The Forgotten Toys

Title

Debuted in 1995

25 minutes

Plot in 3 Sentences: Teddy wakes up after Christmas and finds himself in a trash can, where he befriends a discarded doll named Annie. While trying to find new kids who will love them, they meet a dog named Chauncey who wants to help them. They are eventually found by an old man, who fixes them up and gives them direction to a school, where they are adopted by new children.

Fun Fact: The voices for Annie and Chauncey were different when the special aired in the US, but Bob Hoskins voiced Teddy in both versions.

My thoughts:  For a Christmas special, this one actually doesn’t have a lot to do with Christmas, taking place right afterwards and only casually referencing it after that. But the story served as a pilot episode for a series that ran for two seasons and followed these same characters, who were apparently immediately abandoned again by their new children in the season opener. (Dang, you know they have self-esteem issues by this point.) When we first saw this on Fox Family many years ago, Annie’s voice was higher and airier, so seeing the original with Joanna Lumley’s grittier voice was a little jarring. No one else could possibly be Teddy but Bob Hoskins, though. He’s perfectly cast as the grumpy but lovable little bear. There’s a sweet moment near the end when Teddy uses Annie’s name after calling her ‘Pigtails’ for the rest of the show and it’s made even more poignant because of his gruff character. I like this special, but the overall feeling it leaves you with is one of sadness, especially when you learn that the toys go on to be abandoned and searching for owners yet again down the road.

Holding breath

Holding your breath never works, Teddy.  It does make you cute, though.

Helping Chauncey

Annie helps Chauncey after he’s been hit by a passing car.

Robot Teddy

Teddy wants to be a high tech robot toy.

Fixed up

Everyone’s looking neat and pretty!

Individual Superlative: Is He or Isn’t He? – The old man who fixes the toys up has a long beard and a workshop in a junkyard. Because he not only fixes them up, but also helps the toys to find new owners, it may be that we are supposed to believe he’s Santa Claus. But it never says for sure.

Want to Watch it? The Forgotten Toys is available on DVD and YouTube.

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The Fairly OddParents!: Christmas Every Day

Title

Debuted in 2001

22 minutes

Plot in 3 Sentences: Timmy is excited about Christmas morning and wishes every day could be Christmas. Cosmo and Wanda grant his wish and it becomes a major problem, with most businesses staying closed and other holidays getting upset. When every kid wishes for December 26th, life returns to normal.

Fun Fact: The Fairly OddParents! ran for 16 years on Nickelodeon, making it the second longest animated series on the network.

My thoughts: The Fairly OddParents! got its start as part of the Oh Yeah! Cartoons show on Nickelodeon and was expanded into its own series and even a few live action movies. Timmy Turner is a boy with fairy godparents and he makes wishes that inevitably create problems that need to be resolved, leading to the conclusion that wishes are probably not as great as they are cracked up to be. In this episode, the problems are global and all the kids of the world have to come together to solve them. I really liked the plot’s resolution here and thought the episode was a lot of fun. The other holidays represented here are the Easter Bunny, Cupid and the April Fool, who is clearly a parody of Jerry Seinfeld, punctuating every statement with ‘What’s the deal with that?’ There is a lot of creativity at play in this show, with Cosmo and Wanda able to shape shift into different things to avoid detection. I thought this episode was a lot of fun.

Natural enemies

The miracle of Christmas can turn the bitterest enemies into friends.

Nog obsessed

Timmy’s Dad has eggnog addiction issues.

Other holidays

The baby new year could use a little cardio.

Children of the world

Italian kids have amazing moustache game.

Individual Superlative: The Economic Impact – Several different specials and characters have taken on the problematic issue of wishing for every day to be Christmas, but this is the first one I’ve seen that looks at it how it affects the global economy. Kids are growing up fast.

Want to Watch it? The Fairly Odd Parents: Christmas Every Day is available on DVD and YouTube.

Adam Ruins Everything: Adam Ruins Christmas

Title

Debuted in 2016

24 minutes

Plot in 3 Sentences: Adam’s sister, Rhea, is stressed about their parents’ upcoming Christmas visit. As they prepare the house, Adam takes several opportunities to debunk some holiday myths and traditions and Rhea gets upset that he’s not being more helpful. He shows her a video from their childhood in which she tells him there’s no Santa and that it’s best to know the truth, which makes her realize she’s the one who made him so curious about the truth and they share a nice holiday with their parents.

Fun Fact: At the end of the special, we find out that the unseen narrator is Adam Savage (Mythbusters) which is a nice button on the rest of the show.

My thoughts: Adam Ruins Everything is a show that came from the College Humor website and it’s hosted by Adam Conover, who starred in the website segments as well. On each episode, Adam gives details, history and interesting facts about a different subject, disproving some general misconceptions and providing an entertaining and educational overview of the subject. It’s a lot like Penn & Teller’s Bullshit series only presented more as a sitcom with different characters. This is a really enjoyable episode, with a lot of interesting information, much of which was new to me. Comedian Rhea Butcher plays Adam’s sister and she provides a nice counterpoint to his character. The live action shifts to animation (reminiscent of A Charlie Brown Christmas) to tell some of the stories and I think it’s awesome as an homage and a comedic device, particularly when the story they’re telling is more adult in nature. As with any show of this nature, you may learn something that pushes you out of your comfort zone, but the good news is that how much you let that affect your holiday is pretty much up to you.

Saturnalia

What kind of cups does Starbucks have for Saturnalia?

Economics

The whole economy of gift giving section will make you rethink the gifts you’ve already bought.

Wonderful Life

Every time a bell rings, an angel puts an It’s a Wonderful Life parody in their special.

Krampus

Krampus, just put the baby down and walk away.

Individual Superlative: Favorite Message – Okay, at its core, this is a comedy show, but the underlying message that is repeated a few times throughout is that everyone should celebrate the holiday in a way that is meaningful for them and I think that’s a tremendously important takeaway.

Want to Watch it? Adam Ruins Everything: Adam Ruins Christmas is available on YouTube and will probably be shown again during this holiday season.

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.

Babar and Father Christmas

Title

Debuted in 1986

24 minutes

Plot in 3 Sentences: When Zephir the monkey tells the little elephants about Father Christmas, they all want him to come to Celesteville. Babar plans to go looking for him, but Rataxes the rhino overhears him and makes plans to get there first and steal all the toys. Babar and Father Christmas become friends and Father Christmas spends his holiday in Celesteville, even bringing along a present for Rataxes.

Fun Fact: The narrator of this special is Laurent de Brunhoff, the son of Babar’s original author, Jean de Brunhoff.

My thoughts: I have been a fan of Babar the elephant since I was a little girl, so I was predisposed to like this special. The plot of the story is already good and the narration, with the addition of Laurent de Brunhoff’s charming French accent, gives me even more to like about it. While looking for Father Christmas, Babar’s travels take him to several different places, including a visit to a bizarre map professor who seems jarring and out of place with the rest of this sweet and calming special. Santa has never seen a flamingo, which is why Babar invites him to vacation in Celesteville. I love that Rataxes, who has been trying to ruin Babar’s plans the whole time, gets a saxophone from Santa, who seems to recognize that there’s a good guy in there somewhere. I really like this one.

Sad kids

They haven’t heard the ‘you better not pout’ thing yet.

Faux Father Christmas

It’s easy to see how Babar mistook this guy for Father Christmas.

Dinner with Father Christmas

This dinner date with Santa is going really well.

Rataxes and horn

Please see the individual superlative below and then look back at this picture.

Individual Superlative: Cutest Villain – Okay, I get that this one is just my opinion. But I have always had a soft spot for Rataxes the rhino. Sure, he’s a bad guy. But he’s so CUTE!

Want to Watch it? Babar and Father Christmas is available on VHS, DVD, iTunes and YouTube.

Sanford and Son: Ebenezer Sanford

TitleDebuted in 1975

20 minutes

Plot in 3 Sentences: After insulting his friends and family, taking advantage of a local kid who is looking to earn a little extra Christmas money and being too lazy to celebrate the holiday, Fred falls asleep in his chair. In his dream, his son Lamont appears as the ghosts of Christmas past, present and future and shows him the error of his ways. When he wakes up, Fred sets out to make things right and joins his friends for a Christmas party.

Fun Fact: Redd Foxx’s real name was John Elroy Sanford and his character was named for his brother, Fred.

My thoughts: Sanford and Son was an American-ized version of the 1960’s British sitcom, Steptoe and Son. I grew up watching this show and it was much later that I learned that Redd Foxx was notoriously filthy in his standup act. It didn’t really surprise me. I can’t imagine anyone else playing this character, though. Like many 70’s sitcoms, the show had a lot of recurring bits that you waited for in every episode. You know Fred is going to insult Aunt Esther and he does so hilariously here, responding to her declaration of having the spirit of Christmas by telling her she also has the face of Halloween. You know he’s going to have a fake heart attack and claim he’s soon to join his wife, Elizabeth. But you also know that there’s a good heart inside this guy and this episode plays that up bigtime. He owns up to his behavior, which is something you rarely see him do and he unselfishly gives away his own gifts to make things right for the kid who helps him out. And the show closes with him singing ‘The Christmas Song’ amongst the rest of the cast and it’s surprisingly sweet.

Aunt Esther

Aunt Esther, smiling in the face of the insults she had to have been expecting.

Fredsie and Mom

Fred’s mother calls him ‘Fredsie’ which so doesn’t fit his adult persona.

Christmas Future

The ghost of Christmas Future is Lamont in a space suit. Perfect.

Party

Fred may be crotchety, but he’s a well loved guy.

Individual Superlative: The Actor of Sanford Future – Eric Laneuville appears in this episode as Ronnie Small, the neighborhood kid earning money to buy gifts for his parents. He plays a different recurring character in the final season as Aunt Esther’s adopted son.

Want to Watch it? Sanford and Son: Ebenezer Sanford is available on YouTube.

Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer

TitleDebuted in 1944

9 minutes

Plot in 3 Sentences: A reindeer with a shiny red nose is mocked and treated badly by his peers. Then on a particularly foggy Christmas Eve, Santa sees him and asks him to help light the way for his toy delivery. He becomes a Christmas hero.

Fun Fact: Rudolph was originally created to be an advertising icon for Montgomery Ward department stores.

My thoughts: The Rankin-Bass version of Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer has been a Christmas tradition pretty much as long as I’ve been alive. I imagine there are lots of people who have never seen this short, which marks the debut of Rudolph as an animated character. This version of the story is significantly less cluttered than the Rankin-Bass, with the only named characters being Rudolph, Santa and his team of reindeer, which is why you can tell the entire story in nine minutes. Also, Rudolph is not at all related to Santa’s reindeer and is completely unknown to them until Santa stops by to deliver his presents and spies his red nose. The story is narrated in rhyme by Paul Wing, who was one of the only people to receive an Academy Award for Assistant Director (before they retired the category). On the versions I’ve seen, all the dialogue sounds as though it was recorded inside a tin can. I’m not sure if the original sounded any better. It’s worth watching for the historical view of Rudolph, but doesn’t stand up that well over time.

Mom

Rudolph’s mom has got it going on!

Hear Ye

Reindeer are noted for their public speaking skills.

Proposal

Santa is getting all dramatic here.

Santa

Please keep your seatbelt fastened, Santa.

Individual Superlative: Most Ambiguous Age – No one seems to be really sure when this cartoon was actually released. Some documentation says 1944 and others say 1949. The song was first recorded (by Gene Autry) in 1949 and some say this short was re-released with the song in 1949, thereby causing the confusion, but it seems that no evidence exists to support either story.

Want to Watch it? Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer is available on YouTube as well as several VHS and DVD compilations.