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.

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Are You Being Served?: Christmas Crackers

Title

Debuted in 1975

27 minutes

Plot in 3 Sentences: The staff of Grace Brothers arrives at the store early to discuss ideas for boosting sales but Mr. Rumbold shows up with the news that Mr. Grace has rented fun costumes for all of them to wear. Their Christmas lunch is disappointing, with a tiny turkey, combustible Christmas pudding and not much else. But the decorations are lovely and everyone gets into the holiday spirit to close with a festive song.

Fun Fact: This episode marked the first appearance of Doremy Vernon as the Canteen Manager (who stayed for most of the series) and the last appearance of Mr. Mash.

My thoughts: Like many comedies of this era, Are You Being Served? is silly, formulaic and predictable. Mr. Lucas is going to insult Mrs. Slocombe, there’s going to be a point-of-display model that goes wrong and Mrs. Slocombe will make a double entendre statement about her cat. But it still manages to be good fun most of the time, with a few genuine laughs along the way. This is not my favorite of their Christmas episodes, but it still has its high points, including the bit at the end when they tell Young Mr. Grace that he’s done very well (which is something he usually says to them). You’re expecting the worst when the department decorations are revealed, so it’s a surprise when they turn out to be lovely and it makes for an unexpectedly sweet and cheerful ending.

Charming smile

Mr. Grainger displays the warm and friendly smile he will give to children.

Point of display model

Mrs. Slocombe is not amused by the point-of-display model…and she is unanimous in this!

Funny faces

Captain Peacock’s googly eyes are awesome.

Staff in costume

Of course, Mr. Humphries has the most outrageous costume.

Individual Superlative: Christmas Envy – From the ‘Christmas pud’ to pulling the giant crackers, this special makes you want to spend at least one Christmas in the U.K.

Want to Watch it? Are You Being Served?: Christmas Crackers is available on DVD and you can watch it on YouTube.