Pucca: Christmas Shorts

Title

Debuted in 2006

23 minutes 

Plot in 3 Sentences: In the first of three stories, a ninja named Black Powder shows up to get his revenge on Santa for becoming a giver instead of a thief. In the next story, Pucca and Garu try to discover why the Northern Lights have gone out. The third story features Tobe kidnapping Santa to take his place in hopes of capturing Garu.

Fun Fact: In the show, Pucca is supposed to be 11 and Garu is supposed to be 12.

My thoughts: Pucca started as a South Korean series of animated internet shorts, each only running a couple of minutes. They were produced from 2000 to 2005 and then expanded into longer shorts for a TV series that ran two seasons from 2006 to 2008. I stumbled on this episode because it was Christmas themed, but kind of fell in love with the show and watched all the episodes after that. The basic premise revolves around a village of ninjas, where the niece of the guys who own the local noodle restaurant is smitten with a silent ninja named Garu. The village is full of bizarre characters, including Santa Claus, who is integral to this episode’s shorts. The show is very funny and clever, with fun send-ups of anime and short parodies featuring these characters in other genres. This one has made a few appearances at our Christmas special parties over the year and is always well received.

Naked Santa

I don’t think I want to know how Santa can pull a long string of lights from his mouth.

Fake Santa with Zombie

Yes, the zombie asks Santa for brains.

Abyo with Walrus

Abyo gets his workout ninja kicking a walrus. Seems legit.

Closing Santa Wreath

Christmas is all about love, especially funny love.

Individual Superlative: Best Use of Santa’s Belly – Santa’s signature ninja move is called the Belly Bounce and he uses it to defeat Black Powder twice. That’s why he needs all those cookies!

Want to Watch it? The individual Pucca short cartoons are available on DVD and YouTube.

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Uncle Grandpa: Christmas Special

Title

Debuted in 2014

23 minutes

Plot in 3 Sentences: When Santa breaks his leg, Uncle Grandpa steps in to deliver the toys. He causes lots of trouble and then gets captured by Sally Smith, a naughty kid. His guardian lobster shows him what life would have been like without him and he manages to save Christmas and have a nice holiday with his friends.

Fun Fact: Cartoon Network developed a video game called ‘Sneakin’ Santa’ to promote this holiday episode of the show.

My thoughts: Well, there are no two ways about it. This show is nutso. In addition to the main character, there is also a talking fanny pack, a slice of pizza named Pizza Steve, a grumpy dinosaur and a photographic cutout of a tiger who can fly. Creator Peter Browngardt was influenced by Gary Larson, Robert Crumb, Tex Avery and Don Martin and it’s not too hard to see their fingerprints here, although the show is extremely original. Normally, each show features two 12 minute segments, but this show uses both segments to tell its story and appears to be the first double episode in the series. We find out early in the show that Uncle Grandpa and Santa are brothers and that Uncle Grandpa is still angry at Santa for ruining his talent show performance when they were young.  There are some good underlying messages about friendship and family hidden amongst the bizarre moments here and if you enjoy your specials a little on the wacky side, this one should be right up your alley.

Santa and elves

Elves make really good footrests.

Other holiday mascots

Sally Smith keeps a prison for holidays.  Not pictured: The Veterans Day Velociraptor.  (No, that wasn’t a joke.)

Skeleton

Does Mr. Gus wind up as a skeleton in a museum without Uncle Grandpa?

Rooftop

Photorealistic Flying Tiger is absolutely my favorite character in anything.

Individual Superlative: Born to Be Crazy – Contributors to this series include the folks who gave us both Chowder and Ren & Stimpy so there’s no way this show wasn’t going to be insane.

Want to Watch it? Uncle Grandpa: Christmas Special is available on Hulu and will likely show up in holiday programming.

 

Robbie the Reindeer: Hooves of Fire

Title

Debuted in 1999

29 minutes

Plot in 3 Sentences: Robbie shows up to train for Santa’s sleigh team as a navigator, but Blitzen tries to prevent his success because he hated Robbie’s father. Blitzen convinces Robbie that he’s unfit so he leaves and tries his hand at toy making with the elves, who suggest he hire a trainer. He just barely loses the Steeplechase at the Reindeer Games, but then it’s discovered that Blitzen was using performance enhancing drugs, so Santa chooses Robbie.

Fun Fact: It’s played for comedy that Blitzen never lets anyone say the name of Robbie’s famous red-nosed father, but it’s actually because of copyright law.

My thoughts: There have been three Robbie the Reindeer specials, all produced for Comic Relief and originally aired on BBC One. Although not an official Aardman Animations production, it did share some of the animators and has the same style and look of the other Aardman films. The version I watched was the original BBC version, with the original voices, but there is an American-ized version out there as well, with American actors in the cast. As a big fan of Ardal O’Hanlon, who voices Robbie, I recommend this version. There are lots of funny moments and a couple of cute subplots, including Robbie’s budding romance with Donner and his friendship with Old Jingle, who comes out of retirement to train him. I thought this one was a lot of fun and now I’m looking forward to watching the story continue in the other two films.

Working out

Even reindeer have to stay fit.

Robbie and Donner

Donner has heard all she cares to hear about how gorgeous Vixen is.

Elf

Not exactly the way I always pictured Santa’s elves.

Whale

Robbie’s first attempt at toy making.  I always thought whales could use an arm or two. Or three.

Individual Superlative: Beards Aplenty – Santa is not the only one in his family to have a full beard. So does Mrs. Santa and their infant child. Honestly, it made me laugh every time they showed it.

Want to Watch it? Robbie the Reindeer: Hooves of Fire is available on DVD and YouTube.

Adam Ruins Everything: Adam Ruins Christmas

Title

Debuted in 2016

24 minutes

Plot in 3 Sentences: Adam’s sister, Rhea, is stressed about their parents’ upcoming Christmas visit. As they prepare the house, Adam takes several opportunities to debunk some holiday myths and traditions and Rhea gets upset that he’s not being more helpful. He shows her a video from their childhood in which she tells him there’s no Santa and that it’s best to know the truth, which makes her realize she’s the one who made him so curious about the truth and they share a nice holiday with their parents.

Fun Fact: At the end of the special, we find out that the unseen narrator is Adam Savage (Mythbusters) which is a nice button on the rest of the show.

My thoughts: Adam Ruins Everything is a show that came from the College Humor website and it’s hosted by Adam Conover, who starred in the website segments as well. On each episode, Adam gives details, history and interesting facts about a different subject, disproving some general misconceptions and providing an entertaining and educational overview of the subject. It’s a lot like Penn & Teller’s Bullshit series only presented more as a sitcom with different characters. This is a really enjoyable episode, with a lot of interesting information, much of which was new to me. Comedian Rhea Butcher plays Adam’s sister and she provides a nice counterpoint to his character. The live action shifts to animation (reminiscent of A Charlie Brown Christmas) to tell some of the stories and I think it’s awesome as an homage and a comedic device, particularly when the story they’re telling is more adult in nature. As with any show of this nature, you may learn something that pushes you out of your comfort zone, but the good news is that how much you let that affect your holiday is pretty much up to you.

Saturnalia

What kind of cups does Starbucks have for Saturnalia?

Economics

The whole economy of gift giving section will make you rethink the gifts you’ve already bought.

Wonderful Life

Every time a bell rings, an angel puts an It’s a Wonderful Life parody in their special.

Krampus

Krampus, just put the baby down and walk away.

Individual Superlative: Favorite Message – Okay, at its core, this is a comedy show, but the underlying message that is repeated a few times throughout is that everyone should celebrate the holiday in a way that is meaningful for them and I think that’s a tremendously important takeaway.

Want to Watch it? Adam Ruins Everything: Adam Ruins Christmas is available on YouTube and will probably be shown again during this holiday season.

The Boy Who Dreamed Christmas

Title

Debuted in 1991

22 minutes

Plot in 3 Sentences: Peter falls asleep thinking of how he needs everything on his Christmas list. Nilus the Sandman takes him to the North Pole, where he learns that the evil Toy Master has taken over production, because Santa could no longer keep up with the increasing demand for toys. Peter defeats the Toy Master by giving up the toys on his list and is pleased to receive one simple gift from Santa instead.

Fun Fact: Elton John took his stage surname from Long John Baldry, who provided the voice for Nilus the Sandman.

My thoughts: I remember catching this one when it aired for the first time on The Disney Channel. When it starts up, the first thing on screen is a credit for Long John Baldry as Nilus the Sandman and I assumed that he was a known character somewhere. But this special was his first appearance, which was followed by two more specials and then a television series that lasted two seasons. I was unsurprised to learn that the series featured Nilus entering the dreams of children to teach them lessons and I imagine they were every bit as heavy handed as the lesson in this one. The animation in this special is bookmarked by mediocre live action that transitions to animation when Peter falls asleep. The Toy Master is a really creepy looking clown, who towers over Peter and Santa like a nightmare monster and as his musical number, he gets a rap song about how efficient his toy production has become. (See Superlative below.) Santa’s song about how kids got super greedy is very pretty, even as it’s banging you over the head with its morality. Overall, this one felt like a launching vehicle for Nilus as a character and not much more.

Nilus

He has literally just burst through the cloud to say, “That’s me!” and wink to the audience. Ham it up, Sandman.

Sad Santa

There’s no crying in Christmas!

Toymaster

Yikes, right?

Peter

I think he’s just happy to have survived the Toy Master.

Individual Superlative: Least Evil Bad Guy – I will readily admit that the Toy Master is creepy looking as all hell. But I am not sure what he’s doing that’s so terrible. It seems to me that he’s automated the workshop and is still planning to deliver all the toys to the kids. Is it just that he’s put Santa out of work? I’m missing something.

Want to Watch it?The Boy Who Dreamed Christmas is available on DVD and YouTube.

Daria: Depth Takes a Holiday

Title

Debuted in 1999

21 minutes

Plot in 3 Sentences: Cupid and the St. Patrick’s Day leprechaun show up in Lawndale and tell Daria that they’re looking for Christmas, Halloween and Guy Fawkes Day, who have left Holiday Island and come here to start a band. Daria and Jane visit Holiday Island and discover that the high school there has been taken over by Presidents Day in the absence of the more popular holidays. Daria invites the missing holidays to bring their band to the Holiday Island High prom and that sets everything right again.

Fun Fact: In the Daria fandom, this is widely considered one of the worst episodes of the show.

My thoughts: The character of Daria got her start on the Beavis and Butthead show and was spun off into her own series, where she became more snarky and cynical. Not being a big fan of that brand of humor, I had never seen the show before so this was my introduction to it. Overall, I mostly enjoyed it. It seems to be written almost as a parody of Christmas episodes and there is apparently a lot of debate in the fandom as to whether or not this episode can be considered canon, as it seems to be mostly based in fantasy and not in the real world. The holidays are all represented as teenagers, which is new and interesting. Halloween is a goth girl and Guy Fawkes Day looks suspiciously like Sid Vicious. Even Santa has the appearance of a surfer dude with a Santa hat on. There’s a subplot where Cupid shoots Daria’s parents with his love Taser (no, that’s not a euphemism) to keep them out of their way and Daria’s younger sister, Quinn, is worried that they’re trying to have another baby. It’s nothing really special, but it’s definitely not the same old thing, which is its own kind of cool.

St Patrick and Valentine

Valentine’s Day has maybe been hitting the chocolates.

Parents kissing

Get a room, Mom & Dad!

Other holidays

Are Halloween and Guy Fawkes Day fighting again?

Presidents

Presidents Day is picking on Arbor Day.

Individual Superlative: Through the Wormhole – The holidays tell Daria that they were able to come to Lawndale through a wormhole behind the Good Times Chinese Restaurant. Apparently, fan fiction writers use this plot point to create all kinds of alternate universe stories for these characters.

Want to Watch it? Daria: Depth Takes a Holiday is available on iTunes and YouTube.

Rocket Power: A Rocket X-mas

Title

Debuted in 2003

23 minutes

Plot in 3 Sentences: Otto and Reggie take up dog walking to earn enough money to buy their father a surfboard he has admired in a shop window. They have to work harder than they thought to raise the money and in the process, they upset their dad, who just wanted to spend time with them during the holidays. He’s thrilled to get the surfboard, but even happier that they can all spend time together, creating some new holiday traditions.

Fun Fact: This is one of the few episodes that references Otto and Reggie’s mother, who passed away when they were younger.

My thoughts: Rocket Power ran for four seasons on Nickelodeon and was aimed at older kids who were into extreme sports like skateboarding and surfing. It mostly centers around the Rocket family and the kids’ friends and neighbors. This is the only episode I’ve ever seen of the show and it only took a few minutes before I was tired of all the ‘cool lingo’ the kids use. My thought is if you have to try that hard to show your audience that you’re cool, you’re really not all that cool. Once again, though, I’m not their target audience, so maybe it goes over well with them. There were some interesting subplots going on in the episode, including a family friend who moonlights as a mall Santa, training to be Santa for the Mayor’s holiday party. Throughout the special, Ray (the kids’ dad) tries to keep their old family traditions alive, although the kids feel that they’ve outgrown them. Of course, they learn about the importance of family during the holidays and I love that they come up with some new traditions that they can all enjoy together. It’s a really nice way to end the episode.

Tito

Santa’s getting interrogated.

Muttboarding

The kids invent a new sport called Muttboarding. Do not attempt with Yorkies.

Watching TV

I hope their neighbors don’t mind them peeking through their windows in order to get a sense of their lost childhood.

Broken dad

Oh great, you broke Dad.

Individual Superlative: A Special Within a Special – One of the things that Ray wants to do with the kids is watch their favorite Christmas special, even though the kids think they’re too old for it. But is anyone ever the right age for something called Pinkie Pixie’s Christmas Flapadoozy?

Want to Watch it? Rocket Power: A Rocket X-mas is available on iTunes and DVD.