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.