Wednesday, December 03, 2008


You may be familiar with A Flintstones Christmas Carol, the television special from 1994, or A Flintstone Family Christmas from 1993, or A Flintstone Christmas from 1977. But before all of those Christmas specials was a Christmas-themed episode from the show's fifth season. A Christmas Flintstone aired on December 18 and then again on Christmas Day in 1964.

The story starts out as Fred is lamenting to his friend, Barney, the fact that he doesn't have the extra cash to buy his family Christmas presents this year. Fred sees a "Help Wanted" sign in the window of Macyrock's Department Store and decides that he can pick up the extra cash with a part time job. Through a series of failed attempts in different sections of the department store, Fred becomes the store's Santa and he fulfills his duties with the utmost gusto. He sings with the kids, talks to them about presents, and even reads/sings them a story about how Dino the Dinosaur saved Christmas!

It seems that every Christmas special must include an original song to mark their place in the Christmas special history books, and The Flintstones is no exception. Only the song that Fred sings (multiple times throughout the episode) will only go down in the history books as being just plain awful.

Aside from the fact that Fred shouldn't sing any songs, the lyrics are just plain weird and don't really have anything to do with what is going on in the episode.
Christmas is my favourite time of year because
Everyone becomes a Santa Claus

But wait! That's only the first half of the episode! So much has already happened in the first ten minutes, but the episode takes a serious turn as Fred is visited by a couple of elves who want him to fill in for the real Santa who is sick in bed!

When the Flintstones first hit the air in 1960 it was praised for being a smart sitcom that was made for adults and dealt with real grown-up situations. Of course, because its a cartoon, some of the plots were a bit outlandish, but they were always based in reality.

By the time the fifth season rolled around the show was a hit with the kids. Changes were made to the writing, making it a bit more 'kid-friendly'. This plot of Fred flying around in a sleigh pulled by dinosaurs and unleashing a rain of presents on the unsuspecting town below was never something you would see in the show's first few seasons. But this is good example of how the show evolved over the years.

A Christmas Flintstone is not one of the better episode in the series but it does serve as a touching Christmas tale of a family that we all know and love. You can watch it for your self on The Flintstones - The Complete Fifth Season DVD.

Wednesday, October 01, 2008


Santa Claus crash lands in Pac-Land and breaks his sleigh and loses all his toys! Santa is distraught because he won't be able to make all his Christmas deliveries, but the denizens of Pac-Land don't understand the big deal for they have never even heard of Christmas!

After hearing Santa explain the meaning of Christmas, Pac-Man decides to help Santa and save Christmas...that is unless the Ghost Monsters can help it!

Pac-Man finds the sack of toys, the Pac-People fix the sleigh and Pac-Man has the brilliant idea of feeding the reindeer Power Pellets to give them a boost to help get Santa back on schedule. Christmas is saved!

Pac-Man follows the adventures of Pac-Man, his wife, Mrs. Pepper Pac-Man, and their kid, Pac-Baby. The family lives together in Pac-Land, where almost everything is round or shaped like Pac-Man, and spends their time stopping the evil Mezmeron from getting his hands on the 'Power Pellets', the source of Pac-Man's power.

Mezmeron's hired help consists of Pac-Man's well known video game adversaries, the Ghost Monsters: Inky, Blinky, Pinky, Clyde and Sue. They are the typical bumbling villains that always seem to be menacing at the beginning of the episode but goofballs by the end of the episode.

Pac-Man was created by Namco Games in 1978. Its popularity grew to epic proportions over the next decade and Hanna-Barbera decided to capitalize on the craze by creating a show based on the yellow pill-popper. This series lasted 43 episodes from 1982-1983. Originally, Pac-Man was part of a 90 minute programming block in 1982 by Hanna-Barbera called The Pac-Man/Little Rascals/Richie Rich Show but then broke of into its own half hour show in 1983.

Christmas Comes to Pac-Land aired in 1982 between the show's first and second seasons. Although not seen on regular television stations, this special is shown annually on Cartoon Network's Boomerang.

The special is pretty good considering it's a show based on Pac-Man. It has very good animation compared to any show made in the 80s, especially a show produced by Hanna-Barbera. It's themes of kindness, good-will and helping others in need are pretty standard in Christmas specials but this one does a nice job at not jamming them down our throat.

Although the story is quite touching, there are a few questions that I have: How do the Ghost-Monsters know Jingle Bells if there is no Christmas in Pac-Land? How did Pac-Man know what to do with the wrapped presents if he's never seen a wrapped present before? If the Power Pellets are so powerful why don't the Ghost Monsters eat them? And where is Mezmeron? Surely he would want to stop Pac-Man from saving Christmas!

The show has its share of problems, most of which are trying to fill the 22-minutes that make up this special. Each 22-minute episode of the series is made up of two 11-minute episodes, but the studio decided that this Christmas tale is too big for 11-minutes so they gave it a full 22-minutes. The problem is that there is not enough story to fill the 22-minutes so there is a lot a filler. Chase scenes mostly.

Christmas Comes to Pac-Land is not available on DVD yet. Although you can usually find it on youtube.

Tuesday, September 30, 2008


It's Christmas Eve and Noodles Romanoff and the No-Goods are plotting to destroy Roger Ramjet. They feel that Ramjet is responsible for the fact that they haven't stolen enough money for a Christmas tree, presents or anything to do with Christmas cheer.

So Noodles poses as a mall Santa and when Roger comes to the mall to give Santa his Christmas list he is captured by the No-Goods! But Roger's team, the American Eagle Squad, chase after Santa thinking it's the real mall Santa in a game of catch-me-if-you-can! They are lead directly to the No-Goods' hideout where they are promptly arrested and thrown in jail. Roger Ramjet and Christmas are saved.

Roger Ramjet is an early television cartoon produced by Pantomime Pictures that first aired in 1965. It stars the bumbling superhero, Roger Ramjet, who gets his super powers from Proton Energy Pills which give him "the strength of twenty atom bombs for a period of twenty seconds". To help him in his quest to save the city from injustice is the American Eagle Squad, four kids named Yank, Doodle, Dan and Dee.

Roger came to life due to the voice of Gary Owens, whose performance of Roger Ramjet is the first of Gary's many superhero voices. He also voiced Space Ghost, Blue Falcon and Powdered Toast Man.

Roger Ramjet is made up of 156 five-minute episodes and aired constantly since its debut in 1965 up until the late 90s. While the animation is quite crude and very limited, the charm of this series is the witty dialogue, the abundant action and the superhero spoof and this Christmas episode is no exception.

The story follows the usual plot: Roger Ramjet gets in trouble and it's up to the American Eagle Squad to bail him out. The only thing that make this a Christmas episode is that it happens to take place at Christmastime. Otherwise, it doesn't stand out from any other episode in the series.

If you would like to check it out for yourself, you can find it on disc two of the Roger Ramjet: Hero of Our Nation box set.

Friday, August 29, 2008


By 1931, Walt and his crew had really gotten into their groove. They were producing quality cartoons and constantly updating their animation techniques as well as their artwork and storytelling.

When Mickey's Orphans was released on December 7, 1931, the audience loved it! They were touched by Mickey and Minnie's compassion toward the dozens of orphan kittens despite their destructive nature.

In this short, directed by Burt Gillett, a stranger leaves a basket on Mickey Mouse's doorstep in the harsh, cold, snowy winter night. Mickey finds the basket and brings it inside only to find that there are dozens of kittens in the basket!

Instantly, the kittens start playing in their destructive, yet innocent behaviour. But Mickey loves them through all of this, and even dresses up as Santa to bring them all presents!

In the end, everything is destroyed, even their beautiful Christmas tree!

There is not much in the way of plot in this movie, which is the way of many of these old cartoons. The interest is reliant on visual gags and fun music which this short provides.

Mickey's Orphans was nominated for an Oscar for Best Short Subject (Cartoon) in 1932, the first year the category existed! It was up against It's Got Me Again, a very early Looney Tune, and the Silly Symphony, Flowers and Trees (also directed by Burt Gillett) which went on to take the Oscar.

As a Christmas themed cartoon, this one sort of leaves you wanting the kittens to have learned something about Christmas spirit. But instead, the cartoon ends with the kittens destroying Mickey's Christmas tree leaving Mickey and Minnie flabbergasted. Not quite the happy ending most specials try to convey.

You can watch Mickey's Orphans on the first disc of Walt Disney Treasures: Mickey Mouse in Black and White, Volume One

Wednesday, August 27, 2008


Toyland Premiere is a theatrical cartoon produced by Walter Lantz for Universal Studios in 1934. The cartoon is part of a series of film called Cartoon Classics which featured cartoons in colour, a brand new medium at the time!

The story starts out in the North Pole where Santa and his elves are hard at work preparing for Christmas. Santa receives a telegram from Oswald saying that Santa is needed for the big Toyland Premiere Parade!

Santa prepares himself for the trip but finds that his suit has been eaten up by moths! But quick thinking on the part of the elves saves the day!

Santa and the elves take part in the parade and Oswald, who is a waiting for them at the end, invites them in for a great feast! Waiting for them at a large table is a bunch of Hollywood movie stars!

Hilarity ensues as Laurel and Hardy try to steal a piece of cake that is being guarded by the Frankenstein monster! The duo dress up as a dragon to try and scare Frankenstein away but the plan backfires as all the toys come to life and start attacking the dragon! In the end, Laurel and Hardy surrender and Santa blows put the candles on the cake. But he pulls a Big Bad Wolf and the cake is blown across the table and lands in Laurel and Hardy's faces. Their just deserts!

Toyland Premiere is a charming cartoon that really shows Santa as a fun person. He is not all business as most shows make him out to be. He has fun! He throws pies! He has a personality! He is also sad at the beginning of this short (and not because he has been kidnapped) which is something you don't see often either!

This short guest stars Oswald the Rabbit who had his own cartoon series at the time. Oswald was created by Walt Disney in 1927 and had a contract with Universal to distribute the pictures. When Walt's producer tried to take over his studio, Walt broke the contract, loosing the character that he had grown quite fond of (but this event caused him to create Mickey Mouse). Oswald remained with Universal for many years. This cartoon is his first colour appearance.

Also guest starring in this episode are a bunch of Hollywood caricatures! Some of these caricatures you may not recognize, but these were all top billing stars in 1934! You will see Johnny Weissmuller (Tarzan) and his actress wife Lupe Velez, Shirley Temple, a black-face Eddie Cantor, the Frankenstein monster (Boris Karloff), Bing Crosby, and Laurel and Hardy.

Hollywood caricatures are still a very popular thing to do in animation (Family Guy and Simpsons being two examples) but that sort of thing really dates a show because, eventually those stars are going to be yesterday's news. And now, 70 years after this short's release, today's generation isn't going to even recognize Johnny Weissmuller or Lupe Velez.

You can see for yourself on DVD.

Friday, April 11, 2008


The first sequel to the uber popular A Charlie Brown Christmas, It's Christmastime Again, Charlie Brown was released in 1992 and is completely unnecessary.

It's Christmastime again and the Peanuts gang is preparing for the usual holiday activities. Charlie Brown is selling wreaths so that he can buy a gift for Peggy Jean, Sally is getting trying to find the meaning of Christmas, and Peppermint Patty and Marcie are both getting ready for the school play.

It's Christmastime Again, Charlie Brown was released on CBS in 1993 (the last time a Charlie Brown special would debut on that network) and was hoped to be another hit like the first.

The plot is very loose and choppy due to this whole special just being an animated collection of various Christmas themed Peanuts strips. It doesn't have the same flow as the original nor does it have the same charm. It doesn't deal with the same kind of important themes that the original does which is what won over millions in the first place. In fact, Charlie Brown doesn't even have a big part in this special. Instead, Sally, Peppermint Patty and Marcie, some of the more modern characters from the strip, are showcased. Even Snoopy only really has one scene!

But enough about the story; let's touch on the animation, acting and music.

The thing I have liked the most about the Charlie Brown specials is that they have been consistent in style and quality. The animation has improved over the years but it hasn't lost the look and the techniques that make it distinct. A friend of mine who works for Bardel Entertainment told me that they have been hired to produce a new Charlie Brown special. This will be a drastic departure from the style since Bardel animates using the Adobe Flash computer program rather than pencil and paper.

Another consistent part of the Charlie Brown specials is the voice acting. Producer Bill Melendez has always insisted on actual children providing voices for his cartoons which gives the acting a very distinct flavour. Hopefully this tradition will remain with this upcoming Bardel special. I should note that the voice of Sally Brown is Jodie Sweetin who is best known for her role as Stephanie Tanner on Full House.

Fans of the Charlie Brown Christmas soundtrack will recognize many of the Vince Guaraldi Trio songs in Christmastime Again. Vince Guaraldi died of a heart attack in 1975 and every television special made after his death used new music. It wasn't until 1992 and the production of Christmastime Again that the crew decided to resurrect his famous score. However, they remixed the tunes making them more rock and roll, which many feel is a bastardization of a masterpiece.

All in all, every part of this special adds up to a let down. This Christmas special is actually not that special at all. You can find it as a special feature on the Charlie Brown Christmas DVD.

Thursday, March 06, 2008


In 2003, a new generation was introduced to the Heroes in a Half Shell! A brand new Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles series debuted on FOX and was an instant success. The show is still going strong having aired six seasons with seventh on its way this September!

Fans of the original series from 1987 reacted very negatively to this new version of the heroes they grew up with. Gone were the cartoony characters, goofy catchphrases and shallow storylines. This new version follows the original comicbooks far more carefully. The stories are darker and they follow a serial format rather than self contained episodes. The dialogue is better and the animation is far superior to the original.

During the show's third season, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles aired its Christmas Special. It follows Michelangelo as he saves a truckload of toys from some thugs who want to ruin Christmas for a group of orphans. And while Splinter, April and the others are setting up a nice Christmas dinner in their sewer home, Mike takes part in a high speed car chase to retrieve the stolen toys.

The Christmas Aliens is a retelling of an old Michelangelo one-shot comic book. The Christmas story follows very closely to the original, only straying with the "family dinner" scenes featuring characters from the show. Fans of the comics will be happy to see Klunk, a kitten that Michelangelo befriends, make his first appearance in the show in this episode.

While the episode is not overly 'Christmasy', the inclusion of the family dinner was a nice touch. It is great seeing all of the supporting heroes in one room eating together. Silver Sentry, Usagi Yojimbo, Angel and others sat down to eat alongside series regulars like Master Splinter, April O'Neil, Casey Jones and the Turtles.

The episode states that a real Christmas activity is not being together with friends, but being with those less fortunate than us. So the crew packs up dinner and goes off to spend Christmas with the orphans.

The Christmas Aliens was released on DVD before it aired as part of the shows third season and is still available for purchase.

Wednesday, February 20, 2008


Scooby-Doo has had new show every five or six years since its debut in 1969. And after a few lackluster incarnations of the series (13 Ghosts of Scooby-Doo and A Pup Named Scooby-Doo) Warner Bros Animation, who now owns the rights to the Hanna-Barbera properties, created What's New, Scooby-Doo? in 2002.

This series took the characters back to their roots, solving mysteries as they traveled around the world. Casey Kassem returns once again to voice Shaggy, Frank Welker returns to voice Fred and does double duty by voicing Scooby-Doo too! Voice actor Grey DeLisle voices Daphne and Facts of Life actress Mindy Cohn provides a voice for Velma.

A Scooby-Doo Christmas was released during the first season of the show in 2002. Scooby and the gang are on their way to Daphne's uncle's condo for the holiday when they find that the bridge leading up to the cabin is gone. This forces them to spend the night in the small town of Winter Hollow.

They soon find out that this town doesn't celebrate Christmas because every year it is visited by the Headless Snowman (who actually has his head throughout the special) who destroys everything to do with the jolly holiday! The gang knows that the snowman can't be real so they set out to find who is behind the destruction!

The story, music and characters are exactly what made Scooby-Doo popular in 1969 and this series pays tribute to every little bit, even to the point of parody. But now, because of Warner Bros' larger budgets, the animation is much better than anything from the original series and you'll be able to hear some notable guest stars too! Listen for Mark Hamil (Star Wars), Kathy Kinney (Drew Carey Show), James Belushi (According to Jim)and Daryl Sabara (Spy Kids).

There is a tiny Christmas message buried at the end of the episode. It seems like the writers stuck it in there because it's a Christmas episode and there probably should be a message of some sort. It just seems so contrived.

You can see for your self on DVD here or here.

Tuesday, February 19, 2008


This one is my favourite Christmas television specials. It is one that I make sure I watch every year and is in the top five of most people's Favourite Holiday Specials list.

Why is this special so popular? The animation isn't very good. It was done on a shoestring budget, they hired children that had no voice acting experience, and the editing and sound mix are terrible! It seems that the reason this special was a hit back then and still is today is that the message shines through all the mistakes and shortcuts. In fact, the quality of the animation has sort of set the standard for all other Charlie Brown specials that try to mimic the quirky style.

A Charlie Brown Christmas captures every essence of the Christmas spirit through the depressing life of Charlie Brown as he sets out to discover what Christmas is. He finds out that it is not about the gifts or the aluminum Christmas trees. in fact, this special speaks out against commercialism, Linus tells the story of Christ's birth from the Bible, and ultimately the gang help Charlie Brown realize that friends and family make the simplest of things, like his under appreciated Christmas tree, seem extra special.

Not only is this a holiday classic, but it is also quite historical for a number of reasons. It is the very first of a long line of Peanuts holiday specials. 50% of all televisions in the United States were watching it on its first airing on December 9, 1965. It won an Emmy and a Peabody award. It has been shown every single year since 1965. It was directed by ex- Warner Bros and UPA animator Bill Melendez.

You can find A Charlie Brown Christmas on DVD, but you may want to hold off until next year when Warner Bros (the new rights holders) will probably release a deluxe, two-disc special addition.

Saturday, January 19, 2008


Aliens First Christmas is the second pilot for a show that never ended up being made. Produced by Canadian company Perennial Pictures, the special was released on the Disney Channel in 1991 and then went straight to the $2 bins at your local department store.

The show features Roger Peoples and his family show are transfered to the plant Zolonia for work. They are the only humans on the planet and they must learn the customs of their neighbours, Mavo and Charlick Zox, who must also try to understand this strange Earth holiday known as Christmas.

The quality of this program is fair but not up to the standard of many shows produced in the early 90s. The character designs and backgrounds and even some of the animation actually look like something from the 60s. But the story is a good one. The characters learn to overcome their differences and enjoy learning new things. Aliens First Christmas is the first Chirstmas special that I have watched that has a racism allegory.

Yes, this one is on DVD.


In 1993 DiC Entertainment produced two Sonic the Hedgehog animated series and aired them at the same time. They were created for two different markets but both were based on the ultra popular Sega video game series that started in 1991.

One series, Sonic the Hedgehog (often refered to as SatAM), was made for Saturday morning television and was a serial based show featuring more characters and darker storylines. It had 26 episodes and ran from 1993-1994.

The other, called The Adventures of Sonic the Hedgehog was made for weekday syndication and only featured Sonic and Tails in more humourous and slapstick situations. The Adventures of Sonic the Hedgehog ran from September to December 1993 and had a total of 65 episodes.

While the show was popular, the real fans favoured the Saturday morning show. But for some reason, a few years after both series had come to an end, DiC decided to produce one more episode based on the Adventures series! This is probably due to the fact that it deals with Christmas, something that just wouldn't feel right on the SatAM series.

In an issue of the Sonic comicbook, there was an ad for this special, calling it An X-Tremely Sonic Christmas. Sega wanted the special to tie in with their new Sega Saturn game, Sonic X-Treme, which ended up being cancelled. So instead, DiC changed the name of the special to promote Sonic 3D Blast, a game that was coming out that holiday season.

Enough about the history! Let's talk about the episode: Santa is making a public television appearance to announce his retirement. But instead of cancelling Christmas, he names his replacement - Robotnik Claus! It's up to Sonic and Tails to stop Robotnik Claus from taking presents instead of giving them in order to return order to Christmas in Robotropolis. SPOILER: The show ends with Sonic freeing a captive Santa and Santa teaching Sonic how to obtain Ultimate Velocity (Super Speed) in order to save Christmas. Santa is so impressed with Sonic's work that he retires for real and hand the duty over to Sonic - who accepts! What?!

The episode brings back many fond memories for fans of the show who loved this goofy side of Sonic. The look and the feel of the show are the same, but there are many differences. The animation is much more goofy. The characters are stretched and squashed and make weird expressions that you won't find in the original series. Elements from the other shows, like Robotropolis, Princess Sally (who has no lines) and SWATbots (that don't look like their counterparts in other any other series) leak into this special which make me feel a bit uncomfortable.

It is nice to get most of the returning cast, including Jaleel White (Steve Urkel) as Sonic, Long John Baldry as Dr. Robotnik, Gary Chalk as Grounder, and Phil Hayes as Scratch. The only cast member to not return is Christopher Evan Welch who was eleven when he voiced Tails but hit puberty and thus had a voice that was too low for Tails in this special.

All in all, this is a goofy special that fits very well within the context of the original show but won't become a perennial favourite. You can find it on DVD along with three other episodes from Sonic Underground.

Wednesday, January 16, 2008


Based on the song of the same name, the Little Drummer Boy follows the journey of Aaron, a little boy who hates humanity and finds himself the friend to all animals whom he communicates with through his drum. Through a dramatic series of events, he follows the three kings to Bethlehem where he meets a newborn Jesus and discovers the meaning of Christmas.

Unlike other Christian animated shows that are often really terrible (including the Hanna-Barbera series The Greatest Adventure: Stories from the Bible), this special has some great stop-motion animation and is one of the most elaborate of the classic Rankin/Bass productions. The human characters are built to appear more human than other productions and the Middle Eastern sets bring a realism to the show.

The Little Drummer Boy will probably be the only Christmas special that I will review that doesn't have to do with Santa, Frosty, Rudolph or other commercial Christmas gimmicks. The fact that this show deals with the actual Christian celebration makes it extra special. In this consumer driven era it is nice to see a show that is not trying to sell anything and just wants to honestly promote good will toward mankind.

This is a very different production for Rankin/Bass. It is a serious drama rather than the fun-filled humourous adventures of other specials that we are used to. At times it moves a little slow, but it is only a half hour rather than the usual hour long program.

The Little Drummer Boy can be found in the Original Television Christmas Classics DVD box set.

Tuesday, January 08, 2008


When it comes to good humour, Animaniacs is not above creating a three minute cartoon based on someone burping the tune to Jingle Bells. In this case, the burper is the Great Wakkorotti, also known as Wakko Warner. Yakko serves as the pianist and Dot comes out in the middle to give Wakko a top-up of soda pop.

All of the animation in this short is reused from previous cartoons featuring the Great Wakkorotti and the only thing Christmas about this short is the song. It comes as a part of a bigger episode of Animaniacs along side 'Twas the Day Before Christmas, Jingle Boo and Toy Shop Terrors, which doesn't have anything to do with Christmas except that it takes place in a toy shop. This episode can be found on disc five of Animaniacs, Volume Two.