Tag Archives: christmas

Misfits Holiday Fiend Figure from NECA

2020 will be remembered for a lot of things, many of them not good. One non-negative aspect of 2020 that will be memorable for me was that it was the year I really got back into toy collecting. Most of that was courtesy of NECA toys and their various Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles lines. Those started hitting retail in 2019, but that year was largely a catch-up year as NECA rolled out figures to market that had previously been made available as convention exclusives, which I had purchased at the time. The first new to me figure release came in November of 2019 in the form of the cartoon Bebop and Rocksteady two-pack. Waves 3 and 4 hit in 2020 along with new releases in the movie line such as Casey Jones and Super Shredder. Super7 got in on the fun too launching its own line of TMNT products and I didn’t just stop with that brand. I also got figures from Hasbro, Bandai, and more as the lack of entertainment options and stay-at-home orders had me turning to toys to fill time.

Since 2020 ended up being a big year for toys on this blog, it seems only fitting to interrupt the annual Christmas Spot advent calendar (don’t worry, this doesn’t replace a normal entry) with a holiday themed toy review. In this case, it’s the Holiday Fiend action figure from NECA. The Fiend, also known as The Crimson Ghost or Misfits Ghost, is the mascot of the horror-punk band The Misfits. When it comes to Misfits fandom, there have been two camps for the past 25 years: the Glenn Danzig camp and the Jerry Only camp. Sometimes the fandoms have overlapped, but for the most part fans seem to pick sides. For me, I was always team Glenn. Nothing personal when it comes to Only, but I just never liked his version of The Misfits. The original band broke-up in 83, and it wasn’t until the mid-90s that Only and his brother Doyle tried to resurrect the band. After some litigation with their former frontman, it was decided the two individuals would share merchandising rights to The Misfits and that Only could continue the band without Danzig. Shockingly, The Misfits have now existed as a Jerry Only band far longer than it did with Glenn Danzig as the singer and songwriter of the group.

Santa Fiend has come to town!
He’s got a bag that’s filled with…something.

Since I wasn’t a fan of “The Newfits,” I tended to avoid the merch put out by that band. I did end up with a t-shirt here and there, but I tended to only buy stuff that Danzig put out. The same has been true of the various dolls and toys that have come out over the years, including the original release of this figure I’m about to talk about. The original NECA release of The Fiend is clearly an homage to the album cover of American Psycho, the big come-back record for Jerry’s version of The Misfits. Being that, I never had much interest in it. Throw in a dash of Christmas though and now you have my attention! I’ve managed to resist Christmas themed releases before with The Misfits. Only’s band even covered the holiday classic “You’re a Mean One, Mr. Grinch” and released it as a single with artwork basically depicting a mash-up of the classic character with the Misfits Fiend. I was able to resist though, and it was made easier by the fact that the cover was really not very good. I’ve caved this time though and it’s time to find out if that was worth it.

If you want to lessen the Santa look you can remove the hate, though why would you want to do that?

The Fiend comes in a window box package featuring some festive artwork on the front. Inside you get a good look at the contents of the box with some nice product shots on the back. The Fiend stands at about eight inches and is basically just a plain, black, action figure. And that’s because you’re never meant to see what’s under his robe, and I don’t think the source material has ever revealed what’s supposed to be there anyway. All that is visible are the face and hands, which are skeletal in nature, but also have always embodied the look of the serial from which the character originated. That means that rather than just being an actual skeleton, the being is clearly wearing black gloves with printed bones and the head is wearing a mask. The new, festive, robe is meant to be the defining characteristic and it’s a plush, red, piece of fabric that looks rather lovely draped over this handsome boy. The ends of the sleeves and the hem of which have been embroidered with white to give the figure a very Santa Claus look. And he even has the hat to complete the ensemble. The robe isn’t mean to be removed, but I’m sure you could if you wished. The hat is and it sits over the normal hood The Fiend features. A plush, green, sack is also included to create a Santa Fiend look and one is left to ponder what this creature would bring to all of the good little boys and girls of the world? Skulls?

Oh, my!

The base figure underneath is pretty basic. I think, but I don’t know for sure since this is the first horror or music figure I’ve purchased from NECA, that this body is pretty standard for the company’s clothed releases. The head is on a simple ball peg (and it’s really tight) with good rotation and tilt. The shoulders are standard ball-joints and the elbows and knees on this figure are single-jointed hinges. The wrists rotate and have a hinge each and unlike the head are really easy to remove, so much so that I accidentally have popped them out when manipulating the figure. There is no ab or upper body rotation, but there is a waist swivel. The legs are on ball-joints and actually have very good range of motion. There’s a thigh swivel and the ankles are hinged. The Fiend, if you were wondering, appears to be wearing black high-tops. It’s an acceptable amount of articulation for what this figure is, but one thing missing that disappoints me is the lack of peg holes on the bottoms of the feet. This guy can be tricky to stand because of all of the material draped over the figure and I really wish I could utilize the standard NECA stand. Instead, something more like a Barbie stand is needed as I don’t want to spend 10 bucks on an action stand for a figure that literally just needs to stand.

He looks positively resplendent in those robes!

The star of the show is the Christmas soft goods. The robe is really nice to look at and NECA included wires where needed. It shimmers in natural light and really catches the eye and I love that it’s hemmed with white at the cuffs and bottom of the robe. A Velcro strip runs up the front of the robe so if you wish to take a peek underneath you certainly can. The hood is a separate piece that is stitched to the back of the robe. It has a wire running through the hem and you’ll probably have to manipulate it a bunch out of the box. The only odd aspect of the robe I’m not sold on are the sleeves. They’re meant to have large cuffs that hang low, but NECA tailored the white onto a smaller cuff to go around the hand leaving a big hole behind it for the rest of the red cuff to hang down. I think it would look better if they had done the white around the whole thing and inserted another wire for posing as it’s just kind of weird as-is. The hat is a simple, Santa, hat that also contains a wire. It fits snugly on the Fiend’s head and looks pretty terrific. The sack is basically just a piece of green velvet-like material with a string tied around the end. There’s nothing inside it, though it has a wire running around it to allow for some posing. I kind of wish NECA had filled it with cotton or something to fluff it up. I suppose I could do that myself if I was willing to mess with the knot on it. It gets the job done though.

If you prefer a more “classic” look, NECA included a second, all-white, face on a second head.
Christmas Evilive!

NECA opted to include some swap-able parts with this figure, though they’re not particularly exciting. The finish on the face of the included head has some embellishments on it. I think it’s from the original release which is aiming to mimic the American Psycho cover by Basil Gogos (who also did the art for this release) which was going for a grave-emerging or crypt-lurking kind of look. Only now, the colors are a muted red and green to go with the whole Christmas theme, but it almost looks like some sort of weird camo. I’m not really a fan. The alternate head is a bone white version with no added paint which is basically how the character was depicted in art on the classic releases like Horror Business. The hands on the stock version also feature the same red and green paint on the back of the hand and they provide alternate bone white versions to match the face. All four hands are in a relaxed, open, position. He doesn’t have any proper gripping hands, but since the sack is light and empty he can still hold onto it well enough. Swapping the head on this guy was quite a bitch. I had to give it a real, good, tug to get the stock one off and I heated the other one with running water to get it on. I didn’t want to use a heat gun or anything given the presence of soft goods which could catch fire. At least I don’t like the regular head very much so I shouldn’t have to swap it again.

I think this is the look I’ll stick with.

The Christmas version of NECA’s The Fiend action figure is largely as expected. While I think there could have been some better design choices and I wish the stock head better matched the artwork, this figure should largely satisfy any Misfits fan looking to add the ghost to their holiday decorating. I love Christmas decorations and this guy will certainly stand out with what I already have. I could even see some NECA collectors paring this guy with the Santa Stripe released this year from the Gremlins line. And fans of the Jerry Only Misfits who already have the Horror X-Mas release should definitely try and pair that with this for their holiday display. The only reason not to is the price. At an MSRP of $35, this guy is on the pricier end of NECA releases. That could have something to do with the cost of the license, and anyone who saw the merch prices at the more recent Misfits shows know how expensive that stuff can get, and it’s definitely more than what I’m used to with NECA given what’s in the box. If price is an issue, maybe wait until the spring when this guy hits clearance. At least this isn’t an exclusive and you should be able to buy this wherever NECA products are sold, in particular the horror figures.

And if you’re still on the fence, he makes a nice tree topper!

Dec. 13 – The 25 Greatest Christmas TV Specials

Five years ago The Christmas Spot did its first advent calendar countdown to Christmas and the theme was “The 25 Greatest Christmas TV Specials.” With that list, my approach wasn’t entirely forthright. I really had a list of 20 specials that I deemed worthy of such an honor and I devoted the back five to specials I felt were worth spotlighting that might otherwise have been overlooked. What I also should have added at the time was that the list is fluid. It’s going to change as we as a society of holiday consumers reevaluate the old and welcome the new. Seeing as it’s been five years, it felt right to look back on that list, re-arrange a few entries, add some more, and kick out some that have grown stale. I should stress, this is all one man’s opinion on television specials and as someone who loves Christmas I do tend to watch a lot of these specials too much and there’s definitely a fatigue factor. The list of holiday fare I indulge in year in and year out goes deeper than 25, so if your favorite isn’t here don’t sweat it. I probably think it’s fine.

For this exercise, I think it makes sense to just go down the list comparing the original to the revised edition. I’ll list the number and the entry with the previous ranking (if applicable) in parenthesis after and the 2015 entry after that, like so:

25. A Flintstone Christmas (#9) (Moral Orel – The Best Christmas Ever)

I like A Flintstone Christmas a lot, but I’ve also seen it a lot and I think it just doesn’t affect me in the same way now as it did years ago. As for Moral Orel, it’s a fine, dark, Christmas special and not something I need to watch every year.

24. American Dad! – For Whom the Sleigh Bell Tolls (UR) (Winnie the Pooh and Christmas Too)

American Dad! has become one of the titans of Christmas as it has a new special almost every year. “For Whom the Sleigh Bell Tolls” is bloody and insane, which is what makes it the most memorable for me, but there are a lot of contenders from this show. Winnie the Pooh’s foray into Christmas is plenty sweet, but also not very remarkable.

23. Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer (#13) (Robot Chicken’s Half-Assed Christmas Special)

Rudolph is a classic, but let’s not kid ourselves, it’s mostly included on all of these lists because of its classic status. It’s kind of ugly, and I think most of us watch it out of habit as opposed to pure enjoyment. Still, there’s no replicating that warm, nostalgic, feel it’s still capable of conjuring up. As for Robot Chicken, I very much enjoy the marathon sessions Adult Swim will air during December, but it’s designed to be disposable and the jokes are very hit or miss.

22. Olaf’s Frozen Adventure (UR) (Invader Zim – Most Horrible X-Mas Ever)

Olaf’s special wasn’t around in 2015, but it looks like it’s going to be an annual tradition for awhile. It’s funny, warm, and even features songs I don’t hate. He’s quickly become the most charismatic snowman around. Invader Zim is fine, but if you want an absurd Christmas story then I think there’s better out there (like American Dad!).

21. The Tick Loves Santa (UR) (Married…with Children – You Better Watch Out)

In 2020, offbeat and silly superhero stuff is really appealing given how superheroes rule the box office (or would in a normal year). That makes The Tick a series I can appreciate even more now than I did back in 94. And watching The Tick bumble his way through a Christmas story is a great deal of fun. It knocks off the only live-action special from 2015 to be featured on this list. Married…with Children is sort of like the sitcom version of American Dad! because it has a lot of Christmas specials, and most are pretty subversive. It’s still worth watching, but it was always at risk of being dropped for the simple fact that I favor cartoons.

20. Bob’s Burgers – Christmas in the Car (UR) (The Snowman)

Bob’s Burgers and American Dad! are battling it out to be the current king of Christmas since both are prepared seemingly year in and year out. I give the edge to the Belcher family, and while it’s hard to pick a favorite from this crew, I think “Christmas in the Car” is still the reigning champ though I seem to warm more and more to “Father of the Bob” every time I view it. The Snowman is the victim I feel the worst about. It’s not moving up the ranks, but out. I know a lot of folks adore it, but I’ve just never been able to feel the same way about it. Sorry!

19. Frosty the Snowman (#15) (It’s a SpongeBob Christmas)

Like Rudolph, Frosty is skating by on reputation at this point. Unlike Rudolph though, I still feel charmed by this one whenever I watch it. The characters are goofy, some of the plot points make no sense, and that damn song will forever remain catchy. As for SpongeBob, worry not for him, for he will appear later on this list in a more prominent position.

18. Beavis and Butt-Head Do Christmas (#18) (Beavis and Butt-Head Do Christmas)

Hey! One that didn’t change! Spoiler alert, but this one is just the first to not move a spot. This one is wonderfully stupid and subversive. Many confuse Beavis and Butt-Head for just stupid, but there’s a lot of satire to be found with the duo. It’s not for everyone, but it sure is funny.

17. Futurama – Xmas Story (#12) (A Muppet Family Christmas)

Futurama hangs on slipping just five spots. It wasn’t in any real danger to fall off as I love the show and I love it’s take on Christmas. The Muppets, on the other hand, were mostly on the old version for the novelty of their special and nostalgia. Admittedly though, the special isn’t great and has maybe 2 or 3 good laughs during its hour-long runtime. Plus that ending goes on and on…

16. A Charlie Brown Christmas (#4) (Yes, Virginia)

Hoo-boy was I coward in 2015! Charlie Brown is a classic, but it’s also quite dull. It’s quotable, has great music, and the good-bad voice acting is somehow really charming. It’s near the top of many lists because it’s been around so long and boomers love it while younger generations were forced to enjoy it. Top 16 is still good, but we all need to be more honest when it comes to Charlie Brown. Yes, Virginia is super sweet and I love the ending, it’s getting there that’s tough. The special is pretty slow and the CG is downright ugly. This one would have been a lot better as a short, but maybe someone will return to it and do just that. And if you hadn’t heard, A Charlie Brown Christmas is airing tonight on PBS at 7:30 PM local time (6:30 CT) which is big news since It’s the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown was frozen out of a broadcast airing in 2020 for the first time ever.

15. A Pinky and the Brain Christmas (UR) (Frosty the Snowman)

This one was just an oversight on my part back in 2015. I had not seen it in years, but when I re-watched it for The Christmas Spot in 2017 I was reminded of how wonderful a viewing it is. That ending gets me every time.

14. The Night Before Christmas starring Tom and Jerry (UR) (A Very Special Family Guy Freakin’ Christmas)

Another one I forgot about and overlooked, Tom and Jerry’s battle under the Christmas tree is full of the usual gags the duo is known for. The animation is gorgeous, especially the backgrounds, and it tops it all off with a really sweet ending. Family Guy was generously ranked in this spot in 2015 and actually was a tough omission this time around. I do still like that special, easily the best Family Guy Christmas episode I’ve seen, but I basically gave it the boot in favor of the superior show, American Dad!

13. Duck the Halls (UR) (Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer)

It’s Donald Duck and it’s Christmas – it was practically made for me! Duck the Halls is hilarious and the animation is great. Sure, it isn’t ink and paint like the old days, but I find it plenty pleasing. Tony Anselmo gives maybe his best performance ever as Donald, and if anything I’m penalizing this one because we have more Donald to come.

12. Rocko’s Modern Christmas (UR) (Futurama – Xmas Story)

I love Rocko, but in 2015 I had all but forgotten about his Christmas special. Well, not this time as I’m putting him just outside the Top 10. The story is fairly simple, but Rocko is so likable and sympathetic that it makes this one instantly charming. And let’s not forget the great gags like the constipated cloud and the living (until it’s not) Christmas tree.

11. It’s a SpongeBob Christmas (#19) (Prep & Landing)

SpongeBob is moving up in the world and actually is the biggest mover, in a positive direction, this time around. My affection for this stop-motion Christmas special seems to grow and grow each year. In 2015 it was still pretty new so a recency bias worked against it, but five years later I’m more than ready to declare this a modern Christmas classic. And the same can be said for the special that once occupied this spot.

10. South Park – Mr. Hanky the Christmas Poo (#8) (A Garfield Christmas)

Mr. Hanky just barely hangs onto a top 10 spot this time out. Is his spot in danger? Yes, considering my love of SpongeBob and Donald Duck. For now though, let’s just reflect on how crazy this special was when it first showed up in 1997 and how South Park used to have a new Christmas special every year. My, how the times have changed.

9. Prep & Landing (#11) (A Flintstone Christmas)

I’m surprised I held Prep & Landing out of the Top 10 last time around, but like SpongeBob, I guess I just wasn’t quite ready to let someone new into the club. The CG still looks great on this one and the story is unique, fun, and even heart-warming. New Christmas specials arrive every year, but rarely does one actually add to the whole Santa Claus lore in a meaningful way, but that’s what Prep & Landing has done. These elves aren’t going anywhere anytime soon.

8. A Garfield Christmas (#10) (Mr. Hanky the Christmas Poo)

The fat cat who loves lasagna gets to move up a couple spots, largely benefiting from folks like Fred Flintstone and Charlie Brown getting kicked further down the line. This 1987 special is still a treat to take in that blends humor with a surprising amount of sentiment. It’s a shame it lost the network timeslot it held for many years.

7. DuckTales – Last Christmas! (UR) (Toy Tinkers)

DuckTales has made a comeback since 2015 and included among the new episodes is the show’s first ever Christmas special, and it’s wonderful! It turns the story of A Christmas Carol on its head, in a way, with a time travel tale all its own and features the first mother-son pairing of Della and Duey Duck. Plus it has a fantastic cameo from the late, great, Russi Taylor. If you have yet to see it, fix that this year. Especially since word has come out recently the show isn’t being renewed for a fourth season. 2020 just refuses to stop sucking!

6. Toy Tinkers (#7) (Simpsons Roasting on an Open Fire)

The Donald Duck/Chip and Dale vehicle moves up one spot this year. It matters little as this is a cartoon all animation lovers and Christmas enthusiasts should make a point to watch every year. The only negative is that the gunplay contained within this one means Disney+ will likely continue to shun it making it a tad harder to come by.

5. A Chipmunk Christmas (#3) (Pluto’s Christmas Tree)

Alvin and the gang spin a fine Christmas tale. I thought highly enough of it to rank it in the top 3 last time, but I’m bumping it down just a couple of spots this year as I basically rearrange some things. This one is becoming a little harder to come by each year as you can’t guarantee a network showing, but DVDs are cheap so grab one if you need it!

4. Simpsons Roasting on an Open Fire (#6) (A Charlie Brown Christmas)

The premiere episode of The Simpsons is still my favorite Christmas special the show has done. Sure, it’s a bit rough to look at these days, but the story is great, classic, Simpsons. I just wish it and the other 80s Christmas specials on this list were celebrated as much as the stuff from the 60s that hasn’t aged so well. Well, most of that stuff has aged horribly, but there’s one notable omission we’ll get to shortly.

3. Pluto’s Christmas Tree (#5) (A Chipmunk Christmas)

Alvin and Pluto essentially switched places largely because I just love this little short. It’s just perfect. The scenery inside the Christmas tree featuring Chip and Dale is just the best. I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it every time I watch this short – I want to live in that tree. The physical comedy is fantastic, and I just absolutely adore this short. Unlike Toy Tinkers, you can find this one on Disney+ 365 days out of the year. I’ll probably watch it at least a dozen times between now and Christmas.

2. Mickey’s Christmas Carol (#2)

Mickey and our number one didn’t move, and that’s with good reason. This is my preferred version of A Christmas Carol, and frankly, we don’t need any more. It’s the only one on this list other than the parody featured in Beavis and Butt-Head (I don’t really consider “Last Christmas!” an adaptation) which is kind of surprising to me, but it also feels right. This one is beautiful and features some phenomenal voice acting. I’ll never not tear-up at the sight of a crying Mickey when he visits Tiny Tim’s grave, ditto for when Scrooge informs him he’s getting promoted at the end. I’m getting misty eyed right now just thinking about it.

  1. Dr. Seuss’ How the Grinch Stole Christmas (#1)

It was number one in 2015, and it will likely remain number one for as long as I’m alive. How the Grinch Stole Christmas is just a perfect Christmas special. It features a story full of heart, humor, redemption, and joy. It’s gorgeously animated with a style unique to both Dr. Seuss and animator Chuck Jones. The music is equally as memorable and the narration from Boris Karloff is the only voice people hear in their heads now-a-days when reading the source material. There’s nothing I’d change about this special, and if I had to pick just one Christmas special to watch annually it would be this one.


Dec. 11 – We Wish You a Turtle Christmas

Several months ago, I reviewed a product called The Musical Mutagen Tour Action Figure Set. It was a set of toys based on the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles stage show, Coming Out of Their Shells, from 1990. Back then, the Turtles were so unbelievably hot that they could sell out a terrible stage show in which actors in bad costumes jumped around on stage and mimed playing instruments to a backing track. The property is still hot enough today that a toy company, in this case NECA, could release a set of action figures based on those hideous costumes and sell the whole lot of them at a tidy $125 a pop.

In 1994 though, the Ninja Turtles franchise was far from its height. It had been two years since the abysmal Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles III and kids had largely ditched the gang green in favor of comic book heroes and Power Rangers. For some reason a thing called Christopher Films decided that 1994 was the right time to do a direct to VHS TMNT Christmas Special. And since animation is expensive, they opted to do it Coming Out of Their Shells style. Now, I don’t think these costumes we’re about to look at came directly from those productions, but they’re pretty shitty. Horrifying even. I’ve always been amazed that this and other VHS specials exist of that era since those costumes were designed to look okay from a distance, not under the scrutiny of a camera.

Usually this logo means it’s time to get at least mildly excited.

As far as I can tell, no one associated with that old tour had anything to do with this. This was written by Tish Rabe who also did Turtle Tunes. Richard Berg, who as best as I can tell is most known for designing wargames, composed the music which is largely public domain parodies. As best as I can tell, I’m doing the Coming Out of Their Shells tour a disservice by comparing it to this as it’s more like the concept was borrowed, slightly, from that, but everything else is different.

Innocent turtles were forced to crawl through goop for this thing.

It’s really not worth delving into it more than that, to be honest, since what I’m about to subject myself to is quite possibly the most wretched thing vomited up by the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles franchise. I don’t blame any of the creative staff here, they need to earn a living like all of us and weren’t exactly presented with an opportunity to do anything worthwhile. I imagine if they had done something brilliant no one would have noticed anyway. Since the original cartoon series never received a Christmas special though, this is just going to have to do.

Raph insisting they’re good looking is a pretty bold flex.

This thing begins with an intro in which a song plays over some cuts from later in the special. It’s edited together rather lazily as some shots will repeat during this thirty second bit. There’s almost no attempt to match the mouth movements of these hideous turtle costumes to the song either. These costumes are fucking terrible. They have no lips, and I suppose you may counter with the fact that you’ve never seen lips on a turtle, but by these costumes forgoing such a crucial piece of anatomy the result is when they sing it’s just teeth gnashing together. Their teeth are always exposed making these guys look rather deranged. There’s no attempt to create any sort of inside to their mouth either so when they open up it’s just blackness. Their heads are ginormous and for some reason the tails on their masks are about four feet long. Michelangelo (Alfredo Miller) is also wearing what I guess is a white scarf, but looks more like a strand of toilet paper. These costumes are so cheap you can see the straps for the shells going over their shoulders. And like the Coming Out of Their Shells turtles, they’re wearing sneakers. And for some reason Raph wants us to know they’re attractive.

Oh boy, the Turtles are getting ready for Christmas and feel like singing!

We then fade to black and Christmas bells come in as the credits roll letting us know what terrible program is coming onto our screen. We’re then greeted by Raph (James Eric Anzalone) who welcomes us in as the Turtles decorate their tree. Leo (Ronn K. Smith) takes things over to sing his favorite Christmas song, a reggae-infused version of “Deck the Halls.” Since this is TMNT, we’re decking the halls with pepperoni. Leo sings with this phoney, and rather offensive, Jamaican accent that is beyond annoying. This is wretched. It ends on a sort-of punchline when Leo sings “Merry Christmas to the Shredder,” and the music drops. I thought we were being setup for a prime “Not” joke, but instead the song just finishes.

This sewer lair has impressive lighting.

After that, the Turtles are getting ready to celebrate Christmas when they discover that no one bought a present for their master Splinter. The Turtles take turns passing the buck while I contemplate stabbing my ear drums to get rid of these hokey New York accents. The only decent sounding turtle is Donatello (Florence Reymond), who has a slight nasally, nerdy, voice. Honestly, it’s a perfectly cromulent voice for Donnie.

The only time this thing looks halfway decent is when the Turtles are kept in the dark. Literally.

The Turtles determine they need to head out and try to secure a gift for Christmas. They sing a parody of “Over the Hills and Through the Woods” to find a gift for Splinter. Who thought it was a good idea to have the Turtles sing that song? How can anyone possibly appear cool singing this stupid song?! They dance through the sewer and I’m honestly surprised this much effort was put forth in creating these sets. Maybe they just found an old warehouse or factory to shoot in? At least it’s dimly lit so we don’t have to keep looking at them.

This kid has no idea what’s going on.

We immediately go into another song, “Gotta get a Gift for Splinter.” This might be a parody, but I don’t know. It sounds familiar, but maybe that’s just because it’s super generic. The song begins with shots of random kids banging on drums and stuff. There’s at least some thought put into this one, but it’s still awful. The vocalist is a poor man’s R&B singer and the chorus of “Gotta-get-a-gift-gotta-get-a-gift-gotta-get-a-gift for Splinter,” gets really old, really fast. The Turtles look so stupid bouncing around with their heads flopping all over the place. Shockingly, these kids aren’t terrified and seem to be having fun. The song then ends with….what? I think they all say “Tonight!” but then they shoot their hands up into the air like they’re saluting a certain past German ruler. Was that supposed to be a group high-three? I don’t know what they’re going for.

Uhh, green power, I guess?!

The song is at least over and Raph takes the time to remind us there’s only two shopping hours left until Christmas. Geez Raph, why are you admonishing all of us when you were just singing and dancing like a jackass? The scene cuts to Broadway and there’s a tree and a Santa Claus hanging out. Michelangelo takes one look at the tree and tosses his scarf over his shoulder, again, so it looks like he’s trying to choke himself. I know I am. Raph then puts his hand to his face and says “Oh no, he’s turning into that opera guy again.” Apparently in this universe, Michelangelo has a second personality in which he thinks he’s an opera singer. Cool.

Sadly, not an Opera Man parody.

Michelangelo then sings his opera. It’s not as awful as I thought it was going to be, which means this will probably be the best part of the special because “not as awful as I thought it would be,” seems like the best it can do. It’s still not good, and I want him to shut up. His song is just a love letter to the city of New York. There’s a Sbarro in the background and I’m surprised they don’t run to it when the song ends, but maybe Sbarro refused to be associated with this. When it does end, Michelangelo suggests he could sing for Splinter for Christmas, and then we get that “Not” joke I was looking for earlier. The Turtles discuss what they could get for Splinter, and their ideas are mostly poorly thought out like skateboards and a yo-yo.

Oh please just make it stop!

I guess they figured things out though as we head back to the sewer for our next song, “The Wrap Rap.” They’re rhyming “wrap” with “rap,” that’s some next level genius here. I can’t decide if this is the worst part or not. Actually no, that Jamaican song was definitely worse. The beat sounds like something rejected by The Fresh Prince. It’s so bland and dated for 1994. I think white people associated those qualities with “safe rap.” When the song is finally over, the Turtles say good night. The screen is all black and I welcome this new oblivion in which I do not have to look at those awful, smiling, faces.

Splinter is staying awfully close to that punch bowl.

It’s Christmas morning, and Donatello is opening his gift from Leo. He likes it, but we don’t get to see it because the budget didn’t call for anything to be in the box. We’re then introduced to Master Splinter (Jack William Scott). Oh boy. He looks like something I found under my bed. He sort of has a Japanese accent, but I’m guessing he’s voiced by a white dude. He has the Turtles gather around him so that he can impart some wisdom upon them on this Christmas morning. Actually no, he just wants to rock and roll and open all of the gifts he got. Splinter’s idea of rock and roll is “The Twelve Days of Christmas.” What an asshole.

Splinter’s shitty version of a shitty song is all about the gifts the Turtles ended up getting him. Want to know what they are? Fine…

  1. Pizza with pepperoni
  2. Comic books
  3. Skateboards
  4. Manhole covers
  5. Video Games
  6. Frisbees
  7. Silk kimonos
  8. Chopsticks
  9. Narrow neckties
  10. Yellow yo-yos
  11. Pairs of Sneakers
  12. April O’Neil autographs

When the song is finally over, Leo complains about how it’s the longest song ever. Normally, I’d shout down such hyperbole, but those three minutes felt pretty damn long. This whole time they’re having a party in the sewer and there’s a bunch of random kids in bad 90s fashion. The kind of stuff that was definitely outdated even in 94. The only attempt at a joke during the song is when Splinter gets to day 12 he forgets what he got on days 6 through 11. And the Turtles sure are terrible gift givers. What the hell is Splinter going to do with four manhole covers? Or three skateboards? At least they had the where-with-all to make the chopsticks one an even number.

My word, that is one tremendously awful Splinter.

Splinter then tells his sons that they are generous in heart and soul, which you know is setting up some lecture. He tells them that their love is all he’ll ever need, which is what a parent says to their kid when they get a shitty gift. There’s some attempt at a message here, with thinking of those less fortunate, but the Turtles care not for that stuff. Instead, they want to sing their favorite song: “We Wish You a Turtle Christmas.”

Great, now he wants us to sing too.

You had to know that one was coming based on the title. They encourage all of the kids to sing along, but since they’re a bunch of egomaniacs that need all Christmas songs to be about them the kids have no idea what to sing. Apparently no one told the camera operator as we are treated to several shots of kids just lazily moving their mouths and clapping to a song they don’t know. All of the kids dance like my dad, which isn’t a compliment, and the song just won’t end! Until it finally does. Michelangelo punctuates the closing line about having a turtley new year by raising his fist and you can see where the pants of his costume end and the torso begins. He looks like an action figure, a really bad one.

I’d like to think this kid is now a successful actor because his ability to smile through all of this takes real skill.

When the credits hit we’re only at the 19 minute mark, but it feels like the 90th. That was brutal – one of the worst Christmas specials I have endured for this. I suppose I’d rather watch it over some of the terrible, but really earnest and sappy specials, and that 19 minute running time (which stretches to almost 22 minutes when the credits are through) is a godsend at least. I want to say something nice about this thing, but I can’t find much. At least they tried? No, I wish they hadn’t! The plot sucks, the songs suck, the music sucks, the acting sucks, the costumes suck, the set pieces…all right, the sets are okay. Not great, but okay. That’s pretty much it though. This thing offends me. It offends me as a TMNT fan and as a Christmas fan. It’s very existence is an offense to an entire season.

What is going on with Michelangelo’s waist?

Hopefully, we never see action figures based on this monstrosity. I don’t think I could even laugh at them. I can’t imagine anyone liking this other than maybe the youngest of children who simply haven’t been exposed to enough art to know better. Even most of them will probably find the Turtles off-putting and possibly terrifying.

Thankfully, this Christmas special is practically nonexistent in 2020. We Wish You a Turtle Christmas was only released on VHS and no one wanted it on DVD, let alone Blu Ray. No network will ever air this thing again, and only a few, possibly demented, souls are keeping it alive by posting it on YouTube and other streaming platforms. If you want to spend Christmas with the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, you’ll either have to get a VCR or just stream it. It’s not hard to find, because no one wants to claim ownership of this thing lest they be held responsible for its creation. My advice though is if you really want to spend Christmas with the Turtles just track down “The Christmas Aliens” from the 2003 cartoon. It’s nothing special, but it’s certainly better than this.


Dec. 8 – TV Funhouse – “Christmas Day”

TV Funhouse – “Christmas Day” originally aired December 20, 2000.

When someone hears the title TV Funhouse they probably first go to Saturday Night Live and The Ambiguously Gay Duo, a cartoon Batman and Robin parody that hypothesizes the relationship between the two heroes is more than just friendship. What many aren’t aware of is that the comedic short starring Steve Carell and Stephen Colbert actually originated on the short-lived Dana Carvey Show. Writer Robert Smigel, best known for being the handler of Triumph the Insult Comic Dog, is credited with coming up with The Ambiguously Gay Duo, one of the few hits churned out by the Dana Carvey Show. When that show was cancelled, as it was a comically bad fit for network ABC, Smigel went back to writing for SNL and he took his cartoon with him where it would air under the TV Funhouse banner.

Comedy Central, seeing how popular the segment was on SNL, brought Smigel onboard to create his own show for their network. It’s not surprising that he decided to call the show TV Funhouse, as that was his most successful brand (next to Triumph, I suppose). The show would need to find a new vehicle for presenting Smigel’s cartoons though as he didn’t want to just air a block of cartoon shorts. Instead, TV Funhouse ended up being a mix of live-action with puppets with some room for animated segments. The show was hosted by Doug (Doug Dale) who was basically the straight man of the show. He was unfailingly optimistic and just plain nice as the show strived for a children’s programming feel. It was basically Pee-Wee’s Playhouse, but with a grounded host and a target audience of teenage stoners. Playing off of Doug was an assortment of puppet animals, several of which were voiced by Smigel himself. Actual barnyard animals were brought in on occasion as well and there was a reoccurring segment in which Smigel and his team would bring the puppets out onto the streets of New York at night just to riff on random pedestrians.

TV Funhouse ran from December 2000 only until January 2001.

The show was not much of a hit, as it only lasted for 8 episodes. It was a bit tough to produce given the inclusion of live animals which necessitate different requirements on-set. The show frequently went over budget as well, and though the network professed faith in it, it doesn’t sound like many were all that interested in keeping it going since Smigel also described shooting the show as “tedious.” During its brief run though, it did manage to land on Christmas. Every episode of the show had a theme and was titled “Blank” Day. “Christmas Day” made for a pretty easy concept to adopt and certainly fit the mood of a children’s show. It was a subject ripe for parody.

The episode begins with the following disclaimer: The following program contains lambs, and puppet lambs in mature situations. Viewer discretion is advised. Well that sounds like a winner to me! The opening credits are all animated and make the show seem like an earnest attempt at a kid’s show to someone not paying attention. Looking closer and it’s more cynical as the kid’s parents are yanking him out of bed and forcing him to watch “the last cartoon show of the day,” as the song informs, which includes animals that defecate. It’s quite a catchy song though. We’re then shown our host Doug as he rises from bed and takes to the streets of New York where he selects a box with the episode title on it. It’s all live video, but with Doug posing like he’s in a still photograph and pedestrians have to move around him or walk into him. He dawns a festive elf costume, and our episode is underway.

Doug and his AniPals.

Doug prances around the studio in his costume singing a jolly Christmas song. It’s mostly nonsense words, but he pauses to deadpan a line about Christ being born, before resuming. He greets his co-stars, the AniPals, but finds their spirit a bit lacking. A puppet dog, Fogey (Smigel), tells him to shut up, while a rooster, Chickie (Dino Stamatopoulis) says “Bah, hum-cunt!” when Doug expresses his excitement for the holiday. Doug corrects the rooster by telling him it’s “Bah, humbug,” and that it’s a saying from the Christmas episode of Bewitched. He says it in a very sincere manner, as this is the type of humor the show aims for. Doug then explains he’s full of Christmas cheer, and the puppets decide they need some of that shit too. Doug makes the mistake of telling them that Christmas cheer is a feeling you just feel running up your spine, giving the puppets the idea to utilize a spinal tap to extract Christmas cheer from Doug then sell it for a tidy sum.

Sadly, the doctor doesn’t get to join in on the spoils.

We cut to Doug laying on his stomach with his shirt off while a doctor dog puppet (Smigel) informs him the needle he’s about to jab into his spine is going to hurt a whole lot. When one of the dogs asks Doug if it does, he confirms it does indeed hurt, but through a smile. He’s pretty happy to be sharing his Christmas cheer with others as he watches it flow through some tubes. He asks the dog doctor if it’s okay for him to go caroling in an hour and the doctor replies with “I wouldn’t because I would be paralyzed.” Doug can’t feel his legs, but he continues to smile as the animals decide to head back to Chickie’s house to figure out a way to ingest this Christmas cheer, which gives Doug a chance to introduce the first cartoon of the episode.

This isn’t the elf you want around at Christmas.

The short is titled Christmas With Tingles and it tells the story of Tingles, the Christmas Tension. He’s basically an elf and the short resembles a Rankin/Bass stop-motion cartoon, though it’s actually a parody of “Hardrock, Coco, and Joe.” The concept is that Tingles is responsible for all of that holiday tension that comes around each year. He’s responsible for poorly timed bills and dad’s sexual frustrations, among other things. It’s told with a song punctuated with a nasally Smigel singing “I’m Tingles the Christmas Tension.” It ends with a reminder that Tingles will return next year, but must make way for Moples the Day After Christmas Depression. It’s a bit dark, but it’s also pretty funny. The only bad thing about the short is it might be the funniest part of the special and it takes place during the first five minutes.

The Simpsons as naked, featherless, chicken monstrosities.

Chickie and the gang arrive back at the coop only to find a grumpy Mrs. Chickie who just finished wrapping all of the Christmas presents. He tells his wife they need the help of their kid who likes science and she tells him they can find him in his room. This sets off a series of gags in which the gang peek into a room only to find it’s the wrong one. One chick likes wrestling, one likes astronauts, another likes The Simpsons, and someone seems to object to another chick liking Metallica (possibly Napster related given the era). When one of the other puppets asks Chickie how many chicks he has, he confirms 186 and that they’re all boys.

The added touch of the tree only being decorated three feet off of the ground is pretty good.

At the studio, Doug is dragging himself across the floor by his arms since his legs are still numb. He’s been decorating the Christmas tree, but since he can’t stand only the bottom of the tree has anything on it. He’s still happy though as he goes into “Oh, Christmas Tree” while laying at the base of it with the syringe still sticking out of his back.

Xabu is the only part of this show that has stuck in my memory. I think it’s because my sister found him hilarious.

After a commercial break, Doug is unwrapping presents while continuing to sing carols and urges the puppet dog Xabu (Smigel) to join in. Xabu is a dog obsessed with chasing his own tail and can rarely focus on anything but that. Doug keeps singing and Xabu reluctantly joins in before quickly abandoning the song out of fears his tail is getting away. Doug just laughs and introduces more holiday, Christmas, stuff.

There’s no better place to hide a Christmas present than a gun cabinet!

The next segment is a live-action one titled “Places to Look for Your Christmas Presents.” It begins benignly with kids finding Christmas presents in places suggested by a narrator like a closet or drawer. It then gets weird by having the kids look in the oven or under their grandfather’s hat, then gets dark by pointing them towards a gun case, then absurd by suggesting they’re hidden in bread or behind a wall. It was a promising concept, but ultimately this one just doesn’t land as it fails to find a true climax.

He died doing what he loved: getting his father and his dumb friends high.

After that is concluded, we rejoin the puppets as they seek out Chickie’s son who likes science. We first have to endure a few more rooms that aren’t the right one before the group finally finds the chick they’re looking for. Chickie goes in and demands his kid stop working on his science project and help them synthesize their Christmas cheer. The chick first turns it into a powder that the animals happily snort. When they complain it’s not doing anything, the young chick suggests free-basing. He gets set on fire, which the other puppets choose to ignore, as the stuff is prepared over a burner. The resulting smoke created by the burning cheer is enough to get the animals both high and excited as they run off to see if it’s snowing leaving the chick behind to be consumed by flames.

“Oh, Louise, you’ll never guess what happened to us last night!”

This brings about a musical montage of the puppets out and about. They make a snowman and mob pedestrians with Christmas carols all to “Hazy Shade of Winter” by The Bangles. The AniPals continue to enjoy their Christmas cheer and even try sharing it with a real, live, reindeer. Most of the people they harass are good sports and just stand there and smile. One guy tries to talk about Jesus or something and gets shot down. Their mostly cooperative nature doesn’t make for great comedy.

It just isn’t a party until a sheep shits on a rooster.

We’re then taken to a Christmas party. The puppets are joined by many live animals and we even get a nice shot of a sheep’s ass as it drops a deuce. Hank the lobster puppet (Tommy Blacha) is shown chatting it up with a sheep puppet, who I think is named Larry (David Juskow). He’s happy to be there and compliments Hank on the drugs. Chickie, after watching the live sheep poop, decides to cover his tiny, rooster, penis with some powdered cheer and appears ready to bang the sheep. Larry objects because they’re running out of stuff and starts sucking it off of Chickie’s member. You don’t really see anything as it’s just two puppets slamming together, but Chickie sure sounds like he’s enjoying it. The other puppets realize they need to score some more cheer and take off.

Look how cute they are!

Doug is shown still on the floor as he wishes a “Feliz Navidad” to all of the Latino viewers. Xabu is shown with an adorable little santa hat and one has also been placed on his tail. He needs Doug to keep it down as he’s trying to lull his tail into a false sense of security by watching It’s a Wonderful Life and eating rum balls. Doug is optimistic about his foot twitching as he hangs ornaments on the side of his hospital gurney. He announces his leg just went numb again, with a smile, as the AniPals have returned to take more cheer from his spine. Satisfied with what they were able to get, they take off and leave Doug on the floor once again.

Don’t freak out. Don’t freak out. Don’t freak out – he’s gonna freak out.

It’s the next morning, and all of the puppets are hung over while the live sheep “throws up” in a toilet, angering Larry because he’s too loud. He then finds out from Jeffrey, the duck (Doug Dale), that it’s 10 AM which reminds him he’s late to play Santa at Macy’s. We’re then shown Larry, dressed up as Santa, seated in the store as he urges himself not to freak out. A kitten then climbs onto his lap as Larry does indeed freak out. He sees the kitten as grass and starts eating it. The kitten, which is an actual live kitten, predictably wanders off of the puppet’s lap.

Scumbag!

We’re back to Doug, who has affixed some mistletoe to his silly elf hat and is batting at it like a cat. Doug is hoping this will get him a Christmas kiss to go along with some spine sympathy. Xabu then pops up, still looking festive, and tells Doug to shut up. He saunters under the mistletoe and it’s clear his plan is to get his tail to kiss him. When the tail moves out of the way, he calls it a scumbag and makes a bunch of threats while Doug shrugs and informs us of “another one.”

Dude just dunked Jesus.

This one is “The Harlem Globetrotters First Christmas.” I believe this is recycled from SNL, but anyways, ever see those Globetrotters Hanna-Barbera appearances? This is essentially a parody of those. The Globetrotters decide to use their magic bus to go back in time to their first Christmas, which is THE first Christmas. They come upon Mary and Joseph in search of a place to have their kid and the Globetrotters turn it into a basketball game for the only available room. Loser sleeps in the manger. It’s actually played really straight with a gratuitous laugh track, until the baby Jesus takes over and starts dunking on everyone. The Globetrotters, being unbeatable and all, still manage to beat Jesus, his dad, and the three wise men in a game of basketball, but let them have the room instead. Back in the present, they reflect on their trip to the past. When Curly opens up a bible, he finds it’s been changed as the Globetrotters have essentially replaced Jesus. It even ends with a shot of the Globetrotter pope. It’s not very funny, but it at least finds a way to end on an absurd note.

Church is probably the worst place to be when high.

We’re back at the house with the AniPals as Hank tries to have sex with a cat. Jeffrey then realizes he’s supposed to be seeing his kid’s recital at church and asks Fogey for help getting there. The turtle puppet informs the gang he’s taking the pipes to get there and flushes himself down the toilet. We then see the show as a bunch of adorable baby ducks waddle around a puppet one. Jeffrey, Mr. Whiskers, Hank, Fogey, and Chickie arrive with Jeffrey blurting out “That’s my kid – he’s the fucking star!” Fogey cautions him to keep it down as not everyone in the church is on cheer as the gang finds a pew to sit on. Jeffrey’s son is playing Jesus in his play and Jeffrey just starts yelling out to him how he shouldn’t do it because it will all end bad. This causes some smoke to appear before him and a duck Ghost of Christmas Past appears as the turtle is rocketed out of a toilet and onto Jeffrey.

Are we getting weird yet? I guess we’re getting weird.

The ghost is a bit confused by the turtle’s method of arrival, but then proceeds. Jeffrey expects to be shown a past Christmas, but instead it turns out the ghost is here to show future, bearded, Jeffrey this Christmas. He mostly just rambles about the beard he’ll have in the future, while future Jeffrey (who is a real duck) just stands and quacks. The AniPals then realize they need to get off the drugs, but Jeffrey questions where they’ll find the strength. Suddenly, a light shines on the stage pointing them to the answer – an egg! With tears in their eyes, the AniPals realize the meaning of the season as “Silent Night” plays in the background.

That heathen Doug, just laying on his ass at Christmas.

Back at the studio, house, or whatever – Doug is back on his feet with the aid of candy cane crutches. They soon buckle under his weight and he falls back onto the gurney. He licks one crutch before remarking, “I’m candy-capped.” The AniPals then burst in to “Silent Night” ready to spread Christmas cheer to their pal Doug. They admonish him for looking at Christmas as just a time for candy and licking and such. They testify, and Doug begins to wiggle his feet a bit and Jesus gets all of the credit. The AniPals sing us into the credits ending this one with faux-sincerity.

Ghost duck and Michael Landis – the true reason for the season.

TV Funhouse is one of those shows you either find funny or you don’t. Most of the humor is either satirical, farcical, or dark. Some of the jokes are supposed to be so bad they’re good, but then some are just bad. I’m mostly fine with this level of humor, my only issue is that some of the segments just don’t land. This show might be better served as a 10 minute production or something. And once you’ve seen a puppet mime sex with one animal, you’ve seen ’em all. I do find Doug charming and Xabu is rather cute. Maybe my biggest laugh was simply when Xabu called his tail a scumbag, simply because I wasn’t expecting it. Smigel’s delivery is just so good too.

Doug has a surprising amount of chemistry with his puppet co-stars, even if they don’t share the screen very often.

When the live animals are onscreen I can certainly get a sense as to why Smigel called the production tedious. They just let the animals wander and it’s obvious they’re being coaxed with food or scents. They certainly help give the show a distinct look, and definitely add to the chaotic nature of a bunch of puppets on a bender, but I don’t know if it’s worth the effort. The idea to convert Christmas cheer into a drug seems like it’s there for shock value, but also feels like a really easy joke. Not much humor arises from it until the final payoff of the goofy ghost duck which is a manifestation of the AniPals tripping. Tingles ends up being the real star, and if you want to experience something from this show this Christmas, maybe just look that bit up on YouTube.

Merry Christmas, every one!

If you need the full TV Funhouse experience though, you’ll probably have to turn to home video. Comedy Central released the entire series, a mere 8 episodes, on DVD awhile back. It’s not terribly expensive and the good news is the show is uncut so you get to hear all of the curse words that the network bleeped out. I don’t think Comedy Central ever rebroadcasts this show, so that’s pretty much your only, legal, way to see it.


Dec. 2 – Toy Story That Time Forgot

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Toy Story That Time Forgot first premiered December 2, 2014.

When the credits started to roll in 2010 signaling the end of Toy Story 3 I think most who were watching it assumed this was “good bye.” The toys which had captured the hearts of movie-goers going on two decades were saying good bye to their former owner and playmate, Andy, and so too were we to these characters. It was a somber close to a particularly wonderful film that closed out an improbable trilogy. It took a lot of risk on the part of Pixar and Disney to bring the original Toy Story to theaters in 1995, but it proved to be a colossal success that forever changed the animated film space, for better or worse. Toy Story 2 wasn’t even supposed to happen, and when that film ended, Toy Story 3 wasn’t exactly a foregone conclusion, but it turns out there was still one more story to tell and the film absolutely nailed it. The franchise ended up being the rare one that may have gotten better with each installment in its trilogy.

Of course, Toy Story 3 wasn’t the end for these beloved toys for more was on the way. What seemed like a compromise to keep these characters alive and to line the pockets of Disney and Pixar, the company turned to an old standby – the holiday special, before a new film was eventually released in 2019. First up was Toy Story of Terror!, a Halloween themed special of sorts which premiered on October 16, 2013. Announced at the same time was a Christmas special, but fans would have to wait over a year for that one. Toy Story That Time Forgot premiered on December 2, 2014 and like Toy Story of Terror!, it was not content to be a straight-up holiday special. Toy Story of Terror! may have obviously been timed with Halloween, but the special makes no mention of the holiday. Instead it’s just a thriller with some light horror elements, but it was also rather compelling and entertaining. Toy Story That Time Forgot does at least make mention of Christmas, but it’s in passing as the special actually takes place two days after the holiday. Perhaps that is done because, as we saw in the first film in the series, Christmas is a pretty stressful time to be a toy. While the special avoids recounting that plot, it does go back to that first film for another major piece of the story.

santa_woody

It’s Santa Woody!

Toy Story That Time Forgot is written and directed by Steve Purcell. This seems especially noteworthy as just a year ago we talked about a Christmas special from the property Purcell is best known for:  Sam & Max. Purcell got started in comics before moving onto Lucas Arts and Industrial Light & Magic where he honed his animation chops. He’s been with Pixar since 2000 and has made contributions to films like Cars, Ratatouille, and Brave, where he served as co-director. Toy Story That Time Forgot is his first solo director credit. The short took roughly two years to write and plan with another year in actual production to finish it out. This short also marks the last time Don Rickles was alive for production on a Toy Story project before his passing in 2017. His character of Mr. Potato Head does appear in Toy Story 4, but in a far smaller role than we’re accustomed to seeing.

trixie_baby_reindeer

This special is going to center on Trixie and how she’s unhappy with the roles Bonnie chooses for her. Around the holidays, that includes being a baby reindeer.

The special begins at the home of Bonnie (Emily Hahn) as she plays with her toys following another successful Christmas holiday. Surprisingly, Bonnie appears to have received few new toys as the only addition to the cast is Angel Kitty (Emma Hudak), which could be a new toy or could just be a holiday decoration that spends 11 months of the year in an attic or something. Trixie (Kristen Schaal), Bonnie’s toy triceratops, is frustrated that she’s being forced by Bonnie to roleplay as a reindeer, amongst other things, when she just wants to be a dinosaur. She is even momentarily teased when Bonnie declares she needs to find her dinosaur, only to decide that Angel Kitty is to be the dinosaur today. The other toys try to cheer Trixie up while reminding her she’s lucky to be the toy of such an imaginative child, but it does little to please Trixie. Soon the toys are bagged up because Bonnie has a playdate with a boy named Mason (R.C. Cope) over at his house. This is where we say “bye” to most of the toys as only Woody (Tom Hanks), Buzz (Tim Allen), Rex (Wallace Shawn), Angel Kitty, and Trixie are brought along.

angel_kitty

Angel Kitty, more of a decoration than toy, is a new addition to the gang.

When the crew arrives at Mason’s house, Bonnie finds the boy enthralled by a new video game he must have received for Christmas. She tosses her backpack of toys into Mason’s playroom and goes to join him at the television. The toys emerge from the backpack to find Mason’s room absolutely covered with boxes and boxes of new toys. They’re all from a new line of action figures called Battlesaurs, a sort of anthropomorphic dinosaur brand that would have been right at home on store shelves in the 90s. They are soon greeted by a warrior of this brand, Reptillus Maximus (Kevin McKidd), and it becomes clear things are a bit screwy in Dinosaur Land. Reptillus is very serious about his culture and refers to the other toys as being of the “Bonnie Tribe” when they mention their kid. Trixie, seeing what she deems is a more idealized dinosaur, is taken by Reptillus almost immediately and wants to know more about their “race.” Meanwhile, another toy has taken interest in the Bonnie Tribe by the name of The Cleric (Purcell). He’s a robed, Emperor Palpatine-like character that also happens to be a pterodactyl. He’s the unquestioned leader of the Battlesaurs and does not appear to be welcoming to outsiders. As Trixie is lead away by Reptillus, the others grab Woody and Buzz from behind while The Cleric mugs for the camera because that’s what villains do.

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Mason apparently enjoying his new Optimum X gaming console.

As Trixie is taken around the room we see loads of other action figures. This kid Mason is quite the spoiled little kid as not only does he appear to have every figure and playset in this line, he even has loads of multiples (in the toy-collecting community, we refer to these figures as army builders). He’s like every kid in a toy commercial who improbably had an entire army of Foot Soldiers to battle against his Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles. Trixie is soon outfitted with special armor to make her feel as if she is apart of this tribe. Rex also gets to play along and receives some mechanical arms and leg attachments. As she is lead around by Reptillus, he shares details of his world which even includes a righteous theme song. It’s clear he and the others are not aware of their existence as toys, and whenever Trixie makes mention of their reality it’s met with confusion by Reptillus, and anger by The Cleric who continues to lurk in the shadows.

reptillus_maximus

Trixie first encounters Reptillus Maximus.

A battle is organized and Trixie has it sold to her that this is a major part of the culture of Battlesaurs. They thrive in combat, and a gladiator-styled ring is erected for the toys to engage in combat. Trixie joins Reptillus, but soon she realizes that this activity is rather barbaric. Toys she used to play with at Mason’s house are brought into the ring against their will and are systematically dismantled by Reptillus. She does not like this ferocious side of Reptillus, and she likes it even less when her friends are brought in to fight. Woody and Buzz are forced to face the duo in combat, and it’s Woody who reveals to Trixie that these toys have never been played with. The two put up a good fight against Reptillus, but he eventually gains the upper-hand. As he prepares to finish the duo, Trixie makes the save and smashes into Reptillus declaring him a bully. Frustrated, The Cleric summons a new dinosaur; a giant, Rancor-like beast. Woody and Buzz are soon swallowed by soon swallowed by it much to Trixie’s horror.

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Trixie and Rex really take to this new dinosaur culture they’ve stumbled upon.

Trixie makes an attempt to free her friends recognizing the button on the beast that works its jaw. She is unable to do so though, and when knocked over the other toys see her mark. The “Bonnie” written on her foot is declared the mark of obedience, something which the Battlesaurs have been conditioned to shun. Trixie tries to play it off as no big deal, since it truly is not to her, but The Cleric orders her seized. He’s brought a controller and it’s revealed that it controls the arms and leg attachments that have been placed on Rex. He forces Rex to go after Trixie, and she in turn is forced to run with Reptillus ordered to give chase. As Trixie runs through the maze of boxes and playsets, Reptillus is close behind. He eventually comes face to face with his own packaging. Seeing himself, he has a crisis of faith, but is still unwilling to admit to himself he is in fact a toy.

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Woody and Buzz not having a good time.

Woody and Buzz are taken to The Cleric’s apparent lair. There The Cleric has Rex remove the pair from the bowels of the other toy, and Angel Kitty is also regurgitated. Woody and Buzz then learn that The Cleric is able to spy on Mason using a periscope-like feature on one of the playsets. He wants Mason to remain occupied by his new gaming console so that he may rule the play room with the other Battlesaurs ignorant of their station (one onlooker even remarks “What’s ignorant mean?). This is his master plan, and he intends to dispose of the nuisance toys.

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Reptillus comes face to face with his packaging.

Trixie makes a break for the TV room where Bonnie and Mason are still playing. She’s able to get under the television and as she treks through the tangle of wires all of her new armor is dislodged. She eventually reaches her destination:  the surge protector. Waiting for her is Reptillus, but she shoves past him. She tries reasoning with him, explaining that part of the joy of being a toy is being played with by an imaginative child. And as she attempts to convince Reptillus of this, it’s clear she’s also convincing herself. Reptillus doesn’t know what to believe, but Trixie presses further. Reptillus acknowledges what she speaks of as “surrender,” but the look in his eyes suggests that maybe he’s ready to surrender. He then takes up his default pose, and it’s Reptillus that turns off the surge protector. With the game turned off, Mason reaches under the television and finds Reptillus. He gives the figure a look, before Bonnie runs over and declares it’s cool. She starts playing with Reptillus as Mason turns his game back on, but as he goes to sit down he gives Bonnie a look. She’s already crafting a backstory for Reptillus and Mason is intrigued. He puts down his controller and goes over to Bonnie to learn more.

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Things aren’t looking so good in the playroom.

In the playroom, Rex has been forced to carry Woody and Buzz towards a heating vent where a whirling fan awaits. Angel Kitty plays a mournful tune on his/her horn as the toy is being carried hanging from an axe. Another Battlesaur grabs the horn and tosses it into the fan where it breaks into pieces. As Woody and Buzz dangle precariously over the opening, Mason and Bonnie rush in. The two come in like a whirlwind and start grabbing all of the toys in sight. Bonnie is happy to see her “baby reindeer” with Trixie having returned the little pipe cleaner attachments to her horns (quite the achievement for a toy with no hands) to play the role Bonnie seems to prefer for her. Even The Cleric gets scooped up into the action as the kids decide to have a dance party.

trixie_reptillus_playtime

At last, the toys get to play.

Mason and Bonnie are shown enjoying the vast amount of toys in the playroom via montage, and the frozen, plastic, faces of Reptillus and Trixie somehow convey a sense of contentment. Eventually, all play dates must come to an end and Bonnie heads home. Trixie and the others fill in the toys left behind when they get home on what happened while Trixie declares she’s found a new appreciation for Bonnie and how she’s utilized in play. Angel Kitty appears to reaffirm the message of the special, and then vanishes confusing the onlooking toys. We then see Mason, once again, only now he’s fast asleep clutching his Reptillus Maximus. The toy wriggles free from Mason’s grasp and we see he’s been “branded” on his hand. The Cleric is also shown apparently happy to be utilized like a nightlight as he possesses illuminated wings on his back. Reptillus goes to the window and forlornly looks out with anticipation of seeing Trixie of the Bonnie Tribe once again – Tuesday around 3:30.

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There’s a real “post sex” vibe to this scene between Trixie and Reptillus following an exhausting playdate.

Toy Story That Time Forgot is a Christmas special that is exceptionally light on the holiday. The opening scene contains a Christmas tree and some décor, but following that our only holiday expression is essentially Angel Kitty, a surprisingly secular choice. Anyone who has ever seen a home occupied by a child after Christmas is certainly familiar with the boxes and general chaos the holiday leaves behind. Though in the case of Mason, that is taken to another level. Even on my best holiday, I probably didn’t come close to getting half the stuff Mason apparently received. I suppose it’s possible he didn’t get all of those toys for Christmas, but considering pretty much every toy in the room also has a corresponding box it sure makes it seem like this all just arrived.

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The Cleric is written and played in such a silly manner by Steve Purcell that it’s actually hard not to like him.

The general plot for this one relies heavily on the familiar topic of a toy not realizing it’s a toy. We saw this with Buzz in the first film and this special can’t shake that familiar feeling. It makes Toy Story That Time Forgot feel like a truncated version of that story only with the focus being on Trixie and Reptillus instead of Woody and Buzz. It also turns it on its head a bit with Trixie being captivated by Reptillus, rather than annoyed and jealous. There’s also the nefarious motivations of The Cleric who’s actually utilizing the ignorance of his tribe to further his own goals where as Buzz wasn’t really hurting anyone with his delusions. It may be a bit of retread, but it’s at least tidy and there’s plenty of humor and charm to go around. We all know where the story is going basically from the moment the plot is established and we know it’s all just a means for Trixie to have a better appreciation for her lot in life, but predictable doesn’t automatically mean bad.

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The Battlesaurs are pretty damn cool and I kind of wish they existed in the real world.

What keeps this special interesting and entertaining is the design of the Battlesaurs. It’s obvious a lot of thought when into the creation of this fictitious toyline. I get a real Masters of the Universe vibe from some of the playsets we see, and I love how the animators kept everything grounded. It’s obvious these are toys and they move and function like toys, so while it’s a bit horrifying to see Woody and Buzz devoured by a dinosaur, we also know it’s a plastic toy that is supposed to “eat” other toys with no actual harm coming to the ingested toy. The remote-controlled dinosaur arms are a bit weird and convenient for the plot of this one, but I suppose for a toyline consisting entirely of dinosaurs it wouldn’t be out of the question for something like that to actually exist for the T-Rex characters. The Battlesaurs are so convincing as an actual toy property that I wish Disney had gone ahead and had a bunch of these things made. Maybe if the special had done some crazy viewership numbers Disney would have, but alas these beings exist only in this fantasy world.

reptillus_vs_trixie

Even though it’s made for TV, this special still looks about as awesome as you would expect a Pixar feature to look.

Toy Story That Time Forgot is a fine piece of entertainment. No, it doesn’t come close to matching the heart of the films, and I do enjoy Toy Story of Terror! more, but it’s still worth an annual viewing. It’s not going to bring the Christmas cheer though, so I don’t blame anyone who doesn’t feel like this is required Christmas viewing. It’s at least extremely accessible as ABC and Freeform will air this special this year. ABC usually devotes Thursday nights to Christmas programming, and in particular, Disney specials and often pairs this one with the Frozen special. Freeform will show it multiple times as the month goes along so if you miss the network broadcast, you have cable to fallback on. And the special is also available to stream on Disney+, and if you really enjoy it, you can purchase it on physical media as well.


The Christmas Spot Returns for 2020!

Reindeer and fast food can only mean one thing…

Tomorrow is December 1st, and it’s that time of year when this blog goes Christmas! Yes, 2020 has been a horrendously shitty year so Christmas can’t come soon enough. Of course, it’s a Christmas tinged with disease this year as we’re almost certainly going to be asked to quarantine for another holiday as the world waits for a vaccine for Covid-19. I suppose that makes it a Christmas guaranteed to be memorable, though for mostly bad reasons.

Well, if we’re going to be stuck inside for much of December then we’re really going to need to dust off some Christmas specials. As in years past, each day of December leading up to and including Christmas will be met with a blog post about a Christmas special. Some are obscure, while some should be fairly popular, but all are definitely Christmas-related. And if one special per day just isn’t enough, there’s years worth of content to go through! Just refer to the official Christmas Spot index page to find the specials of holidays past.

The good news about 2020 is that there are a ton of streaming options available to the average consumer and thus a plethora of Christmas specials are just a click away! Between Netflix, YouTube, Prime, Hulu, HBO, and Disney+ you should have little trouble finding some holiday specials. Though I did want to take this moment to a pick a few bones with these networks, because some specials are still hard to come by that really shouldn’t be.

And yeah, I am so ready for Christmas this year!

Now, I really don’t have too many bones to pick with Netflix or YouTube, since they’re pretty new to content creation. And I can’t say anything about HBO since I don’t currently subscribe. With Hulu though, I got a problem! The entire series of The Venture Bros. (RIP) is available to stream on Hulu, with one exception – The Christmas Special! Why oh why is that not included? It’s a mere 15 minutes and the only episode of the show that’s a short. Hulu even has the pilot episode of the show, but not this Christmas special. And with HBO looking to get all of the Adult Swim content under its umbrella, it’s unlikely Hulu can go back and get more content without paying big bucks so if you want to watch it, get the DVD, I guess.

The only platform I take issue with is Disney+. The service has been around for a little over a year now and it’s been an okay debut. Some positives (The Mandalorian) mix with some negatives (stability is still an issue), but for the most part I would call Disney+ a success considering there is a lot of content and it’s one of the cheapest platforms around. However, I cannot overlook some glaring omissions in the area of Christmas.

Coming to Disney+ in 2020?

First off, the entire series Buzz Lightyear of Star Command is missing. A lot of Disney Afternoon and Disney Afternoon adjacent shows are still missing, but this one stings a little because it’s the only series based on a Pixar property and it features a Christmas episode! And speaking of Pixar, Disney has yet to add Toy Story that Time Forgot, the sort-of Christmas special that gets aired annually on ABC, but this may be temporary. This year, Toy Story of Terror was added to Disney+ during the month of October so this one may yet surface in December.

One of the best Christmas specials Disney has ever lent its name to is curiously missing from its streaming platform.

A bigger omission and one that seems unlikely to be rectified, is the missing Mickey Mouse special Duck the Halls. Based on the new Mickey cartoons, this one is excellent though Disney has failed to give it a network timeslot because Disney doesn’t love its legacy characters as much as it should. And since the Halloween special from the same universe is still M.I.A., I have little faith in this one being added. Perhaps the bigger omission though, is the classic short Toy Tinkers starring Donald Duck and the duo Chip and Dale. I see no reason why Duck the Halls shouldn’t be added, but I’m guessing this one isn’t there because there’s some gunplay in the cartoon and in particular, Donald pointing a revolver right in the face of the chipmunks. I think every classic short needs to be added, so obviously I don’t think the presence of a gun should keep Toy Tinkers off of the streaming service. Just slap a disclaimer on it and move on! Also missing is the Silly Symphony short The Night Before Christmas and that’s due to a blackface gag. That one isn’t nearly as good as Toy Tinkers so it’s not a huge omission, but I felt like I should point it out.

Lastly, the one that puzzles me the most, is the missing Have Yourself a Goofy Little Christmas. This was essentially the series finale to Goof Troop. It was given a network timeslot in prime time for its initial airing and I guess it’s because of that airing that Disney doesn’t consider it part of Goof Troop? I don’t know, but I expected to find it with Goof Troop last year, but it wasn’t there and it’s still not there!

Give us The Reindeer Dance, Disney!

Anyway, don’t let these shortcomings with our streaming options get you down. There’s still a lot of Christmas content to consume out there, and as the days go by, I’ll do my best to point you towards the best place to view the specials. So get cozy, grab a festive beverage, and enjoy the ride! I’ll have more posts about toys and junk after Christmas has come and gone.


NECA Gremlins Santa Stripe and Gizmo

There’s a new Santa in town this year.

The Christmas Spot is just around the corner, but before we can get to there we have a new Christmas action figure release from NECA Toys to talk about: Santa Stripe! NECA has done an admirable job of mining material from the film Gremlins and it’s sequel Gremlins 2: The New Breed, and Santa Stripe is another fine example of that. This figure originates from a promotional image used for the film around Christmas 1984, and since Gremlins is a Christmas movie, it works on two levels. While Stripe never dons a Santa suit in the film, he did in that image and it’s hard to argue it’s not something well suited for an action figure release.

That’s some fine packaging.
Good luck recreating that pose on the inside panel.

Stripe is essentially a re-release of the Ultimate Stripe figure released by NECA, which is more or less the same Gremlin figure that’s been released over and over. That’s not a criticism or anything, it’s just an observation. The base Gremlin figure is a roughly 6″ tall figure with solid articulation that can be added onto to achieve a desired end by NECA. There’s a gamer Gremlin, flasher Gremlin, caroling Gremlins, and so on. This one is different in that it’s a specific character, Stripe, and the only difference there lies in the face and head which contains his signature stripe of white hair and unique portrait. The rest of the package consists of soft goods and accessories to go along with the terrific packaging NECA products are known for with its Ultimates releases.

Look at that handsome boy!
Aww, he’s smiling!

This festive rendition of Stripe comes in the five-panel window box package all of the Ultimates come in. The front panel features an update to the promo art the figure is based on and the rest of the panels contain product shots. There’s a window box revealing the figure inside and I must say this packaging is excellent because it’s easy to reseal. This is extra important for a Christmas themed release because I can see a lot of people taking this guy out for the holidays and then tucking him away with the other Christmas decorations in the new year.

The entire wardrobe is removable, though I’m too much of a baby to take off the suit.
Stripe’s signature hairstyle can be found under the hat.

Stripe comes packed with a solid range of articulation. His head has excellent range and can rotate and look up and down and the base of the neck is also articulated as well. His ears are posable which helps with the hat and his jaw is articulated as well. He does not feature the same eye articulation that the Ultimate Gizmo possesses, but he also doesn’t really need to express much range of emotions, he’s mostly just homicidal. The shoulders are on ball-joints allowing him to raise his arms almost to 90 degrees. The costume prevents him from going forward and back all the way, but I assume he could if it was removed. The elbows are single-hinged, but do rotate, though the costume again limits that function, and the wrists are hinged and can swivel. There’s articulation at the thigh and knee, but given the crouched position he’s in the range is rather minimal. Like a lot of insects which Gremlins seem to borrow some style from, he has what is kind of like a second knee above the ankle which gives him that crouched look. There’s nothing going on in the torso, so Stripe mostly just stands there with his arms and head being relied upon to add character to his posture. It’s, as I said, solid. It’s not spectacular, but given that these characters were rather stiff puppets in the film they’re not really begging for articulation as a means of being screen accurate. This figure also has the added burden of the soft goods, which is quite form fitting, but does restrict movement. I suppose the optimal way to pose him would be to remove the costume, pose him, then replace, but I’m the type who doesn’t like to mess with soft goods. Plus I think he looks good as-is.

Everyone’s favorite Mogwai is now the cutest accessory.

It’s the accessories that make this figure, and that’s where NECA nailed this release. Santa Stripe’s uniform looks great on him and I like the inclusion of soft goods over molded plastic for the main uniform. While it does hinder the articulation, it’s just too authentic a look to make that trade-off not worth while. It’s a plush material that’s soft to the touch and the belt across the coat is quite sharp looking. It has Velcro in the back so don’t try and undo that buckle. The coat also has Velcro in the front and the pants on the seat. There’s even a little opening for his “tail” or carapace to stick out. The hat is the same plush material and has a wire running through it for posing. The beard is attached to the hat via an elastic which slips over Stripe’s face and stays on just fine. He also comes with a sack for whatever a Santa Gremlin delivers. It’s blue and the same plush texture of Stripe’s suit with gold moons and stars printed on it. A wire runs through it so you can shape and position it however you like. Rather than have an actual drawstring, a gold-colored rope is included to tie around it. It’s a bit of a pain, but maybe a drawstring would have interfered with the wire. Lastly, there’s a little, to scale, Gizmo that can fit in the sack or just hang around. It’s actually articulated, with rotation at the head, shoulders, and wrists which is nearly as much articulation as what is found in the larger Ultimate Gizmo. It’s painted and has sculpted fur and Gizmo has a permanent smile on his face. He’s adorable and the only thing that looks odd about him are that his hands are a bit big. The left hand especially just looks odd on mine and I initially thought he had two right hands by mistake, but I don’t think that’s the case. He also has a candy cane he can hold which I find hides the oddness of the hands a bit.

Stripe can kind of haul Gizmo around over his shoulder.
He’s better equipped though to cradle him lovingly like a little baby.

If you’re looking to pose Stripe in a manner similar to what’s on the front of the box, you may get discouraged. The limited rotation of the arms is a challenge, as is getting him to properly secure his sack over the shoulder since that rope isn’t attached. The only way to really do it without introducing other elements is by having the figure crouched so far forward that he’s almost horizontal and resting the sack on his back and using one arm for stability by placing his hand on the ground. If you don’t want Gizmo in the sack, then it’s much easier since it’s so light, but I suspect many may just resort to having Stripe hold the sack open at his feet with Gizmo either popping out or standing nearby. On the plus side, I guess I don’t have to try and construct a chimney to display with him.

Gizmo roasting on an open fire…
Ahh Cindy, you might just want to let this Santa take the damn tree.

Santa Stripe is definitely an eye-catching item to add to one’s Christmas display. Obviously, being more a horror-themed creature he’d probably stand out in most displays, but the bright and well-detailed Santa suit gives him that “pop” factor. He mixes well with the Ultimate Gizmo in his festive, Christmas, attire even if the scale isn’t perfect. I imagine he mixes even better with the winter caroler Gremlins sold in two-packs, but I don’t have a set of those (I’ve resisted that one, don’t tempt me further) and if you like Gremlins, or are more like me and just love everything to do with Christmas, this one should leave you feeling pretty happy.

Merry Christmas, and watch your back!

Santa Stripe is presently being sold as a Target exclusive in the US for $29.99. He has sold out online, but should be hitting stores right about now. If he’s anything like the other Gremlins releases, he shouldn’t be too hard to find, but don’t sleep on him if you do run across him as I assume he’s limited to the holiday season. He could return in 2021, like the carolers, but I don’t believe that’s been confirmed. Happy hunting!


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

disney afternoon christmas

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.

rescue rangers

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.

cowabunga christmas

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.

dragon ball christmas

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.

Goofy-Art-of-Skiing

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.


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