AVAHS – Santa’s First Christmas (1992) Review

AVAHS - SFC1

Plot: Santa shares his story about his first Christmas.

Breakdown:

Brain?

Twix’s Brain: “Yes, Twix.”

Today’s review is about the origins of Christmas.

Brain: “Neato bandito.”

And how Santa became, well, Santa.

Brain: “Cool beans.”

Yeah, well, this is just a short cute little kid’s film that is in no way taking itself seriously, so if you could do me a solid and not overthink this, that’d be—frick, you’re already googling things. Stop it!

Brain: “But it’s an interesting topic! Before Santa was a part of things, Christmas was basically Mardi Gras! And the poor would bust into rich people’s houses and demand stuff, and if they didn’t get it, they’d “terrorize” the homeowners, like this was some trick-or-treating raid.”

Brain!

Brain: “People used to get absolutely plastered and the rich were expected to cater to the lower class – Hey, one of these things stuck around through the years. I’ll give you a hint, they ain’t spiking eggnog with an increased minimum wage. Am I right? Up high!”

Brain!

Brain: “Hey, did you know Christmas was banned in the United States by puritans for a while because they didn’t like that people were giving and receiving gifts? I need a reverse alarm for how backwards that is.”

That’s fascinating, Brain, but we’re reviewing an early 90’s Christmas cartoon about a young Santa, and I’d really like to get through this without writing a thesis.

Brain: “Oh well, I’m sorry, Twix. I thought I was helping. So, uh, how’s the story start?”

Okay, first, Christmas, specifically, not any holiday that preceded it but landed on the same day, is already a holiday even though they’re not acknowledging the Jesus part and Santa isn’t a thing yet. Also, they act like Christmas is a boring-ass day where nothing happens, so you kinda wonder why it’s even a holiday.

Brain: “…….Okie dokie.”

And Santa makes these gifts out of rocks and sticks. He saves an elf from a frozen lake, gives her a stick, and then she brings him to the North Pole where the other elves show him their workshop where they make furniture.

Brain: “Wha, wait, they walked to the North Pole? Where does Santa live? Didn’t Saint Nicholas live in Asia Minor?”

That’s not important, Brain. What’s important is that Santa is super generous and wants to make Christmas special so he destroys all of the furniture and turns them into toys.

Brain: “He….celebrates the act of giving by destroying their hard work?”

Well….I….He….Moving on. He makes a sleigh out of firewood, but finds that his red dog can’t pull it very well. So he meets a flying reindeer – these reindeer, by the way, fly by flapping their antlers.

Brain: “……”

……

Brain: “You know, it’s theorized that the flying reindeer part of the Santa mythos was created due to a magic mushroom fueled drug trip, so I’ll leave that alone.”

I am really regretting using up my drug jokes on Pac-Man.

Brain: “I know, right?”

The reindeer, Romuald–

Brain: “Romuald?!”

Romuald…

Brain: “There was a real Romuald – a saint even.”

Oh really? Any connection to reindeer or Christmas?

Brain: “…..Mmmmmm……No.”

………Anyhoo, Romuald wouldn’t listen to Santa because he was a kid so Santa wore a fake beard and tricked Romuald into thinking he was an adult.

Brain: “That work–”

Before you say anything, they joke about how stupid it is that that worked.

Later, the elves work their butts off trying to make enough toys to hand out at Christmas. They calculate that they’ll have to work non-stop in order to make the deadline. This is played off like a joke, but it’s also kinda horrifying. These elves were just chill carpenters a few days ago and now they’re working themselves to the bone for nothing in return.

Santa dons his signature red suit and heads out on his first delivery run. The bottom of his sleigh ends up getting a massive hole in it due to Santa and Romuald’s poor flying skills, so many of the gifts end up falling out and conveniently fall into the chimneys of the houses below.

They patch the hole and deliver presents ‘round the clock’ and we see a clock spinning several days worth of hours, even though they said they have to deliver all of the presents by morning.

Brain: “Where do his parents think he is?”

Dunno. We never see them beyond the first couple of scenes. And Santa’s never seen delivering presents to his own house. As far as this story is concerned, he’s whisked away to the North Pole and never returns home.

Brain: “That’s upsetting.”

it sure is. They accidentally skew about 8000 miles off course, so Santa does the rational thing and plungers a steering wheel to Romuald’s head.

Brain: “….He….plungers….”

Yup.

Brain: “….a steering wheel….”

Yup.

Brain: “To Romuald’s head….”

Yup.

Brain: “For what purpose?”

To make him go faster, of course.

Brain:

Using Romuald’s new brain implant, they manage to reach all of the houses in the world, including a bunch of animals, except one – a little cottage in Mexico. They’re all out of gifts for the little boy inside, so they scrape off the snow from the sleigh and make a snowman outside the little boy’s window.

Brain: “Heh….wait…so everyone else gets gifts, including the animals, but this little Mexican boy gets a snowman made of old crusty sleigh snow that will inevitably melt in about 20 minutes?

Mmm, yeah, that’s about it.

Brain: “Didn’t they make an igloo for a dog in the arctic out of about twenty different individual gifts?”

Sure did!

Brain: “Couldn’t THAT have been made out of snow?”

Yeah, but the specialness about the little boy’s gift was that it was a snowman in Mexico – a place where it never snows.

Brain: “That is very wrong.”

Okay, fine. It’s an awful gift, but it’s the thought that counts.

Adult Santa: “So that’s the story of how I made Christmas what it is today.”

Funny, you wouldn’t think he’d be nimble enough to suck his own di–

Brain: “Did you know that one of the origin stories of Saint Nicholas involves him staying at an inn where three little boys were murdered by the innkeeper? They were dismembered and stuffed in the basement in barrels, but then Nicholas sensed what he had done and brought the victims back to life.”

?!?!?!

Brain: “Also, early Christians wanted to keep the gift-delivery aspect of the story, so they claimed baby Jesus did it, but in order to make sure they could literally scare kids into being good all year (and to explain how a baby can deliver all those gifts), they designed ‘scary’ huge sidekicks that were based on Saint Nicholas – Ru-Klaus, or Rough Nicholas, Aschenklas, or Ashy Nicholas, and Pelznickel, or Furry Nicholas……don’t read too much into that last name.”

…….Uh…yeah, the point is you can’t really thank anyone for the way that Christmas is celebrated today because it has such a vast history that underwent many changes, and it’s not universal across the numerous different countries and cultures that celebrate it. If we can blame humanity for ruining Christmas with its commercialism, I think we can also thank humanity as a whole for making it the loving and warm holiday that many people still cherish it as. No holiday can truly be ruined as long as you celebrate it the way you want to, and that type of thinking spreads to other people and makes the season that much more peaceful and happy.

Brain: “Amen.”

Santa and the others nap after their journey and we close out on the story, which, by the way, has been conveyed to us through The Office-style documentary shots of Adult Santa and pals telling the story. Also, this wasn’t really Santa’s first Christmas since he had about six or seven Christmases before he started delivering gifts.

The end.

Brain: “So you hated this special, eh?”

Nope. I thought it was really good. It had a good sense of humor, it was unique enough and it drove home the true meaning of Christmas without being overly cheesy.

Brain: “But it was really stupid.”

You know what’s stupid? Spending a five page review talking to your own brain.

Brain: “……..Fair enough.”

Yes there are some things they just get bafflingly wrong, and it’s really simple stuff too, so they didn’t really have any excuse for it, but it’s mostly just goofy and silly instead of enragingly dumb. It’s a light-hearted and fun Christmas story. You won’t bust a gut laughing, but you will probably enjoy it well enough.

Brain: “Huh, well I sure learned something today.”

You should, you read about fifteen different articles.

Brain: “No, I mean that you can enjoy something kinda cheap and goofy as long as the heart behind it is genuine.”

Of course you know that, because I know that. Because….you’re….my brain.

Brain: “…..Oh my god. You weren’t out of drug jokes, you liar! HOW MANY MAGIC MUSHROOMS DID YOU GOBBLE, MARIO?!”

I didn’t do anything! But I’m going to stop talking to you anyway just in case the pink elephants  turn into reindeer.

Brain: “Good call. I need to stock up on aspirin for your Nestor: The Long-Earred Christmas Donkey review anyway. Peace out.”

Yeah, see ya—wait what?……Damn, Brain left before I could make a Pinky and Brain reference. That’s relevant now and everything! *huff* Now how do I end the review?

That’ll do.


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A Very (Somewhat Banned) Pokemon Holiday Special Analysis: Holiday Hi-Jynx

AVAHS - Holiday Hi-Jynx 1

CotD(s): None, unless you count Santa and…is it really necessary to talk about him?

Pre-Analysis Notes: Hah! Gotcha! You thought I had reviewed all of the Christmas specials for Pokemon? Nope! There’s still one, technically two-ish more, but there’s a reason why I haven’t reviewed them yet.

You guys remember how I talked about the Pokemon Shock incident and how it screwed up the episode order? Well, Holiday Hi-Jynx, their first foray into Christmas, and Snow Way Out were both booted from the planned lineup entirely, which is the main reason why they were subsequently thrown off my analysis lineup for the moment as well since I’m strictly going in numerical order as listed on Bulbapedia. Technically, these episodes have no official numbers. They were originally set to air right around Christmastime in 1997, but since the producers didn’t want to air a Christmas special and a winter-themed episode in April/May, they opted to air the two episodes as specials much later.

I don’t why they bothered, really, because they ended up actually releasing the episodes both on October 5, 1998. Yeah, airing Christmas/winter themed episodes is so much more fitting in the dead of fall, a month before Halloween. Good job.

At least the US had their ducks in a more uniform row, because they aired the dub on December 11, 1999. (Snow Way Out airing a week later on December 18th.)

Despite this being a more fitting airing spot, this did cause some major confusion. Back when I was a kid, these episodes premiered with no fanfare or explanation of what happened. And the reason this was necessary was because, out of nowhere, Ash’s troublesome Charizard was back to being a lovable Charmander, and Misty no longer had Togepi yet still had her Starmie and Horsea, which she had left at the Cerulean Gym at that point. I chalked it up to being an old episode I must’ve missed, but it still nagged me, especially considering that, at the time of this airing in the States, Ash was prepping for the Indigo League tournament.

The trouble doesn’t end there.

AVAHS - Holiday Hi-Jynx 2

Say hello to Jynx! She is the reason this episode is kinda, sorta, somewhat, ehhh maybe, but not really, depending on how you look at it, banned.

Jynx was heavily criticized as being a racist depiction of a black woman shortly after this episode aired in the US. As a result, the episode was taken out of rotation after a handful of airings and has never reappeared in syndication.

Unlike most banned episodes, however, you can still find this episode fairly easily. It’s on the VHS and the original volume 3 of the Indigo League DVD set, it’s on Cartoon Network Video and Cartoon Network’s On Demand service, it’s available on Boomerang and you can find it on the Japanese versions of Amazon Prime Video, Netflix and Hulu.

Subsequent airings have been edited to change Jynx’s skin color to purple to avoid controversy (Kinda like how Mr. Popo’s skin was changed to bright Genie-from-Aladdin blue during his appearances in DBZKai.) but several sources and countries show the original version.

Despite this, the episode is still quietly banned in certain regions. It’s not listed on Pokemon.com, it’s not available on Netflix, it wasn’t included in the re-release of volume 3 of the Indigo League DVD set, and it’s not included in the Indigo League complete collection DVD set. Additionally, the episode is fully banned in South Korea, and India only aired it once before taking it out of rotation entirely.

The edited version has not been applied to the English Dub, so that makes up for a decent amount of the trouble in obtaining this episode.

This initial backlash caused a ripple effect. While Jynx is not a forbidden Pokemon in the anime like Porygon basically is, 4Kids opted to skip over another episode – Ep250: The Ice Cave – because Jynx was so prevalent in it to the point where removing her scenes would destroy the footage and reduce the runtime too much. Episode 287 – All Things Bright and Beautifly – was also edited in the English dub to remove a sequence with Jynx.

Even the Gen II games and the manga were retroactively edited in the west to change Jynx’s skin to purple. Eventually, Game Freak would choose to officially change the character’s skin color to purple to allow it to be featured in the anime and games without additional edits in other areas.

As for why Jynx was designed this way, well, I can’t bring myself to say outright that the designers gunned for a clear black woman stereotype for the sake of being bigots. I don’t like slinging accusations of that caliber around so flippantly without firm evidence. However, it’s hard not to see it.

There’s a theory that she is based on ganguro style, which was popular in the 90s. Ganguro involves dying your hair blond, heavy tanning and wearing a lot of makeup. The actual style, while being rather gaudy, shows the person’s skin as being very orange. You might remember Jessie and James sported ganguro style during the first part of the St. Anne arc.

With that in mind, it’s hard to say that it was taking inspiration from that. By logic, Jynx’s skin would be orange or burnt orange, not black.

However….

There are even more extreme versions of ganguro – Yamanba and Manba, where the tanning is much darker (being dark brown, not orange) and the makeup, accessories and hairstyles are even more outlandish. However, considering this gained popularity long after this episode was created, around 2004, I doubt either of these were the inspiration.

Plus, it’s really hard to seek justification in something where the name, ganguro, can literally translate to ‘black face’………

I’m having trouble getting that anyway because what relation would ganguro have with either psychic powers or ice? You’d think with the requirement of getting so much tanning you might as well jettison yourself into the sun that such a thing couldn’t be further from ice.

Despite having no connection to Santa in the games, it’s also been theorized that, considering Jynx’s role as Santa’s helper in this episode, it might be based on Zwarte Piet or Black Pete, who is a companion of Santa in Dutch folklore……………and…..it’s still racist because, even though the character himself is black, most portrayals of him are done by white people in blackface…

Also, I doubt that theory too because Jynx is clearly designed as a female.

Finally, there’s the theory that it was based on Hel, the Nordic goddess of the underworld who ruled Niflheim, a land of ice and snow. This theory seems to have the best logic to it, but Hel’s face is either meant to be half-blue and half-flesh colored or half-black and half-flesh colored; not fully black. So either they screwed up the facial design or this theory is wrong too.

I never much cared for Jynx either way. I find her to be very creepy on all fronts (Creepy design, creepy voice, creepy movement, creepy blushing, creepy kissing attack – creepycreepycreepy) but I think it’s a good thing that she was changed to purple over the years.

Even if her entire existence is a big question mark in regards to intentions, there’s really no getting around the implications, especially considering only one of the three viable theories I read didn’t include mentions of flatout blackface (It’s also theorized that Jynx are based on opera singers, given their overweight appearance and musical ability, but this confuses me just as much as the others, quite frankly.) Changing her to purple was a much better course of action than trying to justify her offensive appearance – if they even have a justification.

Keep in mind, everything I just discussed were fan theories on her origins – people coming up with less offensive possibilities for Jynx’s existence. I don’t think an official explanation was ever given, which is fairly suspect. Even if it is meant to be a racist depiction of a black woman, which is, of course, insanely messed up, what does that have to do with ice or psychic powers? What were they going for? I just don’t understand Jynx at all.

I don’t really want to press this matter into even worse implications, but I can’t help but ask this question. If people find that Santa’s elves are basically slaves…and taking Jynx as being a depiction of a stereotypical black woman…..Does that mean I’m technically watching a Christmas special with depictions of black people as Santa’s slaves? I really wish I had turned my brain off before it went down that route, because if you lock onto that idea, this episode just gets so much worse. It’s bad enough that Jynx technically are indeed ‘owned’ by their Trainers in the first place……

To be honest, other than having ice powers and being human-like, I don’t know why Jynx was the Pokemon chosen to be stand-ins for Santa’s elves to begin with. I know Delibird doesn’t exist yet, but certainly there’s a better option.

M…merry…Christmas…..I’m really uncomfortable now.

Plot: On Christmas Eve, Team Rocket plans on trapping Santa and taking all of the presents for themselves. Jessie has a vendetta against Santa, believing him to be a thief who stole her doll when he visited on Christmas ten years ago….Only ‘he’ was actually a Jynx working for Santa that she believes was actually Santa.

Meanwhile, Ash tries to capture what he thinks is a wild Jynx waiting on a beach. After a failed attempt, they surmise that it has a Trainer after seeing it holding a boot belonging to none other than Santa Claus! Jynx Psychically transmits her story to Ash and the others – some time ago, she was shining Santa’s boot when the ice she was standing on broke away. She drifted to shore and is desperate to reach Santa.

Ash, Misty and Brock agree to help her out, worried that Santa won’t be able to deliver gifts without his Jynx or his other boot. They grab a raft and head off in the direction of the North Pole, using their Water Pokemon to help pull them along. After a long, long while and exhausting their Pokemon, Ash finds one of Santa’s telepathic Lapras who has been following them for a while. Realizing their intentions are good, it decides to pull them along for the rest of the ride.

When they arrive, however, Team Rocket springs up. They trap Ash and the others in a net and capture Jynx, whom Jessie still mistakenly believes is Santa. They then head to the workshop to steal all of the toys. Jessie spots the real Santa and they hold him hostage so all of the Jynx will hand over the presents. Ash and the others try to intervene, but hold themselves back to protect Santa.

Jessie chats with Santa who asks why she’s doing this. After explaining her story, Jynx perks up and runs off to retrieve Jessie’s doll – now fixed. Santa explains that his Jynx had gone to deliver presents to her and noticed her broken dolly on the floor. She took it to get fixed, but they couldn’t return it since Jessie no longer believed in him and he’s not allowed to tread in the homes of hearts that don’t believe in him.

While she tearfully reunited with her doll, Jessie continues her plan anyway. However, they’re all stopped by Lapras, who freezes their sub with Ice Beam. Ash uses Charmander to free them all from the ropes and commands him to use Fire Spin on the sub. The ice melts and Team Rocket escapes.

Santa commands his legion of Jynx to use Psywave to pick up their sub, shake out all of the presents, destroy the sub and blast off Team Rocket.

With Santa and the presents safe, Santa heads off on his sleigh to bring Christmas to people all over the world. Jynx and Lapras deliver presents to Ash, Misty, Brock and Pikachu, bringing them all Christmas cheer.

Meanwhile, a beaten up Team Rocket lies in bed, waiting for Santa to hopefully deliver gifts to them despite their actions. He does show up, but all that happens is Jynx uses Lovely Kiss on them all to make them sleep. It may not be the best Christmas for them, but they certainly didn’t do anything to get on the nice list this year.

——————–

– Whose castle is Team Rocket staying in?

AVAHS - Holiday Hi-Jynx 3

– I kinda understand why Jessie’s doing the title card read today, but it’s also a little weird.

– Jessie has a really nice house for a kid who supposedly grew up so poor that her mother fed her snow….

AVAHS - Holiday Hi-Jynx 4

– If Santa sends out his Jynx to deliver presents….what…exactly…does HE do?

– Why is Ash so gung-ho about catching a Jynx?

– I love how Misty and Ash are claiming it’s very weird to leave a Pokemon alone outside, but they’ve left Pokemon in the middle of a street sitting in a kiddie pool before….

– Why is Jynx blushing when it looks at the boot? Is she in love with him?

– If Jynx could transmit messages telepathically, why did she even need to waste time with the boot?

– Couldn’t Jynx have just used Ice Beam to create a bridge to get back to shore?

– Is Brock seriously asking how Santa’s going to deliver presents without his Jynx? You don’t even know what she does as Santa’s Pokemon.

– Look, I’m trying to give this episode some modicum of leeway in the logic department, because it’s a kid’s show trying to talk about Santa, but Ash and the others are really planning to head to the North Pole on a wooden raft they either found or somehow made in about ten seconds. Unless the North Pole is much closer to Kanto in the Pokemon world than it is in our world, they’re either going to die, their Pokemon are going to die from exhaustion, both or they’ll all be lost adrift at sea for a long, long time.

– Huh, Misty’s actually being accommodating to Psyduck. It’s a Christmas miracle.

– Hey, the Gyarados sub! Yay!

– I sincerely doubt Ash has the strength to pull that raft at any reasonable speed. Also, did none of them think to just bring oars?

– So a non-Psychic Lapras can telepathically speak, but Psychic Jynx can only project images and only through touch……….Kay.

Also, why is Lapras glowing so brightly when it first meets Ash?

– I feel I should call BS on Misty not knowing what a Lapras is, but I’ll refrain from making a ‘Why Use the Pokedex?’ note since I have no way of knowing if she does. Would be weird of someone who is currently trying to be a Water Pokemon Master is all.

– Lapras has been watching them for ‘some time’ but didn’t think to offer them a ride or a tow? Jerk.

– Okay, so Lapras’ logic with not appearing sooner was not knowing their intentions….but she can speak telepathically, which means she must be able to read minds and thus easily know their intentions immediately. Or it could’ve just asked the Jynx telepathically if she trusted these kids. Also, Lapras, it’s a bunch of kids on a wooden raft in the middle of the ocean trying to get to the North Pole to deliver Santa’s Jynx back to him. You can’t get much more wholesome that that. You’re just a jerk, Lapras; which sucks because I adore Lapras.

– It’s really nice and cool of Jynx to use her hair as an umbrella for Misty…….That sure is a unique sentence.

AVAHS - Holiday Hi-Jynx 5

– I just realized that they were heading to the North Pole without any winter clothes….now that I think about it, in the next episode they head into snowy mountains without winter clothes. Delia constantly asks Ash if he has clean underwear on but never thinks to ask if he has weather-appropriate attire for his journeys?

– Santa Claus lives on a spiky ice island of death?……COOL!

– Hah, I like how the motto music sped up when Jessie and James realized how cold it was.

– Neither Jynx nor Lapras did anything to the missile or net when it was being so slowly deployed.

– How does Santa not have a second pair of boots? Also, Jynx has been gone for some time, supposedly, so how has Santa not made or otherwise obtained another pair in the meantime? Has he been walking around outside with one shoe?

– This version of Santa’s pretty lame. Not only does he have a bunch of Jynx do most of his work, but he also apparently is not all-seeing because he doesn’t realize Jessie and James are bad guys and probably naughty list recipients.

– What is up with how fast Meowth’s lips are moving when he’s telling the Jynx to load up the gifts? That’s not typical Japanese to English lip flap syncing trouble, that’s almost like they sped up the footage.

– I’m realizing now that, even accepting the silliness of Jessie believing a Jynx is Santa, why is she still insisting SantaJynx is male? She keeps using male pronouns, but not only is Jynx clearly female-based, but her species is 100% female.

– I’m surprised Jessie was so emotionally impacted by Jynx stealing her doll…the one she broke in a fit of unjustified rage and didn’t react much when it happened.

– Okay, wait, wait, time out. Jessie broke her doll, Jynx came to deliver presents….didn’t do that, grabbed her doll off the floor and took it, ran off to get it fixed, but couldn’t return it for ten years because Jessie didn’t believe in Santa anymore after that?

AVAHS - Holiday Hi-Jynx 6

First of all;

Santa: “There, you see? I knew my Jynx would never steal anything.” She took someone’s property from their house and didn’t return it. That’s stealing.

Second of all;

Santa: “I repaired it in my sleigh….” Wait, that means you repaired it right then and there….Why wouldn’t you just instantly give it back then?

Third;

Santa: “We tried to go back, but you didn’t believe in me anymore, and I’m powerless to go where hearts are closed.” Powerless to go where hearts are closed….that’s a new one. And a stupid one.

If you repaired it in the sleigh, that means Jessie instantly stopped believing in you when Jynx went up the chimney. That’s a bit extreme.

She never stopped believing in Santa Claus anyway. If she did, she wouldn’t be in the North Pole right now. She just mistakenly believed Jynx was Santa.

Does this mean Santa can’t enter most houses? Because most parents don’t believe in Santa, and many older kids don’t either. If he can’t enter the home of non-believers entirely, his trip must be much shorter than we think.

Even if all of that was true, why take the doll with you? Why not put it on her windowsill or, oh I dunno, send your non-Santa-and-thus-not-restricted-by-the-belief-thing back down the chimney to return what she stole?

– Oh my God, Ash, why would you have Charmander burn the ropes and give you all third degree burns when you could have just had him untie you? Come to think of it, you must have a decent amount of movement capability if you could find, grab and send out Charmander’s Pokeball….

– Yes, Charmander, Fire Spin the thing that currently holds all of the presents for all of the little girls and boys of the world. I hope they asked Santa for asbestos….

– I get that Team Rocket’s Pokemon are perfectly fine following the orders of either Jessie or James, but why does Jessie have Weezing’s Pokeball?

– Also, Team Rocket has a point – Ash just helped by thawing them out after Lapras froze them. Why would he even consider doing that?

– If these Jynx all know Psywave, then they’ve all been given the TM to learn it. I’d think another good TM to give them would be Teleport so it would make deliveries essentially instantaneous. You wouldn’t even need the sleigh and none of your Jynx would ever get lost.

– I should question the flying Rapidash, but I moreso want to comment on Santa saying ‘No reindeer.’ Oh, Santa, just wait a gen.

– That snow effect is one of the worst I’ve ever seen. It doesn’t even look like snow. It looks like fully white ladybugs crawling on the screen in four intersecting lines. I make better snow animations than that, and that’s just sad.

– Aw it’s nice that they got presents. I hope it’s winter clothes because some of you have to be losing some appendages at this point.

– Pikachu getting a gift is really cute and nice, but I really hope Santa has gifts for all of their Pokemon, otherwise this little note is actually quite unfair and more blatant favoritism – and this time not even from Ash!

AVAHS - Holiday Hi-Jynx 7

————————————

I’ve always remembered this episode as being really weird, really confusing and just strange, but I guess it’s not a particularly terrible Christmas special. There are so many other better holiday Pokemon specials out there that I certainly wouldn’t place this at the top tier of your Christmas must-watch list, but it’s alright.

Amid all of the controversy and other messes this episode was wrapped up in, you’d hope this episode would be one worth waiting for, but it’s really not. I still think it’s really weird, really confusing and just strange. There are so many questionable writing choices made in this episode, both Japanese and English, that it’s actually somewhat impressive what a massive tangle of nonsensical weird they made out of a Christmas special.

Jynx’s mere existence may be enough to put some people off of this episode, especially if your brain runs a little wild with the implications like mine did. I really hope I’m just reading too far into things again. Otherwise, it’s an okay-ish watch around the holidays. Nearly any other entry in the ‘Pikachu’s Winter Vacation’ series would be a better alternative, though.


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Pokemon Extravaganza SHORTIES – Pikachu’s Winter Vacation Chronicles: Delibird’s Dilemma

Pokemon Shorties Winter Vacation Chronicles - Delibird's Dilemma

Rating: 7.5/10

Plot: Delibird is trying to get some presents to Santa before he leaves on his sleigh, but some shenanigans from Pikachu and pals knocks him out of the sky and causes him to lose all of the presents. It’s a scramble to find and retrieve all of the presents before midnight.

Breakdown: Santa really needs to get his shit together.

This is the technically the third time he’s needed Pikachu’s help to save Christmas if we count the non-short Christmas special. Why is Delibird bringing presents TO Santa anyway? Isn’t all that stuff at the North Pole? Don’t they manufacture the presents there? Or are some modern gifts caught in legal hell and can’t be reproduced at the factory so they have to send out a bunch of Delibird to some retail stores?

Anyhoo, this short is pretty cute and funny. Chikorita has reached its non-bitch stage (And teamed up with Bulbasaur so much I could feel my heart flutter whenever they did it) there were several adorable moments, nothing really stood out as being annoying or bad, and we even finally got a Christmas song in the dubbed version. It was short and really only made Christmassy because of the jingle bells, but I appreciate the effort.

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This is Cyndaquil tickling Delibird. It’s as adorable as it sounds.

The story is not that interesting, though. Santa can travel the entire world and deliver presents in one night – starting at midnight apparently. I’m quite certain he’s speedy enough to find and retrieve a handful of presents before he goes. Also, none of the presents are in a location where they’re particularly hard to get.

The narrator is interesting. He has some funny-ish moments, but he’s also kinda weird. It’s obvious that the narrator’s Santa, but he starts out the short explaining that something always go wrong right before Christmas as he’s narrating over the Pokemon playing bowling…..And he seems like he’s disappointed when things don’t start going wrong. It’s so weird, but kinda funny in a dark way. Santa loves him some schadenfreude, apparently.

Another weird line from the narrator, he says it’s five minutes to midnight when it’s clearly sundown…..This seems pointless to mention but…..I couldn’t not note this, it was CLEARLY sundown. You’re not fooling anyone, old man.

Same old, same old in regards to some notes. Like Meowth’s incredibly pointless cameo, though this time it was very very short. And, for some reason, he’s being harassed by a Skarmory in this episode again? Was that part of the series? Also, of course, not all of the group’s Pokemon are here. In fact, we don’t see Ash and co. at all in this short, which is very strange because it’s Christmas and they’re out past midnight.

In addition, despite having seen Santa before, again, they keep him hidden from view, and when Christmas comes all of the pine trees magically turn into decorated Christmas trees…..Okay.

Recommended Audience: Why do I keep including this section for these shorts?

AVAHS – Invader Zim: The Most Horrible X-Mas Ever

Plot: Two million years in the future, a robot snowman tells a group of children the story of the most horrible X-mas ever, starring our very own Zim and Dib. Zim, having just discovered Christmas and Santa Claus, decides to use Santa’s influence to enslave the humans of earth. It’s up to Dib to stop him and save Christmas.

Breakdown: How have I gone this long without ever talking about Invader Zim?

Being an old school Nickelodeon fangirl, of course I loved Zim. Some of the gross stuff was a bit much for me, but I was just starting to get into darker shows, and Zim was the perfect blend of darkness and humor with plenty of personality and wit. It truly was an incredible show….that got canceled midway through production of season two…..and the episodes they did complete of season two never even aired on TV until four years after its cancellation.

All except one.

Yup, The Most Horrible X-mas Ever, despite being last on the production list of completed episodes, is the only episode of season two that Nickelodeon decided to air before axing the show for good. Because holiday specials rake in ratings.

Now, despite loving this episode…..dammit all if I don’t remember them ever showing this when I was a kid. If they did, they didn’t air it often because I honestly don’t remember much of it.

That being said, this is a great episode and a great holiday special. I had several moments where I was legitimately laughing out loud, and both Zim and Dib had some fantastic moments and lines. This was just the right blend of dark humor and holiday goodness, much like the first Futurama Christmas special only this one was more tight on the writing.

Everything from the jokes to the dark aspects to the timing and editing was just amazing in this episode, which just makes me all the sadder that Invader Zim was cut down in its prime (I really need to read the comics)

The good news is that they’re releasing an Invader Zim movie in 2019, and watching this special just jazzed me up all the more to see it.

If there were some weak aspects of the episode it would be that I didn’t care for the song and the plotline with Gaz was really lazy and predictable. She was more of a plot device if anything. Other than that, it was a fantastic episode that I’d gladly add to my ‘Must watch every year’ list.

AVAHS – Rugrats: Babies in Toyland Part 1

AVAHS - Rugrats babies in toyland part 1

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

AVAHS – Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer: The Movie (GoodTimes Entertainment)

Box cover artwork may be ridiculously higher quality than actual art.

Rating: 4/10

Plot: Rudolph the Red—We’ve been over this.

Breakdown: Hi 1998!

1998: “Err…hi.”

I was nine in 1998!

1998: “Congratulations.”

Hey 1998, I’m gonna do you a favor!

1998: “What?”

I’m gonna make Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer into a movie!

1998: “Uhhh, isn’t that already a thing?”

Yeah, but that was made in 1964. People who were kids in that year are old people now. We need to jazz things up a bit for the 90s. Say, did your precious 60s version have the northern lights depicted as fairies in silk robes?

1998: “…..Noooooooooo.”

Did it have an ice queen named Stormella?

1998: “Alright, that name’s just lazy.”

Did it have a polar bear named Leonard?

1998: “How is that relevant?”

Here, let’s talk about it in excruciatingly unnecessary detail.

1998: “I would, but I have to catch up on Pokemon. I might miss out on all of Ash’s character development.”

…..Trust me, sweetie, you won’t be missing anything for about a decade – and then they just reboot the franchise.

Welcome everyone to that other Rudolph movie that no one asked for and really no one ever wanted ever.

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And a fond welcome to GoodTimes Entertainment – the animated Asylum of the 90’s. Alright, maybe that’s a bit harsh. The production values on GoodTimes movies never seemed to get Asylum bad (Dangerously close once, but we’ll address that another time), but the same skeevy production practices were similar. Namely in that GoodTimes had a habit of releasing movies that were based on stories that anyone could easily base a movie off of BUT that already had a major motion picture made of it (usually by Disney) so it would trick consumers (IE grandparents, parents, aunts and uncles who don’t know any better) into buying it, believing it to be the blockbuster hits. For instance, some of GoodTimes more notable works were Beauty and the Beast, Aladdin, Thumbelina, Sleeping Beauty, Pinocchio, Cinderella, Pocahontas, Sinbad and, well, *pokes title*

They not only had the same titles, but they also intentionally made their VHS covers to emulate the Disney movie covers. Their similarities were so stark that Disney filed a lawsuit against them and won. They now had to clearly print ‘GoodTimes Entertainment’ and their logo on the boxes to differentiate themselves more clearly, but the damage had been done.

GoodTimes was now largely known as a knockoff company, but that didn’t stop them from producing these kinds of movies since public domain is free game for anyone, no matter how massively successful some movies based on public domain works are.

In comes Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer: The Movie. A film with a mouthful of a title made by GoodTimes in conjunction with Golden Books Family Entertainment. Yup. Those Golden Books. The gold leaf spined books from your childhood that are still going strong today – including adaptations of two Star Wars movies. *shrug*

But let’s wait. Reserve judgment. I am a fair person. Let’s go over this movie and see how it stands up, objectively.

The northern lights, portrayed as the aforementioned fairies, visit Blitzen and his wife, Mitzi, as they welcome their son, Rudolph, into the world. I have to ask, does Rudolph have a canon father? Because in the 60s version, Donner was his father.

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We then get some of the most boring opening credits I’ve ever seen as we just watch snow fall on a faraway shot of some house while Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer plays.

And nothing gears you up for a movie more than hearing Richard Simmons is doing voice work for it.

Hey, who wants to hear the northern lights sing their introductions?!

1998: “Not me.”

I knew you did! This 15 second song break explains that the pink fairy is Aurora, the blue one is Sparkle, the yellow one is Twinkle and the pink one is Glitter. It never matters, so don’t bother remembering it.

I actually wouldn’t mind this as much if not for the fact that this did not, in any way, need to be a song break, and if the song didn’t end abruptly on a note that doesn’t sound the least bit like a finale note.

As Blitzen and Mitzi show Rudolph around Christmas Town and introduce him to snow, we get his ear-piercing, high-pitched shrill of a voice. You know when a kid is having a temper tantrum and they let out this scream from the pits of hell they keep locked in the back of their throat? Imagine that scream in a happy context and that’s Rudolph’s speaking voice. I was going to give this movie points for at least not having that terrible screeching noise that Rankin/Bass Rudolph had when his nose glowed, but if you’re just going to shift that sound to his speaking voice, why bother?

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Blitzen starts having concerns over Rudolph’s glowing nose when his other reindeer buddies show up, Comet, Cupid and Dasher. Cupid has a heart on his forehead, by the way. I would complain more, but I actually like that there are different markings and colors for each reindeer. It’s easier to tell them apart. Blitzen, for example, has lightning bolts under his eyes like Ash Ketchum.

Blitzen tries to hide Rudolph, and I feel like this movie is shaming Rankin/Bass Donner a bit by having Mitzi chastise Blitzen for seemingly being ashamed of his son.

Despite a crowd gathering, no one actually makes fun of Rudolph’s nose and Rudolph doesn’t seem bothered by it. When you think Blitzen is taking them home because he’s embarrassed by Rudolph, he actually says he’ll fight the next person who makes fun of his nose. But no one did. It’s only natural for people to at least want to look at a reindeer with a 30 watt nose.

I like that they’re making out Blitzen to be much more understanding and loving of Rudolph, worried that Rudolph will be mocked as he grows up and not being a shameful ass like Rankin/Bass Donner was. They even have a song break about how great they think Rudolph (nicknamed Rudy….not sure how I feel about that) is, which is where we finally get at least a bit of actual mocking towards Rudolph. They don’t particularly say anything worse than ‘put a lampshade on it’ but just having an entire town sing about your nose would be traumatizing to the poor kid.

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Emotional Scarring: The Musical

Two elves named Boone (voiced by Richard Simmons) and Doggle pick up Santa’s mail. They get all excited over a possible promotion to the factory floor….wait, not all elves are toy-making slaves? And being a toy-making slave in a factory is something you get PROMOTED to? Wow. Being an elf sucks.

They crash into Stormella’s (Voiced by Whoopi Goldberg) ice garden and flee the scene.

Blitzen and Mitzi bring Rudolph to the factory where we get another song break about the elves making toys for Christmas. It’s not terrible, but it’s about as memorable as that thing you forgot at the store earlier.

Stormella bursts in and starts icing the joint, furious that an elf destroyed her garden. In order to quell the attack, Santa (Voiced by John Goodman – Mrs. Claus is voiced by Debbie Reynolds, by the way. It’s not that important, but I really miss her) intervenes and asks the elf responsible to come forward. Boone and Doggle come forward, and Stormella demands to take them to her ice castle or else she’ll close off her ice bridge to the public.

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Movie about body acceptance – Makes the villain an overweight woman.

Santa says ‘pfft, who cares? I have flying reindeer.’ and Stormella leaves in a huff—oh sorry, that’s the scene that makes sense. Santa still vehemently refuses, despite that being the only way across the Grand Chasm. Stormella says if anyone crosses the bridge, she’ll bring the worst storm ever to the village, destroying everything and ruining Christmas for good.

Later, when she’s alone, she says she looks forward to someone trying to cross the bridge so she can start the storm and shut down Santa forever…..Uh….lady…if you want Santa gone so badly, why can’t you start the storm now? Who cares if there was a condition to starting the storm? If you’re so powerful and evil, start the storm anyway if that’s what you really want. Villains with integrity rarely ever win.

The northern lights give another micro-song, this time just to tell us that a year has passed. Thanks, you utterly useless wastes of 1950’s fashion.

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Mrs. Prancer starts…reindeer class? They explain that Santa picks his ‘flyers’ by holding a junior reindeer competition every year. Whomever ‘shines’ the best will be considered for a position on Santa’s team.

Rudolph proves to be loud and obnoxiously voiced even with a new voice actor for his older version. Like you’d expect, he’s made fun of for his nose. And, like in the other movie, it makes no sense to me that they’re saying he can’t be a flyer because his nose is red and glows. They are laughing WAY too much. It’s been a year since everyone’s found out about Rudolph’s nose – the ‘joke’ of its mere existence gets a bit old, guys.

Rudolph wants a normal nose, so he hides it in the snow and says he’ll stay like that forever. Yeah, no one will ever make fun of a reindeer with his face jammed in a snowbanking.

Santa: *looking at Rudolph’s glowing red nose* “You must be Rudolph!”

Rudolph: *completely seriously* “How’d you guess?”

Rudolph, please stop being stupid. At this rate, I’m going to have to make another Ash Ketchum reference and I’m only allowed three per review.

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Rudolph, don’t stick your nose where it doesn’t belong.

Santa gives Rudolph a nice scarf and tells him he likes his nose. +1 over Rankin/Bass Santa. Rudolph tells him about everyone mocking him.

Rudolph: “It hurts, your honor.” Your honor? The hell? He’s not a judge. That sounds so weird.

He believes he can’t be a flyer because of his nose, but Santa tells him everyone’s different and that he has a big heart. Song break time as Santa tells Rudolph that everyone’s important in Santa’s family, and Rudolph’s a part of that family. John Goodman’s singing this, so it’s alright, but the song is mediocre to say the least. Also, I’ll be addressing the animation later, but they very clearly show Santa talking/singing for about three seconds in the sleigh with no singing or talking actually happening.

This is nice and all, but that just begs the question, if Santa likes Rudolph in this version and everyone highly respects him (to the point where he’s called ‘your honor’) why can’t Santa just tell everyone to stop mocking Rudolph? They would most likely listen. I know Santa just met Rudolph, which is odd considering he’s a fawn of one of his flyers, but he must’ve heard about him and known everyone makes fun of him. And why are the elves, who have also been making fun of Rudolph, now singing along in this song of acceptance to him?

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Another pointless and, at this point, friggin’ annoying micro song break by the northern lights to alert us that it’s now Christmas Eve and Santa’s heading out. Thanks. As Rudolph tries to get a better view of them heading off, we get understanding of where a good chunk of the budget probably went – Paul McCartney’s Wonderful Christmastime.

As they fly away, Rudolph starts talking to himself, imagining being the new reindeer on Santa’s team and making an acceptance speech about it. Really not making him anymore likable. If he’s not being annoying or stupid, he’s being embarrassingly awkward. He thanks his crush, a doe we barely know named Zoey. Even though the rest of the voice acting hasn’t been spectacular, Zoey’s is about as awkward as Rudolph’s imaginary speech. She doesn’t sound like she’s in the scene at all – she just seems like she’s whizzing through her lines without paying attention.

She accepts Rudolph for who he is and doesn’t care about his nose. They’re about to kiss under the mistletoe when Arrow, one of their classmates and son of Cupid, shows up. (Get it? Cupid’s arrow?) It should be noted that there’s someone else in Rudolph’s class with a heart shaped mark on their forehead, but Arrow has no mark yet is actually Cupid’s kid. I guess he could be his brother, but I feel like there was a miscommunication in the art department.

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Arrow’s basically Ronno from Bambi, which is strange because his father’s namesake is the god of love. He makes fun of Rudolph and is trying to get in Zoey’s metaphoric pants. Here’s the thing, despite standing up for Rudolph and coaxing him into kissing her, Zoey says they’re only friends and even follows Arrow when he tells her to, even though there seems to be no reason for it. Give Faline some credit – when she went with Ronno, it was because he was obviously forcing her to go. Here, it just seems like Zoey really doesn’t want to be seen with Rudolph or is, for some reason, obligated to go with Arrow.

Rudolph gets all excited when Zoey looks back at him and yells out that she likes him, but again, dude, she just totally ditched you to walk home with Arrow. You might be able to argue that she left so Arrow would leave Rudolph alone, but leaving with him just gives him all the power in that situation. He got the last word, the last laugh and the girl.

The northern lights show up again to tell us yet another year has passed and Rudolph has been training the whole year for the junior reindeer games. Thanks for continuously breaking the ‘show, don’t tell’ rule of filmmaking in such a terrible and sloppy manner, you animated canker sores.

Zoey gives Rudolph her heart pendant for luck, and they all start the games, which begin with a race.

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Arrow’s purposely crashing people but Rudolph manages to keep up with him. Arrow pisses him off by telling him Zoey’s only nice to him because she feels sorry for him, prompting Rudolph to shine his nose and temporarily blind Arrow, sending him crashing. Rudolph wins, but is disqualified for illegal use of a glowing red nose (that’s actually a rule?) and is banned from the rest of the games.

And, of course, Arrow wins by default.

Oh boy! I get to rant! Whee!

First of all, this is one of those irritating as hell times where an antagonist is clearly cheating, tons of people witness it, yet no one cares. Rudolph and Doggle even point out that he’s cheating, but don’t say a thing as Arrow’s crowned winner. He’s purposely crashing people – you can tell without so much as a question. Did Rudolph technically win illegally too? Yeah. And he shouldn’t win the race like that, but disqualifying him and not Arrow is ridiculously stupid and unfair.

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Second, Santa and Mrs. Claus also agree that this isn’t fair yet Santa says the judge has the final say in this, not them. Uh, no. You’re Santa Goddamn Claus. You have the final say in everything. Even if you were just a spectator, if you feel something’s been done unfairly, you have a responsibility to speak up and ensure fairness in the competition.

Third, why the hell does Arrow win by default? If the first place winner is disqualified, the honor usually goes to the second place winner, who was Zoey. Arrow didn’t even cross the finish line from what we saw. It went number five, who was Rudolph, seven, who was Zoey, and four who was some other reindeer. Arrow was one and he never crossed.

Are you telling me he won because he was neck and neck with Rudolph before his nose glowed? That’s not how races work.

Zoey angrily tells off Arrow, saying he’s a cheater. So you know he cheated too…..TELL SOMEONE. There are several officials around you – say something!

Arrow doesn’t care, and Zoey says he doesn’t deserve to be a flyer because true flyers are brave, have character and true hearts, like Rudolph. To which Arrow responds.

Arrow: “Tch, but he has a red nose.”

Air tight logic, there.

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It occurs to me that one of the more common design elements of Santa himself is a big red nose. It doesn’t glow and it’s probably due to cold, but it’s true.

Zoey: “I don’t want to be your doefriend anymore.” Wait, what the hell? She really was dating Arrow this whole time?…..Two-timing whore! Why would she be with him anyway? For over a year! She doesn’t even seem to like him. What is with this girl?

Rudolph, hearing his father refer to his nose as an ‘accident’, runs away, even though his father was actually trying to defend him.

We get another song break, Show Me the Light, which is a duet between Rudolph and Zoey. It’s alright, but fairly short and pointless. He’s lead to a frozen lake that seems to be bathed in rainbow light. Just when you think the northern lights might actually be useful to the plot, he turns away from it. ‘Show me the light….so that I can walk away from it.’ The northern lights actually do show up and light up a cave….that is literally ten feet away from him. Good job.

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Taste the rainbow, idiot.

He tries to lie down for the night when he meets Slyly the fox – one of those characters who acts like a tough guy and picks fights, but is really an idiot a coward. To make things worse, he has a mobster accent.

One of the most pointless and annoying song breaks ever comes up next. It’s just Slyly trying to cheer up Rudolph by saying it could always be worse, and 95% of the song is just him and his creepy background singers saying ‘Remember, it could always be worse.’

Rudolph reveals his nose to Slyly and has a ball, completely unprompted, making fun of himself before he believes Slyly will. Whatever develops your characters.

Blitzen and Mitzi go to ask Santa to help them search for Rudolph. He thinks about it for a while when Zoey’s parents burst in asking Santa to help them find Zoey since she went off to find Rudolph. Santa immediately pops up and says he’ll send a search party out as soon as possible. Guess he didn’t like Rudolph as much as he let on.

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Zoey tries to cross Stormella’s bridge to find Rudolph. Zoey, sweetie, please use your brain. If the only way over this chasm is over this bridge and Stormella hasn’t opened a meteorological can of whup-ass on the village, then Rudolph probably went a different way.

Stormella catches her and relishes the fact that she can now set that terrible storm that she could’ve created at any time without conditions on the village.

Did I say ‘damsel in distress plot’? Mmm that’s some grade A trope right there.

Rudolph and Slyly are ousted from their cave by an avalanche that was caused by ‘the plot said so’ and they travel to another cave owned by Leonard the polar bear – another one of those characters who sounds like a complete dumbass because they have to preface nearly everything with ‘duuhhhhh’. They trick him out, they make friends – it really doesn’t matter.

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The northern lights finally make themselves useful as plot advancers and tell Rudolph that Zoey’s been kidnapped by Stormella. Rudolph’s the only one who can save her for some reason, because….his nose light….is full of love and….stuff?

Rudolph and Leonard cross the bridge and head towards the ice catacombs of the ice fortress without Slyly because he’s too scared. Gee, I wonder if this is the last we’ll see of him. I sure hope he shows up in a pinch moment to save the day out of nowhere because that would be unexpected. But what are the odds of that?

Stormella can’t see who’s crossing the bridge through her crystal ball thing because the light is blinding her view, and she just thinks the alarm is malfunctioning…..you’re telling me people could’ve easily crossed the bridge as long as they had a relatively strong light with them? You’re a horrible villain. And why is a polar bear wearing a snow hat?

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1998: “Huh?”

Sorry. It was bugging me.

Zoey starts a reprise of ‘Show Me the Light.’ The song actually has a point this time because they follow her voice to find her through the maze, which wouldn’t actually work in real life, right? Don’t echoes within areas like that make finding people through sound near impossible?

They’re lucky Stormella’s too stupid to have guards set up in the prison, but they get caught by Stormella anyway. How she knew they were in there, I have no clue. The point is, now Rudolph and Leonard are imprisoned too.

Stormella: “That doe crossed my forbidden bridge, and now I’m throwing the storm of the century.”

Zoey: “But…but it’s almost Christmas! A storm will ruin everything!”

Stormella: “Hit it, Ridley.”

*Ridley appears on a turnstile piano behind the wall and starts playing the next musical number.*

*Stormella uses her magic to put on a different gown, change her hair, make a microphone and put a spotlight on her*

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Stormella: “I get a certain thrill from every fallen snowflake.”

Nope, nope. Stop. Stop! Too many questions! Let me catch up!

*sigh* Alright.

First, how does ‘You’ll ruin everything’ instantly translate to a song cue?

Second, how long was Ridley waiting behind that wall? Did they rehearse this? Did she wake him up just to say ‘Hey, we have a musical number coming up’?

Third, why is there is a grand piano on a turnstile behind the wall of this dungeon? Does Stormella really like entertaining her prisoners?

Fourth, why are they taking the time out to sing a song right now if she’s so antsy to get her storm brewing? This is worse than monologuing.

Fifth, is there a ladder in her hair? That definitely looks like a ladder.

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Addressing the song as a whole, it’s terrible and only serves the purpose of explaining two things – she loves storms and hates Santa. For no reason. None whatsoever. She just hates him. The song is literally titled ‘I Hate Santa Claus’, but she gives absolutely no reason why. Character motivations sure are hard to write.

Zoey: “Rudolph, you mean everything to me.” That’s why I was banging that complete jackass behind your back for over a year. Love youuuu!

Stormella starts her storm, and guess who shows up? Plot conven—Slyly! He gets the key from a sleeping Storme—sleeping Stormella? Literally ten seconds ago she was making her huge Santa-ruining storm and now she’s sound asleep in her bed? Who is editing this? And why would she fall asleep now? Wouldn’t she stay awake to watch her plan unfold?

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They start to escape but Stormella wakes up and corners them. In an effort to save Zoey from her wrath, Rudolph shines his nose so bright that it temporarily blinds Stormella and knocks her off a cliff. As she hangs from the cliffside, she begs for help and Rudolph goes to save her. She’s a witch who can create storms, ice formations and evening wear with a flick of the wrist, but she can’t fly or use magic to help herself up?

Rudolph and everyone else, including Stormella’s wolves, pull her up. She’s very thankful and even lets them go, but Slyly says that since Rudolph saved her life, she owes Rudolph one wish – such are the rules of the north pole…..those rules would only apply to magical beings who can grant wishes….did they make this weird rule purely for Stormella and maybe Santa? That’s stupid.

He wishes for Stormella to be nice, and I’ll admit him responding to her resistances to his wish by just repeating ‘I want you to be nice’ over and over is a bit humorous. It works, but she can’t stop the storm.

They leave, but can’t navigate in the storm. Rudolph lights up his nose, but even though it lights the way, they still say they won’t make it home in the bad weather—wow, that kinda pokes a hole in the finale of the song, doesn’t it?

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Never the mind because Boone and Doggle, who have been miraculously following them despite having no clues (yeah, they found Rudolph’s stuff in the cave, but how’d they find the cave? And how’d it lead them to the fortress?)

The ever-annoying fairies pop up again for another micro-song interlude just to say it’s storming and Santa’s holding a meeting. Thank you. Please shut the hell up.

Santa cancels the trip because of the storm, and Rudolph and the others show up. Apparently, Boone and Doggle’s snowmobile doesn’t have headlights (seriously, it’s the late 90s now. There’s no excuse for lack of headlights on vehicles.) and despite the fact that they were navigating the storm perfectly fine without them, they use Rudolph’s nose light to guide their way back home.

Blah blah, guide my sleigh tonight.

Zoey gives Rudolph a kiss before he leaves, just to solidify that they’re a thing now….I still think she’s a two-timing whore.

Can I ask a question? From all we’ve seen of Rudolph so far, he can’t fly. Afterall, if he could, he wouldn’t worry about falling from the cliff on two separate occasions at the ice fortress. Does the medal give him the ability to fly or is this something we’re just ignoring?

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…..Something we’re just ignoring. Okay.

As Rudolph and the others make it through the storm, we get our last song, which is alright but….this is weird. I feel like the song is dated. The vocals, the music – it all sounds like a forgotten pop song from the Beetles era.

The next morning, everyone gets their gifts, including Stormella who didn’t deserve one. She’s been evil her whole life by choice and only became good by magic brain washing. Plus, she’s been nice all of 12 hours.

They return and the northern lights start singing the titular song. I don’t care what they’re singing – just make them go away. Also, it’s very weird that everyone knows the words to this completely new song. Did they rehearse this while they were away? Does this place have a popular theater department?

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The end.

Bottomline: This movie was bad, but not as horrible as it could’ve been. Comparing it to the Rankin/Bass movie, I like Donner/Blitzen and Santa better, but that’s about it. Taking RB out of the equation, Rudolph’s annoying, the love triangle shouldn’t have been a thing, Zoey’s a two-timing whore who is literally only there to be a damsel in distress love interest, Stormella’s such a pathetic villain she might as well not even be one, and there were way too many useless characters.

The northern lights had no purpose besides being a one-time plot device and providing us with pointless annoying as hell song interludes.

Slyly’s only purpose was freeing them from the dungeon, which was predictable and could’ve been done in a much more clever way without his help.

Leonard’s only purpose was…..he………Leonard didn’t do a damn thing, did he? He was legitimately entirely pointless. Wow.

Boone and Doggle were completely useless outside of causing the event that made Stormella close the bridge and make the storm condition, but I already explained how pointless that was. They came for Rudolph and the others in the end, but that could’ve easily been written as Rudolph and the others merely walking home.

It would’ve been a nice use of his abilities before he went off with Santa. They didn’t even get a promotion in the end, and they barely talk at all in the second half. Santa just says they did a good job in one line and we hardly even see them again.

Arrow was completely dropped as a character after the reindeer games. He never appears again. He gets no comeuppance, he never gets ousted as a cheater, he never makes amends with Rudolph or anything – they just forget he existed.

The conflict was such a non-conflict that they had to force conditional conflicts on it in order to make it a conflict…..that makes sense, right? Not to mention that the plot was resolved in a completely lazy manner. They literally wished the problem away.

Plus, remember that thing I noted in the Rankin/Bass Rudolph review? About how it kinda fixed the problem with the moral that the song had by having everyone change their ways and apologize to Rudolph for how they acted before he saved Christmas instead of making it seem like he only gained respect and adoration because his nose finally proved useful to society?

This movie keeps that problem.

No one apologizes to Rudolph when he returns or says they were wrong for how they treated him. No one really shows respect for him until Santa asks Rudolph to light the way on his sleigh.

You could argue that they changed their minds about Rudolph before then by him defeating Stormella, but there are a few of problems with that.

First, he didn’t so much defeat Stormella as he just magically wished her evil away.

Second, the storm is still occurring either way, so ‘defeating’ her ultimately did little to nothing.

Third, Zoey stepped on the bridge and caused the storm to begin with. And why did she step on the bridge? Because she was looking for Rodolph! Meaning he, by proxy, sorta caused the problem in the first place.

There are definitely worse things to watch, and it’s not like the movie is really pushing bad messages, but it’s very lazily written, isn’t that Christmas-y and there are much better things you could be spending your time or money on.

Voice acting: Slyly and Leonard were annoyingly voiced, Rudolph’s child voice was one of the worst things I’ve ever heard, and Zoey always sounds like she’s just reading from a script and is never really acting. Blitzen sounds awkward numerous times, but other than that, everyone’s just mediocre. The best actors here are John Goodman, Debbie Reynolds and Whoppi Goldberg, who at least sound like they’re trying a little bit.

Art and Animation: Both the art and animation are pretty bad. Some of the background art and landscapes are alright, but otherwise it’s just a lot of very simple designs that barely stay consistent when moving. The animation is obviously very cheap. It juts, the cycles are very obvious, instances of cross eyes happen constantly, and there is even one occasion during Santa’s first run where you can actually see the frames overlap. It really just makes you wonder what the hell they did with the $10 million budget they had. Oh yeah, getting big name celebrities just to sell the movie.

Not like that helped because the movie only got $113k at the box office…..Wow.

Music: The background music is horrible. There are a lot of cartoony trumpet noises and doofy music when the scene doesn’t call for it. Plus, the sound effects are sometimes odd or just non-existent. The lyrical songs range from alright to terrible. Show me the Light is the best one, but that’s not saying much. The inclusion of Wonderful Christmastime brings a bit more Christmas feeling to the movie, but it feels really out of place when there are no other songs like that on the soundtrack. The rest are original songs meant for the movie, outside of the obvious.

So 1998, what do you think?

1998: “I think I just wasted an hour and 17 minutes of my life.”

What does time matter to a year?

1998: “Don’t get philosophical on me after that.”

The good news is, you didn’t get the worst of it!

1998: “What? Really?”

Yup! Farewell, 1998! I’m off to 2001!

1998: “I better warn 2001…..Wait, where’d she get a TARDIS?”

AVAHS – Futurama: Xmas Story

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Plot: It’s Fry’s first Christm—Xmas in the year 3000. He becomes very depressed when thinking about how different the holidays are celebrated now compared to his era, and the fact that his family is no longer around to celebrate it with him. Leela, being an orphan and the last of her species, never even knew a family with which to celebrate Christmas. When Fry goes out to buy a nice gift for Leela to cheer her up, he meets Robot Santa, who has been programmed to see nearly everyone as naughty – and those who are naughty get ho-ho-holes shots through them.

Breakdown: While this special is not one I’ve held near and dear to my heart for years, it’s still a very enjoyable and fun Ch—Xmas special that I’ve grown to watch traditionally over the past few years.

It shakes off many Christmas special tropes and does press upon two serious aspects of Fry and Leela’s characters. We never really think about Fry missing his family much, but as the seasons go by (especially later ones) we learn that he truly does miss his family. Living in a world where everyone you ever knew or loved is dead is heartbreaking.

Leela’s situation is equally sad, if not moreso, since she never had a family to begin with and she was more or less treated as an outcast throughout her time at the orphanarium.

It’s sweet that Fry risks his life to get Leela a present for Xmas, even if it does lead into a near mistletoe trope.

The plot with Robot Santa is an interesting take on the character who definitely adds an entirely new spin to these Xmas specials. Robot Santa is one of my favorite versions of Santa ever. I don’t know why, but I still get all happy when he gives Zoidberg a present.

Other than that, we have Bender who is off on a side plot in a booze kitchen for down and out robots. He recruits some homeless robots to help him scam and rob people, and it’s the introduction to Tinny Tim (no typo). I have no clue why, maybe I’m a little sadistic, but I love Tinny Tim and his interactions with Bender.

This episode is not particularly hilarious nor is it horribly heartwarming, but it is funny, has many memorable moments and will tug at the heartstrings a bit. It’s a great episode to watch around the holidays or anytime. Now let’s all sing A Xmas Carol to play us out!

♪ He knows when you are sleeping,

He knows when you’re on the can,

He’ll hunt you down and blast your ass from here to Pakistan!

~Oh~

You better not breathe, you better not move!

You’re better off dead, I’m telling you, dude.

Santa Claus is gunning you down! ♫

AVAHS – Niko 2: Little Brother Big Trouble (A Christmas Adventure)

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Rating: 6/10

Plot: Niko has been spending a lot of time with his father, Prancer, since last year. However, his mother’s none too keen on Prancer letting him stay out late or trying to go Santa Speed. Despite this, Niko still wishes for and believes that his mother and father will get back together some day.

When Oona reveals to him that she is indeed interested in bringing a father figure back into their family, he is ecstatic since he believes his mother is getting back together with his father. However, he’s quickly crestfallen when he discovers that not only are both Oona and Prancer uninterested in getting back together, but the father figure Oona had in mind was a reindeer named Lenni.

Niko is clearly upset at this news and becomes even more devastated when he learns Lenni has a young son named Jonni. Not interested in gaining a new dad or a new little brother, Niko pushes both of them away as much as possible. But when he tries to ditch Jonni during a game of Hide and Seek, Jonni gets taken away by eagles who are working for Black Wolf’s vengeful sister, White Wolf, and it’s up to him to be a good big brother and get Jonni back.

Breakdown: Last year I talked about how Niko and the Way to the Stars was a welcome surprise in the holiday movie genre. It wasn’t a masterpiece, but it was a thoroughly enjoyable little family movie for Christmas.

Niko 2 is also a perfectly enjoyable movie, but it’s only barely Christmas-y and it’s not really as good as the first one.

Much of the movie focuses entirely on a plot that has absolutely nothing to do with Christmas. In fact, the Flying Forces and Santa and Christmas as a whole seem really tacked on. Prancer and Oona butt heads, but they never settle things between them. Niko and Prancer only spend the first scene together and then nothing.

They never would have revisited the Flying Forces or Santa’s Fell again after the first act unless two stupid things didn’t occur. First, White Wolf decided to get to Niko through his father, which is why she and the eagles attacked the Flying Forces. Piss poor excuse to get them involved. It’s really such a bother to catch one flying reindeer fawn who can’t even go Santa Speed so target the Flying Forces?

Second, Julius decides to lie about Jonni being taken to Oona by saying Prancer and Niko decided to spend time with Jonni, basically pinning responsibility for the whole thing on poor Prancer, a guy who is seemingly trying to be a good dad to Niko but keeps getting the short end of the stick. (And, what’s dumber, Julius basically becomes an honesty advocate and head shaker towards Lenni and Niko for continuing the lie HE made in the first place)

Not to mention, Santa’s Fell somehow feels even worse this time around. It never seemed too fantastical, but the factory is a lifeless toy factory with literally no one in it. No elves, no nothing. It’s self-running and maintaining equipment apparently. Santa makes a brief appearance cloaked kinda in shadow just to say hi to Niko and reunite with Tobias. And Niko visits his dad all the time but it seems like Santa hasn’t seen Niko in ages.

Well, if Christmas isn’t a big highlight, I guess the only thing we can bank on is the main plot. As a whole, the main plot isn’t that bad. It’s a predictable cliché from start to finish, but it isn’t that bad. I never felt bored or annoyed for the most part, and it’s totally harmless. However, I have to call out some laziness in the conflict.

First of all, the antagonist being the sister to the antagonist from the original movie, wanting revenge for their death; wow, that’s Disquel levels of unimaginative.

Second, the eagles are a total joke. At least Black Wolf and his pack were kinda threatening in the last movie. The eagles are just complete comic relief. The only reason White Wolf even has eagles as a posse are to get to Santa’s Fell without going the same long route Niko took in the last movie. And yes, the eagles carry her like a fish to Santa’s Fell. It’s a bit ridiculous.

Third, White Wolf is in no way scary or threatening. She’s a ‘hands-off’ ‘let my minions do everything’ villain. At least Black Wolf was proactive for the entirety of the first movie. White Wolf just sits in the shadows of the eagles’ domain and commands them to do things for half the movie. She’s not even commanding the eagles out of respect or fear, she manipulates them because they have a crush on her and later because the Flying Forces banned them from the skies for no given reason. Her eyes don’t even constantly glow like Black Wolf’s. Guess that trait wasn’t genetic.

She also wasn’t taken care of in a decent manner. She’s basically tied up and that’s it. I guess she’ll just die of starvation or else the plot really isn’t over since eventually she’ll get out of those ties and go after Niko again, even more fiercely.

Lenni and Jonni are both perfectly fine new characters. I was really worried they’d make Lenni out to be a secret jerk and then Oona and Prancer would get back together or Jonni would be an annoying little brat and I’d end up wanting to play reindeer games with his face, but they’re both perfectly nice characters.

If anything, Oona’s the one I’m more annoyed with this whole movie. She obviously sees how much Niko loves his father and wishes they got back together, so what does she do? Instead of sitting him down gently and explaining that she and his father will never work and he should learn to love their slightly disjointed family and maybe learning to lay off Prancer and then later leaning into ‘hey I’ve been dating this new guy….’ what does she do?

One day, out of the blue, after essentially leading Niko to believe that she and Prancer will be getting back together by leading the conversation and not disclosing who she’s talking about, she reveals that she’s been dating Lenni behind Niko’s back for some time now and that he’ll be moving in immediately. Oh and also, he has a young son, he’s Niko’s little brother now. Deal with it.

Then she pretty much expects Niko to be instantly fine with all of this, even though it’s clearly bothering the hell out of him. She briefly speaks with him about it, but it’s, again, basically just expecting that Niko is fine with everything.

When Lenni lies to her about the situation with the boys, he says he wants to go up to Santa’s Fell to confront Prancer and she’s all ‘whoo! I’ll go with you and give my two cents!’ Whoo yeah, he needs a talkin’ to what with his mild leniency with Niko; having fun with him and spending time with him and training him in flying and whatnot. What an ass.

Also, the reason Lenni and Jonni suddenly moved in is because she’s pregnant with Lenni’s kid. They give ‘subtle’ hints at it throughout the movie, but it’s obvious she’s preggers and both Lenni and Oona know and have known for a while. And she never tells Niko. She had to have told him some time between the final climax of the movie and the birth of the kid at the end, but she doesn’t mention it before then. Mother of the year.

We get another new character in the reindeer, Tobias, who is a pretty old reindeer living by himself out in the wilderness. His schtick is Mr. Magoo. He’s blind as a bat and frequently does silly things because he can’t see well. Also, he’s kinda looney. I went back and forth with liking Tobias. On one hand, he can be funny, but on the other hand his schtick is horribly cliché and one-note. On one hand, his backstory is kinda interesting and his life at the moment is a bit sad, but on the other hand his backstory kinda doesn’t make sense and is a bit dumb.

Last note, the thing with Niko attempting to go Santa Speed is arguably the most predictable part of this movie. It’s completely obvious that he will be able to do it by the end.

Ranting over with, the art and animation are about on par with the original movie’s though the lip-synching is noticeably worse.

The voice acting is alright, though, again, the emoting and vocal volumes need work.

The music is completely forgettable and we don’t even get a song from Wilma to spice things up.

Bottomline: I have more problems with this movie than I did the last, but it is a perfectly fine movie. If you were a fan of the original, give it a shot. If not, skip it. Also skip it if you’re looking for a fun Christmas movie. Despite the tagline being ‘A Christmas Adventure’ there is a staggering lack of anything really Christmas-y. If anything, it seems to purposely skip out on it and the stuff they do include seems really forced.

AVAHS – Arthur Christmas

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Rating: 9.5/10

Plot: We all know that Santa delivers presents to all the little girls and boys at Christmas, but what really goes on at the North Pole? ‘Santa’ is actually more of an inherited title than it is one singular person. Generation through generation, new Santas take the helm of the sleigh, and it’s nearing the time for a tech-savvy calculating man named Steve to finally take the reins. Figuratively speaking, of course, since Steve has turned the North Pole into an ultra-high-tech hub for Christmas preparation, and the old sleigh has been replaced with an equally high-tech air ship named the S-1.

Steve’s little brother, Arthur, works in the letters department and loves nothing more than any and all things Christmas. He greatly admires his father, the current Santa, and he also strongly believes in his brother to become the next Santa.

His faith starts to waiver, however, when the ultra-efficient Steve somehow misses a girl named Gwen. He tries to convince both his brother and father to go back and deliver her present, but they decide against it, leaving Gwen in the ‘margin of error.’ Arthur won’t accept that, and is recruited by his grandfather, the grandsanta, to take his old sleigh and reindeer out to deliver the present themselves, accompanied by an energetic wrapping elf named Bryony. Can they manage to deliver the present on time, or will one little girl end up thinking that she’s the one kid Santa forgot?

Breakdown: Alright, now we’re talkin’ newer holiday traditions. Ever since I first watched this movie several years ago, I have watched it every Christmas. It is one of the very few newer Christmas movies that manages to fill me with the Christmas spirit.

Arthur Christmas introduces an interesting concept behind Christmas. Instead of Santa being one immortal being with woodworking elves, a sleigh and reindeer, it is a title that is passed through the generations (and is kinda magic considering they seem to live much longer than normal people) with a high-tech command center directing thousands of elves to deliver presents in whole towns at a time…..And Santa maybe puts down a present or two.

Like Steve mentions, the current Santa, whose real name is Malcolm, is more of a figurehead than anything. He loves the title, he enjoys being loved by the children of the world and he enjoys the fame brought on by the elves, but he does little to nothing besides go through the motions. Steve and the many elves in the North Pole handle quite literally everything. From monitoring the children to ensure they don’t wake, to delivering the presents to going through complicated maneuvers to prevent alerting dogs or setting off alarms, and even piloting the S-1. Like I said, Santa is basically escorted into like one house per town, does nothing, then when they’re about to leave, they let him set down a gift.

Steve is all set and ready to rumble for the job of Santa, and he seems more than qualified given everything he does, but he’s also not anymore fit for the job than Malcolm because he doesn’t seem to care about kids at all and sees Santa as a glorified title above all else.

Arthur is more than content working in the letters department. He loves reading the letters from the various children of the world and responding back to them. His office is like a giant shrine to all things Christmassy and Santa. I really appreciate that they didn’t have him be some bitter character who, despite loving Christmas and seeing the meaning of Christmas far beyond any of the living Santas, is angry about not being offered the job of Santa despite being a Claus. They could’ve easily gone down that route, but they didn’t.

Arthur is a lovable Christmas dork, and he is my kindred spirit. I love everything about Christmas. Let me loose in any store with Christmas decorations and clothes and whatnot and, if I had it my way, you wouldn’t see me until closing. And you bet I’d wear they hell out of Arthur’s cute little light-up singing reindeer slippers.

There is a lot to love about Arthur, especially in how he’s willing to brave every frightening aspect of this journey to make sure Gwen didn’t feel left out on Christmas. And there’s a lot to worry about with him. He’s a worrier as it is, but he’s also fairly clumsy and doesn’t understand a lot of the mechanics of both the old and new Santa devices. It does not help that he’s accompanied by Grandsanta, who is equal parts crazy and absentminded. There’s a plot twist with his character that I never saw coming, and I think it works very well in the flow of the story. Let’s just say that forgetting the true meaning of Christmas didn’t start with Malcolm.

The fact that Arthur basically lives in a delusion, believing just as much in the fantasy version of Santa as most children on earth, leaves you worrying as well. You know the poor guy’s going to have his whole world crash around him eventually, and you’re just sitting there getting more and more anxious the closer he gets to the truth. It is almost as painful as watching someone tell a little kid that Santa doesn’t exist. (Spoiler alert) When that plot twist with Grandsanta is revealed, it’s the first big blow to his belief system since he believed Grandsanta was the only one who wanted to uphold the old traditions and keep the spirit of Christmas alive.

He also has Bryony with him, a female elf who is a wrapping extraordinaire and can wrap any present with three pieces of sticky tape. Despite just being a wrapping elf, she is extremely skilled and knowledgeable as a field elf who helps Arthur along the way. She gets a ton of great lines in both her quirkiness and her whimsical bluntness. I loved her, especially her punk rock character design.

I will admit, you can see where a good chunk of the movie is going from the get-go, and I didn’t much care for the ‘alien’ sub-plot with the government. I mean, I guess it adds to the gravity of the situation, but it’s mostly treated as a joke (Plus, a wooden painted air craft with people singing Christmas carols saying they come in peace, shooting oranges and chocolates is blown up with a missile and they’re all proud of themselves) But the story adds plenty of its own originality and writing to the table to keep you more than entertained throughout the whole movie.

This movie was a product of Aardman Animations. Yup, the claymation Aardman. Except here they’re bringing claymation style to full CGI animation. And it works incredibly well. While I have my problems with the facial designs, for the love of eggnog, who cares? The details are gorgeous. From the hairs on their heads, to the stitches of Arthur’s sweater (even including those little furry hairs some wool sweaters have) to the cities and vehicles and houses, it’s just amazing. This is the second time that Aardman has done a full CGI feature (Flushed Away being their first – co-produced by Dreamworks), and they definitely prove without a shadow of a doubt that they can maintain their talents throughout the mediums.

It is especially prominent in the characters themselves. While I’m not fan of claymation, I have always greatly respected how much tender loving care Aardman puts into their character work to make them seem not only alive but like they’re truly people who exist. Arthur Christmas is definitely no exception. All of the characters look, move and sound like they’re real people (okay, they don’t look realistic in regards to looking like you and me, but they look like actual living beings). Those looks on Arthur’s face when he thinks about Gwen getting her present are just beautiful.

They also interact with each other and their environments like real people. They definitely feel like a real family with familiar family problems and squabbles as well as the love and respect that is sometimes covered by those issues.

I even loved how they interacted with the elves. I feel a bit worse for the elves this time around because elves get little respect and love by the children during Christmas as it is considering they do all the work of making the toys and doing whatever else needs to be done during the rest of the year yet Santa delivers the gifts and gets all the glory. It’s like giving the UPS guy a holiday. Here, not only do the elves do all the background work like making the gifts and wrapping them etc. but they do most of the delivering too; yet they still have to live in the ever darkening shadow of a Santa who does little to nothing.

And then, like Arthur, they don’t seem to care. They just want Christmas to go perfectly for all the kids of the world. And, like Arthur, they are completely appalled when they find out that not only Santa forgot a kid, but they also aren’t going to go back to deliver the present. While it’s obvious that none of the Santas really respect the elves at all (Grandsanta’s treatment of them, Bryony included, is most terrible), it’s also apparent that they respect how they see them, much like how they respect how the majority of the children of the world see Santa. It’s only when the elves express how horrible it is that a child has been missed that the current Santa even tries to do anything about it.

Since Arthur is basically an elf himself, he is friends with most of them, despite knowing that some of them mock him behind his back for being so dorky and clumsy. I legitimately had a pang in my heart when I saw them cheering on Arthur through a video feed. They also just care about keeping up the magic of Christmas and Santa to the children, and Arthur’s the hero they need for the job.

If I’ve gushed enough, this movie has some flaws, but it is a phenomenal Christmas movie and just a fantastic movie period. I watch it every year, and I may watch it again before the holidays are over. And this is coming from someone who never believed in Santa. If you need a holiday pickup, this is one of the more recent movies to bring that warm Christmassy feeling, and maybe a little magic, to your heart.

Recommended Audience: E for 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.