Shaun the Sheep: We Wish Ewe a Merry Christmas

Title

Debuted in 2010

7 minutes

Plot in 3 Sentences: When the flock is awakened by Santa on Christmas Eve, they follow him and discover it’s only the farmer in disguise. Peeking through the window, they see that he is lonely and sad, remembering the joys of Christmas past. The animals work together to bring some holiday spirit back into his life and they all have a wonderful Christmas.

Fun Fact: A Shaun the Sheep theme park opened in 2016 at Skåne Djurpark in Sweden.

My thoughts: The character of Shaun the sheep first appeared in the Wallace & Gromit short, A Close Shave in 1995. He proved to be an immensely popular character who was given his own animated series (which spun off another series, called Timmy Time, but that’s for another review). The show, which consisted of two seven minute shorts each episode, ran for 5 seasons, producing 150 shorts. This was the final short of the second season and I really loved it.  It’s very funny, but also really warm and sweet, with a nice message about giving to others and spending time with those you love. There are almost no spoken words in the entire short, but you never fail to get the full meaning of what every character is thinking.  It’s such a cute touch that Santa Claus shows up to give gifts to all the animals, after they have spent such so much time making Christmas special for the farmer. This one’s definitely worth a watch.

Childhood Christmas

The farmer as a boy, still with those awesome thick glasses.

Knitting the striped sweater

Shaun’s mother is clearly an accomplished knitter.

Paper snowflakes

When your name is Mower Mouth and you’re a goat, you get chosen to make snowflakes.

Decorating the house

This is what we look like decorating for Christmas, too.

 
Individual Superlative: Best Reaction to a Delicious Christmas Dinner – One of the short’s funniest moments is when the chicken is peeking into the window and catches sights of the roast chicken the family is having for dinner. The look on her face, right before she faints dead away, is fantastic.

Want to Watch it? Shaun the Sheep: We Wish Ewe a Merry Christmas is available on DVD and YouTube.

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Pucca: Christmas Shorts

Title

Debuted in 2006

23 minutes 

Plot in 3 Sentences: In the first of three stories, a ninja named Black Powder shows up to get his revenge on Santa for becoming a giver instead of a thief. In the next story, Pucca and Garu try to discover why the Northern Lights have gone out. The third story features Tobe kidnapping Santa to take his place in hopes of capturing Garu.

Fun Fact: In the show, Pucca is supposed to be 11 and Garu is supposed to be 12.

My thoughts: Pucca started as a South Korean series of animated internet shorts, each only running a couple of minutes. They were produced from 2000 to 2005 and then expanded into longer shorts for a TV series that ran two seasons from 2006 to 2008. I stumbled on this episode because it was Christmas themed, but kind of fell in love with the show and watched all the episodes after that. The basic premise revolves around a village of ninjas, where the niece of the guys who own the local noodle restaurant is smitten with a silent ninja named Garu. The village is full of bizarre characters, including Santa Claus, who is integral to this episode’s shorts. The show is very funny and clever, with fun send-ups of anime and short parodies featuring these characters in other genres. This one has made a few appearances at our Christmas special parties over the year and is always well received.

Naked Santa

I don’t think I want to know how Santa can pull a long string of lights from his mouth.

Fake Santa with Zombie

Yes, the zombie asks Santa for brains.

Abyo with Walrus

Abyo gets his workout ninja kicking a walrus. Seems legit.

Closing Santa Wreath

Christmas is all about love, especially funny love.

Individual Superlative: Best Use of Santa’s Belly – Santa’s signature ninja move is called the Belly Bounce and he uses it to defeat Black Powder twice. That’s why he needs all those cookies!

Want to Watch it? The individual Pucca short cartoons are available on DVD and YouTube.

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.

 

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.

Happy Days: Guess Who’s Coming to Christmas?

title

Debuted in 1974

22 minutes

Plot in 3 Sentences: Fonzie tells the gang that he is going to Waukesha for a big family Christmas. But Richie finds out that Fonzie is actually spending the holiday alone. So the Cunninghams ask Fonzie to come over and repair their broken Santa Claus figure and then convince him to stay for Christmas Eve dinner festivities with them.

Fun Fact: George Lucas saw Ron Howard in the rejected pilot episode for Happy Days (which was originally aired as a segment of Love, American Style) and cast him in American Graffiti, which was very successful at the box office and helped the show get picked up as a series.

My thoughts: Like most people my age, I watched Happy Days pretty regularly when it first started. There was a big fascination with the 1950’s at the time and the show’s success owes a lot to that wave of nostalgia, which is pretty funny when you think about the fact that the show was only set about twenty years before the current time. (It would be like getting all nostalgic now over a show set in the 1990’s.) This episode opens at Arnold’s Diner and we see Fonzie talking to Al, who says he isn’t going to the Cunningham’s Christmas party because he thinks they only invited him because they felt sorry for him being alone. The rest of the episode is a flashback as Fonzie is telling him about his first Christmas with the Cunninghams, but we never go back to Fonzie and Al, which makes the show feel unfinished. The show itself doesn’t age well and now feels ham-handed and trite. Plot-wise, I like that the Cunninghams found a way to bring Fonzie into their Christmas without making him feel uncomfortable. Overall, though, this one can be easily missed.  And I have to mention the mistletoe scene at the beginning that was funny in the 1970’s but is just uncomfortably awful now.

office-party

I think you’ve had enough, Mr. C.


sad-christmas-eve

The saddest Christmas Eve dinner ever.


blessing

Joanie prays quietly, but Fonzie apparently has a direct line.


trimming-the-tree

It’s a perfect family Christmas!

Individual Superlative: Chuck? Chuck Who? – This was the last appearance of the Cunningham’s oldest son, Chuck. In the nine seasons that followed, he was never seen or mentioned again.

Want to Watch it? Happy Days: Guess Who’s Coming to Christmas is available on DVD, YouTube and Hulu.

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.

Nick and Noel

title

Debuted in 1993

22 minutes

Plot in 3 Sentences: A singer and her dog move in next door to a widowed writer and his daughter, Sarah, and the adults don’t get along. Their pets (Noel the cat and Nick the dog) go on a quest to find a new mother for Sarah and run into some danger. The singer and writer fall in love while looking for their missing pets and they all have a happy holiday.

Fun Fact: The singer is voiced by Lorna Patterson, who played Randy, the singing stewardess in the movie Airplane.

My thoughts: I can’t find anything positive to say about this special, other than being happy that it was one of the shorter ones and not a full hour long story. The plot is completely ridiculous and the whole thing is narrated by a mouse named Barnaby, voiced by Paul Williams, who lives under the main character’s duplex and is completely superfluous to the story. You know from the moment you find out that Sarah wants a mother for Christmas that her father and the singer next door are going to fall in love, but of course we have to see them start off as enemies. I guess I should be thankful that we get to see them form a friendship first before they fall immediately in love, but we find out in Barnaby’s end narration that they rush out and get married on Christmas Eve…probably no more than a week after they first fall in love. The two songs in the special are terrible and the animation is sophomoric. When I found out the fact listed in the individual superlative below, it came as no surprise whatsoever.

barnaby

Why does a mouse need a smoking jacket?

writer-dad

More importantly, why does he need safety goggles to play piano?

song

Sarah’s look captures it perfectly.

dressed-pets

It’s not Christmas until you dress up the pets in matching outfits.

Individual Superlative: Now Playing at Your Local Toy Store! – Toys R Us purchased the 7:30 slot on Thanksgiving Day to air this special, peppered with commercials showing the VHS version, plush versions of the toys, storybook and tape set (available only at your local Toys R Us store, of course), prompting an investigation by the Center for Media Education, who limits the number of minutes devoted to commercials in children’s programming.

Want to Watch it? Nick and Noel is available on VHS, DVD and YouTube.