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.

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Higglytown Heroes: Twinkle’s Wish

TitleDebuted in 2004

24 minutes

Plot in 3 Sentences: Twinkle wishes that she could be one of Santa’s elves and help at Santa’s workshop. At the North Pole, an elf named Pix has a mishap on his first day of work and winds up at Twinkle’s house. He takes her to the North Pole and she is delighted to help Santa, but realizes that her true wish is to celebrate Christmas at home with her friends and family.

Fun Fact: Twinkle’s voice is performed by Liliana Mumy, the daughter of child actor Billy Mumy.

My thoughts: It’s easy to dismiss Higglytown Heroes as a silly kids’ show, but if you watch an episode or two, you’ll see that it actually has a lot going for it. The characters are nesting doll toys who all pop open, which would be a pretty cool way to carry stuff with you without having to tote around a purse or backpack. But the show’s basic premise is identifying the ordinary people who solve problems and provide services every day, making them heroes to the people around them. Sure, you have your firefighters and your policemen, but they also recognize farmers, librarians and physical therapists. If you check the IMDB, you’ll see that these characters are often voiced by celebrities, which is pretty cool. The celebrities in this episode are John Astin as Santa and his son, Sean Astin as Pix. Of course, Santa and his elves are heroes and it’s cool that Twinkle (who is apparently amazing at gift wrap) gets to help with their efforts. It’s a nice message to have her realize her dream and see that it’s just as great as she imagined, but not worth moving away from her family to pursue.

Mantel

Considering that this chimney looks closed in at the top, Santa may have some difficulty here.

Reindeer Bath

The reindeer all bathe together?  Shocking!

Santa

Santa wears holly in his lapel. Good fashion choice.

WrapMaster

Twinkle wraps presents so fast that they just look like a blur. Mad skills.

Individual Superlative: Awesome Theme Song – The theme song for Higglytown Heroes was written and recorded by They Might Be Giants, my favorite band. This song has a nagging way of getting stuck in my head for days. So yeah, I’m probably still singing it to myself.

Want to Watch it? Higglytown Heroes: Twinkle’s Wish is available on DVD.

Back to the Future: A Dickens of a Christmas

TitleDebuted in 1991

23 minutes

Plot in 3 Sentences: On a hot summer day, Doc Brown, his family and Marty McFly go back in time to Christmas in London in 1845 to cool off and enjoy the holiday. The Brown family has a run-in with Ebiffnezer Tannen, with Clara thrown in debtor’s prison and Jules and Verne forced to join a pickpocket gang. Marty pretends to be the spirit of Christmas to show Ebiffnezer the error of his ways and everyone is reunited before returning to the present time.

Fun Fact: This series marks the television debut of Bill Nye on a nationally broadcast show.

My thoughts: The animated series picks up where the popular Back to the Future movie trilogy leaves off, focusing more on the Brown family than on Marty McFly (although Marty is a regular character). The series ran for two seasons and was not picked up for a third, due to low ratings. I had never seen any episodes before watching this one and honestly, I’m astounded to hear it even got a second season. Everything about this special was bad and it was really disappointing to see that original movie cast members Christopher Lloyd, Mary Steenburgen and Thomas Wilson agreed to be involved in it. Christopher Lloyd provided short live action bumpers at the beginning and end of the show, but didn’t voice his own animated character, leaving that to voice actor extraordinaire, Dan Castellaneta. At the end of the episode, Doc Brown shares a little science fact and Bill Nye demonstrates it. I imagine this was supposed to give the show a little educational credibility. But the animation is low quality, the writing is terrible, the jokes are painfully unfunny and the plot was ridiculous so I can’t say that a minute or so of science education really helped.  Can I borrow the DeLorean to go back in time 24 minutes to before I watched this?

Family

Doc and his wife have such long necks! How do they hold their heads up?

Singers

This group of singers serves as a sort of Greek chorus.

Ghost of Christmas Future

Marty as the ghost of Christmas Future is actually from the future, so this checks out.

Bill Nye

Run, Bill Nye!  Don’t just stand there grinning, RUN!

Individual Superlative: Blimey, Guv’nor! – The ‘British’ accents in this thing are grossly over-exaggerated, to the point where I became pretty sure there was a competition amongst the voice actors to see who could be the most over the top. I hope the winner got some bangers and mash.

Want to Watch it? Back to the Future: Dickens of a Christmas is available on DVD.

Phineas and Ferb Christmas Vacation

titleDebuted in 2009

34 minutes

Plot in 3 Sentences: Phineas and Ferb coordinate a massive ‘Thank you’ event for Santa Claus, decorating the entire city and building a special place for Santa to rest after his journey. But when Doofenshmirtz uses his recently received ‘Naughty-inator’ to turn the whole town naughty, all of Danville’s letters come back to them. Phineas and Ferb and all their friends manage to save the day, resulting in everyone getting their Christmas wish.

Fun Fact: This was the first episode of Phineas and Ferb not to be set in the summertime and the first to be aired on ABC Family.

My thoughts: Phineas and Ferb is one of those great shows that has massive cross-generational appeal and can be enjoyed by young kids, teenagers and even middle-age ladies like yours truly. The main contributing factor in this is the writing which is clever and funny without relying on cheap laughs or mean-spirited humor. While it helps to know the characters (and you certainly get more of the jokes), you can watch this special with no prior knowledge of the show and still thoroughly enjoy it. At the end of the special, we discover that Santa was the mastermind behind everything, including Doofenshmirtz’s ‘Naughty-inator’ and that just about everyone has gotten their Christmas wish as a result. There’s a really sweet moment when Buford does one nice thing (as part of his plan to be a brat all year and then redeem himself at the last moment) and we learn that his wish was just to be thought of as nice by his friends. In any other show, that may have played as mawkish, but it really works here, because we care about these characters and their relationships to each other. There are great songs in this episode that have become part of our Christmas playlists and hopefully will become holiday standards, just like ‘Silver and Gold’ and ‘You’re a Mean One, Mr. Grinch’ once did. If you’ve never seen it, put this one on your must-watch list.

santa-sighting

This ‘Santa sighting’ picture proves that Santa is real. And sorry Bigfoot, you’re still not.

rudolph-nod

Everyone needs a Bumble to help with the star.  Even these guys.

partridge-on-a-perry

“And a partridge on a Perry…”

figgy-pudding

Why does he have the industrial size?

Individual Superlative: Best Foreshadowing – In ‘Gaming the System,’ an episode that aired in April of 2009, Major Monogram tells Perry that after monitoring Doofenshmirtz’s internet activity, he knows that he’s giving Perry a vase for Christmas. In this episode, he actually does and the look on Perry’s face is awesome.

Want to Watch it? Phineas & Ferb Christmas Vacation is available on DVD, iTunes, Amazon and you can usually find it on during the holiday season.

Merry Madagascar

titleDebuted in 2009

23 minutes

Plot in 3 Sentences: The gang (Alex, Marty, Melman and Gloria) are leaving Madagascar in a hot air balloon, bound for New York, when they are suddenly knocked out of the sky by rocks thrown by King Julien and the lemurs. As King Julien explains that they thought the balloon was the red night goblin, the goblin appears in the sky and Julien knocks it down, revealing him to be Santa, now suffering from amnesia from the fall. The gang volunteers to deliver all Santa’s presents, using the magic-dusted penguins as reindeer and they save the day.

Fun Fact: The crashed airplane where King Julien keeps all his presents (and his skeletal girlfriend Amelia) is a Lockheed Model 10 Electra, which is the same airplane that Amelia Earhart actually flew.

My thoughts: As I have mentioned before, I am not a huge fan of most Dreamworks animation. There are a few I have enjoyed, but the original Madagascar was not one of them. In fact, that was one of the ‘couldn’t make it through the whole movie’ ones. So I was not at all surprised to be unimpressed by this special, which is actually the second special to feature characters from this film franchise. The first was A Christmas Caper, featuring the penguin characters, who also wound up with their own TV show.  One of my biggest issues with this special is that most of these characters feel like more like exaggerated caricatures and overused stereotypes, so I am not invested in anything that happens to them. It’s as if someone with a sense of humor completely different from mine is telling non-stop jokes while repeatedly punching me in the shoulder and yelling, “Get it?” loudly in my ear. The original movie was pretty successful, so this special may be a big hit with those who enjoyed the movie, but for me it was just obnoxious and overblown.

gang

It’s in the rules somewhere that every DreamWorks character has to make this face at least once.

toy

Everyone loves a choo-choo.

santa

Wow, Santa, that’s a serious bump on the head. Yikes.

julian

King Julien and the other lemurs have been knocked for a loop.

Individual Superlative: Which Subplot? – In addition to the bloated plot summary above, there are also subplots involving King Julien’s made up holiday, the gang giving up their dream of returning to New York in order to save Christmas and a star-crossed romance between a reindeer and a penguin. That’s a lot for 23 minutes.

Want to Watch it? Merry Madagascar is available on DVD, some streaming services and still shows up on network television frequently during the holiday season.

Winnie the Pooh and Christmas Too

titleDebuted in 1991

21 minutes

Plot in 3 Sentences: Pooh realizes that he forgot to include his wish in the letter to Santa, so he gets it back to update it. Suddenly, everyone is updating their requests (and making them bigger) and when Pooh goes to mail it, the wind takes it in the wrong direction. Feeling responsible, Pooh tries to play Santa and bring everyone what they want, but it doesn’t quite work out, until Christopher Robin shows up with everything on their lists.

Fun Fact: Paul Winchell, the original voice of Tigger (who returned to the role for this special) was one of the first people to build and patent a mechanical artificial heart.

My thoughts: The New Adventures of Winnie the Pooh got its start in 1988 and it brought all new stories about everyone’s favorite silly old bear to a whole new generation of kids. I remember watching the show with my kids on Saturday mornings. These shows are new stories that don’t hold up as well when compared to the original stories from A.A. Milne’s Winnie the Pooh and The House at Pooh Corner. This Christmas special aired for the first time just a couple of months after the series ended in October 1991. It’s cute, with good messages about taking responsibility for your actions, avoiding greed and valuing your friends. But I have never thought of this special as a favorite and usually only dust it off once in a blue moon. I think it’s because I’m such a fan of the original stories and these just never really lived up to them.

secrets

“Christopher Robin, your fly is down.”

rabbit

You don’t usually get this level of rapture when you give a flyswatter as a gift.

bugs

So is that bug in Napoleon hat a general or something?

santa-pooh

Silly old bear.


Individual Superlative:  What’s Bugging You? – Rabbit spends much of the special battling the bugs who are attacking his plants and I think a little too much of the show is devoted to them.

Want to Watch it? Winnie the Pooh and Christmas Too is available on VHS, YouTube and it still shows up during holiday programming sometimes. It’s also integrated into the A Very Merry Pooh Year DVD release.

Foster’s Home for Imaginary Friends: A Lost Claus

Title

Debuted in 2005

23 minutes

Plot in 3 Sentences: It’s Bloo’s first Christmas at Foster’s and he’s upset when he learns that he is only going to get one present. Meanwhile, Mac is starting to lose his faith in Santa and while trying to prove his existence, he causes trouble for Eduardo, Wilt and Coco. Bloo’s idea to coax Mr. Herriman to give everyone more presents backfires when Mr. Herriman cancels Christmas, but Santa shows up to save the day.

Fun Fact: This is currently the only episode of the show that is not available in any digital store.

My thoughts: As with many contemporary cartoon shows, the Christmas episode was the first episode I ever saw of this series. That can sometimes be an issue, but this is a good example of a show that you don’t need to know well in order to enjoy. You get the gist of the story right away and the characters are fun and entertaining. Foster’s Home for Imaginary Friends was created by Craig McCracken, who also gave us The Powerpuff Girls and it has the same balance of humor and heart. (This may be why Mac gets a copy of The Art of The Powerpuff Girls for Christmas.) There’s a lot of room for creativity in a show about imaginary friends, but McCracken has a good sense for when to rein it in so that it’s not non-stop crazy. This one is funny and sweet, with lots of great memorable moments.

Eduardo

Eduardo is my favorite.

Madame Foster

Madame Foster has a tough time stringing popcorn garland.

Santa Battle

There are multiple imaginary Santas at Foster’s and sometimes they have to duke it out.

Bob Marley

Bloo haunts Mr. Herriman as the ghost of Bob Marley.

Individual Superlative: In Charlie’s Footsteps – There are lots of homages to A Charlie Brown Christmas here, including the jazzy piano soundtrack and even a glimpse of Snoopy’s prize-winning decorated dog house.

Want to Watch it? Foster’s Home for Imaginary Friends: A Lost Claus is available on DVD.