One of the most celebrated comic strips of all time is Krazy Kat by George Herriman. Krazy Kat debuted in the New York Evening Journal in 1913 and concluded its run in 1944. It contained a fairly simply premise where a cat named Krazy pined for a mouse named Ignatz, only the mouse hated the cat and would pelt it with bricks in response to its advances. What set it apart was the art direction with backgrounds that seemed to morph and change more than the characters and with prose that was often alliterative or was spelled out solely with phonetics. It was a favorite of “intellectuals” earning praise from the likes of art critic Gilbert Seldes and poet E.E. Cummings.
Because of the strip’s popularity, it made the jump to features. The era of the cartoon short soon followed Krazy Kat and multiple studios tried their hand at adapting the strip for film, and almost all without any input from Herriman. The first few that crept out hewed close to the strip, but later entries did not. As a result, the theatrical shorts were often perceived as a knock-off of more famous characters like Mickey Mouse and Felix the Cat. The series launched by Bill Nolan in 1925 would even fool many as the character is almost indistinguishable from Felix, where as the comic strip is very much it’s own thing stylistically.
In 1962, King Features would bring Krazy Kat to the small screen. This time, the character resembled its strip counterpart and Ignatz, who was written out of some of the film series, was there as well. The character of Krazy Kat was made female though as maybe a gender-neutral one was too much for audiences to handle in the 1960s, especially if the voice actors for Krazy and Ignatz had both ended up male. That didn’t happen as Penny Phillips was handed the role of Krazy with Paul Frees (his third appearance this year at The Christmas Spot) voiced Ignatz and basically every male in the show. Despite looking more like the strip, the cartoon series doesn’t appear to take much from it. It’s a fairly simple show with the minimalist animation folks should expect from King Features. The show was packaged with Beetle Bailey and Snuffy Smith forming a trio for broadcast.
The 29th episode of Krazy Kat is titled “Krazy’s Krismas.” It aired sometime in 1963, presumably in the vicinity of Christmas, though details are scarce. It’s easily available though and rather short, the perfect combination for The Christmas Spot! The short begins with Krazy and Ignatz arguing, over what we don’t initially know as Krazy just says “There is!” and Ignatz retorts with “Is not!” as the two approach Krazy’s house, which looks more like a shack. She’s carrying a hammer and red stocking and promptly nails it to her front door. Officer Pupp (Frees) is standing beside it with a dopey smile on his face. The characters in this show are very simple in appearance. Krazy is a mixture of teal, red, with white for her face, and eyes. The red is just a scarf around her neck while Ignatz is entirely purple with black, stick, limbs. Pupp is all yellow with white buttons and a star-shaped badge. He also has a crudely drawn hat on his head that’s pretty much the same shade of blue-green as Krazy’s fur. I didn’t see him listed anywhere as being influenced by Herriman, but I can’t shake the feeling that Dr. Seuss may have been influenced by this art style to a point.
Pupp inquires what the pair are arguing about, referring to Krazy as “My dear, Krazy,” as there is sometimes hinted that Pupp has a crush on the cat. He soon finds out the two are arguing over the existence of Santa Claus, and when Pupp finds out that Ignatz is on Team No he spins the mouse around and kicks him in the butt to send him soaring off-screen. Clearly, Pupp believes in Santa and he regards Krazy with a smile as he takes note of her “craftsmanship.” The stocking she nailed to the door is hanging with the head of the hammer plunged through it. When he asks why she hung the stocking on the door, she replies that her chimney is clogged.
Ignatz then comes racing over banging a literal drum with a sign hanging off of his body that reads, “There is no Santa Claus.” Pupp chases after him, but then runs back to Krazy to physically turn her body away from Ignatz. My guess is he plans to engage in more police brutality and doesn’t want any witnesses. He returns to chasing Ignatz who points out to Pupp that he’s not breaking any laws. Pupp tells him he’s doing worse – he’s breaking hearts! The mouse ends up at the edge of a lake and breaks his sign in half to float on it in order to avoid Pupp. He seems content to let Ignatz drift away as he announces the need to return to Krazy to, “nurture her delusions.” Sounds like he’s not exactly a true-believer himself.
Pupp heads to the jail where he keeps a rather large chest labeled “Disguise” for no doubt nothing nefarious related to his work. As he digs through it, he calls out the stuff he doesn’t need which feels like padding as nothing he says could be construed as a joke. He eventually finds what he’s looking for: a white beard, red, flannel, pajamas, and a pillow to use as stomach padding. Despite mentioning the need for pajamas, he seems only interested in the cap since his entire body remains yellow. Despite that, he mostly looks the part as he dawns his disguise and returns to the home of Krazy Kat.
Pupp stands outside Krazy’s house “ho-hoing” like a maniac. Ignatz shows up to have a laugh as Krazy Kat emerges from her home quite surprised to see “Santy” on her lawn. Pupp keeps saying “ho-ho” over and over and with more conviction, until the pillow under his shirt pops out. When he bends over to retrieve it his beard falls off and Ignatz howls with laughter and points out that it’s just Pupp. Krazy claims she knew it the whole time for Santy lives in the North Pole. When challenged by Ignatz how she knows this, she offers up that her cousin Pole Cat works for him and is sending a private jet to pick her up for a visit. Ignatz finds this quite hilarious until he sees an airplane in the sky above them being pulled by six, albino, reindeer. Why the reindeer? I guess they needed it to look “Christmasy” or something and a red and green color pattern for the plane wasn’t good enough.
The plane lands and all three climb aboard and head to the North Pole, which for some reason requires them to enter space first. The landing gear is lowered, and there’s a joke that additional landing gear is needed in the form of skies. It’s not particularly funny. When they do land we meet Pole Cat (Frees again) who just looks like a blue version of Krazy and carries a pole, naturally. He shows them the work shop which is full of toys. While Krazy and Pupp are admiring the scenery, Ignatz decides that Santa won’t miss one of the sacks of presents so he tosses it over his shoulder and makes for the door. Just where is he going to take that? I don’t think the mouse has thought this through.
As Ignatz walks out the door he asks himself aloud if he’s forgotten anything as he steps on a pair of skies. He then adds, “Yeah, I don’t know how to ski!” As he slides down the hill outside, Pupp notices and the three others chase after the thieving mouse via sled. He winds up going off of a cliff and is forced to dump out the presents since he needs to use the sack as a parachute. It turns out the fall from the cliff wasn’t very far, but it does end on a ski jump which Ignatz goes off of and winds up deep in the snow. The other three characters find the “X” shape in the snow where Ignatz landed and are forced to pull him out.
Once removed from the snow, Ignatz is colored entirely blue and Krazy puts a blanket around him. Pupp starts admonishing him about how he should be arrested, but since it’s Christmas and all, they’re going to invite him to a party instead – makes sense. Ignatz can’t exactly respond to this because he’s frozen, so instead his mouth opens and the letters needed to spell “Thank You” float out and “stick” to the screen below him. This is the only moment that got an audible laugh from me.
The image dissolves and takes us to the party. Pupp, Krazy, and Pole Cat are at a table beside a nicely decorated tree toasting to Christmas. They’re all just drinking something out of brown bottles, so I guess use your imagination. They toast to the holiday and Krazy wishes poor Ignatz wasn’t stuck in bed with a cold following his earlier escapades. At that moment, a sound from the chimeny gets their attention and soon out pops Santa Claus! Or rather, Santa Mouse as it appears to be Ignatz in disguise. For some reason, he just runs past everyone and recites the customary line of “Merry Christmas to all and to all a good night!” as he winks at the camera. He’s also sporting a frown the entire time, so there’s definitely some mixed messages here. No bother, this is the end of “Krazy’s Krismas.”
That was a simple, little, Christmas cartoon now wasn’t it? I only remember Krazy Kat from when I took cartooning lessons as a boy, so I had never seen this Paul Frees vehicle before. The animation is odd as it bounces from being stiff and minimal to being surprisingly fluid in some places. The character designs are obviously simple, which perhaps allowed for some of the movement to be more expressive than expected. There were a few shots I really liked, like Pupp stuffing his clothes with the pillow or anytime Ignatz was running around like a mad-man. I don’t really like the character designs though, so visually, it’s very much a mixed-bag. And audibly, Paul Frees is definitely stretched rather thin. There’s very little in the way of music and sound effects, and Krazy Kat’s voice and mannerisms are more annoying than charming. She’s one of those characters that uses “cute speak” in that she often pronounces her “Rs” as “Ws” and I don’t understand why someone felt that was a fit for the character.
The plot for this one starts out rather conventional, but ends in a confusing manner. It seems like it’s going to be a “Santa Claus is real,” type of story, but ends with us only seeing an imposter. I guess we did see the work shop full of toys so perhaps that’s proof enough? I was expecting a little cameo at the end of the real thing, maybe in a standard moon shot or something, but it never came. Do I think the special needs it? I suppose not since it’s definitely an ending that’s been done plenty of times. I guess I just don’t like it when cartoons leave open the possibility that Santa isn’t real, because I don’t want my kids to see such a thing and begin to question the character’s existence in their own world. I know that’s something that’s going to happen no matter what, but I’m definitely in that mode where I am doing my best to keep my kids in the dark for as long as possible.
“Krazy Krismas” is largely fine. I suppose if you’re someone who is into the strip Krazy Kat then you know this show isn’t entirely representative of that strip. If you told someone the strip was groundbreaking and of great importance and then showed them this instead they probably wouldn’t see what’s so special about it. And that’s because there’s nothing particularly special about the show, it’s just a lesser version of the real thing. It’s certainly not terrible though and while I promoted the Popeye special from a few days ago as being worth watching for the sheer fact that it’s not going to cost you much in the way of time, I would say this one is better, but also won’t cost you much more than five minutes. The show has been released on DVD, but as you could have probably guessed, it’s not well protected so this episode (and basically every other one) can be found streaming for free on YouTube.