Tag Archives: wang film productions

Dec. 17 – The Mask – “Santa Mask”

Original air date November 4, 1995

In the world of film, 1994 belonged to Jim Carrey. On television, 1995 belonged to TV shows based on those 94 movies. Well, not exactly, since all of the shows based on Jim Carrey movies made little impact, but like yesterday’s show I’d hesitate to call today’s subject a failure.

The Mask began life as a comic book by John Arcudi and was turned into a film of the same name. It then made the journey to the small screen for a cartoon also called The Mask. Like the Ace Ventura cartoon, this one was developed by Duane Capizzi and aired on the CBS network alongside Ace Ventura: Pet Detective. Unlike its network-mate, this show had a much more grounded visual style. Perhaps influenced by other superhero cartoons, most of the people in The Mask look like actual humans as opposed to oddly proportioned and exaggerated cartoon characters. Wang Film Productions Company handled the animated for this particular episode, but it looks like the show relied on multiple overseas studios for the animation.

The cartoon series of The Mask is basically an extension of the film. Stanley Ipkiss (Rob Paulsen) is a milquetoast bank teller frequently pushed around by his boss Charlie (Mark L. Taylor) and landlady Agnes (Tress MacNeille), but when he puts on the titular mask he morphs into a Tex Avery cartoon character come-to-life known as The Mask. Unlike the film, the cartoon series basically turns The Mask into a superhero who does battle with other super-powered individuals and freaks of nature. At his side is his trusty dog Milo (voiced by Frank Welker, as if there’s another choice for a cartoon canine) who also finds himself turned into The Mask on occasion, as he did in the film. All the while, The Mask is dogged by Lt. Mitch Kellaway (Neil Ross) who basically serves as the true foil for The Mask. He’s accompanied by the somewhat dimwitted Detective Doyle (Jim Cummings) who seems to have a positive impression of The Mask and does more harm than good as far as Kellaway is concerned.

The Mask aired from 1995-1997 over three seasons totaling 54 episodes, a bit more than Ace Ventura, but still short of the magic number of 65. Unlike Ace, it was a CBS show that never migrated to another network and the fact that it ended up with a few more episodes seems to jive well since I think of it as just a bit better than Ace Ventura. Even though the two shows clashed visually when compared side-by-side, it didn’t stop the two from having a crossover episode in each series. The series finale for The Mask was actually dedicated to the crossover, and oddly enough, Ace appears in this show as he does in his own, which is a truly bizarre sight to take-in. That is the third season though, and this Christmas episode actually takes us back to the first season.

Poor Stanley, out in the cold.

“Santa Mask” begins with Christmas descending upon Edge City. Stanley is being forced to dress as Santa and stand in the freezing cold outside of the bank he works at to attract customers. He badly wants to come in out of the cold, but his jerk boss, Charlie, has no time for complaints. He tries to make the best of things by calling out to a fellow Santa across the street, but unfortunately for Stanley he is no friend.

I don’t think he’s friendly.

The other Santa is actually a villain in disguise. Walter, I believe, is the strong silent type who saunters over to Stanley with an evil look on his face. He was apparently in the midst of a robbery, and likely has his eyes set on the bank now. Before he can do Stanley any harm, another pair of Santas show up. Dak (Cam Clarke) and Eddy (Jeff Bennett), also known as Putty Thing and Fish Guy, are here to rip-off the town dressed as Santa. It’s such a good idea that fellow villain Kablamus (Jim Cummings, using a slightly altered version of his Winnie the Pooh voice) is about to do the same thing! The scene keeps getting more ridiculous as more villains dressed up as Santa emerge, including a Zorro knock-off and apparently Rocky?!

This is actually a common problem around these parts.

The whole episode causes Mayor Tilton (Kevin Michael Richardson) to declare that anyone dressed as Santa be arrested and jailed. Apparently this is a regular problem for Edge City around Christmas time as we see video of many phony Santas causing mayhem over the years. This lands Stanley in jail as this new ordinance must have been retroactive. He’s stuck in a holding cell with all of the Santas from earlier, and also a new one. This guy (Cummings) looks like the real deal though, and he is not happy about being locked-up on Christmas Eve. He has some harsh criticisms of Edge City’s criminal justice system and turns to Stanley as someone he can dump on. Stanley obviously doesn’t think he’s the real Santa, but this guy has some pretty convincing credentials including pictures of his elves and a North Pole sleigh-driver’s license (we also learn that parallel parking eight reindeer is quite a bitch).

If he’s the real deal, he’s the most intimidating Santa I can recall!

Stanley is soon set free as the police were finally able to figure out he meant no harm, but this Santa guy isn’t as lucky. Before Stanley can exit the cell, Santa pulls him aside to let him know that while he may not believe in Santa, millions of kids do and they’re all about to have a pretty crummy Christmas with Santa locked-up. He tells Stanley that he needs someone to fill-in for him, and unfortunately he’s the best he can do on short notice. Stanley still isn’t sure what to believe, and as he exits the cell he begs the guard to confirm for him that there is no Santa, but the guy just shrugs his shoulders.

It wouldn’t be much of an episode if he didn’t put it on.

On his way home Stanley encounters a father and son pair (both voiced by Clarke) with the kid mistaking Stanley for Santa at first. Stanley pulls up his beard and puts on a smile, but the kid sees right through it. At his apartment, Stanley is torn on what to do as he doesn’t want to be known as “the jerk who couldn’t save Christmas.” Feeling he has no other alternative, he turns to The Mask!

Well, I certainly wasn’t expecting a traditional sleigh.

The Mask (also voiced by Paulsen) takes to the Santa thing with open arms. He puts on the suit, complete with padding so he looks like a big, red, blob, and even comes up with a sleigh. How did he produce a sleigh? I don’t know, but this is a character who can seemingly pull a mallet out of his trousers with no regard for the rules of physics so I guess maybe he just did the same for a sleigh? It’s a rather slapstick looking affair as it has a whirling propeller over the top of it and one lone reindeer. That reindeer is, of course, Milo suspended by balloons with antlers and a red light bulb placed over his nose – poor little guy.

Chimneys are for chumps.

The duo heads to the first little house on the square, home to some little girl. Rather than go down the chimney, The Mask instead jacks up the roof and hops into the girl’s bedroom. She’s surprisingly not terrified to see this loud, green-faced, man enter her room, but she is looking forward to a Christmas present. She’s a bit frustrated with Mask Claus though as he doesn’t seem to know what she wants, even though she told “him” when she sat on his lap at the store. Eventually, she reminds him that she wanted a rocking horse, so The Mask one-ups her request and removes a real, live, racing horse from his rather massive sack. She’s pretty thrilled by this development, and The Mask hands her a stack of bills to wager on an upcoming race for him before exiting.

Elsewhere, Lt. Kellaway and Detective Doyle are out patrolling the streets for more renegade Santas. Doyle, being the “dumb” one, is rightfully concerned they may lock up the real Santa and mess up Christmas for a whole bunch of kids. Kellaway thinks he’s an idiot and tells him there is no Santa. His evidence? He never got some dumb train as a kid, so you can bet he’ll get it before the episode is over.

Well, at least he noticed his face was green. That makes him smarter than Cindy Lou Who.

The two soon run across The Mask as he was attempting to scale the next house on his list and Kellaway is eager for a chase. The Mask rides along beside their car and Doyle questions why Santa’s face is green. Kellaway breaks the news to him that it’s not Santa, but The Mask, and a chase is underway! It ends on a nearby pond that’s frozen over with the two officers exiting the car only to have The Mask ice skate over to them. The Mask gifts the pair a present each; a VCR for Doyle and a flannel shirt for Kellaway. The Mask informs him it matches his flannel underwear, which is when The Mask gives him a giant wedgie. The Mask laughs and skates a circle around the pair, and their car, and since he operates under the laws of cartoons you know this means he just cut a large hole in the ice. Kellaway and Doyle seem to be well-aware that the usual laws of nature do not apply here as they run from the car as a giant hole appears in the ice to swallow the vehicle up. The Mask leaves and Kellaway makes a call to the rest of the force requesting a helicopter and a very large crane to remove his car from the pond.

It’s wedgie time!

The Mask gleefully takes to the sky, but soon finds himself targeted by a rather odd looking police helicopter. Seriously, this thing looks more like a Transformer than any real world helicopter I’ve seen. The Mask instructs Milo to provide a diversion as he bails on the sleigh in favor of running across the rooftops. Fearing his city has become hostile towards Santa, he’s elated to see a smoke stack with neon lights welcoming Santa. He turns into a whirlwind and shoots up the smoke stack, leaving behind the word “No” added in lights to indicate that there are actually no Santas present inside.

Well that’s convenient.

The Mask disappears down the smoke stack only to find out it was all a trap! It would seem the villainous Doctor Septimus Pretorious (Tim Curry) has laid a trap with the intent to capture Santa Claus! This guy is a recurring villain who is some sort of robot with outlandish eyebrows and what looks like a cat sphincter in the middle of his forehead. Anyway, he wants to uncover the secrets of Santa’s magic sack since it can seemingly carry trillions of toys inside of it while looking mostly like an old pillow case. He’s eager to take a look and is apparently oblivious to the fact that he’s actually captured The Mask, and not Santa.

They just couldn’t leave Dickens out of this one.

The Mask rather effortlessly breaks free and then takes Pretorious on a Scrooge-like journey that wraps up in roughly a minute as opposed to the usual running-time such a thing entails. He changes wardrobes rapidly with the story, and when he needs Pretorious to do the same he simply rips his head off and shoves it where he needs it to be. Pretorious seems totally flabbergasted by the whole affair and basically just lets everything happen. When The Mask is done, or maybe just bored, he leaves, but not before he gives Pretorius his present: a bomb. As he exits the smokestack he also changes the lettering on it once again this time instructing the police to check there.

Admit it, you forgot about these guys. I know I sure did.

Outside, The Mask is unable to call for Milo, so he whips out a remote to summon him instead. The poor dog arrives out of breath and the two return to the sky with The Mask a bit dismayed to realize he’s only delivered one present this evening. Elsewhere, the other incarcerated Santas have devised a way to escape. Kablamus has let the others in on the fact that he’s a living bomb and the Rocky guy is rather impressed. For those who don’t watch the show, Kablamus is a supervillain who can make himself explode without harm. You would think the cops would have taken some precautions there. They blow the wall open and all of the Santas are free, including the real one.

I would really like to know who decided fruit cake was funny.

The Mask is then preparing to enter a home, but the sound of looting disturbs him. The Mask is forced once more to abandon his Santa duties to put a stop to these miscreants and does so by taking on the role of a drill sergeant to get their attention, then a Spanish singer to whip them into a frenzy. It’s basically all a performance to distract the crooks and group them all together (there’s a method to his madness) until they figure out they’re villains and shouldn’t be singing and dancing. The Mask then switches tactics and begins a speech about turning to some aspect of Christmas that is unloved, and the second it begins I catch myself saying aloud “not fruit cake!” Yes, it all builds to a dumb fruit cake joke. Actually, a joke basically utilized by another Paulsen show, Animaniacs, as a giant fruit cake magically falls from the sky to land on the villains. The Mask them wraps them up with a bow complete with a “Do Not Open till X-Mas” card, though I have to believe we’re past midnight at this point. Kellaway and Doyle then come upon the scene, driving a tow truck, and Doyle is predictably the only one to express affection for fruit cake.

Well, would you look at that?

With that mess taken care of, The Mask is finally able to get to the next house on his list. The only problem is right after he lands the sleigh (on the lawn, for some reason) he realizes that it’s actually dawn. He pulls off his face and The Mask is once again just Stanley Ipkiss. He’s dismayed that he’s let down Santa and realized his destiny as “the jerk who couldn’t save Christmas,” but as he peers through the window of the house he was about to enter he sees the same kid he encountered on the street earlier. Only this kid is excited because Santa left him some new action figures that look a lot like G.I. Joes. Stanley is relieved to see this and at that moment realizes that Santa must have escaped with the other inmates and set everything right.

Honestly, Stanley is lucky the worst that happened to him was his faith in Christmas was crushed. You go around grabbing people like that in the city and you’re liable to get stabbed. Or worse.

Stanley returns to the city proper and is eager to share the news that Santa is real! Most people on the street regard him suspiciously, and he even runs into Kellaway outside the police station. Kellaway has no interest in entertaining Ipkiss. He’s not even content to let Stanley think what he wants and instead informs him that all of the Santas who escaped were recaptured and takes him into the precint to show him. Stanley flips through the mug shots and doesn’t see the real Santa and begins to doubt himself. He leaves and Kellaway enters his office smugly to retrieve his bowling ball as that’s how he’s spending Christmas. There he finds the dumb train he wanted as a kid sitting on his desk. With tears welling up in his eyes, he looks to the sky hopefully, and then dismisses the possibility of an actual Santa. We don’t have room for two miracles in this one.

That’s the toy that made him lose faith in Santa?! Even the weenie whistle is better than that!

A somewhat down Stanley is then shown walking home. His experience at the police station has left him thinking there really isn’t a Santa, and that’s just sad. A present then lands on the sidewalk in front of him and Stanley picks it up. We hear a Santa voice-over thanking Stanley for at least trying to help out. His true gratitude is apparently expressed on the tag as Kellaway has been crossed out and replaced with Stanley. Inside is the flannel shirt The Mask had gifted Kellaway and Stanley is happy to have it. He picks up Milo and tells him, “Yes, Milo, there is a Santa Claus!” As the camera zooms out and we see the snow falling, the little girl from earlier goes riding by on her new race horse and Stanley gives her a wave.

The part of Virginia will now be played by Milo.

For Christmas, writer Dean Stefan basically took The Santa Clause approach, or Flintstones approach if you prefer, for The Mask. It’s a solid premise as imagining The Mask in the role of St. Nick certainly seems like it has some comedic appeal. In spite of that, I really didn’t find much to laugh at. Maybe if I were 7 this would be funny, but most of the jokes were too familiar. I liked some of the inexplicable humor, like Rocky being a villain (he’s apparently named Dynamite Joe), but few actual jokes did much to move me. The fish guy seemed like he had potential, as he’s basically just a fish, and there were some jokes at his expense once the Santas were captured as he apparently does not possess a pleasant odor. The Mask as a character isn’t really that funny though. He reminds me of The Tick, only instead of aloof he’s self-aware. He’s certainly loud and the nature of the character means he can lend himself well to gags, but few were present here. The fruit cake joke was dumb and it’s a punchline relied upon way too much in cartoons. Same with The Mask calling out fake reindeer names at one point which included Nixon instead of Blitzen – I think that’s another gag we can retire.

That’s not to say I did not enjoy the performance of Rob Paulsen. He’s a voice acting legend and he’s certainly able to match the intensity of the film performance. The other performance I quite enjoyed belonged to Tim Curry, which isn’t much of a surprise since he tends to be terrific whenever he takes on a voice role. He really didn’t have many lines as Dr. Pretorius in this one, but the way he emphasized the word “sack” was one of the few moments I actually chuckled aloud. Some words are just inherently funny when spoken a certain way, and Curry certainly found that with “sack.”

Her parents must have been pissed.

Otherwise, this episode does at least make an attempt at some Christmas feels with its resolution. There’s some cynicism present though, and it’s even embodied by the show’s real Santa character. And re-inserting the horse girl into the end was a good touch. Even though I found this one a bit short on laughs, it is written competently and I liked how it kept coming back to the fact that The Mask was so awful at playing Santa he only delivered one present.

Even though I consider The Mask to be superior to Ace Ventura: Pet Detective, it’s a bit harder to come by. Only the first season was released on DVD, but at least this episode is a part of that. And because of that, it’s also available streaming. The good news is that there’s also less protection of it. If you look at the credits, there were a lot of different companies involved in this series and I’m guessing that’s why it’s not more readily available. There are just too many parties to compensate in order to make it worthwhile. Instead, no one cares about it and you can find this online streaming for free should you wish to spend Christmas with The Mask.

Dec. 10 – The Town Santa Forgot

“The Town Santa Forgot” originally aired on December 3, 1993 on NBC, I just liked this Cartoon Network ad more.

Come the 1990s, the cartoon juggernaut known as Hanna-Barbera was fading. It’s said the company once had control of approximately 80% of the children’s programming on television and even come 1990 it was still around 20%. The studio’s last big hit had been The Smurfs which set all kinds of Saturday morning records despite few animation buffs finding cause to celebrate. There were several spin-offs and specials, some stuck and some which did not, but the name was still fairly prominent on both broadcast and cable.

In 1991, Turner Broadcasting acquired Hanna-Barbera marking a major turning point for the studio. Less legacy properties would be developed as David Kirschner took over. This was the era that brought in more action cartoons like The Pirates of Dark Water and eventually SWAT Kats. Turner would launch Cartoon Network which in its early days was basically a dumping ground for Hanna-Barbera content, both old and new. A swath of new creative directors would be hired like Pat Ventura, Genndy Tartakovsky, and even Seth MacFarlane. Those individuals, along with several others, were the creative minds around the What a Cartoon! series of shorts that would come to define Cartoon Network in the late 90s and beyond.

The original broadcast had its own bumpers, an old staple I wish would return.

Even though Turner was working on creating a cartoon channel to rival Nickelodeon, Hanna-Barbera still had its hands in broadcast animation. We talked about one of the 90s broadcast Christmas specials last year with A Flintstone Family Christmas, and in 1993 Hanna-Barbera produced The Town Santa Forgot. The animated special starred Dick Van Dyke and aired in prime time on NBC that year. Following 93, it would become a holiday staple on Cartoon Network for a few years before being retired to Boomerang with pretty much all of the other Hanna-Barbera properties.

The Town Santa Forgot is based on a poem called Jeremy Creek written by Charmaine Severson. Severson wrote several rhyming poems that were carried by numerous print outlets in the 70s and 80s. Jeremy Creek appears to have first seen publication in 1985 and it tells the tale of a greedy little kid who accidentally brings happiness to a neglected town at Christmas. It was a major hit for Severson and she would follow it up with an annual Christmas rhyme each year into the 90s, though none have risen to the level of popularity enjoyed by Jeremy Creek.

The special was produced by Hanna-Barbera with animation by Wang Film Productions. Wang Film had done work for Hanna-Barbera in the past, most notably with The Jetsons Movie, but it wasn’t handed many Hanna-Barbera originals. As a result, The Town Santa Forgot doesn’t really look like a Hanna-Barbera production. I’d argue it looks better than a lot of the content the company was responsible for at that time. The character designs have a vague hint of Rankin/Bass too, which could be just me or it could be intentional since that company is basically synonymous with Christmas specials. While Hanna-Barbera doesn’t have the greatest reputation, at least this special is an original story with a unique look so I’m already more excited for it than I was with A Christmas Story from a few days ago.

This old grandpa is our story-teller who has to teach his spoiled little grandkids a lesson.

The special begins with a grandfather and his two grandchildren. Dick Van Dyke provides the voice of the grandfather who will serve as narrator. The kids aren’t named, but one is a boy (Troy Davidson) and one a girl (Ashley Johnson). It’s the grandfather who is giving me the Rankin/Bass vibes as he looks like he could fit in with one of the animated Frosty the Snowman specials. The kids are a bit more generic with black, soulless, eyes.

The kids are both talking about all of the stuff they want for Christmas, which prompts Grandpa to sit ’em down and tell them a story about the greediest kid who ever lived: Jeremy Creek.

This is Jeremy. Don’t be fooled by that smile, he’s a little asshole.

Jeremy Creek (Miko Hughes) is a little red-headed child with enough toys for over 400 boys. He has toys of all variety, and he doesn’t like to share. Worse, he always wants more. He can’t possibly have enough toys and when he sees something he wants, he lets his parents know. And if his parents say “No,” then he screams and wails until they give-in. We see Jeremy spy a cowboy doll outside a store and go purple with rage until his parents buy it for him. When he’s home later that night watching television, he sees a commercial for a better version of the same doll and goes into a rage. For once, his parents put their foot down, but that just incites the neighbors who complain about the noise. Eventually, dad (Philip Proctor) lays down the law and tells Jeremy he wants to hear nothing further from the boy and he retreats to his room.

This is a pretty great shot.

Once in his room, we get to see Jeremy survey his toys while perched like a vulture on his bedpost. He then starts playing with all that he has as the narrator goes into detail on the sheer volume of what’s in there. There’s army men, baseballs, vampire costumes, and more. He even has toys for boys much older than he, like remote-controlled airplanes, which he uses to harass the neighborhood. While it’s clear to see this kid is spoiled rotten, it’s at least admirable to see him actually playing with and enjoying the toys as opposed to acting like a dragon and simply hoarding them, which is what my kids seem to do.

They didn’t have any computer paper back then. Hell, they don’t have it now!

Eventually, Jeremy gets the idea that if his parents won’t buy him what he wants then he’ll have to turn to Santa. The problem is it’s currently June, but that doesn’t stop Jeremy from drafting a list. He has to tape sheets of paper together to accommodate his vast array of wants and the list stretches for miles. After he has listed every possible toy under the sun, he signs the list with a simple Jeremy Creek – no thanks or nothing. He bundles it up like a roll of wall insulation and drops it onto a mailman’s back to send it to Santa way up at the North Pole.

A conventional, yet unique, depiction of Santa.

Santa Claus (Hal Smith) is then shown flying his sleigh (with 8 reindeer!) up north and comes to land in the garage of his workshop. This Santa has a plump appearance, basically being shaped like a bell, and he enters his workshop where some elves are hard at work. They’re small and a bit conventional looking with pointed ears and hats. Santa is excited to show them that the first Christmas letters have started to come in, and one of them is particularly massive. The list dominates the room and Santa and his elves can scarcely believe someone wrote this thing. When Santa sees the name at the bottom, Jeremy Creek, it never crosses his mind this could be the list of one person and assumes it refers to an actual place.

The elves of this special also manage to look conventional, yet different, much like Santa.

Santa and his elves get out the map and look all over for a place called Jeremy Creek. Sure enough, they find one only to discover it’s not on their usual route. It’s a town with approximately 4,000 kids which matches up with the number of gifts requested and Santa assumes this is a letter from the town alerting him to their plight. Santa, realizing he’s passed this town over for years, decides he needs to make up for it by fulfilling this request.

Young Jeremy has some evil intentions this evening.

Back at his own home, we see Jeremy counting down the days until Christmas while Santa and the elves get busy at the North Pole. The elves sing a simple little song accompanied by a montage of Jeremy pulling down calendar pages. Eventually, the day arrives and Jeremy is eager to receive all of the gifts on his monstrous list. He climbs out onto his roof armed with a net and some binoculars. It seems as the months have gone by, Jeremy has decided he doesn’t just want what was on his list, but everything Santa has in his sleigh! Santa soon appears and Jeremy watches as Santa goes from house to house slipping inside through various ways. His body is like gelatin as he slides down chimneys and exhaust pipes, beating The Santa Clause to that idea, before climbing back into his sleigh and taking off. Oddly, the narration refers to his sleigh as a “green, glowing, sleigh” but it’s colored red. There’s a slight hue with a greenish tint to it, but it reads like the sleigh itself should have been green. Santa completely bypasses Jeremy’s house which confuses and enrages the young boy. He returns to his bedroom and assaults his pillow before despair starts to sink in.

Suck it, Jeremy!

The next morning, Jeremy arises to see all of the neighborhood kids playing happily with their new toys. He allows himself to be hopeful for a moment and reasons that maybe Santa entered through the window or something and he missed it. He races downstairs and, sure enough, the underside of the tree is just floor. His mom (Melinda Peterson) enters the room and remarks “That’s too bad,” when she sees the empty tree. She then explains that Santa must have noticed that Jeremy couldn’t possibly have more room for toys and passed him over.

Elsewhere in the world, some deserving kids are having a good Christmas for the very first time.

Jeremy storms off to the livingroom where his dad is watching television in his new Christmas socks. The program is detailing the story of an impoverished swamp town that woke up to a wonderful surprise. A pile of toys was left in the center of town for the girls and boys after years of receiving nothing at all. It’s soon revealed this was the work of Santa Claus and the town is none other than Jeremy Creek. Jeremy’s parents are shocked to see a town with the same name as their son, who soon puts two and two together and realizes his massive list of presents was given to the kids of Jeremy Creek.

Jeremy isn’t having any of this.

Jeremy is initially angry that his presents went to these kids. Then the news woman reads a letter from Santa which states someone brought this town to his attention, but chose to remain anonymous. Jeremy finally starts to feel something as his mom explains that people who do a kindness like that don’t need the adulation that comes with it. Jeremy is moved to tears, but he doesn’t want his parents to see, so he races back into the den and retreats to the underside of the Christmas tree.

If he can fit down a chimney, he can fit in a tree.

There Jeremy smiles as he looks up at the brightly decorated tree. He’s finally happy, but much to his surprise he spies a small Santa inside the tree. Only it isn’t an ornament, but Santa himself! Santa explains he figured out what happened, and that the kids of Jeremy Creek want the person who wrote them the letter to be properly thanked. Santa makes a sack appear and asks Jeremy what he would like for Christmas. Jeremy tells Santa that he wouldn’t know what to ask for and that he’s finally figured out that giving is better than receiving. Santa is overjoyed to hear this and tells Jeremy that from now on he will be his gift-giving assistant.

An older, wiser, Jeremy bids Santa farewell.

Jeremy, feeling inspired, changes from then on. He gives away all of the toys he couldn’t possibly find time for which is a callback to some of the scenes we saw earlier of him being mean to other kids in the neighborhood. And come Christmas every year, Jeremy helps Santa deliver presents. He climbs out onto his roof on Christmas Eve with a pair of binoculars and waits for Santa. When Santa arrives, he hops in his sleigh and helps deliver all of the toys. As the years go by we see Jeremy get older until eventually he’s too tall to fit in the sleigh. Santa sadly informs him that his time as his assistant must now come to an end. Jeremy is visibly sad, but he gives Santa a warm hug and hands over his binoculars for Santa to give to the next lucky boy or girl.

And now the kids get to have their own change of heart.

Back in the present, the story is done and the little boy and girl are feeling less selfish. They remark they don’t care what Santa brings them, even if he brings nothing at all! They both also aspire to be the next boy or girl that Santa makes his assistant. The grandfather says it could be either one, or both, and he also breaks the fourth wall to tell the viewer it could be them too. The special ends with an external shot of the house with the mailbox covered in snow. The snow soon slides off revealing the name J. Creek.

That sneaky, son-of-a…

The Town Santa Forgot is a charming little Christmas special. It has a conventional message in that giving is better than receiving, but it’s a message that surprisingly isn’t often relied upon to anchor a Christmas special. Young Jeremy is easy to dislike, as who hasn’t encountered a spoiled little brat in their life and actually enjoyed that kid? The poem origin of the special is retained, though maybe not word for word, as Dick Van Dyke narrates it. He is well cast in this role as he’s not asked to do any embellishment and to just use his natural speaking voice.

I’m a bit embarrassed to say I didn’t see the twist ending coming. Not that I was surprised by it, I just gave it no thought. It wasn’t until then it became obvious that the story the grandfather was telling took place before the present. The toys are a bit older and the television in Jeremy’s house is in black and white. It’s a fun little reveal though to find out Jeremy had been telling us his story the whole time. It’s also a fun twist on the Santa myth for him to select a selfless girl or boy to help him each year. I suppose it’s not a popular addition though since kids would certainly become suspicious when they couldn’t find a single person who received that honor. In that though it makes the act of selflessness become something that is perhaps unattainable, but still worth aspiring to.

This one has a lot less music when compared with other Hanna-Barbera Christmas specials. That’s not a complaint.

As I mentioned in the lead-in, the look of this cartoon is actually quite nice. Early 90s Hanna-Barbera productions should probably get more love than they do as I remember enjoying the look of several of the cartoons from that era. The animation is smooth and distinct and the character designs have some personality, which is harder than you think when it comes to Christmas. There aren’t any animation gaffes I noticed, nor is a bunch of animation recycled as often would happen with older Hanna-Barbera cartoons. The music is pleasant, and there’s only one song of sorts when the elves are shown getting the gifts ready for Christmas. I went into this one with the aim of just finishing off the big Hanna-Barbera Christmas specials, but I may have stumbled upon the best one from the venerable production company.

It’s small and through binoculars, but we do get a “Santa passing in front of the moon” shot.

The Town Santa Forgot is no longer shown on broadcast or cable television, which is too bad because it’s a lot better than some of the specials that still show up on broadcast networks today. My understanding is it’s available on Boomerang, but I’m not a Boomerang subscriber so I can’t confirm that. It is available on DVD for a very reasonable price. It’s included on the same release that features A Christmas Story and Casper’s First Christmas. If you’re like me and you still cling to physical media and like to stockpile Christmas specials, it’s a DVD worth owning for The Town Santa Forgot alone. Consider the other two as bonus features.

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