Tag Archives: homer simpson

A little Christmas in July

I’ve had Super Nintendo under the tree once before, but never on the tree!

As someone who loves Christmas time, the concept of Christmas in July should sound appealing. Instead, I’ve always kind of thumbed my nose at it. Part of what makes Christmas so special is the fact that it only comes once a year. Even though the actual holiday season is pretty lengthy, it still never overstays its welcome, for me anyways. And when it’s over, it’s over. I always put out my Christmas stuff on the day after Thanksgiving and I’m quick to put it away. Sometimes I leave stuff out until New Year’s Day, but if there is some unseasonable warmth between the 25th and the first then I’ll take advantage of that when it comes to the outdoor decorations.

Christmas in July is something that exists because it’s halfway until Christmas, and probably because Christmas is such a strong performer at retail. I’m assuming most of the Christmas in July mindset is driven by corporations looking to make an extra buck during the summer months and for companies like Hallmark, it’s become the time of year to unveil the latest in holiday décor. As a kid, I can recall Cartoon Network also using it as an excuse to tap into the trove of Christmas cartoons and fill some programming blocks during leaner times. Their Christmas in July programming was never appointment viewing or anything for me, but it wasn’t something I was offended by either. Even though in my household growing up we had a Christmas Tape; a VHS of Christmas specials recorded off of TV. That tape was completely off limits between New Year’s and Thanksgiving and it wasn’t as if it was under lock and key, it was just understood that to indulge in such when it wasn’t Christmas was borderline offensive. That tape, by the way, still exists to this day.

As an adult, I’ve softened a bit on the whole Christmas in July thing. The past couple of years I’ve caught Christmas episodes of popular shows on television during this time of year. Just last weekend Disney aired the excellent Duck the Halls, and getting in an early viewing was actually somewhat pleasurable. In 2020, it was positively delightful to take in some Christmas programming during a long year of lockdowns and isolation and catching a show set in the winter time is a bit therapeutic during a heatwave. No, I’m not getting out the decorations and breaking out the Christmas Tape, but a little holiday cheer in July isn’t so bad.

Isn’t it cute? Sadly, the NES ornament from last year is put away with the other Christmas stuff so no comparison shot with that.

One thing that’s good for Christmas lovers during the summer months is it’s a good time to do some shopping. Around the holidays, anything Christmas related is sold at its peak value, but during the rest of the year you can score some deals. I’m always on the look-out for stuff I like that I don’t have, and I’ll share some of my more recent scores shortly. Things that aren’t cheap or on-sale though are Hallmark ornaments. Like a lot of people who enjoy Christmas, I have probably more ornaments than can reasonably fit on an average-sized tree. And with the kids reaching school age, I’m probably due for a lot more homemade ones too that I’ll have to find room for. As a result, I tend to be rather picky these days with what ornaments I invest in, but one I couldn’t turn down was the new Super Nintendo ornament from Hallmark.

Part of me wishes the controllers weren’t glued down, but I’m sure there are some grooves in the sculpt for them so it probably wouldn’t look as good if someone were to pop them off.

Last year, I grabbed the Nintendo Entertainment System ornament from Hallmark and was quite enchanted by it. The sculpt is fantastic and it plays the theme from Super Mario Bros. when you press the power button. Naturally, I had to pair the SNES one with it when I was made aware of it. The SNES one is modeled after the US SNES and it features two controllers and has a copy of Super Mario World in the game slot. When you press the power button, it plays the main theme from the game complete with sound effects as-if you were watching the demo screen. The Super Mario World theme isn’t as beloved as the Super Mario Bros. one, but it’s still an ear worm all its own and an appropriate choice for the ornament considering it was a pack-in game originally (and I originally received my copy and a SNES on Christmas, as I imagine many kids did who had one). It might have been cool to see a different Nintendo franchise get to shine a little, but it’s also hard to fault Hallmark for just sticking with Mario. The ornament was created by artist Jake Angell and retails for a pretty reasonable sum of $20. It comes with the batteries needed to work the music, though Hallmark continues to cheap out on us by not including an ornament hook or ribbon to actually hang the thing from the tree.

Even the backside is accurate. The only question remaining is will this thing yellow over time like the real thing?!

The ornament itself though looks terrific. It’s pretty tiny, measuring approximately 2 and 7/16″ wide by nearly 3″ long. The power, reset, and eject buttons are sculpted and detailed, though only the power button functions. It also presses down instead of slides. Both the Player 1 and Player 2 controllers are sculpted separately and attached to the ornament; one on the left side and one on the top-rear. The attention to detail is, again, superb as the shape of the face buttons are even accurately represented in addition to the colors. The L button on the Player 1 controller kind of words on my ornament as well, though it doesn’t actually do anything and I’m not certain it’s supposed to have this much play. I am left wishing the controllers weren’t glued to the unit though. If the wires had been done to be bendy that would have been pretty near. Especially because the Player 1 chord wraps under the console so it doesn’t sit perfectly flush on a surface should you choose to utilize this as a desk adornment instead of a tree one. The rear of the unit is also accurately represented with really the only thing missing being the 1-800 Nintendo repair sticker.

It even fits in pretty well with your quarter scale action figures!

It should also be noted, the song is loud! I was pretty surprised when I hit the button for the first time that such a small device can generate such a big noise. As stated though, you get the regular theme from Super Mario World with some sound effects of Mario jumping around and finding Yoshi. It then breaks into the victory theme to close it out which is a nice touch. All in all, if you’re a Nintendo fan then you’re probably getting this thing or someone who loves you is planning on gifting it to you in December. It will probably be a big seller if it’s anything like last year’s ornament so it’s actually a good thing that it’s out now so you get several months to try to score one. They’ll be stocked regularly from now until the end of the year and you can pre-order it from some stores right now so anyone who wants it should be able to get it for retail. It might get harder though the closer we get to the actual holiday.

New ornaments are fun and all, but what people really love are novelty, singing, dancing, figurines which is why I invested in a Santa Dancing Homer. This guy comes courtesy of eBay as he’s no longer in production. He features a 2002 copywrite which makes sense as this was when Simpsons merch was still pretty robust. It would fall off not long after and resurface for the 25th anniversary, though surprisingly little seemed to come out for the 30th. Are we as a culture just officially sick of The Simpsons? Maybe, though I’m not. I hope it never ends! There’s just something comforting about there always being new episodes of a show that’s been on since I was a kid and it’s not some dumb news program or pro wrestling. And yeah, I know, it past its peak in 1999 or so, but so what?!

In case you’re wondering, yes, that countdown is accurate.

Homer is festively attired in a Santa suit which has a soft, though somewhat rigid, texture. Not including the base he’s attached to, Homer is about 12″ tall with the base adding roughly 1 1/4″ to that height so he doesn’t require a lot of room for display. The portions of his body that are visible are cast in yellow plastic and the added details, like his eyes and trademark stubble, are painted effects. I suppose it should be noted this Santa suit is a bit nicer looking than the one he wore in the series premiere, “Simpsons Roasting on an Open Fire,” though it’s pretty similar to the much later Christmas episode “Grift of the Magi.” The main difference between the two is the original costume came with a scruffy beard.

Homer runs on double A batteries and is not, by himself, posable. When you have fresh batteries in him, you can either activate him via the yellow button or by a switch on the bottom of the base. The yellow button will make him wiggle and utter one of his many phrases or sing a song. The button on the bottom of the base is for activating the motion-sensing function so you can scare people who walk by him. When he does animate, his lower jaw moves and his hips sway. Sometimes he’ll turn his head too. If he goes into song, his arms will move up and down a bit along with the hip swaying and mouth-flapping. The songs are pretty amusing as Homer doesn’t know all of the words. When he sings “We Wish You a Merry Christmas,” he mostly just says the song’s title over and over and ad-libs a bit all while adhering to the song’s melody. The speaker is a little fuzzy, but Homer can be understood clearly and obviously the lines were recorded by Dan Castellaneta. It’s a novelty Christmas item, so how much you enjoy it probably depends on how much you like Homer Simpson. I love Homer, so this decoration is an easy win. It also wasn’t hard to come by, nor was it super expensive. I think I basically ended up paying retail for it, though he’s used. Another neat feature is that you can use a 6V wall plug to power him if you would rather not use batteries. It’s not a bad idea since batteries being left in a Christmas decoration like this one throughout the year can often lead to leakage and a ruined toy.

The last holiday item we’re going to look at is a simple one: this plush Santa Raphael from Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles. It was in reading the book Rad Plastic earlier this year that I was reminded about the plush line of TMNT toys from the early 90s and it was the first time I can recall being made aware of this Christmas variant. It pains me that the original Fred Wolf cartoon never did do a Christmas episode, but this plush kind of makes up for that. Well, not really, but hey, it’s Christmas!

There’s not much to say about this guy though: what you see is what you get. The tags on him reflect a 1990 release for this guy and that agrees with the book. It’s basically the same as the regular plush turtles that were available, only this one has Santa pants and boots stitched onto it. He’s about 17″ long from the top of the head to the tip of his toe as his feet are kind of outstretched as there’s no stitching to orient his feet in a standing position. The coat can probably be removed, as I don’t see any stitching holding it to the body, but it has white elbow pads stitched to it that are pretty tight and I don’t want to risk messing this up. The white elbow pads are actually a nice touch and the white cuffs on the boots basically line-up with where Raph’s kneepads normally would end up. It even appears he has his red elbow pads on underneath the jacket, though it’s impossible to say if the same is true for the knees. He also comes with a removable hat that mostly just rests on his head. I wish it was a bit bigger, but it’s all right.

“Aww c’mon, man! You’re embarrassing me and the other Raphs around here with that get-up!”

As you can probably imagine, this was another eBay purchase and yet another inexpensive one. For a 30 year old plush, Raph is in pretty good shape. The whites are still white, and the only sign of ware really is on the eyes which are a bit scratched. This style of plush is definitely assembled on the cheap, so there are exposed seems and I don’t really like the material used for the mask as it’s thin and prone to wrinkling. On the plus side, he has no odor which is always the risk when buying an old, used, plush and he’s still quite soft to the touch. It’s probably helped that he’s a Christmas decoration and whoever owned him before me may have had him put away 11 months out of the year lessening the annual ware and tare. He’s kind of dumb, but what can I say, I like him!

Well, that’s about all of the holiday cheer I have in me at the moment. Maybe I’ve inspired you to hit a Hallmark store or check popular resell locations for some Christmas stuff while the getting is good. It’s a good time to be on the hunt right now, but things tend to change quickly. If you need more Christmas in July though, you could always head on over to The Christmas Spot and check out several year’s worth of Christmas goodness. I’m already at work on the 2021 version and I’ve got some slight changes in store for this year, but don’t worry, you’re still getting 25 posts in 25 days about a Christmas special of some kind. Unfortunately, there will not be anything TMNT related this year, but it’s a safe assumption we’ll be heading back to Springfield, at least. And you know what? Mario may make an appearance this year too. Be sure to check back in December! Merry July, everybody!


Getting Creative With Lego Creator – 31052

lego 31052It’s been a few years since Lego released its Simpsons products. Somewhat tied in with the show’s 25th anniversary, Lego released two waves of mini figures and two sets over the course of a little over a year. I was a pretty big fan of the stuff Lego did with the license and scooped it all up. The Simpsons ended up being a part of the short-lived Lego Dimensions brand, an offshoot of Skylanders and Disney Infinity in which toys interact with a video game. Aside from that though, the Lego flirtation with The Simpsons ended there. I’m not sure what the reason was for it to come to an end. It’s probably a simple one in that Lego only licensed it for two sets and two waves of figures. Lego has maintained a fairly wholesome image for the life of the company so it’s also possible there was some minor discomfort with the brand and ending it sooner than later was for the best. It seemed to me like the figures and sets sold rather well, so I doubt Lego lost money, but they only put out so many waves of mini figures per year and devoting a third to a niche product like The Simpsons may have felt unnecessary.

Whatever the reason, I’ve been a little bummed at the line’s discontinuation. It’s true I had a hard time foreseeing it continue for the simple fact that there aren’t many iconic locales from the show that could be done as a $200 set. Springfield Elementary and The Nuclear Power Plant would probably require a bigger investment, and Lego isn’t going near a Moe’s Tavern or Duff Brewery. The Flanders residence is probably too niche, as is the Springfield Retirement Castle. The only one that felt like it had a shot of getting made was The Android’s Dungeon. Lego may have had to do it smaller than the Kwik-E-Mart which would have necessitated a lower MSRP and maybe the license made that difficult. They could have tried to make it as large as the famous convenience store, but that might have been too silly. I think they could have done it though, but evidently it wasn’t meant to be.

IMG_2380And that’s a shame, because what’s really missing is not so much more sets, but more figures. Without a third set it seemed unlikely we would see more figures, and the figures are probably a little on the costly side since Lego makes unique head sculpts for each one. Just look at the characters Lego did not touch (I’m not bothering to list ones tied in with alcohol, religion, or organized crime for obvious reasons):  Skinner, Superintendent Chalmers, Sideshow Bob, Lenny, Carl, Otto, Lionel Hutz, Troy McClure, Frank Grimes, Sideshow Mel, Kent Brockman, Radioactive Man, Bumblebee Man, Roger Myers Jr, Agnes Skinner, Poochie. I could keep going, but the one that really bugs me is Principal Skinner since we have a Mrs. Krabappel and it’s kind of sad we have Ned Flanders, but not the rest of his family. Chief Wiggum doesn’t have his boys, Homer doesn’t have any co-workers – like I said, I could go on and on.

Wanting to do something with Lego, while also adding to my Simpsons collection, I picked up a set of Lego Creator. Set 31052, to be specific, which is a 3 – in – 1 set dubbed Vacation Getaways that can be constructed as an RV with boat, a camp with Jeep-like vehicle, or a massive boat. I eyed it for the RV construction which appears to be its main function. Why? Because it bares a strong resemblance to the RV Flanders has in “Call of the Simpsons” and “Lemon of Troy.” Since Ned doesn’t have a house, I figured I could give him some wheels. And as a bonus, it comes with a bear that Maggie can befriend as she did in “Call of the Simpsons.”

Ned_RV

What we’re going for.

Construction of the RV is pretty simple and straight-forward. It’s a little on the narrow side, but a lot is packed into it (kind of like a real RV). The roof is removable in two places and intended to act as a place to store fold-up chairs and tables. There’s a portable grill as well that can be placed on top. The interior features a breakfast nook, sleeping area, kitchenette, and latrine with a two-seat cockpit upfront. One section can slide out where the bed is to make it a little roomier, and there’s lots of little built-in pieces that add to the livable nature of the set. The rear also opens up for better access. It comes with two mini figures of its own:  an adult woman and an adolescent boy. A little speedboat and trailer can be built and attached (also a plus since Ned has a boat in “Homer Loves Flanders”) and it works really well. There’s also the bear and two trees that can be built as well.

Some other accessories featured are a side-mounted canopy that can be rolled out. It works much better than I thought it would. There’s a skateboard, camera, some periodicals, and a suitcase as well. The RV itself is white with a red and black stripe that, wouldn’t you know, is actually pretty damn close to what Ned’s RV looked like in the show right down to the number of windows. The likeness is so close that if Lego had done a Flanders RV set it probably wouldn’t deviate much from what’s here. The only things missing are the pink curtains and a giant lemon tree to strap to the top.

The only real downside to this set is it probably wouldn’t be a ton of fun to play with. The interior is so narrow there isn’t a lot of room for the figures. The cockpit is especially tricky to seat figures in because it’s not easily accessible, even with the roof off. Still, that’s rather minor for what I need it to do since it’s basically going to sit on a shelf with the other Simpsons Lego sets and figures. It was a fun build, and it scratched an itch I had to construct a Lego set. I just wish we had all of the characters from “Lemon of Troy” to pile into the RV to really recreate something special. This set has been retired, but it can still be easily found new on various websites for around MSRP. That might not be true for much longer, so if you’re like me and looking to expand for Simpsons Lego presence in your home you may want to act fast.


#6 – The Simpsons: Simpsons Roasting on an Open Fire

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“Simpsons Roasting on an Open Fire” (1989)

The holiday most often associated with The Simpsons is clearly Halloween, thanks to the annual presence from the Treehouse of Horror series. Which is why I find it funny that the show’s very first episode was a Christmas special (though it should be noted, it was the 8th episode by production order). I can’t think of another long-running show that lead-off with a Christmas special. South Park famously originated as a Christmas short, but that wasn’t its first true episode. “Simpsons Roasting on an Open Fire” also aired a full month before the show’s second episode so that it could air before Christmas. It was also not written by Matt Groening, or any of the other individuals most associated with the show, but cartoonist Mimi Pond. It was also her only contribution to the show and the only episode from the show to air in the 1980s.

“Simpsons Roasting on an Open Fire” succeeds as both a Christmas special and as an introduction for the series. Homer is depicted as a screw-up who wants to give his family a good Christmas, but his miserly boss has decided not to give out bonuses this year. When Marge has to use what little savings they have to get a tattoo removed off of their son, Homer looks to get a second job to pay for Christmas. He doesn’t tell his family and decides to take a part-time job as a mall Santa. This includes a humorous sequence of Homer going through Santa training, learning how to laugh and what to say to bad kids who sit on his lap. His plan blows up in his face though when he receives a meager payout on Christmas Eve. Defeated, he and Bart decide to accompany fellow Santa Barney Gumble to the dog track and wager their bucks on a long-shot, who Homer feels compelled to bet on because of his name:  Santa’s Little Helper. The dog, of course, loses but when his owner kicks him to the curb the Simpsons gain a new pet, and a worthy Christmas present.

Simpsons_Roasting_on_an_Open_Fire

The gang’s all here for the first episode.

It’s a cute story and a good window into what the show is all about when it’s at its best. The Simpsons don’t always catch the best breaks, through some of their own doing, but they find a way to make it work. They’re basically a happy family that cares about one another, unlike a certain other animated TV family. As viewers, we like them, even though we laugh at them. There’s enough pity in Homer’s plight to get a reaction, but not so much that the episode becomes a depressing slog.

“Simpsons Roasting on an Open Fire” is still the best Christmas special produced by the long-running series and can be found on the season one box set. It’s also been released on DVD as part of a holiday collection of episodes and is guaranteed to air this season on FXX, along with the other Christmas specials. Just keep an eye out for it if you wish to catch it that way.

 


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