Exploring Disney’s Castle: Pinocchio (1940)

Rating: 7/10

Plot: A toymaker named Geppetto made a marionette named Pinocchio. Despite his awesome ‘stache, he couldn’t find a woman to mate with him and make him a child, so he wished Pinocchio was a real boy. His wish is granted by a fairy because fairies just do that, but she only brings the puppet to life. In order to become a real boy, Pinocchio has to prove himself to be a kind and moral young lad. However, he doesn’t know the difference between right and wrong so a kindly cricket named Jiminy gets assigned to be his conscience. Then a bunch of weird stuff happens.

Breakdown: While Pinocchio isn’t the closest nostalgic Disney feature in my heart, I do look back on it it fondly, and I remember getting the VHS for the movie way back when I was a wee lass. And, wow, unlike Snow White, I just could not refrain from nitpicking and seeing this movie with a more adult view.

Don’t get me wrong, I still really like this movie, and man I do loves me some of that painted Disney magic, but I was just picking apart the story and then realizing that the second half is one trippy confusing little ride. Not mention how many times I had to stop myself from thinking a scene was pedo-y….

Some things I can’t nitpick too much. I was going to say it’s dumb to send Pinocchio off to school when he’s only been a sentient pile of wood for less than 12 hours, but then I remembered that they seem to live in a weird world of anthropomorphic foxes and cats (even in a world with pet cats. It’s Pluto and Goofy all over again) so that’s not really an issue anymore. And seeing as how Pinocchio’s existence is also completely brushed off by fellow kids, I guess a puppet coming to life is just another day in Italy.

To get to the actual issues though, I’m confused about the fairy’s logic. She specifically says Geppetto deserves a son, but she doesn’t fully bring Pinocchio to life and instead makes him go through a trial of being a good person before he can actually be human. That’s okay I suppose, but then there’s the fact that he has no sense of what’s right or wrong and he’s naïve as all hell. So Jiminy is assigned to being his conscience, but dammit all if he doesn’t suck at it. He doesn’t really give any advice on what’s right or wrong to Pinocchio ever. He just points out that one person is bad without reason once.

Geppetto’s no help either because he doesn’t try to teach Pinocchio anything. He just answers every question with ‘because’ and sends the poor boy off to school not preparing him for how the kids may react or how anything in life works – like stranger danger.

Pinocchio gets into trouble because he really doesn’t know any better and then starts lying to the fairy for no real reason. The Pinocchio in this version has been shown as a very kindhearted yet extremely naïve individual, yet he somehow not only knows how lying works but he does it very naturally and without any actual prompt. Did he think the fairy would get mad if she heard about him getting kidnapped? Because that’s Jiminy’s fault, if anything.

I would say that’s a message of saying that, no matter what your conscience is telling you, it’s up to you to listen or not, which is also fine, but then I have to remember that Pinocchio has no real knowledge of anything in the world at all. Hell, he was setting himself on fire the night before because he liked how pretty the fire was.

He then gets caught by the same people without Jiminy even realizing it, you’d think he’d learn after that to keep a closer eye on the kid but no, and he gets tricked into going to ‘Pleasure Island’….see what I meant about the pedo-y stuff?

Here’s where Pinocchio pulls a complete 180 in character. I could brush off the whole thing about getting kidnapped and going off to join the marionette guy from before because he didn’t really know any better. But when he gets to Pleasure Island, he full on says that he likes being bad, so it seems that even without Jiminy he realizes that what he’s doing is wrong and is going ahead with it for whatever reason.

Oh yeah, let’s address the creepy and downright dark and confusing aspect of Pleasure Island. So a man kidnaps BOATLOADS of misbehaved boys who skip school and do no good. How no one in town has noticed that many kids going missing is beyond me. But considering that they all must be rotten boys, that must be a really awful part of town. Also, I love how it’s only misbehaved boys who are taken. All girls are innocent angels free of sin. ❤

Pleasure Island is a theme park, and I do not understand said theme park. You already kidnapped the kids – why the theme park? Just stick them in a cage or something. And wouldn’t that theme park, that inevitably gets destroyed each time the kids come, cost way more in construction, maintenance, operation and repairs than whatever you get for the kids? And this theme park is specifically designed for little brats since it has robot Indians chucking out cigars to the kids (Aw look, it’s Disney being racially insensitive to Native Americans before Pocahontas. Awww they were so precious.) kegs, and model houses specifically for the kids to destroy.

That’s not even the most baffling part about this theme park. It’s all just a front for a secret operation to turn the kids into donkeys.

Uh. Huh.

I mean, what? How did we go from an innocent story about a puppet coming to life by a fairy and having a bug being his conscience in hopes of someday becoming human to kids being turned into donkeys? I mean, come on Disney. Suspension of disbelief! Pft.

But yeah, the beer and the cigars were poisoned with….something, I dunno, that turned all of the boys into donkeys who would eventually be sold off to salt mines and farms to work until they die. Unless they were young enough to apparently retain their ability to talk because….I honestly have no clue what happened to those boys. Probably kept as a show attraction until they were too old to speak anymore and then sold off into child/donkey labor.

Not one of them were saved. Yeah, screw your happily ever after. Those little brats were never found and were probably forced to work to death. Kinda dark, there, Disney.

Lampwick might have escaped, but I don’t see how.

While this is trippy, dark and confusing, them repeating the stuff about being jackasses (and, yes, they actually say ‘jackass’) basically implies that this scene means if you’re a little brat as a kid, you’re damned to turn into a jackass for the rest of your life….I guess.

Then we get to the weirder stuff. Half-Donkey Pinocchio runs home to find that Geppetto is not there, and I can’t understand how long Pinocchio’s been gone. Last we see of Geppetto, it was the same day Pinocchio was supposed to go to school and he kept looking for him all over town. His first kidnapping took place over the course of a day before he tried to get home again, but I guess the second one took place over days, weeks or possibly months.

Geppetto’s gone and a glowing bird sends down a message to Pinocchio and Jiminy that Geppetto has been swallowed by a whale.

Ya know, typical Tuesday.

……He was swallowed by…..a whale. I can’t even understand how this happened. Geppetto wasn’t swallowed by any old whale – he was swallowed by a huge whale that is known for being particularly murderous and even swallows ships whole.

Apparently, Geppetto was out on his fishing boat when he got swallowed up. This is what confuses me about the timeline. They’re starving to death, act like they’ve been on that boat for quite some time and have little hope they’ll (they being Geppetto, Figaro and Cleo) survive in the next few days. But what was he even doing out on that boat? Like I said, last time we saw him he was looking for Pinocchio after he had gone missing after leaving for school. What was he doing on the boat then? Did he think he’d find Pinocchio out on the ocean? Or had he been missing for so long that he decided to go fishing to clear his mind over the loss of his puppet child?

Also, how could both Pinocchio and Jiminy breathe underwater? The prospect of drowning doesn’t even come up until they exit the whale. I would say this is because Pinocchio’s a puppet, but he seems to have regular bodily functions like in his reactions to the cigars. And his ‘death’ later can only be explained as drowning.

There’s also that thing about making a whale sneeze by setting a fire in its stomach which I don’t even sense make.

Bottomline: I have no idea why I was able to completely immerse myself in Snow White and just gloss over every seeming issue yet I was practically hung up on them in Pinocchio. This just got to be more trippy and dark than I remembered….and confusing, hence why three points got knocked off. But for the most part the movie does have good morals, decent characters and I can’t think of a point where I wasn’t really enjoying myself.

Recommended Audience: Well, the word ‘Jackass’ is said a few times, but I always thought it was stingy to say that’s a swear. It’s in the bible for crying out loud. Kids smoke and drink beer, but the message is obviously that those things are bad to do….and will turn you into a jackass. Plus there’s the downright frightening aspect of that whole Pleasure Island thing. But other than that, it’s perfectly fine. 5+

Advertisements

Aardman’s Clay: Wallace and Gromit – Curse of the Were-Rabbit Review

Rating: 8/10

Plot: Wallace and his dog, Gromit, live in a town where vegetables are everything. They live to grow, care for, eat, and display their veggies, all building up to an annual vegetable competition. Wallace and Gromit run an anti-pest (though mostly bunny) company that humanely captures pests and protects the vegetables of the town.

One night, Wallace gets the idea to stop the bunny plague once and for all by using a mind-altering device to eliminate obsessive thoughts about veggies from their minds. It seems to work, but, in the process, they created a monster….a veggie destroying were-rabbit.

Breakdown: Okay, so yes, the plot does sound very silly, but it’s supposed to.

This was my first ever venture into the Wallace and Gromit series. I’ve heard about it several times in the past, but never actually watched the movie, TV series or played the game….Even though I have the game (from a Humble Bundle).

Curse of the Were-Rabbit is a very entertaining and fun movie that, while not making me bust a gut, did have me smiling and laughing out loud numerous times. It has a very unique style and sense of humor that I thoroughly enjoyed, even if some things about the movie irked me.

For example, I think Gromit deserved a bit more of a hurrah for all the stuff he did over the course of the movie, which is damn near everything. While Wallace is certainly useful as an inventor and bunny catcher, there’s no denying that Gromit does a hell of a lot more in this movie. In addition to being the only one who is effective against the were-rabbit, he also basically waits on Wallace hand and foot with Wallace only barely giving Gromit his props here and there. Not to mention it was Wallace’s invention that started the were-rabbit fiasco in the first place.

Also, I get that he had good intentions, but if the rabbits stopped being a problem, wouldn’t they be out of a job?

The overall unraveling of events were fairly predictable. I knew from the instant they used that machine what the ‘plot twist’ would be.

Ending spoilers. Finally, they give no explanation as to why Wallace turns back at the end. He saves Gromit from falling to his death, turns back into a human and the curse just seems to go away. He didn’t get shot with the golden carrot, so I just have no clue how or why Wallace was cured of this problem…..because he ‘died’ and was seemingly revived by the smell of cheese?….If so, that is really dumb.

End of spoilers.

All in all, I really enjoyed this movie and I look forward to playing the game seeing as how I’ve had it on Steam for like three years and never got around to playing it. *cough*

Recommended Audience: There is quite a bit if innuendo, though some of it might be my filthy mind playing tricks on me. Like that scene where Totty is showing Wallace her giant carrot. Dear God, the things she says can easily be turned into dirty talk. Other than that, though, really nothing to bother with. 6+

Dreaming of Dreamworks: The Road to El Dorado

Rating: 6.5/10

Plot: Miguel and Tulio are two con men who swindle a guy on the street out of his map to the legendary El Dorado: the city of gold. However, they end up getting trapped on a ship before they can head off on their adventure.

While escaping the ship on a lifeboat, they, as well as the horse Altivo, end up lost at sea and get lifeboat-wrecked on a random island that just happens to be the place to start looking for El Dorado. They find the city, but are mistaken for gods by the natives. Being good con men, they intend to keep up the lie just long enough to get a whole bunch of gold and run back to Spain with the help of Chel, a local who wants to go back to Spain with them. Their lie is not easy to keep up, and with an evil high priest wishing to constantly give a blood tribute, they have to get out of El Dorado as soon as possible.

Breakdown: Hmph, I really wanted to enjoy this more than I did. Don’t get me wrong, it’s by no means a bad movie. I may suck at numbered ratings, but that’s not a typo. It’s just that I had hoped that this was one of those lesser known gems I could discover. Alas, no. Just above average. Dammit Dreamworks, you got my hopes up with Prince of Egypt!

To start off on a good note, the movie does have quite a few funny moments. Miguel and Tulio work well off of each other as best friends, even if they do have the typical dynamic of responsible one and goof off.

The art and animation can be simply amazing sometimes, and the Aztec feel was a welcome change of pace.

The title is almost entirely an outright lie. If you were expecting this movie to be like a road trip/treasure hunt movie, you’ll be sorely disappointed because it takes them less than 25 minutes to reach the place. All of the steps of the map are even done in a montage.

To make matters worse, they did the one plot I really hate – trying to pull off a lie. I hate feeling awkward. This type of plot brings nothing but awkwardness, and it just makes the movie more predictable. We know it all leads to one end – at least one important person finding out and crap hitting the fan because of it.

Another plot device they included was the one best friend overhearing something that insults him so he stays mad at the other until he saves his life thing.

One thing that bugged me in particular was the seemingly forced relationship between Tulio and Chel. They don’t connect on really anything – they just flirt. We don’t learn anything about Tulio and we know even less of Chel besides the fact that she wants to go to Spain and likes stealing. Yet there’s some flirting, some sex-ish activity on a pile of gold (which is the best sex, of course) and then, boom, they basically want to start a life together. She served no real purpose in the entire movie besides to be fanservice and/or to have a girl among this sausage-fest.

The ending was also fairly disappointing. Considering how blood-hungry the high-priest guy was, I was expecting him to be a real threat at the end, but no. He does learn of the non-divinity of the boys and decides to work some mojo to get rid of them, but it was a short and disappointing battle that had a short and disappointing end. You think he’ll reprise when he joins up with some Spanish soldiers and wishes to lead them to El Dorado to take it over, but the final climax is to crash the boat into the entrance of El Dorado so they can never enter (and supposedly the citizens of El Dorado can now never leave.) and then he’s easily dragged away by the soldiers who believe he was lying all along. It’s ridiculous that a guy who could possess or control a giant stone jaguar and do all sorts of freaky magic could be contained by Spanish soldiers.

Apparently, I’m not the only one who was disappointed with this because the movie was a box office failure losing over $20 million and receiving negative to moderate ratings across the board by critics. However, it was nominated for numerous awards.

The music was just okay. It seemed weird to have only one song that the characters sing like it’s a musical number while everything else is in the background. Besides that song, all of the lyrical songs were done by Tim Rice and Elton John, whom I haven’t seen work on an animated movie since the freakin’ Lion King. However, I found the songs to just be mediocre at best.

Bottomline: It’s a perfectly fine movie to kill time and it’s pretty funny and nice to look at sometimes. However, it’s still basically an awkward, predictable movie with no backstory for any of the characters and a pretty flat ending.

Recommended Audience: Dreamworks likes to swear here and there but nothing worse than ass, crap or hell. One sex-ish scene, but it’s honestly just an off-screen heavy make out. No nudity. A little blood. 10+

Pixar’s Lamp: Toy Story 2

Rating: 8/10

Plot: It’s a terrible day for toys when Andy’s mom announces a yard sale. In an effort to save a beloved old squeaky penguin named Wheezy from being sold, Woody finds himself getting stolen in the yard sale instead.

The thief is the owner of Al’s Toy Barn, an avid toy collector, and he finds himself among a collection of toys based on the show Woody’s Roundup. He’s treated like a hero to the other toys; Jessie the cowgirl, Bullseye the horse and the prospector, but he’s still desperate to get back to Andy. Buzz and the other toys from Andy’s room travel to find Woody and bring him home, but the other Woody’s Roundup toys are convincing him that it’s better to stay in a toy museum instead of going back home where Andy will eventually grow up and forget about him.

Breakdown: Pixar’s first sequel and Pixar’s first relative ‘meh’ movie supposedly. I’ve never heard anyone say this is a downright bad movie, but most people agree that it’s not really fantastic either. I think people just fell under the impression that Pixar could do no wrong and finding that a movie wasn’t up to their high standards left it with a bigger dent.

Does it really deserve any flak though?

In my opinion? No. I really like this movie. It’s the weakest of the trilogy in my opinion, but that doesn’t make it a bad, meh or even weak film.

The storyline isn’t a rehash of the first film like a lot of sequels, and it touches upon the topic of the toys’ owners growing up and leaving them behind. They won’t really take this plot line and shove your heart into a paper shredder like the third movie, but still. And it also reminded me that, not only does that suck, but toys can be immortal to a degree. They can definitely live throughout a few generations at least if they’re taken care of, so it’s not only sad to think that the toys might be thrown out or spend their time rotting somewhere, but they could also see owner after owner ‘outgrow’ their use and be abandoned.

There are new characters added, and the background of Woody is explored, though I don’t quite get stuff like this. I don’t really understand why Woody doesn’t realize that he’s this famous. If he is an original, that must mean he’s over 50 years old, yet he doesn’t seem to act like he’s had previous owners and has completely forgotten his origins. I have to wonder why some toys realize what they are immediately yet toys like Buzz, Woody and the Aliens are under some delusion about it once they awaken.

Jessie’s pretty grating when you first meet her, but she grows on you and she is the poster child for the topic of the movie as she had an owner who grew up and ended up abandoning her. I’m still left wondering why she remembers that considering, from all I can tell from this girl’s room, this happened around the 60s or 70s, yet Woody can’t seem to remember anything pre-Andy days.

Bullseye’s a cute little character that can be a good addition to the group, but it seems weird that a toy like that is introduced when it’s been established that Woody and the others get along fine with Buster.

The storyline with Buzz, Delusional Buzz and Zurg felt forced. The opener is enough to attest for that because it felt like it was too long. Some of the interactions with Delusional Buzz were funny, especially the first scene, but after that it just felt like it was shoehorned in and a bit annoying. It’s almost like they weren’t quite sure what to do with Buzz to give him enough screentime. Plus, there’s the irritating nagging in my head that there was a Buzz Lightyear cartoon including Zurg and maybe this could’ve just been a big plug for that.

They also rehashed a few too many jokes from the original movie, but it’s not constant.

I think that this movie is actually better now that I’ve seen Toy Story 3. It’s acts as a great mediator between 1 and 3.

The first movie is about being there for Andy, no matter who he may seem to give more attention to and knowing that Andy loves to play with all of his toys.

The second is about dealing with the fact that, despite this, there will be a time when Andy becomes too old to play with his toys, but until that time comes they’ll be there to play with him no matter what.

And the third is finally dealing with what happens when Andy grows up and stops playing with his toys as well as addressing the various futures of toys when their owners grow up.

While it is a bit OOC for Woody to ditch Andy to be in a museum, it’s understandable that he’d feel that way. After hearing Jessie’s story and being shelved, as well as seeing what could’ve been the fate of Wheezy, it’s perfectly reasonable that he’d be scared and, in a way, its a story of mortality. You either live a true and happy life that eventually ends or throw it away to chase immortality.

Also, it reminds me that in Toy Story 3 Jessie’s situation and feelings should be much worse considering she was already dumped once before.

I think Woody singing “You’ve Got a Friend in Me” on Woody’s Roundup was probably one of the best ways to handle Woody’s revelation that he needed to go back to Andy. It really was an incredibly touching scene…..Though I think the little boy on the show was a little on the creepy side.

The reprise at the end I could’ve done without, though, even if it is performed by Robert Goulet. Especially given that Wheezy skips some lines during it.

Bottomline: It’s a thoroughly enjoyable movie. Not as good as the original, no, and there are some annoying and seemingly pointless things in there, but most of the jokes are really funny, the plot’s interesting and like I said it’s a great bridge between movie 1 and 3. I can see how some people may be disappointed with it, but I’d still gladly rewatch it several times.

Recommended Audience: There is very very slight innuendo that I doubt any kid would get, but otherwise nothing objectionable. E for everyone!

Exploring Disney’s Castle: Dinosaur (2000)

Rating: 7/10

Plot: The egg of an iguanodon is separated from its parents and ends up traveling far away from any dinosaurs on an island where he’s found and cared by a family of lemurs who name him Aladar. Despite being vastly different from anyone on the island, he lives a very happy life with his family. One day, a horrible meteor shower wipes out their home and most of the animals that they knew. While escaping the aftermath, Aladar and his family, his mother, grandfather, sister and uncle, run into a herd of many dinosaurs trying to make it back to their nesting grounds since they believe it may be a safe haven from this catastrophe. Lead by Cron, a cruel iguanodon who believes in survival of the fittest, the herd tries to make it to their nesting grounds alive, but Aladar doesn’t agree with Cron’s methods and wishes to get everyone, the old, young, sick and injured there alive no matter what.

Breakdown: I remember seeing this a while back and not getting a huge impression about it. It’s not bad, there are many good points, but there’s nothing very fantastic about it. The visuals, especially during the meteor shower and Aladar’s egg traveling to the island are wonderful, but unlike what I first thought, the backgrounds are almost always actual footage of real locations with only the animals and the effects CGI. The visuals are still great, though, and the CGI meshes well with the environment.

The story’s somewhat predictable, though the meteor shower comes right out of nowhere. There’s still several parts that are heartwarming, tragic and impacting, especially when Eema, one of the elderly dinosaurs, starts to deteriorate.

The romance is predictable as well. Only female iguanodon tail meet only other iguanodon around that isn’t your brother or a dick (Cron being both)

The characters are where it loses me a bit. We have Zini who is Aladar’s lemur uncle. He’s obnoxious and that’s all there is to it. We’re supposed to feel bad for him because he can’t find a mate, but if you watched him for five minutes you’d know why he can’t find one. And of course he’s a total playboy by the end for no reason. His character does nothing in the slightest. His little sister, Suri, does way more than Zini does.

The lemurs on their own don’t do much anyway. They ride the backs of the dinosaurs and make comments about what’s happening around them. That’s about it. The mom does some stuff, as does Suri, but after the opening scene they’re just kinda there.

Then we have I guess his name is Url. He’s a ankylosaurus that acts like a dog for reasons beyond my understanding. I don’t know why some of these dinosaurs are smart and can speak but then we have dog-like dinosaurs like Url and carnosaurus who are nothing but hungry beasts incapable of rational thought.

Cron’s a pretty decent bad guy, but you can’t sympathize with him very much. I know that in dire circumstances sometimes you need to do harsh things in order to ensure that even some survive instead of none, but by the end it really seems like he didn’t give a crap about any of the herd and that if any of them didn’t make it they didn’t deserve to make it. In some circumstances he was nearly causing their death by his blowhard plans.

That’s supposed to make Aladar look like a real hero by contrast, which it does, but they clearly want you to have some sort of connection to him since he’s noted as being Neera’s (female iguanodon) brother.

Bottomline: This isn’t a fantastic movie, but it’s still a very enjoyable film with plenty of suspense, action, some romance, and likable characters especially in Eema and Baylene. The story is predictable, but it’s not horribly cliché. The art and animation along with the music are fantastic, with maybe the lemurs looking the worst. You may get annoyed by Zini, but he gets hardly any screentime so I wouldn’t worry about it. I’d still watch it if it was randomly airing on TV.

Recommended Audience: This is a Disney production, so it’s not too bad in the content department, but you do have sudden apocalyptic conditions, corpses, some dinosaurs die on screen, some dinosaur corpses are eaten by raptors and carnosaurs, non-graphically for the most part, and a good chunk of it takes place off camera, there’s some blood….eh 10+.

Pixar’s Lamp: A Bug’s Life

Rating: 8/10

Plot: A colony of ants has been essentially been enslaved by a group of grasshoppers lead by the cruel…well, Hopper. They’re tasked year after year with gathering a food offering for the grasshoppers in addition to the amount of food that they need for themselves before the rainy season comes. An ant named Flik who tends to cause trouble all the time with his gadgets and inventions accidentally knocks the annual food offering in the waters surrounding their home. As punishment for their lack of offering, Hopper demands a double offering after summer and fall have ended when the final leaf on the tree above the ant hill falls. Flik gets an idea to find help outside of the colony by bigger and tougher bugs and the colony’s princess and soon-to-be queen, Atta, agrees in order to keep him out of trouble while the rest of the ants gather food.

Flik eventually finds a circus troupe whom he believes are actually warrior bugs. Likewise, the troupe believes him to be a talent scout with his story of the grasshoppers being the story of the show and agree to help him. However, everything falls apart when the truth is revealed and the last few leaves begin to fall from the tree.

Breakdown: I’ve already reviewed Antz and explained the little ‘who ripped off who’ war with Dreamworks. I also noted how it’s somewhat unfair to compare these two movies in terms of being ‘rip-offs’, whichever one you may believe is the rip-off, because they are two fairly distinct movies with seemingly different target audiences, plot points, characters, art styles and side characters.

So since it wouldn’t be entirely fair to compare these two side by side, let’s do it anyway!

Let’s tackle the art and animation first, shall we? The art is set more towards being cartoon-y with huge eyes and blue colored ants. I mentioned in the Antz review that the blue thing bothered me because ants aren’t blue and at least Antz was more realistic with having brown ants. I did find something called a blue ant, but it’s not blue (if anything it’s black with a metallic-like coating and red legs) and it’s more of a wasp than an ant. Then again, it seems like Antz was going more towards an older demographic that would probably want realism over cartoon style whereas A Bug’s Life is clearly aimed more for a younger audience. I can’t say either of them is really better in the art department. A Bug’s Life is definitely more visually appealing, but Antz was more of a stickler for details.

Animation-wise, though, there’s no denying that Pixar’s is a lot smoother.

In terms of characters, our main lead, Flik, is more relatable and likable than Z, end of story. Z, while meaning well, was a big whiner who was constantly complaining about how the conformity within the colony was stifling. While he had a point, that doesn’t mean I liked to hear his constant complaining.

Flik, on the other hand, wants nothing more than to help the colony do bigger and better things. He makes inventions and has ideas that sometimes end up screwing up and ruining everything, but he only wants to make things better and easier for the colony as a whole. He does mope for a bit, but it’s relatable moping of feeling like you’re a big screw up no matter how good your intentions are. In addition, he only does it a couple of times. He doesn’t spend half the movie doing it like Z. Dave Foley is also much easier to listen to than Woody Allen.

Princess Atta is much different than Bala. Bala wanted nothing more than to shed her royal duties and just relax every now and then with the commonfolk, which is pretty much a common princess plotline. Atta is the complete opposite as she wants nothing more than to do a good job as a princess and later on as a queen. She’s obsessed and a bit of a worry-wart about running everything and doing everything right. Therein lies her connection with Flik. Despite their drastically different stances in life, they both feel like they’re big screw ups.

Atta is definitely the more fleshed out and unique character, plus she actually evolves through the movie. Bala is pretty forgettable and has a cliché princess personality. She doesn’t change much throughout the movie.

The big conflict in A Bug’s Life is the fact that a group of grasshoppers, lead by the most originally named grasshopper ever, Hopper, have been terrorizing a colony of ants for a long time under the excuse that they protect them from harm, even though they live about a day away from them and would never be able to prevent trouble in time. Every year, the ants are forced to gather food for the grasshoppers in addition to themselves. The major issue is that they live on a very small island that has a limited supply of food. When Flik accidentally knocks the food offering into the water, which they can’t retrieve because they can’t swim, Hopper and his gang get pissed and demand that they offer twice as much food before the final leaf on the one tree of their island falls.

So they have to not only collect the double offering, but they also have to collect food for themselves, which will be difficult, if not impossible, under the circumstances as they barely manage to make their singular offering in time.

The conflict in Antz really doesn’t come to light until later, but the major issues are that the ants are a bunch of mindless conformists who only do what they’re told and nothing else. One of the soldier ants creates a Nazi-esque plan behind the scenes to wipe out all of the worker ants so only the princess and the more deserving soldier ants will live.

Two very different stories, but I’d be lying if I didn’t say I thought A Bug’s Life’s was more interesting and could hold a longer run time. That is one of my main issues with Antz. To me, it was good, but forgettable. There are problems with A Bug’s Life that are glaring and will be addressed in a minute, but at the end of the day, despite those problems, A Bug’s Life was just more entertaining and enjoyable to me whereas Antz I could really give or take.

Finally, the message of A Bug’s Life was a combination of strength in numbers, the ‘power of one’ to unite them all, and standing up to bullies, as well as maybe being proud of the fact that you’re different no matter how much you may screw up because of it.

Antz’s message was a little confusing. It seemed to be that conforming, especially to the point of basically being robots, and living for nothing but work was bad, but then you have the fact that the ants were mindless drones no matter what they were told. They did shake off their blind obedience when Z showed them the error of their ways, but then they showed that non-conformity lead to complete and utter laziness and uncaring for your community. Then when they started to question Z in the slightest, they revolted against him in an instant as well. Perhaps the message is that conformity and living for work are wrong, but going too far in the other direction is just as wrong. Living a life in balance is a good lesson, but if that is the main message, they muddled it up horribly.

I should also mention that the little kids didn’t annoy me as much as I remember them doing. Those two little snots who tease Dot are still brats though.

Well, let’s stop with the comparison and get to what’s wrong with A Bug’s Life as a movie, in terms of story anyway. Three things, really.

First, this movie eventually gets to a point where it relies on the “main character lies to his friends and eventually gets found out” trope. Flik enlists the help of a circus troupe made of a (male) ladybug named Francis, a praying mantis named Manny, a black widow spider named Rosie, a dung beetle named Dim, a walking stick named Slim, a pair of pill bugs named Tuck and Roll, and a gypsy moth named….Gypsy. Besides the issue of ‘I hate this trope and it only makes for that incredibly awkward ‘reveal”, it also raises another issue. Flik never lied to begin with. At all. He told his story straight out to the troupe and even a second time to the pill bugs who don’t speak English and speak some kind of made-up language, but he wasn’t aware of that.

If anything, the troupe was at fault for making the totally unprompted assumption that he was a talent scout just really invested in this grasshopper story. They even fully believe it when they arrive at the colony and everyone’s cheering their heads off for the arrival of ‘the warriors’. It’s only until after a welcome dinner that the troupe figures it out and gets mad at Flik for lying to them even though he never ever did.

Hell, in addition to getting pissed and insulting him, the pill bugs slap him! FOR THEIR MISTAKE. Granted, once Flik finds out the truth, he eventually decides to actually lie to the colony about the troupe, which leads to the predictable awkward reveal, but the fact is that the troupe should have been the ones who looked like they were lying or at the very least made a grave error, not Flik.

Second, one other thing I will say in favor of Antz was the fact that they highlighted a big problem with A Bug’s Life. In Antz, the ants were divided up into workers and soldiers at birth and they remained widely segregated in their regular day to day lives.

In A Bug’s Life, there’s a noticeable lack of soldiers. They’re all workers. They have to be in order to be so firmly under Hopper’s thumb. That creates a problem and dare I say plot hole that could’ve just been patched up by saying that the soldiers all got overpowered by the grasshoppers or were killed or abandoned them or something. I’m not an entomologist, so I don’t know how likely it is that this species or specific colony of ants would just straight up have no soldiers, but it’s a noticeable issue to me.

Finally, the climax has a pretty big problem to it. All of the bugs, understandably, have a huge fear of birds. Hopper especially has a fear of birds since it’s implied that he got the big scar on his face and lost sight in his right eye because of a bird attack and is traumatized because of it. Flik, who is already in the trenches of his deception, decides to just screw the whole idea of the warriors in lieu of a new idea – making a mechanical bird made of sticks and leaves that will scare Hopper and the others away.

They complete the bird and are really optimistic about their chances. However, the colony finds out that the ‘warriors’ are really circus bugs and that Flik lied to them. Flik is then banished from the colony and goes off to join the circus troupe in shame while the colony panics because they spent all summer and fall mostly making the bird and hanging out with the warriors instead of gathering Hopper’s food because they no longer intended on paying him his tribute.

They scramble to gather food, which ends up not being nearly enough to offer to Hopper without leaving themselves to starve to death otherwise and completely lose hope.

The problem I have with this is…what the hell happened to the bird? Why is the bird thing no longer a feasible idea? I know it was Flik’s idea and he lied to them thus they might have lost some faith in the bird. Hell, Flik even loses faith in the bird as he’s riding with the troupe. But you have to remember something – the idea of the bird was presented to the circus troupe, who thought it was a great idea. The idea was then presented to the queen, Princess Atta and the royal council, who also thought it was brilliant. The idea was then shown to the entire colony who also had so much faith in it that they were cheering at the presentation. Why did they suddenly lose faith in the bird idea?

It can be argued that the stuff with the ‘warriors’ was moot by the time the bird was done, and the reveal was actually at a celebration party for the completion of the bird! In fact, Flik was figuring out a way for the troupe to escape without being noticed at the party so they could leave before the grasshoppers came. The troupe stayed of their own accord because they liked the colony and had recently lost their jobs anyway.

The bird was completely unrelated, so there’s no reason why they couldn’t have stuck with that plan in the end despite Flik’s deception and banishment. Did they really think they had more of a chance of gathering a double offering in a matter of days? It’s not like they couldn’t have done it since Flik comes back and actually pilots the bird just fine with only a girl scout troupe to help him operate it.

Bottomline: Despite those plot issues, I have to stick by my stance and just say it’s a more enjoyable, memorable and funnier movie than Antz. I commend Antz for trying to be more realistic in their designs and I still enjoyed the movie just fine, but in the end the one who will always win out for me is A Bug’s Life. I’ve gained much more appreciation of Dreamworks productions in recent time, despite the fact I haven’t gotten to their later work, but I still remain as a loyal soldier in Pixar’s colony……Oh wait. Damn you, ant puns!

Recommended Audience: There’s some drawings of bug gore by the little kids (their teacher actually told them to draw one of the good guys as dead to make it more dramatic. The amount of flying that wouldn’t do in an actual school setting is amazing.) no swearing, no innuendos that I remember. Some minor violence, some grasshoppers get killed although not graphically. It’s fine for all ages.

AVAHS Finale – Rudolph’s Shiny New Year

Plot: Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer was an adult on Christmas Eve.

What the hell’s with these sequels?

They don’t get continuity.

I guess I can justify it,

Young Rudolph sells more toys.

Parents, go out and buy one

for all your little girls and boys.

Rudolph needs more stuff to do, so he’s going after New Years now.

Franchises aren’t a brand new thing – this is a 60’s 70s cash cow.

Maybe I’m exaggerating – they probably didn’t know.

That in 40 years Rudolph would become,

a retail nostalgia ho!

Breakdown: We haven’t done enough Rudolph this year, right? Plus, this is pretty much one of the only New Years animated specials in existence. As many times as I’ve watched Rudolph, I don’t give as much attention to Shiny New Year. I still watch it fairly regularly on the holidays, but, truth be told, I usually forget to watch it before the holidays are over. I usually have to catch it in passing on ABC Fam…Freeform or ABC or something.

Twelve years after the release of the first movie, Rudolph, who has undergone de-aging surgery between when he left to deliver presents with Santa and when he came back home, is tasked with finding Happy, the baby new year. He’s gone missing, and without him the new year will never come. It will just be December 31st forever.

AVAHS - Shiny New Year 1

I want to question so much about what that really means. Will the earth halt in its orbit? Will calendars be unable to show future days? Will all of the pre-printed calendars for next year vanish? Will the day just repeat itself, like Groundhogs Day? Will time and space warp around us? Isn’t everything fine as long as Happy is alive? Shouldn’t Happy be born on January 1st? When was Happy born if not the start of the next year? Is there really a press of time if December 31st will keep happening until Happy is found? Pretty sure we can survive a few December 31sts.

The only person who can go out and look for Happy is Rudolph because the storm from Christmas is still going on. Why Rudolph has to go by himself without Santa or anyone else is beyond me. Seems really irresponsible considering Rudolph’s basically a fawn again.

While he goes out by himself, he’s eventually joined by General Ticker – a character that literally comes out of nowhere. He suddenly appears by Rudolph’s side when Father Time (Who strangely carries around a scythe for no reason. Is he standing in for death?) narrates that he was soon joined by him. This movie will be less than ten minutes long if you just keep narrating things into existence.

AVAHS - Shiny New Year 2

Here’s something to rejoice about, though – Rudolph’s nose no longer makes that horrible noise! YAY!

When they reach the desert, they’re met by Quarter Past Five, a camel with a clock shoved in its back…..I don’t understand this character’s concept, but whatever.

The big bad in this movie is Aeon the Terrible – basically a giant vulture. He’s not nearly as terrifying as Bumble, but he does the job.

Aeon’s on the hunt for Happy because he’s a creature that only lives for one eon. After that eon, he turns to ice and snow. His eon just happens to be up at the end of this year, so he’s searching for Happy to ensure that the next year never comes.

Through a nice but rather forgettable song break by Father Time, we learn that the baby New Year is actually Father Time. It starts out every year as a baby and grows throughout the year until it’s reached old age in December, where another baby New Year is born and starts the process over again.

AVAHS - Shiny New Year 3
And for a few months he turns into a girl.

I really like this explanation of Father Time and the baby New Year. With the confusion from earlier, it’s nice to see something like this that makes a lot of sense. I was worried the baby New Year was just a novelty to herald in the new year. Speaking of which, they make a nice workaround to mentioning the ball drop in Time’s Square by saying there’s an identical event just with the ball called ‘the magical diamond’.

Now let’s get back to things about this story that don’t make sense to me. Father Time explains that Happy ran away after some people in the castle laughed at him for his big ears.

While it’s obvious that the baby New Year ages much faster than a normal child, are you seriously telling me this baby, who should be essentially new born age, has the cognitive capacity to understand that people are laughing at and mocking his ears? And that he understood this to a point where he rationalized his only option as running away?….And that he was able to run away as a new born baby? In a massive dessert? And not die? How poorly are you watching this incredibly important infant anyway?

AVAHS - Shiny New Year 4
Thank God I’m being watched by the parents from Rugrats.

Rudolph asks where he might go and Father Time says Nanny Nine O’Clock mentioned that he always wanted to go to the archipelago of last years—alright now you’re just making stuff up. This baby not only knew what an archipelago was, knew there was one for the previous years, and had a wish to see it too?….and shared it with others? When he can’t talk?

The islands are the homes of all the previous Father Times from the years that has passed. Each island stays frozen in time for the year that the specific Father Time reigned. When their last day of the year comes up, they retire to that island.

He sends Rudolph off, again, by himself. I can understand why Quart isn’t going, he’s too big, but why isn’t Ticker coming?

He’s directed to the islands through what is probably the stupidest method of directing someone I’ve ever seen. There’s a sundial on a beach with a hand pointing out into the ocean, and that’s the way he’s meant to go…..NOOOOOOOOOOO. Really?! He’s meant to find these ISLANDS out in the OCEAN? I thought they’d be underground. It’d be different if you could take the sundial and it directed you as you traveled, but it just stays on the beach.

AVAHS - Shiny New Year 5
Someone’s screwing with me, right?

Not only that, but how is he supposed to ensure that he stays straight ahead in the boat? Especially when the designs are so wonky that it looks like Rudolph has no other view besides the back of the sail during the whole trip. On the calmest ocean ever.

AVAHS - Shiny New Year 6

Rudolph gets attacked by Aeon and gives off the angriest look I’ve ever seen a reindeer give.

AVAHS - Shiny New Year 7
His nose is red from the blood of his enemies.

He’s saved by Big Ben, a whale with a clock on its tail. Okay, you’re really just shoving clocks onto animals and calling it a day, aren’t you Father Time? Rudolph hitches a ride on the whale, and no, they never explain why Rudolph can’t just fly everywhere. He just flew around the world in a night, but he has one week to find this baby who might be in mortal danger and he’s literally hoofing it everywhere.

To be completely honest, the next ten minutes is just padding. Rudolph, Big Ben, OM (One Million – the first Father Time), and Sir 1023 (A knight, the Father Time from 1023, which is apparently when every fairy tale ever told took place) just search through the various years for Happy with little actually happening. They even take a detour for them to reenact, beat by beat, the story of Goldilocks and the Three Bears, just with Happy taking the role of Goldilocks.

The central theme of each place they visit is that Happy makes friends with the people there and then they see his giant ears, laugh and he leaves again.

Aeon grabs him, and Rudolph and the others quickly run after him and knock Happy from his clutches. He saves himself in the fall with his hat as a parachute, only to lose him again in a freak gust of wind that carries him off.

AVAHS - Shiny New Year 8

Happy meets another Father Time, this time a Benjamin Franklin look-alike called 1776 or Sev for short. In the island of 1776, every day is the Fourth of July. Don’t question it – just accept it.

Also, if there’s one thing I want to listen to in a New Year’s special or a subset of a holiday special, it’s song about the Fourth of July. Save it for Rudolph and Frosty’s Christmas in July, please.

At this point, I’m really having a hard time believing that this baby who can’t even walk keeps outrunning Rudolph and the gang. Again, would be really useful for you to fly, buddy.

He’s kidnapped by Aeon again. Rudolph and the Father Times can follow him at night because Rudolph’s nose glows. Gotta keep giving that thing purpose. It’s a glorified tiny flashlight that would actually be insanely difficult to deal with in real life due to the red color, but it’s his schtick.

Aeon has taken Happy to his nest on the frigid Island with No Name. As Rudolph and the others climb the mountain to get to the nest, Aeon shrieks and causes an avalanche, encasing them all in balls of snow.

Rudolph is able to break free because of the heat from his nose—oh come on! You can’t add powers to this thing. Even if his nose did emit heat under the logic that the energy used to make the light also creates heat, it’s about the size of a grape. He’d have to have a laser nose for that to even begin to work.

AVAHS - Shiny New Year 9
Rudolph was born on Krypton….we mentioned that in the last movie, right?

With Aeon fast asleep, Rudolph climbs the mountain to get to Hap—uh, Rudy, aren’t you forgetting something?…..Freeing the other Father Times?…..Let them freeze to death? Okay….Wait, what happens a Father Time dies? Are we putting the space/time continuum at jeopardy here?

He tries to connect with Happy by showing him his nose and saying he used to be made fun of for it too, but now it doesn’t bother him. The current Father Time explains that Rudolph was too modest to tell his own story so the wind, trees and mountains helped him out by singing his song. I’ll only forgive this weirdness because it’s accompanied by a rather cute, but crude, traditionally animated version of Rudolph’s story….though that also begs the question of why is this part in traditional animation?

I’m redacting some of my forgiveness because holy hell, they made Santa look horrifying.

AVAHS - Shiny New Year 10
Totally get the Santa=Satan thing now.

Rudolph tries really hard to not make it sound like ‘I gained social acceptance because my deformity proved to be useful’ and gives Happy a pretty cute wink.

I can’t really avoid the message of the movie anymore, so here goes. Rudolph laughs at Happy’s ears when he shows them but then explains that he wasn’t trying to be cruel – he was just filled with so much happiness when he saw them that he couldn’t contain it anymore. No one that he had met with was being cruel either – they felt the same way.

Obviously, this movie was making another go at the message of accepting your differences and those of others and celebrating what makes you special, but this just seems weird to me. Are you seriously trying to tell people who have been laughed at for their differences that the people weren’t being mean, they were just really happy? Hey, Rudolph, remember when you were laughed at all the time for your nose? Do you reckon those people were really happy or just dicks? Because I remember a whole lot of dickery.

I’m just…kinda confused on how to take this. On one hand, I can sorta see how telling a kid this would be a good coping mechanism for when they get laughed at. On the other hand, you’re condoning mocking by excusing it as pure happiness. Most people who laugh at others for their differences aren’t laughing because they’re filled with happiness – like I said, it’s likely because they’re showing their dickish side. They may not mean to hurt the other person’s feelings, but the fact of the matter is that the source of the humor is coming from the oddity. Even people who can laugh at themselves for their differences can still feel a pang of hurt when someone else laughs at them for it.

AVAHS - Shiny New Year 11
He’s adorable, though.

Aeon wakes up, and Rudolph tells Happy to take off his hat. When Aeon sees his ears, he breaks down in laughter.

Father Time: “Well, it’s the first time that monstrosity ever laughed in his life. He laughed so hard that he laughed himself right out of his nest. He laughed right down the side of that mountain….”

And broke his spine in several places on all of those jagged rocks he is clearly hitting his back on.

Rudolph: “Old Aeon won’t give us any trouble now. He’s cured for good. Heck, nobody can turn to snow and ice when he’s all warmed up inside with laughing.”

How do you know that he’s cured? How do you know he won’t turn around and peck your nose off? It’s not THAT funny – he’ll stop eventually. Are you for real about that warmth from laughing thing? Because my bullshit meter’s having a fit. They’re seriously saying this creature who’s been reigning terror on the sands of time and the archipelago of last years since the beginning of an eon suddenly was filled with happiness and will never be bad again because he laughed a baby’s big ears? What?

AVAHS - Shiny New Year 12
Too adorable.

Midnight strikes and they panic because Happy’s not back with Father Time. Rudolph wonders how they’ll manage to get Happy back before the twelfth bong of the clock when Santa suddenly shows up with his magic sleigh and flying reindeer and a slue of shit that would’ve been extremely helpful FIVE DAYS AGO.

He offers them all a ride, and I’m still calling foul because by the time they all got in that sleigh that clock would’ve definitely hit it’s final bong. Someone get the TARDIS. Actually, you really do need the TARDIS because midnight doesn’t start on the final bong of a clock – it starts when the clock hits midnight, which is when the bongs start. The bongs aren’t a countdown to midnight. You’re going to get there right before 12:01.

Santa does justify his ability to get there in time by saying he travels the world in one night so this isn’t a problem, but we’re watching in real time – the disbelief has to be sent into orbit. Also, again, that ability really would’ve been helpful for the past FIVE DAYS. Is saving the world from eternal December 31st not important enough to get you off your ass until you’ve had nearly a week’s worth of naps and cookies or something?

AVAHS - Shiny New Year 13
Ho ho ho! My presence in this movie completely destroys the fabric of the plot.

Happy rings in the new year. Rankin/Bass do their damnedest to make this timeless by saying his year is 19-wonderful, but, sorry fellas, we’re in 20-eh-well-we’re-getting-by-it’s-alright-sometimes.

As the movie concludes, we’re played out by the only fairly memorable song of the movie – Happy New Year.

The End.

————————–

Forgive me if this review seemed a tad harsher than it needed to be. I’m always a bit of a grump on New Years. At this point in the year, I’m still bitter that the Christmas season is over and I never really look forward to the new year.

My sour grapes aside, this isn’t a bad special – it’s just not that good. It definitely has its interesting concepts in regards to the Father Times and baby new years and even the archipelago of last years. However, it doesn’t really have nearly as much charm as the Rudolph special and a lot of it seems like padding. Some of the new characters were nice, like Big Ben, but the other Father Times had absolutely no purpose besides a duty to find the baby new year. They contributed nothing. Big Ben was basically just the movie’s Lapras, Quart was also only useful as transportation. Everyone else was just there.

Plus, even for a movie set in this universe, there’s a lot of stuff that doesn’t make any sense. A lot of the nonsensical decisions seem like they were made purely for plot convenience as well.

The music was fine. None of it was bad, but the only song I ever bothered to remember over the years was ‘Happy New Year’.

The moral of the movie is either terrible or insanely confusing. Were wires crossed or is this just a bad message to give kids? Notice how no one laughed at Happy in the very end. Shouldn’t apologies have been made? Shouldn’t Happy have been shown happily sharing the happiness with his huge ears and the happy laughter of non-dickishness that everyone would’ve been sure to give?

I do like how previous years and snippets of time were shown to give nods to how each new year is different and brings about major changes in the world, but they didn’t seem like they knew the asset they had with this because they don’t take the time to properly appreciate each time period. One Million years ago is just one big unrelated song number. 1023 is skimmed over for the sake of exaggerated olde English and exploring a lot of fairy tales. 1776 is literally one big Fourth of July party, which takes away from the immersion significantly.

I really like what they were trying to do with this movie, especially since most New Years specials, the few there are, typically focus on that tradition of kissing someone when the ball drops. Having a special that aims to do something creative for the holiday is a much needed breath of fresh air. I’m very uncertain over whether Rudolph was necessary here. It seems like they were jumping through hoops to justify why he and he alone needed to find Happy. However, I do love Rudolph and it’s nice to see him on screen, so I can’t complain too much.

Lastly, despite having no lines besides saying ‘Happy’ at the end, Happy is a very adorable little baby. I wouldn’t have laughed at his ears. They make him even cuter.

This is definitely something nice to show the kids around new years, especially since, if they’re anything like my parents were, they won’t be allowed to stay up until midnight so practically every new years celebration is barred from them until their teens or so. It’s a nice bit of nostalgia for adults, and it can be a fun ride sometimes, but it just doesn’t have a lot of substance.

And with that I close out this year’s A Very Animated Holiday Special. I hope everyone enjoyed the entries this year, had a happy holiday season and will have a great new year. 🙂

AVAHS – Fairly Oddparents: Christmas Everyday!

Plot: After enjoying another awesome Christmas, Timmy wishes it could be Christmas every day. His fairy godparents grant him his wish, and he enjoys toys and time with his family for weeks to come. Too much of a good thing is never a bad thing……right?

Breakdown: There aren’t many Christmas specials that I would say are better enjoyed after Christmas is already over, but if there’s one that makes that list, it’s this episode.

So many Christmas specials leave you wishing that Christmas came every day, but it’s really not a great idea. Eventually, you will get sick of it because one of the reasons amazing things like Christmas are so special is because they only come once a year. If you had it all year round, you wouldn’t appreciate it anymore.

I mentioned this episode in the Stuck on Christmas segment in my Mickey’s Once Upon a Christmas review. In that segment, the only ones aware that Christmas was repeating itself were Huey, Dewey and Louie. Donald, Daisy, Gertie and Scrooge were none the wiser, making it have a Groundhog’s Day effect. In that version, it would be damn near hell because you’d be hearing the exact same words and experiencing the exact same events over and over and over.

I find this version of the setup to be more interesting because everyone’s cognizant of what’s happening. It’s not a matter of reliving the same day – it’s reliving the same holiday, which I find to be more complex and open to a wider range of possibilities.

I also find Timmy’s reasons for wishing such a thing to be better than Huey, Dewey and Louie’s. While Timmy obviously wants to bathe in gifts day after day, the main reason he wants it to be Christmas every day is because his parents stay at home with him instead of being away at work. For the three ducks, all they wants are gifts and Christmas dinner.

But away from the comparisons, we still have a very original and interesting interpretation of what would happen when wishing such a thing in this universe. After a while, everyone starts to get sick of the carols, dinners and basically everything Christmasy. They get so sick of Christmas every day that when they spot Santa in the sky, they try to shoot down his sleigh.

Businesses and schools remain closed, meaning people can’t buy anything or get anything done. (Plus, I assume, people would eventually lose their jobs and society would collapse…)

Not even the kids make off well for long since everyone starts getting fewer and fewer gifts each day.

After a while, Timmy finally realizes that Christmas every day wasn’t a good idea afterall and that everyone’s had enough, so he wishes for Christmas to be over. However, as we’ve learned is common whenever Timmy makes a bad wish, Cosmo and Wanda can’t reverse it. This time, they simply don’t have the magic for such a thing.

Every year on Christmas, the fairies all lend their magic to Santa so he can be the one to grant the various wishes of the children on Christmas. They get their magic back the day after Christmas, which creates the obvious problem. They can still do minor things like disguise themselves and poof places, but they’re ultimately powerless to make such a big wish.

However, I don’t quite get this. Timmy made this wish on Christmas night – meaning Cosmo and Wanda shouldn’t have had the magic to make the wish come true in the first place.

Another interesting repercussion of Christmas happening every day is that the other holidays can’t occur – meaning the representatives of those holidays are extremely angry. Not only do they already feel inferior to Christmas and Santa, but now Christmas has stolen whatever enjoyment they got from people celebrating their holidays.

They want to take Santa down by transferring his powers to them with the unwilling help of Cosmo and Wanda. After they do so, they plan on sending Santa to the imaginary date of February 33rd.

Meanwhile, Timmy snowmobiles to the north pole with the help of every Christmas celebrating kid with Internet access across the globe. When he arrives, the kids all follow to help save Santa.

Santa is extremely overworked and running out of presents to give the kids since he can’t make enough toys every single day to meet demand. Even with magic, he won’t be able to do anything if this continues.

The main confrontation is really my only major negative point about this episode. The other holidays very nearly succeed in taking over and banishing Santa, but Timmy tries to talk some reason into them. When the army of every web-enabled Christmas celebrating kid in the world comes, the other holidays can’t find it in them to fight off kids since their main intentions in the first place was to bring their own brand of holiday joy to the kids of the world and be loved.

Timmy says they are loved, just not as much as Santa. He brings them toys, and Christmas brings their families together. The holidays realize he’s right. They all then lament that their holidays are all kinda lame like Easter with eggs that go bad if you don’t find them, April Fools day with making kids play mean pranks on each other and Cupid saying Valentines Day makes kids fall in love, which he only realizes is a bad thing when the kids all express disgust.

Understanding that Christmas is just a better holiday and that Santa will always be loved more than them, they decide to let Santa go and reverse everything.

Just….what?

I know the important thing is that they know they’re loved either way, but the fact remains that this started with the other holidays being upset that they were being massively eclipsed by Christmas and Santa. Resolving this plotline by saying ‘well, yeah, that’s because he’s better than you guys.’ ‘Oh, yeah, you’re right. Guess we better fix everything.’ END. Just seems nonsensical and lazy.

A better option would’ve been to explain the reasons why those holidays are special to the kids too in their own ways. Like Easter is fun for egg hunts and candy, April Fools day is great to make up creative pranks for everyone to get a laugh, and Valentines day, as much as it makes some kids gag, gives them a bit of courage and hope to make a special connection with someone they like. Maybe say that Christmas may get the most attention, but all holidays have a special place in the hearts of children.

Everything gets changed back to normal, a new rule is made in Da Rules to never allow another kid to wish it were Christmas every day, and, to make it up to Santa, the holidays and Timmy take over delivering presents for next year’s Christmas.

All in all, I still love this Christmas special, even if the climax is a bit poorly written in my opinion. It’s a great way to ease out of Christmas highs as well. I’m sure many people have that same wish when December 26th rolls around, and this is a pretty good way to remind us that special rare events such as Christmas lose their magic and wonder if we live it every single day.

The song in this special is also one of the best Christmas special songs to debut in recent years. I Wish Every Day Could Be Christmas is catchy, Christmasy, funny and sweet. I listen to it on a fairly regular basis, and I sing it in the off-season.

AVAHS – Rugrats: Babies in Toyland Part 2

AVAHS - Rugrats babies in toyland part 2 title

Plot: The adults are snowed in at a 19th century cabin. The babies are battling in The Nutcracker and trying desperately to make Dil’s first Christmas a good one so he’ll have more Christmases in the future. Angelica is hellbent on getting Santa’s toys all for herself. Is anyone going to have a good Christmas?

Breakdown: This review didn’t need to be two parts, but if they’re going to stretch out the special and yuk out some bonus points, I’m gonna.

This episode starts with five minutes worth of two things – Angelica being a thieving bratty bitch and the babies taking part in a mechanical representation of The Nutcracker.

Angelica grabs an armful of cookies that were meant to be taken one by one by the children listening to the carolers and they don’t do a damn thing about it. She took all of them yet no one even calls out to her to stop. Someone loses their snow hat in front of her so she just decides it’s hers now, even though that hat shouldn’t really fit her. Then she jumps into a group of carolers singing her rendition of ‘Joy to the World’ where she inserts herself as the main focus of the song. Yes, Angelica is now literally comparing herself to Jesus. Maybe not intentionally, but it’s there.

AVAHS - Rugrats babies in toyland part 2 image 1

I don’t understand why she’s screwing around so much. The only reason I can figure is that they want to keep showing Angelica being a witch so we’ll better understand why she’s supposedly not on Santa’s nice list…………………………….but……come on. Even people who have never seen a frame of Rugrats know that Angelica’s one of the most notoriously bratty bully characters to ever be shown in any form of media. She has her moments where she thaws her heart, but there is never any question that she is mostly a terrible and selfish person.

Even so, couldn’t they have put this in the first episode? She sent the babies off on a wild goose chase so she could find Santa’s toys first, yet she’s not even actively looking for them until she runs into the babies again.

Speaking of the babies, there’s not much to say about them for a while. Like I said, they accidentally partake in a mechanical rendition of The Nutcracker and all sorts of shenanigans happen. Some of it’s a little funny, but it’s still mostly padding. There’s also one aspect I don’t understand about it.

They’re first being ‘attacked’ by the Nutcracker and are saved by the Mouse King and his soldiers, but when Kimi decides they should fight too, she immediately decides to kick the crap out of one of the mice soldiers. I know they’re animatronics who aren’t taking sides, but from their perspective, Kimi is beating up someone who just saved them.

AVAHS - Rugrats babies in toyland part 2 image 2
I owe you my life, and an asskicking!

Then it turns around and the Mouse King is attacking them, but the Nutcracker saves them and winks at them. I don’t understand.

Once we get to the actual plot, Angelica has an acid trip after she breaks into a fake Santa’s Workshop. Nothing says ‘I deserve presents’ like breaking and entering. She imagines the workshop is real, along with the toy reindeer Santa handed her, named Prancey, and the employee elf from earlier, Hermie, being a real elf. He breaks the news to her that she’s not getting any presents since she’s not on the nice list and even Prancey abandons her after she called him a dumb toy.

We get an alright, but incredibly forgettable song called “Treat Each Day Like Christmas (And Your World’s a Holiday)” where Angelica learns to not be a bitch, I guess. The problem I have with this song is that it’s not really treating Angelica to be a better person on the grounds of just being a better person – it’s basically telling her to be a better person or you end up with no presents. Which is already pretty pointless because she already did get a present – the aforementioned reindeer doll Prancey. She didn’t like it at first, but obviously grew to like it. So, yes, if you’re a bratty little sack of reindeer crap, you do indeed get presents. Maybe not the one you wanted, but it’s far better than–

Hermie: “We give the good kids lots of toys and give the bad ones lice!”

Yeah, lice……Wait, what?

AVAHS - Rugrats babies in toyland part 2 image 3
Prancey is adorable, though….Man, I’m sure on a reindeer cuteness kick lately.

Plus, she’s guaranteed to get a bunch of stuff ‘from Santa’ from her parents.

Back with the adults, their plot literally resolves itself off-screen. They’re still trapped, but they learned to stop fighting, stop being angry about missing Christmas with the kids, stop worrying that they’re going to die from lack of oxygen, enjoy the rustic charm of the cabin, focus less on the Mega Corp stuff and commercialism of Christmas and have a nice Christmas together all doing various things like baking, making popcorn garland, decorating the tree and doing origami…..off-screen. Too bad every single scene in these two episodes has been everything but padding or else they could’ve had time to show all that.

They seem like they might get back to being Christmas grumps when Chaz accidentally sets off the sprinkler system and soaks everyone and everything, but, like before, when they return to the scene later, everything is mostly dry and they’re right back to singing carols and enjoying the holiday. They keep cutting out the most important parts of this subplot. It’s driving me nuts.

In the actual plot for the babies, they’re lead by a goat to a nativity scene, which in my opinion, is pretty much the only part of this special worth its salt. The babies all feel bad for the baby Jesus because he looks cold and itchy, barely clothed in a bed of hay. Though I don’t know why they’re not questioning why this baby is sleeping with his eyes wide open and isn’t moving at all.

AVAHS - Rugrats babies in toyland part 2 image 4
Baby Jesus went on to become a wonderful mime.

They believe Mary, Joseph and the wise men are all hoping the baby has a good first Christmas or else he won’t get any others, like Dil. In an effort to give him some semblance of a good first Christmas, they give the baby Jesus the special Christmas gifts they got from the Nutcracker battle. As soon as I saw they kept those things, I knew they’d reincorporate them, but the way they went about getting them and the fact that the items are totally random pieces of trash makes it seem like this was thrown together sloppily.

Lil gives her ribbon that she got from a ballerina robot, Phil gives a shoe that he took from that same robot, Chuckie gives the big walnut he got from the Nutcracker, Kimi gives a bell she got from the Mouse King and even Dil gives the hat that he got when it flew off of Angelica’s head (the same one she essentially stole).

Then the Jesus doll smiles.

……This is meant to be really cute and endearing and everything….but this is kinda creepy. Rugrats is known for the babies taking normal things and perceiving them as living or something else because they have such an active imagination. The Nutcracker battle, for example, kept switching back and forth between watching the robots fight to watching a real battle between mice and nutcrackers.

AVAHS - Rugrats babies in toyland part 2 image 5

They’re doing this with the Jesus doll…..but I just can’t shake off the creepy feeling. It’s not like they’re imagining the baby Jesus as a living, breathing baby now, fussing around like Dil does – they’re imagining the same doll just with a smile now. The smiling doll is cute, but the shift is what makes it creepy. It doesn’t even make sense with the way their imaginations work.

I will give this scene major props, though. They manage to make a mostly endearing and adorable scene of pure good will, kindness and charity, involving a nativity scene, and not shoving anything overtly Christmas-y or even religious down our throats – and this is coming from a Christian who loves having schmaltzy Christmas-y messages shoved down my throat.

With Lou, he takes up the Santa role since the last one quit, and pathetically dresses up for the job with nothing but his regular attire plus a Santa hat and a beard that is way too loose-fitting. It’s hanging so low on his face, it would never fool even the youngest child. He is being a good Santa, though, so I’ll give him that. He hears that six babies are riding a goat to the nativity scene so he rushes out on a sleigh and retrieves them.

Close by, he spots the cabin the others are trapped in and I almost facepalmed when I saw it from the outside.

AVAHS - Rugrats babies in toyland part 2 image 6

The snow is somehow only piled up around the cabin despite the snow machines being a fair distance away from it and the snow being spread out in a circular pattern. The only way to achieve this effect would be if there was only one snow machine and it was on the roof of the cabin.

They also don’t bother trying to open the window to climb out despite the fact that the snow barely reaches halfway up the window.

AVAHS - Rugrats babies in toyland part 2 image 7

In the end, Chuckie says Dil had a pretty good Christmas with or without presents because they had a lot of fun together. Angelica shows back up and somehow has a sack of gifts despite not being given one at the end of the ‘it totally happened’ acid trip. She kept the elf hat, but there was no sack of gifts. Angelica happily gives the babies their gifts. Chuckie gets a new snowsuit, complete with his trademark Saturn design, because his old one ripped during the Nutcracker battle. Kimi gets a glockenspiel….and she somehow calls it that instead of a xylophone, which is weird.

Yeah, they’re different, but most kids wouldn’t know the difference and much more commonly know the xylophone. How they mutter mispronounced words all the time but she manages to say ‘glockenspiel’ nearly perfectly is almost comical. Phil gets a new pair of snow boots. Lil gets a magic princess wand.

AVAHS - Rugrats babies in toyland part 2 image 8

Tommy doesn’t want to open his gift until Dil does (Tommy, you really are the best big brother) However, there’s, for some reason, nothing for Dil. I’m confused. If this bag is from Santa, there’s no reason why Dil wouldn’t get a gift. His name is even confirmed to be on the list from Angelica’s acid trip. If the bag is just something she put together herself, she wouldn’t say it’s from Santa and would’ve remembered Dil. Unless Santa wanted Angelica to give up her reindeer doll to make her story arc come to a head, I dunno.

Angelica tearfully yet happily gives Dil the doll and then prompts Tommy to open his gift. He says he already got his gift since all he wanted was for Dil to have a good Christmas. Then he offers his gift to Angelica since she doesn’t have a gift (you’re killing me, Tommy.) Angelica rejects it and tells him to open it. It’s a new camera, which may or may not be an intentional nudge at his future film career in All Grown Up. It’s a regular photo camera, not a video camera, so I can’t be certain.

The kids are reunited with the parents and they spend the rest of Christmas eve hanging out in the cabin.

AVAHS - Rugrats babies in toyland part 2 image 9

The end.

———————————-

This special really didn’t need to be two parts, but at least most of part two was pretty good. Most of the plot with the adults didn’t have enough development on screen to have a strong impact, but it got the message across effectively enough.

The storyline with Angelica was poorly handled. Not only does she pull a complete 180 just because a song basically told her to be nice, but she magically gains a sack of toys from nowhere so we can wrap up the plot better. It is implied that the acid trip dream was real since she still had the elf hat and Santa does his tropey fly overhead in the last shot of the episode, but how and why did the warehouse instantly change back and forth to the mechanical representation? Please don’t say ‘magic’.

Like I mentioned, there was never any part where Angelica is handed a sack of toys and told to go deliver them for Santa or even saying ‘you’ll know what to do’. She just gets a sack of toys from nowhere and claims it’s from Santa.

Angelica was being a selfless girl at the end, especially giving up her reindeer for Dil and refusing to accept Tommy’s present as her own, but it loses a bit of its impact when you remember her parents will just shower her with everything she ever dreamed of at home. She doesn’t know that, so maybe it redeems her, but it was still a bit of a sloppy way of quickly changing her ways, which won’t even matter because Angelica is still a huge bitch after this even in All Grown Up.

The plotline with the babies was a good deal of padding, but for the most part the threads of it held together pretty well, even if I think it was also handled a tad sloppily. I did really enjoy the nativity scene…scene. It was definitely the best part of the episode, particularly with how unique it is. I can’t think of any Christmas special that has a scene even remotely similar to that. It was a very sweet and cute segment that didn’t seem forced or preachy. They weren’t even really giving their stuff over because it was Christmas, they legitimately felt bad for the baby.

All in all, this was an enjoyable Christmas special, but nothing fantastic. It had its funny lines and moments, but not enough to truly make the episode a must watch on Chrsitmas. It also had its touching moments, but only in part two. Tommy in particular is being a big sweetheart.

In all honestly, part two can be watched almost entirely on its own and it’s instantly made into a much better special. You could easily cut some fat from this and insert some exposition from part one to clean this up. The special is certainly worth watching, but it’s so hard to justify the 44 minute long cumulative runtime.

AVAHS – Rugrats: Babies in Toyland Part 1

AVAHS - Rugrats babies in toyland part 1

Plot: Charlotte has become the new CEO of Megacorp, and Stu has been contracted out to design and build a massive mechanical Christmas wonderland. Everyone is invited to come down on Christmas and enjoy the attractions in a private gathering before the kids are able to meet Santa. However, Angelica’s on a Christmas warpath to meet Santa first and demand all of the good presents before anyone else can get one. Tommy’s more preoccupied with making Dil’s first Christmas a great one, but Angelica tricks them into believing that Dil will never have another good Christmas if he doesn’t get a good present from Santa in his first year. They’re not that worried until Angelica drives Santa into quitting. Is Christmas ruined for everyone?

Breakdown: Babies in Toyland was a special I watched but wasn’t all that interested in. Despite being a Rugrats nut for most of my childhood, I admit, I never got too into the later seasons. Right about when they got a new theme song was when I started to fade out. I believe that was when I started getting more interested in Pokemon and anime as a whole.

Plus, it was getting that ‘we’re clearly running on fumes’ stink. That smell usually comes from the inclusion of many new characters. Dil was an alright addition and gave more depth to Tommy’s character. Kimi was also alright, but really seemed like a female Tommy. They didn’t really utilize her much as a new layer to Chuckie’s character in making him a brother. Kira never added anything to show besides making Chuckie’s life a little less sad, neither did Spike and Fifi’s puppies or Lulu. Before I rewatched this special, I legit forgot that Lulu even existed.

For some reason, Babies in Toyland is a two-parter Rugrats special, which I can’t make sense of. Rugrats has a decent library of holiday specials, all of which are better than this episode and all of which are merely one episode (technically two since Rugrats was usually split up into eleven minute segments. Meaning this special is actually taking up four ‘episodes’.) Considering this was right when Rugrats was starting to teeter off in popularity, I have to wonder why they’d give them a two-part Christmas special.

The only way I can figure it is that they knew the holiday specials were some of the most well-received episodes of Rugrats. In an effort to get more steam out of them, they stretched what would’ve easily been a singular episode special into two parts.

Let me highlight one of the biggest reasons why this doesn’t work as a two-parter. The to-be-continued cliffhanger is the babies approaching a giant nutcracker……..that’s it. They closeup on the nutcracker’s face, it’s not moving or doing anything…..and bam ‘to be continued’

The setup here is a bit interesting because it’s almost like they’re about to make this one of Stu’s big screwups on steroids. They’re surrounded by things he’s invented and, if you know Rugrats, you know it basically means they’re in a death trap. How the hell a multi-billion dollar corporation like Mega Corp hired a man like Stu in the first place is beyond me. They show that he literally holds parts of his machine together with paper clips, and should even one of said paper clips fail, the control panel bursts into sparks and causes a blizzard that could kill the people in Christmas Land in a matter of moments.

This wouldn’t be a big issue since most adults would just leave, but remember, this is Rugrats, meaning these dumbass idiots are always letting their babies run loose or leaving them with Grandpa Lou, who I’m starting to believe has baby-induced narcolepsy at this point. He obviously falls asleep, allowing the babies to escape, and when he wakes up he believes Lulu (his new wife) took the kids and left him hot cocoa, despite the fact that she went on the train with the others, no one else is seen returning, she didn’t leave a note or anything. The babies could be kidnapped and he’d be none the wiser.

Angelica is notorious for being one of the biggest animated bitches this side of media, but she seems like she’s turning up the obnoxious evil bitchery up in this episode. Being all pushy about seeing Santa and hilariously acting like she deserves all the best presents because she’s ‘worked so hard at being good this year’ is one thing, but lying like that to Tommy and the others about Dil was just evil for no reason. Angelica usually lied to the babies because it would benefit her in some way. Sometimes she was a bitch for the sake of being a bitch, but she mostly used her lies to manipulate the babies into either doing her bidding or getting her something.

I do find it funny that Angelica’s such an irritating slab of brat that she makes Santa of all people quit, but I think it would’ve been much funnier if the Santa was real. That doesn’t really mesh with the Rugrats universe, but it definitely would’ve been funnier. Plus, when they’re adding, in canon, a giant robot dinosaur being piloted by babies, having a battle in France against a giant robot snail being piloted by a Frenchman, I think we can justify squeezing real Santa in there.

There’s a subplot with the other adults that I don’t really care about. They visit some historically accurate cabin with animatronics (Yeah, that doesn’t make sense) and get snowed in by a blizzard caused by Stu and his dumb paper clips. The snow reaches six feet deep in about an hour, meaning if the babies were in the area they’d be long since dead by now. Good job, guys.

Lulu loves the cabin, but everyone else is bored or bickering.

In the end, the babies and Angelica, devastated that Santa quit, decide to look for the stash of Santa’s toys so Angelica can bathe in things she doesn’t deserve and Tommy can get Dil a good present for his first Christmas.

Despite not being terribly funny or even all that interesting, and clearly being stretched into a two-parter, there were some highlights. I love Tommy in this because he’s such a great big brother. He doesn’t care at all that he won’t get presents this year – he just wants a present for Dil to ensure all of his future Christmases are good. I liked that Chuckie offered to give Dil his blocks and pretend they were from Santa. That just shows what an awesome friend and person Chuckie is. I also liked one line from Phil where he suggests bringing Angelica back a witch’s broom as a present.

May I ask one final question before we get to the second part? The babies have now been through several holiday specials…….how old are they now? Tommy should be at least three by now, same with Phil and Lil, Chuckie should be like five, Angelica should be six and Dil should be less annoying….Seriously, why is Dil not at least conversing with the other babies by now? At any rate, they should definitely be older than they are now.