Tom & Jerry: Ho Ho Horrors

TitleDebuted in 2006

8 minutes

Plot in 3 Sentences: On Christmas Eve, Tom falls asleep under the Christmas tree and dreams about tormenting Jerry. Jerry suspects Tom is up to no good and catapults himself into Tom’s dream, where he teams up with his dream self to turn the tables on Tom. On Christmas morning, Mrs. Two Shoes discovers that the two have wrecked the house during their sleep and she throws them out into the snow.

Fun Fact: The term ‘Tom and Jerry’ comes from 19th century London, where it referred to young people engaging in ‘riotous behavior.’

My thoughts: This animated short comes from the first season of the Tom and Jerry Tales show that ran for two seasons on the CW network. The main characters, Tom the cat and Jerry the mouse, originally appeared in theatrical shorts starting in 1940 and they continued in several different television incarnations over the years. As per usual, the newer cartoons don’t have the same feel as the originals, but this one comes closer than most. I like the ‘plausible impossible’ notion of Jerry injecting himself into Tom’s dream, especially when the two versions of him seem so happy to be together. I suppose I would give myself a really big hug if I ever surprised myself and showed up unexpectedly.  (That’s a really weird sentence.) The ending is surprising and a little on the harsh side, especially when Tom seems ready to call a holiday truce and Jerry responds by smacking him in the head with the Christmas wreath, leading to the start of another battle. It’s not one of my favorites, but it’s far superior to the disaster they released the following year, Tom and Jerry: A Nutcracker Tale.   

Two Jerrys

Dream Jerry is kind enough to keep his nightcap on, so we know who is who.

Rolling out

That’s a proper villain face right there.

Weird face

Ew…what kind of face is this, though?

To all a good night

And to all, a good night.

Individual Superlative: You’ve Come a Long Way, Baby – Mrs. Two Shoes is a nice step up from the stereotypical ‘mammy’ character that used to be the human character in the Tom & Jerry shorts. In this one, you can see family photos on the mantel, so apparently also a much fuller life than the original, too (who was always presumed to be a housemaid).

Want to Watch it? Ho Ho Horrors is available on DVD and YouTube and it sometimes shows up during holiday programming.

A Pinky & the Brain Christmas

titleDebuted in 1995

22 minutes

Plot in 3 Sentences: Brain’s plan to take over the world at Christmas involves having Santa deliver a special ‘Noodle Noggin’ toy to every house, allowing him to hypnotize every person within earshot of the toy. He and Pinky go to the North Pole and pose as elves to manipulate the system and get their toys made and delivered. But on Christmas morning, just as Brain gets ready to speak through his transmitter, he reads Pinky’s letter to Santa (in which Pinky asks Santa to give all his gifts to his best friend, Brain) and has a change of heart, wishing everyone a Merry Christmas.

Fun Fact: The characters’ voice actors, Rob Paulson and Maurice LaMarche, have said that they were in tears while recording the end of this episode.

My thoughts: Pinky and the Brain were recurring characters on the wonderful Animaniacs show, which started in 1993, and they were spun off into their own show in 1995. The show ran for four seasons and eventually spun off into a new series, which also included Elmyra from Tiny Toon Adventures. This episode really showcases what made this show (and Animaniacs before it) so wonderful. There is humor that works really well for kids and humor aimed specifically at the adults (such as the moment at the North Pole when Pinky tells Brain they’ve been invited to a Christmas party at Donner’s place and Brain tells Pinky he doesn’t want to join the Donner party). But there is also real warmth here, too. The characters have depth and complexity to them. Throughout the special, Pinky keeps bringing up his letter to Santa and Brain keeps ridiculing him for it. So when Brain reads the letter, you see that he really feels regret at how he’s treated his friend and when he delivers his new message, it’s so heartfelt. I think this one deserves more recognition and a place alongside the classics.

reindeer

Such tiny tiny reindeer.

elves

The elf outfit really suits Pinky.  NARF!

santa-reviewing-his-list

Would Santa use an exercise bike?  I think he’s more of a treadmill guy.

touched

Me too, Brain.  ALL the feels.

Individual Superlative: Ready for Prime Time – This episode was originally aired as a prime time special and not just as a regular episode of the show. It won a prime time Emmy for Outstanding Animated Program.

Want to Watch it? A Pinky & the Brain Christmas is available on VHS and DVD.

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.

Bedtime for Sniffles

TitleDebuted in 1940

8 minutes

Plot in 3 Sentences: It’s Christmas Eve and Sniffles is determined to stay up and see Santa Claus. As time ticks by, he tries to combat his tiredness with coffee, music, dancing, cold water face washes and a magazine. But eventually he gives in and falls asleep just before Santa and the reindeer fly by.

Fun Fact: Sniffles repeatedly checks the time on a pocket watch that hangs on his wall like a clock. The name on the clock is Monahan, after Dave Monahan, a Warner Brothers writer.

My thoughts: I have always loved this short. Sniffles’ character design was created by Charles Thorson, whose previous credits included character design for Disney’s Silly Symphonies. The facial expressions in this short, though, are classic Chuck Jones, full of emotion and reaction. My favorite part of this is at the beginning, when Sniffles steps onto his front porch and sweeps off the snow, singing Jingle Bells. It’s almost too cute. One of the cable networks used this clip as a holiday greeting back in the 80’s, so I got to see it all the time. As I’ve gotten older, though, I appreciate the animation of the solo waltz that Sniffles does to the music on the radio. The movement and rhythm are really impressive. Of course, you just know Sniffles isn’t going to be able to stay awake, but watching him give it his best effort is sure to nudge something in your own inner child.

Such a cute moment. Are there special Christmas goosebumps?

Such a cute moment. Are there special Christmas goosebumps?

Look up pictures of vintage Maxwell House cans to appreciate the detail in this 'Haxwell Mouse' can.

Look up pictures of vintage Maxwell House cans to appreciate the detail in this ‘Haxwell Mouse’ can.

Uh-oh...did Sniffles accidentally drink decaf?

Uh-oh…did Sniffles accidentally drink decaf?

Go ahead and take a bow, Sniffles.  You did a good job.

Go ahead and take a bow, Sniffles. You did a good job.

Individual Superlative: Most Yawn Inducing – Seriously, watching this when you’re at all sleepy just guarantees you’re going to be snoring before the end.

Want to Watch it? Bedtime for Sniffles is available on VHS, Laserdisc, DVD and Blu-ray.

Chowder: Hey, Hey It’s Knishmas!

TitleDebuted in 2008

22 minutes

Plot in 3 Sentences: Chowder desperately wants an electric broccoli trimmer with detachable non-electric cauliflower trimmer for Knishmas, but it’s too expensive for Mung to buy. In order for Knish Krinkle to bring it to him, Mung’s schmingerbread house has to be good enough for him to eat but since he knows his schmingerbread skills are poor, he goes to Endive to buy a proper one. When Chowder finds out, he disguises himself as Knish Krinkle so that he can choose Mung’s house to make him feel better and when the real Knish Krinkle sees his selflessness, he gives him the trimmer anyway.

Fun Fact: In this episode, Chowder gives Panini (who has a crush on him) a kiss on the cheek as a Knishmas gift. The final episode of Chowder shows that when they grow up, they get married and have lots of kids. Adorable.

My thoughts: When it comes to Christmas specials, there’s good weird and bad weird and then there’s this one, which I put in the category of awesome weird. Chowder is a strange little show anyway, centering around a master chef and his apprentice, in a world where everyone is named after a food item. The upside of its oddness is that you don’t have to know anything about the show to enjoy this episode. There are some really fun and bizarre transitions, like singing nutcrackers, and some surreal moments along the way that make me laugh every time I see them. Although the majority of the special is traditional animation, it’s book-ended by stop motion segments featuring Gazpacho in a Santa suit, serving as a sort of narrator. As wacky as the whole thing is, there is a sentimental core here with a great message about caring for those you love and caring for yourself as well. It’s this core, I think, that makes the difference between weird that works and weird that doesn’t. We watch this bizarre little gem every year.

The reason it looks like they are posing for the camera is that Gazpacho has just read the stage directions ("Look to camera and smile.") aloud

The reason it looks like they are posing for the camera is that Gazpacho has just read the stage directions (“Look to camera and smile.”) aloud

Who needs an official Red Rider carbine action two hundred shot range model air rifle when you could have this glorious thing?

Who needs an official Red Rider carbine action two hundred shot range model air rifle when you could have this glorious thing?

I'm a little terrified of Knish Krinkle.

I’m a little terrified of Knish Krinkle.

Everyone is happy (except Endive) but no one is happier than Chowder.

Everyone is happy (except Endive) but no one is happier than Chowder.

Individual Superlative: Strangest and Yet Most Amazing Gift – After seeing this (and hearing Chowder say it so many times), I found myself wishing I had an electric broccoli trimmer with detachable non-electric cauliflower trimmer. How have we all lived so long without one?

Want to Watch it? Chowder: Hey, Hey It’s Knishmas! is not currently available for home video, but you can watch it on YouTube or usually catch it in reruns during the holidays.

Tom & Jerry: A Nutcracker Tale

TitleDebuted in 2007

47 minutes

Plot in 3 Sentences: Magic puts Jerry Mouse (and his nephew, Tuffy) into a Nutcracker story, with living toys and an evil cat gang that includes his longtime rival, Tom Cat. Jerry and the toys search for the Toy Maker, travelling through different landscapes and battling the cats who are trying to stop them. The Toy Maker, who turns out to be Santa, gives them a key that unlocks an army of soldiers so they can triumph over the cats.

Fun Fact: This was the final production involving animation legend Joseph Barbera, featuring the characters he created 65 years earlier.

My thoughts: Honestly, there’s nothing fun about that fact. It’s actually kind of heartbreaking to me that Academy and Emmy Award winning Joseph Barbera, who had a hand in creating so many of the cartoons of my childhood (The Flintstones, The Jetsons, Scooby Doo, Huckleberry Hound, etc.) has to have this as any part of his legacy, let alone his final contribution. The main issue I had with this special is that it manages to be ridiculously complex and thoroughly boring at the same time. My summary of the plot above leaves out all the subplots involving the ornament who wants to be a toy and the rocking horse who can only speak when her string is pulled, who is forced to betray her friends and then killed, but is brought back by magic. And a ballerina fits in there somewhere and the cats are maimed over and over, with Tom even being thrown into a wood chipper at one point. Was there a dragon, too? I think so, but honestly, It took every bit of effort I had to stay focused on it for 47 minutes and I pretty much forgot it all as soon it ended.

You don't usually get this level of obvious evil from a cat.

You don’t usually get this level of obvious evil from a cat.

Paulie the Elf and Nelly the Rocking Horse are skeptical.  I'm guessing they're questioning the show's writing.

Paulie the Elf and Nelly the Rocking Horse are skeptical. I’m guessing they’re questioning the show’s writing.

Tuffy plays a shoulder devil and a shoulder angel. And he still has his French accent from the Three Musketeers short.

Tuffy plays a shoulder devil and a shoulder angel. And he still has his French accent from the Three Musketeers short.

What's a Christmas special without a sexy fire spirit, right?

What’s a Christmas special without a sexy fire spirit, right?

Individual Superlative: Someone Saw Les Miserables – There are a few moments in this that feel like references to the musical version of Les Miserables, but none more than the song about the King of Cats, which is just a blatant knockoff of “Master of the House.”

Want to Watch it? Tom & Jerry: A Nutcracker Tale is available on DVD, iTunes & Amazon Instant.

It’s a Wonderful Tiny Toons Christmas Special

Title

Debuted in 1992

21 minutes

Plot in 3 Sentences: When Buster Bunny’s Christmas special starts to fall apart, he tries to throw himself out of the cartoon. His ‘toon angel’ shows him what the show would have been like without him and it’s pretty grim. He realizes how good his life has been and what great friends he has.

Fun Fact: This was the last Tiny Toon Adventures episode ever produced.

My thoughts: Although I was never a regular watcher of Tiny Toon Adventures, I greatly enjoyed the handful of episodes that I’ve seen. This one is definitely my favorite. It manages to take a time-honored Christmas classic like It’s a Wonderful Life and create the perfect combination of tribute and parody that is really enjoyable for fans, but still accessible to those who haven’t seen it. Buster’s ‘toon angel’ shows up in the form of a tall rabbit named Harvey, who speaks with a Jimmy Stewart drawl and who reveals himself, at the end, to be Bugs Bunny in disguise. Like many Tiny Toons episodes, the special is packed with references, some of which are aimed at the parents in the audience and likely sail right over the kids’ heads. But regardless of age, this one is a lot of fun to watch and I love the song at the end about how having good friends can see you through all kinds of bad times. “It doesn’t really matter, cause there’s you.” It’s a sweet reminder of how the good people in our life make the bad things bearable.  Awww.

I wonder if any 90's kids have watched Citizen Kane as adults and thought, "Hey, that's a Tiny Toons reference!"

I wonder if any 90’s kids have watched Citizen Kane as adults and thought, “Hey, that’s a Tiny Toons reference!”

Even as a kid, my favorite cartoons were the ones that went meta.

Even as a kid, my favorite cartoons were the ones that went meta.

It's the sincerest form of flattery.

It’s the sincerest form of flattery.

At least once, every Christmas, I sing "Little Drummer Boy" as William Shatner.

At least once, every Christmas, I sing “Little Drummer Boy” as William Shatner.

Individual Superlative: Best End Credits Quote – “Stop Watching These Credits and Go Buy Us a Really Nice Gift!”

Want to Watch it? It’s a Wonderful Tiny Toons Christmas is available on VHS and DVD and it still shows up sometimes in the holiday TV schedule.