CSBS – Danny Phantom Episode 2

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Plot: Jack shows off his new invention, the Fenton Ghost Fisher, a device meant to capture ghosts, to Danny when he leaves the room briefly to go to the bathroom. Danny grabs the fisher and catches a dragon ghost. He combats the ghost for a while before knocking off the dragon’s amulet, which lands in his backpack. The dragon reverts to the form of an 18th century English girl who runs back into the Ghost Portal stating she wanted to go to the ball.

Danny, thinking the whole event is over, resumes his day. A school dance is coming up and Danny decides to ask out Paulina, the prettiest and most popular girl in school. However, he makes a fool of himself in his nervousness thanks to his ghost powers. Sam steps in to defend him, insulting Paulina in the process. As revenge and believing Sam to be his girlfriend, Paulina later accepts Danny’s invitation. She also mistakenly believes the amulet in Danny’s backpack is hers.

It’s up to Danny, Sam and Tucker to retrieve the amulet before Paulina also turns into the dragon and causes havoc at the dance.

Breakdown: This episode always annoyed me a tiny bit. While we’re amping up the stakes with the Dragon Ghost, the way that it works basically amounts to ‘bitches be crazy.’

We see the Dragon Ghost three times in this episode.

The first, the 18th century English girl reveals that she turned into the dragon because she was upset that she couldn’t go to the dance.

The second, Paulina triggers it by getting upset that they don’t have a trendy new and discontinued fleecy tee in her size.

The third is the most understandable with Sam turning into the dragon when Paulina reveals that she was only dating Danny to get revenge on Sam, believing them to be dating, and she plans on dumping him in the middle of the dance since Sam revealed that they’re not dating. While this is more admirable, it’s set up like Sam’s more upset that Paulina’s shallow (she keeps repeating ‘shallow girl!’ in dragon form) than she’s upset for Danny, who is soon to be heartbroken.

Not to mention that this makes no sense anyway. Why would Paulina think Danny’s dating Sam when he’s asking her out? I’d think if my boyfriend asked another girl out to a dance while we were dating, the relationship would be beyond over in a millisecond.

I do like the different reactions all three of them are having to this dance, though. Danny’s getting up the courage to ask his crush out to the dance, Tucker’s asking anyone with boobs and a pulse and consistently gets shot down. He somehow lands Valerie, who will become very prominent later, but Danny forces him (through possession) to dump her for Sam. She’s been badmouthing the dance the whole episode, and they only catch on right before the dance that she’s partially upset because no one’s asked her out. Danny possesses Tucker to claim Valerie canceled and to ask out Sam, and while Tucker initially protests, he changes his tune rather quickly when Sam comes out looking beautiful.

The sub-plot with Danny’s dad was insanely unnecessary, though, besides to show off Danny’s newly discovered possession capability. Lancer understands that Danny keeps dropping his pants because they, seemingly, don’t fit well (it’s really his ghost powers) and fixes the situation by giving him a belt, yet he still calls in Danny’s dad for a parent-teacher conference because this is somehow a fault of Danny’s that needs to be discussed with a parent.

Then he, of course, has to invite Possessed!Jack to be a chaperone to the dance purely to keep this plot going further and fabricate tension.

All in all, the episode’s pretty good, but there are a few major things about it that irk me. It just felt a little on the sexist side, is all.

Oh, and just because I feel I have to mention this because meme(?) this is the episode where they have that line exchange –

Sam: “Promise me you’ll keep your pants up.”

Danny: “I’ll do my best!”

I don’t know why this became a slight thing. I mean, it’s a funny-ish joke in context, but outside….is it just hurr hurr, this is kinda innuendo? I don’t really get it.

Rating: 7.5/10 Still staying at a good pace with the action and some of the story, but the mechanics of the amulet, at least the way it’s portrayed here, are a bit annoying and Jack’s subplot was entirely pointless. Also, it seems weird that they kinda poked at TuckerxSam here, yet went nowhere with it.

Rango Review

Rating: 8/10

Plot: A pet lizard finds himself lost in the desert after his tank flies off of the back of his owner’s car. He arrives at a town called Dirt where water is scarce to say the least. He plays himself up as a hero of the west to the local townsfolk, and after (accidentally) saving them from a hawk. Because of his feats, he’s given the title of Sheriff by the mayor. Taking the name of Rango, he enjoys his newfound respect and admiration but when the situation gets dire in Dirt, he’ll have to pay up or shut up.

Breakdown: I was never a fan of westerns, unless you count space westerns. And despite being interested in this movie when it was first released, mostly because Nickelodeon promoted it quite a bit (They produced it, but it’s hard as hell to find their name on it) I never got around to watching it until now. Too bad too because this is a pretty damn good movie.

Admittedly, the story is completely overdone. Some guy pretends to be something he’s not only to eventually get ousted and then gather up the courage to return and set things right. Been there done that. And yes, the awkwardness of the continuous lying does irk me quite a bit.

However, I really love the writing of the dialogue, the timing of the jokes, the characters and the style. I can’t really compare this to any other animated movie that I can think of. It’s pretty unique in its own right, at least barring the story.

One of the ways this movie stands out is its art and animation. Rango was produced by ILM (Lucasfilms) and it is absolutely gorgeous…..I think I drooled a little.

Excuse me, I really should say it’s butt ugly, but it’s meant to be gritty and kinda ugly. It’s a western with a bunch of desert animals like rats and lizards. Even the love interest, Beans, that’s her actual name, is pretty blech-looking. But my god, the details. They are fantastic. From the littlest drops of water and the hairs and scales on the animals to the town of Dirt and the vast desert. It is all just deliciously…..Ugligorgeous. What’s even more incredible is how they integrated the human world into their own world. The cars and lights look fantastic, we’ve got a huge cityscape, and even stuff like the items in Rango’s tank are beautifully detailed.

Then we see one human character briefly, The Man With No Name; IE A Clint Eastwood ‘Spirit of the West’ character who guides Rango back on his path. And not only is he also incredibly well-detailed, but his part is probably the least cliched because he doesn’t do that lame ‘just believe in yourself blah blah’ speech. He gives a realistic speech that a Clint Eastwood character would probably give. Sadly, however, they did not get Clint Eastwood to play this part, but he was well-performed by Timothy Olyphant.

They also didn’t dumb down most of the scenes for the sake of the children. Characters get shot, they die, they swear (to a degree), they describe several gory situations and the dialogue is perfectly suited for older audiences as well as young ones. Which is weird because somehow this movie managed to grab a PG rating.

In regards to characters, they’re all kinda stereotypes, but they’re done in a fairly unique and memorable manner. Johnny Depp (hey, you broke away from Disney and Tim Burton for five seconds! Congrats!) plays our titular character, Rango. Interestingly, his real name, the one he would’ve been given by his owner, is never mentioned, which kinda makes him a legit ‘man with no name’. He named himself through the traditional means of reading it off of something he saw.

He’s a bit of a delusional chameleon who longs to be a big popular hero, but he’s lived all of his life in a tank with no one to interact with except a wind-up goldfish and a barbie doll torso. It’s actually a little sad to think that his owner might be devastated over losing his pet, but Rango never mentions it or seems to care.

Rango’s one of the most uncomfortable characters to watch because he’s lying through most of the movie, and he plays up his lies as much as possible in order to fully create a heroic sheriff persona, but he really is a good guy who wants to help the people of Dirt.

Beans isn’t all that interesting. She’s a typical ‘no non-sense’ female lead whose only schtick is her defense mechanism. Beans is a desert iguana and she has a defense mechanism that essentially causes her to freeze up and be completely unaware of her surroundings. Problem is, this ability sometimes springs up without warning or trigger. She’ll just be talking and then boom. Then she just transforms into a doting girlfriend at the end, and it’s actually a little annoying.

Priscilla, the cactus mouse, steals several scenes with her odd habit of being incredibly and painfully blunt about situations and going on small tangents about frightening or gory situations.

Then there’s the mayor who is about as transparent as humanly possible. It’s obvious that he’s behind the water shortage in the town yet it takes Rango to finally figure it out and call him out on it. He’s not much of a villain, but there is someone who actually earns the villain title; Rattlesnake Jake.

As you can guess, Rattlesnake Jake is a rattlesnake. A huge rattlesnake….with piercing almost glowing orange, yellow and red eyes, huge fangs…..and that’s about it…..

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Oh there is his KICK-ASS MACHINE GUN TAIL. Oh my god, I never knew I needed a movie with a rattlesnake with a machine gun for a tail in my life, but that part of me has been fulfilled now. He is a big, badass, looming bastard of a snake. Though the reason I really like him isn’t just how badass he is, it’s that he actually has some sense of honor. By the end, he’s basically an anti-hero.

The fact that everything looks more or less real along with stuff like guns and animal threats such as hawks really makes the movie much more intense.

And might I commend the movie for having the best end credits sequence I’ve seen in ages? The art, the direction, the style, the music; they were all awesome for that segment.

Bottomline: Even if you don’t like westerns, I’d say definitely give this movie a shot. It’s cleverly written, has a great realistic feel to it, is gorgeously detailed, has some fantastic music, intense action sequences and while it’s not the most unique story in the world, you never once feel bored while watching it. I had a lot of fun with this movie, and I’d gladly watch it several more times.

Recommended Audience: Mild swearing (hell, damn, maybe an ‘ass’ I can’t remember), guns, smoking, some people get shot but I don’t think anyone dies from a gunshot wound, a bird dies from being crushed, an armadillo ‘dies’ from being run over by a car (and ew they closeup on his squished body, even though, oddly, there’s no guts or gore, it’s like someone flatted a balloon filled with flour) ‘scary situations’ maybe. 10+

Cartoons Step-by-Step: Rugrats Episode 1

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Plot: It’s Tommy’s first birthday, and his parents have pulled all the stops to make it great. Didi has plenty of entertainment and food setup while Stu is inventing a gift. However, Tommy’s much more interested in trying some of his dog, Spike’s, dog food, believing that it will turn him into a dog.

Breakdown: I don’t think I need to reiterate how much Rugrats means to me. It was a huge part of my childhood, and spawned my love of all things Nickelodeon (back in the good ol’ days when the execs weren’t braindead dimwits…Er were slightly less braindead I suppose.) I was obsessed with Rugrats for well over a decade, and I cherish the show to this day.

That being said, this pilot was always boring as hell to me.

To me, this first episode seems a lot more like it’s made for parents than it is children. One of the great things about Rugrats is, due to the premise, it is very easy for children and parents/adults alike to enjoy it, but this episode does seem focused more on the parents.

It takes a quarter of the episode before any of the babies even speak, and rarely is there a joke to be had until the climax.

Instead we have to watch the human paradox that is Didi have a fit over this birthday party. I swear, she will obsess over everything related to parenthood because her ultimate goal in life is to be a good mother (“like the ones on TV” ~Didi) but even this early on she is completely oblivious to what Tommy wants, needs or is doing most of the time.

Instead, she’d rather bow down to the glory of the almighty Dr. Lipschitz books, to the point where her catchphrase is ‘Dr. Lipschitz says…’, causing her to actually be a less effective mother. (I can’t find info on this, but is Lipschitz’ name a joke? Like everything he says is bull shit?) Not to say she is one without him. Didi let Tommy slide off of her lap and wander into the kitchen (which is closed off by it’s own door by the way, for anyone who might argue that she can still watch him), which was about his fifth time attempting to get in there without anyone noticing, and she is always losing track of where the kids are, which has become one of the most well-known tropes of this series. (Even though all of the parents are negligent in their own right).

At least I can say Tommy was always picked up and brought somewhere else shortly after these attempts, before the climax of course. But let’s address that later.

Stu is up to his goofball inventor tricks, but he’s mostly babbling about his Hover-rama, a flying remote control spaceship thing, that he made for Tommy. Though he never gets it working purely because he forgot the batteries. Maybe that’s supposed to be funny because he’s brought up how impressive his gift is because it takes like four different kinds of batteries about five times at this point, but he seriously ends up crying because he forgot the batteries for the remote. He barely looks for any, either. He checks his pockets, gets a sullen look, then sits down and cries.

There are three shining lights in the adult section, though. Betty is usually always funny in the early seasons. In the later seasons, she becomes more of a bitch and an idiot. She’s in direct contrast to Didi. While she is fairly negligent of her children’s activities in her own right, she definitely knows more about children than Didi does. Even small observations like the fact that the party hats Didi puts on them will be quickly discarded are made a little funny because of the stark contrast. When you think about it, both Didi and Betty are realistic parents, it’s just that Betty is more relatable and funny.

Next, Grandpa Lou also brings some grounding reality to the household with some of his comments, along with Grandpa Boris and Grandma Minka.

Finally, the puppet show is the funniest part of the episode. Stu and his brother, Drew, father of Tommy’s famously horrible cousin, Angelica, put on a puppet show after Didi messes up the scheduling for the puppeteers. Their bickering is pretty funny and just gets increasingly entertaining.

At the climax, all of the kids go into the kitchen while the adults are focused on the bicker-fest of Stu and Drew, who never break out from behind the stage and fight as puppets the whole time. Spike has eaten all of his food, so Tommy and Angelica try to reach a can of it on the top of the shelves by them both standing on the counter balanced on a bunch of bowls and colanders while Tommy balances on Angelica’s shoulders. See why many people grew to be outraged at the Rugrats’ parents over time? If they bothered to pay a modicum of attention to their kids, they’d realize that Angelica and Tommy were in a situation where they could easily both smash their heads in on the tile.

They can’t reach it, so Chuckie, resident scaredy cat and Tommy’s best friend, decides to use the Hover-rama to knock it down. Chuckie has batteries in his pocket for some reason, and he’s able to instantly put the batteries in correctly, meaning he has better battery skills than most adults I know. Chuckie, amazingly, pilots the Hover-rama perfectly from the living room into the kitchen, despite not being able to see it, and, with the skill of a surgeon, is able to position and maneuver the Hover-rama to the shelf right by the dog food and starts nudging it over.

Phil and Lil, Betty and her husband, Howard’s, twins, known for being more gross than most of the kids, ruin it by grabbing the remote and start trying to do the job better than Chuckie, which turns out like you’d expect. They accidentally grab Tommy with the Hover-rama and fly him all over the kitchen, knocking Angelica into a bag of flour, knocking the stack of bowls and stuff that they were standing on over, spraying the room with water from the hand nozzle from the sink, knocking over a stack of plates and all without any of the adults ever hearing a thing.

They even fly Tommy into the living room, where the parents are, and they still don’t notice a thing until the Hover-rama is crashed into the cake.

Chuckie was really funny when he was flying the Hover-rama, though. Not only does he have the skills, he also knows some pilot lingo.

In the end, Didi simultaneously shows us the insanity of a regular family and the insanity of trying to mediate one by pacifying everyone who is arguing by telling Drew and Stu they’re both wrong for what they did to each other as kids and telling both of her parents that they’re right on their opposing sides of what cake they should’ve had at the party (Boris was right, though. It should always be chocolate.)

And the babies did indeed get some dog food, which they promptly spat out. Which is weird, because they eat worms and bugs and stuff.

All in all, this episode is really boring, but it’s somewhat salvageable. The periods of no music don’t really help. I’m not saying every scene needs music, otherwise I’d have to apologize to 4Kids. But there are scenes that are just too quiet to keep your attention.

The funny moments are sporadic, but the ending is somewhat solid.

Rating: 5/10

Just for fun, let’s have two running tallies, because, trust me, this will be interesting to keep track of at each season’s end.

Parenting Fails

I didn’t count exactly, but let’s go with about eight times the kids sneaked away with no one noticing. (Let’s also include an ‘at blame’ counter, to see who comes out looking better as parents. In this case, though, while Didi and Stu technically have more, all of the parents are guilty. Stu, Didi, Drew, Betty, Howard, and even the grandparents, Boris, Minka, and Lou. Chas and Charlotte are innocent because they simply weren’t here.)

The entirety of the climax, which will count as three.

Stu thinking it’s not unsafe for babies to have a complicated flying machine as a toy, especially with tons of batteries. Also note that the battery compartment for the remote is not secured with a screw or anything. You push the door and it opens.

No one noticing that Chuckie had batteries.

No one noticing that Tommy has a real screwdriver (his later one is a toy).

Tally – 14

What the…They’re babies! (This category is for odd details that seemingly make no logical sense given these are babies, but this tally is mostly for fun considering some liberties have to be taken for humor.)

How did Tommy tape his screwdriver to the underside of his high chair?

How DID Chuckie know how to fly that thing so well? Especially considering that the controls look like crap.

How did Tommy and Angelica even get up on the counter like that?

Cartoons Step-by-Step: Danny Phantom Episode 1

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Plot: One month ago, Danny Fenton’s life changed forever when he walked through a ghost portal of his parents’ invention and accidentally activated it while inside. The incident made him half-ghost, allowing him to maintain the look of a regular boy but also gaining ghost abilities and the ability to transform into a more proper ghost form, Danny Phantom. Unfortunately, Danny’s activation of the portal has also made it so that ghosts can sneak into the human world and cause havoc. Danny’s taken it upon himself to stop these ghosts with his powers while trying his best to keep his powers a secret from everyone else but his two best friends, Sam and Tucker.

In the series premiere, Danny’s first opponent is a lunch lady ghost that attacks Casper High after Sam changes the menu to exclude all meat items in lieu of an ‘ultra-recyclo-vegetarian’ menu, much to the lunch lady ghost’s disdain.

Breakdown: Ah, Danny Phantom. Arguably Butch Hartman’s best work. A simple tried and true tale that, to be honest, we’ve heard a thousand times before, but done in such a way that brought a fairly fresh spin on the story with plenty of memorable characters and storylines along the way.

Actually, put another way, it’s like the story of Spider-man but melded with Ghostbusters.

And, really, if you want to dissect this, it is a whole bunch of cliches, some even taken from Fairly Odd Parents. An unpopular kid who has trouble fitting in at school, bullied by the school jock who gets away with nearly everything, also targeted by jackass teachers, is given abilities that make his life even more complicated. The only two people who know about his powers are his two best friends, the tech genius Tucker Foley and the opinionated goth chick, who is obviously set to be a love interest, Sam Manson.

His parents are basically two bumbling idiots who never catch onto Danny’s secret in the least and are always causing trouble for him with their weird behavior in ghost hunting and odd inventions. However, they do help out inadvertently sometimes by inventing things Danny can actually use, even if his parents have no clue how to make them work.

His sister is the one who seems to break tradition here as she seems to fancy herself a psychologist in training who always tries her best to seem adult and mature. She deeply cares about Danny and worries about his well-being growing up in a household with such odd parents.

Our first enemy, the lunch lady ghost, is admittedly not very threatening. In fact, not many of the first season ghosts really were. However, that’s alright here. We’re just being introduced to the world and the characters, so having a somewhat silly ghost who actually can hold her own, even if her attacks are silly, is fine. They’re all mostly meat-based, even if she has some pyrokinetic abilities. Most of her abilities can be eaten or squished, but they can sometimes be overwhelming, especially when Danny doesn’t have a good grip on his abilities quite yet and even has trouble keeping his Danny Phantom form.

It’s interesting that the only reason the Fenton Thermos starts working is seemingly because Danny puts some of his ghostly energy into it, but does that fix it permanently or does he need to keep feeding it that way when he needs it? Because other non-ghost characters use the thermos in the future.

The conflict between Sam and Tucker felt a bit odd in this episode. Usually they reserve episodes where the main character is caught between two fighting best friends for when they’re a bit more established, but here they just jump right in. I won’t say it’s a bad part of the episode, because it does highlight one of the main character traits of Sam in a decent manner, though I don’t think the same can be said of Tucker.

I mean, I’m pretty sure the fact that he loves meat stays true throughout the series, but it’s never really given any actual attention in the future to my recollection. Plus, I find it kinda immature that Sam doesn’t drop the issue when the school starts being attacked because she changed the menu. I know I said the Lunch Lady Ghost isn’t a big threat, but it’s still possible for her to hurt people, especially with her minor pyro powers, and Sam still won’t budge an inch.

Other than that, the only real notes I have is that there aren’t many jokes that work very well in this episode. Either that or they just don’t hold up very well. Jack had a few entertaining lines, but that was about it.

Rating: 7/10 Not starting off very strong, but it does what it needs to do and some more in a pretty entertaining manner.

Next episode: Parental Bonding: Danny asks his crush, Paulina, out to a dance, but has to deal with a dragon ghost in the meantime.

Final Notes: Addressing the theme song, it is indeed the earworm we all know and love. However, I can’t say I’ve ever been crazy about it in regards to quality. The fact that it starts with ‘Yo!’ is already kinda cringey and there’s a serious scent of 4Kids music to the whole thing.

Like Fairly Odd Parents and many many cartoons from the 80’s and 90s, the theme song explains the entire plot in expositiony lyrics, which is actually kinda necessary because, as you can tell, the show does not start with an origin story. It was meant to, but apparently they scrapped it when the theme song was finalized. They explore the origin story in an episode that comes much later, however, when they decide to give Danny his own emblem.

AVAHS – Rugrats: A Rugrats Kwanzaa

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Plot: Suzie’s Great Aunt T comes to visit after Christmas and makes plans to celebrate Kwanzaa with the family. After learning that part of Kwanzaa is about celebrating the great people in your family, Suzie laments that she has done nothing great like her siblings and parents have done. Wanting to partake in Kwanzaa, Suzie tries to do great things with the help of the babies, but continuously falters. Will Suzie really be left out of Kwanzaa or is she greater than she thinks?

Breakdown: So we’re at the second of two of the seemingly only animated Kwanzaa specials in existence with Rugrats. I praised Rugrats very highly for their venture into another seldom explored-on-screen holiday, Hanukkah, and I was disappointed to say the least with The Proud Family’s version. Does Rugrats bring some light to the kinara this year?

Yes and no.

While this rendition is definitely miles above what The Proud Family spewed out, I’d still be a bit hard-pressed to say it’s really all that great as a true Kwanzaa special.

Like I mentioned in The Proud Family’s Kwanzaa special review, there are seven days of Kwanzaa to cover, each with their own meanings and particular celebrations. You can’t just shove all of that to the wayside for something else and think it will still give the same weight.

Rugrats gives Kwanzaa more respect as a holiday, giving us more insight into its true meaning and a slight taste into its history, but the whole Kwanzaa aspect is again shoved to the side for a plot about Suzie trying her best to be a great person. Not only that, but later on they delve into why Suzie’s ancestors, despite not having awards or fame, are great in their own right, such as her Great Uncle Charles being a very kind man whose kindness actually led him and Aunt T into meeting Martin Luther King Jr., Suzie’s mother Lucy braving her stage fright to sing at church and Aunt T giving Lucy her college tuition for Harvard Medical School when her financial aid fell through.

It’s true that part of Kwanzaa is celebrating your ancestors in various ways, and Suzie trying to find what’s great about her is a realistic way a three-year-old might approach this. This plot, as a whole, is solid enough. Not particularly great episode material, but good. My problem is that is takes up nearly the whole episode, once again pushing the Kwanzaa festivities aside.

Probably the worst aspect of this is that the special treats Kwanzaa like it is indeed a one-day event. They only cover the first day, Umoja, without even mentioning the fact that it’s a seven day event with six other principles to cover. And the special doesn’t even focus on that, really. It focuses more on being great in your own way and recognizing greatness in others in various ways. That’s a great lesson to learn, but it has little to do with unity.

If I wanted to go the extra mile, I might even say this special wasn’t even intending on being a Kwanzaa special at the start. You could almost take all of the Kwanzaa stuff out and the episode would not really be all that different.

It’s just really disappointing because they did such a phenomenal job on their Hanukkah special that I was expecting something at least nearing such quality for their Kwanzaa special.

There are also weird parts of this episode like….what are the babies even doing there? Why are they at the Carmichaels the day after Christmas? I wouldn’t be so bothered by this if any of their parents were there, but they’re not. The only parents who make an appearance besides Suzie’s are Phil and Lil’s and they only make a brief cameo.

Another weird thing is where the hell is Dil? This is season seven, and Kimi is there. Why would Tommy be babysat by the Carmichaels but Dil not? Angelica is also noticeably (and thankfully) absent but she might have an excuse to not be present whereas I can’t think of a damn thing for Dil.

I love how Mrs. Carmichael is so flippant about leaving a house full of children. She doesn’t even mention that she’s leaving to anyone and no one notices that she’s gone either. Oh yeah, a parent in Rugrats not being irresponsible. Silly me.

I guess I appreciate that the didn’t end the episode with Suzie revealing some great hidden talent, even though it has been established that she’s a fantastic singer like her mother (send up to Cree Summer.) They just appreciate what she tried to do out of the kindness of her heart (making a gift for Aunt T, which ended up getting ruined)

I also like how they included all of the babies in the festivities for Kwanzaa instead of making this a purely Suzie and the Carmichaels episode. I would’ve liked it a little better if they included all of the parents too, though.

I could make an argument that this episode does, subtly, include all of the principles of Kwanzaa.

Umoja, unity, is shown in all of the family finally getting together at the end during the power outage and spending time together.

Kujichagulia or self-determination is reflected in Suzie’s determination to do something great to be a part of Kwanzaa. Lucy also shows this in her determination to get over her fear and sing in the choir.

Ujima, collective work and responsibility, is reflected in the babies doing everything they can to help Suzie achieve something great. Additionally, Charles stops to help MLK Jr. with car troubles.

Ujamaa or cooperative economics is shown when Aunt T uses the money she and her husband have saved over the years for the tuition money to help Lucy become a great doctor.

Nia or purpose was touched upon when Aunt T was talking with Suzie about discovering what truly makes her great as she grows up.

Kuumba or creativity was shown when Suzie tried to hand-make a gift for Aunt T.

Finally, Imani or faith may be a difficult one, but it could be reflected in Aunt T telling Suzie to always be proud of who she is and where she came from. I could also make the stretch in merely the fact that there’s a scene in the church with Lucy singing ‘This Little Light of Mine’.

I’m basically reading something into nothing, but I find it kind of neat that you can apply all of the principles of Kwanzaa to the episode, more or less, even if they don’t even mention the others.

This special certainly did more things right than The Proud Family did. They weren’t talking down to anyone, bad-mouthing Christmas for no reason, making you feel like crap or giving mixed messages that contradicted themselves or were bad messages anyway. They were respectful of their audience, didn’t even mention Christmas outside of showing the tree and some gifts, made you feel fairly good for have watched it and gave a clear and concise message that was actually good.

I really like Suzie as a character anyway. She’s always been a great foil for Angelica, which just makes it weirder that Angelica’s not here. Though, I guess, she really couldn’t have been given a decent spot in the plot.

She’s not being greedy for gifts, though she doesn’t understand the significance of her scrapbook gift when she gets it and is disappointed that it’s not something she can play with, at least she’s not slamming it on the floor and making a sarcastic comment about how it’s not a better gift like some Pennys I can think of. She’s just trying to be a part of the holiday and wants to make her family proud. Hehehhehehe, Proud Family. Hehehe, that’s funny for some reason.

All in all, this is a good episode, but just an okay Kwanzaa special. I just don’t think they had the same direction, inspiration and drive for this special as they did for the Hanukkah special.

Happy Kwanzaa everyone!

AVAHS – My Life as a Teenage Robot: A Robot for All Seasons

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Plot: Jenny has taken over for Santa for Christmas this year when he experiences a debilitating ‘accident’. She does a great job, but finds that she may have missed one sad child named Todd Sweeney who claims he never gets anything he wants for Christmas. Feeling guilty and sympathetic towards the boy, Jenny agrees to basically be his robot slave/living robot action figure for a day. However, when she’s brought to his mansion, she not only finds his house loaded with toys, but Todd reveals that he never gets what he truly wants for Christmas; weapons. He overrides Jenny’s systems and controls her mind.

She wakes up a year later in what seems like a post-apocalyptic universe where she appears to be enemy number one. All of her friends and everyone in town are scared to death of her, except Sheldon. He reveals that the reason everyone’s been scared of her is that, for the past year, she’s been arriving at everyone major holiday celebration and completely ruining it, destroying property and attacking people. He, however, has never once believed she had gone bad. Enraged at what has happened over the year, Jenny confronts Todd to ensure that he won’t destroy Christmas. But it’s not going to be so easy.

Breakdown: My Life as a Teenage Robot was a show that I definitely watched when it was on, but was also one of those shows that I don’t miss too much. I enjoyed it. It had a decent concept, nice characters and some pretty funny writing, but I never got too much into it.

This Christmas special is almost bookended by Christmas special with typical action plot taking up the middle. First of all, Todd Sweeney. I get the reference, but A) Kids wouldn’t, which I guess is for the best, and B) what the hell does Sweeney Todd have to do with Christmas? He’s a serial killer….

The plot is a tad bit overdone, and the abuse Jenny suffers during Christmas no less when she’s done nothing to deserve it kinda taints the Christmas spirit. I will admit that there’s enough done to the plot to not make it seem terribly cliché, but it’s still cliché.

How did Jenny break out of her mind control anyway? Sheldon theorized that she was under the control of someone else and did have the technology to break the signal, but he didn’t know where she was. I also find it horribly depressing that Sheldon was the one who had to do this. Her own mother, who created her, didn’t think of this possibility and tried to help Sheldon with that device. Hell, the first scene we see her in after the time skip is her trying to design an XJ-10 as a replacement for Jenny. Not even Brad and Tuck believe Jenny can be saved even if the little kid who obviously kidnapped her and did something to her…obviously kidnapped her and did something to her. Nice loyalty, guys.

The action of this episode is spot on, even if Jenny did ruin a bunch of presents during a battle with Santa when she wasn’t under Todd’s control. Speaking of the battle with Santa, Jenny combats many of the citizens of the North Pole, including Santa, and while there were some great moments there, I feel like it fell short.

The main weakness of this episode is really the Christmas parts. Jenny being Santa was fine, and her trying to be a living robot action figure for Todd was a kind gesture, but she was a little too stupid to fall into that trap. Todd’s story is also kinda stupid. Why does he keep getting toys every year by Santa and stay on the Nice list if all he wants is weapons and to destroy all holidays? And Todd’s parents really ditched him for like six or seven years because they just wanted a longer vacation? They never even came back on holidays to spend time with him? What dicks. Apparently they never even spoke with him on the phone or anything because them coming back was a total surprise and they have to fill him in on them being on vacation not retiring.

And the whole ‘it’s the joy of giving, not getting that is best’ lesson was whiplashed to Todd in the end. His face literally crumbles due to smiling from giving a gift. It was just way too drastic of a change in too short of a time frame to me. I do like how they decided to use all of his toys to replace the destroyed gifts for the kids of the town, though.

All in all, this Christmas special was very enjoyable. It has some great action, funny lines and plenty of fun, but there are some glaring flaws. It’s not a must-see Christmas special to me, but it’s great for a few viewings.

Final notes: There’s one Christmas song in this special that was specially written for the episode. It’s really forgettable, but they do manage to revive saying ‘gay’ for ‘happy’ without raising a fuss.

AVAHS – Hey Arnold! Arnold’s Christmas

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Plot: Arnold has chosen the quiet and reserved Mr. Hyunh in the secret Santa selection, but he has no clue what to get him. Mr. Hyunh seems to be especially down around the holidays, so Arnold decides to sit down with him and ask him what type of special gift he’d want for Christmas. Mr. Hyunh shoots down every suggestion, and the conversation eventually leads to the real reason behind his sorrow.

When Mr. Hyunh still lived in Vietnam, he had a very young daughter named Mai. While trying to escape Vietnam during the war, he was only able to pass off his daughter to an American rescue worker without being able to escape himself for over 20 years. The rescue worker tried to relay information about where they’d be taking Mai to Mr. Hyunh, but he was unable to hear under the roar of the choppers. Ever since he made it to America, he’s been looking for her, but has been unsuccessful.

Arnold decides to take it upon himself to give Mr. Hyunh the ultimate Christmas gift; reuniting him with daughter. But can he really handle such a huge task before Christmas arrives?

Breakdown: I really cannot emphasize enough how much Nickelodeon means to my childhood. I basically lived and breathed Nickelodeon for most of it, and despite its problems I still hold a precious place in my heart for Nickelodeon today, especially when it comes to the classic NickToons.

Hey Arnold! was one of my favorite NickToons. It was such a great blend of realism and embellishment. It wasn’t laugh out loud funny most of the time, but it was relatable and interesting. It taught me a lot of lessons and felt like a show to watch when you just wanted to mellow out and feel like another friend in the city.

Arnold’s Christmas is one of the most, if not the most, well-known and emotionally impacting Christmas special to ever come out of Nickelodeon. It’s beloved to fans of the show, non-fans and even people who have never seen any other episode but this one. From start to finish, it really is such a beautifully written, wonderfully directed and simply amazing Christmas special.

Arnold has a huge heart of pure gold doing everything in his power to find Mr. Hyunh’s daughter. It’s not a totally unrealistic goal; it’s just an incredibly difficult task to achieve in the time frame they have. It’s touching how much work Arnold will put in to find Mai, and you also have to deeply respect Gerald for sticking by his buddy and helping him the whole time, especially when he could be spending this time with his family.

The story of Mr. Hyunh’s daughter is also just terribly sad; on the same level of Arnold losing his parents. To think that they’d actually include heavy references to the Vietnam War in a NickToon is just amazing to start with. To have a character being immersed in that event, seemingly experiencing all of it since he wasn’t able to escape until it was over, is even more amazing. I always love when they actually make emotional, realistic and impacting backstories for side characters. It gives them a lot more depth and makes them real people, creating a more realistic social circle and environment.

Then there’s Helga’s part in this story. For those not in the know, Helga is basically the school bully who puts particular focus on Arnold, but is secretly deeply in love with him. Pretty much any time that she does something nice for him, it’s in secret since doing such nice things would maybe lead on that Helga is nicer than she seems and would maybe give her secret away.

I won’t spoil it, but basically she holds the key to Arnold succeeding in his mission, and it’s up to her to take a blow in regards to her big Christmas gift in order to make Christmas magic happen for Arnold. It makes for one of the more touching Helga moments of the series.

I guess I can’t get around spoiling the absolute ending, which is Mai actually being found and brought to Mr. Hyunh before Christmas is done. I only say this because, well, this is a part that brings up a huge flaw in this episode. Yes, Mr. Hyunh being reunited with his daughter, who is now in her early 20s, is beautiful and touching, but the sad fact of the matter is, Mai is just a one-off character.

She never, ever appears in the series again. Which is not only disappointing on so many levels considering how much crap and sacrifices Arnold and even Gerald and Helga made to make this whole arrangement happen, but it’s also a bit infuriating because the guy that they need to do a bunch of stuff for in order to find Mai, Mr. Bailey, does reappear in the series; in the damn movie no less! And Mai only gets a brief appearance at the end and never shows up again. She can’t live too far away considering how quickly she arrived, so what gives?

I would also really like to know what happened to Mai’s mother. There is no mother present in those flashbacks to Vietnam and Mr. Hyunh in the states is single. I guess I can assume she died, but I’d really like some follow-up.

Another criticism might be in how Arnold and Gerald did manage to get Mai found in just a few days. Like I said, pulling that off really is a great show of the power of Christmas spirit, maybe even going so far as to say it’s a Christmas Miracle, but how much was Mr. Hyunh actually looking for Mai over the past few years if he’s never managed to find her? Or did he really not have the sleuthing skills of a nine-year-old?

Not really a criticism and moreso a confusing note; snow boots are the big ‘gotta have’ Christmas item of the year? I know they’re signature Nancy Spumoni (spoof of Nancy Kerrigan?) snow boots, but really? Every kid is clamoring to get boots for Christmas?

Overall, this is a beautiful, touching and interesting Christmas special that can stand on its own just fine but is also a staple for Hey Arnold! fans. It doesn’t rely on the same topics of Christmas specials like Santa (in fact, they note on the Wiki page that Santa’s never even mentioned in the special) or consumerism (though it is kinda touched upon) and it doesn’t try to shoehorn in musical numbers or carols. It’s just a simple story of a little kid trying to make a perfect Christmas for someone who deserves it, even if he doesn’t know him too well.

For the record, I’m aware that they’re finally releasing the Jungle Movie in November of 2017. I am indeed excited for it, but I won’t get too far ahead of myself until I see clips of it or something. There’s a lot of plans and stuff for revivals and continuations of classic NickToon stuff, and until I see something substantial, I’m not getting my hopes up. Last time I did that, we got The Last Airbender and I will not go down that road again. I can’t afford that much alcohol.

Recommended Audience: You could say there are dark themes what with the Vietnam War and everything, but there’s absolutely nothing violent or anything. 5+

Thanksgiving Special: Rugrats – The Turkey Who Came to Dinner

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Plot: The babies learn about the first Thanksgiving while having their first Thanksgiving celebration. While the men are off obsessing over watching as many football games as possible, and the women are busy trying to prepare a dinner, the babies try to befriend a live turkey that Grandpa Lou won. However, the true meaning of Thanksgiving starts to get lost in the chaos around the house.

Breakdown: Since there aren’t nearly as many Thanksgiving specials as Halloween or Christmas, I decided to just review one special per year instead of blowing through most of them at once.

This one isn’t nearly as strong of a holiday special as the Rugrats Hanukah special, but it’s still pretty good.

It’s just a bit on the predictable side is all. Plus there are a bunch of little things that irk me about it.

First, there’s the typical annoyance of Rugrats that is the adults complete inattention to their children. Sure, they’re staying within the confines of the backyard, but they’re still not being watched at all; being ignored by the parents when they are home and left in the care of the ever-napping Grandpa Boris when they aren’t and spending a lot of time with a wild bird that could be covered in diseases and getting poop everywhere.

Second, why is it such a trope to not buy a damn turkey until it’s Thanksgiving day? It’s like the trope of not buying a Christmas tree until like a day before Christmas eve. It’s a huge hassle to wait until the last minute, and it’s a big risk because chances are you’ll end up with a crappy turkey or no turkey at all. We always buy a turkey at least a couple weeks before Thanksgiving. At the very least, when the sales start. And of course when they finally go to a store to get a turkey, they have to do the trope of ‘the last one is taken by an aggressive shopper.’

Third, while I’m fine with a kid being accepting of the fact that animals have to die in order for them to eat meat, it’s just a fact of life afterall, Angelica is way too friggin’ excited and driven to have this turkey be murdered just to spite the babies. Like, potentially serial-killer-esque excitement.

Fourth, Betty was a bit insufferable in this episode. Betty’s always been rough around the edges, but she has these episodes where she’s just an asshole. She consciously decides to ditch the other women at the store so she can get what she wants to make the dinner her way.

Next, she shoves every turkey item that they end up buying in the microwave. No taking the packaging off, and she is literally shoving them in there, they just barely are contained in the microwave.

Then, when the food catches fire, she blames the turkey. While the turkey does inadvertently cause chaos in the end, the chaos was 100% disconnected from the food plot outside of it being, of course, a turkey. Betty, the food caught fire because you’re too stupid to use a microwave correctly, not because a turkey was running around the yard. Speaking of the food, was that all you guys were planning yo make for the dinner? A clusterfuck of random turkey products? Because they’re all just sitting around the table doing nothing as the turkey microwaved.

Fifth, what is up with the football on Thanksgiving trope? I know it’s probably tradition in a lot of houses to watch football on Thanksgiving, but I mean the trope of being obsessed with football on Thanksgiving. Like, the game is an absolute must-see game of the century. How are Thanksgiving games any more special than any other football game? I don’t get it.

This episode even amps up the trope because guess what the fathers are doing? They have set up a bunch of satellite dishes and a bunch of TVs to watch a bunch of football games at the same time. And yes, it’s as stupid of an idea as you think it is. You can watch that many games, I guess, but you definitely can’t listen to all of them. I can see why Stu overlooked this, but Drew should’ve been smarter than that.

Sixth, Grandpa Lou really didn’t think to mention to the women that the turkey he won was alive? Also, was he seriously dumb enough to believe they could pluck and dress a live turkey and fully cook it before dinner time? Especially when it wouldn’t be delivered until four o’clock.

Seventh, the aspect of the turkey being in love with Spike is just really weird and doesn’t make sense. It’s a turkey. Spike’s a dog. You’d think turkeys would be naturally deterred by dogs considering they’re commonly used by hunters. Even if it wasn’t, why would a turkey fall in love with a dog?

Eighth, the babies seemed to have ESP at a certain point. When Angelica is trying to get her parents to notice the turkey in the backyard, they seem to sense when she’s finally got one and manage to hide the turkey in time. One time, they actually stripped Chuckie, clothed the turkey in his clothing and partially hid it behind a tree in the few seconds between when they were minding their business trying to get the turkey to leave and when Angelica and Charlotte got to the door.

The major saving grace of this episode is the plot of the babies trying to celebrate Thanksgiving properly and trying to save the turkey from being eaten by the adults. This plot actually has some funny moments, and the babies have a cute approach to Thanksgiving. They make a feast of Reptar cereal being served in their Native American headdresses. That’s just adorable.

The ending is really predictable with everyone realizing that they’ve been acting like idiots and instantly making up when Didi points out the true meaning of Thanksgiving isn’t the food or the football, it’s the family and friends. Also, Drew and Lou make up at the end despite the fact that they weren’t fighting at any point.

In the absolute end, the babies have the idea to make a feast of Reptar cereal for the whole family, and, surprisingly, they do end up eating just Reptar cereal for Thanksgiving. I get that it was a cute gesture from the babies….but do they really have no other food in the house? Did they SERIOUSLY prepare no other food when they were heating the turkey items earlier? They suck at Thanksgiving.

I do have numerous problems with the side plots, but the main plot is solid, fairly funny, pretty cute and somewhat heartwarming. And I think we can all relate to having a bunch of fighting and chaos happen on the holidays only to end with a bunch of laughs around the dinner table.

Happy Thanksgiving, everyone, whether in the USA or not. I’m thankful for all of you.

Animating Halloween: Doug’s Halloween Adventure (Nickelodeon’s Doug)

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Plot: Doug and Skeeter gear up to go to FunkyTown’s latest attraction; a haunted house called Bloostone Manor. While Doug is initially excited to go, especially when he’s going while dressed as one of his heroes, Race Canyon, he becomes more and more scared as people talk about how scary it is. He stalls going to the park by trick-or-treating and getting to the park so late that the line is so long that making it to the front before closing would be very hard. Lo and behold, they make it to the front just as the park closes.

After one of the park employees leaves, the door to the haunted house opens and Doug, Skeeter and Roger go in. They enjoy the various thrills and scares of the ride until the ride suddenly shuts down due to the park closing. Trapped in the haunted house, Doug and Skeeter lose track of Roger and slowly start believing that the place truly is haunted and that Roger is in trouble. While Skeeter wants to leave as soon as possible, Doug continues to try and find him.

They’re shooed away by what seems like the real maniac of the mansion but as Doug realizes that he’s being a chicken again, he gathers up his courage and faces the maniac to find Roger. Surprisingly, the maniac is more than willing to lead the two boys to the security control room where he shows them video footage of Roger setting up a prank for the two, leading up to a finale where he and his cronies will egg them when they leave. The maniac helps them set up some sweet revenge, and Roger and the others run off. Doug and Skeeter are very thankful for the help of their new friend, until he reveals that he’s a real ghost. Despite the bravery of the night, Doug and Skeeter run home screaming.

Breakdown: I watched Doug an awful lot as a kid. I remember watching the movie in theaters, buying the VHS and always being annoyed by the fateful question “When will Doug Kiss Patti?”

Looking back…..I don’t know why I loved it so much. Don’t get me wrong, I don’t find the show to be bad or even aged badly….I just……I don’t understand what held my attention so much. When you look at them, the plots and stories of the episodes are really milk toast and there aren’t many jokes that are all that good. Hell, there aren’t many jokes period. It’s mostly just living day to day life with people who are basically really normal outside of their skin colors that feature every color of the rainbow and more. Plus a crapton of cutaways to Doug getting lost in fantasies, delusions and to an extent hallucinations.

I don’t even remember many episode plots outside of one episode where Porkchop ran away and one episode where Judy…started dressing and acting weird? I’m sure if you gave me a plot synopsis I’d remember a good chunk of the episode right away, but off the top of my head? Probably nothing.

Is it just because, in a flood of 90’s craziness, Doug was a sense of normalcy? Of relatability? I did relate a lot to Doug’s overactive imagination, and my mannerisms were somewhat similar to Skeeter’s. I can also relate a lot to liking someone and just never getting the nerve to do a damn thing about it.

Hm….Oh yeah, review thing.

The first part is fairly boring with Doug just stalling going to the park. Also, apparently, both he and Skeeter think they’re too old to go trick-or-treating…….dude, you’re both 11 years old. I have 20 year olds coming up to my door looking for their Halloween handouts. You’re well below the threshold of acceptable trick-or-treating age.

When they finally make it to the ride aspect, it’s a bit interesting. Parts of it are actually really interesting material for a haunted house ride like shoving riders with a moving wall into what seems like a bottomless pit of spikes when the floor they’re standing on is actually glass. And the next room has the maniac of the mansion telling them to sit down to dinner and eat when the food is alive. Then the ride turns into a typical tracked ride with pop up ghosts and skulls and stuff.

Them being trapped in a haunted house ride is also a pretty interesting set up. Some of the time it seems like something supernatural could actually be occurring in the house yet the other half is filled with various theme park aspects of the ride like finding prop rooms and control panels. It allows the plot to hang in the air that maybe there could be something weird going on, but it could also be explained away through logic.

I will admit that Roger’s prank even kinda fooled me for a minute. However, from the instant that you meet the maniac, you know exactly how it will end. And I gotta say, while the revenge on Roger and the others was pretty nice, the whole ‘the maniac was a real ghost the whole time’ just makes no sense…or it’s just stupid.

The story behind Bloodstone manor is that a guy with a name I won’t try to spell loved a woman very much. To show his love, he spent 11 years building a huge mansion for them to live in. After it was complete, he carried her wedding-style over the threshold only for them to fall to their deaths. See, he never built a floor.

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I get that they’re trying to be funny there, but even that makes no sense. They didn’t install a floor?…..did they also install no foundation? Did they also dig a bottomless pit below the mansion as they were building it for some reason? The house is on a hill. What is going on?

So not only does the ghost of the guy haunt the place for all eternity for some reason (and not his lover because….pfffftttdunno) but his house was bought by Funkytown, moved to Funkytown and was gutted and turned into a theme park ride by Funkytown. And he still haunts it for some reason. He forces people to leave the ride, yet people still go there and he seems fine with it. But he’s really a nice guy who likes helping kids as long as they show some cojones to stand up to him at least a little. I just don’t get the story behind this guy.

All in all, this was a fairly entertaining episode. While the ghost’s whole existence and story is just dumb and confusing, it’s a fun little Halloween special about facing your fears…..though, to be fair, Skeeter was the one literally dragging him away and Doug just suddenly says he’s being a chicken and running away. If we saw him struggle more with the fear instead of Skeeter, this lesson would have more weight.

Animating Halloween: Catdogula (Catdog)

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Plot: Catdog is gearing up to celebrate Halloween when the town is ravaged by Peruvian vampire ticks. Dog gets bitten by the undead creatures and Cat has until the 12th strike of midnight to save his best friend.

Breakdown: IT’S HALLO….OCTOBER! WHICH MEANS, TO ME, IT’S HALLOWEEN EVERYDAY! Until the actual day, which usually blows because I’m relegated to handing out candy in a freezing cold mud room……BUT HALLOCTOBER! WHOOO!!

Animating Halloween is all about celebrating some of great animated Halloween specials, movies and TV episodes throughout the years, and what better way to start this off than with the Catdog special Catdogula.

For those who don’t remember/know, Catdog is a show about two brothers, a cat and a dog, who were born joined at the hip…..literally. And yes, that raises all sorts of questions like how their digestive system works and how they go to the bathroom, but that’s not important. Being a tried and true Nickelodeon girl, I loved Catdog when I was growing up, and I think it stands up incredibly well to this day. I found myself laughing through several parts of this special while rewatching it, and I even caught some jokes/references that I missed as a kid, like the fact that Dog is prattling off famous vampire actors in his sleep.

The story of this episode is solid enough, even if people turning into vampires and rushing to turn them back isn’t exactly the most original plotline. They present it in a way that is funny and entertaining. Plus, Nosferacho, the lead vampire tick, is pretty funny in his own right. I will admit that the abandoned garlic factory is just a huge deus ex machina, but I think it’s really meant to be as such.

Rewatching this episode also reminded me that I friggin’ loved Lola. She’s hilarious, and actually a helpful and nice character among a sea of characters that tend to serve as antagonists to Catdog.

We even get a great musical number that I sing frequently even today around the Halloween season. If you can track it down, listen to it. It’s an awesome ear worm.

All in all, this is truly a classic Halloween special. Even if you’ve never watched Catdog in your life, I guarantee you’ll get at least a few laughs out of it.

And just to play us out!

Trick or treat, smell my pits. Feed me chocolate, give me zits. Wreck my teeth, make me sick. Make me hurl a Halloween brick! ♪

Comb the country, scour the town. Find all candy, woof it down. Every morsel, every crumb, eat it ’til your mouth is numb!♪

Trick or treat, smell my butt. Shovel sugar into my gut. Give me the candy motherload. Feed me junk ’til I explode! ♪