Tag Archives: christmas

Dec. 14 – Bonkers: Miracle at the 34th Precinct

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Original Air Date November 27, 1993

Bonkers was a late inclusion in the Disney Afternoon, a post DuckTales/TailSpin/Rescue Rangers program and contemporary to Goof Troop and Gargoyles. It’s a show about a bobcat named Bonkers who serves in the Toon Police alongside his partner Lucky Piquel (pronounced Pickle by most characters, but it’s supposed to be Pee-kell, making it a running joke). Bonkers exists in a world where people and toons live together, making it sort of like Who Framed Roger Rabbit? except the entire show is animated. It’s a cartoon I never really gave a chance because by the time 1993 rolled around I was invested heavily in Batman and X-Men and I really had no appetite for a more traditional cartoon. I watched some Animaniacs and Ren & Stimpy and that was kind of it. Plus Bonkers, who has an over-the-top “toon” aesthetic like Roger Rabbit just kind of annoyed me from what little I saw. The show’s intro is obnoxious and I honestly can’t remember if I ever sat down and watched an entire episode. As an adult, I appreciate the show’s premise much more. After all, Who Framed Roger Rabbit? is a personal top 10 film for me and one I adore so a cartoon that piggy-backs off of it sounds really appealing to me now.

Bonkers did have a Christmas special, and when I set out to do this it was one I looked forward to checking out. The title of the episode, “Miracle at the 34th Precinct,” implies a parody or adaptation of Miracle on 34th Street which also sounds appealing since it’s a classic Christmas story that’s rarely adapted by cartoons and sitcoms. Where as the contemporary show Darkwing Duck chose to do an It’s a Wonderful Life adaptation, which is so disappointing.

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A haggard looking Blitzen has to inform the elves he lost Santa.

The episode opens with Santa trying to navigate a pretty treacherous looking snow storm. He’s being tossed around and we’re soon taken to a a work shop where a pair of elves are wondering where Santa could be. We learn, through their dialogue, that Santa was off testing a new sleigh with only one reindeer, Blitzen, to guide him. The female elf of this duo immediately reacts with worry that Santa didn’t take Rudolf given the conditions outside (score one Christmas point for this one, it actually acknowledges the existence of the 9th reindeer) and immediately starts to panic. A tired Blitzen enters the shop with only pieces of the sleigh remaining. Santa apparently fell out somewhere over Hollywood. With only two days to go until Christmas, this is a pretty alarming development.

In Hollywood, unseasonable conditions are striking the locals. It’s snowing. Why? I don’t know. The camera pans to a building with a hole in the ceiling. Inside we find a mangey looking rabbit apparently named Fall-Apart and a large pile of snow. The pile shakes and out pops Santa, only he doesn’t know he’s Santa. Amnesia! The bane of all television personalities! Fall-Apart doesn’t seem to recognize him, but seems happy to have him around. Meanwhile, Lucky Piquel is being roused by his wife Dill (Dill Piquel, get it? I can’t believe Rugrats would repeat this joke later) for breakfast. He seems grumpy and his wife tells him not to be a Scrooge, which makes me think he’s going to be a Christmas curmudgeon – he certainly seems like he could play the part. He’s unmistakably voiced by Jim Cummings, which is interesting because Cummings also voices Bonkers so he has both leads in this show. Anyways, Lucky’s daughter is waiting for him at the breakfast table, with a toon pencil casually tucked behind her ear which is awesome as it shows how casually the humans and toons co-exist. She’s heard that Santa isn’t real, and Lucky and his wife seem unsure of how to handle this, only to assure her that lots of people believe in Santa.

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Fall-Apart meets Santa, I mean, Jim.

In comes Bonkers! He’s playfully tossing snow around and of course he hits Lucky in the face. My guess is these two are unlikely partners, just as Roger and Eddie were, with Lucky not exactly enjoying the relationship. Bonkers is there to assure the youngest Piquel that Santa does indeed exist, and he and Lucky head off to the precinct. Meanwhile, Fall-Apart (voiced by Frank Welker using a more intelligible version of his Slimer voice with a touch of Dustin Hoffman from Rainman) decides to take Santa (after dubbing him Jim since he can’t remember his name) for a little spin around Hollywood and loads him into his cab. He immediately becomes more of a tour guide and I’m wondering if he’s good-natured or if he intends to rob this Santa of all of his money by keeping the meter running. We shall see.

At the police station, the two elves from earlier are there to report a missing person – Santa. When Bonkers and Lucky stroll in they immediately suggest that Lucky could be a good stand-in, since he’s fat. Lucky’s boss thinks it’s a good idea, why he’s willing to give up a cop for this I don’t know, but Lucky wants no part of it. He regards the elves as being kind of crazy, suggesting adults in this world probably don’t believe in Santa (I wasn’t sure based on Lucky and his wife’s reaction to their daughters declaration). The elves toss some Christmas magic dust on him to make him envision his daughter waking up disappointed on Christmas since no Santa brought her presents. It’s enough to make Lucky openly cry and agree to put on the red suit.

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At least Lucky looks the part.

Next comes Lucky’s Santa training. He seems to be having a hard time, but at least looks the part, while the elves are getting frustrated with him. Nearby at the beach, Fall-Apart is taking Santa water skiing because it’s snowing, so you’re supposed to ski. A fisherman somehow manages to hook Santa by the ass and reveals his underwear – classic. We then jump back to Lucky’s Santa training in the flight simulator. He makes a crack about the lack of an in-flight movie while he’s jostled around in a mechanical sleigh with a giant fan in his face, so the male elf activates a screen on the sleigh to give Lucky the rundown on what every kid wants for Christmas. Back at the beach, Fall-Apart crashes his boat and we see why he’s called Fall-Apart. Bonkers is there to help piece him back together, mistakenly putting Fall-Apart’s tail where his nose should be and his nose where his tail should be, which can’t smell great. Santa is out of the picture following the wreck, so Bonkers doesn’t see him. When he asks Fall-Apart if he’s seen Santa, he teases the viewer that he might say yes, but says he hasn’t seen him. I don’t think he’s doing that for nefarious reasons, he’s just stupid. He sees his frozen buddy, Jim, after Bonkers leaves and tells him they should go on a picnic, which just further confuses Santa-Jim.

Lucky’s Santa training has moved on from sleigh-piloting to breaking and entering, or rather chimney training. The male elf has whipped up a house of sorts for Lucky to practice on, though he expresses some concern with fitting down the chimney. We also find out that Lucky is actually fatter than Santa. Bonkers, basically frozen, returns to the Piquel residence to get warmed up. Lucky’s daughter hopes her dad can make it home for Santa and lets us know it’s Christmas Eve (I might have missed that morsel of info in the precinct scene earlier) while Bonkers withholds info on Lucky playing Santa. Bonkers tells the girl she’s not supposed to wait up for Santa, and manages to catch his tail on fire at the fireplace. Good thing there’s ample amounts of snow outside to put it out and he returns to his Santa hunt. Lucky, on the other hand, is not making any progress in his Santa training because he’s become lodged in the chimney. He manages to fall through and makes a kind of dark observation that having your life flash before your eyes can put you in the Christmas spirit. Whether he’s ready for it or not, they need to get moving if they want any hope of delivering the presents, and Lucky is still gung-ho to help out.

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This guy should probably never be let near an open flame.

Back at Fall-Apart’s apartment, the duo of Santa and the rabbit return with Fall-Apart remarking their picnic would have been better if Santa didn’t give away all of the food. It’s like he’s some gift-giving guy or something. When Santa sits on a toon lounge-chair he gets ejected out of the apartment. When Fall-Apart asks the chair why he did that he replies, “Because it was funny,” which makes a surprising amount of sense for a toon. Just then, a despondent Bonkers pops in. He’s afraid he won’t find Santa in time. Fall-Apart expresses some sympathy, then remarks he has to go help his friend Jim off the roof and describes him as a big guy in a red suit with a white beard. Bonkers realizes that Jim must be Santa, and when they find him on the roof his memory has returned thanks to the second bump on the head. With only an hour until Christmas, he needs to get to his elves Jingle and Belle (so they have names), but Bonkers first wants to bring him by the Piquel residence.

We cut to the Piquel house and the sleigh and reindeer are arriving. There are only six reindeer, which is bullshit. It’s Lucky and the elves. The elves felt that Lucky’s first house should be a familiar one. He expresses some hurt feelings over it while struggling to stand on the snow covered roof, before eventually falling off, which just justifies the concern the elves have in him. They get a call on their sleigh-phone from Bonkers to let them know Santa is all right and they’re relieved to hear it, naturally. Of course, Lucky is already on the job and fallen off the roof to boot, so they can’t tell him the good news.

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Santa and Bonkers arrive on the scene.

Since he’s at ground level, and it is his house, Lucky decides to enter the conventional way even though it’s not the entrance he wants to make. Just as he enters the front door, Bonkers arrives with Santa. They shoot up to the roof where the elves give Santa the update on what’s going on. He grabs his sack and jumps down the chimney. Inside, Lucky’s daughter is already in tears about there being no Santa and left the room. As Lucky heads in further Santa drops in. Lucky doesn’t think he’s the real Santa, even though he has the Social Security card to prove it, and the two start bickering. Bonkers pops out of the chimney to admonish them when Lucky’s daughter comes in. At first she’s confused about there being two Santas, but not as confused as I would have expected. The real Santa gives her a gift, one she didn’t even tell her dad about, and Lucky finally believes Santa is the real deal when he pronounces his last name properly and gives him a gift to top it off. After Santa leaves, Lucky’s daughter gives her father a warm hug and Bonkers somehow gains the ability to float up the chimney like Santa just in time to see the big guy take off and wish him a merry Christmas.

“Miracle at the 34th Precinct” is not what I expected, since it isn’t really a take on the classic story at all. It also isn’t what I expected in that the plot is pretty straight-forward and it seems to take itself seriously. There’s very little “wacky” elements present for a cartoon world. The Fall-Apart and Santa scenes possessed some physical comedy, but for the most part I found the whole thing kind of subdued. I was expecting more parody, and maybe some satire, but instead this show was more earnest and genuine in its approach. I’m not about to judge the whole series based on one episode, but I don’t think I like this. It was kind of boring and the characters are just the sort of standard archetypes we’re used to seeing. I suppose there is some humor to be found in a world that looks at the toon elements as ordinary, but I feel like Tiny Toon Adventures already did that, and better. This does feel like Disney trying to do a Warner-type show, and maybe they just don’t have the ability to produce that kind of show. The animation, for the most part, is still well done though it’s not as crisp as something like DuckTales or Darkwing Duck. My guess is that’s intentional as they want the characters to have less definition and thus appear more “toon” in appearance. There’s an artful sloppiness in how the characters move and animate, in particular Lucky, which is kind of odd since he’s supposed to be the human. At any rate, at least it’s not A Christmas Carol parody though!

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Batman: The Animated Series – “Christmas With The Joker”

Christmas_With_the_Joker-Title_CardEpisode Number: 2

Original Air Date: November 13, 1992

Directed By: Kent Butterworth

Written By: Eddie Gorodetsky

First Appearance(s):  Robin, Joker, Summer Gleason, Arkham Asylum

An interesting choice for a second episode of a series. It’s a Christmas episode, which feels kind of inline with Batman thanks to Batman Returns. It’s also the debut of The Joker, and introducing him through a Christmas themed episode also feels odd. Naturally, since the show premiered in September this episode was held back to be more topical when it did eventually air, though its original air date still came before Thanksgiving which still feels off.

In this episode, we are immediately introduced to The Joker, who with other inmates at the famed Arkham Asylum, is decorating a Christmas tree and singing “Jingle Bells.” In a moment that would probably now be described as “metta,” Joker adds in the “Batman smells,” variation which probably delighted 8 year old me at the time while he improbably blasts away on a rocket-powered Christmas tree just as he arrives at the “and The Joker got away,” part of the song. Right away, we see this episode isn’t going to care much for realism as Joker is going to quickly establish lots of unique traps and engineer a few kidnappings in a short amount of time with zero explanation on how he accomplished any of that. And unlike many of the villains who will follow, this is not a depiction of Batman’s first encounter with The Joker. It’s pretty clear that the two have a relationship that predates the events of this show and have been at this game for years, assumedly, just as this isn’t Robin’s first foray into crime-fighting even though it’s his first appearance in the show (we’ll get to see his origin later).

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The Joker’s humorous, but improbable, escape from Arkham.

Batman is naturally unnerved by The Joker’s Christmas break-out, while Robin (Loren Lester) thinks even villains prefer to spend the holidays with family. Batman is quick to remind him that The Joker has no family. Naturally, Batman is right and when Bruce Wayne and Dick Grayson sit down to watch a television broadcast of It’s A Wonderful Life they soon find the airwaves taken over by The Joker. Joker has kidnapped three pretty important figures in Gotham:  Commissioner Gordon, Detective Bullock, and television news reporter Summer Gleeson (Mari Devon). Joker, lacking a family to spend the holidays with, has dubbed this trio the Awful Lawful Family and given them personalities of Mommy, Daddy, and Baby (Bullock gets to wear the adorable bonnet). They’re hog-tied, and presumably in danger, as are other citizens of Gotham.

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The Joker and his “family.”

Joker lays some traps, including taking out a railroad bridge and arming an observatory with a giant cannon, all while tormenting his captors in a mostly PG sort of way on television. His use of a discontinued toy is what clues Batman in on the fact that The Joker must be housed in an abandoned toy factory and he and Robin race to the rescue. They have a mostly slapstick encounter with The Joker and his toy-themed gadgets, and Robin even gets to make a pretty terrible bat pun when Batman makes use of a baseball bat. The ultimate goal of The Joker’s crime is to get Batman to open a Christmas present from him, and it’s genuinely amusing and makes The Joker look like a psycho, albeit a G-rated one, and I kind of appreciated that fact.

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Merry Christmas, Batman.

“Christmas With The Joker” is a middling episode of this series that’s neither great nor bad. It’s hamstrung somewhat by the Christmas theme and just feels inappropriate as the debut for The Joker. Of course, if I were going in broadcast order it wouldn’t be The Joker’s debut, and those of us watching at the time were introduced to the character in a better fashion. As the debut of The Joker though, it still is a fine reception for Mark Hamill in his second most famous role. His Joker is often regarded as the best voice for the character. It’s mostly goofy and fun, especially in this episode, but when he needs to get a little more malevolent he can slip into a darker tone with ease. And his laugh is brilliant.

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Not to be forgotten, this episode also marks the first appearance of Robin.

As a Christmas episode, I will give this one props for not being an adaptation of a more popular Christmas story. At first, I was afraid it would go in a It’s A Wonderful Life direction (a non-Christmas episode kind of will much later this season) when Robin name-dropped the film, but it thankfully did not. I do hate how Gordon and Bullock are just assumed kidnapped, and the episode is too eager to “yada yada” over such details. It’s the only episode written by Eddie Gorodetsky, and if he could do better it’s too bad he didn’t get a chance to show it. For a show that does a good job of elevating what children’s entertainment could be, this one feels too close to the cartoons of the 80s which treated its audience as imbeciles. It’s not as bad as those old shows, but definitely lacking when compared to future episodes. I’m probably being a little too hard on it, as even this mostly serious show is entitled to just have fun now and then. It’s still a worthwhile episode to toss into your Christmas viewing experience though.


12 Films of Christmas #11: The Santa Clause

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The Santa Clause (1994)

A successful formula for any would-be Christmas film to adopt is that of shining a new light on the character of Santa Claus. Anytime a film can make Santa more believable to the viewer is usually something worthy of exploration. A lot of films, books, and other media have attempted to add to the Santa mythos which mostly originated in the classic poem Twas the Night Before Christmas, and the ones that have done it the best are the most memorable.

The Santa Clause is just such a picture which set out to answer many of the questions children have about the character. For the life of many a youngster, Santa is someone believed in without question at first. After all, who wants to have doubts about a nice guy who leaves you presents for just being a good boy or girl (with the “good” part being highly subjective and a very low bar to clear)? As adolescents get older, they naturally become more inquisitive and thats when the questions about Santa Claus start to show up. How do reindeer fly? How can one man visit every kid on earth in a single night? How does he fit all of those toys in his sleigh?

The Santa Clause actually has one answer for just about every question a kid could have about Santa:  magic. It’s a rather easy explanation, but given the unbelievable nature of the character it’s often the best we have. The Santa Clause, in typical 90’s fashion, relies upon visual effects to make these answers entertaining beyond the whole “it’s magic, stupid!” Like many films from that era, the effects have not aged as well as maybe was expected.

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Charlie and Scott take Santa’s sleigh for a spin after accidentally killing him. Not many Christmas movies begin by killing Santa.

Tim Allen stars as Scott Calvin, a toy developer with a son who doesn’t believe in Santa Claus. Charlie, played by Eric Lloyd, has been lead to believe by his mother Laura (Wendy Crewson) and step-father Neil (Judge Reinhold) that Santa is not real, which naturally irritates Scott. Scott is a bit of an absentee father, partly because of the divorce, and because he works a lot. Charlie doesn’t have much faith in his father, and he clearly dreads spending Christmas Eve with his old man. Not much goes right, but Scott does succeed in restoring his son’s faith in Santa, and himself, when the real Santa falls off his roof to his own demise and Scott, unwittingly, picks up the mantle for himself.

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Scott unwillingly morphing into Santa. I’d probably freak out if my kid tried to sit on that guy’s lap.

Scott’s first adventure as Santa is when we get to see the magic at work. Scott and the audience share in the experience as neither knows how any of this stuff is supposed to work – Santa can’t really be real, can he? When Scott picks up an empty sack, presents appear inside. It hovers and directs him to a chimney to slide down. When no chimney exists, a septic exhaust is used and a fireplace magically appears inside the house. I remember these effects delighting my family and I when the film first came out, but viewed at now they do leave something to be desired. The illusion isn’t destroyed, but parents showing this one to their modern kids may be disappointed in their reaction.

The rest of the film mostly takes place after Christmas as we lead-up to the next one. No one believes Charlie’s account of what happened, which causes his mother and step-father to think Scott is brainwashing the kid and to seek sole custody. Meanwhile, Scott is physically transforming into Santa whether he likes it or not (he read the Santa Clause after the first one died, and apparently he would need a really good attorney to get out of it) which only strengthens his ex-wife’s argument for sole custody. This makes Laura (Charlie’s mom) and Neil the villains of the film, even if they’re only looking out for Charlie. It’s a Christmas movie, so everything comes together at the end, but this is one of those plots where the viewer knows what really happened and has to be frustrated by the actions of those who aren’t in the know.

Tim Allen is essentially allowed to be himself in his role as Scott Calvin/Santa Claus. He’s basically no different than Tim Taylor from Home Improvement, and even does his trademarked grunt at one point in the film. How much you like the film will probably hinge on your affection for Allen. I think I mostly liked him when I was younger, but the years haven’t been kind to Allen’s style of humor. I find him irritating in many scenes now, and his punchlines are often punch-less. As an adult, I find myself identifying more with the stiffs around him than the Scott character. He’s not all bad, but I hesitate to call his performance a strength.

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By the film’s conclusion Scott is all-in on this Santa thing.

The other aspect of this film that annoys me is the end, and to some degree, the Charlie character. The end of the film just goes on way too long and we’re kind of done with the Christmas cheer before Charlie starts shaking his snow globe. The Charlie character also can’t help but be annoying throughout the picture. Some of his actions are defensible, because he’s a kid, others are not and seem to betray the intelligence we see out of Charlie in other parts. By and large, Lloyd is a pretty good actor, but the director asks him to get sad and cry at one point which he clearly wasn’t up to the task for.

The Santa Clause is still recent enough to be considered modern, and it can probably be described as a modern classic. It brings enough to the table as far as a Santa story goes (even if parts of the plot mirror the Flintstone’s Christmas Special) to be memorable. If you’re easier on the effects and overall 90’s look and style of the picture (I for one, find the techno-junk look of Santa’s sleigh off-putting) then you probably like this film a lot more than I do. And if you’re a fan of Tim Allen, then it might even be your favorite Christmas movie.


The 12 Films of Christmas #12: The Muppet Christmas Carol

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The Muppet Christmas Carol (1992)

The bare minimum a Christmas television special or film can do to inject some Christmas cheer is to do an adaptation, or parody, of a popular public domain Christmas treasure like Dickens’ A Christmas Carol. In general, these are lazy and trite and form the foundation of the worst holiday dreck imaginable. Just tune into the Hallmark Channel at this time of year to find several variations on familiar stories, all of which bring nothing to the table other than sentimentality. So it is with some trepidation that I include one such work in this 12 Films of Christmas featurette, but hear me out.

The Muppet Christmas Carol starring Michael Caine and those wonderful puppets manages to be a worthwhile endeavor not because it does anything to shake up a familiar story, but because it tells that story with the charm and wit of The Muppets. When it comes to these types of Christmas stories, we likely all have our preferred vehicle of delivery. For me personally, it’s Mickey’s Christmas Carol which is one of my favorite holiday shorts. If I’m going to go feature-length though, I’m likely to turn to The Muppets if I want to hear about old Scrooge.

Caine stars as main character, Ebenezer Scrooge, and his supporting cast is made up of mostly Muppets. Kermit is his foil as the poor, but kind-hearted, Bob Cratchit and Robin stands in for Tiny Tim. That makes Miss Piggy Emily Cratchit, naturally. Stadler and Waldorf play the Marley brothers and are predictably hilarious in their role. Gonzo and Rizzo the rat are used as narrators and exist outside the story, despite occupying a physical presence on screen. They’re the main source of the physical comedy and the film made a star out of Rizzo, a mostly bit part in Muppet films and television specials prior to this. Fozzy, Animal, Beaker, and all of the other familiar gang show-up for spot roles throughout. The Muppets are all playing the role of someone from the original work, but still possess their own personality and character traits. In other words, Fozzy is still Fozzy even if his character is referred to by another name.

 

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Michael Caine is a natural at playing alongside the Muppets.

Caine is relied upon to carry the picture and act convincingly beside his non-human cast mates. For roles that correlate directly to Scrooge, a human actor is cast so it’s not as unbelievable as it could have been. For instance, Isabelle is played by Meredith Braun and Scrooge’s nephew Fred by Steven Mackintosh. Only Caine is really asked to do any heavy lifting and he’s surprisingly emotive and effective as a Scrooge. There may have been some expectations that a Muppet version of A Christmas Carol would just be a straight comedy, but the film doesn’t shy away from the dramatic moments. In fact, it probably does so to its detriment as the film sometimes spreads the laughs out too far apart. Some plodding occurs during Scrooge’s journey that likely will turn off younger viewers, and even some older ones. The redemptive portion of the film also feels rushed and the audience is denied in savoring Scrooge’s turn at the end. Perhaps this was done to keep the film under a 90 minute runtime, but if that was the goal, then other parts of the film should have been trimmed instead to allow more time for the fun at the end.

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Rizzo and Gonzo are the true show-stealers in this picture as the duo is easily responsible for the most laughs.

From a production standpoint, the film is a true star as the sets, puppets, and costumes all look fantastic. It’s obviously no surprise that a Muppets work would come out looking so well. The production department did a great job in giving the film a true big screen feel when compared with the various TV properties of the Muppets and their made for TV films. The film is in part a musical, like most Muppet productions, and the songs are actually on the light side. I personally consider that a positive, but others may not feel the same way.

In the end, The Muppet Christmas Carol succeeds because it brings its own heart and spunk to a dated work. Other films, like Disney’s A Christmas Carol, just try to retell the same story and possess no charm, and ultimately have no real reason to exist. At least with The Muppets you’re getting that Muppet brand of humor to add a dash of color to A Christmas Carol, ultimately making it worth your time each holiday season.


The 12 Films of Christmas

Last year I did an advent calendar sort of deal where I counted down the best Christmas television specials from December 1st through Christmas. Naturally, I wanted to do the same this year but with Christmas themed films instead!

Unfortunately, Christmas movies are pretty terrible. Sure, there are countless amounts of terrible Christmas television specials, but there are also enough that narrowing it down to 25 really wasn’t that hard. I even left out some that I genuinely like and make it a point to watch annually, especially repeat Christmas episode from long-running series. When I sat down to come up with 25 films I found it pretty trying. Now, I’m not an actual expert on Christmas movies, but I have seen a lot of them, but definitely not all of them. I’d love to say that I’m the foremost expert on them, but I’m not. Still, my original list of 25 was really shitty on the back-end. Since it was so poor, and my free time is even less than it was a year ago, I decided to go with a Twelve Days of Christmas spoof and do 12 Films of Christmas.

Starting tomorrow, you will see one entry per day on a Christmas movie I think is worth an annual viewing. That doesn’t mean they’re all great movies, but they work when viewed in that sweet spot between Thanksgiving and Christmas. I also created some rules for myself. All of the films I’m posting on were theatrically released, so if you’re a lover of those Hallmark Channel movies you’ll be disappointed to know that not one of them is among my twelve (they suck anyway). I also decided that each film needed to be, unquestionably, a Christmas movie. This is perhaps a controversial stance as it eliminates from contention films that take place during Christmas, but aren’t really Christmas movies. To be specific, there’s no Die Hard. Same for Batman Returns, though I don’t think that omission would cause much controversy. Other than that though, anything goes. I’m ranking these films based on pure enjoyment, not the amount of Christmas spirit contained therein or the presence of Santa Claus. I have no affection for the Jesus aspect of Christmas either, so don’t expect much of him in these films either.

So if you want to read about Christmas movies, check back tomorrow for number 12 and continue visiting each day for another film. I don’t make any money off of this site and I’m just doing it for the enjoyment of it and I hope you too enjoy reading about the dozen Christmas films to follow.635850679509887126969022607_wjud-dot-net

#12. The Muppet Christmas Carol

#11. The Santa Clause

#10. Scrooged

#9. Gremlins

#8. The Nightmare Before Christmas

#7. Bad Santa

#6. It’s a Wonderful Life

#5. Home Alone

#4. National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation

#3. Miracle on 34th Street

#2. Elf

#1. A Christmas Story


#23 – Robot Chicken’s Half-Assed Christmas Special

MV5BMTQ4NDMzMDg5MV5BMl5BanBnXkFtZTcwODcyNTUzMQ@@._V1._CR31,27,314,421_SY317_CR11,0,214,317_AL_Robot Chicken is the brainchild of veteran actor Seth Green and Mathew Senreich. It’s hard to believe the show has been running for ten years now, but that’s the reality of the world and in that time the show has produced three Christmas specials.

The show is basically an animated version of ToyFare magazine’s Twisted ToyFare Theater that sees popular toys dropped into humorous sketches. The focus is mostly put on turning old action figures, like Mattel’s popular Masters of the Universe line, into puppets to create stop-motion sketches. The integrity of the old toy is retained but it’s often modified to include more points of articulation to create better animation. Other times the show creates its own puppets or finds random toys to repurpose into new ones. Sketches vary in length, but it’s not uncommon for one to last merely a few seconds. In that sense they’re often like micr0-sketches when compared to a traditional sketch comedy program. Usually there’s at least one longer sketch that may last a few minutes that serves as sort of the feature sketch of the episode with each episode only lasting around twelve minutes.

The show is pretty funny, and I suppose it would have to be to have lasted ten years, and the fact that each episode is so short has helped to prevent the show from becoming stale. While it’s rare for all sketches in a single episode to be laugh out loud funny, there’s usually enough there for the show to be entertaining for its short duration.

As a result, it’s hard to really review a single episode like the Half-Assed Christmas Special. And in truth, both of the other two Christmas specials (DP Christmas Special and ATM Christmas Special) are basically just as good. And since these are actually the few shows I do not have a copy of, it’s hard to recall which sketch came from which special, so I’m just going to mention some I remember.

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You better watch out when Composite Santa is on the loose!

Since the show is stop-motion it’s naturally suited to parody Rankin/Bass productions. There’s a sketch that tries to discover who murdered Santa Claus where everything is basically done up at the North Pole Rudolph style, though a cocaine-addicted Frosty is present as well. The anime Christmas sketch features Santa enlisting the help of Goku and his son to save Christmas from Composite Santa, who’s half-Santa half-Frosty, and eventually a showdown with an Akira-esque Mrs. Claus occurs. The origin of Composite Santa is also detailed in his own sketch when a mad scientist tries to create an irresistible holiday character but he turns out to be genocidal.

Hermey from Rudolf shows up in “Hermey’s Dentistry,” where we see Hermey actually knows nothing about being a dentist and fails miserably at that and other professions. He returns to Santa to beg for his old job back and then the sketch turns into a Godfather Part II parody. “Co-opting Santa” sees Kris Kringle voice his displeasure with the Coca-Cola Company for co-opting his image for over 70 years in a very violent manner. A simple, but effective sketch, also features Santa getting mistakenly murdered after he had a sudden urge to drop a deuce while on the job. This simple, but crude, setup and execution pretty much sums up Robot Chicken in two minutes.

Unfortunately, Robot Chicken’s Christmas themed sketches aren’t available in one volume, to my knowledge, so if you want them you have to buy each individual season. Thankfully, Adult Swim is pretty good about broadcasting the specials every year a couple of times around Christmas and I would assume the same will be true for 2015. We may even get a fourth Christmas special if we’re lucky. Individual sketches are also available on Youtube. The Robot Chicken specials are too short to really feature any actual Christmas cheer, it’s basically just a funny use of Christmas imagery. It’s certainly not going to bring about those warm fuzzies other specials will, but they’re pretty good at getting laughs which makes them a unique entry in this top 25.


#25 – Moral Orel: The Best Christmas Ever

maxresdefault-2As we kick-off the best Christmas specials feature I say we start with something dark and cynical. It’s no secret that most Christmas movies and TV specials are sweet, warm, and offer a heartfelt message about the holidays (usually something about love, sharing, compassion, selflessness, and so on). That stuff is fine in small doses, but after many Christmases it can also become trite.

Moral Orel’s “The Best Christmas Ever” is hardly the typical Christmas special. If you are not familiar with the Moral Orel series, it’s a stop-motion short-form series that aired on Adult Swim from 2005-2008 and sporadically after. It focused on the title character, Orel, a goody goody two-shoes that just wanted to praise God and live by His word. Each episode usually centered around Orel taking something too literally from a  church sermon and doing something sacrilegious by mistake only to have his father set him straight in the end with a good lecture and a good beating. The adults surrounding Orel were mostly a bunch of miserable, sinful, hypocrites that rarely practiced what they preached, but Orel remains oblivious to his surroundings.

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Orel’s blind faith in God and ignorance leads to him concluding this was the best Christmas ever in the end.

For “The Most Wonderful Christmas Ever,” Orel hears about the second coming of Jesus during church and that he won’t be happy when he returns, ushering in the Apocalypse. When Orel overhears his parents arguing about his malcontent younger brother, with his dad proclaiming his doubts the kid is even his, Orel mistakenly reaches the conclusion that his little brother is Jesus reborn. Orel’s attempts to welcome the baby Jesus are pretty humorous, but the side story of his father’s depression over his crumbling marriage is some pretty dark stuff.

Moral Orel is basically a satirical black comedy and its Christmas special captures that perfectly. In a world full of terrible Lifetime and Hallmark Channel Christmas movies, Moral Orel is a nice piece of Christmas bleakness that is funny because it’s not like anything else. Even Bad Santa has more Christmas cheer than this one.