Tag Archives: christmas

Donald Duck Turns 86!

It’s June 9, and that means I can’t let the day go by without acknowledging that it is the birthday of my favorite animated character: Donald Duck. Donald Duck debuted in the 1934 short The Wise Little Hen and it wasn’t long before he joined Mickey and the gang becoming one of the most popular characters in the world. The past few years, I’ve marked the occasion with a post about one of the four Walt Disney Treasures releases of The Chronological Donald Duck. Well, I’ve run out of them! I’ve shared my thoughts on all four volumes now, so this year I’m giving you a quick post about some of the Donald Duck merchandise I’ve acquired over the past year.

Now it should be said, the best way to celebrate Donald Duck these days is via Disney+. Not to sound like a commercial, but Disney+ is the most convenient way to get your Donald fix as there are a handful of classic shorts, movies that feature Donald, episodes of Disneyland also featuring Donald, and even an exclusive series definitely worth watching called Legend of the Three Caballeros. To celebrate Donald’s birthday, Disney even added a Donald Duck section to Disney+ to make it easier to find stuff featuring everyone’s favorite waterfowl. It was long overdue too, as finding Donald shorts was a pain on the platform.

Everyone in my family knows I’m nuts for that duck, so Donald themed gifts are an easy way to my heart. The only challenge is getting to them before I do. This clock I keep on my nightstand is something I bought for me, and I actually bought it nearly 10 years ago so unlike everything else this one is not from the past year. I just felt it was worth sharing. It’s a sculpture featuring the classic black and white Donald from 1934 alongside a more modern Donald. It was commissioned to celebrate his 65th birthday and the actual clock is a pocket watch which is removable. It even came with a thick, gold colored, chain if you wish to sport it as a traditional pocket watch. I have only done so on one such occasion: my wedding. You’re damn right I was repping Donald on my wedding day.

This key-shaped ornament is something I acquired a year to the day. It was an item sold on Donald’s birthday last year in celebration of his 85th birthday. Some other merch was available too, like pins, but I’ve resisted the temptation to become a Disney pin collector. These keys are something the Disney Store turns to often to get people into the store. Basically, they’re first come, first serve and you have to buy them. I don’t remember what it cost, but apparently Disney collectors love them as there was a huge line before opening the day these came out by me. I was almost in trouble too as my kids had seen the advertisement for this thing ahead of time and I told them, “Sure, we’ll go get the special Donald key.” When we arrived to see that line I had to start preparing them for the possibility we might get shut out. We were fortunate though and managed to receive one of the last ones and it’s hung on my wall ever since.

These slippers were a Christmas gift from my wife and kids last year. They’re by a company called Happy Feet, and I liked them so much that I got my wife some for Valentine’s Day (Santa also brought some for my kids). Happy Feet makes two styles of slippers: big, puffy, character head ones like these, and also a zipper slipper that’s a more conventional slipper shape, but has a removable toe section. They’re called Zlipperz and they’re pretty neat. They do have Donald ones and I may have to grab a pair of those eventually to pair with these. These ones are super comfortable, though with the weather heating up I’m wearing them less and less. I’m sure they’ll wait patiently for me to turn to them this Fall when the weather cools.

Lastly, how about some Christmas in July June? These are some ornaments that were released for Christmas 2019 and if you read this blog regularly you know how I feel about Christmas. The one on the left is a traditional globe-styled ornament in a heavy-duty box. The ornament features redrawn images from the classic Christmas short Toy Tinkers starring Donald Duck alongside Chip and Dale. The middle ornament is a tin lunchbox with artwork from the latest edition of DuckTales adorning it. It opens to reveal a tiny thermos as well. Donald is featured on both the lunch box and the thermos and both also have a little eyelet to attach a hook to hang from a tree. It has yet to hang from one of my trees though as I actually got this after the holidays when it was on sale (FYI – right now is prime Christmas ornament buying season as Hallmark makes room for the coming year). And on the right, we have another commemorative ornament celebrating Donald’s 85th birthday. It’s double-sided with one side featuring a sculpture of a black and white Donald and the other featuring a modern interpretation. A circular medallion featuring the number 85 is affixed to the string from which it’s supposed to hang. Beware though, this sucker is pretty heavy for an ornament and can tumble easily from a Christmas tree.

That’s but a small piece of the Donald Duck collection in my home. It’s a collection I’m always looking to add to so hopefully 2020 brings more Donald my way. The next big year for Donald will probably be 2024 when he turns 90 and I expect there to be a whole bunch of new items then. And at that point we can begin the countdown to Donald’s 100th. I’m already saving now as I need to be at a Disney park for that one!


Dec. 23 – Missing in Action Christmas Specials

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The closest the original DuckTales got to Christmas was this TV spot.

When you do an annual advent calendar-styled countdown of Christmas programming, you start to realize the brands you can rely on and what you cannot. It can be a challenge to find 25 worthy topics, so in order to prevent a time crunch every fall I keep a list of specials I can source from. Throughout the year if I stumble across one I’ll add it to the list. Sometimes I’ll think I’ve found something only to find out it was a misleading title such as the episode “It’s a Thunderful Life” of the not well-remembered The Terrible Thunder Lizards program. And then there are times when I’ll find a special and I’ll view it, only to find there’s nothing to talk about. It’s not good, nor is it really bad, it’s just bland and forgettable.

Inevitably, I’ll take a look at my list at various times throughout the year and I’ll be surprised at an absence. I’ll then seek out the special I think I’m looking for only to be reminded that, “Oh yeah, that show never had a Christmas episode.” One of my top offenders each year was DuckTales. The original run for that show ran for over 100 episodes and never broached the subject of Christmas, even though Scrooge McDuck debuted in a Christmas comic book! Disney was new to television with that series and also new to syndication. Television stations typically don’t like syndicated programs to feature seasonal episodes since they don’t want to have to worry about when the episode airs. Who wants to see a Christmas episode in May? It’s an overblown issue though, which is probably why many syndicated shows would toss that aside and go with whatever stories they wanted to tell. The new version of DuckTales rectified this problem, as we saw way back on December first, which is why I’ve decided not to include the 87 version in this post.

In the spirit of this phenomenon, as it were, I want to highlight the cartoons that decided against doing a Christmas episode. These are the shows I’m most surprised by, and some of them have tripped me up more than once. I’ve looked through the episode list for these programs repeatedly looking for key words like Santa, Christmas, presents, or even snow. Alas, I guess when it came to Christmas and these shows, it just wasn’t meant to be.

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Despite their numerous rescues, the Rescue Rangers never saved Christmas.

Chip ‘n Dale: Rescue Rangers

Hot on the heels of DuckTales came Chip ‘n Dale:  Rescue Rangers. This show took the comedic duo who harassed Donald Duck and Pluto on numerous occasions and gave them their own show where they solved crimes a d helped those in need – quite a turn for the former mischief makers. They were paired with some newcomers in the inventor mouse Gadget and the cheese-obsessed Monterey Jack. Zipper the fly completed the group and they were often tasked with solving crimes or rescuing someone. The show was another direct-to-syndication affair with a 65 episode order that premiered in the fall of 1989. And like DuckTales, there was no Christmas episode for these adventurers even though one practically would have wrote itself. The diminutive heroes often found themselves helping kids, so helping a kid get on Santa’s good side could have been a plot. Or having the Rescue Rangers just plain save Christmas from a Grinch-like villain would have worked fine. Seeing the Rangers ride around in Santa’s sleigh would have been a great and festive way to end an episode. Pretty much all of the Disney Afternoon programs that followed would get a Christmas special. The only one off the top of my head I think did not is Gargoyles. I also don’t think many of the shows based on film properties (e.g. – Aladdin, The Little Mermaid, Timon and Pumba) had Christmas episodes either. Alas, we’ll just have to make due with the classic Disney shorts Toy Tinkers and Pluto’s Christmas Tree if we want to see the chipmunks in action around the holidays.

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There is a ton of TMNT Christmas merch out there, but surprisingly no television special to go with it.

Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles (1987)

The Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles were a marketing bonanza in the late 80s and into the early 90s. The show basically existed because Playmates needed it to in order to sell toys, which is how many cartoons from that era came about. And it was a great vehicle to do so as the Turtles often had new vehicles and inventions to make use of and there was always a new mutant to battle who could quickly become an action figure. That merchandizing tie-in aspect of the show makes it a bit of a surprise it didn’t bring along Christmas, the time of year when more toys are sold than at any other point. Playmates could have been handed holiday versions of the Turtles and other characters in which they’re wearing festive sweaters or are even decked out like Santa and his elves. There could have been a mutated reindeer friend for the Turtles, maybe one with a radioactive, glowing, red, nose! A sleigh that is rocket-propelled and drops bombs or a gnarly snowboard for Mikey to hit the slopes with. Plus, there was a Christmas story all ready to go in the comics in the form of the Michaelangelo one-shot issue from Mirage in which Mikey busts up an illegal toy-smuggling ring. That episode would be adapted for the 2003 cartoon and titled “The Christmas Aliens,” but it amazes me it took over 15 years for that to happen.

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Yes, it would be silly and possibly stupid to have Goku face-off with Santa, but I bet it would be a lot of fun!

Dragon Ball

One of the longest running anime ever has produced hundred of hours of television, and not once has Christmas been relied upon to drive an episode. Dragon Ball and its many iterations has been entertaining kids and adults since the mid 1980s. It’s known as much for its action as it is for its silly and sometimes juvenile sense of humor. It’s that aspect of it that seems to make it ripe for a Christmas special. An ignorant Goku could have been introduced to the concept of Christmas by one of his friends and found the custom confusing. He could have ended up giving weird gifts, or doing something selfless and noble, either would be in-character. I think a somewhat comedically dark ending with Goku out in the wilderness seeing Santa and blasting him with a Kamehameha could have been entertaining too. Maybe the episode ends with him roasting a reindeer after Santa fled in panic with Goku clueless over what he had just done. These are all more Dragon Ball-styled plots. A Dragon Ball Z or Dragon Ball Super plot would obviously involve Goku challenging Santa to a fight. Santa would either be super powerful, or super not with Goku accidentally really hurting him in a slapstick kind of way. Maybe following such an injury, Goku has to take over as Santa for a night which has comedic potential as well, so much so that I’ve basically talked myself into wanting this. And it all ends with Oolong getting a stocking full of women’s underwear on Christmas morning. Now that’s a sentimental sort of ending.

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Goofy has experienced Christmas via Mickey and Goof Troop, but he never got to star in a holiday short of his very own.

Goofy

In the 90s, Goofy received his own show. It was basically an animated sitcom, and it put Goofy in the role of a single father. Goof Troop was a surprisingly poignant show and a different take on the character than what we were used to seeing. Goofy had shown a domesticated side on occasion in his old shorts, but nothing really like this. Goof Troop received it’s own Christmas special, and the characters returned in the same role for Mickey’s Once Upon a Christmas years later with a different Christmas outing. That’s good that Goofy got multiple looks at it because he was the lone holdout back in the days of the cartoon short to not have a Christmas episode. Donald Duck received Toy Tinkers, while Mickey and Pluto both got to star in Pluto’s Christmas Tree, but Goofy got nothing. That’s why when packages of cartoons were shown with Mickey’s Christmas Carol on television the Goofy short often shown was The Art of Skiing, a quality short for sure, but not a Christmas one. Goofy comically trying to setup a tree or decorate a house seems like a great way to use his brand of physical comedy. It could have even been in the form of one of his classic “How to” shorts such as “How to Prepare for the Holidays.” Goofy playing Santa, Goofy cooking a turkey, Goofy wrapping gifts – it’s almost too easy! Maybe that’s why it never happened?

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This show was just a commercial for Nintendo products so it’s surprising that they didn’t add in the wonder of Christmas at any point.

Captain N: The Game Master

Captain N was possibly the only show more cynical than Masters of the Universe or Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles when it came to hawking merchandise. It was basically an animated commercial for Nintendo as the main character, Kevin, sported a Nintendo controller as a belt buckle and armed himself with a zapper. His allies in the show were all stars of their own video games like Kid Icarus and Simon Belmont and they even made the Game Boy a character later on. Maybe the showrunners felt that doing a Christmas episode would be too on the nose, but I think it would have fit the mold just fine. Imagine all of the Nintendo products that could have been piled under that cartoon tree. I’m not saying it would have been good, as this show is pretty terrible to revisit, but it may have at least featured some ironic humor. At the very least, we could have seen Dracula’s castle covered in snow or found out if a Game Boy can function during a blizzard.


Dec. 21 – Nerds and Monsters – “Zanti-Clops”

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Original air date August 27, 2014 (how festive).

I was doing a lot of different things in the year 2014. It was a busy one, but one thing I was not doing was watching Canadian children’s animation. Which is why I had zero knowledge of the cartoon series Nerds and Monsters before today. Nerds and Monsters, from what I have read and the little I have seen, seems to be a show about four kids who have somehow become stranded on an island of monsters. The children are the nerds, though one of them is a jock, and the monsters are just monsters. The kids clash with the monsters since their culture is foreign to them and maybe some of the monsters want to eat them or something.

Nerds and Monsters ran for 40 episodes before wrapping-up in 2016. During its brief existence it won several Leo Awards and a Canadian Screen Award. It would seem it was a quality show based on those accolades, not that awards are necessarily the best way to measure the quality of a piece of art. The show aired in a variety of places outside of the United States, where I reside, though Hulu did pick it up eventually, though it no longer is shown there.

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This is not a show I ever really heard of, but it’s an interesting pairing.

Each episode of Nerds and Monsters comes in at a fairly typical 22 minutes without ads. Each episode is broken up into two roughly 11 minute shorts and it was during the show’s twentieth episode that a Christmas special was run. It’s called “Zanti-Clops,” and as you probably could have guessed, is about the monster version of the holiday with the Santa stand-in being a monstrous cyclops. The kids will learn about this holiday and have to judge it for themselves and surely some culture shock will take place that hopefully leads to laughs.

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Let me tell you a tale of a kid-devouring, poop leaving, magical being known as Zanti-Clops.

The episode begins with the leader of the monsters, Zarg (Brian Dobson), regaling the monster children with the tale of Zanti-Clops. He summons a small monster named Tiny Stink to sit on his knee as he begins his little story. Tiny Stink is clearly an homage to Tiny Tim for he’s missing a leg and has a crutch instead. Zanti-Clops is the monster version of Santa who enters your home and takes your unwanted junk. In return, he leaves the monster children with a pile of magical, green, dung which resembles the poop of Roger the alien from American Dad!, only green instead of gold. Monsters apparently prize dung, or at least the dung of Zanti-Clops, as this is a desirable outcome for them. The catch though is if they sneak a peek at the monster he’ll eat them in retaliation. Tiny Stink claims this is how he lost his leg when he glimpsed the monster’s shadow and he’s genuinely grateful to Zanti-Clops for only taking his leg. With the story over, Zarg barks at the kids to get them to scatter and it’s only now that I notice his festive hat is meant to resemble the magic poo.

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The main cast, as far as I know: (left to right) Becky, Lyle, Dudley, Irwin, and Stan.

On a beach, the human children are going about their evening. Becky (Tabitha St. Germain), the only girl in the group, is examining a bug with her magnifying glass until a tortoise eats it. She ends up breaking the magnifying glass and is heartbroken as a result. Lyle (Brian Drummond) a little monster kid, comes running over to share the tale of Zanti-Clops with the kids. They are surprisingly not grossed out by the inclusion of poop in the story and are really receptive to the idea. Irwin (Vincent Tong) has an action figure with a pair of busted legs he’d like to get rid of and Stan (Ty Olsson), the jock, would like to get rid of his football as it’s become deflated (he thinks the engine is busted).

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The only cartoon where kids literally get dumped on.

The only kid not onboard with this Zanti-Clops thing is Dudley (St. Germain). Dudley is apparently the holiday killjoy as he doesn’t believe in magical anything. He views the promise of death if Zanti-Clops is spotted as being rather convenient despite Lyle’s protests. His insistence on Zanti-Clops being a myth causes Lyle to cry and run away leaving the other children angry with him. He then details why he doesn’t believe in such nonsense as sometime ago he really wanted a specific protractor for Christmas. We’re shown a flashback of him doing lots of chores in order to make sure he was on the nice list, one of which involves him falling into a toilet only for his dad to come sit on it and apparently defecate upon his son. This show really likes poop jokes. When Christmas morning came, Dudley received many toys, but rather than get the metal protractor he wanted he instead received a plastic one – the worst thing ever!

He pulls out the device and waves it around as a symbol of what believing in magical things can do to you. The other kids are sympathetic, but  don’t allow it to dissuade them from participating in this holiday tradition. Dudley shouts out a warning as they run off and tries to snap the protractor for added emphasis, only he’s too weak so Stan does it for him.

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I know what I’m putting at the top of my Christmas list this year!

The next morning, they all awake to find their junk has been replaced with majestic piles of dung. They’re all really excited to have this unique dropping, and Lyle comes back to show off the dung necklace he fashioned using the poop from past visits from Zanti-Clops. Dudley is the only kid who did not receive anything, but he also may not have put his junk out for Zanti-Clops to take. He’s still skeptical and thinks Lyle just came into their rooms, stole their junk, and took a shit as thanks (my words, not his). Lyle doesn’t understand how Dudley could remain unconvinced and wants to prove to him Zanti-Clops is real. The only way Dudley will be convinced though is if Lyle takes him to the cave at the top of the island’s mountain where Zanti-Clops apparently lives.

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I’m not an advocate for bullying, but it wouldn’t bother me to see Dudley get punched.

Despite his fear of being devoured, Lyle agrees to take Dudley up the mountain. And he literally has to take him for Dudley just stands still with his arms folded across his chest. He rides atop Lyle’s head through a cactus patch and has to be pulled up the steeper part of the mountain via a rope tied around Lyle’s waist. Eventually they reach the cave at dusk and find it’s empty. Dudley is ready to gloat and lets Lyle know he’s more than happy to say “I told you so,” at the sight of the empty cave. As the two walk out, Lyle hears the unmistakable sound of pain-deer, the screaming creatures that haul the sleigh of Zanti-Clops. They spot the monster flying through the sky and realize they went to the wrong cave.

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He’s real! He’s really real!

Once they get to the right cave, Lyle is too scared to enter. The two see it’s full of bones and junk forcing Dudley to concede that Zanti-Clops is real. He’s not willing to concede that he’s magical though, and just thinks he’s some monster running a junk for poop scheme. For some reason, he demands they have their junk returned and goes running in to confront the monster. Zanti-Clops (Lee Tockar) sees him and moves on him fast. The monster grabs Dudley and is prepared to eat him until Lyle comes running in. He has his eyes closed so that he doesn’t see Zanti-Clops and explains to him that Dudley doesn’t believe in magical beings. Zanti-Clops encourages Lyle to open his eyes. He’s apparently nicer than we’ve been lead to believe.

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And he’s also a monster with a reputation to uphold.

Zanti-Clops thanks Lyle for believing in him, and then turns his attention back to Dudley. Despite all that has transpired, Dudley is as stubborn as ever and perhaps foolishly brave. He tells Zanti-Clops he thinks he’s just a criminal, and explains his past holiday grievance while waving his busted protractor around. Zanti-Clops happily takes it from him, as it’s now junk, and seems to lose interest in convincing the kid the world possesses magic in it. Instead, he tells them a fact of his own:  if they tell anyone they saw him he’ll come for them and eat them! That’s enough to get the two to run away screaming.

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Looks like the little jerk got his Christmas…I mean, Zanti-Clops wish after all.

Dudley and Lyle return to the beach and see the other kids. They’re all in awe of the fact that their junk was returned to them in perfect working order. Dudley is confused, but Lyle knows this is the work of Zanti-Clops. Irwin then gives Dudley a big present he found outside his cave. When Dudley opens it he tearfully pulls out the protractor he always wanted. He proclaims that he believes, and soon the kids see Zanti-Clops flying overhead. They shout out their thanks, but Zanti-Clops screams back that they saw him and now must be devoured. He swoops down in his sleigh and the kids run away in terror. Elsewhere, some monster children are singing in a circle a festive, Zanti-Clops song which is capped off when a massive pile of green poop drops into the center of their circle. The end.

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And more poop.

So this one is a bit gross. I would expect a monster version of Santa to possess some nastiness about him, but I wasn’t expecting him to leave shit behind for other kids. It feels like a very 90s sort of gag, especially in a post Ren & Stimpy world. Where as Ren & Stimpy were able to be both clever and gross, a monster Santa that literally just craps is hardly what I would consider clever. I also found it odd that his poop really looked like Roger’s and it’s hard to believe one wasn’t influenced by the other. There’s not much of a holiday message here, besides advocating for the belief in magical beings, but I get a sense that sentimentality wasn’t something this show desired to achieve.

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How can you not love this guy? Just look at all the fun he’s having!

Some of the stuff in this episode was fairly amusing though. The Stan character is comically dumb and most of his jokes don’t land, but a couple did get a smile out of me. I would have liked to see more of the monsters as the opening scene had promise, but after the concept of Zanti-Clops is introduced we basically leave the monsters behind. The pain-deer legitimately got a laugh out of me, though I was disappointed Zanti-Clops only got to have two of them. Dudley is an easy to dislike character, a know-it-all with a very smug attitude. He’s the kind of character you want to see get punched. He doesn’t really get any comeuppance though, just some momentary fright. He even gets what he wanted in the end. I would have preferred if the final gag in the episode was Dudley holding up his precious protractor only to get nailed by that massive pile of poo.

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He may not be Santa, but Zanti-Clops knows you’re supposed to fly past a moon at least once. He even doubles up on this by flying past the north star as well.

The plot may not have been too clever, and the jokes just okay, but the production values otherwise are actually really good. This one comes from Slap Happy Cartoons Inc. and it’s a really nice looking piece of animation. There is some flatness to the characters, but the color palette is wonderful and I mostly liked the designs of the monsters. Zarg, in particular, had a My Pet Monster vibe to him that I appreciated and Zanti-Clops was nice and ugly. By comparison, the humans were less interesting and mostly fit into old clichés. The only one I did enjoy was Dudley, mostly because they successfully made a child seem punchable, which is impressively awful. The voice cast is also really good and I genuinely enjoyed all of the performances present here.

Once upon a time you could have viewed this on Hulu, but no more. Fret not though as this entire series is free to stream on YouTube in nice quality. I suppose it’s not available for purchase and that’s why it’s so freely available. Or it could be because it has no broadcast contract, in particular in the US, so there’s no one to make a claim against it. If you like monsters and want something a touch gross, this is fine. It’s paired with a winter themed episode that is also quite disgusting so I’m guessing that was the show’s M.O. It’s short enough that it warrants a look even if it’s just curiosity bringing you in.


Dec. 20 – Lilo & Stitch: The Series – Topper: Experiment 025

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“Topper” originally aired December 5, 2003.

Last year, I fell down a bit of a Lilo & Stitch rabbit hole when it came time to do this list. I first researched the animated series known as Lilo & Stitch: The Series and its Christmas special “Topper: Experiment 025.” I ended up reading about the expanded lore the universe established in 2002’s Lilo & Stitch and that was how I found out that there was an anime based on the series. That lead to my post last year about the anime’s Christmas special, in the process basically forgetting about the episode I originally had intended on talking about.

Well, this year I’m here to right that which is wrong. Not that I regret doing that post or anything, but this is the one I intended to run with. Following the success of the movie, Lilo & Stitch became a brand Disney felt it could not ignore. As it had done with film properties before, Disney turned to television. An animated series was commissioned and it arrived quite quickly to airwaves beginning in 2003 as part of the current block of Disney programming. This was essentially the waning days of the once treasured Disney Afternoon and I don’t think that branding was even in use at the time. Considering I was off to college and would not even see the film the show was based on for quite some time, I completely missed out on this show. I don’t know if that’s a good thing or a bad thing, but it is a thing.

Like many Disney Afternoon shows that preceded it, Lilo & Stitch got to take a stab at the old Christmas special thing. From what I understand, this show followed a format where a new experiment was unveiled basically every episode. As you may recall from the film, Stitch is experiment number 626 implying that there are 625 additional experiments out there for the show to explore. Interestingly, had the show run long enough to highlight all 625 experiments it still wouldn’t have as many episodes as The Simpsons currently boasts. Anyways, the show ran for two seasons spanning 67 episodes which is a rather solid run. There was a tie-in film as well, simply called Stitch!, and as far as I know the other Lilo & Stitch sequels adopted the show as canon as well. There’s a pretty large chunk of media based on this franchise I’ve never really touched, despite my liking the original film quite a bit, so maybe this will get me interested in all of that. Or, maybe it won’t.

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It’s time for the alien who loves destruction to learn all about the holiday that destroys bank accounts.

This episode is all about Stitch’s first Christmas on Earth. Following the events of the film, the aliens Jumba (David Ogden Stiers) and Pleakley (Kevin McDonald) have moved in with the sisters Nani (Tia Carrere) and Lilo (Daveigh Chase) as well as the main attraction himself, Stitch (Chris Sanders). Captain Gantu (Kevin Michael Richardson) is still out there making life harder for Stitch and he’s got some pals as well: the seemingly always hungry Experiment 625 (Rob Paulsen) and the nefarious rival of Jumba, Dr. Hamsterviel (not present in this episode).

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Present hunting has more rules than you would think.

When the episode begins, Stitch and Lilo are eating breakfast while Lilo gives Stitch the info on Christmas. She instructs him to sneak off with her and as they tiptoe through the house they attract the attention of Nani. Nani instructs Lilo not to go looking for Christmas presents and she agrees to do so, but that’s a lie. She leads Stitch to the attic and tells him it’s Nani’s job as the older sister to buy the presents, and her job as the younger sister to find them. Nani has hidden them in the same spot as last year, in a chest in the attic (how predictable), and Lilo shows them to Stitch. She also informs him she’s hoping for a shrunken head this year as a gift, and adds that she tried to make one herself but her friend wasn’t cooperative. It’s nice to see Lilo still has a bit of darkness to her. Stitch wants to dig right into the presents, but Lilo stops him and says he can never open a Christmas present before Christmas. She may be a little naughty by snooping, but Lilo has a code she lives by.

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Never let an alien decorate your Christmas tree.

Lilo then leads Stitch to the living room to soak in some of that Christmas magic via the tree. There they find Pleakley has decorated the tree with what he thinks are traditional spherical objects. Rather than actual ornaments, the tree is covered in balls and clocks and things like that. Lilo points out that he’s a bit confused, but Pleakley isn’t dissuaded and rather adamant about his holiday knowledge. He then informs them he was about to place the perfect topper on the tree, the three-holed orb, which to us earthlings is known as a bowling ball. When Pleakley places the bowling ball on the tree it collapses. Since this is Hawaii, I’m going to assume they go with artificial trees, but any Hawaiians reading this correct me if I’m wrong.

Lilo is dismayed that the tree is ruined and Nani comes running in to survey the damage. She mentions this is the third one this year and informs Lilo she can’t afford a fourth. Lilo wants her to fix it right now, but she’s got to get to work. Lilo despairs momentarily about not having a tree for Christmas, but she gets over it rather quickly and informs Stitch if he wants to learn more about Christmas they need to go to the most festive place around:  the mall.

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Experiment 625 loves food and Christmas. He’s not your typical villain.

Elsewhere, 625 is enjoying a sandwich while wearing a festive Santa hat when Gantu comes in. Gantu has apparently received a major reduction in size between shows as he’s now just merely large as opposed to colossal. He has another experiment orb labeled 025 and he intends to give it to Hamsterviel. In staying with the spirit of the season, 625 encourages him to gift it to their unseen boss and Gantu surprisingly goes along with the suggestion.

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That’s a surefire way to get on the naughty list.

At the mall, Lilo is showing Stitch around which includes a trip to see Santa. Stitch hops on his lap and whispers into his ear and Santa recoils in horror informing Stitch he is truly naughty. Stitch then snatches his beard and tries to wish everyone a traditional Hawaiian holiday greeting, mele kalikimaka, but butchers the words. Lilo is also angry with him for swiping Santa’s beard and so is Santa.

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If the beard-swiping didn’t do the job, then stealing presents will definitely make sure Stitch is on the naughty list.

Stitch then notices something at the gift wrapping table. A woman is wrapping what is undoubtedly the capsule for experiment 025. Stitch races over to snatch the gift, which only makes Lilo angrier. She scolds him for going after presents that aren’t his, but when Stitch rips it open he just finds a toy inside. He starts grabbing all of the other presents and then bolts leaving Lilo to clean up after him. She explains it’s his first Christmas and he’s a bit excited. She departs and then Gantu shows up dressed as Santa to claim the gift he had wrapped. The woman informs him there was an accident, and when he inquires further he finds out it was a destructive blue dog that caused the problem. He then makes a festive holiday threat towards Stitch about making him a part of Christmas past.

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This Santa leaves behind nothing but screams and tears.

Stitch then goes on a montage. He is so determined to get that experiment capsule that he sports a Santa hat and steals all of the presents on the island. The montage is set to a barely recognizable rock n’ roll version of “Jingle Bells” and is sprinkled with some humorous moments. All the while, Lilo is giving chase and unable to catch up with Stitch who is always one step ahead.

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The Grinch would be quite impressed with Stitch’s holiday thievery.

She eventually winds up back at her home where Stitch has locked himself in the attic. Jumba is angry with Stitch for not sharing any of the presents he’s acquired, but he’s having no luck getting through the attic door. Lilo informs him there’s another way, and as the two disappear off camera Stitch peers out of the hatch to check for them. Jumba’s hands then appear behind him to grab him and the door slams shut leaving us to imagine how the confrontation is going as the camera shakes and a big commotion is overheard. Jumba eventually falls out of the attic, but before he did he somehow got Stitch into a capsule. Lilo scolds him once more, but is then taken aback by how full the attic is with presents.

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Stitch needs some quiet time.

Things are moved back into the living room where Pleakley has taken it upon himself to be the family’s new Christmas tree. He’s basically background noise as Lilo and Jumba try to figure out what is up with Stitch. The capsule he’s been locked in is completely sound proof so they can’t hear his protests as Jumba wonders if maybe his bad programming is returning. They take things to Jumba’s lab where he’s able to use some scanner to read Stitch’s thoughts. They’re mostly food-related and there’s also an image of a toilet bowl and we get a mild pee joke. Jumba then finds the image of Stitch seeing the experiment orb being placed in the gift and Lilo realizes why he was taking all of the presents. Before they can do anything about it though, a loud noise comes from the house and we see the roof has a huge hole blown through it. Gantu’s ship is shown flying away with a comically large sack of gifts on it as he belts out a “Ho ho ho.”

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Something always breaks around the house near the holidays. Never fails.

With the presents stolen, Lilo and Stitch head out after Gantu leaving Pleakley and Jumba to repair the damage to the house. Jumba actually gets the whole roof framed before he and Pleakley decide they need to fix Pleakley’s tree costume by going to the mall. Well, Pleakley makes that declaration and Jumba is mostly just along for the ride. I hope they remembered to put a tarp over the house in case it rains.

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I enjoy a good bit of holiday bondage.

Lilo and Stitch arrive at Gantu’s spaceship lair where 625 is presently trying to enjoy a nice Christmas nap. He comes outside in order to quiet them down and is oblivious to their presence. There’s some slapstick involved as Stitch gets squished by the ship’s ramp. Eventually, they gain access and 625 doesn’t even put up a fight. Stitch wraps him up in Christmas lights while Lilo looks for the gift, but it’s gone. 625 then informs them that Gantu took the sack of presents back to the mall.

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I have to give these guys credit, they really get into the holiday spirit with their clothing.

For the second time this episode, our setting shifts to the mall where Pleakley and Jumba roam in elf costumes that do little to hide their alien heritage. They soon see Gantu once again dressed as Santa. It seems Gantu doesn’t know which gift is the one he had wrapped and he needs the help of the gift wrapper in figuring it out. She finds it immediately and hands it back to him. Jumba and Pleakley call 625’s spaceship and inform Lilo what’s happened, adding they initially mistook him for Santa, but it’s really Gantu!

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This is the kind of chaos one expects out of Stitch.

Lilo and Stitch arrive at the mall and find Pleakley and Jumba in a stand-off with Gantu. They’re not very good at this though and Gantu simply spins and fires at the pair. Since this is a Disney television show, his weapon is nonlethal and just contains a big net. Stitch goes after him stealing the gift, which he tosses to Lilo, before the two tangle. Nani is also there as she was looking to buy Lilo her shrunken head when she sees Gantu and Stitch go flying past her in Santa’s sleigh. They crash, and Lilo tosses a duffel bag with the experiment orb gift inside it to Stitch and tells him to go. Stitch races up a giant Christmas tree and Gantu gives chase by climbing it. He’s bombarded with ornaments, but eventually he reaches Stitch and the two end up falling from the tree.

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That certainly looks like a bad place to be.

Gantu dusts himself off, and with Stitch no where to be seen, he retrieves his gift and prepares to step on Lilo. He pauses in mid stomp when she accuses him of ruining Christmas. He seems actually hurt by this, and Lilo ends up discovering this all happened because Gantu was trying to give someone a Christmas gift. Lilo then feels bad as she realizes Christmas is about giving presents, not receiving them as Stitch returns to her side just in time for a hug.

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It takes eyes like that to get a Christmas present out of a gigantic alien.

A little girl takes notice of Gantu and his Santa costume and asks if he has a present for her. He says no, but her eyes well up with tears which gets to Gantu. He then hands over the gift intended for Hamsterviel and the girl opens it to find the experiment orb inside. Jumba takes it from her remarking that he remembers this one. Experiment 025 was intended to be a beacon for an alien armada and he seems to suggest it’s hardly destructive. Lilo takes the orb and places it in a fountain, as apparently water is needed to bring the experiment out. And from it emerges a little being that resembles a star. Lilo dubs him Topper (she’s really forced the other little girl out of the picture) and says she knows a great spot for him.

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Stitch caused all of that trouble to keep the world free from this adorable little guy.

Topper then takes his place atop Pleakley, who has a much improved Christmas tree costume. He glows brightly pleasing everyone around them. Gantu has also found a higher purpose as kids have lined up beside him thinking he’s Santa. As each one approaches he gives them one of the gifts Stitch had taken earlier. Lilo informs us that Ohana is the best gift of all, and Stitch tries to wish everyone mele kalikimaka, but he messes it up again. We then see in space that Topper’s beacon effect is working well as a bunch of spaceships hover in Earth’s orbit.  One voice wonders what the beacon is for, while another informs him it doesn’t matter because they have fruit cake down there.

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I wonder if this little guy just gets shoved in the attic with the other decorations when the holiday is over.

And that ends this one. In trying to teach Stitch about Christmas, Lilo comes to understand the holiday better herself. It’s about the giving, folks. All the while, the aliens around her also learn about the holiday and even the villainous Gantu finds it infectious, though he wants to play it off as if it’s annoyingly infectious. It’s rather fast paced and even though it features a plot contrivance I usually find anxiety inducing, I wasn’t particularly bothered by the dynamic of Stitch acting in good faith and the others not understanding him. Though, I also found that whole ordeal confusing since Stitch revealed he could talk just fine in the movie. I guess it’s just more convenient and more entertaining to basically return him to an almost mute character who just makes funny noises. Likewise, someone must have decided that Gantu needed to be smaller in order to work in this show as he’s no where near as big as he was in the film.

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We need that group shot to go out on.

I did not expect this show to resemble the visuals from the film other than in basic character designs. And it does not. Though I still expected it to look better than this. This show is very flat and the character models really lack texture. There’s an early scene of Jumba wearing a big purple coat that has almost no shading of any kind on it and it’s really ugly looking. The backgrounds are drab too and lack the lushness of the feature. Again, I wasn’t expecting feature quality animation, but this is below the standards of other Disney Afternoon shows.

What surprised me though, in a good way, was that Disney was able to return the excellent voice cast of the film basically in its entirety. Maybe there are some secondary characters who have new voices that aren’t in this episode, but all of the characters here have their respective voice intact. It’s a rarity to pull off such a feat, but it helps that Disney didn’t go with a big time celebrity cast for the film to begin with. Tia Carrere was probably the biggest “name” from that film, but she had basically transitioned to television anyways at this stage in her career. Rob Paulsen was also added and he provides several voices in this one which only adds to the show’s quality in the sound department.

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These two are responsible for much of the episode’s humor and they are a pretty fun pairing.

This episode could have taken things in a more melancholy direction given that Lilo and Nani both lost their parents some time ago. This could have been framed as their first Christmas without them, but the show decided to keep things light and funny. Pleakley was the most entertaining part of the show for me. He’s become an archetype Disney fans should be familiar with as it’s similar to what Scuttle from The Little Mermaid represents or Owl from Winnie the Pooh. He’s a know-it-all that really knows nothing, and his misunderstanding of the holidays are fodder for a few jokes (like a good visual gag early on with eggnog). There’s nothing particularly ambitious about the Christmas lesson to be taught here, and Lilo figuring it out isn’t quite convincing, but at least there’s some groundwork laid by pointing out that she does posses a code of sorts in her approach to gifts. It would have been a harder sell if she was a ravenous present monster like Stitch. I suppose this one is fine, and if you just want more of these very likable characters because you enjoyed the film then there’s something here to enjoy.

If you want to watch this episode of Lilo & Stitch: The Series then I have good news as it just got a lot easier. With the launch of Disney+ in November this episode, as well as the entire series, became easy to stream though it will cost you seven bucks a month to do so. This one wasn’t put out on DVD, so streaming is your only option. I wouldn’t sign up for Disney+ just to watch this show, but I am a subscriber for many other reasons so obviously I think it’s worth it. Since my kids enjoy the film, I’ll likely watch this with them too this year since we can as I’ll be on the hunt for every Christmas special on that network.


Dec. 19 – The Shanty Where Santy Claus Lives

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Original release date January 7, 1933

Every year I do this I am reminded at how surprising it is that so few Christmas themed Merrie Melodies and Looney Tunes shorts exist. Disney put out several memorable ones over the years featuring their characters, but Warner Bros. mostly stayed away. Bugs Bunny would eventually get a Christmas television special in the 70s, but that was well past the age of the cartoon short.

That’s not to say Warner didn’t produce any Christmas cartoons under their two most popular banners, just that most didn’t feature the company’s most recognizable faces. The first of which, The Shanty Where Santy Claus Lives, contained no recognizable faces even though this was during the heyday for Bosko. The Rudolf Ising directed short was the first Merrie Melodies cartoon released in 1933, missing the Christmas holiday by a couple of weeks. Even though the Merrie Melodies line of shorts is often distinguished from Looney Tunes due to the presence of color (that wouldn’t come until 1934), this is a black and white film that’s fallen into the public domain.

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Possibly the nicest piece of animation in the short.

The short is a Depression-era cartoon, hence the name The Shanty Where Santy Claus lives. It’s not a particularly well known short as it wasn’t shown on television much given that it’s associated with a holiday and thus confined to a short window for release. Since it’s from 1933, it also doesn’t look particularly great compared with the more popular Warner cartoons and, as I already mentioned, it’s devoid of the characters the studio is known for. Despite that though, it did receive some play on Cartoon Network during the 1990s, but sometimes with alterations. I honestly can’t recall if I ever saw this one on the channel. I used to love falling asleep to the Christmas Eve programming on Cartoon Network which ran all night and mostly consisted of winter or Christmas themed cartoons. I could usually bank on seeing Peace on Earth at that time and only that time. This cartoon was probably shown as well, but I don’t remember it specifically. When viewing it now, it has an air of familiarity to it, but that could just be my imagination.

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Our downtrodden protagonist.

The cartoon begins with bells ringing and they are gorgeously animated. It then heads for ground level where the animation is less gorgeous and is accompanied by “Silent Night,” something that will become a trope in Christmas specials to come. A disheveled looking kid is drearily stomping through the snow with a floppy hat and his hands stuffed into his pockets. His exaggerated feet practically look like snowshoes. He hears singing coming from a church, but declines to enter. He perks up momentarily when he hears another commotion. Racing over to a window he looks in on a bunch of kids dancing around a Christmas tree. He then turns to the camera with a sad face as the wind howls.

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Listen kids, normally it’s not okay to run off with an old guy promising toys.

The boy gets caught in the gust which tosses him into the side of his shanty. The snow falls off the roof and buries him momentarily. He pulls himself up and heads inside. It’s a one-room shack with hardly anything inside, including parents. He’s rather down, even weeping, until he hears something outside. Sleigh bells herald the arrival of Santa Claus who comes bursting in singing the short’s signature song. Santa offers to take the boy with him to his shanty where toys and wonderful things await. The kid is more than eager to take old Saint Nick up on his offer and the two head outside. Santa puts the boy on the back of his sleigh before climbing in himself. He orders the reindeer to “giddy-up” and as they take off the boy tumbles from the back of the sleigh. Malnutrition has apparently not affected the boy’s speed or conditioning as he races after the sleigh and essentially outruns the reindeer to get back into Santa’s arms. This time the old man is smart enough to put the kid in the sleigh proper and the two take off into the sky.

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You are correct if you assumed Santa flew past that moon before landing in front of his shop. Maybe the first ever animated shot of Santa in front of a moon?

Santa and his team of two reindeer (the Depression even impacted Santa) make it to Santa’s shanty. And it’s hardly a shanty. The two head inside and the kid’s eyes widen to see all of the toys waiting to be delivered to new homes. Some of them are a bit…iffy looking, but we pan back to the kid pretty quickly who’s looking quite happy. He heads in further and starts playing with a kangaroo toy. When he squeezes a ball on the end of a tube it makes the little joey pop out of the pouch. Cute.

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Well, this just went wrong very fast.

The boy then turns his attention to a musical toy and….oh no, here’s our reminder this is a cartoon from the 1930s. A toy of jazz musicians is displayed and they basically all look like they’re pulled from a minstrel show. We then see a baby doll crying out for it’s Mama before tumbling off the shelf into a box of soot. It then emerges, in blackface, crying for its “Mammy” who then shows up to retrieve the toy. And we’re not done! A rag doll starts dancing as the short’s song returns with two other dolls that also look like blackface dolls. She then ditches the pair to watch on the side cheering them on with some maracas.

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Oh my god, it just got worse!

More toys are spotlighted including a doll that tries to blow up a balloon. She sucks in the air and turns into a woman of generous proportions who begins to sing “Shine on Harvest Moon” in what is undoubtedly a caricature of singer Kate Smith. There’s also a toy soldier on a baby bank. When the register pops open it’s, get this, full of babies. A teddy bear is shown playing a trombone and a jack-in-the-box beside it pops out and it’s thankfully not racist. The trombone keeps hitting it into a drum which is mildly amusing.

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Make it stop!

We then end up at the Christmas tree which has a lit candle on it. One of the toys knocks it over and soon the tree catches on fire (and you thought those giant bulbs from the 40s and 50s were a fire hazard) forcing the fire brigade into action. The toy fire brigade, that is. A fire engine races over and tries to put out the flames, but it is just a toy. We then see the boy again, the supposed main character who has apparently just been watching this whole thing and is possibly willing to let the racist toys burn, who decides he should take some action. A hose is conveniently at his feet and hooked up to a sink. He inserts the other end into some bagpipes which are just laying on the floor and runs over to the tree. He squeezes the bagpipes spraying water out of the various pipes which douse the flames. The toys cheer triumphantly and the short comes to an abrupt end.

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Kid, maybe you should just let this place burn.

I suppose when I saw this cartoon was in the public domain I should have expected some racism. Cartoonists, for whatever reason, loved these blackface gags in the 20s and 30s and really seemed to like the black figures seen here. Maybe it’s a benign reason, since these cartoons are in black and white it was an easy gag to get over, but it is what it is. When Cartoon Network aired this one it eventually edited out those parts, though I think at one point in time they were left in. Considering the short is a little over 7 minutes with that stuff intact, it must have been incredibly short without it. If you watch a lot of old cartoons, there’s nothing in here you haven’t seen before. I don’t think those images would keep this from being released as part of a collection of Warner cartoons, but it sure would earn it a disclaimer.

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Well, the fire’s out and…it’s over? Okay then.

Visually, this is an old cartoon and it shows. The backgrounds aren’t very detailed and certainly pale in comparison to what Disney was doing at the time. The characters have noodle-like limbs and their mouth movements are a bit odd. There are some twin characters that were probably just doubles of the film cells or possibly traces from one image to another as they move in perfect unison. The kid main character also doesn’t look particularly good, but a lot of effort was put into Santa who has a nice, jolly, demeanor.

As a Christmas toon, this is essentially a piece of wish fulfillment. A poor kid is not going to get to enjoy Christmas like the more well-off children will, so Santa shows up to whisk him away. It probably wasn’t something a poor kid needed to see as it would have felt patronizing. Santa is also barely in it as he just shows up to take the kid and then basically disappears once we get to his work shop. I kept waiting for him to come in and put out the fire (or destroy those racist toys), but he must have left to go find some other poor kid. There’s a lot of public domain Christmas music at play though, and the one original song works well enough.

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He’s certainly not as charismatic as Porky.

The Shanty Where Santy Claus Lives is a public domain cartoon that is quite easy to come by. Just typing the name into a search engine should produce plenty of results, or you can even just go straight to YouTube. There are various public domain Christmas VHS and DVDs that include it, and Warner even featured it on a laser disc release of shorts back in the day, but I doubt you want to go that route. Because it’s free, the quality can vary. Some claim to be upscaled to HD, but they get a blurry, smear, effect as a result. Some are very gray in appearance and there’s even some that are practically yellow. Still, you don’t have to look too hard to find one with nice enough contrast levels. I don’t really recommend it, but it is only 7 minutes so it’s not exactly much of a time commitment. It’s a shame the few gags present are mostly racist humor. The only memorable non racist gag was the baby bank, which wasn’t particularly funny either. As the first Christmas-themed Merrie Melodies short, it at least has some historical significance. Just beware of the racist stuff.


Dec. 16 – George of the Jungle – “Jungle Bells”

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Original air date November 7, 2007.

For a show that only lasted 17 episodes, George of the Jungle has had a surprisingly enduring legacy about it. The show was basically conceived as a Tarzan parody and was the spiritual successor to The Rocky and Bullwinkle show given that it was produced by Jay Ward and Bill Scott. The show premiered in 1967 and was arranged like The Rocky and Bullwinkle Show in that a George cartoon was paired up with others, in this case Tom Slick and Super Chicken. The most memorable aspects of the show were likely the theme song and the fact that George was inept when it came to vine-swinging, thus why that catchy theme includes the line, “Watch out for that tree!”

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The original George from 1967 was quite the hunk.

The show made enough of a cultural impact that it continued to be aired in syndicated packages into the 1990s when cable was exploding and the need to fill programming hours helped bring shows like George of the Jungle back from the dead. I remember seeing it mostly on week day mornings on Cartoon Network, usually when I was home sick from school or during school vacations. I would often stay for the theme song, and then check out. I remember the first time I tried to give it a shot I made it to the opening line from the narrator in which he mentioned George was enjoying an air-conditioned tree. For some reason, this was just too preposterous for me and I changed the channel. Eventually I came back to it as during the summer months I often turned on Cartoon Network when I woke up and just left it on all day. I watched a lot of crap during those years and, to be honest, I don’t know if George of the Jungle was part of that crap or not. I have no strong memories of the show, be they positive or negative. The premise of the show seems fine, so maybe it was charming, but I don’t know.

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George was deemed worthy of a reboot in 2007.

That show is merely how the world was introduced to the character of George of the Jungle, but he didn’t stop there. A live-action movie premiered in 1997 starring Brendan Fraser in the lead role. He was joined by the always effervescent Leslie Mann in the role of Ursula, and I honestly have no memory of the film despite seeing it. I think I thought it was fine, but it obviously could not have been that great for me to have no real recollection of it. That was it for awhile though as George went back into obscurity. Then, for seemingly unknown reasons, the show was revived in 2007 by Classic Media for the Teletoon channel in Canada and Cartoon Network in the US. It ran for 26 episodes with each one containing two segments. It received what is considered a second season, but that came in 2016 and was more like a soft reboot of the show as a lot of the characters were changed-up and even redesigned. That second season also ran for 26 episodes ending its run in February of 2017. I guess we should expect a third season sometime in 2025.

The Christmas episode “Jungle Bells” was part of that first season. In it, the character Ursula (Britt Irvin) tries to teach her jungle friends about Christmas. It’s a fairly straight-forward plot about a Christmas-educated individual trying to bring the holiday to some place foreign. There will be trials along the way and the goal is for everyone to understand the true meaning of Christmas by the time the episode ends. Since this is a comedy series though, perhaps we can expect a twist or something along the way or maybe even an unexpected conclusion. I’ve never watched this show before today so anything is on the table in my mind.

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The ever alert denizens of the jungle.

The episode begins with the characters seemingly getting a lesson on astronomy and jungle life from Dr. Towel Scott (Mark Oliver). It seems to be going over the heads of everyone and boring them as well giving the Witch Doctor (Brian Drummond) an opening to educate them on the Season of the Great Baboon. That apparently refers to a time of year when everyone takes back all of the stuff they’ve given away before retreating to hide in a cave and subsist on leaves. Ursula then notices that Christmas is coming given the orientation of the stars in the sky. George (Lee Tockar), Ape (a literal ape voiced by Paul Dobson), and Magnolia (a jungle girl with an American southern accent voiced by Tabitha St. Germain) have no idea what she is talking about. After she gives them a brief rundown of the holiday Magnolia notes it sounds better than the great baboon, and yes it does.

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Ursula describes the wonders of Christmas.

The next day, George and Ape are playing catch (they’re using a poor little bird as the ball and large leaves as mitts) while Ursula goes on and on about how great Christmas is. She describes how it would snow at Christmas time and she would go snowboarding causing George to remark how wonderful it must be to go around trees instead of crashing into them. She continues by talking up the lights and the food, but this only further confuses the others since they don’t know what trimmings or a pine tree are. Ursula runs off to find her father, Dr. Scott, who is out catching insects for his studies. She asks him what they’re doing for Christmas, only to find out that since they’re going to be in the jungle he was planning on skipping it. This does not go over well with Ursula.

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Ursula is going to bring Christmas to the jungle no matter what the cost.

Ursula then gathers everyone and commands them like a drill sergeant. She informs them they will indeed have the best Christmas ever and produces a plan on how to do that. She assigns everyone a task:  George is on tree duty, Magnolia is to create “whimsical winter outfits,” Ape is in charge of caroling, and some elephant named Shep is expected to handle the lights. Ursula wants all white lights, no multi-color strands, which means she’s after my heart (though I do like the white and blue strands as well as the white and red).

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If there is a lesson to be taken from this special it is that crocodile eggs do not make for quality eggnog.

We then cut to that night and everything is setup for a Christmas celebration. It looks pretty good, all things considered. There’s a big tree and everything seems relatively festive. Things quickly go off the rails though. As Ursula boasts how wonderful everything looks, she’s holding onto some kind of garland that is apparently made out of eggs which begin hatching giving birth to weird jungle spiders. George presents her with some eggnog and has it spat all over him as it was apparently made out of spoiled crocodile eggs. Shep shows up with some lights, so apparently not all is lost. He sucks them up in his trunk and then spits them all over the place. It’s then Ursula realizes they’re in the jungle and do not have access to an electrical outlet. She’s about to crack, but then remembers the carols. Everyone then gathers to sing Christmas carols, but it’s awful and offkey. I’m not even sure they’re all singing the same song. The noise causes a stampede putting a merciful end to this horrid celebration as Ape admits they didn’t do any rehearsals. Ursula takes the failure rather hard and announces through sniffles that she’s going home to bed. Magnolia then vows they need to make this right.

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She gives up rather easily.

George, Ape, and Magnolia pay a visit to Dr. Scott for assistance on how to save Christmas. It’s via him they learn about Santa Claus giving George the idea to track down Santa and force him to make Ursula’s Christmas awesome. They quickly set off and a narrator (Michael Daingerfield) takes over the story-telling. George and his friends first end up at the South Pole where a penguin apparently directs them north. They make a stop at a police lineup full of non-Santa holiday mascots before arriving at the North Pole. There an elf gives them the run-around and then, laughing rather maniacally, is shown heading into Santa’s workshop. The montage ends with George, Ape, and Magnolia atop a tree searching around in the jungle. Ape questions how a big, red, dude could be so hard to find and George agrees. He also declares he needs a nap and immediately goes to sleep. Ape and Magnolia decide to join him and as the trio sleep they slide into the canopy of leaves and down the limbs of the tree getting tangled in some vines.

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Well now, who is this jolly old fellow?!

The three wake up to find themselves suspended upside down. George panics momentarily, but then an image fills his sight. It’s a large, red, creature with a white beard! George immediately mistakes him for Santa Claus, but it appears to be the great baboon the Witch Doctor described earlier. He helps them down, and is then confused when George jumps onto his lap with a list of demands, number one being that Ursula needs a chimney so Santa can visit her. The baboon appears agreeable, but then asks them what they’re talking about with a crazy-sounding “Ho ho!” George groans, realizing he’ll just have to do this himself.

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Who knew a swarm of bats could make for a good reindeer alternative?

And that’s what George should have done from the start as he quickly assembles a rather nice looking chimney in seconds later that evening, though he does get stuck in it. They then turn their attention to creating a sleigh as they’re apparently going to play Santa. Ape loads it up with toys, while George gets poison ivy for some reason. They’re then shown trying to make the sleigh fly with a team full of bats lazily depicted mostly as a cloud. It’s not working and George thinks they need a leader. He turns to Tookie, the little pink bird who was serving as their ball earlier, and plants a red nose on him. Tookie takes one look at the bats with antlers shoved into their heads and seems scared, but he bravely flies to the head of the team. Apparently there was some Christmas magic in that bird as the sleigh soon takes flight.

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At least it’s not cold.

While flying above the jungle, Ape tells George to release the presents and he does so. All at once. The sack lands in a volcano which causes it to spew ash into the air. It rains down like snow on the jungle and the Witch Doctor can be seen making ash angels while Shep samples the flavor. Ursula is then shown asleep in her bed with a single tear dangling from one eye. George and Ape drop in with the chimney and get to work making the place look nice. And they succeed! The place looks like a Hallmark card, the only thing missing is a stocking over the fireplace. George nails one to the mantle, but it causes the entire chimney to crack and then crumble ruining the house.

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And this is the part where things predictably go wrong.

Ursula and her dad are roused from their sleep by the noise and find George and Ape amongst the rubble. They somewhat coyly say someone ruined her house, and her Christmas, but are then confused to see her smiling. She runs outside into the falling “snow” and remarks how it looks just like Christmas back home. She all but thanks George for going through all of the trouble to make this happen when Magnolia comes barreling into the screen by tackling George. She thanks him profusely for decorating her hut, then remarks his looks even better. George and Ape are confused, so they head over to check it out.

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At least George’s place still looks nice.

George’s hut looks rather amazing as it’s all decorated for Christmas. Magnolia assumes Santa did it, and George is confused why he would decorate his hut too. Ursula basically gives him a response of because it’s Christmas, and George doesn’t hide the fact that he doesn’t understand, but he likes it so requests to do it again next year. Magnolia then beckons them to the window where they look and see a shadow against the moon. It scratches itself, and they assume it must be Santa and wish him a Merry Christmas. The figure returns the gesture, and becomes well lit revealing it’s actually the baboon. It’s he who ends the episode with a, “And to all a good night!”

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Quick! Everyone rush to the window for a glimpse of Santa!

And that’s it, a pretty straight-forward take on the plot of Christmas coming to a location it was previously foreign. You have the frustrated character who can’t seem to convey the holiday’s message to the newcomers and the newcomers sort of stumbling into a way to make it happen with a dash of Christmas magic tossed in for good measure. There’s no message in the end though, a part from maybe the old adage “It’s the thought that counts,” as we don’t really learn anything about Christmas. It has a bit of a twist in the ending with the baboon being mistaken for Santa, but it doesn’t really add anything. I guess it’s a little funny, but in the end did it matter that it wasn’t Santa? We basically just found out Santa doesn’t really care about the denizens of the jungle and that apparently the Witch Doctor has been honoring this baboon guy in the wrong manner.

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Only it’s not Santa. Eh, close enough.

George of the Jungle is not an impressive looking show. It’s flash-animated, and being from 2007, means it looks rather “puppetty.” The characters are simple models that are animated in a fairly simple manner. Only what needs to be animated is repositioned while the rest of the image remains static. It’s not particularly fluid. The designs of the characters have a slight resemblance to the 1967 show, though Ursula looks particularly modern in her attire and George is actually quite skinny. Shep and Dr. Scott in particular remind me of the old show, but what’s lacking is the background and general art design. There’s nothing memorable as it’s just a fairly typical jungle setting. The voice acting is pretty good, though I’m not crazy about the voice given to George. Sometimes I get the impression he’s supposed to sound really stupid, but it’s almost noncommittal. Is he dumb? Ignorant? I don’t know.

The show is also short on laughs. Ape has a deadpan delivery to a lot of his lines that works and I did enjoy the joke of George pining for a scenario in which he avoids trees, but aside from that little made me laugh. They confused the South Pole with the North Pole, which is a joke that’s been done many times. I guess I like that Santa was shown to exist, but the elves are just secretive about it. Ursula going mad early on is supposed to be funny, but it’s again too conventional. George getting eggnog regurgitated onto him was definitely the grossest moment of the show and it was a bit humorous to see it go on and on, but that also made it feel too much like a Family Guy gag.

At least we learned that Christmas can indeed come to the jungle. And if you want to experience it for yourself it’s very easy as the whole show is free to stream on YouTube. I mean, I don’t recommend you actually do it as it’s apparently free for a reason, but if you liked the old show and always wanted to see George interact with Christmas well now’s your chance.


Dec. 15 – Animaniacs – “A Christmas Plotz”

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Original air date December 6, 1993

It’s rare when you encounter a cartoon series that has back-to-back episodes dedicated to Christmas, but that happened with the first season of Animaniacs. If you’re not familiar with the show, Animaniacs is essentially the spiritual successor to Tiny Toon Adventures as another Steven Spielberg presented cartoon series. It, even more so than Tiny Toons, draws inspiration from the golden era of cartoons when guys like Tex Avery, Chuck Jones, and Friz Freleng were making audiences laugh at the movie theater. The series is a cartoon variety show with the main characters consisting of the fictional Warner brothers and Warner sister:  Yakko, Wakko, and Dot. It paired them up with many other newcomers like Slappy Squirrel, The Goodfeathers, and perhaps most famously the duo of Pinky and the Brain.

 

Animaniacs premiered on the Fox Kids network in the fall of 1993 and anchored Fox’s weekday afternoon lineup. Perhaps that’s why the producers and writers felt like they had room for multiple Christmas episodes. They aired back-to-back with a week of reruns in between with this one airing on December 6, 1993 and they were the last new episodes of the show to debut in 1993. Reruns took the Warners and Co. the rest of the way with new episodes premiering in 1994. Like a lot of Fox programs, the initial season was a direct to syndication order of 65 episodes with supplemental seasons tacked on. The show ran until 1998, finishing up on Kids’ WB after 99 episodes, and was followed by a direct-to-video movie, Wakko’s Wish, which is coincidentally a Christmas affair. It seems odd that the show wasn’t given one additional episode to get it to 100, an achievement it certainly deserved, but maybe that’s why Wakko’s Wish exists.

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Want to make an episode feel special? Just dress-up the opening credits a bit.

Animaniacs mixes a lot of slapstick humor with satire of celebrity culture. There’s numerous musical segments, honestly more than I remembered when I went back and watched it, and lots of micro segments which many fans probably recall fondly. I’m speaking of the Good Idea/Bad Idea stuff or that little kid who likes to talk about some other person named Randy. It also poked fun at broadcast standards via the Wheel of Morality and is also quite notable for slipping a few risqué jokes past the censors (Finger Prince?). It wasn’t a cheap show and often featured some of the best animation and musical numbers on television. It feels like a show that couldn’t exist today because of this, but Hulu is reportedly bringing the show back in 2020. It remains to be seen what the show will look and sound like, but most of the original cast is back onboard and it’s hard to imagine Amblin Entertainment allowing the show to look worse than it did 20 years ago.

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What’s better than dressing up the opening title sequence? Adding an homage to the old CBS Special Presentation bumper! Gets me every time.

The very first segment of the first Christmas themed episode is the one we’re looking at today:  A Christmas Plotz. Plotz refers to the name of the fictional CEO of the Warner Bros. Company Thaddeus Plotz (Frank Welker). He is ostensibly the one responsible for ordering the Warners be locked away in their tower, as detailed during the show’s infectious opening. He’s a miserable old miser, so you can probably see where this is going. Can Animaniacs do a worthwhile parody of A Christmas Carol, or is this yet another forgettable retread? Let’s find out.

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Warner Studios all ready for Christmas.

The episode begins with the fake news reel explaining the origins of the Warner Bros. Yakko (Rob Paulsen), Wakko (Jess Harnell) and their sister Dot (Tress MacNeille) were classic cartoon characters deemed too zany and crazy to exist. Their cartoons were blacklisted and they were sealed away, along with the Warners themselves, in the studio’s water tower. This news reel begins many episodes of the show, but this time it’s presented with snowflakes falling all around. These snowflakes carry over into the opening title sequence and I do love when shows dress-up their opening credits for Christmas! The Steven Spielberg cartoons were frequent contributors to such.

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Thaddeus Plotz is a man in need of some Christmas spirit.

When that business concludes, we begin the show. It’s Christmas time at the Warner Studios lot and some carolers are cheerily singing “We Wish You a Merry Christmas.” In his office, Thaddeus Plotz is not enjoying the festive singing. He opens his window to scream at them and fling fruit cake as well. It seems his subordinates all give him fruit cake at this time of year, even though he hates it (doesn’t everybody?). As he returns to his desk, his security guard Ralph (Welker) enters the office. Plotz instructs him not to sit down as this won’t take long, but Ralph interrupts him by going into a little prepared speech. It seems he expects this meeting to end with him receiving his Christmas bonus, and he thanks Mr. Plotz for letting him work there and presents him with yet another fruit cake. Ralph is the classic dumb guy cartoon archetype. He frequently starts sentences with “Ahh,” or “Duhh,” and adds random plurals onto certain words thus making him immediately sympathetic, which is important for what follows.

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This image makes me feel genuinely crushed.

When Ralph finishes his little speech and presents Plotz with the fruit cake the old man is able to put on a happy face briefly despite his disgust. He then holds up a line graph which apparently details rising costs directly tied to the damage caused by the Warners. It’s Ralph’s job to keep them in line, and he’s failed miserably. Plotz fires him on the spot, then wishes him a sincere-sounding Merry Christmas. As Ralph’s eyes well-up with tears, he slumps his shoulders and walks out.

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This one features a Slappy cameo, but sadly she’s the only one.

That night, Plotz is still busy in his office with budgetary matters. He’s recording a voice memo in which he mentions that in order to cut costs employees will soon be expected to provide their own toilet paper. As he finishes up, an apparition appears before him. It’s Slappy Squirrel (Sherri Stoner) in the Jacob Marley role. She’s mostly transparent and blueish with chains draped over her and isn’t particularly happy to be there. When a frightened Plotz demands to know why she’s here, she pulls out a notebook and reads her lines about him being visited by three ghosts. When he asks why, she tells him she doesn’t know as she lost the rest of the script. She then marches out of there grumbling about how she’s doing this for scale and remarks that she needs a new agent.

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Bring on the ghosts! First up is Wakko as the Ghost of Christmas Past.

With Slappy gone, Plotz thinks he hallucinated her due to working too hard. He drinks some water and then the phone on his desk begins to ring. He answers it and a spectral Wakko pops out of the receiver. He’s mostly blue save for his red nose and hat. He’s also dressed in a manner similar to the classic interpretation of Tiny Tim and immediately goes into a little musical number about taking a trip back to the past to see how Plotz got here. He sets up a little movie theater for the two and finishes his song with a kiss. The reel-to-reel projector is fired up as Wakko enjoys some popcorn and we’re taken to our first scene of the past.

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This is a pretty on-brand way for Wakko to present the past to Plotz.

It’s the birth of Thaddeus Plotz! His mother (Nancy Linari) is resting comfortably and seems quite content with her new babe, but then the doctor brings her the bill and little Thaddeus jumps up in anger. He’s still ticked about the whole spanking of the bum thing by the doc and informs him that he’ll be hearing from his lawyers. We’re then shown a five-year-old Plotz as he confronts a mall Santa surrounded by said attorneys to make his annual demands of St. Nick. He expects many gifts, including a horse, and Santa seems bewildered. The Plotz of the present then informs us he was gifted a pony that year and he still seems ticked off by it. Plotz demands this farce end, but Wakko then shows him another vision of the past, one he promises is the worst. This time he’s an adult and seated behind his current desk. He’s telling an old man (Maurice LaMarche) his services are no longer needed, despite him begging to be allowed to keep his job. That old man was his dad, and Plotz still sees nothing wrong with usurping the company from his old man as he allowed him to keep his medical benefits.

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You just knew they would utilize the present pun. Dot even feels the need to draw attention to it by pointing it out.

Wakko and his accessories then vanish as Plotz returns to his desk once again questioning if what he just saw was real or not. He sits down at his desk and blames his vision on bad cocktail weenies (because that food was considered inherently funny in the 90s, like cheese) when he notices a large present on his desk. He thinks it’s going to be another fruitcake, but a spectral Dot pops out dressed in old-timey clothes and demands to know who he’s calling a fruitcake. She also points out the pun of her being the Ghost of Christmas Present and popping out of a present. She too has a little song to sing, and as she kicks away the nameplate on Plotz’s desk we can see his own name was misspelled on it (Thadius), though I don’t think that’s a joke just an animation goof.

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Well, at least they’re happy.

Dot takes Plotz to a trailer park, and I bet you can guess who lives here. It’s the home of the recently fired Ralph who is seated in an easy chair trying to calm his son (Paulsen) who is irate with Plotz for firing his dad. He assures the boy that everything will be okay. The pair are summoned to dinner and we get to meet Mrs. Ralph who inexplicably looks and sounds exactly like her husband. Their kid seems well-adjusted and perfectly fine though, so he apparently hasn’t been ravaged by his incestuous origin. Mrs. Ralph is serving what they can afford for Christmas dinner:  Turkey Jell-O. It looks pretty terrible, but Ralph is excited to eat it while little Ralph Jr. is decidedly not happy about this current situation. He claims to the camera he’s adopted, and we believe him, and vows to get even with Mr. Plotz some day.

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And Yakko makes three.

Plotz is a bit unnerved by Ralph Jr’s hatred of him and wants out. He soon finds himself back in his office. He’s apparently accepted the reality of this evening as he’s now concerned about the arrival of the third ghost. The clock striking midnight and a thunderstorm brewing outside seem to spook him as he tries to call for security, forgetting momentarily that Ralph was security. He then tries to leave, but finds the door locked. Turning around, he screams when he sees the third ghost. A being resembling the Grim Reaper approaches, sickle and all. It pins him to the door and says his name in a deep, hollow, voice as it extends a boney finger towards Plotz’s throat.

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Yakko’s song and dance number is certainly elaborate, but is it funny? Eh…

Yakko then emerges from the robes to announce he’s the Ghost of Christmas Future. He ditches the spooky stuff and sports a tuxedo as he goes into an elaborate song and dance routine announcing his arrival and intentions. It’s complete with female dancers (voiced by Carol Lombard, Kimberly Fligsten, Brianne Lepon, and Sara Ford) which Yakko hits on mercilessly while Plotz is dragged around and forced to keep pace. Yakko slips in insults here and there while Plotz drops his fear for a minute to just get angry and annoyed. The presence of the women allow Yakko to work in his “Hello, nurse” catchphrase, and the whole thing ends with Yakko tossing Plotz off of the magical stairs that appeared to land in an armchair. I do not know if this song is a direct parody of anything, but Yakko does go into a brief Groucho bit for a moment.

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I wonder who that guy could be?

With both Yakko and Plotz seated comfortably, Plotz looks around and realizes they’re still in his office. Only now it’s not his office. Yakko directs Plotz’s attention to the new man in charge, an angry guy with a huge, bald, head. He’s yelling about Urkel looking ridiculous with his pants pulled up so high at his age as he’s on the phone with someone. He slams it down and returns to his work and Yakko points out to Plotz that this man is actually Ralph Jr. all grown up. It seems he did get his revenge on Plotz, as we soon find out his fate. Unlike Scrooge, Plotz is still alive in this future, but he has suffered a fate worse than death. He’s been made the new Ralph and tasked with keeping the Warners in line. He looks mostly the same, only he has an unkempt mane of gray hair and his eyes are a bit sunken looking.

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Old man Plotz is forced to try and keep pace with the Warners. It’s actually pretty impressive a man of his age can do this much.

Plotz is horrified by the sight, and it only gets worse. The Warners then show up to taunt him, and as he chases after them with a net Ralph Jr. emerges from his window to call down to him. He admonishes him for not catching them, and when Plotz informs Ralph that they’re too fast, he unceremoniously fires the old man punctuating it with a cheerful “Merry Christmas,” just as he did to his father years ago. The future Plotz walks away disheartened, while present Plotz begins to pout and cry.

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The ghosts may be done, but the Warners still have a role to play.

Plotz soon realizes he’s back in his office. It’s Christmas morning, and now he has his chance for atonement. He kisses his desk when he realizes where he is and races over to the window. He goes into the usual routine as he calls out to some kids asking what day it is. It’s the Warners in their holiday threads, only now they’re not blue ghosts. They tell him it’s Christmas Day, and Dot remarks to the camera how he’s not too bright. Plotz then throws down a sack of money and tells them to go buy the biggest fruit cake they can find and deliver it to Ralph’s house. He even tells them to keep the change. Wakko declares that they’re rich and the trio grab the money and run.

 

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Plotz never really atones for his mistake, he just tries to cover it up.

At Ralph’s trailer, the whole place is bouncing up and down with Christmas cheer. The family is singing around their 8″ tall tree when a knock at the door disturbs their celebration. Ralph Jr. answers it to find it’s Plotz armed with a stack of presents. He barges in and demands to know why he’s hearing that Ralph left the studio. A confused Ralph points out that he fired him, but Plotz corrects him by saying he inspires him! He then charms Mrs. Ralph, before turning his attention to Ralph Jr. He begs the boy not to take over the studio, and then tries to bribe him with a pony. The kid demands a horse instead and Plotz makes an expression that basically says, “I deserved that.”

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Grovel, you swine!

Another knock at the door gets Plotz’s attention and he opens it to find the Warners. They tell him they brought the fruit cake and an excited Plotz races outside wanting to know where it is. They tell him they got the biggest they could find, and they weren’t kidding. A helicopter delivers a massive fruit cake, and drops the two-story monstrosity right on top of Plotz. His feet stick out from under it and all we can hear is unintelligible ranting. The Warners jump on top armed with spoons and assure him they can have him out by Easter. Wakko then wishes us all a merry Christmas as the sound of Christmas bells take us out of the segment.

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A fitting punishment for a lifetime of dickish behavior.

And that’s it for “A Christmas Plotz.” It’s followed by a musical number based on The Little Drummer Boy in which the Warners assume the role of the drummer and lead us through a fairly straight interpretation of the tale. It’s not particularly memorable, but if you like your Christmas with a side of Jesus then it’s probably right up your alley.

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The Warners get the last word, per usual.

“A Christmas Plotz” is pretty entertaining, as most cartoons starring the Warners tend to be. It’s a bit disappointing that a show as creative as Animaniacs went in this direction though as it didn’t really bring anything new to the table. It’s a pretty faithful adaptation of the old story truncated to 12 minutes or so and punctuated with jokes. The jokes are fairly easy, but still humorous. It’s still fair to question whether or not we ever needed Animaniacs to go this route. An original Christmas story would have been preferable, but obviously more work. I suppose I’m glad the Warners were thrust into the ghost role as opposed to that of the Cratchits. Maybe another holiday parody would have worked better? The slapstick nature of Home Alone would have lent itself well to the show, or maybe just have the Warners run wild through Santa’s workshop? A Christmas Carol parody is the lowest rung on the holiday special ladder, and I just can’t help but feel that this show is better than this. At least this show looks great as this particular episode was entirely animated by the renowned TMS Entertainment. Episodes of this show really don’t come any better in terms of looks than what you’ll see here.

img_0461Thankfully, if you want to spend the holidays with the cast of Animaniacs you have other options. There’s the episode that follows this which is less cohesive, but pretty fun. There’s also a Christmas cartoon starring Slappy featured in the penultimate episode of the show that’s fodder for a future countdown. And there’s also the previously mentioned Wakko’s Wish if you want to spend an even longer amount of time with the gang at Christmas. That feature has the added appeal of making use of the full ensemble so it’s a bit like a celebration or grand finale for the show. If you’re really into the show though, you’ll probably just want to watch all of them. And if so, don’t forget the excellent Pinky and the Brain holiday special!

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This cartoon is fine, but the episode that follows makes better use of the entire cast making it my preferred Christmas episode of the two.

If you do indeed wish to invest some of your Christmas viewing time into Animaniacs then it’s pretty easy to do so. The entire show is available to purchase on physical media or through digital means. By far, the easiest way though is via Hulu which has the entire series plus the movie on it. It also has other Spielberg cartoons so you can really indulge in some 90s animation and basically all of them feature a Christmas special or two. There’s certainly room for Animaniacs at Christmas time, so hopefully you find an episode that works for you.


Dec. 14 – Heathcliff – “North Pole Cat”

 

north pole catHeathcliff, despite being a cat, shares a similarity to a certain cookie. And that cookie is Hydrox, the chocolate and cream sandwhich style cookie often mistaken for an Oreo. When I was a kid, Hydrox was the inferior Oreo, the knock-off, and I suspect that was true for a lot of people. The funny thing is, Hydrox predates Oreo. Nabisco essentially stole the concept and mass-produced its own version which eventually became more popular than the original. And how does this apply to Heathcliff? Well, most seem to view him as the Garfield knock-off even though he predates Garfield by a solid three years.

Heathcliff debuted in 1973 as a comic strip by George Gately. He became popular enough that he made the jump to animation in 1980 where he was given a voice by the late, great, Mel Blanc. Heathcliff, the cartoon series, consisted of two seasons of 13 episodes each. Heathcliff was paired up with some characters called The Ding-bats and later fellow comic character Marmaduke. The show was still shown for much of the 80s, but in 1984 a new cartoon was created by DiC also titled Heathcliff. This is the show I remember most from the 80s due in large part to the catchy theme song performed by Noam Kaniel. For this show, Heathcliff was paired up with some new characters called the Catillac Cats which is why this show is often referred to as Heathcliff & the Catillac Cats to differentiate it from the series that came before it. Each episode was organized into two segments, one Heathcliff and one Catillac Cats with the two rarely crossing over. The show produced 86 episodes and was shown in syndication into the 90s.

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Like a lot of 80s toon stars, Heathcliff first began life as a daily comic in print.

The final episode of the series is the one we’re going to talk about today. “North Pole Cat” is the lone Christmas segment and it stars Heathcliff. Wikipedia claims it originally aired on October 7, 1985 though IMDB simply lists it as airing in 1986. The plot borrows slightly from the much more viewed ‘Twas the Night Before Christmas in which letters to Santa are returned and someone needs to figure out why. That someone is Heathcliff and he’s dragging his adversary Spike(Derek McGrath) along for the ride as the two make their way to the North Pole to figure out what’s going on.

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When Heathcliff returned to TV in 1984 he was joined by the Catillac Cats leaving that loser Marmaduke far behind.

The episode opens with Spike training with Muggsy (McGrath) so he can become a better bully, or “bull” as Muggsy calls him. He looks to test out his new skills on the unsuspecting mailman making his rounds who jumps with terror at the approach of the massive mut. Heathcliff watches from his stoop disapprovingly. He decides to get involved, and utilizing the mail carrier’s satchel like a matador does his red curtain, he tricks Spike into crashing into a number of obstacles before finally falling into an open manhole.

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This one wastes little time in getting going.

The mailman thanks Heathcliff and then hands over the mail. It seems both he and his owner, Iggy, have had their letters to Santa returned. I’m not sure what time of year it is as everything looks sunny and lovely, but I guess we can assume it’s sometime close to Christmas. The mailman adds this is the tenth such letter he’s had to deliver today and wonders if Santa has called it quits. Heathcliff wonders the same, but decides he needs to take action. Putting on a parka and some earmuffs, Heathcliff is ready to set off for the North Pole, but he needs a dog sled to get there. He decides to enlist Spike, and when he makes a crack about needing a red nose to pull Heathcliff’s sleigh the orange cat slaps one on him. He then produces a whip, and Spike is forced to go along with this plot.

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Santa’s rather bizarre workshop.

Heathcliff and Spike make tremendous time in getting to the North Pole. There they encounter a blizzard and the scene almost immediately shifts to Santa’s workshop. It looks like something designed by Dr. Seuss and inside an assembly line of toys is running. A cranky elf named Tuck seems intent on breaking toys rather than assembling them. An older elf calls him aside and wants to know why some of Santa’s letters were sent back. Tuck basically confesses and he’s proud to do it. He hates Christmas and thinks it’s a sham to get kids to behave all year to receive presents on one day. Well, this attitude has not gone unnoticed as the older elf informs Tuck that Santa has given him the order to let him go. Channeling another elf, Tuck declares he can’t be fired, for he quits, and takes his leave.

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Not much of a pole, is it?

Out in the snow, Heathcliff is rather mercilessly whipping Spike to get him to go faster until Spike decides he’s had enough. He stops and declares he won’t move another inch. Heathcliff just looks at him with an expression of bewilderment as he stands on the sleigh, which slowly starts to slide backwards. As it takes off down an incline, Spike gets pulled along with it smashing his head into a giant ice spike sticking up from the ground. Heathcliff declares this ice formation is the actual North Pole (I guess it doesn’t always need to resemble a candy cane) and congratulates Spike for finding it, who is looking a bit shell-shocked.

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This is Tuck and he’s pretty much a murderous asshole.

Tuck has taken notice of the cat and dog duo and decides to make a little mischief. He rolls a giant snowball at the pair which knocks them both out onto some ice. Heathcliff warns Spike the ice won’t hold forever (you’re at the North Pole, Heathcliff, it’s probably pretty safe) as the two slowly crawl back to land. Tuck is apparently intent on murdering them as he starts smashing the ice with a mallet. The ice beneath the pair splits open and Spike is left dancing on a small, floating, chunk while Heathcliff climbs all over him. Tuck then pelts the two with snowballs until they fall in. He tells them to have a nice day and squeezes a bicycle horn he has affixed to his belt for punctuation, I guess that’s his “thing.”

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Poor Spike is feeling a little chilly. This is actually rather sweet of Heathcliff to lend him his parka.

Heathcliff paddles a frozen Spike back to land and then kindly wraps Spike in his parka (which magically grows in size to fit Spike) and earmuffs before taking off after Tuck. Tuck continues to pelt him with snowballs forcing Heathcliff to build a giant snow fort for protection. Tuck apparently does the same as the two are now behind castle-like fortifications made of snow which of course makes me think of the classic Disney short Donald’s Snow Fight. Heathcliff quickly assembles a seesaw and puts a giant snowball on one end before smacking the other with a mallet he apparently keeps in his back pocket. The snowball smashes into Tuck’s wall forcing the elf to run away in terror as the ball of snow rolls after him.

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Remember kids, icicles will stop a rampaging polar bear.

Heathcliff, satisfied with himself for taking care of the elf, turns when he hears a loud growl. Poor Spike is being set on by a polar bear and Heathcliff dashes off to help his sometimes adversary. Spike is frozen with fear as the bear sniffs him. A scream from Tuck, who’s still being chased by a rolling ball of snow, causes Spike to yell which in turn causes the bear to rise to its hind legs and do the same. As Tuck runs by, the snowball finally gets him and the bear sending the two into a cave. Heathcliff and Spike look on as Tuck screams for help. Reasoning that Santa might be watching, Heathcliff decides to help the elf out by tossing a snowball at the cave entrance causing a bunch of icicles to drop down forming a cage which prevents the polar bear from leaving the cave.

Heathcliff and Spike then approach Tuck who is trying to catch his breath. He thanks them for the help, but Heathcliff is still pretty salty about all of the stuff Tuck tried before the rescue. Tuck apologizes, claiming he’s going through “some stuff” at the moment, before declaring he’ll help them see Santa. Heathcliff and Spike are amazed at the workshop while Tuck acts nonchalantly about the whole thing. The old elf from earlier doesn’t seem surprised to see Tuck return so soon. He remarks it’s a jungle out there, but Tuck corrects him by saying “Actually, it’s a blizzard,” honking that horn again (this guy sucks). Tuck then starts begging for his job back, but the old elf instructs him he’ll have to take his plea to the big boss man and gestures towards a door at the top of some stairs.

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The big man himself ready to pass judgement on Tuck and our heroes.

The trio enter and find Santa sitting at his desk. He’s a pretty warm and friendly sort of Santa who may or may not be voiced by Peter Cullen. He asks what they want and Tuck asks Heathcliff to explain it for him. Heathcliff holds up the letters and explains they were sent back. Tuck immediately fesses up to sending them back, then starts begging for his job back. Santa is a pretty generous guy and does indeed restore Tuck’s employment. He then thanks Heathcliff and Spike for returning the letters to him. Then he goes into his whole “Have you been good this year?” routine and Heathcliff and Spike both claim that they have. Each time one starts to make that claim, the other stomps on their foot. Santa gives a chuckle seemingly amused by their petty violence and tells them returning the letters essentially undoes whatever bad deeds they committed. He then points out they need a ride home and orders Tuck to saddle-up his team as the duo dance happily about going for a ride on Santa’s sleigh.

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Maybe the A-Team only flies on Christmas and these are the D-List reindeer.

Santa’s sleigh is apparently to be pulled by two shoddy looking reindeer, with one being blue for some reason. I don’t think it’s Christmas Eve, so I guess that explains why the full team isn’t needed. Before they depart, Santa asks Tuck if he wants to go for a ride too and the little, blue, elf perks up and climbs in excitedly. They whiz past the moon, as is customary, and Heathcliff points out his house to Santa. The town is now covered in snow and Santa deposits the two in the street. As Heathcliff turns to head home, Spike mentions how they’re supposed to be nice to each other and stuff. Heathcliff then gets nailed by a snowball. He turns to find Spike preparing to hurl another in his direction. A halo forms above his head, and quickly falls down around his neck as Heathcliff decides they don’t need to start being nice right away. The two then engage in a snowball fight as the episode comes to an end.

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I’d be shocked if this shot wasn’t in the episode.

“North Pole Cat” is a fairly run-of-the-mill Christmas special of a pretty run-of-the-mill 80s cartoon. My most enduring memory of this show was the theme song, and with good reason. It’s a catchy little number, and the cartoon that follows is largely unremarkable. The intro promises a character in Heathcliff who plays pranks, but he seems like more of a righteous character in this episode. There are attempts at one-liners, but they all fall flat. It’s also a bit odd the plot is essentially a homicidal elf who hates Christmas tries to kill Heathcliff for no reason, but then is in turn saved by the cat and returns to his old post. Why would Santa employ an attempted murderer? Is it because the life of a dog and cat mean nothing to him? For shame, Santa.

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If Heathcliff was really all about playing pranks on everyone then he’d definitely be spitting right now.

Mel Blanc’s performance is actually the best aspect of the show as it’s unique enough amongst his many performances to stand-out. The rest of the voice cast is fine, though like many shows of this era it’s really hard to figure out who is voicing who outside of the main characters. The role of Tuck sounds similar to Charlie Adler, but I could not find any indication that he did work on this show. It’s not unheard of for actors to go uncredited, but usually that stuff is revealed leaving me to believe whoever did the voice for Tuck (as well as the other one-off characters like Santa, the mailman, and head elf) is someone in the main cast. Which, for the record, included Danny Mann, Peter Cullen, Stanley Jones, Ted Zeigler, Derek McGrath, Danny Wells, Donna Christie, Jeannie Elias, and Marilyn Lightstone.

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The eternal battle rages on.

As a Christmas special, this one doesn’t try to do too much. It has one character in Tuck sort of come to appreciate the spirit of the holiday, but not really. Heathcliff and Spike don’t learn anything and Santa confirms you can undo a year of naughtiness with a single act at the last second. Visually, the look of Santa’s workshop is interesting, but we barely see anything. Santa himself looks fine and so do the elves, except Tuck who’s a bit odd looking. The overall animation is pretty much what you would expect of a DiC program. It’s better than what Hanna-Barbera were doing in the 70s, but not as good as what would follow. Both Spike and Heathcliff have a white rectangle on their nose that’s supposed to create the illusion of a round, shiny, nose, but often has no curve to it and really annoyed me. And the reindeer looked terrible, like malnourished donkeys with horns stapled to their heads.

If you wish to watch this one yourself this holiday season, and I don’t really recommend that you do, the easiest way is to simply plug it into YouTube. Heathcliff is not a bankable star these days so his cartoons are rather easy to find. You can pay for digital copies if you want to, though I don’t know why you would. After receiving sparse, partial, releases on DVD the entire series was released as a set in 2016 by Mill Creek Entertainment. It retails for about 12 bucks brand new so if Heathcliff is your kind of cat then why not get the whole show? Though if you really are into Heathcliff then you probably already own it and disagree with my take on this episode entirely. Either way, merry Christmas!


Dec. 12 – Teen Titans Go! – “Halloween vs. Christmas”

 

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Original air date October 27, 2016.

It’s a battle for the hearts of children around the world! What is the superior holiday:  Halloween or Christmas? Today’s entrant is founded on the premise that Halloween is the only holiday to rival Christmas as far as what children look forward to most. This feels more or less on point as a kid I definitely had strong affection for both, with Thanksgiving serving as the necessary evil standing in between the two of them. It probably comes as no surprise to anyone that Christmas was indeed my preferred holiday of the two, but Halloween was not without its charm. As for second best? Yes, I suppose that title went to Halloween though Easter was pretty close. It included candy as well plus I always got a toy from the Easter Bunny to go along with that candy. And as a kid, I much preferred toys to candy. Still, I’d probably go with Halloween because the whole costuming and going out at night was pretty charming. And as I got older it became a chance for mischief when parents no longer supervised the trick and/or treating that took place.

Even though I’m in agreement that Halloween is quite popular, I’d never put it on equal footing with Christmas. Especially not as a kid. As an adult, there are things that come with Halloween that I enjoy more now. And as a parent, dressing my kids up and unleashing them on the neighborhood is its own unique brand of joy. It doesn’t rival Christmas morning though, and I’m big on the whole build-up thing. Yes, Halloween is great, but don’t make me choose between the two because Halloween just can’t win that one.

And that’s partly what makes this episode of Teen Titans Go! so interesting. One would think if Halloween was to be pitted against Christmas the challenge would come from Halloween or a being associated with Halloween. It does not. Rather, this episode comes at things from the opposite perspective, but it creates a character that makes it work

mummy santaThe episode begins on Halloween night. Everyone is getting ready for trick or treating, but a group of individuals dressed as mummies are up to no good. There are four of them, one much larger than the others, and they’re swiping everything Halloween related from town:  candy, decorations, even costumes right off of the children! The Teen Titans happen to be in the area as Robin (Scott Menville) instructs the other Titans that they must secure provisions for the evening’s festivities. As they do so they come to find there’s nothing in town to purchase. Beast Boy (Greg Cipes) tells them to fear not, for he has saved some candy from last year that they can hand out to trick or treaters. He reaches into his pants and pulls out a greasy looking jack-o-lantern bag of treats and the others do not seem repulsed enough by this.

After Beast Boy produces the candy, the mummy group arrives to request it. They offer a “Trick or treat,” when prompted and Beast Boy is ready to hand over the candy, but then they notice something is off with these trick or treaters. One seems too old for the activity, while the others are really small. They wield Christmas stockings instead of Halloween bags or buckets and the big one even has what appears to be a white beard sticking out through his bandages. Robin correctly realizes that this group is really Santa Claus (Robert Morse) and his elves in disguise and he orders the Titans to the car.

The Teen Titans speed off as Santa gives chase in his sleigh. Rudolf leads the way firing lasers from his eyes that eventually pop one of the tires of the escape vehicle. Robin converts it into a nifty hover jet and it flies off into the Titans’ headquarters. Once inside, the Teen Titans regroup and all wonder what’s going on. Robin has it figured out though when he hypothesizes that Santa views Halloween as the only threat to Christmas so he’s seeking to gain control of it by seizing all of the candy and decorations. The other Titans are horrified, and then Santa shows up to basically confirm that Robin is correct.

santa megaphoneSanta hovers outside the armored HQ in his sleigh pulled by three reindeer. He demands they hand over the last bag of candy, but the Titans refuse. He then offers them bribes in the form of gifts, which nearly tempt Starfire (Hynden Walch) into handing over the candy. Robin instructs her to remain strong and the Titans are able to resist. This forces Santa to try a new tactic:  Christmas music! The music is supposed to infect the group with so much Christmas cheer that they cannot resist the demands of Santa. Cyborg (Khary Payton) is the first to crack as he attempts to run and grab a tree, but he’s stopped by his team members. They all confess that it’s too hard to resist the Christmas spirit with even the dour Raven (Tara Strong) affected by it. Robin concedes they must agree to meet Santa and make a deal.

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That treacherous Santa came armed.

The Titans let down their guard and allow Santa access to their roof where they all meet. Santa isn’t alone for he has two large grunts and three elves with him. Robin is outraged that they brought weapons and demands they lay them down. Santa does as Robin requests, but he asks that his little elves be allowed to keep their candy cane snacks. Robin allows it and the group begins to barter. Robin offers up other holidays in hopes of appeasing Santa, starting with President’s Day. He tosses a bound George Washington at Santa’s feet, but the fat man isn’t having any of it. Robin counters with a tandem of St. Patrick’s Day and a baby that’s either representing Baby New Year or maybe it’s a cupid. Either way, Santa brushes aside the offering of “trash holidays” and demands Halloween. The elves then turn their candy canes on the Titans revealing they’re actually guns forcing the group to retreat back inside their base.

With the negotiations failed, Robin turns to Raven and her dark arts for help. She requests a pumpkin, but Beast Boy offers up a gourd. In a throwback to the candy sack gag from earlier, the gourd comes from his pants. When asked why he would have a gourd in his pants he offers the same reason, suggesting you never know when you’ll need it. I choose to believe he’s using it to enhance his “package” and the little mugging he does for the camera makes me think I’m right.

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Behold! A new icon for Halloween!

With the gourd in her possession, Raven begins an incantation. She summons the Spirt of Halloween (Payton) who strongly resembles Samhain from The Real Ghostbusters, only with a gourd for a head instead of a pumpkin. The spirit is not alone though, as the Titans return to the roof to unleash their new team on Santa’s minions:  Dracula, Frankenstein’s Monster, and The Wolf Man! Together with the Titans, they put up quite a fight, but Santa ends up getting his claws on the Halloween Spirit and the Titans are forced to surrender.

santa vs halloweenWith defeat pulling their chins towards the ground, the Titans hand over the last sack of candy rather than see Santa kill the Spirit of Halloween. Santa is delighted to have the candy in his possession, but when he opens the sack he finds it’s full of dynamite. Cyborg detonates it with a remote blasting Santa all the way back to the North Pole where’s shown with his head stuck in the snow. The Titans all celebrate, and in what is a parody of many Christmas specials, the Halloween Spirit uses his magic to bring Halloween to the town. He even creates a sleigh with skeletal reindeer not unlike what Jack Skellington rode in The Nightmare Before Christmas. As Robin wishes everyone a Happy Halloween, the Titans and Halloween Sprit ride off into the night with the full moon serving as the perfect backdrop.

“Halloween vs Christmas” serves as an offbeat Christmas special. Or is it a Halloween special? It features both so I think it counts as both, similar to the previously mentioned The Nightmare Before Christmas. Where that movie leans more towards Christmas, this one definitely leans more towards Halloween, which is fine. It doesn’t really settle the premise implied by the title, but together with the Spirit of Halloween, the Teen Titans are able to preserve Halloween by fending off St. Nick. It features the usual Teen Titans Go! brand of humor. The villainous Santa the episode came up with is pretty amusing. He gets by with a touch of shock humor since it’s a surprise to see Santa behave in such a manner, but American Dad has been running with an adversarial Santa for quite awhile now too. I really like the performance of Robert Morse as Santa and his affinity for referring to the Titans as “garbage children” kept making me chuckle.

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Happy Halloween everyone! Or, Merry Christmas?

The look of this show is something you either like or do not like. It’s very flat as it’s a modern 2D animated show, but it’s also colorful and the actual animation is pretty good. There’s an obvious anime influence to the action shots and in how the characters emote. I find it charming, but I also wasn’t a viewer of the more traditional Teen Titans show that came before this. Some fans of that show seem resigned to hating this one for being a comedy show, but that’s their loss, I suppose. I don’t think this show is going to be remembered as one of the best of its era, but it’s fine and it’s not something I mind watching. It knows when to leave a joke behind and the episodes are too short to really get stale, though I do wish Cartoon Network didn’t show massive blocks of this show seemingly every day when it has plenty of other quality shows it could boost.

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It’s more of a Halloween special, but it still knows to end on a moon shot after a flying sleigh just went by.

This is the second Teen Titans Go! episode to appear in one of the countdowns, the other being “Second Christmas.” Neither is a traditional Christmas episode, which feels appropriate for the brand. I found both entertaining, but the holiday mash-up gimmick utilized here makes me appreciate this one just a bit more. Regardless, Cartoon Network is likely to show both more than once this December so keep an eye out if it’s something you want to check out. You can also buy the episode digitally and may even be able to stream it on Cartoon Network’s app. It should be one of the easier specials to find this year should you choose to seek it out.


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

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Original Air Date December 20, 1997

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

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

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

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

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

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

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A cozy, Christmasy, setting gets things started.

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

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That feeling of calm is quickly abandoned.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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That is one amazing neck.

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

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

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Max, ever eager to climb insane a human body.

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

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

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

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Let’s get silly.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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I suppose it’s better than solitary.

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

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Grannie gets her Christmas wish.

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

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Obligatory holiday message.

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

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

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

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

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


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