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.

Black Dynamite: A Crisis for Christmas

TitleDebuted in 2011

22 minutes

Plot in 3 Sentences: Black Dynamite tries to make himself more likeable to the orphans in order to give them a happier Christmas and he discovers that they all look up to his old nemesis, O.J. Simpson, who is preparing to travel to the moon. Black Dynamite decides to go to the moon as well and just before launch, O.J. abandons ship out of fear of not surviving the trip. The ship does have a major malfunction (where it explodes), but Black Dynamite survives and makes it safely back to the Whorephanage.

Fun Fact: All of the main characters are voiced by the same people who played the roles in the 2009 movie.

My thoughts: I usually mention when a special I’m reviewing is one that gets watched every year. Since we added this one to our collection, it is one of the few that gets watched multiple times every Christmas season, usually whenever someone comes over who hasn’t seen it yet. Like the live action movie that inspired it, this show is definitely not for kids (the inclusion of something called a Whorephanage might have tipped you off to that) but we found it absolutely hilarious, with lots of quotable lines of dialogue that keep us laughing through the whole year. The show is set in the 1970’s and the inclusion of O.J. Simpson as the most likeable black man in America is wincingly perfect, remembering his squeaky clean image from those days and knowing what we know now. The series ended after only two seasons, but I’m sure glad they managed to produce at least one Christmas episode, because this one is an irreverent and ridiculously funny gem.

Intimidating Santa

Black Dynamite may have been a little too forceful with Jolly Old St. Nick.

Spelling Bee

A flashback scene shows young Black Dynamite (with a full moustache) up against young O.J. Simpson in a spelling bee.

OJ and the Whorephanage

O.J. kindly takes over management of the Whorephanage after Black Dynamite is assumed dead.

Amazon moon orphans

“Amazon moon bitches got kids, too!”

Individual Superlative: Fa La La La What? – Black Dynamite’s version starts out with ‘Check them hos, but keep them jolly’ and that’s when you know you’re in for something out of the ordinary.

Want to Watch it? Black Dynamite: A Crisis for Christmas is available on the Adult Swim website.

The Bears Who Saved Christmas

Title

Debuted in 1994

22 minutes

Plot in 3 Sentences: On their way to spend Christmas at Grandma’s house, Tom and Suzie and their parents run into a blizzard and wind up stranded in an isolated cabin. The children’s teddy bears (and some new friends they meet in the cabin) go out into the woods to bring back a Christmas tree to save the holiday for them. They have a big adventure and finish their task just in time for the children to wake up to the best Christmas ever.

Fun Fact: This was released on video as Christopher and Holly.

My thoughts: I have such a great admiration for those who write for children and respect their audience enough to write intelligently for them. Sadly, this special was not written by those types of writers. Everything about this one, from the title on down, seems to have been thrown together by someone who has only seen children on commercials. First of all, Christmas is never actually in peril, so the bears here are simply stepping in where Tom and Suzie’s parents are failing (see Individual Superlative below). Flashy the Flashlight (seriously?) and Charlie the Compass are voiced by comedians Henry Gibson and Jonathan Winters, but the writing is so bland that there’s not much here for either of them to work with. I found it dull and emotionless.

Car shock

It’s snowing really badly and the car’s stuck.  Let’s all stare at the gear shift!

Charlie and Flashy

Charlie the Compass is the only one feeling positive here.

Black Bart

Black Bart the bear shows up about 10 minutes after Dad promises the kids there are no bears anywhere nearby. Dammit, Dad!

The Decorations

The tree lights are fireflies.

Individual Superlative: The Parents Who Ruined Christmas – Tom and Suzie’s parents annoyed me throughout this thing.  Their plan for dealing with the blizzard is to just sit in the car until it passes. They take their kids into a mysterious house and then do NOTHING to help make it a good holiday for their kids. Their plan is to hope for a miracle.  In the morning, they just seem confused. Way to drop the ball, Mom & Dad.

Want to Watch it? The Bears Who Saved Christmas is available on DVD and you can find it on YouTube.

Chowder: Hey, Hey It’s Knishmas!

TitleDebuted in 2008

22 minutes

Plot in 3 Sentences: Chowder desperately wants an electric broccoli trimmer with detachable non-electric cauliflower trimmer for Knishmas, but it’s too expensive for Mung to buy. In order for Knish Krinkle to bring it to him, Mung’s schmingerbread house has to be good enough for him to eat but since he knows his schmingerbread skills are poor, he goes to Endive to buy a proper one. When Chowder finds out, he disguises himself as Knish Krinkle so that he can choose Mung’s house to make him feel better and when the real Knish Krinkle sees his selflessness, he gives him the trimmer anyway.

Fun Fact: In this episode, Chowder gives Panini (who has a crush on him) a kiss on the cheek as a Knishmas gift. The final episode of Chowder shows that when they grow up, they get married and have lots of kids. Adorable.

My thoughts: When it comes to Christmas specials, there’s good weird and bad weird and then there’s this one, which I put in the category of awesome weird. Chowder is a strange little show anyway, centering around a master chef and his apprentice, in a world where everyone is named after a food item. The upside of its oddness is that you don’t have to know anything about the show to enjoy this episode. There are some really fun and bizarre transitions, like singing nutcrackers, and some surreal moments along the way that make me laugh every time I see them. Although the majority of the special is traditional animation, it’s book-ended by stop motion segments featuring Gazpacho in a Santa suit, serving as a sort of narrator. As wacky as the whole thing is, there is a sentimental core here with a great message about caring for those you love and caring for yourself as well. It’s this core, I think, that makes the difference between weird that works and weird that doesn’t. We watch this bizarre little gem every year.

The reason it looks like they are posing for the camera is that Gazpacho has just read the stage directions ("Look to camera and smile.") aloud

The reason it looks like they are posing for the camera is that Gazpacho has just read the stage directions (“Look to camera and smile.”) aloud

Who needs an official Red Rider carbine action two hundred shot range model air rifle when you could have this glorious thing?

Who needs an official Red Rider carbine action two hundred shot range model air rifle when you could have this glorious thing?

I'm a little terrified of Knish Krinkle.

I’m a little terrified of Knish Krinkle.

Everyone is happy (except Endive) but no one is happier than Chowder.

Everyone is happy (except Endive) but no one is happier than Chowder.

Individual Superlative: Strangest and Yet Most Amazing Gift – After seeing this (and hearing Chowder say it so many times), I found myself wishing I had an electric broccoli trimmer with detachable non-electric cauliflower trimmer. How have we all lived so long without one?

Want to Watch it? Chowder: Hey, Hey It’s Knishmas! is not currently available for home video, but you can watch it on YouTube or usually catch it in reruns during the holidays.