t give us the pieces to recreate those scenes from the film. This line is called Ultimates because it’s supposed to represent the ultimate expression of the character, and how can you do Prince John without that?! Did they honestly prefer these portraits to that, or did they just find it too hard to get him to suck his thumb and tug his ear? Not only should we have gotten a proper thumb-sucking hand, but we should have got a second one with mud on it! It’s just baffling.
The last thing we need to talk about with Prince John is also the least impressive: articulation. Same as it was with the other two figures in this line, PJ doesn’t move all that well. He has the same, bland, ball and socket for the head that lets him move in all directions, but without tremendous range. He can look up a bit as well as down, but there’s no reason for him not to have a double ball peg given the presence of the robe. The shoulders are ball-hinged and he can almost raise his arms out to the side, but more importantly, he can rotate just fine even with the robe. The elbows are tight and single-hinged with swivels and they’re somewhat buried in the sleeve of his undershirt or gown. They’re fine, and his hands rotate and hinge in-and-out. The torso features nothing, and bizarrely, Prince John is like a tube of plastic. His hips are way down there and I guess it makes sense considering he’s a lion. Though if he were to go on all fours his rear legs would be comically short. He can rotate at the waist at least with ball-hinge hips, single-hinged knees that swivel, and ankles that hinge and rock side-to-side. His knees are basically sculpted to always be bent so the range isn’t great and the ankles are definitely more loose than I’d like. He’s able to stand okay, though my kids running into the room where his shelf resides was enough to cause him to fall over so his ability to stand could be better. He also has a ball joint for his tail, but it doesn’t do much aside from just letting you control which side it trails off towards. It’s basically the same story though where there’s not a lot of articulation and some of what is there is just too loose. I really wish Super7 could at least figure out the loose issue as so many figures suffer from it.
Overall, I do think Prince John turned out well enough when judged on what is actually there. The sculpt is solid, I like the robe, I just wish there was more paint and tighter joints. I don’t need him to do ninja kicks, but I do need him to stand. The color transfer issue is also concerning. Mostly, I can’t help but look at this guy and feel like Super7 really missed an opportunity to deliver a truly ultimate version of Prince John. Who else is going to make a Prince John figure? The lack of a thumb-sucking pose is a real bummer. Maybe they’ll come back to him when the cast of the film is a bit more fleshed out. They could do a throne that comes with the needed parts or maybe do a pajama version of the character or blue-robed variant. Do I want a variant of PJ? No, not really, but maybe I could do the throne. Considering they’ve already solicited thrones for other lines and they’re around $45 though, I’m a little less enthused about that prospect. Super7 tends to make things right when they get something so fundamentally wrong, and so I do feel like this may be one of those things. The fact that PJ is a favorite of Brian Flynn gives me a little more optimism. As released, Prince John is fine, but he could have been so much more.
The first figure from this line of Super7 action figures based on characters from Disney’s treasure trove of animated characters was Pinocchio. In that review, I mentioned how Disney wanted to outdo itself with Pinocchio and sunk a lot of money into that film’s production. Well, the only other film from that era that might compare is 1940’s other feature: Fantasia. Fantasia was Walt’s passion project as he saw the marriage of animation with classical compositions as high art. I think he was mostly happy with how it turned out, but not happy with the reception as audiences didn’t seem to appreciate it the way the company figurehead did.
Even so, there’s no denying that at least one segment from Fantasia has impressed and delighted movie goers for generations and that’s The Sorcerer’s Apprentice. That segment starred Mickey, who was still a pretty big deal in 1940. He was voiceless in the film, but was arguably never as expressive as he is in the short segment because no Mickey cartoon before (or likely since) had the budget of Fantasia. It truly is a delight and one of the best cartoons of all time and it’s no surprise that Super7 turned to Fantasia, and Mickey, with its first wave of Disney Ultimates!
The direction of Super7 founder Brain Flynn with this Disney line is to not simply do characters from Disney in their most recognizable forms. For Mickey, that would be classic red trunks and yellow shoes. The thinking from Flynn is that you can get that Mickey anywhere so Super7 should do something else. Now, doing Mickey as the Sorcerer’s Apprentice isn’t exactly breaking new ground either, but it’s apparently enough for Flynn who basically conceded that they needed to do something a bit more expected and generic for this first wave as Disney collectors are probably pretty new to Super7. And since the figure did sort of coincide with Fantasia’s 80th anniversary (curiously, so did Pinocchio but that one didn’t get a fancy sticker on the box), it makes perfect sense to have this Mickey in Wave One.
Being a 7″ scale line, Mickey comes in on the small side for an action figure. He is not, however, as small as Pinocchio and I think most collectors are likely going to be pretty happy with the sizing of the mouse. To the top of where his head would be he’s nearly 4″, and once you factor in the hat he’s basically a 5″ figure. His proportions are fairly small, though more substantial than Pinocchio, and he does feature the trademarked oversized gloves and shoes. This is a figure that largely features no paint. There’s the blue on the hat with the painted silver runes, Mickey’s eyes and mouth, and the black lines on the back of his gloves. Under the robe, he does have blue trunks which are a mix of colored pieces and painted ones and the brown boots are colored plastic. It’s largely fine, as his entire body is covered by the robe, but where paint is sorely needed is on his face. The flesh-tone plastic is just not saturated or warm enough for the character and it has a glossy characteristic that is off-putting. Some have gone so far as to say it ruins the look of the figure, but I’m not willing to go there. Instead, it’s just an unfortunate shortcoming. Simply painting that area of the face would do wonders for the look of this guy.
I mentioned in the Pinocchio review that one of Super7’s goals with this line is to incorporate soft goods into each release. For Pinocchio, the inclusion was a minor one, but for Mickey the soft goods needed to be something special and I’m happy to say Super7 pulled it off. Mickey’s robe is a touch darker than it is onscreen, but it has a shimmery quality to it that really imparts a sense of quality into the release. It’s cinched with a simply knotted rope, and it’s appropriately sized for the figure. It doesn’t look overly baggy, and the roominess of the design allows Mickey’s articulation to function as intended. Like a lot of collectors out there, I’m not often partial to soft goods, but here they work and they work well.
As for that articulation, I’m happy to say it’s better than what we got with Pinocchio, though it’s still hardly a strong point. Mickey’s head sits on the same ball peg design as Pinocchio so there’s no neck articulation and what you get out of his head just depends on the amount of range on that single ball. It’s sufficient as Mickey can look up an okay amount, but there’s really no reason why they couldn’t a double ball peg. The shoulders are ball-hinged and Mickey can raise his arms out to the side just fine and he can even rotate around with the robe on. He has single-hinged elbows with swivel and his hands rotate and feature horizontal hinges. Once again though, we have no torso articulation. Not even a waist cut, which is a shame because, again, the robe would hide everything! Maybe it’s a size issue – I don’t know, but NECA’s done figures at this size with more articulation so I’m not willing to allow that as an excuse. At the hips, we have the usual Super7 ball-peg hips and they’re fine. The knees hinge and swivel and Mickey can at least bend 90 degrees. The ankles are, once again, rather floppy and the oversized shoe means the ankle rocker isn’t as useful as it could be. The right ankle on mine isn’t as bad, but the hinge is pretty tight. I actually have a hard time getting both legs to appear the same length as the knee hinge is loose on the left leg. There’s also a ball-hinge at his tail giving that some movement. He can hold a pose at least, and hasn’t fallen down like my Pinocchio, but there’s room for improvement.
On the accessory front, we pretty much get all that we need. The default head is an open mouthed smile and Mickey can swap to an angry head or a standard smile. Both extra heads feature a bend in the cap which is nice for a little added personality. I probably could do without the smile though in favor of a scared expression because it feels redundant with the open smile. All of the heads also feature the ears sculpted into the hat, and I feel like Super7 missed an opportunity to change the ear position so we could have a screen accurate way to present Mickey from the side as he is on the back of his box or as he was in the often seen tag before every Walt Disney VHS release in the 80s and early 90s. A scared expression would have been really nice for the giant book accessory that Mickey floats on towards the end of the segment. The book is just a big slab of plastic, and it’s cool, but without a scared head I really don’t know what to do with it. There’s also a single, animated, broom with a pair of water buckets it can hold. There’s no articulation on the broom, but both it and the buckets are very well-painted. And for when Mickey gets angry with said broom, he has an axe to chop it up. To go along with all of that, are numerous hands. Mickey has open hands in the package to go with fists, gripping hands, pointing hands, and a more relaxed open set of hands. With the hands, the only criticism I can make is the hinge on the gripping hands isn’t going the right way, but otherwise this is a fine set of expressions.
Objectively, and subjectively, Mickey succeeds far more than Pinocchio did at making the jump to plastic. The articulation could be better, but that’s often true of every Super7 release. My main critique is in the lack of paint on the face, and if not for that, I’d consider this a homerun. As released, it’s a solid line drive for a double and I think it will please both action figure fans and Disney collectors. It’s very on-model, and the soft goods robe adds a touch of class. Plus, it’s an iconic version of an iconic character. Personally, I would have loved to have seen Super7 roll with The Band Concert or The Brave Little Tailor version of Mickey, but at least we’re getting that with the ReAction line and I can’t fault them for doing this version. It’s both safe and pleasing for the audience and an easy recommend for Disney enthusiasts.
It seems I keep setting personal records this year for longest duration of a preorder and the new champion is Super7’s first wave of Disney Ultimates! These figures went up for preorder in August of 2020 likely closing sometime in September. At the time, the expected release was somewhere around June 2021, but a lot happened in-between. Super7’s relationship with Disney was just starting so perhaps there was a feeling out process between the two. I know for a fact that Disney had some revisions in mind for the packaging (they wanted the three figures to be unique in that regard) and it’s clear the figures underwent changes between the initial renders and final release. And then, of course, there were the shipping delays and factory closures to deal with all stemming from the COVID-19 pandemic. It feels like a perfect storm struck and thus the figures were delayed all the way until April of 2022! The wait is over though, and the first one we’re going to take a look at is Pinocchio!
Ask me what I think the highwater mark for Disney animation is and I won’t hesitate to say it’s 1940’s Pinocchio. Disney was riding high following the success of Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs and seemingly in a bid to top that picture, a lot of money was sunk into Pinocchio and it shows. Every scene looks like it was meticulously crafted to be the best it can be and for a medium such as hand drawn animation, it’s possible we’ve never seen that kind of dedication since. In terms of plot and performance, other animated films from Disney certainly compare and likely exceed what Pinocchio, but visually? It would take a convincing argument from someone to make me change my mind.
For that reason, it probably comes as no surprise that I pretty much adore Pinocchio, and when Super7 made the title character part of its first wave I was over the moon! A collector line of Disney animated characters was a grail line for me, and to see Super7 embarking on that path and kicking things off with a beloved character was almost too good to be true. The initial renders did leave something to be desired (look these figures up on most retail sites and you can still see them) as Pinocchio’s head looked off-model, but I preordered with the hope that it would turn out better in person and it’s nice to see my faith has been rewarded.
Pinocchio comes in the standard Ultimates! box Super7 is known for, only the outer box is very glossy depicting a starry night with a silhouette of Jiminy Cricket descending from the clouds. The inner box is themed to fit the film and reminds me of the Pinocchio restaurant in Disney World in terms of color palette. There’s a write-up on the back with character art and the figure and all of the accessories can be seen through the window. Pinocchio comes with a quite a bit of stuff, but in a first for me with an Ultimates! release, he only requires one insert to properly store everything. And there’s a pretty obvious reason for that: Pinocchio is small!
Super7’s Ultimates! are a seven inch scale line, but it tends to be rather fungible across lines. They seem to prioritize certain lines to fit that scale, lines that collectors might display together or in close proximity of one another. Other, more stand-alone lines, seem to inhabit their own scale which is the case with Super7’s Ren and Stimpy. For Disney, they appear to be in the 7″ scale, though since we’re dealing with characters from different movies, there is a subjective element at play. Pinocchio himself is barely 3.5″, and since he’s a little, wooden, kid, I suppose that’s fine. It’s still odd to see him so much smaller than Mickey, and the third figure in the wave, Prince John, towers over him. And it’s not just the height, everything about him is just small. His arms, in particular, feel almost delicate as a result. And to Super7’s credit, he seems to scale well with the contents of his box. Should the company ever return to the film to produce a Geppetto or Honest John then I suppose we’d be able to evaluate the size further, but on his own I think he’s fine. Some will likely balk at the concept of paying $45 before tax and shipping for such a tiny figure, but if the scale is fine then I’m okay with it on principle. Especially since there’s still a lot of unique tooling here that likely will never benefit Super7 again and that’s where the biggest costs lay.
Aside from the diminutive nature of the figure, the overall look is pretty good. His default expression is a smile, and Super7 did a great job of translating the head into 3D. It would be easy to go overboard on the cheeks as Pinocchio is often drawn to get wider in that area, but as we saw with the original renders, that can just make him look like a fat head. Most of the features on his head are painted like the hat and the inside of his mouth and the only criticism I have is the shape of his nose seems off. It could be straighter and a touch more elongated, but he looks pleasant enough. The rest of the figure is mostly colored plastic. We have red on the torso with a big, blue, bowtie and red-brown down on the shoes. His hands are cast in white with sculpted lines on the back that Super7 declined to paint black. Part of the goal with this line is to incorporate soft goods into the figures and for Pinocchio that takes on the form of his black vest. It looks nice and it doesn’t hinder anything, though the faux velvet texture is sure to accumulate dust. It’s also not removable by nature. If one were to pop off the arms then it could come off, but I’m not willing to try. I do wish Super7 did something with the bare portions of the arms and legs to give them a less plastic look. It’s a bit tricky since the film didn’t exactly go for wood grain, but some shading might have done the trick. They did paint little, silver, nail heads into the joints which is a nice touch, but took it no further.
Where Pinocchio is not likely to impress at all is with his articulation. We know Super7 prioritizes neutral posing with its figures and shuns complicated joints, but even this is pretty underwhelming for a Super7 release. Pinocchio’s head just sits on a rounded ball peg. There’s no hinge or secondary ball below it so the head just kind of rotates there and can tilt a little. There’s very little range looking up or down, and given that the bowtie provided an easy way to hide a double ball peg, it’s a shame Super7 didn’t go for it. The shoulders are ball-hinged, but he can barely raise his arms out to the side. Inside the sleeve is an elbow joint that can swivel, but the plastic is thin and kind of gummy so bending the elbow really seems to stress it. The first time I tried to work the joint I couldn’t tell if it was working as intended or if the plastic was just bending. The fact that little, rough, pieces of plastic started to protrude from it gives me little confidence in utilizing it for much. At the hands, we have rotation and horizontal hinges. There’s no torso articulation, and the hip joints just rotate a little so that his legs can go out a bit, but not really forward or back. They feel pretty useless. Because of the odd shape of his knees, Pinocchio gets very little range there, maybe 45 degrees, and the ankles are very loose. I think if not for the fact that his shoes are rather large I’d have a hard time standing him. He’s really only good for the most basic posing. I’m assuming his small size is partly to blame, but other aspects just feel poorly engineered. With Super7, I always get the impression that when they run into a tricky spot they just choose to not address it rather than figure out a more creative solution.
In terms of stuff, Pinocchio comes with a lot, but also a little. He has two additional heads he can swap to: elongated nose, and super elongated nose with bird’s nest and birds. Neither head is a surprise, though he doesn’t have the cage to be placed in to truly do the iconic scene justice, but at least they look nice. He has a shocked expression on his face, and there is a subtle difference between the two so Super7 didn’t just sculpt one head and two noses (though that might have been a better approach). He also has one set of extra hands. He comes with gripping hands attached and can swap to open ones. He also has a trio of mini figures: Figaro, Jiminy, and Cleo the goldfish. Of the three, Jiminy is the most on-model, but being a tiny figure, Super7 had to use a lot of paint on him and it’s pretty messy. They also positioned him with his umbrella poking out below his feet so he’s pretty much impossible to stand on his own. He’s a soft plastic, so I found I have to hook that umbrella onto something in order for him to stand. Cleo is placed in her fish bowl and Super7 filled it with transparent plastic. I do wish they added a touch of blue to the water somewhere, but she looks fine. Figaro is the most off-model as his head is just too big. It’s the one thing I wanted to see changed from the prototype that didn’t happen. His head can rotate and he looks okay, but he could be better. Pinocchio also comes with his school book and an apple for his teacher and both look fine. Lastly, there’s an axe, which I initially thought was Stromboli’s, but it’s actually the axe Pinocchio is seen holding for all of 3 seconds on Pleasure Island. Are people really going to pose Pinocchio wielding an axe? It’s also just plain, brown, plastic for the handle with no sculpted wood grain. I could definitely do without.
That’s a fair amount of stuff, but it feels like Super7 just could have done better. Why not more hand options? Fists, or maybe a pointing finger on fire and the candle to go with it? That would have been nice to have and I definitely would have traded that axe for such. I’m guessing Disney wouldn’t let them do a smoking head or a drunk one, which is too bad as both would have been visually amusing. What I think most though are surprised to not see included is a donkey head. Pinocchio with big donkey ears and an optional tail would make sense and even encourage a second purchase. Maybe Super7 will do Lampwick and figure out a way to get those accessories for Pinocchio into the release, but he lacks a hole for the tail to go into so that would certainly be a challenge. Also, it’s highly unlikely that Disney lets Super7 do a proper Lampwick as he definitely needs a cigar and a mug of beer. I also would have loved a second Jiminy that featured a frowning face so he could admonish Pinocchio. The hand waving and smiling one we got feels more like licensing art Jiminy as opposed to the character from the film.
I do have a lot of nitpicks with Super7’s Pinocchio and part of that is certainly coming from a place where I’ve seen this movie a lot, I love it, and I have a lot of opinions on what the best scenes are for the character in it. It’s likely that Super7 could not have totally satisfied me with the accessories, but that doesn’t mean they couldn’t have done better. The issues with the articulation are less nitpicky though as this figure is pretty poor from that aspect. There aren’t a lot of points of articulation here, and what is here isn’t of the best quality as we have floppy joints or joints that don’t seem to work as intended. As a result, I don’t know that I can give this figure as strong of a recommendation as my heart wants to. As a Pinocchio lover, I am happy to have this, but if I allow myself to be objective I have to acknowledge that this figure does have problems and it doesn’t feel like a premium, collector, figure. The quality doesn’t feel far removed from a Jakks figure you can find at Target for 10-12 bucks, except this one costs $45. The soft goods vest is nice, and the packaging is flashy, but the figure doesn’t really measure up. Only get this one if you’re a big fan of Pinocchio and are willing to accept its flaws.
The last of my San Diego Comic Con 2021 exclusives has finally arrived and it’s the event exclusive version of the Bandai/Tamashii Nations Super Saiyan God Goku. Now, Dragon Ball fans might quibble with my title for this article as I called it Dragon Ball Super when this form technically debuted in a Dragon Ball Z film, Battle of Gods, which would then be adapted into the anime series Dragon Ball Super. I’m just going with what’s on the packaging, folks, but if I had to place a label on this version of Goku I would say it does feel more like a Dragon Ball Super thing. At any rate, it’s the same film that featured the debut of Lord Beerus, who we looked at last week and it was my desire to add Beerus to my collection that prompted me to just get Goku too. The two clash in that film, and this figure felt like a good one to pair with Beerus. I’m not actually too keen on the Super Saiyan God transformation, but maybe this figure will change my mind.
Super Saiyan God was the latest power-up introduced in Battle of Gods and it would be quickly eclipsed by the Super Saiyan version of that, the mouthful Super Saiyan God Super Saiyan. Or, Super Saiyan Blue for short. I don’t really understand the specifics of the whole thing, but basically, in order for a Saiyan to attain this form, he needs to have five other Saiyans lend them their energy which somehow becomes divine and leads to this transformation. The actual transformation gives the Saiyan a firey red aura, turns their hair a red-pink, and actually causes them to slim down as opposed to bulk up. Since the shape of the hair remains the same, they don’t necessarily look like a Super Saiyan, which is this form can then go Super Saiyan and become the blue version. How Goku (and later Vegeta) learn how to use this form without the added step of having other Saiyans lend them energy is either not explained or not explained well. Either way, it wouldn’t be Dragon Ball if there wasn’t some element of things being made up as they go along, would it?
This version of Goku should feel pretty familiar to anyone who has handled one of the many recent Goku figures that Bandai has released. It’s the same body as the Super Saiyan Blue Goku I’ve already reviewed and Bandai has been able to get a lot of use out of this buck. The only difference I can see with that figure is the arms are actually smaller and leaner, which is appropriate for this form. I’m not sure if they’re the same as the Saiyan Raised on Earth Son Goku figure, since I don’t have that one, but it is nice to see a subtle difference between the two godly Goku figures since it makes sense. Outside of the biceps and forearms, the other difference really is just in the paint job and belt. This figure has a lighter orange to the gi likely to account for the aura and because it’s the event exclusive color edition. The belt is the Cell Saga era belt too which doesn’t feature a knot and the boots are a much brighter shade of blue. The laces are also painted red like the piping as opposed to brown. The choice of colors, combined with the translucent, pink, hair, does really help to create the illusion that Goku is glowing. It’s neat, and I think it works well for this form.
Beyond those changes, a lot of the figure feels the same. There’s some shading on the front of the pants and abdomen, but that’s basically it. The other painted areas are the flesh color on the chest and the blue trim on the sleeves. Unfortunately, the left sleeve on mine was not painted particularly cleanly. The plastic on the face also doesn’t match the neck and chest as well as it could, otherwise, the painted details on the face look good. The plastic inside the butterfly joint is also cast in the proper color, orange, as opposed to flesh colored like my previous Goku figure so that’s a plus. There is no shading on the crotch area though, or on the upper torso, which will probably irritate some. I get their reluctance to shade the crotch because if it goes too heavy he might look like he pissed himself, but more shading would have been nice. It seems to be something the original release of this figure has over this one, as just looking up images of that reveals a more vibrant release.
The figure also feels the same because the accessories are pretty much the same. You get four faces with this guy: stoic, smiling, teeth grit, and yelling. They all look fine, though I’m kind of partial to the stoic face for this form. As far as hands go, you get the fisted hands in the box plus flat palms, martial arts pose, Kamehameha, and wide open hands. Pretty much the only hand you don’t get is an instant transmission hand, but we have plenty of those in other sets so I don’t think it’s a loss. There’s no effects part though, which is always a bummer. Being an event exclusive, I wish Bandai had added an aura effect since this guy did retail for $50, but that’s how it goes.
The articulation for Goku is, stop me if you heard me say it already, the same as past Goku releases. He has the floaty pieces in his hips to cover up the joint and the sleeves which peg into the shoulders that I’ve never really liked. He can look up and down no problem and the butterfly joints in the shoulders allow Goku to do his signature energy blast poses. His head is on the old ball-hinge the original release had, and not the updated ball peg which is much better. It works, but sometimes you have to fight it to get it to bend where you want it to. At least it works better on Goku than it did on Beerus since his entire head swaps and you can accidentally get that hinge facing in a direction you don’t want. The hips don’t go out very far to the side, but he can kick forward and back because has those floating pieces instead of a sculpted butt. The knees and elbows will get you better than 90 degrees while the ball-peg ankles are just okay. The toe hinge is bad. Most of the joints are nice and smooth, with the lone exception being the right thigh twist on my figure. This is a first for me, but that thing is stuck. I have never had this issue with a Figuarts release before, but one twist caused the leg to pop off. Thankfully, it’s just a ball and socket connection so no damage was done, but it is a bummer.
Does this figure make me a fan of Super Saiyan God? Yes and no. I think the translucent effect with the hair and the brighter approach to the color palette work really well, and it’s essentially what you’re paying for if you get this exclusive. I think that approach to the hair is an improvement over the standard release from a few years back, but probably not enough of one to warrant an upgrade if you already have it. Otherwise, he’s a Figuarts Goku. It’s a good figure, I wish mine didn’t have that paint error on one sleeve, but aside from that it feels like a quality figure. I don’t regret my purchase, but I’m also not doing backflips. If you’re at all familiar with this line, then you should probably know if you want this figure or not. And if you do, and you have yet to purchase one, well you’re in trouble because the secondary market is essentially all that remains. The prices I’m seeing aren’t terrible, but they’re obviously more than the $50 it would have cost you last summer.
For many years, one of the most talked about subjects in the world of movie sequels was the prospect of a Ghostbusters 3. The original film was released back in 1984 and a cultural phenomenon was born. It was a huge hit for both its comedic acting and for the (at the time) incredible special effects. It blossomed from there into a franchise that appealed mainly to children via the DiC production The Real Ghostbusters. That was my introduction to the franchise as a little kid. I’d park myself in front of the TV every weekday for that cartoon. It was the last one of the day as usually my mom took over the TV soon after to watch the evening news. I can distinctly remember being seated on the carpet of my living room floor with our big, chunky, RCA console television with the keypad channel select in-front of me as the sun gradually went down and the house grew progressively darker. The light from the TV during the closing credits was often the only thing illuminating the room when the show concluded in the fall and winter months and the sounds and smells of my mom preparing dinner would filter in.
Ghostbusters was my first love when it came to a brand. I had a collection of action figures, vehicles, and the ever important fire house play set at my fingertips. And slime, lots of slime, which stained my clothes and ruined carpets. It’s smell is as familiar to me today as it was back then. Like all kids, I eventually drifted away as I was seduced by some reptiles who practiced ninjutsu, but of course I’ve held a fondness for the property my entire life. I would eventually be introduced to the original film, and when the sequel came out I was in prime Ghostbuster-loving form. As an adult, I certainly appreciate that original film more than I did as a kid and it’s rightly held up as a classic.
Still, when it came to the concept of a Ghostbusters 3, I was decidedly lukewarm. Over the years, it became apparent that not everyone wanted it to happen. Actor/writer Dan Aykroyd very much wanted to do a third film, and it certainly sounded like Harold Ramis, Ernie Hudson, and director Ivan Reitman were onboard. The main holdout was Bill Murray, who seemed to have no desire to revisit the franchise either because it didn’t interest him or due to personal conflicts with some of the other parties involved, in particular, Ramis. I know a few fans who were angry and disappointed with Murray over his stance, but I personally never was. You can’t do Ghostbusters without Peter Venkman, and you can’t recast the role either. If his heart isn’t in it, then why force the issue? The existing sequel already wasn’t very good, so maybe the world didn’t need more Ghostbusters?
Murray’s reluctance didn’t stop the franchise from moving forward. Eventually, a compromise was reached in the form of the Ghostbusters video game for PlayStation 3 and Xbox 360 and other consoles. It featured the voice cast from the films and put players in the role of a new Ghostbuster. Some encounters from the films were rehashed and then the plot moved forward into a realm that the movies probably never would have gone. A reboot was also released in 2016, Ghostbusters: Answer the Call, which featured cameos from the original cast in different roles. It received a mixed response, some of which was due to misogyny as millions of man-babies scoffed at the all-female cast, which is unfortunate. Sony declined to turn it into a bonafide franchise, despite it being a profitable film. Apparently, it didn’t make enough money or maybe the toy sales failed to meet expectations.
What changed things was, unfortunately, the death of Harold Ramis in 2014. It was during that time that he and Murray apparently made-up and a new wave of nostalgia flowed from the property. It probably helped in getting everyone onboard for the reboot, but when that failed to become a franchise it seemed to put a third film back into focus. It ended up being Jason Reitman, son of director Ivan Reitman, who was able to come up with a script for a third film with his writing partner Gil Kenan, and get everyone onboard for a new film. It wouldn’t be a reboot, but a sequel with the aim of restarting the franchise with a new cast of Ghostbusters. It wouldn’t require the original characters and actors to do the heavy lifting, which is probably what interested Murray the most, and it would also give a new generation a chance to succeed as Ghostbusters.
Ghostbusters: Afterlife is the result of all of that. The film was originally slated for 2020, but COVID happened and the release was delayed until late 2021 as Sony likely expected this to do big numbers in theaters. Reitman would direct with his father on-hand as a producer. Adolescent characters are the focus of the film, so naturally Finn Wolfhard was imported from Stranger Things to play Trevor, McKenna Grace was cast as younger sister Phoebe, and Carrie Coons was cast as their mother, Callie. The three are evicted from their apartment at the start of the film and forced to move to the desolate town of Summerville where Carrie’s absent father lived most recently up until his passing. The film actually begins with her father, who is quite obviously a Ghostbuster (and it’s pretty obvious which, but I’ll refrain from spoiling it), and his final moments.
The family is not particularly happy about their new home, but they adapt. It soon becomes obvious that something weird is going on in Summerville. Phoebe is the film’s center as she makes friends fast with a kid who calls himself Podcast (Logan Kim) and attracts the attention of her summer school instructor Gary Grooberson (Paul Rudd), a seismologist just collecting a check while trying to figure out why a town positioned on no fault line has daily earthquakes. Phoebe soon has odd encounters with the paranormal in her new, spooky, house and this sets the kids on course to finding out who their grandfather was and what he was dealing with up until his death.
Because of its focus on the kids, Ghostbusters: Afterlife very much feels like Stranger Things meets Ghostbusters. The kids spend the bulk of the film investigating and uncovering the supernatural, and it’s a solid approach for this kind of film. It is a bit unrealistic that the kids are completely unfamiliar with the events of the first two Ghostbusters films, but the movie tries to offer a plausible explanation for that. Ultimately, it’s not that important as it’s more fun for the kids to be mostly unaware. Rudd is the stand-in for the older, male, audience likely flocking to see the film as, unlike the kids, he knows who the Ghostbusters are and he geeks out over the items Phoebe finds in her house. He’s a fanboy, and he remains in the picture partially because he takes a liking to Phoebe’s mom. He’s his usual, likable, self though with great comedic timing.
The young actors all do a terrific job, but it’s McKenna Grace as Phoebe who steals the show. The film asks a lot of her, but she’s up to the task of playing the brainy, socially awkward, pre-teen. She begins the film as a paranormal denier, but she’s also inquisitive and willing to investigate everything her new home throws at her without prejudice. Anyone even remotely familiar with the original film knows where her journey will take her, but she’s such a likable character that we’re onboard with following her and invested in her own journey.
Because this film is designed primarily to appeal to those who grew up on Ghostbusters, it does contain a pretty sizable deal of fan service. There’s lots of easter eggs present in the film, some are tied into the plot and others are just for fun. There’s no real mystery where the film is going, but like an amusement park ride that’s on display for all to see, I think most are onboard with knowing the destination even if it’s plainly obvious. The film drip feeds the audience with the nostalgic moments, saving the big payoff for the final act, and it’s a satisfying ride. You’ll laugh, you’ll cheer, and yes, you will probably cry before it’s all over.
Special effects were a huge component of the original film, and they’re obviously a part of this one as well. The film doesn’t rely on them as much, since special effects are basically in everything, but they are done pretty well. The film incorporates practical effects where possible which helps in not making it look too far removed from the original film. There’s also still plenty of computer-aided visuals and they all look fine. The soundtrack very much invokes the memory of the first film, and yes, the classic theme song will make an appearance at some point. What’s perhaps even more successfully nostalgic are the recycled sound effects we all know and love. Proton packs, traps, the Ecto-1 itself all basically sound the same or near enough to fool me.
Ghostbusters: Afterlife is very much a fun, nostalgic, trip back through the franchise that offers a clear path forward as well. It’s not so focused on nostalgia that it can’t entertain someone unfamiliar with the franchise, but it likely won’t land as hard for them. This is the fan service reboot I think a lot of people wanted. It’s not exactly what some may have envisioned of a true Ghostbusters 3, but I think it’s the best possible sequel we could have got. I personally did not want to see a bunch of old guys running around New York again trapping ghosts and that’s partly why I was never personally hung-up on the prospect of a third film. This film approaches Ghostbusters as something to be revered, without taking itself too seriously. There’s plenty of heart and laughs and it does set itself up for a new round of films focused on a younger cast. There may be some who wanted to see more of Ray, Pete, and Winston, but I think the vast majority of people who sit down to watch this will enjoy it. It’s definitely more interested in serving those older fans, so even though Reitman clearly wants to continue with this new cast, I’m not sure the majority of fans will walk away eager for what’s next. Those stories can be figured out later though. For now, this is a wonderful tribute to the late Harold Ramis, and unfortunately has become one for the recently passed Ivan Reitman. I think it’s a film that everyone connected with the property can feel proud of, and it’s a sweet goodbye to these classic characters.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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!”
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.
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.
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.”
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.”
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.
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.
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.
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.
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!”
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.
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 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!”
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.”
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!”
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.
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.
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.
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!
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.
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?
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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?!
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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?
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 doeslook 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).
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.”
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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!”
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.
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.
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!
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.
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.