Archive for the ‘Christmas’ 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.

Modern Family Christmas Episode A True Classic

December 3, 2011

As much as I have been enjoying watching animated Christmas specials the past week, I really wanted to take a break from doing so and watch a nice sitcom Christmas episode. I love cartoons as much as the next TV junkie, but I was feeling a little wonky and tired today, and knew I needed something with rapid fire jokes that would keep me awake and laughing. Having just received the blu-ray of Season 2 of Modern Family in the mail the other day, the show was fresh in my mind, and I remembered how funny the Season 1 Christmas episode is. I can honestly say, as soon as I popped in the disc, I started to feel my exhaustion slipping away, and was brought right out of my funk by some solid belly laughs. It’s a very funny show to have on DVD or Blu-ray and just watch a bunch of episodes back to back, but is the Christmas episode one worth going out of your way to watch? I’ll talk about it in a second, but first a run down of the show for those who aren’t familiar with it.

The show is shot in a mockumentary style, much like The Office or Arrested Development, and focuses on the lives of a quirky extended family, split into 3 smaller families of their own. The first is Jay Pritchett and his young, beautiful, Colombian second wife Gloria, as well as her very mature for his age son from her first marriage, Manny. Their stories mainly focus around Jay and Gloria and their cultural clashes. Next would be Jay’s daughter Claire’s family. She is married to Phil, a quirky man child who makes his living as a real estate agent. They have 3 kids together: Haley, a popular 15 year old who isn’t the sharpest crayon in the box, Alex, a nerdy 13 year old who resents Haley and focuses mainly on her grades, and Luke, their 10 year old son who marches to the beat of his own drum. Their stories focus mainly on the complications that arise from raising 2 teenage girls and an odd ball middle school aged son, as well as Phil’s goofiness and how it doesn’t sit well with uptight Claire. Finally, we have Jay’s son Mitchell’s family, consisting of himself, his long time boyfriend Cam, and their adopted Vietnamese baby girl named Lily. Their conflicts mostly arise from the two of them trying to keep each other in check, with Cam being fairly high strung, while Mitchell is more laid back, but very much a snob and a perfectionist. Most episodes switch back and forth between all three families and occasionally has them all together for larger family gatherings where they confront the larger, overlapping issues. Those are the basics, now on to the Christmas episode titled “Undeck The Halls”

The episode starts on Christmas Eve Day with Claire’s branch of the Pritchett family tree all standing around Phil’s laptop dressed in hideous Christmas sweaters. It turns out that Phil has got his father down in Florida on Skype to show off the sweaters that Phil’s mother had sent them. While showing him their tree and the new glass ornament Phil’s dad had sent them, Claire notices a small cigarette sized burn on the arm of the couch and loses it on her kids. Phil tries to stay upbeat and keep talking with his father and try not make a scene, but with all of the kids denying it was them and Claire about to explode, he quickly wishes his dad a Merry Christmas and logs off.

Everyone in their Christmas sweaters

After the theme song, we cut to Jay and Gloria’s house, where Jay is on the couch watching Miracle on 34th Street with Manny, whom up until this year has spent every Christmas in Colombia and has never seen the Christmas classic. Jay, ever the manly man, is even moved to tears by the film, and just as he thinks Manny is getting into it, a scary monster pops up on the screen and Manny and Gloria start laughing and calling Jay the “Innocente!” It turns out in Colombia, everyone plays tricks on each other at Christmas time, and Manny has just gotten Jay good. Jay is upset not only because he was frightened, but because he doesn’t buy into most of their Colombian traditions and wants to have a traditional Christmas like he used to have when Claire and Mitchell were kids.


We then cut to the mall where Cam and Mitchell are in line to get Lily’s first photo with Santa, and Mitchell is doing nothing but complaining about how long they have had to wait. Just as Cam is trying to tell Mitchell to look on the bright side of things, a group of carolers come along and Cam becomes visibly perturbed. It turns out it is the singing group Cam founded a few years back who gave him the boot last year, and he is still bitter about it. Now both Cam and Mitchell are about at the end of their ropes, when they finally get to the front of the line. Just as they do however, the jolly fat Santa goes on break, and a much slimmer, very un-jolly Santa takes the chair. Mitchell makes a fuss and says he’d rather wait for fat Santa to come back, so he and Cam go to the side of the line while Cam heckles the carolers.

Now back to Claire and Phil’s house, where all three kids have been sat down on the couch and are being grilled about who it was that smoked in the house and burned the couch. After they all continue to deny it, Phil takes the dramatic step of telling them that unless someone steps forward, he and Claire will be cancelling Christmas. The kids, and Claire, are all upset and don’t believe Phil, but he even goes so far as to tear the tree down and drag it outside.

Phil, taking away the tree

Back to the mall with Cam and Mitchell, they have finished their visit with Santa and their shopping, and are packing things into the car when slimmer Santa comes along to help them fit Lily’s stroller in the trunk. He tells them he is an expert car packer, after having lived out of his for so long. They thank the helpful Santa, who tells them he was just fired from his job as Santa because people complained that he didn’t look the part. Both Cam and Mitchell feel awful, so to help themselves feel better about the situation, Cam invites homeless and now jobless Santa to Christmas Eve dinner.

Meanwhile at Jay’s house, Jay is running down his usual Christmas routine with Manny and Gloria, who are upset that Jay doesn’t want to include aspects of their Colombian Christmas in his traditions. Manny becomes very upset and goes up to his room, and Jay just doesn’t get why Manny doesn’t want to just go along with his traditions.

Back at Claire and Phil’s, the kids are all trying to figure out who burned the couch, but none of them will say they did it. Alex has the idea that if they all come forward ala Spartacus, their parents would be so touched that they stuck together that they’ll just forgive them, and they’ll get their Christmas back. The girls talk Luke into confessing first, and after he does, Alex and Haley back out. Just as Phil is bringing the tree back in, Luke admits it wasn’t him and the kids all start fighting again, and Phil drags the tree back outside.

Over at Cam and Mitchell’s, Scott (Homeless Santa) is telling them the stories of his hard luck life, from being in the Marines, to going now from town to town picking up odd jobs. He is really grateful that they invited him over, and are letting him do his laundry. Just as they are feeling bad enough to tell him they got him fired, he gets pretty intense and they decide to keep it a secret. Scott goes to throw in another load, and Jay shows up to drop off a few presents for Cam and Mitchell. He starts telling them about how Manny and Gloria are trying to change his traditions, and they tell him that what he is aiming for is recreating memories, while he should be making new memories and new traditions. Cam and Mitchell tell Jay that they love making new traditions every year for the holidays, to keep things fun and interesting, and just then Scott walks back into the room wearing only his Santa pants, and the room is filled with an awkward silence as Jay doesn’t know what to say.

I don't know what I'd say either

While Jay is out, Manny and Gloria are taking the opportunity to talk about Jay’s resistance to their traditions. Gloria explains to Manny that Jay is just set in his ways and is looking forward to recreating his old memories from his old family with his new family, and Manny finally gets it and decides the best present to get Jay is to try and uphold his traditions.

Meanwhile Claire and Phil are trying to decide whether cancelling Christmas is really the best option when Alex comes downstairs and tells them that she is the one who smoked and burned the couch. She begs that they bring Christmas back, and is willing to accept any punishment handed down. They ground her for a week, and then Phil goes outside to get the tree while everyone else sets the decorations back up.

A little bit later, dinner is winding to a close at Cam and Mitchell’s, and Scott is packing things up to go. They still want to tell him that they are the ones who accidentally got him fired, but just can’t bring themselves to. Just as Cam is saying goodbye to Scott, he hears the carolers outside, and flys off the handle. Scott tells Cam to calm down and that the best thing he could do would be to forgive them, because if he hadn’t forgiven Cam and Mitchell that afternoon for getting hin fired, he never would have had such a great Christmas dinner. They realize now that Scott knew all along, and Cam takes the high road to go tell the carolers that they are doing a great job, when the new leader of the group insults Cam. Scott isn’t going to let him get away with it and punches the guy square in the jaw, and then realizes he better high tail it out of the neighbourhood, telling them that while forgiveness is nice, some people are just assholes and need a good pop in the mouth.

Scott punching the caroler in the mouth

Jay has come back from being out to drop off presents, and walks into the kitchen to see Gloria and Manny making Colombian food instead of a traditional Christmas feast and yells at them about how he wants things his way. They both look hurt until Jay yells “Innocente!” and tells them he is excited to make a few new traditions, starting with setting off fireworks on Christmas like they do in Colombia. Manny and Gloria are ecstatic, and Manny and Jay go in for a hug.

It’s now Christmas morning, and Claire and the family are all opening presents when the couch starts to smoke. It turns out the glass ornament from Phil’s dad acted as a magnifying glass and burned the hole in the couch, not a cigarette. Phil and Claire realize they were wrong to not believe their kids were telling the truth, and to make it up to them Phil foolishly tells them he will take the family on a vacation to Italy, much to Claire’s dismay.

We now cut to a montage of Christmas dinner at Jay and Gloria’s and a voiceover by Jay starts playing. He goes on to say “We talk a lot about tradition this time of year. But as much as we love our traditions, sometimes our best memories come from the times that were…untraditional. We remember when Mom and Dad when crazy, we remember when Santa punched out the caroler. But for me, this was the year the word “tradition” got a lot bigger.”

Everyone enjoying Christmas Dinner

We have a final sketch as the credits roll, and as Jay and Manny are watching the DVD Jay made on Christmas, the monster pops up on the screen again and Manny has made Jay the “Innocente!” one last time, a nice light ending to the episode.

This is a great current sitcom episode, and hard to fit under my usual categories. It is mainly an episode to get a few nice Christmas lessons across, but at the same time is not totally a one off, because the show does have certain continuity that pops up again in later episodes. The first lesson is that Christmas is a time for forgiveness, and if someone didn’t mean to wrong you (Like Cam and Mitchell toward Scott), all can be forgiven if you’re willing to make an effort. The other lesson they teach is basically what Jay touches on in his speech, that as nice as it is to have regular Christmas traitions and memories, the years that really stand out are the ones where things don’t go according to plan, because they’re the ones you’ll always remember. Both are very nice lessons for a Christmas episode to try and get across, and because of the human connection of live action shows, they feel slightly more real than most of the cartoon Christmas episodes I’ve been watching.

I shied away from using the world special when talking about this episode, because while it does touch on a few lessons everyone could do to be reminded of around the holidays, it’s not a special in the sense that it sets out to do nothing else but teach lessons. It’s a regular episode of the show that just happens to take place at Christmas, and while the lessons are a nice touch, most of the first season of Modern Family focussed on a lesson or two being taught by the end of each episode. Not that this in any way detracts from the show. Quite the contrary, I like the fact that the show is so well written that they can get away with inserting a Christmas lesson or two and not make it feel hokey or out of place. This show really was perfect for having a sweet and funny Christmas episode that can be enjoyed by both fans of the show and casual TV watchers alike.

I recommend this episode to adults and families, but wouldn’t recommend that kids watch it on their own, because most jokes might need explaining to a younger audience. This show is really great for most demographics, and I can’t say I think that one age group would enjoy it more than another, because there are just as many jokes aimed at teens and 20 somethings as there are aimed at people in the 35+ demographic. It’s a really great family show that I actually watch with the family when they are around, but at the same time I love watching it just me and my girlfriend as well.

I would consider this episode to be a new classic that I have put in my regular rotation for the holidays, and would recommend it to pretty much anyone with a sense of humour.

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.

LazyTown Special Misses The Mark, But Is Still Zany Fun

November 29, 2011

I can honestly say that I am not a big fan of many of the kids shows that have been made since the year 2000. It takes a really funny or unique show to catch my attention, and only one of these post 90s shows so far has caught my eye. That show is Lazy Town, which aired for a few season between 2004 and 2007, and still runs in syndication on some children’s channels. It is truly zany and unique and I have never seen any other show like it.

Lazy Town is kind of hard to describe. First of all, the characters are a mixture of puppets and humans, kind of like the style of Sesame Street. The three humans on the show, Sportacus, Robbie Rotten, and Stephanie, are the main characters, while everyone else in LazyTown are puppets and make up the supporting cast. The puppets look kind of odd, as they are cartoony looking and made of vinyl, which may leave you taken aback when you first see them. The show is essentially about a place called LazyTown, where all of the puppet residents are content to be lazy all the time and eat junk food. Enter Stephanie, who moves to town and finds out that there is someone named Sportacus who watches over the town and it’s people, and that he would like to help all of the residents learn about better eating habits and exercise. Everyone in town is happy with the way Sportacus comes down from his blimp to help them, with the exception of Robbie Rotten, the only other human in LazyTown, who is only happy when everyone else in town is in a bad mood. He’s kind of the Dick Dastardly or Snidely Whiplash of the show, and certainly contains physical attributes of those characters. With that in mind, I’ll tell you about the Christmas Special entitled “Surprise Santa”

The cover of the VHS tape. Also available on DVD

The episode starts with Sportacus in his blimp above LazyTown, deciding it is time to decorate for Christmas. He does some backflips and spins (Because he is so sporty), and then uses a tennis racket to hit around some Christmas balls to decorate the inside of his blimp. It’s a cute little opener for the episode, and then we switch our focus down to LazyTown.

Sportacus decorating his blimp

Stephanie is at the mayor’s house with all of her friends, and they are planning for the annual LazyTown Christmas dinner party. We then see Robbie peeking in on them from his underground lair. He is jealous that he wasn’t invited to the party, and devises a plan to embarrass Sportacus, the guest of honor at the dinner, by shooting a giant snow ball from a cannon outside into the party and knocking out Sportacus. Robbie is excited about his idea, and goes back to spying on the mayor’s house to try and peek at all the presents. Stephanie’s friend Ziggy is acting very hyper, as it would appear as though he has had a little too much sugar. Their friend Stingy is there too, but isn’t helping everyone get ready, he’s working on a Christmas list that is so long it may as well be a book. He tells everyone that he likes giving gifts, but he really just loves getting them.

Later on that night, after everyone else has gone home, Stingy is still working on his list while the mayor is hanging lights on the outside of his house. He almost falls off his ladder, but Sportacus’ danger alarm goes off and he comes down from his blimp and rescues the mayor. At the same time, Ziggy has come back and is being really annoying towards Stingy, because he is still hopped up on sugar. Stingy shoos him away, and goes to ask the mayor’s girlfriend what she thinks is the best part about Christmas, to which she tells him that the best part of it is to give of course, not to get. Stingy wanders away to think about what he has heard.

The mayor, hanging off his ladder that is now being held up safely by Sportacus' skateboard

We then cut to Robbie, who is rigging his cannon to fire through the mayor’s window at the guest of honor seat, where Sportacus will surely be seated during dinner. He sets the timer to go off at 6:00, and then goes back down to his underground lair. While this is going on, Sportacus and Stephanie are building a snowman, and Ziggy comes over telling them he’d love to help. Problem is, he’s so hyper, he knocks it over. Ziggy runs away upset, but Sportacus tells him he shouldn’t be upset, rather he should just cut down on the candy and start eating “Sports Candy”, Sportacus’ code for vegetables. Ziggy feels better now, and even calms down a bit.

Sportacus, Ziggy and a piece of "Sports Candy"

We cut back down to Robbie’s lair, and he has decided that he wants to steal Christmas, so what better costume to sneak around in than a Santa Claus outfit? He dresses up in one while all of the other characters sing about Christmas and have a snowball fight. Robbie goes back up into the town, and is about to sneak into the mayor’s house when Ziggy comes across him. Ziggy tells him that he has been good, so to get rid of him, Robbie gives him some candy. Ziggy tells him he really shouldn’t, but Robbie tells him of course he should, because Santa has told him to. Ziggy eats it all, becomes insanely hyper, tells Robbie everything he wants for Christmas, and eventually leaves. Robbie thinks he is free and clear, when Stingy comes up and hands him his Christmas list, which must weigh 30 pounds. Stingy wanders off, satisfied to have dropped off the list, and Robbie makes his way up to the mayor’s chimney.

Robbie sneaking down the mayor's chimney

Everyone inside the mayor’s house is ready for dinner, when they realize they are missing a Christmas tree! They all take off to go find one, and Robbie sneaks in to steal all of the presents. He has almost all of them packed up, when he realizes that they have bought him a present, and don’t hate him after all! He unpacks the presents quickly, and tries to get away back up the chimney, but gets stuck. Everyone comes into the house, and thinks it is Santa! Ziggy is super excited, and helps pull Santa out, pulling off the costume and revealing Robbie is Santa! They ask why he is there, and he tells them he came to deliver presents!

They invite him to stay for dinner, and as a show of gratitude, they let him sit in the guest of honor chair. Everything goes well, until the clock strikes 6:00, and Robbie realizes a giant snowball will be headed their way any second. He tells everyone to duck, and Sportacus does some fancy flips on the table, catches the snowball, and throws it back outside. He thanks Robbie for the warning, and everyone sings and opens presents. Robbie finds out his present is a pair of socks, and decides he’d rather just stay a bad guy and not hang with this crowd. In his anger, the throws the head of the snowman Stephanie and Sportacus made through the air, and it lands in his cannon, which resets to go off in 1 minute. Robbie goes back down to his lair, and after he sits down, he hears his cannon go off, and the snowman head goes flying, lands in the secret tube down to Robbie’s lair, and lands on his head, a cute ending to the special.

Robbie's sad snowman head

This is kind of an odd special, because of the manor of the show, though I’d have to say it is an episode that teaches a non-Christmas related lesson, but uses Christmas as the reason to get a point across. The main lesson I got from the episode is that it is ok to have candy in small doses, but if you have too much it’s not good for you. Instead, have a little bit of candy, and then have a healthy snack, which I guess is a good lesson for kids from a fitness oriented show. I think they try and hint that Stingy should realize that Christmas is about giving and not receiving, but it is never implied that he picked up on the message, and he seems to stay as spoiled and bratty as always.

Also, you’d think that maybe they would have had Robbie be good for at least half an episode, but once he finds out they bought him socks, he goes back to being a jerk as well. I guess they didn’t want to confuse the kids by changing the attitudes of the characters, because in their eyes, Robbie is always a bad guy and Stingy is always a brat. For the older viewers however, it comes as a bit of a let down that with so many chances to teach the typical Christmas lessons, none of the opportunities are seized.

On the plus side however, the songs in this show are really catchy and fun and will have your toes tapping.

I would recommend this special for kids and adult fans alike. Kids will like the singing and puppets, and while the episode really doesn’t utilize it’s position to get across any cute Christmas messages, it’s still fun to watch the antics of Sportacus and Robbie, no matter your age. Their movements, Robbie’s especially, are so over the top and exaggerated, that it feels almost like watching an old silent movie when you watch all of his scheming and physical comedy. It’s a fun special to watch with the kids, or if you are into the zany action of LazyTown. Otherwise, I’d suggest skipping this special, because while I think some kids shows are universal, LazyTown is an acquired taste that many adults just won’t like.

Popular Christmas Special Is One You Probably Haven’t Heard Of

November 28, 2011

Before Glee mania swept the nation a few years ago, there was another show that Glee creator Ryan Murphy had created way back in 1999 that was set in a high school that despite its name, didn’t maintain its popularity for as long as he may have hoped. The show was called “Popular”, and followed the lives of two separate cliques in a high school: the popular cheerleader girls along with their jock boyfriends, lead by Brooke McQueen, and a group of female social outcasts and their male friend, lead by Sam McPherson. While Popular may have only lasted two seasons, from what I understand, it does have a bit of a cult following, and after having made my way through the first half of the first season, I can certainly understand why. On the other hand, because it wasn’t afraid to tackle certain story lines, I can also understand why this show might not be everyone’s cup of tea and did only last for a couple of seasons. From the episodes I’ve watched thus far, there was a Christmas Special that I’d like talk about today because I haven’t touched on one that falls under this category yet. But to understand the special, I’ll have to give you a little background on the show.

The cover of the season one DVD box set

I already explained about Sam and Brooke, but each one of their friends and family members play important roles in this show. Sam’s widowed mom and Brooke’s divorcee dad met on a singles cruise and have been dating since the beginning of the school year, much to the disappointment of both girls. Sam and her mom have even moved in with Brooke and her dad, causing tensions to rise even higher. Sam has her friends Lily, Carmen and Harrison to rely on for support, while Brooke, being the head cheerleader, has the rest of her squad to fall back on to, including her second in command Nicole, as well as a new transfer student named Mary Cherry and her friend Poppita. Also, unlike Sam and her friends, Brooke isn’t single and hangs around with her boyfriend, named Josh, who is always in the company of his plus sized best friend Sugar Daddy. Most episodes of the show center around issues between the two cliques, with the first few episodes focussing on Sam’s plus sized friend Carmen desperately wanting to be one of the cheerleaders. While Brooke wishes she could have Carmen on the squad, because Carmen is the best dancer at the school, Nicole convinces her otherwise because according to her, having a big girl on the squad would make their squad the laughing stock of the cheerleading world. That is pretty much all you need to know coming in to the Christmas special titled “Fall On Your Knees”

Nicole counting the UNICEF money

The episode starts off with Brooke and Nicole in the very posh girl’s washroom counting out the charity money the cheer squad has raised for UNICEF, with Nicole commenting that they could take some of the money to buy things for themselves, to which Brooke seems kind of disgusted, but just figures Nicole is being her usual bitchy self. Brooke realizes that they will beat last year’s record, which reminds her of a friend both girls lost last year. Brooke asks Nicole if she misses their friend and former cheer captain, Marley Jacob (Does the name sound familiar Dickens fans?), which causes Nicole to have a flashback to last year. Nicole looks a lot less preppy, and is under the tutelage of Marley to becoming one of the popular girls. Nicole is counting out the UNICEF money, with the intentions of giving it to the charity, when Marley exits her bathroom stall wiping vomit from her lips, and says they are going to use the money to go shopping. Nicole is clearly worried about her friend’s eating disorder, but even after saying something, Marley says she’d rather be thin than healthy. We cut to the girls about the walk into the mall, when Marley collapses. Her heart gave out from her eating disorder, and she passes away. Nicole flashes back to the present, and her and Brooke gather their things to leave the washroom, when Carmen walks in. She says she heard about the charity and gives Nicole some money, even after Nicole makes a joke about Carmen’s weight. Brooke leaves, and Nicole tells Carmen that she can try and brown nose all she wants, but it won’t help her get a spot on the cheer squad for second semester. Carmen tells Nicole she gave out of the goodness of her heart what with Christmas coming up, to which Nicole just says Bah-humbug, and the theme song starts.

Nicole's Bah-humbug face

After the break, we come back to Sam and Brooke decorating their tree together and talking about their respective Christmas traditions. It turns out that they both normally have all of their friends over to their respective houses for a Christmas Eve dinner, meaning one of them will have to forgo with the plan this year. After arguing for a bit, their parents agree that they should instead just have one big party, which neither girl really seems happy to hear. We cut to the next day at school and we see Carmen hobble into the school on crutches, and rather than show some compassion, Nicole just knocks Carmen’s books right out of her hands. Everyone heads off to science class, where Carmen tells Sam and Lily about how she sprained her ankle practicing some dance moves. Nicole says something bitchy, and then their teacher, Ms. Glass enters the class. She tells them that she really dislikes them as a class, but in the spirit of Christmas, she is cancelling their final exam and upping all of their GPAs half a point. Everyone seems overjoyed, except of course Nicole, who goes on a rant about how awful Christmas is, to which Ms. Glass basically tells Nicole that she’s being kind of a Scrooge.

Later, when everyone is leaving class, Carmen hobbles out, and we cue the Charlie Brown Christmas song while watching Carmen Tiny Tim her way through town, stopping at a store window and looking in at cheerleading uniforms on the manequins. She meets up with Sam, Lily and Harrison at a coffee shop, and even though she feels bad about herself, she says she knows there are people worse off. They look out the window and see the next social group down being harassed by bullies, and realize they should extend to them an invitation to the Christmas party at Brooke’s. Brooke and her gang are also at the coffee shop, and she suggests that in the spirit of Christmas they should let Carmen onto the squad, which Mary Cherry and Poppita agree about, but not Nicole, and since it has to be unanimous, it’s a no go. Nicole storms out to drop off the charity money, but upon seeing the blind charity collector, she actually steals money from the pot. She takes the money into the mall and finds Ms. Glass working the Clinque counter to make some extra holiday money (to buy her sister a hairless cat), and doesn’t waste a beat torturing her. Nicole asks for a product, then requests the manager and ends up getting Ms. Glass fired. Nicole is pleased with herself, and goes home to enjoy Christmas Eve by herself with her big pile of stolen money. While sitting in front of the fireplace, she hears the clocks start chiming and to her surprise, who should appear but the ghost of Marley Jacob!

The ghost of Marley Jacob

Nicole can’t believe her eyes, but Marley assures her that she is real and is here to warn Nicole about her wicked ways. She tells her that she will be visited by three ghosts who will show her the error of her ways, and that if she doesn’t change she will be forced to walk the earth as a spirit when she dies as well. Nicole, in true Scrooge form, still doesn’t believe it and goes to her room to try and go to sleep. Not too long after, her door swings open and standing there is Ms. Glass, who is the Ghost of Christmas Past. She takes Nicole on a trip down memory lane to when she was just a baby. Nicole’s mom resents her even as an infant, and the only person who seems to care about her is her Nana, the only family member Nicole has any happy memories of. From there we cut to Nicole as an unpopular, slightly chubby kid in grade 2 whom nobody likes, and they treat her the way she now treats Sam and her friends, especially Carmen. She runs home to her grandma, who cheers her up by giving her an early Christmas present, a ballerina music box. Nicole tells the spirit about how this is the best present she ever got, and misses her grandmother to this day, shedding some light on another reason why Nicole hates the holidays. We fast forward a bit until last year, right after Marley has died. Nicole is now queen bitch, and everyone at school takes notice of her new look. Nicole is now cruel to everyone in the school, and even makes Carmen run away crying, the same way those mean girls did to Nicole when she was a child. Nicole starts to feel a little bad, but then we hear the clocks chiming and she wakes up from her dream of the past.

Nicole and Mary Cherry aka The Ghost of Christmas Present

In sticking true to the story, Nicole is now visited by Mary Cherry, the Ghost of Christmas Present. She takes Nicole on a trip to Brooke’s house, where everyone has come together under one roof, despite their social standing, except of course Nicole. Brooke and Sam seem to have even buried that hatchet, as they exchange thoughtful gifts. Even the extremely unpopular kids have shown up, and when everyone is making their toasts, even though everyone is bad mouthing Nicole, Brooke still proposes a toast to Nicole, and Carmen spouts off the infamous “God bless us everyone” line. Nicole is taken aback by their kindness, but once again, we hear the clock chime and Nicole is taken away from the party to a dark place, and Mary Cherry tells her that she can see Nicole’s future, and it is nothing but doom! Nicole runs away, only to come across the third and final ghost, Christmas Future.

Nicole with the Ghost of Christmas Future

The cloaked spirit takes Nicole to next Christmas, where we see Brooke, Josh and Sugar Daddy studying for their finals, when Sam comes downstairs. She asks if she can join them, and all is well until Sugar Daddy mentions Carmen, which upsets Sam and she abruptly leaves the table. Nicole doesn’t understand, Carmen only had a sprained ankle, until Sugar Daddy mentions how deadly and fast gangrene is. Nicole asks the spirit to take her home, but the spirit takes her instead to a cemetery where Nicole finds her own grave, and she learns she died alone. Nicole repents to the spirit, and tells it that she has turned over a new leaf, and will do her best to keep the spirit of Christmas alive all of the days of the year. The spirit takes her hand, and she wakes up in her bed, and it is still Christmas Eve. She jumps out of bed, opens her ballerina music box, and then sets off on her quest to make up for her wrongdoings.

Her first stop is the blind charity collector, where she puts back the money she stole, plus the money the cheer squad raised, as well as a little extra. From there she heads off to Brooke’s house, where she shows up with an armful of presents. She has bought one for everyone there, everyone except Carmen that is. She then gives Carmen an ice pack and tells her to ice that ankle, because she’ll need to be in top shape when she starts cheer practice after the break. Carmen is overjoyed, and everyone else is happy to see that Nicole has turned over a new leaf. They are all so happy in fact, that they feel like caroling!

Nicole giving Ms. Glass a hairless cat

We cut to Ms. Glass’ apartment, where she is on the balcony with her sister, and apologizing that she couldn’t afford to buy her that hairless cat. Then they hear the singing from below, and Ms. Glass heads down, only to have Nicole hand her a hairless cat and apologize for being such a Scrooge. We fade out while everyone is still caroling, and the whole cast wishes us a Merry Christmas.

Well, it comes as no surprise that this episode falls under the category of being a take on Charles Dickens’ A Christmas Carol, while at the same time, it does further the overall story of the show by now making Carmen one of the cheerleaders.

It’s usually hard to judge a special when it does its own version of A Christmas Carol, but this episode does make it a somewhat easy task. Nicole, by this point in the season, was a totally unlikable character with no real apparent reason to be a bitch other than the fact that she was popular. The writers do a good job of this episode by giving us reasons as to why Nicole not only hates Christmas, but also why she has become the mean girl she is today. While she still doesn’t come off completely sympathetic, it is much easier to understand why she treated people the way she did before her ghostly encounter. I think it was the perfect Christmas episode for the show to do, because the writers really needed to have some of the audience understand Nicole and her attitude to make them care about what happens to her in upcoming episodes, rather than just think to themselves that the bitch had it coming. While they could have crafted their own story to base around Nicole, I think they made a good choice by taking the Scrooge route. It works with the hourlong show format, and opens the show up to a wider audience base by giving an unfamiliar viewer a story that they are familiar with. It gives them a better understanding of characters they don’t know much about when they can be filed under certain character types, like Nicole as Scrooge and Carmen as Tiny Tim.

I recommend this special to people who are Glee fans if they have never seen an episode of Popular. It’s less than halfway into the season, and you’ll quickly pick up on some character comparisons between the Popular bunch and the Glee club members, and you will more than likely like the show and want to go back and start watching from episode one. I would also recommend this episode to anyone who loves seeing different spins on A Christmas Carol. Although this one is pretty by the book, it still has some good moments and good jokes worth watching it for. I don’t recommend this special for children or the occasional TV viewer, as there are a few adult jokes in the episode, and while it does have some one-off Christmas special elements, it has enough story embedded in it that it is slightly exclusionary to someone not willing to do their research about the show before watching 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.