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.

Rugrats: The Santa Experience

titleDebuted in 1992

24 minutes

Plot in 3 Sentences: When Angelica discovers that the mall Santa is fake, she gets a box of toys to compensate and the unfair trades she makes with Lil and Phil get her worried that she will get coal for Christmas. All the families go to a mountain cabin for the holiday and Chuckie and Tommy set traps for Santa to find out if he’s actually good or bad. Chuckie’s dad tries to pose as Santa, and Angelica’s dad tries to hire a Santa impersonator, but those both go badly, then the real Santa shows up with presents for everyone (even Angelica).

Fun Fact: This is not only the first Christmas episode of Rugrats, but also the first time we actually get to see Angelica’s mother.

My thoughts: Rugrats ran for nine seasons on Nickelodeon and was one of the most successful cartoons on the network. This episode aired in its second season and is a really good representation of the show in general. Although the show is fairly formulaic, the characters are entertaining enough to make the show enjoyable to watch and the scripts had moments that played well to children watching, but also included some concepts that were aimed at the parents watching with them. There’s a lot going on in this episode that makes it good and most of it revolves around people caring for each other. Sure, Angelica is mostly centered on not getting coal for Christmas, but it shows that she knows what she did was wrong. When she gets her dream present from Santa, he tells her that sometimes wanting to be good can be important, but then we see that there IS a lump of coal in her dream house, reminding us that simply wanting to be good doesn’t cover everything. The earnestness with which the dads try to give their kids a perfect Christmas is sweet and we’re left with the conclusion that Christmas doesn’t need to be perfect. It generally is wonderful enough on its own.

babies-in-awe

The babies are understandably  in awe of Santa.

santa-and-angelica

But he seems pretty easy going here with Angelica.

mom

How do you even manage this hairstyle?

working-mom

Working moms are getting a bad rep here.

Individual Superlative: Most Honest Declaration – While all the parents are announcing what they plan to do in order to achieve the perfect Christmas, Grandpa declares that he will drink lots of eggnog and fall asleep. In my opinion, this is an important contribution to the holiday and I think I will join him. Eggnog solidarity, Grandpa!

Want to Watch it? Rugrats: The Santa Experience is available on VHS and DVD.

Invader Zim: The Most Horrible X-mas Ever

titleDebuted in 2002

24 minutes

Plot in 3 Sentences: Zim poses as Santa in order to get money and then, as he learns more about Santa, to lure humans to their doom. But the Santa suit he creates begins to believe he’s actually Santa and fills Zim with warm emotions and jolly feelings toward children. Dib and Gaz show up in time to stop him by jettisoning the mutated spirit of Santa into space.

Fun Fact: This was the last episode to be completed before the series was cancelled, but it was actually the first Season 2 episode to air in the US.

My thoughts: Invader Zim was a short-lived series on Nickelodeon created by comic book writer Jhonen Vasquez (best known for his Johnny the Homicidal Maniac comic series). The basic plot (an alien sent to Earth to infiltrate and plot world domination) is simple, but offers a lot to work with and the show had a fair-sized cult following. It’s a little confusing if you’ve never seen any of the show before, but still enjoyable even without the full knowledge of the characters. The show is bookended by a mechanical snowman narrator, telling a group of children the story we’re watching as something that happened in the long ago past. It’s definitely on the darker side, in plot elements and character design, but there are plenty of funny moments and quite a lot of unpredictability, which is always welcome in the world of overdone holiday plots. Definitely worth watching, especially if you enjoy things a little on the weird side.

snowman-narrator

The robot snowman should do something about that unibrow.

jolly-jail

The ‘Jolly Jail’ turns incarceration into minty holiday fun!

soft-hearted-santa

Santa’s going all emotional on us.

easter-platypus

Next plan: The Easter Platypus!

Individual Superlative: Least Reassuring Santa Outcome – In the story’s ending narration, the talking snowman tells the children that Santa isn’t dead (which is normally good news) but that he’s out in space, gathering power to come back and destroy us all. You better watch out!

Want to Watch it? Invader Zim: The Most Horrible X-mas Ever is available on DVD.

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.

Doug’s Christmas Story

titleDebuted in 1993

22 minutes

Plot in 3 Sentences: While playing ice hockey on the frozen pond, Porkchop (Doug’s dog) sees Beebe about to skate too close to the thin ice so he tries to stop her, eventually pulling her to safety with his teeth. But everyone thinks that Porkchop attacked her, so he is imprisoned and put on trial. Doug fights for Porkchop’s release and when they all visit the pond to figure out what really happened, Beebe falls through the ice and Porkchop rescues her, making him a town hero.

Fun Fact: The VHS release with this episode was the only Doug VHS to be re-issued by Paramount Home Video after they acquired the rights to the Nickelodeon shows.

My thoughts: Doug is one of those shows that fell through the cracks for me. I was aware of it, because my kids watched a lot of the Nickelodeon shows, but I never watched this one with them. The show ran for four seasons on Nickelodeon and this, the first Doug Christmas special, aired during their fourth season. A few years after it ended on Nickelodeon, Disney bought the show and it ran another three seasons as Disney’s Doug on Saturday mornings. Creator Jim Jinkins based a lot of the characters and settings on his own life and wanted every episode to have a good moral. As Christmas specials go, there isn’t much to recommend in this one. Honestly, it doesn’t have much of anything to do with Christmas at all and could have taken place anytime during winter. There are Christmas decorations everywhere and I suppose it ratchets up the tension for Porkchop’s trial to be taking place on Christmas Eve (although it’s a little overly dramatic), but they’re not crucial plot elements. In fact, if there hadn’t been a quick chorus of Deck the Halls at the end, this special would have had no tags at all for me to use for this review.

thin-ice

We’re supposed to believe she can’t tell the ice is thin here. Has she taken an eye test recently?

porkchop-in-handcuffs

I didn’t know they made doggie handcuffs.

mayor

An orange man with bad hair?  Oh no, Donald Trump has invaded Christmas!

hockey

It’s the rainbow goon squad!

Individual Superlative: Hardest Town to Buy Makeup – Many of the show’s characters have faces that are odd colors, like green or purple or blue. I hope Maybelline branched out their foundation colors in Bluffington.

Want to Watch it? Doug’s Christmas Story is available on VHS, DVD, iTunes and YouTube. And it sometimes shows up on Nickelodeon during the holidays.

Gullah Gullah Island: A Gullah Gullah Christmas

title

Debuted in 1997

23 minutes

Plot in 3 Sentences: Shaina dreams that she goes to the North Pole and meets Santa. When the reindeer all get sick, Binyah Binyah Pollywog stands in for them and pulls Santa’s sleigh. The family enjoys Christmas together.

Fun Fact: During its original broadcast, Gullah Gullah Island was Nickelodeon’s highest-rated preschool show.

My thoughts: It’s easy to dismiss Gullah Gullah Island as yet another saccharine representation of a picture-perfect family with parents who balance wisdom and kindness, cherubic well-mannered children and even a wonderful extended family to smooth over the rough spots if anyone has a slip. But there’s something immensely likeable about this show and I found myself entertained by the fun they all seemed to be having and the genuine care they all showed for each other. The mother and father here are Ron and Natalie Daise, who are married in real life and the kids are played by their own children, who are all actually talented. But the show wasn’t a vanity project (as you may imagine from the cast) but rather a celebration of the Gullah culture of the sea islands around South Carolina and Georgia. The character of Binyah Binyah Polliwog is the most tiresome part of the show for me (but probably also a favorite of kids, so I’ll cut him some slack) and he features largely in this Christmas special. There are some cute touches, such as the garden that grows Christmas ornaments, and there are lots of fun musical numbers, but overall, it’s not one I watch every year.

binyah

Is Binyah Binyah throwing gang signs here?  I have concerns.

santa

Santa’s beard game is on point.

mrs-claus

But Mrs. Santa seems to be channeling the Bride of Frankenstein.

elfis

And Elfis is channeling…no, I don’t want to know.

Individual Superlative: Elfis Has Left the Building – One of the elves that Shaina meets in her dream North Pole is ‘Elfis’ who dresses and talks like Elvis Presley. I’m sure 90’s kids really loved that joke.

Want to Watch it? Gullah Gullah Island: A Gullah Gullah Christmas is available on VHS and DVD.

Hey, Arnold!: Arnold’s Christmas

Title

Debuted in 1996

23 minutes

Plot in 3 Sentences: Arnold is Mr. Hyunh’s secret Santa and wants to reunite him with his long lost daughter, Mai, but Mr. Bailey at the hall of records can’t help him because he has to finish Christmas shopping. Arnold and Gerald agree to finish his shopping if he will locate Mai for them, but they can’t find any snow boots so they can’t complete the task. Helga, who has been looking for the perfect gift for Arnold, gives Mr. Bailey the prize snow boots she just got for Christmas and on Christmas morning, Mai shows up at the boarding house where she is reunited with her father.

Fun Fact: This was the first full half-hour episode of Hey, Arnold!

My thoughts: There’s a lot to love about this surprisingly touching episode. Mr. Hyunh talks about his life in Vietnam during the war and his difficult decision to send his little girl to America where she could live safely, even though he wouldn’t be able to join her until many years later. It’s a heavy concept for a kid’s cartoon show and it really gives a sense of emotional weight and perspective, especially after having just watching a run of specials that were all about kids being pissed off about not getting the big toy they wanted from Santa. Santa, in fact, is conspicuously absent in this special, with not even a mention other than the ‘Secret Santa’ exchange. The message here is all about the joy of giving. I love that they didn’t feel the need to have Helga get another pair of her much-longed for snow boots as some kind of karmic reward for her generosity. The joy of making Arnold happy was its own reward and that’s a message that so many of these shows seem afraid to convey. Remember what I said earlier this month about children’s writers who respect their audience enough to write intelligent and mature plotlines? This is the kind of thing I was talking about – here’s one who gets it right.

Helga and the Unibrow

I hope Helga did something about that unibrow when she grew up.

Mai goes on the helicopter

Mr. Huynh hands his daughter to a soldier on a helicopter.  I have ALL the feels right about now.

Christmas shopping

Remember when we used to buy things with cash? Ah, nostalgia.

Reunion

More feels!!! (He says, “I missed you so much” in Vietnamese.)

Individual Superlative: Awwwwwesome Ending – As Arnold and Gerald wonder what made Mr. Bailey change his mind and help them, the scene changes to Helga standing outside, smiling and wishing him a merry Christmas. Awwww.

Want to Watch it? Hey Arnold!: Arnold’s Christmas is available on DVD and YouTube.

Bonus Nostalgia Picture!  My copy even has an introduction from Stick Stickley!  Later tonight, I will make it a point to sing the Stick Stickley song with at least one of my kids.

Stick Stickley

“P.O. Box 963, New York City, New York State, 1-0-1-0-8!”