A Christmas Story

TitleDebuted in 1972

23 minutes

Plot in 3 Sentences: Goober the dog and Gumdrop the mouse realize that Timmy’s letter to Santa never got mailed so they go out to deliver it themselves. They run into several obstacles and have trouble finding Santa, but then they involve all the local animals. Eventually, they return home and fall asleep and when they wake up, Santa has been there and clearly found Timmy’s letter.

Fun Fact: Three of the songs from this special were reused in A Flintstone Christmas, five years later. And one of them was used a third time in Yogi’s First Christmas in 1980.

My thoughts: I hadn’t seen this one in years and I have to say I really enjoyed seeing it again. It’s a simple story, but they pack a lot of fun and heart into it and prove that you really don’t need more than 23 minutes to tell a good story, even when you include songs. The songs here are festive and fun, especially the one that Goober and Gumdrop sing about how to tell which Santa is the real one in a city full of corner Santas. In typical 70’s Hanna-Barbera style, a lot of animation is re-used over and over during the musical bits and there are lots of jokes that I recognize from lots of other animated specials and shows. Of course, it gets a little sappy toward the end, when Timmy asks his parents what they asked Santa for and his mom tells him they asked for peace on Earth. Clearly, Santa keeps deciding not to give this particular gift every year, because we’re still asking for it (although definitely not doing our part to make it happen). But this one is a warm throwback to a simpler time when peace didn’t seem like such a crazy thing to ask for.

Christmas Eve

Mom is hiding all the Christmas cookies in her puffy sleeves.

Goober and Gumdrop

Goober and Gumdrop should get a kickback from the Post Office.

Santa parade

Too many Santas!

Look for Santa!

Funniest bit in the whole show – this bulldog yells at the cats “Look for Santa!”

Individual Superlative: Hanna-Barbera’s Greatest Hits – With a script by Ken Spears and Joe Ruby (from Scooby-Doo) and classic voice acting from the actors who voiced Yogi Bear, Judy Jetson, Gargamel, Dr. Benton Quest and Mr. Slate (from The Flintstones), this represents some of the best of the studio’s talent pool.

Want to Watch it? A Christmas Story is available on VHS, DVD and YouTube.


George and Junior’s Christmas Spectacular


Debuted in 1995

7 minutes

Plot in 3 Sentences: George and Junior arrive at the North Pole to deliver a letter to Santa, but it’s Christmas Eve and Santa has already left for the night. This means there’s a present Santa didn’t know he was supposed to bring, so the elves give it to George and Junior to deliver. The house has a guard dog, so they have a lot of trouble delivering it, but when the present turns out to be FOR the guard dog, everything turns out okay.

Fun Fact: There were only four cartoon shorts in the original George and Junior series. A fifth was written for them but was produced using two random dogs instead of George and Junior (yet, for some reason, it’s still considered a George and Junior short).

My thoughts: The original MGM George and Junior series was inspired by George and Lennie from John Steinbeck’s Of Mice and Men. The short-lived series was rebooted for the Cartoon Network What a Cartoon! Show in 1995, but it must not have been a big hit, because only two shorts were created. Actually, watching this one, I’m not at all surprised it didn’t score a hit. The humor fails on just about every level and if they were trying to recapture their old fans on the nostalgia ticket, they missed the boat on that by ratcheting the original Tex Avery gags up way too far. Everything here is oddly proportioned and verging on grotesque and the punching, farting and smashing all seems like overkill. The only thing I enjoyed about this was the score, which was a mixture of The Nutcracker and traditional Christmas carols. It seemed like a fair amount of thought went into matching the music to what was happening onscreen, but that’s about all there is to recommend it.

Head elf Steve

In case you didn’t know that was Head Elf Steve, they’ve provided a label.

I done a bad thing George

“I done a bad thing, George.” (Yes, I happen to agree with you.)

The boys and Santa

Santa could use some serious dental work. And some sun.

Bear heads

Super trippy bear heads.

Individual Superlative: Most Surreal Reality – There’s a moment when George and Junior are so scared that their cartoonish heads suddenly become very realistic looking bear heads. It’s freaky, even though (or maybe especially because) it only lasts for a couple of seconds.

Want to Watch it? George and Junior’s Christmas Spectacular is available on YouTube.

The Smurfs: ‘Tis the Season to Be Smurfy


Debuted in 1987

24 minutes

Plot in 3 Sentences: Wild is spending his first Christmas with the Smurfs and Papa Smurf wants to help him understand the spirit of giving. Grandpa Smurf and Sassette are visiting the human village and want to help a poor toymaker whose wife is gravely ill and they return to get help from the other Smurfs in raising her spirits, but no one wants to help. Papa Smurf tells them this is what Christmas is about and they all go to help make Christmas special for her, resulting in a large improvement in her health.

Fun Fact: This was the second (and also last) Christmas episode of the original TV series.

My thoughts: It’s hard to take the Smurfs seriously in any kind of critical way and there’s an urge to just call it the smurfiest smurfing special that ever smurfed. But when you strip away the basic wackiness, you see that the plotline here is actually very complex, with subplots that work to give some greater depth to the overall story. One such subplot involves a thief who is preying on rich people in the human village, who is moved to change his ways after a talking-to from Brainy Smurf. The messages of doing things for others and spreading cheer to those less fortunate is a little heavy-handed, but it’s conveyed in a way that I think is really meaningful to its audience, so I’m willing to overlook that. I would definitely recommend this one for kids, as it’s cute and funny, with a good take-home message.

Papa and Wild

Papa likes Wild, but Brainy and Vanity Smurf are not on board.

Grampy and Sassy

Grandpa and Sassette would be so much better if they didn’t speak.

Gustav and Elise

She is suffering from some disease that can be cured by the sudden  appearance of Smurfs.

The thief reexamines his life

The thief does some soul-searching while examining his ill-gotten gains.

Individual Superlative: Smurfarootie-tootie – It seems like half of the lines of Smurf dialogue in this thing start with some type of exclamation and they are all ridiculous. But Sassette, for some reason, has the most bizarre, such as ‘Hopeless hound dogs!’

Want to Watch it? The Smurfs: Tis the Season to Be Smurfy is available on VHS and DVD.

The New Scooby-Doo Mysteries: A Nutcracker Scoob


Debuted in 1984

24 minutes

Plot in 3 Sentences: The gang is helping out with the Christmas pageant at Mrs. Featherwig’s orphanage and Winslow Nickleby shows up, offering to buy the building (because he wants to find the emerald hidden there by a past member of his family.) During the rehearsal for A Christmas Carol, a ghost shows up and frightens everyone and everyone thinks it’s Nickleby, trying to scare them away. But they discover it’s actually the maid, Nanette Musette, who was hoping to steal the emerald for herself and Mr. Nickleby has a change of heart about the orphanage after Tiny Tina saves his cat, Snowball.

Fun Fact: This was the series finale of The New Scooby-Doo Mysteries and the last time any Scooby-Doo show used the ‘villain behind the mask’ plot until the A Pup Named Scooby-Doo series premiered four years later.

My thoughts: When it comes to Scooby-Doo, I have to admit that I’m a traditionalist. I grew up with Scooby-Doo, Where Are You? and The New Scooby-Doo Movies, which paired the Mystery Machine gang (rather bizarrely) with celebrities like Sandy Duncan and the Harlem Globetrotters. Most of the Scooby-Doo shows that came after the first series seemed like they were stretching the show’s basic concept a little thin. Like most people, I have no use whatsoever for Scrappy Doo, Scooby’s annoying nephew. By the time they got to this series, it seemed like the show was just going through the motions. There are lots of overly silly moments in this that don’t make much sense and, overall, I can’t say it’s worth your time to watch it unless you’re a serious Scooby fan. (And even then, there are better Scooby-Doo Christmas specials.)

Tiny Tina

Yeah, that teddy bear is wise to the pure evil that is Tiny Tina.

Bed mover

Who knew Shaggy would be the best person to call to help you move?

Cleaning Freddy

The most mysterious thing about Nanette is the way she cleans everyone she meets.

Sugar Plum Fairies

What is going on here? Never mind, I don’t want to know.

Individual Superlative: Creepiest Association – Sure, they may have named Tiny Tina after Tiny Tim, but she looks and talks exactly like Talky Tina from the “Living Doll” episode of The Twilight Zone and that makes her just no damn good

Want to Watch it?  A Nutcracker Scoob is available on DVD.