Moose & Zee – Candy Cane Song

titleDebuted in 2007

2 minutes

Plot in 3 Sentences: Moose’s only wish for Christmas is to receive a candy cane. On Christmas morning, he is excited to see a wrapped gift from Zee that looks like a candy cane, but when he opens it, he finds a pair of socks instead. He is happy and grateful for the socks and then Zee points out the window to his real gift, a huge candy cane sitting outside.

Fun Fact: In addition to voicing Moose, Paul Christie also provided the voice for Nickelodeon’s Stick Stickly (a family favorite) and Louie the Lizard from Budweiser’s Superbowl commercials.

My thoughts: Last month we had one of the longest shorts in my list (at ten minutes long) and this month we swing to the other side of the spectrum with one of the shortest. But this adorable animated short packs a lot of fun and warmth into its two minute running time. Moose A. Moose and Zee D. Bird were featured in over 100 educational shorts which were originally aired on the Noggin network (which became Nick Jr in 2009).  These shorts were often aired between episodes of other shows as interstitials and featured read-aloud stories, puzzles, color and word games and even art appreciation. This was one of the show’s music video segments, which featured songs about special subjects, such as holidays or seasons. Moose’s candy cane song is cute and catchy, with an earnest optimism that is ridiculously likeable. When he opens his present from Zee and finds something other than his desired candy cane, he is so gracious and says that the best gift is having Zee for a friend. And then when he finds that Zee really did get him a candy cane, it’s a wonderful treat for all of us. The series ended in 2012 but many of the original episodes can be found online (and if you’re looking up this one, but sure to check out the Halloween episode, which is just as great).

picture

He uses a quill pen!  Moose A. Moose has unexpected depth.

happy-faces

These kids are strung out on sugar highs.  Don’t do candy canes, kids.

candy-cane-world

Candy Cane World is certainly very festive and I imagine it smells nice.

present

Zee doesn’t seem quite ready to be up yet.

Individual Superlative: Easiest Gift Request – What kind of world is Moose living in where candy canes are not available everywhere in abundance during the holiday season?  I inevitably have to throw away dozens of them in January ever year so he must live on some remote sugarless island somewhere. We need to find this island and get some candy canes out there STAT!

Want to Watch it? Moose & Zee – Candy Cane Song is available on YouTube.

Yes, Virginia, There is a Santa Claus

titleDebuted in 1974

23 minutes

Plot in 3 Sentences: Eight year old Virginia O’Hanlon is teased by her friends for still believing in Santa Claus and she writes a letter to the editor of the New York Sun, asking if Santa is real. Her parents and friends share their thoughts on the situation and she worries that the editor will not answer her. The editor is unsure how to respond but after sharing a nice dinner with the family of a local paperboy, he writes a heartfelt letter affirming Santa’s existence.

Fun Fact: The voice of Virginia O’Hanlon was provided by Courtney Lemmon, daughter of classic film star Jack Lemmon.

My thoughts: This special got its start after the real Virginia O’Hanlon passed away in 1971 and some of her friends got together to write the story of her famous letter. The story was optioned for this special and was so well received at the time that it won a Primetime Emmy for Outstanding Children’s Special. The animation was done by Bill Melendez, who also did the animation for the Peanuts specials. This is pretty obvious, though, seeing that the specials are very similar in style. What stands out about this one, though, are the ethnic stereotypes that abound, from the exaggeratedly oversized lips on the African American girl to the ‘faith and begorrah’ Irish cop to the Chinese boy whose ‘most honorable father’ runs a Chinese restaurant. And then there’s Pee Wee, who has a bizarre voice and only says, “me too.” And the freakishly proportioned bodies of the show’s women, who sport measurements that probably run around 48-12-48. Many moments of character animation take them out of their scene and show them against a marbled background, which is weird. The sentiment of this special is touching, as is the true story that it’s based on. But the warmth is wrapped up in a peculiar package that only could have come out in the early 70’s.

mr-church

Mr. Church is mighty suspicious of young Tommy.

ohanlons

One of many bizarre moments when characters laugh at something that’s not really funny. Here, Mother has just called them in to dinner. Hilarious.

teacher

Oh, those proportions!!  And why are their necks so LONG?

young-grasshopper

Most Honorable Father appears to have some junk in the trunk.

Individual Superlative: Most Cutthroat Joke – Absolutely the most ‘what just happened?’ moment in this special is when Mr. Church asks his secretary for a razor and she makes a slashing motion across her throat and says, “Oh, Mr. Church, you’re not going to…” before he interrupts her to assure her he just needs a shave. I just can’t wrap my contemporary mind around anyone thinking this was ever a funny joke that was okay for a children’s special.

Want to Watch it? Yes, Virginia, There is a Santa Claus is available on YouTube.

Back at the Barnyard: It’s an Udderful Life

titleDebuted in 2009

23 minutes

Plot in 3 Sentences: Otis throws a big holiday party on Christmas Eve and his high school friends Donner & Blitzen drop by with Santa during their delivery run. Otis accidentally gives Santa the wrong cup of eggnog and he comes down with ferret fever, incapacitating him for the night. Otis and the barnyard animals step in and deliver the last presents to prevent Christmas magic from disappearing forever.

Fun Fact: The title is a reference to It’s a Wonderful Life and Snotty Boy’s Christmas wish to receive a Red Ryder BB Taser references A Christmas Story.

My thoughts: This is the Christmas episode of Back at the Barnyard, which was a television spinoff of the 2006 animated movie, Barnyard, written and directed by Steve Oedekerk. The TV series ran for two seasons and this was the only Christmas episode. There’s a lot going on here and most of it seems to be trying to be in your face and edgy. There are some moments that made me laugh, but I’m not a big fan of this animation style or this type of humor, so most of it went a little wide of the mark for me. The idea that Christmas magic will disappear if Santa doesn’t get all the presents under the tree by midnight seems to reinforce the materialistic theme that so many specials work to defy. I feel like this is a show where you have to know something about the characters (and there are lots of them – they’re hard to keep straight) in order to really appreciate the special. So probably I’d say this is one for fans of the show, but not necessarily for anyone else.

narrator

The narrator is a bit of a hot mess.

snotty-kiss

Mistletoe can be the start of a beautiful relationship.  But not this one.

santa-has-the-fever

Santa in the grip of Ferret Fever.

hoobermans

The show is full of bizarre (but also pretty funny) plugs for Hoobermans bakery.

Individual Superlative: Don’t Eat Before Watching – There are several gross-out jokes in this show, including the narrator giving himself a root canal, filing his foot calluses and asking the audience to look at the boil on his neck.

Want to Watch it? Back to the Barnyard: It’s an Udderful Life is available on DVD.

Christmas in Tattertown

titleDebuted in 1988

26 minutes

Plot in 3 Sentences: Debbie and two of her toys fall into a magic book and end up in Tattertown, a city that’s home to everything that’s ever been lost. Her doll, Muffet, rejoices at being free and heads to Deadster (the home of war toys) to plot her takeover of Tattertown. Debbie teaches everyone in Tattertown about Christmas and the story ends with Muffet in jail.

Fun Fact: This was the first animated special created specifically for Nickelodeon.

My thoughts: Imagine dropping acid in a room full of toys, probably while you also have a high fever and maybe schizophrenia, and you have a good idea of what watching this special is like. Christmas in Tattertown was actually the pilot episode of what was supposed to be new 30+ episode series on Nickelodeon, which was just hitting its stride as a network. Director and writer Ralph Bakshi was joined by an impressive group of animators and voice talent to create the series based on his comic strip, Junktown. There were a few different factors that killed the series and the most interesting one involves the American Family Association’s ridiculous assertion that Mighty Mouse’s sniffing of flowers was representative of cocaine use. It blew up into a big thing and since Bakshi was involved in the Mighty Mouse show, Nickelodeon’s support for Junktown wavered. So they aired the pilot as a standalone Christmas special. Knowing it was meant to be a pilot helps explain some things, since they thought they’d have other episodes to flesh out characters and build their world better. The animation is fantastic, clearly paying respect to the early days of animation, with wacky squash-and-stretch characters and silly visual gags. But the pace is too frenetic, the characters are too bizarre and there’s too much unexplained for me to enjoy.

miles

Miles, the jazzy saxophone narrator, is probably my favorite character.

debbie-and-dog

Debbie is giving her dog the fish eye.

muffet-as-santa

Muffet does not make a convincing Santa here.

tannenbaum

That’s Tannenbaum, the comic book store owner, who will also double as their Christmas tree. Huh?

Individual Superlative:  Most Confusing Internal Tag Struggle – I initially checked the box to tag this entry as for ‘Not for kids’ when I watched this, but the more I thought about it, there’s nothing really overtly adult about it. Then again, there are some questionable moments, but then again…let’s just say I went back and forth and eventually decided not to tag it. I think, with today’s kids, it’s probably all fair game.

Want to Watch it? Christmas in Tattertown is available on YouTube and still sometimes shows up during holiday programming.

The Christmas Orange

title-cleanDebuted in 2002

22 minutes

Plot in 3 Sentences: Anton Stingley is upset because he was born on Christmas Day and only gets presents once a year instead of twice like other people. He prepares an extensive (92 page) wish list for Santa but then only gets an orange on Christmas morning, so he sues Santa for failing to comply with his request and the ensuing trial prompts Santa to quit. Anton tries unsuccessfully to get Santa to change his mind and then, feeling bad that he has ruined Christmas for everyone, he gives away all his own toys and his generosity inspires Santa to return to his post.

Fun Fact: The picture book that this special was based on was shortlisted for the Governor General’s Award for Children’s Literature, which is a Canadian literary prize.

My thoughts: This special is a little bit of a rollercoaster for me, because there are things I like about it and things I don’t like about it and it goes up and down several times throughout. The anti-greed message is good, if a little heavy-handed. There are a couple of scenes in the special that seem to come out of nowhere, especially when the elves show up at Anton’s house and seem to start setting up a workshop there, then abruptly stop when they realize they can’t work for Anton because he’s not an elf. There’s no explanation for it, so it seems like a big extraneous scene that was meant to be funny and just didn’t come off. I like the way that Santa is presented and his reaction to hearing that he’s been a disappointment to several people is actually a little heart-wrenching. Some of the jokes are pretty clever, including the prosecuting attorney’s assertion that if Santa were innocent, he wouldn’t need all those aliases. The animation feels a little on the minimal side, but the characterizations are solid. I enjoy watching this one every few years, but it isn’t a big favorite.

an-orange

Anton is clearly displeased.

studpustle

And his lawyer is equally incredulous.

defense

Santa’s legal representation seems like he may be in over his head.

facing-the-press

Even Santa can’t escape the scrutiny of the liberal media.

Individual Superlative:  Elves = Leprechauns? – For some reason, all of Santa’s elves here speak with an exaggerated Irish accent and since our unseen narrator does, too, I guess we should assume that our narrator is an elf. Or a leprechaun.  Or both?  I don’t know how this works.

Want to Watch it? The Christmas Orange was released on DVD, but it’s out of print so it’s a little hard to find.

Gift Wrapped

Title

Debuted in 1952

6 minutes

Plot in 3 Sentences: Disappointed by the rubber mouse he gets from Santa, Sylvester sets his sights on the Tweety bird intended for Granny. He tries several times to eat Tweety, but is thwarted at every turn and is equally pursued by a dog wanting to eat him. Granny insists on peace in the house for Christmas and they all sing a carol together.

Fun Fact: Scenes featuring Sylvester being blown up are sometimes edited out for television while a ‘cowboys & Indians’ scene is almost never shown anymore.

My thoughts: I have always been a fan of the Looney Tunes animated shorts, going way back to when they were shown on Saturday morning with a classic musical introduction that most people my age can probably still remember. (Sing it with me, Baby Boomers, “Overture, curtain, lights…”) There were not a lot of Christmas-themed shorts featuring the classic characters, which makes this one a little more special. The Sylvester and Tweety shorts were not usually among my favorites, since I was more of a Bugs Bunny and Daffy Duck kind of gal. But this one is pretty funny, with several moments where Sylvester chomps Tweety down in one bite and even a few where Hector the bulldog pops Sylvester down in one bite. For some reason, that always makes me laugh. Coincidentally, this one ends with a dog (and cat) singing Christmas carols with a gift tag slapped over their mouths, just like Pluto’s Christmas Tree, which debuted the same year.

Mouse.

Agreed. A rubber mouse is a poor gift.

Teeth

That looks like a bad Puddy Tat.

Mouthful

The tail is the toughest and chewiest part.

Cowboys and Indians

I hope Tweety has a concealed carry permit.

Individual Superlative: The Gifts are Alive! – Granny gets Tweety as a gift and I’m assuming that since Hector is also wrapped up under the tree, he’s intended as a gift for her, too. Who keeps giving her animals?

Want to Watch it? Gift Wrapped is available on DVD and YouTube.

Snow Foolin’

TitleDebuted in 1949

6 minutes

Plot in 3 Sentences: It’s the first day of winter and a mountain of snow falls in the forest. The animals respond by putting on their fur coats, engaging in winter sports and having a snowball fight. A mother hen encourages a sing-along of Jingle Bells and the lyrics appear onscreen for everyone to join in.

Fun Fact: The smoking penguin that goes ice skating by is a caricature of Willie the Penguin, who was the mascot for Kool cigarettes at the time.

My thoughts: The Screen Songs shorts got their start in 1929 and were produced by Fleischer Studios and then by Famous Studios through 1951. I’m not old enough to remember when these played in theaters, but I remember seeing them on TV during the various hours of cartoon programming when I was a kid and I was always in awe of the idea of a whole theater full of people singing along with a bouncing ball. This seems to be the only Christmas themed sing-along short (yes, I realize the song is not really about Christmas, but it’s part of the holiday canon so it counts), which is surprising, as Christmas carols would seem like a natural choice for something like this. There are a couple of chuckles in the animated montage that precedes the song, but it’s mostly just a lot of filler. My favorite thing in the montage was during the scenes of animals skating on the frozen pond, when they showed that fish were skating upside down on the bottom side of the ice.

Coffee Turtle

This turtle brought to you by Keurig.

8 the hard way

When you’re not good enough to do a figure eight.

Snowball cannon

Many a snowball war was won or lost on the strength of an elephant cannon.

One horse open sleigh

Sing along, kids!  Just follow the bouncing snowball!

Individual Superlative: Bring This Back! – Considering the success they have had recently with sing-along features in the theater, I think they should resurrect the Screen Songs series. Anyone with me? No? Just me? Okay.

Want to Watch it? Snow Foolin’ is available on YouTube.