Tag Archives: christmas

Dec. 25 – Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer

Original air date December 6, 1964.

Welcome to Christmas Day 2022! We made it another year and another long year is ahead of us until we make it back, but right now, it’s time to celebrate! And in keeping with the theme of this year’s countdown, we are once again looking at another much beloved Christmas special on this day. Before we start, here’s a pop quiz: What is considered the first televised Christmas Special? If you said Rudolph or Charlie Brown you are incorrect because it’s actually Mr. Magoo’s Christmas Carol. I don’t have any particular affection for Mr. Magoo or that special, but I give credit where it’s due. The special I think that is most responsible for the specials to follow though is the one we’re talking about today and that’s the stop-motion, Rankin/Bass, classic Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer.

When I was a kid, Rudolph was the favorite special of most of the children my age, myself included. Over the years it has fallen some for me, but I still acknowledge it as the titan of Christmas that it is. It’s basically outlasted its peers in that it’s still broadcast annually on a major network, a distinction only Frosty can lay claim to now that the Peanuts gang has been banished to streaming. It popularized the special format and it’s likely we wouldn’t have a lot of what followed had it failed and I wonder if we would even know the name Rankin/Bass. When the special went into production, the company was feeling pretty tapped out thanks to its Tales of the Wizard of Oz television series and TV special Return to Oz. NBC and General Electric wanted a Christmas special for 1964 though, and Rankin/Bass was selected to make that happen. Romeo Muller, who is a name that appears many times in Rankin/Bass credits, wrote the teleplay for this one based on the Johnny Marks song which was itself based on a concept created by his brother-in-law, Robert L. May. The story for how May ended up getting the rights to Rudolph is an interesting one, but to keep things brief since we have another hour long special to cover, he created the character for the department store Montgomery Ward and they ended up giving him the rights for free when they thought the fad had passed. It’s a rare example of a big corporation being nice to one of its employees, but I bet in corporate circles it’s relayed as a cautionary tale to stress the importance of not having a conscience when dealing with work-for-hire creations.

For one final time this year, I’m turning to my 1987 VHS for the screen caps which means I get to share with you one of the bumpers from that broadcast.

The special was produced in 1964 using stop-motion technology. The Burl Ives character of Sam the Snowman would be the last thing added as the network wanted a recognizable name to attach to the project. Since no one really predicted the impact this would have, or the rise of video at home, a lot of the puppets and sets were lost or destroyed. As was some of the footage as the special would go through changes and edits over the years. In 1965, the song “Fame and Fortune” was added at the expense of “We’re a Couple of Misfits” and the resolution of the film which answers what character Yukon Cornelius is looking for is cut in favor of a new scene showing Santa Claus visiting the Island of Misfit Toys. Some of these things have been added back, some have not, and some have been, but also kind of half-assed. I’ll try to cover it as we go. And just like several entries this year, my screen shots and write-up are based on the 1987 broadcast of the special preserved for all time on my beloved Christmas Tape. I probably have several thousand words still ahead of me, so let’s stop with the preamble and get right down to it.

Uh oh, looks like Christmas is in peril once again!

The special begins with a bunch of newspapers on the screen and a blizzard effect over them. Some big storm has taken place or will, and it undoubtedly features into the plot of this one because the last headline we see is “Foul Weather May Postpone Christmas!” After it dissipates some serene music filters in and we see a far less harsh environment before us. It’s a snow-covered setting and several trees dot the landscape. Waddling, sliding, shuffling, whatever – in comes Sam Snowman (Burl Ives). It’s difficult to describe how he moves because he has no legs. He’s like a snowman you would construct yourself out of three, large, snowballs. Though he still looks better than any snowman I’ve ever made. He’s also undoubtedly made to resemble Ives who also was the only actor in this thing to receive residuals based on it since the rest were a bunch of no-names from Canada. Ives made a lot of money off of Rudolph, while the actual voice of Rudolph basically got a check and a “thanks!”

The first celebrity narrator for a Rankin/Bass Christmas special is Burl Ives as Sam Snowman.

Sam welcomes us to Christmas Town and wants to tell us about how lovely it is. As he makes his way through the scenery, the trees go from being covered with snow to being covered with snow, ornaments, and garland. It’s a Christmas tree forest, and apparently we’re supposed to think they grow like this? I’m not sure. There’s also some seals playing with wrapped presents that are just hanging around. He mentions how the number one residents up here are the Clauses, and points out a castle on the left where the couple apparently resides. We get a peek in there too of a skinny Santa (Stan Francis) sitting at a long table with some rather unappetizing purple food before him. Mrs. Claus (Peg Dixon) is encouraging him to eat and apparently Christmas for Santa is sort of like the Fourth of July hot dog eating contest. He’s force-fed like a Christmas goose by his wife so as to present a jolly, fat, man come the big day which really makes no sense since he’s not supposed to be seen.

An unusual sight for a Christmas special: skinny Santa.

Sam assures us that we shouldn’t worry, Santa will be plenty fat for Christmas, but I’m honestly more worried about the guy’s health. That sort of yo-yo effect with his weight can’t be healthy. Sam then mentions how he loves this time of year and the fact that it’s going so smoothly, not like the year of the big blizzard. He mentions offhand that he doesn’t know what they would have done without Rudolph that year and then stops himself as-if the viewer interrupted him. This is the same technique we will eventually see with Santa Claus is Comin’ to Town, only in that one they actually dubbed in the voices of kids so it makes more sense. Watching this in 2022, when Sam says with some surprise that we’ve never heard the story of Rudolph I’m forced to yell at my screen, “Of course I know who Rudolph is you stupid snowman!” It doesn’t matter what you scream at your TV, laptop, or other device, he’s going to tell you all about Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer.

I can’t imagine 7Up having the funds to pony up for a sponsorship of Rudolph in 2022.

Sam then goes into the song we all know which brings about the opening credits. He basically only sings the intro as the rest of the credits unfold with instrumental music. It’s basically a medley of all of the songs we’re about to hear throughout this one. And in case you’re curious, in 1987 the major sponsor for this broadcast was 7Up. When the credits are done, Sam starts the actual story. We find out that Rudolph (Billie Mae Richards) is the son of reindeer Donner (Paul Kligman) and his unnamed wife (Dixon). We come upon the trio in a cave setting where Donner gives the kid his name. As he looks up and opens his eyes for the first time, he says “Papa” followed by “Mama.” As he does, his nose glows. Or rather, it lights up like a light bulb, or as Donner phrases it, “…a blinkin’ beacon.”

Baby Rudolph, before he becomes a tremendous disappointment to his father.

Donner is clearly concerned about this development, but before the discussion can continue they get a surprise visit from Santa. It seems he’s all up to speed on who is pregnant amongst his reindeer and has come to meet the newest, potential, member of his team. When he comes over to greet Rudolph, he’s initially impressed since the kid even knows his name. And then the nose glows once more. Santa reacts with a “Great bouncing icebergs!” while Donner quickly intercedes to assure Santa this is something the little fawn will grow out of. Santa says he hopes so, because apparently the color of one’s nose is of great concern to him and a shiny, red, nose will immediately disqualify Rudolph from the team. Remember that folks, Santa is a bigot. I mean, his reaction of surprise is certainly warranted. Imagine finding any woodland creature with a nose that behaves like a light bulb, that would certainly shock me! It would not, however, discourage me from viewing that creature favorably. If anything, quite the opposite. That’s freaking remarkable!

Rudolph’s nose, brought to you by General Electric!

Santa then goes into his dumb song, “Jingle, Jingle, Jingle” which is just him boasting about how wonderful his team of reindeer are, but screw this guy! He sucks. When the song is over, he takes off and I say good riddance. Rudolph, on the other hand, adorably just says “bye bye.” I should also point out, that it’s clear they had two Rudolph puppets for the production, one with a matte, red, nose and the other with the actual bulb nose. Sometimes the texture looks completely different and I am assuming it’s because the one that could actually light was less poseable since it needed to be wired up somehow. Anyway, once Santa is gone Donner decides that he agrees with the old man and declares that Rudolph will never make the team because of its weird nose bias. He scrapes up some mud and rubs it on his son’s nose to hide it. The little guy loves his dad despite his love apparently being conditional upon his nose, while his mother just wipes, or sucks, off the fake nose as she apparently loves him just the way he is. Good for you, mom!

Sam then tells us that the Donners were able to successfully hide Rudoph’s “non-conformity” throughout his early childhood. We see a little montage of him and Donner playing that’s interrupted by the presence of the abominable snowman (Bernard Cowan). As they hide behind a snowdrift, a giant, hairy, foot passes by that will not make much sense when we finally meet the “bumble.”

And here is our other misfit of the special: Hermey the elf.

Sam then directs our attention to a new setting: the workshop. It’s Christmas Eve, and the elves are hard at work making toys. Everything they’re making is purple, it’s a weird trait of this special that almost everything that isn’t a character is depicted in this gray-purple shade. Anyway, the male elves are all in blue and look the same while the females are dressed in a pink outfit and they all look the same. Only two elves stand out, a head elf (Carl Banas) who is taller, has a goatee, and is in a green costume and a little blonde elf named Hermey (Paul Soles). Hermey is apparently well behind the rest of the group in his toy construction, and when the head elf inquires what’s up he responds with “Not happy in my work, I guess.” This is unheard of apparently as all of the elves react with shock and some mixture of outrage which only intensifies when Hermey tells the head elf that what he really wants to be is a dentist! A whistle sounds for a 10 minute break, but the head elf tells Hermey it’s not for him. Apparently, the elves have a terrible union. He’s then given an ultimatum to finish the job or face termination. Once left alone, Hermey stops painting and pulls out a dentistry book, singing to himself, “Why am I such a misfit? I am not just a nitwit. You can’t fire me, I quit! See, I don’t fit in.”

Poor, sad, Rudolph. All over a nose.

After witnessing that, Sam just dismisses Hermey’s problems as the life of an elf. We then check-in on Rudolph who appears to be much older, and more rebellious. He hates the false nose his father keeps making him wear, but Donner isn’t standing for any back-talk while mother is just staying out of it all together. He slaps the mud on his kid’s face who tells him it’s not very comfortable, but Donner retorts with “There are more important things than comfort – self respect!” Man, he is such an unlikable dick. Rudolph wanders out of the cave and plops down in the snow looking rather sad. He pops the fake nose off and sings a similar refrain to what we just heard from Hermey, “Why am I such a misfit? I am not such a nitwit. Just because my nose glows, why don’t I fit in?”

Looks like he doesn’t have any issues making friends.

Sam comes back to inform us that Christmas came and went that year without incident. We’re jumping forward to April when all of the new fawns come out to show off and be inspected by Santa. It sounds kind of gross when put it that way, but these are the “reindeer games” from the song, essentially. Rudolph seems hesitant to mix it up with the others, but his dad tries to be encouraging even though he’s spent Rudolph’s whole life denigrating him for the color of his nose. Talk about your mixed messages. Rudolph gets pushed into the group and immediately starts up a friendship with a welcoming fawn named Fireball (Alfie Scopp). Fireball is also apparently a little horn-ball because he encourages Rudolph to participate in the games so he can show off in front of the does.

Imagine telling an employee they’ll never fit in. This guy is a grade A asshole.

Time to check-in on Hermey. It would seem he’s all talk and has actually stayed on as a toymaker, for now, with the other elves. We find him by himself working on some dolls apparently adding teeth. It looks like he’s found a way to marry his love of dentistry with his job as a toymaker – case closed! Or not, for soon the head elf comes barging in demanding to know why Hermey wasn’t at elf practice (that scene was cut from the broadcast frequently and was in 1987). When Hermey shows the head elf what he’s been working on instead, he just gets met with more ridicule. This asshole isn’t willing to meet Hermey halfway and instead tells him they already have dolls that can “cry, talk, walk, blink, and run a temperature – we don’t need any chewing dolls!” After feeling he successfully shut down that little business, the head elf tells him to come join the others so he can learn how to wiggle his ears and chuckle, which sounds rather useless to me, but what do I know about elf culture? Remarking, “A dentist – good grief,” he slams the door leaving Hermey all alone once again. Only this time, he’s had enough. Grabbing his dentistry book, he opens the window and slips out declaring he’s on his own now.

Santa’s pay is so bad that Comet had to take a second job.

Back at the games, Fireball still seems preoccupied with the presence of does. He suggests to Rudolph that one in particular seems to have her eye on him. Rudolph seems interested, but before things can go further they’re interrupted by their Coach, Comet (Kligman). Comet both looks and sounds just like Donner, only he has a stylish cap and whistle around his neck. He says he’s here to teach them how to be reindeer, but also he wants to be their pal – how sweet? He announces that they’re going to practice flying and calls on Dasher’s little boy to start them off. The little fawn runs, jumps, and faceplants into the snow to much laughter. Comet is encouraging though and tells him it was good for a first try. As he moves on to another fawn, Fireball encourages Rudolph to go over and talk to the doe that has her eye on him.

Young love.

Rudolph does as he’s instructed and we’re introduced to Clarice (Janis Orenstein). Rudolph is bashful, and we learn his nose apparently operates like a dog’s tail might as it glows from underneath his fake one making him appear to blush, which is a pretty clever idea and effect. Clarice picks up on his voice sounding unnatural, but Rudolph thinks she’s making fun of the way he talks. She clarifies she meant no harm. Meanwhile, Comet is trying to get Rudolph’s attention because it’s his turn to try flying. Rudolph is trying to work up some courage and before he runs back he asks Clarice if she would walk home with him after practice. She replies that she would, and then tells the reindeer she thinks he’s cute!

Imagine being mean to this adorable, little, guy.

Well, that went over well with Rudolph! Cheering that she thinks he’s cute, Rudolph bounds up into the air and flies over to Comet. Comet is impressed, but Rudolph doesn’t care because a doe just called him cute. As he keeps shouting this fact, he jumps up into the air again and soars over the gathering amazing all in attendance, including Santa. Rudolph comes to land by Fireball and repeats the good news and he gets excited for his friend. They play scuffle, and in the process Rudolph’s false nose pops off. He’s pretty giddy right now, so that nose is on full blast underneath. Fireball is immediately freaked out and starts backing away telling Rudolph to get away from him. Santa admonishes Donner, like he did something wrong. Given how Santa reacted to Rudolph’s nose in the winter, I don’t think he’s disappointed in Donner’s attempt to hide the nose, but in his failure to adequately do so. Comet tries to calm everyone down, but upon seeing Rudolph’s nose declares that he should go home with his folks and that they won’t be inviting Rudolph to join any of their reindeer games going forward. I have a sudden urge to hunt these reindeer into extinction.

At least there’s one decent deer in Christmas Town.

Rudolph dramatically runs off, upset at the way he’s been treated. And he should be upset, though at the same time who needs those clowns? Clarice comes running after him and Rudolph seems to think she’s coming to make fun of him too. Clarice tells him she’s not and prefers this red nose to the silly false one he had been wearing. Rudolph won’t hear it as he hates his nose for making him different, but Clarice thinks that’s what makes it special and she’s not wrong. She then breaks into song, “There’s Always Tomorrow,” which is the slow ballad number of the special that I’m guessing is the favorite of few. The sentiment is sweet and it’s appropriate for Clarice, though her dad (Cowan) apparently didn’t hear the message of the song for when it’s over he comes running over to retrieve his daughter declaring that “No daughter of mine is going to be seen with a red-nosed reindeer!”

What exactly was Hermey doing in that snowbank anyway?

Feeling defeated, Rudolph wanders over to the base of a tree and sits down by a snowbank. Up from out of the snowbank pops the head of Hermey. He asks if this snowbank belongs to Rudolph, but Rudolph is rather confused by the situation. Hermey introduces himself to Rudolph as a dentist, and he has no idea what a dentist is. Hermey then corrects himself as he wants to be a dentist, but isn’t one yet. For now, he’s just an elf, but he declares that he doesn’t need anybody else and he’s independent! Rudolph doesn’t really seem to know what the word means, and I’m not so sure Hermey does since he proposes that they be independent together. Rudolph is onboard though so long as Hermey doesn’t mind his nose, and Hermey is fine with the arrangement as long as Rudolph doesn’t mind him being a dentist. They shake on it, then break into song.

Pictured: a couple of Misfits not named Glenn Danzig or Jerry Only.

For the 1987 broadcast, the song is “Fame and Fortune.” It’s a weird number to hear these two sing about becoming rich and famous as that’s something neither character really expresses a desire for outside of this song which is partly why few seem to like it. The original 1964 broadcast featured the song “We’re a Couple of Misfits,” which thematically makes far more sense and builds on how the two characters had already been singing their own verse of the song earlier. That song was basically dropped just to change things up in 1965 and possibly to shorten the sequence. It wouldn’t be added back until the 1990s. Both can be found on the DVD release, though the current CBS broadcast does something different in that it uses the animation for “Fame and Fortune,” but dubs it with the more popular song sped up. It looks and sounds terrible that way and I’m guessing it’s only done to squeeze in more commercials. As for the song itself, it’s fine, I guess. It’s catchy, but the subject matter makes no sense to me so for that reason I’d rather “We’re a Couple of Misfits” instead, though the CBS solution is way worse.

Everyone is convinced this little, tiny, light of a nose is able to draw-in a snow monster from seemingly anywhere.

When the song is over, Hermey and Rudolph are off wandering in the darkness with the snow falling hard. A voiceover from Sam informs us that the world is a dangerous place and soon the rumbles of the bumble can be heard! Hermey encourages Rudolph to douse the light of his nose as he thinks the bumble can see it, while we cut back to Sam cowering in fear under his umbrella. What a wimp! Dousing the light seems to work though as the bumble doesn’t attack, and instead a prospector upon a dogsled happens along to find the two misfits.

Introducing Yukon Cornelius, another rare, decent, person in this special. He also carries a gun, but seems unwilling to use it when faced with danger.

Hearing the dogsled, Rudolph and Hermey jump into a snowbank so just their butts are hanging out which is how Yukon Cornelius (Larry Mann) finds them. He’s rather puzzled by the sight of a deer ass pointing at him and an elf one beside it. I could make some rather crude jokes right now, but I’ll settle with just saying I’m sure the adult movie parody includes a similar scene. Yukon yanks the two out and introduces himself as the greatest prospector in the north. The land is rich with silver and gold, according to him, and he’s rather fond of tossing his pickaxe in the air which seems rather dangerous. When he retrieves it he always licks it and remarks, “Nothing.” This is because Yukon is in search of a peppermint mine, but you would only know that if you watched the original 1964 broadcast because the special ended with him stumbling upon one. That scene was cut in favor of another that we’ll get to when we get to it. I must say, I bet the animators absolutely hated that Yukon was written to be driving a dogsled because that thing must have been a pain to animate. And honestly, they didn’t do a very good job with it, but they had some pretty tight deadlines so I’m not surprised it looks the way it does.

One thing this special struggles with is forced perspective shots, and putting the bumble on a mountain like this doesn’t help.

After Yukon introduces himself in grandiose fashion, Sam feels inspired to sing us a song. “Silver and Gold” is it’s name and it’s a pleasant little number, but it feels like it’s placed too close to Clarice’s song which is also rather slow and melancholy. He looks like he’s playing a banjo while performing the song, which is interesting because I don’t hear any trace of a banjo in the actual song. When it’s done, Yukon indicates he’s off for more supplies, but before they can get to know each other the bumble strikes! He’s presented standing on the mountains, which looks pretty goofy because the mountains look like we’re supposed to assume they’re off in the distance and not just really tiny mountains.

It may not look like water, but I love this shot anyway.

Yukon ushers Rudolph and Hermey onto the sleigh. He also gets the dogs to do the same because there’s no way those animators were going to do a chase sequence between a hairy monster and some characters in a dogsled. Instead, Yukon just pulls it while the bumble gives chase. He stumbles, which is enough of an opening for Yukon to reach the water’s edge and hammer out a “do-it-yourself iceberg!” As they float away, Yukon is able to prove to the others that he knows the bumble’s one weakness: he sinks. He steps into the water, and drops like a rock. It’s deep enough to be over his head, but apparently not so deep that he can’t get out, which he does and is left scratching his head. The water effects for stop-motion are always of interest to me, and the transition of bumble to underwater is rather interesting to look at. It doesn’t look even remotely convincing, but it’s one of those things that just looks neat to me so it doesn’t bother me. I do think they could have done a more convincing job at making the bumble look wet when he emerges from the water though.

Nothing on the horizon. They escaped the bumble, but this seems like a bad place to be.

With the bumble a safe distance away, Rudolph and Hermey are able to ask where they’re off to now. Yukon doesn’t exactly know, but he tells them they’re with him now and they can all get rich off of silver. When Hermey says he thought Yukon was after gold, he simply replies with “I changed my mind.” I’m not sure I would trust this guy’s business acumen. They’re shown floating off into the night while Sam comes in to tell us the Donners are worried about Rudolph. First, Donner takes off to go find Rudolph. Sam tells us he feels bad about how he treated his son, and he should! After he leaves, Clarice shows up and she and Mrs. Donner go out in search of Rudolph as well. We learn all of this via Sam’s narration as the characters say nothing to each other.

A rough landing, but as we saw in that last shot, I’d say they were pretty lucky to make any landing.

Out on the floating iceberg, the fog has set in. Yukon remarks it’s as thick as peanut butter and Hermey tries to correct him by saying “I think you mean pea soup.” Yukon responds with “You eat what you like and I’ll eat…” though he doesn’t finish the clever little line because they strike land. And to emphasize that, Yukon shouts at the top of his lungs “Land ho!” even though they’re all very much aware of that. As they wander further inland, Rudolph wonders where they are as the three take note of a castle. It’s supposed to be off in the distance, but the perspective isn’t very convincing. Yukon then points out a curious sight: a flying lion!

Wait! Where did all of these presents come from?

Soon the three are confronted by an unusual sentry. It’s a Jack-In-the-Box, only come to find out, his name isn’t Jack. It’s Charlie. Charlie (Scopp) explains they’re on the Island of Misfit Toys, and pretty much starts to sob upon the admission of his name. Rudolph kind of stuck it to him unintentionally by assuming his name was Jack, but that’s why he’s a misfit. Soon, the other toys begin to come out of a bunch of presents they were hiding in and singing a rather haunting tune. It’s actually a bit unsettling, but then perks up. The song is “The Most Wonderful Day of the Year” and it’s all about Christmas.

Most of these toys seem fine to me.

The song also has a secondary function: to introduce these freaks and weirdos. The song is played straight, until an elephant comes in to ask rhetorically “How would you like to be a spotted elephant?” like it’s some great disability. Other toys chime in with their problems, most of which seem rather superficial. A train with square wheels on its caboose and a boat that sinks seem like some pretty significant quality control errors. A bird that doesn’t fly, but swims? That’s just a penguin. A cowboy that rides an ostrich? Sounds fun to me! A water pistol that shoots jelly? Just don’t load the damn thing with jelly! Yeah, I’m being rather hard on the sequence, but it’s not like they had to come up with a lot of odd toys. They could have done better. Oh, and if you’re wondering, the “dolly for Sue” that no one can figure out what’s wrong with is apparently just suffering from depression. Yeah, the explanation reads like a retcon, but that’s because she was a late addition to the special and some of her lines were added over the years. It’s from Arthur Rankin himself though, so I guess it’s canon.

Who appointed this guy of an island of unwanted toys? He is a lion, so maybe he just took it?

When the song is over, the boys apparently didn’t find it at all depressing because they want to live here too! Charlie informs them that if they wish to remain on the island, they need to get permission from King Moonracer who just so happens to be holding court in his castle at this very moment. If you couldn’t have guessed, King Moonracer (Francis) is the flying lion from before. I can’t imagine he has much to do on this island if he just lords over some toys which likely explains how Rudolph and the gang are granted an audience immediately. When they ask for permission to remain on the island on account of them being misfits as well, their request is denied. “How do you like that?” says Yukon, “Even among misfits you’re misfits.”

At least they have some accommodations for non-toys.

Moonracer explains that since they’re living things (apparently those toys are not considered alive) they can’t run away from their problems and hide out on an island intended for toys. Harsh, but fair. He does permit them to stay the night though and they even have some lodgings for living beings who happen to turn up on their island. Before court is adjourned though, Moonracer makes a request of them. Should they ever return to Christmas Town, he would like them to tell Santa about their island to see if he can find homes for all of the misfit toys. Rudolph agrees to do so, but I’m left wondering why Moonracer, who can fly, doesn’t just go do that himself? Does he really have better things he could be doing? Maybe he tried and Santa was freaked out by the presence of a lion and had his guards, assuming he has guards, attack the beast?

Geez Rudolph, don’t you think you might be overreacting here?

The three are shown to their quarters and are all getting settled-in for a good night’s sleep. The quarters look rather tight, but at least everyone can fit in the frame. Hermey says they’ll all leave tomorrow together, but Rudolph is rather insistent that he should go it alone from here on out on account of his nose. He seems to think it’s how the bumble finds them and views traveling with him as being too dangerous for the other two. Yukon will hear no talk of him going it alone and basically tells him to zip it. Rudolph stops and waits for the other two to fall asleep, which since this is television, is immediately upon turning off the light. He’s convinced he needs to go it alone, so he sneaks out. Somehow, he’s able to create another floating iceberg for himself, or maybe he found the one they came in on. As he floats away, he wishes his friends success in their various quests. And as we watch him sail away, the roar of the bumble can be heard. Chilling!

We linger on Rudolph’s ass for what feels like a long time.

When we come back from a break, Sam starts telling us what Rudolph did off on his own. He says “time passed slowly,” but it sure looks like it’s moving pretty fast to me! The bumble kept him on the run, but he also made friends here and there. We get to see him play with some polar bear cubs, but then the mama bear kind of chases him off. He should be glad he didn’t get eaten. That’s the last we see of cute, adolescent, Rudolph. Our next shot is a long one centered on Rudolph’s ass. As Sam tells us he went through some changes, Rudolph picks his head up and we see he’s all grown up. And the mere act of growing up is apparently all it took to convince him that he couldn’t run away from his problems, so it’s time for Rudolph to head home.

Find your dad or I’ll be having you for Christmas dinner, Bulb-face!

Rudolph happens upon a group of reindeer. One of the three remarks “Hey! Look who’s back – old neon nose!” they laugh and Rudolph gets pissed. He runs back to his family’s cave, but finds it empty. Santa soon comes in to tell him that his parents are gone and Clarice too. They left months ago to go look for him. Is Santa happy to see Rudolph safe and sound? If he is, he doesn’t sound like it. Instead, he’s just worried about his damn sleigh and insists he can’t get it off the ground without Donner. Rudolph vows to find them and takes off, but that’s when it hits – that blizzard we were told about at the beginning. We’re shown the storm slam into the North Pole tearing shingles off of Santa’s castle, knocking ornaments off of trees, and sending elves rolling through the snow. Rudolph can only put his head down to push through it and he knows where he needs to look first: the cave of the abominable snow monster!

He’s just been spending the past few months trying to decide which one to eat first.

Rudolph enters the foreboding structure and finds his parents and Clarice. Clarice is in the bumble’s clutches while the other two just look on helplessly. I’m not sure what two deer could do to a beast like the bumble, but they can at least try! And how long have they been here? Rudolph is no coward though as he charges in demanding the bumble put her down! He does and then makes a play for Rudolph who deftly avoids the lunging beast. With him on his belly, Rudolph goes for the crotch, but apparently this bumble is either castrated or female as it doesn’t seem bothered. Rather it simply stands up, and ripping a stalagmite from the cave ceiling, smashes Rudolph over the head knocking the deer unconscious. He then unleashes a hearty, sinister, laugh.

The brave are always the first to die.

We return to Sam, once again cowering in terror under his umbrella, who then informs us he’s the real hero of the story. Well, not his words exactly, but he takes credit for sending Yukon and Hermey after Rudolph. The two come upon the cave and spy the bumble inside with Rudolph and the others. Clarice is in tears and asking aloud “Why doesn’t he get it over with?” A good thought, but also a dark one, as she’s admitting they’ve basically given up. Rudolph is still unconscious, but he starts to come to. Meanwhile, Yukon has a plan, but since he whispers it to Hermey we don’t know exactly what it is, but it involves Yukon climbing above the cave while Hermey oinks like a pig.

This seems like a setback, sure, but I don’t think I’d go charging at this guy just because he lacks teeth now.

The bumble heads out to investigate the oinking as Yukon insists a bumble would never choose deer over pork. When he reaches the cave’s exit, Yukon drops a giant rock on his head knocking him out. Yukon is then able to run into the cave to bask in some hero worship. The deer are happy to be saved, but then alarmed when the bumble emerges from behind Yukon. Hermey then enters to tell them not to worry. He’s got some dental equipment in his hands and it becomes clear he’s pulled out all of the bumble’s teeth. He encourages them to just walk on by, seemingly ignoring that the bumble is still a massive, clawed, beast. Would you have no fear of a toothless grizzly bear? I think not.

Stop what you’re doing, Yukon! Listen to the big, hairy, monster!

Yukon is not scared. Declaring the bumble nothing without his choppers, he goes right at him. I’m not really sure what he’s trying to accomplish, but the bumble basically just backtracks until it reaches a cliff’s edge. Yukon then appears to tackle him, along with all of his dogs, and the two fall over the side. The others run over yelling “Yukon!” and peer over the edge. Rudolph declares he’s gone, and he quite literally is, because we can see the cliff’s bottom and nothing is there. They probably should have tried painting it black or something, unless this was the desired effect?

This is basically the end of Hermey’s story. I guess it’s a happy ending.

We’re supposed to just think Yukon is dead and Sam conveys that sentiment with his narration. Rather than look for Yukon though, Sam blames the need to “get the women back to town” as reason for them just heading home to Santa’s place. Nah, they just didn’t want to look. There they apparently have a reconciliation with those that treated them as outcasts. I’m not sure why the sudden change of heart. Because they survived an encounter with the abominable? Because their friend is dead? We catch the end of a conversation between Rudolph and Santa with Santa vowing to find homes for all of the misfit toys. The head elf tells Hermey he can open a dentist practice after Christmas and is promptly granted the first appointment when Hermey looks in his mouth. Donner is then shown apologizing to Rudolph and I do hope the buck is sincere. He basically missed his son’s entire childhood! Granted, that appears to be a matter of months, but it’s all the same.

If I had a nickel for every time I heard my dad say, “Looky what he can do!”

From outside, a commanding voice then hollers for the elves to open up on account of it not being a fit night out for man nor beast. When they pull the doors open in comes the man, and it’s Yukon! As for the beast, why, it’s the bumble! He’s leashed and Yukon declares that he’s a reformed bumble in need of a job. The bumble demonstrates his usefulness by placing the star on top of a nearby tree as Yukon exclaims “Looky what he can do!” Rudolph then asks how the pair survived their trip down the side of the cliff and Yukon takes the time to inform him that bumbles bounce! The elves all seem to find this funny. Meanwhile, the bumble has removed his leash so I guess there’s no fear of him going berserk at this point. Maybe the leash was just a fashion choice? Maybe he and Yukon have a thing going on? Yes, I’m shipping this pairing.

The existence of pilot elf here would seem to suggest that there are other professions open to elves beyond toy-making, so all of that mistreatment of Hermey is even worse than we thought!

It’s the day before Christmas Eve though, so they can’t dilly dally. The elves get back to work and we hear a reprise of “We Are Santa’s Elves” as they do so, which is a song that was cut from this broadcast earlier. Santa is then shown back at the dinner table with his awful looking food. He’s still skinny, so he’s going to just gorge until he’s near bursting to fatten up for Christmas apparently. An elf then shows up to hand him a weather report and it’s not good. Regrettably, Santa has to make the announcement that Christmas is cancelled to shock and awe.

Say the line, Santa!

As Santa stands there explaining the situation, Rudolph is apparently excited about something because his nose is going bonkers. It’s distracting Santa, blinding him actually, and as he goes to tell Rudolph to cut it out he stops himself: “That nose! That beautiful, wonderful, nose! Rudolph, Christmas is not off and you’re going to lead my team!” Rudolph is pretty shocked, and then Santa makes it official by quoting the song, “Rudolph, with your nose so bright, won’t you guide my sleigh tonight?” Rudolph, proving he’s not a petty reindeer, simply says, “It will be an honor, sir.” Donner then gets to insist he knew that nose would be useful some day. What a jerk!

It’s cute that he needs shades to handle Rudolph.

As the elves load up the sleigh, we go into one of the better songs of the special: “Holly, Jolly, Christmas.” Sam sings it while the elves basically just party, their job apparently done. During the events of the song we see Rudolph and Clarice share their first kiss and an elf with sunglasses gets to hook Rudolph up to the sleigh. Here is where we dock this special some points because Rudolph is placed ahead of a team of six instead of eight reindeer. For shame! I’m sure this thing was a pain to animate, especially the take-off sequences to come, but would it have been that much harder with 9 instead of 7?

For everyone that wanted a fat Santa, here you go. I think we should just accept him as he wants to be.

When the song ends we find Santa practicing his laughter and looking plenty plump. He calls for his coat while Mrs. Claus looks on approvingly. As he puts his gear on, we get an instrumental reprise of “Jingle, Jingle, Jingle” which is a nice touch. As Santa takes his rightful place in the sleigh, he calls out to ask if Rudolph is ready. When the reindeer responds in the affirmative, Santa informs him their first stop is the Island of Misfit Toys. Up, up, up, and away!

On the Island of Misfit Toys, it would seem spirits are low.

On the Island of Misfit Toys, Charlie, spotted elephant, and dolly are seated by a campfire. They’re pretty glum because it’s Christmas and they’re still stuck on the island. Santa isn’t coming this year, just like all of the other years. Charlie retreats into his box to dream about next Christmas while dolly remarks, through tears, that she doesn’t have any dreams left to dream. Then, the faint sound of sleigh bells can be heard through the night. The elephant hears them first and wonders what it could be. Charlie pops out of his box excitedly, “It’s Santa! And look – Rudolph is leading the way!”

All right, we got the toys, lets get off this depressing island.

The sleigh lands bathed in the glowing, red, light of Rudolph’s nose. Santa matter-of-factly just says “Well, let’s be on our way!” The toys say nothing and just jump into his sack. Santa then calls out to Rudolph again and they take off. Since this scene was added a year later, I’m thinking Santa and Rudolph’s dialogue is the exact same track from their first take off. No matter, Sam pops in to tell us “Well folks, as for the rest of the story,” and then sings the ending of the song “He went down in history!” Sam then sings the full song while we watch Santa fly through the sky. As they soar, an elf outfits each of the misfit toys with an umbrella and they jump out of the sleigh. Santa may have got them off the island, but apparently that’s as far as his charity goes. They have to find their own way! When the song ends, Santa wishes us all a merry Christmas and flies off towards the full moon. A fitting final shot of The Christmas Spot 2022.

After he spent this thing acting like a jerk, I say it should have been Rudolph who got to wish us a merry Christmas in the end. Not Santa.

Well, we’re talking about Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer so it’s not like there’s a whole lot to say that hasn’t already been said. It’s a classic and if you’re reading this you probably watched it at least once this year, just like last year, and the year before that, and the year before that. It’s the special that really popularized the Rudolph character and started Rankin/Bass on the path to being a Christmas special juggernaut. This wasn’t the first adaptation of Rudolph outside of the song, but it was the first to basically adapt the song almost word for word and incorporate it into its plot. And as a story, it succeeds in making us root for Rudolph and gives him a buddy in Hermey who is equally sympathetic.

What the story doesn’t do so well is redeem the other characters. Santa, Donner, Comet, the other reindeer all act like bigots. They’re giant jerks and none of them really do anything to make me feel any different. We don’t even get an apology from Santa, just Donner and the end of one from the head elf towards Hermey. This Santa sucks! He dismisses a reindeer because of its nose. Is Budweiser even that strict with its famous Clydesdales? At least we have Yukon who seems like a good dude, it’s just too bad we lost his ending since it reveals there’s more to him than just silver and gold. Clarice is also a nice character, it’s just too bad she doesn’t get to do anything once her song is over aside from play damsel in distress. There’s very little resolution to this one. We get the happy ending, but we don’t know how Rudolph feels about it. I realize I’m asking a lot of an almost 60 year old special commissioned to sell more General Electric products, but these are questions worth asking.

What does work very well though are the visuals and music. Yes, the stop-motion on display here is rather primitive at times, but it gives this one it’s own distinct feel. The specials to follow would feature higher quality animation, but I’ve always preferred this one anyway. The weird purple-gray textures, the dogs that barely animate, the bumble and his tangle of fur – it just looks fun. One of the best decisions the movie Elf made was adopting the look of this special’s north pole. The music is also solid, though it does have some low points. No matter, “Holly, Jolly, Christmas” and the Burl Ives version of the title song really give this one a jolt at the end and are beloved classics in their own right.

So long Christmas. See you next year!

Considering that it is now Christmas Day, your chance to catch Rudolph on TV may have passed you by. CBS airs it twice annually, basically right after Thanksgiving and then once more closer to Christmas. Freeform has the cable broadcast rights, or did in 2021, and it’s possible they’re showing it today and if I can confirm that I’ll try to slip it in via an edit because I’m not writing this on Christmas Day. I’m rather busy celebrating the holiday with family and hopefully you are too and this is just something you read during a quiet moment. When the dust has settled and the excitement of the day subsides. The kids are in their rooms playing with their new toys or feeling the effects of a sleepless night from before crashing upon them, I like to bask in the afterglow of the holiday with more TV or more reading by the light of the Christmas tree. It only happens once a year, so treasure it while it lasts, and most of all Merry Christmas and thanks for reading!

Can’t wait until next year for more Christmas? Check out what we had to say on this day last year and beyond:

Dec. 25 – Mickey’s Christmas Carol

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

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Dec. 25 – Sonic Christmas Blast

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

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Dec. 25 – Samurai Pizza Cats – “The Cheese Who Stole Christmas”

Welcome, Christmas Day! Hopefully you’re not hungover from too much Christmas partying last night, and if you are, hopefully it was worth it. By now, Santa should have deposited presents under the tree, if you were good this year, and hopefully he remembered the batteries. It’s been fun, but this post means we are done…

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Dec. 24 – Ultimate Spider-Man – “The Moon Knight Before Christmas”

Original air date December 17, 2016.

When it comes to doing these write-ups, I naturally trend towards older Christmas specials. The name of the blog is The Nostalgia Spot, after all, so it would only make sense for me to favor stuff that’s at least a decade old, if not more. The fact of the matter is, there’s really not enough content out there to only focus on the old, and besides, sometimes it’s fun to be a bit topical. In 2022, Marvel unleashed Moon Knight on the masses via Disney+. Since I am a subscriber to Disney+ and a casual Marvel fan, I watched it because it was there and I like feeling like I’m getting the most bang for my buck. It was a fine show and I especially enjoyed the performance of Oscar Isaac in the lead role. I believe it was mostly well-received, though I know there were some out there disappointed at the lack of Moon Knight in a show called Moon Knight which is understandable. I’m sure we’ll see more of him though because this is the Marvel Cinematic Universe, after all, and it’s always building towards something.

Prior to watching the show, my only knowledge of Moon Knight was that he was some superhero with a cool looking costume. I have an old ToyBiz Marvel Legends figure of the same, but I’ve honestly never picked up a Moon Knight comic. He always had the reputation of being a Batman knock-off, and to some extent I guess that’s true. In the hands of an unskilled writer, I could easily see his books turning into a Batman-like story. In the show, he was far more interesting though so I don’t think such criticism is warranted in that case, but what about in other media?

I guess the show had a different title in its final season? It’s just listed as Ultimate Spider-Man every where.

In 2012, Disney began airing a show called Ultimate Spider-Man. Despite the name, this show was not an adaptation of the comic book series of the same name. Like many post 2000 Spider-Man shows, it borrows from that comic, but also basically every other form of Spider-Man to create one big hodgepodge of what are hopefully the best traits of the various Spider-Men over the years. I never paid any attention to the show while it was airing, but it hung around to total over 100 episodes with the series ending in 2017. One of the last episodes of the show happens to be a Christmas one, and it also features Moon Knight, and it’s also presently the “knight” before Christmas, so now feels like the right time to take a look at this one.

Ultimate Spider-Man is a Film Roman production that was overseen by Alex Soto. It’s a 2D animated cartoon series with a pretty straight-forward approach to the character designs and scenery, unlike a more stylized series and prior Christmas spot entrant Spectacular Spider-Man. The show stars Drake Bell as Spider-Man/Peter Parker and when it begins he has already been Spider-Man for about a year, until attracting the attention of Nick Fury. This is a young Spider-Man still feeling his way around things and it seems an emphasis of the show was to feature lots of team-ups with other familiar faces from the Marvel Universe. The show was able to assemble a rather impressive writing team which included Brian Michael Bendis, the creative behind the comic of the same name, and Paul Dini, perhaps the most celebrated writer in superhero animation (this particular episode is by Elliot Casey). It would seem there’s a lot to like about this one on paper and it also looks like some money was spent making the show look good so it’s a bit of a surprise on my behalf that I’ve basically ignored the series for as long as I have.

This show loves playing with the size of Spider-Man’s eye lenses.

The show begins without any sort of opening title sequence, I’m guessing that’s to come. We find Spider-Man (Bell) decorating a…tree of some kind and talking to himself. He seems to be trying to psyche himself up to have a terrific Christmas because he needs to. He’s actually house-sitting this Christmas for Dr. Strange (Liam O’Brien) in his Sanctum Sanctorum while the good doctor is off saving reality, or something. It would seem this is Spidey’s first Christmas away from his Aunt May and he’s just trying to make the best of it. Unfortunately, this bizarre, monster, tree that Dr. Strange keeps in his home is sentient and not up for being decorated like a Christmas tree. It also doesn’t seem to appreciate Spider-Man’s sass and takes a swipe at him forcing the web-slinger to retreat into another room. Oh, and this is a show that seems to break the fourth wall via its protagonist. A lot.

It also seems to like this story device as we’ll see it again.

After running from the grinchy monster plant, Spider-Man finds himself in a fancy looking armory. It’s apparently a room he’s not supposed to enter and as he tries to recall what Dr. Strange told him about the room an apparition of the doctor appears above him. A very young looking Doctor Strange is recalled just telling him to stay out of the room because of all of the dangerous weapons and artifacts present. Spidey then sheepishly scratches the back of his head as an “Oops, my bad,” kind of thing since he’s already broken his promise to Strange. I’m getting the impression this Spider-Man is a bit of a goof.

That’s a pretty bad ass way to introduce Moon Knight.

A scream from outside gets Spider-Man’s attention. He’s supposed to look after Strange’s home, but he can’t ignore what sounds like a girl in distress! Spidey races outside to find a young girl being harassed by a strangely dressed man. That man is Moon Knight (Diedrich Bader), and it would seem that Spider-Man has never encountered this soldier of the moon before. His entrance is pretty cool though as Spidey looks up at the moon and we see the alleged hero reflected in the lens of his mask. Spidey deftly avoids him and grabs the young girl in the process before staring down his new foe. Moon Knight introduces himself, and Spider-Man makes a lame crack about him not being Santa Claus as we smash cut to the opening title. Apparently this era of the show is called Ultimate Spider-Man vs The Sinister Six as that’s what the title card says. I guess it would have helped if I had watched some of this show before jumping into one of the final 3 episodes.

This rescue isn’t going very well so far.

After the very brief title card is “webbed away,” we get to see Spider-Man vs The Moon Knight! Moon Knight is impeccably voiced by Diedrich Bader in what feels like a preview of the somewhat aloof Batman (in contrast with the straight-forward Batman he has played elsewhere) he will play in the future on Harley Quinn. He’s an unintentionally humorous character (as-in, the character isn’t trying to be funny in-universe, but he’s definitely written to be comical to the viewer) as he constantly keeps referring to the moon, talking about the moon, and even converses with the moon. I’m having flashbacks to the Mooninites from Aqua Teen Hunger Force here because this guy loves the moon as much as they do. Spider-Man seems annoyed with him, and Moon Knight doesn’t really seem to have a high opinion of Spider-Man for that matter and even calls him a demon. It never dawns on Spider-Man though that maybe this guy is attacking this young girl for a reason, so he decides to retreat into the safety of Strange’s townhouse, but not before whipping Moon Knight by his cape into some snow (“And that is why I don’t wear a cape!”). Unfortunately, the building has a protective spell placed on it that requires a magical command to allow additional people through and Spidey is drawing a blank on what those words are. While he stands safely behind the magical shield, the girl he’s trying to save is in harm’s way. Worry not though, for Spider-Man is able to recall those words just before Moon Knight nails her.

And now we have some wholesome, Christmas, entertainment!

As Spidey bids Moon Knight a good night, the vigilante tries pounding on the forcefield and cries out that Spider-Man is giving this girl exactly what she wants, but he’s not listening. Inside, Spider-Man and the girl get acquainted. Her name is Francine (Mary Kate Wiles) and she tells Spider-Man she’s an orphan. A recently made orphan as she lost her father not too long ago. Spidey acts like he’s going to cry hearing her sad story and welcomes her to spend Christmas with him in this lonely old house. We then go into a montage hosted by Spidey Claus! The two make gingerbread cookies that literally get up and walk away, which they have a laugh at. We then see a sequence of polaroid photos of the two making silly faces and eating candy canes. Spidey is laying in front of the fire looking at said pictures when the brief montage ends, while Francine seems interested in looking around. She soon finds the door to the forbidden room, and like most kids, immediately wants to go in once she hears it’s forbidden. Spidey tells her he’s not going to break his promise to Doctor Strange and let her in, but as he lectures her he doesn’t really pay attention and she just slips right past him.

I’m guessing this thing is important.

Francine enters the room and is immediately drawn to a crystal ball. Spidey comes over and realizes he’s seen that ball before. It belonged to the villain Mysterio, and we see a flashback of him doing crimes and battling Spider-Man. Apparently, he fell off the Brooklyn Bridge at the end of one of their encounters and Spider-Man was unable to save him. The ball is his helmet and it was magically enhanced so that it could make Mysterio’s many illusions turn real. Pretty sweet! After Mysterio fell into the river below, Spider-Man recovered the helmet, but no body. He gave it to Strange and is surprised the sorcerer didn’t simply destroy it.

It’s a lot harder to hurt someone when you can’t touch them.

A crashing sound from upstairs gets Spider-Man’s attention and ends his little story time. He hands the helmet to Francine and tells her to stay put while he investigates. He heads upstairs into what looks like a library only to find Moon Knight inside! He’s pretty surprised to see him since Strange put that spell up to keep out the unwanted, but he’ll have to figure that out later. Spider-Man attempts to web Moon Knight, but he turns intangible and the web line goes right through him. Spidey then tries to attack in a more conventional manner, but continues to encounter difficulties. Moon Knight explains that he is but a reflection in the moonlight, which is poetic, but still confusing. Spider-Man then hears a sound coming from outside and looks up to see Moon Knight on the other side of a skylight. Two Moon Knights?!

It turns out she’s the bad guy. Try to act surprised.

Spider-Man noticing another Moon Knight outside seemed to be enough for this Moon Knight to call it quits. It disappears in a blue light and Spider-Man realizes he was just an illusion. Saying the word “illusion” out loud is enough for him to figure out what’s going on. He heads back to the forbidden room and somewhat nervously pops his head in to check on Francine. He finds the girl holding the orb and she too is surrounded by a cold, blue, light. When it fades we see she’s a grown woman, and wearing Mysterio’s old costume too. She then thanks Spider-Man, and introduces herself as Frances Beck, daughter of Mysterio! It would seem she holds a grudge against Spider-Man for her father’s apparent death and retrieving his magical helmet is exactly what she needs to exact sweet, festive, revenge. This is going to be the best Christmas ever!

Just the first of Mysterio’s holiday themed not-illusions. You have to appreciate a villain that gets in on the theme of the episode.

Lucky for Spider-Man, the New Mysterio is quite new to this whole villain thing and Spidey just takes the helmet away from her via a simple web-line. He tells her she can’t handle this thing and suggests she’s not the real deal, but she assures him she is. She lifts her arms up and opens a portal in the ceiling and a horde of vicious looking elves drop in! Spidey is able to escape to the ceiling though as they’re rather short, and he and New Mysterio do the whole “You killed my father!” “No, I didn’t!” routine before Spidey bails into another room.

Dr. Strange is here to save the day! Though Spider-Man is fighting a master illusionist that has already tricked him once…

Spidey’s webs can only hold off the elves for so long as they are vicious little bastards, so he retreats back up to the library. There he finds Moon Knight, still just chilling out on the roof outside the window, before he’s visited by an unexpected guest. Or should I say homeowner? Because Dr. Strange can’t be a guest in his own home! He appears before Spider-Man and seems quite ticked off with old web-head. He let people into his home, entered the forbidden room, and has removed a powerful item from said room! Spidey tries to apologize, while Moon Knight bangs on the window shouting “Not strange!” This confuses Spider-Man more as he very much disagrees with Moon Knight and reminds him that this night has actually been very strange! He then finally realizes what Moon Knight is saying, and it’s probably helped by Dr. Strange lunging for the helmet and failing this whole thing, that he means Strange, not strange. Which, I mean, come on Spider-Man! I know you’re not a detective like Batman, but you’re facing an illusionist here and she’s already fooled you once!

More holiday monsters – I love this stuff!

The illusion of Strange then vanishes and is replaced by Mysterio. She makes a crack at Spider-Man referring to him as a joke to which he responds with “To be fair, I think everything’s a joke.” She also does some magic finger snap that just makes the helmet appear in her hands. She finally puts it on and uses the power of the helmet to summon a giant gingerbread man! Spidey points out that this is very much a joke as he dodges the massive candy cane the beast swings in his direction. I must say, I do admire Mysterio’s commitment to the season with her various summonings. Come to think of it, how did she summon the non-illusion elves without the helmet? Maybe it was the magic of the season? I guess it’s best not to think about these things.

Here comes Moony!

Spider-Man does what he seemingly does best: flees to higher ground. Up on the ceiling, he’s able to watch the Christmas abominations lay waste to what are likely some very old and likely priceless objects in Doctor Strange’s library and also regroup. He tries to recall the advice Dr. Strange gave him in the past, but all he can do is recall generic advice like wearing a hat when it’s cold outside. He then remembers something about Strange advising him to make allies out of the enemies of his enemies. Naturally, this means Moon Knight who is still banging away outside because he is one persistent fellow. Spider-Man shouts out the magic words to release the barrier and Moon Knight is finally able to smash in that very expensive looking window and join the battle!

Seems there’s a downside to all of this power, who could have foreseen that?

Moon Knight comes in wielding his baton and smashes some ginger foes! He’s ready to rumble, and it allows Spidey to attempt to appeal to Francine. She corrects him when he addresses her by that name and refers to herself as Frances Beck! She is not going to be swayed, but before she can really get into her villain speech she collapses to her knees in pain. Reaching for the fishbowl on her head, it would seem the orb is a bit more than she can handle. Spidey tries to help her, rather lamely though by putting an arm around her when he could have just yanked the thing off. She recoils from his touch and uses her power to open a portal that she and her gingerbread minions are able to escape through.

Look out world, Moon Knight has a wand!

With Frances gone, Moon Knight and Spider-Man are able to have a little heart-to-heart. Only, Moon Knight doesn’t seem interested in sharing any of his knowledge with Spider-Man, probably because he’s pretty much responsible for this mess they’re in. Their conversation is interrupted though by the moon. Yes, Moon Knight takes his orders from the moon and it’s played rather comically since Moon Knight can hear the moon, but no one else can including the viewer. It would seem the moon has decided that Spider-Man’s help is needed and Moon Knight is commanded to reveal all. He basically just relays that the moon warned him about Beck and that she intended to wake a dormant evil that lurked in this place, which must be the fish bowl. It also told him how to stop it: a magic wand! Yes, some wand has the power to make the helmet collapse in on itself, and it just so happens to be in this house too! Spidey is forced to break his promise, again, to Strange and admit Moon Knight into the forbidden room. There he finds the wand they need and the two set out to stop Beck.

I’ve seen this guy before.

As the two walk out the front door, Spidey asks Moon Knight (he calls him Moony – adorable!) if this wand will destroy the wearer of the helmet. He only responds with “The moon shall have its vengeance,” which is interesting because I never thought of the moon as the vengeful type. Spider-Man points out that isn’t really an answer and tells Moon Knight if his aim is to kill Francine then he doesn’t want his help. He doesn’t offer a reply as the two head outside and find Mysterio floating high above the city doing super villain stuff. She uses her new powers to summon a giant snowman monster than looks curiously like Marshmallow from Frozen.

Now Santa is getting in on this – is nothing sacred?!

Upon coming face to face with this monster, Spidey is suddenly more interested in Moon Knight’s help and willing to accept any conditions. Of course, when he looks over to the vigilante for help, he’s busy chatting it up with the moon. This guy! It would seem he’s also trying to convince his…boss…that Spider-Man is a liability, which Spidey takes offense to. The two then turn their attention to the task at hand and Spider-Man observes the Moon Knight method of dodging. Which is to say, he does no such thing. He takes a punch from the beast and explains to Spider-Man that he’d rather take the hit than waste time avoiding it, which Spidey is forced to admit is pretty badass (my words, not his). While Moon Knight tangles with Marshmallow, Spidey tries reasoning with Frances, but she just responds by turning an inflatable Santa sentient which goes on the attack. Lucky for him, Moon Knight’s aversion to dodging gets him knocked into Santa and solves that problem for him!

Hey! Quit laying around! There’s a city to save!

Spidey takes to the sky to try to get away from the monster, but ends up getting swatted instead. He crashes through a building and finds himself in a department store. A giant, novelty, present broke his fall. Moon Knight soon follows and lands on top of another novelty present and Spidey is forced to make a crack about the bad holiday décor. Moon Knight ignores Spider-Man’s joke and informs him of the dire situation they find themselves in. He also adds that the moon demands this situation be rectified by any means necessary. The duo are soon set upon by an army of nutcrackers and toy airplanes. The two leap into the scaffolding smashing toys along the way until the big snowman comes bashing in with Mysterio right behind.

I’m very surprised Spider-Man didn’t make a crack about a splitting headache here.

As Spider-Man dodges their attacks, he sees Moon Knight go for Mysterio. He calls out for him to wait, but Moon Knight leaps through the air and plunges the wand through the glass dome. Frances collapses to her knees and appears to be in a trance of some kind. Moon Knight suggests the spell is taking over and will soon end all of this, but Spidey isn’t willing to give up on Frances. He realizes that the only way to get Moon Knight to help him is to trick him. Sounds deceitful, but if this plan works then Moon Knight only has himself to blame for Spidey pretends to hear the moon. Moon Knight is perplexed, but also a bit impressed, as Spider-Man acts as if the moon is commanding him to save Frances. Moon Knight may be a badass, but he’s definitely not the sharpest knife in the drawer as he falls for it. He agrees to hold off the monstrous snowman, while Spider-Man attempts a rescue.

We all talk to the moon all the time. You’re not special, Moon Knight!

Spidey doesn’t really know what to do, so he instinctively grabs the wand. That seemed like the logical place to start, only the unexpected happens and Spider-Man gets sucked inside the helmet! He finds himself in a dreary setting, but a farm house comes into view and Spider-Man figures it must be the farm house that Frances told him about. He approaches a window and spies Francine inside seated at a dinner table with her father, Quentin Beck (Paul Scheer). They appear to be having Christmas dinner, and the decorations in the background would indicate as much. As Spidey gets closer, he finds himself transported into the house and seated at the table. There, he tries reasoning with Frances by telling her this is all an illusion and they need to get out. She insists it’s real though, that her father is real, but Spidey tells her if it was real then he’d tell her what happened that night between them. So he does!

Well, since you’re here, you might as well stick around for Christmas dinner, Spidey.

It turns out, Frances was right and this is the real Quentin Beck. He describes how he made a deal with the demon Dormammu for the power to make his illusions real, and this is the price he paid. He tells his daughter that Spider-Man did try to save him, but he refused the hero’s aid. When he fell off of the bridge, he was pulled into the helmet where he’s to remain. This also explains why Doctor Strange didn’t destroy it since doing so would have destroyed Beck. Unfortunately for the Becks, this world starts to collapse upon itself. A vortex opens above them and it’s pretty clear they need to get out. Frances pleads for her dad to come with them, but he knows he’s trapped in this prison. Or is he? Spider-Man doesn’t think so, but soon the ground opens up below them and Frances is sent falling into the void!

No daughter, I think I would prefer to remain here in Armageddon than join you for Christmas.

She stops though, bathed in a green light, lifted up by her father. He’s holding all three of them with his magic, I guess, suspended in the air. Beck then uses his powers and a green light envelops all three of them. Outside the helmet, Moon Knight is having a rough go of things. He’s being attacked by the snow monster, nutcrackers, and some nasty looking teddy bears. As he sees the helmet pulsate, he assumes that he has failed and apologizes to the moon. Then, his enemies drop dead and Spider-Man appears with the Becks and Moon Knight is forced to correct himself.

Oh look, it all turned out well in the end. That tends to happen at Christmas in TV shows.

While father and daughter have a reunion, Spider-Man remarks how Moon Knight really trashed the place. He reminds Spider-Man this isn’t the only place that’s been damaged this evening and Spidey lets out an “Oh no!” We cut to Dr. Strange finding his home in shambles. As a book crumbles to dust in his hands, he curses Spider-Man to the heavens! We then are taken to F.E.A.S.T. where Aunt May volunteers to help the less fortunate. Spider-Man, Moon Knight, and the Becks are shown enjoying a meal together and there’s laughter and happy, holiday, cheer. We then head to the roof, where Spider-Man is attempting to wrap things up for us, only he’s distracted by Moon Knight’s persistent conversation with the moon. He makes fun of him for it, but Moon Knight turns the tables since Spider-Man can’t even explain who he’s addressing. Moon Knight calls him a weirdo, and Spidey is apparently content to leave things there as he wishes us all a “Happy Holidays,” and we exit with an iris shot.

I suppose it didn’t turn out all that well for Strange. Don’t worry about him though, he can magic that glass back together or something.

That was how Spider-Man spent a Christmas. And it was a rather eventful one. I have to confess, I wasn’t much at all interested in the story of the Becks. We barely got to know Francine so it wasn’t as if I felt hurt by her betrayal of Spider-Man like he seemed to be. I also wasn’t attached to her, but I guess it’s good that Spidey wasn’t willing to take the easy way out and let the magic wand kill her. I also never saw the episodes with Mysterio so I didn’t have that to fall back on. What hurt things further though was the performance of Paul Scheer as Quentin Beck. He is so wooden in the role and the scenes with him are terrible. Was he just mailing this one in? I’m surprised they would stick with this casting because it did not work at all. Perhaps the direction for him was poor as when the vortex is swallowing them he sounds bored, like maybe he didn’t really know what was happening to his character? I also don’t understand how his powers work. I thought he just did illusions and the helmet contained the magic? Did he learn how to utilize the helmet’s magic from within it? Could he have “magicked” himself out of that thing this whole time? It’s messy.

Even Moon Knight joined them for Christmas dinner.

What did work though was Diedrich Bader as Moon Knight. He steals the show and when he’s not on the screen I was definitely looking for him. He gets to be a badass with a personality as he comes across as aloof due to his constant conversing with the moon and Spider-Man is a natural foil for such a character. He takes himself very seriously, and Spider-Man could certainly be described as the opposite. As for old web-head, he manages to be charming and charismatic, but also annoying. It’s a unique quality that Spider-Man sometimes possesses. This particular iteration pushes things at times and he’s definitely upstaged in the funny remarks category by Moon Knight and his deadpan delivery, but I’m guessing that doesn’t happen in most episodes. As for Christmas, it’s here in spirit and Mysterio does her part to make sure of that. We don’t really see much of the reunion at the end so we never get a big dose of those Christmas feels, but given my distaste for the performance of Scheer, it’s probably a good thing that we ended things where we did.

After watching this episode I just have one question: where’s my Spider-Man and Moon Knight spin-off?!

If you like Spider-Man and want to see him at Christmas, this is fine. There’s some lore here to work around, but nothing that should feel too difficult for a casual Spidey fan. The animation is solid and I like how this thing looks. It did take me a bit to warm up to Spidey’s constant eye posing, but I could definitely watch more of this. I don’t know that I will, but maybe. This episode and the rest of the show is streaming on Disney+ and I would not expect to see it shown on television, especially this late in the game. This is also the show’s second Christmas episode, but the blurb on the first one made it sound like an It’s a Wonderful Life parody and I didn’t want to bark up that tree. If I’m mistaken and you think I should check it out, let me know. For now, I feel fine leaving it at this. Plus, that one doesn’t have Moon Knight!

Can’t wait until tomorrow for more Christmas? Check out what we had to say on this day last year and beyond:

Dec. 24 – Shrek the Halls

2021 marked an important anniversary in animation: Shrek turned 20. The animated film from DreamWorks is credited as really helping to launch the company as a viable competitor to Disney’s Pixar. Prior to Shrek, DreamWorks had found success at the box office with Antz and Chicken Run, but Shrek was the first to really explode…

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Dec. 24 – The SpongeBob Christmas Special

When I listed out the best Christmas specials over a week ago, I included the stop-motion A SpongeBob Christmas. And I stand by that as that special is pretty great. Before there was A SpongeBob Christmas, there was The SpongeBob Christmas Special. Confused? Well, there are only so many ways to title a Christmas special.…

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Dec. 24 – Silly Symphony – “The Night Before Christmas”

We have reached a day of great, holiday, release – Christmas Eve. And what better way to mark the occasion than with a holiday short titled The Night Before Christmas. A lot of cartoons have made use of this title, but today’s subject is the Silly Symphony short that falls under that heading. It felt…

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Dec. 23 – Bluey – “Verandah Santa”

Original air date December 12, 2019.

When it comes to The Christmas Spot, I have very few rules. I definitely favor animated Christmas specials, but that’s not some rule I’ve created for myself. The programs don’t have to be all ages, they don’t have to be “nice,” and they certainly don’t have to be any good as I’ve looked at an awful lot of crap over the years. No, my one rule has really only been “No preschool shows.” And that’s not because preschool programs are inherently bad, they’re just often very simple. There’s not a lot to talk about or be entertained by, but it’s also not the goal of such shows to entertain an adult or even an older kid. Those shows typically seek to educate first, entertain second, and there are some that are very good at it and some that are not. My own children learned a lot from Mickey Mouse Clubhouse. I was bored watching it, but I saw the value in it and how my children responded to it and what they took from it. A preschool show that is not good is Paw Patrol. Paw Patrol is a toy commercial masquerading as educational programming. It’s rubbish and if you’re a parent currently suffering through a Paw Patrol phase with a child then know I feel for you. I’ve been there and it will pass eventually.

Bluey is a fairly simple show at its heart, but it has relatable characters and situations which elevates it above the usual preschool fair.

Obviously, I’m telling you all of this because I’m about to break my one rule, but I think the show I’m breaking it for deserves it. That show is Bluey, the Australian import currently bringing a lot of eyes (and dollars) to the Walt Disney Company in the US. Bluey is a show about a family of dogs, blue and red heelers, that live in Australia in a world apparently ruled by humanoid dogs. They look like dogs that walk upright, but are functionally humans that only occasionally remind the viewer they are not. The title character is a young girl who just likes to play and obviously has a lot to learn. Her little sister, Bingo, is at the age of the target demographic and the two often play together and have rather mundane experiences each episode that somehow prove entertaining. Their parents, Bandit (David McCormack) and Chilli (Melanie Zanettit, all of the children in the show are uncredited to protect their identity), play a large role in most episodes and are presented as patient, attentive, parents. They often never miss an opportunity to impart some wisdom to their daughters, but do so in an authentic manner and not as some kind of “What did we learn today, kids.” The show is created by Joe Brumm and it’s basically a reflection of his own life experiences as a parent to two girls. It’s produced and animated by Ludo Studio and the world is presented in a fairly flat, 2D, style. It’s a little boring to look at, but it makes up for that with plenty of bright colors and smooth animation.

Bluey is a show that succeeds not on just the strength of its child leads, but the whole clan. Dad Bandit (right) is easily the show’s MVP, though as a dad myself, I may be biased.

What makes Bluey special is that it’s genuinely entertaining. Get a group of parents together and ask them what their favorite kid’s show is and 9 out of 10 will say Bluey. And the one holdout just hasn’t seen it. It is not uncommon to encounter parents that admit to watching the show without their children present and I know plenty who were very excited when season three dropped over the summer, and some seemed more excited than their kids! The characters on the show are funny and endearing. The children are often engaged in some form of imaginative play in every episode, but rather than depict a world created by their imagination like many shows choose to do, we see the reality of the play. There are exceptions, but for the most part if the kids are playing helicopter or library you’re just watching them play with a stump or pass around books in their living room. The parents, especially Bandit, are charming and unfailingly patient. They go for it when it comes to playing with their children and are capable of completely buying into the “game,” whatever it is, and other adults around them almost never pay it any mind. They basically inhabit an ideal world for children that supports and nurtures them. It can feel exhausting as a parent to watch because I know I personally can’t give myself over to such play with my kids for longer than a few minutes. At some point, I just start to feel awkward and silly and even embarrassed, even if no one is around. Bandit and Chilli almost never let on similar feelings. Sometimes they’re tired and you can tell they’d rather not play, but they still do it. They’re not always perfect in that they do show frustration at times or get angry with one of their kids, but at the same time they are perfect parents because they always have their children’s best interests in mind with basically everything they do.

I could talk about Bluey for awhile, but I’m going to limit myself here so we can actually get to the episode at hand. I have waffled on whether or not I should do this for a couple of years now, but when it comes down to it, Bluey is incredibly popular and it just makes sense to include it. I will say upfront that I don’t think either of the show’s Christmas episodes are among its best. Both have more of a preschool vibe and aren’t able to elevate themselves above that. The kids have fun, someone does something wrong, and there’s a lesson to be learned. It’s laid out quite deliberately where as the strength of the show tends to be it’s teaching your kids without them knowing it. And since I couldn’t decide which episode was better, I just decided to go with the first one: “Verandah Santa.”

I love this shot.

The episode opens on a holiday gathering. It’s a pretty good image because it’s quite relatable. Chilli looks buzzed and appears to be drinking something for adults. Bandit’s brother, Stripe (Dan Brumm) is passed out on the floor likely from eating way too much. His wife Trixie (Myf Warhurst) appears to be in a similar state while Bandit is relaxing with a cup of coffee. The children are lurking and taking stock of the situation apparently eyeing a chance to investigate the presents under the tree. I’m not sure what they’re still waiting for as I assume it’s Christmas Eve and this is a family gathering. Maybe they just have to wait for the rest of the family to come over tomorrow or something. Either way, Bluey creeps over to the underside of the tree and gets reprimanded by her dad. He tells her that Santa doesn’t bring presents to naughty children who peek which leads to Bluey’s cousin Muffin wondering how Santa can even get in there since they don’t have a chimney. Bluey speculates he enters through the verandah followed by Bingo bursting out of the presents under the tree. Apparently she’s the sneaky one.

Poor Uncle Stripe. Bluey is a show that is not above nut-shots and fart jokes, which I appreciate.

The kids decide they want to play Verandah Santa, and they excitedly run off to do so. Only Muffin is a bit too excited and jumps off of the chair she was on and lands on her father in a very sensitive area. He’s in some pain and Bluey tells her cousin she better apologize right away before Santa sees! Muffin cries out to the heavens her apologies while her dad lets her know, through groans, that it’s okay. They then resume their run to wherever and Bluey crashes into her mother causing her to drop a plate of food. Bluey quickly shouts out her apologies as well before Santa can see and we finally get our title card for the episode. We come back from that to find the girls and Bandit in a bedroom. The kids jump into bed as Bandit is to play Santa first. He lays down the rules for the game by establishing that it’s Christmas Eve and Verandah Santa is coming tonight, but he only leaves presents for nice kids who don’t peek! The girls all get under the covers and pretend to sleep while Bandit makes his exit through the door.

Verandah Santa does not take kindly to those who peek, Bluey!

Bandit re-enters the room via the verandah and with a festive Santa hat on as well. He has some items in his arms, but as he creeps over to the bed, Bluey risks a peek. He recoils and basically gives her an out by saying “That better not be a peek,” and she cries out she’s not peeking. Bandit then deposits the “gifts” under the pillow behind each girl’s head and leaves via the verandah. He re-enters through the door shouting “Wake up kids, it’s Christmas!” They all cheer and pop up to check what “Santa” left them. Muffin got a snow globe, Bingo a can of shaving cream, and Bluey a pencil case. When Bingo sees that Bluey received her pencil case as a gift, she angrily snatches it from her sister’s hands. Bandit is forced to step in and reassures Bingo it’s just Bluey’s for the game and that seems to satisfy her. Bingo apologizes to her sister and hands it over, but Bluey refuses to accept the pencil case or her apology. Bingo protests this fact to her dad, and when he asks why she won’t accept Bingo’s apology Bluey responds with, “Why should I?” Muffin is the one to respond now as she says that Santa doesn’t like kids who won’t accept sorries and Bluey’s eyes widen ands she immediately changes course. Bandit then remarks, “Wow, that was easy!” which feels like a nod to the adults in the audience who have leaned on the Santa threat during this time of the year.

Bluey, like many kids, enjoys having even a taste of power and authority over others.

Now it’s Bluey’s turn to play Verandah Santa and Bandit takes her place in the bed. She exits through the door and enters as her dad did with her arms full of stuff she found around the house. As she creeps over to the bed, she has a bit of a devilish look on her face, and with good reason, as she shouts “HO! HO! HO!” Those in the bed immediately snap their eyes open with a startle to see Bluey as Verandah Santa who immediately reprimands them for being naughty children and peeking, even though she’s basically engaging in entrapment. Bandit defends their actions, but Bluey refuses to leave them gifts. As she walks off she indicates that she’ll be disposing of the presents in the bin, as in trash bin. The others pop out of bed, and on their hands and knees, apologize to Santa for peeking. Bandit asks if Santa will accept their apologies? Bluey thinks about it a moment, and then decides that she will and hands over the presents. Muffin gets toilet paper, Bandit some kind of stuffed gecko, and Bingo a TV remote. Bluey then takes off her hat and shouts “I sure am a nice child!” and suggests she deserves lots of presents which momentarily confuses Bandit. He tells her that’s probably not how it works, but Bluey doesn’t seem discouraged. Their other cousin, Socks, then comes running in yipping happily after Bingo declares it’s her turn. She then appoints her young cousin as her helper.

“She’s just a baby,” is one of the hardest concepts to get across to a child who feels they’ve been wronged by a younger cousin or sibling.

Socks is the rare character on this show that behaves like an actual dog. Apparently, these characters begin life as a puppy that behaves like one would expect a puppy would behave. Socks walks on all fours, doesn’t talk, and only barks. In the third season, she’ll have aged to a toddler and behaves more like her sister Muffin and cousins. Anyway, it’s Bingo’s turn to play Verandah Santa so they do the whole routine again. Bingo and Socks enter with Bingo sporting the Santa hat and Socks wearing an adorable pair of reindeer antlers. Bingo creeps over to the side of the bed her father is on and when she goes to plant a present under his pillow he reflexively grabs her and essentially pretends she’s a teddy bear which makes her giggle. Bluey, on the other side of the bed, does the same thing to Socks, only Socks doesn’t giggle. She reflexively bites Bluey on the arm which shatters the play as Bluey jumps up crying about being bit. Bandit tells Socks that it’s not okay to bite, but since she’s a puppy, she just sits there smiling and panting. Bluey is frustrated that Socks isn’t saying she’s sorry, but Bandit asks her what more she wants him to do and points out that she’s only one. He then tries to change the subject by asking who wants to play Verandah Santa next. Bluey announces that she does and angrily glares at Socks. You can basically tell by looking at Bandit’s face that he knows this isn’t a particularly good development. Bluey snatches the hat from her father’s hands and stomps off leaving Bandit to remark, “Strap yourselves in, kids.”

Bluey is taking delight in publicly shaming her cousin. Meanwhile, Bandit has been gifted some underwear when he doesn’t even wear pants!

Bluey creeps back into the room in her Santa guise and hops on the bed. She deftly avoids her father and deposits each present under the pillow while uttering a soft, “Ho!” When she gets to Socks though, she says “No,” and then leaves. When she re-emerges to wake everyone up, they all sit up excitedly for Christmas except Muffin, who now looks legitimately tired and ready for bed. Everyone looks under their pillow and pulls out a present, all except Socks. When she finds nothing, she hangs her head and whimpers. Bluey then gleefully tells her that Santa doesn’t leave presents for those who bite people. Bandit shouts out a “Bluey!” while a hurt Socks hops off of the bed and runs away. Bingo, apparently unphased by the developments, starts playing with her “One of these,” which is a fidget spinner, to lighten the mood.

Stripe has been converted into a loveseat.

We’re treated to a close-up of the star on the tree then pan back to find a grumpy Bluey seated in a chair. Bandit and Chilli then come over to have a chat with their eldest daughter. Bandit thinks Bluey should apologize to Socks, and as he has a talk with her he sits on his brother who is still laying on the floor in a state of semi-consciousness. He does make a grunt and is laying on his side, which is good in case I’ve misread this and he’s actually drunk. Bluey refuses to apologize and instead defends her actions as she was trying to teach Socks that Santa doesn’t leave presents for children who aren’t nice. Her parents then tell her that she needs to stop worrying about Santa’s motivations, and when she asks why, her mother tells her because it’s not the reason to be nice. She then encourages her daughter to come with her so she can show her the real reason it’s good to be nice.

That is one sad puppy in an otherwise beautiful setting.

The three stand on the porch and look outside. There we find Socks laying sadly amongst some reindeer yard decorations. Bluey takes one look at her cousin and immediately realizes her mistake and hangs her head in response. Bandit then reminds us this is a preschool show by asking Bluey how she would feel if Socks did to her what she did to Socks. Bluey doesn’t offer a response, but instead walks over to Socks and takes a seat opposite her. She then apologizes to her cousin for what she did, but also explains herself by saying she was angry with her for biting her and she never even said sorry. Socks then walks over and licks the part of Bluey’s arm she bit earlier, seemingly apologizing in her own way. Bluey smiles and gives her young cousin a hug while her parents look on with approval from the porch.

Aww, Socks found a way to say “sorry.”

We return to the game, and now everyone is in the bed including Chilli, Stripe, and Trixie. Bandit is set to play Santa and as he warns them not to peek he also gets the sense that something is up and even uses the term “sinister plotting.” He leaves the room as the others all cover themselves with the sheet and enters through the verandah once more. He pulls back the sheet only to find a pile of pillows in place of his family. He utters what sounds like an intentionally corny “Ho, ho, whoa no!” as the rest come rushing back in and we end our episode with a big pillow fight. We get an exterior shot of the house set to the sounds of laughter that pans up to the north star before the credits come in.

Do we know if Santa is okay with breaking a pillow over your father’s face?

I mentioned coming into this one that I didn’t think “Verandah Santa” was one of the show’s best, but it’s still charming. There’s enough little, comical, details to appreciate and I very much enjoy the post Christmas feast feel of the living room setting it begins on. I can relate to that scene, and to small children eager to open presents. The lesson it imparts is a decent one, that we should be nice for the sake of being nice, and not because we’re trying to get presents out of a fat guy in a red suit. It is as Santa commands, good for goodness sake, after all. It’s a lesson for kids, but also one for parents as basically a cautionary tale of relying too much on the threat of no presents when addressing our own children. And I like the use of Socks and Bluey to relay that message as it’s just interesting to see the puppy-like Socks and the implications her existence has on this setting. Bluey is a tad unlikable in this one at times, and that’s not always a common trait for the character. Once again, it comes back to authenticity as sometimes kids can act like jerks. One day they seem like perfect, little, angels and the next day you can’t wait until bedtime. Bluey, like all kids, is learning and developing emotionally and intellectually. Muffin and Bingo are mostly along for the ride as a result as this is a very Bluey-centric episode. I suppose that makes sense since the show is called Bluey, after all.

The Heelers go all out for Christmas, which isn’t that much of a surprise considering they go all out with pretty much everything.

For a dweller of the northeastern United States, it’s always amusing for me to see Christmas presented as not cold and snowy. I can’t imagine being able to have an open verandah on Christmas Eve, or really a verandah at all! I like seeing the Heeler house all decorated for Christmas even if there is no snow. The game they play is fairly relatable, especially for me since my kids played the same game after they saw this episode. They also didn’t limit it to Santa as they’d do an Easter Bunny version as well. It’s good, harmless, fun and there’s still some stuff in here even adults can get a chuckle out of. The message of the episode is a little heavy-handed and if they could have found a more subtle way to impart it that would have been appreciated. I say that and yet I still experience “the feels” when Socks gives Bluey a lick.

Does Santa have kangaroos? A Santa koala? Australia, I have some questions.

Bluey is a terrific show for your kids to get obsessed with and it has a perfectly fine Christmas episode you can watch with them. It’s shown frequently on television and I’m sure this episode has been aired a lot this month and might yet be aired some more before the holiday has past. And if you can’t find it or don’t have cable, Bluey is streaming on Disney+ for your viewing pleasure. I don’t know that I would recommend it for you childless folks out there unless you’re really into heeler dogs, but your kids will love it.

Can’t wait until tomorrow for more Christmas? Check out what we had to say on this day last year and beyond:

Dec. 23 – DuckTales – “How Santa Stole Christmas”

One of my favorite modern Christmas specials is the DuckTales episode “Last Christmas.” I feel like anytime I talk DuckTales I have to specify which era, though in this case I really shouldn’t since the original DuckTales never did a Christmas episode. To make up for that, the 2017 edition of the show did two…

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

During the late 80s Nintendo was on fire in the US. The Nintendo Entertainment System came storming into living rooms, basements, and dens across the country making Mario and Luigi household names. In addition to video games, there were tons of licensing deals for clothing, school supplies, bedding, you name it. If it could be…

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Dec. 23 – Missing in Action Christmas Specials

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.…

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Dec. 22 – Santabear’s High Flying Adventure

Original air date December 24, 1987.

As we’ve maneuvered through the countdown for 2022 the theme of The Christmas Tape has stayed strong. And today, I am going down a rabbit hole because of that tape. If you read the first entry this year, you may recall I talked about a Cinnamon Toast Crunch commercial that contained a contest for kids to win a set of teddy bears and a cardboard airplane. The brand was Santabear, and as part of that commercial there’s some animation of Santabear and Miss Bear flying in a similar airplane to the one kids could win (unless they lived in Vermont, sorry children of Vermont). It wasn’t unusual for cereal companies to commission short pieces of animation to sell product, but it would be odd to do so just to tie-in a contest. My suspicions were correct, as many years later I finally decided to investigate this Santabear and figure out what that brief cartoon was featured in the ad.

To know the story of Santabear is to know the story of Dayton’s, a department store founded way back in 1902 by George Draper Dayton. The first store was located in Minneapolis and would expand over the years, but largely remain regional. Eventually, it would absorb another store: Hudson’s. That merger occurred in 1969 forming the Dayton-Hudson corporation, which still exists today and is a place you’ve probably shopped at. It’s just known by a different name: Target. Target was originally the discount version of Dayton’s, but it eventually became the more popular store and is thus the dominant brand now. Most Dayton’s were also swallowed up by Target when it acquired Marshall Field’s in 1990. Marshall Field’s was apparently viewed as the stronger brand so it was allowed to exist in place of Dayton’s and many stores were rebranded. The store wasn’t really part of what Target was becoming though, so that part of the business would eventually be sold to Macy’s in 2006 and the name was discontinued.

The reason for my curiosity.

That last part is really only important to the story because it’s what happened to Santabear once Dayton’s ceased to be. In 1985, Dayton-Hudson started a line of Christmas themed teddy bears. Basically, each year a new bear was released in stores that patrons could purchase. It was viewed as popular enough that Dayton-Hudson commissioned some animated specials starring Santabear. The first of which was Santabear’s First Christmas and it was released in 1986. The second is the subject of today’s post and was aired on Christmas Eve 1987 and is called Santabear’s High Flying Adventure. As you could have probably guessed from the title, an airplane features into this one and it’s the animation that was featured in the commercial that I’ve seen hundreds of times over the years. Dayton-Hudson must have felt pretty strongly about the character’s potential too, because it features some actual celebrities in Kelly McGillis (who was featured in Santabear’s First Christmas as a narrator), John Malkovich, and Dennis Hopper, the latter of whom went uncredited. I honestly can’t even figure out where his voice was used, but IMDB lists him as being part of the cast.

This is Santabear, a mostly harmless, inoffensive, slightly boring, character.

The special begins with a song and title card as we watch what appears to be Santabear (Bobby McFerrin) end up in a giant snowball that rolls all the way to Santa’s Work Shop. The song is sort of whimsical and was composed by Felix Cavaliere, along with the rest of the music. I believe this song is called “Out of the Blue,” and it ends with Santabear reaching up from his snow pile to knock on the door of the work shop. A pair of elves, one male and one female, answer the door to find the bear covered in snow. The female elf (possibly voiced by Glenne Headley, but hard to say as the credits are sparse) scolds Santabear for being out in the snow. When she asks what he was doing, he holds out a paw which contains two, tiny, high-top sneakers. She can’t believe he was out looking for something so insignificant while they’re all busy getting ready for Christmas, but Santabear reminds her that these shoes are rather important to whomever lost them. Santabear then heads inside and we see a bunch of rats running on a belt of some kind to power some of the machines. One rat is one the floor fubbing its feet and bemoaning their missing shoes, which Santabear promptly hands over.

Santa and his minions. They’re somewhat unique looking, and I’ll give some credit for Santa having a multiracial group of elves (though these ones are all white).

The rat is gracious of Santabear for finding his shoes, and so is another gentlemen in the shop: Santa Claus (Malkovich). He thanks Santabear for what he’s done, then politely orders everyone back to work. I should take the time now to mention this special looks pretty terrible. Santabear is cute, but the other designs are pretty basic. Santa has a European look to him as he’s more slender, features a long coat, and has holly on his hat. The animation though is poor. They apparently spent all of their money on the cast, though I honestly don’t know how expensive it would have been to hire John Malkovich back then. McGillis probably cost something, but Dennis Hopper apparently didn’t if he’s uncredited. It’s possible his agent discouraged him from having his name appear in a voice role out of fear of getting typecast, but he had some decent roles under his belt come 1987 so maybe he was just doing a favor for someone.

So this angry looking bear kicked out of the North Pole is definitely going to be the villain of this one.

We jump forward a bit and the elf from before, possibly the head elf, is taking a group photo complete with old-fashioned flash powder. As Santa hangs the new picture on the wall, or simply looks over a collage of old ones, Santabear notices a bear that looks like him in one of those pictures. Santa tells him that bear may look like him, but he isn’t anything like him. That’s Bully Bear, and he’s the only time Santa has ever been wrong about one of his helpers. Bully Bear was so selfish that he tried to steal all of the presents for himself. Santabear has such a pure and innocent reaction to this pointing out that no one could ever play with that many toys. Santa had to kick him out and warns Santabear that no one has seen Bully Bear since last Christmas and that should he ever run into him he needs to tell someone right away. The elves have all been putting themselves to bed during this conversation, they sleep in bunk beds carved into the wall, while Santa places Santabear in his own, traditional bed. After saying good night, the rat from earlier pops out from behind Santabear’s pillow and asks him to sing a song so he can fall asleep. Santabear says he knows one and it goes something like, “The world can be so very wide, can make you feel so small inside.” The rat asks how the rest goes, and Santabear says he doesn’t know as he’s been making it up as he goes. The rat asks for just a little more, so Santabear continues, “I’d like to be by your side, for you to bare in mind.” I have a feeling he’ll finish that song before this one is over.

Definitely an uncommon sight from inside of a sack.

The next morning the elves are back to work and Santabear is helping. They’re passing presents along a line to Santabear who places them in Santa’s sack. As Santabear looks inside though, he sees two eyes peering back at him. He quickly calls for Santa and tells him someone is in the bag and that he saw two eyes that looked exactly like his looking back at him! Santa immediately thinks it’s Bully Bear and a bunch of elves leap fearlessly into the sack. They rummage around some until all of the elves pop back out, all but one who stands up in the sack holding a wrapped present. It has reflective paper on it and he tells Santabear he just saw his own reflection looking back at him. Santabear inspects it for a long moment, making faces and all that, before everyone has a hearty laugh.

The animators get a lot of mileage out of this one shot.

Later that day, the reindeer are all hitched up and ready to go. All eight of them! Santa is seated in his sleigh with a map that just has a compass rose written on it. I’m sure that will be very useful. Santabear pops up from the sack to secure it tight and the sleigh takes off. Only this special doesn’t even try to animate a sleigh pulled by 8 reindeer leaving the Earth, we just skip right to them flying. As they fly above the clouds, and the animation makes liberal use of the same shot, Santa instructs Santabear to look down. They’re apparently over the South Pole and he tells Santabear that life is so hard there that the creatures who live there don’t know if they should believe in Santa or not. That’s why, he has a second, smaller, sack of gifts he wants Santabear to deliver himself. Santabear vows to bring Christmas to the South Pole, and Santa straps a parachute to his back and sends him on his way. I’m starting to think Santabear isn’t fun to ride around with all night and Santa just wanted to get rid of him.

A polar bear at the South Pole is rare enough as it is, but a polar bear fixing an airplane?!

Santabear parachutes down to the ground and immediately spots some smoke in the air. Where there’s smoke, there’s fire, and where there’s fire, there’s fireplaces. It’s also clearly a town because there are visible buildings, but good detective work, nonetheless. As Santabear starts walking towards it, he hears singing. It’s a woman’s voice and she’s singing his lullaby! Impossible! Santabear goes to check it out and finds a bear just like him working on an airplane. It’s a female bear though with a green ribbon in her hair, and when he explains his mission, she informs him he’s about as far away from Christmas as you can get. He then asks her where she heard that song and she says she made it up. Santabear then insists he made it up, and the two get a little stand-offish with each other. Santabear then decides to continue the song, “You know that I will always love,” and the girl bear finishes the line, “will always want to be part of.” They continue by alternating more lines to add to the song, “Will always hold so high above, the one I bare in mind.”

Well, this day just keeps getting weirder.

The last part they sing together, but then they immediately start eying each other suspiciously which is not the turn I expected. They’re both rather flabbergasted at how they could know each other’s song, which causes Santabear to ask just who this bear is? Her name is Missy (McGillis), and that’s all we’ll know for now. She starts confirming Santabear’s story and gestures to his sack. When Santabear looks over, the sack is moving! Two, white, bear legs pop out of the bottom of it and it takes off running. Santabear gives chase, while Missy fires up the airplane she’s been working on. She catches up to Santabear and tells him she’s going that way anyways and to hop in. This should be a short chase.

It’s rather hard to outrun an airplane, especially when you can’t even see.

As the plane takes off, it makes some rather unsettling noises. Santabear questions if Missy knows what she’s doing, but she insists she has it all under control. Plus, she knows where that sack is heading because there’s really only one place to go around here and it’s that town Santabear saw earlier. He asks if her family lives there, but she tells him she has no family – she’s an orphan. The two then fly over the sack, and basically keep circling back since they’re flying much faster than a sack of presents can run. Missy eventually adjusts her speed to fly over the sack and Santabear is able to grab onto it. As he pulls it into the plane, the legs pop out further and throw the balance off resulting in a disastrous crash. I hope that thing has a black box.

Oh my God! It’s the bear from the picture!

The plane is stuck in the snow, but Missy looks okay. There are presents strewn about, and Santabear pops his head out of a snow bank to survey the damage. As he does, the sack rips open and out comes another bear. He looks like Santabear, except he’s wearing a blue jacket and a hat. Santabear remarks he knows him from somewhere, but can’t quite place it. It’s Bully Bear (McFerrin), you dope! While Santabear just stands there trying to figure out what’s going on, Bully Bear ties up his hands, takes his hat and scarf, and swaps clothing with Santabear. Santabear doesn’t fight back, but just asks what he’s doing? Bully Bear tells him he’s out for revenge, revenge against Santa for telling him “No” last Christmas! He figures, the only thing worse than no Christmas, is a Christmas that involves getting nothing but broken toys from Santa, and that’s what he plans to deliver. He shoves a bow in Santabear’s mouth to keep from speaking further and slaps a Most Wanted poster on him for good measure so anyone who finds him will know, for certain, that he’s Bully Bear.

I’m sure these cops will be useful…

A waddle of penguin cops show up on the scene. They’re dressed like old timey, 1920s, cops complete with billy clubs. When they come upon Santabear and remove the ribbon shoved in his mouth, they’re immediately told what happened, but since Santabear is now dressed as Bully Bear they don’t believe him. Even Missy is too stupid to know it’s Santabear, but then again, she did just meet him. Maybe he should sing the lullaby? He’s not that quick-witted, apparently, and when Missy notices that Bully Bear (disguised as Santabear) took off with his presents she has a quiet cry for she’s all alone again. The real Santabear produces a present that’s addressed to Missy that must have been on the ground. The cops take it though and tell Missy she can have it after she tells her story to a judge which she indicates that she’d be happy to.

Aww, Santabear is sad.

We next see Missy exiting a police igloo with present in hand. She gets to her plane, and looking down at the gift, a tear escapes her eye. It’s cut with Santabear doing the same in his holding cell, which he apparently shares with an ugly rat. As Missy works on her plane, she starts to sing the lullaby and it finally occurs to Santabear that’s a way for him to show her he is who he says he is. Unfortunately, once he starts singing, Missy has already fired up the plane and can’t hear him. She starts to pull away, but the engine conks out which is enough to allow her to hear Santabear continue the song: “The weather’s different every day, what comes around must go away, but you can count on me to stay, I’ll always bare in mind. I wonder if they’ll come a time, I wonder if I’ll ever find, I keep on waiting for a sign, someone to bare in mind.”

And now he’s happy!

Missy hears him singing, while the cops remark he makes a lot of noise for one bear, but he’s singing about as softly, and gently, as one could. They start to dance though like it’s a song worth dancing to. I’m not saying it’s bad or anything, but it sounds like a lullaby and those traditionally do not rock. He continues singing though, “I know that I will always love, will always want to be part of.” It’s at this point Missy reaches the window of his cell and now knows he is the real Santabear. She starts untying the bounds on his wrists and the bear just keeps on singing, “You can travel far and wide, go too far and hurt your pride. When you need someone on your side,”

One of the few shots I’ve seen from this special, many, many, times.

Before he can finish that line, and I don’t know why I’m so committed to sharing every line of this song, Missy rips the wall off of the prison with her plane. Santabear is left clinging to the bars that were on his window to the outside world, and he climbs up the rope and into the plane, with Missy’s help. The cops are left to just run outside and jump up and down and it’s hard to tell if they’re angry or cheering them on. They were just jamming with the bear so maybe they’re mad to lose their music. As the pair fly, Santabear ditches Bully Bear’s clothes and finds a red pilot’s hat and goggles in the back seat. He puts them on, and this shot of the pair flying is the one that was featured in the commercial that got my curiosity going. It’s rather satisfying to finally see its origins after all these years.

When did she switch to the red bow? Was that her Christmas present?

As the two fly, Santabear asks where they’re off to. Missy, who has traded in her green ribbon and bow for a red one, indicates she wants to get as far away from where they were as possible. Santabear disagrees as he’s determined to stop Bully Bear. It’s important for the people of the South Pole to believe in Christmas! Missy doesn’t really want to, but when Santabear tells her he’s going to that town with or without her she just smiles and banks hard indicating she’s turning around.

This bear is here to F-up Christmas!

It’s dark now and the music is rather ominous. The snow-covered town is quiet and lifeless, which is a shame as I’m rather curious who could possibly live here. We then get a shot of Bully Bear, still dressed as Santabear, posing by a chimney with his sack of toys. He does look kind of cool and badass, I have to admit. He pulls a toy airplane from the sack and happily snaps it in half. He remarks to himself how he can’t wait to see the faces on these people when they find their broken gifts. He goes to toss it down the chimney, but Missy swoops down in the plane and Santabear snatches the broken toy from Bully’s hand before it can enter the home.

Are we about to “bare” witness to a truly epic showdown? Not likely.

Bully Bear angrily grabs the sack of presents and looks like he’s prepared to move to another house as Santabear drops in. Finally, it’s the battle we’ve all been waiting for: Santabear vs Bully Bear! Bully Bear dangles the sack of presents over the edge of the roof, holding the toys hostage. Santabear tells him not to do it, as if he were dangling a child or something, but Bully Bear just smiles his sinister smile and lets go. Missy is on it though as she swoops down and saves the sack of toys and gets a thumbs up as thanks from Santabear.

I’m guessing Santabear is not going to let gravity solve this problem for him.

Bully Bear uses this as a distraction to try to make a break for it. He slides down one side of the roof to jump onto, and climb up, the next then repeat the process. Santabear gives chase, and I’m left wondering why Bully Bear is running in the first place. Does he think he can’t take Santabear in a fight? We’re being deprived. As Bully scampers across the rooftops, he sounds like he’s getting winded, which must be what allows Santabear to get the drop on him. He tries to go back, but he slips on a roof and falls. He’s only able to save himself by grabbing onto some icicles. Lucky for him, this is the South Pole were icicles are likely at their strongest.

Don’t you hate how every time you fall off of a building your clothes come off?

Santabear looks on with worry as Bully dangles there. Bully starts trying to bargain with the bear, saying he’ll give him anything he wants if he just lets him go. Santabear indicates he made a promise to Santa and he’s not breaking it and urges Bully to allow him to save him. He reaches out a paw, and Bully reluctantly agrees that he has no choice at this point. He takes it, but rather than let Santabear hoist him up, he pulls him off the roof! The two bears appear headed for Splats-ville, but Missy grabs a parachute from her plane and tosses it to the cops who have gathered in the town and they hold it open to catch the falling bears. Somehow, the bears have both lost their clothes as they fall so you can probably guess what waits for them on the ground.

Can’t Santa just look into their soul or something to solve this problem?

They slam into the open parachute and start tussling around inside just as Santa Claus arrives via the same animation we saw earlier. That’s how you save money, folks. Santa comes upon the two, nude, bears and asks how he can know which one is Santabear? The one that is obviously Bully tries assuring Santa it’s him, while Santabear insists it’s him, as the pair approach the man in red. Santa then tells the pair to tell him what the true meaning of Christmas is. Bully says, “Something for nothing! Getting presents!” He’s clearly not a criminal mastermind. Santabear informs him that “It’s giving presents, especially the ones you can’t wrap.” Guess who aced this test?

The animation for this special is probably below average, but they were really good at making Santabear look cute.

Santa scoops up Santabear in his arms and tells Bully he hopes he understands that he’s responsible for the things he says and does. When Bully asks about the stuff no one sees or hears, Santa confirms especially those. There aren’t a lot of animation flourishes in this thing, but one does occur as Santa lectures Bully that features Santabear start to slip through his arms, and he basically catches him and repositions the bear like a baby. It’s cute. After Santa says his piece, the others start to cheer while Bully just kind of kicks at the snow and looks a little embarrassed. He then tries to slip away, but the penguin cops grab him and take him away.

This is all the resolution you’re going to get.

With Bully gone, Santa turns to Missy and remarks, “I don’t think that we’ve met.” Santabear introduces Missy to Santa as his very best friend. I feel like that rat who lives under his pillow would be disappointed to hear that. He tells Santa that without Missy’s help they never would have stopped Bully Bear. She tries to downplay her importance, but Santa won’t let her. He tells her that she deserves a very special Christmas present: a family. He scoops the two bears up in his arms and tells her “Our family.” Aww!

Time to say “goodbye” to Santabear, which the world apparently did for good 15 years ago.

We cut to the reindeer in flight, and at least it’s a different shot this time. Santa is in his sleigh and he’s got Missy’s plane behind him being towed via a rope. Missy and Santabear are riding inside it and it would appear that Santabear ditched his pilot’s hat for his old look. He waves down at the town which we cut to see is now lit up with Christmas lights. We then see the precinct and the penguin cops have a long line setup there. I think the implication is it’s a Christmas feast? Maybe they’re just handing out the presents Santabear brought? I don’t know, but there’s a sign on the igloo that says “Closed for Christmas.” Inside, we find Bully peeling potatoes and looking rather unhappy. We cut back to the sky and the image fades out on a shot of the plane.

At least Bully Bear got what was coming, though I have little confidence in that jail’s ability to hold him.

That’s a pretty anti-climactic ending, no? I thought maybe we’d get to see a little of Missy’s arrival at the North Pole or perhaps find out they’re siblings or something. Maybe that was for a planned sequel that never happened? I don’t even think they finished their song, and did Missy ever open her gift? Is that where she got the red ribbon? Either way, it’s an unremarkable end to an unremarkable special. I suppose it made sense to take Santabear to animation if it was selling well in stores, but it didn’t seem to move beyond this. It probably didn’t help that Dayton-Hudson stores were regional and I know where I grew up there were none so I had no idea about this Santabear thing. If not for the Cinnamon Toast Crunch contest I’d have known even less. It looks rather cheap and it pretty much relies on the same song for the whole thing. I guess I should give it credit for not relying on public domain songs, but maybe it would have been nice to hear some “Jingle Bells” or something for the sake of variety?

Santabear would be a thing until 2007 or so. Surprisingly, Target didn’t want him so once Dayton-Hudson stores changed over to Marshall Field’s that’s where Santabear went. I think he had one crossover with the Target dog, Bullseye, but that’s it. When Macy’s acquired the store Santabear apparently came with it. There was a final Santabear in 2007, but it’s been mostly quiet since. At this point, it’s probably unlikely to come back since Macy’s, or whoever actually owns the rights, let some big anniversaries pass it by already. It seems like there’s a decent amount of Santabear fans out there with massive collections of the plush creations, but it’s far from mainstream.

I guess we’ll just have to wonder what came next.

As for the 1987 bears, I did buy them, though much later in life. I got them as kind of a gag gift for my sister one year. They weren’t very expensive, though I did pass on the airplane. It appeared to be made of cardboard or a similar, cheap, material and actually doesn’t even look like the plane in the special. It was yellow and red as opposed to red and white, but maybe that’s because they had plans for it in a later sequel since the plane was christened Santabear Express. As you could have likely assumed, this isn’t a popular Christmas special and it’s not aired anywhere. It looks like it was rebroadcast for at least a couple of years if YouTube can be believed since some list the broadcast date of their recording. And yes, this thing is all over YouTube in various states including the original 1987 broadcast with commercials! I would say if you’re curious, seek that out. If you’re really into Christmas specials, you can also find this special on VHS and likely for not much money.

Can’t wait until tomorrow for more Christmas? Check out what we had to say on this day last year and beyond:

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

After looking at what I considered to be a pretty good cartoon yesterday, I’m feeling like I need to take-in some trash today. It’s to the late 90s we go and the Bohbot/DiC Street Sharks spin-off Extreme Dinosaurs! Ah yes, everything was extreme around this time. Surge was packing the soft drinks aisle in stores,…

Keep reading

Dec. 20 – A Charlie Brown Christmas

Original air date December 9, 1965.

Let’s continue our look at the best of the best in the field of Christmas specials with perhaps the most quoted, parodied, and maybe even beloved special of all time: A Charlie Brown Christmas. This is the special that shouldn’t exist. It’s one if you are able to separate your nostalgia for the special itself and the characters from Peanuts and just watch it for what it is you’ll find a very low key, boring, plainly animated piece of television. It’s one I’ve seen countless times in my life and when I finally had kids of my own I was surprised at how it became a favorite of theirs basically right from the start. And that’s because it isn’t bad and the special possesses a charm that’s all its own. It is low stakes, but sometimes that works because we don’t always need some manufactured Christmas catastrophe in every special that’s out there. And sometimes, simple is just better.

A Charlie Brown Christmas goes all the way back to 1950 when the Peanuts strip by Charles M. Schulz debuted. The strip largely focuses on semi-autobiographical character Charlie Brown who famously has terrible luck, is socially awkward, and possessed by a great deal of self doubt. The strip was a hit, and the only surprise is that it took until 1965 for the characters to make the jump to animation. Producer and documentarian Lee Mendelson approached Schulz about doing a biography on him and his strip and the artist was onboard. The problem was, when Mendelson went to sell it to television stations at the time none were interested, but they were interested in a Christmas special. Coca-Cola, to be exact, wanted to air a special that December so Mendelson phoned Schulz and the pair basically wrote the outline and script in a day and Coca-Cola said, “Ok.”

It feels like every 5 seconds there’s an iconic shot in this one.

Mendelson would bring animator Bill Melendez onboard to assemble a team to create the special with Vince Guaraldi handling the music. Schulz wrote the script himself and Melendez handled the boards and the whole thing was produced for about $96,000, which was about 20k over budget, but I think the return-on-investment has worked out for all parties. Children were cast to play the children in the special as Schulz felt that was most appropriate. Some, like Peter Robbins who played Charlie Brown, had been in the business for sometime while others were pretty green. Some, like Cathy Steinberg who played Sally, were too young to read so they had to do their character one line at a time which contributes to the disjointed feeling some of the dialogue has, which is just another imperfection that has become part of the charm.

Schulz wrote this one and one of the things he had to fight for was the speech Linus makes towards the end.

The whole special was basically assembled in less than 6 months, a very short turn-around for an animated production. The special is aired at only about 12 frames per second and the animation is certainly limited, but it’s far from ugly. The backgrounds have a surreal quality in places even if the actual drawings are fairly simple. This would be expanded upon in later specials and there were plenty of those to follow. A Charlie Brown Christmas was a huge success and remains one of the few animated Christmas specials to still find an annual airing on television. Or it did. Unfortunately, it no longer airs on CBS or any other major network following the sale of the entire Peanuts media catalog to Apple in 2020. Part of the terms of the sale mandated that this special, along with the Halloween and Thanksgiving specials, be made available for free on Apple TV for a 3-day window during the season for which the special should air, but that’s hardly the same as having it on ABC or CBS. Due to public outcry, Apple did strike a deal with PBS to show the special on that station ad-free in both 2020 and 2021. As of this writing, there’s been no announcement for 2022, and considering there was no PBS broadcast for It’s the Great Pumpkin Charlie Brown, it looks like the PBS days may be over.

Charlie Brown’s search for what Christmas means to him is a timeless story and it’s a real shame it’s not something airing on television every year.

And that’s a real shame. Everything is monetized and obviously entities have been making money off of Charlie Brown for more than half a century at this point and I wouldn’t argue for that to change, but it’s disappointing to see the holiday special on broadcast television essentially die. ABC, by virtue of being owned by Disney, will likely always air something in December, but as much as I like Prep & Landing and Olaf’s Frozen Adventure neither has the pull that A Charlie Brown Christmas does. It feels like, in terms of classic Christmas specials, we’re down to Rudolph, Frosty, and maybe Grinch. And how much longer will that last? Will CBS one day decide that Rudolph belongs behind a paywall? Will the Grinch be packaged with a bunch of Dr. Seuss material and sold off to Warner to go to whatever streaming platform they come up with next? Why can’t Apple simply partner with one of the big networks for a commercialized broadcast each year? It seems like a simple solution exists, but no one cares to seek it out because the people in charge of said companies don’t give a shit about tradition – just money.

At least I’ll always have The Christmas Tape. Yes, we’re returning to my 35 year old VHS for this entry as well as I’ll be pulling screens from that edition for this entry. That does mean I’ll be working off of a TV edit from 1987 and some scenes are either missing or shortened. When this one aired on CBS back then, such edits were commonplace. It wasn’t until ABC got their hands on the broadcast rights much later that there seemed to be a desire to show the special uncut. That was partly because the network would pair it with a newer special to form an hour long block so they still got their commercials in. And also, I think in the era of cheap and accessible DVD media more people were aware of how much specials like this one were edited for television and wanted to see it uncut.

When you’re taking screenshots from a 35 year old VHS some of the shots aren’t going to be pretty, but that’s part of the charm for me.

The 1987 broadcast begins with the famous CBS special presentation logo. It’s still a thing of beauty. We go right into the special without a major opening title sequence. The original composition “Christmas Time is Here” sets the mood for a quiet, serene, motif with snow falling and children ice skating on a frozen pond. Much of this setting is basically pulled from Schulz’s own childhood growing up in St. Paul, Minnesota. While the children skate, Charlie Brown and Linus are shown exiting a building we’ll eventually come to know as the school, or the auditorium, where the play will be rehearsed. I don’t think the intention of this scene is to say the pair left that facility, rather it’s just a reused background for budgetary reasons and since it’s one of the first shots an ignorant viewer would have no idea it will be used for something else later. It’s a bit more confusing when we see the pair walking in a zoomed out shot shortly after and it’s night time. That background will be used later when the pair goes looking for a tree. They also don’t appear to be carrying their skating gear so we’ll have to look later and see if this is just a reused shot all together.

Linus is going to spend the rest of this special trying to make up for acting like a dick right here.

The two are shown walking once more, at daylight this time, as they presumably head for the pond. The pair come to rest by a brick wall in a shot that is now iconic and will be utilized in specials to come. It’s here that Charlie Brown (Peter Robbins) confesses to his buddy Linus (Christopher Shea) that despite Christmas being on the way, the day which the entire kid universe revolves around on the calendar, he doesn’t feel any joy. He’s depressed, and rather than find a sympathetic ear in Linus, he just has it thrown back in his face, “Charlie Brown, you’re the only person I know who can take a wonderful season like Christmas and turn it into a problem. Maybe Lucy’s right, of all the Charlie Browns in the world, you’re the Charlie Browniest.” What an asshole!

Oh Snoopy! What a rascal!

The two resume their walk to the pond and join in the festivities. The kids are all skating and holding hands and even Charlie Brown’s dog, Snoopy (Melendez), is participating though he manages to skate without skates. He leads a chain of children and sends them all scattering to various parts of the pond when he goes into a spin move and falls down. Linus and Charlie Brown skate over and Snoopy immediately goes for Linus’s blanket. He grabs the thing with his mouth which entangles Linus, then Charlie Brown. The dog then does a very a un-doglike move by spinning the blanket and releasing it. Most would just chew it. The act causes Charlie Brown to rocket across the ice and into the deep, deep, snow where he collides with a small tree. As he rises out of the snow, stars circling his head, snow falls off of the tree to rebury him and we get the title displayed above for A Charlie Brown Christmas.

I’m not sure why no one likes Charlie Brown, but pulling stunts like this probably won’t make him any friends.

Following our first commercial break of the broadcast, we find Charlie Brown standing in his living room looking out the window. He grabs his coat and hat and heads outside to check the mailbox which ends with him uttering one of his catchphrases, “Rats!” He was hoping for a Christmas card, but finding none, he moves on with his life. He soon encounters Violet (Sally Dryer), and with a frown on his face thanks her for the Christmas card. She turns up her nose and informs him rather emphatically that she didn’t send him a Christmas card and walks away with Charlie Brown calling after her, “Don’t you know a sarcasm when you hear it?”

Following his confrontation with Violet, Charlie Brown takes his frustration out on the local poor kid.

Charlie Brown continues his walk through the snow and next comes upon Pig-Pen (Geoffrey Orstein), the poor kid who is always dirty, as he builds a snowman. Charlie Brown remarks to the boy that he’s the only one he knows who can raise a dust cloud in a snow storm. The kid ignores the insult and continues building his admittedly dirty snowman. Charlie Brown next happens upon Snoopy who is seated on the roof of his doghouse reading a newspaper and working on a stack of bones. He just casually crunches them into his mouth like one might consume a bag of potato chips, only his pile of bones never decreases likely due to budgetary reasons and because it would be hard for Snoopy to keep retrieving the bones from the pile as it decreases.

You can count on Lucy to bring the smug.

We’re then shown a group of kids consisting of Lucy (Tracy Stratford), Schroeder (Chris Doran), Patty (Karen Mendelson), and Linus. Patty suggests the other kids try to catch snowflakes on their tongue in the interest of fun. Linus does as he’s commanded and remarks that they need sugar. Lucy then informs the crowd that she never eats December snowflakes, she always waits until January which just prompts Linus to comment that they look ripe to him. At this point, we should see the kids attempt to knock a can off a fence with snowballs and all fail until Linus uses his trusty blanket as a sling, but that segment was cut for the CBS broadcast of 1987. There was a rumor for a long time that this scene was cut, and eventually edited, because the can was a Coca-Cola can but that was proven false a few years ago.

…and the greed.

Our version for today jumps to Schroeder pointing out to Lucy that she has a customer. I should also point out it has suddenly stopped snowing. Lucy apparently has a side hustle where she poses as a licensed therapist and offers psychiatric advice for the price of a nickel (or about 50 cents when adjusted for inflation). I guess you get what you pay for. Charlie Brown has taken a seat at her booth and Lucy approaches, but before he can spill his guts to her, she insists on payment upfront. When Charlie Brown deposits his coin, Lucy is delighted and shares with Charlie Brown her affection for money, the greedy little jerk. Finally, she attempts to diagnose Charlie Brown and find a source for his seasonal depression. She just lists a whole bunch of phobias, despite Charlie Brown never once suggesting he was afraid of anything, and one of them sounds like it should be a fear of a certain part of the male anatomy, but is instead fear of the ocean. When she gets to pantophobia, the fear of everything, Charlie Brown emphatically screams “That’s it!” causing Lucy to do a comical sequence of somersaults.

Wow! He can smile!

Charlie Brown then switches the subject from his fears to the real problem – Christmas. He confesses he should feel happy about the upcoming holiday, but instead he’s depressed. Lucy decides that to combat his depression, Charlie Brown needs involvement and proposes he direct their Christmas play. Charlie Brown seems flattered at the suggestion and momentarily happy, then the idea of directing seems to weigh on him and he starts back in with the self doubt. Lucy insists she’ll be there to help him and tells him to meet her at the auditorium later. As the two start walking she levels with Charlie and confesses that Christmas always lets her down too. The source of her frustration though is that she never gets what she wants and instead always gets toys, clothes, or a bicycle. When Charlie Brown asks her what she really wants she responds, “Real estate.”

Charlie Brown has a tendency to throw his arms up in the air and run away in a dramatic fashion when confronted by a situation he doesn’t like.

It’s at this point that Charlie Brown notices his dog is up to something when he walks past the two carrying a big box of Christmas decorations. Charlie Brown follows the beagle to his doghouse where Snoopy is putting up decorations for Christmas. This seems cute at first, but when Charlie Browns asks what’s going on Snoopy hands him a flyer. It seems the dog has eyes on winning a lights and display contest which will award the winner with a cash prize. Charlie Brown is disgusted with his pooch as he wails, “My own dog, gone commercial, I can’t stand it!” He very dramatically tosses the flyer and runs away, and this guy thinks he can’t be a director?!

See what I mean?

As Charlie Brown heads for the auditorium he comes across his sister, Sally (Cathy Steinberg). She indicates that she’s been looking for her big brother, but Charlie Brown just keeps walking. She follows and tells him she needs help writing a letter to Santa Claus. When he pauses, she shoves the pencil and clipboard in his face and Charlie Brown reluctantly agrees to help her. As she dictates the letter she begins with pleasantries before getting down to business. When she indicates she has a long list of presents, Charlie Brown can’t help himself and lets out an “Oh brother.” Before she can get to the actual list though, she gives Santa an out: just send money. When she suggests he supply that cash in the form of tens and twenties it becomes too much for Charlie Brown who wails and makes a dramatic showing once again shouting, “Even my baby sister!” Sally is just left holding her letter and pencil while she speaks to the camera to tell us, “All I want is what I have coming to me. All I want is my fair share!” It’s one of the more “broken” bits of dialogue in the special as they clearly needed to stitch some takes together from the young Steinberg, but the end result feels cute.

Ready for another iconic shot?

We now find ourselves at the auditorium. A bunch of nameless kids, and a few named, are all dancing to the now classic composition “Linus and Lucy” which is being played by Schroeder from his tiny piano. Snoopy is on guitar and Pig-Pen on bass, but notably no one is on drums even though the song clearly has them. This scene is obviously super famous at this point and will be parodied many, many, times following this as will the dance moves of the children present. Lucy interrupts the festivities to call for quiet on the set as their director is expected at any moment. When Patty asks “What director?” Lucy informs them it’s Charlie Brown which produces a sincere “Oh no, we’re doomed!” from Violet. Lucy then welcomes Charlie Brown to the arena and the children politely clap, even though most likely share Violet’s sentiments, but Snoopy boos loudly causing Charlie Brown to frown and sarcastically exclaim, “Man’s best friend!”

I think it’s fair to wonder if Snoopy even likes Charlie Brown.

Charlie Brown then tries to address the crew with a motivational speech. As he goes on, the group apparently gets bored and the music comes back on as Charlie Brown asks to no one, “I said am I right?” Everyone is back to dancing and the same shot of the kids dancing we just saw is repeated. It’s allowed to go on for a solid minute before Charlie Brown cries out to cut the music. Speaking into a megaphone, he sounds just as loud as normal, but we’ll forgive it. He orders Lucy to hand out the costumes and scripts and refers to her as “script girl,” which surely will not go over well, but to her credit Lucy does as she’s told.

He got her!

Lucy first hands a costume and script to Frieda (Anne Altieri) who just can’t seem to focus on anything except her naturally curly hair. Next she hands Pig-Pen his script as he’s to be the innkeeper, meaning he’s to be paired with Frieda who is playing the innkeeper’s wife. Pig-Pen assures Lucy that despite his outward appearance he aspires to run a neat inn. Lucy then moves on to Shermy (Doran) who will be playing a shepherd. As Lucy walks off, Shermy informs us that he plays a shepherd every Christmas. This leads Lucy to Snoopy who is the Frank Welker of the production as he’s expected to play all of the animal roles. As she asks if he can handle each role, Snoopy demonstrates that he can culminating in him doing a decent penguin. Lucy is impressed, but once Snoopy starts to goof off a bit she goes on a rant about having discipline and respect for their director. As she does so, Snoopy just mocks her and once she catches wind of that informs the dog that he deserves a beating. She swings and misses, and Snoopy being the rascal that he is, responds with a big, doggy, kiss. This unnerves Lucy who starts running in circles calling for some disinfectant due to being kissed by a dog, but Charlie Brown just tells her to shut up and to continue handing out the scripts.

This is admittedly a clever way to threaten someone with bodily harm. Too bad it occurs in one of the most viewed pieces of media in recorded history so no one else can actually utilize it without being laughed at.

Lucy, once again, does as she’s told so at least she practices what she preaches about having respect for her director. She then hands Linus his script while also telling him to ditch the “stupid blanket.” Linus has no intention of doing so, but immediately starts fretting about the amount of lines he needs to memorize in order to play his role of a shepherd. When he demands Lucy provide one good reason why he should memorize these lines and put himself through such agony, she responds with an open hand and a declaration to give him “Five good reasons.” As she counts them off, she tucks in a finger until eventually forming a fist. Linus indicates those are good reasons and when she reiterates that he get rid of the blanket he retorts that “This is one Christmas shepherd who is going to keep his trusty blanket with him. See? You wouldn’t hit an innocent shepherd, would you?” he says as he wraps the thing over his head like a turban.

She’s clean and he’s filthy – comedy!

Lucy walks away in disgust to tell Charlie Brown that the cast is set and it’s time for him to take over. Charlie Brown is pleased by this and instructs Schroeder to set the mood for the first scene. Once he commands, “Action!” Schroeder just goes back to playing “Linus and Lucy” forcing Charlie Brown to yell, “Cut! Cut! Cut!” He then walks over to Frieda and Pig-Pen. Frieda is having a diva moment and refuses to perform because of the amount of dust coming from her co-star. She says it’s taking the curl out of her naturally curly hair and when Charlie Brown suggests she treat it like the dirt of some hallowed ground Pig-Pen seems flattered. When he tells Frieda she should treat him with more respect, she thrusts her mirror in his face and orders him to take a look at himself. This backfires as Pig-Pen declares, “On the contrary, I didn’t think I looked that good.”

Sally’s like five and already has boy lust.

Charlie Brown apparently felt that confrontation was resolved as he now turns his attention towards his baby sister. When Linus asks what he has planned for Sally, Charlie Brown informs him that she’s going to play his wife. This makes Linus blush as Sally comes over with hearts floating above her head. She flatters him by asking if he’s the cutest thing and compliments his sense of humor which just makes Linus blush even more. He hides his head under his blanket and tries to walk away, but Sally follows hanging onto his blanket with every step.

He may be a jerk, but Snoopy is one talented pooch.

Charlie Brown is then interrupted when Lucy declares a lunch break. He’s flabbergasted by this suggestion, but when he questions Lucy she gestures to Snoopy who is holding his doggy dish. He does some tricks with it, but Charlie Brown seems unimpressed. He declares this is no time for foolishness before adding, “We’ve got to get on with our play,” another often parodied line. This causes Lucy to wonder about her part and then asks “What about our Christmas Queen?” a role unassigned so far. She then asks Charlie Brown if he thinks she’s beautiful, but before he’s even allowed to respond she takes offense for if he really thought she was beautiful he would have spoken right up. Declaring “I know when I’ve been insulted,” Lucy storms off leaving Charlie Brown to utter, “Good grief.”

I think it’s fair to say that Charlie Brown isn’t feeling the respect from his actors.

Not one to let Lucy bother him, Charlie Brown just calls for the next scene and, predictably, Schroeder responds by playing “Linus and Lucy” again. The kids all dance some more and Lucy, apparently getting over the perceived insults of just a few seconds ago, is shown smiling and snapping along to the music. She asks Charlie Brown, “Isn’t this a great play?” but he just slams his megaphone and storms over towards the others pleading with them for some cooperation. He then returns to his director’s chair where he hangs his head. Lucy seems confused and asks once more if he thinks the play is great to which Charlie Brown responds, “It’s all wrong!” He then settles on the mood being what’s off and declares their production needs a Christmas tree! Lucy thinks that’s a great idea and instructs Charlie Brown to go get one, suggesting he get a big, shiny, aluminum, pink-painted Christmas tree. Charlie Brown is in agreement and declares he’ll take Linus with him, but in the meantime, he wants the others to practice their lines. As he and Linus depart, Patty offers some words of encouragement with “Do something right for a change, Charlie Brown!” As Charlie Brown and Linus stand outside the auditorium, we can hear “Linus and Lucy” coming from inside which causes Charlie Brown to remark in a somewhat exasperated fashion, “I just don’t know, Linus, I just don’t know.”

I always wanted to go to a place like this when I was a kid. In fact, I still do!

The two walk off into the night vowing to find a worthy Christmas tree for the play. Linus suggests they head towards some stick lights to find a tree lot. When they do, we see basically the same animation I mentioned we should look out for from earlier and the only difference between the two shots is the inclusion of said stick lights this time. When Charlie Brown and Linus reach the origins of the lights, they find a wondrous tree lot full of brightly colored trees all made of aluminum. It’s so odd looking since no trees like this have ever existed. I have to assume this was just an exaggerated take on the old aluminum pole with fiberglass needles and branches that are very common these days and were probably rising in popularity back in the 60s. And as much as I enjoy an authentic Christmas tree, I have to admit the artificial ones were probably a good idea back then given the fire hazard caused by those old, colored, giant, light bulbs that were commonly used on all trees.

There it is! A now common sight at Hallmark stores across the country.

The two look through the lot as “Oh Tannenbaum” is played in the background until Charlie Brown sets his eyes on a tiny tree. A tiny, real, pathetic, looking tree. It’s barely a weed, but Charlie Brown likes it for some reason. Linus, who only earlier today was willing to rip Charlie Brown over his depression, is rather polite in trying to talk his friend out of selecting this tree reminding him what Lucy said. Charlie Brown tells him he doesn’t care what Lucy had to say about a tree and insists that, once decorated, this little tree will be perfect for their play. He then adds, “Besides, I think it needs me,” suggesting that Charlie Brown feels some sort of kinship with the sapling. When he lifts it off the ground though, several needles fall off to the sound of keys which is pretty cute. The two take notice of the needles, but say nothing to each other about it, as they walk out of the scene.

We apparently have not reached our Snoopy quota just yet.

At the auditorium, Lucy is just lounging by Schroeder as he plays his piano. Schroeder declares he’s settled on a composition for the play and starts playing some Beethoven. When Lucy asks what he’s doing, he tells her, which causes her to go on a rant about how Beethoven wasn’t so great which Schroeder finds insulting. It would seem Lucy’s definition of greatness is heavily dependent upon that person being featured on a bubble gum card, and since no such card features Beethoven, he wasn’t so great. Schroeder can’t even argue with her and just says “Good grief,” before going into another song. Snoopy seems to like it as he pops over and starts tapping his foot. He eventually gets really into it and starts dancing on Schroeder’s piano. Once he and Lucy notice, he stops playing leaving Snoopy dancing to nothing. Blushing, he stops and slinks off.

Right now, Schroeder is likely wishing Lucy had an on/off switch.

With the dog gone, Lucy asks Schroeder if he can play “Jingle Bells.” He obliges, but Lucy apparently finds the composition too complex and tells him it’s not right. He then plays it a different way, and we have to ignore that his little piano turned into an electric organ to produce this different sounding “Jingle Bells.” Lucy still isn’t satisfied insisting “I mean Jingle Bells! You know – Santa Claus and ‘ho, ho, ho?’ And mistletoe? And presents to pretty girls?” As she recites that, she inches closer to Schroeder and smiles at him suggestively. Schroeder can only frown in response, and with one finger, plays “Jingle Bells” on the highest note on the piano in a manner only a non-musician would play it. Lucy listens intently, and then shouts “That’s it!” in what is basically a reoccurrence of the joke from earlier when Charlie Brown responded to her in a similar manner. And just like before, the shouting of “That’s it,” causes the recipient to spin in somersaults.

Well, on the bright side, your tree seems to be making people happy, Charlie Brown.

Charlie Brown and Linus then enter with Charlie Brown carrying his pathetic little tree. He places it on the piano and some of the needles fall. As he goes to hang his coat up, the other kids just stare at the tree in disbelief. Violet is the first to comment with “Boy, are you stupid, Charlie Brown!” Patty follows it up with “What kind of tree is that?!” and then Lucy piles on by sarcastically asking if he can tell the difference between a poor tree and a good tree. Charlie Brown just takes the abuse, finally uttering another, “Rats!” When they’re done ragging on him and his tree, the kids just burst into laughter, including Snoopy, and then walk away.

Lights, please.

Charlie Brown confesses to Linus that he should have listened to him. He then adds that he doesn’t know what Christmas is all about before shouting to the heavens, “Doesn’t anyone know what Christmas is all about?!” This kid really does have the drama nailed. Linus calmly assures him that he can tell him what Christmas is all about. He makes for center stage and requests the lights of someone, who is operating them is a mystery. Linus then recites a biblical passage, Luke 2: 8-14, which was a point of contention during the production of the special. Mendelson felt they should steer clear of the Bible, for even though America was certainly more secular in the 60s, shining a spotlight on religion in a Christmas special was apparently considered too controversial for television. Schulz was pretty adamant that it should be a part of it, and he apparently won that argument. Not only did he get Linus to quote scripture, it’s positioned in such a way that no network could ever consider removing it for the special wouldn’t make sense without it.

Sometimes, you just have to look to the stars for guidance.

When Linus is done, he walks over to Charlie Brown to reiterate “That’s what Christmas is all about, Charlie Brown.” This causes Charlie Brown to smile, for in religion, he has found the true meaning of Christmas. While “Oh Tannenbaum” plays in the background once more, Charlie Brown grabs his coat and gathers up his little tree. He no longer needs involvement, or a play, because he has Christmas in his heart! He leaves the auditorium via a new background (making me wonder if the other shot of Linus and Charlie Brown leaving the auditorium was a mistake) while the other kids follow at a generous distance. As he walks under the night sky, Linus’s words echo through his brain about the birth of Christ, climaxing with the line, “And this will be a sign unto you.” He smiles as he says to himself “Linus is right, I won’t let all this commercialism ruin my Christmas. I’ll take this little tree home and decorate it and I’ll show them it really will work for our play,” as he skips off into the night.

Look! Another thing for Charlie Brown to overreact to!

The special basically could have ended right there, but it doesn’t. Instead, we see Charlie Brown coming upon Snoopy’s dog house. There’s a medal pinned to it indicating that Snoopy won first prize. Charlie Brown is shocked, and rightfully so since the display isn’t anything special. Maybe he got bonus points for being a dog and all? Either way, Charlie Brown isn’t going to let his commercial dog ruin things for him. He grabs an ornament from the house and places it on his little tree. It immediately tips over as the ornament comes to rest on the ground. Declaring he killed it, Charlie Brown turns to drama one last time whining “Everything I touch gets ruined!”

Hey man, don’t start thinking this makes up for that stuff you said to Charlie Brown back at the beginning. You still owe him an apology!

As Charlie Brown runs off, the other kids come upon the tree. Linus is the one to remark it’s not a bad little tree at all and wraps his blanket around the base of it providing enough support for the tree to stand. The other kids remove the decorations from Snoopy’s house and place them on the tree. Now it’s completely transformed into an impossibly beautiful little tree. Lucy is forced to admit that Charlie Brown actually picked out a nice tree after all. They all start to chant some “Ooo” thing, until Charlie Brown returns.

That is NOT the same tree!

Charlie Brown demands to know what’s going on before noticing the tree. He stares at it in disbelief as the camera zooms in on the resplendent tree and pans down. The kids all just shout in unison, “Merry Christmas, Charlie Brown!” before breaking into a rendition of “Hark! The Herald Angels Sing.” Charlie Brown turns to the camera and smiles before joining the chorus. The kids sing us out until “The End” appears on the screen.

“Merry Christmas, Charlie Brown!”

And that’s the end of a bonafide Christmas classic! Nearly every scene from this one is now considered iconic and is frequently parodied or celebrated with an homage in another movie or special. I think South Park has done it at least three times at this point with both of the first two Christmas specials from that show climaxing with a “Merry Christmas,” someone. And it’s hard not to be charmed by this one. Charlie Brown is a rather dramatic individual, but he is sympathetic. And the older you get, the easier it is to relate to a case of seasonal depression. I love Christmas, but there will often be a time or two where it weighs me down for one reason or another. Sometimes it’s just the thought of the season leaving that gets me down, but whatever the reason, depression is depression and it’s something almost anyone can relate to on some level. Charlie Brown’s peers are largely a bunch of jerks. Even his lone friend, Linus, is insultingly dismissive of his problems early on and don’t think he redeemed himself just by quoting the Bible! The whole subplot of a Christmas play has always felt a tad underdeveloped, mostly because we just don’t know much of anything about the production they’re supposed to be rehearsing, but it serves its purpose and gets Charlie Brown to the tree lot and eventually his resolution.

Charlie Brown gets to experience some joy here, but I’m sure those kids went right back to treating him like dirt the next day.

The ironic thing about this special in 2022, and really for the last 20 or so years, is that it criticizes the commercial aspect of Christmas with one of the most merchandised brands in the world. Were they actually selling imitation Charlie Brown trees while Charles Schulz was still alive? I don’t know, but if they were and he saw them I have to believe it was something he would roll his eyes at. Or maybe not since the brand made him a ton of money and a lot of that is owed to this special which was the first of many. There wasn’t a holiday the Peanuts gang were unwilling to create a special for and commercialization was something the brand benefitted from more than any other. I suppose Schulz could take some solace in the special, with it’s anti-commercialism message, being so well-received and make the assumption that those who did see it took the right message to heart. I have no idea if that’s true though and the cynic in me says, “No freaking way.”

The special is what it is, and while Schulz could have refused to merchandize Peanuts, I don’t necessarily think the world is in a worse place because he didn’t go the Bill Waterson route with his creation. People like Charlie Brown and like the specials he and the others have been a part of these past 50+ years. And those shirts, statues, plushies, and other odds and ends have likely brought some kind of happiness to countless individuals and I think that’s fine. Some abhor taking pleasure in any material good, but not me, so enjoy your tiny, artificial trees, your Santa Snoopies, and absolutely make time each holiday season for A Charlie Brown Christmas.

Can’t wait until tomorrow for more Christmas? Check out what we had to say on this day last year and beyond:

Dec. 20 – Toy Tinkers

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

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Dec. 20 – Inspector Gadget Saves Christmas

Once upon a time, Hanna-Barbera ruled the cartoon television universe. The company was one of the first to prioritize television over film when it came to cartoons, and it was a strategy that worked quite well. Come the 80s, cartoons were a Saturday morning staple and were taking over the weekday afternoon as well. Hanna-Barbera…

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

Last year, I fell down a bit of a Lilo & Stitch rabbit hole when it came time to do this list. I first researched the animated series known as Lilo & Stitch: The Series and its Christmas special “Topper: Experiment 025.” I ended up reading about the expanded lore the universe established in 2002’s…

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Naughty or Nice Classic Santa and Cyborg Santa

“What’s this?!”

It was looking like we were in for a photo finish this year. Last year, toymaker Fresh Monkey Fiction partnered with online retailer Big Bad Toy Store to launch the Naughty or Nice collection. Structured similar to a Kickstarter campaign, FMF posted several action figures for preorder with a minimum order quantity needed for the figure to go into production. The only difference was, since it was through BBTS there was no real obligation to buy. Payment wasn’t required until the product shipped, which was going to take about a year, so it felt like a pretty significant gamble on the part of FMF and BBTS. Essentially, they were banking on a line of Santa Claus themed action figures to be a big enough hit to take the risk, and so far it looks like it’s worked out.

The latest in Christmas action figures are here!

The goal from the get-go was to get these figures into the hands of collectors in time for Christmas 2022. That was looking a bit dicey going into November, but FMF came through as the figures arrived on Tuesday the 13th and BBTS began shipping them out the next day. I received my order on the 18th, a week before Christmas, ensuring at least 14 days or so of holiday display. As for what I ordered, that ended up being just two figures plus the accessory set. The line is essentially a series of Santa Claus figures. There’s a classic one, a black one, an army one, robot, pirate, and zombie. In addition to that, there were two versions of Krampus on the same buck and a bunch of elves and nutcrackers done in a five-points style. The main Santa body, which is used for every figure, is basically a 1:12 Santa. Some have described it as a “Marvel Legends” styled Santa, but it’s simpler than that as far as construction goes. The articulation setup is more like a Mythic Legions release, but the sculpt less ambitious. There’s also more paint than a typical Hasbro offering and, ultimately, they are their own thing. I ordered just the Classic Santa and the Cyborg Santa. I do like some of the others, but at $37 a piece I’m not sure I need any of the others. What attracted me to the Classic Santa should be pretty self-explanatory, while the Cyborg one just looked pretty cool. In what is planned to be my final Christmas themed action figure review of 2022, we’re going to take a look at both.

Some Figura Obscura and Fresh Monkey Fiction. Plus a clock.

The Naughty or Nice collection comes packaged in a window box with a hanger on the top. It’s pretty similar to a Hasbro window box or the old DC Direct boxes. The cardstock is a little thin, but it seems durable enough to protect the figure. It just may be difficult to get a mint one through the mail. The figure can be removed from either side, or the bottom, but not the top unless you want to destroy the box. Both figures are identical with the exception of the heads and hands, which is why I feel fine reviewing them together. The figures stand at about 6.5″ to the top of the head and close to 7″ with the hat on. The hat is removable and it plugs on just fine. It looks like FMF did not apply any paint to the inside of the hats so there should not be a cause for concern with paint rub, unless it comes from the head to the hat.

The figures present pretty well. The heads are fully painted as they were sculpted in white plastic while much of the body appears to be sculpted in red. My Classic Santa has a tiny chip on the tip of his nose and a small blob of flesh-tone on his moustache which is unfortunate, while Cyborg Santa’s default portrait looks terrific. The beard on Santa has some dry brushing over it with a light brown. This is different from the solicitation and even the cross-sell on the boxes where it was all white with some gray shading like Cyborg Santa. I’m guessing they wanted to differentiate the figure more from the others, but I definitely prefer the all-white approach to this one. It’s almost cream colored as a result and it takes some getting used to. The suit is also shaded which looks nice and helps to reduce the plastic look. I like the shading applied to the white portions of the suit as it gives this Santa a more hearty presence like he’s been going up and down chimneys all night. The paint is cleanly applied in most places. It’s not super crisp around the beard of Santa, but it’s good enough. The only issue I have with the paint is the choice to sculpt the boots in red and paint black over them. There’s a couple of small chipped areas where red shows through and the hinge down there seems to pick up pieces of red plastic which flake out. The foot is done in black so the hinge is black as well which is nice, but if I could make one suggestion going forward it would be for FMF to make the entire boot a separate mold that pegs into the lower leg which would also add a boot cut. The hands on both figures are ungloved and the sculpt for the Cyborg Kringle is wonderful. There’s some nice paint wash there as well and they just look great. The regular Santa has hands molded in a flesh color and it looks like they were paint too to give them a warm presence and not a plastic one.

These guys look nice at a stand still, but the one thing that I was really curious about was how these guys would move. They feel really nice and sturdy in hand and out of the box all of the joints were nice and tight. Some maybe a touch too tight, but I never felt like I was in danger of breaking anything while I was breaking them in nor did I need to apply any heat. The head is just on a big ball peg, which again, makes it feel like a Mythic Legions release as it’s the same setup as the Father Christmas figure. Because Santa has a beard and a coat, he really can’t do anything except turn his head as far as the beard will let him. There’s no down, and barely any up rotation. At the shoulder, we have a ball-hinge setup which can raise out to the side almost to a fully horizontal position. It can also rotate around, but you have to avoid rubbing the edge of the torso when doing so as it’s cut at a slight angle. The elbows are just single hinges and do not reach a 90 degree bend. There is a swivel point there as well which is okay, but these arms are pretty limited. The wrists rotate and hinge and I’m happy to report that Cyborg Santa’s trigger hand hinges vertically instead of horizontal which is a nice attention to detail. There’s a ball joint at the waist that mostly allows for rotation with barely anything forward or back. The hips are ball and socket joints and because the lower part of the coat and belt are one piece and done in a soft plastic, the legs can go out to the side way farther than they need to. They kick forward a decent amount, but nothing really back. The knees are like the elbows, a single hinge with a swivel, and also can’t hit a 90 degree bend. At the ankle, there’s a hinge and a rocker which works pretty well..

The overall articulation is merely functional. These guys aren’t going to get into any sort of exotic pose, which is probably expected of a Santa figure. The problem though is they struggle with basic stuff. Santa can’t really get his hands to his head for cookie eating or a finger by the nose pose. You can fudge some of these with perspective shots, but that’s it. Santa also can’t present one of the gifts with both hands under it which is unfortunate. Worst of all though, is Cyborg Santa can’t hold his shotgun in a convincing two-handed fashion. I can get two hands onto it, but not with one on the trigger. I would like to see some improvements for next year’s batch. I think the biggest addition they could make is a biceps swivel. I don’t know if it would solve all of the problems, but it could help. An upper torso joint would be a nice addition too, but I don’t see that happening. I also wouldn’t expect, or even ask for, something like a butterfly joint to help get the hands closer together. And anything that could improve the range of the elbow bend would be welcomed. I think the overall aesthetic of the figure base is good so I get not wanting to mess with it too much. A biceps swivel wouldn’t harm the look, as far as I’m concerned, while I can see some not wanting an upper torso joint. Mostly, I hope they don’t just rest on their laurels and do nothing to improve what was released here.

Both figures also feature some accessories, and some are shared. Both Santas come with a second head. For Classic Santa, it’s a winking face and it looks okay. The winking eye is just a straight, black, line and I feel like it could better. It’s not bad enough that I’ll never use it, but not the slam dunk I expected. For Cyborg Santa, the alternate head is a half Santa half robot look as we’re definitely going for a T-800 thing here. It’s awesome and I’m really torn on which head to go with for this guy. Classic Santa also comes with extra hands. His default ones are gripping hands and he also has a set of relaxed hands and a pointing right hand. The pegs on the hands are basically the same diameter as a Marvel Legends, just shorter, so one could conceivably swap hands with other figure lines. Both figures come with “The List” which is sculpted like a scroll of paper. It’s fine, but I wish the printing on the list itself was different. Santa should have a nice list and Cyborg Santa a naughty list, for instance. Both figures have a red gift box with a painted green ribbon and bow on it. It opens from the top and it’s fine. Both figures also come with a white display stand that is pretty unnecessary since they stand fine and it’s not attractive enough to force its way into the display.

“Merry Christmas, Morph!” “Wow! Thank you, Santa!”

Both figures also have their own unique additions. For Cyborg Santa, it’s a police style pump shotgun. It’s all black and it looks fine, but the problem is it’s too thin. He doesn’t get a good grip on it as a result and it’s a balancing act to pose it. Maybe they were worried about paint rub and thus overcompensated on the thickness of the weapon? It’s too bad and I already mentioned the posing issues with it. For Santa, we get a plate of cookies and a glass of milk. Everything is it’s own piece so the plate is separate from the cookies so you can place them on it or put one in Santa’s gripping hand. He can also grip the plate just fine, and if you’re persistent, you could probably balance it on one of the relaxed hands. The glass of milk is also two parts as it’s a transparent glass with the milk a separate piece of plastic so it can be empty or full. The only problem is, the gripping hands are too tight to grasp the glass while the relaxed hands are too loose. I wish one of the relaxed hands had been replaced with a hand designed specifically for holding the glass. It is possible to position it in such a way that will stay in Santa’s hand, but in an unnatural way. I suppose with enough heat, the gripping hand could be softened to the point where it could hold the glass, but I didn’t want to risk the paint transfer from the hand to the glass. My solution? Blue sticky tack.

“What the Hell is this?!”

We also have one more thing to talk about and that’s the accessory set. FMF sold a separate pack for about 22 bucks that contains the following: a cloak, a sack, an extra red present, a set of green presents, two stockings, two pieces of coal, a candy cane, another list, and another set of milk and cookies. I grabbed this mostly for the cloak and sack, but I’m having a bit of buyer’s remorse. The soft goods cloak has a real cheap feel to it. It’s thin, the white trim is like what you would find on a 3 dollar stocking, and the tie is done with cheap ribbon. It just doesn’t look great on Santa. I think it needs to be heavier and maybe the trim should be a shorter “fur” to add a touch of class. Santa can wear it with or without his hat, but I don’t know that I like it enough to use. The sack is basically the same deal as it’s done in the same style and there is a ribbon for the drawstring which I just don’t like the look of and it’s much too long. Santa needs a sack though, so I can see myself using this, but it could have better. The rest of the stuff is just “meh.” The stockings are solid plastic so you can’t fill them with anything. The Santas both have trouble gripping the candy cane, and the coal is just coal. The green presents are molded together and they add something to the display. The repeat items are unnecessary though – why do I need another set of milk and cookies or list? I guess I like being able to fill out the plate a bit more with the cookies, but how about some toys instead? I like the presents and stockings just to fill out a display, but this set could have been better and I don’t think it’s something I can recommend.

I’m not here to pick favorites, I’m just happy to have multiple representations of Santa Claus in my display.

The Naughty or Nice collection isn’t without its issues, but the total package of the Santa figures I purchased are still good enough to merit inclusion in a holiday toy display. I like the look of both figures and my only nitpick there is that I wish Santa’s beard was whiter. The sculpt is great and there’s enough paint to add a touch of class to both figures. These don’t look or feel cheap (provided you’re not using those soft goods in the accessory set) and can stand beside the Figura Obscura Father Christmas and not look out of place. Ultimately, I recommend these based on your own personal preferences. If you want a classic, Coca-Cola, styled Santa then the Classic Santa should be more than sufficient. The other figures are just about what amuses you. I thought Cyborg Santa looked cool so I bought him. If the gun situation was better, I might have talked myself into Sgt. Santa too. I can definitely see a lot of folks liking the look of Pirate and Zombie Santa and it would be easy to just go all-in to amass a larger, Santa, display. I personally wanted to like Krampus, but him being on the same Santa body just doesn’t do it for me. I want a naked, furry, Krampus and not one dressed like Santa, but the head sculpt looks pretty rad. He does have a tail, and there’s a plug on the Santa figures to cover-up the peg hole for that tail, though it’s not visible so I don’t consider it an eyesore.

Blue sticky-tack is your friend.

If you would like to add these or any of the other figures in the collection to your holiday display then head over to Big Bad Toy Store. Some of the figures have been going in and out of stock, but have since been re-stocked it would seem. Fresh Monkey Fiction also plans to make some of this collection available for preorder again when and if they do sell out, but those won’t be delivered until next year. Wave 2 is also up for pre-order and it looks like the major new addition from a sculpting perspective is a shirtless Santa which will also be used for a shirtless Krampus. I am probably going to order a figure or two from the second wave, so check back next year to see how those turned out!

Need some more Christmas toys?

Figura Obscura – Father Christmas

It was just last year that Four Horsemen launched a subline of its popular Mythic Legions brand of action figures called Figura Obscura. Practically speaking, there’s little difference between the two lines as Mythic Legions seeks to serve as a modular line of toys based on myth and legend and that doesn’t feature licensed characters.…

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Figura Obscura – Krampus

Over the years, I’ve acquired quite a few action figures designed by the good people over at Four Horsemen LLC. They’ve been designing figures for companies for awhile now. My first exposure to the company was via NECA’s inaugural line of Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles based on their appearance in the Mirage Studios comics. Lately,…

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Transformers Generations Holiday Optimus Prime

We interrupt our regularly scheduled holiday posts with something very familiar to this blog: a toy review! Yes, we have ourselves another Christmas toy to talk about and it too comes from Hasbro. We already looked at a Star Wars toy at the end of November, and now we’re turning to what I suppose is…

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Dec. 19 – American Dad! – “Minstrel Krampus”

“Minstrel Krampus” originally aired December 15, 2013.

I’m quite surprised to have made it all the way to December 19 without resorting to The Simpsons, American Dad!, Bob’s Burgers, or some other animated sitcom that has an annual, or near annual, Christmas episode. Not that I have been avoiding such shows, and I may turn to one again before this is all over, it’s just worked out that way. American Dad! is the animated sitcom that might have the best claim to possessing the highest quality Christmas specials. They’re not an annual guarantee anymore, but the library the show has accumulated is quite good. Bob’s Burgers might be the runner-up at this point, but The Simpsons have a solid claim due largely to just having such a vast library of Christmas episodes at this point (and it could have been a lot more if not for the fact that the show was reluctant to go back to the holiday following the first, aired, episode).

“Minstrel Krampus” just might be my second favorite of the American Dad! Christmas episodes, but even that’s a tough battle. Last year, we looked at my favorite such episode and rather than go to the next in-line we’re doing Krampus. I suppose it’s slightly redundant given we already looked at a Christmas special this year featuring the beast, but if we can fit Santa into multiple specials then why not Krampus? This Christmas episode, like so many others, does tie-in with previous ones via The Smith family’s relationship with Santa Claus so it makes sense to look at this one this year. There was a Christmas episode released in between “For Whom the Sleigh Bell Tolls” and this one (“Season’s Beatings” which is excellent and likely to be looked at later), but it didn’t contain Santa so we’re not really missing anything continuity wise.

We have ourselves a festive framing device for this one.

This episode foregoes the opening credits and begins on the title screen with the sound of sleigh bells in the background. They should have brought back the candy cane font, but I’ll forgive them. The absence of an intro would seem to indicate we’re in for a slightly longer episode than usual. Normally, that’s a good thing, but when you’re writing a blog entry that has to cover the whole of an episode it’s less thrilling. Once the title is removed we’re presented with an ornate looking storybook that lets us know this is an American Dad! Christmas episode. A narrator, who is clearly Stan’s father Jack (Daran Norris), chimes in to set the mood. It’s Christmas, the time of year when children are the worst! They’ve figured out they’re getting stuff whether they’re bad or good and that just sucks.

In order for this episode to work, Steve has to be a giant brat. Just go with it.

We then find ourselves at a toy store. To apparently illustrate this point, we see Stan (Seth MacFarlane) and Francine (Wendy Schaal) pushing a cart filled with toys while their teenaged son Steve (Scott Grimes) rides in the basket. He grabs an RC car from the shelf and tosses it into the cart, which Francine removes and places back on the shelf. He immediately protests and when Francine tells him it’s too expensive he throws a tantrum. Stan reminds him he only gets what he wants if he’s good, and Steve responds by slapping his father in the face. Stan doesn’t understand what’s gotten into their son while Francine just refers to him as a mystery. This is apparently an inspirational quote for Steve who hops out of the cart and breaks into song, the first line of which is “I’m the one they call a mystery.”

This is the first of a handful of musical numbers in this one, most of which are really well done and catchy.

I think this is around the time of the show where the writers fell in love with Scott Grimes and his singing ability. And with good reason – he sounds great! Steve sings his song, which I assume is titled “Bad Bad Boy” or something to that effect, with a simple, synthesized, backing track. His vocal inflections remind me of Bad era Michael Jackson, and considering the song’s premise, that’s probably intentional. Steve basically just dances around the store plucking items from the shelf and tossing them, which Francine has to pick up. It cuts into segments of Steve dancing in hip hop attire with background dancers on top of a giant, green, red-ribboned, present with flames in the background. It’s absurd, but quite entertaining. It goes on for a half minute or so before Francine demands an end to this song and dance. Stan then laments that he can’t just beat Steve like his father used to beat him, which actually gives him an idea as he tells Steve he’s going to show him what happens to bad boys when they grow up.

Jack Smith has a little story to tell his grandson.

We switch scenes to a penitentiary. Stan’s dad, Jack, is locked-up here and Stan wants Steve to speak with his grandfather and hopefully get scared straight. When the two sit-down with Jack, divided by the usual security features of a prison, Stan demands Jack tell Steve how awful prison is, but Jack just reminisces about Krampus. Neither Steve nor Stan have any idea who Krampus is, but Jack says Steve is lucky he’s not around anymore because when he was a kid Krampus would punish the naughty. He then tells the tale of Krampus which is displayed via still images as if they’re from an old storybook. He covers the usual stuff, like how Krampus rode with Santa and beat on bad kids, but when Steve calls it a bunch of bull-jizzle (eww) Jack explains he’s not around anymore because he trapped him! One Christmas Eve night, little Jack got out of bed to get more of his mother’s strudel, but he found Krampus with his head buried in the copper pot full of the stuff. Jack slammed the lid on him trapping him forever!

You have to feel for a kid who walks in on some goat-man going to town on his mother’s strudel.

Stan and Steve don’t believe the old man’s story which is when Jack tells him to check his basement. It would seem all of Jack’s stuff is stored there, on account of him being in prison and all, and that includes the copper pot containing Krampus. He urges Stan to investigate, but the two get up and leave forcing a guard to enter to drag Jack back to his cell all the while with him screaming for Stan to check his basement (he also mentions some really fast skis he’s keeping down there too).

This feels like the setup for a B plot, but it really doesn’t go anywhere.

Back in town, Main Street is all decorated for Christmas and Hayley (Rachel MacFarlane) is out doing some window-shopping with Klaus (Dee Bradley Baker), the fish. Klaus is comically riding around in a hamster ball full of water while wearing a festive Santa hat. He asks Hayley if she’s decided what she’s getting the family for Christmas and she indicates she has not. This is her opportunity to break into song. It’s not particularly funny or anything as she just needs money for Christmas (to just buy popcorn?) which leads her to Roger (MacFarlane) who demands she stop singing and just tell him what she wants. It’s a job she wants and she’s hoping she can work in Roger’s attic bar, but he gestures to the open area that he has plenty of help since he hired some collegiate water polo team. A bunch of physically fit men in red speedos are serving drinks and Roger remarks suggestively he has “more hands than jobs.”

Oh my!

Roger tosses Hayley a newspaper and tells her to check the want ads. She finds an ad for airport work and puts a circle around that. One of Roger’s waiters then walks over and he inspects the young man’s…area. He’s not satisfied with the fit of the speedo and complains that it’s too loose and that you could fit two men in it! He demonstrates by squeezing himself into the garment and the poor waiter looks rightly uncomfortable with the situation. Roger complains it’s still too loose and calls over another waiter to get in.

What are the Smiths going to do with this boy?

Later at the Smith residence, Steve is ripping open his Christmas presents and finding them not up to his standards. He pulls out what looks like a futuristic looking RC car and questions if his parents bought the floor model before emphatically smashing it on the floor. Francine comes over demanding to know, “By the power of Grayskull,” just what Steve thinks he’s doing. Stan gathers up the remaining unopened gifts and says he’s going to hide these ones until Christmas. This takes him down into the basement while muttering how Steve has him “…talking like Bernie Mac.” He tries to place the gifts on the top shelf of some wall unit, but he ends up knocking down a whole bunch of boxes which reveals his father’s copper pot.

A Krampus moon shot! Now there’s something you don’t see in most Christmas specials.

Stan approaches the pot with trepidation, but soon hears a voice calling from inside. It’s Krampus (Danny Glover), and he wants to be let out! He mistakes Stan for Jack, but Stan corrects him by telling the demon that Jack is his father. The beast continues urging Stan to free him, but he’s apprehensive about unleashing a literal demon upon the world. Then he hears Steve screaming at his mother upstairs about his Mickey Mouse towel and it gives him an idea. He offers Krampus a deal: he’ll let him out, but he has to scare Steve straight. Krampus is more than willing to do so as he reminds Stan that’s basically his thing, so Stan removes the lid. Immediately, a black, wraith-like, being comes flying out and past Stan! We cut to Steve sleeping in his bed when his window smashes in and Krampus appears. He picks Steve up by the neck and shoves him in his sack. Stan comes bursting in just in-time to see Krampus fly out of the window riding his sack like a witch rides a broom. Before he leaves, he tells Stan to bring him Jack if he ever wants to see his kid again. On the way out, we get to see Krampus fly past the full moon – a new holiday tradition!

That’s one way to do it.

We cut to the prison and Jack is flipping out at the news that Stan freed Krampus. When he incredulously asks upon hearing the news, “You did what?!” Stan replies that he just wanted Krampus to scare Steve straight which causes Jack to scream, “Sexual orientation is not a choice!” For as shitty a person as Jack is, at least he isn’t a homophobe. Stan ignores him and just lays out his proposal: Krampus has Steve and will only return him if Jack takes his place. Stan informs his father that he can use his CIA connections to have him released if he’s willing to switch places with Steve. Jack flips up his eye patch exposing a hole where his eye once was and pulls a cigarette out from it that he must have been stashing. He inserts the filter end of the cigarette into the hole and lights it, takes a drag somehow, and then takes it out and smokes it in a more conventional sense. He then agrees to Stan’s proposal.

You just can’t trust that Jack.

We cut to Stan and Jack leaving the prison. As they do, Jack reasons that Krampus must have taken Steve to Bavaria where his castle is. He tells Stan to give him his keys, which Stan does only for Jack to punch him out and steal his car. As he does so, he shouts “See ya, sucker!” in Stan’s direction who is left sitting on the ground. He just chuckles to himself between mutterings of “Yup,” indicating he should have probably seen that coming.

They can’t all be teapots and candelabras.

At the castle of Krampus, Steve is being dragged by the leg to a holding cell. As he gets dragged by a large wooden door, it opens and some normally inanimate objects emerge and note their surprise at seeing Krampus. They are a toilet brush, bidet, plunger, and beer stein. It would seem Krampus’ castle is not unlike that of the Beast from Disney’s version of Beauty and the Beast. Krampus then chucks Steve into a caged area all the while Steve is insisting he can’t be treated like this because he’s an American child. He even refers to himself as a treasure. He then spits in the face of Krampus and tries to threaten him, but Krampus checks him to remind him who he’s dealing with.

You get the rod!

This is Krampus’ turn to break out into song (singing voice provided by Charles Bradley) and illustrate to Steve why he’s a creature to be feared. It’s a funky little R&B number and probably the highlight of the musical component to this episode. Krampus basically dances around torturing Steve with the climax of each verse being “You get the rod!” followed by him wailing on Steve’s ass with his birch sticks. There’s a break in the middle where Krampus explains to Steve that he doesn’t know real pain like he does which leads to a quick story about Krampus being dumped by a girl named Sheila in the middle of downtown Baltimore to go with a guy named Dennis. When he goes back into his song, he sings about Sheila presenting him with a baby she claimed was is, but looked just like Dennis. That damn, Dennis! This guy has some real trauma in his past. The song closes with him holding Steve by the ankles as he spanks his bottom with the birch sticks. He leaves the boy sobbing in a fetal position in the cage telling him that’s where he’ll stay until he gets Jack.

Roger seems like he’s actually a good bartender. Terrible boss, but good bartender.

At the Smith home, Stan is nursing a beer at Roger’s bar. Roger, being the ever attentive bartender, asks Stan to tell him what he did, or who he did, was it another boy?! Stan tells him what happened and Roger surprises him by actually knowing who Krampus is. He suggests that Santa would know where to find him, but Stan reminds Roger that Santa hates him and we get a brief flashback to their confrontation from before. Plus, Stan adds, he has no way to get to the North Pole, but Roger informs him he’s wrong about that assumption and calls for his “boys.”

If you’re feeling bad for the one dead one, I’m guessing the others aren’t far behind so at least he won’t be alone.

We cut to Stan and Roger on a floating sleigh with the water polo team pulling it through the arctic waters. One of them is clearly dead while the others jump and swim like dolphins. They arrive at a frozen island with a massive, 100 foot wall of ice in front of them. Roger just asks Stan to give him a boost so he does and the scene just cuts to Roger effortlessly climbing over the edge. He then calls out for Stan to grab his hand and the shot is positioned over Roger’s shoulder so that Stan is comically too far away to reach. The scene cuts back to Stan and Roger’s hand is in-frame. I don’t know if this is a reference to anything or just something the writers thought was funny, but it is! Stan is then jumped by a group of elves obviously working for Santa. The ice beneath Roger’s feet breaks away from the side of the wall causing him to fall and crash through the ice. An elf reaches into the newly formed crater with a snare to wrap around Roger’s throat. He pops up and commands the elf, “Harder.” He tightens the snare only for Roger to respond with, “Way harder!”

Roger’s just making the best of a bad situation.

At Santa’s workshop, Stan is tied to a chair with holly and a coat-less Santa comes strutting in to smash his face with a revolver featuring a candy cane pattern. Santa (Matt McKenna) is not happy to see Stan and seems ready to kill him, but Stan mentions Krampus. Santa is really not happy to hear about the return of Krampus as he hates sharing the spotlight with the demon, plus he used to nibble on his list. He then makes Stan an offer: help him kill Krampus, and he’ll help get Steve returned safely. Stan agrees and says “Come on, Roger,” and as the camera pulls back we see Roger is tied to a chair nearby and the elves are still choking him. He tells Stan he’s “Almost there,” indicating they can leave once he…finishes.

I see nothing wrong here.

Back at Krampus’ castle, the objects come to cheer up Steve. First he’s approached by a roll of toilet paper who offers to dry his tears, then the others appear. Bidet offers Steve a drink of water from his “spout” which Steve is happy to partake in. Steve uses the opportunity to complain about how mean Krampus is, but the others disagree and tell him he has Krampus all wrong. They let him out to illustrate their point and the group finds Krampus at a piano singing his heart out.

Yeah, Krampus, sing your heart out! I am here for it!

Krampus is in pain, and it hurts him to punish children, but it’s something he must do! Steve is touched and joins Krampus for a duet where he explains that he understands the demon now. The song is very soulful, and Charles Bradley sings his ass off. The song does devolve into Krampus singing about his love life again and brings up his ex, Sheila, once more. It gets dark when Krampus vows to kill her, but then ends by professing his love for her. He’s got some stuff to work out. When the song ends, the two have a heart-to-heart and reach an understanding about the role Krampus plays and Steve seems to have turned over a new leaf. Krampus tells Steve he just wants to see Jack so he can apologize for failing him as he blames himself for Jack turning out so rotten.

Another atypical moon shot, this one is really spoiling us!

At the North Pole, Stan, Roger, and Santa are ready to set out for Krampus. The three of them are in Santa’s sleigh which is only being pulled by six reindeer – but wait! Tagging along behind them are three additional reindeer being ridden by elves. Do we grant credit for the proper number of reindeer to this scene as a result? It’s inconclusive, but maybe. The sleigh takes off and they pass by a full moon once again and Stan even makes a comment about it. Roger adds that once you’re above the clouds the moon always looks full, but when Stans asks if that’s true Roger just blows him off. And if you’re wondering, the answer is “No,” that is not true. Santa then adds that Stan will be on the permanent Good List for helping him kill Krampus, right alongside Jesus. When Roger points out that Jesus is a Jew, Santa reacts with an incredulous, “What?!”

Ugh, let’s just forget this happened.

As the sleigh group passes over an airport, we pan down to check-in with Jack again who is trying to board a plane to Jamaica, but his flight has been delayed. He gets in a little tiff with an airline employee named Mary-Ann (Marissa Jaret Winokur) who refers him to customer service. There he finds Hayley (remember her arc?) working a customer service kiosk. She’s being accosted by a group of Jamaican men (all voiced by Kevin Michael Richardson) who seem rather upset about their flight. Jack is surprised to find Hayley here and when he asks her what she’s doing she says she needs money to buy presents for her family. When Jack expresses that he doesn’t understand why anyone would want to do something for their family, she breaks into a Calypso/Rastafarian number about how family gets you high and it is just awful. It’s not even funny bad, it just sucks. It’s apparently all the convincing Jack needs though as when the song ends he’s convinced he needs to help his family so he changes his flight to Bavaria to go after Krampus.

They just couldn’t help themselves.

It’s morning at Castle Krampus and Steve comes walking into the kitchen in an oversized dress shirt to find Krampus cooking breakfast. Are we supposed to read this like the classic setup of a woman wearing a man’s shirt the next morning after a night of sex? Normally, I’d say no, but with this show I’m betting they want us to think of it in that way. Krampus serves him his breakfast and Steve is basically still apologizing for being a bad kid, but Krampus wants to thank him for reminding him how good it feels to convert bad kids to good ones. He’s made blueberry crepes, and Plunger asks Steve if he wants homemade chocolate sauce. After he asks, he drags his body across a plate of the dish leaving a brown trail behind. Yes, this is definitely a poop joke.

You’ve sauced your last crepe, Plunger.

Outside, Santa’s sleigh has been parked and we find the assault team roaming the halls of the castle. Santa signals for all to stop when he hears the sound of a toilet flushing. We see plunger using the bathroom and finishing up before the door flies open. Stan angrily storms in and grabs Plunger and drowns him in the toilet. In the kitchen, Steve is helping Krampus with the dishes. Krampus scrapes the contents of a plate into a trash bag which is a living bag that begins hopping towards the door to take itself out. Stan, Santa, and the elves burst in and one of the elves grabs the trash bag and cuts it open. Blood appears as the contents of the trash bag spill on the floor indicating it has died while Steve cries out “Trashy!”

If you smash a bidet, does it bleed? Yes.

They begin laying waste to the various objects in the kitchen. Santa chucks the toilet paper onto an open flame while Stan wrestles with the bidet. He ends up tossing it out the window where it smashes into a pile of porcelain and blood on the ground. A living table stands up on its end for Krampus and Steve to duck behind while the boy cries out for them to stop their assault. He also cries out as his friends are slaughtered and this is clearly going to scar the boy for a long time. During this sequence, we see Jack has arrived and is skiing towards the castle as the sound of gunfire filters out. The table gets shot and dies leaving Krampus exposed. Santa fires off a round and nails him in the chest. As Krampus lays on the ground bleeding out, Steve comforts him, but Santa just comes over and puts one foot on his chest. Declaring himself “Big man on Krampus,” he blasts the demon in the forehead ending his existence.

Avert your eyes, Steve!

With Krampus dead, Santa turns his attention to Stan. Drawing his gun on him, Stan tries to reason with him, but Santa lays it out in plain terms that he’s the bad guy! Steve chimes in to tell his dad that’s what he was trying to tell him, that Krampus was good and Santa evil. Santa laughs and confirms as much saying he’s in bed with “Big Toy” to make sure all kids get what they want on Christmas so that he can profit. When Roger tries to point out that this doesn’t make any sense since Santa gives toys away, he tells him to shut up and not to think about it too hard.

You were a fool to trust him, Stan. That’s twice you’ve failed!

Santa then fires off a round at Stan, but through the window comes Jack! He’s able to soar in front of his son in slow motion to take a bullet for him while simultaneously sending one of his skis to plunge into Santa’s chest. The act causes Santa to lose his revolver and Stan is able to grab it. Santa still tries to throw a knife that was on the floor at Stan, but he misses and hits the wall which we find out was alive. Santa then runs for it shouting “Every man for himself,” with his trio of elves trailing behind. With Stan kneeling over his dad, Jack takes the opportunity to tell Stan he’s a good guy and to apologize for being a bad father, but Stan corrects him and says his abuse made him what he is today. That’s the message of the episode folks, kids need to be beaten into goodness. Jack expresses regret for sealing Krampus away for all these years feeling that, if he hadn’t, the world wouldn’t suck so bad.

At least they got to have one touching moment before he died.

On the floor, the blood pooling from Krampus mingles with the blood of Jack. The body of Krampus turns to a blue apparition and gets absorbed into Jack. His lifeless body begins to float and blasts of light shoot out of him and a new Krampus is born! This new Jack-Krampus basically looks as you would expect and is quite thrilled at the idea of being alive again. Steve points out the obvious, while Stan asks him if he’s going to be Krampus all the time or just on Christmas. Jack rightly doesn’t know, but he declares it’s Christmas Eve and he has some bottoms to blister! He turns into the wraith form and flies out the window. Outside, he flies right up to the screen to break the fourth wall to tell us “You better be good, boys and girls, or I’ll beat you until blood’s comin’ from your ears and your eyes and your mouth. Merry Christmas! …and from your ass!” The scene turns into another image from the storybook that started it all. It zooms out and closes signaling that’s the end.

Behold! The new Krampus!

“Minstrel Krampus” is a thoroughly wacky tale that only American Dad! could tell. In order for it to take place, Steve needs to act like a petulant child and do things he normally never would, like slap his father. And for his part, Stan needs to act in a way he normally would not for if Steve ever struck him in another episode he probably would beat the child or inflict some kind of psychological torture on the boy. It’s also dependent upon Santa being a bad guy in this universe and that part is played up. It’s not exactly a perversion of Christmas to view Krampus in a somewhat favorable light if his punishment is deemed corrective discipline. And the observation that basically all kids get toys on Christmas, be they good or bad, isn’t exactly wrong.

Unlike the old Krampus, this one doesn’t seem to be transferring his own trauma onto bad kids. I think he’s just going to like wailing on children.

Where the episode takes it further is by introducing the message that capital punishment is the best form of punishment for children. That’s obviously made in jest and I don’t think the show intends for us to take it literally, it’s just there for the sake of humor. Steve encountering a group of magic, talking, objects is a direct parody of Beauty and the Beast and the episode makes certain to select the most unsanitary of objects for its characters. Most of these wouldn’t have existed in the Beast’s castle, but imagine if Belle encountered a magic, talking, chamber pot? I’m actually a little surprised they went with the comparatively less disgusting bidet, but they got their poop joke in via the plunger so it’s not as if the episode didn’t “go there.”

The only weakness I find with this one is in the B plot, if you can even call it that. We get a very brief scene at the beginning of Hayley looking for a job which only happens so that Jack can encounter her at the airport and have a terrible song come from her that changes his perception of family. For this to work, we basically have to ignore Hayley’s usual character as she’s not likely to feel this kind of pressure to get her family anything for Christmas. In that, it’s similar to Steve acting as horrible as he does which is just as out of character for him. It’s just not a rewarding plot and the whole scene at the airport is easily the weakest moment. They could have cut the whole thing and just had Jack witness something at the airport that changed his heart. Maybe a parody of Home Alone with Kevin’s mom declaring she’s getting home to her son for Christmas could have provided a comedic way to turn things around. Basically anything would have been better than the scene we got.

The storybook pages are a lot of fun, and I’m always down for more Krampus stories!

Aside from that one song, the others are quite entertaining. This episode is almost a musical. I don’t think there’s enough music to really call it that, but it doesn’t matter as it’s just semantics anyway. The songs are pretty great though and I really loved the opening number with Steve at the store and both songs involving Krampus. Scott Grimes and Charles Bradley give terrific performances and the delivery of their songs are very earnest, with the lyrics sometimes being ridiculous. This is the type of episode I recommend watching with subtitles on at least once so you can get all of the jokes. That last song with Krampus sure takes things to some dark places by the time it’s over.

Ultimately, this is just a funny Christmas episode. It’s not as bloodthirsty as the previous one we looked at, so some that found the battle between the Smiths and Santa’s minions distasteful might actually prefer this one. It certainly has that American Dad! spirit as the show was well into its life at this point to know how to do a proper Christmas episode to the point where it feels automatic. And if you’re wondering, yes both Santa and Jack-Krampus return in future Christmas episodes so you might not want to stop here. And if you do want to watch it, and any other American Dad! Christmas episode, Hulu has you covered. Cartoon Network is also sure to show it and the rest all month long, though by now the number of viewings are likely dwindling so act fast!

Can’t wait until tomorrow for more Christmas? Check out what we had to say on this day last year and beyond:

Dec. 19 – Krazy Kat – “Krazy’s Krismas”

One of the most celebrated comic strips of all time is Krazy Kat by George Herriman. Krazy Kat debuted in the New York Evening Journal in 1913 and concluded its run in 1944. It contained a fairly simply premise where a cat named Krazy pined for a mouse named Ignatz, only the mouse hated the…

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Dec. 19 – Christopher the Christmas Tree

We look at a lot of Christmas stuff pulled from every day cartoons, for the most part. On occasion though, I suppose we should throw the Christians a bone and look at something a bit more secular. Yes, I think most people know Christmas was basically co-opted by the church many years ago, but it’s…

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Dec. 19 – The Shanty Where Santy Claus Lives

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

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Dec. 18 – X-Men – “Have Yourself a Morlock Little X-Mas”

Original air date December 23, 1995.

Today, The Christmas Spot temporarily alters it’s name to The X-Mas Spot. As a sort-of celebration for the animated series X-Men turning 30 this past Halloween we’re going to look at the show’s lone holiday special – “Have Yourself a Morlock Little X-Mas.” The show X-Men was a pretty serious affair as far as kid shows go. It wasn’t very jokey or gimmicky and it technically didn’t even have a tie-in toy line. Sure, ToyBiz had an X-Men line of figures, but it was technically a tie-in with the comic book. The show undoubtedly influenced the line, there was a Morph figure after all, but the point is this wasn’t a show that went for the cheap hits so when a Christmas special was announced during the holiday season of 1995 I was pretty damn surprised.

Why does a show like X-Men then feature a holiday special? As is the answer to most things that seem unexplainable from afar when it comes to television – it was the network. Fox wanted a Christmas special from the show so it delivered one. It’s not a fan favorite and writer/showrunner Eric Lewald basically admits they made it intentionally campy to reflect other cheesy Christmas episodes of popular shows. They even got in a “Not on Christmas!” line into it. The episode is what it is, a shoe-horned concept into a show that probably shouldn’t feature such an episode, but perhaps there is still some value here. Besides, who doesn’t want to spend Christmas with Wolverine?

This is the story of Jubilee’s first X-Mas with the X-Men, which means it probably shouldn’t be assumed that we’ve been watching their lives unfold in a linear fashion or else they’ve had one hell of a year.

The episode begins at the home of the X-Men. Cyclops (Norm Spencer), Rogue (Lenore Zann), and Jubilee (Alyson Court) are decorating a massive tree in the mansion’s foyer. As they do, they’re joyously singing “Deck the Halls” and Cyclops sounds particularly awful, but seemingly intentionally so as he calls attention to his bad singing and suggests the other two carry on without him. Brooding off by the fireplace is old Wolverine (Cal Dodd) who predictably wants nothing to do with the holiday festivities despite the insistence of Jubilee for him to do so. It’s her first Christmas with the X-Men, which would seem all of the events up until now that have occurred in the show have taken place within a year, and she seems a little hurt that Wolverine won’t participate, but Rogue is here to reassure her and even lifts her up to the top of the tree to put the star in place.

Gambit is apparently impervious to boiling water.

Off in the kitchen, Jean (Catherine Disher) is preparing a Christmas dinner, but she has to contend with Gambit (Chris Potter). Despite her being the appointed chef, Gambit is sporting an apron and togue and appears to view himself on equal footing here. He rudely inquires what she’s preparing and Jean angrily retorts “It’s called food, Gambit. Normal, Christmas food.” Gambit, being from Louisiana and a connoisseur of cajun cuisine, seems to disagree strongly with whatever is boiling in a pot. When he goes for some seasoning, Jean uses her telekinetic powers to keep the spice on the counter despite how hard Gambit pulls on it. She also adds “The day that I need your help in the kitchen is the day that I stop cooking!” It’s a fine line, but Wolverine just used a similar one on Jubilee (“The day that I sing “Jingle Bells” is the day pigs fly”) so it’s a little redundant. She releases her psychic hold on the seasoning sending Gambit tumbling into the stove. He falls on his rear and the pot of water that was boiling lands on him, but seemingly does no harm. Jean gets a little laugh out of this while Gambit still insists she knows nothing about cooking a proper Christmas dinner.

In the lab, Beast (George Buza) is suspended from the ceiling mixing something in a beaker. It turns from red to green while Beast recites a poem by a “Sir Walter” that sounds festive enough. I only know the poem’s author because when Beasts tastes his “goo” he declares it worthy of the poem though he’s sure to point out this concoction is non-alcoholic (wouldn’t want the kids to think otherwise). We then cut to Professor X (Cedric Smith) and Storm (Alison Sealy-Smith) watching the goings on via the security monitors. It’s a bit creepy, but I guess someone is always watching these things for security reasons. Xavier notes that Storm seems a little blue and she remarks that seeing Jubilee makes her reflect on her own childhood. She grew up poor on the streets of Cairo, in case you were wondering as they don’t have time to discuss it further since alarms start blaring. Xavier thinks they’re under attack and Storm gets the first very, sweaty, Christmas special line “Could we be under attack – on Christmas Eve?!”

Beast is always so festive.

Cyclops receives a transmission about the alarm via his usual belt insignia. The “X” on everyone’s belts in this show were like two-way radios. The funny thing here is that Cyclops is not wearing his field uniform so rather than pressing a button on his chest he’s just touching his shirt. The X-Men race to the alarm’s origin which turns out to be Beast’s lab. They bust in only to find Beast in the process of shutting down the alarm. He’s covered in a red sauce and when Cyclops asks if he’s okay he indicates that he is, but his cranberry glaze is not. Wolverine is the last to arrive and he’s disappointed they weren’t under attack. He decides he’s had enough of this Christmas stuff and indicates he intends to go somewhere else for a bit. Jubilee then asks him if he’ll go shopping with her and Storm and Wolverine is right to point out how terrible shopping on Christmas Eve sounds. He makes a lame joke about having better luck fighting Sabretooth, but Jubilee does the whole “Please? For me?” and Wolverine responds with “Turn it off, kid.”

I’m going to have to agree with Wolverine here, the mall on Christmas Eve is something to be avoided.

Despite all of that, Wolverine does indeed accompany Jubilee and Storm to the mall against his better judgement. We see them walking around a department store and Jubilee’s face is hidden by the amount of boxes in her arms. She’s trying to talk to both Storm and Wolverine, but can’t see, and Wolverine kindly removes the top box so she can do so. She thanks him for coming and he gives her a “Don’t mention it,” but also reiterates his desire to leave. Jubilee is pretty amped up for Christmas, but also worried she’s not doing it right as she reminds us again that she’s never had a Christmas with a family before. Storm is reassuring, and as the trio makes their way out Wolverine is accosted by a sales woman pitching cologne. She sprays it in Wolverine’s face and informs him it’s sure to make women act like animals (rather risqué for a kid’s show), but Wolverine informs her he’s about to turn into an animal before Storm intercedes.

I feel like we’re missing a conversation here: How did Jubilee convince Wolverine to go ice skating?

Storm gestures towards freedom and encourages Wolverine to make a break for it. He does looking almost feral in the process. We then shift to an outdoor scene and the crew is doing some ice skating presumably at Rockefeller Center. Storm is watching from a bench as Jubilee and Wolverine skate. Jubilee tries to get Wolverine to cheer up and encourages him to have fun, but he just tells her she wouldn’t want to know what he finds fun. He then hears some sirens and goes on alert, but since Jubilee doesn’t have a super sense of hearing she dismisses him at first until Storm hears them as well.

Ape (left) can basically turn himself or his limbs into whatever he can come up with, but often his imagination seems to be lacking.

An ambulance comes crashing onto the ice and we soon see it’s being driven by Morlocks. Ape (Ross Petty) and Annalee (Kay Tremblay) emerge from the ambulance and start taking supplies from it. Wolverine comes skating up ready for a fight and calls their actions low by their standards. He grabs Ape, who had transformed his hands into paddles that look like duck feet to carry supplies. I feel like he could have morphed them into something far more useful. Anyway, Wolverine is ready for a fight, but Storm arrives and brings a blizzard with her to conceal their actions. Annalee informs her that they’re taking supplies to help Leech, a juvenile Morlock who is apparently very sick. They didn’t know what to do as they already tried a hospital, but they couldn’t care for the mutant boy. She takes this opportunity to also remind Storm that she is the leader of the Morlocks, something established way back in season one of the show, and that she’s never around when they need her. Storm agrees to help them and she uses her powers to thwart the approaching police and to provide cover for their escape. Wolverine indicates he’s not helping sewer rats, while Jubilee is worried about her presents. Storm tells the child to leave them, but she scoops them up anyway before following.

Callisto (left) and Storm have to set aside their differences for poor Leech who is afflicted with a severe case of plot sickness.

We then see the group walking through ankle deep water in the sewer. It would seem Wolverine decided to join them after all while Jubilee is worried that they’re supposed to be home in an hour for Christmas dinner. When they arrive at Leech, Callisto (Susan Roman) is there to “welcome” them. She gives Storm a bunch of sass for not being around when they need her which gets Wolverine riled up, but Storm tells him to back off as she seemingly accepts the criticism. She does inform Callisto that they can settle their differences later, for right now Leech needs their full attention. As for the child, he’s laying on a table under a blanket apparently unconscious. Storm, citing Wolverine’s experience with field medicine, instructs him to prep the child as she wants to take him to Beast. Wolverine walks over and checks the kid’s pulse and just says, “Uh oh…”

I think this is Marianna’s only appearance in the show.

Seated against the wall, Jubilee watches with concern on her face. She soon hears something behind her and it turns out to be a small, Morlock, girl who bares a strong resemblance to Leech. Jubilee greets the little, green, girl who then emerges from the shadows to come sit with Jubilee. Meanwhile, Callisto is frustrated that Wolverine isn’t preparing Leech for transport and grabs Storm insisting she order him to do something. Storm fights back until Wolverine shouts “Shut up!” at both of them. He then delivers the bad news that Leech isn’t going anywhere. His pulse is dropping too fast and there’s no way he would survive the trip back to the mansion. This leaves Jubilee to get another sweaty Christmas special line in of, “No, he can’t! Not today! It’s Christmas Eve!” as she hugs the small girl and we pan to a tiny, Morlock, Christmas tree that basically looks like Charlie Brown’s tree, only the lone ornament is broken.

Wolverine apparently has some PTSD in his past related to trying to heal people with his own blood.

As the adults discuss what to do, it’s Jubilee who says “Please Wolverine! You’re so good at healing yourself, can’t you help Leech?” Storm seems to like this train of thought and inquires with Wolverine about a blood transfusion. He refuses, while the others persist. Storm thinks it’s because Wolverine hates the Morlocks, but he shouts back at her “Don’t you think I want to help the kid?!” He then explains he’s tried it before and it didn’t work. It was a group of 20 individuals and the last one to die was a kid younger than Leech. Still, when Storm initially asked he said “Maybe” to it working and Wolverine explains it did work once and the large group was the second time he attempted the feat. He doesn’t know why it worked once, but not again, and seems reluctant to try it here.

It turns out, Wolverine isn’t racist, he just doesn’t want to see another kid die!

Storm doesn’t really care and asks Ape if he acquired a transfusion kit from the ambulance. He just looks at her in confusion and she tells him to never mind. She finds what she’s looking for amongst the supplies and informs the others that she’ll contact the mansion to have Rogue fly Beast to them. As she does she hands the transfusion kit to Wolverine and tells him he knows what he must do. He angrily responds “You don’t know what you’re asking,” and she snaps back, “I am asking you to show the courage needed to save a child’s life!” “He wouldn’t be dyin’ if you looked after these people!” Woo! There’s some dramatic stuff right here! Wolverine’s words appear to cut Storm deep which calms her down.

The moment Ape has waited his whole life for!

Storm concedes Wolverine’s point, but then calmly tells him that even if the odds are one in a thousand, he needs to try. She tops it off with a “Ask yourself, if he were your child, would you refuse?” Wolverine just looks at the kit in his hands and the scene cuts back to Storm’s face, but it’s clearly just a single cel that they’re holding on and it looks pretty goofy. I wonder if the episode came in short and they had to find cheap ways to extend it? It cuts back to Wolverine who just silently shakes his head indicating that he wouldn’t refuse if the situation was different. Storm just says, “Good,” then tells Ape that Wolverine needs a flat surface beside Leech to lie on. You would think this is a command to get a table or something, but no. Ape walks over and turns himself into a table for Wolverine to lie one! Were they planning to eat Christmas dinner off of the guy too?

All right, I need to know more about larva guy over here. Does he do anything or does he just look like that worm that creates Slurm?

Over by the wall, the little Morlock girl asks Jubilee if Leech will be okay? Jubilee responds with a question of her own and in the process we find out the little girl’s name is Marianna (her voice is uncredited, but it’s presumably from the main cast). She asks her if she believes in miracles, but Marianna has no idea what a miracle is. Jubilee tries to sniff back some tears and holds the girl close telling her “Maybe in a little while, we’ll see.”

Good thing Cyclops is here to use his powers to make sure the stalk of celery Jean threw at Gambit didn’t connect. This is the most danger anyone on the X-Men is put into during this episode. Well, Storm and Jubilee are probably in danger of catching something walking around in a sewer.

At the snowy mansion, Jean and Gambit continue their kitchen feud. Gambit apparently did something to the ham and Jean is not happy. She demands Gambit’s removal from her kitchen and in the process refers to him as a swamp rat. Cyclops thinks they’re both acting like children, but before things can get any worse, Professor X enters to inform them of the emergency in the Morlock tunnels. Lucky for him, Rogue already ditched the holiday attire and is in her normal X-Men uniform and ready for action.

This is basically Charlie Brown’s tree, only it’s one that doesn’t magically become full and beautiful once decorated.

Back in the sewers, the transfusion has begun and the rest can only look on while Wolverine urges Leech to pull through. Marianna is still rather cheerful and asks Jubilee if Leech is better yet. She wants to show Jubilee their Christmas tree and takes her over to the pathetic, little, tree which is using a tin can as a tree stand. She’s proud of it though since Leech found it and Jubilee calls it the most beautiful tree she’s ever seen. Marianna then takes Jubilee to their Christmas feast and wants Jubilee to partake. It’s some kind of stew and probably smells awful. Marianna assures Jubilee she can have some of hers as she really wants Jubilee to share the experience. Storm them enters and Jubilee asks about Leech, but it’s too soon to tell. She then asks Storm how the Morlocks can go on having so little and she gets a little dose of Christmas wisdom. Storm tells her they have each other and that’s all they need to feel loved. She tops it off with another one, “As long as you are part of a caring family, every day is Christmas!”

Beast, I don’t think you’re using that properly.

Over by Leech, Callisto is growing impatient and Wolverine has had enough. He angrily rises from his “table” and rips the IV out of his arm defiantly shouting “I told you it wouldn’t work!” Storm tries to calm him down, but before she can Rogue and Beast arrive. Wolverine tells Beast he’s got to work fast and the blue one heads for the patient. For some reason, Leech is now fully clothed and not under a blanket and apparently the animation budget wasn’t high enough to have Beast check the kid’s vitals in a logical manner so he just starts running a stethoscope over the kid’s jacket. As he does so, he explains that Wolverine’s powers are not something that modern, medical, science understands and he doesn’t know what the end result will be.

This kid probably just thinks Jubilee cries all the time at this point.

As Callisto uselessly demands that Beast “Do something,” he continues to examine the child while Wolverine can’t bare to watch. Leech’s eyes soon flutter though, and we get a shot from his point of view as he focuses on Beast. He lets out a cry of surprise which causes Beast to laugh as he notes he doesn’t have the most reassuring of faces. This whole time, Leech has been depicted with yellow eyes and I have to assume it was an error since we see he has eyelids for his waking up shot. Or, it’s not an error and they just decided to give him eyelids for that one shot to make it more obvious that he was waking up. Jubilee is sobbing with Marianna in her arms and tells the girl that Leech is okay and she just matter-of-factly responds with “Of course he is!”

Leech is all better and seemingly over his fear of Beast. Hooray!

Storm then demands Callisto hand over the ceremonial scepter of power. She’s reluctant to, but Storm asserts her authority as leader of the Morlocks and offers no explanation. She then forces the woman to kneel before her, which she probably enjoys humiliating her one last time before announcing she’s transferring her title as leader back to Callisto. Callisto says nothing but rises and takes the scepter. Wolverine then strolls over to break the ice and asks what a guy’s gotta do to get some orange juice and a cookie around here? Leech (John Stocker), who is seated in the large arm of Beast, then announces he’s hungry too which produces a laugh out of Beast who then prescribes food for the patient. Wolverine then thanks Leech “for making it,” while Storm offers her apologies to Wolverine for not treating him with the same compassion he showed Leech, adding that she should have known better than to question his heart.

She’s just handing over a few gifts, Storm, let’s not turn this into something bigger than it really is.

Callisto announces that all X-Men are welcomed to join them for Christmas dinner, though adding they don’t have much to offer. Jubilee then announces that most of the presents she’s been dragging along contain food and offers those. Storm double-checks that she’s all right with doing so since it meant a lot to her to give these gifts out back at the mansion, but she’s totally cool with it because she learned her important, Christmas, lesson. She then encourages the kids, Leech and Marianna, to help her open them.

All right, I have some questions. Number one, which member of the X-Men was in-line to get a toy plane for Christmas?!

Jubilee then gets the customary “You have done something noble,” from Storm acknowledging her Christmas lesson, even though her act of nobility is just giving stuff away. She lives in a freakin’ mansion, for crying out loud. She gives Wolverine a hug as she says “I learned from the best,” and he gives her a reassuring pat on the back and a “You’re a good kid.” Beast then summarizes the events of today by reminding us this wasn’t the Christmas Jubilee had envisioned, but it will be a memorable one. Rogue gets to have a little chuckle here adding “So will a couple of cooks I know.”

Jean is enjoying this. I’m surprised they can’t still eat some of the dinner since there’s still 4 of them there, but Jean probably refuses and I’m guessing Cyclops is in the doghouse if he partakes in Gambit’s meal. Xavier is wise to stay out of it as well.

We cut back to the mansion where Jean has seemingly ceded control of the kitchen to Gambit who has prepared what he feels is a flawless Christmas dinner. Word comes down that the others are having Christmas dinner with the Morlocks, and Gambit does not take the news well that the whole crew won’t be getting together for Christmas dinner. Jean gets to suggest that they can heat it up tomorrow which just irritates the cook further. Gambit retorts in the third person with “Gambit does not make TV dinners!”

Oh no! He’s melting!

By the fire, we see Xavier taking a phone call from Jubilee who is concerned that he’d feel hurt that they’re not spending Christmas together. Xavier assures her that’s not the case, and while their presence will be missed, he’s proud of their actions today. He even refers to her action as a “generous sacrifice,” which seems to be quite the exaggeration here! He tacks on a whole thing about how she’s giving him the best gift of all by acting like a true X-Man in recognizing that she is where she’s needed most. We pan outside the mansion to the giant tree out front where the camera holds and the message “Merry Christmas from all the X-Men” appears to announce that this one is over.

Wolverine wished me a merry Christmas, you guys!

In the intro, I mentioned how out of place it felt for a show like X-Men to do a Christmas special. Now that it’s over, I don’t feel any different, but I do have to commend the show for just going for it. It’s a very dramatic show with a lot of heavy-handed line readings and this episode is no different. Except that this one gets to play with the overly dramatic Christmas special motif we’ve seen in other shows. It almost feels like an episode of Full House as a result, only with mutants, and it takes place mostly in a sewer. It has all of the usual holiday staples though in that we have a character excited for Christmas and the pageantry that accompanies it. Jubilee isn’t portrayed as a selfish child, but she is consumed by the act of Christmas and not its message, but it comes from a healthy place as she reminds us more than once she’s never really had a traditional, Christmas, experience. And she’s forced to adjust on the fly to her first Christmas with a family changing its setting, and even some of its participants.

Wolverine’s heart grew three sizes that day…

We also get the tried and true “some kid is sick at Christmas and needs a Christmas miracle to survive” via the Leech plot. Wolverine, who naturally functions as a Christmas antagonist of sorts, is brought into the story that way and it makes sense that the show would want to involve its most popular character in the plot. It finds a role for him, and we get the added drama of Wolverine being sort of racist against the Morlocks, but forced to save one. That angle isn’t really played up though. Wolverine just assumes the worst of the group, and he’s not entirely unjustified in doing so based on their prior interactions, and also gets in some cheap insults before they come upon Leech. It’s enough for Storm to assume the worst though and adds to the drama. Her and Wolverine’s argument is definitely the height of the special as far as the drama is concerned and the line readings from Sealy-Smith and Dodd are very much over-the-top, but in an earnest way.

Fans of the show probably weren’t asking to spend Christmas with the Morlocks, but the fact that they’re a poor family does lend itself well to a Christmas story.

And then, of course, we get the comedic B plot at the mansion involving Jean and Gambit. I feel like we actually could have used one more scene between the two as clearly Jean just gave up on preparing her idea of Christmas dinner at some point to let Gambit go full steam ahead with his oyster loaf and other foods. It’s fine and we actually get to see a different side of Jean in these scenes, who is normally rather buttoned-up and, frankly, boring. It also allows the whole team to get some presence in this one which is probably an important thing since Christmas is traditionally about family and it’s not like the show was planning on ever doing another Christmas episode.

At least we get to see how the X-Men decorate for Christmas. And they certainly go big.

As an episode of X-Men, this one is a bit of a failure. It’s plot feels out of place and the corny Christmas lines stand out far too much. It also doesn’t get to redeem itself with any special production values. The Christmas décor looks fine, and some of the characters are in outfits we’re not accustomed to seeing, but that’s about it. As a Christmas special though, it’s not that bad. Admittedly, there’s a ton of terrible Christmas specials out there so the bar isn’t exactly high. The messaging in this one is fairly simple and it really doesn’t beat you over the head with it since it’s largely contained to the show’s final minute. Xavier lays it on a bit thick right before the credits roll, but that’s hardly unusual for a Christmas special. It gets bonus points for having actual stakes, and while Leech is basically afflicted with “plot sickness,” the miraculous capabilities of Wolverine’s healing powers mean he could have legitimately been sick with something awful and Wolverine’s powers are just that good. There’s no Santa or anything like that, but it does have a human mutant story at its heart so that helps give it a solid foundation. Plus, it features the X-Men and you don’t get that too often in a Christmas story.

“Have Yourself a Morlock Little Christmas” gets a tepid recommendation from me. I suppose you have to be a fan of X-Men to get the most out of it, but at the same time, hardcore fans are possibly more likely to have a strong negative reaction to this one since it feels a bit silly to see the characters in this setting. This one is basically searching for the overlap on the Venn diagram of X-Men fans and fans of corny Christmas fair. At the end of the day, it’s only 23 minutes so you’re not sacrificing much to give it a look. And it’s fairly easy to find since the whole show is streaming on Disney+. It’s also available on DVD if physical media is still your thing. At worst, maybe you’ll be inspired to try some new dishes at your own Christmas dinner?

Can’t wait until tomorrow for more Christmas? Check out what we had to say on this day last year and beyond:

Dec. 18 – The Legend of Prince Valiant – “Peace on Earth”

The early 90s saw an influx of cartoons produced solely with the intent to sell to cable networks. Previously, most cartoons were packaged from film or created for broadcast networks which would get the first run on major network affiliates and then gradually migrate to smaller stations. With cable becoming more affordable, it was fast…

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

After doing write-ups for the two cartoons inspired by Jim Carrey films from 1994, you must have figured I’d do the third today! Just as Carrey stormed the cinematic gates with Ace Ventura: Pet Detective, The Mask, and Dumb and Dumber in ’94, the television world followed suit in ’95 with an animated series based…

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Dec. 18 – Little Dracula – “The Bite Before Christmas”

There was a huge demand for cartoons in the early 90s. Cable was expanding and needed content for all ages while a new broadcast network was also making noise. That network was Fox, and after scoring primetime hits with Married…with Children and The Simpsons, the network started to look at other areas where it could…

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Dec. 17 – Peace on Earth (1939)

Original release date December 9, 1939.

Hugh Harman was one of the early stars in the field of animation. In fact, we talked about one of his shorts already this year, but perhaps his most famous and most celebrated is the 1939 anti-war film Peace on Earth. According to Harman, the short subject was nominated for The Nobel Peace Prize, but no such record exists of that officially happening. Perhaps it was merely in the conversation and Harman was mistaken or the record of its nomination was simply lost to time. Either way, it’s often a distinction tacked on to any conversation about the short, but in truth, it doesn’t need such accolades to justify its relevance as the short carries a very simple, relatable, and irrefutable message.

The cartoon centers around the lyric and Bible verse “Peace on Earth / Good will to men,” or as stated by Luke “on Earth, peace, good will toward men.” It came during a time when the world was moving towards another global conflict that would eventually be labeled World War II with many people alive still able to remember the first World War. It’s understandable why there would be a lot of uneasiness at that time, and Harman seemed to think that Christmas would be the appropriate backdrop for this anti-war piece. It was released by MGM in December of 1939 and would receive an Academy Award nomination, though it lost to Disney’s The Ugly Duckling. It’s certainly a bit heavy-handed, so maybe that explains why it wasn’t embraced more in the moment, but it came to be relegated as one of the best short subjects that takes place during Christmas. In my youth, Cartoon Network could be guaranteed to show it every Christmas Eve, usually late at night and possibly right around midnight, and that’s where I saw it most. Laying in my bed, unable to sleep due to the excitement to follow the next day, watching as many Christmas cartoons as I could find on television.

Not many Christmas cartoons begin with a look at a church in ruin.

The short opens with an animated title card. “Peace on Earth” is in an elegant font while shadowy men run by and a church appears to burn in the background. The camera pans across weapons of war all covered with snow and the ruins of an old church, possibly the burned out one from before. A choir can be heard singing an original composition, sort of. It’s “Hark! The Herald Angels Sing,” but the words have been adjusted to really emphasize the “peace on Earth” portion of the song. At least I think it’s original as the old audio and the fact that it’s sung by a choir can make it hard to decipher the lyrics. There are other songs out there called “Peace on Earth” that may or may not be the same or similar. Either way, it sounds lovely enough.

Sing it, boys! That’s the good stuff!

It’s a snowy, nighttime, setting and an old, gray, squirrel (Mel Blanc) is walking through town. The song is originating from a trio of carolers that appear to be red squirrels or chipmunks. They’re anthropomorphized and wearing clothes while the buildings appear to be made out of human items so they’re not giant animals like Mickey Mouse or even Bugs Bunny. The old squirrel walks with a cane, but he’s got a big smile on his face as he sings along really emphasizing the whole “Peace on Earth, good will to men,” part. He encourages the carolers in their singing and when he reaches a small house with a wreath on the door he pauses to remark how it’s a wonderful world! He sure is in high spirits.

I want to call this a cozy, Christmas, setting, but there’s really nothing Christmassy in the shot.

In a small house, a mother squirrel knits while two smaller squirrels sleep in a cradle. One is in blue pajamas and the other pink so I’m guessing they’re brother and sister assuming animals abide by the gender norms of the era. The old squirrel bursts in singing his song and the two little ones wake up instantly shouting “Grandpa!” It would appear grandpa here mated with a red squirrel at some point if the mother is his daughter. We don’t know, as she will only have one line. I have to give her credit for not getting ticked off with the old guy for waking the children.

Uh oh, it’s grandpa and he’s ready to party!

The kids and their grandfather exchange “Merry Christmas,” and all that. There’s apparently no material component to animal Christmas as the grandfather has not come baring gifts or anything, they’re just happy to see him as they jump into his arms. He waddles over to an arm chair the mother vacated for him, but she failed to remove her ball of yarn and crocheting tools and the poor guy sits on them. He pops up immediately and for a moment appears ready to lose his cool, but he just tosses the yarn aside and sits down. That little gag is basically the only physical comedy we’re going to get in this one.

Settle in kids, it’s time to talk about the apocalypse.

The whole time the grandpa squirrel has been walking around he’s been continuing the song and also just muttering to himself the “good will to men,” line. One of the children then asks their grandfather what the line means. It would seem there are no more men so the kids have no reference point for them. Well, this just means we’re going to have to have a bit of story time as old grampy squirrel tells the kids about who man was and why he’s no longer around.

It’s easy to see why they’d fear us.

How does a squirrel describe men to those who never saw them? Well, as monsters! He rises from the chair to demonstrate and all we see are the shadows of the characters on the wall, but they soon fade and are replaced with images of men. He describes them as great, big, monsters with iron pots on their heads that walked on two legs that carried terrible looking shooting irons. The image we see is of a soldier wearing a helmet and gas mask carrying a rifle. The uniform is brown and likely deliberately nondescript so as not to put the blame on what’s to follow on any one group of people, but all people.

A banner Bugs Bunny would support.

The grandfather continues to describe the man we’re looking at and mistakes the hose on the gas mask for man’s nose. As he describes them, we cut back to the little home and the two kid squirrels are a little scared. One of them expresses relief that all of them are gone and the other agrees. The grandfather then goes on to say he couldn’t figure them out and describes them as always fighting. When one argument was settled, another came up. This whole time we’re watching tanks and artillery getting moved into position and the grandfather describes the escalating hostility as so silly that vegetarians began waging war against meat eaters. We see that displayed via banners of war, another rare instance of legitimate humor in this one.

Now he’s getting into it!

He then goes on to say that one day they got into a terrible fight. Now we’re seeing those weapons of war being used, and the burning church from the intro is back as men run past it. Artillery weapons are firing, planes are dropping bombs, and soldiers are banging away. The grandfather is shown acting things out by swinging his hat and cane around in the living room and banging on a pot. He describes hearing a whistling sound, which we then cut back to the scenes of war and recognize them as bombs. The music has been steadily rising in intensity as well. There’s explosions, soldiers firing machine guns, troops running around and that same background of the flaming church shows up again. The sequence ends with soldiers at a stationary machine gun and fades to show the grandpa mimicking them using his cane as the gun and rattling it over some logs. He’s wearing the pot on his head.

The death of the last man.

The children then ask what happened next and the grandfather confirms it was terrible. Just two men were left. We see one soldier aiming from inside a trench and another waist deep in a swamp. A gun shot rings out and the soldier recoils, but before he falls he’s able to squeeze off a round of his own presumably hitting the other. The swampy soldier then sinks to his demise.

The world belongs to them now.

Among the tattered trees and desolation, the woodland critters poke their heads out. As they begin to explore the now man-less world, a mournful instrumental of the main theme plays. They soon flock to a blown out church and a younger version of the grandfather squirrel approaches a wise owl looking over a book. It’s a version of the Bible, likely the old testament, and when the squirrel asks what it says he reads aloud the commandment before him, “Thou shalt not kill.” He then flips through the pages and remarks that it seems like a collection of mighty good rules, but man chose to ignore them. He comes to rest on a page that reads, “Ye shall rebuild the old wastes.”

All right, we get it!

Upon hearing that, the other animals (which are basically all small mammals and a few birds) declare that’s what they’ll do. They’ll rebuild! They start picking up the wreckage left behind, mostly old helmets from fallen soldiers, and start building around them. The music picks up and the scene shifts to a brightly lit setting. The animals are now wearing clothes and utilizing tools to build their new society from the ashes of war. If you didn’t get the message of this short, the name of the town will drive that point home for you: Peaceville.

They fell asleep once they got past all of the killing.

The camera pans over the animals building and it transitions to a shot of the town in the present day. The choir comes back in singing “Peace on Earth” and the camera pans across the town until it comes to rest on the little house where the story is being told from. The carolers then shift to “Silent Night” and the grandpa is shown sitting in the armchair with his grandkids in his arms fast asleep. He’s finishing his story, but before he can actually finish the line “Good will to men,” the mother “shushes” him. He smiles and puts the kids back in the cradle then he hobbles his way towards the door grabbing his hat along the way and reciting over and over to himself “Peace on earth.” He leaves, though without his cane, and the camera pans back over to the mother squirrel who finally gets a line, “Sleep in heavenly peace.” The image fades to one of clouds with the words “Peace on Earth” in the center of the screen. It fades out and we see the clouds with beams of light passing through them.

The mother finally gets to do something just before the thing ends.

That’s how Peace on Earth concludes its message. It’s a nakedly obvious message, but one that really can’t be refuted. The Harman directed short is able to sidestep most politics of the day by not depicting any one army and puts the failure of war squarely on all of mankind. The mood is sort of hopeful as we see the animals come together to build their own society, but at the same time it feels pessimistic since, you know, all of mankind had to die in order for peace to be achieved. It gives the short a time capsule feel as this was likely the mood of many a person as the world was on the verge of all-out war once again. The short also offers a solution in the form of the Bible, or church, which feels a bit dated now since it seems all of the worst people are backed by evangelicals in the United States, at least. The messages are still there, but few seem interested in following the basic tenants.

There certainly are some cutesy looking animals in this one.

It’s a nice sentiment that’s baked into this one, but it’s also pretty on-the-nose. It feels like “Oscar bait,” but at least that’s reflected in the budget. The animation on this one is Disney level. I am having a hard time thinking of many non-Disney shorts that look this good. Maybe some of the early Tom and Jerry stuff or the Chuck Jones early works that were deliberately trying to imitate Disney. The characters all have that round, soft, look to them which makes them pleasant to look at while the men are done in a realistic style. Some of their movements may be rotoscoped, but it’s hard to know for certain. The backgrounds are highly detailed, though they are a bit few. Especially in the scenes of war as many are recycled and they got a lot of a mileage out of that burning church background. I suppose it’s fine though since they look good and there are only so many ways to portray a darkened, war-torn, setting in an 8 minute short. The quality of the score also matches the production quality of the images as it’s very cinematic and often intense.

The short gets a lot of mileage out of this background, but at least it’s a good one.

I don’t know if Peace on Earth is worthy of being considered for a Nobel Peace Prize, but it is a good cartoon. It does straddle the line as far as taste goes so I can see it being too much for some who might respond in a cynical fashion. And I can also see plenty of folks finding it profound. For me, my response is more in the middle. It’s a sweet little cartoon and I enjoy the visuals, but it could use some subtlety as well. As a kid, there was a shocking element to the short for me the first time I saw it when it just tosses out that mankind is gone. As an adult, it’s less shocking and on my darker days almost seems likely. As a Christmas cartoon, I think it appeals more to the devout since the religious aspect of the holiday is pretty front and center without actually mentioning Jesus. The modern trappings of Christmas aren’t present, and that’s fine. We don’t need Santa in everything.

That’s the goal. It sure would be nice to live to see it.

If you want to check out Peace on Earth, MeTV will probably air it either on the show Toon in With Me or as part of its Tom and Jerry Saturday morning block. Considering today is a Saturday, it might air this morning or next Saturday. If you can’t catch an airing of it though, it has been preserved on the Internet Archive and can be streamed there as well as in other places. It’s not hard to find and these 8 minute shorts don’t even need to be as good as Peace on Earth to make them worth watching at this time of year.

Can’t wait until tomorrow for more Christmas? Check out what we had to say on this day last year and beyond:

Dec. 17 – Popeye the Sailor – “Spinach Greetings”

One of the big, early, cartoon stars was Popeye the Sailor. Popeye starred in newspaper strips, radio plays, and theatrical shorts with contemporaries like Mickey Mouse and Bugs Bunny. His star has faded over the years, but few would deny Popeye’s place among the greatest cartoon stars of all-time. Come the 1960s though, Popeye and…

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Dec. 17 – The Mask – “Santa Mask”

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

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Dec. 17 – Family Guy – “Don’t Be a Dickens at Christmas”

So it’s come to this. We’re doing Family Guy. I don’t mean to come across as a snob or some animation elitist (after all, we already did Robot Chicken), but I don’t care for most of Family Guy. That wasn’t always the case. When the show originally aired on Fox I actually liked it quite…

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Dec. 16 – A Very Solar Holiday Opposites Special

Original release date November 22, 2021

Yesterday, we talked about South Park and its very first holiday special from the late 90s and today we’re talking about the Trey Parker/Matt Stone of the 2010s – Justin Roiland. Roiland was able to hook-up with Dan Harmon in the mid-2000s which put him on the path to comedy writer and actor, usually of the more crass nature. His break-out came with the Adult Swim program and prior Christmas Spot feature Rick and Morty which is basically the South Park of today. It pushes the envelope, it’s very creator-driven, and like Parker, Roiland handles a large chunk of the voice cast.

Likely due to the success of Rick and Morty, Roiland found himself being courted by Fox to produce an animated sitcom for their network. That basically fell through when Fox decided to get out of content creation with the Disney sale, but in the interim Hulu came in to throw money Roiland’s way. The end result was Solar Opposites, a very Rick and Morty styled show that Roiland developed alongside former Rick and Morty showrunner Mike McMahan. There’s the thought that Harmon is the stabilizing force on Rick and Morty that keeps Roiland in check when he really wants to go off the rails, so the main draw of Solar Opposites for me when it was announced was to see just where Roiland would go without Harmon.

The answer is not as far as you may have thought. Solar Opposites is a fine show, but definitely a less focused one when compared with Rick and Morty. It works in the streaming model as it’s the type of show I’ve found I can just toss on when I’m not really feeling like investing in anything I’m overly attached to. The characters are designed to be fairly unlikable and the plots can be a bit nonsensical so there’s no requirement to pay much attention to the show’s continuity. There is a show within the show that takes itself more seriously and it does become more of a focus in the more recent seasons, but even that is pretty easy to jump into. It’s funny, but also absurd, and the sci-fi elements are still very much a huge presence in the program.

The aliens: (left to right) Korvo (holding Pupa), Terry, Yumyulak, Jesse

Solar Opposites is about a family of aliens that had to flee their own world. Korvo (Roiland) is the leader and the only one who seems to place any sort of value on their mission to terraform Earth so their species may rise again. He despises Earth and basically everything on it. Or at least he claims to, but there seems to be plenty here he does enjoy. Terry (Thomas Middleditch) is Korvo’s evacuation partner and is sometimes portrayed as a mate. Unlike Korvo, he seems to like Earth culture and enjoys indulging in it and all of its pop. He’s also the designated pupa specialist as each evacuation group from their home world was issued a pupa (Sagan McMahan) which will one day grow to gargantuan proportions and terraform the Earth, basically destroying all sentient life in the process. They are joined by their individual replicants, Yumyulak (Sean Giambrone) and Jesse (Mary Mack) who are forced to live as Earth teenagers. It is them who shrink and capture random humans to toss into a terrarium where the show’s “Show within a show” takes place.

In between the second and third seasons of the show a Christmas special was released. Titled “A Very Solar Holiday Opposites Special,” it basically takes these fish out of water characters and just tosses all manner of Christmas at them. We’re going to get a lot of subversion of Christmas tropes, numerous references to more famous specials, and we’ll likely finish with something that’s not exactly heartwarming and Christmassy.

These aliens know how to decorate.

The special begins with the Solar Opposites house looking very, very, festive. Korvo is inside jumping around with a pair of handguns blasting the Christmas tree. The guns he is firing are apparently Christmas guns, or something, because when they strike the tree they just make ornaments appear. Terry then enters carrying a Santa statue sporting a Santa for President t-shirt and both talk about how much they fucking love Christmas. Yes, since this is for streaming there is a ton of casual swearing. Korvo reminisces about an annual festival on their home world that involved hunting the elderly and looks back on it with nostalgia. Terry just seems to love the kitsch aspect of Christmas as he demonstrates the Santa statue he’s carrying is a novelty hot cocoa dispenser. I bet you can guess where the chocolate comes out.

Everyone is down with Christmas except for the Pupa.

Yumyulak, Jesse, and the Pupa enter and they’re excited for Christmas as well. Yumyulak loves that they get to kill a tree and decorate its corpse while Jesse states she loves getting gifts and then returning them for store credit. They all then gang up on the Pupa as it apparently dislikes Christmas. We have to trust the others on this because it does nothing to demonstrate its dislike for Christmas. It just maintains a neutral face while the rest hurl insults at it until it’s had enough and leaves through the window. Terry demands it not return until its found the Christmas spirit. Meanwhile, Yumyulak seems ready to fuck the tree which I guess would make him a necrophiliac by his own definition? Jesse produces a tray of candy cane Hot Pockets which they all seem to enjoy and Terry lets us know we’re about to experience the Solar Opposites Christmas special! Woo!

Even their origin story is getting the holiday treatment.

We then get a festive rendition of the opening credits. Basically every character is wearing a Christmas outfit and the home world of the aliens is shown being destroyed by Santa instead of an asteroid. I approve. When the credits end, we see what the Pupa is up to: church. It would seem the Pupa is the only one that cares about the secular aspect of Christmas as it attends mass and does so without irony. After a brief sermon by the pastor (Troy Baker), the Pupa goes over to a man who is sobbing in the pews. He confesses to the Pupa (basically none of the humans on the show bat an eye at the aliens, they just accept them as a thing that exists) that he made a mistake by kicking his son out of the house because he confessed he’s a little bit bisexual. The pupa comforts the man and looks up at a large sculpture of Jesus and seems to smile at it.

The Solar Opposites are about to experience Jingle All the Way, a Christmas movie without Will Ferrell elves or leg lamps.

Terry is ready to commence a festive tradition of watching a Christmas movie. And today’s feature: a VHS copy of Jingle All the Way. They’ve never seen it, but Terry boasts about the recommendation it received from the Christian Science Monitor. Korvo chimes in and asks the group if they want to watch Jingle All the Way, or truly live it? He then leads them to the lab where he asks if they remember seeing Ready Player One. No one seems to, but Korvo explains a part of the movie gave him an idea when a character went into The Shining, or something. I’ve never seen it. Yumyulak uses this as an opportunity to likely channel one of the writers on this episode by seeming unimpressed that the movie put a better movie into it to try and seem good. Korvo explains he made the same device though and calls it The Ready Player One Device and receives shit from Jesse for his unoriginal names to which he responds, “Tough ta-tas.”

This isn’t the most exciting movie to enter.

Korvo activates the device and they’re all magically transported into Jingle All the Way complete with a festive, snowy, wipe effect. All four characters find themselves in a home and all are dressed the same. Yumyulak is not impressed to just move from one suburban house to another and when they question their attire Korvo informs them that the device is only able to replace one character in the film so they’ll all be playing Arnold Schwarzenegger’s character. A kid (uncredited) then runs up to them to inform their dads that what they want for Christmas is a Turbo Man action figure. Terry finds this request ridiculous since it’s so close to Christmas and the product is sold out and says as much to the boy, but he reacts as if Terry agreed to purchase the doll. He runs off and the Opposites are left to assume the kid’s father promised to get the toy and they all find this absurd. The screen then goes black and Terry freaks out as he thinks he’s having a stroke, but Korvo just lets him know they’re being transported to the next scene.

Watch out, Jesse! It’s Sinbad!

And that next scene finds them all outside a store. The Sinbad character (Gary Anthony Williams) comes barging through them and Terry remarks that his presence cannot be a good sign for the quality of this movie. Korvo just gets pissed at the lack of holiday décor around them and the absence of snow. Terry apologizes for taking the advice of the Christian Science Monitor while Jesse suggests they bail. Yumyulak is the only one who seems slightly invested in the film’s plot, but he doesn’t protest when Korvo whips out his device to eject them from the film. Back at the house, Korvo suggests they all split up and do something festive to get the horrible taste of Jingle All the Way out of their mouths. Terry calls dibs on calling Santa, while the other three disperse.

Too late for a Game of Thrones joke? Or, is the joke that a mall Santa is precisely the kind of place where you would see a too late Game of Thrones joke?!

At a nearby soup kitchen, Pupa is ladling out food to the less fortunate while holding up a picture of a lost boy. One of the individuals says “Hey, isn’t that Everett, the little bit bi kid,” which is amusing that everyone just knows him as the little bit bi kid. He’s been working at the bus station so Pupa smiles and takes off to go scope it out. At the mall, Jesse is shown emerging from a store with a pile of gifts and bags under her eyes. She seems worn out, as does Korvo, who is waiting to see Santa. They go to meet Santa, who’s seated on a Game of Thrones styled chair made of dangerous looking candy canes. The two get their picture taken, but look depressed in it. At the house, Yumyulak is taunting the tree with a pitcher of water, but this little game he’s playing doesn’t seem to thrill him like it used to. On the couch, Terry is in actual tears on the phone while the Santa on the other end suggests he deposit another 50 bucks to talk about it. He hangs up and wails “Who even cares?” as the Christmas spirit has been sapped from the Opposites!

The spirit is no longer willing.

Jesse is at the house too and is cutting herself wondering why she doesn’t feel right. Korvo is also perplexed while Yumyulak doesn’t understand why torturing the sexy, dead, tree is failing to make him hard. Jesse asks if anyone wants to go get hit by a bus with her and Terry absolutely does. Korvo figures out the problem though and takes the group back to his lab. He uses an X-Ray device which reveals their hearts are too small. Jingle All the Way sucked so hard that it depleted their Christmas spirit and it must be fixed. Yumyulak suggests drinking the blood of someone full of cheer, but Korvo has a better idea. He suggests they use The Ready Player One Device to go into other, better, Christmas movies to regain their Christmas spirit! The others are onboard as Korvo holds up a VHS of “It Be A Wunderful Life” and tells us, the viewer, to suck his ass because the Solar Opposites are going into all of our favorite Christmas movies!

Yes, it’s that kind of show.

Mariah Carey’s “All I Want For Christmas is You” comes on as Korvo inserts his tape into the device. They’re all shown playing the role of George Bailey during the bridge scene from It’s a Wonderful Life. All just repeat the line that they want to live, except Yumyulak who says he wants a limited edition Animal Crossing Nintendo Switch and to live again. We then see Korvo’s next tape, “Rodolfo the Rogue Nose Deer.” All four are in Rudolph costumes and Korvo declares “Nobody likes our stupid, fucking, noses,” while Jesse adds “Being different sucks.” Clarice (Kari Wahlgren) is there though to reassure the group that she likes their nose, and their musk, then whispers to Terry-Rudolph that she’s at the height of her cycle. He says he can tell and begins to fuck her. As he thrusts, the nose on his costume blinks. The other three just watch and smile. It’s wholesome.

Hard to top a pickup line like that.

Our next tape is “luvindeed,” which I think is a romantic comedy parody of Love Actually which is a movie I’ve never seen. A woman answers her door to find the crew all standing with signs for her. Korvo’s says, “Shut the fuck up,” Terry’s reads “Pobodie’s nerfect,” Jesse’s is “Merry Christmas, please cheat on your husband with me,” and lastly we have Yumyulak who is going with “Epstein didn’t kill himself.” The woman seems touched as she has tears in her eyes. The Opposites then whisk back into the lab and Jesse demands Korvo check their spirit levels. They all still look exhausted and worn out, so it’s no surprise the trip through the other films didn’t work as intended.

In order to save Christmas, the Solar Opposites must Jingle ALL the way!

Korvo can only reason that by not finishing Jingle All the Way they ruined their Christmas spirit. Terry really doesn’t want to go back and points out that the film had no stakes. He adds Kindergarten Cop is a way better Arnold movie because you actually care if the kid lives or dies. I have to agree. Jesse confesses she’s feeling some regret about not being a better father while Korvo insists they have no choice. They can’t just jingle some of the way, they have to jingle all the way! He rummages through a box of tapes and asks the others if they remembered what happened to them on Veteran’s Day? Apparently they all lost their Veteran’s Day spirit and now they don’t support the troops. He finds the VHS of Jingle All the Way and insists they have to go back to the Jingle-verse and finish it if they want to save their Christmas spirit!

Before Christmas can be saved, we must check-in on the Pupa.

We check-in with Pupa who is at the bus station in search of Everett. The guy working there tells him he just left on the 7:36 bus to Vegas where he feels he can be a little of whatever it is he is. We then cut to the bus being driven through the falling snow and Pupa smashes into the windshield causing the driver to scream, then stop, to let Pupa on. Pupa finds Everett who tells him “You don’t want to sit next to me, nobody does.” Pupa then holds up the picture of Everett with his parents and he looks at it like he’s about to cry. It cuts to Pupa smiling, then cuts to the two of them standing on the side of the road watching the bus drive away. They begin walking, presumably to Everett’s home.

Something looks…different.

We then return to the Jingle-verse, only now the title of Jingle All the Way is in a destroyed font. The setting looks like a post apocalyptic war zone which confuses the Opposites as they resume their role in the movie. Korvo checks his device and discovers that time moves faster in the Jingle-verse because 80 years have passed since they left. Terry suggests it might not be all bad since he spots Santa peeking over a fence at them, but when they investigate they find it’s just a bunch of Santa heads on pikes in someone’s lawn.

It’s all starting to make sense.

The group walks the ruined streets in search of some way to advance the plot. Terry is repulsed by a guy taking a shit in the road, and then suddenly that same guy is attacked by a pack of miniature, monstrous, Sinbads. They appear to be eating him and when one hisses at Korvo he tells it to go fuck itself. A one-eyed man emerges from a nearby building and asks what the hell they’re doing out there. He tells them to get inside and they do as suggested. Once there, they ask what those things were and he says they’re mutant Sinbads which roam the streets in search of Turbo Man dolls. They asks why the Christmas presence is gone from this movie and the man explains it’s been like this since Jamie took over. Hearing their “son’s” name, Korvo presses the man and finds out that when Jamie didn’t get his Turbo Man doll they promised him and was subsequently abandoned by his father, he rebelled against Christmas. The events are all covered in his book Christmas is a Lie and on the cover Jamie is depicted as an obvious parody of Donald Trump made even more obvious by the words “Sequel to The Art of the Deal.”

If you’re to get murdered and consumed by cannibals might as well have it be Christmas cannibals.

The one-eyed man continues explaining this current predicament and references a wintertime parade that Jamie forces everyone to participate in at 11:45 PM on Christmas Eve. The others are surprised at how much backstory this guy is able to cram into this moment and Jesse just points out that shallow characters are a staple of the Jingle-verse. The man basically confirms as much, but then also adds that he’s stalling for time so his buddies can kill them and help him prepare their bodies for a feast! He calls them out and shouts “We have the meats!” which causes Korvo to ask if they have Arby’s in the Jingle-verse. The guy just responds with “What the fuck is Arby’s? That’s just what I say,” as his “reavers” emerge to attack the Opposites. Their attire is basically Mad Max meets Christmas, but before they can attack a bunch of them start getting shot. The shooter is Jesse who reveals she stole George Bailey’s gun when they were in It’s A Wonderful Life. It’s depicted as a grayscale revolver with a static effect on it which is pretty neat. Korvo confiscates the weapon on account of Jesse likely shooting her eye out if she’s allowed to hold it. He then says they have to find a Turbo Man doll and gift it to Jamie if they want to end this so the four begin searching. As they leave the building, Terry notes that Bailey didn’t display a gun, but Jesse tells him everyone carried back then including Shirley Temple who hid hers up her “hoo-ha,” “That’s what the song “Lollipop” is all about.”

I feel like he’s seen grosser stuff than this.

A nearby clock chimes indicating it’s now 2. Korvo instructs them all to meet back at this spot and reminds them to spread Christmas cheer wherever they go. While he does so, he casually snaps the necks of attacking Sinbad mutants. Mariah returns as we get a mini montage of the Opposites searching for Turbo Man dolls. Jesse is at a decrepit looking toy store, but is soon attacked by zombies and is forced to flee while shouting, “Ho ho ho!” Terry is at an elementary school when more reavers attack him. As he runs for his life he chooses to shout, “Snowflakes! Sugar plums! Shitty orange chocolate!” Korvo is in the bedroom of a long dead individual who might be clutching a Turbo Man? Hard to tell since it’s off model, but that could be done for licensing reasons. As he tries to pry the toy from the corpse, he’s clearly fighting back the urge to vomit, but eventually fails and throws up all over the corpse and the toy.

Pupa’s Hallmark Christmas movie appears to be headed for a happy ending.

We’re then back at the church from earlier as Pupa leads Everett inside. Everett is reluctant for he feels no one in there wants him to be there, but his dad stands up and runs to him. Everett is confused because he thought his dad didn’t want him around anymore since he confessed he’s a little bit bi. The dad apologizes for being wrong and then adds that Anna Paquin is a little bit bi and she’s an integral part of the X-Men! Everett smiles because his dad saying that indicates he read his Livejournal. As father and son embrace, the Jesus on the crucifix opens its eyes to look at the two. Pupa looks up at it, winks, and the statue winks back. It’s a Christmas miracle!

Meanwhile, the very un-Hallmark plot is heading for a bloody thrilling conclusion!

Inside what remains of Jingle All the Way, the Opposites have regrouped only to confirm none have found a Turbo Man doll. It’s proposed that the group just “sci-fi” themselves out of this mess by making a Turbo Man doll, but Korvo says he already tried that and his 3D printer won’t break copyright laws unless they’re in Guam. Yumyulak is ready to throw in the towel and let the Sinbads eat him while Terry just wishes he never picked Jingle All the Way and instead picked a better Christmas movie like Die Hard, Gremlins, or Piranha 3D. Korvo tells him to shut the fuck up and says they’d still be in this mess then starts off a debate whether or not those are even Christmas movies. Terry defines a Christmas movie as any movie that takes place on Christmas, then concedes Piranha 3D has nothing to do with the holiday. Jesse sees this definition as an answer to their problem because it’s Christmas now. All they have to do is wrap up a plot on Christmas and their movie is over. Korvo agrees and declares they need to find Jamie and apologize for something they did 80 years ago to save Christmas. He cocks the shotgun he apparently found for added emphasis.

Okay, I think we’re done here.

We then switch to a small, warm, home. It’s Everett’s house, and his father is leading a toast before their family. Pupa is there to witness the dad declare that he was wrong to kick Everett out and that everyone should be free to be who they are as that’s what Christ would want. When Everett thanks his dad, he tells him to thank Pupa instead. He turns to Pupa and asks if there’s any way he can reward him for all that he’s done. Pupa whispers into the dad’s ear and he seems surprised at the request. The only clue we receive about what Pupa asked for is the dad replying “And it’s just locked up in a child proof cabinet?”

They’re willing to go to great lengths to save Christmas.

Back in the movie, the Opposites have nailed down where Jamie is hiding – in the penthouse of a giant building. Terry is proud of their son’s success, but before anyone can tell him he’s an idiot the parade marches by. Jesse points out that means it’s 11:45 and they only have 15 minutes to save Christmas! Korvo declares he’s about to go on the naughty list as he grabs a severed Santa head. The rest do the same and they jump into the parade with corpse heads over their own doing the same karate chop motion other Santas are using in the parade. The one-eyed man is marching behind them though and immediately recognizes them. He rallies his remaining reavers this time with “Where’s the beef?” which just further annoys Korvo since he has to know it’s an old Wendy’s slogan.

This is where Jesse basically takes over.

The Opposites are able to ditch the cannibals and Yumyulak tries to assess the defenses of the penthouse. He wears some special goggles to identify the security, plus one guy who is jerking off in a bathroom. By Yumyulak’s words, he’s really going to town as he’s also fingering his butthole. Korvo is distressed at this reveal as men who jerk off are always stronger afterwards. Terry is freaking out, but Jesse breaks the tension by casually smoking a cigarette and producing a pair of knives. She confidently says they have plenty of time to finish this and Korvo agrees. He and Yumyulak just magic up some weapons like Jesse did with the knives, but Terry just smiles and holds up his fists. When Korvo questions his lack of weapons, he says he’s been learning a martial arts kill punch technique as a Christmas present for Korvo. Korvo is overcome with emotion and the two share a sweet kiss before embarking on their journey.

This is probably the image with the least amount of blood I could have taken from this sequence.

We then get a montage of the Opposites going on a rampage. It begins with Jesse entering the building looking innocent. A security guard smiles at her, but then she pulls out her knives and stabs him in the eyes. They head up the elevator where they’re forced to take out security guards, followed by a floor full of Santas, and then a bunch of the Sinbad mutants. As they move through each floor, they acquire more and more blood splatters on their clothing. Terry gets to demonstrate his kill punches, and there’s a cool silhouette shot of them running up the stairs on a green background as they demolish Sinbad mutants. Eventually they’re covered entirely in blood, though it fades for a slow walk shot of the four as they approach Jamie’s penthouse.

This “kid” must be pushing 90 at this point. I guess it’s good they got to him when they did.

Once they enter the penthouse, the blood is almost completely gone from their clothes. They call out to Jamie and indicate they’re here to apologize, but the laughing maniac isn’t interested. He floats over via a contraption not unlike what the Emperor is supported by in The Rise of Skywalker. Terry remarks he’s as ugly and twisted as his soul. When he apologizes for not getting him that doll 80 years ago they find out Jamie has all of the Turbo Man dolls. He’s assembled a T-shaped throne out of them and indicates he’s far more angry about being abandoned than not getting the doll. Jamie tries to explain his backstory further, but Korvo interrupts him since they’re running out of time and no one cares. He demands Jamie accept their apology so they can end this movie, but Jamie just laughs and tells him to eat shit.

The Opposites regroup, but they’re not sure how they can complete their emotional journey without Jamie accepting their apology. Jesse then has a realization and approaches Jamie. He taunts her by asking if she’s come to beg him to accept the apology once more, but she indicates she’s not there for that. She grabs one of the Turbo Man dolls, and declaring Jamie the bad guy of this film, starts smashing him with it.

Remember, it doesn’t matter how you celebrate at Christmas, just who you do it with.

It works! Jesse’s heart responds to the beating and grows in size. She urges the rest of her family to help kick this old guy’s dick into his ass, and they soon jump in. Korvo is the first and his heart starts growing too, followed by Terry. Yumyulak grabs a snow globe and starts beating on Jamie with it and smiles. A narrator them comes in to say, “Against all odds, each time the aliens struck the withered, old, asshole their hearts grew bigger and bigger filled with Christmas joy until they were ready to burst!” Beams of light shoot out of Jamie’s smashed skull and each place they touch is converted back into a joyous, Christmas environment.

Time to bring it in.

Yumyulak notes that Jamie’s blood tastes like Christmas while Terry says he’s filled with warm, hugginess. Korvo declares they’ve restored their Christmas spirit because they killed their son as a family, “And doing things as a family is the most Christmassy Christmas shit you can do.” Jesse tells them all that she loves them and they share a group hug. Then the credits for Jingle All the Way start to roll. Yumyulak doesn’t want to stay and watch them, but Korvo thinks they owe it to the movie since they skipped so much of it. Plus, he can’t imagine it took a lot of people to make this thing. They appear to be over, but before they can leave the room the second unit credits begin and the replicants indicate their displeasure at having to endure more.

Just look at that room. Amazing!

Back at the home of the Solar Opposites, we’re ready to put a bow on this thing. They’re all dressed in festive Christmas sweaters and Terry says he’s glad they spent Christmas together as a family. The rest are in agreement and Korvo is the one to reiterate that doing things as a family is what Christmas is all about. The Pupa then comes in playing a whistle and the mood immediately goes sour. Korvo demands to know how the Pupa got its Harry Potter whistle back and asks Terry if he locked it up like he was supposed to. Terry insists he did, then he yells at the Pupa for ruining the mood and chastises him for not even participating in the family Christmas adventure. They all angrily leave the room and the Pupa pauses his playing to say “Merry Christmas, everyone!” to the camera to close it out.

They’re mean to the Pupa, but I have to agree that introducing Harry Potter to Christmas ruins my mood too.

And that is how the Solar Opposites spent Christmas that one time. The show is definitely crude and it loves to take advantage of not being on broadcast or even cable TV with its language and violence. It has that same Justin Roiland timing that Rick and Morty has with Korvo basically just being a Rick character, only he’s not as mean and his dialogue sounds even more ad-libbed than Rick’s. He speaks fast and Roiland’s pauses, hesitations, and stutters are kept in as part of the character’s traits, he just doesn’t burp. There’s a lot of quick jokes that just fly by via the characters which really helps when one doesn’t necessarily stick since nothing is really allowed to linger. There’s certainly a “metta” component to the show as it’s basically self-aware, though that’s not as obvious in this episode. And while there’s nothing focused on the terrarium plot from the main show, we do get a B plot involving the Pupa.

I am actually a little surprised at how hard Solar Opposites went to incorporate Christmas into its special. It would be odd not to, but I was expecting something more like the Rick and Morty episodes that feature Christmas where the holiday is treated more like the B plot. Here it dominates as we get the Opposites going on adventures through Christmas movies to get easy jokes and references into this finally leading to more of a spectacle in the final act to finish Jingle All the Way. The Pupa B plot is actually a straightforward and simple Christmas plot. It’s brief because it can be since it’s just continuing a joke from the first act where the Pupa is ridiculed for not being onboard with Christmas to setup the payoff in the end. I really like how the main cast is actually very into Christmas when it could easily have made Korvo a Christmas antagonist and Yumyulak indifferent. The tree lust was a bit weird, but it didn’t feature much into the plot. I don’t know if this will ruin some of my Christmas cred, but I have a low opinion of Jingle All the Way so it didn’t bother me that this special rips on it quite a bit.

I’m just surprised he didn’t say “God bless us, every one!”

This one also delivers as a visual spectacle. Everything is covered in Christmas when it needs to be and it certainly feels like that was emphasized since the characters complain about the setting of Jingle All the Way not being Christmassy enough. I get the impression either Roiland or some of the writers on the staff filtered through there and it’s something I can go along with. This episode was probably born from them watching the movie and ripping on it. This one gets it though as if you’re doing a Christmas special, animated or otherwise, I want to see the characters at least put a sweater on or a Santa hat. The special also does a good job of working Christmas into the soundtrack and I’m actually surprised Hulu sprung for some Mariah Carrey not once, but twice.

The Solar Opposites Christmas special is definitely not one for everyone. And it should go without saying that it’s not for kids. If you like the show and similar ones like Rick and Morty or South Park then you’ll probably like this. It earns it’s title of Christmas special in basically every way though it obviously subverts the ending message when a group of dads restore the spirit of Christmas by killing their son. Again, not for everyone and if you’re offended by that type of program then you definitely don’t need this one in your life. If you do like that stuff, even if you’ve never watched the show, then I say give it a shot. The only way to watch it is via Hulu in the US and whatever serves as Hulu in other territories.

Can’t wait until tomorrow for more Christmas? Check out what we had to say on this day last year and beyond:

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