Tag Archives: john kassir

Dec. 17 – It’s A Wonderful Tiny Toons Christmas Special

IAWTTCS-TCOn December 6, 1992, Tiny Toon Adventures aired its series finale, a Christmas special. After three seasons it was time to move on to spin-offs, additional specials, and new shows. It’s interesting because this episode deals with the show getting cancelled in a hypothetical way. It’s also a parody of It’s A Wonderful Life which means I’m loathe to watch it, but here goes nothing.

The episode opens with its typical opening – but wait! It’s all dressed up for Christmas and even the lyrics have been changed to reflect that. This I like. Once the episode starts, it gets right down to the parody nature with shots of various characters from the exterior of their homes praying to the heavens for someone to look out for Buster Bunny. Plucky tries to hide the fact that he’s looking out for Buster, but he also reveals he doesn’t want Buster to quit cartoons because then the show will be cancelled. Interestingly, a menorah appears in Hamilton Pig’s window. That seems like the wrong religion for a pig to choose, but I won’t judge. We then head up into the celestial bodies where two beings are communicating with each other about the prayers concerning Buster. The one in position to be our Clarence is actually named Harvey and he sounds a lot like James Stewart. Stewart also starred in a picture named Harvey about a guy who befriends a giant rabbit. This is not a coincidence.

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A little Grinch joke early on gets this one off on the right foot.

Just like the film it’s lampooning, this one then becomes a flashback and we see Buster and Babs sledding through a snowy landscaping singing a little song. There’s a Grinch-like character they thwart and a snowman that resembles Burl Ives who nearly gets taken out as well before the two reach an auditorium. They’re preparing to put on a performance for Christmas, and Buster is apparently in charge. Babs also has cleavage –  this is something I did not remember from my youth. As they’re getting ready to rehearse, Montana Max shows up in a wheelchair probably to evoke images of Potter from It’s A Wonderful Life. Elmira tries to steal a kiss from him and he promptly kicks her right in the ass! Violence against women, or girls, is also something I did not remember from this show.

Max is demanding and irritated that they got started without him. He pays off the network executives who were in attendance so he can take control of the show. Buster tries not to let it bring him down and gets back to rehearsing with Little Sneezer doing some Ebesneezer Scrooge bit with Bob Hope (not actually Bob Hope, in fact all of the celebrities are impersonations) that doesn’t go so well. Buster turns his attention to a duet ice skating routine from Babs and Cher. When he compliments Cher on her wardrobe, but fails to do the same for Babs, she gets a little ticked. Max is there to further inflame the situation by suggesting to Babs that Buster is flirting with Cher, which causes Babs to rough her up during their routing in which they sing a pretty poor parody of “I’ve Got You, Babe.” After Cher falls through the ice and the bit ends in disaster, Buster tells Plucky he can go on as The Little Drummer Duck for a scene with William Shatner. Plucky, after having his other roles be re-cast as Urkel previously (he was pretty hot in 1992), is overjoyed to take the stage and promises to wow the executives. When Max replaces the microphones with TNT the bit goes up in smoke – literally. By now Max has thrown enough money at the executives to gain full control of the production, and everyone else is pissed at Buster for how terrible it’s going. He sulks out, and the other toonsters seem to immediately start to regret how they acted.

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When Go-Go gets the canned boo’s you know you’re in trouble.

Buster, feeling dejected, decides to throw himself out of the picture and literally walks to the edge of the celluloid. That’s when Harvey is dropped in to prevent him from doing so. Harvey, depicted as a lanky white rabbit with a bow tie, hears Buster utter the magic words to set the second act in motion – “I wish I were never on Tiny Toons.” Buster gets his wish, and Harvey and he set out to see what life would be like for Tiny Toons had Buster never been involved with it.

Buster is whisked away to Montyville where literally every business on the street is owned by Montana Max including his Savings and No Loan. He and Harvey hit a store display TV to check out Tiny Toons without him and find that Plucky Duck is the star here. They watch the intro in which Plucky sings about how great he is and Babs repeatedly has anvils dropped on her head. When the show begins, Plucky and Babs introduce themselves and use the “No relation” line she and Buster would do, which Babs points out makes no sense before she’s hit with another anvil. Buster has seen enough and demands Plucky cease dropping anvils on Babs. Plucky, having no idea who Buster is, is offended when Buster calls him Goofy and accuses him of being a Disney spy. He has security remove him and takes a parting shot at Disney’s Jeffrey Katzenberg for good measure.

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The Plucky show has a different vibe than Tiny Toons.

Little Sneezer, being one of the guards, is confronted by Buster but claims to not know him. Buster gets booted out and winds up at Acme Looniversity, which is now Montana Max’s Business University. Max pops up on a closed circuit TV to announce that in honor of Christmas he’s shortening the school day to a mere 18 hours. He’s also heading off to Aspen with Morgan Fairchild, her second reference of the episode leading me to believe a writer thinks pretty highly of her, and Buster is left in a state of disbelief. Still clinging to the hope that someone will know him, he heads to his old home room. Harvey warns him there’s nothing funny going on inside there anymore, but he takes a peak anyway to find Madonna teaching the class and advising the students to wear their underwear on the outside to get some of that Warner money (which makes no sense since most of them don’t even wear pants let alone underwear). Buster still doesn’t get it, prompting Harvey to give him an ear full about how he was never a part of Tiny Toons and even says he never existed. Since this show is pretty metta, I suppose if he was never on Tiny Toons then no one would have ever created him. This thing just got pretty dark.

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Buster doesn’t particularly enjoy his new reality.

Having accepted the situation for what it is, Buster asks Harvey about Babs and if she has a different boyfriend in this reality. He tells him to go find out for himself and directs him to the film library. There he finds Babs, in librarian attire, watching cartoons. Porky lassos the moon for Petunia, while Pepe Le Pew puts on perfume before he resumes sexually assaulting that poor cat. Babs turns off the projector and laments her co-star-less life when Buster approaches her. Things go well, until he tries to tell her that they’re the stars of Tiny Toon Adventures. After hearing that, Babs just thinks he’s a crazy stalker and runs out. Buster, now satisfied with what he’s seen, asks Harvey to undo his wish, but Harvey can’t just yet because – commercials.

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The real star of the show.

After the break, Harvey vanishes and Buster is left confused. Babs enters the film room to see what’s up and he’s relieved that she knows who he is giving her a big hug and crushing her spine in the process. The animation really gets a little wacky for that part. Then Buster goes on his love tour just like George did, he loves Acme Acres, he loves his rabbit hole, he loves Spielberg, and even kisses the TV screen (I kiss it too). He returns to the auditorium to find everyone hates Max’s ideas for the show, including the network executives. He apparently didn’t bribe them enough because he’s soon fired and Buster is re-hired. Buster consoles him by assuring him he’s the star of the show. Cher flirts with Buster a bit, reminding Babs that she’s still mad at him. Cher tells her Buster was only whispering to her earlier to get a suggestion from Cher on what to get Babs for Christmas. When she asks Buster what she suggested, he plants a nice, long, lingering kiss on her smacker.

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This I like.

Buster and Babs hop in a sleigh and start to sing a little Christmas song all about togetherness. The other toons get their little moment to shine during the song and several of the “celebrities” cameo as well. Max gets to take his place as the star of the show – atop the Christmas tree. He hates it, and he really hates it when Elmira uses the fact that he’s incapacitated in his star costume to steal a kiss. No means no, Elmira! There’s also a very brief Charlie Brown parody, which I snicker at, and the horse-drawn sleigh takes to the sky and flies off. The camera pans back to reveal Harvey who remarks the show wasn’t bad, before producing a zipper and revealing that he was in fact Bugs Bunny this whole time. He adds a “for amateurs” qualifier to his previous statement, chomps a carrot, and walks out to end our picture.

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The whole gang on a musical sleigh ride. So long, Tiny Toons.

“It’s A Wonderful Tiny Toons Christmas” plays this pretty conventional as far as It’s A Wonderful Life parodies go. It relies on a lot of its usual brand of humor of mocking celebrity culture and breaking the fourth wall. Sometimes these jokes land, and sometimes they feel lazy. Just inserting a cartoon version of a celebrity doesn’t count as a joke, and sometimes I feel like the show doesn’t quite get that. The animation is mostly good, but I feel like characters go off-model a lot in this episode, more so than I remember from the show. Maybe the third season had a smaller budget, or maybe it was an attempt to make the show look more “toon-like” or something. The voice cast for this show is exceptional though, and they do not disappoint. Tress MacNeille, John Kassir, Dan Castellaneta, Cree Summer, Danny Cooksey, Maurice LaMarche, Joe Alasky – all fantastic voice actors.  The show sticks to its parody format pretty strongly and doesn’t even deviate for a Santa mention. That’s fine and I do actually like this one. I find the show’s premise charming and since it’s so wrapped-up in Hollywood culture it does make sense for it to tackle It’s A Wonderful Life for its Christmas special. If you want to check this one out for yourself, I can’t think of a channel that would show it this year. A few years ago you could rely on Hub to do so, but that channel underwent a format change and eventually dropped the show in 2015. Tiny Toon Adventures is available on home media and streaming on Amazon, iTunes, and VUDU, and if you want my opinion, it’s a worthwhile show to own.

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Dec. 3 – Duck the Halls: A Mickey Mouse Christmas Special

Duck_the_Halls_-_TitleBy the time 2016 drew to a close I got the sense that people were ready to say goodbye to the year. It may have brought some bad times, but lets at least remember it for one of the good things it contributed to society:  a brand new Mickey Mouse Christmas special! Not since 2004’s Mickey’s Twice Upon A Christmas had television been blessed with a new holiday special starring Disney’s world renowned mascot, and best of all, it was a Donald Duck special!

“Duck the Halls:  A Mickey Mouse Christmas Special” is a roughly 21 minute Mickey Mouse cartoon set in the new Mickey Mouse cartoon universe which launched in 2013. Most of those cartoons are around 4 minutes in length making “Duck the Halls” by far the longest of the bunch. The series has a distinctive look that’s well animated using modern techniques and features the voice cast you know and love. And for basically the first time ever, Mickey himself is actually very funny and the series is reliant on visual gags more so than jokes to induce laughter. It feels like an animator’s show which naturally draws comparisons to 90’s animated shows like Ren & Stimpy, Rocko’s Modern Life, and Animaniacs.

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Donald is looking forward to celebrating his first Christmas with his friends.

The cartoon opens with an intentionally classic Christmas vibe. There’s shots of the various characters welcoming Christmas set to song which is being sung in a crooner style meant to invoke memories of Bing Crosby. We see Goofy sloppily wrapping gifts, Pluto pulling Donald around in a make-shift sleigh, and Minnie baking fruit cake. The sequence ends on Mickey trimming the tree with the reveal that he’s the one singing with his voice suddenly shifting from the Crosby-esq voice to a more traditionally high-pitched Mickey. Daisy then shows up to spoil all of the fun as she reminds Donald they need to get the hell out of there and migrate, despite Donald’s protesting to stay and enjoy Christmas just once.

Mickey and the gang are borderline cruel in talking up Christmas as Donald struggles with his reality. Mickey recounts the Christmases of his youth when he strangely spoke with an old english accent. We get to see images of Mickey’s family, which I don’t recall any other short ever doing before. It’s probably not considered canon, but it is pretty neat. Goofy chimes in to talk-up Christmas too and his toes even turn into “missile-toes” and explode. None of this stops Daisy from dragging Donald out of there, but not before Mickey can give Donald his Christmas present:  a snowglobe that says “Wish You Were Here.”

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Mickey wants Donald to experience everything Christmas has to offer.

Donald has a crisis of conscious as they head down the highway, the present from Mickey and a billboard proclaiming X-Mas is Awesome!! being the last straw to cause him to jump out of Daisy’s SUV and send him running back to Mickey’s house. The gang is delighted to have Donald for the holidays, while down south Uncle Scrooge, Professor Ludwig, and the nephews are all bummed that Donald isn’t there for them to pull pranks on, experiment on, and do other activities Donald likely won’t miss. Back north, we get a montage set to song sung by Mickey all about his enthusiasm for sharing Christmas with Donald. Throughout the song they’re doing “Christmasy” things while Donald gets progressively sicker and sicker, due to the cold, culminating in his beak falling off while singing carols.

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The southern gang, all wondering when Donald is going to give up on Christmas and show up.

Following the musical number, Donald is in rough shape. His feathers are falling off and he had to tape his beak back on. Goofy makes the obvious observation that he looks like death, before giving him some hot coco that is much too hot. Meanwhile, Daisy and the gang miss their duck and all have begun to worry about Donald’s well-being. They had expected him to give up on Christmas by now. Mickey is worried about Donald too as he’s getting really bad, and when Daisy calls it’s decided that Donald needs to get south pronto, the only problem is Donald is so close to Christmas morning at this point that he’s not giving up. He snaps, and runs out of Mickey’s house featherless wearing a tree skirt as a cape and other trimmings as an outfit. They chase after him and Donald eventually crashes through a barn and ends up in a manger in a scene that might border on sacrilege for some, but not me as Donald is bigger than Jesus.

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Donald’s finally lost it.

They get Donald back to Mickey’s house where things look dire. Mickey makes a Christmas wish to save his friend’s life, and on cue, Santa arrives. He promptly gets stuck in the chimney, so Mickey and the gang steal his sleigh resolved to get Donald south. It’s at this point that “Duck the Halls” passes my personal reindeer test as the sleigh has all eight reindeer, plus Pluto for good measure (so many specials are too lazy to animate all eight reindeer, nine if you include the one with the shiny nose). They get south, and it includes a pretty good “warp speed” gag that I appreciate (since a warp speed button as exhibited in other specials makes no sense, even for flying reindeer), just as Daisy and the others were getting ready to head north to rescue Donald. They crash into the resort and it appears for a minute that Donald is dead, but he rises from a hot tub reborn! Santa even shows up to help use some Christmas magic to clean up the mess and even turn Pluto into an actual reindeer. He explains to Donald that Christmas doesn’t have to be celebrated exclusively in cold climates, Christmas is in your heart and is to be shared with the people you love! After these wise words, everyone has a wonderful Christmas celebration.

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Pluto living his dream.

“Duck the Halls” is a lot of fun. It’s got laughs, music, Santa, a wholesome Christmas message, and the production values to wrap it all up in a nice package. Tony Anselmo shines bright in his familiar role as Donald Duck as he’s able to capture Donald’s enthusiasm and joy for the holiday as well as his deteriorating physical condition throughout the show.  John Kassir debuts as Scrooge, and is notable as this was basically the first performance of Scrooge by someone not named Alan Young, who was one of 2016’s many victims. Interestingly, they could have given the role to David Tennant who is now voicing Scrooge in the DuckTales reboot, but perhaps they wanted to save his debut for that show’s premiere. Also, Young had voiced Scrooge previously in some shorts for this series and they may have wanted to cast someone who sounded like Young’s Scrooge as opposed to Tennant who is basically doing his own thing. Russi Taylor also gets to voice Donald’s nephews again, as they were also recast for the new DuckTales. They don’t really say or do much in this special, but it’s cool to hear Taylor’s version of the nephews once more. I also really like the look of Santa Claus in this one, as he basically looks like the old Santa from the MGM short that’s now in the public domain, red nose and all.

Duck_the_Halls_Mickey_Mouse_final_shotBeing a relatively new addition to the Christmas television landscape, “Duck the Halls” is likely airing multiple times this year on television, which is why I wanted to feature it early in this year’s countdown so you had a chance to find it on TV for yourself if you missed it in 2016. It’s also available on DVD as part of a collection that includes a Halloween special and some other shorts from the Mickey Mouse series. The set was released in August in limited numbers before receiving a wide release in September. I assume it will be well-stocked throughout the holidays should you desire to add this one to your collection. And why wouldn’t you? Mickey Mouse and Christmas go together like egg nog and bourbon. Actually, even better, because you can never have too much Mickey around the holidays where as too much egg nog can go south real fast. As for where it ranks among other Mickey/Donald Christmas cartoons? That’s hard to say as the old shorts are among my all-time favorites and I also adore Mickey’s Christmas Carol. This one is so decidedly different in its brand of humor that it really stands on its own, making comparisons difficult. Just the fact that it stands among those without feeling inferior is a good enough endorsement.