Tag Archives: daws butler

Dec. 4 – A Christmas Story (1972)

Original broadcast date December 9, 1972

For today’s Christmas post, we’re going to take a look at A Christmas Story. No, not that Christmas Story, the first one. Way before Ralphie started obsessing over a BB gun, the duo of William Hanna and Joseph Barbera brought us a story about a mouse and a dog trying to get a last-minute letter to Santa Claus. Not familiar with this one? That’s not surprising as it didn’t have much staying power. Sure, it was still shown on television from time to time as late as the 1990s, but it feels like even Hanna-Barbera wrote this one off as a bunch of the original music created for it would be repurposed just fives years later for the more popular Christmas special A Flintstone Christmas.

Hanna-Barbera produced numerous Christmas specials over the years. The company is often a punching bag in the animation community because of the low quality that became representative of television animation, which is unfortunate as the duo from which the company gets its name were hugely important contributors to animation in general. It just so happens their greatest contribution to the world of animation occurred before the founding of their company when the team created Tom and Jerry. For television, yeah, it’s true the output wasn’t great. Some stuff is better than others, but little is truly celebrated.

The most memorable aspect of this special is going to be the original music written for it. It was apparently so good, most of the songs would be reused in more popular Christmas specials to come.

I do give the company credit though for being big on Christmas. I need a lot of material to do this year in and year out and I can usually count on Hanna-Barbera to fill a day or two each year. A Christmas Story might be our deepest pull yet though when it comes to the company. It was directed by the duo of Hanna and Barbera and was written by the pair Ken Spears and Joe Ruby, who would follow in their boss’ footsteps and found their own studio, Ruby-Spears, in 1977. They were big contributors at Hanna-Barbera for creating Scooby Doo and their company would handle the likes of Thundarr the Barbarian as well as Alvin and the Chipmunks. The company was eventually acquired by Hanna-Barbera through its parent company, Taft Entertainment, and was part of the sale to Turner Broadcasting in 1991 so both Ruby and Spears weren’t really away from Hanna-Barbera for very long.

This special is so basic it even features a “little Timmy.”

A Christmas Story is about as simple as its title implies. We’re going to be introduced to little Timmy (Walter Tetley) and his family at the start. It’s an idyllic Christmas setting as mom (Janet Waldo) decorates the tree while dad (Don Messick) sits on his ass reading a newspaper. It’s hard to say what time period this story is set in, possibly the 30s or maybe even 40s, but certainly not present day for 1972. Timmy needs to get to bed, but he reminds his father that he owes him a Christmas story so he breaks out A Visit from St. Nicholas and even refers to it by the correct title, though he does botch the end by saying “Merry Christmas,” as opposed to “Happy Christmas.”

Your stars for this one: Goober and Gumdrop. They won’t be memorable.

Once Timmy is in bed, we’re properly introduced to the real stars of the short, a basset hound named Goober (Paul Winchell basically doing his Tigger voice) and a mouse named Gumdrop (Daws Butler, basically doing his Elroy Jetson voice, which he used on many characters). Goober and Gumdrop obey the standard animation rule that animals can converse with one another, but not humans. Goober helps Gumdrop hang his stocking beside the stockings for the rest of the family before retiring for the evening. As he heads to his mouse hole, he notices something under a table: Timmy’s letter to Santa. Gumdrop panics and informs Goober it’s up to them to save Christmas for Timmy by making sure Santa gets his letter.

Oh no! Someone forgot to mail Timmy’s letter to Santa!

How do a mouse and dog get a letter to Santa on Christmas Eve? Well, they simply head outside and start looking. At first, Goober (who is sporting a cute, little, green, hat) has some trouble with a slippery walk and does the Charlie Brown-sliding-into-a-tree gag complete with snow falling from the tree to cover him. It’s not particularly well animated, which is true for the special as a whole. Get ready to see a lot of repeating images as Goober and Gumdrop journey through the night.

Dumb mouse looking for Santa in a mailbox.

As the search for Santa begins, the first of three musical montages begin. The song for this one, “Where Do You Look for Santa?” is unique in that it won’t be repurposed down the road for a new Hanna-Barbera Christmas special. The song is utilitarian in nature, and strongly resembles a song we’ll hear later. As it plays, Goober and Gumdrop look all over town, ride a sleigh, and try to be cute as animation is recycled quite liberally throughout.

If you want to put a mouse in peril, simply add cats.

As the two search for Santa, Gumdrop runs afoul of a gang of cats. They’re apparently lead by a cat named Sleezer (Winchell) who is accompanied by the likes of Polecat (John Stephenson) and Fatcat (Hal Smith), among others. Cats obviously don’t take too kindly to mice out on their own and they give him some trouble. It’s basically the show’s only section of comedic violence as Gumdrop avoids catastrophe while the cats do not. The only worthwhile gag is Fatcat deploying a claw like a switchblade before getting it caught in a fence panel.

Clumsy, but effective.

Eventually, Gumdrop wisens up and simply hollars for Goober to come save him (I’m not really sure what he was doing this whole time). Goober, being a dog, basically just has to run into the alley where this is all going down to scare the cats away. He’s a bit of an oaf though as he falls over and takes on the form of a snowball and crashes into some garbage cans, along with the cat gang which soon scatters. As Gumdrop asks him if he’s all right, he replies he’s fine save for the bells ringing in his ears. Gumdrop can hear the bells too, and the two turn their gaze towards the heavens where Santa (Hal Smith again who was apparently charged with only voicing fat characters) can be seen flying overhead with a mere six reindeer. He even starts to call them out by name, but stops after listing only four so as to avoid shouting the names of two reindeer clearly not present.

Pictured: Santa. Not pictured: Donner and Blitzen.

Gumdrop and Goober then basically chase after Santa hoping to catch him as he enters a house. There, they hope to simply give him Timmy’s letter. How he will provide toys without the aid of his workshop is not something this special appears concerned with. As the two run from house to house they have little luck, as they keep missing him.

Well, there’s something you don’t see every day.

Gumdrop decides they’re going about this all wrong and need to think like Santa, whatever that means. They decide to go to a house with a bunch of kids and settle on the home of the Andersons. When they arrive, they see Santa has yet to visit and there’s a ladder conveniently left out in the snow. Gumdrop and Goober head up to the roof, with Goober demonstrating a fear of heights. When he goes to hand Gumdrop Timmy’s letter, it gets blown away. As Goober reaches for it, the ladder splits forcing him to use the remaining pieces like stilts as he chases after the letter eventually securing it in his jaws, before falling into the snow.

This guy has a shitty job.

It’s there a postman, who for some reason is out delivering mail on Christmas Eve, finds Goober. Not seeing this as a solution to their problem (who better to deliver Santa a letter than a mail carrier), the postman actually becomes a hindrance when he assumes Goober got locked out of his house. He puts the dog in his old timey mail truck and locks the doors before heading off to deliver more mail.

That mail man’s job just got a whole lot worse.

Gumdrop sees Goober’s plight and hops onto the truck. He instructs Goober how to open the door, but the dog accidentally knocks the car into gear and they start rolling along. Gumdrop tries to direct the dog, but in a surprising bit of realism Goober has no idea which way is left or right. The two eventually crash into a tree which frees Goober from the truck and the two have improbably escaped the crash injury-free.

The concussion dreams of a dog high on Christmas.

It’s at this point Goober starts to have doubts, but Gumdrop reminds him to have hope, which ushers in a musical number of the same name. If you’ve seen A Flintstone Christmas, then you’ve heard this song as it’s the same one used after Wilma tells Pebbles to do the same. It’s actually a sweet little number capped off with the line “Hope believes in Santa Claus.” I don’t know who sings it though as it’s absent from the credits. Hoyt Curtin handled the musical direction of the program and presumably wrote the song. Susie McCune and Judi Richards are both credited as part of the voice cast without a corresponding character so I’m left to assume one of them sang on this one.

This special is starting to feel like one, long, musical montage.

The montage, which features a goofy visual of Gumdrop riding atop Goober as he flies through the air via flapping his ears, ends with Goober now feeling full of hope. Unfortunately though, their little ride in the car took them away from Santa so now they need to find him. Gumdrop urges Goober to use the animal relay, which is basically the same as The Twilight Bark from One-Hundred and One Dalmatians. Goober barks out that they’re looking for Santa, and some other dogs (two males sharing a dog house, animation’s first gay canines?) pick up on it and spring into action. Surprisingly, this sequence isn’t utilized to bring in some more famous Hanna-Barbera canines for a cameo, but we do see a dog bossing the gang of cats from earlier around.

Surely, this will work!

This then ushers in another familiar musical montage, “Which One is the Real Santa Claus?” The sequence will be remade for A Flintstone Christmas as Gumdrop and Goober look for the real Santa amongst a sea of fake ones. It’s a cute song, but at this point feels like padding (which it is). It also doesn’t help that it sounds an awful lot like “Where Do You Look for Santa?” They eventually spot the real Santa as he’s heading into another house. Gumdrop then folds Timmy’s letter into a paper airplane and fires away. As the two prematurely celebrate, the paper airplane misses the mark and comes to rest in the cold snow. Santa is leaving, our heroes have failed, and Timmy is surely doomed.

Never trust a dog and mouse to save Christmas.

Gumdrop and Goober mope their way back home upset they couldn’t get the letter to Santa. As they head inside, Gumdrop reasons that maybe there’s still a chance and they can give Santa the letter when he visits their house. Goober though immediately falls asleep despite Gumdrop’s urging against doing such a thing, and he too falls asleep. As they sleep together by the fire, a hand reaches down to snatch Timmy’s letter!

Great, so you mean this whole time they’ve been trying to make sure Timmy gets his stupid, racist, presents?

The next morning, the two are woken up by the cries of Timmy. They are not sad cries though, for Timmy finds the underside of the family tree full of toys and presents. The little racist even got the Native American headdress he wanted! Goober and Gumdrop are shocked to see that Timmy got what he wanted, and Gumdrop then notices Timmy’s letter on the floor. It’s been opened, and the only explanation is that Santa did come and found the letter. They then take note of their own stockings, which Gumdrop’s has grown in size considerably, which are overflowing with goodies.

Well, at least he didn’t go straight for the headdress.

Timmy takes time out from his revelry to ask his parents if they got what they asked for. Timmy’s mom then informs him they asked for peace on Earth (so they get extra presents). Timmy then runs to the window and tells his parents that’s what Santa wants too! As the family looks out the window, Santa has written “Peace on Earth” in pixie dust or whatever in the sky. His “ho ho ho” signals that this is the end for A Christmas Story.

I guess they’re cool with sharing their house with a mouse?

A Christmas Story is a pretty safe, conventional, little tale. The animal protagonists give it a cutesy quality as the two just want to make a little boy’s Christmas wish come true. There are no real stakes though, had they failed Timmy just doesn’t get any presents. He’s not ill or anything, just a kid who wants some toys. Goober and Gumdrop are just good-hearted characters with no real personality to speak of. Goober, I suppose, is a bit clumsy, but that’s basically it as far as character traits go. The cat gang was also full of very generic characters all basically characterized by their appearance. There must have been some desire by the studio to keep its usual cast away from this one, but it’s fair to wonder if it would have been better suited to just use Augie Doggy or make it a Mr. Jinks cartoon with the mouse duo of Pixie and Dixie.

This one actually doesn’t feature the image of Santa passing in front of a full moon, despite being a super basic Christmas special.

Easily the best part of this special is the music. “Sounds of Christmas Day” opens the cartoon and it’s a nice little tune. It’s perfectly cast as a song created for a Christmas special; it’s nice to hear in the short, but probably not a song one would request on the radio. I do think “Hope” is a bit better, though it’s definitely more melancholly. It’s sweet though, and the other songs are fine as well. I think a special should be commended for not simply relying on public domain songs. There is a bit of “O Come, All Ye Faithful,” but it’s being sung by carolers so that makes perfect sense given the use. Considering these original songs are the most memorable aspect of the short, it’s no surprise it fell into obscurity since they were all recycled for A Flintstone Christmas. If you’re a network executive choosing between two Hanna-Barbera Christmas specials to air, you’re going to side with The Flintstones nine times out ten given the choice. And that special, despite featuring an unnecessary amount of padding as well, is superior to this one and one I unironically enjoy.

Considering it’s hard to find even The Flintstones in this day and age on television, the chances of any network airing A Christmas Story in 2020 are nil. The special was released on VHS in 1989 and reissued in the 90s after the Turner acquisition. It’s currently available as part of the Warner Home Video burn-on-demand service under the title Hanna-Barbera Christmas Classics. Buying it there also gets you the specials The Town Santa Forgot and Casper’s First Christmas. And since seemingly no one gives a shit about it, it’s also pretty easy to find streaming online for free. Watch it if you’re sick of A Flintstone Christmas or just plain never liked that one, but enjoyed the songs.


Dec. 25 – A Jetson Christmas Carol

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Original air date December 13, 1985

Merry Christmas! We have reached the end on our advent calendar celebration of the holiday season. This is the third complete 25 day advent calendar here at The Nostalgia Spot and fourth overall. For this year, I managed to shy away from the tropiest of the tropes when it comes to Christmas television specials – adaptations of A Christmas Carol and It’s a Wonderful Life. For this final feature though, I’ve decided to go traditional. I like to weigh these features by visibility, so if I’m covering a special that might actually air on TV during the countdown I try to put that up front. For the ones that have no shot, I tend to save them for the end. In the case of “A Jetson Christmas Carol,” I saved it for last since it’s a conventional holiday special that many people have probably seen. While it’s unlikely to be broadcast on a major cable channel, it’s easy enough to find in the wild and it’s a perfectly satisfying take on the classic Christmas tale.

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The Jetsons first preiered September 23, 1962

The Jetsons was Hanna-Barbera’s logical next step following the success of The Flintstones. Where The Flintstones depicted a fictional family of prehistory, The Jetsons focuses on a family of the future. It premiered on September 23, 1962 in prime time on ABC and was the first show broadcast on that network in color. It would last one season with the final new episode airing in March and reruns taking it all the way around the calendar where it was removed from the lineup in September of 1963. It was then moved to Saturday mornings where reruns were shown for the younger audience. It’s popularity endured though into the 1980s and with cable now expanding television lineups Hanna-Barbera would return to the series to bring the total episode count to 65. A third season of ten episodes would follow and the series was essentially capped-off by the 1990 animated feature film. The Jetsons would continue to have a presence in syndication, along with a lot of Hanna-Barbera’s works, for much of the 90s before eventually being ousted by newer programs.

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In the future, everyone has terribly ugly laser trees.

The Jetsons may have seemed derivative of The Flintstones, but it’s take on the common nuclear family played well for audiences. Where The Flintstones focused more on the adult problems of Fred, The Jetsons was more confident in spreading things around. The family, as introduced by the very catchy and lavishly produced theme song by Hoyt Curtin, consists of George Jetson (George O’Hanlon), his wife Jane (Penny Singleton), teenaged daughter Judy (Janet Waldo), son Elroy (Daws Butler) and they’re also joined by the family dog Astro (Don Messick) and robot maid Rosie (Jean Vander Pyl). For the second season, the little alien Orbitty (Frank Welker) was added to the cast as another pet, of sorts. George is a typical working man who has a job at Spacely Sprockets working for Mr. Spacely (Mel Blanc), a short man with a big temper who often is at odds with his employee. They live in a future as envisioned by folks in the 60s so Jane is a stay-at-home mom while George is the bread-winner. Their lives are made easier by technology with Jane’s housework largely automated or falling to Rosie while George just pushes buttons from a console at work. They have flying cars, video phones, and a host of other contraptions some of which have since become reality while others remain just fantasy.

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What would the Jetsons be like if they were rich? Well, we’re going to find out.

“A Jetson Christmas Carol” is from the show’s second season and it first aired on Friday the 13th in December of 1985. As the title implies, this is a re-telling of A Christmas Carol. In the place of Scrooge we have Mr. Spacely with George serving as the Bob Cratchit of the tale. In the role of Tiny Tim is surprisingly not Elroy, but Astro the dog who’s very life depends on the actions of Mr. Spacely.

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George is a bit concerned with the size of the Christmas shopping list this year.

The episode opens with the family sitting at the table while machines feed them breakfast. Jane is talking about how she needs to finish the Christmas shopping while the kids are eager to hit the mall. Astro is off in the corner sneaking a peek at Jane’s Christmas list until she snatches it from him. When George sees it he asks aloud how they can afford so many gifts and Jane matter-of-factly informs him that they can’t, but also that they can’t worry about such things at Christmas (what an awful sentiment). George, surprisingly cheerful, leaves for work while Jane hopes he can get out early for Christmas Eve. She and the kids leave for the mall, though not before Judy expresses some indecision on what to wear (all the while using space puns or 80s teen lingo) before just settling on the same outfit she always wears. Once they’re gone, Astro heads for the neon Christmas tree with hovering ornaments and starts snooping around.

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The mall on Christmas Eve is crowded no matter what year it is.

While the kids shop at a very crowded mall, George hosts an office Christmas party attended entirely by robots, other than himself. He jokes with his computer partner RUDI (Messick) who shares a corny joke until Spacely catches them via video monitor and orders everyone back to work while also declaring he hates Christmas. After Elroy gets a lesson on “want” at the mall, we head home to find Rosie whipping up some eggnog (ingredients:  one egg and one nog). Astro helps Elroy hang up some mistletoe and then goes back to gift-snooping. Orbitty calls Astro out and Jane catches him opening his gift. When she tells him it’s supposed to be a surprise, he insists he is surprised (Astro is on the same level as Scooby Doo in terms of communication skills) and finds a toy cat inside. The robot cat (Welker) rolls around on a wheel while Astro gives chase and seems to be enjoying himself.

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And you thought Futurama was the first to depict drunk robots.

Back at Spacely Sprockets, George is literally counting down the seconds until quitting time, but just as that time arrives Spacely pops-up on the video monitor to tell him he’s working late. George, sullen, doesn’t really offer up a fight and turns back to his console. Jane soon phones in and gets the bad news, while George returns to work wishing some ghosts would visit Spacely like they did Scrooge.

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This is unfortunate for Astro, but what about the obviously sentient robot cat?

At the Jetson residence, Astro continues to chase his toy while the family seems to be getting along all right without their patriarch. Astro ends up catching his toy leading to a crash. The robot explodes and as Astro is left lying on his back a single sprocket lands in his mouth and is ingested. The family runs over to him with worry, while Astro’s fur takes on a greenish hue. They bring him over to the couch for a look and all are worried. Elroy wants to call a vet, but Jane isn’t certain they can find one on Christmas Eve. As he and Judy head out to find one, Astro wails that he’s dying. This is actually kind of dark.

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Hopefully there’s some booze leftover from that office party.

At the office, an exhausted George is finishing up the orders as he lays on the terminal pushing the last button. Spacely pops back in on the monitor to ridicule George for working too slow. He tells him he’ll see him in the morning, but George at least stands up for himself a little by reminding Spacely that tomorrow is Christmas and it’s a day off, to which Spacely remarks “Too bad,” to himself. George beats a hasty retreat only to emerge in a snowstorm. Remarking he’ll be lucky to get home by Groundhog’s Day, his car seems to have little trouble lifting itself out of the snow. At home, Astro is running a fever of 102 as Elroy and Judy return home with bad news:  they couldn’t find a vet open at Christmas. Jane tells them things are looking grim, as George makes his triumphant entrance. He’s in a celebratory mood, but finds the family is not. He takes a look at Astro and arrives at the same conclusion as his wife, though when he finds out Astro got hurt chasing his toy he admonishes him for opening his gift early. He then questions if he’s faking it while Judy scolds him.

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That’s what you get for peeking, Astro – death!

At Spacely Sprockets, Mr. Spacely is seated in his office enjoying his money. Since it’s too late to deposit it at a bank, he decides he better spend the night with his money at the office. Upon falling asleep he’s greeted by the ghost of his former business partner, Marsley (Blanc). Marsley gives him the usual Jacob Marley talk while Spacely angrily insists he’s dreaming and orders Marsley to go away before remarking he was always a bit of a sicko. He goes back to sleep only to be awakened by a weird, floating, robot (Messick). It’s the Ghost of Christmas Past, and he takes Spacely back to his days on the playground where he had little Georgie Jetson run his lemonade stand. A young Spacely (Welker) flies in to find George counting the cash and snatches it from his hands returning only a penny. When George questions this arrangement the young Spacely tells him to not be greedy before taking off. They then journey to a fly-in movie theater where a college-aged (and bald) Spacely (Welker again) is watching The Flintstones with his future wife. When she questions if he loves money more than her he insists that of course he loves money more! He promises to take half a day off for their wedding, which is apparently good enough.

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Jacob Marsley – not one of the show’s better puns.

Spacely is returned to his office in quite a happy mood. He saw nothing wrong with the actions of his past as he resumes his sleeping only to be roused by yet another ghost (Welker). This one is a giant Christmas present, a too on the nose joke on the Ghost of Christmas Present. The giant box with extendable arms takes Spacely to the home of the Jetsons where they look at the family as they worry over Astro. Spacely is unmoved by the family’s plight, insisting he’s a business man and not a dog-father. He’s returned to his office, but he’s not alone for very long.

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That would be ghost robot number one.

A giant, black-green, robot with red buttons looms over him. Spacely is a bit unnerved by this silent third ghost who soon zaps him to the future. There they arrive at a mansion and Spacely is over-joyed to see what he assumes is his future home. Instead though they find the Jetsons inside happily discussing how fabulously wealthy they are. Spacely is annoyed to see this and demands to know how they got so rich, and even though George can’t hear him, he’s happy to fill him in. They attained their wealth thanks to a lawsuit against Spacely after Astro’s death as a result of swallowing that sprocket. The family is sad recalling their old dog, though if they’d give up this new lifestyle to bring him back I’m not sure. George then elaborates on what became of Spacely as Spacely questions how George could sue his beloved boss, thus proving he has no concept of how people really feel about him. After the suit, his company went under and his wife left him. Last anyone knew, he was on skid row. As Spacely turns to the ghost to ask if this is all set in stone or just a vision of what might be, the ghost zaps him back to his office.

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Did I say Marsley was bad? Okay, this one is worse.

Spacely wakes up on his hands and knees begging for another chance. When he realizes where he is, he immediately perks up and sets out for the home of the Jetsons. For now it’s Christmas morning, and the family is still worried about their dog who at least made it through the night. Spacely arrives with his personal vet whom he dragged out of bed (this is still Spacely, after all, who will absolutely force a man to work on Christmas if it means saving his money) to treat Astro. He demonstrates some neat future tech when he whips out a portable X-Ray to spot the sprocket in Astro’s stomach. Then he demonstrates that vet technology has only come so far as he simply reaches down Astro’s throat to remove the obstruction. Astro immediately feels better and Spacely also announces he’s brought gifts for the whole family. Elroy gets the rocket guitar he was eyeing while Judy gets some nuclear roller skates. He departs by telling George he’s getting a big, fat, raise as he heads home to spend Christmas with his wife. George and the family then join arms to sing “We Wish You a Merry Christmas” with Astro and Orbitty getting the honors of the last line as our holiday special comes to an end.

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Simple yet fearsome. I like ghost number three.

That last act gives this special an interesting wrinkle. Spacely’s motivation for acting “good” is purely to save his money, unlike Scrooge who is motivated to save Tiny Tim out of the goodness of his heart. Had Spacely not acted, Astro would have died, but the Jetsons would have been thrust into an easy life. No more crappy job for George while Elroy and Judy would find their higher education not limited by financials. The kids are a bit spoiled in the future vision, so perhaps their character suffers, but George is also quick to remind them of how they ended up in this position so it isn’t as if they’ve lost sight of what the costs were for this new life. There aren’t many episodes to follow, but for what it’s worth Mr. Spacely remains unchanged following this one so he didn’t really learn anything.

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Spacely to the rescue!

Being one of the 80s episodes of the show, it actually is animated a little better in places than it was in the 60s. There’s less of characters just standing around, and best of all, no laugh track. There are a few instances of that canned running sound Hanna-Barbera was so fond of, but the voice acting is overall quite good. It’s pretty neat that the studio was able to return the entire original cast for the relaunch of the show, though O’Hanlon and Blanc would eventually both pass away during production on The Jetsons Movie. Some of the backgrounds are a bit abstract or even empty, and the trip through time with the ghosts and Spacely is surprisingly static. I suppose in most versions of the story there is little depicting the change in time between past, present, and future so I suppose I can’t really deduct points here. The plight of Astro is actually genuinely sad. The poor dog knows he’s dying and is borderline hysterical. The show is quite honest in how grim his outlook is.

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An early joke about Judy taking forever to pick an outfit even though she can change outfits literally in an instant.

A lot of the humor in this show stems from essentially the same joke. A character complains about something, then we see how trivial the complaint is. For example, Elroy complains about how long it’s going to take Judy to get changed, when she literally steps into a machine that can instantaneously change her outfit. The joke is basically “Ha, they have no idea how easy they have it!” There’s also a lot of material meant to appeal to working class folks with the greedy Spacely lording over Jetson. He makes Jetson do all of the work while he sits back and takes in all of the money. This feels like a mainstream attitude back then that has some-what shifted, and that shift seemed to begin in the 80s where wealth became the be-all end-all measurement of success. If you’re not rich then it’s because you didn’t work hard enough. It’s preposterous, but it seems to permeate our culture today and a leading cause of current clash division. Then there’s also the dated jokes at Jane’s expense where she’s characterized as a do-nothing housewife. In her case, times have obviously changed as fewer and fewer women can even afford to be stay-at-home mothers and housewives. It’s not as if the show though portrays George as some work-a-holic though as he often gripes about work while being shown doing actually very little. Though in his defense, many people now have jobs where they just sit and push buttons, and while it may not be manual labor, it’s strenuous and ultimately still a job that keeps us from doing things we’d rather do.

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Hey! A Flintstones cameo!

It’s a bit surprising how dated a show about the far-off future can seem, but there’s no predicting where society is truly heading when looking so far ahead. The Jetsons is actually fine entertainment and I would probably prefer to watch it over The Flintstones. Neither show is as good as some of the prime time animation that followed, but for its time it was good enough. This version of A Christmas Carol can be described in similar terms – good enough. It has a few laughs, some down moments, and ultimately a happy ending. It’s a fine ending for the 2018 version of The Christmas Spot.

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This one isn’t afraid to get a little grim.

If you’re hoping to sneak in a viewing of “A Jetson Christmas Carol” before the holiday is through then you’re in a relatively good spot. The Jetsons are available on DVD and there are even special holiday editions of Hanna-Barbera cartoons sold separately likely destined for the discount bin tomorrow. Season Two of the show was a manufacture on-demand release so it’s a little tricky to come by, but hardly impossible. While the show isn’t presently streaming on a major service in 2018, episodes of this show (including this one) can be found online for free rather painlessly.

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In the end though everyone is pretty happy.

Well, that about does it. I hope you enjoyed 25 days of 25 blog posts on 25 pieces of Christmas media. For me, it’s a great way to really bask in the season both writing and reading similar pieces, not to mention actually consuming all of this media either again or for the first time. Even though it’s a lot of work, I always enjoy doing it so I have no plans on stopping. I hope to see everyone back again next year when we do 25 more. As always, thanks for reading and I hope you have a very, merry, Christmas and a happy new year!


Dec. 9 – Yogi Bear’s All-Star Comedy Christmas Caper

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Ugh.

I have a sort of love/hate relationship with Hanna-Barbera. Well, mostly hate. Their animation is lazy, a lot of their characters (including many in this so-called comedy Christmas special) just aren’t funny, and they were also impossible to ignore because they made so many damn, formulaic, cartoons. At the same time though, I grew up watching re-runs of their older material and even their newer stuff like The Smurfs and The Snorks. For a good portion of my childhood, it seems like every cartoon either ended with the whirling Hanna-Barbera star logo or the DiC moon (and DiC was no better at this game) so there’s a lot of nostalgia there for me.

Yogi Bear’s All-Star Comedy Christmas Caper is certainly a mouthful. Released in 1982, it was Yogi’s second Christmas special following Yogi’s First Christmas, which if you can believe it is actually worse than this one and unbearably long too (oooh, a pun!). As the title suggests, this special is an ensemble affair. Yogi may be the central star, but basically all of the major players (and some of the not so major players) from Hanna-Barbera are going to appear, save for Scooby and the gang. It’s basically all of their animal characters, plus a few cameos, and almost all of the Daws Butler characters. Butler was basically Hanna-Barbera’s Mel Blanc (who coincidentally is also in this special), but less celebrated because his characters are mostly terrible. He did help Nancy Cartwright get her foot in the door though, so at least we have him to thank for Bart Simpson.

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When Yogi’s not on screen everyone should be asking, “Where’s Yogi?”

The special opens with a van full of characters heading to Jellystone Park to celebrate Christmas with their pals Yogi and Boo Boo. They are:  Huckleberry Hound, Quick Draw McGraw, Snagglepuss, Hokey Wolf, Super Snooper, Blabber Mouse, Augie Doggie and his dear old dad too. They drop in on Ranger Smith, who’s content in his little ranger station because Christmas means the park is closed and Yogi is hibernating. As such, he’s not too happy to hear this gaggle of oddly colored animal folk is here to rouse Yogi from his slumber to celebrate Christmas. He has no interest in waking Yogi, but Hokey Wolf (who the heck is this guy?) threatens to call his friend from the Department of the Interior if he doesn’t help them out. Unfortunately for them, they get Yogi’s answering machine and it seems he’s departed with Boo Boo to head for the city to spend Christmas with them there. Oh my!

Yogi and Boo Boo have stowed away on a bus heading to “the big city.” Yogi is quite unsatisfied with the food he’s found amongst the luggage, but soon enough they reach their destination. Ranger Smith has apparently phoned ahead because two animal control officers are waiting and they chase Yogi and Boo Boo into a department store. In a bit of surprising cleverness from Yogi, he makes an announcement over the intercom that two bears are on the loose to create some chaos and aid their escape.

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Yogi and Boo Boo meet Judy, which sets the wheels in motion for this one.

Meanwhile, a young girl named Judy Jones is getting dropped off at the store. Her dad, apparently a wealthy businessman of some kind, is riding in the backseat of a big yellow limo with her and advises her to head into the store and charge a Christmas gift for herself to his account. She asks him to come with, but he’s too busy, and this animation is absolutely terrible as she exits the car. Inside, Yogi and Boo Boo have disguised themselves as Santa Claus and an elf and have infiltrated the Santa training program. As they exit the training room, little Judy takes note and wants a word with Santa Yogi. At this point, her father is already looking for her. Since he just dropped her off, we’re left to assume he’s not a horrible father and saw the huge commotion and decided to come in after her. He gets security involved who begin looking for her.

Yogi is a bit humbled by the girl as she speaks to him as if he’s actually Santa. He says a bunch of nonsense that’s supposed to be funny (it’s not), but does hear her out. She wants a father who will spend time with her at Christmas, which Yogi takes to mean she has no dad. By now security is onto him, and they know he’s not a part of their Santa program, and a chase ensues resulting in Yogi, Boo Boo, and Judy crashing a sleigh into a Christmas tree. Judy reminds us numerous times throughout the chase that she’s having a wonderful time, so I guess the producers worried Yogi kidnapping a little girl would seem kind of dark.

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This looks enjoyable – a picnic in the snow.

Yogi and the gang manage to escape the store, and since it’s a Yogi cartoon, they actually manage to find the one couple in the city looking to have a picnic in the snow. The writers at least acknowledge the ridiculousness of this scenario by having the husband say he always wanted to have a picnic at Christmas time, with his wife not wanting any part of it. Yogi uses his “cunning” to convince them to let him have the picnic on their behalf, and they hand over the picnic basket. Meanwhile, Ranger Smith has arrived in the city and overhears a news report about an imposter Santa kidnapping Judy Jones, the daughter of one of the world’s wealthiest men. The chief of police describes the Santa as resembling a bear, and we find out Yogi is 5’7″ and since he’s as tall or taller than basically everyone else it means this world is inhabited by some very short people. Yogi’s friends have also arrived in the city looking for him, and director Steve Lumley did a terrible job ordering who speaks first so characters that sound almost exactly the same speak one after the other. Plus we get another exchange from Augie and his father – I hate them so much.

Judy enjoys her picnic with Yogi and Boo Boo, and when Yogi comes clean about not being the real Santa, she reveals that she was well aware of that (one thing I’ll give this special credit for is that everyone seems capable of seeing the obvious and is well aware that Yogi is in fact a bear dressed as Santa). Yogi wants to bring Judy home, but can’t get her to tell him where she lives. He tried looking her name up in a phone book, but Jones is too common a name for that to be effective (more surprising logic from this show).

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Well this is kind of unexpected.

Now begins the part of our special where we get inundated with cameos. First, the bus of Yogi’s friends arrive and they knew to look for him in the park. They agree to help him figure out where Judy lives. Snagglepuss sets out on his own and finds Fred and Barney dressed as a couple of Santa’s seeking charitable donations on a street corner. He points out that this is a cameo, and a particularly preposterous one as they’re about 3 million years from home. Fred and Barney play it straight though, and when they can’t help him they tell him to go ask a wealthy looking woman across the street. When Snagglepuss does, the woman freaks out that a lion is approaching her and Fred and Barney tackle Snagglepuss. The woman, thinking she’s just been saved, makes a large donation to Fred and Barney’s effort and they remark that the kids in Bedrock are going to have a pretty fine Christmas party now.

Next we get a quick cameo from Mr. Jinks and the mice Pixie and Dixie when Quick Draw knocks on their door. Their cameo is brief as Mr. Jinks is no help, but the mice give him a Christmas present after the others leave, which just happens to be a massive bull dog. Wally Gator, Magilla Gorilla, and Yakky Doodle are up next as they just drop by the park to say they got nothing. Boy, I’m sure glad they were able to get those guys into this one. The police have spotted the efforts of this animal clan though, and are quietly pursuing them in an effort to “rescue” young Judy.

Mr. Jones is seen alone in his mansion, missing his daughter. He’s apparently coming around to understanding why he’s in a Christmas special as he remarks how big and lonely the house is without her. At the police station, Super Snooper and Blabber Mouse are using their connections to see if they can figure out where Judy lives, only to find out the police are seeking someone who fits the description of Santa and resembles a bear. They race off to warn Yogi, but the cops arrive at the park too quickly. Mr. Jones is there and demanding they arrest Yogi for kidnapping, while he insists he did no such thing and that Judy ran away. When Mr. Jones questions why his daughter would run away when he buys her everything she could possibly want, Yogi points out he doesn’t give her any time. This of course causes him to see the error of his ways and he declines to press charges telling the police it’s all his fault. Judy is delighted to see a change in her father’s attitude, she was already starting to miss him after watching Augie and his dear old dad fawn all over each other, and is ready to give him a full embrace. Yogi and Ranger Smith even share a nice merry Christmas moment, and everyone has a party in the park and sings “Jingle Bells” as this one draws to a merciful conclusion.

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Wait, why doesn’t the rich guy offer to host their party instead of hanging out in the park like a pack of bums?

When I was a kid, this special worked on me. I pitied poor Judy and rooted for Yogi and his friends to help make her father see the light. As an adult, I see it for what it is:  a lazy, thrown together Christmas special designed to get most of Hanna-Barbera’s most recognizable stars in one place. The problem is, their stars aren’t particularly funny or interesting and it sacrifices narrative for cameos. These characters are so damn hack that it drives me nuts. I was a bit surprised at The Flintstones cameo as it was one of the few genuinely amusing moments, not because I have any particular affection for The Flintstones, but because of how Snagglepuss acknowledged how preposterous their cameo was. The animation though is bad, and Daws Butler is stretched too thin as a voice actor. At least there were no annoying musical moments.

If you want to watch this one, and if it isn’t clear at this point it’s not something I recommend, it might air on Boomerang this season at some point. It used to air regularly on Cartoon Network around the holidays, but those days appear to be long gone unless the network does something unexpected. It also used to be easy to find on YouTube, but now it’s behind a paywall there so you can expect YouTube is now actively trying to prevent people from uploading it. The special is readily available on DVD, and for not much money, though anything more than a few bucks is probably too much. If you absolutely insist on watching Yogi this Christmas season, I will reiterate that this is better than Yogi’s First Christmas. That special is structured a bit better narratively, but it has no real hook, isn’t funny, and is about four times as long. This one is at least only about 24 minutes.


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