The Marvelous Misadventures of Flapjack: Low Tidings

titleDebuted in 2009

22 minutes

Plot in 3 Sentences: Flapjack wants to experience Low Tides Day but K’nuckles hates the holiday due to a bad experience with it when mermen sacked him for being bad when he was young. K’nuckles tries to find a hiding place so that the mermen won’t sack him again but all the spots are taken, so Flapjack aims to make him into a good person instead so he will have nothing to fear. Eventually, Poseidon asks the mermen to stop sacking people and decides that sacks will be only be used to deliver gifts.

Fun Fact: This was the first two part episode of the show.

My thoughts: There are some specials that are fairly easy to summarize in three sentence and wow, this sure isn’t one of them. The Marvelous Misadventures of Flapjack ran for three seasons on Cartoon Network and chiefly centered around a boy, the talking whale who raised him and the pirate they rescued together. The premise of their Low Tides holiday is that good kids can lower their boots into the water, where Poseidon will fill them with toys and bad kids are tied up in sacks by mermen. Although most of the special is regular animation, there are some stop motion scenes and a bizarre live action Poseidon who interacts with the animated characters. The special opens with a version of ‘The Most Wonderful Time of the Year’ with some funny rewritten lyrics. Overall, the special is really weird, like the show, but it has its funny moments. It’s probably better appreciated by those who already watch and enjoy the show, though, as there’s a lot to absorb otherwise.

little-knuckles

Little K’nuckles has a lot of teeth.

flapjack

Flapjack seems to be experiencing some holiday ennui.

mermen-with-bag

I didn’t know mermen were so grumpy.

poseidon-talking-to-townsfolk

“Observe my impressive blue muscular arm!”

Individual Superlative: Weirdest Narrator – The episode’s narrator character is the town comedian, a strange looking guy named Lolly Poopdeck.

Want to Watch it? Flapjack: Low Tidings is available on YouTube and usually airs on Cartoon Network during the holiday season.

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Santa Claus is Coming to Town

Title

Debuted in 1970

51 minutes

Plot in 3 Sentences: A foundling child is adopted by a family of toymakers and he grows up determined to deliver his family’s toys to children in nearby Sombertown, where toys are outlawed. In order to do so, he befriends the Winter Warlock, charms a local schoolteacher and finds ways to get around the town’s rules. He marries the schoolteacher, eventually limits his toy deliveries to once a year (on Christmas Eve) and becomes Santa Claus.

Fun Fact: This was the first time that Mickey Rooney provided the voice of Santa Claus. He did it again in The Year Without a Santa Claus, Rudolph & Frosty’s Christmas in July, The Happy Elf and A Miser Brothers’ Christmas. Maybe he was so good at it because his actual last name was Yule.

My thoughts: This classic special has been a part of my Christmas for as long as I can remember. I was terrified of the Winter Warlock and his razor sharp teeth, so his transformation was always a big deal to me. And I used to think that the ‘Put One Foot in Front of the Other’ song was a big waste of time, but as an adult, I can better appreciate the concept of achieving goals by taking small steps. (So now it’s just Jessica’s love song, ‘My World is Beginning Today,’ with its trippy animation that I forward through.) Fred Astaire reprised his role as mailman/narrator S.D. Kluger in a similar special that explores the origin of the Easter Bunny. Burgermeister Meisterburger is a fantastic villain here and I kind of like that the story resolves with the people realizing that his laws are silly and overturning them. I could make a really good political statement here, but it’s Christmas so I’m not going there. In addition to being a good origin story, this special sets Santa up as a role model for perseverance and positivity. I’m glad this one is still out there entertaining a whole new generation. (And let’s face it…this is where we all learned the word ‘burgermeister.’)

A baby baby

This scene is equal parts ridiculous and awesome. “A baby baby, Zingle.”

Winter and Kris

Putting one foot in front of another is still the best way to get where you’re going.

Burgermeister

Burgermeisters just want to have fun.

Fever dream

“Before we animate Jessica’s song, let’s all drop acid!”

Individual Superlative: They Cut What? – Over the years, they’ve trimmed the special down to allow for more commercials by cutting songs and taking out the ‘traumatic scenes’ of Burgermeister Meisterburger setting fire to the toys. But some versions have removed the clips of Kris Kringle jumping from house to house on the rooftops, out of fear that kids will emulate his dangerous behavior, which seems ludicrous to me when you’re talking about a guy who has flying reindeer.

Want to Watch it? Santa Claus is Coming to Town is available on VHS, DVD, YouTube and it still comes on TV annually.

Fraggle Rock: The Bells of Fraggle Rock

Title

Debuted in 1984

25 minutes

Plot in 3 Sentences: Gobo is not feeling the Festival of the Bells this year because he has begun to doubt the existence of the Great Bell at the heart of Fraggle Rock. Despite the warning from Cantus the Minstrel, he goes in search of the Great Bell, delaying the celebration that keeps their rock moving. The rock begins to freeze and Gobo realizes that all of their bells make up the Great Bell and together they ring their bells to celebrate the season.

Fun Fact: Fraggle Rock moved the start date of Season Three up a couple of weeks to ensure that this episode could air before Christmas.

My thoughts: I have a complicated relationship with Fraggle Rock. I’m a big fan of the Muppets and have loved just about everything they’ve done from Sesame Street all the way to the most recent theatrical movie (Muppets Most Wanted). But I could never really get into Fraggle Rock. I liked the idea and the characters, but there was something about it that never really worked for me. I watched it with my kids when they were little, so I’ve seen lots of episodes, but I still can’t tell you much about their world, which seemed to just build layers of complexity on itself, when you got into the co-existing fictional worlds of the Fraggles, Doozers, Gorgs, the all-knowing Trash Heap and the real world of Doc, Sprocket and Uncle Traveling Matt. The Christmas special is not much different, honestly. I watched it twice and still had trouble summarizing the plot. As always, Wembley is my favorite Fraggle because of his loyalty to Gobo and his simple and sweet nature. For Fraggle fans, I’m sure this is a great episode, but I find myself wondering whose job it was to come up with weird words for this series.

Doc and Sprocket

Doc is explaining the seasons and the rotation of the earth to Sprocket. I don’t think he’s listening.

Wembley and Red and stunned

Mokie is surprised, but Red and Wembley are thoroughly stunned.

The Weebabeast

The Weebabeast is not joking around.

Yeah, that's a bell

Somehow no one ever noticed that the cave at the center of the map resembles a bell.  Right.

Individual Superlative: Sing Along – There are three songs in this episode and if you want to sing along with one, I recommend Weeba Weeba. The words are ‘Weeba Weeba’ over and over again…so you should be able to keep up.

Want to Watch it? Fraggle Rock: The Bells of Fraggle Rock is available on DVD.

On Christmas Eve

Title Debuted in 1992

30 minutes

Plot in 3 Sentences: A little girl decorates her tree and leaves her stocking and wish list at the foot of her bed when she goes to sleep on Christmas Eve. A fairy, watching the girl, brings her toy mouse family to life and notices that she has no chimney and that Santa is passing her house by. Using candles from the Christmas tree, all the local fairies create a runway to guide Santa to the girl’s house.

Fun Fact: The special opens with a shot of the girl’s roof and a note that it is dedicated to “chimneyless children everywhere.”

My thoughts: Based on the picture book by Peter Collington (which I reviewed this morning on my picture book blog), this is one of those specials that showed up every year for a while in the 90’s and then just seemed to disappear.  The animation is really lovely and I was surprised to find that this wasn’t released from the same company who did The Snowman, as it seemed similar. There is no dialogue of any kind, so the story is told entirely through the pictures (and some occasional character mime). My oldest daughter loved this special (and still does – we watched it together this year), although all three of my kids were confused by the idea of hanging stockings at the foot of the bed, which seems to be more of a tradition in the UK than the US. Composer Peter Shade’s musical score is playful and beautiful, making everything more magical. And the final scene, with the fairy settled comfortably into a cushy armchair with a cup of tea by the fire, is the very definition of cozy.

"Dad, I found a tiny person in the snow! Can I keep her?"

“Dad, I found a tiny person in the snow! Can I keep her?”

Um, Mother Mouse? What are you looking at?

Um, Mother Mouse? What are you looking at?

The little messy fairy was always our favorite.

The little messy fairy was always our favorite.

Runway Nine is cleared for landing. Over.

Runway Nine is cleared for landing. Over.

Individual Superlative: Double Origin Party – In addition to covering the origin of luminaries (which my neighborhood always has on Christmas Eve), you can say that the fairy who stays at the top of the girl’s Christmas tree could be the first angel tree topper.

Want to Watch it? On Christmas Eve doesn’t seem to be available on any home video, but you can find it on YouTube.

The Simpsons: Simpsons Christmas Stories

TitleDebuted in 2005

22 minutes

Plot in 3 Sentences: In the first story, Homer Simpson has to lead the Christmas service at church and he tells a very different version of the nativity. In the second, Grampa tells the story of his long-standing resentment of Santa Claus, after Santa left him stranded on a desert island during the war. The third story is a comical look at Christmas in Springfield, set to songs from The Nutcracker.

Fun Fact: When Bart (as baby Jesus) performs the miracle of turning wine to water, he does the head nod from I Dream of Jeannie.

My thoughts: The very first episode of The Simpsons was a Christmas special and they have done another 11 Christmas-themed episodes since then. This one is a compilation episode comprised of three separate comic stories, all based around Christmas. I enjoyed all three of these stories, but the last one was probably the funniest to me. The notion that Homer’s realization that “The Nutcracker Suite” is in the public domain leads to a series of vignettes featuring the residents of Springfield, including a montage of Moe attempting suicide (which is probably very offensive to some) and a very sweet scene in which Marge’s gift to Homer is a gift for him to give to her, since she knew he’d forget to get one. This isn’t my favorite of the Simpsons Christmas specials, but it is a pretty funny one that I always enjoy watching.

If Bart is the savior, we're all doomed.

If Bart is the savior, we’re all doomed.

Santa and young Mr. Burns make a very cute couple.

Santa and young Mr. Burns make a very cute couple.

Lisa and Millhouse make a less convincing couple than Santa and Mr. Burns.

Lisa and Millhouse make a more awkward couple than Santa and Mr. Burns.

Because Christmas is doing for others what they would have done for you if you hadn't done it for them already.

Because Christmas is doing for others what they would have done for you if you hadn’t done it for them already.

Individual Superlative: Most Mischievous Newborn King – Bart Simpson as baby Jesus? Ay caramba!

Want to Watch it? The Simpsons: Christmas Stories is available on the Season 17 DVD or Blu-ray set.

Jack Frost

TitleDebuted in 1979

50 minutes

Plot in 3 Sentences: Jack Frost becomes human to win the heart of a winter-loving girl named Elisa, who lives in a town ruled by Cossack king Kubla Kraus. But when Kubla Kraus kidnaps Elisa, it is handsome Sir Ravenal who saves her and she falls in love with him. Kubla vows revenge on the whole town when winter ends and Jack Frost gives up his humanity to stop him by making winter stay longer, leading to the tradition of Groundhog Day.

Fun Fact: The reporter who is covering the Groundhog Day appearance of Pardon-Me-Pete is voiced by Dave Garroway, the first host of NBC’s Today show. This was his last television performance.

My thoughts: Here’s another one that has a layer of nostalgia to it because it’s one that I watched with my kids. The plot itself is pretty thin and more than a little convoluted, but there are some really lovely moments, too, including the idea of dream presents (empty boxes that you can pretend hold your heart’s desire) and Jack sacrificing his hopes for himself in order to save the people he loved. It shows up every year as a Christmas special, although it only involves Christmas in a marginal way. Jack is a pretty complex character, who struggles with the choices he’s made and has to deal with his inability to achieve his goals in either human or sprite form. But I think it’s very sweet when he covers Elisa’s bridal bouquet with frost and she tearfully tells her new husband that “an old friend kissed the bride.”

Her dream gift is a mirror. She wants to admire that meticulously curled hair.

Her dream gift is a mirror. She wants to admire that meticulously curled hair.

And I wouldn't be surprised to find that Sir Ravenal just wants to marry her for that dream mirror.

And I wouldn’t be surprised to find that Sir Ravenal just wants to marry her for that dream mirror.

Kubla and Dommy, sitting in a tree, K-I-S-S-I-N-G!

Kubla and Dommy, sitting in a tree, K-I-S-S-I-N-G!

My oldest daughter would kill me if I didn't include a picture of Holly, the sprite who looks after the Christmas snow.

My oldest daughter would kill me if I didn’t include a picture of Holly, the sprite who looks after the Christmas snow.

Individual Superlative: Steampunk Before It Was a Thing – Kubla Kraus builds technologically advanced robotics, included a steam-powered metal horse.

Want to Watch it? Jack Frost is available on VHS and DVD and you can watch the full special on YouTube. It also shows up on TV several times during the holiday season, but with a few of the songs cut.