Archive for the ‘Animated’ Category

What-A-Mess Christmas Special Sets Itself Apart From The Usual Saturday Morning Specials

December 7, 2011

There are some shows that drift in and out of your life when you are growing up, usually for various reasons. Either they were short lived, were on a channel you didn’t get at home, or you just lost interest. Most of the time, these shows remain just a faint memory, because they haven’t yet made it to DVD, or haven’t been syndicated since shortly after their original run. Sometimes, however, you come across a VHS release that was put out during the show’s run that has an episode or two on it, and you have that moment of indecision. Do you buy the tape, and revisit your childhood, or look at the tape, smile, and put it back? If you buy the tape, you’ll either find that the show is just as fun as you remember it, or, as sometimes happens (I’m looking at you Bucky O’Hare), you’ll watch it and wonder what the hell you were thinking as a child, because the show is unwatchable. Well, when I ran across a What-A-Mess tape at a thrift store, I was on the fence, until I saw that it was a Christmas episode. Even if the show wouldn’t live up to my memories of it, I would at least have another Christmas Special to watch and add to my collection. So, did What-A-Mess, and, to an extent, the episode “Santa What-A-Mess” end up being as goofy and funny as I remembered the show being? You’ll just have to keep reading. But first, I’ll tell you about What-A-Mess, because I’m sure most people reading are unfamiliar with the show. (I apologize for not having screen shots from the episode. I only have it on VHS and there are no copies on youtube, so I will just be posting shots of characters from the show)

The titular character, What-A-Mess

What-A-Mess was a cartoon show that only ran for one season and was produced by a company called Dic, who also produced a batch of other memorable kid’s shows from the 90s, namely Sonic The Hedgehog and Captain Planet. It aired on saturday mornings on ABC, and was centered around a scruffy Afghan puppy named Prince Amir of Kinjan, better known as What-A-Mess. Although he comes from prestigious breeding, he is nothing like his ancestors, most of whom were reportedly brave, smart, and the pets of royalty. Instead, he is scruffy and clumsy and always making a mess, hence his nickname. He and his mom are the pets of a family of humans, and seem to be well taken care of. When he’s not making messes at home, he is usually out bugging the neighbour’s cat named Felicha, playing with his mole friend Ramona, running around with the flea-ridden Norton, or being tormented by the neighbourhood bully dog named Trash. Most episodes focus around What-A-Mess getting into some kind of trouble and making a huge mess, but his owners always ends up forgiving him. That’s really all you need to know about the show, now on to the special called “Santa What-A-Mess”

The special starts with What-A-Mess asleep in a cabinet, when his mother comes to wake him up. She tells he he shouldn’t be so lazy during the winter, because his great-grandfather used to hunt snow leopards all winter long for the king. What-A-Mess doesn’t want to go outside because it is so cold, but his mom stares him down and he heads out. While outside, he runs into Felicha, and she says he can’t play with him because she is busy working on a Christmas list. What-A-Mess has no idea what Christmas is, so he heads back inside to ask his mom.

Felicha, the neighbour's cat

When he finds his mom he asks her what Christmas is, and she tells him it is a day of giving for friends and family, and that that there is a man named Santa who brings presents to all of the good boys and girls in the world, and he can’t believe it! He has to go tell someone, so he goes to tell all of his friends. When he reaches the front of the house however, he finds Trash stealing groceries from the back of his family’s car, and tells him he should stop, otherwise he won’t get any presents from Santa. Trash tells What-A-Mess that Santa is nothing but a phoney and a scam these days. Neither What-A-Mess nor Felicha, who was eavesdropping on the conversation, believe Trash, so he takes them down town to show them why they are wrong to believe in Santa.

Trash, being his usual bully self

Once they arrive down town, they run into Norton, who has just had his holiday flea bath. Trash shows them all that there are Santa impersonators everywhere at this time of year, so there can’t be a real Santa, otherwise he’d put a stop to all of the folks pretending to be him. What-A-Mess, Norton, and Felicha all feel dumb now for believing in Santa, and all head back to their respective homes.

After a brief chase through the house with his boy owner, What-A-Mess still isn’t feeling better, and now feels bad for his family because they don’t know the “truth” about Santa. He decides the only way to keep them happy is to become Santa Claus himself. After digging up all of his treats and scrounging through the house for other gifts, he gathers all of the presents together in a wagon, waits until after midnight, and then he is off to go be Santa What-A-Mess!

Norton, biting at his fleas

He makes his rounds all over town and makes sure to drop off a gift for everyone, ending with Trash. He tries to drop Trash’s present off quietly, but accidentally wakes Trash up. Trash is furious, until he realizes that What-A-Mess has brought him a present. He is touched, but thinks that What-A-Mess isn’t doing anyone any favours by making them believe in a phoney like Santa Claus. Just then on the lawn arose such a clatter, as Santa and his sleigh make a crash landing. Turns out the reindeer have become ill, and Santa needs What-A-Mess and Trash to help fly the sleigh. Neither think they can do it, but Santa tells them he has Christmas dust that can make them fly, so What-A-Mess goes off to recruit the rest of his friends, even waking Ramona up from hibernation, to help out as well. They all arrive at Trash’s house, skeptical, until they lay their eyes on Santa and the sleigh.

Ramona the mole, who helped along with the dogs and cat to fly Santa's sleigh

After a quick sprinkling with the dust, all of the pets are off and flying and helping Santa make his deliveries. They fly all over the world and make sure every last present gets delivered, and they finish just in time too. When they arrive back at Trash’s, the reindeer are feeling better now and will be able to take Santa back to the North Pole. Before leaving, Santa makes sure to give all of the pets a gift, and as he is doing so, What-A-Mess asks him why some people don’t believe in Santa. Santa tells him that everyone has a little bit of Santa in them. And even if it’s only a small part, as long as it is in there, he will always be around. Santa takes off in his sleigh, and everyone realizes he forgot to give What-A-Mess a present, when just then Santa’s hat comes floating down and lands on What-A-Mess’ head. Santa has given it to him for being such a great helper and for being a great Santa What-A-Mess.

We cut to Christmas morning back at What-A-Mess’ house, and the presents he had gathered for his family are not so much a hit, but they are surely presents that will never be forgotten. A few jokes play out, and the special comes to an end.

This special mainly falls under the usual category of being a one off episode that is used to teach a Christmas lesson or two. While it teaches the one lesson that it’s good to be selfless and kind towards your friends and loved ones around the holidays, it touches on another lesson that can really only be approached by shows aimed at a certain age group, and that is why you should believe in Santa.

I was a little bit taken aback when the special headed in that direction, proclaiming that Santa was a phoney and something only kids believed in. That’s a risky topic for any family show, especially a cartoon, to try and address. The way that the characters just abandon their faith in Santa Claus, and Christmas altogether, was something I couldn’t believe I was seeing. This was a saturday morning cartoon, and to have the first act be about characters losing faith in Santa Claus is pretty heavy for a show for that age group. But when Santa Claus crashes down into the special, it was nice to see that Trash was wrong about him. I wasn’t sure how they would address the issue of all of the pets thinking he was a fake, but I love the way they just had What-A-Mess, a puppy, and the character that the kids are meant to relate to, ask Santa himself why people don’t believe in him. I really like the answer Santa gives: “I always say there is a little bit of me in everyone. Sometimes, very little. But, it’s there, and that’s why I am always going to be around” What a great message for kids watching the show. For those who are young enough that they still believe, their beliefs have been reaffirmed by Santa himself. On the flip side, for those kids who may have had the Santa talk with their parents, they are given a new outlook on how to feel about Santa. Even though they may be 99% sure that he isn’t real and that there is nothing really magical about Christmas, they will still have that 1% left in them that really hopes and wishes that Santa is real, and that 1% is what Santa says keeps him around.

I highly recommend this special to children and adults alike. The young kids will feel great after watching it, knowing that even though someone may have told them on the playground that Santa isn’t real, they now have a little more faith in him knowing that he knows some people don’t believe in him. The older kids who have already had the Santa talk may not like it as much as the young ones, but I think the message that Santa will always be around as long as you believe in him just a little bit is a positive one. Even as adults, we all wish and hope deep down that there is a Santa out there somewhere giving people gifts and making miracles happen, even if we are 99% sure there isn’t. Christmas is about having faith and hoping for miracles, and with that in mind I have added this special to my regular rotation and wouldn’t hesitate to put it on my favourites list.


Winnie The Pooh And Christmas Too Is Cute, Sweet, And Adorable Too

December 6, 2011

Although I have been enjoying watching all of these specials over the past two weeks, tonight’s special is the first one to put a huge smile on my face and make me feel giddy inside, and it was Winnie The Pooh and Christmas Too. Winnie the Pooh has always been a favourite of mine, and I really forgot how much I enjoyed this special. I don’t think I had seen it in a few years, but now I am going to make sure not to go so long between viewings. But before I tell you why I loved it so much, just a brief synopsis of Winnie the Pooh incase anyone out there isn’t familiar with the characters and the show.

Winnie the Pooh is a show about a little boy named Christopher Robin and his little animal friends who live in the Hundred Acre Woods. There’s a little stuffed bear name Winnie the Pooh, a little pig named Piglet, a donkey named Eeyore, a rabbit named Rabbit, a tigger named Tigger, an owl named Owl, and mother and son kangaroos named Kanga and Roo. Most episodes focus on Pooh getting into some kind of trouble and by the end of it he learns a lesson. Enough about Pooh, now on to the special.

The cover of the VHS tape

The special starts with Christopher Robin and all of his animal friends writing a letter to Santa. Rabbit asks for a fly swatter, Eeyore asks for an umbrella to protect his house, Tigger asks for a snowshoe for his tail so he doesn’t sink when jumping in the show, Piglet asks for whatever Santa feels like bringing him, and Christopher Robin asks for a sled big enough for him and all of his little animal pals. When the letter is finished, Christopher Robin checks his weather vane, sees it is blowing North, and throws the letter into the wind.

We cut to the next day, Christmas Eve, and Pooh is nailing a star to the Christmas Tree that he drew on his wall when Piglet comes in. He tells Pooh that he forgot to ask for something when they were writing their letter, so he won’t get anything for Christmas. He decides the best way to remedy this is to go out with a net and try and catch their letter before it makes it to the North Pole. After a little while of chasing the wind, Piglet and Pooh find the letter caught in a branch. They head over to Rabbit’s house to add something for Pooh to the list, and after they all get carried away with adding things to it for each other, Pooh takes the letter and throws it to the wind, not realizing it is blowing in the wrong direction.

The wind is blowing the wrong way, unbeknownst to Pooh

While Pooh and Piglet are tending to the letter mailing, the rest of the gang wake up Gopher so he can help them cut down a Christmas Tree. After waking from hibernation, Gopher helps them cut down the largest tree in the Hundred Acre Woods, which they spend the rest of the afternoon decorating. After mailing the letter, Piglet and Pooh head to their prospective homes, and just as Pooh is settling in for the night, their letter to Santa blows underneath his door. He realizes he needs to do something about it, and goes to ask Piglet’s advice. Piglet isn’t sure what to do with it being Christmas Eve, so Pooh takes it into his own hands to ensure everyone gets what they asked for for Christmas.

We cut to Tigger’s house, and there’s a knock at his door. He opens it, and it is Pooh Bear dressed as Santa! Tigger doesn’t realize it’s Pooh Bear, and after making him go back outside and come down the chimney, Tigger accepts the gift from Pooh and sends him on his way. He opens it to find that it is a barrel with a spring on the bottom with a shoe attached to the spring. He tries it out and it works for one bounce, but then explodes when he crashes back down from a high bounce.

Santa Pooh

Next we see Rabbit in his house keeping some bugs busy because he is expecting a gift that will get rid of them. Santa Pooh comes in through the window and gives Rabbit his present, which is a homemade bug sprayer made from an old pump and a tea pot. Rabbit tries to gas the bugs, but the sprayer falls apart and the bugs chase him outside smacking him with his broken fly swatter. He runs into Tigger, and they both talk about how their presents from Santa have broken. Then Eeyore comes along and we see that instead of the fancy house he asked Santa for in the revised letter, he has been given an old suitcase to live in. The three friends head off to go find Santa, and they come across Santa Pooh and Piglet trying to bring a few old wooden steps to Christopher Robin as a makeshift sled. The friends confront Pooh, and after he accidentally falls down a hill, they realize he is Santa. Pooh apologizes and shows them the letter. They decide that someone has to bring it to the North Pole themselves, and Pooh volunteers because he feels that the letter was his responsibility. Pooh sets off on his journey, and his friends go back to their Christmas Tree.

The gang sitting around the tree

Just as Pooh is making it over the ridge, the wind picks up and blows the letter out of his hands. He tries to chase it, but to no avail. It is gone. He is heartbroken, but decides to head back to see his friends. At the same time, all around a fire under the Christmas Tree, Pooh’s friends are talking about how much they miss Pooh. They realize they’d rather not have the presents if they could just have Pooh back. They get their wish, as Pooh comes over the hill and tells them about the letter. They tell him they are just happy to see him, and just as the sun is coming up, they hear a sound in the distance. It’s Christopher Robin on a brand new sled! He sleds his way over to see them and has a bag of presents from Santa for them. Rabbit’s fly swatter, Eeyore’s umbrella, Tigger’s show shoe, Piglet gets a thingamabob and Pooh gets a big old jar of honey. He looks upset, and Christopher Robin asks him why. Pooh tells him about the troubles with the letter, and that he doesn’t deserve the honey. He says it was nice of Santa to bring him a present, but that he thinks “being with your friends is nicer”. He then uses the honey pot as a stepping stool so he can give Christopher Robin a hug, and the special comes to an end.

Pooh hugging Christopher Robin

This is such a cute special. Like really really cute. Winnie the Pooh always puts me in a good mood and puts a big smile on my face, and this special is no exception. The episode really has its heart in the right place. It’s a one off special that teaches Christmas lessons, and the lessons it teaches, while being the casual fare, are done adorably.

Mainly, the special teaches that it isn’t about the presents you ask for, it’s about who you spend your holidays with. Even though by the end everyone gets the present they wanted, they realize that they would have given up all of their presents to spend the day with Pooh. Pooh also realizes that even though he got the gift he wanted, he is happier to be spending the day with Christopher Robin and all of his friends. Although both are essentially the same lesson, they go about getting them across to the characters differently. Pooh comes to his revelation after he gets his present, not wanting to accept his present, while his friends come to theirs before they get their gifts, wishing to have Pooh back rather than get presents. While this is not a lesson unique to this special, I don’t think any show has done it cuter than this.

I highly recommend this special to children and adults alike. Winnie the Pooh is a show that is cute for any and every generation, as it is appealing to nearly everyone I know. The kids will enjoy the cuteness of the characters, while the adults will enjoy the cuteness of the lessons taught. If you’re anything like me, it will actually make you feel like a kid again to watch it. It’s also a bonus that the special clocks in at less than 20 minutes, so the very little kids won’t be bored by the special. I am making sure to put this in my regular Christmas rotation, and it is definitely in my top 10 favourite specials. Winnie the Pooh can bring a smile to anyone’s face, and if you watch this Christmas Special it will bring a huge Christmas smile to yours.

Arthur’s Perfect Christmas Is Perfect For All Winter Holidays

December 4, 2011

While I am sure that I mentioned a few posts back that there aren’t many modern day cartoons I am really into anymore, there are still a few that started when I was a kid and are still running today. While some of them are more adult oriented, like The Simpsons and South Park, there is one cartoon that has been on the air since I was 9 and is still as family friendly as it ever was, and that would be Arthur. It’s great to have grown up with a cartoon as a kid, and enjoyed it as a kid’s cartoon with some nice lessons thrown in at the end, but it’s even better to also to be able to watch it now and pick up on the pop culture jokes and guest stars that I never noticed as a kid. I’m not ashamed to say that although I am 24, Arthur is one of the most watched shows on my Netflix. It’s never too childish or preachy, rather it tries to stay topical and just be consistently funny. Although there have been a few Arthur Christmas episodes over the years, today I’m going to tell you about Arthur’s Perfect Christmas. But before I do, a bit about the show.

Arthur is a cartoon show on PBS that is based on a series of books by author Marc Brown. The show mainly focuses on and Aardvark named Arthur and the situations and problems he faces in his day to day life as a kid in the third grade. He has a mom, a dad, and two younger sisters, D.W, who is 4, and Kate, who is just a baby. Arthur’s best friend is a bunny named Buster, who lives with his mom because his parents are divorced and his dad is a pilot. Arthur has a few other friends as well, including Francine, Muffy, The Brain and Binky. Some episodes focus on issues his friends are facing, but most are about Arthur. That’s all you really need to know about the show and the characters, now on to the special.

The cover of the VHS tape

The episode starts with a montage of everyone in Elwood City (Where the show takes place) preparing for Christmas. From buying gifts to picking out a tree, everyone seems to be in the Christmas spirit. The montage ends at Arthur’s house, where we see Arthur playing the piano. He starts singing a song about how great Christmas will be and we see a music video taking place in his imagination. When he finishes his song, D.W. comes over and asks him how he can be so calm with Christmas only 3 days away. He tells her not to worry, and she asks him to help write a letter to Santa. Arthur writes it out all out for her, and she goes off to bed.

D.W. mailing her letter to Santa

We cut to the next day and we see D.W pop the letter in the mail box before the kids are driven to school. Before Arthur arrives however, Muffy and Francine are on the front steps of the school and Muffy tells Francine how she can’t wait for her Christmas party the next day. Francine tells Muffy she can’t go, but Muffy isn’t listening and walks away. Francine is visibly upset, and then Arthur comes along. He asks her what’s wrong, and she tells him that even though she has told Muffy over 20 times that she can’t com to the party because of her conflicting Hanukkah party, Muffy hasn’t paid attention once. Arthur just tells Francine to keep trying, and they head inside.

Inside the classroom, Arthur’s friend George is giving a presentation about the Christmas traditions of Sweden, even going as far as to pass around Lutefisk (A Scandinavian fish dish that sounds rather interesting). After everyone’s presentations are done, Arthur goes to check on Buster, who looks like he could pass out at any minute. Buster tells Arthur that ever since his parents got divorced, his mom wakes up early every day leading up to Christmas thinking it is Christmas morning and wakes Buster up at 5:30, makes pancakes, and gets the presents ready. After he eats, he tells her what day it is, and she goes back to bed. Buster thinks his mom is worried that he won’t have a good Christmas because his dad isn’t there. He wishes he could tell his mom she doesn’t have to make such a big deal.

Buster's mom on December 23rd, thinking it is Christmas morning

We cut to later on that day and Arthur is at the mall with his mom and they split up to find their last presents. Arthur buys his dad, who is a chef, an olive pitter and jar of olives, and is at a loss about what to get his mom, when he sees something sparkle in a store window. It’s a small glass bird, just like the one she had that he accidentally broke last year. It’s perfect! He lines up to buy it, and when he is done paying, has just enough time to get back to where he and his mom were supposed to meet. Arthur has found all of the presents he needed, but his mom ended up one present short: The toy D.W. asked Santa for.

Now we are back at Arthur’s house, and Arthur’s parents have to have the tough conversation with D.W. telling her that sometimes Santa can’t get you the present you asked for because he has run out. D.W. is convinced however that she might not get the talking cat doll she wanted because Arthur wrote her letter wrong. Just then Arthur’s dad comes in with Uncle Fred’s Christmas video. He wishes them all well, and tells them he is going to Florida rather than their place this year. Arthur says he’ll miss Uncle Fred this year as he is so funny, and reminisces about when Uncle Fred broke his mom’s china set last Christmas. They all sit down to dinner, and the night comes to an end.

Christmas Eve Eve dinner at Arthur's

The next morning, like clockwork, Buster’s mom gets him up and it is only Christmas Eve. Buster looks upset and obviously wishes he could lighten his mom’s load, but doesn’t want to upset her.

Later on, at Muffy’s party, Muffy calls Francine up to get the first gift, only to realize Francine isn’t there. She calls her from her cell phone and Francine tells Muffy she told her over 25 times that she wouldn’t be coming because it’s her Hanukkah party. Muffy makes a comment about how Hanukkah isn’t as important as Christmas, and Francine loses it and hangs up. Elsewhere at the party Buster has fallen asleep in his food, and Brain and Arthur tell him he should just tell his mom that they can do their own thing on Christmas, maybe even celebrate a different holiday just for them, call it Baxter Day (Baxter being Buster’s last name) Buster imagines how great that would be, and debates whether or not to tell his mom.

Buster's imaginary Baxter Day with just he and his mom

Later on, Arthur has come home from the party and decorates the Christmas tree with his mom and D.W. After they finish, D.W. gets Santa’s milk and cookies ready and then it’s time for bed. Just as Arthur is falling asleep, he hears someone at the door. It turns out Uncle Fred is here, his truck having broken down on the way to Florida when he stopped to drop off their presents. Arthur gets up to say hi, and notices that Uncle Fred’s dog is running around with his mom’s present in his mouth. After chasing the dog around the house, Arthur finally gets the present back and decides to put it away for safe keeping, and then heads off to bed.

It is now Christmas morning, and D.W. wakes up and runs around the house waking everyone up. After a brief mix-up involving D.W. thinking Uncle Fred is Santa, everyone heads downstairs to open presents. At the same time, Buster’s mom is finally up early on the right day. She jumps out of bed and runs around trying to make sure everything is perfect, but in her hurry accidentally burns the pancakes. Meanwhile, at Muffy’s house, she has opened all of her presents and would love to call Francine to tell her about it, but remembers her and Francine aren’t talking. She realizes that Christmas and presents aren’t so great if you don’t have anyone to share it with. Since Muffy seems down, her dad suggests they go out for a car ride.

Muffy, with no one to call

It’s a little while later, and back at Arthur’s, his whole family has arrived and they are ready to open presents. Arthur runs upstairs to get his mom’s, but he accidentally drops it and breaks the little glass bird. He is devastated, and runs to hide in his room while everyone waits for him to open their presents, and D.W. nearly has an aneurism. Uncle Fred goes up to check on Arthur, and Arthur tells him what happened to the bird. Uncle Fred tells him it will all be ok, and they head downstairs.

Meanwhile, Buster is out to brunch with his mom, and even though she has a day full of plans, he tells her he’d be happy just to spend the day with her at home. She is touched and seems slightly relieved.

At the same time, Muffy and her family have stopped at one of the only local places that is open, Brain’s family’s ice cream shoppe. Brain explains to them that his family is celebrating Kwanza, which won’t start until the next day. He explains to them what Kwanza is all about, and Muffy decides she’d like to celebrate Kwanza next year so that maybe she could spend it with Francine and not worry about Hanukkah overlapping it.

Back at Arthur’s the presents are almost all open now, and Arthur is about to tell his mom what happened, when Uncle Fred says he found Arthur’s present for his mom under the tree. She opens it, and it is a mug to replace the one Fred broke last year. She is touched, and so is Arthur, knowing this was actually Fred’s gift for Arthur’s mom. D.W. opens her last present, hoping it is the talking cat, only to find a talking duck instead. She is not pleased, and throws a tantrum.

D.W. freaking out

Over at Francine’s, they are finishing their Chinese food dinner, when Muffy and her father arrive. Muffy apologizes to Francine, but still doesn’t seem to understand why Francine missed the party. Francine tells Muffy all about what Hanukkah is about and why it was more important to her than a Christmas party. Muffy finally understands, and her and Francine are back on good terms again.

Francine's family celebrating Hanukkah

We are shown a montage of everyone in town celebrating their traditions, ranging from Christmas to Hanukkah to Kwanza, and we finish on Arthur wishing everyone a Happy Holidays.

Where to begin with this episode. It is a Holiday episode, rather than just a Christmas centric episode, which makes sense for a show funded by a public television station. It does a good job of balancing each character’s own holiday celebrations, which is why it took me so long to write my blog on this special. As far as which category it falls under, it’s mainly a Christmas/Holiday special that gets more than a few messages across. Arthur episodes usually convey some kind of message, so this special is in keeping with the show’s usual format, which is something I like. I’m not a fan of when a show changes gears and becomes very preachy just to teach a Christmas lesson. It more often then than not comes off as awkward and forced, but with a show like this, a Christmas/Holiday episode makes perfect sense.

I like every lesson taught in this episode, and while most of them are the usual lessons most specials try to convey, this episode one ups the the others by touching on how important it is to understand and accept other people’s traditions and holiday celebrations. By the end, Muffy understands why Hanukkah is so important to Francine, which is a nice thing to teach kids. Some kids just don’t get people not celebrating Christmas. Buster and his mom discover that they don’t need to do Christmas traditions to have a great day, they can make up their own traditions and holiday and just enjoy each other. Although no issues arise with Kwanza, Brain reveals that his parents choose to celebrate it instead of Christmas because of how and why it was created, and they are supportive of what it stands for.

Other than those lessons, we have a few traditional Christmas ones. Muffy teaches us that Christmas isn’t special if you don’t have anyone to share it with, a cliché, but a good one. Although I already touched on Buster, it’s also a nice message that they touch on that as long as you are with your family, it doesn’t matter how you celebrate. Arthur’s Uncle Fred teaches Arthur the importance of being selfless by giving up his own present and giving it to Arthur so that Arthur doesn’t feel bad. D.W. learns that even if you don’t get what you want for Christmas, you may just end up enjoying what you get instead. I may have missed one or two, but you get the idea. The writers really did a great job of tackling different holidays and teaching many lessons, but they never end up coming off as preachy. It’s a tough things to do, but in just under an hour, they did it.

I highly recommend this episode to both children and adults alike. The kids will love the silly cartoony elements and musical numbers, of which there are no shortage, and they will definitely benefit from the lessons taught. It’s great for adults as well because they touch on the frustration of not getting your kid what you want, as well as the pop culture references and jokes that only a parent would get (Like the fact that Muffy’s dad brings Francine’s family a ham for Hanukkah, despite the fact that they are Jewish). It’s a special that I enjoy watching, as does my girlfriend, and my brother (All of us over the age or 20). It will definitely be put it into my regular rotation of Christmas specials, and is one I suggest everyone seek out.

6teen Christmas Special Will Bring Out Your Inner Teenager

December 2, 2011

When I wrote about Rocko’s Modern Life yesterday, I touched on how great the crop of Nickelodeon cartoons from the 90s were for being fun for not only little kids, but also for teenagers and young adults. These days, from the shows I’ve seen, not too many cartoons are able to walk the tightrope between a kid’s cartoon and a cartoon that teenagers can find appealing. A few years back however, when I was just exiting my teenage years, I discovered a Canadian cartoon called 6teen on Teletoon, and suddenly I had faith in the tween cartoon market again. It was funny enough with physical jokes for the kids, but at the same time had jokes and pop culture references that were very age appropriate for anyone in the 15-24 age group. I finally had a show I could watch on Teletoon that was on during the day, and also didn’t run for only one season, meaning there were more than 13 episodes to watch. I have enjoyed watching the show when I catch it on TV and rarely see the same episode twice, but I hadn’t ever seen the Christmas episode until today. I picked up the DVD release of it this afternoon at the thrift store, and decided to watch and talk about it today because I was just excited to see it. Is it one I will put into my regular rotation? Keep reading and you’ll find out.

The show’s logo

Before I get into the special, as always, I will tell you a bit about the show (Because while not necessary for some shows, I know this one is unknown to most of my friends) 6teen is sort of like an animated teenage version of “Friends”, or at least in the style of “Friends”. We follow the lives of 6 teenagers who all work or hang out at the local mall pretty much every day. There are 3 guys, Jonesy, Jude and Wyatt, as well as 3 girls, Caitlin, Jen and Nikki. Jonesy is a schemer and a womanizer, always looking for easy money and he has a new job in the mall in every episode, not being able to last at any one of them for more than a day or 2. Jude is the surfer dude skateboarder who doesn’t often have a job, and mainly just hangs out. Wyatt is the struggling musician who takes jobs at the mall while working on his songbook. Caitlin is the popular girl who got cut off by her parents and had to take a job at the lemonade stand in the mall, where she works the entire run of the show. Jen is kind of a high strung straight A student who works at the sporting goods store, also for the entire series. Last, and definitely not least is Nikki, the edgy girl with the piercings who could only get a job at the Khaki Barn with 3 nearly identical preppy girls who drive her crazy, and although she hates it, she also works the job the whole run of the series. We follow their adventures in dating, getting jobs, and on the odd, occasion even school life. It’s hard to really describe other than that, so I’ll move on now and tell you about the special called “Deck The Mall”

The cover of the DVD release of the episode

We start with Jen and Caitlin in the sporting goods store, and the place is a zoo. Jen is running back and forth trying to grab everything for her customers, but isn’t able to keep up. Caitlin is slightly freaking out because she has agreed to buy everyone’s presents for each other, and has left it until the last minute. Jen cracks under the pressure, and leaves the store to go scream in frustration the elevator. We then cut to the theme song.

When we come back, Caitlin, Jude and Jen are all hanging out at the lemonade stand and Caitlin is putting up decorations. Jen reveals to Caitlin and Jude that one of the reasons she is so stressed is because this is the first Christmas since her parents got divorced, and her mom and Jonesy’s dad have been secretly dating. Jen’s dad has also gone away for the holidays, so she and her sister have to spend the holiday with her mom at Jonesy’s house, a house filled with gross guys not used to girls being around, and very set in their ways when it comes to holiday traditions. Jen and Caitlin go off shopping together, and Jude sets out to wrap some presents. We see him later in the same spot covered in tape from a wrapping mishap, and Nikki comes over to see what’s going on. They talk about Jen and Jonesy, and just then Jen and Caitlin come back. Caitlin gets a phone call and it’s Jonesy telling them he got a job with the mall Santa, so the 4 friends set off to find Wyatt so they can go visit Jonesy at his new job.

The gang, sans Jonesy and Wyatt, hanging in front of the lemonade stand

We cut to Wyatt standing in line at the coffee place, obviously in need of a caffeine boost, but just as he gets his drink, it spills all over him. Now tired and burned, Wyatt joins the gang and they head over to see Jonesy, and they all get to see a lot more of him than they bargained for. Jonesy is one of Santa’s elves, and happens to be wearing tights that leave very little to the imagination! They all mock him, and not even Jonesy, who is normally quit witted and able to convince people anything is cool, can put a positive spin on the outfit.

Jonesy in his elf tights

Jude and Wyatt head off on their own, and end up at the Khaki Barn looking for a present for Caitlin. The preppy girls convince Jude to buy her a “Somebody Loves Me Sweater”, and when he goes to loof for Nikki, he finds her hiding from the other girls in a change room while pretending she is helping a customer. Jude tells her what he got for Caitlin, and she tells him it’s perfect, and shoos him away before the other girls know she isn’t working. Meanwhile, Jen and Caitlin are at the sporting good store and while Jen is frustrated with wrapping and bothersome shoppers, Caitlin seems upbeat, having bought most of everybody’s presents for each other. Jen is so stressed she even tells off Santa, and reveals she is angry Jonesy hasn’t tried to include any of her traditions in his family’s Christmas plans.

Speaking of Jonesy, we see him working with Santa and after a kid makes fun of him, Jonesy threatens the kid and he walks away pouting. Jonesy notices the kid has a hot mom though, and goes over to try and hit on her. Her kid, none to pleased with Jonesy in the first place, pulls down Jonesy’s tights in front of the mom, to which Jonesy is slapped and fired for being a pervert.

Jonesy after being pantsed (Is it still pantsed if you are wearing tights?)

A half hour or so later, the whole gang is off work and are hanging around the lemon. Most of them are bummed about their jobs and having to shop for each other (Even though Caitlin did most of it). Caitlin, trying to lift everyone’s spirit, suggests they all go do something fun together. Jonesy says he can sneak them all into a movie, so Caitlin gathers all of their gifts up and leaves them beside the lemon, and off they go to the theatre. As much as Caitlin was hoping this would bring everyone together, it just puts everyone at each other’s throats, cause no one can agree on a movie. They  draw straws, and end up going to Jude’s pick, a Vin Diesel driving movie. The theatre is full however, so they all have to sit in the isle, which causes everyone to fight even more. After they all tell each other off, they get kicked out of the theatre and end up getting lost in the service tunnels of the mall on their way back to the lemon. They wander around for a while, and when they finally end up at the lemon, the presents are gone and the mall is empty. They were lost during closing time, and when they try to leave they realize they are now locked in the mall on Christmas Eve!

The doors are locked!

Everyone starts to turn on each other, especially Jen and Jonesy, and Caitlin finally loses it. She’s been trying to make everyone happy all day, even wearing herself out by doing everyone’s shopping for them, and they are all just being so miserable. She tells Jonesy and Jen that she always wished for a big family growing up, and that they should celebrate the fact that now in a way their families are even bigger, even if they don’t like each other’s traditions. Jonesy appologizes to Jen for taking over the family traditions on the home front and they end up reconciling. Everyone apologizes to Caitlin, now realizing how important spending time with them is to her. Coming from a small family, she saw this as her first real chance at having a big family style Christmas with all of her friends. They are all now in a much better mood, until they remember they are still stuck in the mall. Wyatt however remember that Jonesy has a skeleton key to the mall that he got while he was working mall security, and they can all leave! But before they do, they take a little time and enjoy having an empty mall to themselves, riding the roller coaster for free and helping themselves to a few snacks. On their way out, after all of their fun, they spot their missing presents! It looks like they are in the lost and found, but when they check the box, they realize it’s actually a charity donation box, and in the spirit of Christmas, decide to leave the presents where they are, so they can hep the less fortunate.

The gang leaving their presents behind

We cut to everyone hanging around the lemon the day after Christmas right before the mall opens. Jen ended up having a fun time at Jonesy’s, and everyone is looking forward to everything going back to normal, when they realize that it’s Boxing Day and as soon as the mall doors open, the mall is overrun with shoppers (Just incase any non Canadians are reading this, our Boxing Day is the equivalent to the American Black Friday. It’s the day in Canada everyone goes shopping with their Christmas money and buys themselves the things they wanted and may not have gotten) We cut to the credits, and I think this was a perfect way to end a Canadian Christmas special.

This episode is really a mix of a few of the usual Christmas special clichés. The first is using the episode to teach a Christmas themed lesson. Jen and Jonesy learn that even though they have separate family traditions, there’s no reason they can’t compromise and enjoy a few of each other’s traditions for the sake of their parents. The episode also touches on the fact that you shouldn’t take advantage of a friend’s good nature, when everyone realizes how they were really just using Caitlin to do all of their shopping for them. Speaking of Caitlin, we also learn a lesson from her, that if you don’t do many family things for the holidays, you should try and spend time with the people you love: your friends. Finally, everyone learns to be grateful for what they have, and end up donating all of their presents to people who really them more than they do.

As much as the episode is mainly a one off, it is one that can’t be missed by regular 6teen viewers, as this is the episode where the whole gang learns about Jen’s mom and Jonesy’s dad dating. Missing this episode could cause some confusion when watching future episodes.

I highly recommend this show to both young adults as well as teenagers and adults. I wouldn’t recommend it for young children, as there aren’t too many wacky cartoony elements in this episode like there are in other episodes of the show. Sadly missing from the special is the mall head of security, who is a spoof of Christopher Walken, and a character young kids would find funny. The young adults and teens may relate to a few of the issues mentioned in the episode, and unlike some specials, none of the problems are too heavy or feel out of place in a young person’s show. The adults will like the special because it may remind them of their more carefree holidays where all they had to worry about was buying gifts for their friends and family, and not worry about credit card debt and unpaid bills. The humor is also the right speed for adults, and while skewed to a slightly younger generation, I could see most adults getting a kick out of the jokes in the episode. If you were a fan of Friends, but could never relate to a bunch of 20 somethings living in New York, than I think you would definitely like 6teen, because most people can relate to being a teenager and hanging out at the mall.

While I wouldn’t consider this one a true hidden gem or modern Christmas classic, it is really funny and enjoyable for a wide audience, and I did enjoy it enough that I will for sure enter it into my regular Christmas Special rotation.

Rocko’s Modern Christmas A Modern Classic

December 1, 2011

The 90s were truly an interesting era for Nickelodeon shows, with many of the shows being made not just for kids, but for teenagers and young adults as well. Their most grown up was Ren and Stimpy, with many of the others, such as Rocko’s Modern Life, being aimed at a young audience with its cartoony elements, and a more teenaged audience with its jokes. While I have already touched on one great Nickelodeon special, Hey Arnold’s “Arnold’s Christmas”, I am here today to tell you about another great special from Nickelodeon, Rocko’s Modern Life’s special called “Rocko’s Modern Christmas”. But, as usual, before I get into the special, I’ll touch on the show briefly.

The cover of the VHS tape I watched it on

The show is about a wallaby named Rocko who moves to O-Town from Australia with his cute little dog Spunky. He finds a friend in a young bull named Heifer, who funnily enough is the adoptive child to a family of wolves. Through Heifer Rocko meets and befriends a very neurotic, Woody Allen type turtle named Filburt. Rocko also has a grumpy neighbour named Mr. Bighead, who has a short temper and isn’t Rocko’s biggest fan. Other than that, the show is basically a zany 90s Nickelodeon cartoon with jokes that will go above the heads of kids, but enough physical jokes for keep the kids entertained. With all of this in mind, I’ll tell you about the special.

The special starts with Rocko and Spunky coming out of Rocko’s house all dressed up for a blizzard, only to find there is no snow. Rocko has his sled with him, and wishes that it could snow, because it just doesn’t feel like Christmas with no snow. He notices that the cloud above his house is trying to drop snow, but seems to be constipated. It drops one big flake that knocks Rocko out. Rocko imagines a big snow storm and everyone sledding around and skating, and this serves as the credit sequence.

The constipated cloud

Rocko wakes up from his day dream, and is hopeful that it will snow, but just then it starts to rain. He is cheered up though when he notices he has new neighbours moving in who seem to have the holiday spirit. He and Spunky go back inside, much to the joy of Rocko’s other neighbour, Mr. Bighead. He and his wife are just readying their Christmas cards (seems a little late what with it being Christmas Eve, but whatever), and he is overjoyed that it isn’t snowing, because he hates Christmas. He is not happy when he sees the new neighbours have decked out their house with all sorts of Christmas decorations.

Rocko has decided that to try and lift his spirits, he is going to invite Heifer and Filburt and a few other friends over for a Christmas party that night. Things get out of hand however, and soon nearly everyone Rocko knows has heard about his party and are intent on coming. He makes up invites for everyone, mails them, and he and Spunky head off to the mall to get a tree. On the way there, they pass by the new neighbour’s house, and see one of the new neighbours out front. He is an elf! One of Santa’s elves. He is really timid, and afraid to talk to Rocko, but secretly follows Rocko and Spunky off to the mall.

The silent elf outside of his house

Outside of the mall, Rocko goes into a tent to buy a Christmas tree, and it just so happens to be run by Filburt and Heifer. Rocko gets the last real tree, and heads off into the mall to look around before heading home. The elf also goes into the mall, and while at the shoe store, is picked on by a group of Alligators who work there. Rocko sees his neighbour being bothered, and distracts the employees long enough for the little guy to escape. Rocko sees it as his job to see the little guy home, and off they go.

They go back to the elf’s house, and after knocking on the door, another elf comes to answer it. He thanks Rocko for bringing the little silent elf home and invites him inside for some tea and cookies. Rocko realizes they are Santa’s elves, and invites them to his party that night. The elves will be done working by the time the party starts, so they are happy to accept the invitation. As Rocko is stepping out of the house, Mr. Bighead sees that the house is owned by elves and hatches a plan.

The inside of the elf house, full of Christmas toys!

A little while later, after he has dropped off Rocko’s tree, Filburt is walking by Mr. Bighead’s house and asks if Mr. Bighead is going to Rocko’s party. Since he hasn’t received an invitation, and hates Christmas and elves, he starts a rumor that the elves have a contagious foot fungus, which greatly upsets Filburt, a very serious hypochondriac. The rumor spreads and soon no one is going to be coming to the party except the elves. The elves though hear about a gang of diseased trolls going to the party, and don’t want to get mixed up in any of that, to the great disappointment of the little silent elf.

Rocko gets everything ready, not knowing that no one plans to come. Before he knows it it’s midnight, and no one has come to the party. He tries to call his family in Australia to wish them a Merry Christmas, but all of the lines are busy. Just then, the doorbell rings, and the little silent elf is there. He comes inside and sees how sad Rocko is, and tries to cheer him up by having him read ‘Twas The Night Before Christmas out loud to the elf and Spunky. It puts Rocko to sleep, and as the elf leaves, he is so touched by Rocko’s kindness that he is able to use his magic and make the constipated cloud able to snow. It snows all night, but only over Rocko’s house.

The snow falling on Rocko's house

The next morning, everyone wakes up to see the only snow in town is at Rocko’s house. The elves come out of their house and reveal to everyone that the silent elf made it snow because only he and one other person in town showed true Christmas spirit, and that person was Rocko. Rocko just so happens to open his door at that moment, and Filburt apologizes for spreading rumours and skipping the party. Heifer apologizes for skipping the party to sell trees. Everyone else apologizes to Rocko and they all go inside his house for a Christmas party after all! Everyone that is, except for Mr. Bighead. He is still furious about not receiving and invite. He hears a knock at the door, and the silent elf is there on his front step. He hands Mr. Bighead an invite that was clearly lost in the mail, and as Mr. Bighead decides to come to the party, the elf smacks him on the foot with a hammer to get back at him for starting the elf rumour. Mr. Bighead chases the elf, but trips, falls into some christmas lights, goes flying into Rocko’s house, and ends up as a makeshift Christmas tree. Rocko realizes now that everyone had Christmas cheer inside them all along, and tells the elf that this is the best Christmas ever. The phone rings, and it is Rocko’s family to wish him a Merry Christmas. We cut to outside his house and now it is snowing all over the town, and the special comes to an end.

Decked out Christmas tree Mr. Bighead

This special falls under the category of being a one-off special that teaches a Christmas lesson, and I think it does a pretty good job at doing so. While it teaches a few other minor lessons, like that it is better to spend time with your friends at Christmas than it is to be greedy (Heifer), or that it is wrong to spread rumours because doing so may have very negative results on a friend (Filburt), I think the main message is that if you get together with all of your friends and family and really celebrate and enjoy each other’s company, you can have a great Christmas. It’s a nice message to get across, one that comes up a lot in Christmas specials, but one that never really gets old. So often around Christmas people really forget that the important part of the holidays is to spend it with family, not focus on presents or money, and these specials serve as a great reminder of that.

I really love the way this special touches not only on its lesson, but also on other Christmas time things like the importance of snow. Having grown up in Canada, I agree with Rocko that it just doesn’t feel like Christmas without snow. While I hate driving in it and shovelling it, it just doesn’t feel like Christmas morning without a blanket of snow on the ground. Luckily for me though, I don’t normally have any issues with constipated clouds.

I recommend this special to both children and adults. The kids will like the cartoony elements of the story, while the adults enjoy the pop culture references and adult oriented jokes that will most likely go over the heads of the kids. The overall runtime for the episode is around 25 minutes, so it is a perfect length for an episode of this style, and never really drags or gets boring at any point. This is a special I make sure to watch every holiday season since I bought it, and if you like those 90s era Nickelodeon cartoons that are hard to believe were ever made for kids, I think you’ll want to make a habit of watching it too.

Magic School Bus Recycles Holiday Special Clichés In The Name Of Science

November 30, 2011

As anyone who went to school in the 90s might know, there were 2 reasons to look forward to science class: Bill Nye The Science Guy and The Magic School Bus. As hokey as a lot of the edutainment we watched in school was, Bill Nye and Magic School Bus were the perfect blend of funny, educational, and entertaining. I remember the whole class would always be excited when we walked into science class and saw the teacher had signed out the TV and VCR for the period. I think that both shows are great and still hold up today, but I only have the holiday episode for one of them in my collection, and that’s the Magic School Bus Holiday Special. It’s got recycling, The Nutcracker, and a celebrity guest voice, but before I can get into it, I’ll give you the rundown for The Magic School Bus.

The show is quite simple to explain. A creative, zany teacher named Miss Frizzle has a class of 8 kids whom she takes on awesome field trips almost every day. Miss Frizzle has a Magic School Bus, hence the show’s name, that can transform itself into other vehicles, shrink itself, or even turn into a planet! She takes them on these field trips to teach them lessons about science, ranging from physics to biology to astronomy, and while taking a few liberties here and there (Which they do address at the end of each episode), the science is fairly accurate. Most people my age learned their science basics from this show, and still remember a lot of the lessons to this day. Having said all of that, I’ll now tell you about the special.

The cover of the DVD I watched it on

The special starts with a stage production of The Nutcracker that is just wrapping up. We see one of Miss Frizzle’s students, Wanda, in the audience, and just as she is clapping and cheering, she is snapped back to reality. She was day dreaming while the class is sorting recyclables for a trip to the local recycling plant. The other students ask her what she was thinking about, and she tells them all about how excited she is to be going to see The Nutcracker that night. It’s her family’s yearly tradition, and she really loves it. She has even brought her toy soldier, which she has had since she was a young child, with her to school so she can go straight from there to the play.

Wanda holding her toy soldier

The class is almost done sorting, but they are waiting on Arnold before they can go. He comes in and apologizes for being late, but tells everyone he was spending Hanukkah time with his mom because he won’t be home that night for the first night of Hanukkah. They sympathize, and he starts to help them all pack up the recyclables to the bus for the trip, when he drops a cool cross section mineral rock from his pocket. He tells Wanda that his mom gave it to him as an early Hanukkah gift. They are just about to leave when he sees Wanda’s soldier on the floor, and thinking it was meant to be recycled, tosses it into one of the blue boxes.

Wanda admiring Arnold's rock mineral

The children sing a song in the bus on their way to the recycling plant,  and before they know it they have arrived at a large recycling facility. Everyone carries some of the recycling inside, and it is here that we meet Miss Frizzle’s cousin “Murph”, voiced by Dolly Parton. She tells the kids where to sort the recycling by singing them a song about doing so, her first of many in the episode. Everything gets sorted and put in the right place, and then Wanda sees that he soldier has been mixed in with all of the other plastic. She tries to tell Murph that she needs to get it out of the bin, but it is too late. The plastic is all washed, melted, and cut into small plastic pellets! Arnold apologizes profusely and feels rotten about what has happened. In true It’s A Wonderful Life form, Wanda wishes there was no such thing as recycling, so that she could have her doll back. Luckily, it just so happens the Magic School Bus has a button for that, and everyone leaves the plant, boards the bus, and Miss Frizzle hits the recycling reversal button. It causes the recycling plant to turn into a pile of garbage, but this is just the first in a series of things to disappear because recycling is no more.

Liz, the class mascot, pressing the recycling reversal button

As the bus travels back to the school, all signs of recycling or recycled materials from blue boxes to playground equipment transform into garbage. Trees also start to disappear, what with no paper being recycled. By the time they make it back to the school, Wanda realizes how important is, but still want to go in to the class in hopes that her doll would be there. When they arrive at the school however, they can’t get in because the playground has been turned into a landfill!

The landfill playground

Wanda realizes the error of her ways, and wants to undo all of the un-recycling they just did, but by the time she comes around to the idea, the bus itself has all but disappeared, what with it having been made of recycled materials. The class all band together though, and with the help of Murph and one of her songs, begin recycling old cans and bottles and scrap metal into a new School Bus. It isn’t too long at all before they have a newly recycled bus and are ready to re-do all of the recycling they undid. As they drive back to the recycling plant, we see things going back to how they were, and it all looks much better. By the time they get back to the pile of rubble that was the recycling plant, Wanda is happy that recycling exists, even if it cost her her favourite doll.

The bus changing the rubble back into the recycling plant

After changing the recycling plant back to normal, Wanda realizes if they can make a new bus, they can surely make a new doll. Everyone goes back in side, and with the help of Murph, eight new soldiers are made from the plastic pellets, one for each student. Wanda now invites everyone to come with her to The Nutcracker that night, and they all say yes except Arnold. It turns out the reason he isn’t spending time with his mom that night is because his grandma is sick, and his mom went ahead to go check up on her, while Arnold and his dad are catching the late train. Everyone feels bad for Arnold, especially Wanda after a present from Arnold falls out of her bag. It turns out that he has given her his rock mineral to make up the loss of her original doll, and has included a note telling her to enjoy The Nutcracker that night. Wanda is visibly touched by Arnold’s gift, and wishes there is something she could do for him.

Wanda opening Arnold's present

We then cut to a shot of Arnold’s train that night, and he and his dad are settled in for their long journey. Just then, Arnold hears one of Murph’s songs coming for the back of the train, and heads back to check it out. He goes through a door to find that his whole class, along with Murph and Miss Frizzle, have attached the bus to the back of the train as a caboose and are all there to see him. He is shocked, because they are all supposed to be at The Nutcracker, but Wanda tells him that some things are more important than going to the ballet. She even has a present for Arnold, a bag of plastic pellets, which Arnold seems oddly pleased with. Then everyone joins in on one of Murph’s songs, and just before the special ends, the characters wish everyone a Merry Christmas, Happy Hanukkah, and a Happy Kwanza.

The whole class in the caboose bus to surprise Arnold

This special is a little hard to categorize, because it skates back and forth between a few of the usual holiday special tropes. The episode conveys two messages in the end, one Christmas oriented, and the other recycling oriented. Wanda realizes, ala George Bailey, that wishing something out of existence can have dangerous side effects, and may actually make for a worse world, a non Christmas message conveyed using Christmas Special clichés. She also realizes however, that sometimes being with a friend in need over the holidays is more important than doing something for yourself that you can always do again next year. Both are nice messages, and I’m glad The Magic School Bus was able to fit in an extra lesson at the end of an episode in the spirit of the holidays.

I like it when shows like this are able to do a holiday special, because even though the show was mainly made for edutainment purposes, the producers and writers knew that they could kill two birds with one stone by making a holiday episode. They were not only able to make an episode with a positive ecological message, they were able to use their soapbox and teach kids a great lesson in selflessness.

The episode’s only real downfalls are that like many other shows made in the 90s, they have included bad jokes that haven’t held up well over time. Also, as much as The Magic School Bus normally stretched reality to help prove a point, some of the things in this episode are downright silly and unbelievable, like Miss Frizzle having gigantic metal moulds to make a new school bus in her coat pocket. It was slightly lazy writing, but doesn’t negatively affect the show too much.

I would recommend this special to adults and kids alike. It’s a good special for the kids, as it teaches a couple of great lessons, and for anyone who grew up on The Magic School Bus, once you look past the dated jokes, you’ll realize the show still holds up pretty well. It’s also a nice special for all denominations, as it is not a Christmas Special, but a Holiday Special, and makes mention of Christmas, Hanukkah, and Kwanza as to not be exclusionary. Adults who didn’t grow up on The Magic School Bus might not love the episode, but there are enough fun songs and allusions to other holiday classics that most people should find something to like about it.

Doug’s Secret Christmas Is One To Tell All Of Your Friends About

November 26, 2011

I remember when I used to come home after school every day and turn on YTV to watch The Zone, their block of Children’s shows from 3-6. I loved it, and for most of the time that I watched it, the programming stayed the same. I remember, however, when they announced that they were replacing Rugrats with a show about a funny looking kid with hair like Fido Dido called Doug. I was outraged, and so were my brother and sister! How could any show measure up to Rugrats!? We dreaded the day when Rugrats would end, but when Doug finally premiered, I could see that this show was something special. It hit close to home for me, a show about a less than popular kid with a crush on a popular girl in school, so I got over the loss of Rugrats and embraced Doug. My whole family loved Doug, and I am sad to say I don’t remember watching this special with them when we were growing up, because it is a really nice special about families and togetherness, but we’ll get into that after I tell you a bit about Doug.

Doug, as I mentioned, is a less than popular kid who moves into a new city with his Mom, Dad and older beatnik sister Judy. He becomes best friends with a guy named Skeeter, and develops a crush on a girl named Patti. The show is told through Doug’s narration, by his entries into his secret journal. Other than Skeeter, Doug is also great friends with his dog Porkchop, whom Doug often uses as a sounding board and conscience when working through a problem. Doug also gets along with Mr. Dink, his next door neighbour, who is always buying new things that are, in his own words, “Very expensive Douglas”. Doug is just your average growing kid, and maybe that’s why I think the Christmas Special is great, it hits closer to home than most.

The cover of the VHS tape

Episodes of Doug always starts with a little setup sketch before the main title card, which is a nice touch for a cartoon. The one for this special is a spoof of The Grinch, with Doug’s bully Roger standing in for the sneaky character. He sneaks in to Doug’s house and tries to steal Christmas, only to realize that there is nothing to steal. No tree, no ornaments, no presents! Then he realizes he has been beat to it, as he sees Doug, also looking like The Grinch, with a bag full of Christmas things already. (It’s a nice little opening and sets the tone well for the rest of the episode. The imitation Grinch music is spot on and very funny)

The Dougrinch!

After the opening, we cut to the day after American Thanksgiving, when Doug starts getting excited about his family’s Christmas traditions. He is looking forward to getting out all of the decorations, going to buy the best tree at the local lot, visiting his Grandmother, and last but not least writing out a list of the presents he’d like to get that year. Once he figures out what he’d like to see under the tree, he goes downstairs to hand the list off to his dad. He finds his mom and Judy in the living room doing breathing exercises, because Doug’s mom is pregnant and the baby is due in a month or two. Doug ends up finding his dad in the den, and is about to hand him his Christmas list when his dad cuts Doug off to try and get up the nerve to tell him about the birds and the bees. It turns out he’s been wanting to talk to Doug about it for months, but hasn’t known how. Doug tells his dad that he knows all about sex, having learned about it in school, and after a long talk (That we see through a montage), he even ends up teaching his dad a bit. (I found this to be a very interesting scene for a cartoon, because it’s not often you even hear the word sex in a kid’s cartoon, especially one produced by Disney. It wasn’t played for laughs however, so I think it was a cute little scene to throw in the episode for the older viewers. It might bring up question about sex from younger viewers though, so keep that in mind if you watch this episode with children)

The book Doug's dad consults for advice

Anyways, Doug’s dad tells him that because of the baby on the way, they might not be getting as many presents this year. Doug is upset, but puts on a brave face for his dad, and hides his wish list. Judy, being the bratty older sister that she is, snatches the list away from Doug. He tells his dad it is a list of baby name recommendations, which is hard to believe after Judy reads off dirt bike and inline skates. Doug chases her off while she says she’d prefer the name Cleopatra.

The next afternoon, after a long day at school, Doug passes by the Christmas tree lot, and the owner tells Doug he’ll have to come get a tree soon, as they are selling quick. Doug heads home to get his dad, but upon arriving home sees a tiny, fake tree siting on the coffee table. Doug’s dad tells him that they just can’t be bothered with a real tree this year because of the baby. Already a little down about everything going on, Doug heads to the mall with Skeeter so they can go shopping for presents. Doug is about to buy some nice earrings for his crush Patti, when Skeeter calls him over to show him that he has found a replacement Christmas tree shaped waffle iron for his family. It is Skeeter’s family’s tradition to make Christmas tree shaped waffles every Christmas morning, something they can’t do this year because Skeeter accidentally broke their last waffle iron. Skeeter picks it up, but realizes it is way outside his price range. Doug feels bad, and wants to help Skeeter stick with his family’s traditions, even if Doug’s family can’t stick with theirs, so he gives Skeeter the money to buy it. Doug leaves the mall feeling happy about helping his friend, but a little bummed now that he can’t afford a present for Patti.

Doug leaving the mall and feeling a little down

After coming home from the mall, Doug goes up to his room, upset that all of the family traditions are being ignored, and tries to take his mind off it by thinking what he can get Patti with only 63 cents to his name. He realizes he should just make her a present, and gets started on making a pair of earrings himself. Being the oddball that he is, he makes Patti a pair of ear shaped earrings (It’s actually kinda cute, but at the same time, when you see a cartoon wearing cartoon ears, it is a little unsettling) They turn out great and he goes to the local malt shop to give them to Patti. She loves them, and gives Doug his present, which she tells him he can’t open until Christmas morning. They leave together, and Patti gets picked up to go to her grandparent’s house. Doug walks home, and along the way, passes by the houses of some of his school friends, and is a little jealous to see them all enjoying their yearly traditions. He is still a little optimistic though, hoping when he gets home his family will be more in the Christmas mood, and he even has a daydream about his family acting in their own Christmas variety special. He arrives home and is excited that at least they’ll be going to his grandmother’s house for dinner, but his mom tells him they won’t be going because of how far of a drive it is for someone as far along as she is in her pregnancy, plus Doug’s dad is still at the mall. Doug storms up to his room to cool down, and then decides to go for a walk. He goes to the Christmas tree lot, and the owner is just packing up, but he gives Doug his last tree. It’s small, but it’s a nice tree, and Doug goes home a little bit happier than when he left, and goes right to bed.

Angry Doug, as he storms off to his room

He wakes up the next morning and it is Christmas! He and Porkchop exchange presents, and he waits for his family to come and get him. And waits. And waits. But no one comes upstairs. He goes looking for everyone, and the house is empty. Just then, the phone rings, and it’s Doug’s dad. He tells him they are all at the hospital, and that something has happened. Doug gets there as fast as he can, and goes into his mom’s room only to see that she has had the baby a week early! Doug’s parents tell him and Judy that they combined the names that both kids suggested, and have named their new little girl Cleopatra Dirtbike Funnie! (One of my all-time favourite cartoon names)

Little Cleopatra Dirtbike Funnie

We cut to a few days later, December 27th, and Doug and his family are having a big Christmas party with all of the neighbours. Everyone is excited to meet Cleopatra, and Doug is happy to be surrounded by all the people he loves, even if it isn’t the 25th. He says something really sweet about it: “I guess no matter how you celebrate it, with lights or funny costumes, on the 25th or 27th, Christmas isn’t just a tree and presents, it’s a feeling.” Cleopatra runs out of diapers, so Doug goes to make a diaper run, when Patti comes up to him with her present in her hands and tells Doug he should open it. He does, and is excited to see it is a hand knit scarf that Patti made him, even though she hates knitting. They hug, Doug blushes, and they all lived happily ever after.

This episode falls under the category of a special that tries to convey a nice Christmas message, and I think that it does so greatly. Actually, Doug even goes beyond just learning a lesson about how sometimes traditions can change to make way for new and better traditions. He goes so far as to give away the last of his money to help Skeeter keep his traditions alive, because he realizes that even though his life is changing, it’s great to try and help someone keep a tradition alive if you can. Also, as the quote above demonstrates, Doug realizes that Christmas isn’t about the day or the presents or the traditions, it’s about being with the people you care about and getting together to celebrate.

I highly recommend this special to both adults and children. Even though the sex talk may bring up some uncomfortable questions with kids of a certain age, that shouldn’t dissuade any families from sitting down and enjoying this special together. I know that closer to Christmas when all of my family is around, I’ll be popping this tape back in the VCR for us all to watch.

Babar Special Is One That Even Elephants Could Forget

November 25, 2011

I love Babar. I loved the Babar animated TV show that ran when I was a kid in the 90s. When I bought this special, I thought for sure it was an episode from this series, but sadly, I was mistaken. It turns out that it is actually an animated special based on one of the Babar books, and while I thought I would love it regardless, I was mistaken. Now, it’s not a bad special per-se, but one that was aimed at a lot younger of a viewer than I. Keeping that in consideration, keep reading and I’ll tell you about my adventure to the Land of the Elephants.

The cover of the VHS tape

In case anyone out there is unfamiliar with Babar, I’ll give you a quick run-down. Babar is the King of the Land of the Elephants, which exists outside of the Land of Men. He lives in Celesteville, named after his wife, Queen Celeste. He has 3 children, Pom, Alexander and Flora. Also living with them in the palace is Celeste’s brother Arthur, whom along with his monkey friend Zephir, always manages to get into some kind of mischief. Babar and the elephants live in peace most of the time, although occasionally Lord Rataxes, the ruler of the Rhinoceros kingdom, starts a fight of some kind with Babar. In the cartoon I grew up watching, Rataxes was just kind of pigheaded and jealous of Babar, but he is a different kind of character in this special. With that in mind, I’ll get on to the special now.

It is mid-November, and Babar is making his rounds through Celesteville. Queen Celeste has had the gardener trim a large hedge in the likeness of Babar, and Arthur is playing hide and seek with Pom, Flora, and Alexander. Just then Zephir shows up telling Arthur and the kids that he has overheard about a wonderful man named Father Christmas who brings toys to all the good little boys and girls in the world. While everyone is distracted, Rataxes, who seems more like the typical mustache  twirling bad guy in this special, trims the Babar hedge to look more like him. Shortly after, Babar arrives home, sees the hedge, and sends his guards to look for Rataxes on the palace grounds. After dealing with that situation, Arthur, Zephir and the kids come inside to tell Babar that they would like Father Christmas to come to Celesteville, and he suggest that they write Father Christmas a letter. The kids all write down what they want, and stick their letter in the mail box, only to have Rataxes sneak over and take their letter out, replacing it with one of his own (Which he seems to have forgotten to stamp) After nearly 2 weeks of waiting, the kids are all upset, and Babar says he will go to find Father Christmas himself. He hops on a train to Paris, hoping someone there will be able to help him figure out where to go. Little does he know, however, that Rataxes is following him and plans to beat Babar in locating Father Christmas, so he can get the toys all for himself.

Babar on the train bound for Paris

Once arriving in Paris, Babar spends a day wandering around the city hoping someone will be able to help him find out where Father Christmas lives. After talking to a very helpful policeman, he meets a man who everyone is calling Father Christmas, and Babar thinks his search is over. The man, however, turns out to just be an old fellow with a beard, whom everyone just jokingly calls Father Christmas. He apologizes to Babar for the confusion, and tells him to go to the University, because there is a professor there who is a map expert, and if anyone would know where Father Christmas lives, it would be him. Babar meets the professor, and he does in fact happen to have a map of the North Pole that just so happens to have the exact location of Father Christmas’ house marked on it! He makes Babar a copy of the map, and off Babar goes, with Rataxes still following him from a distance.

The professor giving Babar a copy of the map to Father Christmas' house

After arriving at the North Pole, Babar rents a dogsled, and Rataxes follows him from above in a helicopter, which he crashes shortly after takeoff. Rataxes now falls behind, and Babar makes it close to Father Christmas’ house on the map, but comes across a sign that says no sleds allowed beyond this point. After taking off on skis, the winds pick up and blow the map out of Babar’s hands. Lost and cold, Babar digs himself a hole to sleep in for the night, and just so happens to fall through the bottom of it and right into Father Christmas’ living room. He is so startled when he sees Father Christmas that he faints.

Babar fainting

When he comes to, Babar finds himself wrapped in blankets and sitting across from Father Christmas. He asks Father Christmas if he would be able to visit Celesteville on Christmas and bring toys for all of the children, to which Father Christmas sadly says he can’t. He takes Babar on a tour of the facilities, and explains that because of how many human children there are in the world, he simply doesn’t have time for the children of Celesteville. However, after Babar settle a dispute between two elves over the colouring of a flamingo, he invites Father Christmas to take a relaxing vacation to Celesteville for tomorrow, the day before Christmas. Father Christmas agrees, and off they go to Father Christmas’ sleigh, which isn’t a sleigh at all, but looks like a giant green walnut that is carried off by birds. As they are taking off, Rataxes finally catches up, and grabs on to the bottom of the “sleigh” to catch a ride back to Celesteville.

Rataxes hanging from the bottom of the flying walnut

When Babar and Father Christmas are flying over Celesteville, Rataxes sees his home, lets go of the “sleigh”, and falls into the river. Babar and Father Christmas arrive to a big party in Celesteville, with a band playing a welcome song, and Father Christmas marvels at this wonderful place, flamingos and all. He takes the day to enjoy the warmth, and even gets a bit of a sun burn while sleeping in a hammock. He thanks Babar for the vacation by giving him a basket full of toys for the children, and his very own Father Christmas outfit so that he can deliver the toys that night himself.

Babar flying around in his Father Christmas outfit

After all of the children are in bed, Babar puts on the Father Christmas suit, only to find that it is magic, and it allows him to fly through Celesetville with ease and make light work of delivering all of the presents. When all of the children get up on Christmas morning, they are all excited to find they got just what they asked for. Rataxes looks in at the palace crying, but it turns out there is one present left that is just for him, even though he hasn’t been the nicest guy this year. He opens it with joy and enjoys the rest of his day celebrating with Babar and his family.

I think this is the first time I have watched a Christmas Special that really doesn’t fit into one of the usual categories. It doesn’t really teach any lessons, and at the same time, has nothing to do with the overall story of Babar. I think this can be traced to the fact that rather than a special written for TV, it appears to be a direct adaptation of one of the Babar books. The special, as such, comes off as not so much a special, but rather just an animated story book. I think the story really works as a picture book for kids, but not so much as a direct translation to the screen. Like I mentioned, there is no real moral or lesson to be learned by watching it, and as such it is really very forgettable. I only watched it last night and I find it slipping from my mind.

I can’t say I recommend this special to anyone over the age of 5. Very young children may enjoy the cartoonish antics of Rataxes, as well as the scenes with a flying elephant. If, however, you loved the Babar cartoon as a child, and you’re looking for a special to watch with the kids that will become a perennial favourite, I don’t think you’ll find yourself wanting to watch this one more than once.

Twas The Bump In The Night Before Christmas

November 24, 2011

For as long as I have loved watching Christmas Specials, there was one in particular that I loved seeing as a kid, but it took me until 2 years ago to finally track down a copy of my own. Nowadays the complete series has been released on DVD, but I remember before that happened how overjoyed I was when I discovered that the Christmas episode had been released individually on DVD. While the show only lasted one season, it cranked out one heck of a memorable Christmas Special, that as far as I am concerned is just as memorable as the show was, if not even a little bit more. “Twas The Night Before Bumpy” is the name of the Christmas Special, and it is the holiday episode for the stop motion children’s show Bump In The Night. What makes this special so great that I tried for years to hunt it down? You’ll just have to keep reading to find out.

The cover of the DVD case

Incase some of you are unfamiliar with Bump In The Night (And most people are), I’ll tell you a bit about the show. Bump In The Night was a claymation, stop motion show that was made in a traditional cartoon style. Our main character was Mr. Bumpy, a green guy with purple warts and eyes on stalks who loved to eat dirty socks left around the house. He is the creature that goes bump in the night, although he is not scary in the least. His best friends are a blue blob named Squishy, and a patched together dolly named Molly. Most episodes focused around Mr. Bumpy’s quest to eat socks and do silly things around the house, and most episodes featured a song or two, and a karaoke version of one of the songs at the end of the show. That’s really all you need to know, now on to the special.

The title card after the opening credits

The story begins on Christmas Eve. Mr Bumpy has laid some traps in the living room to try and catch Santa so he can steal his bag of toys. Squishy comes looking for Bumpy and trips all the traps, and only narrowly espaces being eaten by the Closet Monster. He only escape because Bumpy gives the monster a gift from under the tree, a nice neck tie (Even though Bumpy meant to give him a box of nitro glycerine) Bumpy and Squishy go find Molly who is helping prepare Squishy’s Annual Christmas Pageant. Squishy apologizes to Bumpy about wrecking his trap, and admits he’d love to take a peek inside of Santa’s bag, because he wants a pair of feet for Christmas so that he has something to attach tap shoes to. It has been Squishy’s lifelong dream to be a tap dancer, a dream squashed by the fact that he has no feet. Bumpy and Squishy decide that instead of waiting for Santa to come to them, they will go to the North Pole to steal the bag. They leave Molly in charge of the pageant, and head off on their journey.

After walking for hours, they seem to have ended up in South America, having gone the wrong way. They are captured by an earthworm, who just happens to be a general. Bumpy tells the worm that if he digs them a tunnel to the North Pole, Bumpy will give him a pair of robotic arms to make his commanding an army a whole lot easier. The worm agrees and they are on their way. Somehow they end up at Stonehenge, and an elderly hummingbird almost eats the general, but instead she knocks over one of the pillars and crushes him. She tells Bumpy that she needs to keep moving because there is no food for her here, and she needs to eat to fly, and needs to fly to eat. Bumpy tells her that if she will fly them to the North Pole, he will give her a jet pack so she doesn’t have to fly everywhere, and therefore won’t always be so hungry. She agrees, and off they go. Right as they arrive, she tries to eat Squishy because she is so hungry, and Bumpy and Squishy jump away from her and fall to the ground. They have arrived at Santa’s home, only to find that it is a fortress guarded by an army of snowmen and a squadron of elves! How will they get inside?

Santa's fortress at the North Pole

At this point we cut back to Molly at home. She is used to always being kind and supportive, but now the cast of the pageant is pushing her around, and she loses it. She becomes super bossy and pushes everyone as hard as she can to try and make the show perfect.

Back at the North Pole, to sneak inside,Bumpy and Squishy dress up as a snowman and almost make it through the front door, only to be stopped by some elves. They jump out of their costume and run inside, with snowmen and elves hot on their trail. Through some miracle, they find a trap door that takes them down to the basement, where Santa’s bag is. Just as they are about the enter the bag chamber, they are surrounded. Squishy stays behind so that Bumpy can go grab the bag, and Bumpy makes a run for it. The bag room scene is like a fun spoof of Raiders of The Lost Ark, with trap doors and booby traps, and even a rolling Santa boulder! Bumpy runs out of there with the bag and escapes the boulder just in time. With no time to spare, he hijacks Santa’s Sleigh and tries to escape. The elves and snowmen are opening fire, and Squishy makes it out just in time to grab on the back of the sleigh while Bumpy takes off. Bumpy is overjoyed now that he has the bag and doesn’t have to share with anyone, because he never planned to give the general or the hummingbird their gifts all along. However, the bag has sprung a leak, and now on his way back home, Bumpy is actually dropping hundreds of presents down chimneys without even noticing. Along the way the worm gets his arms, the bird gets her jetpack, and children all over the world get their presents as well.

Presents falling off the sleigh and into chimneys

Bumpy and Squishy finally make it home, and crash land in on the pageant. Presents go flying, and everyone there gets their presents, leaving only one final present in the bag. Bumpy snatches it up, only to be confronted by Squishy, who is upset that Bumpy broke his promise. Bumpy points out that Squishy did all the brave and daring things that night without feet, so why would he need them anyways? Squishy agrees that he doesn’t need feet for those things, but still needs them to tap dance. Bumpy geels guilty, and gives Squishy the last present, which just so happens to be tap shoe noisemakers! Squishy doesn’t need feet after all to be a great tap dancer, as he proves with his new gift.

Squishy putting on a show with his tap shoe noisemakers

Molly is at the end of her rope, and tells Bumpy he needs to sing his song for the finale of the pageant. He gets up and regales them all with a song about the lesson he learned this Christmas, that sometimes it just feels great to be selfless and give other people presents, rather than have them all for yourself, which would make everyone else sad. Molly is touched by the song and realizes how mean she was being, and goes off crying, revealing the only thing she really wanted for Christmas was a hug from everyone. They all decide to forgive her because they were being mean and rude to her, and they all go give her a big hug. Everyone has received a gift now, save for Bumpy, when suddenly the Closet Monster appears again. He gives Bumpy a very special present: a limited edition smelly sock, and Bumpy is overjoyed! Merry Christmas to all, and to all a good night!

This is such a great and fun Christmas Special that does a really nice job at getting it’s point across. It only really falls into one category as far as these specials go, as it is really a one off that has nothing to do with a show’s overall plot or story. It basically uses Christmas to get across a point, and that is that you can feel just as great giving gifts as you can receiving them. Mr. Bumpy learns this lesson once he sees just how happy everyone at the pageant is when they open the presents that Santa meant for them to have. Even though his present was lost along the way, he still gets great joy from seeing the smiles of his friends. It is a nice lesson to convey to the kids, especially when such a greedy and silly character like Mr. Bumpy can learn it.

One of the great things about this special that I didn’t really touch on in my synopsis, is that it is filled with music throughout, so kids won’t be bored by the time the hour long special (without commercials) comes to an end. They do a great job of making the songs memorable too by using familiar Holiday songs (Oh Christmas Tree, The Dreidel Song, The 12 Days of Christmas), but changing the words to fit in with what is currently going on in the episode. It keeps the show from lagging and allows some scenes in the show to be conveyed by montage, which really helps speed the story along. The words to the songs are so memorable, in fact, that even though I probably went almost 10 years between viewing when I bought the DVD, I still knew a lot of the lyrics to the songs. As an example, here is the song the snowmen and elves sing:

I highly recommend this Christmas Special to both kids and adults alike. Kids will get a kick out of all the wacky and cartoony fun Bumpy and Squishy get in to, and the adults will love the songs and the set design for the North Pole, as well as the Indiana Jones reference. It is a little long, at just under an hour, but if it doesn’t have you laughing, it will for sure have your toes tapping.

Animaniacs Special A Christmas Comedy Classic

November 23, 2011

While Hey Arnold’s Christmas was the tape I make sure to watch every year, there is one tape my girlfriend makes sure to watch every holiday season, and that is “Animaniacs Heloooo, Holidays” With Animaniacs being more of an animated sketch show, featuring a whole cavalcade of characters, this is a more all over the place Christmas Special than most of the others that I will be reviewing. Don’t worry though, that doesn’t mean this one has any less laughs or Christmas messages than the rest. But what’s it all about?

The cover of the VHS tape

Well, like I mentioned earlier, this is a sketch show in a sense, so there is not an overall story arc for the episode, and none of the sketches have anything to do with one another. For those not familiar with Animaniacs, the show is about the Warner Brothers, Yakko and Wakko, and their sister Dot. They are 3 zany creatures who live in the Warner Brothers Studios’ water tower. They make trouble all over the movie studio and are chased around by Ralph, the studio security guard, and locked back up by Dr. Scratchansniff, Hello Nurse and The CEO. Most sketches focus on them, although there are other characters in their own sketches that pop up as well, including Pinky and The Brain, The Goodfeathers, Slappy the Squirrel and Buttons and Mindy. That’s pretty much all you need to know about the characters, but now let’s get to how they are used in the Christmas Special.

It starts with their take on “The Night Before Christmas”, with Ralph taking over the role of Santa. The CEO and Dr. S have told Ralph he must dress as St. Nick and deliver presents to the Warners to keep them appeased. It is told entirely through rhyme, and has a few good moments. From there we get to see a “Good Idea, Bad Idea” sketch themed around Christmas. Next up is a sketch about Chicken Boo, a man sized chicken who is standing in as a store Santa. Nobody seems to see that he is a chicken except for a small boy who is terrified of the big chicken man. He pulls of the beard and the people all turn on Boo, but instead of his usual beating, he ends up in Santa’s sleigh for a happy ending. We also get a funny musical number about how big the universe is, with the great chorus “It’s a great big universe and we’re all really puny, We’re just tiny little specks about the size of Mickey Rooney” Other than the song about the countries of the world, this is probably my favourite Animaniacs song in the show’s history and I’m glad it’s in this special. We also get to see a little upbeat jazzy version of The Little Drummer Boy that is a nice little break before the longer and more serious sketches.

Chicken Boo, dressed as Santa

After those opening sketches, we get into the two more traditional style Christmas sketches on the tape. The first is one that goes for the meaning of Christmas, and I think it does a great job at doing so. It is actually a really touching little sketch called “A Gift of Gold”, narrated by the modern day voice of Winnie the Pooh, Jim Cummings. As funny as it may sound, they story is about the adventures of a piece of gold wrapping paper. We follow it from its simple beginnings at a department store wrapping counter, through it’s initial tearing appart to get to a present, and then its terrifying journey to the dump. You start to feel bad for this little scrap of wrap, and are overjoyed when it escapes the dump and blows all the way back to town. There, a down on his luck man finds the little scrap of gold and uses it to wrap a discarded toy that he has mended for his son. He takes the present to his car, where he and his family appear to be living, and hands it to his son. The young boy is not only overjoyed to be getting a present, knowing how tough times are for his folks, but is equally excited about the beautiful wrapping paper as well. Rather than discard it, he folds it up carefully and keeps it in his pocket, much to the joy of his parents, as it seems they have taught him that sometimes even the little things in life can be beautiful, and should never be taken for granted.

The gold paper, before it takes its long journey

From there we go on to another traditional Christmas Special trope, a version of A Christmas Carol. Standing in for Scrooge is the CEO of Warner Brothers. It is Christmas Eve and he fires Ralph for not keeping a batter eye on the Warners, which is costing the studio big bucks. He goes on to be visited by 3 ghosts, each one in the form of one of the Warners. The Ghost of Christmas Past, played by Wakko, shows the CEO how bad a kid he was growing up, leading up to him forcing his father to retire so he could take over the movie studio. Next, Dot comes in as the Ghost of Christmas Present, and shows the CEO how he has ruined Ralph’s family’s Christmas. Finally, we see Yakko as the Ghost of Christmas Future, showing the CEO that one day Ralph’s son will take over as CEO and demote him to security guard. The CEO sees the error of his ways, and in true Scrooge fashion, rushes over to give Ralph his job back, as well as try and win over Ralph’s son, as to avoid becoming security guard one day down the line. As most characters in this situation do, the CEO has now been given an idea of what the meaning of Christmas is: Being generous and spending time with loved ones.

The CEO being confronted by the Ghost of Christmas Future

After that we get two more sketches, including one where Wakko belches along to Jingle Bells, which while kind of funny, can sound disgusting if you’re not into that sort of thing. The other is a spoof of Goodnight Moon, which I guess is a nice way to end a special.

For the most part, the Animaniacs aren’t meant to be taken seriously, just like their Warner cartoon predecessors, The Looney Tunes. However, as is proved by the wonderful sketch “A Gift Of Gold”, they do know how to be serious if the situation arises. That one sketch is worth watching this tape for, because it takes master storytellers and animators to make you really feel for something as seemingly meaningless as a piece of wrapping paper, and boy do they make you feel for it. By the end of the episode, when the paper is truly appreciated, and the message that sometimes the little things can mean so much is put out there, it really can be enough to bring a tear to one’s eye.

Also, as I touched on earlier, they do go the Scrooge way in the one sketch. They get the usual meaning across, that it is important to be with family and loved ones for the holidays, as well as to be as generous as you can. It’s a fun little take on the trope, and is short enough to not overshadow anything else on the tape.

Other than that sketch, the other are mostly funny and make for an altogether enjoyable Christmas tape to watch no matter your age. I recommend this tape to viewers young and old alike. The youngsters will love the broad comedy, and the older viewers will get the jokes aimed at them that they might not have gotten when they were just a kid. If you aren’t a big fan of the show however, just make sure you give “A Gift of Gold” a chance. You won’t regret it.