AVAHS – Nestor the Long Eared Christmas Donkey (Rankin/Bass) (1977) Review

Plot: A little donkey named Nestor was always endlessly ridiculed for his incredibly long ears. He faced many hardships throughout his life, but one fateful night in a little town named Bethlehem would turn him into a Christmas hero.

Breakdown: Okay, look, I know what you’re going to say. We’re all thinking it. And as far as I’m concerned, yes, this is a Christian-ized Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer. They’re not even remotely subtle about it. The song on which this special is derived from even makes direct references to Rudolph, and the song feels like it was originally written to be an off-shoot of Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer.

Nestor Lyrics: “Everyone knows about Rudolph
Our fleet-footed friend from the north
Who lights Santa’s way through the darkness
As he drives his sleigh back and forth
But there’s someone else we should mention
If we want the whole story told
He carried the first gift of Christmas
More precious than diamonds or gold”

Rudolph Lyrics: “You know Dasher and Dancer and Prancer and Vixen
Comet and Cupid and Donner and Blitzen
But do you recall
The most famous reindeer of all?”

Summary: “You know these other reindeer, and they’re cool and all, but do you know of someone even cooler than they were? Here, let me tell you the story.”

Nestor: “Nestor was a donkey who seldom laughed or played
‘Cause no one even used him in the stable where he stayed
And all the camels teased him, the other donkeys too
They said, look at little Nestor, there’s nothin’ he can do.”
Rudolph: “All of the other reindeer
Used to laugh and call him names
They never let poor Rudolph
Join in any reindeer games.”

Summary: “A physical deformity made them the laughing stock of the town, and they were completely ostracized from the other animals.”

Nestor: “Look at little Nestor, his ears hang to his knees
When he looks at his reflection, ears are all he sees
Nestor’s heart was broken and his eyes were full of tears
If only there was somethin’ he could do about his ears.”

Rudolph: “Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer
Had a very shiny nose
And if you ever saw it
You would even say it glows.”

Summary: “Dude looks weird.”

Nestor: “One dark night two strangers gave Nestor a surprise
They chose him from all others for they loved his gentle eyes
A man was called by Joseph, Mary was his bride
She needed help to Bethlehem and Nestor’s back to ride

They travelled through the desert but hadn’t gone too far
When winter clouds no longer let them see their guiding star
But Nestor learned a secret as he listened to the breeze
And the angels gave directions to the ears that touched his knees

And so it was that Nestor found the manger where they stayed
Where kings and wise men bowed before the baby where he lay
Mary bore our Saviour and Nestor brought them there
A gift of love from God above for all the world to share”

Rudolph: “Then one foggy Christmas Eve
Santa came to say
“Rudolph, with your nose so bright
Won’t you guide my sleigh tonight?””

Summary: “Deformity came in handy. Saved Christmas. Cool beans. Also, Nestor’s song is clearly way longer at this point.”

Nestor: “Though, Rudolph, I just love you, I know you’d want it said
Nestor’s ears are lovely as a reindeer’s nose is red
So children, if you’re happy when you trim your Christmas trees
You might thank a little donkey whose ears hung to his knees.

Look at little Nestor, his ears hang to his knees
They shouted as they praised him and his friends were all so pleased
Nestor was so happy and his eyes held no more tears
Now all the world knows Nestor for his laughter and his ears”

Rudolph: “Then how the reindeer loved him
As they shouted out with glee
“Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer
You’ll go down in history””

Summary: “Golly you’re sure swell, Rudolph/Nestor. We love you now that your physical oddity proved useful to us.”

Now, being COMPLETELY fair, the song was co-written Gene Autry, who wrote the original Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer song, even though it’s not mentioned anywhere in his very long Wiki page. Also, while he is given top billing in the song credit in the special, probably for the sake of name recognition, every entry I can find about this song lists Don Pfrimmer and Dave Burgess in the writing credits before Autry, so I kinda feel like he didn’t have much to do with the writing of the song and was moreso consulted about it since it was so similar to Rudolph and had references to Rudolph in the song. I don’t have any proof of that, though, so take that with a grain of salt.

Even if he wrote the song, it’s hard to defend this as not being a Christian Rudolph story, even if the bookends still take place at the North Pole and all the Santa stuff is still canon.

I hate to ding them for copying something else too, but the whole ‘huge ears made me a laughingstock’ thing was also done in Rudolph’s Shiny New Year, which came out one year before Nestor.

But hey, I can give this special something. It’s more grounded than Rudolph was, and…..dear god it is depressing.

I mean, yeah, of course it has a happy ending, but uh…Let me just go through the story real quick.

Spieltoe, Santa’s donkey, watches as Santa flies away on the night of Christmas eve, with Rudolph heading the sleigh. Spieltoe shows the audience the stables, which house him and the reindeer. In the stables is a nativity scene which, as Spieltoe points out, displays an inaccurate representation of Nestor because it doesn’t have long ears.

He starts singing the story of Nestor, and one of the elves comes over to replace the donkey figure with a more long-eared one. Cool. I mean…ya know….Jesus and Mary (why is Joseph not here? The figures behind her are the three wise men.) are still being depicted as white people, but you make sure that donkey has accurate ear length.

We flashback to Nestor as we start the opening credits and…Uh….it certainly sets the stage for the depressing aspect I mentioned. Here’s the entire credits sequence.

Nestor walks out, trips on his ears, we keep cutting back to the other animals, who just think it’s the funniest thing, Nestor legit CRIES, spends a while being sad on the ground, and then walks over to his mother, which you’d think would be the one nice spot in this entire opening, but just you wait, readers. Just you wait. Did I mention the music blaring over this is very upbeat?

A long, long time ago, somewhere in….pbbtt this area.

Under the rule of the rising Roman empire, Nestor lived on a modest little farm owned by Olaf, an almost comically designed asshole. He denies Nestor dinner because he has difficultly working on the farm due to his long ears constantly tripping him up. And, of course, one of the other farm animals has to chime in and say there’s nothing he can do (though, this is part of the song.)

Olaf feeds Nestor’s mother because she ‘earns her keep’ and she decides to share her meal with Nestor to help keep him fed.

You guys starting to see why this is Rudolph only with the depressing factor turned up? Rudolph being made fun of sucked, yeah, but at least he wasn’t starved. At least he lived in a nice place. At least his parents didn’t have to suffer to make sure he stayed alive.

But let’s take a break from that depressing scene to head to a different depressing scene. Spieltoe explains how hard Nestor has had it his whole life because his long ears made him clumsy and everyone mocked them.

The next verse of the song plays here, though there’s one difference. Instead of saying “When he looks at his reflection, ears are all he sees” they say “They whispered as they mocked him, but he heard every sound.” Yes, Nestor gets absolutely no peace. He hears every insult and comment all of these jackasses (pun intended) make about him. He can’t turn his ears off. He has to cope with the constant torment.

But don’t worry, Nestor. If Rudolph’s Shiny New Year taught me anything, it’s that no one ever laughs AT someone’s strange physical attributes. They’re just filled with so much joy when they see it that they can’t help but burst out laughing. They’re secretly just being pals and you’re misinterpreting their laughter (and terrible comments and shunning).

Honestly, though, the song is pretty nicely done.

Cut to later, during a harsh winter storm, the animals of the farm are all celebrating the winter solstice by partying and giving gifts. Nestor’s mom gives him some old stockings to wear on his ears to keep them warm. Even the farm animals are, for some reason, being very nice to Nestor today. One donkey even apologizes for making fun of him and gives him a kiss on the cheek. Uhhh….How and why? You can’t have characters established as being complete jerks to Nestor every day of his life suddenly shift to being super nice to him and giving him a kiss on the cheek just because it’s a holiday. Oh, by the way, the one who gave him a kiss on the cheek, I’m pretty sure that’s the same donkey who made the “He can’t do anything.” comment earlier.

It’s not unheard of for bad guys to suddenly turn good-ish in holiday specials or anything, but this situation is such a drastic and quick turnaround for no reason that it feels pretty lazy. (Unless they ARE playing off of the “Laughing at people for their physical differences isn’t a bad thing – they’re just really happy and stuff” thing from Shiny New Year, in which case I think I need to be thankful I stocked up on aspirin.)

Especially considering we get an all too familiar foreboding line;

Nestor: “This is the best day ever! I’ll never forget it!”

Things sure are going great for Nestor….completely out of the blue. I certainly believe things will stay good for him.

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So things go bad.

An imperial Roman soldier barges into the stables demanding donkeys for the emperor. They snatch a bunch of them, including Nestor, and pay off Olaf. Nestor tries to run back to his mother, but the soldier stops him by grabbing his ears. The stockings come off and reveal his true ears. The soldier accuses Olaf of trying to sell him ‘misfit’ donkeys. Olaf tries to just give Nestor away for free, but the soldier is so insulted that he takes back all of the money, knocks Olaf down and takes the donkeys without paying.

By the way, the foley in this special is really weird. Either the sound effects aren’t there at all, what is there sounds like it doesn’t belong or the effect is delayed. Also, I can’t be certain, but I’m 95% sure those pieces of silver are nickels.

The soldier heads off, referring to his new donkeys as ‘slaves,’ whipping them and laughing maniacally. He is a bad guy. Also, he never shows up again so…..guess those donkeys are screwed.

Olaf is so pissed about Nestor’s ears screwing him over again that he chucks Nestor across the room and kicks him off of the farm, proclaiming he doesn’t care if he freezes in the storm.

*snort* Look at Nestor’s face when he’s being held up as Olaf threatens to throw him out of the stables. He should be scared out of his mind, but his expression comes off like he gives less than zero fucks.

Nestor is literally thrown out into the snowy tundra. Meanwhile, Nestor’s mother fights her way out of the stables so she can find him. Once they reunite, she tells him that, no matter what, he has to be brave.

They find a slightly sheltered spot, and Nestor’s mother digs a spot down to the ground so Nestor won’t be lying in snow. He lays on the frozen grass, and Nestor’s mother shields his body from the snow and cold by laying on top of him.

So because this is a Christmas special and we have to get going with the happy happy joy joy, Nestor enjoys a beautiful sunrise with his mother followed by some delightful breakfast foods and they plan on going into town together to see if some other nice farmer will take them in.

Hold on, I’m getting word that I’m a sarcastic git and Nestor’s mother actually frickin’ died.

Story at 11.

Or right now. Whatever.

What the hell?! What the actual hell? What kind of Christmas special is this?

I don’t recall any part of the song including something like;

“Nestor’s dear mother froze to death out in the snow.
Covered her son’s body with her own, now, don’tcha know?
Who knows how long she survived. Four hours? Maybe five.
If her son didn’t have long ears, she’d still be alive.”

They immediately cut to Nestor crying as he looks at the makeshift grave he made for his mother, which, considering the frozen ground, is not even a grave. She’s just covered in snow. But if you think about this even more, it’s HORRIFYING. Nestor woke up to his dead mother lying on his back. He had to wiggle out of his dead mother’s frozen embrace and deal with the fact that his mother froze to death trying to save his life. And considering he couldn’t even give her a proper burial, I hope to god he never returns to this spot once spring rolls around….

Merry Christmas, by the way.

Nestor survives for a while on his own, steadily making his way south, when he meets a Cherub named Tilly who has come to lead him to the plot—I mean, who explains that she’s meant to inspire animals as angels inspire humans. He’s meant for something very important – to save a life like his mother saved him. They must go to Bethlehem, which is a long and arduous journey.

Nestor: “Aw…I don’t want to go THAT far.”

Tilly: *a light shines down from the sky on her head* “Of course you do. You know….”

Nestor: *that same light shines on Nestor’s head* “Ohhhhhh….”

Tilly: “Mmmhmm. Come on now.”

Did….did….God just brainwash a donkey?

Nestor and Tilly go on a nice friendly montage where the accompanying song talks about not laughing at others to make them cry as they pass a bunch of animals who laugh at Nestor’s ears. This is a pretty good montage, and I think it’s really cute that Tilly holds Nestor’s ears through so much of it. However, the lyrics kinda fall flat at a point. A bear laughs at Nestor’s ears, but then the bear freaks out because he saw a spider and Nestor laughs at him. Then the bear happily waved as he walked away? So….laughing at someone is okay as long as the laughing person gets humiliated too?

Nestor and Tilly head off on a boat with Nestor’s ears acting as a sail and Tilly smacks two dolphins who were laughing at Nestor’s ears. Okay, Tilly hasn’t hit anyone until now, and the one time she does it’s when Nestor is using his ears as a sail, which is legitimately funny? Come on.

They finally reach a village and Tilly just straight up dips back to Heaven, telling Nestor to wait in town until it’s the right time to head to Bethlehem…….So of course he immediately gets captured by a jackass merchant (Like my clever wordplay? I’m so witty.) who tosses him in a pen with other animals who promptly laugh at his ears. So, uh, Tilly, you sure you don’t want to pop back down and help him out?…No?….Okie dokles.

Second verse, same as the first – no one wants to buy Nestor, the other animals keep viciously mocking him, he cries about it a lot and it’s sad.

Merry. Christmas.

Oh yeah, this merchant dude was pointed out by another reviewer as having a ‘penis-nose’ and uh….

I feel like I need to censor this….

Also, phallic imagery aside, this guy’s design just feels racist in general….Especially when it’s right beside White Joseph and Whiter Mary.

Okay, now we’re finally getting to greener pastures. Joseph and Mary show up looking for a donkey to purchase to take them to Bethlehem. They chose Nestor because he had kind eyes. The merchant can’t believe that they want to buy him, so he decides to pull a con and claims Nestor’s super expensive because long ears are popular these days.

Mary and Joseph can’t afford it and are about to leave, but Joseph stops her because they need a donkey in order to travel considering she’s with child. Mary then glows with the same warm light that came from heaven before.

Merchant: *gazes at glowing Mary* “Ooohhh…take him. A gift. He’s yours.”

Okay, God keeps Jedi Mind Tricking people and it’s freaking me out.

And before anyone questions if this is mind control;

Mary: “Oh thank you, sir. God bless you.”

Merchant: “Oh….what made me do that?”

*waves hand* This is not the donkey you’re looking for.

They head out, but quickly run into a strong sandstorm that obscures their view of the star they were following.

Suddenly, a familiar holy light appears in the sky. Tilly tells Nestor that he has the ability to do something no one else can right now. He has to listen to the sounds only he can hear and lead Mary and Joseph out of the storm. As Tilly vanishes, Nestor tearfully sees his mother in the sky also telling him to listen to the angels and follow them.

Nestor wraps his ears around Mary, which I found to be adorable, and listens to the sound of the angels singing to guide his way through the storm.

Eventually, the sandstorm passes and the three find themselves on the outskirts of Bethlehem. All the inns were full, so Nestor, remembering the warmth of a stable when he was a baby, brought Mary and Joseph to a nearby manger for Mary to birth Jesus.

Nestor decides to leave them………….for…..some…..reason. Seriously, I have no clue why. He just up and leaves right after Jesus is born. He finally gets adopted by a kind couple who appreciate him and don’t mock him for his ears and he just leaves when their son is born. Can you imagine being Jesus’s donkey? That’s be awesome…..At least as awesome as a donkey’s life can get.

But no.

No.

Instead……

…..he returns to Olaf.

Rudolph really didn’t have a choice when it came to returning to the North Pole. He was trying to help Santa and he kinda lives there. However, it’s completely out of left field for Nestor to return to Olaf’s farm. They’re cheering him on when he returns, but how would they know he did anything worthy of praise?

And even if they somehow magically did know what he did, screw you all. Screw each and every one of you. Especially you, Olaf. If it wasn’t for you, Nestor’s mom would still be alive.

“And his friends all gathered ‘round.”

FRIENDS” Some friends you are. Now that Nestor’s a biblical hero, you suddenly treat him like royalty. I also don’t care at all about that turnaround they had before the Roman soldier came. If that was their redemption, it was entirely unearned. You can’t just have them being complete jerks to Nestor, constantly making him cry, and then immediately go “Oh but then they were nice to him on this one holiday, so they’re good guys now.” Even if you could say that about the animals, you can’t say that about Olaf because he kicked Nestor out after the party.

Remember how I mentioned that the Rankin/Bass Rudolph special fixed a problem the song had in that the special had the reindeer making amends with Rudolph before his LED nose became useful in a pinch? So it didn’t seem like they only like him now because his physical deformity had benefit?

They didn’t do that here.

Instead, Nestor’s returning to his abuser in his dilapidated farm that’s probably going to go under soon because Olaf said he was screwed without all of those young donkeys and the money from their sale – and Nestor will be living there without his mother, the one Olaf indirectly got killed.

He went there instead of staying with JESUS.

Back in the present, the song concludes as all of elves, reindeer, including Rudolph, Santa, Mrs. Claus and Spieltoe dance around the nativity scene to celebrate Nestor, who I know realize is probably long since dead, and how he saved Christmas and lived happy ever after.

The End.

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I do vaguely remember watching this special when I was a kid once or twice, and I liked it fine. Even now I find it to be alright. Nestor is quite adorable, the animation is okay, though the voice acting and foley are a little hokey, the music is nice and catchy, and the story is….decent, although I can poke way too many holes in it.

I can forgive most of them, it is a Rankin/Bass production afterall, barring the very ending and one note I can’t keep quiet about anymore…..why did Nestor’s mother have to die?

The reason I bring this up is because they make off like Nestor’s mother had to die in order for Nestor to fulfill his purpose. They specifically say “the lord works in mysterious ways” when she dies, and I really don’t like that phrase. I get that it’s just a go-to phrase religious people have for explaining terrible things in an effort to maybe comfort people, but I just can’t get into that. I can’t leave something so terrible with a phase so flippant. Nestor could have been with his mother this whole time and nothing would have changed. She could have been Joseph’s donkey or something. Why did she need to die for him to do what he was destined to do?

Don’t get me wrong, it’s beautiful that she was willing to sacrifice herself for her son, but I’d like some actual meaning in her death in regards to the story.

Another phrase said a couple of times is that Nestor needs to do this so he can save someone as his mother saved him. Sooo….he wouldn’t have been compelled to save a life unless his mother sacrificed herself for him? I sincerely doubt that.

The only realistic way I can figure it is that the writers wanted you to feel as bad as possible for Nestor, so they killed the only character who loved him.

I mean, it worked. I felt so bad for that poor kid I wanted to reach through the screen to hug him and take him home with me. He doesn’t catch an actual break until about twenty minutes into this 24 minute long special….

It was just wave after wave of terrible things frosted in the mocking of strangers. Topped off with a cherry of Nestor leaving caring owners and baby Jesus to return to a poor abusive asshole and a farm full of animals who probably traumatized him with their ceaseless laughter and insults. In that respect, this special is fairly miserable, no matter how adorable Nestor is. In fact, Nestor being so adorable makes the miserable feeling worse.

In the end, everything is all well and good. Nestor is happy, people celebrate his role in Jesus’ birth and we all learn not to mock people unless it has some role in a cosmic plan.

It’s not like the special has bad messages or anything (except the ‘returning to your abuser’ thing, but I don’t think kids would infer that much) and it’s an alright Christmas special for both religious and secular households. I did enjoy seeing Santa, the reindeer and the elves dancing around the nativity scene. It’s not saying either Rudolph or Nestor is ‘better’ or the more important Christmas hero. They’re just humble little animals who helped save Christmas. And they’re both adorable.

Once more, though in a non-sarcastic manner this time, Merry Christmas! 🙂


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AVAHS – Bump in the Night: Twas the Night Before Bumpy Review

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Plot: Bumpy aims to steal Santa’s bag of toys directly from the North Pole. Will he succeed in his plot or will he learn the true meaning of Christmas? …Or both?

Breakdown: Why?….Why did I waste all of my drug jokes on the Pac-Man Christmas special?

I really shouldn’t have watched this movie with a splitting headache.

This movie is so weird. That’s not to say the movie is bad or anything, in fact it’s pretty decent, but it’s really weird.

I’m not a fan of claymation. Nothing but the utmost respect to the animators, claymation/stop motion is one of the biggest bitches in animation and I take my hat off to anyone who chooses that as their style of choice, but I always found it to be very creepy. Even in beloved Christmas specials like Rudolph, the stop motion tends to come off as creepy much of the time.

It’s even worse here because the designs are meant to look weird and off-kilter since they’re monsters. They do achieve their goal of looking strange, but I never want to see a glob of goo try ‘tap dancing’ again. It was squicky and made me feel dirty somehow.

The claymation, done by Danger Productions, is pretty good, though. Everything is brought to life relatively well, even though you can tell that they definitely had budgetary constraints and had to edit their hearts out to refrain from using claymation wherever they could.

In addition to claymation, we also have a decent amount of paper cutout-ish traditional animation that’s done in that very 90’s-esque manner, if that makes any sense. Somehow, that tends to be even creepier than the claymation, and I was very happy that they didn’t use it that much.

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This story is about Bumpy, a little green monster, wanting to steal Santa’s bag of toys. He tries to do so every year when Santa visits their home, but fails, so he’s decided that, this year, he’ll visit the North Pole and steal the bag directly from his home. He recruits his friend, aforementioned glob of goo named Squish, to help him on his journey with the promise of giving him feet from Santa’s bag. Because Santa always has disembodied feet in his bag. Oh did I say Santa? I meant a serial killer. Squish wants feet so he can tap dance at the Christmas pageant.

On their journey, they meet a Latino worm who wants to conquer a bush. There was no way I could describe that without it sounding like a euphemism. His name is Juaquin and he’s voiced by Cheech Marin because this is a Latino character in the 90s – of course he’s voiced by Cheech Marin.

In exchange for the promise of bionic arms, Juaquin offers to dig them a tunnel to the North Pole, but he accidentally stops them in front of Stonehenge, where he is promptly crushed to death by a falling stone slab. Merry Christmas!

In comes a hummingbird named Doris who acts like an old lady. She wants a jet pack from Santa’s bag, so she agrees to point them in the right direction by telling them to follow the north star. Bumpy and Squish want to hitch a ride on her so they mold Squish into a cheeseburger, put him on a fishing line and use him to lure Doris into flying towards the north star……

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Anyhoo, when they reach the North Pole, we get to the really amusing stuff. No super cutesy Christmas cheer here. It’s an army of militant snowmen and elves acting as army generals to protect Santa’s bag of toys.

I did a double take here because the designs of the elves looked damn near identical to the design of Amanda in those claymation segments of The Amanda Show. They weren’t done by the same people (The Amanda’s Show’s claymation was done by Tom Megalis) but the resemblance was uncanny.

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In addition to the military part being funny in itself, the scene suddenly turns into an Indiana Jones parody when Bumpy reaches the bag. There’s also a funny joke with Santa’s sleigh stalling once he makes it outside.

Bumpy steals Santa’s sleigh, and Squish snags a ride right before he leaves. Then the elves try to shoot down the sleigh with ground-to-air candy cane missiles. In the commotion, the bag rips and sends presents down to each house. Doris gets her jet pack, and Juaquin reveals himself to be not dead and gets a pair of bionic arms.

They crash into the pageant, sending gifts flying to the other monsters/toys/dolls of their….town? I never really caught onto what this place is called. All of the presents are now claimed except one, which Bumpy tries to claim for himself, but is guilted into giving it to Squish because he promised him feet but didn’t deliver. In the box is a noisemaker meant to sound like tap-dancing, giving Squish the ability to tap dance even without feet.

Realizing that delivering all of the presents has made everyone happy, Bumpy learns the true meaning of Christmas is to give not receive.

A running subplot has been Molly, who is a kinda Frankenstein’d mishmash of a rag doll, trying to direct the holiday pageant in Squish’s stead. I guess it’s supposed to be funny because she’s meant to be a quiet and timid character that provides comfort, and now she’s basically chewing everyone’s heads off at every turn, but it’s mostly annoying. She does go back to her normal self in the end, but she spent most of the movie being a jerk. Everyone gives her a hug (which is what she wished for this Christmas) and forgives her for being a nightmare. Before that, though, she forces Bumpy to reprise his Christmas song from earlier, now changed lyrically to show that he’s learned his lesson over the course of his journey, so they can conclude the pageant.

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Speaking of music, that is probably the oddest aspect of this whole movie. Quite randomly, we’ll get song interludes that are really just classic Christmas carols with different lyrics. The lyrics are never really well-written, and they’re pretty sloppy. It’s like most of the songs were written in the car ride to the studio that day. Many of the songs don’t even rhyme, and it’s difficult to understand what they’re saying half the time.

These musical numbers are even lazier in their animation. 95% of it isn’t new animation. Instead, these scenes are made up of clips from earlier in the movie, sometimes just a scene prior, or they’re completely random clips from the TV show from which this movie originated, Bump in the Night. I’ve never seen the original show before and I didn’t know the movie did come from a series before watching it, so these clips really confused the hell out of me. Even now that I do know of the series, I’m still very confused because the clips have absolutely nothing to do with the lyrics.

Why did they even have these musical numbers in there if obviously didn’t care about them in the slightest? Just to pad time to a reasonable movie length?

The best song in the lot is a redone version of “God Rest You Merry, Gentlemen” made to be a military marching song for the snowmen in the North Pole. That one worked quite well. It rhymed, I could understand the lyrics, the song placement was good, and I got into the moment easily.

I will also give them props for having their own version of “Dreidel, Dreidel, Dreidel” because finding animated Hanukkah stuff is pretty rare.

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Overall, while it is a weird little movie, it did grow on me as it went on. It has a good sense of humor, it was a somewhat unique Christmas story, and it even had a good moral that you don’t typically see in Christmas movies for kids – You don’t need Santa to bring anything. You can exchange gifts with your family and friends and enjoy the act of giving while also receiving. Although, it is a bit of a double-edged sword in the message department because Bumpy stole Santa’s bag of toys and his sleigh (and hijacked his reindeer) but he didn’t really suffer any consequences for it besides losing all of his loot. He even got a present in the end from the closet monster.

The voice acting was very good with the talents of Jim Cummings as Bumpy and Destructo (the rule-enforcing robot who sounds like Duke Nukem for some reason) Rob Paulsen as Squish, and Gail Matthius as Molly.

Not sure I’ll ever visit the TV series, but I did have fun with the Christmas special, and if you’re in the market for some unique and off-color Christmas fun I suggest you seek it out too.


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AVAHS – It’s a Spongebob Christmas! Review

Plot: It’s Christmastime in Bikini Bottom, and Spongebob’s filled with holiday cheer. Plankton, on the other hand, isn’t. He’s sick of getting coal for Christmas, so he decides to ruin the holiday by lacing fruitcakes with jerktonium – a compound that instantly turns people into jerks, putting them all on the naughty list. Spongebob accidentally helps him distribute the fruitcakes to everyone in town, leading to complete catastrophe.

Spongebob remains unaffected due to his pure heart and love of Christmas, but Plankton solves that problem by creating a chaotic robot replica of Spongebob to create even more destruction and trick Santa into putting Spongebob on the list too. Can Spongebob manage to save everyone from the jerktonium and the naughty list, or will Plankton ruin Christmas for everyone?

Breakdown: Since Christmas Who? was an instant classic Christmas special, it was hard to imagine that any followup would meet or surpass it. Well, they somehow managed to do it. It’s a Spongebob Christmas! is just as good if not better than its predecessor.

First and foremost, taking a note from the beloved Rankin/Bass holiday specials, this episode is done entirely in stop motion. The crew admits that they used some modern day digital tricks in the animation, but make no mistake that this is true blue stop motion animation. And it looks really great. Sure, some aspects look creepy, like Santa – he looks downright gross for some reason, especially in his first shot (when Spongebob’s looking at a vision of him in the sky. He’s like a weird bug-eyed puppet version there) – but it’s actually very cute, and I love how they rebuilt Bikini Bottom with this style. Sandy and Spongebob in particular were adorable.

I love how you could see the textures so clearly on everyone. Sandy’s tail looked very fluffy, and Spongebob looked…well, like a real sponge. I loved how they were able to marry the style of the 2D animation with the 3D stop-motion. They created an entirely new look and feel without sacrificing the well-known comedy, style and antics Spongebob is known for.

The story is a little on the predictable side, but I honestly didn’t mind. They added enough charm and wit to the whole experience that it wasn’t a big deal. It’s hard to overlook the general convenience of jerktonium, but I think I can overlook that too because Spongebob is littered with ridiculous and convenient things like that. I mean, if I get irritated at that, what am I expected to do with the fact that the cure to its effects is a song?

The songs were really catchy and fun. They crammed three songs into this half hour long special, and I think that was just the right amount. Usually, specials of this length only get one song, so it was impressive that they made three that were really good. I especially loved Don’t Be a Jerk, It’s Christmas. It’s quite the earworm, and, truth be told, it’s a really good moral.

Most Christmas specials will be a little too corny with their message, but Spongebob hit the nail on the head. Don’t be a jerk. You don’t have to be loaded with Christmas cheer, you just have to not be a jerk. Be respectful, do good where you can and just try. This is really reflected in Squidward’s small role. He wasn’t affected by the jerktonium because he didn’t eat the fruitcake, and Squidward being Squidward is a grump, but they don’t try to force him into the cheer and even though he’s still being snitty, he also still passes on the present in the song, sings along a bit and helps catch Spongebob at the end.

There’s a jerky elephant in the room I need to address, though. Patrick.

For those not in the Spongy know, for some reason, later seasons had Patrick consistently being a jackass for seemingly no reason. He was still an idiot, but he was less innocent, naive, heart of gold idiot and more aggressive, selfish asshole idiot. Maybe this was to differentiate him more from Spongebob, I don’t know, but the point is that Patrick was super hard to like for several years. Sadly, this episode is no exception.

Our first scene with Patrick is him building a box-and-stick trap for Santa so he can capture him, hold him against his will forever so he can have a never-ending Christmas.

Now, I had heard about the jerktonium plot before I got the chance to watch this episode, so I thought Patrick was somehow already affected by it and was being a jerk. Because, let’s be real, that plan really sounds like something a villain would do. I’m actually surprised Plankton didn’t come up with it and had it be the real plot of this special.

Nope.

Patrick just came up with a supervillain plot all by himself and Spongebob doesn’t seem to see anything wrong with that.

Jerk!Patrick…..or…maybe just SlightlyWorseLaterSeason!Patrick still holds this plan, only this time he’s building a tiger trap for Santa. A tiger trap is a hole with a door or a thin layer of sticks or wicker on top designed to look like normal ground. When stepped on, the door would flip around/the covering would collapse, and the person would fall into a spiky pit of death. And just to add more Christmas cheer, Wikipedia notes that the spikes in these traps sometimes had rotten meat smeared on them so there would be a high risk of infection if the initial wound didn’t kill the victim first, and they would more surely die….(And just to be clear, Patrick straight out says that what he’s building is specifically a tiger trap.)

Thanks writers. You not only had me researching horrific Vietnam booby traps for this review of a Spongebob Christmas special, but you also showed Patrick jumping from jerk to maniac. Granted, the pit isn’t filled with spikes, of course, but still.

You’d think that after the jerktonium effects wore off that Patrick would be much better, right?

Nope.

Our last shot of the main special is Patrick ambushing Santa in his sleigh with a butterfly net, capturing him and causing him to careen out of the sky.

Stop-motion Patchy also has segments in this episode, but outside of one or two good jokes, it’s not really necessary.

Overall, I absolutely love this special. It’s definitely a worthy successor to Christmas Who? and it’s such a unique experience for Spongebob fans as a whole. The comedy hits well, the sentiment is nice without going overboard and just the way it’s animated makes for a great experience to come back to over and over again. Patrick’s scenes may have been alarming, but they’re very short so it’s not that bad. Whether you’re a Spongebob fan or not, I really suggest checking out this special at least once around the holidays. You won’t regret it.

Final Notes: How strange is it that I grew up in a world where the stereotype was that fruitcake was horrible and no one ever really wanted it to a special where people are sucking it down like it’s the best thing ever. I’ve never actually had fruitcake, but what is the actual general consensus? Was it just wrongly condemned in the past?


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Aardman’s Clay: The Pirates! Band of Misfits/In an Adventure with Scientists

Rating: 7/10

Plot: The Pirate Captain is a bit of a bumbling chap. While he adores life on the seas with his crew and all of the adventures they have, he’s not the best at his job. He yearns to be Pirate of the Year, but he’s considered a joke among the other pirates in the community. While trying to attack more ships to gain a better reputation, he comes upon the research ship of Charles Darwin, who is incredibly interested in the captain’s beloved ‘parrot’ Polly. Turns out, she’s actually an extremely rare dodo bird – last of its kind.

Charles wants the bird to be world-renowned in the world of science (and be successful enough to get a girlfriend) and the Pirate Captain believes presenting the bird will make him a lot of money and give him recognition. He won’t give Polly over since she’s one of the family, but when the world sees you as a loser, you’re sometimes willing to sacrifice family for a taste of fame and respect.

Breakdown: This is the first time Aardman has really failed to engage me as well as it usually does.

That’s not to say The Pirates! is a bad movie in the slightest, it’s just rather predictable and a little blah for Aardman. After about the first 15 minutes, I knew almost exactly where the movie would go beat by beat. The only thing that caught me a little off-guard was the climax but only because I didn’t think people would be so stupid as have a competition to see who can find the rarest animal to cook and eat – and that the royal figures of the world were the ones holding it.

Cleverness abounds with the jokes. Aardman is never really a disappointment there. I especially enjoyed every shot with Mr. Bobo, Darwin’s mute monkey assistant who speaks in flashcards. And I did enjoy the relationship between The Pirate Captain and his first mate, Number 2 (Hardly anyone has an actual name)

I just can’t see myself wanting to watch this again anytime soon. It never clicked me on that level of pure enjoyment. It was especially a chore to watch them go undercover to present Polly to the scientist award committee and Captain try to pretend everything’s fine at the Pirate of the Year awards. We just got done with a movie with similar themes, and I don’t much care for it in the first place.

I also had to roll my eyes because, of course, the one prominent female pirate is a flirty sexpot that everyone wants to get with. She’s not a big part of the movie, but it still irked me.

(And, yes, I’m aware of the Surprisingly Curvaceous Pirate.)

In regards to the art and animation, I love the way they melded regular stop-motion with CG. It flowed extremely well, and some of the shots on the sea were quite beautiful. The character models are better than usual because they don’t fall into the ‘I’m always showing all of my giant teeth at all times’ habit they were wrapped up in for a long time. The style as a whole is different, if only slightly, and it’s a bit of a nice breath of fresh air.

The music is slightly out of place sometimes. The score is usually fairly good, but then they insert modern songs and it feels off. They’re not pop songs, but they still don’t fit that well, in my opinion.

All in all, this is a fun movie and I think everyone should give it at least one watch, but it’s not Aardman’s A game.

Recommended Audience: There is mild violence, these are pirates afterall, some dark themes like implied torture and execution. No nudity or sex, but a couple of very mild swears. 10+


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

Rating: 8/10

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

End of spoilers.

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

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

AVAHS Finale – Rudolph’s Shiny New Year

Rating: 6.5/10

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

What the hell’s with these sequels?

They don’t get continuity.

I guess I can justify it,

Young Rudolph sells more toys.

Parents, go out and buy one

for all your little girls and boys.

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

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

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

That in 40 years Rudolph would become,

a retail nostalgia ho!

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

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

AVAHS - Shiny New Year 1

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

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

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

AVAHS - Shiny New Year 2

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

AVAHS - Shiny New Year 6

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

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

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

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

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

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

AVAHS - Shiny New Year 8

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

AVAHS - Shiny New Year 12
Too adorable.

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

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

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

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

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

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

The End.

————————–

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

My sour grapes aside, this isn’t a bad special – it’s just not that good. It definitely has its interesting concepts in regards to the Father Times and baby new years and even the archipelago of last years. However, it doesn’t really have nearly as much charm as the Rudolph special and a lot of it seems like padding.

Some of the new characters were nice, like Big Ben, but the other Father Times had absolutely no purpose besides a duty to find the baby new year. They contributed nothing. Big Ben was basically just the movie’s Lapras, Quart was also only useful as transportation. Everyone else was just there.

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

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

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

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

I really like what they were trying to do with this movie, especially since most New Years specials, the few there are, typically focus on that tradition of kissing someone when the ball drops. Having a special that aims to do something creative for the holiday is a much needed breath of fresh air.

I’m very uncertain over whether Rudolph was necessary here. It seems like they were jumping through hoops to justify why he and he alone needed to find Happy. However, I do love Rudolph and it’s nice to see him on screen, so I can’t complain too much.

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

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

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

AVAHS – The Year Without a Santa Claus

Rating: 8/10

Plot: Rudolph the red-nosed—oops, sorry. Felt like I was stuck in a loop there for a minute. Santa, feeling like the Christmas cheer and good will no longer exists, decides to spend this Christmas nursing his aching body and resting rather than going to deliver presents. Will a Christmas without Santa be no Christmas at all?

Breakdown: …..Mmm.

After trudging through those two GoodTimes Rudolph specials, I felt we needed a return to form. A nice review of a good Rankin/Bass Christmas special is what we need to get our Christmas spirit back.

The Year Without a Santa Claus is a special I usually watch every year, at least when I see it on, but it’s not on my absolutely must-watch list. Still, I’ve watched it since I was young and have a nostalgic love for it.

Well, it’s been a couple of years since my last viewing, and, for some reason, this was one of those moments where I rewatch a special with a critical eye and end up not being sure of where I stand with it anymore.

The plot is solid enough, though questionable. Santa feels like no one appreciates Christmas or him anymore so he feels fully justified in taking the year off to nurse a cold he’s having. Sick Santa I can deal with, but the only reason he really feels like no one appreciates him or Christmas anymore is because some grumpy doctor started an impromptu rant session about how Christmas sucks, and Santa was surprisingly swayed by this argument.

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The only reason I have an issue with this is because it seems out of left field without some event providing support for Santa changing his mind about this outside of ‘yeah, he’s right.’ Maybe preface the movie with last year and how the letters were more selfish or demanding or picky. Have him seeing more bad behavior and whatnot over the course of the year. Don’t just suddenly flip a ‘yeah, kids are little brats’ switch, especially from a character who never appears again.

What’s weird is how the people react to this. First of all, they somehow caught wind of the story that Santa’s taking the year off almost immediately after he makes the decision. This means that, not only do the people supposedly have proof that Santa’s real, but they also have a person on the inside feeding them gossip.

Second, despite part of a following song showing the kids deeply saddened by this news and even believing Santa to be dead, soon after the end of the song, we see a group of kids who all collectively give zero shits that Santa’s not coming for Christmas AND…..we learn that they don’t believe in Santa.

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We all asked to be more contradictory for Christmas.

Uh….what? How do you go from stopping two people talking about Santa by saying Santa’s taking the year off to saying you don’t believe in him? How do you mourn the loss of Santa and then not believe in him? How do you have newspaper headlines about Santa with PHOTOS OF SANTA AND MRS. CLAUS and then not believe in Santa?

It’s really surprising that people really don’t seem to care that Santa’s not coming. Even if people have lost their Christmas cheer and good will, surely they’d be sad or angry about missing out on presents.

Another odd thing about the story is that it seems slightly disjointed. At the beginning, you’re kinda tricked into believing that Mrs. Claus might go out and do Santa’s job behind his back, which is actually a very interesting idea considering Mrs. Claus hardly ever gets to do anything outside of cater to Santa’s every whim. But then they scrap the idea after a musical number.

It’s also a bit weird that the song Mrs. Claus sings about being Santa includes lines like ‘anyone can be Santa’. The guy feels like no one appreciates him so straight out say that he’s easily replaceable.

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Mrs. C, rocking the red coat.

Mrs. Claus sends out two elves, Jingle and Jangle, along with the most adorable reindeer ever, baby Vixen, down to earth to see if they can get some proof that Christmas cheer and good will is still alive and well in the hearts of the people.

Vixen, who has been dressed up as a dog (adorable!) gets sick from the hot weather in Southtown and is caught by a dog catcher. They try to free Vixen by talking to the Mayor, only to get shot down. The only way he’ll free Vixen is if they prove their Santa story by making it snow in Southtown, where it never snows.

They recruit Mrs. Claus and a kid they met, Iggy, to help them by talking to Snowmeiser, the creator of ice and snow and master of the north. They have to deal with the bickering of Snowmeiser and Heatmeiser in order to get it to snow in Southtown, so they decide to go to their mother, Mother Nature, to sort everything out. Snowmeiser makes it snow in Southtown while Heatmeiser agrees to not melt the snow and gets to bring summer time weather to the north pole – successfully confirming global warming and drowning Florida.

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We hate each other but sing songs that are virtually identical barring some details and have a direct line to each others lairs with giant video screens.

Might I add that I love how Mrs. Claus and the others patiently wait as Snow and Heatmeiser finish their unprompted song numbers about themselves?

Meanwhile, Santa heads down to earth after figuring out what Jingle and Jangle were up to and meets Iggy, who was one of the kids who lost his faith in Santa and didn’t care that he was taking a vacation. Santa and his parents convince him otherwise with a very touching song and Santa goes off to free Vixen so he can take her back to the north pole, which he does, without the knowledge of Jingle, Jangle, Iggy or Mrs. Claus.

Despite the snow now being unnecessary for Vixen’s release, there was another condition of the agreement – giving Santa an official holiday so he can have a vacation. Just to keep score, Santa now has two official holidays. Most presidents don’t even get that.

Santa is happy that he gets to rest and relax on Christmas, but after a couple of days of rest, he realizes he’s making a big mistake. He gets sent a bunch of presents from the kids on Christmas eve, and he gets letters that show him how much he’ll be missed on Christmas day.

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Guilt-ridden, Santa decides to make the flight and even publicly flies around greeting the townsfolk. Christmas is saved, hooray!

While Rankin/Bass specials are no stranger to odd additions to their films, the side-plot with Snowmeiser and Heatmeiser seems so out of place that it feels like it belongs in another movie.

Don’t get me wrong, I really like Snow and Heatmeiser (Snow’s better, but maybe I’m biased, being from the north), they have some funny interactions, very catchy songs and good dialogue, but I can’t help feeling like the plot of the snow could’ve been done better without them.

I actually wish this movie had been more down to earth. Maybe had Santa have a bad couple of years or something and send him down to earth on the off-season to see how much Christmas spirit is truly alive in the hearts of the people himself instead of sending Jingle and Jangle off to do it. That song that Santa sings really seems like it belongs in the third act of such a movie instead of the second act of this one.

And, really, what did Jingle and Jangle do that helped Santa recognize the Christmas spirit in others? They, or mostly Mrs. Claus, got snow in Southtown, but it’s not like the rest of the residents knew that was a sign of Santa….in fact, it really wasn’t, because he didn’t make it snow – the meiser brothers did.

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Wait, what about the menagerie breaking loose?

It appears as though Iggy changing his mind about it prompted everyone else to start doing the same, even if he never shared these opinions with anyone else outside of his parents.

I will admit, the kids making presents for Santa on Christmas was really sweet. You never think of giving Santa anything but milk, cookies, and a higher risk of diabetes. However, it’s still bugging me that Christmas spirit is waning when they have solid proof that he exists, no matter how many aliases him and his associates use (such as the ever clever “Mr. Claus” (Pronounced “kl-ow-s.”). The fact that he feels free to fly around town, even landing and walking around to talk to people and wave to them, is also very strange. Santa could’ve solved all of his problems if he just did that to begin with if Christmas spirit works that way.

The wonder and magic of Christmas where Santa is involved is in the belief that he exists. Hearing reindeer hooves on the roof, seeing a puff of soot fall from the chimney in the dead of night, seeing the empty plate of cookies and glass of milk etc. I’m almost jealous of kids who still believe in Santa because I never really got to experience that level of belief in something so magical. I don’t really know why – I just never believed in him.

It’s all the more confusing when ‘Santa Claus Comes Tonight’ plays and you see Iggy hiding under his covers to not see Santa….spliced in with Santa flying around town, waving to people like he’s in a parade.

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Another thing I have to point out about this movie is the animation. I already addressed the ‘stop motion is creepy, and Rankin/Bass productions are no exception’ thing, but I have never been more aware that I’m watching animated dolls while watching one of these movies. I don’t know if it’s the lighting or the fact that this special is so much more focused on human characters, but every scene screams ‘dolls’ and ‘stop motion’, which is indeed very weird of me to note considering this is stop motion with dolls, but let me explain.

When Rankin/Bass does specials with non-human characters, it’s much easier to get immersed in the environment and forget that these are models, puppets and dolls being animated, no matter how creepy or obvious the animation is. When you have nearly everyone in the special being human, it somehow breaks the immersion much more and makes the animation quirks even more apparent. It’s not necessarily bad, it just takes you out of the full experience a bit.

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Look at Vixen, though! ❤

Where does that leave this special as a whole, though? Well, it has some very great and memorable songs that I would say are even better than the songs in Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer. That song about Santa is heartstring tugger all the way. I like the idea of the plot, Mrs. Claus, the meiser brothers and the adorable little baby Vixen, but I really feel like the execution could’ve been better. The set up is also pretty flimsy without stronger support as to why Santa suddenly feels this way.

Do I even need to bring up one of the most common criticisms of Santa? Dude, you work one day a year, but you need a damn vacation? I’m aware that he still has a cold and doesn’t do this for any compensation, but it’s still just one day a year.

Do his elves get any days off? I doubt it. They work their asses off all year trying to make toys for millions of kids, probably even through illness, yet they get no respect from the children of the world and no compensation to speak of outside of maybe a place to live. I can even bet they’re back to work on Christmas day to get the jump on next year.

All in all, I still very much enjoyed this special no matter the qualms I have with it. It’s sweet, humorous and definitely has its heart in the right place. I’m still not sure this is an unmissable Christmas tradition, but I would understand if it was or became as such. Like many of Rankin/Bass’s works, it just has a certain charm and warmth about it that you just don’t get today.

AVAHS – Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer (Rankin/Bass)

Rating: 8.5/10

Plot: Rudolph the red-nosed reindeer had a very shiny nose. And if you ever saw it, you would even say it glows. All of the other reindeer used to laugh and call him names. They never—you’ve heard the song before. Don’t act like you haven’t.

Breakdown: I was on the fence about doing this review because, while I do watch this special every year like many people, it’s a time honored classic that’s just hard to review. So let’s look at this objectively and see what problems there are with this story.

Donner, one of Santa’s flying reindeer, is a new father to a fawn named Rudolph. However, he’s appalled when he discovers that his new son has a glowing red nose. And I mean absolutely appalled, like he’s the anti-christ or something. When introduced to Santa, he basically acts the same way. He even goes so far as to imply that Rudolph will never be a reindeer on his team because of his nose…..which I don’t understand at all. What does a glowing red nose have to do with pulling a sleigh? It may be a tad distracting, but no worse than a little red light on your dash from a GPS or a security system or something.

I will admit that the three-year-old-with-a-recorder sound effect that comes up when his nose glows is annoying, though.

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Too cute to stay angry about the noise.

As Rudolph gets a little older, Donner, still ashamed of his demon spawn, actually gets him a fake nose so he’ll be more socially acceptable. And, really, it only seems like Donner gives a crap about his son when his nose is covered up. This special made me really hate Donner. Dasher all the way, man!

The prosthetic nose seems to work as Rudolph is very accepted by the other reindeer. He manages to make a new friend in Fireball, who inexplicably has hair on his head (also, what a rip off to be named Rudolph when your friends have names like Fireball) and he catches the eye of a doe named Clarice.

They’re about to start reindeer training with Comet, but Rudolph chats up Clarice because he’s a baller.

After hitting it off with Clarice, he starts flying all over the place in gleeful excitement, which impresses Comet and Santa. But his fake nose falls off and everyone starts making fun of him. Comet tells them to stop it and continues on with the training, but he bans Rudolph from the training and says the familiar phrase of not letting Rudolph join in any reindeer games.

Even Santa’s a jerk here because he chastises Donner for lying and then says it’s a shame Rudolph still has that nose because he did a great job flying. I still don’t get it. Also, if his nose was covered successfully before, just get him a better fake nose if the glowing is such an issue. This is like someone getting rejected from a IT job because they have an eleventh toe.

Luckily, Clarice is a nice doe who sounds eons too old for Rudolph. She cheers him up through a song so angelic that she pulls a Disney Princess and gets the woodland creatures to sing too. And like a good Disney Princess, she also falls in love with Rudolph in the time frame of four minutes.

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He’s about to walk her home when her father arrives and forces her to go back to their cave, banning her from associating herself with a red-nosed reindeer.

Meanwhile, we have the plot with Hermey the elf, who is not happy being a toy making elf and wants to be a dentist. However, all elves are damned from birth to live a life slaving in a toy factory. Also, dentists don’t exist, I guess, which is weird because they’re in a world where you’d assume they live on a diet of candy and cookies.

He gets fired from his job and meets up with Rudolph, accepting him for who he is because he’s a fellow misfit. After an ear-worm song break, the two go off on an adventure.

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After surviving the first night in the frozen tundra, they meet Yukon Cornelius, an eccentric mountaineer and prospector who travels by sled dog and hunts for silver and gold. He also likes to lick his pickaxe…..he can taste minerals or ore….I don’t….he licks his pickaxe is all you really need to know.

Throughout the movie, there’s been one thing we’ve been warned of in regards to a threat – The Abominable Snowmonster of the North, Bumble. A monster who scared the hell out of me as a kid and still kinda does. The design of the thing is offputting enough, but the first time you see him, all you see are his legs and feet, which are immensely larger than Donner and Rudolph. But really the thing that gets me about him is his voice. Or should I say his ear-piercing screech? You expect monsters to roar, but this thing has a shrill yell so loud I think this movie should be re-edited with warnings in place for headphone users.

Bumble is following Rudolph’s nose light, which results in them reaching a dead end in the ice. Yukon saves them by chipping off the part of the ice they’re on, which allows them to escape since Bumble can’t swim.

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Please make this go away.

And hey, let’s have some good ol’ fashioned 1960’s sexism!

Narrator: “You can bet that Donner felt pretty bad about how he had treated Rudolph, and he knew that the only thing left to do was to go out and look for his little buck. Mrs. Donner wanted to go along, naturally. But Donner said ‘NO! This is man’s work!’” No worries, though, because Mrs. Donner and Clarice go off on their own anyway because they don’t need no man.

Floating on the ice, Rudolph, Hermey and Yukon crash into the island of misfit toys, which is self-explanatory. I don’t really understand why some of these toys are outcasts, though. The first toy we meet is a Jack-in-the-box who no one wants because his name is Charlie…..Uh, dude, just change your name. It’s not like it’s written on you….just call yourself Jack. I get that it’s not about changing yourself to suit societal norms, but it’s a name – something that was given to you and something that is easily changeable…

Then we have matryoshka doll whose final doll is a wind-up mouse, which I guess makes sense.

A pink polka dotted stuffed elephant which makes a little sense, but since when do kids complain about not getting color accurate to real life version stuffed animals?

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A doll, which looks normal, a toy airplane, which looks normal, a teddy bear, which looks normal – just a lot of toys which look normal. There’s a toy train with square wheels, which must be the fault of a drunk elf because that’s ridiculous, and a toy gun that squirts jelly……….uhhh…..empty the jelly and fill yourself up with water….it’s not that hard….there’s water right there.

There’s also a bird that doesn’t fly and instead swims…..that’s called a penguin, just in case you’re wondering. A cowboy riding an ostrich, which, come on, that’s awesome. What kid wouldn’t want that?

We also have a boat that can’t stay afloat……alright, I concede on that one.

Rudolph asks if they can stay on the island since they’re misfits too and Charlie tells them to ask King Moonracer, who not only has a kickass name, but he’s also a damn winged lion with his own castle.

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I need a Moonracer doll right now.

They ask if they can stay on the island, but Moonracer refuses, stating that living beings, unlike toys, cannot hide themselves away on an island. Don’t worry, Yukon points out the irony that Hermey and Rudolph can’t even belong with other misfits. Moonracer asks them for a favor to help the misfits toys. Since they live in Christmas Town, Moonracer asks them if they’ll tell Santa about this island to help find good homes for the misfit toys. They agree and Moonracer gives them a place to sleep for the night.

Afraid that he’ll put his friends in danger with his nose calling Bumble, Rudolph leaves in the middle of the night and floats off on his own. He spends months on the run from Bumble, and no matter who he meets, he still gets treated like a freak. He grows into a full grown buck and decides to return to Christmas Town to face his problems head on. The other bucks are still jackasses, and when Rudolph returns home, he finds that his mother, father and Clarice have been gone searching for him the whole time he’s been gone.

Santa says he’ll never be able to fly without Donner, and with Christmas days away, it’s a real emergency……uh….Donner’s been gone for months and you’ve clearly been training other reindeer. Why not use one of them?

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Just then, a massive snow storm hits, which also threatens Christmas. Rudolph has to brave the storm to find his parents and Clarice, but luckily he knows exactly where to look – the cave of the abominable snowmonster. And luckily he knows exactly where that is. And luckily they do just so happen to be there. And luckily, despite being held hostage by Bumble for god knows how long, he has yet to kill them.

Rudolph and Bumble start an epic battle and Rudolph gets beaten to death with a stalactite. What’s that?…..He lives? No, no, that’s not a livable event……Really?….Whatever.

Luckily, Hermey and Yukon have been looking for Rudolph since he left and, luckily, they just happen to decide to go back to Christmas Town right when Rudolph went, and, luckily, they learned where Rudolph was going and got there quickly. Plot convenience is hella fun.

Yukon knocks Bumble out with a rock and Hermey pulls out all of his teeth (!!!), rendering him harmless. But I guess that’s not enough because Yukon also knocks him off a cliff, taking him with him.

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I feel like I’m watching a serial killer origin story.

Rudolph and the others return home where the worry over their safety has made the citizens of Christmas Town all realize what jerks they were. Santa and Donner apologize to Rudolph, Santa promises to find homes for all of the misfit toys and Hermey’s boss apologizes to him, telling him he can open a dentist office next week after Christmas is over…without proper schooling or a license. Let me remind everyone that earlier he was performing dental work on a doll by tapping her teeth with a hammer.

Yukon reveals that he not only survived, but so did Bumble, who is now inexplicably reformed and wants a job in Christmas town. How did Yukon survive? Because Bumbles bounce…..Hmm…..rant about physics or biology? Decisions, decisions.

Business as usual at Christmas Town until the song’s plot continues. There’s a terrible storm and Santa can’t navigate in such terrible conditions, so Christmas is canceled.

But then…..one foggy Christmas Eve, Santa came to say ‘Rudolph with your nose so bright, won’t you guide my sleigh tonight?’ Then the FiddleTwix complained, because that’s not how it works. The weather conditions have been changed from fog to one of the worst blizzards in history. A dinky red light is not going to help you much. Not only is red probably the worst color to use for a navigation light, but it certainly won’t help combat the winds and snow. Even if it was fog, the light would just reflect off of it. That’s why you don’t use your high beams in fog…Why hasn’t Santa ever thought to add headlights to his sleigh anyway? It’s 1964. At least have a lantern or something. I’ll shut up now.

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And then all of the other reindeer mocked Rudolph for his pink harness and Rudolph flew them into a mountainside.

Donner: “I knew that nose would be useful someday. I knew it all along.” Shut up, Donner. No one likes you.

I guess that leads us to one of the more prominent issues with the message here. The movie actually fixes the message problem that the song has. In the song, you’re lead to believe that Rudolph only gained social acceptance because his shiny red nose was useful to Santa, meaning you’ll be treated as an outcast if whatever deformity or issue you have doesn’t contribute to society. Here, though, the other reindeer, Santa and Donner all feel remorse and accept Rudolph before this ever happens. While he does gain higher social status because of it, he doesn’t gain acceptance because, hey, we can actually use laser face over there to further our needs.

I’d still say Donner is adhering to this because while he seems accepting of Rudolph before, he really only seems proud of him after he saves Christmas……also, why is Donner being left behind? Rudolph’s at the front on his own. Donner should still be in the pack.

I think we should be more concerned about the message Mrs. Claus is giving. Her one role over this whole movie is obsessing over fattening Santa up because kids expect a fat Santa….even though….ya know….they shouldn’t be seeing him at all. She actually seems to force feed him from skinny to about 200 pounds heavier in the course of a day. Merry Christmas, kid! I got you a Santa dying from a heart attack under your tree! After Santa wakes from his coma, he’ll enjoy his gift of an eternity of body image issues!

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I would complain more about this, but I’m actually more distracted by the background. Why did they put up the alphabet with a bunch of random arrows?

Santa goes to the island of misfit toys and rescues them all. How Santa knows what kid would like what deformed toy, I don’t know. Also, the bird who couldn’t fly gets murdered because the elf sending off the packages pushes him out of the sleigh without giving him the umbrella. Did you not listen to the song, elf?!

What else is there to say about this special besides stop motion is creepy?……Sorry, I couldn’t stop myself anymore. I love those old Rankin/Bass specials too, but it doesn’t change the fact that I still find stop-motion, especially old stop-motion, to be incredibly creepy. Not as bad as claymation, but still creepy.

It’s Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer. It’s a heartwarmer for people of all ages. It has its oddities, and a terrifying snowmonster and logic problems up the wazoo, but it’s still fun, endearing, has some nice music both original and songs by Burl Ives, and it’s a staple for any household around Christmas. If, somehow, you’ve never seen it before, give it a watch. Maybe you can make it a Christmas tradition too.

Then all the reindeer loved him, and they shouted out with glee.

Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer, you’ll down in history!

Aardman’s Clay: Chicken Run

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Rating: 8.5/10

Plot: Ginger is one of many chickens in Mrs. Tweedy’s chicken farm, and she’s also the one leading a mass effort to break out of the place. With their lives amounting to nothing but laying eggs and suffering from a swift blow by an ax when the eggs stop being produced, they are desperate to escape by any means necessary. However, every escape effort made by Ginger and the chickens has been met with failure.

When hope seems to be at its dimmest, their salvation falls from the sky. Literally. A rooster named Rocky flies into the farm and subsequently crashes. With a poster revealing Rocky as an amazing flying rooster, Ginger recruits him to teach them all how to fly and escape in exchange for hiding him from the circus that he belongs to. Rocky agrees, but seems to be hiding something. And with Mrs. Tweedy’s new chicken pot pie making machine arriving on their doorstep, they have no time for secrets or failures.

Breakdown: Once upon a time, Dreamworks had a sexy love affair with Aardman animations, also known as ‘oh yeah that claymation studio’. Like all good relationships, this one started out steamy and ended in a toilet…..but more on that another day. The main point of this is Chicken Run.

Chicken Run was Aardman’s first ever feature length film after many years of doing short films. Aardman is indeed ‘that claymation studio’ as they pretty much have the market cornered in keeping that style alive. You may know them from Wallace and Gromit, Shaun the Sheep and even Arthur Christmas.

Aardman clearly seems to have more creative control on this project that Dreamworks did. Other than the logo in the beginning, I can’t really feel anything Dreamworks-y here. That will change down the line, but again we’ll talk about that later on.

Chicken Run, at its base, is kinda predictable but mostly in regards to what I feel is the weakest part of the film, Rocky.

It is painfully obvious from the getgo that Rocky is hiding something, and even more obvious that he’s hiding the fact that he can’t actually fly. Much of the running time is somewhat awkward as you subconsciously tick down that clock in your head that will eventually reach ‘when the shit hits the fan’. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again, I hate when shows and movies do this. I don’t want to feel awkward while watching a movie. I don’t want to sit there twiddling my thumbs waiting for the big devastating ‘secret’ to come out in the open. It’s not entertaining to me.

Luckily, the way they handled it with Rocky wasn’t too bad….but then you have Rocky himself. Rocky is a very…if you’ll forgive the pun, cocky guy. And he’s the lone handsome American in a group of English girls (and one old rooster…and one Scottish hen) so of course the girls all fawn over him except for Ginger who is way more concerned with getting out of there, which leads the two to bicker and have weird sexual chicken tension. They even do the bit where he calls her by cute and semi-psuedo-ish sexist nicknames like dollface while she constantly corrects him that her name is Ginger.

All that said, I watched this movie when it first came out and I remember not being all that impressed with it. However, on the rewatch, I got plenty of laughs and entertainment out of it. Barring the cliché plotline with the deceit and cliché character relationship between the two leads, it’s still a very solid movie.

While Rocky does seem like he’s going to be the one to end up saving the day in the end, and they even have an almost eye-rolling scene involving Rocky saving Ginger while they both yell each other’s name in slow motion, it’s still Ginger’s idea that comes out on top and Ginger as the final hero. Ginger is very likable in that she seems to be the only one around with real sense and determination. She is a true leader to her friends, and while she honestly could get away from the farm on her own, she refuses to do so even under threat of death because she won’t abandon her friends.

The setting of the chicken farm is pretty unique, even if it is masking for a prison break movie. Most of the characters, large and small, are pretty memorable and funny. Babs in particular is funny purely because, no matter what they’re doing, she won’t put down her damn knitting needles. Also, there are egg-obsessed rats who are contracted out to get supplies for the girls and oddly enough they seem to be based on Statler and Waldorf as they make snarky commentary over everything the chickens do to escape.

Mrs. and Mr. Tweedy are a bit too super-villainy for my taste, but they also get some great scenes and have a good dynamic. Mrs. Tweedy is a greedy evil bitch who is so emotionally detached from….everything, she even calls her husband ‘Mr. Tweedy.’ Speaking of Mr. Tweedy, he is the only one who realizes that the chickens are smart and organized, yet his wife continues to simply call him crazy. He’s the bumbling oaf, she’s the evil mastermind.

I also don’t really understand their plan. They don’t seem to be making enough money selling eggs, so they buy a really overly-complicated chicken pot pie making machine to turn their chickens into pies and get rich off of selling the pies. Okay….well, what happens when you run out chickens? You’d have to buy more chickens. And you have to have a constant supply of vegetables, pie crusts and gravy not to mention how much money it probably costs to run the machine. I’d bet by the time they processed their last chicken they probably would only barely cover the initial costs of the machine.

Then, spoiler alert for the ending, she sees that the chickens are indeed intelligent, organized and have built a giant mechanical bird to fly out of the farm (this is the second movie I’ve seen involving a bunch of oppressed animals building an operational mechanical bird…) yet she’s still obsessed with killing them instead of….I dunno, selling them to the circus that came by earlier. Or putting on her own show. I’d think an intelligent chicken who can build complicated aeronautics is more of a ticket seller than a chicken who is shot out of a cannon. End of spoilers.

I will admit that I’m not a fan of claymation/stop-motion. I respect the living hell out of claymation animators because it is just so painstaking, slow and frustrating to work in this style, but it just doesn’t typically work for me, outside of movies and shorts that are intentionally driven for creepiness and horror. Something about it is…., well, creepy to me. That said, this is a very well-made film. Aardman does some fantastic art and animation work that really draw you into their world with some incredible details. I think the teeth and constant open mouths on the chickens was a bit off-putting, but nothing that bad.

In regards to voice acting, everyone did a great job. They did a wonderful job making these characters real for me…..though, again, Rocky is kinda the exception. Rocky is voiced by Mel Gibson, and I can’t separate the two. Mel Gibson does not have range. He just doesn’t. And every voice acting role he takes is just Mel Gibson talking through whatever animated mouthpiece he’s given. He acts perfectly fine, but I just can’t not hear Mel Gibson.

Bottomline: Chicken Run is a great movie with some fantastic characters, wonderful comedic timing and slapstick, and a fun little prison break adventure. It’s not full-on comedy as some moments get pretty damn real, but it is still a movie that achieved in making me actually laugh out loud several times. The two tones work well together, and I found it to be a fantastic ride.

Recommended Audience: While there’s nothing graphic, there is a lot of talk of slaughtering chickens, and one chicken sees the business end of an ax during the movie. They obviously don’t show the scene full out, but you see the silhouette of the ax being raised and then the sound of it hitting the chopping block. There’s also a slight gore fake out at the end. Other than the downright depressing mood that this movie can bring about, there’s nothing else of note. 7+