It’s Better to Give

20180423-205349Debuted in 1963

5 minutes

Plot in 3 Sentences: Jughaid is angry at Santa for never bringing him the bicycle he’s been asking for so Snuffy, thinking a kind gesture for Santa might help, suggests they build a television set as a gift for Santa. Meanwhile, Loweezy uses various pipes and parts to build a makeshift bike for Jughaid so he won’t be disappointed. On Christmas morning, Jughaid finds a real bike in his stocking and there’s also a real television for Snuffy, with a note from Santa, who is glad they learned the importance of giving.

Fun Fact: The original comic strip that these characters are based on is the longest currently running comic strip in the United States.

My thoughts: I remember Snuffy Smith from the comics section of the newspaper, which I really enjoyed reading when I was a kid. I don’t think I ever knew the history behind the strip, which started in 1919 with the character of Barney Google. In 1934, Barney travelled to the Appalachian mountains of North Carolina and met moonshiner Snuffy Smith. He was so popular that Barney kind of faded into the distance and Snuffy and his family took over as the main characters. King Features produced 50 animated shorts featuring these characters and the comic strip, incidentally, is still running today. The character voices are over-exaggerated ‘hillbilly’ talk that was played for humor back in the 60’s, but is mostly just annoying to listen to now. I think it’s particularly cute that Snuffy reacts to Jughaid’s (hey, it’s their spelling, not mine) anger by putting a positive spin on it and trying to teach him the joy of giving. Overall, I think this one is pretty forgettable unless you, like me, grew up with the comic and are just curious to see those characters in their animated forms.

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I kind of hope Santa brings Loweezy a good supportive bra.

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No matter how hard you hug it, Snuffy, that thing is not going to pick up HBO.

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She built a working bike from pipes and household items. Respect.

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When Loweezy (as Santa) has trouble getting back up the chimney, Snuffy just unzips it. Well, duh.

Individual Superlative: Most Self Confident Theme Song – The words to the theme song are ‘Great balls of fire, I’m bodacious!’ I supposed if you started every day out singing that to yourself, you’d have the confidence to master anything.

Want to Watch it? It’s Better to Give is available on YouTube.

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Sarah & Duck: Petal Light Picking

20180324-070932Debuted in 2013

7 minutes

Plot in 3 Sentences: Sarah and Duck go shopping for Christmas lights, but can’t find anything that they like. When they get back home, they follow a glowing ladybug through a hole in the hedge, where they discover flowers with colorful shining petals and ornaments growing from the ground. They take some of them home and decorate their tree.

Fun Fact: This was the final episode of the show’s first season.

My thoughts: I was not surprised to learn that this show, which is geared toward preschoolers, has a following among adults. There’s something really warm and cozy about it. The show ran for three seasons between 2013 and 2017 on CBeebies, which is the BBC’s children’s programming network and won a BAFTA for preschool program in its second season. Each show episode consists of three animated shorts, during which 7 year old Sarah and her best friend, Duck, have an adventure or solve a problem. The show is narrated by Roger Allam (who originated the role of Inspector Javert in the London version of Les Miserables) and in addition to narrating the episode, he occasionally speaks to the characters and offers them helpful advice. There are a number of recurring characters with names like Umbrella (he’s afraid of rain), Scarf Lady and Bag (who is a talking knitting bag belonging to Scarf Lady). What I love about this short is how magical it feels, with the secret glade and its otherworldly glowing flowers. It’s all very colorful, beautiful and sweet, with a perfect ending, in which Sarah gazes at the decorated tree and just says the word, ‘Christmas’ with the most satisfied joy. Especially recommended for those who love kids with British accents.

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I feel your pain, Sarah.  I’ve seen cringe-worthy trees, too.

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It’s a good harvest of tree lights this year.

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Duck is useful for plucking baubles out of the river.

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Well worth all the trouble. Their decorations are lovely.

Individual Superlative: Most Quackable Theme Song – Go ahead and try not to quack along with Duck during the short (but really contagious) theme song. I dare you not to quack.

Want to Watch it? Sarah & Duck: Petal Light Picking is available on DVD and typically turns up during holiday programming.

Shaun the Sheep: We Wish Ewe a Merry Christmas

Title

Debuted in 2010

7 minutes

Plot in 3 Sentences: When the flock is awakened by Santa on Christmas Eve, they follow him and discover it’s only the farmer in disguise. Peeking through the window, they see that he is lonely and sad, remembering the joys of Christmas past. The animals work together to bring some holiday spirit back into his life and they all have a wonderful Christmas.

Fun Fact: A Shaun the Sheep theme park opened in 2016 at Skåne Djurpark in Sweden.

My thoughts: The character of Shaun the sheep first appeared in the Wallace & Gromit short, A Close Shave in 1995. He proved to be an immensely popular character who was given his own animated series (which spun off another series, called Timmy Time, but that’s for another review). The show, which consisted of two seven minute shorts each episode, ran for 5 seasons, producing 150 shorts. This was the final short of the second season and I really loved it.  It’s very funny, but also really warm and sweet, with a nice message about giving to others and spending time with those you love. There are almost no spoken words in the entire short, but you never fail to get the full meaning of what every character is thinking.  It’s such a cute touch that Santa Claus shows up to give gifts to all the animals, after they have spent such so much time making Christmas special for the farmer. This one’s definitely worth a watch.

Childhood Christmas

The farmer as a boy, still with those awesome thick glasses.

Knitting the striped sweater

Shaun’s mother is clearly an accomplished knitter.

Paper snowflakes

When your name is Mower Mouth and you’re a goat, you get chosen to make snowflakes.

Decorating the house

This is what we look like decorating for Christmas, too.

 
Individual Superlative: Best Reaction to a Delicious Christmas Dinner – One of the short’s funniest moments is when the chicken is peeking into the window and catches sights of the roast chicken the family is having for dinner. The look on her face, right before she faints dead away, is fantastic.

Want to Watch it? Shaun the Sheep: We Wish Ewe a Merry Christmas is available on DVD and YouTube.

And That’s a Wrap!

Okay, guys, that’s all I got for another year. Time to catch up on all the sleep I missed while baking and partying and watching all these specials.  Also, we have a big family cruise coming up in a couple of months and Tropical Santa here is reminding me that I need to get busy planning that.

I’ll be back here on the 25th of every month again in 2018, taking a look at some holiday shorts until it’s time to start back up with next year’s specials.

I hope Christmas was good to you and your loved ones, and that the coming year brings you all kinds of delights. See you in January, friends!santa-tropical

The Forgotten Toys

Title

Debuted in 1995

25 minutes

Plot in 3 Sentences: Teddy wakes up after Christmas and finds himself in a trash can, where he befriends a discarded doll named Annie. While trying to find new kids who will love them, they meet a dog named Chauncey who wants to help them. They are eventually found by an old man, who fixes them up and gives them direction to a school, where they are adopted by new children.

Fun Fact: The voices for Annie and Chauncey were different when the special aired in the US, but Bob Hoskins voiced Teddy in both versions.

My thoughts:  For a Christmas special, this one actually doesn’t have a lot to do with Christmas, taking place right afterwards and only casually referencing it after that. But the story served as a pilot episode for a series that ran for two seasons and followed these same characters, who were apparently immediately abandoned again by their new children in the season opener. (Dang, you know they have self-esteem issues by this point.) When we first saw this on Fox Family many years ago, Annie’s voice was higher and airier, so seeing the original with Joanna Lumley’s grittier voice was a little jarring. No one else could possibly be Teddy but Bob Hoskins, though. He’s perfectly cast as the grumpy but lovable little bear. There’s a sweet moment near the end when Teddy uses Annie’s name after calling her ‘Pigtails’ for the rest of the show and it’s made even more poignant because of his gruff character. I like this special, but the overall feeling it leaves you with is one of sadness, especially when you learn that the toys go on to be abandoned and searching for owners yet again down the road.

Holding breath

Holding your breath never works, Teddy.  It does make you cute, though.

Helping Chauncey

Annie helps Chauncey after he’s been hit by a passing car.

Robot Teddy

Teddy wants to be a high tech robot toy.

Fixed up

Everyone’s looking neat and pretty!

Individual Superlative: Is He or Isn’t He? – The old man who fixes the toys up has a long beard and a workshop in a junkyard. Because he not only fixes them up, but also helps the toys to find new owners, it may be that we are supposed to believe he’s Santa Claus. But it never says for sure.

Want to Watch it? The Forgotten Toys is available on DVD and YouTube.

The Fairly OddParents!: Christmas Every Day

Title

Debuted in 2001

22 minutes

Plot in 3 Sentences: Timmy is excited about Christmas morning and wishes every day could be Christmas. Cosmo and Wanda grant his wish and it becomes a major problem, with most businesses staying closed and other holidays getting upset. When every kid wishes for December 26th, life returns to normal.

Fun Fact: The Fairly OddParents! ran for 16 years on Nickelodeon, making it the second longest animated series on the network.

My thoughts: The Fairly OddParents! got its start as part of the Oh Yeah! Cartoons show on Nickelodeon and was expanded into its own series and even a few live action movies. Timmy Turner is a boy with fairy godparents and he makes wishes that inevitably create problems that need to be resolved, leading to the conclusion that wishes are probably not as great as they are cracked up to be. In this episode, the problems are global and all the kids of the world have to come together to solve them. I really liked the plot’s resolution here and thought the episode was a lot of fun. The other holidays represented here are the Easter Bunny, Cupid and the April Fool, who is clearly a parody of Jerry Seinfeld, punctuating every statement with ‘What’s the deal with that?’ There is a lot of creativity at play in this show, with Cosmo and Wanda able to shape shift into different things to avoid detection. I thought this episode was a lot of fun.

Natural enemies

The miracle of Christmas can turn the bitterest enemies into friends.

Nog obsessed

Timmy’s Dad has eggnog addiction issues.

Other holidays

The baby new year could use a little cardio.

Children of the world

Italian kids have amazing moustache game.

Individual Superlative: The Economic Impact – Several different specials and characters have taken on the problematic issue of wishing for every day to be Christmas, but this is the first one I’ve seen that looks at it how it affects the global economy. Kids are growing up fast.

Want to Watch it? The Fairly Odd Parents: Christmas Every Day is available on DVD and YouTube.

Bewitched: Sisters at Heart

Title

Debuted in 1970

23 minutes

Plot in 3 Sentences: Darren and Samantha host the daughter of an African-American co-worker while he is out of town on a business trip and she and Tabitha decide they are temporary sisters. After another child tells them they can’t be sisters because they’re not the same color, Tabitha accidentally gives them both polka-dotted skin and Samantha has difficulty changing it back. Meanwhile, a man who was going to hire Darren for his company’s big advertising account refuses because he believes Darren is in a mixed marriage and when he realizes that this makes him racist, he apologizes and swears to do better.

Fun Fact: This was Elizabeth Montgomery’s favorite episode of the entire series.

My thoughts: This special wasn’t in my original lineup to review this year. I caught it on TV earlier this month and happened to notice that the credits listed a high school class and their teacher as contributors to the story. So, of course, I dove into learning the history of the episode and it was too interesting not to share. A 9th grade teacher at Jefferson High School in Los Angeles was having trouble reaching her class through reading assignments and wanted to trying using the medium of television, which they all enjoyed. She contacted several shows, but Bewitched was the only one to respond. Elizabeth Montgomery and her husband paid for the students to visit the set and they were so impressed that they wrote their own episode of the show and sent it to her. The show’s scriptwriter tweaked their script, but Ms. Montgomery insisted that no significant changes be made without the students’ approval. The students were even invited back to be part of the rehearsal and production of the episode. In its initial broadcast, it was preceded by a special introduction by Ms. Montgomery. I enjoyed this episode a lot, especially when we see Mr. Brockway (the big company owner) own up to his racism and want to change, which I really love because it underscores the message that it’s never too late to become a better person.

Whiteface

Is ‘whiteface’ as bad as ‘blackface?’ Are they equally bad?

Polka dots

Yikes! It’s contagious!

Larry Tate

Larry Tate makes checks to make sure it’s still him before telling Mr. Brockway that he doesn’t want his million dollar account. I love this moment.

Families

I know we’re supposed to see a beautiful holiday image of tolerance and equality but all I see is that I want Samantha’s skirt.

Individual Superlative: Best Back Story – Seriously, though, how cool is the back story on this episode?

Want to Watch it?Bewitched: Sisters at Heart is available on iTunes and it often shows up on cable during the holidays.