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Dec. 12 – Teen Titans Go! – “Halloween vs. Christmas”

 

halloween vs christmas

Original air date October 27, 2016.

It’s a battle for the hearts of children around the world! What is the superior holiday:  Halloween or Christmas? Today’s entrant is founded on the premise that Halloween is the only holiday to rival Christmas as far as what children look forward to most. This feels more or less on point as a kid I definitely had strong affection for both, with Thanksgiving serving as the necessary evil standing in between the two of them. It probably comes as no surprise to anyone that Christmas was indeed my preferred holiday of the two, but Halloween was not without its charm. As for second best? Yes, I suppose that title went to Halloween though Easter was pretty close. It included candy as well plus I always got a toy from the Easter Bunny to go along with that candy. And as a kid, I much preferred toys to candy. Still, I’d probably go with Halloween because the whole costuming and going out at night was pretty charming. And as I got older it became a chance for mischief when parents no longer supervised the trick and/or treating that took place.

Even though I’m in agreement that Halloween is quite popular, I’d never put it on equal footing with Christmas. Especially not as a kid. As an adult, there are things that come with Halloween that I enjoy more now. And as a parent, dressing my kids up and unleashing them on the neighborhood is its own unique brand of joy. It doesn’t rival Christmas morning though, and I’m big on the whole build-up thing. Yes, Halloween is great, but don’t make me choose between the two because Halloween just can’t win that one.

And that’s partly what makes this episode of Teen Titans Go! so interesting. One would think if Halloween was to be pitted against Christmas the challenge would come from Halloween or a being associated with Halloween. It does not. Rather, this episode comes at things from the opposite perspective, but it creates a character that makes it work

mummy santaThe episode begins on Halloween night. Everyone is getting ready for trick or treating, but a group of individuals dressed as mummies are up to no good. There are four of them, one much larger than the others, and they’re swiping everything Halloween related from town:  candy, decorations, even costumes right off of the children! The Teen Titans happen to be in the area as Robin (Scott Menville) instructs the other Titans that they must secure provisions for the evening’s festivities. As they do so they come to find there’s nothing in town to purchase. Beast Boy (Greg Cipes) tells them to fear not, for he has saved some candy from last year that they can hand out to trick or treaters. He reaches into his pants and pulls out a greasy looking jack-o-lantern bag of treats and the others do not seem repulsed enough by this.

After Beast Boy produces the candy, the mummy group arrives to request it. They offer a “Trick or treat,” when prompted and Beast Boy is ready to hand over the candy, but then they notice something is off with these trick or treaters. One seems too old for the activity, while the others are really small. They wield Christmas stockings instead of Halloween bags or buckets and the big one even has what appears to be a white beard sticking out through his bandages. Robin correctly realizes that this group is really Santa Claus (Robert Morse) and his elves in disguise and he orders the Titans to the car.

The Teen Titans speed off as Santa gives chase in his sleigh. Rudolf leads the way firing lasers from his eyes that eventually pop one of the tires of the escape vehicle. Robin converts it into a nifty hover jet and it flies off into the Titans’ headquarters. Once inside, the Teen Titans regroup and all wonder what’s going on. Robin has it figured out though when he hypothesizes that Santa views Halloween as the only threat to Christmas so he’s seeking to gain control of it by seizing all of the candy and decorations. The other Titans are horrified, and then Santa shows up to basically confirm that Robin is correct.

santa megaphoneSanta hovers outside the armored HQ in his sleigh pulled by three reindeer. He demands they hand over the last bag of candy, but the Titans refuse. He then offers them bribes in the form of gifts, which nearly tempt Starfire (Hynden Walch) into handing over the candy. Robin instructs her to remain strong and the Titans are able to resist. This forces Santa to try a new tactic:  Christmas music! The music is supposed to infect the group with so much Christmas cheer that they cannot resist the demands of Santa. Cyborg (Khary Payton) is the first to crack as he attempts to run and grab a tree, but he’s stopped by his team members. They all confess that it’s too hard to resist the Christmas spirit with even the dour Raven (Tara Strong) affected by it. Robin concedes they must agree to meet Santa and make a deal.

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That treacherous Santa came armed.

The Titans let down their guard and allow Santa access to their roof where they all meet. Santa isn’t alone for he has two large grunts and three elves with him. Robin is outraged that they brought weapons and demands they lay them down. Santa does as Robin requests, but he asks that his little elves be allowed to keep their candy cane snacks. Robin allows it and the group begins to barter. Robin offers up other holidays in hopes of appeasing Santa, starting with President’s Day. He tosses a bound George Washington at Santa’s feet, but the fat man isn’t having any of it. Robin counters with a tandem of St. Patrick’s Day and a baby that’s either representing Baby New Year or maybe it’s a cupid. Either way, Santa brushes aside the offering of “trash holidays” and demands Halloween. The elves then turn their candy canes on the Titans revealing they’re actually guns forcing the group to retreat back inside their base.

With the negotiations failed, Robin turns to Raven and her dark arts for help. She requests a pumpkin, but Beast Boy offers up a gourd. In a throwback to the candy sack gag from earlier, the gourd comes from his pants. When asked why he would have a gourd in his pants he offers the same reason, suggesting you never know when you’ll need it. I choose to believe he’s using it to enhance his “package” and the little mugging he does for the camera makes me think I’m right.

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Behold! A new icon for Halloween!

With the gourd in her possession, Raven begins an incantation. She summons the Spirt of Halloween (Payton) who strongly resembles Samhain from The Real Ghostbusters, only with a gourd for a head instead of a pumpkin. The spirit is not alone though, as the Titans return to the roof to unleash their new team on Santa’s minions:  Dracula, Frankenstein’s Monster, and The Wolf Man! Together with the Titans, they put up quite a fight, but Santa ends up getting his claws on the Halloween Spirit and the Titans are forced to surrender.

santa vs halloweenWith defeat pulling their chins towards the ground, the Titans hand over the last sack of candy rather than see Santa kill the Spirit of Halloween. Santa is delighted to have the candy in his possession, but when he opens the sack he finds it’s full of dynamite. Cyborg detonates it with a remote blasting Santa all the way back to the North Pole where’s shown with his head stuck in the snow. The Titans all celebrate, and in what is a parody of many Christmas specials, the Halloween Spirit uses his magic to bring Halloween to the town. He even creates a sleigh with skeletal reindeer not unlike what Jack Skellington rode in The Nightmare Before Christmas. As Robin wishes everyone a Happy Halloween, the Titans and Halloween Sprit ride off into the night with the full moon serving as the perfect backdrop.

“Halloween vs Christmas” serves as an offbeat Christmas special. Or is it a Halloween special? It features both so I think it counts as both, similar to the previously mentioned The Nightmare Before Christmas. Where that movie leans more towards Christmas, this one definitely leans more towards Halloween, which is fine. It doesn’t really settle the premise implied by the title, but together with the Spirit of Halloween, the Teen Titans are able to preserve Halloween by fending off St. Nick. It features the usual Teen Titans Go! brand of humor. The villainous Santa the episode came up with is pretty amusing. He gets by with a touch of shock humor since it’s a surprise to see Santa behave in such a manner, but American Dad has been running with an adversarial Santa for quite awhile now too. I really like the performance of Robert Morse as Santa and his affinity for referring to the Titans as “garbage children” kept making me chuckle.

happy halloween

Happy Halloween everyone! Or, Merry Christmas?

The look of this show is something you either like or do not like. It’s very flat as it’s a modern 2D animated show, but it’s also colorful and the actual animation is pretty good. There’s an obvious anime influence to the action shots and in how the characters emote. I find it charming, but I also wasn’t a viewer of the more traditional Teen Titans show that came before this. Some fans of that show seem resigned to hating this one for being a comedy show, but that’s their loss, I suppose. I don’t think this show is going to be remembered as one of the best of its era, but it’s fine and it’s not something I mind watching. It knows when to leave a joke behind and the episodes are too short to really get stale, though I do wish Cartoon Network didn’t show massive blocks of this show seemingly every day when it has plenty of other quality shows it could boost.

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It’s more of a Halloween special, but it still knows to end on a moon shot after a flying sleigh just went by.

This is the second Teen Titans Go! episode to appear in one of the countdowns, the other being “Second Christmas.” Neither is a traditional Christmas episode, which feels appropriate for the brand. I found both entertaining, but the holiday mash-up gimmick utilized here makes me appreciate this one just a bit more. Regardless, Cartoon Network is likely to show both more than once this December so keep an eye out if it’s something you want to check out. You can also buy the episode digitally and may even be able to stream it on Cartoon Network’s app. It should be one of the easier specials to find this year should you choose to seek it out.


Dec. 23 – Teen Titans Go!: Second Christmas

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Original air date December 4, 2013

The Teen Titans are a super hero group consisting of all of the heroes no one cares about:  Robin, Starfire, Cyborg, Raven, and Beast Boy. They got a chance to shine in their own series, which was eventually spun-off into a satirical comedy series called Teen Titans Go! This series is basically a flash animated cartoon in which the team does little actual super hero stuff and mostly just confronts every day mundane activities in an overly dramatic way. It’s not a show I’m very familiar with, having only watched an episode here and there just because it seems to always be on Cartoon Network. My once infant son seemed to like the theme song and all of the colors, so I’d on occasion use the program to distract him for a few minutes. I’ve had people tell me it’s a really funny show, and others tell me it’s one of the worst things DC has ever done with its brand. I’m guessing if you have no affection for the comics then this show is mostly just dumb humor that’s not entirely annoying, but if you actually enjoy the Teen Titans as a super hero group then you probably have a negative opinion of this thing.

“Second Christmas” aired during the show’s first season in 2013. I may not be familiar with this show, but i am familiar with the post-Christmas blues. December 26th is often cited by me as the saddest day of the year – 364 days until next Christmas, 365 if it’s one of those wretched leap years. Boxing Day just doesn’t do it for me, and the premise of this episode is immediately appealing to me because the characters are dealing with that very same thing, and to combat it, they come up with Second Christmas.

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Who doesn’t enjoy a good Christmas sweater?

The episode opens on Christmas morning. We get some shots of the Titans’ HQ, a giant building shaped like the letter T, and it’s all decorated for Christmas with numerous DC references. The stockings are hung by the fireplace loaded with toys and goodies, implying Santa has come and gone. I very much like that Cyborg’s stocking is a giant steel boot. The camera zooms in on a Batman alarm clock which immediately goes off at 8:00 AM. What?! You mean in a building occupied solely by kids the inhabitants stay in bed until 8 on Christmas morning? Hell, I rarely let the sun beat me to Christmas morning. When the alarm goes off, the Titans come running out from their rooms. They observe the cookies have been consumed, the milk has been drunk, and they tare through their wonderful new gifts. The gifts are supposed to be kind of funny, I take it, but the only one I like is Starfire’s Dr. Seuss inspired thing that I couldn’t possibly spell.

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I feel like Beast Boy should really be a reindeer here and not a dog.

The Titans move onto ugly Christmas sweaters and food. The day, as it often does, goes by like a whirlwind and suddenly it’s the 26th. Everyone is feeling down except Robin, who channels my mom in this scene by gleefully pulling down all of the Christmas decorations. He’s the most straight-laced of the group and wants to get back to training and doing super hero stuff while the others just need to wallow. Starfire is less upset as she apparently has a Christmas-like holiday to attend on her home planet, or wherever she’s from. There some kind of purple dinosaur that isn’t Barney replaces Santa amid chaos and flames. Seems interesting. The others are a bit jealous that she gets to run off for more holiday shenanigans so Beast Boy comes up with the idea of telling her about Second Christmas. Raven and Cyborg play along, and they soon have Starfire convinced that Second Christmas is a real holiday complete with its own Santa, obviously named Second Santa. He’s tall, skinny, and wears a green track suit and flys around with a jet pack.

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Robin is pretty willing to move on from Christmas while the others are reluctant to do so.

Robin walks in on them and immediately tries to put this Second Christmas nonsense to bed, but Beast Boy informs Starfire that Robin is the Grouch of Second Christmas and she shouldn’t listen to him and instead punch him in the face – so she does. Second Christmas suddenly becomes a thing that occurs at the expense of Starfire as the others leave it to her to re-decorate the place, cook a new Christmas dinner (consisting of junk food like pizza and burritos), and handle all of the presents and such. Somehow a Second Christmas kite becomes thing, and Starfire is very much interested in meeting Second Santa. A Dr. Seuss-like narrator also pops in to add a little magic to Second Christmas. Starfire is happy to go along with everything as she’s promised a Second Christmas miracle by Beast Boy should everything go well.

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All decorated for Second Christmas.

A montage, very much a re-hash of the opening one that covered Christmas, takes place showing the Titans in celebration. Robin remains a grouch, but doesn’t continue to protest. He still gets punched in the face though for making a sour face during Second Christmas Carols. He finally voices concern when Starfire activates the many, many lights she’s strung up all over the building, drawing attention to the huge waste of money powering them all is. He notes that their generator can’t handle this much stress and tries reasoning with Starfire. He tries being sympathetic to her and explain that the others are playing a trick on her, then gets angry when that doesn’t work, only earning him yet another punch in the face. Starfire won’t be fooled by the Second Christmas Grouch, the narrator informs us as we get a look at the swelling generator.

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All seem quite pleased with how Second Christmas turned out, except Robin.

Inside, Beast Boy remarks how he’s beat from all of this Second Christmas celebrating and Raven and Cyborg are quick to point out how great it was. They all decide to head to bed, but not Starfire who did not miss her people’s most important holiday to not witness a Second Christmas miracle. Suddenly, the others show a bit of remorse, but they only tease copping to her about the whole thing. When they say “There’s something we should tell you,” it just leads to them bidding her good night after unsuccessfully trying to get her to go to bed herself. Robin can only look on with disappointment.

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Starfire is pissed.

Starfire takes to the roof to fly her Second Christmas kite in hopes of spotting Second Christmas Santa. She tries to convince herself to believe, assuming that’s what will lead to a miracle, but nothing happens. The narrator comes in to recount all of the things she has done throughout the day to ensure Second Christmas was perfect. Just then, a flash of light bathes her in a warm glow! Second Santa? Nope, it’s just the elevator to the roof containing her teammates with Robin ordering them to tell her she’s been had. They finally come clean and hang their heads in shame, apologizing, but Starfire isn’t too accepting. She missed the most important day of the year for her home world for Second Christmas and she goes ballistic throwing nuclear snowballs at her “friends.” Even Robin isn’t spared as she still calls him the Grouch and punches him in the face. I’ve always thought Robin was pretty lame, but damn does he get abused in this episode.

Second_Santa_2

He is real! He’s really real!

After all of the Titans are trapped in the snow, a bright light appears. Even Robin and the others wonder if this is the coming of Second Santa, while Starfire turns to the light with renewed Second Christmas Spirit. Turns out it’s just the generator overloading and soon the whole thing explodes. We fade to white and find the Titans all waking up in hospital beds. Turns out the explosion put them all into comas and they’re just now all waking up simultaneously 363 days later – it’s Christmas Eve! A Second Christmas Miracle! The creation of their fake holiday has had the intended result as the Titans were not forced to wait for next Christmas, it came! They reflect on the miraculous event, as the camera leaves the confines of the hospital room to reveal the identity of the episode’s narrator as none other than Second Santa himself. He takes to the sky in his jet pack, just as Starfire approaches a window to witness him. He gives her a wink, and writes Happy 2nd X-Mas in the sky before flying off.

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I guess I should have run this on the 26th, but there’s no way I’m doing a 26th blog entry on Christmas this month!

“Second Christmas” is a pretty silly and, at times, mean-spirited little Christmas special. It’s also strangely relatable as who likes waiting a whole year for Christmas? I mean sure we all get sick of the songs at times and there’s always a few really annoying commercials each year, but Christmas is such a wonderful time of year it sometimes gets a little sad knowing it’s just one day out of the whole year. Of course, that one day has been stretched into two as Christmas Eve is basically a holiday at this point, and the entire Christmas season is eerily undefined. At retail it basically begins the week of Halloween while many at least push it off until after Thanksgiving. And then it kind of lingers through the new year before vanishing completely as kids return to school and adults back to work. As a concept, I love this episode and I like the little flourishes that give it a holiday special vibe such as the narrator or visual gags like a snowman coming to life when Cyborg places hie head upon it. As something that’s funny or entertaining, it’s less successful as there’s really no laugh-out-loud moments, but a short running time (about 11 minutes with opening and closing credits) keeps it from over-staying its welcome. As a result, I’m pretty lukewarm on the whole thing which pretty much matches my attitude toward the series as a whole.

Teen Titans Go! is run all of the time on Cartoon Network, it’s basically that channel’s SpongeBob, so I expect this episode to air numerous times during this holiday season. If the network is smart, it’ll be shown on the 26th to really capture the mood of the episode. As of this post, it’s scheduled to air on Christmas Eve at 1 PM. The show is also available on DVD and Blu Ray and streaming in various places on the web.


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