Posts Tagged ‘What-A-Mess Christmas’

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.