Episode One-Derland (Cartoons) Pelswick

Plot: Based on a series of newspaper cartoons by John Callahan, Pelswick follows the life of Pelswick Eggert – a paraplegic boy who wants nothing more than to live a normal life.

Breakdown: I usually don’t do Episode One-Derland entries for shows I am actually familiar with, but it has just been so, so, SO long since I watched Pelswick that I felt the need to do one here.

I watched Pelswick when it first aired on Nickelodeon, and I remember enjoying it quite a bit. It wasn’t my favorite show or anything, but I thought it was a pretty good series. It was really cool that it gave the spotlight to a paraplegic main character when you typically can’t even find many side characters in shows that are in a wheelchair or just generally have disabilities, especially back when this first aired.

The writing was also good with a style that reminded me a lot of Doug what with all the fantasies and cutaways, but actually….ya know….funny and interesting. (No hate on Doug, but it can be quite the bore sometimes.)

Now, Pelswick’s not making me bust a gut in laughter or anything, but it did have its charms and made me smile a few times as I revisited it. It also had some fairly clever writing and commentary.

This episode tackles the subject of Pelswick being barred from the eighth grade camping trip due to his special needs. Someone fought back in his stead, even getting a lawyer involved, and because of this push, instead of allowing Pelswick on the trip, they just canceled it altogether. The eighth grade camping trip is a big deal to a lot of people, so the situation gets heated quickly. It turns into a huge spectacle as many people start protesting against Pelswick to get the camping trip back while there were also many others supporting the rights of handicapped individuals and fighting to let him go on the camping trip.

Throughout the story, we get the reactions of various people that range from understandable to silly to silly but understandable on the grounds of parody. Many of Pelswick’s classmates are pissed off that the trip is canceled, which is understandable since it was such a big deal.

Some people are getting so pissed about it, however, that they’re purely protesting Pelswick as if he was the one who made this decision when it was technically against him. And when I say protest I mean they have signs with his face on it but crossed out in red and offer anti-Pelswick hot dogs at the picket lines.

You also have the younger kids in town, including Pelswick’s younger sister, Kate. They’re angry that they won’t be able to destroy the bedrooms of their older siblings while they’re on the camping trip, which is silly, but yeah totally something they’d do.

There was also a group of kids who were perfectly depicting the hypocrites you tend to see in these situations. They were going off about Pelswick being selfish for doing this while they were being selfish during their whole conversation. Not only is the narrative of ‘What a selfish thing to do. Why isn’t he thinking of what we want?’ inherently selfish, but they’re furthering the point by having them literally take the seats out from under two other kids so they could sit.

Then, on the opposite side, you have the ones supporting Pelswick, many of whom are fellow disabled individuals who are fighting for their rights, which is, of course, entirely understandable. But they also go a bit into silly territory by having pro-Pelswick hamburgers and a giant Pelswick balloon.

Likewise, while this situation does suck, the school had a relatively reasonable explanation for doing this. Their insurance didn’t cover individuals with special needs outside of the city limits. With the push against the decision to keep the camping trip but bar Pelswick, they felt they had no other choice but to cancel the trip entirely.

And even if we do go down the route of them getting better insurance coverage, the steps needed to achieve that would’ve taken too long as the trip was that weekend. It’s not just a matter of improving their insurance – it’s a matter of whether they have the money to do that, and if they don’t, allocating funds from one place or another to meet that demand. I think everyone knows how much red tape and bullshit there is in budget discussions, especially when it comes to schools.

For nearly the entire time, Pelswick believes his father/his connections to the state senator is the one who did all of this. He’s an ultra-’PC’ person to the point of parody. He’s definitely a good person, but he doesn’t realize that there is a limit when it comes to not trying to step on anyone’s toes. He actually says the line “Nobody’s wrong. They’re just differently right.”

He also does and says some things that come off like he’s one of those people who pats himself on the back for being, for lack of a better term, “woke” but he may actually be a rare occurrence when he doesn’t realize he’s doing it.

Here is one of his first lines of dialogue. “I’m showing your siblings the folly of gender-based stereotypes by cleaning and cooking dinner while nurturing Bobby and reading Kate a story about tolerance and equality.” If he were just doing this, it wouldn’t be anything worth noting, but the fact that he pointed this out so specifically is what makes it come off like he’s trying to pat himself on the back.

I actually think his dad might be a play on the critics of John Callahan’s cartoons. He was always criticized for being “politically incorrect” (Though Callahan would prefer the term “Survivor humor” – himself being paralyzed from the shoulders down and a survivor of a harrowing childhood) and he didn’t much care for those people at all. In fact, he was quoted as saying he really only cared about the responses he got from individuals with disabilities, which were overwhelmingly positive. When it came to everyone else, he liked pushing their buttons and seeing how far he could go with his dark and biting humor. His cartoons even sometimes caused people to boycott and protest the publications he was working with, and even created some issues with sponsors.

In this circumstance, if what I believe of this character is true, then the point of Pelswick’s dad is obviously poking fun at people who are uptight about not offending anybody and walk on eggshells around those who are different while still acknowledging that these people mean well.

Anyway, back on point, his father goes to the senator to get her to do something about this, so Pelswick thinks the lawyer, who is the one who kicked up the fuss, was hired by either his dad or the senator. Turns out, it’s neither. He was hired by his crush, Julie.

Julie is a character who prides herself on her strong sense of justice. When she learned that Pelswick was being barred from the camping trip, she took it upon herself to start all of this for him because she felt bad at the idea of him being all alone while everyone else was off camping. However, it got out of hand and she couldn’t stop it.

Pelswick is ecstatic to hear that she cared about him so much that she’d do this for him, but it also kinda goes against Pelswick’s whole point. Pelswick was annoyed because, during this whole situation, no one would listen to him about what he wanted. They just kept pushing their own narratives and agendas while pushing him to the side, even though his face is plastered all of the town because of it.

Julie never bothered talking to Pelswick about this. In fact, once the trip is canceled, we don’t see Julie again until the reveal that she was behind it all. She just felt bad for him, so she took action without even mentioning it to him once.

But what’s even worse is that she had to have known Pelswick was becoming the town punching bag throughout this whole thing, but she didn’t talk to him or even try to clear the air about who was the one who started all of this until Pelswick came out and asked at the rally. Even Pelswick points this out.

Pelswick: “You cared enough about me to make me totally miserable?”

This is said in a dreamy voice, by the way. He’s flattered that she did this.

So, in summary, the girl who prides herself on her strong sense of justice just let the guy she was trying to defend be attacked for a few days all because she was seemingly too chicken to own up to what she did. Kay.

By the way, in regards to their dynamic, Pelswick doesn’t make off being entirely angelic either. He actually has a ‘Nice guy’ moment, verbatim. When some bullies get done picking on Pelswick, Julie talks about what terrible people they are but then ends on saying she’s oddly attracted to them.

Pelswick: “It’s….the curse of the nice guys! The beautiful girls are always attracted to jerks and lunkheads.” Then he has a fantasy sequence where he imagines himself 20 years in the future. He’s rich and crying into thousand dollar bills as he imagines what could’ve been with Julie while he’s also driving by Julie who is now married to his bully and has a miserable life working at some dilapidated gas station in the middle of nowhere.

Don’t worry, Pelswick, I’m sure you’ll find that special subreddit someday.

The resolution to this episode is a little confusing. The Vice Principal says his hands are tied in this because of the insurance reasons I mentioned before. Inspired by the advice given to him earlier by his guardian angel, whom I’ll address in a minute, Pelswick asks if they can hold the camping trip in the VP’s new giant backyard at his new house.

Now, first of all, I think the writers are greatly misinformed on how much a public school vice principal would make. Certainly not enough to buy this big house with a massive backyard and a pool with a giant tower of a diving board.

Secondly, I don’t think it was ever brought up before this point that the Vice Principal has a new house with a huge backyard, so this solution kinda comes out of nowhere.

He does let the kids camp in his yard, everyone has a grand old time, and Pelswick even gets to touch Julie’s hand.

The end.

Skipping back to the guardian angel thing, Pelswick has a guardian angel named Mr. Jimmy. Whether or not he’s real is questionable, but he appears in every episode and offers Pelswick advice, usually in a rather confusing and random manner. When I rewatched this, I remembered that the Disney Channel Original Movie, Miracle in Lane 2, basically had this exact same thing. In that movie, the main character was also paralyzed from the waist down, and he had frequent conversations with ‘God’ who took the form of a fictional famous race car driver. I looked up what year Miracle in Lane 2 was made in, and it premiered the exact same year as Pelswick, 2000, though Pelswick premiered in October whereas Miracle premiered in May.

COINCIDENCE?!

*Dramatic music*

Yeah, probably. I mean, Mr. Jimmy and ‘God’ don’t act anything alike, and most of the interactions with ‘God’ are in a more serious tone when Justin needs help. Plus the race car driver motif thing

By the way, watch Miracle in Lane 2, it’s an awesome movie and one of the few times Disney Channel really got serious and kinda dark. The early 00’s were the butterzone for that. So Weird, In a Heartbeat, a few other more serious DCOMs….I miss those days.

As a first episode, this one works pretty well. It introduces us to Pelswick and explores his personality and desires fairly well. We get introduced to his friends, his family, his crush and even his bullies all in one go. I can’t really say I loved any of the characters, but I liked Pelswick and Ace most of all, and even Goon had his moments. As far as I remember, they never explain how Pelswick became paralyzed, but according to the Wiki, the series creators imply it was due to a car accident, which mirrors John Callahan’s situation.

The only other thing I really want to talk about is the art. I nearly didn’t even really bring up the art because, despite having my criticisms of it. I had read up on John Callahan while I was writing this review and realized it was based on his cartoon art, which he had created after he gained some mobility in his arms. He was able to hold a pencil between his hands and draw.

As a result, I didn’t want to criticize the art, but then I realized I’d be missing the point of quite literally everything I’m discussing here. I’d be keeping quiet about something because the person behind it was quadriplegic, and John Callahan seemed very dedicated to ensuring that people with disabilities weren’t pitied or treated differently. Granted, this isn’t directly his art, but it is heavily based on his art.

So, here goes.

The art is very, very weird. In a lot of ways it reminds me of Klasky/Csupo shows, but more off-model. Many people are given huge bulky bodies with thin heads, short little t-rex arms and massive noses. Their eyes are always both seen from the side, like one must be dislodged from their head. I can’t even begin to make sense of Pelswick’s dad’s head, who also has eyes that seem like they’re just installed in his glasses.

It’s very stylized – you can quickly tell this is a style meant to be in newspaper cartoons – but that doesn’t change the fact that it’s very weird. Weird doesn’t necessarily mean bad, I wasn’t cringing while watching it or anything, but I did find myself baffled as to the design choices many times. The animation is also simple, but it works.

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Pelswick is definitely a unique show that I’m sad was mostly lost to time, especially considering that it puts a spotlight on the lives and struggles of individuals with disabilities – that’s rare enough as it is, but for a cartoon aimed at children it’s nearly unheard of. It has a pretty good sense of humor, good writing and mostly likable characters. If you have the means, give it a look.

Final Notes: Because it was airing on networks for kids, Pelswick notably needed to have more of a positive/optimistic spin that was quite a bit different from the crass and darker humor Callahan used in his cartoons.

Right when Pelswick was airing, another cartoon based on Callahan’s work, called Quads!, was being aired in Canada – produced by the same team and company (Nelvana included, surprisingly). According to what I’ve read, it was a much more adult-oriented show that better reflected Callahan’s style of humor. It never got a US release. Interestingly, though, both shows ended in 2002 and both shows had two seasons/26 episodes.

Truth be told, I don’t really have a lot of interest in seeking out this show. I’ve mentioned before that crass humor really isn’t my cup of tea, even if it’s well-written, and just reading the character bios on the Wiki page for Quads! leads me to believe that it wouldn’t be any more fitting for me. I’m not criticizing his style of humor – especially considering Callahan only created and produced the shows, he didn’t write for them. Even from what I’ve seen of his newspaper cartoons (a few of which I found to be pretty funny) I can tell this that particular type of humor is not for me. It’s not something I seek out, nor do I tend to be entertained by it usually when I stumble upon it. I respect it fully, but it’s not my style.

Sadly John Callahan died at age 59 in 2010 from complications related to his quadriplegia as well as respiratory issues. He had such an impact on the world of cartoons and people with disabilities that a biographical movie, Don’t Worry, He Won’t Get Far on Foot (the title being a reference to one of his most popular cartoons) was made in 2018 starring Joaquin Phoenix. The movie was mapped out in the late ‘80s, but had a lot of difficulties finding a studio that would take on the project, and many delays and broken deals plagued it over the years.

Callahan was even quoted as saying “We’re all gonna be dead by the time this film is made.” And, sadly, Callahan did die eight years before the movie was finally released. To make matters worse, Robin Williams was initially pegged to star in it, but he had also passed away before the movie found a studio (and was too old to play the part by that time either way.) Callahan had also said he wanted Phillip Seymour Hoffman to play the part if Williams ever wasn’t an option anymore, but he, too, passed away before everything was set in stone.

Still, it looks like Joaquin Phoenix really immersed himself in the role and did a good job. I’d like to see the movie if I ever got the chance. Not only does Callahan seem like he was a funny and genuine guy, but he also has a very interesting backstory that I’d love to see explored on film.


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Pixar’s Lamp | The Incredibles (2004) Review

Plot: In the golden age, superheroes were loved, admired and cherished by the masses. However, one lawsuit started a snowball effect that changed everything. Supers were suddenly vilified, and they had to go into hiding with government protection to avoid all of the backlash. Now living as normal, average citizens, Mr. Incredible and Elistigirl, also known as Bob and Helen Parr, try to raise their children, Violet, Dash and Jack-Jack in a superpower-free world.

Bob is not content with his normal life and wants nothing more than to return to his good ol’ days of heroism. A mysterious message puts all the cogs in motion to grant his wish, but he forgot that with heroics comes danger – and danger means more when your family’s in the crossfire.

Breakdown: The year is 2004.

Marvel cinematic universe? Doesn’t exist.

DC actively trying? FEH!

This is an era where superhero movies are little more than a joke. People looked forward to them about as much as they looked forward to video game adaptations. They’d try and try again to make them work, and while they may be a box office success sometimes, they’d usually wane heavily in the critic department.

Pixar saw this as an opportunity. The Incredibles is not based on an existing comic book. It’s entire universe is built from the ground up on the silver screen. In addition, it’s animated – not live-action as a majority of superhero movies were at the time. In hindsight, this seems like a big gamble. Especially since the director, Brad Bird, was coming fresh off of his first venture into directing, which ended up being a box office disappointment.

But some people need to be reminded to keep the faith. After all, that box office disappointment….was The Iron Giant. The box office does not always reflect quality.

Let’s not keep beating around the bush. The Incredibles is……incredible. Yeah, I made that joke. Fight me.

From start to finish, the movie is filled with great humor, fantastic action, memorable characters and pokes at the superhero genre as a whole. This is a very realistic family in a, well, I can’t really say ‘unique scenario’ because the concept has been done before (In fact, when this first came out, this movie reminded me quite a bit of the short-lived, basically forgotten Nickelodeon series, The X’s.), but it is a very interesting and fun scenario.

Back in ‘the good ol’ days,’ superheroes were always hailed, respected and beloved, but you know that some jackass somewhere would ruin it by suing them. Granted, superheroes do make big messes and wrack up massive bills in damages, even the MCU addresses this, but I think whatever damage the enemy would do is almost always greater. And at least we’re lead to assume that the heroes aren’t piling up huge body counts during these battles….most of the time.

The heroes go into hiding, and there seems to be two sides to this coin. You have people like Bob (Mr. Incredible) and Dash who want to embrace their powers and be heroes. Because they’re not allowed to do so, Bob becomes very depressed and withdrawn, doing heroics in secret whenever he can with his buddy Frozone, and Dash acts out.

Helen (Elastigirl) and Violet, on the other hand, want to be normal. They still use their powers sometimes in private, but they want to fit in – Helen so she can protect the family and Violet because she wants to be a regular teenager.

In the end, they all find a middleground. Bob gets to be a hero more often, but he also comes to understand the importance of his family. Dash learns to tone it down, but he’s also now allowed to participate in school sports as long as he doesn’t play unfairly. Violet gets more self-confidence and embraces her powers. And Helen learns to not be ashamed of her life as a superhero while also encouraging that type of attitude in her kids.

It’s great that they chose to go down this route instead of having it black and white ‘this side is right, and you’re wrong.’

Helen and Bob have a great dynamic, and even Violet and Dash were really good together. I like how they eventually used their powers together. That hamster-ball idea was so cool.

Another thing to commend this movie on is, most of the time, they don’t pull any punches with the darker aspects. Helen even outright tells her children, basically telling the audience directly, that these bad guys aren’t like the ones you’d see on Saturday morning cartoon shows. They won’t show restraint on children. They will kill them without hesitation. That’s pretty heavy for an animated superhero movie in a world where kid deaths are typically taboo.

In addition to that, people attempt suicide, there’s hints of adultery and alcohol, some sexual-ish content and lots and lots of death.

Even though I said they don’t cause a lot of civilian deaths, there are a ton of bad-guy minion deaths – a good deal of which are caused by Bob and Dash. They don’t ‘directly’ cause these deaths. For instance, nearly all of the deaths caused by Dash are collisions caused by those pursuing him because he managed to out-maneuver them, but still…lots of bodies.

The ones they seem directly responsible for they kinda skirt around. For instance, Bob throws a huge tram car at two guys from a mile away and they specifically show them moving and groaning to assure the audience that Bob didn’t straight-up murder those guys.

Outside of that, we also have numerous depictions of heroes dying in that ‘NO CAPES!’ montage, including one of two instances where someone dies by getting sucked into a jet turbine. Yugh. And we have the harrowing fact that Syndrome essentially committed hero genocide, which I don’t think is given quite enough weight, but holy crap. Bob even finds the skeletal remains of one of the killed heroes and hides under his body to trick Syndrome into believing he’s dead. Wow.

Speaking of Syndrome, he’s a very effective and memorable villain. He’s very intimidating and is a serious threat. Lest we forget the hero genocide. His backstory is a little hokey, but not too bad. It’s understandable for someone who grew up in a world of supers and was basically a super fanboy to become jaded when given a massive tongue lashing by his favorite superhero. And he obviously did have value and talent, but Bob never wanted to give him a chance. He pulls off being both funny and threatening at the same time, which is very impressive. In any other movie, he’d be a complete joke, but he can be downright scary. It’s also a bit refreshing for the master plan to not be ‘take over the world’ again. Though, considering his normal job, maybe he already does, in a way. Hm.

His plan is fairly brilliant. Design a robot that is essentially perfect by having it learn and make changes to its design based on battles it endures with hundreds of various heroes. Kill the heroes, let the robot loose on the city, stop the robot and take the credit, making him the only and, by default, best hero in the world.

I will admit that the method of defeating the robot is a bit obvious, though. With all the weaknesses that have been exposed on this thing, Syndrome never thought to program it to not destroy itself? Especially when that’s exactly how Bob defeated it the first time? It has some sense of self-preservation, hence why it targeted the remote, but it’s still too stupid to not hit itself.

Some final things that I felt were a little negative in this movie:

I find Dash to be annoying 70% of the time.

While I really liked him, Frozone was mostly a superfluous character who barely did anything. I really wanted him to be given more to do.

I worry that, should they continue the series beyond the second movie, Jack-Jack will be too powerful. His main power seems to be shapeshifting, but from what I’ve heard he has many more powers that are revealed in the sequel (sadly haven’t gotten around to watching it quite yet, but very soon!)

His power is apparently that he’s a ‘jack of all trades,’ hence the name, but it’s also been suggested that, since Jack-Jack’s a baby, his power isn’t solidified and he has ‘unlimited potential,’ which is culminating in this mass array of powers. However, if that were true, that seems like it would be a normal part of a super’s life cycle. Dash and Violet would’ve had to have gone through the same thing as babies, which I doubt they did.

I dunno.

That’s about it on the negative side, though, and that’s not a significant mark on an otherwise exceptional movie. The Incredibles stands as one of my favorite movies and a testament to Pixar’s amazing talents as filmmakers. Even today in our saturated superhero movie market, I was very excited to rewatch this movie, and I’m jazzed to finally see the sequel.

Recommended Audience: It’s surprisingly dark when you get down to it, but a good chunk of the darkness is in the details. Still, there are some blatant darker aspects like the hero genocide, the suicide attempt and the implied infidelity. 10+


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AVAHS Finale – A Very Merry Pooh Year (+ Winnie the Pooh and Christmas Too) Review

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Plot: As Pooh and the rest of the gang from the Hundred Acre Wood prepare for Christmas, Roo’s question about whether Santa will arrive prompts the others to tell the story of a Christmas they shared before Kanga and Roo arrived.

Then everything falls to pieces when Rabbit decides he’s had enough of his crazy friends and decides to move away. As New Year’s approaches, the others resolve to change themselves so Rabbit won’t leave.

Breakdown: Happy New Year, everyone! May your 2021 be hopeful, positive, healthy and happy, and nothing like its bastard sibling, 2020.

Anyhoo, or anyPOOH! Hahahahahaha….please don’t click away. To herald in the new year, I thought we’d discuss one of the few animated New Year’s specials (and it is, trust me. It’ll get there.) A Very Merry Pooh Year.

As I mentioned in my review of Pooh’s Heffalump Halloween Movie, A Very Merry Pooh Year utilized the same lazy story stuffing technique they did, which is to only make half of a new movie and fill up the other half of the runtime with a decade-old holiday special from The New Adventures of Winnie the Pooh. Meaning that little tagline of “A Brand New Full-Length Adventure” can go suck a Times Square ball.

However, this time, DisneyToon was not involved. Instead, the animation was done by Wang Film Productions and Sunwoo Animation (Under Walt Disney Television Animation).

Now, while this practice is lazy and downright deceptive to the consumer, the main reason it was such a pall on Pooh’s Heffalump Halloween Movie was because the story they came up with was damn near identical to the episode they shoehorned into it, so including that feature just highlighted how ridiculously lazy and near self-plagiarizing the new movie was.

Does A Very Merry Pooh Year have the same problem?

The special that is being featured in this ‘movie’ is Winnie the Pooh and Christmas Too. Christopher Robin helps Pooh and the other animals of the Hundred Acre-Wood write a letter to Santa. They throw it into the wind, as it’s blowing north, and wait for it to arrive at the North Pole. Later, they realize that Pooh never asked for anything, so he and Piglet decide to get the letter back and fix it before letting it reach the north pole, which doesn’t make any sense.

First of all, Pooh wants honey. Christopher Robin knows this, Pooh mentioned it about seven times when the others were making their wishes, there’s no way Christopher Robin didn’t write down that Pooh wanted a pot of honey for Christmas.

Second, why do they need to get the letter back? Why couldn’t they just send a new letter specifically for Pooh?

The amended letter with Pooh’s wishes as well as Rabbit, Tigger and Eeyore’s new better, more extravagant wishes, because everyone started going overboard, gets sent off in the wind, but the letter returns because the wind changed directions. Pooh and Piglet find the letter and panic because there’s no time to get a new letter to Santa now. In an effort to make Christmas happen, Pooh dresses up like Santa and Piglet dresses as a reindeer and they make the gifts their friends asked for. However, the gifts are incredibly shoddy and everyone’s upset about them.

They eventually find out what Pooh and Piglet have been doing and they figure out what Pooh did wrong – he waited until the weathervane indicated S for Santa when he should have waited for N for North, so it could get to the North Pole…..Which is not what happened. The weathervane was pointed west….I think. It’s hard to tell with their setup. And Pooh just said the letter would know which way to go.

They want to send the letter again, but the winds have died down. The only way to get the letter to the North Pole now is if one of them hand delivers it. Pooh immediately volunteers.

Piglet: “You? But the North Pole is so very far. What if you can’t get back in time for Christmas?”

Pooh: “It will be worth having no Christmas, Piglet, if I can bring Christmas to all of you.”

Gotta be honest, that was one of the sweetest and purist Christmas sentiments I’ve ever heard in a Christmas special. I literally went “Awwwwwww” out loud when he said that. What a sweetheart.

Pooh heads out in the now really windy snowstorm and quickly loses the letter, so he….goes home?

….Uh….Pooh? You remember what everyone wanted….Just…tell him? Santa doesn’t need the requests to be written out. How do you think mall Santas work?

Meanwhile, back at home, Piglet laments–…………Is that a fire…..they forgot to animate?

There are no flames. It’s like they’re just glowing logs……What happened here?…What is this?

Uh anyway, Piglet laments the fact that Christmas just isn’t Christmas without Pooh Bear around, even if they’ll eventually get good presents. Tigger, Rabbit and Eeyore are still excited, but they quickly agree with Piglet that it’s just not the same without Pooh Bear.

Just then, Pooh returns, delivering the bad news that he couldn’t get the letter to Santa, but they don’t care – they’re just glad Pooh Bear is back to spend Christmas with them.

Suddenly, Christopher Robin arrives on the new sled he wanted, and he’s bearing gifts that were left from ‘Santa.’ A flyswatter for Rabbit to get rid of the bugs who keep eating his carrots, a snowshoe for Tigger’s tail so he can bounce in the snow, an umbrella for Eeyore to keep snow from plopping down on him from the trees (though….he’s still homeless. His second and better gift suggestion was a new house – he lost his after the letter was sent…..The umbrella was actually meant to keep the snow off of his house……) a……thing for Piglet (he didn’t know what he wanted, so he just said anything’s fine, but that’s….I don’t even know what that is.

He’s happy with it, so I guess that’s all that matters, but I’m so confused) and, of course, a pot of honey for Pooh.

However, Pooh doesn’t think he deserves the honey since he messed up Christmas so much. Christopher Robin tries to convince him that that’s not true, and Pooh starts to agree as he stands on the honey pot and says that it makes him just the right height to give Christopher Robin a big hug. Awwwwwwwwww!

The end.

Despite some logic issues, this special is incredibly wholesome, sweet and has a great message. The holidays really don’t mean as much when the people you love aren’t there. I know that’s more of a bittersweet moral in this year of all years, but we live in an era where we can practically have anyone we want with us without actually being there in person. Is it the same? No. But even just talking to them over the phone or communicating through video chat creates a connection that is invaluable, especially in rough times.

On its own, it’s a great Christmas special that I think any Winnie the Pooh fan would enjoy.

Now, onto the actual movie portion of which there’s, again, about a 35 minutes of new material.

Kanga and Roo join the others for the holidays this year, and they decide to regale Roo about the events of a previous Christmas, which is where the old Christmas special comes in.

When we cut back to the movie, Pooh sets out all of the gifts for….Christmas…..that…..everyone else made/got each other……which…..I don’t understand. This is just like the opposite situation of the Family Guy Christmas specials. Whereas they started out with everyone giving each other gifts and then in later seasons said Santa brought them all, Winnie the Pooh is saying that Santa delivered them before, but now they give each other gifts….Huh? And Roo even starts the special by asking if Santa will come, they tell him a story about Santa getting the gifts to them even when they thought he couldn’t, but now he didn’t get anything from Santa and got a gift from Tigger, which he acknowledges…..What is happening?

…………….Also, Tigger calls Rabbit ‘Rah rah’ a couple times and I got really giddy for some reason. That’s just an adorable nickname. Was that something he normally called him? I don’t remember.

Sadly, Pooh loses Piglet’s gift. He searches for days, until New Year’s Eve (See? We got there.) However, he’s searched for so long, he’s forgotten what he’s looking for.

Christopher Robin arrives with a box full of decorations for a New Year’s party. He gives the box to Pooh so he can make the party and Christopher Robin just….disappears for some reason. Not gonna help, dude? Just proclaim you’re going to have a party and hand off the planning to someone else? Nice.

As Pooh, Piglet and Rabbit convene, Tigger drops by.

Tigger: “Wanna hear the good news? Snow does not keep Tiggers from bouncin’. Not one bitty bit!”

…………………….

……………….

…………….

……….

……..

…..

A snowshoe for Tigger’s tail so he can bounce in the snow.

so he can bounce in the snow.

bounce in the snow.

It was directly stated and shown several times in the special that THEY INCLUDED IN THIS MOVIE that Tigger can’t bounce in the snow, that’s why he needed the snowshoe, is what I’m getting at here.

After nearly destroying Rabbit’s house and his prized carrot, Rabbit snaps and declares that he’s moving away so he won’t have to put up with them anymore. He’s tired of Pooh’s obsession with honey, Piglet’s paranoia, Eeyore’s gloominess and Tigger’s bouncing. Having learned of New Year’s resolutions from Christopher Robin, Pooh decides that they should try to fix these aspects of themselves in order to get Rabbit to stay. They all agree to make their New Year’s resolutions to never eat honey, never be scared, always be cheerful and never bounce again.

Tigger ties his tail to a rock to prevent him from bouncing, which, considering he’s literally tying his tail up, actually looks really painful. Piglet asks Tigger how it seems like he’s never afraid. Tigger says he was always too busy bouncing to be afraid. Piglet starts bouncing all over the place, and he finds that it works. He’s not scared as long as he keeps bouncing.

Cool.

But then…..

Tigger, using Tigger logic, thinks that, if bouncing keeps away fear and he can no longer bounce, then he must be damned to becoming an anxiety-ridden mess who is afraid of literally everything, which quickly ends up happening because self-fulfilling prophecies. This is bad enough, but the buildup to this change is actually legit creepy. The screen starts going black all around him, even casting a shadow on Tigger’s edges, there are some creepy noises included, and we even zoom in on Tigger’s eyes so much that it affected the image quality.

I think we can ascertain what will happen with Pooh and Eeyore from here, but even that’s presented oddly.

We see Pooh rummaging around a tree to try and check on some honey without eating it, and then Eeyore walks by standing on his hind legs, in a red shirt, humming to himself and gobbling down honey. I love Eeyore….it is very uncomfortable to see him acting like this. Please stop.

He doesn’t even explain how and why he started doing this. He doesn’t say he knew Pooh was happy all the time so he decided to start mimicking him. He just suddenly appears while acting this way. From what he says, it’s just like he randomly ate some honey and started getting a funny feeling, which…I guess changed his personality instantly. And can I ask what the shirt and the walking on hind legs thing is about? He’s just now getting that there was a connection between him being happier and him eating honey, meaning he wasn’t at all trying to emulate Pooh Bear. He just decided to start doing those things…….Or….is the implication that you start becoming a Pooh clone when eat some honey? You can just be happy and eat honey. You don’t need to become a new Pooh.

Oh also Pooh’s got depression now.

Then we get this frightening-ass image.

Eeyore: “Why…I think I’m glad. SeeeeeeEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEE?”

Hehe, frightening-ass image…

Hehe….he’s a donkey.

Hehe, seriously, someone stop this waking nightmare. I cannot take much more of this. It’s like they’re intentionally making him ridiculously creepy.

They all arrive at Rabbit’s place to show him how much they’ve changed, but since they’ve literally just changed into each other, including the same speech patterns and mannerisms, it’s just as bad if not worse than before, so Rabbit immediately storms out.

One thing leads to another, and Rabbit ends up caught in a tree with a beehive. Piglet becomes frightened for him, making him break his resolution. Tigger unties his tail so he can bounce up to save Rabbit and his carrot, making him break his resolution. The beehive falls into Pooh’s hands, which prompts him to eat the honey inside, breaking his resolution. Everyone else breaking their resolutions and being upset at it makes Eeyore so upset he forgets to be happy. This is going to sound terrible, but thank god for that.

Realizing they failed, they leave Rabbit to move out of the Hundred Acre Wood.

Christopher Robin arrives for the party, but everyone is saddened at the loss of their friend. Rabbit, however, says he can’t think of leaving friends so loyal as them, especially when they cared so much about him that they tried to change themselves to make him happy. He loves his friends just the way they are.

Piglet: “Oh Rabbit! I was afraid I’d never get to be scared again!”……..Okay, back up.

The moral of all of this is to be yourself and to appreciate your friends for being themselves because they help you be who you really are, which is fine and dandy.

However, in regards to the New Year’s resolution stuff…..what kind of message are they trying to convey there? Because it really comes off like resolutions are bad, at least in regards to ones where you try to stop doing something. Like, yeah, these traits help the characters all be who they are, but being overly afraid is bad, and it probably negatively affects Piglet’s quality of life. What sane person says “I was afraid I’d never get to be scared again!”? I get that the wording is a joke, but that’s still a concerning thing to say.

Keep in mind, the only ones who experienced positive outcomes from taking on the traits of their friends were Piglet and Eeyore. Piglet became brave and had a lot of fun bouncing, and Eeyore became happier…..and creepy. Tigger, however, became a nervous wreck and Pooh lost all enjoyment in everything. When their resolutions broke, Pooh was happy he got to eat honey, and Tigger was happy he was bouncing again, but Piglet can’t have been happy that he was afraid, and Eeyore wasn’t….happy….he was….sad? Maybe they were at least relieved that they didn’t have to pretend to be something they weren’t, but these factors still present issues.

A better lesson would be to not have such extreme New Year’s resolutions. Unless you really have serious, harmful problems, your New Year’s resolutions shouldn’t be to completely overhaul your personality. Just try to improve yourself a little.

Tigger’s resolution could have been to bounce as much as he wanted but to try and control himself indoors or be more aware of his surroundings while bouncing.

Pooh could try to learn more self-control around food, especially honey.

Rabbit could learn to unwind and not be so uptight.

And Piglet and Eeyore could seek therapy.

They all head to Rabbit’s house and count down to the new year. Pooh suddenly remembers where he hid Piglet’s gift and rushes home to get it. It’s a lovely little music box that plays the New Year’s…anthem song…..what’s that song called? It plays so often on New Year’s but I never know what it’s called.

*Google*

Auld Lang Syne!? Chalk that up as something I never would have guessed ever. They even sing the proper lyrics at the end. I feel like I’ve been living in a void my whole life.

Pooh makes his own lyrics to the song and sings them to Piglet, and it’s really cute and sweet. Everyone sings as the movie zooms out and concludes.

—————————————

This movie didn’t have the problem that Pooh’s Heffalump Halloween Movie had in that it wasn’t basically the same story as the included special, but I still have to ding it a little because, really, what a weird New Year’s special. It honestly makes it look like New Year’s resolutions aren’t a good thing. Granted, most people don’t fulfill their New Year’s resolutions, but they’re typically never a bad thing to set. Even when Pooh’s initially learning about resolutions by Christopher Robin, it gives off a vibe that it’s about changing yourself and that changing yourself isn’t something you should do.

But changing yourself, if your current behaviors cause problems or negative repercussions, whether for others, yourself or both, can be quite good. At least take some self-reflection into consideration. You don’t have to throw away your personality and construct an entirely new persona or adopt someone else’s, you just have to improve as a person.

It’s a little bit difficult to say that the message is bad, though, because, yes, being yourself and loving yourself and being your best self around your friends is great. That’s the way it should be. But you should always strive to be better. I dunno. I guess it’s up to your own interpretation on how good the actual message is in contrast to the bad light they put the resolution message in.

Overall, though, while it is still lazy and deceptive to include a completely separate special in this movie and claim it’s entirely a “brand-new full-length movie,” this is a mostly fun, sweet, heartwarming and festive holiday movie. Plus, it is nice to have a Christmas and New Year’s special rolled into one to cap off the year. The songs are very short, and none of them are very memorable, but they’re fine for what they are. There are some logic issues peppered throughout, but it’s Winnie the Pooh – I can mostly overlook them. The best section is definitely Winnie the Pooh and Christmas Too, but the New Year’s section is still perfectly enjoyable…..barring creepy Pooh!Eeyore. That is going to haunt me for a long time.

And with that we close out A Very Animated Holiday Special for 2020. I’m sorry I wasn’t able to fill the entire 31 days, but I hope you all enjoyed what I came out with this year. I certainly had a lot of fun with it. Found some awesome entries, some weirdos and some ech, but it was all around fun. Now it’s back to our regularly scheduled shenanigans.

Happy New Year!


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AVAHS – Family Guy: Road to the North Pole Review

Plot: Stewie and Brian head off to the North Pole so Stewie can kill Santa for not allowing him to see him at the mall. When they finally reach the North Pole and meet Santa, they find that it’s not the land of magic and wonder it once was – it’s a toxic, bloody and demented factory all caused by the ever-increasing greed of people around the world.

Breakdown: Wow. I’ve managed to go up until this very moment without ever reviewing any episode of Family Guy. It’s hard to ever want to review Family Guy because it’s so inconsistent in its quality. Some episodes are abhorrent, some are alright and some are pretty good. As a whole, though, if you don’t like Family Guy or lost your taste for the ever-devolving humor, it’s hard to want to sit through it for review purposes.

I don’t watch Family Guy anymore because, from all I know and have seen of its most recent years, it’s been a steady downward spiral, but a handful of years ago I used to watch it fairly regularly and enjoyed it just fine. They definitely have gone overboard with the cutaways, they have a lot of difficulty knowing when to stop a joke (this episode is no exception) and sometimes they’re just overly dark and terrible for no reason.

I think most people will agree that the show is at its strongest when it’s focusing on one of Brian and Stewie’s adventures, and giving them an “hour” long (read: 42 minute long) Christmas special seems right up their alley.

I vaguely remember watching this special once and the only reason I remembered that I watched it was because of a scene where they have David Boreanaz (in live-action) playing the aurora borealis (Or Aurora Boreanaz because that’s the joke.) and it reminded me that Bones once had an episode where Booth hallucinated Stewie (fully animated and integrated into the live-action) throughout the runtime, and Stewie was pestering him about getting Brennan pregnant the more ‘direct’ way because she had asked Booth to donate his sperm for her to have a kid and he was having an inner conflict about it, and his hallucinations were caused by a brain tumor………Weird-ass fuckin’ episode. Love ya, Bones, but that broke the weird meter.

Anyway, the special itself is pretty alright. Most of the jokes land just fine and some even had me smiling. Obviously, though, this being Family Guy, they have to add a pretty dark and gloomy slant to this special.

You can REALLY tell the contrast between seasons here. In the first Christmas special they ever did, the worst that happened was Lois went on a stress-induced rampage and needed to be tranquilized. Here, so many terrible things happen. The elves are inbred, practically brain-dead and suicidal, the reindeer are mutated and have a hunger for elf flesh, they cut the arm off of a living elf because he was so brain damaged that he just didn’t notice and they needed his arm to coax the reindeer to fly, and Santa is so overworked in a toxic waste environment he was forced to create that he’s dying and longs for death. And lest we forget the very long sequence in which Brian and Stewie perform a home invasion, nearly (or actually?) beat a couple to death in front of their young daughter…..

Then there are contradictions in the writing. Some of which I can overlook like Santa saying they might not think he looks too bad but he’s actually 28….when he just got done explaining that, back in the day, people just wanted dollies and wooden choo-choo trains – pretty sure that era was more than 28 years ago.

Also, the first Family Guy Christmas special shows that everyone buys presents on Christmas, so why is everyone left gift-less without Santa now?

But then there are some instances where the confusion makes the entire joke not work. The aforementioned home invasion is topped off by Brian and Stewie learning that they’re not even in the right house for what they were delivering….but….the sleigh is just outside and these people are obviously good and celebrate Christmas….so….just go back out and get the right presents. Why is that the tipping point of that overly long and brutal scene?

But that out of the way, this is actually a pretty decent Christmas special, especially in regards to the songs and the message.

If there’s one area Family Guy usually shines in even today, it’s musical numbers, and this is no exception. While there are only two songs in this special, they’re very catchy, kinda funny and memorable songs.

As for the message, it’s a less cheesy but tried-and-true ‘stop being so greedy’ message. It doesn’t go so far as to basically tell you you’re bad for wanting anything on Christmas, like many Christmas specials seem to imply, but moreso just chill out and roll back with the expectations and demands. Just ask for one thing. Don’t pile it on. And….yeah, that message works just fine with me.

As much as I prattle on about the true meaning of Christmas and making of it what you want it to be, like I am some sort of Christmas special protagonist, there’s no getting around the fact that presents are a big part of Christmas. Gift giving and receiving is common in many holidays and traditions, and that’s Santa’s whole shtick. There’s no shame in it. It’s just when we go overboard with it that it becomes a problem. So dialing the greed back a bit and being happy with what you get is a more suitable message in my opinion.

Throughout the special, there are live-action interludes and narration by Ron MacFarlane, Seth MacFarlane’s father, and he does a fine job making those traditional old narration interludes funny. They’re not terribly funny, but they get the job done and his voice is actually rather nice for general narration.

Overall, if you currently hate or never liked Family Guy or Seth MacFarlane (though he hasn’t written for the show in years), this special won’t sway you into enjoying it, but it is a solid Christmas special as long as you can stomach some crass humor and gore.


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AVAHS – My Gym Partner’s a Monkey: Have Yourself a Joyful Little Animas Review

Plot: Animas has come, but Adam can’t participate because he’s a human and the holiday is all about following your animal instincts.

Breakdown: Like Brandy and Mr. Whiskers, My Gym Partner’s a Monkey is a show I was aware of and gave a chance when it aired, but I just couldn’t get into. My reasoning for this one was that it was just…..stupid. The concept is silly, which is obviously fine for a goofy cartoon. Adam is a human who gets sent to an animal school simply because his last name is Lyon and they misspelled it when they signed him up for school. The aforementioned monkey gym partner is Jake who is basically what you’d expect a sentient monkey to be. Hijinks ensue, and that’s about it. But what they do with it just tends to be stupid silly.

This episode is no exception. Aminas is obviously a play on Christmas, but it’s made stupid. Animas is all about following your animal instincts. As long as you’re an animal, you can understand what to do. But Adam is a human so he doesn’t get what you’re supposed to do, which is stuff like wearing periwinkle (and getting hit in the head with a coconut three times if you don’t) and being able to read something that isn’t written down.

This mostly just results in him feeling left out and frustrated. However, when it comes time to decorate the Animas rock, he accidentally ruins the holiday for everyone. All of the animals need to find the rock using their instincts and decorate it, otherwise Animas will be canceled for some reason. Since Adam doesn’t have the instincts to find it, Animas is ruined.

Adam decides to go back to human school since he doesn’t belong in animal school, but he’s still bummed about losing his friends back in the animal school. After sucking down a glob of wasabi from an Asian stereotype, who I can’t decide if it’s even offensive because it’s like they’re trying really hard to go overboard with the stereotype so as to make it overtly obvious so that’s the joke but the show’s not funny enough to pull it off so it’s just confusing and uncomfortable, Adam’s sinuses clear (he had been suffering from bad allergies) and he’s able to smell the Animas rock, which reeks because everyone ‘decorates’ it by pissing on it. Adam does the same and Animas is saved.

Everyone learned the true meaning of Animas, which is….I have no goddamn clue. Mr. Gills, who is a teacher and goldfish, drives home the message that the meaning of Animas is to be with your friends no matter if you ruin their holiday or not (which is kinda dumb in context because it’s hard to want to be around people who keep acting like you wrecked their favorite time of year. It’d be different if they were accepting of Adam’s inability to use animal instincts and just have him celebrate like everyone else, but they didn’t. They just kept telling him to do something he couldn’t do and acting like he was a weirdo for not knowing anything about Animas.)

Adam also said it’s about following your instincts, no matter if you’re human or animal, which….I dunno, is that meant to be a ‘follow your heart’ kinda deal?

Is there even a message in this special? It doesn’t need one, but it kinda needs something because the humor and story don’t hold it up very well. There’s a subplot with Coach Gills going through a bunch of Christmas special parodies so she can rediscover the true meaning of Animas because she’s a grinch. Despite a couple of humorous moments here, they also don’t do much with the parodies.

Finally, Adam has a couple of moments where he does like….poetry? as he tries to express how much his inability to belong at the animal school bums him out. It’s okay, but it’s also just not funny.

In the end, I really can’t recommend this as a Christmas special because….well…it’s not one, and I can’t recommend it as a neat episode of an old series because, well, I don’t find it to be one. It’s passable at best and gross/unfunny at worst. I don’t even like the theme song at all. That’s not unique to this special, but I just remembered how much I don’t like the theme song and couldn’t find anywhere else to put that not so here ya go.


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AVAHS – Brandy and Mr. Whiskers: On Whiskers, On Lola, On Cheryl and Meryl Review

AVAHS - BAMW

Plot: Brandy schemes to have Santa take her back to Florida on Christmas.

Breakdown: Brandy and Mr. Whiskers was one of those shows I was definitely aware of and gave a chance, but I ultimately just found it to be another ‘coma show.’ I know I’ve watched it, but dammit all if the space left behind by the that show isn’t just immediately overwritten by my brain hard drive.

It’s just not funny or interesting is all. A spoiled rich girl ends up in the jungle and befriends a bunch of oddballs while she desperately seeks the comfort of her own luxurious home. Brandy’s obnoxious, Whiskers is obnoxious and the side characters range from obnoxious to just okay.

I think one of the main issues I had with the show as a whole is that the main duo just don’t have much in regards to comedic chemistry. It’s obviously the overly energetic jokester with the irritable straight man/girl but they just don’t click in my opinion. Then again, nothing really clicks for me with this show.

The Christmas special is equally blah. Brandy tries to bring Christmas to the jungle in order to lure Santa there so she can hitch a ride home, but she’s on the naughty list. She accidentally causes Santa’s sleigh to crash because Whiskers is an idiot, and, surprise, she and Whiskers have to take over his job and she kinda-ish learns the true meaning of Christmas as a result.

I say ‘kinda-ish’ because, while she does have a nice moment once, she clearly wants to manipulate Santa into believing she’s made a big Christmas revelation so she’ll be put on the nice list and get a ride back home.

The stupid thing is that she had a perfect opportunity to head home and she didn’t take it all because she thought the manipulation method would work. Sure, when she got to her house she left because she legitimately wanted to help deliver the rest of the presents, but when they were all done she could have gone back home and told Whiskers and the others to return the sleigh to Santa instead of just hoping he believed her ‘learned the true meaning of Christmas’ spiel and would take her home. But nope. She did and he didn’t and the status quo of the series was restored.

Also, why does Santa looks so horrible in this show? It looks like his beard is an Ed, Edd and Eddy sized Jawbreaker stuck in his chin.

Also, also, I kinda don’t want to go here, but why do the toucans remind me so much of the crows from Dumbo? They are very obviously black women stereotypes in the bodies of black birds. Am I crazy? Tell me I’m crazy. I can’t not see it. Obviously, it’s not as overt of a problem as the crows were, but I made the connection the instant they spoke….

If you were a fan of Brandy and Mr. Whiskers, maybe you’ll get some enjoyment out of this special, but otherwise you’re not missing much.


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AVAHS – The Poky Little Puppy’s First Christmas (1992) Review

Plot: Poky is a little puppy of a litter being cared for by a loving human family along with his adoring mother. As his first Christmas approaches, he makes a new friend and shares the holiday with him.

Breakdown: That title is something else, eh? Was it supposed to be The Little Puppy, Poky’s, First Christmas? Being fair, this is the same name as the book on which this special is based, but…..it just sounds so grammatically wrong.

Anyway, this is a cute little special. It’s Christmas, there are puppies and songs and yay. It’s got a soft and quiet vibe about it, and it very much just cute. Poky is considered a bit of an oddball, but I don’t understand why. He’s very much just a typical adventurous puppy enjoying his first Christmas with his family.

Shame the human family members were all tragically killed off-screen or something mid-way through the special.

I kid, but, seriously, the special had several human characters and then they all mysteriously vanished halfway into this 24 minute long special. The only gifts under the tree are for the puppies, too. It’s creepy.

Not that they were good dog owners anyway. These puppies are all under probably three months old and yet they just let Poky wander off into the woods alone and neither notice nor care that he’s not with them. Also, they nearly crush the other puppies under the tree they chop down….

Poky gets an incredible attachment to a random boot he found in the forest that he drags home. Who owns this boot? Dunno. Either someone walked home in the snow without realizing they lost a boot or this is a clue in a crime scene. It takes him forever to drag this thing home, which means his owners again neglect to notice or care that he’s clearly not with them. They also don’t notice he has a giant bright red boot until he’s dragged it into the living room and has gotten mud everywhere, so they boot his boot outside and tell him he can’t play with it inside. So…..he sings about how he wants nothing more than to have his boot inside.

I’m really not going to rag on this too much because he’s a puppy with a boot – it’s totally believable that he’d both grow very attached to it in a short amount of time and that he’d be so bummed at being told not to play with it inside that he’d sing about it.

But that’s okay, because, despite the humans being the ones who told him he couldn’t have the boot inside, Poky’s Christmas gift is being allowed to have the boot inside. Suspiciously, this happens after the family is killed off-screen, so I’m to assume Poky’s mother killed the humans and buried their bodies in the backyard to allow her son the joy of indoor footwear.

Poky’s aforementioned new friend is a skunk named Herman. He becomes homeless after Poky’s terrible now-dead human owners crush his hollow log house with their Christmas tree. As a Christmas gift, Poky gives his boot to Herman as a new home.

And that’s pretty much it.

The art and animation are charmingly simplistic. Everything looks like it’s hand-drawn and colored, but the animation can get pretty rough sometimes (Heheh….ruff.) and there are several instances of reused animation. I’m pretty forgiving of that, though, because it’s a seldom-known Christmas special from 1992.

The music is actually pretty nice and memorable. The song about the boot is very weird both in and out of context, though, and it’s difficult to really click with Poky’s mom’s song about how much Poky delights her because he’s so different when I still don’t get why he’s so different. They’re not bad songs, really, it’s just the subject matter that is off. The song with Poky and Herman was really catchy, though. Best of the bunch, in my opinion.

Overall, if you can find a copy of it (every copy I found was low quality and watermarked, but it worked) this is a really cute and chill Christmas special that I think anyone would enjoy.


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AVAHS – The New Scooby-Doo Mysteries: The Nutcracker Scoob Review

AVAHS - TNSDMNS

Plot: Shaggy, Scooby, Daphne and Fred are helping put on a Christmas pageant for a bunch of children. An old scrooge arrives named Mr. Nickelby, and he declares that he plans on kicking them out of the building immediately. They resist all of his attempts, but a meddlesome ghost appears who is seemingly on Nickelby’s side. Can the Scooby gang figure out who this ghost is and stop Mr. Nickelby or will the pageant, and Christmas, be ruined for the children?

Breakdown: There are several Christmas specials in Scooby-Doo’s long, long history and this….sure is one of them.

Look, I love Scooby-Doo, I do, but there’s no denying that they can produce some stinkers, and this one is quite ripe.

First things first, this special took place during the ‘Fred and Velma are inexplicably gone for five years’ period of Scooby-Doo. They each have a role in a couple of specials during this series, but it’s the only time they appear in that five year span. Fred appears here, for reasons not given, but Velma does not, which doesn’t bode well for me because Velma’s my favorite character.

Yes, lose Fred and Velma but keep Daphne and bring in Scrappy. Logic is fun.

As for why Fred and Velma were booted from the franchise for so long, I have no clue. It was stated in-universe that they supposedly got jobs outside of mystery solving, which makes some degree of sense, but as for why they were written off in a meta standpoint, I don’t know. Some people are theorizing it had something to do with the likability of the characters, others said it might have been trouble with their voice actors – who really knows?

Secondly, this set up is so ridiculously overly done, even for 1984. The little children (who may or may not be orphans, it’s never really made clear) are participating in a Christmas pageant in a ‘building’ (no idea what this building is either) and some literal scrooge (he even looks the part and says ‘humbug’) threatens to kick them out and ruin their Christmas.

I had to pause when they had the little girl react to this news because they actually put in that stock sad violin music to really drive the emotion home.

Third, the reasons behind him doing this make no sense. The only motivation he has for wanting this building, that his family previously owned, is because a huge emerald was left to him in a will (supposedly by a family member who owned the building) and it’s in the building somewhere.

Uhh….Just ask for it? If it was left to you in a will, then no one else can lay claim to it even if they own the building. Just ask ‘hey, guys, can I look for this emerald my family member left me? Then I’ll be on my way and not ruin Christmas.’ They’d probably be cool with it.

Why does he not own this building by the way? Did the family member sell it before they died? Why leave this seemingly priceless emerald in the building if they did sell it?

The location of the emerald makes even less sense. His family member left behind a riddle to its location, because of course do that instead of doing what a sane person would do and just, ya know, be upfront about it. The riddle says;

“On Christmas eve, your goal’s not far.

You’ll find the emerald in the pageant’s star.”

….So….they wrote that riddle after they were already making plans to put on this pageant? Which was, what, one or two weeks, max? Is this family member even in the ground yet?

They assume this means the emerald is in the literal star decoration for the pageant’s tree, but it actually means its hidden in the taint of a nutcracker toy. See, the pageant is The Nutcracker Suite….but…it also isn’t because earlier they were rehearsing A Christmas Carol. Unless they’re planning on putting on numerous Christmas shows, in which case, The Nutcracker Suite still isn’t the main event. The toy wouldn’t be the star even if they were only putting on The Nutcracker Suite because it’s a TOY. The star would be the actor playing the Nutcracker.

So, by that logic, this probably-not-even-cold-yet family member’s last act should have been shoving an emerald up Freddy’s ass.

What would they have done if someone threw away this seemingly inconspicuous nutcracker toy?

The resolution is also lame. The ghost was Mr. Nickelby’s French maid, who somehow completely loses her heavy accent when she’s playing the ghost. Admittedly, she’s the funniest one here as she dusts literally everything and everyone with her feather duster, but her only motivation was ‘Ooh emerald valuable. I want it.’

Mr. Nickelby is also changed instantly because the little girl from earlier saves his cat. Yay, I guess. They still ruined the pageant, but he brought Christmas gifts for all the little boys and girls and tore up a condemnation order he had done on the building, which isn’t how that works, but everyone’s happy.

The end.

This special had a few good moments and some decent humor, but the story is bllllllaaaaaaaaaaaaaahhhhhhhhhhhh and badly written blah at that. I don’t recall seeing other Scooby-Doo Christmas specials, but there have to be better ones that this.

At the very least, the theme song is really groovy…..until you realize that it sounds horribly dated for a mid 80s show. It sounds like it’s stuck in the 60s or 70s.

And somehow it really seems like the animation has only gotten worse since the first series, and that’s saying something.

Fun Fact: Despite what I just said, I have owned a battery-operated Christmas Scooby-Doo doll for about 15 years now. Still works, but it’s weaker than it was. It sings Christmas songs and wags its tail. It’s super cute.


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AVAHS – Spot’s Magical Christmas (1995) Review

AVAHS - Spot's Magical Christmas

Plot: A young puppy named Spot prepares for Christmas with his parents when he meets two reindeer who have lost Santa’s sleigh! Spot and his friends must find it and return it to the reindeer or else Santa might not be able to make his deliveries this Christmas.

Breakdown: And now, A Tale of Twix Re-Discovering Spot After Over Twenty Years of Not Thinking About it – Told in Gifs. Enjoy.

Seriously, I have not seen or thought about Spot since I was probably eight or nine. The shorts, The Adventures of Spot, aired on Playhouse Disney and I loved them for that blip of time that they played. I never knew that Spot had a Christmas special. It’s not even listed on the Wiki page for the Spot franchise. As far as I can tell, this was a direct-to-VHS special made in 1995, and that’s about it.

But to rediscover Spot AND have that rediscovery come in the form of a previously unknown to me Christmas special starring the adorable pup? It truly is an early Christmas gift.

As for the special itself, it’s just a great bundle of Christmas fun. Spot is as adorable as I remembered him, the simple art and animation as well as the gentle and warm tones are extremely welcoming, and it’s loaded with Christmas spirit.

The songs, of which there are only two (One, technically, but I’ll get to that in a sec) are catchy and sweet. The first song is a tango-ish song sung by the reindeer about how they lost Santa’s sleigh, and the second is a song that was included on the Spot’s Winter Sports short which was included in this special near the end. It’s a very short song about Spot going out on his sled, and it’s pretty alright.

There are some legitimately funny moments in here as well – some based on thinking too hard about it and some out of good humor, especially with the reindeer. There was one shot where Tom, the alligator (crocodile?) makes the doofiest face seemingly on purpose and I couldn’t help but laugh out loud.

Overall, while this is certainly aimed at much younger audiences, it’s a sweet, adorable and innocent little special. If nothing else, it will give you a hearty dose of Christmas spirit. And, if you’re like me and used to like Spot but ended up disconnected to the poor pup because of 20 years of the franchise being more or less dead, this is a great way to reconnect with him.

Also, fun fact, while he doesn’t voice spot in the special, that honor goes to Calum Nielsen, Johnathan Taylor Thomas voices Spot in the Spot’s Winter Sports short since he voiced Spot in the US version of the second series of shorts (They originated in the UK.)


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AVAHS – Christmas in Tattertown (1988) Review

Plot: Debbie loved playing with her stuffed dog, Dog, and her doll Miss Muffet. One day, Dog, Muffet and Debbie were sucked through a mysterious book into a strange place called Tattertown where ‘junk’ comes to life. This place has never known Christmas, so Debbie decides to bring the magic of Christmas to them. Muffet, however, is taking advantage of her newfound life to be evil and wreck everything good.

Breakdown: Ah Ralph Bakshi. The guy definitely has his own flair and was basically the father of adult animation, but I really never enjoyed much for his work outside of Mighty Mouse: The New Adventures. Respect the hell out of him, but I don’t vibe much with his work usually. I don’t really care for his casual affiliation with John K much either, but I’m not sure of his current status with him, so I’ll leave that irk on the backburner.

Christmas in Tattertown was a pitch pilot for Nickelodeon back in 1988 for a series that would have been called Tattertown, but the series wasn’t picked up.

…..I can kinda see why.

(Although, let me be transparent here. According to the Wiki, the real reason Tattertown didn’t get picked up was supposedly because of the heat he got for the infamous ‘cocaine’ scene in Mighty Mouse: The New Adventures which aired when Tattertown was on the table. Considering the tone and more adult-ish style of this short, I can imagine they were worried he’d do something similar in the future of that show, even though Bakshi vehemently denied that that was the intention of the shot, even citing concerns for his own young daughter and his strong disdain for drugs.)

The animation is great for a late 80’s production, especially for a pitch pilot where poor animation is entirely reasonable and understandable. It’s very bouncy, particularly the ones based on older cartoons, and pretty fluid, even if some of the lines vanish and the frames jut around every now and then. In typical Bakshi fashion, the art ranges from perfectly fine to weird to what the hell is this even?

The sound design is….to be expected. The voice acting is passable at best and “must’ve accidentally replaced my ear buds with power drills again” at worst. The lip syncing is also quite rough, but I guess I’ll blame the pilot-ness there. The sound effects are basically passable, but the special is kinda quiet – again, understandable with a pilot.

As for the story, though….ech. Can you even say there’s a story here? Debbie finds out no one in Tattertown has never heard of Christmas, even though, as Debbie herself points out, with all the junk in town it’s unlikely that they’ve never learned what Christmas is until now. A bunch of this stuff would have to come from Christmas or be Christmas themed.

Actually, this special reminds me a lot of Spongebob’s first Christmas special, Christmas Who? though it’s more understandable that a bunch of undersea creatures don’t know of Christmas. And in both specials, Santa randomly appears at the end, meaning he visits the place but has never brought presents there until they randomly learned of the holiday. Pretty shitty practice, Santa.

After that, Debbie just tries to make Christmas for the Tattertown residents and keeps complaining that they’re not doing it right. She comes off as bratty fairly often, which, I guess she’s supposed to anyway for reasons I’ll get to in a second. Even when they are trying to do things right, like cutting down a Christmas tree, she complains. A little lumberjack toy was trying to chop down their sentient Christmas tree (who is also Jewish. I found that kinda funny.) and while it’s fine for her to stop him from doing that, of course, she tells him that Christmas isn’t about chopping down trees or presents, it’s about being kind and putting an end to strife for just one day. Everyone tears up at her speech, and then the lumberjack tries to chop down the tree anyway and Debbie smashes him….killing him? He’s never seen again.

Merry Christmas?

Kinda ruins your kindness and joy sentiment when you immediately murder someone. I get that that was the point, maybe a dark joke, but that adds to the confusion of the narrative here. Is this meant to be a real Christmas special or is it meant to be a skewed take on Christmas specials?

No one gets the true meaning of Christmas until Debbie plays a record of “White Christmas” by Bing Crosby. Everyone suddenly gets it and becomes immersed in the holiday somehow. Either his dulcet tones are magical or this is a lazy resolution. Seriously, Debbie’s big speech about kindness and good will doesn’t click with them but a song about how nice it is to have snow on Christmas does? Actually, it’s not even about the snow, really – it’s about nostalgia for childhood Christmases when you’d go out and have fun in the snow. Do they even get snow in Tattertown?

Meanwhile, Muffet, who has become evil 11 seconds after becoming sentient because Debbie was basically Elmyra if she was more into dolls than animals, is plotting to ruin Christmas.

She’s basically just an annoyance. She’s kinda funny when dealing with her minions, but her voice is awful. I also don’t understand a single molecule that is the scene where she desperately wants to eat the final slice of ‘tobacco pie’ which is literally a pie made out of tobacco with cigarettes and a cigar sticking out. I wanted to puke just seeing that thing.

And then a stove eats it instead and shits out ashes……Or maybe peed them out, because they came out the front….

She rallies an army and tries to take down everyone celebrating Christmas, but it literally backfires. One part I laughed out loud at was when her fighter planes thought Muffet was telling them to attack each other. It’s said in a Goofy-esque voice and the other guy praises her idea and they just start kamikaze-ing each other. It’s pretty funny.

In the end, Muffet is thrown in jail, gets a bunch of presents, but Debbie finds her and reclaims her as her precious doll, which is basically hell for Muffet.

Overall, this short is okay. It garnered a few yucks (and a couple actual yucks) and the loudness and chaos is tolerable, sometimes legitimately funny. As a Christmas special, it kinda sucks. They do aim for the ‘true meaning of Christmas’ and everything, and I do love how Harvey, the little old-fashioned style puppy dog, is so enamored with the idea, but it definitely doesn’t have much in the way of actual Christmas spirit. They pretty much just collect Christmas stuff, Debbie complains and then they mistake Muffet’s attack for a Christmas celebration, get all happy about it, but Debbie still complains because that’s not the ‘right’ way to celebrate Christmas, and then…Bing Crosby randomly saves the day.

Unless you’re a Bakshi fan in a Christmassy mood or a big fan of old animation, I don’t really see a reason to recommend this. There are better Bakshi works and better Christmas specials to check out.


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