Plot: Eliza and her family prepare for Christmas in Africa, but Eliza accidentally ruins all of the decorations, gifts and food while trying to help animals.
Breakdown: The Wild Thornberrys is a show that I liked when I was a kid, watched it all the time and enjoyed, but I’d be hardpressed to actually remember an episode off-hand. The show had a very interesting premise. In an era where many cartoons were trying to be more about average life (such as Hey Arnold, Doug, Recess etc.) having a show mixing both ‘average’ life and mythical powers was nice.
I love animals, and seeing such a huge variety and a bunch of different places across the globe in a cartoon was awesome. I just can’t remember the show ever being particularly epic or funny.
To date, the only thing Rugrats related that I haven’t seen is Rugrats Go Wild, the crossover movie between The Wild Thornberrys and Rugrats. Can’t tell you why. I just never felt compelled. They’re both made by Klasky/Csupo, so you’d think I’d latch on better to TWT, but it never kept with me quite as well as some other nostalgic shows.
That out of the way, how does this Christmas special fare? Well, obviously, Christmas in the Thornberry household isn’t exactly as most traditional Christmases, but it is very similar. They have a Christmas goose and a big Christmas feast, they decorate and they exchange gifts. Really the only difference is that their Christmas trees are usually odd like cacti and dead desert trees.
Eliza being Eliza explores the desert area and keeps finding animals that need her help. Coincidentally enough, the best solution to each problem is subsequently ruining one facet of Christmas. For instance, the first animal she encounters is an ostrich that is trying to hatch her eggs. However, the cold desert winds are preventing her from properly heating the eggs. In order to provide heat to them, Eliza puts the ostrich eggs in her and Debbie’s gift to their parents, a heated camera bag. She can get it back at the end of the day, but it’s Christmas Eve so she worries a bit.
Next, a zebra is being cornered by some jackals and Eliza saves him by flashing a flashlight in their faces. The zebra still has to return to its herd, and after breaking her flashlight and not having access to the others in the comvee, she decides to take down the Christmas lights on a wire reindeer on the roof that her mom put up. She wraps the zebra in the lights and I guess they’re battery powered because she can just flip them on with no problem. With the lights on, the zebra can find its way back to its herd without being bothered by the jackals.
Finally, a hungry lion chases Darwin around and plans to eat him. He destroys the decorations on the Christmas tree during the chase and Eliza chucks the Christmas goose as well as all of the rest of the feast that her dad’s been working on to the lion to fill him up and make him ignore Darwin.
All of this works, but Eliza has no choice but to admit everything that happened to her family. They’re disappointed and Debbie is straight-up pissed but her parents forgive her since she was just trying to help animals and at least she wasn’t hurt by the lion.
In an effort to make it up to everyone, Eliza recruits all of the animals she helped and more to gather around in the oasis. They even ‘sing’ Jingle Bells to the family and the baby ostriches return the camera bag to Eliza so she can give it to her parents. It’s an unconventional but merry Thornberry Christmas.
I wouldn’t go so far as to say this episode is predictable, but it follows a pretty straightforward formula, another that is common in sitcoms. Main character tries to do good, only ends up ruining everything, but is forgiven because they had good intentions. Plus holiday spirit bonus.
It wasn’t horribly entertaining, but I will admit that the ending was more touching than I anticipated. The baby ostriches bringing the camera bag back was a heartstring tugger. Plus, you do feel really bad for Eliza when she breaks down. Poor kid had to destroy everything Christmas-y to save animals in need.
All in all, this episode is worth it simply for the ending. It’s not preaching Christmas spirit or combating materialism, it focuses on family and knowing that big sacrifices sometimes need to be made to do good. Really, the only ones who didn’t get a happy ending in this are the jackals. Why does the lion get a good guy ending after trying to eat Darwin, but the jackals don’t get a pass for trying to eat the zebra? They were both carnivores following their desire to hunt and eat. Is it just because the lion apologized afterward?
Anyway, pretty nice Christmas special, but nothing too special.
Recommended Audience: E for everyone!