Tag Archives: disney

Dec. 25 – Mickey’s Christmas Carol

Original release date October 20, 1983

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

When it comes to Christmas specials, there’s no shortage of A Christmas Carol adaptations. It’s the most frequently utilized framing device for a holiday special, be it animated or live-action, and there’s no shortage of just straight retellings too. Even Disney has released multiple theatrical versions of the Charles Dickens classic, and for my money, the best version of A Christmas Carol is the one released in 1983 starring a duck and mouse.

Mickey’s Christmas Carol is basically a trimmed down version of the Dickens tale faithfully retold through animation. The familiar Disney characters we all know and love are essentially actors in this story as Mickey Mouse isn’t referred to as Mickey by the characters in the story, he’s Bob Cratchit. It’s essentially what the Muppets would do a decade later, only this isn’t really a comedy as it basically plays it straight. When it released to theaters in 1983 it was a pretty big deal for the simple fact that it was the first Mickey Mouse cartoon in 30 years to be released in theaters. It unfortunately didn’t lead to a new era in theatrical short-form animation, but the following decade was certainly better than the preceding ones as far as quantity goes.

Scrooge McDuck is the star, but Mickey still gets top billing and his image before the cartoon.

Being that this was the first Mickey Mouse cartoon in 30 years, it marked an era of new beginnings and ends. This was the directorial debut for writer/artist Burny Mattinson. Mattinson would go on to co-direct The Great Mouse Detective, but after that basically returned to his role as a writer for the remainder of his career. For many, this was the first time people were hearing Wayne Allwine as Mickey and Alan Young as Scrooge McDuck. Allwine, who worked in the sound department under his Mickey predecessor Jimmy MacDonald, had started voicing the mouse in some uncredited appearances on The New Mickey Mouse Club, but this theatrical short (which was essentially designed to go right to television given its running time) offered more exposure and a true credit, too. For Young, this was actually his second time voicing Scrooge in the role of Ebenezer Scrooge as he first took on the role for an LP release titled An Adaptation of Dickens’ Christmas Carol, Performed by The Walt Disney Players in the 1970s. He even voiced Mickey on that release. This cartoon was obviously more far reaching than what was essentially an audio play and Young would retain ownership of the role into DuckTales later in the decade and really for the rest of his life. As for ends, this would be the final credited appearance of Clarence “Ducky” Nash as Donald Duck. He had been the sole voice of the character since creation, but would turn it over to animator Tony Anselmo (who was an uncredited assistant on this production) in 1985.

Other notable performances include Hal Smith voicing Goofy for the second to last time. He didn’t voice the character a ton, but Goofy is still a character with a fairly exclusive list of actors credited as performing his voice. This was also the first time Will Ryan would voice Willie the Giant and that’s a role he filled until his death earlier this year (RIP). For actor Eddie Carroll, this was arguably his most exposure as Jiminy Cricket since taking over the seldom used character in 1947. He would voice the character in his other appearances following this pretty much right up until his passing in 2007. Lastly, this is seemingly the first, and only, time Patricia Parris voiced Daisy Duck. Daisy was somewhat of a seldom used character in the 80s and 90s who had multiple voice actors playing the role until Disney seemed to settle on Tress MacNeille as the one and only Daisy sometime around the year 2000. The only credit missing is one for Minnie Mouse, but that’s because her role is silent in this one. Yeah, it wasn’t the best look to see Minnie reduced to a silent cameo, but this was during her silent era which had been going on for decades. Russi Taylor would eventually be cast as Minnie later in the decade finally putting an end to the madness, but we were denied such a performance in this one.

Time to find out if a man, err duck, who literally hugs his money is redeemable.

After it’s theatrical release alongside a re-release of The Rescuers, Mickey’s Christmas Carol would go on to have a long run as a prime time television special around the holidays. That was how I first encountered it and also how I fell in love with it. Even though the special seems to be purposefully crafted to fit into a half hour broadcast, it would actually be aired as an hour long special with some Christmas or winter themed shorts attached. The version I am most familiar with aired on NBC and was preempted by the following classic shorts: Donald’s Snow Fight, Pluto’s Christmas Tree, and The Art of Skiing. In between the shorts, there would be narration from Mickey describing the favorite Christmas memory of his friends, which would lead into that character introducing their own short (including Pluto who can be heard barking at Mickey). They would also show clips from other shorts like Toy Tinkers and Mickey’s Good Deed before eventually getting to Mickey’s favorite Christmas memory, the year they all got together to tell the story of A Christmas Carol. “Ha ha, we called it Mickey’s Christmas Carol,” he adds a bit sheepishly, almost like he’s a little embarrassed that his name went on this thing. Especially since Scrooge McDuck is the real star!

This one begins with some rousing horns and the classic Mickey head logo only it’s been dressed up with a hat and scarf. From there, we go into a lovely little opening title sequence. Still images in a monochrome, sepia, style from the cartoon to come are displayed along with the credits. It’s set to the song “Oh What a Merry Christmas Day” by Irwin Kostal (lyrics by Fredrick Searles), who conducted all of the music for the cartoon. The song really is quite nice and I think it’s been underserved by Disney ever since it was released. This should be their Christmas song, but I don’t think I’ve ever heard it outside of this cartoon. The final image of the sequence eventually dissolves into some scenery that is just gorgeous. This one seems to be set in the same era as the original story, 1843, as we get a little multi-plane camera action that zooms into a street setting where the sidewalks are populated by beggars and busy bodies and the streets by horse drawn carriages. It’s important to note that all characters in this cartoon are personified animals from past Disney films and shorts. You’ll probably immediately see the three little pigs and the big, bad, wolf as well as many faces from Robin Hood and The Wind in the Willows.

Scrooge pausing to break the fourth wall.

Ebenezer Scrooge is strolling down the street looking rather unapproachable. A beggar (Young) asks him if he has a penny for the poor and Scrooge just scoffs at him. He eventually comes to the front door of his counting house, and before entering he knocks the snow off of his sign which reads Scrooge & Marley, only Marley’s name has been scratched out. It’s then Scrooge informs us (I’m not sure if we’re to read this as him breaking the fourth wall or him just talking to himself) that his old partner, Jacob Marley, died seven years ago today. He boasts the man left him enough money in his will to pay for a tombstone, but he had him buried at sea! Not said, is that Scrooge is so cheap he’d rather just cross his name off of the sign than get a new one. I also wonder if he’d bother to knock the snow off of the sign if it was covering Marley’s name instead of his own.

Cratchit is apparently allotted one piece of coal every two weeks.

When Scrooge enters the counting house, he finds his lone employee, Bob Cratchit, up to something over by the fireplace. He demands to know what he’s doing, and Cratchit indicates he’s just trying to thaw out the ink for his quill which is coated with ice. Scrooge is apoplectic that Cratchit would dare to use two pieces of coal in the span of a week and demands he get back to his work. Cratchit takes it in stride and hops up onto a tall chair and appears to make do with the frozen quill as Scrooge begins to remove his coat and hat. Cratchit then brings up the topic of Christmas, very gingerly as Scrooge bristles at the mere mention of the holiday. Cratchit meekly requests a half day off for the holiday, which is tomorrow, and Scrooge reluctantly obliges. Only it’s on the condition that he only receive half a day’s pay. He then tries to recall what he even pays his one, and only, employee and Cratchit has to correct him that he’s up to two shillings and a ha’penny per day on account of a raise he got three years ago when he agreed to start doing Scrooge’s laundry. Scrooge smiles to himself at the confirmation, likely quite satisfied to have such cheap help, before his scowl returns as it reminds him the sack he’s had slung over his shoulder is a bundle of shirts for Bob to wash.

Scrooge heads over to his desk and starts making entries in his log. He starts tallying up interest payments (he’s nailing one guy for 80%) and basically playing with the coins on his desk laughing to himself. He goes so far as to embrace a pile of coins remarking “Money, money, money,” to himself in a sequence that would be adorable if it wasn’t so illustrative of his excessive greed.

The duck we’ve all been waiting for!

A bell attached to the door, I suppose that makes it a doorbell, rings with the opening of the door. It’s Scrooge’s nephew, Fred, played by the character Scrooge McDuck also calls a nephew, Donald Duck. Fred arrives by shouting “Merry Christmas!” which his uncle responds to by shouting “Bah! Humbug!” Fred refuses to let his sour uncle get him down and he has Cratchit cheering him on. When Scrooge demands to know what Bob is doing by clapping for Fred he suggests he’s just trying to keep his hands warm. Scrooge demands to know why his nephew is there to bother him and Fred tells him that he came to bring him a wreath and to invite him to Christmas dinner. Scrooge seems actually delighted at the invitation and starts asking Fred about the menu. As Scrooge inquires about each dish, Fred enthusiastically confirms that he’s serving it as his excitement builds up until he finally asks “Are you coming?!” Scrooge then reveals he’s just been toying with the lad by saying he can’t eat that stuff. Fred is clearly hurt, but Scrooge feels he’s wasted enough of his time as shoves the wreath over Fred’s head and literally kicks him out the door. We hear the unmistakable quacks of anger from Fred as he apparently soars off of Srooge’s stoop, only he quickly returns to open the door to shout, once more, “Merry Christmas!” and slip the wreath over the doorknob. Scrooge angrily shoots back, “And a bah humbug to you!”

I’m guessing they’ll never hit Scrooge up for money again.

Cratchit reflects on how kind Fred is, but Scrooge suggests he’s always been a little peculiar. The bell by the door rings again as Scrooge angrily adds that his nephew is quite stubborn, but his mood does a total 180 when he sees that two potential customers have entered. It’s the most personable we’ve seen of Scrooge yet, but unfortunately for him the two gentlemen who just entered are not looking to secure a loan with unfavorable rates. They’re two solicitors for the poor and they’re played by Ratty and Moley (voiced by Smith and Ryan) from The Wind in the Willows. Scrooge sort of recoils at the mere suggestion he just donate money to the needy, but seeing as how he has a business to run, he doesn’t toss the two out like he did his nephew. Instead, he uses some rather twisted logic to indicate that the job of these men are dependent on there being poor, and if Scrooge gives money to the poor, well then they won’t be poor anymore! He then practically begs them not to ask him to put them out of a job, especially not on Christmas Eve! The two completely fall for it as Scrooge gently nudges them outside, but just before closing the door, the real Scrooge emerges as he tells them “I suggest you give this to the poor and be gone,” and tosses the wreath Fred gave him in their direction before slamming the door. We get one lingering shot of the two collectors looking shocked as the wreath swings back and forth on the nose of Moley.

An exasperated Scrooge slumps against the door as he asks his employee, “What’s this world coming to, Cratchit? You work all your life to get money, and people just want you to give it away!” Cratchit doesn’t respond as Scrooge heads to his desk and time passes. It’s dark in the counting house and the clock strikes 7, a long work day is apparently over. A very tired Bob Cratchit is able to smile a bit as the clock bells go off and he begins to head out. Scrooge, checking his pocket watch, then remarks the wall clock is two minutes fast. Cratchit says nothing and quickly jumps back into his chair and into his logs. Scrooge then tells him not to mind the two minutes, but adds that he better be here all the earlier the next day. The animation seems to suggest that Scrooge’s watch and the clock on the wall are in agreement. I wonder if that’s an animation goof or if Scrooge is so manipulative he’d make his employee think he’s leaving early to encourage him to arrive for work earlier in the future? Either way, Cratchit seems positively giddy to be getting out a whole two minutes early and tells his boss that he is so kind. This is clearly the nicest thing Scrooge has probably done for him since that raise three years ago. Cratchit bundles up in his tattered hat and scarf and nearly wishes his boss a “Bah! Humbug,” but corrects himself to “Merry Christmas!” before departing. Scrooge just scoffs and returns to his work.

I like how Goofy’s ears form the handle on the knocker.

When the clock strikes 9, Scrooge finally calls it a day. He puts on his coat and hat and heads out into the snowy, now deserted, streets for a lonely walk home. This walk cycle always floors me with how gorgeous it looks as the snow looks so authentic and the movement of Scrooge so accurate to how this character would move if he were real. He eventually reaches his home, a fairly large looking house with a gaudy, gold-colored, door knocker. As Scrooge goes to unlock it, the visage on the knocker changes to resemble what we, the audience, know to be the face of Goofy, but here he’s Jacob Marley. He calls out in a low, mournful, manner for Scrooge which certainly gets his attention. Scrooge just says “Jacob…Marley?!” at the sight, and when the knocker returns with another wail, Scrooge squeezes his nose which causes him to yell out in pain. This frightens Scrooge into the house while we’re left to see Goofy scrunch up his nose and remark in typical Goofy fashion, “Gwarsh!”

A shaken Scrooge enters his dark and cold house. Wide eyed, he jumps onto a tall staircase and peers through the darkness frantically, but seeing nothing, cautiously begins his ascent up the stairs. As he climbs, a shadow of Marley appears on the wall behind him. The shadow is loaded with heavy chains and makes quite the noise as it moves and Scrooge notices almost immediately. When he stops, the shadow stops, and when he spins around it disappears! Scrooge then resumes his climb and the shadow respawns, only now it’s feeling playful as it lifts Scrooge’s hat off of his head. Scrooge then carefully sticks his cane out behind him and basically tickles the shadow. As it laughs, Scrooge is able to spin around and catch sight of it. The shadow drops his hat while Scrooge yells and races up the stairs into his bed chambers.

Aww, c’mon, Scrooge! He doesn’t look so scary.

Once inside, Scrooge engages numerous locks on his bedroom door (that’s kind of irregular) before retreating to a large chair. Shaking, he pulls his hat low as Marley’s haunting calls for Ebenezer Scrooge return. Scrooge barks back for him to go away, but the ghost enters. As he walks through the door, he fails to negotiate the cane Scrooge hastily left on the floor and trips over it coming to land right beside Scrooge’s chair. Marley pops up remarking it’s kind of slippery as Scrooge lights a candle in disbelief. The ghostly apparition confirms to Scrooge that he is indeed the ghost of Jacob Marley. Scrooge then softens a bit and starts recounting how Marley was a class act who bravely robbed the widows and swindled the poor. Marley seems rather proud of himself before something reminds him that basking in such praise is not what he came here for. He snaps out of his contented state to correct Scrooge. Declaring he was wrong to live his life in such a manner, he reveals he was punished for all eternity for his crimes against humanity as he flings his chains about. They’re his curse, but wrapped around one is a piggy bank that Scrooge takes interest in. When Marley, deep in his dramatic recounting of his cursed state, yanks on the chains they wrap around Scrooge’s neck drawing him closer to Marley and choking him in the process.

It’s at this point that Marley reveals to Scrooge that the same is in store for him when his time is up. Scrooge seems legitimately scared of such a fate and begs his old partner for help. It’s at this point Marley gives him the old “You will be visited by three spirts,” routine, only since this is Goofy he holds up just two fingers when saying “three.” He warns Scrooge that if he doesn’t heed the advice of these spirits that his chains will be even heavier! He then departs with a haunting “Farewell,” and as he vanishes through the door Scrooge calls outs out for him to “Watch out for that first,” before we hear the sound of Marley falling down the stairs with the familiar Goofy yell accompanying it. When the crashing sounds end, Scrooge finishes his warning, “…step.”

A clearly spooked Scrooge searches for ghosts before bed.

Scrooge, now dressed in a gown and cap for sleeping, is inspecting his room for spirits, it would seem. He flashes a candle in the fireplace and under the bed, but seeing nothing he climbs into bed scoffing at the notion of spirits as he blows out his candle. He quickly falls to sleep, and then the camera starts bouncing! We’re clearly seeing the point of view of another creature, which heads for Scrooge’s nightstand. It’s Jiminy Cricket, who rings the bell on Scrooge’s clock to wake him from his slumber. A groggy Scrooge turns to regard this individual who informs him that he’s the Ghost of Christmas Past. Jiminy even displays a fancy badge, like the one he receives at the end of Pinocchio, confirming his identity. Scrooge rather casually remarks he thought he’d be taller, then turns to go back to sleep. The cricket fires back that if men were measured by kindness, then Scrooge would be no bigger than a speck of dust! Scrooge tells him what he thinks of kindness and its usefulness, which Jiminy reminds him he didn’t always feel that way. Declaring it’s time to go, Scrooge encourages him to get out, but when the ghost opens the window Scrooge is suddenly out of bed.

Despite the fact that he’s a duck, Scrooge clearly does not enjoy flying.

Confused, Scrooge asks the ghost (which he always addresses as Spirit) what he’s doing. He tells him they’re going to visit his past, but Scrooge lets him know he can’t go out the window without falling. The ghost just tells him to hold on, and when he opens his tiny umbrella the two sail out of the window with a gust of wind! They fly through the night sky with Scrooge becoming ever frantic like a cat that accidentally wandered onto a motor boat or something. The spirit actually laughs at him, suggesting he thought Scrooge enjoyed looking down on the world.

Scrooge clearly wasn’t very smooth with the ladies.

Eventually, the two come to rest outside a tavern. It belongs to an individual named old Fezzywig, Scrooge’s former employer. Scrooge is excited to peer through the window and the sights are full of Disney cameos. Scrooge remarks that Fezzywig couldn’t have been a kinder person to work for, which is interesting since he doesn’t appear to find that trait useful for himself as an employer. He then gets excited when he spies a younger version of himself seated in the corner. The spirit points that this is the version of Scrooge that hasn’t yet become a miserable miser consumed by greed which doesn’t seem to offend Scrooge in the least as he casually responds “No one’s perfect.” Scrooge then narrows his focus on Isabelle, as played by Daisy Duck. He refers to her as “lovely Isabelle,” and we see her pull the young Scrooge out onto the dance floor. She rather unapologetically begs Scrooge for a kiss by pointing out she’s primed and ready and under the mistletoe, but Scrooge instead takes note that she’s standing on his foot. She doesn’t allow herself to be bothered as she takes Scrooge’s hands and the two dance. When the song ends, Belle plants a kiss on Scrooge which he rather clearly enjoys.

Scrooge isn’t even willing to pause his counting and come out from behind his wall of money to talk with Belle.

The present day Scrooge is left swooning too as he recalls how he was madly in love with her. The spirit then reminds him that in ten year’s time he came to love something else. Scrooge looks around and realizes they’re in his counting house on a dark, and rainy, evening. The young Scrooge is seated at his desk behind a mountain of money he’s counting out as Belle enters. She has to interrupt his counting to get him to acknowledge her, and he won’t even stand up to look at her from behind his wall of coins. She then delivers in rather unforceful terms an ultimatum. She’s been waiting for Scrooge to keep his promise to marry her as she’s been holding onto a cottage for the two of them for years. She asks if he’s come to a decision, and Scrooge rather angrily indicates he has. Belle’s last payment on the cottage, which she apparently financed through him, was an hour late allowing Scrooge to foreclose on the mortgage. As he waves the document in her face, Belle begins to sob and head for the door as broken hearts flutter about in the air – a little corny, but effective. She casts one, last, look in Scrooge’s direction and her face morphs from sadness to anger as she slams the door behind her causing all of the coins to scatter on Scrooge’s desk.

The spirit pushes the knife in deeper by pointing out that Scrooge loved his gold more than Belle causing him to lose her forever. Scrooge then begs the spirit to take him home declaring he can no longer bare these painful memories. The spirit adds that he fashioned them himself, as the scene shifts back to Scrooge’s bedroom. He’s in bed asking himself how he could have been so foolish when he’s roused from his thoughts by a loud, booming, voice. The voice shouts “Fee! Fi! Fo! Fum!” and the being indicates it’s puzzled by the smell of something unpleasant. Scrooge peers out from behind his bed curtains to see a massive man (the only human looking denizen of this world) surrounded by food. He quickly shuts the curtains, before pulling them open carefully again and a giant eye fills the opening.

This is the part of the cartoon where the viewer gets hungry. Well, a little. That pig is more disturbing than anything.

The titanic spirit (portrayed by Willy the Giant from Fun and Fancy Free) reaches into the bed to confirm that he has, indeed, smelled a stingy, little, Englishman. Scrooge emerges from the creature’s grasp and has it confirmed that he’s the Ghost of Christmas Present. Scrooge then takes note of the delicious looking, giant-sized, food before him. He asks where it all came from and is informed that it’s “The food of generosity, which you have long denied your fellow man.” Scrooge scoffs at the notion as he passes through a bundle of grapes, getting one stuck on his foot. He suggests no one has ever shown him generosity, and the spirit is forced to correct him that, despite his not being deserving of it, there are still some out there who do indeed extend good tidings to him. Scrooge tries to assure the spirit that this is not the case, but he’s just told. “You’ll see.”

Time to go meet this adorable little fella.

With Scrooge in the pocket his festive, green, robe, the spirit leaves Scrooge’s home. Since he is a literal giant, he has to lift the roof of the house off to step out. He then grabs a street lantern, which magically functions like a flashlight, as he goes on a search for a specific home. He checks one and the screams of a woman from inside alerts him that he’s not in the right place. He soon finds the home he’s looking for and dives onto his knees outside of it. One would assume a giant jumping around outside would get the attention of the whole neighborhood, but no one seems to notice.

“Hey mom, where did Polly go? She’s not in her cage…”

The spirit removes Scrooge from his pocket and deposits him outside the home. Scrooge, rather angrily, demands to know why he brought him to this old shack. The spirit then tells him it’s the home of his overworked, underpaid, employee: Bob Cratchit. Scrooge looks inside and sees Mrs. Cratchit placing dinner on the table. He cracks a joke by asking if she’s cooking a canary, then, perhaps sensing the ire of the giant, says they must have more food than that and points out a pot boiling over a fire. The spirit corrects Scrooge by telling him that’s his laundry, and the two go quiet and just observe as Bob tells his two children they must wait for Tiny Tim (Dick Billingsly). The small boy tells his father he’s coming as he slowly descends the stairs with the aid of a cane. His father whisks him over to the table where the boy enthusiastically declares there’s a lot of wonderful things to eat. Then reminds his family that they must thank Mr. Scrooge. His mother can’t muster up a response except just to smile politely and avoid his gaze, she probably spends many hours of her day cursing that name. Bob sits down and begins cutting a single pea for himself. Seeing that this is apparently all his dad has to eat, Tiny Tim offers him the drumstick from his plate, but Bob, sort of sadly, just hugs the child refusing to take the offering.

The final spirit is far less friendly than the first two. He also has a bad habit, but if you’re already dead, then why not enjoy a cigar?

Scrooge asks the spirit what’s wrong with Tim, and he responds, “Much, I’m afraid. For if these shadows remain unchanged, I see an empty chair where Tiny Tim once sat.” Scrooge can only respond with “Tim will…?!” but there’s no spirit to answer him. He looks around and the scenery grows foggy as Scrooge begs for the spirit to return through coughing. A shadowy figure appears smoking a cigar, the apparent source of all the smoke. Scrooge, clearly terrified of this new apparition, asks if he’s the Ghost of Christmas Future. The spirit only nods as Scrooge, rather carefully, begs to know what will happen to Tiny Tim.

That’s the one! The shot that breaks me every time.

The spirit simply raises an arm and gestures. A cemetery comes into view and a small headstone sits beneath a tree. Bob is beside it, clutching Tim’s can, as his wife and other two children lower their heads and walk away. The camera focuses on Bob as he sniffles a bit and a tear runs down his cheek. It’s a truly heartbreaking sight. He then lays the cane on the headstone and slowly walks away.

Scrooge can only wail “Oh no!” at the sight, before turning to the spirit. He declares he didn’t want this to happen and begs to know if these events can yet be changed. The spirit doesn’t respond as a raspy pair of voices fill the air. Two weasels (voiced by Allwine and Ryan) are laughing about a recent funeral they just witnessed. They’re grave diggers, and the person they’re digging a grave for apparently had a funeral with no mourners. One laughs and says they should take a break, since “He ain’t going no where,” as they laugh and walk away. Scrooge and the spirit approach the open grave and Scrooge, likely knowing the answer given how spooked he sounds, asks to know whose lonely grave this belongs to.

Dying sure seems like it sucks.

The spirit strikes a match and as he lights his cigar his hood falls away. It’s Peg Leg Pete (Ryan), and he lets him know that the grave belongs to him! He holds the match beside the headstone so Scrooge can see his own name. The spirit then slaps his back, knocking Scrooge into the grave, as he shouts, “The richest man in the cemetery!” and breaks out into laughter. As Scrooge cries out for help, the spirit only continues to laugh harder. Scrooge, holding onto a root, dangles above his own coffin which soon billows with smoke and an eerie red light shines from within. It begins to open, and as Scrooge falls towards it he shouts “I’ll change! I’ll change!”

He’s never looked better!

Scrooge tumbles out of bed tangled in his own curtains. He’s shouting demands for the spirit to let him out before he realizes he’s back in his own room. He runs to the window declaring it’s Christmas morning! He shows his elation by hugging a pigeon that was on his window sill and declares the spirits have given him another chance. He frantically searches for his robe, accidentally stepping through his hat and ripping through the top, as he tosses on a scarf and runs out the door. He then runs back in and declares “I can’t go out like this!” Mind you, Scrooge is in his nightgown and slippers with a red coat, scarf, and busted hat. He then grabs his cane and declares “There!” in a bit of a fake out before running back outside.

Okay, maybe they will come hit Scrooge up for many in the future.

Scrooge gleefully slides down a short, snow-covered, banister and crashes into the individuals who showed up at his counting house the prior day collecting funds for the poor. Scrooge is happy to see them, though they don’t appear to feel the same way about running into Scrooge again. He tells them he has something for them, but they try to deflect him as they likely assume it’s more insults or another wreath, but Scrooge surprises them with gold. He fills the mole’s hat and slaps it down on his head as the rat reacts with shock and punctuates it with an “Oh no!” in disbelief. Scrooge thinks, or acts like he thinks, that the rat thinks this isn’t enough and starts tossing more money. This schtick goes on until Scrooge literally fills the mole’s pants with money leaving them with 100 gold pieces. As Scrooge cheerfully heads to his next destination, the two call out a “Merry Christmas to you!”

Scrooge is just spreading happiness now and it’s lovely.

Scrooge merrily dances through the streets greeting people who are clearly shocked to see this side of Scrooge until his nephew nearly runs him over while riding a horse. Scrooge, not bothered by this at all, simply calls out “Ah! Nephew!” Fred, like the other denizens of town, is shocked to see his uncle in an apparent good mood. He’s even more shocked when Scrooge tells him he’s looking forward to that wonderful meal he’s preparing. Fred, almost sweetly, shouts “You mean you’re coming?!” and Scrooge tells him he’ll be over promptly at 2 and to keep it piping hot as he balances his cane on his nose and scampers off. Fred, with a huge smile across his bill, assures his uncle that he will keep it hot and wishes him “…a very merry Christmas to you!”

Scrooge feels the need to torture Bob mildly before changing his life for the better.

Some kids scamper by, two of the three little wolves chased by one of the little pigs wielding a pop gun, as Scrooge emerges from a toy store with a huge sack over his shoulder. Declaring, “And now for Cratchit’s” he merrily makes his way down the street and to the home of Bob Cratchit. He giddily knocks on the door, but then forces himself to put on a serious face. Bob answers the door and is pretty shocked to see his boss standing there on Christmas morning (he probably shouldn’t be that shocked given how terrible his boss is). He somewhat sheepishly offers a “Merry Christmas” towards Scrooge, who snorts and brushes past him causing Bob to sort of whimper “Won’t you come in.”

Toys! We’ve got toys here!

Scrooge adds a “Merry Christmas, indeed,” in an angry tone. He tells Bob he has another bundle for him as he slams the sack on the ground. A teddy bear pops out, which Tiny Tim takes notice of. Scrooge scoops it up and stuffs it in the pocket of his jacket as he tugs the sack closer to himself trying to ignore the curious child. He then goes into a rant, declaring he’s had enough of this “half day off stuff” He then starts to act like he’s going to fire Cratchit, who looks pretty terrified. As he hollers, “You leave me, no alternative, but to give you,” the last part he can’t get out without a bit laughter as Tim finishes the sentence by exclaiming, “Toys!”

The other shot that breaks me, but in a good way!

Scrooge confirms to a confused Bob that, yes, he is giving him toys. He also tells him that he’s giving him a raise, and making Bob his partner as he doffs his cap and puts an arm around him. Bob can only muster up a “Partner?!” as he clearly didn’t expect this. Scrooge basically just announced that he’s lifting his family out of poverty, for heaven’s sake. He can only respond by saying, “Thanks, Mr. Scrooge” as we see his wife lift a fully cooked turkey out of that same sack (those toys must be gross). Tiny Tim then goes in for his line, “And God bless us, every one!” as Scrooge embraces the kid. They tumble into a rocking chair as Scrooge places his hat on the kid’s head and the other two kids run in to join the fun. “Oh What a Merry Christmas Day” returns as the Cratchits look on as their children pile onto Scrooge and the cartoon comes to an end.

Now, if only this could happen to every other greedy, rich, asshole the world would be a better place.

If that ending doesn’t leave you all warm and happy on Christmas Day, then I’m guessing nothing does. The way that Scrooge toys with Bob at the end doesn’t come across as cruel, though I can see some perhaps thinking that it does. It serves to draw out the suspense of the moment as Bob Cratchit discovers that his boss has made a truly life altering decision for him and his family. Did Disney intend for us to put it in such context? Maybe, I don’t know, but it’s how I’ve always approached that last scene. That family was starving to the point where their malnourished son was essentially a goner if things didn’t change, and fast. Now, assuming Scrooge keeps his word, the Cratchits will basically get half of every dollar Scrooge makes and presumably have a much easier life. And the adorable Tiny Tim gets to live.

Scrooge is also practical in his Christmas Day delivery, though they could really use some sides.

It’s a very satisfying conclusion to a well-worn story. I, like probably many, do not care to see another version of A Christmas Carol come along ever gain. We have enough. This cartoon though was my first introduction to the story which is probably why I like it so much. I do think it has value beyond that and my affection isn’t solely attributed to nostalgia, but I do acknowledge it plays a role in just how much I adore this one. I just think it’s wonderfully paced, beautifully animated, and the cast is exceptional. I love how this one looks, even when I’m watching it on a 35 year old VHS my mother made for my sister and I. I especially love the backgrounds which are so detailed and almost weathered looking to reflect the setting. As a result, the special loses a little something in the HD transfer Disney did a few years ago that brightens everything up and dulls some of the linework. Not that it isn’t still worth watching, but I almost prefer my ancient tape or cheap DVD I bought more than a decade ago. The actual animation is also wonderful. The characters are so expressive and the animators did an amazing job of conveying emotion through them. You could watch this thing on mute and know what every character is feeling at every moment. And even though this re-telling plays it straight, there’s some exaggerated, animated, flourishes here and there like when Scrooge is terrified of Marley or when he kicks Fred out of the counting house. It feels like Disney had something to prove with the first Mickey cartoon in 30 years and it really nailed it here.

Mickey’s Christmas Carol is available to stream all year round on Disney+. It probably aired this month on cable too, but at this point those airings may be over. I wish it still got the broadcast network timeslot it occupied 30 years ago, especially with the added shorts (only two of which are on Disney’s streaming network), but that’s how it goes.

The end of the cartoon, and the end for this year’s countdown!

I hope you enjoyed this year’s edition of The Christmas Spot, whether you read one entry, or all 25. Or whether or not you’re reading this in 2021, or 2025. In December, or March. It doesn’t matter, it’s always nice to do a little Christmas reading and reflect on the specials that warmed our hearts as kids and adults. And it’s even fun to look at the not-so-good ones, and that’s why I do this every year. A lot can change in a year, but I plan on being back here next year so I hope to see you then. Merry Christmas, everyone!


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

Original air date November 30, 2020

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 Christmas episodes! I’ll take as many as I can get and had the show continued I’d have welcomed a third one. Since 2021 marked the end of this second DuckTales era, it makes sense to welcome it back into the fold for The Christmas Spot for a final time.

In “Last Christmas,” we learned that Scrooge McDuck (David Tennant) hates Santa Claus. It’s basically a throw-away line, as the episode begins with him raging at Christmas and storming off to his room only for us to find out it’s all an act. He just wants to be left alone at Christmas so he can pal around with some ghosts. Him telling his nephew, Dewey (Ben Schwartz), that he actually likes Christmas, but hates Santa, reads as a joke. Given that this show is rather lore heavy, I suppose we should not have been surprised to see the subject of Scrooge hating Santa Claus brought up again. And exploring that hatred is the subject of the show’s second, and final, Christmas episode “How Santa Stole Christmas.”

Della has a story to chill your bones!

The episode begins with the customary cold open. The boys, Huey (Danny Pudi), Dewey, and Louie (Bobby Moynihan) are getting ready for bed on Christmas Eve while their mother, Della (Paget Brewster), tells them a story and Uncle Donald (Tony Anselmo) passes out cookies. And getting tangled in Christmas lights. Della is reciting “A Visit from St. Nicholas,” only the words have been changed to refer to Santa as a traitor and other unpleasantries. Dewey is the first to request that she just tell them the regular version of the poem with the nice Santa, but Della quickly responds that he is not welcome in their home! She explains by adding a “He knows what he did,” with narrowed eyes, but when the boys ask what he did it soon becomes apparent that Della hasn’t a clue.

Christmas time is a time for war at McDuck Manor.

A noise from the roof, a clatter if you will, interrupts the awkward moment between hen and ducklings. Della grabs her brother, now immobilized in Christmas lights, to lead the charge to battle while the boys head to the roof. They slide excitedly across the snow in hopes of catching a glimpse of the real Santa, only to find Scrooge. He’s decked out in what I assume is some sort of Scottish military uniform complete with beret and kilt. Webby (Kate Micucci) is there as well camouflaged to blend in with the background. She is quick to remind the boys that an enemy of Scrooge McDuck is an enemy to them all!

Some different reactions to the guest spread across the faces of the McDuck clan.

Scrooge is confused why the boy’s even care about Santa since he can provide anything they’d need. He then hands out their apparent Christmas present this year: boring, knit, hats. Louie questions if his great uncle could have found an itchier material while Scrooge prattles on about how they don’t need modern luxuries. A ring of the doorbell puts an end to the discussion as they try to peer down from the roof to see who’s there, but are unable to. Scrooge speculates it’s just some carolers and makes his way inside, though as he prepares to open the door he’s poised to strike!

Webby is a constant source of entertainment.

When Scrooge does open the door a look of surprise crosses his face, which soon turns to one of anger as he says one word, “Claus.” The boys light up as the camera shows us Santa Claus from their perspective. What does the DuckTales Santa look like, you may be wondering? Well, he’s a polar bear! I honestly had not given it much thought until now, but I suppose it makes sense that he’d be a polar bear. Most everyone else in this universe appears to be some kind of bird or dog, though there is a cross-over with the TaleSpin crew. Santa (Hugh Bonneville) prepares to wish them all a “Merry Christmas,” but before he can get that second part out he lurches forward and collapses on the floor. The boys look devastated while Scrooge seems legitimately surprised as he sheaths his weapon. Webby still looks ready to pounce as Scrooge pulls on her left arm to lower her grapple gun. She quietly raises her right arm in response which brandishes a blade as we smash cut to the intro.

Santa is a big ole polar bear. Makes sense.

The credits are, once again, festively done with the same crooner version to the song that we saw in “Last Christmas.” I still cannot find a credit for who sings it, but for some reason I feel like I heard it was Chris Diamantopoulos, but don’t quote me on that. Following the intro, we return to the home of Scrooge McDuck and focus on a sleeping Santa as he’s waking from his slumber. He’s been propped up in a chair by the fire as the kids have gathered around him. The boys start peppering him the usual questions a kid might have for Santa should they meet while Webby just grumpily asks “When are you leaving?” as she finishes dressing a leg injury on the big bear. Santa seems amused by the children and produces presents for all! Huey gets a video game, Dewey a trampoline, Louie a new cell phone (he plans to sell his old one for cash when Scrooge points out he already has a cell phone) and Webby refuses to open hers. A nice detail on the gifts is they are the exact gifts Scrooge called out on the roof as things they don’t need (he pays attention enough to know what they want for Christmas, and refuses to accommodate their wishes). The boys are enjoying their presents until Scrooge starts barking at Santa to get out. He alludes to Santa stealing something from him in the past and he’s not about to let the big bear turn his nephews against him!

I didn’t grab a screen for this scene, so here’s Scrooge’s house decorated for Christmas!

Santa insists that they not do this in front of the children while the boys seem surprised at this news. Webby, of course, is not and she demands to know what Santa stole from Scrooge. Scrooge fills her in: Christmas! Now it’s the children’s turn to gasp as the very notion of Santa stealing Christmas is a hard concept to wrap one’s head around. Scrooge goes on to say that he came up with the whole Christmas “racket” and this glory hound took all of the credit. Santa isn’t interested in rehashing any of this as he points out that he has a sack full of presents still to deliver and a busted leg that will prevent him from doing so. Scrooge is his only hope as he askes, “Scroogey, with your belt so tight, won’t you fly my sleigh tonight?”

Scrooge gives him the cold shoulder as the boys plead with him to reconsider. Santa starts turning on the guilt, even allowing a present to fall out of his sack that he has trouble reaching. Scrooge has seen enough and grabs the gift for him and tosses it back into the sack telling Santa they’re not interested in what he’s selling. Santa keeps up the routine and decides to make Scrooge an offer: if he helps him deliver toys this year, he’ll never show up at his home again. Scrooge seems unmoved until Santa adds that he’ll save a fortune on traps. Scrooge then rather reluctantly shakes the bear’s hand and scoops up the sack referring to him as a sanctimonious solstice swindler. Nice alliteration, which will be a thread throughout the episode. As he marches out the door the others look on in surprise, but when Scrooge mutters about not believing Santa roped him into this again they let out yet another audible gasp. This allows Santa to tell a little story about how he and Scrooge McDuck first met.

When Scrooge met Santa.

It was a long time ago, as Santa puts it, and the area was in the midst of a nasty blizzard. A young looking Scrooge knocks on the door of a home and when the door is opened by a young lady, he immediately starts ranting at her to buy some coal! He really needs to work on his delivery. She slams the door in his face and he tosses his sack of coal over his shoulder muttering to himself as he walks off. He then hears someone singing “Jingle Bells” nearby, but it also sounds like they’re struggling with something. Scrooge wanders over and sees a young Santa pulling a rather large sleigh. When he inquires with the bear about what he’s doing, Santa explains he’s trying to spread warmth to the region by giving people toys. Scrooge, ever practical, seems to think this is foolish, but tosses his sack of coal in the sleigh and offers to help pull the sleigh.

When the pair reach the house Scrooge was just shut out at, Santa strolls over to the door, despite Scrooge insisting the individuals who live there won’t be accommodating, and knocks on the door. The same lady from before answers and Santa explains he’s looking to trade a present or two for a few minutes of warmth. He hands over a wrapped box and the woman opens it to find a nutcracker. She smiles and lets him in without a word and prepares to shut the door in Scrooge’s face, but Santa insists he’s with him. She seems to agree to let Scrooge in, but narrows her eyes at him and gestures that she’ll be watching him closely.

These creatures are not fooling anyone.

Inside, we see the home is clearly inhabited by elves of some kind. They’re small, wear pointy hats with bells, and are dressed in various, bright, colors. Of course, this being the DuckTales universe, they’re also some kind of dog people. Santa is leading them all in a rousing rendition of “Jingle Bells” until the fire goes out. The woman who answered the door, who appears taller than the rest, finally speaks (I’m not sure who voices her, but basically every member of the main cast is credited as voicing “Elves” in this one) to point out the obvious. Santa smiles and lets them know his companion, Scrooge, is in possession of something that will get their fire going once again. He grabs Scrooge’s sack of coal, much to the duck’s surprise, and dumps a few biscuits on the fire and it ignites instantly. The other elves start enthusiastically shoving money in Scrooge’s face insisting that any friend of Santa’s is a friends of theirs. They also inquire about getting coal delivered, and Santa starts boasting Scrooge can deliver anywhere! And by Christmas! Scrooge is rather shocked at this proclamation and tries to explain that Christmas is a mere 20 days away, but Santa insists he’ll help him adding a “What are friends for?” Scrooge tells him to scrap the friends talk and suggests they be partners instead. Santa asks “Why not both?!” as he scoops him up in a big bear hug. A literal one.

I love this.

We jump back to the present where the kids are surprised to find out the two were friends with Webby insisting that Scrooge doesn’t have any friends. They head to the sleigh, which is parked outside, and the boys run excitedly to the reindeer. They start patting them and checking them out while Scrooge barks for them to get away from those “roof wreckers.” He then adds they’re not coming along as they’re too susceptible to Santa’s charms. Only Webby is welcome aboard the sleigh. The boys start to put up a fight, but Santa pulls out his nice list to check it twice and mentions he knows of some boys making their way up the list. As he explains, one of the reindeer is licking Dewey’s head the whole time and it’s adorable. Santa basically bribes them with more presents though so they run inside while Scrooge snaps the reigns sending the sleigh into the night sky. I love you, DuckTales, but I have to confess I can’t forgive you for giving Santa only six reindeer. A Christmas fail.

This episode effectively uses montage to get the other side characters a little face time at Christmas.

We then head into a musical montage set, once again, to “Jingle Bells.” I honestly didn’t realize how much mileage this one gets from that song until I started typing about it. Webby and Scrooge are shown delivering presents to the many side characters we’ve met throughout the show. They recoil in horror at the disgusting sock of Doofus, receive a fruit cake to the face from Gizmoduck’s defense mechanism, and leave a present for that Scrooge-horse abomination character.

Webby is proving she’s not immune to the charms of Santa.

Back in the sleigh, Webby is handling a present while insisting to Santa that she won’t fall for his charms like most do. As she says this, she shakes various gifts and mentions the contents as if such an offering could never work on her, until she gets to a box with a crossbow in it! She asks Santa who it’s for and he implores her to check the tag. Of course, the tag reads Webbigail Vanderquack and her eyes bulge with excitement! She squeals and hugs the gift while Santa remarks to Scrooge how there’s nothing like the happiness of a child on Christmas to warm the heart. Scrooge suggests Webby won’t fall for his tricks and the young girl pauses for a moment, but then resumes the present embrace.

The sleigh continues to soar through the sky and we see the background change to reflect a new part of the world. When it changes from Rome, to China, to Rome again Webby calls out this error in the montage only for Santa to inform her that he delivers the presents alphabetically. When Scrooge, in a rather incredulous manner, demands to know why he wouldn’t do it by country the old bear plays dumb and remarks that doing so would save him some time. Scrooge performs a facepalm as Webby becomes increasingly worried that they’re going to run out of time to save Christmas, then tries to save face by adding, “not that I care.” Santa tells her not to worry, then he produces the secret to his success: the Feliz Navidiamond!

Time for DuckTales to add to the Santa lore.

The gem is hanging from Santa’s sleigh, and as the camera focuses on it and Scrooge speaks it’s name we’re transported back to the past. The image of the gem is replaced with a crudely drawn version as Scrooge and Santa look over a map. They’re after the diamond, but need to enter a dangerous looking cave in order to get it. Scrooge explains the diamond allows the holder to manipulate time, but it only works on one evening: Christmas Eve. Santa and Scrooge know that with this diamond they can deliver all of the coal on time, but they have to enter the rather mean looking cave in order to get it.

And here come the reindeer!

The two make their way towards the cave with Scrooge remarking that they just need to survive los renos voladores. Santa wonders what that could possibly translate to, but his question is soon answered when he looks up to the sky: flying reindeer. The two swoop down looking rather ferocious. As Scrooge tries to ward one off he looks over to see Santa petting the other. When he asks how he managed that, Santa produces some jingle bells. He instructs Scrooge to “jingle all the way” as he tosses him a set (and I groan). Scrooge jingles the set of bells in the face of his opponent, and the reindeer immediately starts to nuzzle his face. Santa saunters over and eagerly asks if they can keep the reindeer.

It just wouldn’t be Christmas without the Beagle Boys.

Webby interrupts the tale to say “Of course you kept the reindeer,” adding that they’ve got two horns worth of deadly efficiency. Santa agrees insisting they’re a Christmas staple while Scrooge grumbles about the whole business as he prepares to enter another home. When he asks why Webby would care she insists she doesn’t, but when one of the reindeer turns and snorts at her she whispers “It’s not true” to assuage him while Scrooge does his best to ignore her. The two then enter the chimney and the musical montage resumes with Webby and Scrooge delivering more presents to more familiar faces, including the apparent sole member of the Beagle Boys (Eric Bauza) on Santa’s nice list. As the two try to slip out of the junkyard, the one Beagle Boy wakes up excitedly and calls out to his brothers that Santa is here. They in turn wake up and seeing how they’re all on the naughty list, things aren’t looking so well for Scrooge and Webby. That is, until Santa and the reindeer swoop in! They cut through the Beagle Boys and Webby and Scrooge hop back in the sleigh. As they fly away, Santa remarks that since he now saved Scrooge they’re even. Scrooge scoffs at the idea and we return to the past to apparently find out how Scrooge saved Santa.

Not Santa’s best plan.

They’re in that rather formidable looking cave from before clearly looking to retrieve the Feliz Navidiamond. Santa is raring to go, while Scrooge warns of a guardian. As they look upon a frozen pedestal which the diamond sits upon, Santa prepares to go for it when a rather large snowball starts rolling in. More follow and soon a monstrous snowman is assembled! Santa still isn’t frightened and suggests they can beat him with kindness, despite Scrooge’s protesting. He heads over to the snowman and proposes a trade: one present for the Feliz Navidiamond. The snowman apparently does not think this is a fair trade for it snatches Santa and appears ready to devour the humble bear. The sound of jingling bells distracts the being as Scrooge comes riding in on a flying reindeer! He drops flaming coal on the snowman causing it to release Santa. As the creature’s tree-like arms go up in flames it turns its attention to Scrooge, allowing Santa to go for the diamond. The snowman knocks Scrooge from his reindeer and then turns back to Santa grabbing his foot. He’s too late though for Santa reaches the diamond and is able to freeze time! Or at least, he thinks he stopped time, but Scrooge corrects him and points out he’s actually slowed it down (for some reason, Scrooge and the reindeer are not affected, but the snowman is) so that its passage is almost imperceptible. Scrooge declares they’re running on Christmas time and the two embrace to celebrate.

We return to the present where Scrooge and Santa are laughing about their past experiences. Webby is surprised to see the two getting along so well, while Santa seems a bit disappointed they’ve arrived at the last house. Scrooge insists he can do this one alone leaving Webby to ask Santa what the deal is? When she pushes Santa to explain how these two red coat enthusiasts could have had a falling out, Santa replies it was the worst Christmas of his life.

A word of advice: never propose Scrooge do something for free when he’s drinking a hot beverage. Or any beverage.

Another flashback sees Santa sitting by a roaring fire. He’s in the elf home again, and a cheery Scrooge enters singing his own version of “Jingle Bells” swapping out “bells” for “coal.” It’s Christmas Eve and he takes a seat across from Santa and explains he has the whole route mapped out, plus carrots for the reindeer. When he says they leave at dawn, Santa sheepishly interrupts to suggest they leave tonight instead so that the people they deliver coal to can wake up to a surprise on Christmas morning. Scrooge playfully calls him an old softy and he reminds him that they can’t take payment for the coal if the customers are sleeping. Santa then, rather nervously, suggests they don’t take payment, but do it for free. Scrooge spits his coffee, or hot chocolate, in the bear’s face at the suggestion and angrily declares he will not participate in free handouts!

“It’ll never catch on!”

Santa tries to explain that they can’t charge people on Christmas. When he suggests that warming their hearts is enough, Scrooge returns that they’re warming their homes. He then calms himself down and tries to explain the plan to Santa in a way that he, Scrooge, understands it. They use Santa’s charms and “Christmas is magic,” routine to get people to let them in, then Scrooge sells them the coal. Santa insists that it’s not just a game to him, that Christmas IS magic. Scrooge clearly can’t reason with someone so selfless, so he resorts to an ultimatum. Either Santa do Christmas his way, or do it on his own. Santa looks sad, then we hard cut to Scrooge slamming the door behind him as he leaves the home insisting “It will never catch on!” Inside, Santa is upset and doubting himself, but the elves gather around him. They remove their hats and pointy ears pop up (yeah, we already figured that out) while the head elf adds “We can help.”

I hate to see Webby sad.

Santa is still sad about how things ended as we return to the present. Webby is despondent that Christmas is actually a sad story. Santa explains that this is why he was so happy to work with Scrooge again and then instructs Webby to look in the sack as there should be one last present inside: Scrooge’s. Only Webby does look inside the sack and finds it’s still full. Confused, she turns to Santa, but he seems to know what’s been going on, though he can scarcely believe it.

That’s one evil looking Scrooge.

As Santa wails “No, no, no!” we’re taken back to McDuck Manor. Louie is sneaking up muttering to himself that Santa won’t mind if he takes a little peek. He makes his way down to the tree and finds a gift marked for him. He opens it and immediately is enraged to find a lump of coal and an invoice. We then cut to a rather sinister looking Scrooge as he places the final lump and invoice into a box and prepares to descend the last chimney.

Ohh ok, he just wants to make kids literally warm.

Scrooge enters the house and monologues his reasoning here, which is sorely needed because he’s coming across as a true villain here. In his mind, kids don’t need trinkets that they play with for a day, they need something practical. Something like coal which can warm their home. And right on cue, he finds a cold house with a little pig girl (Abby Ryder Fortson) shivering on a nearby couch. He walks over to place her blanket back on her, but her eyes snap open and shouting “Stranger danger!” she nails Scrooge with a right hook. She then mistakes him for Santa and immediately starts apologizing. Scrooge takes it all in stride and hands over the present. As he goes on about the merits of warmth, she opens the box and finds the coal. She’s not particularly disappointed though as she takes the ribbon and wrapping paper and fashions a doll out of it with the lump of coal serving as the head. She cleverly names her new doll Colette and introduces herself as Jennifer. Scrooge, seemingly finding this whole routine absurd, suggests using the coal to warm the house, but Jennifer refuses insisting she loves her doll already!

Well, she’s happy now, but Scrooge sure isn’t.

Scrooge then walks over to a window trying to wrap his head around all of this. He claims when he was a kid he would have killed for a piece of coal at Christmas, even if it only warmed his home for one night. He then looks to Jennifer who no longer appears cold as she lovingly caresses her “doll.” He then finally gets it, remarking to himself that a warm heart can carry you through the coldest times. The mantra of Santa Claus. He returns to Jennifer’s side, who has fallen back to sleep, and is now able to place the blanket on her. He sits beside her and realizes that what he did this night was wrong. As he wonders aloud to himself how he can fix this, a pounding on the door causes it to fly open and a rather enraged Santa enters.

Ooo! I like this Santa!

Santa looks ready to rumble as he shouts out Scrooge’s crimes against Christmas. Webby even enters accusing Scrooge of ruining Christmas! Jennifer also wakes up and Santa immediately goes back into the nice routine and even hands over the Eleanor Roostervelt doll she requested. The girl goes back to sleep so the others can resume their argument. Scrooge deftly turns the situation around pointing out that Santa’s injury is fake and accuses him of knowingly ruining Christmas by putting it in his hands! Santa then comes clean explaining that he came up with the whole thing because he felt if Scrooge saw the joy that Christmas brings to children he’d end their feud and they could be friends again. Webby then sums it up by saying “Santa Claus was willing to risk Christmas,” allowing Scrooge to finish, “because he wanted to spend it with me.”

Now the rest of the cast get to have fun.

Santa and Scrooge seem to be having a rather heartfelt moment, but Webby is forced to point out that they’re at risk of blowing Christmas. Santa remarks the Feliz Navidiamond is nearly out of power as we see the sun start to rise. Scrooge, seemingly unconcerned, informs Claus he just needs to think practically and suggests the strategy divide and conquer. We cut to the whole crew, Della, Donald, Launchpad, etc. all riding reindeer through the sky! It would seem Christmas has been saved as Dewey announces the last gift has been delivered. Santa and Scrooge are sharing a reindeer and he informs Scrooge there’s still one more gift with Scrooge insisting it better be in Duckburg because he’s freezing! Santa snaps back at him using his own alliterative expression for Scrooge as he refers to him as a greedy, Glaswegian, grinch! He hands a small gift over to Scrooge as the last one is his. Scrooge opens the gift and finds a set of bells with the inscription across them “McDuck & Claus Delivery.”

Aww.

Scrooge remarks the sound of it doesn’t sound quite so annoying anymore. He then hands over the real last gift of Christmas: one for Santa. It looks like a key fob one would use with a car. Santa remarks it’s nice, but adds he doesn’t have a car. As the clouds part and Scrooge’s mansion comes into view, Scrooge instructs Claus to push the button. He does so, and Scrooge explains that all of the various Santa traps that adorn his mansion have been deactivated. Santa is welcome at his home anytime. Though he instructs him not to come down the chimney like some creep.

I love seeing the place decorated for Christmas.

Santa can’t even muster a response other than to embrace Scrooge. Webby then enters the picture to narrate the end of the episode allowing Scrooge to take it home with a “Happy Christmas to all, and to all a good night!” Santa gets to add in some “Ho ho ho’s,” ending in a “Woah-oh!” as the reindeer all pass in front of the moon – the most appropriate way to end a Christmas special.

Santa gets in one more bear hug.

“How Santa Stole Christmas” is not as good a story as “Last Christmas,” but it is still a nice Christmas episode from DuckTales. It’s a little too maudlin at times, but the twist on the origins of Christmas as we know it are certainly fun. It makes sense that Scrooge would be philosophically opposed to doing business with someone whose business plan is to simply give everything away for free. The episode almost takes things too far though as the reveal that Scrooge has been delivering coal all night really paints the duck in a bad light. The episode is quick to explain Scrooge’s motivation as in his mind he’s doing the world a favor by gifting them something practical as opposed to trinkets, as he calls them. Though, there’s still the matter of the invoice. The Santa character is almost syrupy sweet, so it’s nice to see him get angry with Scrooge upon finding out what he’s been up to and the episode finds its emotional hook in the end.

And now we have nine reindeer.

Helping things along is Webby, who is always a standout character in this show. After giving Dewey the first Christmas episode to shine, it’s nice seeing one of the other kids step into the spotlight. The rest of the supporting cast is shoved aside in favor of the trio of Scrooge, Santa, and Webby. Della gets a couple of lines while Launchpad is allowed to ponder if he can crash a reindeer, but that’s largely it. Donald is present, but he doesn’t have a line. I suppose that’s fine considering he had a starring role in the prior special, though I always have to point out when Donald gets pushed to the side because, what can I say, I love that duck!

There are some terrific shots in this one.

The episode is animated as well as any other episode of the show with plenty of holiday flourishes to be found. I love the look of Scrooge’s home all decorated for the holiday and the elf home is certainly cozy and evocative of old fashioned Christmases. The giant snowman battle is impressive, and the shot from inside the creature’s mouth adds a feeling of dread to a moment that really shouldn’t have any since it’s a flashback and all. I also like the simple design of Santa. Again, it makes sense for him to be a polar bear in this world, and I think he may have appeared as such in a prior episode as a decoration or something. Either way, I clearly forgot until I saw him here. He’s giant, but looks rather cuddly. He sort of reminds me of my grandmother, especially when he starts trying to lay the guilt on Scrooge early in the episode.

If one DuckTales Christmas episode just isn’t enough, well it’s good that you have this one too. It’s a decent little mystery that mostly gets by on the emotional hook found in the end. And it’s also extremely accessible! Disney is likely to air this one on its family of cable networks, along with “Last Christmas,” and it might even be available on the Disney Now app. And if you have Disney+ it’s right there waiting for you. Considering we’re just a few days away from Christmas, you should probably get to it while there’s still time! After all, you’re likely not in possession of a Feliz Navidiamond.


Dec. 20 – Toy Tinkers

Toy Tinkers (1949)

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

Toy Tinkers is forever linked with the Mickey Mouse cartoon Pluto’s Christmas Tree, which we covered earlier in this countdown. The premise for both is nearly the same, it’s just that Pluto’s Christmas Tree subs out Donald Duck in favor of Mickey’s famous canine. In both cartoons, Chip and Dale serve as the antagonists as they enter a home at Christmas and cause some mayhem. In Pluto’s Christmas Tree, they’re almost fully in the wrong in that they begin the cartoon behaving like assholes towards Pluto and end up in the home of Mickey merely by accident. It’s different from how they enter the home of Donald Duck in their official, named, debut Chip an’ Dale when Donald chops down the tree they live in for firewood. In this one, they’re just going to enter Donald’s house because they want what he has. It kind of makes them jerks, but at the same time, this world the characters inhabit is a weird one in which chipmunks are expected to live outdoors while a duck is important enough to own a home. And for some reason, chipmunks apparently haven’t mutated like mice have into human-sized creatures.

It’s a beautiful sight.

Despite being a self-admitted Donald Duck fan, I’ve always been partial to Pluto’s Christmas Tree, but that’s almost wholly due to exposure. That cartoon was featured on television at Christmas time when I was a kid and I had a copy of it recorded on VHS. Even since then, the cartoon has been released on various Christmas compilations while Toy Tinkers has been less represented. It was included on a pair of VHS and DVD compilations and is featured on the 30th anniversary release of Mickey’s Christmas Carol. Where it’s not featured is on Disney+ and I think that has to do with the level of violence in the short. I think that is also what has kept it from seeing repeated television airings. The two cartoons are so similar that Disney and other networks probably saw little reason to air both, so why not go with the one that doesn’t feature a gun?

The duck needs a tree.

Whether you’re familiar with Pluto’s Christmas Tree or not, Toy Tinkers is absolutely worth watching and is one of the best Christmas anythings ever created, so let’s get to it. The short opens with the catchy Donald Duck theme song added midway through the character’s solo run and settles on a scene of a snowy woods. Chip (Jimmy MacDonald) and Dale (Dessie Flynn) are snoozing in a hollowed out log when the ground beneath them begins to shake. It’s shaking so much that Chip starts to hop involuntarily and finds himself outside of the log under a pile of snow. He looks and spies Donald (Clarence Nash) chopping down a nearby evergreen. Apparently, Donald is so strong that just the mere act of driving an axe into a small tree is enough to shake the entire woods.

Wholesome, but kind of lonely too.

Chip runs back inside to wake Dale and the two watch as Donald ties the tree to a sled (while singing “Jingle Bells”) and proceeds to ride it down a hill towards a cabin. Intrigued, the two slide down the hill after him utilizing the tracks left in the snow by Donald’s sled. They reach the cabin and peer through the window to see Donald in his bathrobe trimming a Christmas tree. It’s a wholesome sight, but what really catches the attention of the chipmunks are the various nuts and desserts strewn about. Donald clearly must be planning on having company for Christmas, though it’s worth pointing out there’s no sign of his nephews.

Now that’s a sight.

Dale immediately starts trying to open the window, but he’s much too small to do so. Chip, always the wiser of the two, and also the more abusive, kicks his partner in the butt causing him to land on his head. He motions for Dale to be quiet and heads to the edge of the structure they’re on while Dale follows by walking on his hands. The two collide and Chip finds himself beneath the ass of Dale and blows his tail out of his face to illustrate his frustration.

Dale is feeling good about himself. It’s amazing what a new wardrobe can do for one’s confidence.

The two head for the front door and Chip indicates to Dale they can use the mail slot to enter the cabin. The two peer through and we see the shadow of Donald pass by indicating he’s no longer in the door’s vicinity. The two quickly sneak in and head for the walnuts. Chip fills Dale’s arms with nuts and sends him on his way. As the little chipmunk runs he collides with a teddy bear knocking it over and the top hat from its head. Dale quickly positions it as he found it, but then stops to regale the hat. It’s sized right for a chipmunk, so he puts it on and takes the cane from the bear for good measure.

I suppose it’s important to remember that Dale is not the smart one.

Dale struts around like a big shot twirling his cane and mugging for the camera. His preening leads him between a doll and a clown, and as he bows to greet each they tumble over slightly as if they’re returning his bow. He continues strutting and twirling the cane, which accidentally strikes an elaborate music box causing it to turn on. Two figures move along the toy that also are dressed in fancy clothing. It’s clearly a duel scene, but Dale being an ignorant chipmunk, hops on the toy and returns their bows. The two toys then fire pop guns at each other knocking Dale’s head around. He tumbles away like a punch-drunk boxer and collides with Chip who literally slaps some sense into him.

Oh, you clever duck!

In another room, Donald is getting more Christmas ornaments when he hears a peculiar sound. He looks into the living room and sees Chip using a toy to load walnuts into the back of a toy truck. Dale is driving the truck and he heads out with a full load. Donald seems amused by this, but he being Donald, he’s not about to make merry with some chipmunks. Instead, he heads over to a toy train set on the floor and lowers the gate before Dale reaches it. He pauses to let the train go by, while Donald sneaks behind him and empties the contents of the truck into a bowl. When the train passes, Dale resumes his travels and Donald has a laugh at his expense only for Chip to then come along on one of those hand-pump cars on the tracks. Before Donald can react to the sight of the chipmunk, Chip snatches the bowl, places it on the car behind him, and promptly thanks the duck before taking off.

I know I just called him a clever duck, but this is legitimately clever of Donald to play the two against each other.

Donald begins to throw one of his classic tantrums while Chip and Dale celebrate, but before he goes too far into his fit he appears to get an idea. He disappears for a moment only to then reappear as Santa Claus! Chip and Dale seem confused, but Santa Donald runs up to them bringing gifts so they let their guard down pretty quick. Donald produces a walnut for Dale wrapped with a red ribbon. He seems happy with the gift until Donald hands Chip his gift: a walnut the size of a football wrapped with a green ribbon. Dale looks at Chip’s nut, then his own, and tosses his own to try to steal Chip’s. As the two bicker, Donald has a laugh, but then things get serious.

Is this why we can’t have this on Disney+?

This whole time, Donald’s hand has been in the giant nut he gifted Chip. When Chip swats Dale away and removes the green ribbon, Donald’s hand is revealed holding a revolver! Chip reacts in a comical manner by having his body go stiff and parallel to the ground. He then tries pointing the gun at Dale, who pushes it back towards Chip, and so on. Donald then discards the Santa guise and forces the two to put their hands up and marches them into the back of a toy paddy wagon. It’s self-driving, and as it speeds away with the chipmunks inside, Donald races out in front of it to cause it to crash into his foot.

That car must have really been flying!

We see the wagon spin, but we don’t see the actual impact as it crashes into the wall leaving the car wrecked and Chip and Dale looking a bit worse for ware. Donald, not satisfied, grabs a pop gun and taunts the pair by saying, “So you want some nuts?!” as he pours a bowl of them into the barrel of the gun. It basically turns into a machinegun as Donald blasts walnuts at Chip and Dale forcing them to seek cover as nuts and Christmas ornaments (I guess they were mixed in with the nuts?) rain down on them.

They sure do look smug now that they have a gun.

The two chipmunks take refuge behind some wrapped gifts. It turns out to be a great spot because a toy canon happens to be setup there as well. It even has a seat for Chip to sit in while he aims it. Donald soon creeps over to see what the two are up to and gets shot in the face with a tomato for his curiosity. I don’t know where the chipmunks got that tomato, but they apparently have more as they hit Donald again forcing the duck to flee.

We just saw him decorating a tree by himself and now we see how happy he is to receive a phone call, I am starting to feel pretty bad for Donald Duck.

Donald creates his own wall of presents and puts on a soldier’s helmet as he calls out, “Prepare to defend yourselves!” The battle is on as both parties appear to be armed with Christmas ornaments as ammo. While Chip gleefully blasts away, Dale grabs a telephone and carries it behind enemy lines. He returns to his shelter and calls Donald on the phone who just can’t help himself. He answers it with an excited “Hello?” only for Chip to blast the receiver on the other end ringing Donald’s head like a bell.

Who gets stuck with all the bad luck?

The battle resumes until the phone rings again. This time, Donald answers it, but holds the earpiece away from his head. When he hears the pleasant sound of a waltz coming through it, he places it against his ear and enjoys the music. Until he doesn’t, for Chip simply blasts the other end again. Donald throws the phone down in anger and shakes his whole body at it before racing off-camera. He returns with dynamite! He shoves a stick into the receiver on the phone and dials Chip and Dale. Once it starts ringing he lights the fuse of the dynamite which is just barely sticking out of the phone. When he doesn’t hear an explosion, he gets frustrated and hangs up. The phone then rings and Donald gets excited once again for a phone call. He answers it, only for the dynamite to finally go off leaving behind a charred duck waving a white flag beside a ruined Christmas tree.

Dale might be embellishing his injuries just a tad.

With Donald’s surrender, Chip and Dale emerge from their hiding spot. Dale has a bandage wrapped around his head while he limps along playing a flute though Chip looks no worse for ware. They lead a line of toys all carrying nuts and other things while the camera moves outside of Donald’s house and back to the top of the hill where the cartoon began. From there, we can see the small army exiting the house as the ending title card comes into view.

I guess they’ll be eating good this winter.

Toy Tinkers is just a fun, slapstick, cartoon set at Christmas time. There are multiple instances of “Jingle Bells” utilized and Donald’s home is very much decorated for the holiday. No one is clearly in the right, and no one is clearly in the wrong, and no one learns a lesson. Chip and Dale wind up with a bunch of nuts and assorted junk food for the long winter ahead and I guess they also have some toys too. Donald, on the other hand, loses everything, sees his home ruined, and probably suffered some serious burns too. There was not a happy Christmas in the home of Donald Duck in 1949.

What makes this cartoon so enduring is it’s just fun. Donald and Chip and Dale work so well together which is why they starred in numerous shorts against each other. The cartoon is able to have a lot of fun with the setting by turning to toys as a framing device. The all-out war in the final act is probably what keeps it from Disney+. Is it offensive to see Dale act like a wounded soldier in the end? Perhaps for some, though not personally for me. Instead this is just an entertaining cartoon with terrific animation. The characters are so expressive and the gags are humorous. I love seeing Chip and Dale amongst the toys so much that I wish Disney had returned to it without Donald. Just Chip and Dale trapped in a toy store has a lot of potential.

I don’t know why Chip and Dale are small like real chipmunks as opposed to Mickey, but I do like seeing them inhabit a world much bigger than they are.

Even today, I’m still partial to Pluto’s Christmas Tree, but recognize Toy Tinkers as being an indispensable Christmas classic as well. Toy Tinkers just brings the funny, while Pluto’s Christmas Tree has those enduring images from within the tree that just puts me in the proper mood for the holiday. What’s great is I don’t have to choose between the two, though Disney does make it slightly more challenging to watch this one. And that has everything to do with it not being on Disney+ like Pluto’s Christmas Tree and if they haven’t added it yet I’m not sure we can expect the company to anytime soon. Which is a shame, because this should be there. There’s plenty of cartoon violence already on the platform and if they need a disclaimer or something then so be it. The only positive about it not being there is it seems to mean the company is less protective of it so if you don’t have one of the out-of-print DVD releases this short is featured on then at least you can stream it on YouTube for free. And since Pluto’s Christmas Tree can also be found there, why not make it a double feature?!


Dec. 5 – Pluto’s Christmas Tree

Original release date November 21, 1952.

Today we’re doing the second look-back to one of the best Christmas specials ever conceived, as chosen by yours truly, and it’s one of my all-time favorites: Pluto’s Christmas Tree. Despite being titled Pluto’s Christmas Tree, this Jack Hannah-directed cartoon short from 1952 is actually considered a Mickey Mouse cartoon. Mickey apparently had it written into his contract with The Walt Disney Company that anytime he had a speaking role in a short it was to be considered a Mickey Mouse cartoon, because this could have easily just been a Pluto cartoon. Also showing up in this one is the duo of Chip and Dale. The chipmunks seem to be mostly associated with Donald Duck, but the pair’s unofficial debut came in the short Private Pluto where the two agitate the canine. In that short, they looked more like generic chipmunks and they were identical, it wasn’t until the 1947 Donald Duck cartoon conveniently titled Chip an’ Dale that the pair was more developed.

Today, we go where no special has gone before: inside the Christmas tree!

Pluto’s Christmas Tree is also interesting for being the first Mickey Mouse short with the second, official, voice of Mickey, Jimmy MacDonald, doing the voice of the mouse. Walt Disney famously voiced that character to start, and over the years there was the occasional fill-in, but the role was never handed off to anyone else until Walt did so with MacDonald during the production of Fun and Fancy Free. Walt Disney was a pretty busy man with his hands in all kinds of projects and being the voice of Mickey just wasn’t a priority come the 1950s. MacDonald was already an accomplished sound effects engineer and provided voice work as well, in fact, he was the first voice of Chip.

Just look at how happy they are!

Pluto’s Christmas Tree is the Disney short most likely to put the viewer in the Christmas mood. It opens on a softly lit title card with “Deck the Halls” playing over it. It then zooms in on a Christmas card featuring a home that just happens to be Mickey’s house all covered in snow. The mouse and his dog are about to set out to find a Christmas tree. These were simpler times when a man, or mouse, could just walk out the back door with an axe and find what he was looking for. Pluto (Pinto Colvig) is especially excited to go running through the woods in search of the perfect tree and Mickey lets him go out ahead.

Chip and Dale are mostly going to act like jerks in this one. Here they are making fun of the happy puppy.

It’s not long before the dog is spotted by some would-be agitators. Chip (MacDonald) and Dale (Dessie Miller) are foraging for nuts and they take interest in mocking the dog. One of them pegs Pluto in the butt with an acorn, and the two mock him by jumping around a twig that resembles a Christmas tree and barking. This, of course, gets Pluto’s attention and he chases after them with the two forcing him to smash into a snow drift. On the opposite side, a perfectly formed “snow Pluto” slides out with the real dog behind. Pluto is unnerved by his snow doppelganger and seemingly forgets about the chipmunks. Meanwhile, the pair have taken refuge in a tree. As they have a laugh at Pluto’s expense, the tree begins to shake! It soon falls down as we see the two happened to pick the tree Mickey also settled on. He calls for Pluto, still checking out the snow dog but quickly gets freaked out when it collapses, who is happy to follow Mickey back home. As the pair march along, Dale tries to sneak out of the tree, but upon seeing Pluto trotting along behind him, immediately jumps back into it.

Happy times from before the chipmunks would disrupt their lives.

At home, Mickey sets up the tree and he and Pluto get down to decorating it. He starts hanging candy canes and ornaments as Chip and Dale come out of hiding from deep within the tree to check out their new surroundings. The two stroll along in the tree with Dale remarking, “Well, what do ya know?” as he takes in all of the pretty lights and colors. He then sees the candy canes getting placed on the tree and gets excited. Grabbing a twig, he stick it out of the tree in hope that Mickey will hang a candy cane on it, but he instead places a glass, blue, ornament. Dale inspects it, and while he may have preferred the candy, he seems pretty impressed with the bauble (after momentarily getting freaked out by his own reflection) and retreats deeper into the tree to go show Chip. He finds his fellow chipmunk inspecting a tiny bell, and dangling the ornament over his head, he whistles for his attention. Chip pops up and his head smashes through the bottom of the ornament. Dale, embarrassed, pulls open a cracked portion of the ornament to check on Chip, only to get punched in the face! Chip collapses into a pile of broken glass and then runs over and punches Dale on the top of the head for good measure as Dale gives a sheepish shrug.

Not where Dale was looking to find himself.

Mickey declares his work as done and leaves Pluto to admire the pretty tree. As he lays on a nearby rug, he then notices a light has started to blink. Apparently their lights are not the blinking kind, so Pluto goes over to the tree to check it out. There, we see Dale is twisting a light bulb to make it turn off and on. Pluto sticks his nose through the brush and Dale mistakes it for another bulb. He gives it a twist, causing Pluto to recoil from the tree with the chipmunk still attached. Dale spins around and finds himself eye-to-eye with the canine, and Pluto immediately starts to growl. Before he can snap his jaws shut on the rodent, Chip happens to walk by and uses a candy cane to snatch Dale from harm’s way.

I don’t think Mickey appreciates how amazing his dog is.

Pluto and Dale then bark back and forth at each other before Dale gets an idea. Grabbing an ornament, and tapping on it first to make sure it’s as fragile as the last one, Dale hurls it towards the ground. Pluto, apparently quite fond of Christmas trees, refuses to let the ornaments hit the ground. He dives for it, but Dale quickly tosses another one, and then another, forcing Pluto to stand on one leg with an ornament in each foot. Mickey then comes strolling in with gifts to place under the tree. He takes one look at this awkward position Pluto has gotten himself into and gives a chuckle. Playfully telling the dog to “cut it out,” Mickey places the ornaments back on the tree, only he hung one from Dale’s nose. Pluto points and stammers at the tree hoping Mickey will turn and see the chipmunk, but of course by the time he does Dale has already ascended the tree and retreated inside. Mickey just brushes aside Pluto’s behavior with an “Ohh, Pluto,” and leaves.

That getup might have worked on Goofy, but not Pluto!

Pluto is momentarily irritated, but he turns back to the tree and spots Dale once again. This time he’s left the tree in search of some nuts left out on a table. Pluto cuts him off, blocking his access to the tree, so Dale drops his nuts and runs ending up on the mantle above the fireplace. There, Mickey had set out some Santa candles and Dale positions himself among them and swipes the hat and beard from one in a bid to disguise himself. Pluto races over and finds that Dale’s disguise may have fooled the eyes, but they can’t fool his nose. He sniffs at Dale, causing the chipmunk to sneeze, and Pluto has him right where he wants him.

Mickey is surprisingly dumb in this cartoon.

Mickey then comes strolling back in and finds Pluto gesturing towards the chipmunk candle. Mickey mistakes Pluto’s actions as him wanting the candles lit, so Mickey lights them. When he gets to Dale, the chipmunk blows out his match. Mickey just shrugs, picks up Dale as if he were a candle, and uses an already lit candle to light the Dale candle. Mickey then leaves and Pluto looks broken-hearted that his master failed to notice the disguised vermin. He then turns back to the mantle and brushes all of the candles onto the floor, which seems like a real fire hazard.

Chip takes notice of what’s going on by the fireplace and races over to his friend’s aid. He stands on Pluto’s tail and gives it a tug. It makes a bell sound and Pluto lifts his tail all the way up with a curious expression on his face. Chip salutes him, thanks him, then hops on the mantle to snuff out the flame and snatch his buddy from harm’s way.

How do we not have a stuffed animal of Pluto with presents for feet?

Now the real chase is on as Pluto and the chipmunks race around the room. Pluto crashes into the presents Mickey had set out, his feet going through the boxes. As he tries to run with boxes on his feet, Chip and Dale get back into the tree. Pluto races up a ladder that Mickey had left out and starts barking at the tree, seemingly out of ideas. Dale hops out from the bottom of the tree while Chip pokes hi head out to release the tension on the middle brace of the ladder allowing Dale to push the bottom back together. Pluto tumbles over and crushes the remaining gifts he hadn’t already trampled while Chip drops the star from the top of the tree onto his tail.

Now that’s just adding insult to injury.

Pluto, who has seemingly has had enough, emerges from the mess and dives into the tree. Mickey sees him and races over screaming for him to get out and gets pulled into the scrum. The tree shakes and contorts as if it were in an electric dryer. Soon everything falls off of the tree, Mickey and Pluto included, leaving just the skeletal remains of what was a pretty nice tree. Mickey calls Pluto a dumb mutt and then does something pretty shocking for him: he strangles Pluto! Mickey grabs his own dog, man’s best friend, by the throat and begins to shake! As he orders Pluto to take a look at the mess he made, he finally sees Chip and Dale who are holding each other and staring in bewilderment. Clearly, the two are just as shocked as I am to see Mickey strangle his pet.

I’m honestly shocked this act of violence by Mickey didn’t land this one in “The Vault” or at least get edited out over the years.

Declaring, “Pluto! We have chipmunks in our tree!” Mickey scoops up Chip and Dale and presents them to Pluto, who slaps his own head in frustration. Mickey characterizes them as “cute little fellows,” but Pluto just barks in their face. Mickey pulls them back and scolds Pluto, reminding him that it is Christmas. The sounds of carols then fill the air and Pluto races over to the window. Outside, Goofy, Donald, and Minnie are singing “Deck the Halls” (Clarence Nash can clearly be heard in his Donald voice among the voices, but I don’t know if Minne or Goofy’s voice actors contributed) by a street light. Pluto and Mickey seem to enjoy the caroling, while Chip and Dale join in with a little dance and someone saw fit to have them sing the “Don we now our gay apparel,” line which feels like a hint about the nature of their relationship. Pluto decides to sing as well, only since he’s a dog, he just kind of howls. The chipmunks cover their ears and look at Pluto angrily, then slap a “Do Not Open Till X-Mas” sticker over his muzzle. The dog then looks at the camera in shock as the short comes to an end.

It looks like Christmas is once again the salve for all wounds.

Pluto’s Christmas Tree is a gag-infused short that’s over in the blink of an eye, and usually leaves me wanting more, so I watch it again! What I appreciate most about it is that virtually all of the gags incorporate the holiday theme in some way. We have smashing ornaments, candy canes, Christmas candles, and more all contributing to poor Pluto’s misery. It’s a Chip and Dale vehicle in which the pair create mischief, and really don’t receive any sort of comeuppance. Oftentimes the two are wronged somehow, but on occasion they’re basically just jerks taking advantage of a situation. And in this case, they’re taking advantage of an animal they clearly possess intelligence over, which just raises further questions since a chipmunk and a mouse should be on relatively equal footing, but Mickey clearly towers over the pair. They also live like animals, despite possessing human intelligence, and the whole thing really stops making sense if you give it much thought.

This is basically the only bad thing to happen to a chipmunk in this one. They really are the antagonists.

This one does celebrate Christmas and it’s quite possibly the best Christmas short Disney ever produced. It might even be the best Christmas short ever! The only rival really is Toy Tinkers, which is very similar to this one only swap in Donald for Pluto. I prefer this one just a little bit more, despite my love of Donald Duck, because it’s a touch sweeter and the setup is a little better. And it is also just gorgeous. If I had an endless amount of money to throw at things that I love, I would absolutely track down a production cel of Chip and Dale inside the Christmas tree. It is just drawn and painted so beautifully. It makes me wish I could shrink myself down to the size of a chipmunk to experience Christmas from that perspective. No wonder why my cat always liked sitting under tree.

I love this short so much that I just had to get the ceramic statues. I can’t bring myself to box them up during the off-season.

If you want to experience this fantastic holiday short this year, and you really should, then you have quite a few options. This being one of Disney’s best and most famous Christmas cartoons, it’s been released several times over on VHS, DVD, and Blu Ray as part of holiday collections. Most recently, it was included on the Blu Ray release of Mickey’s Christmas Carol. If you’re a subscriber to Disney+, it’s also available on there 365 days a year. Disney also still isn’t particularly protective of its theatrical shorts. It’s really surprising considering how litigious the company can be over the silliest things, but I suppose it’s a good thing that this short (and many others) can often be found streaming in various places on the web for free. In short, there’s no good reason to miss out on this one this year or any year.


Lego 21330 – Home Alone

Just in time for the holidays!

I love building Lego sets. It’s something I didn’t completely realize until I was an adult. It just puts me in a very serene sort of mood when I’m constructing some massive Lego set. And I liked doing it as a kid, I just never got the big sets when I was young. Only as an adult have I been able to grab things like the Ghostbusters Fire House and The Simpsons home. The only drawback is what to do with these things once they’re complete? These things aren’t like jigsaw puzzles where you put them together then toss them back in a box. They’re like sculptures, and also function as toys. I’m not going to just build them up to tare them down, but finding the space to display them is quite the chore.

Because of that, I try to limit my Lego purchases. If they ever went back to The Simpsons I’d definitely take a look, but mostly I try to stick to Disney. And by Disney, I mean theme park inspired sets. And that’s because my wife and I are really into that sort of thing. And I’ve been doing fine in that regard, but then Lego had to go and do something like create the house from Home Alone in Lego form.

If these product shots don’t make you want this set then nothing will.

Since the sale of 20th Century Fox to Disney, Home Alone is now technically a Disney movie and this is technically a Disney set. More importantly though, it’s Home Alone! I loved that movie as a kid, I still enjoy it as an adult, and now my own kids love it. We’ve already watched it a few times this fall because it’s really become a favorite of my daughter’s. She’ll want to watch it in June, she doesn’t care that it’s a Christmas movie. When I saw Lego was making this thing a reality, I had to get it: for myself, for my wife, and definitely for my kids. When it went up for sale, I pounced, and then I waited. I wasn’t sure when to spring it on my kids, and eventually I settled on the day after Thanksgiving. That’s the day I devote to decorating for Christmas and this year it was rainy, so it ended up being a good thing I had a Lego set to work on since setting up lights outside was a no-go.

It’s a big house in the film and pretty big as a Lego set measuring 12″ wide, 10 1/2″ high, and 8 1/2″ deep.

The Home Alone house is based on the home of the McCallisters as seen in the films Home Alone and Home Alone 2: Lost in New York. It’s definitely more evocative of the first film since that film takes place almost entirely within the house as young Kevin has to defend himself against two robbers, the notorious Wet Bandits! Bringing the house into Lego form requires nearly 4,000 plastic bricks leading to a rather large set. The build process is spread out over 24 steps, ingenious as this basically doubles as an advent calendar, and it’s part of the Ideas series and was designed by Alex Storozhuk so it includes a large instruction manual with background info on the design. It also includes five mini figures: Kevin, Kate, Old Man Marley, Harry, and Marv. And it’s not just the house, as it also includes the tree house and the plumber’s van that the Wet Bandits use as a cover for their illegal activities.

Opening it up only makes it bigger.

Building the set was fairly painless. All of the instructions are clear and the build order was pretty logical. It starts with the van and then moves to the house building from the ground up. I worked on it at a leisurely pace over the long weekend, sometimes by myself and sometimes with my kids, and by Sunday night I was finished. The steps are organized in such a manner that there’s no tedious parts. The outer walls and roof are spread out by working on interior objects and the like to keep things fresh and fun. And if you’re a fan of the film (and I assume you are if you’re interested in this) you’ll have a ball as you uncover things pulled directly from the film.

The placement of the rear door is not screen accurate, but at least you can still shoot robbers in the dick.

Now, because we’re taking a large house and trying to cram it into a not-to-scale replica, some sacrifices have to be made. Lego houses routinely omit the basements, and that’s because they would look pretty weird if every house sat on top of a foundation. Unfortunately, the basement plays a large enough role in the film that it can’t be ignored, so Lego figured out a compromise. The house looks the part from the outside and even includes a section that breaks the rectangular shape by sticking off the back. Lego elevated that part, which is the kitchen in the film and in the set, so they could put a small piece of the basement underneath. This means you lose the steps that Marv slips down leading to the back door and the kitchen is actually elevated above the dining room inside. There are also no stairs going up from the basement into the house proper, so in order to do laundry the McCallister’s have to walk outside and around the back of the house to access their basement. It’s not perfect, but Lego made it work well enough and doing it this way means they were able to put the laundry chute in the kitchen so an iron can fall and smash Marv in the face.

And you can still make sure Marv’s face gets smashed with an iron.
Kevin’s dining room where it’s always 9 o’clock.

The house is constructed for display and for play so there are four hinged pieces on the front. This allows the house to open wide for a view of the inside. On the right, is the dining room complete with grandfather clock and an uneaten macaroni and cheese dinner on the table. Behind that is the previously mentioned kitchen containing a refrigerator (with more mac and cheese dinners), island counter, television, microwave, rear door with doggy door (despite the family apparently not owning a dog or cat) and sink. It’s cramped compared to the massive kitchen in the film, but it looks the part. There’s also two boxes of pizza from Little Nero’s, one closed and one that’s opened, though the pizza inside appears to be topped with pepperoni, olives, etc. Big mistake, Lego, as Kevin only eats plain cheese!

Totally not Michael Jordon.
Oh, Kevin.

In the center of the house is the staircase and Kevin can ride his toboggan down it and out the front door, though his figure throws off the weight of the sled and it rarely works properly. To the left of the stairs is the living room. There’s a fireplace, Christmas tree, lounge chair, and a model train set. A not Michael Jordon cutout is affixed to the train and it, along with a mannequin on a record player in the dining room, can rotate by working a handle on the outside of the house. This is probably the favorite feature of my kids. The mannequin is more of a bust though, which is a bit of a bummer, but at least the gag is represented.

Hey Buzz, we’re going through all of your private stuff…

On the second floor are the bedrooms we saw in the film. Now, Kevin has four siblings to go along with two parents, but we only see a bedroom for his brother Buzz and one for his parents. Naturally, Lego saw fit to only do those bedrooms so where everyone else sleeps is a mystery. Buzz’s room is on the left (when looking at the house from the front) and there’s a desk in there with a Christmas catalog on it (sorry, no Playboy) and shelves that can be made to “fall down” by pulling on a tab. There’s money, firecrackers, and a motorcycle helmet plus an old fashioned rifle mounted on the wall to represent the BB gun (there’s a second gun included so you can arm Kevin without needing to steal from Buzz). There’s also a chest to represent Buzz’s private stuff, but inside is just a heart. His girlfriend’s photo is mounted to the wall for Kevin to “admire.”

This is where I point out that this house lacks a shower or bath tub. Kevin must stink.
The master bedroom definitely got the short end of the stick.

At the other end of the floor is a bathroom with stolen toothbrush. I like that Lego used a mirrored sticker for the mirror so your mini figure can actually see himself and scream accordingly. On the other side of that wall is the master bedroom, which is definitely a little cramped. It can’t really be accessed without taking the third floor off of the house, but inside is a neat looking wood stove and a large beg with popcorn and an alarm clock that will forever read 12:00. In the center of the floor are more stairs leading up to the attic. The paint can trap is here and it works reasonably well. It can only fit one can though, but it’s sufficient for taking out two Lego figures.

Kevin’s attic lair.
Kevin’s tree house, equipped with clippers.

The attic is rather cramped, but that’s to be expected. The one in the film was impossibly large, but Lego was still able to fit the hide-a-bed along with a desk for Kevin’s battle plans. There’s also a gumball machine that’s a clever build and the top of the house is on a hinge so the attic can be accessed easily. The rear also features a window with opening shutters so Kevin can zipline to his tree house. The tree house is a simple, but effective, build and serves its purpose as Kevin’s evacuation plan. I’m tempted to try and assemble a second set of bricks to build another tree house to put with my Simpsons house.

Kevin’s escape route is intact.
The other room seemingly most compromised for this form is the kitchen, which had to be downsized significantly from its film presentation, but Lego still managed to fit in most, if not all, of the important details.

The house is really quite impressive. I’m surprised that Lego was able to work basically every room we see in the film into this. Sure, it’s not 1:1 as the living room lacks a TV and the bathroom isn’t connected to the master bedroom as it is in the film. I know in the second film we see a hallway bathroom, but I don’t really care about the second film. I mostly just have nitpicks with the presentation of the house. I’m pretty sure Buzz should have a red or green comforter on his bed since everything in that house is red, green, or white. If you’ve never noticed pay attention next time, it’s kind of crazy. I think Lego just got sick of that color palette as there’s more teal and such in use here and there. I also don’t like the dining room chairs. Lego used these tusks or spikes for the legs and they just don’t support the weight of a mini figure as they just topple over. I would have much preferred something more stable. That’s really it though. The little functions work fine, aside from the toboggan, and there’s even an illuminated brick for the basement furnace that’s pretty cool. The only other Lego “house” that I have is The Simpsons one and for that Lego had to make huge compromises to bring it to life by eliminating multiple rooms. I was expecting similar with this one, but the Home Alone house is far more impressive as far as screen accuracy goes. I will say, there are 34 stickers that need to be applied which feels excessive for an expensive set. It is what it is though and I can understand Lego not wanting to do screen printing for a Little Nero’s design it will never use again.

The basement was also shrunk significantly, but we still get a cool light-up furnace!
Obviously, we need the Wet Bandits to make this set feel complete.

And it’s not the only thing! We do get the mini figures and the van. The van is just okay. It’s more or less in scale with the house, but it is on the small side. The rear opens with a swing-out shutter and the Wet Bandits can store their loot in the back. There are no doors though on the cab so the only way to get Harry and Marv inside is to pop off the roof. It works, it’s just a fairly compromised add-on that could have been done better.

Marley has what he needs: shovel, garbage bin, and beard.
We also have Kevin’s mom, who can smile or scream. I choose scream.

The five mini figures are also serviceable. Kid Lego characters are always hard to get right, and Kevin is really no exception. He’s in his maroon sweater so that at least makes him identifiable. His head also features two expressions: a smile and a scream. The hair piece, which is very blond, seems a little off to me. He does have a scarf and a hat, though the hat is a simple knit beanie and doesn’t resemble the pom-pom one from the movie. I wish he had a second torso for his jacket, but oh well. Kate also doesn’t really do much for me. She just looks like a generic character, but also gets to smile and scream. The Wet Bandits fair better as there’s enough personality to their design to make them apparent to anyone who these characters are. Harry uses the kid legs since he’s so short and he has his gold tooth printed onto his smile. Since he doesn’t have hair, he only gets one expression, but he makes up for it by having a police hat he can swap his black, knit, beanie for. Marv just plain looks like Marv. He gets to feature a smile and a face that’s been burned by an iron, a fun and necessary touch. Lastly, we have old man Marley. He’s got his beard and shovel and looks okay, though they were very generous with the hair. It’s a solid assortment of figures. I don’t think a Home Alone set needed anymore to feel complete (and really, it probably only need Kevin and the bandits), though I would have loved the pizza delivery boy or Johnny and Snakes. Johnny does make an appearance via a decal for the TV.

This set is just a lot of fun, so if you have the means and a love for Home Alone, I say go for it!

Lego’s take on the iconic house from Home Alone is quite impressive and a lot of fun. I suspect my kids will play with this one throughout the holiday season this year and maybe even beyond. I don’t intend to put it away with the Christmas decorations, so this sucker is here to stay. Customizers will likely also find a lot of fun to be had with this by making lights to pair with it, or even that pizza boy I’m missing. He wouldn’t be a hard figure to come up with, and we already have the Little Nero’s stickers. If you’re looking to add this one to your own collection this Christmas, it’s currently available now for $250 through both the Lego Store and the Disney Store. Both show it as out of stock for now, but I would expect more to be on the way. Will they be in time for Christmas? Maybe not, but I bet this thing is just as fun to build in March as it is in December. Merry Christmas, ya filthy animals!


NECA Gargoyles – Ultimate Goliath

2021’s most anticipated figure release is here!

It was nearly 6 months ago that NECA unveiled one of its newest licenses for 2021: Gargoyles! I was incredibly pumped at the time to see that NECA had acquired Gargoyles because the license had so much potential. The show was basically a cult hit in the 90s often characterized as Disney’s answer to Batman: The Animated Series, but Gargoyles truly was its own thing. Rooted in Shakespearian lore with a fantastic backstory, the time-displaced clan of mythical creatures found themselves the protectors of New York City from enemies both current and from the past. And if you’re going to start a line of action figures based on Gargoyles, well, who else are you going to start with other than Goliath?

When NECA unveiled the license acquisition they showed off Goliath with it. The midnight post on Twitter showcased the fearsome creature and the direction the line would head. He was available to preorder the next day with a July release date attached, which slipped to August, to September. That’s 2021 for you, but after a really not so long wait all things considered, I’ve finally managed to secure a Goliath action figure from my local Target.

He lives again!

Goliath is a big boy and he comes in a big box. The Ultimates styled packaging from NECA is bigger than even the Chrome Dome box. It has less to do with the figure’s height and everything to do with those wings. The front of the box features some artwork of Goliath which I believe is stock as it looks rather familiar while product shots can be found on the back and interior. The back also has a bio of the series that surprisingly is not the same as the narration from Keith David that was attached to the second season’s intro, though it’s in the same vein.

That’s a lot of man…stone beef.

The packaging is fine, but what I’m after is that figure inside. Freeing Goliath from his confines is rather painless as there is not an abundance of ties on him. Once out he’ll need to have his tail and wings attached. Figuring out how tall he is isn’t straight-forward since gargoyles have unique lower, leg, anatomy. With his knees bent in his natural standing posture he’s about seven and a half inches tall. His anatomy is sculpted in a more realistic manner than the cartoon. His flesh features veins and thick muscles. It’s cast in a very light shade of purple, almost gray, with a darker purple paint wash over it to really bring out the musculature. The wash is used more liberally on the face to darken around the eyes and lips. His default expression is a stern one with visible pupils that definitely reads as “Goliath.” The belt and loincloth he wears are cast in a soft plastic so they’re quite flexible. The only place the wash isn’t visible is on the tail which is done in a rubber material so that it can bend. It looks rather plain in comparison to the rest of the figure, but it’s always going to be behind him so it’s not something I take issue with. The finer painted details, like the eyes and claws, are all clean. Overall, this is a striking figure in-hand.

I think most will be happy with the scale here.
The wings can go really wide, or really deep, with nothing in between.

Let’s talk about those wings though, for a second. They’re huge! They measure 20.5″ from tip to tip when spread out so this guy will need a big shelf. They’re made of a very rigid plastic, likely ABS, and painted purple and black. The membrane inside the wings is well-sculpted and the detail shows in natural light. Even though the plastic is a bit lighter than some others, they still add considerable weight to the figure and, combine that with their size, will just be a constant battle when posing the figure. In terms of making wings that look good, I’m not sure NECA could have done much better. Bendy wings would have probably too resembled one of those Halloween store rubber bats, and fabric wings would have clashed with the looks of the rest of the figure. What people will miss with these though, is just an alternative. They’re great for dramatic posing, but not for casual or even hand-to-hand combat poses. Goliath could use some partially folded wings, though what I see most requested are the folded, “cape,” styled wings the character would often sport with the two claws at the peak of the wings crossed under his chin and clasped together. NECA likely knows this, but didn’t want to jack up the cost too high on a new IP. Hopefully, something like that follows in the future, and when it does, may I suggest they use the same material that they used for the cape on Shadow Master Super Shredder?

Disc stands help with posing.

Okay, wing talk is complete, for now, so let’s talk articulation. Goliath’s head sits on a ball-peg. It’s not a particularly large ball though, and he doesn’t have articulation at the base of the neck. Combine that with his long, sculpted, hair and wings and you end up with a head that can’t do much. He can look forward and straight down okay and there’s a little tilt too. Rotation is a challenge due to the hair which will interfere with the wings, but if you work at it you can get him to look to either side. It just may require removing a wing, turning the head, and reinserting it. At the shoulder we have ball-hinges and he can almost raise his arms to a horizontal position. The shape, and slope, of his shoulders prevents him from raising his arms out to the side any higher, but he can rotate forward and back just fine. Past that is the biceps swivel and double-jointed elbows which all work fine. The hands peg in and feature hinges, though the right hand on my figure is very loose. The hand hasn’t fallen out, but it takes minimal effort to do so. In the diaphragm is a ball-joint that gives the figure some tilt and rotation. He can even crunch forward a decent amount. There’s a waist twist below that and the new styled double-ball leg joints sit below that.

He can make a scary fist.

In the legs, things get interesting. Goliath has the usual thigh twist, but below that is a single-hinged knee. It can bend back to about 90 degrees, but it can also swivel. It looks to just peg in to the thigh, and I like how the knee cap is sculpted over it. At the ankle, we get the usual hinge and rocker and then beyond that is a toe hinge. Gargoyles have interesting anatomy in that they basically stand on their toes. There’s some slight twist, or rocker, action to the toes, but I can’t tell if that’s intentional or just some play in the joint. They need to be tight though, and they pretty much are, though nothing was overtight on my figure. At the tail, there’s a peg and a hinge so you can move that thing all over the place. It can kind of help with getting the figure to stand, though it’s not really strong enough to help out as much as I’d like. The wings peg into the figure’s back and they’re actually hidden a bit by the hair, which is nice. They can rotate and also feature a hinge that’s ratcheted. It makes an awfully scary noise when positioning it, but they seem fine. Because they’re wide open, there isn’t a whole lot of versatility to them, but at least you have some options, particularly if you go with a flying pose.

If you prefer, you can have your Goliath be studious.

Achieving such a pose though has proven to be a challenge. Standing Goliath is not easy. There’s just enough looseness to his thighs and knees that the weight of his wings pulls him back and the tail doesn’t help out much. I did have some success using two NECA disc stands as each foot has a peg hole. What I hoped to use though was a flight stand. I only have tried two, a SHF stand and a NECA one, and neither worked. The SHF stand features a crotch piece which just doesn’t fit Goliath while the NECA one was rather frustrating because there’s very little range in the actual “grabber” piece. I at least got him into that one, but he looked stupid. What I didn’t try was the stand that came with the video game Baxter, but since Goliath can’t look straight ahead for a true flying pose (technically, gliding, as Goliath would remind me) I didn’t bother. I have a MAFEX stand and a Bring Arts one, but I feel both won’t be able to handle the weight. I’ll have to look elsewhere for something that works, or hang the figure from the ceiling with fishing line or something.

Clearly, the book is a prop to make him look smart because no one is reading that.

Goliath, likely owing to his size and NECA’s desire to keep the price down as much as possible, comes with just a handful of accessories. He comes packaged with two, open, style-posed hands that he can swap for fists. There’s also another left hand that’s more of a gripping hand which works well for his included book. There’s no title on the book, but it appears to match the one he read on werewolves from the series. He also has a jalapeno pepper, which is basically an in-joke for fans. Lastly, there’s a second head. When I first saw this figure unveiled, I figured NECA would go with a faceplate system to change expressions, but he actually has a whole, new, head. The hair is the same, but the face is a more fearsome, yelling, expression with blank eyes. I think, given the limited wing options, I’ll display Goliath with this face instead of the calm one, but both look great. The alternate head is well-painted and well-sculpted with each individual tooth brought out.

Snack time!

The accessory count is low, but Goliath isn’t really a character screaming for a lot of accessories. The optional left hand works just fine with the included book and pepper and he can be positioned with it in a fairly convincing manner, should you wish. He’s a bit limited in terms of more fearsome posing. Take the picture on the front of the box, that crouched pose isn’t really one he can do. He also can’t do the on-all-fours pose the gargoyles sometimes assume in the show. At the very least, he would need some neck articulation to pull that off. This isn’t terribly surprising though as NECA always prioritizes the aesthetics of their figures over posing. And I’m largely in agreement with that approach, though I do think they can do better here. I would like to see them figure out how to get a true gliding pose as well. They could possibly do so with neck articulation, or with different hair-shapes or even a hinge in the hair.

I look forward to getting some friends for this guy, and some foes.

Goliath is a good first effort from NECA for Gargoyles. I don’t think he’s quite the homerun that I had hoped he would be, but I think some of that will be addressed in time. The limited wings makes him feel like he’s not really an “Ultimate” edition of the character, but if I’m right and that’s a product of NECA keeping costs down, then maybe that will change in the future. NECA indicated the response to Goliath was beyond their expectations so the fanbase is there and I’m willing to bet its willing to spend a bit more to get more. The only real issue is, with costs soaring across the industry, will NECA be comfortable charging $40 or $50 for a figure in this line? That remains to be seen. For now, we’ve only seen the next two releases: Demona and Thailog. Both appear to have one set of wings so it may be awhile before we see something else. Finding a home for this line is going to be a challenge, but it’s a challenge I’m ready to welcome. I’m all-in on Gargoyles, so NECA, keep ’em coming!


Dark Phoenix (2019)

What is it with the X-Men film franchise and its aversion to simple titles? We couldn’t just have X-Men 2, we had to have X2. The third film was billed as X-Men: The Last Stand in some places, but the theatrical poster seemed to imply it was X3: The Last Stand. At least the reboot films seemed to rectify this with X-Men: First Class followed by X-Men: Days of Future Past, but now we have just Dark Phoenix. Not X-Men: Dark Phoenix, but Dark Phoenix. Just in case you were confused though, at least the theatrical poster circled the “X” in Phoenix, but why not just keep things nice and simple?

Dark Phoenix is the 2019 film that marks the end of the X-Men film franchise as we know it. It’s been an interesting, confusing, frustrating, and sometimes thrilling ride. The franchise took off in 2000 with X-Men, and arguably peaked with the sequel. The third film was a let down, and then we had some solo Wolverine outings with one being terrible and the other acceptable, plus a sort of prequel, reboot, in 2011. X-Men: First Class turned me off initially, but once I finally gave it a chance I was forced to concede it was at least a fun film. I just didn’t really like how it tried to be both a reboot and a prequel to the original film and felt it would have been better to just commit to one. Apparently, the studio saw this as an issue too so Days of Future Past in 2014 basically served as the sequel to First Class and as the true reboot for the franchise as the time-traveling original heroes changed history and likely inadvertently erased basically everything that happened in the original trilogy. Confused? I suppose you should be, but at the end of the day, it just meant we were truly were dealing with two distinct sets of films that just both happened to be about the X-Men.

The sequels/reboots ended up being a lot of fun, but things took a turn in the third film, X-Men: Apocalypse. That one was a mess and was a textbook example of what not to do when telling an X-Men story. The villain was just an all-powerful being with no subtext. I likened Apocalypse to a natural disaster in my review of that film and I stand by that. He was a foe that just was; there was no getting away from him or around him or reasoning with him, he just had to be endured. The cast basically exploded which meant we had a bunch of new faces and not enough time to get to know any of them. It was almost as if the film depended on people knowing who these characters were and establishing a connection based off of that and not by what was presented onscreen. Given that, the obvious next step was to tell a story entirely dependent upon the audience caring about these new characters – what could go wrong?

The original story of Phoenix unfolded over several years and was anchored by characters introduced 20 years prior, this film is counting on viewers caring about characters introduced just a film ago and given minimal screen time at that with only 2 hours to tell the story.

Apocalypse made enough money that a fourth film was commissioned: Dark Phoenix. The Dark Phoenix Saga is perhaps the most famous X-Men story ever told. Crafted by writer Chris Claremont and artist John Byrne, The Dark Phoenix Saga unfolded in the pages of Uncanny X-Men spanning 8 issues in 1980. Some would argue the story began earlier with Uncanny X-Men #101 which began the story of Phoenix way back in 1976. In essence, this was a story that unfolded over parts of 5 years, so is it any wonder that other versions of the X-Men have struggled to match the original story?

Probably the best adaptation of The Phoenix Saga and Dark Phoenix Saga is in the animated series X-Men. That show devoted basically 10 episodes to the event and had given us multiple seasons before that to develop a connection to the characters in the show. When the X-Men originally went to film, we had at least had two films to connect with characters Jean Grey and Cyclops, only Cyclops was basically written out of the sequel and quickly killed off at the beginning of the third. Oops! At least The Last Stand had the Wolverine/Jean dynamic and the Xavier/Jean relationship to fall back on, but it was sloppy with the Phoenix character taking a backseat to Magneto for large stretches of the film.

This film is not good, but that’s not because of the performance of actress Sophie Turner.

In the waning moments of Apocalypse, the film started dropping hints that Phoenix was next so I was not surprised to find out that Dark Phoenix was in development, but I immediately expected failure. Once again, a film was jumping over The Phoenix Saga and going straight to Dark Phoenix, only this time, the title character was one no on cared about. The film had a lengthy development cycle due in the part to director/screenwriter Bryan Singer getting fired for being a sexual predator and the studio having enough issues with first-time director Simon Kinberg’s final act that they sent the whole crew back for reshoots. The release date got kicked around as the film would basically become akin to a lame duck president since rumors were flying, and would later come to fruition, that Disney was purchasing 20th Century Fox which would bring an end to the X-Men film franchise. The film was finally released in June 2019 and it bombed. If Wikipedia can be believed, it would eventually make more than its budget, but that probably doesn’t factor in marketing costs so it’s possible the studio lost money, though it’s certainly likely that it did not realize a substantial profit.

The poor reception to the film is why my review has taken more than two years to arrive. I’ve simply been unwilling to spend money to watch it, so I waited for it to finally show up on a streaming platform I was already subscribed to. I will come right out and say it: this movie is not good. I was hoping that maybe for a longtime fan of the X-Men, it would work on a basic level for me and I could have some fun with it despite its flaws. Instead, I found little to enjoy.

For starters, the script and screenplay are poor. Characters are given lines riddled with clich├ęs. One can practically predict every word about to come out of a character’s mouth in a given situation and it just feels like amateur hour. Despite the poor script, some actors are able to rise to the occasion. Sophie Turner, who plays the title character, received poor marks for her performance in Apocalypse, but here she redeems herself. Yes, the movie does her few favors, but she performs as well as could be expected. James McAvoy and Michael Fassbender continue to be pleasant as Professor Xavier and Magneto, respectively, though the latter’s appearance felt especially shoe-horned this time around. Just like with Apocalypse, Magneto is basically just to hear to clearly demonstrate that another being is more powerful than him. Nicholas Hoult is fine as Beast/Hank McCoy, but that’s basically it. Jennifer Lawrence continues to underwhelm as Raven/Mystique which is partly due to the character being underserved by the role while Kodi Smit-McPhee (Nightcrawler) and Alexandra Shipp (Storm) are treated more like tools than characters. Jessica Chastain, who reportedly turned down numerous offers to appear in a “superhero” film before, plays the villain Vuk and it’s truly puzzling that this is the role she finally accepted. She must have owed someone a favor or just really likes Kinberg because the role is terrible.

A space rescue leads to an encounter with the Phoenix Force, setting the wheels of the plot in motion.

The plot of the film basically tries to adapt portions of both The Phoenix Saga and Dark Phoenix Saga. When the film begins, Xavier is basically a celebrity with direct access to the President of the United States and things are going well for mutants. It’s supposed to be set in the early 90s, but the period is not utilized in the least. When the X-Men are called upon to save a stranded space shuttle in the outer rim of Earth’s orbit, Jean Grey is exposed to a supernatural force and is forever changed. This causes a rift between Raven and Xavier, with Beast caught in the middle, over Xavier’s willingness to place his student’s in harm’s way to further his agenda while Cyclops (Tye Sheridan) is left to worry about his girlfriend, Jean, who is acting different. Things take a turn as Jean essentially becomes the Dark Phoenix character as we know her leading to tragedy and her fleeing the team. In the process, it’s discovered that Charles had used his own powers to hide traumatic memories of Jean’s when he took her in, and now those barriers are failing causing others on the team to question Xavier’s judgement and Jean to basically go out of control.

Vuk (left) basically plays the role of Mastermind this time around as she attempts to forge a bond with Jean to gain control of the Phoenix.

Complicating things further are the D’Bari, a race of shape-shifting beings made extinct by The Phoenix Force before it ever encountered Jean. Their leader, Vuk, wants to take control of the Phoenix which now rests in Jean, and in order to do so needs to become her ally. Along the way Magneto will be pulled in and Xavier will be forced to reassess what the X-Men stand for. It’s a mess of a plot that both asks us to care about characters we barely know and is also afraid to actually put a lot on the shoulders of these characters. A lot of what happens, particularly with Magneto, feels like the film just padding out its length. Once again, Magneto is presented as being in a state of peace, but then immediately goes back to being a tool of vengeance. It’s ridiculous what the past two films have tried to do with the character and the only silver lining is that Michael Fassbender continues to be terrific in the role. The presence of the D’Bari is essentially taking the place of the Hellfire Club from the comic, and not the Shi’ar, as Vuk tries to coerce Jean into being an ally in order to take control of the Phoenix Force. The film isn’t really interested in explaining this cosmic entity; does it just function like a power amplifier or is it in control? It’s basically just there to give Vuk a motivation and a reason to exist, albeit a flimsy one. The film would have functioned in the same fashion if Vuk just wanted to use Jean like a weapon, as Magneto had done in The Last Stand, and the Phoenix entity was just something that existed inside her character.

I love Fassbender’s Magneto, but he did not need to be in this picture.

Dragging the film further down into the mire are the special effects and action pieces. The effects are not bad, just not interesting. It’s a lot of characters just putting their hands up and CG taking over to add in some flames or lightning. The only interesting moment involves a subway car crashing up through a street, but it’s also a head-scratching moment as the character responsible didn’t really need to do that and it just looks like the film trying to show off. There’s no moment that made me say “Wow” and there’s no signature fight scene either. The final battle is one of the film’s most underwhelming moments. The costumes at least look okay. Beast still looks kind of dumb, but a lot of that has to do with the character’s design and not the makeup effects being utilized. This one, like the previous film, does draw attention to how the franchise loves blue characters as we have the blue Beast, Nightcrawler, and Mystique making up half of the X-Men. The franchise is finally confident to give the team a comic-inspired uniform, but still not willing to give other characters a cool, fun, look. Jean, as Dark Phoenix, just wears street clothes throughout this one and Magneto apparently lost his threads between films.

Dark Phoenix is not a good film and a whimper for the franchise. Technically, the final X-Men adjacent film is last year’s The New Mutants, another film fraught with delays and reshoots that ultimately did not pan out. It’s a shame that a cartoon in the early 90s is still the best depiction of a classic comic story like The Dark Phoenix Saga and I wonder if the repeated failures will cause Disney to bypass it when X-Men finally enters the Marvel Cinematic Universe. It’s a shame, because it’s really not a hard story to adapt, it’s just one that needs time. It’s not a one-movie deal, it has to be cultivated across films and, most importantly, they need to be films that actually respect the characters. Marvel has proven it can create a team and have the audience care about it, and I don’t mean The Avengers. That was obviously a different animal where most of the characters got stand-alone films first, but Guardians of the Galaxy did not go that route and found a way to make us love the characters on that team. I do suspect that when it comes time to onboard the X-Men that we’ll meet someone like Xavier in a different film before being properly introduced to the full team. And it’s possible we’ll meet other characters prior to that as well. It wouldn’t be hard to slip Storm into whatever comes next for the Black Panther and Wolverine can fit in almost anywhere. That’s a whole other subject though. For now, the X-Men film franchise that began in 2000 is over. It had its ups and downs, but it’s also a big reason why we have the superhero genre today. It was immensely important and I’m glad it exists even if it has many flaws. It’s unfortunate it didn’t get a better send-off, but I think of Days of Future Past as the true bookend and that film is great. And if not, well Logan is possibly the best superhero movie ever and also would be a fine end. Dark Phoenix just happened to be the movie that came last.


The Secret of NIMH (1982)

The 1970s was a transition period for the world of feature length animation. Walt Disney’s death had left a leadership void at Disney which was exacerbated by the passing of Roy Disney in 1971. With the Disney brothers no longer at the head of operations, the company turned to Donn Tatum, the first non-Disney family member to head the company. It was during this era that the animators on staff started to feel like the company no longer prioritized the art of animation the way it had under the Disney brothers. It probably didn’t help that the decade began with the release of The Aristocats, one of the least celebrated Disney animated features to date. Because of a sense of stifled creativity, a group of animators staged a walk out lead by Don Bluth. He along with animators Gary Goldman, John Pomeroy, and several others left the company during production on The Fox and the Hound and Don Bluth Productions was born. Seeking to emulate the classic style of early Disney works, Bluth and his associates set out to making features as quickly as possible. They found a partner in Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer and a story in Mrs. Frisby and the Rats of NIMH by Robert C. O’Brien. They knew what they wanted to do, but the hard part would be making it all happen.

The tale of Mrs. Frisby had been brought to Bluth’s attention by fellow animator Ken Anderson while working at Disney. Try as he might though, he just couldn’t get Disney to bite on it. And there was some solid reasoning behind that as animation director Wolfgang Reitherman cited the recent release of The Rescuers as being too similar to the tale of Mrs. Frisby and her fantastic rat friends. When Bluth left Disney, the story went with him and it was the book he turned to first when it came time to prove that feature length animation could flourish outside the House of Mouse. Working outside of Disney though meant a lower budget and a shorter schedule which necessitated Bluth and staff to work ungodly hours on the feature. And a certain company that popularized a flying disc necessitated a name change of the titular character of Mrs. Frisby to Mrs. Brisby.

Bluth wanted to prove to Disney that others were capable of outperforming them and The Secret of NIMH certainly packs the visuals.

I was in the fifth grade when the story of Mrs. Frisby and the Rats of NIMH was introduced to me. I was a kid who liked to take shortcuts when it came to academics. I was fortunate that most subjects came easily to me, but it did stifle my intellectual curiosity as a result. When it came to independent reading, I just recycled junk I had been reading for years that my new teachers wouldn’t necessarily be aware of. Eventually, my teacher, Mrs. Roy (who remains my favorite teacher ever), wrote a note in my report card that I needed to read more challenging books. I really had no desire to honor the request, but also had little choice in the matter so I simply asked one of my friends if he got the same edict. When he confirmed he did not, I asked what he had been reading that she seemed to approve of and he directed me to the book Mrs. Frisby and the Rats of NIMH. I read it and thought it was good enough to read the sequel when I was finished. Better yet, my teacher left me alone when it came to my independent reading assignments. At the time I read it, it was the early 90s and I had no idea a film had been made out of the story a decade earlier. I think I just happened upon it one night at the local video rental store and asked my mom if we could rent it, so we did!

Ever since seeing The Secret of NIMH I have thought of it very little. I think I liked it, but it clearly didn’t leave a mark. The book really didn’t leave a lasting impression either, though I can say it did stick in my head far better than the sequel of which I remember nothing but the title. In my house though, Saturday is movie night and we alternate who picks the movie each week among the members of my family and when the choice falls to me I like to find things that my kids haven’t seen and will hopefully enjoy. That’s how this film popped up on my radar recently, so out I went (safely) to a nearby media store and found a used DVD release of the film for a mere five dollars. It’s certainly not a great DVD release as it only has a full screen option, but it was an opportunity to see this film again and show it to my kids for the first time and I’m still not willing to digitally rent things. I’m just weird like that.

Mrs. Brisby is out to save little Timmy. I feel like it’s always a “little Timmy.”

The Secret of NIMH tells the tale of the widow Mrs. Brisby (Elizabeth Hartman), a field mouse, and her quest to save her ailing son Timothy (Ian Fried) from a bout of pneumonia. The illness itself isn’t necessarily the threat, it’s the fact that the harvest season has arrived and Mrs. Brisby and her family need to vacate their current home for the farmer’s tractor will soon level it. Unfortunately, Timothy is too sick to be moved so Mrs. Brisby is forced to turn to the Rats of NIMH for help. The rats are a colony that lives in a nearby rose bush and they possess intelligence seemingly beyond that of man. It’s all the result of once being lab rats. Throughout the film viewers are introduced to a small portion of their various members and their wonderous home while also learning about their past and their relationship with Brisby’s deceased husband. Internal strife also exists within the ranks of the rats which will pose a problem for Mrs. Brisby and her family.

The story is quite brisk and uncomplex as it moves along during its 82 minute runtime. Mrs. Brisby basically has a problem and receives advice from one source to go to another, who then sends her to another, and so on. It’s easy for a child to follow and Brisby is a likeable and empathetic lead. She is joined, at times, by the crow Jeremy (Dom Deluise) who provides comic relief, while the seemingly ancient leader of the rats, Nicodemus (Derek Jacobi), adds a little wonder to her supporting cast. The danger of the situation is illustrated clearly, and other dangers arise throughout the film. Since we’re largely dealing with a cast of mice and rats, expect a cat to play a role.

Jeremy is the character we’re supposed to laugh at, but I didn’t hear much laughing in my home.

The story is cohesive, but what isn’t is the world created by O’Brien and added to by Bluth. The rats are said to possess human level intelligence, and perhaps more as their home is quite elaborate for something that exists in a bush. However, seemingly all of the animals (except the cat) possess incredible intelligence anyway making the rats seem less remarkable. Mrs. Brisby and her children all wear clothes and live in a home full of human comforts. They even use utensils and boil water for tea and such. A Bluth addition is the inclusion of magic. Bluth seems to think animated tales should contain elements of the fantastic like magic, so Nicodemus is now a wizard of some kind. He’s the first character we meet as he views Brisby through a magic looking glass and remarks how he has a talisman for her. No explanation is provided by the film for this magic or how Nicodemus and the Rats of NIMH came to possess it, but the talisman does at least serve a practical purpose of putting the power to save her family in Mrs. Brisby’s hands, quite literally. Movies don’t have to explain everything, of course. People seem willing to happily accept that Cinderella can communicate with animals and such in her Disney film, but this is also the type of film that does try to provide explanations for everything else, and hand-waving the concept of magic feels off as a result. It also forces a lot into the final five to ten minutes of the film. Animation is expensive and hard, so it’s no surprise to see this one clock in under 90 minutes, but it’s a film that would have benefited from more time. We barely get to know the rats and their inner conflict so the climax that conflict leads to doesn’t land like it should. Everything just sort of happens and as a viewer I was left feeling, “That was it? Huh.” My kids, on the other hand, fell asleep.

The film’s decision to shoehorn some magical elements into it doesn’t really satisfy from a plot perspective, but it’s at least visually interesting.

The Secret of NIMH isn’t as captivating or as enchanting as it probably would like to be, but what can’t be denied is the visual fidelity. The Secret of NIMH looked terrific in 1982, and by any standard it still does. I wish I had tracked down a Blu Ray version, but beggars can’t be choosers. Bluth and his fellow animators set out to emulate the early Disney style and they absolutely nailed it. Show this to someone who is just a casual animation viewer and they’ll probably mistake it as a forgotten Disney feature. The designs of the mice and rats are very reminiscent of The Rescuers and Cinderella, but absent those tell-tale Xerox lines from the Disney films of the 1970s. It’s gorgeous, and the more fantastic elements are captured with simple, effective, animation techniques. I may not have been fully engaged with the film’s plot, but the visuals definitely held my attention for the duration of the film.

Less celebrated is the soundtrack of Jerry Goldsmith. It is certainly capable, but not quite memorable. The same can be said for most of the Disney features from that era, so in that respect this one feels quite similar to what Bluth’s old place of work was outputting. The voice cast is plenty capable though and I very much enjoyed the late Elizabeth Hartman in her role as Mrs. Brisby. She brings a gentle confidence to the character and I imagine it’s quite similar to the voice I heard in my head when reading the book back in fifth grade. Dom DeLuise is good in his role as Jeremy, though I think the film thinks he’s funnier than he really is making him more of a distraction than true comic foil. The Rats of NIMH are all given rather regal and distinguished voices while Nicodemus is treated as an elderly wizard, a departure from the source material. It’s a cast that doesn’t contain many big names from the era, but it’s a professional cast more than capable of bringing these characters to life.

The Secret of NIMH is a triumph of animation with a somewhat forgettable story. That adds up to a solid viewing experience that provided movie-goers in 1982 with a glimpse of where Don Bluth was heading. He and his team of animators would go on to make better films, and worse ones, leaving The Secret of NIMH to serve as the appetizer of the Don Bluth feast. The film did eventually receive a sequel, but without any contribution from Bluth, which makes it similar to the book sequel which was not written by Robert O’Brien. I have never seen it, but it received a near universal negative reception upon release in 1998 as a direct-to-video feature. Which is fine, as this isn’t a film that cries out for a sequel. It’s quick, fairly tidy, and mostly beautiful and a perfect way to kill an hour and a half on a Saturday night.


Hero Cross HMF Donald Duck #006R

Oh boy, oh boy, oh boy!

I have coveted the Donald Duck figure from Hero Cross for a few years now. If you’re not familiar with the company, Hero Cross is a toy manufacturer based in Hong Kong that specializes in hybrid figures that utilize both plastic and metal. Their main line is called the Hybrid Metal Figuration series, or HMF for short. They have managed to accumulate a few different licenses for this line of figure, and one of those licenses happens to be Disney. For Disney, Hero Cross has mostly stuck with classic characters, but has also branched out to include Pixar. My main interest though lies in the ducks, and in particular, Donald.

Donald Duck, for as prolific a cartoon character as he is, doesn’t have a ton of action figures to turn to. The best ones are based on his appearance in Kingdom Hearts, but that’s not a franchise I have a ton of affection for. It’s fine, but my Donald is not a wizard. Phat Mojo did a Donald in its line of DuckTales action figures based on the relaunch of that series, but it was a short-lived line of figures and the company never got a chance to improve upon its initial offering. There is one in that Disney Infinity relic of a toyline that the Disney Store sells, but it’s not great. There was also a Donald action figures based on his appearance in Mickey’s Christmas Carol, but that was quite a long time ago now and that thing is lone gone. If you want a collector grade Donald Duck action figure right now, it’s basically Hero Cross or bust.

The size of the box relative to the size of the figure makes the toy seem huge!

Hero Cross first released a Donald Duck action figure in either 2016 or 2017. Being that it’s a Hong Kong import, a licensed product, and it includes metal components, it wasn’t cheap. I kind of found out about it late when my options were sketchy eBay listings or ordering direct from Hero Cross, but shipping was going to make the figure cost well over $100 at the time. I reluctantly passed, and that didn’t help matters as the figure was eventually retired from production and it only grew more expensive. Then last summer I was sitting on my couch watching TV late at night when a Twitter post from the podcast DuckTalks alerted me to the fact that Hero Cross was taking pre-orders for a new version of its Donald figure. Dubbed a V2.0, this Donald Duck was going to largely be the same as the one previously released, only now it was going to come with three unique heads and rather than sculpt his hat onto them, the hat would be removable and attach via a magnet. I kind of didn’t care about the changes, I was just psyched to have another chance at this figure and I pounced on it. The cost was around $60 for the figure, plus around $30 to ship it from Hong Kong, so it wasn’t much cheaper than what I had passed on previously, but this time I had buyer’s remorse. I had to pay upfront, and then wait.

The somewhat generic licensing art gets the most attention, but check out the comic art in the background!
The product shot on the side panel reveals a pose I’ll likely never achieve with my figure. Read on to find out why…

My Donald finally arrived in January of this year. The production cycle was a long one, but the shipping ended up being lightning quick since it was via FedEx Air. It left Hong Kong on a Thursday and was at my house in Massachusetts on the following Monday which is pretty incredible. Donald comes packaged in a simple, but effective, window box. It’s a royal blue with a Donald Duck logo done in orange. On the side of the packaging are product shots, one of which showcases Donald’s fancy new hat, and some licensing artwork on the back. It’s a no frills, but striking, box though it’s so small relative to the figure’s size that I don’t know how well it would display for a mint-in-box collector, but like most packaging these days, it’s pretty easy to reseal.

Check out the duck butt!

Donald Duck stands a little over 5 1/2″ tall. I was pretty surprised by how big he is. I kind of new how tall he was, but I also had avoided reviews and such because this line was completely new to me and I wanted the whole experience to reflect that. Not only is he a bit taller than I thought, he’s also just more substantial. I expected weight due to the metal, but he’s a thick duck. The metal parts appear to consist of the arms and legs. The head, hands, body, and feet are vinyl. It mixes pretty well, though the legs are definitely a lot shinier than the plastic feet. And with the metal there’s always a concern that paint will scratch or flake off and there is a tiny scratch in the knee joint on my figure’s left leg, but largely the paint looks pretty nice. Donald has a very round, smooth, head which is the biggest different from his initial release which featured an angry head that had some ruffled feathers. I obviously don’t have that figure, but based on images I’ve seen, that angry head is probably better than the rest so I kind of wish I had it, but it’s fine. This Donald does have an angry head too, but it’s smooth like the other two heads.

New for this version of Donald is a removable hat!

I think this Donald looks pretty nice, all things considered. I’m a little surprised with the sculpt of his shirt as the flap on the back of it is molded to the main part of the shirt. I would have expected it to be an actual flap and I think it would have looked better. Instead, it kind of reminds me of a Donald bath toy my kids used to have which was solid vinyl. He is depicted in the current licensing art colors, which as an old school Donald fan, is not my preference. That means he’s got a blue shirt and hat with gold buttons and trim and a red bowtie. I would have preferred a black bowtie, as that is what he usually wore in the classic shorts. I also would not have minded him in his comic black shirt. It’s not a big deal as this is definitely Donald Duck. The metal legs also do not hide the joints at all, so it is something you just have to get used to. It’s hard to argue with the end result though which is that this figure has a really strong base and he is not going to fall off of your shelf. The metal also gives him a high quality feel, which is necessary for a figure that retails for $60.

He can move, but can’t quite nail his classic hopping mad pose.

Being that Donald is a collector grade action figure, he features several points of articulation. Hero Cross totals it at 20 points, and it’s pretty substantial for a character with a unique body shape. Donald’s head sits on a simple ball pegs and it can move around quite well. He can look up, down, tilt, you name it. At least the default head (we’ll get to that). There is a joint at the base of the neck that provides a little more tilt, but it’s negligible. The shoulders are ball-jointed. He can raise his arms out to the side and rotate all around, but be aware of rub with the vinyl body. There’s a biceps swivel and a single hinge at the elbow allowing him to bend his arm 90 degrees. The hands are on pegs affixed to ball joints. There’s a hinge in there and they can rotate all around and tilt a bit in every direction. There’s a waist joint that appears to be a ball joint. It’s under the shirt and pretty generous, but again, I worry a little about the blue shirt rubbing the white vinyl lower body and leaving some smudges behind if manipulated a lot. The legs are a bit odd, since he is a duck, as they’re affixed via ball-joints, but they basically just swivel and tilt a little where the legs meet the body. There are single hinges and the feet are on ball-pegs so they can roll around all over the place. The metal gives him such a strong base that he can easily stand on one foot or simulate a walking pose as long as one foot is flat on a surface. He’s not terribly dynamic in his posing options, but that is more a limitation of the character’s shape than what Hero Cross did.

Donald can be happy, kind of mad, or very mad.

Donald comes with extra parts, but no real accessories aside form his hat. He has three heads: an open mouthed happy expression (default), a frowning expression, and a slight frown with his eyes looking left expression. Of the three, I definitely like the angry one the most as I think of Donald as just a grumpy, angry, character. Sadly, that head is the one that is the hardest to work with as the other two pop on and off with no issue, but the angry is super tight. Once on, it doesn’t really want to move much, but for a figure destined for a shelf it’s not a big deal. As for hands, Donald comes with a relaxed, open, left hand and a stiff, open, right hand (basically a hand wave). In the box are a pair of fists, a relaxed, open, right hand, and a pointing right hand. Missing is any kind of gripping hand, but in order to get those you had to get the box set release of Donald’s nephews. It’s a decent assortment that leaves room for improvement. A company like Bandai has taken to making the eyes swappable on its figures and that would be pretty neat with Donald. A more modular approach that allows eyes, bills, and such to swap is intriguing, but at least he doesn’t have any unsightly seams in his head. And Hero Cross is definitely going for as seamless an aesthetic as possible. The swappable hands make for some decent variety in the available poses, but there is a problem there that detracts from the figure.

Fuck.

And that’s they’re a pain to remove. And they’re such a pain, that mine broke not long after I opened it. I tried to remove the waving right hand he comes packaged with in favor of one of the others and it felt pretty snug. The head was easy to remove, and being that this just sits on a peg, I really wasn’t too concerned with breaking it. I applied consistent force, and tried wiggling it a little and the peg just came right off behind the ball joint of the wrist. The actual peg is really small as it’s basically a half-circle instead of a full one. My guess is they do it this way to make sure it doesn’t interfere with the the ball-joint in the wrist, but it’s pretty odd. Mostly though, I was super bummed, frustrated, angry, you name it, to finally get this figure only to have it break within a half hour. It feels like such a high quality item that it lulls you into a feeling like it couldn’t possibly break with normal interaction. Falling off a shelf is one thing, but trying to take advantage of a basic function? That surprised me. I honestly felt a little sick when it happened because I know how far this had to travel to get to me and how expensive it was just to ship it here, so I wasn’t expecting any help to come from Hero Cross. And if any did, I expected it to come at a cost.

Fuck! Fuck! FUCK!

Upon breaking, I reached out to Hero Cross via email and via a form on their website. No where could I find any information on quality control issues or refunds, so I wasn’t feeling too great about it. I reached out on Twitter and DuckTalks, the same podcast that brought this release to my attention, suggested messaging them on Facebook as that appears to be a place where they interact with their customers the most. Hero Cross did not respond to my initial email, but it did to the form I filled out online. After sending photos the correspondent told me they would check with the factory about a replacement arm. I didn’t hear anything for a couple of weeks and reached out again, and they basically said the same thing as before. Then a day later I got an email saying they had good news: there were spare parts available in the factory and they would send me a new arm! They confirmed which arm I needed, my address, and sent along instructions for swapping it out.

This was the only pose that felt appropriate for the past month.

About two weeks after that, my new arm arrived in the mail via USPS. The arm is connected to the figure at the shoulder and held in place by a screw. It’s an interesting setup, but an easy one to work with without fear of breaking anything. Upon removing the screw, the shoulder comes apart as it’s two pieces of molded, painted, plastic. Once apart, the bicep can pop out and I swapped in the new arm that Hero Cross provided, replaced the plastic piece, and screwed it back together. Hero Cross sent an extra upper arm piece, but it was for a left arm. Maybe they anticipate people scratching or ruining that bit of plastic during the removal process, but I had no issues reusing the same one. They did not send a new hand, so I had to take the old hand and get the peg removed somehow. I basically just grabbed the ball it sits on with some pliers and tugged away. It was in there pretty snug and it was a pain, but I got it off. It helped that I didn’t have to worry about damaging the ball any longer. With Donald reassembled, he basically looks as he’s supposed to. After the reattachment though I’m left with a pretty loose biceps swivel. The screw feels snug so I don’t want to risk stripping it, but it could just be a case of the factory getting that in better than I can. It kind of sucks, but better than a broken hand.

It’s an odd construction as you can see the peg sits way up inside the hand. Worse though, only half the diameter of the peg is fused to the ball joint and that piece is expected to withstand the force of removing the hands many times over. The rear of the ball joint is fused to the peg in the arm in the same fashion. There’s no need for the hands to be so snug on a collectible intended for adults.

With the peg finally extricated from the hand I finally got a look at the thing. It’s long and sits way up inside the hand. It’s honestly a surprise to me that these breaking isn’t a common occurrence, but then again, I don’t know anyone who owns this particular figure so maybe it does break a lot? Even putting another hand on this new peg is a struggle, and you can probably tell in my post surgery photos of the figure that it’s not quite seated all the way. I’m basically afraid that once I get the hand on it won’t come off without breaking again.

Back together, so a reason to smile!

Given all of that, I have had no appetite to test the left hand. Hero Cross was kind enough to replace one defective piece, I don’t really want to test my luck with a second. And it is a credit to them that they stand by their product and are willing to send replacement parts across the Pacific at no cost to the consumer. I was heart-broken when my figure broke, so I’m happy to have that remedied. It doesn’t necessarily fix my confidence in the figure though. If a figure is designed to have a certain feature, that feature should function without a risk of breaking the figure. After my experience with the product out of the box and seeing how this hand joint is constructed, I can’t say I have any confidence in the feature working properly. I am at least happy that the swappable heads work all right, as that is more important to me than the hands. It also helps that this figure does not need to hold anything so the hands do not serve a function other than to change the pose. And while I definitely would like to have the freedom to do so, I can at least accept what I have here.

I can’t quite get that right hand to fully peg-on, but it will stay on, at least. And I don’t know that I want to seat it all the way as then I may never get it off again.
“Come here!”

What my experience with this figure did do for me is make me less likely to purchase more figures in the line. When I ordered this one, I was toying with the idea of adding the nephews and taking advantage of the gripping hand they come with, but now I’m less interested. And playing a role in that are new offerings on the way from other toy companies. Since placing an order for this figure, Super7 has launched a Disney Ultimates! line of figures. Only the first wave has been shown and it includes Mickey Mouse, Prince John, and Pinocchio. Their interest is in underserved characters (as far as collector grade action figures go) from the company’s animated films, so Donald Duck may not be a high priority for them right now, but he’s also insanely popular and it wouldn’t surprise me at all if we get a Three Caballeros Donald or something. Beast Kingdom has also unveiled a Donald Duck figure in its Dynamic 8action Heroes line that looks rather promising. It features cloth goods instead of sculpted clothes and is something that is definitely on my radar. It doesn’t have a release date or a price, but the company is taking orders for a Sorcerer’s Apprentice Mickey and the MSRP is about $70, with a deluxe version at $100. Collecting Donald Duck figures isn’t going to get any cheaper any time soon, but it’s nice to have options.

“What are you smiling about?!”

Ultimately, I do not regret my purchase of the Hero Cross Donald Duck. The likeness is good and he certainly looks nice on a shelf. This figure probably won’t scale with any other lines, so that’s kind of a bummer, but also not a standard I think is fair to hold it to. I’m sure it scales fine with other Hero Cross HMF releases like Scrooge McDuck and the nephews. And there may come a day when I decide I do need to place him with some friends on a shelf, or maybe he’ll just be a featured piece in a more robust Donald Duck display (because, lets face it, I’m probably getting the Beast Kingdom figure and would definitely grab a Super7 one). This figure isn’t the ultimate Donald Duck figure that I wanted it to be, but it’s still worth having for a Donald Duck enthusiast like myself.

“I’ll get you, you little devil!”

Dec. 21 – Buzz Lightyear of Star Command – “Holiday Time”

Original air date December 16, 2000

When Pixar set out to create competing, fictional, toys in its debut film Toy Story it settled on cowboys and space rangers. The thought being that once upon a time cowboys were the most popular fantasy toy among boys, but were soon replaced by fantastic space voyagers once real-life space travel became possible. In order to really set the mood for the film, Pixar created Buzz Lightyear. He had a fictional back story that felt like it came right off of the back of an action figure blister card in 1990. He had a fictional TV show in the film, though we saw little of it. He had a nemesis, and the lore of the Buzz character was added to for the sequel, Toy Story 2.

Both films were a huge success for Pixar and Disney. And since the films were popular with kids, it meant licensing was super easy. After all, every character in the film was a toy! Toys were created and sold and even more money was earned. Pixar didn’t stop there though. Kids liked Buzz and they had interest in the fictional lore of the character that the films only touched upon, so why not turn that into a real world cartoon series? That’s how the world ended up with Buzz Lightyear of Star Command. This is the story of the fictional Buzz created and sold to kids like Andy of Toy Story. He’s supposed to be a cartoon in that universe, so in our real world he too is a cartoon (and because animating the show like a Pixar film would probably be way too expensive). The only thing the show couldn’t do was preserve his voice, since star Tim Allen was either too expensive (probably) and also probably didn’t want to be tied down to an animated series.

Enter Patrick Warburton, who has a better voice for the character than Allen himself. He’s a natural fit for the regal, yet brash, space ranger that is Buzz Lightyear. The show was, like many Disney Afternoon shows that came before it, a direct-to-syndication order. And like DuckTales and Gargoyles, it premiered in an extended format as a mini film of sorts which spanned multiple episodes when aired on television and could be sold at retail and marketed as a movie. The show was part of the One Saturday Morning block and also aired on week day afternoons (though not as part of the famed Disney Afternoon) from 2000-2001 and likely in reruns there after across various Disney platforms. For a long time, it was the only Pixar television series, though Disney+ is expanding that. It also has the distinction of being one of the few hand-drawn, 2D, animated offerings from Pixar.

Every episode begins with the gang racing to the TV to watch the show, a cute addition.

As a syndicated program, Buzz Lightyear of Star Command totaled 65 episodes with the 62nd being a Christmas one. We’re going to find out how the denizens of space celebrate the holiday. And if you thought the Santa who lived on earth had it bad, the one we’re about to meet has to deliver toys to an entire galaxy! And since this is a cartoon series with Buzz in the starring role, we’re going to have to meet some unfamiliar supporting characters along the way. The big, baddie is obviously Zurg, but he figures to have some minions or something, I would assume. I’m going into this show pretty cold as it’s a blind spot for me, but it at least has a solid pedigree to start.

This little robot is XR and today he’s going to learn a lesson about giving, because someone has to in a holiday special.

Each episode begins with a cute little piece of animation where the characters of Toy Story are rushing to get to a television set to watch the show. The episode begins on what I assume is the home planet of Buzz, or at least the home planet where the Space Rangers are headquartered. There’s a Santa ringing a bell in the center of town and this Santa is not the real deal, but is actually Buzz. He strikes a nice pose, though he’s lacking in the whole bowl full of jelly department. Fellow space ranger Mira (Nicole Sullivan) is educating her colleague XR (Neil Flynn) about the holiday season. Mira is pretty basic looking as she’s just a blue human, though XR is some sort of robot. He looks kind of like Earthworm Jim to me. He thinks all of this holiday stuff is pretty dumb as he buys a gift for a friend and they do the same (he’s pretty cheap since he cites the gift as being ten bucks) and doesn’t see the point. Mira stresses it’s the giving that matters, and we’re probably setting up for a holiday lesson that will pay off in the end. Some kid then goes running by and mistakes XR for a toy snatching him up and thus proving his point for him. I also can’t help but notice that the characters have yet to say “Christmas” and instead use the generic term “holiday.” It’s sort of weird to have a holiday just named “The Holiday,” but apparently there was no Space Christ for a Christmas to arise from.

Buzz is a pretty solid looking Santa.

They soon turn their attention to Santa Buzz who’s working the crowd. A large man in a red suit soon approaches needing Buzz’s help and it’s plainly obvious that this guy is going to turn out to be Santa (Earl Boen). And sure enough, he claims to be Santa! Buzz thinks he’s crazy and isn’t eager to help him out with whatever problem he currently has. Fellow ranger, Booster (Stephen Furst), then calls for backup and Buzz bails. As Santa calls out to him practically begging for help he refers him to Mira to provide a statement.

But this guy is a better looking Santa.

Buzz then happens upon Booster who too was playing Santa in a different part of town to collect donations. The kids have turned on him though as they recognized the big, red, alien is not Santa. He’s hiding in terror behind his collection bucket as the locals pelt him with snowballs. When Buzz arrives, they stop momentarily to regard him and soon claim he isn’t Santa either. When Buzz insists that he is they ask him to explain how he can possibly get toys to every kid in the galaxy in a single night, and Buzz confesses that he can’t. They ready their arms, and Buzz distracts them with promises of destruction by offering to show off his wrist laser. Problem solved!

Booster is apparently not the most reliable member of the force.

Mira is still taking “Santa’s” statement back in town. He had something stolen, but can’t say what. While Buzz is regaling the children with tales of his exploits until Star Command sends out a signal for him to return to base. They all return to an orbiting space station where Commander Nebula (Adam Corolla) hands over a list of crimes Zurg apparently intends to commit. It’s the usual sort of stuff, but ends with Buzz’s newspaper being stolen on the list which really seems to piss him off.

Diabolical!

The first item was to sabotage the fleet, so Buzz and team head to where they think Zurg is going to strike only to find nothing. Buzz thinks he was scared off, and then a flash of white light and snowflakes appear for a second. When it fades all of the space ships are in disarray. Buzz is in disbelief over what he just witnessed, but has no time to ponder how Zurg did it because next on the list was busting out everyone in a space prison. The fleet is scrambled and Buzz and team are shown surrounding the jail. Once again, a flash of light and snowflakes occurs and when it fades Buzz and his subordinates are surrounded by escaping criminals! And then to top it off, the next morning Buzz emerges from his home in his robe to find his paper waiting for him. He’s comforted by its presence, but as he reaches for it a flash of light and snowflakes once again occurs, and Zurg (Wayne Knight) appears with newspaper in hand. He offers a quick pleasantry and then vanishes!

Never mess with a man’s paper.

Back in town, Buzz is overseeing the lighting of a giant, holographic, Christmas tree. It lacks the charm of an evergreen, but at least it’s environmentally friendly. Soon the man claiming to be Santa reappears to once again request Buzz’s aide. Buzz is in a grumpy mood on account of the Zurg stuff and is in no mood to even entertain this guy’s request. The rest of the team bails too since they think this Santa guy is literally insane. Santa pushes back though and is pretty insistent on who he is. He does allow himself to get frustrated though as he wonders aloud why no one believes him. Clearly, no one realizes they’re in a Christmas special. Buzz then explains he stopped believing when he was 9 because he didn’t get the laser he wanted. Santa knows, and he knows why he didn’t get what he wanted. For one, he wasn’t going to gift a 9-year-old a weapon for Christmas, and two, Buzz was actually on the naughty list for shooting the fur off of his cat’s tail.

Nice tree, would be a shame if something were to happen to it…

Buzz is pretty shocked that Santa knows this as blasting Fluffy was something only he knew about. Now that he finally believes this guy is Santa, it’s the perfect opportunity for Zurg to strike again. He’s going full Grinch this time as he steals the giant, hologram of a tree with the same flashing lights and snowflakes as before. And it’s not just the tree, as Buzz receives a transmission from Star Command that Zurg has hit all of the other planets in the galaxy and stolen everything related to the holiday! They keep teasing the line too that Zurg stole Christmas, but no one actually goes so far as to say it as they still insist on not saying Christmas. They had me on the edge of my seat just waiting for it!

Well this puts every version of The North Pole to shame.

Santa then has Buzz hop into his Christmas tree-shaped spaceship to take him to his work shop on North Polaris. It looks like a snowglobe of a planet, which is pretty near. There Buzz meets the elves, which are actually “LGMs” or Little Green Men (the squishy aliens from Toy Story). They are decked-out in elf attire (and also voiced by Warburton, but with his voice sped up) and apparently serve Santa. They finally spill the beans on what Zurg stole from Santa. Apparently, if you haven’t figured it out yet, Santa uses a device that stops time to deliver presents. He used to use some impossibly fast jetpack contraption, but apparently he’s too old for it. The elves are working on a replacement, but it’s still a week away from completion and Christmas is just two days away. Buzz takes one look at the old hyper-speed accelerator and requests it be strapped to his back.

Buzz is a character that seems quite comfortable in the spotlight.

Buzz radios ahead to his teammates and instructs them to meet him on Trade World. Their the group rendezvous with Buzz and Santa, only the rest of the team still wants to discuss the whole Santa thing. There’s no time though, and Santa demands they help decorate the place for the holiday. As they do, they broadcast out a message designed to infuriate Zurg and basically challenge him to come wreck their holiday again. Zurg sees the broadcast and acts accordingly, while Buzz shows off his new toy. Santa’s hyper-speed whatever thing has been strapped to Buzz’s back and looks ridiculous. It’s a giant snowflake, but the side is what is strapped to Buzz so it extends off of his back twice his height. The other rangers aren’t sure of this plan, but Buzz tells them they just need to go at Zurg when he shows up to make him think they don’t have any real plan for dealing with him.

This jetpack thing is pretty ridiculous.

Zurg then arrives on Trade World flying around in this Dr. Robotnik-like ship. He’s predictably pompous, and I have to say I love the choice of Wayne Knight for his voice. Santa informs Buzz he has to activate the hyper-speed accelerator at the exact moment Zurg uses his stolen device to stop time. Zurg readies his item as the other rangers surround him and engages it. Everyone appears to freeze in place, including Buzz! Oh woe, Christmas is ruined! As Zurg starts wrecking up the place and celebrating his victory, the frozen Buzz comes to life!

This battle and chase sequence is pretty awesome.

Buzz breaks out the one-liners (“I’d say the yuletide has turned!”) and the rock music kicks in. It’s battle time! Zurg chases after Buzz and opens fire with his laser blaster. Buzz does some Matrix moves to avoid it demonstrating his impressive speed. As the two zoom around the city, Zurg blasts a bunch of holiday decorations that Buzz apparently feels compelled to save. Zurg laughs at him and tells Buzz his devotion to his holiday has made him weak. Oh, that’s where you’re wrong Zurg, it’s made him more powerful! They do the Dragon Ball Z thing of zooming around as lights and eventually come to blows.

Yes! Give me more of this!

When the dust settles, Buzz’s hyperspeed accelerator is destroyed and Zurg has lost his grip on the time stopping device, which frees everyone else. Buzz and Zurg meet in a standoff in front of a billboard lit up red as the snow begins to fall. It’s quite an impressive visual. Zurg then finds out he’s out of ammo, and as Buzz declares victory, he summons his little buggy thing which knocks Buzz over. Zurg jumps into it ready to escape, but Buzz tells him he lost since he doesn’t possess the ability to stop time any longer. Zurg points out that the device is broken so Santa can’t either. He’s ruined everyone’s holiday! XR even admits that Zurg has won.

With morale at its lowest, it’s time for XR to get his lesson in believing.

Zurg escapes and the rangers return to Santa’s work shop. They’re all pretty down as without the ability to stop time Santa can’t bring everyone their gifts. XR then asks what Santa did before he had all of this fancy tech, and he shows them. A bright, red, sleigh is summoned and Buzz is pretty taken by it right away. He jumps in and ponders what it uses for fuel, and Santa predictably confirms it runs on belief. The belief in Santa.

Who needs reindeer when you have…lights…on sticks..?

Everyone starts to proclaim they believe, and apparently it takes very little to fill the tank. With Buzz, Mira, and Booster all professing their belief it’s nearly full, but they need one more person. Santa confronts XR about his lack of belief and basically tells him he knows that he believes in him more than anyone, even though he’s rather insistent that he does not. When he asks how Santa knows that, he replies simply that he’s Santa! It’s kind of cheap as the sleigh then fills with power without XR actually declaring his belief. With it at full power, some lights extend off of the front of it. It kind of looks like an old TV antenna that used to adorn every house, but it’s in the shape of a Christmas tree. There are lights where the reindeer would be, though only six. A seventh, red, light is at the tip.

This is like Christmas porn for someone like me.

With the sleigh powered-up, Santa just needs some helpers. Buzz and the gang dawn space helmets and they take off for other planets. Buzz even gets to drive the sleigh! We see a montage of the gang sneaking into houses to leave presents, the best of which is a reverse of a scene from How the Grinch Stole Christmas. A bunch of fish aliens are sharing a bed in a manner similar to Cindy Lou Who and her siblings. Mira slides a candy cane under the hands of one of the fish kids, rather than stealing a candy cane out from under her.

A toast to a job well done. No whiskey here, though.

The gang ends up back at the work shop where Santa toasts hot chocolate to a job well done. The only thing is one person is missing: XR. Apparently he had a special task to attend to and we cut to a little boy’s room where XR is the actual present. It would seem he gifted himself to the little kid from the beginning of the episode which is…weird. We don’t get to see how he untangles himself from that situation to return to work as the episode ends on a shot of the family’s tree with a Space Rangers logo where a star would normally be. That’s actually kind of weird and is like placing a police badge or something at the top of one’s tree. If you do that at your house well more power to you, I guess. I stick with a star.

If some weird guy pops out of one of my kids’ Christmas presents and goes for a hug it’s not going to be a happy ending.

Buzz Lightyear of Star Command is a show I wish had existed when I was younger. It has a nice pace to it and the dialogue is rather witty. I love Warburton as Buzz and his supporting cast is solid as well. Knight is fantastic as Zurg and I wouldn’t mind seeing more episodes where he has an even bigger presence. The animation is also way beyond what I expected. Perhaps Pixar had something to prove because everything looks great. The lighting especially is dynamic and I had a great time just taking this one in. The action scene with Zurg and Buzz was set to techno music and gave off some serious Samurai Jack vibes, even though this show actually predates that one.

It’s almost a blink and you’ll miss it, but we do get the moon shot in this one.

As a Christmas story, this one is both fun and odd. The characters never actually say Christmas during the episode. It’s just referred to as a holiday and obviously shares a lot of the same imagery and even an icon. The animators kind of screw up though as the word “Noel” is present during the city fight between Buzz and Zurg. If they were avoiding the term Christmas because it references Christ, then they should have avoided noel as well since it translates to “to be born,” and is a reference to Christ as well. The lack of reindeer is almost bizarre, but I get that they wanted to do their own space thing with it. Santa does have decorative reindeer antlers on his seat in his spaceship, so maybe he had them once upon a time and now they’re dead. I definitely like that the show went for a Grinch plot with Zurg, made all the more obvious by the visual gesture during the montage near the end. How the Grinch Stole Christmas is the best Christmas special ever, why more shows don’t borrow from it confuses me. We have a million different versions of A Christmas Carol, and hardly any Grinch plots. It’s 50 years old at this point, it’s fair game!

Despite there being no “Christmas,” there’s still plenty of the usual imagery.

This special could have been pretty manipulative since it telegraphs everything that’s coming our way. We know XR is going to come around on the holiday, we know Santa is telling the truth about who he is before he ever opens his mouth, and we also know that the heroes will prevail. The episode does a good job though of not really staying with anything too long. It does come close with the Santa/XR confrontation, and that bit is probably the weakest part, but at least it doesn’t get too sappy. They also made room for humor during the exchange, such as Buzz declaring you can’t force someone to believe in anything followed by him ordering XR to believe in Santa. The montage was a good move, and making the kid get XR as a present is more funny than heart-warming so it works and doesn’t betray the spirit of the show.

Bizarrely, Buzz Lightyear of Star Command is pretty hard to come by. Disney never released it on DVD or Blu Ray, and has yet to add it to Disney+. It doesn’t make much sense to leave it off, but for now the company is not being protective with it. That means you can find it online rather easily, though everything is going to be a rip from a TV broadcast. I assume it’s only a matter of time until Disney brings it to their streaming platform, but for now it’s basically YouTube or bust. If you like Toy Story then give it a look. It’s pretty fun and visually it’s definitely worthwhile. I think I even like it more than Toy Story That Time Forgot and if Disney were smart it would start airing that special alongside this one during the holidays. Of course, I’m the type of person that thinks Disney should be running a ton of its holiday themed episodes and specials on ABC this time of year so maybe I’m biased.


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