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Dec. 8 – It’s A Very Merry Eek’s Mas

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I apologize, but there are not many high quality images on the internet of this one, so we’re making do with what we got.

For a pretty sizable chunk of the 90s, the Fox network really dominated the Saturday morning cartoon landscape. A network, at the time, more synonymous with “filth” somehow managed to corral the kid demographic away from the more wholesome ABC and CBS. Fox was largely able to do this by partnering with some big players:  Steven Spielberg, Warner Bros, Saban, and Marvel – all before a lot of them would go off and do their own thing such as Warner launching its own network. It was also rather impressive that Fox had a ton of original programming and it wasn’t relying on old standbys to fill air. Some of the shows it launched are still pretty beloved:  Tiny Toons, Animaniancs, Batman, X-Men, The Tick. Sure, not all of those shows debuted during the Saturday morning block, but they often ended up there and helped make way for more shows.

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Eek and his beloved Annabelle, who is voiced by Tawny Kitaen, of all people.

One show that probably isn’t remembered all that fondly is Eek the Cat. It’s not that Eek was a bad show by any means, it just kind of got lost in the shuffle of many hyper-active 90s cartoons. It was also usually one of the earlier shows in the block when some kids were just getting out of bed, and its star had no pedigree. Eek was a round purple cat who is pretty dim but has a heart of gold. He wants to help those in need, but often gets the short end of the stick leading to numerous instances of pain and misery. His girlfriend, Annabelle, is an obese pink cat that towers over him. She has a pet dog, the appropriately named Sharky, who hates Eek and bites him whenever he gets the chance. Eek’s existence is in many ways miserable, but he always finds the bright side which makes him a pretty likable cat.

Christmas is a holiday that should suit a fellow like Eek pretty well. He adores Christmas, as we would expect him to, and at the opening of his own Christmas special we find him carrying a stack of gifts as he remarks to himself how much he enjoys the holiday. He narrowly avoids mayhem as he works his way through the crowded, snowy streets and puts his gifts down to make a donation to charity. In doing so, his stack of gifts is gobbled up by a street sweeper, and we’re under way!

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Santa’s reindeer, lead by Blitzen (Bobcat Goldthwait) are on strike despite only working one day per year.

We’re soon taken to the North Pole. Santa’s reindeer are striking, despite Santa pointing out that they only work one night a year. Santa, voiced by William Shatner surprisingly competently, is distressed and voices his concerns to his reindeer assistant, Elmo. Soon his helpers go on strike, and even Mrs. Claus has left him. Who will save Christmas?!

Eek visits his beloved Annabelle and is surprised when Sharky doesn’t devour him. Annabelle is worried about Sharky, and the two enter his dog house which is typical looking from the outside, but inside it’s basically a mansion (I always loved similar gags in cartoons for some reason). Sharky is depressed and we find out it’s because he misses his family, who he hasn’t seen since he was a little pup. Eek, even though Sharky has never treated him well, resolves to help Sharky find his family for Christmas.

Due to a mishap with a discarded banana peel, Santa finds himself laid up in bed just two days before Christmas. He’s despondent, but Elmo the brown-nosed reindeer volunteers to head out into society to make people aware of Santa’s predicament and get help. Meanwhile, Eek and Sharky set out to find Sharky’s family with Eek deciding they need to consult a wise, all-knowing individual. Sharky, through guttural noises that Eek can understand, suggests Rush Limbaugh (apparently Sharky is a hardcore conservative) while Eek corrects him and suggests Santa Claus. They seek out all of the street corner Santas to no luck. While this is ongoing, Elmo appears on a call-in show to ask the public for Santa’s help. When no one calls, he’s booted out and happens to collide with Eek and Sharky in an alley outside the studio. They both reveal to one another how they need help, and they decide to set-off for the North Pole together. They have to take a commercial airline, since reindeer can only fly on Christmas Eve, and Elmo happily enjoys an issue of Play Doe while they ride.

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Not much is going to get this purple cat down.

When they arrive at Santa’s house, they find Santa is in a pretty low place. He’s depressed and even asks Eek to call him Mud at first. He has no help, the toys aren’t finished, and he can’t deliver them even if they were due to a broken leg. Eek, in an attempt to cheer him up, teases a song that Elmo and Sharky are eager to assist with, but Eek has to inform them he only prepared a speech. Santa finds his words nice and all, but they don’t change the reality of this grim situation. Eek volunteers to finish the toys and make the deliveries and a short montage takes place of Eek assembling numerous toys and piling them onto the sleigh. Elmo informs him they have no way of getting that sleigh into the air, and Eek tells him some stuff about bumble bees with his usual dose of optimism. We cut to Eek freezing in the snow, his optimism gone, as he realizes there’s no way he can get that sleigh to fly. They need to consult some serious minds if they want to pull this off.

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Santa is in need of some cheering up.

The Barbi Twins are those minds, and they end up being really smart because if they weren’t then the joke wouldn’t work. If you don’t remember or never knew who the Barbi Twins were, they were a pair of identical twins who were pin-up models in the early 90s. They were popular enough that their appearances in Playboy broke sales records. The twins devise a rocket, and the boys are eager to try it out. Their first flight only succeeds in destroying Santa’s house, but the second is more successful. In between launches, Santa is somehow able to rebuild his entire house. He can construct a home just fine in his condition but can’t fly around in a sleigh. The second rocket may be successful, but it also takes out Santa’s house. Poor guy can’t catch a break.

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The Barbi Twins are ready to help. Who knew they possessed such knowledge?

While flying around the world, Eek notices the island of shark dogs on Santa’s map and deduces that this must be where Sharky is from. Before they can check it out, he overhears a small voice calling for help and he steers the rocket-sleigh down to investigate. There they find a young girl who’s lost her bunny. Sharky is plenty eager to track a rabbit, and he and Eek are able to find him rather effortlessly. While doing this, the rocket-sleigh starts to slide and Elmo is unable to get it under control. It plunges off a cliff but Elmo is able to grab a tail fin and prevent it from falling to the ground. Somehow he’s able to hold the impossibly large rocket until Eek and Sharky show up to help. A Grinch parody takes over as Sharky’s heart grows three sizes and he’s able to lift the rocket high over his head. When Eek points out that this is the wrong Christmas special for that, Sharky’s strength vanishes and the lot of them fall with the rocket smashing as they hit the ground.

With the rocket destroyed, they have no alternative but to pull the sleigh themselves. Eek is able to make it budge about six inches, which is all the motivation Elmo and Sharky need to lend a hand. They start dragging the sleigh and delivering gifts montage style as news crews from around the world flock to take up the story. The coverage centers on how these three brave souls are willing to do what it takes to save Christmas, while no one else will as the camera pans to reveal hundreds, if not thousands, of people just watching the trio freeze and struggle to pull the sleigh. The montage ends and we find out they still have tens of thousands of houses to get to, so it wasn’t as effective as a montage typically is. Just then, the little girl who lost her bunny, Dolores, returns with some friends to help them. Better yet, her giant of a brother is with her and they all help pull the sleigh. This attracts more kids, then Santa’s elves, and finally even the reindeer pull themselves away from their new gig as wall ornaments to finally pitch in.

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Elmo and Sharky, even with all that’s going on, still find time for some TV shopping.

With things now running smoothly, there’s only one gift left which is to reunite Sharky with his family. Elmo gets them right on trajectory to Sharky’s home, and the reindeer then depart. As the sleigh speeds through the air it attracts a military plane which is advised to shoot the unidentified object down. We then are taken to the island of shark dogs, where Sharky’s family is saying it’s form of grace before Christmas dinner, remarking how they wished they had a cat for dinner and how they miss their favorite son (this is all done through subtitles as Sharky’s dad speaks in grunts like his son). In an answer to their prayers, Eek and Sharky fall from the sky and land in the giant cooking pot. Sharky is delighted to see his family, and even gives Eek a hug. Eek remarks on how this has been a wonderful Christmas, then hopes aloud they can stay for dinner because something smells good as the camera pans back to reveal he’s still in the pot and the other shark dogs are dumping salt and fixings on him. With a wave of his hand, Eek wishes us a merry Christmas and our special is concluded.

Eek the Cat’s first Christmas special is a solid entry. It takes an unoriginal premise but goes about it differently enough that it doesn’t feel too familiar. This was, after all, before The Santa Clause re-popularized this type of story and the most noteworthy before it was probably “Christmas Flintstone.” This episode is less manic, less loud, than I remember most Eek the Cat episodes being. It’s also longer as it takes up the full run-time of the half hour block. Also, to my surprise, this special debuted in primetime on Fox in front of Martin, which was pretty popular at the time. I never remembered Eek being that big of a star as to warrant a primetime debut, but maybe Fox was really pushing him. The show had a pretty decent run of five seasons, so it had staying power, even if it’s not remembered as fondly as its peers. Because of that, this special is a bit tough to come by these days. The show has not been released on DVD, and likely never will be at this point, so the internet is your best bet for seeing this one. If you don’t mind watching Christmas specials on YouTube, this one is actually worth the effort as it’s different and entertaining enough, though it does lack some real laugh-out-loud kind of moments and the animation is just so-so. If you just want something different though, it gets the job done.


Dec. 2 – The Tick Loves Santa!

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The Tick Loves Santa! (1995)

The Tick arrived on the Fox Network’s Saturday morning programming block in 1994 after a wave of successful super hero cartoons. With the success of Batman, X-Men, and Spider-Man it meant the timing was right for a parody hero like The Tick to get a shot at finding an audience. Often the last cartoon aired on Saturday, The Tick was like a fun palette cleanser following some of the more dram-laden shows and put a nice a bow on the whole thing. Reuniting Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles voice actors Townsend Coleman and Rob Paulson as the duo of The Tick and Arthur, the show flourished with its impeccable voice cast, bright animation, and outlandish stories. The Tick was the hero we all needed at 11:30 AM on a Saturday.

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The Tick and Arthur out doing some holiday shopping.

“The Tick Loves Santa!” is the show’s Christmas episode and it arrived in season 2 first airing on November 25th, 1995. The episode opens during the holiday season where a sickly looking Santa Claus is ringing a bell looking for some spare change. Meanwhile, the local police are chasing a robber who happens upon this Santa-clad individual and steals his outfit hoping to thwart justice. His ruse doesn’t work and the police continue their chase. Meanwhile, The Tick and Arthur are walking down main street with their arms full of Christmas gifts trying to deduce what a sugar plum is. The Tick is happily counting down the hours, minutes, and seconds remaining until Christmas while Arthur worries about getting their apartment ready to host a Christmas party. The imposter Santa soon appears and runs right into the mighty chest of The Tick, nearly knocking himself unconscious. The Tick is beside himself with giddiness upon seeing Santa, while Arthur tries to tell him that’s not Santa. The crook comes to, snaps at the pair, and takes off with his sack of cash as the police show up.

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The criminal who will soon become Multiple Santa.

The Tick is horrified to see the boys in blue are pursuing Santa. Assuming there must be some mistake, The Tick jumps into action to help Santa. They end up on the rooftops where a police helicopter tracks fake Santa who’s growing increasingly frustrated. The Tick intervenes and a cop shouts down to tell him it’s not what he thinks in an almost bored tone as if the police anticipated that The Tick would cause problems for them given they’re chasing a guy dressed as Santa. The robber Santa tries to make a desperate leap and crashes into a neon department store sign and is electrocuted. He falls to his demise as the sack of cash goes up in flames. The cops, seeing that the money is no good, are done while The Tick falls to his knees in sadness at the apparent death of Santa Claus.

Back at their apartment, The Tick and Arthur host their friends for a Christmas gathering:  American Maid, Sewer Urchin, Die Fledermaus, Feral Boy, and Four Legged Man. Tick is miserable and despondent over the death of Santa while the other party-goers try and cheer him up. Arthur apparently decides enough is enough and tries to tell Tick that Santa isn’t real, which only makes Tick mad. Meanwhile, the crooked Santa thief wakes up in the alley he plunged into while duplicates of himself start popping out of the snow. It seems that the electric sign gave him duplicates and the villainous Multiple Santa is born! Naturally, he uses his duplicates (which are all incapable of speech except to say “Ho”) to go on a crime spree knocking off department stores and whatever else he wishes.

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The Tick trying to keep the peace. 

The Tick and his buddies decide to go do some caroling, but it does little to brighten Tick’s mood. Soon they encounter the gang of Santas and a fight breaks out. The Tick though is unable to fight back, for he can’t punch the face of Santa, even if it’s not the real Santa (who could take such a risk?) and is practically paralyzed with fear. The rest of the team is managing okay, until American Maid sends Multiple Santa into an electric box which only serves to create more Santas! They get trounced and everyone complains to The Tick later at the local diner about his inability to pitch-in. Sewer Urchin, in a voice that’s borrowed from Dustin Hoffman’s Rain Man, lets Tick know he did a lot of ball-dropping. Definitely.

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That ain’t right.

Multiple Santa, now realizing the role electricity plays in creating more Santas, decides at his hide-out that he needs to head for the city dam for more power, and more duplicates. Meanwhile, The Tick and Arthur arrive back at their apartment to find it overrun with elves! And not just any elves, Santa’s Secret Service, who are sweeping the place to make sure it’s safe for the big man himself to enter. He soon does and The Tick is happy to meet his idol while Arthur can scarcely believe it (which doesn’t make much sense considering all of the other weird stuff they encounter every day), but soon becomes a kid in front of Santa. Santa tells The Tick he needs his help to stop Multiple Santa and takes a stern tone with him. Tick sits on Santa’s lap until Santa can’t take it anymore, and naturally agrees to do everything in his power to help Santa out.

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The Tick features some of the tallest elves I can recall.

The two strike out and Santa calls to tell them to go to the dam, since he sees everything. As Tick and Arthur approach they’re greeted by a tidal wave of Santas (a “Yuletide” as Tick puts it) and are forced to battle upstream, like a mighty blue salmon, with Tick narrating the whole way. See, Multiple Santa had arrived at the dam first and cut loose on the power there thus creating countless Santas to flood the whole city. When Tick and Arthur finally reach him, Tick still finds he can’t bring himself to punch Santa. Instead he opts for a noogie, and wouldn’t you know, the static electricity created by Tick’s knuckles causes the duplicate Santas to vanish. Striking down Multiple Santa himself, by tossing one of his clones at him, causes a chain reaction that makes all of the copies vanish thus saving the city and saving Christmas. The Tick puts a bow on everything, in the only way he can, and soon sugar plums are dancing around Tick’s head and Arthur’s too, since he’s now a believer.

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Just a little rub on the head will do.

“The Tick Loves Santa!” is a great episode of The Tick and a great Christmas special as well. It’s funny, charming, is well animated and well acted and it’s pretty unique for a Christmas special. The Tick’s constant struggle to find a way to fight a villain that looks like Santa was a constant source of humor for me and I enjoyed how dismissive Multiple Santa was of Tick, especially early on in the episode. The supporting cast got a chance to get some lines in as well, though the episode largely focused on Tick and Arthur, which it should have since it was a very Tick-centric plot. I enjoy how jaded and cynical basically everyone in the show is except for The Tick and Arthur, and the cops not really giving a shit that a person was electrocuted and fried was pretty dark for a kid’s show, even if the character would be shown to have survived a few minutes later. Working the real Santa into the episode in such an obvious way felt a little forced. Maybe the network wouldn’t go for a cartoon that says Santa isn’t real, but including a real Santa also feels like the right move anyway since Tick’s childlike exuberance needs to be justified. Maybe they could have incorporated Santa in a more subtle way, but subtlety isn’t really something this show tries. It’s got the charms though and enough Christmas spirit to justify its inclusion in this year’s Christmas celebration.


Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles (4Kids): The Christmas Aliens

images-166In 2003, Fox and 4Kids Entertainment launched a brand new Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles cartoon series.  This series was the first re-launch for the TMNT after a long hiatus from both film and television and was an attempt at introducing the Turtles to a whole new generation.  One of the consultants for the show was TMNT co-creator Peter Laird and his Mirage Studios.  Something everyone seemed to be in agreement on was that this new show would borrow more heavily from the original comic book run of the Turtles while still keeping a general audience in mind.  This is, of course, in stark contrast to the original cartoon which all but abandoned the comics as both Laird and Kevin Eastman felt it was impossible to adapt that for a children’s show.  It would be easy to point to that decision as a mistake, but really that original show gave the world a whole separate take on the Turtles that proved endearing, if nothing else.

The 2003 series was more mature, but still pretty much directed at kids.  It took a lot from the old comics but also did its own thing.  Eventually, it would more or less go off on its own, especially once it hit the Fast Forward seasons towards the end of its run.  I can’t pretend to be an expert on the series as I really only watched the first season before eventually losing interest.  The show seemed to be fairly successful, though not a huge hit, with kids.  There was a new toy line and I’m sure the show’s success had some part in the decision to do the feature-length TMNT film.

The source material for this episode.

The source material for this episode.

Something unique to this series is that it contains what is, so far, the only animated Christmas special the Turtles have ever done.  It seems crazy to me that there was a never a Christmas episode during the original cartoon run, but I checked, and there isn’t!  The new series has also yet to do one, but it wouldn’t shock me to see one pop up eventually.  The only Christmas special featuring the TMNT so far is the live-action “We Wish You a Turtle Christmas” and if you’ve never seen it, DON’T WATCH IT!  The 4Kids series decided for its third season to adapt the Michelangelo (then Michaelangelo) Micro Series story for its first episode, “The Christmas Aliens.”  Having read that issue, I was interested in checking this episode out as that story is one of my favorites from the comics as it puts Michelangelo in the starring role as he attempts to make sure a donation of Christmas toys gets to a local orphanage.

Each episode of the series opens with a scene from later on in the episode, usually with a turtle or turtles in some kind of trouble.  This one opens with Michelangelo driving a truck as he’s being chased by some crooks before the opening credits hit.  The opening song for this show is one of its weak points.  I don’t care for the song on the new series, but it’s at least a throwback to the old series so I give it some points.  This one is just lazy.  When we get to the episode it shows Michelangelo strolling through the park on Christmas Eve.  The other guys are back at home in the sewer decorating for the evening’s festivities while Mike befriends some kids in the park and finds a stray kitten he dubs Klunk.  It doesn’t take long for Mikey to stumble upon a toy store that’s in the process of being robbed.  Apparently, this season’s hottest toy is a Christmas Alien doll (I believe in the comics it was intended to be a parody of the then mega-popular Cabbage Patch Kids) and it’s sold out everywhere.  A delivery truck loaded with them is the target of the thieves, but Mikey overhears the truck driver tell the crooks it’s intended for a local orphanage.  The crooks obviously don’t care as they make off with the truck and Mikey feels compelled to stop them.

That's one weird looking Santa.  I can't imagine he smells all that great as well.

That’s one weird looking Santa. I can’t imagine he smells all that great as well.

At the lair, various other characters start piling in.  I actually can’t name any of them since I didn’t watch the show regularly, except for Usagi Yojimbo who arrives with two other characters via some kind of portal.  All of the Turtles’ friends are here though to celebrate Christmas and some mischief is made.  Casey tries in vain to score a kiss under the mistletoe from April, while everyone tries their luck at beating the resident superhero in an arm-wrestling contest.  Everything has to be put on hold though as they all wait for Michelangelo to get home.

Meanwhile, Michelangelo has to contend with a bunch of crooks and even the police as he overtakes the delivery truck and heads for the orphanage.  The majority of the episode is a chase sequence, first with Mikey hanging onto the truck as he tries to take it over, then with more bad guys, and eventually the police.  The animation shows its limitations here as the truck looks extremely heavy.  It strikes parked cars and other moving vehicles and goes right through them without even the slightest wobble.  It’s an okay sequence, but not a very exciting one.  The Michelangelo character in this series is enjoyable though, and Klunk is supremely cute as he hides in Mike’s coat and pops his head out to take a look.

Michelangelo is eventually able to lose his pursuers and wind up back at the lair.  Everyone is ready to scold him for being late, but he of course explains himself and everyone heads to the orphanage.  The Turtles don elf costumes while Splinter goes as Santa and all the kids get their alien dolls.  We get a final lesson on giving, and everyone feels like a good person in the end.

Elf Mike and Klunk.

Elf Mike and Klunk.

As Christmas specials go, this is a solid entry.  It’s not too sentimental, there’s no silly drama, and everyone ends up with a good feeling when all is said and done.  There’s some light humor that is, while not inventive, at least amusing.  Michelangelo is a good choice for the lead role in this one as he’s always been the one that’s easiest to relate to.  His child-like state of mind doesn’t need to be exaggerated any further to make the story work.  In the comics, Klunk stayed around and would show up in future issues.  I don’t know if that was the case here or not but I never mind the addition of a kitten to story.  This episode was released on DVD as a Michelangelo’s Christmas Rescue and if you stumble upon it in your travels it wouldn’t be a horrible pick-up.  The running time is only around 22 minutes so definitely don’t pay too much should you come across it.  Since Nickelodeon launched the new series last year, episodes from this show are no longer on television so don’t expect to find it airing on any channels this season.  As always, there’s youtube if you really want to watch it.


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