December 21, 2015

Five Animated Christmas Specials I Hate

I’ve spent the last month gong over animated specials I just loved. But of course, there are some I did not like, and it seemed only fair to discuss those too. Here are five animated specials which don’t work for me.

Family Circus Christmas
I found this on YouTube an it was just so boring! I really don’t have anything else to say about it. I like the comic ok but this sucked.

Life and Adventures of Santa Claus
Rankin/Bass didn’t always hit gold. Anyone remember their version of Jack Frost? Or Pinocchio’s First Christmas (I still haven’t sat through that), or the painful Rudolph and Frosty:Christmas In July? But there is one that I flat out hated! Life and Adventures of Santa Claus was based on a L Frank Baum book. Of course Baum is famous for The Wizard of Oz, and while I am sure the special is a faithful adaptation it is just        boring. And the story is really, really stupid. It involves a council of eternal people deciding to give Santa immortality. They then discuss Santa’s backstory…and it’s just real stupid. Not to mention the fact that the Santa Claus they establish here bears only superficial resemblance to the Santa we know popularly. There was one decent song and the whole special is better left forgotten. The saddest part is the last special R/B would produce. They should have gone out on a higher note.

December 19, 2015

Top 10 Favorite Animated Christmas Specials-#1

Welcome as I continue counting down my top 10 favorite animated Christmas specials. My #1 is a pretty obvious choice, but what else could it have been? When I was a kid watching this kicked off Christmas for me in many ways. In fact, just seeing the ad in TV Guide was enough to get me excited.  I give the you the granddaddy of all Christmas specials. Simply known as :

zz title_rudolph_red-nosed_reindeer_blu-ray 

The ironic thing is that this feels so dated. The animation is crude, even by Rankin/Bass standards, and the story is full of things you’d never see today. From the bullying of Rudolph to the flat our sexism (at one point Donner when heading out to find Rudolph says “No, this is man’s work!” and when the abominable is defeated they worry about getting “the woman folk” home. Those poor defenseless women…who set out by themselves to find Rudolph!).

Anyway, I am getting off track. This is of course based on the famous song and one thing the special has over the song is that everyone apologizes to Rudolph before he is asked to guide Santa’s sleigh. That’s a big thing, I think anyway. But the story stays true to the song which is good (even if the song sends a bad message). The story is simple, Rudolph and Hermie feel rejected so they run away.

But the story raises so many questions. Why is Santa such a jerk? Does he have to gain weight every year? Why does the elf leader’s voice change before the elf song? Why does Rudolph’s nose exclude him from reindeer games? Who in the world made those misfit toys anyway? If children rejected them why does Santa think the kids he sends them to will like them? Why did the abominable wait so damn long to eat the reindeer he captured? How exactly did Cornelius survive the fall and reform the snow monster? He says they bounce but that’s not enough! Why is the snow so bad this winter compared to other years? It’s never been stormy before? When did Santa stop going down chimney’s? Actually the last one has a partial answer. Believe it or not, the Land of Misfit Toys ending was not in the original special. It was added when people wondered what the heck happened to them. Originally the elves just threw packages down.

Like with Charlie Brown the first broadcast was different then one we grew up with. It was black and white, there were GE commercials through the show, and some scenes were deleted and changed. Anyone remember the Peppermint mine scene? Yeah if you didn’t know, the reason Cornelius keeps licking his pick ax is that he is looking for peppermint. We see this and Hermie’s exasperated reaction to it in this cut moment after Rudolph takes off (along with a glimpse of Donner, Clarice, and Rudolph’s mother looking on and commenting how proud they are of him). The scene was removed for the aforementioned misfit toys scene (and more commercials of course). These quick scenes give closure to the characters, without them they just kind of disappear after the “Holly Jolly Christmas” song.  Speaking of songs, another change was “Fame and Fortune”, the song which replaced the “Couple of Misfits” reprise Hermie and Rudolph sing after they meet.  By the way, “Misfits” is much better, I think and fits the story better. Rudolph and Hermie aren’t looking for fame and fortune, they’re running away because they’re a couple of misfits! Both these are restored in he DVD version I own and I can’t even watch the edited TV version anymore.

December 17, 2015

Top 10 Favorite Animated Christmas Specials-#2

Welcome as I continue counting down my top 10 favorite animated Christmas specials. I wont lie, the last three slots were very hard to sort. It’s a bold statement saying one special is better than all of them! I mean, where the heck is Frosty? How could I leave of The Flintstones? What about Mr.Magoo???? But I chose this to be my second favorite because it’s a character that I have adored for as long as I can remember. I am talking about, who else?….


This special has kind of disappeared from network TV, I’m sorry to say. It was re-run for a long time in the 80’s and 90’s but I haven’t seen it on TV in a long time. Thank goodness for DVD (or VHS in my case). So, what is it about this special that makes it so awesome?

First of all, there’s Garfield. Yeah I know that’s a no brainer but what some people forget is that Garfield loves Christmas. So while he gets a little sentimental here it’s still very much in character. It starts out like it’s going to be a big kind of special with Garfield getting wild gifts..until we find out that’s just a dream. The real story and is much simpler. It turns out Jon is taking Garfield and Odie to the farm for Christmas.

One question I see a lot is “Why do people like Christmas?” Well his special is a perfect example of why. If you can’t get into the religious reasons anyway. The special is a family getting together for Christmas Eve, and simply enjoying each others company. Perfect. Some of the little things are perfect. Like the mother making to much food for dinner, the family singing by the piano, decorating the tree, and even Garfield snuggling up with grandma as she looks out the window and waxes nostalgia. She talks about how Christmas wasn’t always easy, but it was always special. That’s what Christmas is all about to me anyway.

The family is just perfect. Having spend time on a farm I can say that these characters all ring true. The mother is sweet, the father is gruff, and the brother is a lovable dope. And of course, the grandmother is just cool! Pat Carroll is a great voice actress and she really makes this character memorable and believable at the same time. Carroll is just awesome, of course she can a good villain too (what was that Disney movie she did? Something about a little mermaid I think).

December 15, 2015

Top 10 Favorite Animated Christmas Specials-#3

Welcome as I continue counting down my top 10 favorite animated Christmas specials. Today let’s talk about one of the quintessential specials which has aired every year for the last fifty! Yep, my #3 is….


This is good timing, since this year is the 50th anniversary of the Charlie Brown Christmas. It’s also bad timing because Nostalgia Critic just did an editorial on this special and said what i would have..and much better than I would have!

Anyway, moving on. Like Dr.Seuss, I never read Peanuts growing up. However, unlike The Grinch I did see the TV specials. And loved them. Ok I liked the Halloween one more, but that’s another discussion my friends. The funny thing is that this special has things in it that would never appear today. I’ll get to Linus in a second, but there are other things too like the bullying on poor Charlie Brown. Some of those kids are little rough on him. I mean it’s not hard to see why Charlie thinks everyone hates him! Nice to see that gets understated in later specials (except Lucy who gets meaner, weird). Also Snoopy is not as defined as he would later be. Yeah his lights up his doghouse and freaks out Lucy, but he still isn’t quite the Beagle the would later become.

This is a slice of life story, in fact isn’t the whole special one day? It almost feels like we are just watching a random day in the lives of these kids. But the plot, let’s  be honest, isn’t very strong. It starts out good with Charlie Brown feeling sad. Then he talks to Lucy who decides she has the answer, direct the Christmas play! That’s when things get…well, draggy. We spend all this time building up this play..and then we get this story about the little tree. I mean what was the point of making Charlie the director to make him feel self confidence when it fails miserably, and then disappears from the story? Instead it becomes all about him buying a “stupid” tree? It feels like two different ideas being forced together. I would have cut the crap with the play and introduced the tree earlier. But..they didn’t ask me and it was 1965, so I can’t that hard on this.

In my opinion it was when Charles sets out to but the tree that we finally get to the real good stuff in this. We know the tree will be rejected by all since it isn’t anything special, and yet Charles sees something in it. As Nostalgia Critic said, they kind of sums up the way people feel about the special. I never understood why he is surprised at the reaction, what did he think the others would say? Someone else would have defended the choice but Charlie Brown is, well, Charlie Brown. That leads to the best scene, when Linus recites a passage from the bible! Are you kidding? Just try to do that today! It’s a beautiful scene and makes the entire special worth it. And so the special ends quietly, with not only Charlie but everyone realize how to see beauty in anything.

December 13, 2015

Top 10 Favorite Animated Christmas Specials-#4

Welcome as I continue counting down my top 10 favorite animated Christmas specials. Disney specials can be hit or miss at Christmas, but here is one that is just fantastic. I am speaking of:


This one has only been around since 1991, which amazes me. I would have sworn it was much older! It’s probably the my favorite Winnie The Pooh special. Most of these don’t seem to do anything for me. The Halloween one feels unfocused. The Thanksgiving one feels rushed. And there are others that aren’t even memorable (Valentine’s for example). This one has aired almost every year, either on ABC or ABCFamily (though I may have spoke to soon can’t find a listing for it this year), and I think it’s fair to say that it’s considered a Christmas classic. Why, when all the other specials have faded into DVD oblivion?

So what’s the story? Winnie The Pooh is trying to find a way to get the letter he and his fiends wrote to Santa to The North Pole in time for Christmas. Now, in another special this would be a crazy journey ending with Pooh Bear arriving at the North Pole. (Muppet Letters to Santa for instance). Not here, the story stays tightly focused on the characters. And maybe that’s what makes Pooh different from other cartoons.

After writing their letter to Santa, they realize Pooh never asked for anything. So they get the letter back and add honey. After he fails getting the letter to The North Pole, he tries to play Santa and give his friends the gifts they wanted. This is a cool segment because all the characters get a chance to be in the center of the special. That’s another reason I like this one, everyone gets something to do. Except Owl, Kanga, and Roo who aren’t in it. It is later retconned that Kanga and Roo hadn’t moved there yet. So where the heck is Owl? Anyway, when Pooh’s attempts to make his friends happy by playing Santa fails, Pooh decides the only logical choice is to take the letter to Santa himself.

December 11, 2015

Top 10 Favorite Animated Christmas Specials-#5

Welcome as I continue counting down my top 10 favorite animated Christmas specials. So how about something a little offbeat? About fifteen years ago (lord time flies) I heard about a new special on TV. At first I ignored it, but it had Drew Barrymore in it and got good reviews. So I checked it out…and got a new holiday tradition! I am of course talking about….


I avoided this because I was afraid it was going to be one of those stories where a reindeer was jealous of Rudolph and his fame. But that isn’t the case at all. Even though the title is derived from a line in that famous song, Rudolph is just an urban legend in this universe!

And that brings me to one possible problem with this special. You have to kind of go in with the right expectations. This was created by Simpsons creator Matt Groening and is definitely a bit usual. And I don’t just mean the odd animation style which I assume is meant to resemble the story book this was based off of. This is a world where dogs walk on all four’s, order from menu’s, and befriend talking scam artist penguins. A world where Santa is real, and the North Pole is a mere bus ride away. It’s a bit weird, but you look past that I think you’ll see there is some real good stuff in this.

The plot is pretty simple, after Blitzen is injured in an accident and can’t fly (see what I mean?) Santa says he hopes he can make it with all of the other reindeer. Olive thinks he said “Olive, the other reindeer” and sets out to be the eighth reindeer to save Christmas. Did I mention she was just a dog? The villain is a postman who wants to cancel Christmas because it adds to his work load. Why can’t he just quit his job? Yeah if we try to use logic this whole thing will make no sense at all.

December 9, 2015

Top 10 Favorite Animated Christmas Specials-#6

Welcome as I continue counting down my top 10 favorite animated Christmas specials. There are some Christmas specials…which aren’t really that good. They are cheesy and corny, and we know they are cheesy and corny. But when the subject is a program that you adored as a child and was a major part of your life growing up you want to give it a pass, it’s a guilty pleasure to be sure. So today my #6 favorite animated Christmas special is:


What can I say? I adored He-Man as a child, watching the cartoon as much as possible not to mention having every action figure, vehicle, and/or playset I could get my hands on. So considering how huge this franchise was, this was almost inevitable. Is it good? 

Well to be fair, at least they gave it a story and used the characters. It wasn’t like the awful Power Rangers Christmas which featured only Alpha and a bunch of kids singing carols. Give this special credit, it has a plot! But at the same it’s barely a “Christmas” special. It feels more like an extended episode of He-Man guest starring She-Ra. Though that’s kind of a positive, it could have been like “The Star Wars Christmas Special” which doesn’t even feel like it remotely belongs in that universe. But still it doesn’t feel “special” to be a special, heck even IMDB calls it a “special Christmas episode”. At least they did try to make it work in the context of the two series. Yeah it feels more like a big ad for She-Ra, since she has more to do and more of her cast are involved, but that’s Ok.

There’s no point in trying to nitpick this since it’s been reviewed by Nostalgia Critic, Phelous, and many others.  The plot is simple, Orko rescues two children on Earth and they end up getting returned to Eternia. The rest of the special are out villains trying to kidnap the children to prevent them from spreading the “Christmas spirit”. Which doesn’t make sense since He-Man is already a source of hope and they do have celebrations on Eternia. If this was a dark and depressing planet this plot would be OK. Here it feels forced. Also in the original show it seemed liked Earth was not very convenient, and yet in this special not only does Orko end up there but Man At Arms is somehow able to view the children after they return. How the hell did he do that exactly??

December 6, 2015

Top 10 Favorite Animated Christmas Specials-#7

Welcome as I continue counting down my top 10 favorite animated Christmas specials. Of course there’s no way I could do this without something from Rankin/Bass. Yeah could pick on the stop motion and how dated it is. But I choose to look past that and focus on the characters, stories, and memorable music. There is a reason most of these specials are still with us today. And today we are discussing two that I love. Why two? I couldn’t choose so I made it a tie :

SANTA-CLAUS-IS-COMIN’-TO-TOWN-09     yearsantalogo

besides Year is a sort of sequel to Comin to Town. Well, Mickey Rooney did the voice of Kris in both anyway. And did a fantastic job I might add.

There was a time when neither of these was never aired. The networks never re-ran them and there was no ABC Family to show it a hundred times in December. So Santa Claus is Comin to Town was the special I sort of remembered but never got to see. And Year Without a Santa Claus was the special I heard of but had never watched. Today, I can’t imagine Christmas without either. So what is the appeal of these two specials?

In “Town”, it may be the villain. Paul Fress voiced many many characters but I think the one everyone remembers is the Burgermeister Meisterburger. He’s so nasty and with no real reason. Though I do give the special credit that the villain has a reason to hate toys. He broke his ankle tripping over one. Yeah it’s a stupid reason but at least it’s a reason, that puts this special above others specials where the villains just hates the holiday…for reasons. Also the villain never really gets defeated, which is an interesting choice. I guess we can blame that on the time period, we can’t show violence and having Santa Claus beat the bad guy wouldn’t work,  so he dies off screen. That was common with these, the villain either reforms or just kind of disappears off screen. No one ever dies. Heck even in Rudolph Cornelius stays “dead” for a whole two minute in the film!

December 4, 2015

Top 10 Favorite Animated Christmas Specials-#8

Welcome as I continue counting down my top 10 favorite animated Christmas specials. Not every animated Christmas special is considered “iconic” or is so popular that it airs on prime time network TV to this day. Some are a little more obscure, but no less cherished. My #8 choice is….

The funny thing is that I was never really a Yogi fan. I watched the cartoon as a kid and it never did much for me. It was a one note cartoon with the same old gag (bear steals picnic basket, hijinks ensue). It was just that the characters were well done, they stood out and became memorable. So it says a lot that I really like this and still remember it.

I didn’t get the chance to watch this again so forgive me for doing this based on memory. Yeah the cartoon is full of silly contrivances, but I guess that it’s in keeping with the character. The ranger keeps trying to get Yogi to hibernate but instead the owner of the ski resort or whatever it was keeps promoting him after seeing him do some heroic rescues (that the villains set in motion to ruin everyone’s fun). I remember one involved a ski lift, have to watch this again!

Speaking of that, the thing that I always remember about this was the “villains”. We have two, a snotty brat named Snively (whose name I remembered without looking it up) and a hermit named Herman. Herman is sort of like the Grinch, he hates Christmas (and people) so he tries to ruin it for everyone. The brat is, well, a brat but I like how his aunt isn’t the cliche’d “my nephew is perfect” kind of aunt. She acknowledges his misdeeds and is punshing him through the special and I always admired this cartoon for hiving us a responsible parent (or parental figure).

December 2, 2015

Top 10 Favorite Animated Christmas Specials-#9

Welcome as I continue counting down my top 10 favorite animated Christmas specials. I Wanted at least one thing on this countdown which is more contemporary, and this has been out for a few years now. It was either Shrek The Halls or…


and while I do like Shrek the Halls, Prep & Landing is more appealing to me for some reason.

This came out a few years ago and in some ways feels like a poor man’s version of Arthur Christmas. I can almost believe Prep and Landing are in the same universe. But putting that side, this is a charming special which has become a holiday tradition for me.

It’s a story about the elves who go ahead of Santa and “prep” the house for his “landing”. It’s kind of a clever idea. Our main characters are Wayne and Lenny. Wayne is expecting a promotion when he gets Lenny as a new partner. Lenny is clumsy but has a good heart. So when he doesn’t get the promotion Wayne stops caring which almost blows an assignment, and he is nearly caught. But when he realizes his behavior could ruin Christmas for a little boy, he gets his confidence back. When Santa almost has to miss the landing Wayne and Lenny get the job done.

Ok that summation was kind of weak, it really is a cute little cartoon. The action moves fast and the voices are great from Dave Foley to Sarah Chalke as the high strung Elf who runs the whole show. The cool this in this is all the little bits of technology that help the elves “prep” the house. From scanners, to sleep devices,  and security overrides so Santa can get in and out safely they have every thing they need to make sure that the house is prepped and ready. And for some reason we never actually see Santa’s face, which is an interesting choice.