Here’s a tip for any would-be designers of future Christmas specials looking for a quick and easy way to my heart: add plenty of nostalgic value that harkens back to the classic Christmas specials of Rankin/Bass and the like. Think South Park’s episode “A Very Crappy Christmas” which basically parodies Twas the Night Before Christmas. Or, just watch special #19 on my list, “It’s a SpongeBob Christmas!”
SpongeBob came after my time. He’s a character that I understand has been rather popular with the generation that followed mine. He’s been on television for what feels like forever and has added a few feature films to his resume as well. He’s been so pervasive that I’ve obviously seen an episode here and there and I can see why kids would enjoy him but I don’t have any particular affinity for the character or show.
“It’s a SpongeBob Christmas!”, on the other hand, appeals to me because it seeks to emulate the look of the classic stop-motion specials like Rudolph and Santa Claus is Coming to Town. And to the credit of Nickelodeon and the producers involved, the show really was done with stop-motion puppets as opposed to being computer generated to simulate the stop-motion look. The result is striking and it almost looks like an aquarium come to life, just minus actual fish.
The story for the special is that Plankton invents a fruitcake (laced with Jerktonium) that turns nice people into naughty ones when they eat it and he tricks SpongeBob into driving around some cart and firing off hunks of fruitcake into the mouths of his victims. There’s also an imposter SpongeBob roaming around to turn everyone against him by making him look like a jerk. Plankton’s ingenious plan is intended to make everyone look worse than he so that he’ll end up on Santa’s nice list, and it works! Of course, things end up working out for SpongeBob and the citizens of Bikini Bottom in the end and the result is a pretty delightful little holiday special.
“It’s a SpongeBob Christmas!” was a big enough deal when it was first released that it actually debuted on CBS before airing again on Nickelodeon. It also introduces a new catchy holiday tune in the form of “Don’t Be a Jerk (It’s Christmas)” which always seems to add to a Christmas special’s longevity. And because it’s so recent, it’s still shown quite frequently on television during the holiday season, though I don’t know that CBS will show it again but Nickelodeon certainly will. If you can’t be bothered to find it, there’s also a stand-alone DVD available that usually sells for less than ten dollars.