The Boondocks: A Huey Freeman Christmas

Title

Debuted in 2005

21 minutes

Plot in 3 Sentences: Mr. Uberwitz gives Huey creative control over the Christmas pageant and Huey writes a new story called ‘The Adventures of Black Jesus.’ He fires all the kids for not being committed to the show and then brings on Quincy Jones to do the music. Although most of the parents boycott the show and Mr. Uberwitz loses his job for his decision, those who do see it give it a standing ovation.

Fun Fact: The Boondocks got its start as a comic strip that debuted on Hitlist.com and went on to be published in newspapers.

My thoughts: The Boondocks ran for four seasons on Cartoon Network’s Adult Swim between the years of 2005 and 2014, telling the story of the Freeman family and their friends. The show is full of social commentary and satire, mostly relating to the experiences of an African American family living in a largely white neighborhood. There are some funny moments in this one and a good message about not compromising your artistic vision due to the prejudices and feelings of others, but overall, the show is dark and a little too angry and hostile for me. I know folks who love the show, though, and it was pretty well received by critics during its run, so I have to think that my issues are probably just mine. I was really expecting the play to crash and burn, so the fact that it turned out to be awesome was a welcome surprise. I was really rooting for things to turn out well for Huey, which is a testament to how well the character was represented, in my opinion.

Jazmine

Jazmine is preaching the gospel of Santa and she is feeling the spirit.

Santa vs Chair

Looks like Santa is the one who ‘better watch out.’

Riley's letter

I don’t imagine this is the usual sentiment for a letter to Santa.

Quincy Jones

Quincy Jones voices his own character.

Individual Superlative: Art Imitates Life – In the show’s postscript, it says that Mr. Uberwitz went on to become an African American studies professor at University of Maryland, which is where show creator Aaron McGruder went to school, where he majored in African American studies.

Want to Watch it? The Boondocks: A Huey Freeman Christmas is available on DVD and iTunes.

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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.

 

The Marvelous Misadventures of Flapjack: Low Tidings

titleDebuted in 2009

22 minutes

Plot in 3 Sentences: Flapjack wants to experience Low Tides Day but K’nuckles hates the holiday due to a bad experience with it when mermen sacked him for being bad when he was young. K’nuckles tries to find a hiding place so that the mermen won’t sack him again but all the spots are taken, so Flapjack aims to make him into a good person instead so he will have nothing to fear. Eventually, Poseidon asks the mermen to stop sacking people and decides that sacks will be only be used to deliver gifts.

Fun Fact: This was the first two part episode of the show.

My thoughts: There are some specials that are fairly easy to summarize in three sentence and wow, this sure isn’t one of them. The Marvelous Misadventures of Flapjack ran for three seasons on Cartoon Network and chiefly centered around a boy, the talking whale who raised him and the pirate they rescued together. The premise of their Low Tides holiday is that good kids can lower their boots into the water, where Poseidon will fill them with toys and bad kids are tied up in sacks by mermen. Although most of the special is regular animation, there are some stop motion scenes and a bizarre live action Poseidon who interacts with the animated characters. The special opens with a version of ‘The Most Wonderful Time of the Year’ with some funny rewritten lyrics. Overall, the special is really weird, like the show, but it has its funny moments. It’s probably better appreciated by those who already watch and enjoy the show, though, as there’s a lot to absorb otherwise.

little-knuckles

Little K’nuckles has a lot of teeth.

flapjack

Flapjack seems to be experiencing some holiday ennui.

mermen-with-bag

I didn’t know mermen were so grumpy.

poseidon-talking-to-townsfolk

“Observe my impressive blue muscular arm!”

Individual Superlative: Weirdest Narrator – The episode’s narrator character is the town comedian, a strange looking guy named Lolly Poopdeck.

Want to Watch it? Flapjack: Low Tidings is available on YouTube and usually airs on Cartoon Network during the holiday season.

Regular Show: The Christmas Special

title

Plot in 3 Sentences: Mordecai and Rigby find Santa, who’s been shot and fallen into a garage. He shows them a Christmas present box full of dark magic and tells them how a rogue elf, Quillgen, is trying to get the box to destroy Christmas forever. Together with their other friends, they overcome obstacles and defeat Quillgen, destroying the box and saving Christmas.

Fun Fact: Many of the characters in this show first appeared in creator J.G. Quintel student films while he was at Cal Arts.

My thoughts: Regular Show, if you’ve never seen it, is another entry in the ever growing list of animated shows with weird elements. These types of shows are hit and miss with me overall. You have to have good characters, interesting plots or genuinely funny moments for me to stay on board. The Christmas episodes are the only ones I’ve seen of Regular Show and I have liked them quite a bit so I imagine I really should give the show’s normal episodes a try. This one has a really intriguing and complex plotline that feels like it’s straight out of a big action movie and the characters have real connections and emotions that I think would mean even more to me if I watched more episodes. Santa is voiced by Ed Asner who brings a gritty age-old wisdom to this badass version of the character. And the final showdown is set to the tune of ‘Christmas Eve/Sarajevo 12/24’ originally performed by Savatage and re-released by Trans-Siberian Orchestra. Even if you have never seen the show and don’t know anything about these quirky characters, there’s a lot here to recommend.

party

Benson gets bonus points for his festive holiday sweater.

santa-with-rigby-mordecai

I’m pretty sure this is the first pony-tailed Santa that I’ve seen.

test-family

This is what happens to people when they open the dark magic box.

whole-crowd

The gang is in peril and only Benson’s pinball skill can save the day!

Individual Superlative: Frodo’s Favorite – This episode has several references to Lord of the Rings, including the need to destroy the present in a cave of lava and Muscle Man’s attempt to smash it with a hammer.

Want to Watch it? Regular Show: The Christmas Special is available on YouTube and has been in the network holiday rotation since its premiere.

A Johnny Bravo Christmas

titleDebuted in 2001

22 minutes

Plot in 3 Sentences: Johnny finds the letters to Santa that he and his mama wrote (and he neglected to mail) and the Post Office tells him it’s too late to send them now. He hires a pilot to fly him (and neighborhood girl, Suzy) to the North Pole to deliver the letters and along the way, they meet some circus animals and Donny Osmond. Johnny learns that his mama had only asked for gifts for him, so he gives all his gifts to her instead.

Fun Fact: The character of Johnny Bravo was based on a short film that animator Van Partible created for his senior thesis project at Loyola Marymount.

My thoughts: I wasn’t a regular watcher of Johnny Bravo when the segments were airing regularly as part of the Cartoon Cartoon series on Cartoon Network, but I absolutely love this Christmas special. There had been a short Christmas-themed segment in 1997 called ‘Twas the Night (in which Johnny mistook Santa for a burglar and beat him up) but this was their first half hour special and there’s lots to like about it. It’s crammed full of comic moments and even gives us a female character who literally slams Johnny (into the door of a truck, I think) for his misogynistic overtones. Donny Osmond’s appearance here is hilarious, especially when he encourages everyone to sing while they’re talking. After all the funny bits, it’s even more meaningful when the special takes a sweet and sentimental turn at the end. We’ve shown this at a few of our Christmas special parties and it’s always a big hit.

post-office

Postal Guy doesn’t respect personal boundaries.


fred-and-velma

Johnny & Suzy make a really good Freddy and Velma


plane

The pilot who flies them to the North Pole only just got his license.


donny-and-santa

Santa and Donny are buddies from way back.

Individual Superlative: Laugh at Yourself – Donny Osmond provides the voice for his character here, poking fun at his own cheesy image and he sounds like he’s having a blast.

Want to Watch it? A Johnny Bravo Christmas is available on DVD and YouTube.

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.