Tag Archives: woodland critter christmas

Dec. 24 – Chucklewood Critters: T’was the Day Before Christmas

511N57VG66L._SY445_In the 80s, if you had any connection to a successful animation production unit you could probably get a shot at creating your own series. Such was the case for former Hanna-Barbera animators Bill Hutten and Tony Love. They left that famous cartoon factory to create a series of holiday specials that would eventually lead to a cartoon series:  Chucklewood Critters. The show centers round a Fox named Rusty and a Bear cub named Buttons. If it sounds sweet that’s because it is. This is a very sincere show that just tries to be a nice little cartoon. In some ways, it’s the type of show that just doesn’t get made anymore. The 90s were all about gross humor and characters so it’s kind of crazy these specials were turned into a series in 1998. The first special was released in 1983, “The Christmass Tree Train,” and the last in 1994. We’re not talking about that inaugural special from ’83 though, because it’s currently December 24th, better known as Christmas Eve, and it’s the day before Christmas so lets talk about “T’was the Day Before Christmas.”

The special opens with some really corny Christmas music, remember this special is ultra-sincere, and a duck in search of his flock flies by. His wings flapping sound like plastic tarps wafting in the wind and there’s very little animation. Something tells me this thing didn’t receive a large budget. We soon see our protagonists, Rusty and Buttons, as Rusty rouses Buttons from his hibernation to go sledding in the snow. They crash their sled into a snowbank and and a female fox and bear happen to walk by. Buttons seems pretty into the she-bear (I think he calls her Bear Bear, or something equally unimaginative). Moving along, they see the Christmas Tree Train in the distance and Rusty asks Buttons if he wants to hitch a ride prompting him to question Rusty’s sanity. Nice call-back. They also notice some large footprints in the snow and are creeped out.


The Chucklewood Critters brand was all about holiday exploitation. They even have a Thanksgiving special! No one does that.

Scared off by the prints in the snow, Buttons and Rusty go running to Buttons’ dad, Abner, and find him operating a giant wooden snow plow. They’re immediately taken by the giant machinery and seem to forget about the footprints. Abner is called away by his wife, and Buttons and Rusty decide to hop on the plow thinking they can make a nice sledding track with it. Instead the thing proves hard for the diminutive duo to control and they end crashing into some weird creature in a long fur coat (possibly the originator of the footprints?). The two kids are frightened by what they deem a monster as the creature runs off leaving them to survey the damage of the ruined plow.

As one would expect, Abner is pretty pissed when he sees his wrecked plow. His son insists it was the cause of a monster, but he seems pretty skeptical. The mothers of Rusty and Buttons seem to find this whole thing amusing and think nothing of their claim. Surprisingly, the two are allowed to go off sledding in search of Ranger Jones. I would have expected some kind of punishment for destroying the snowplow. When they get to the cabin of Ranger Jones, they find a note on the door informing them he’s left to visit his family for Christmas. The mailbox is overflowing with Christmas cards and Buttons and Rusty look at the festive images and wish they had a critter Christmas of their very own. Somehow, I don’t think this is going to lead to a blood orgy.


This angry little guy is Skeeter, maybe the only part of this special that doesn’t irritate me.

The two walk off still openly griping about the lack of Christmas for critters. A bald eagle observes them and tells them its nonsense to desire a Christmas for its beneath critters. Are the animators suggesting Christmas is un-American? The eagle does little to put a damper on things and Buttons and Rusty decide to create their very own Critter Christmas. Buttons doesn’t notice a hole in the ground and falls in leading to a rabbit den. There Skipper and Bluebell live and they’re surprised to see Buttons is awake and not hibernating. Rusty pops in and the two are happy to inform the bunnies that they’re throwing a Critter Christmas. The bunnies, apparently feeling this doesn’t infringe upon Easter, seem excited by the prospect. The four go off in search of a Christmas tree while, unknown to them, menacing music is playing in the background as it’s revealed the fur-coated monster from earlier is pursuing them!

The group find a tree, and that duck from earlier pops in for a second for some reason before flying off, only to find its inhabited by a rodent of some kind named Skeeter. Skeeter sounds like he’s from Brooklyn and is hiding from a monster. When he sees that the others are clearly not monsters he becomes more concerned with the fact that they want to dig up his home for their Christmas tree. He convinces them to use a different tree and leads them to one by a frozen creek. There he asks Buttons and Rusty just what is Critter Christmas? Buttons just says it’s a bunch of fun, basically, and mentions treats which is apparently what interests Skeeter most (he is a bit paunchy). Meanwhile, Skipper was left to dig out the tree while Bluebell just looks on to tell him he’s a sour-puss for complaining about doing all of the work. The fur-clad monster then pops in and scares them off. He pauses to question why everyone is so scared of him (he clearly can’t hear the music) and says he’s just the alligator friend of Buttons and Rusty – Lester. So I guess this isn’t going to be a mystery that takes us through the episode.


And down goes the tree.

Skipper and Bluebell run into Buttons, Rusty, and Skeeter to inform them of the monster. They’re getting out of there, leaving the others to ponder what to do about the monster, and their tree. Rusty suggests they go check it out thinking the monster may have left. Skeeter is not impressed, but when Buttons agrees he’s kind of stuck going along. Sure enough, no monster, but now they need to finish uprooting the tree without the help of the rabbits. Buttons casually leans on the tree to think, and of course this causes it to fall landing on the frozen creek. It shoots off on the ice and the trio has to pursue in their sled. Rusty is able to lasso the tree, but that just means they’re stuck going for a ride with it. Things only get worse when a water fall appears and the sled goes flying through the air. They whiz by that duck once again from earlier, still searching for his flock, and come crashing down to earth in a giant snowbank. The tree lands upright and the spot is apparently as good as any as Rusty remarks they need to now enlist the help of the other critters to decorate it. Skeeter, meanwhile, is still pretty ticked about the near-death experience he just had and rightfully so.

Up next, a musical montage! The staple of the Hanna-Barbera Christmas special lives on in the works of Hutten and Love. The critters are creating decorations and ornaments for the tree while a really annoying song plays to the scenes. The rabbits even returned to operate the toy assembly line (they really got that up and running fast) and someone thought it was a good idea to put a skunk in charge of the perfume. The song mercifully comes to an end after a brief amount of time to find Buttons and Rusty waking their turtle friend Turner up to help out. They basically order him to make decorations and give him no guidance, even though he’d rather stay in his nice warm shell. He doesn’t protest though and runs off to gather materials, I guess, and runs into Lester. As the others did before him, he mistakes Lester for a monster and immediately runs the other way passing Rusty and Buttons. They don’t understand how Turner could let a little thing like a monster come between him and their Christmas celebration. They decide not to work on convincing him otherwise as they need to focus on their new task – finding a star for the tree.


I’m not convinced they know what a proper Christmas decoration looks like.

Rusty and Buttons’ search for a star leads them to the work shop of Ranger Jones. There with Skeeter, they finish making ornaments and their star, but by the time they’re done the sun is setting. Buttons and Rusty are eager to get going while Skeeter has little interest in heading out after dark with a monster on the loose. He doesn’t voice his concerns to his friends, and instead offers to stay behind to dry the ornaments while they fetch the sled. Of course, after Rusty and Buttons take off Lester strolls in and Skeeter predictably freaks out. He races up a tree and screams for help as Lester approaches. I’m not sure why the cartoon is trying to drum up some tension here as we already know Lester isn’t a monster. When Rusty and Buttons return to the work shop with their sled, they see the tracks in the snow and assume Skeeter is in trouble. They race off after him and just as Skeeter was falling out of the tree into Lester’s waiting arms Rusty and Buttons crash into him with their sled.


It’s just Lester, guys.

Rusty and Buttons soon realize they were mistaken and the monster is no monster, but their friend Lester who came up from the bayou to visit. Apparently he had an open invitation following an appearance in a previous special (“The Honeybunch”). He explains his clothes because of the cold and tells them how he rode the Christmas Tree Train up to see them. Now that they’ve sorted everything out, Rusty and Buttons invite Lester to their Critter Christmas. They all gather around the newly decorated tree to bask in its Christmas-goodness, only for Lester to notice it needs lights. Just then, that stupid duck drops in again and Rusty and Buttons say what we’re all thinking, “Not again!” Lester has some info for the duck this time though as he saw his flock a few days ago. He offers to give him directions, in return for a favor – he’s to bring some friends back from the bayou for Lester. I think I know where this is going.

The critters pile onto the sled, with Lester serving as a reindeer to pull it, and they start reciting “A Visit From St. Nicholas” but with all of the words changed to reflect their Critter Christmas basically just recounting the events of the day. They zoom past most of the characters from before, and arrive at the tree as night falls. The duck returns with a bunch of fireflies in tow (called it!) and they serve as the lights for the tree. All of the adult critters remark how wonderful a job Buttons and Rusty did, and they point out they couldn’t have done it without Lester (apparently no one wants to thank the fireflies who are willing to just chill out on the tree so they can enjoy an illuminated Christmas tree). Ranger Jones then shows up with a big sack of goodies, and even the duck’s flock (his name is apparently Quackers, I should have guessed) goes flying by so he can join them. The special ends with Rusty and Butters wishing Quackers a merry Christmas as he struggles to catch up with the flock.


Hooray, the dumb little critters have their own tree!

“T’was the Day Before Christmas” is a by-the-numbers old school Christmas special. It tells a story and stars some cute animals, but doesn’t have anything to say or even lessons to teach. I will say it’s pretty cool that it acknowledges the events of past specials, since often cartoons exist in a vacuum. It’s pretty clear that this mindless special is what inspired South Park’s “Woodland Critter Christmas,” which was featured earlier in this year’s list. The animation is probably below contemporary Hanna-Barbera standards and the original music is brutally sweet. The orchestral parts are fine though and the voice cast does the best it can with the script they were given. The Lester mystery being revealed so early is kind of weird, as it seems like the show was trying to build tension with the monster in the snow. Since his head is covered until his true reveal, I wonder if his dialogue confirming his identity was added in later because someone felt it was too scary for kids or something. Surprisingly, no visit from Santa at the end. I guess he cares about Critter Christmas as much as I do.

If after reading all of that you still wish to view “T’was the Day Before Christmas” then you’re best bet is to probably just google it. No one cares about the Chucklewood Critters brand in 2017 so it’s not hard to find a free stream. All of the specials were released on VHS individually and the entire series was also released on DVD once upon a time, but is out of print. Despite that, the various DVDs are still pretty cheap if you must have them, probably because no one wants them.

Dec. 7 – Woodland Critter Christmas


“It’s Critter Christmas, dude, it sucks ass”

This episode of South Park feels so infamous that I don’t feel the need to include South Park in the title of the post. South Park’s most recent Christmas special, now 13 years old mind you, is a rather notorious episode. It’s so farcical that it feels silly even by the standards of the show, and if you’re at all familiar with South Park you know how ridiculous it can get. After centering most of its Christmas episodes around a magical, talking poop, creators Trey Parker and Matt Stone probably felt like there was little left for them to do with South Park. In the year before this episode, they sent the boys to Canada for a Wizard of Oz parody that felt a little off, as far as Christmas episodes go. It was the special before that, “Red Sleigh Down,” that felt like a conclusion to the stories they had been telling centered around the holiday. In some respects, it’s a bit surprising they didn’t stop there, but maybe since the show originated as a Christmas special they felt compelled to keep returning to the subject. And it suddenly makes sense that the framing device for this episode is a boy telling a story about Christmas. A woodland, critter Christmas, if you will.


The little boy in the red poof-ball hat and his new “friends.”

The episode opens with a narrator, a narrator who will stick with us throughout the episode and is very obviously Trey Parker (like most of the voices on the show). The episode sets up South Park as a quiet little mountain town getting ready for Christmas, and we’re taken to the forest where the little critters are busy getting ready for Christmas too. It’s over the top in its sweetness, complete with a sappy song, but the episode does a good job of playing things off as sincere. The episode even gets its own title card with all of the critters as they sing their little song about Christmas being almost here. The narrator introduces all of the critters and they all have simple names which is just the name of the animal with an “e” sound added to the end, e.g. – Rabbitty the rabbit, Beary the bear, etc. The scene is evocative of “Frosty the Snowman” when the animals in that special decorate the forrest for Christmas. South Park takes it one step further by making these critters able to speak and they also all wear a festive scarf, sweater, or hat. It’s also probably inspired by the Chucklewood Critters, and if you aren’t familiar with that series then tune in a bit closer to Christmas for something on them.

A little boy in a red poof-ball hat happens upon the scene of the critters decorating their tree. The boy is Stan, and he’s kind of surprised to see animals behaving this way, but also couldn’t really care less. The critters need a star for their tree, but they can’t make one themselves, and they implore Stan to give them a hand. Stan is our unwilling participant in this story as he’ll need to be pushed along, often times trying to ignore the will of the narrator or being outwardly defiant towards him. Since making a star isn’t too bad, Stan obliges then goes home. The critters are appreciative and celebrate Stan (I should say, Stanny) as their new best friend while Stan walks away probably hoping to never see them again.


Evil Satanic powers at work.

That night, the critters surprise Stan by visiting him in his room. They wake him up in the middle of the night with some “exciting” news:  Porcupiney is pregnant! There’s a catch though, she’s been impregnated immaculately and the critters believe she will give birth to their savior. A savior of their very own! They need Stan’s help though to build a manger for Porcupiney, and Stan reluctantly helps. He leaves the warmth of his bed to drowsily assemble a pretty decent looking manger, only for a mountain lion to show up and frighten he and the critters. It is then revealed to Stan that this happens every year:  a critter gets pregnant, and a mountain lion kills the critter before the birth can take place. The critters need Stan’s help to slay the mountain lion. Once again, Stan reluctantly helps out the critters and seeks out the mountain lion. He finds the creature in a cave and is able to get the beast to chase him up a mountain that looks suspiciously like Mt. Crumpet. There he is able to dodge the lion’s charge sending her plummeting to her demise in a scene reminiscent of Mufasa’s death from The Lion King. Once the lion strikes earth, its cubs emerge sad and dismayed to see their mother dead. Stan pleads ignorance, as the talking cubs question why he killed their mom and seem resigned to their orphaned state. Stan, speechless, slumps back to the critters.


Well, we were all expecting the episode to take a dark turn at some point, but few probably predicted this.

The critters learn of the mountain lion’s demise and are elated. Now their savior can be born – Heil Satan! What?! Stan is beside himself to hear the critters praise the dark one, and is speechless as they sacrifice Rabbitty to the devil and take part in a blood orgy. The camera lingers long enough for us to see most of the details of the blood orgy as the critters pleasure themselves around the manger in a scene no one probably ever expected to see in a cartoon.

Stan returns to his home, seemingly resigned to the fact that he played a part in the soon to occur birth of the antichrist. He wants no part in what’s to come, but our persistent narrator gets Stan to get off of his butt and head back to the forest. When Stan attempts to take down the manger he built, the critters are forced to use their evil, Satanic powers on him shooting him with lasers and summoning demonic flames. Stan is forced to run and the narrator clues him in to the fact that three mountain lions still live that can maybe stop this. When Stan returns to the cubs he’s mocked by the trio as they’re quick to point out they can’t do anything to stop the critters. Then Stan has an idea – he can take the cubs to an abortion clinic. There they can learn how to perform an abortion and perhaps prevent the birth of the antichrist from ever occurring! Stan does just that and we get perhaps the weirdest montage to ever appear in a Christmas special as the cubs happily mess around in an abortion clinic while patients giggle and the doctor is happy to show them all he knows.


Santa’s here and he isn’t messing around.

Armed wth this new found knowledge, Stan and the cubs return to the critters only to find out they’re too late. The antichrist has been born! The antichrist needs a human host though, and since Stan was raised Catholic he’s been baptized and thus can’t serve in that role. They had tried asking him earlier and were dismayed to know their old buddy couldn’t be of further use, but unknown to Stan the critters had happened upon his best friend Kyle. Kyle is Jewish, and therefore he has not been baptized. When Stan and the cubs find the antichrist born, they also find Kyle tied down to a stone altar of sorts. A red star bleeds in the night sky to mark the occasion, which also alerts Santa Claus of the danger. Santa arrives as the critters are preparing to put their savior in Kyle. Santa is rather displeased in the role Stan has played up to this point, and seems all together annoyed he has to deal with this situation. He produces a shotgun and immediately starts laying waste to the critters, their Satanic powers doing little to stop him.

With the critters destroyed all that is left is for the antichrist to die. Since it lacks a host, Santa informs the boys they don’t need to do anything, it’ll die on its own. That’s when Kyle springs into action. He wants the antichrist inside of him so he can make the world a better place for the Jews!


Ever see a mountain lion cub perform an abortion on a nine year old boy? You have now.

We’re immediately brought to a classroom scene as Kyle shouts for Cartman to cease reading his story. Apparently this whole time Cartman was essentially our narrator as he reads a Christmas story to Mr. Garrison’s fourth grade class. Kyle doesn’t want Cartman to continue since it’s become obvious the whole story served as a means for Cartman to mock him for being Jewish. Mr. Garrison tells Cartman he can’t continue because Kyle’s mom will raise Hell if he allows him to make fun of Kyle for being Jewish. Cartman reluctantly leaves his stool at the front of the class while the rest of the kids in class plead with him to say what happens, with Stan asking him if he has a merry Christmas. Kyle theorizes on where the story goes with Cartman insisting he has it all wrong. When the other kids plead with Kyle to let Cartman finish the story he angrily relents and Cartman returns to the head of the class.

When the setting shifts back into the story, we find Kyle is now the antichrist, only it doesn’t feel so good. He immediately comes to regret his decision, while Santa informs him that he has to kill him now. Stan has a different idea though, and tells the lion cubs to use the knowledge they gained at the abortion clinic to fetch the antichrist out of Kyle’s ass. They get right to work, and sure enough, they yank the yapping little creature out of Kyle’s rectum. Santa then smashes it with a sledgehammer and the skies return to their normal appearance. Santa, now not so sour about what took place, tells Stan he deserves a special Christmas present for all he has been through. Stan asks Santa to restore the life of the mountain lion, which he does. Everyone is happy as the camera slowly pulls back on a shot of the snow-covered town. Then it cuts quickly to Kyle in a hospital bed and the narrator informs us that he got AIDS and died two weeks later.


The critters returned years later as some of the chief villains of the Imaginationland trilogy.

“Woodland Critter Christmas” is an uncomfortably hilarious episode of South Park, and it’s not surprising they have declined to attempt a true Christmas special ever since. It’s one of the few episodes I can remember where everyone I knew was talking about it after it aired, “Did you see that episode of South Park with the woodland critters?” It takes the mold of a generic Christmas special and subverts it expertly. Most episodes that tried to do something like this probably would have abandoned the narrator after the first act, feeling the joke was done, but South Park keeps it up for the entire duration of the episode. The fact that the critters turn out to be a bunch of devil worshippers is not entirely surprising, since anyone familiar with the show knows there’s more to them than meets the eye when first encountered, but the angle is pursued in such an uncompromising fashion that it’s hard to believe. And it then takes things one step further by, in a Christmas special, using abortion as a tool to stop the antichrist and save the world. I remember being home for the holidays and making my little sister watch this episode on Christmas Eve because she hadn’t seen it. My dad watched with us up until the Satan reveal and then went to bed, remarking stuff like this is why America is so screwed up. I had never seen him react in such a way to anything before, and I haven’t since.

south park christmas time

This special, and all of the others, can be found on the Christmas Time in South Park DVD released in 2007.

Because the episode is so uncomfortable for some, I can understand if this isn’t exactly a beloved holiday classic. My very own sister thought it was pretty hilarious, but also doesn’t really enjoy watching it again. And to some extent, the episode doesn’t really hold up well with repeated viewings. Most of the humor is derived from the surprises that crop up and they’re obviously not surprising any longer. I still think it holds up as an absurd Christmas special. Maybe not a classic, but a lot of the shocking imagery still makes me laugh in an “I can’t believe they did this” kind of way, even though the show has probably done far worse since.

“Woodland Critter Christmas” is likely to receive numerous airings all month long on Comedy Central and wherever South Park is syndicated. The episode can also be found on the DVD set for South Park Season 8 and on the DVD release Christmas Time in South Park, which may be out of print at this point, but is still pretty easy and cheap to acquire. That set is pretty great if you just want all of the South Park Christmas specials, of which there are seven, in one convenient package.

Christmas Time in South Park

Christmas Time in South Park (2007)

Christmas Time in South Park (2007)

South Park famously began as a video Christmas card, so it should come as no surprise that the television series (which just concluded its 17th season) has spawned many Christmas specials of its own.  Series creators Trey Parker and Matt Stone actually haven’t done a new one since 2004’s Woodland Critter Christmas, but still have output seven Christmas specials which have been conveniently compiled for the DVD release Christmas Time in South Park.  The first run of Christmas specials for the show actually felt connected to one another as they all explored the spirit of Christmas:  what is it?  What does Christmas mean?  Of course, this being South Park, don’t expect a lot of feel-good and overly sentimental holiday themes as is found in most Christmas specials, though surprisingly some of these episodes echo their tamer counterparts and some even have a good heart at the center of the story.

Lets talk about these episodes, and specifically, the DVD release of Christmas Time in South Park.  The DVD case and menus echo those Little Golden Book releases you may remember from your childhood.  The menus are animated and the characters will berate you for taking too long to select a feature.  The cursor of your DVD player, naturally, is represented by a smear of Mr. Hankey leavings.  All seven Christmas specials are featured in chronological order.  Unfortunately, all seven are also censored like their season release counterparts (for South Park’s older episodes, uncensored versions do not exist as no one anticipated there being a huge market for full seasons of TV shows) which means you’ll be hearing beeps whenever the characters utter a colorful phrase.  Also missing, is the short that started it all:  The Spirit of Christmas.  This seems like a huge and careless omission to me.  Why go through the effort of putting out a compilation of Christmas specials and leave out the very first one? My only guess is that the studio felt that The Spirit of Christmas was too strong a selling point for releases like South Park:  The Hits and its inclusion would harm other DVD sales.  Quite possibly, it was just forgotten as this DVD was slapped together quickly to cash-in on the holiday season.

The first Christmas special, and the one that introduced Mr. Hankey to the world.

The first Christmas special, and the one that introduced Mr. Hankey to the world.

At least there are still seven, mostly excellent, Christmas episodes for your viewing pleasure.  The first being Mr. Hankey the Christmas Poo.  This was South Park’s first Christmas special and apparently Parker and Stone wanted to create a new Christmas icon for the world they created so they turned to a talking piece of shit.  Parker and Stone hold nothing back when it comes to Mr. Hankey.  He’s disgusting, and they don’t want you to forget that so we get bits of him leaving poo trails everywhere he goes and even bathing in Mr. Mackey’s coffee, while he sips it.  The framework of the episode is Kyle feeling excluded from all of the Christmas excitement on account of him being Jewish.  Simultaneously, Kyle’s mother (the Jewish community) is upset about the inclusion of the nativity in a school Christmas play.  Her complaining to the mayor sets off a chain reaction where in response the devout Catholics in town demand to see Santa removed from the play, hippies want to get rid of Christmas trees, epileptics demand the removal of Christmas lights, and the virgins (presumably) want to get rid of mistletoe.  The show is clearly poking fun at all of the people that get uptight over Christmas, and Mr. Hankey is called on to save the day.  That the town needs to listen to crap in order to see the error of its ways is probably a commentary on something too.  Everyone thinks Kyle is insane for seeing and believing in Mr. Hankey, until the boys find out Chef does as well.  Once everyone believes, Mr. Hankey reminds everyone that Christmas is a time to be nice to one another, forget about all of the bad stuff in the world, and bake cookies.  Kyle is released from the nut house, and Kenny lives to see the end credits for the first time.  It’s a wacky Christmas special, that may still be the show’s best, with tons of gross-out and hilarious moments.

Merry Christmas, Charlie Manson! is the second season’s Christmas special and it’s subversive in a different way.  Rather than try to be absurd and gross people out with singing poop, Parker and Stone decided to use an unlikely character and have him saved by Christmas.  Enter mass-murderer Charlie Manson, faithfully depicted with a swastika tattooed on his forehead.  Cartman and his mom are heading to Nebraska to visit family for Christmas, and the boys have been invited along.  Kyle is allowed to go presumably because his family is Jewish and couldn’t care less that it’s Christmas while Kenny’s family is sending him on a  mission to bring back leftovers.  Stan’s mom is the only one who has a problem with her son being away from the family at Christmas, so Stan sneaks out and tells the Cartmans that his family is dead.  When the boys get to Nebraska (after a long and torturous car ride full of singing) they find that a house full of Cartmans is a horrible place to be as all of them basically act just like their own Eric Cartman.  They soon find out that Cartman has an incarcerated Uncle Howard, as he breaks out of jail and (stupidly) returns to hide-out in his parent’s basement.  He brings along his buddy, Charlie Manson, whom the boys are ignorant of.  When no one will take them to the mall to see Mr. Hankey, Manson offers to do it himself to avoid sitting and watching Christmas specials all day.  At the mall though, he watches a poop version of How the Grinch Stole Christmas and begins to see the light.  He gets his tattoo altered into a smiley face, and takes the kids home, but not before attracting the attention of the local police.  They’re soon all trapped in the house as Uncle Howard takes the family hostage.  Manson, now full of Christmas spirit, convinces Howard to surrender and even reminds Stan that Christmas is a time for family.  The episode ends with the characters from the episode in Manson’s jail cell wishing him a merry Christmas, Charlie Brown style.  As Stan reminds us, this is some pretty fucked up shit right here.

If you don't like his special, he has some balls you can suck.

If you don’t like his special, he has some balls you can suck.

Season Three’s Christmas special is Mr. Hankey’s Christmas Classics.  It’s just a collection of songs, some traditional and some new, sung by the characters of South Park.  It’s kind of a love it or hate it episode, and one I’m not really fond of.  However, Mr. Hankey instructs the audience during the intro that if we don’t like it we can suck his tiny little balls.  As small as they may be, I don’t want to suck any poo balls so I’ll cease to speak of this episode right here.

Season Four brings us A Very Crappy Christmas and it could basically be re-titled as The Story of South Park.  That’s because in it the boys actually create and animate The Spirit of Christmas just like their creators.  Following the events of the first two Christmas specials, the people of South Park now understand that Christmas is a time for being merry and spending with one’s family.  The commercialism is gone, and the boys are pretty pissed off about not getting presents so they go looking for a strangely absent Mr. Hankey.  They find their favorite piece of crap has been MIA because he now has a wife and turds of his own.  As the boys lament the absence of what they perceive to be the Christmas spirit, they get the idea to make their very own Christmas special.  The mayor, who needs the commercialism to spur the economy, agrees to fund their little project.  Nothing goes right, but when Kyle channels his own inner Christmas spirit (and the Rankin/Bass feature Twas the Night Before Christmas) he gets everyone back on track.  Most of the episode is a parody of Twas the Night Before Christmas while also containing numerous in-jokes for longtime South Park fans.  In the end, they’re able to show the town The Spirit of Christmas and everyone realizes that Christmas is about one thing:  presents.  Everyone starts shopping immediately and the town’s economy is saved.  Yay!

The Hankey family expands in A Very Crappy Christmas.

The Hankey family expands in A Very Crappy Christmas.

Season Five was the first to not feature a Christmas episode, but season six restored order with Red Sleigh Down, a parody of Black Hawk Down and the conclusion of what I see as the Christmas story started in season one.  In it,  Cartman desperately wants some slick new toy but realizes he’s been far too naughty to hope to get anything from Santa so he goes all out to be nice at the last minute.  His scheming leads him to believe that if he helps Santa bring Christmas to Iraq that will be enough, so he enlists the help of Stan and Kyle (Kenny’s been dead all season) and eventually Mr. Hankey in order to do so.  Mr. Hankey is thrilled at Cartman’s Christmas spirit and agrees to help by taking the boys to the North Pole aboard the Poo-Choo Express (it’s just as disgusting as you imagine).  Santa agrees that Christmas should be brought to Iraq, and the boys watch from the North Pole as Santa’s sleigh is shot down by an RPG over Iraq.  Now feeling guilty and terrified by the prospects of no more Christmas presents, the boys enlist the help of the one man who can save Santa:  Jesus.  They all take Santa’s back-up sleigh to Iraq where Jesus becomes a one-man death machine as he takes out numerous soldiers to save Santa.  Their escape goes wrong when Jesus is shot from behind and dies in Santa’s arms.  They’re able to escape, but not before a vengeful Claus does finally bring Christmas to Iraq.  Back in South Park, the townspeople have been distracted by the speech impediment of Jimmy who’s attempting to recite The Twelve Days of Christmas, an episode-long gag.  Santa lights the town tree and addresses the crowd telling them that Christmas should be a day to reflect on the sacrifice one man-made to save Christmas:  Jesus.  And with that, the spirit of Christmas is modified once again in the South Park canon to be a day dedicated to Jesus.

Santa and Jesus team-up in Red Sleigh Down.

Santa and Jesus team-up in Red Sleigh Down.

With the spirit of Christmas now fully defined, Parker and Stone decided to take the boys on a Christmas adventure to Canada, of all places.  The new Canadian Prime Minister has decided that all Canadian born children be returned to Canada, which means Kyle’s adopted brother Ike is required to go.  Kyle enlists the help of his friends to go appeal to the Prime Minister, though they’re all reluctant to risk missing Christmas.  They go anyway, and in Canada they find a world not unlike Oz where the locals instruct them to “follow the only road.”  Just like The Wizard of Oz, the boys encounter other Canadian citizens looking to appeal to the Prime Minister about something, while the villainous Scott, from the Terence and Philip special, makes a return.  In the end, they discover the new Prime Minister is actually Saddam Hussein in hiding, and his new laws are overturned while the boys do in fact miss Christmas.  Cartman is unable to see the bright-side in Kyle getting his brother back, while Stan laments on missing out on a Christmas adventure, oblivious to what just happened.  It’s Christmas in Canada is not one of my favorites, and it’s probably the weak link on this DVD, though I do know more than one person who finds the episode hilarious.  I think I would like it more if it had more to do with Christmas.  It’s not really a Christmas special, just an episode that takes place during Christmas.

"It's Critter Christmas, dude, it sucks ass!"

“It’s Critter Christmas, dude, it sucks ass!”

This brings me to the last episode on the DVD, and so far, the last Christmas episode South Park has done:  Woodland Critter Christmas.  Seemingly out of ideas for a Christmas special, Parker and Stone decide to just completely subvert the idea of a Christmas special.  In this episode we have an innocent sounding narrator tell the story of a boy trying to help a group of talking woodland critters so that they can have a merry Christmas.  The critters are intentionally made to seem sterile and innocent while the episode is also intended to appear to be a cookie-cutter Christmas special with little thought or effort (the main character has no name, all of the animals names are just the name of the animal with a long “e” sound at the end, such as Deery the deer, Rabbity the rabbit, and so on).  Of course, the catch is that these animals are trying to bring about the birth of their lord and saviour.  Porcupinie has been impregnated by their god, but a mean old mountain lion wants to kill her, so the boy (Stan) is enlisted to help.  He succeeds by killing the mountain lion, who also happened to be a mother to three cubs, only to find out the critters worship Satan and the porcupine is set to deliver the anti-christ.  The tables are turned and soon Stan is left trying to prevent the coming of the anti-christ and he’ll receive help from Santa and a little thing called abortion.  Woodland Critter Christmas basically sets out to be the most obscene Christmas special one could dream up.  It’s almost as if Parker and Stone just wanted to top their prior specials in terms of shock-appeal and perhaps because they haven’t thought up a way to top this one is why we haven’t seen any new Christmas specials from South Park.  If this is the type of thing you can laugh at, then Woodland Critter Christmas should do the trick.  It’s ridiculous, but also pretty damn hilarious.

These specials are a big part of my memories growing up, even into college.  It seemed like each one was a topic of conversation when it originally aired because people generally couldn’t believe what they just saw.  South Park has had a lot of moments like that over the years, and for whatever reason, Christmas seems to bring out the best in it.  I love the sappy, sentimental Christmas specials that dominate the air during this time of year, but sometimes it’s nice to watch something that is decidedly less reverential towards the holiday season.  South Park does the trick, and Christmas Time in South Park is a convenient release and a suitable way to get my laugh on during the month of December.

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