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.

Bump in the Night: Twas the Night Before Bumpy

titleDebuted in 1995

64 minutes

Plot in 3 Sentences: Mr. Bumpy wants to get Santa’s bag to take all the presents for himself so he cons Squishington into helping him with the promise of his dream gift – a pair of feet. They meet others on the way and battle Santa’s snowman army, but Bumpy gets the bag and rushes back home, unknowingly dropping presents on the way. He gets home just in time to close the Christmas pageant with a song and then, having learned something about the joy of giving, he gives the last remaining gift to Squishington, who finally lives his dream to tap dance.

Fun Fact: The phrase ‘things that go bump in the night’ comes from a traditional Scottish prayer from the 19th century.

My thoughts: I mentioned to my awesome future son-in-law that I was dreading watching this one and he bravely offered to keep me company, stating that he (much like my son) has a strange enjoyment for really bad shows. Well, most bad shows. Once again, it seems that all the worst specials are compelled to go long and Bumpy’s 64 minutes feel like a couple of hours stranded in rush hour traffic with an overheating engine and a full volume radio you can’t adjust. Between the gross-out scenes, the ethnic stereotypes (the British hummingbird sounds like a Monty Python character and might as well have just said, “Blimey!” and “Crumpets!” over and over) and bizarre moments such as a ‘grassy knoll’ joke, I don’t think this special has any real concept of who its target audience is. The talented Jim Cummings gives Bumpy a voice that sounds like the love child of Bobcat Goldthwait and Looney Tunes’ Tasmanian Devil and it was grating on my nerves after 5 minutes. (It was hardcore chomping on them after another hour.) A subplot involving Molly Coddle (the comfort doll) having to show some confidence so she could direct the pageant was tiresome and pointless, seeming to serve as just a vehicle to get more re-worded songs into the thing and stretch it out longer. Can’t recommend this one for anyone.

pageant-performers

All the toys and the insect (who sings the song in this special’s Hanukkah nod) look miffed. They must have realized what special they’re in.

snow-soldiers

Frosty goes to Boot Camp?

sniffing-armpits

Nothing says holidays like oozy blobs smelling their own armpits.

worm

Is this worm channeling Steve Buscemi or John Waters?

Individual Superlative: Most Non-Original Original Songs – Every song in this is a traditional Christmas song with new words that often just summarize the plot and they’re all really repetitive. And they mostly play over re-played footage (sometimes multiple times – I seriously lost count of how many times they showed the same map) from this special and other episodes of the show.

Want to Watch it? Bump in the Night: Twas the Night Before Bumpy is available on VHS, DVD and YouTube.

American Dad: Season’s Beatings

titleDebuted in 2011

21 minutes

Plot in 3 Sentences: Stan is disappointed to be told he’s too fat to play adult Jesus in the Christmas play, so when he sees that Roger has been cast in the part, he beats Roger up and it’s caught on camera. Father Donovan excommunicates Stan and tells him there are only a few ways to be allowed back into the church. Hayley and Jeff adopt a baby boy who turns out to be the Antichrist and Stan tries to kill him to get re-admitted to Christianity.

Fun Fact: The Aramaic words that Steve is speaking when he’s possessed loosely translate to ‘Your days are numbered because of your actions. Praise Satan.’

My thoughts: This is the Christmas episode from the 8th season of American Dad, which is now heading into its’ 14th season and has had six other holiday episodes. I am not a huge fan of Seth MacFarlane, so I’m not a regular viewer of any of his shows. I’ve seen several episodes of most of them (mostly the Christmas episodes, of course) and there are usually a few genuine laugh-out-loud moments in each one, but most of the humor falls a little short for me. Shock humor always feels kind of manipulative in the same way that overly sappy sentimentality does and if your joke is just gross with no other substance, I’m not likely to find it funny. As you may imagine from the summary above, this is not an episode for anyone bothered by sacrilege and there are plenty of other groups likely to be offended by one thing or the other here. But that feels like what MacFarlane is going for, so I don’t suppose that’s a problem for regular viewers. I liked the parts that were parodying The Omen and Hayley’s unexpected maternal feelings, but most of the rest of this one gets a ‘meh’ from me.

santa-vs-jesus

Santa versus Jesus – it’s the age old battle.

head-math

One of my favorite jokes in the show, when Stan is initially relieved to see a 662 on Nemo’s head before revealing the rest of the equation.

service-dog

An example of the ratcheting shock humor – Stan shoots a dog that turns out to be a service dog for a blind man, who asks for help and then is run over by a truck.

sarah-palin

And Nemo is adopted by Sarah Palin. Two apostates of Hell in one picture!

Individual Superlative: Most Prophetic Joke – When Father Donovan tells Stan what he needs to do to get back into the church’s good graces, he tells him he could find the Holy Grail, kill the Antichrist or donate $10 million to charity and adds that the charity bit was how Jared from Subway got back in. This was four years before the child pornography scandal that ended Jared’s career and landed him in prison.

Want to Watch it? American Dad: Season’s Beatings is available on DVD and Youtube, plus the holiday episodes are usually re-run during December.

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.

Regular Show: The Christmas Special

title

Plot in 3 Sentences: Mordecai and Rigby find Santa, who’s been shot and fallen into a garage. He shows them a Christmas present box full of dark magic and tells them how a rogue elf, Quillgen, is trying to get the box to destroy Christmas forever. Together with their other friends, they overcome obstacles and defeat Quillgen, destroying the box and saving Christmas.

Fun Fact: Many of the characters in this show first appeared in creator J.G. Quintel student films while he was at Cal Arts.

My thoughts: Regular Show, if you’ve never seen it, is another entry in the ever growing list of animated shows with weird elements. These types of shows are hit and miss with me overall. You have to have good characters, interesting plots or genuinely funny moments for me to stay on board. The Christmas episodes are the only ones I’ve seen of Regular Show and I have liked them quite a bit so I imagine I really should give the show’s normal episodes a try. This one has a really intriguing and complex plotline that feels like it’s straight out of a big action movie and the characters have real connections and emotions that I think would mean even more to me if I watched more episodes. Santa is voiced by Ed Asner who brings a gritty age-old wisdom to this badass version of the character. And the final showdown is set to the tune of ‘Christmas Eve/Sarajevo 12/24’ originally performed by Savatage and re-released by Trans-Siberian Orchestra. Even if you have never seen the show and don’t know anything about these quirky characters, there’s a lot here to recommend.

party

Benson gets bonus points for his festive holiday sweater.

santa-with-rigby-mordecai

I’m pretty sure this is the first pony-tailed Santa that I’ve seen.

test-family

This is what happens to people when they open the dark magic box.

whole-crowd

The gang is in peril and only Benson’s pinball skill can save the day!

Individual Superlative: Frodo’s Favorite – This episode has several references to Lord of the Rings, including the need to destroy the present in a cave of lava and Muscle Man’s attempt to smash it with a hammer.

Want to Watch it? Regular Show: The Christmas Special is available on YouTube and has been in the network holiday rotation since its premiere.

The Insects’ Christmas

TitleDebuted in 1911

6 minutes

Plot in 3 Sentences: A Father Christmas ornament comes down from a Christmas tree and magically creates an outdoor Christmas tree for the creatures of the forest. The insects (and a friendly frog) make their way to the tree to receive gifts and celebrate the holiday. They also have some winter fun, sledding or skating on the ice, and then Father Christmas returns to his spot on the tree.

Fun Fact: Filmmaker Władysław Starewicz was a director for the Museum of Natural History in Kaunas, Lithuania, where he began making films with insects.

My thoughts: This is the oldest short in my collection and currently the only one that has celebrated its 100th birthday. There are lots of different versions of this one available online and it’s tough to know which version is closest to the original as Mr. Starewicz conceived it. It was originally a silent film, with Russian title cards. In the years since, several different pieces of music have been added to accompany it and English title cards were added, too. Whichever version you watch, though, you’re in for something surreal and dreamlike, maybe a little disturbing and definitely unlike anything you’ve seen before. It’s worth noting that stop motion animation got its start in 1898, so you’re seeing the art form in its infancy. It’s not particularly great or enjoyable, but I’m glad to have it for its historical context.

Making the tree

Santa has mad horticultural skills.

Frog

Either that frog is huge or Santa is tiny.

Miss Dragonfly

Miss Dragonfly has to go powder her thorax.

Party

There ain’t no party like a preserved insect party.

Individual Superlative: Dead-on Casting – Yeah, I’m just going to come right out and say it. There was no Claymation in 1911. These bugs are stop-motion animated dead bugs and that’s a dead frog giving Santa a big man-sized hug. I don’t know of any other film where all the principals were dead before the film was made. Kind of freaky when you think about it.

Want to Watch it? The Insects’ Christmas is available on YouTube.

Krazy’s Krismas

TitleDebuted in 1963                                                                      

5 minutes

Plot in 3 Sentences: Ignatz makes fun of Krazy for believing in Santa, but Offisa Pupp wants her to keep believing so he dresses up as Santa. When his costume falls apart, Krazy tells them she’s been invited to the North Pole to visit her cousin Pole Cat and she invites Ignatz and Offisa Pupp to join her. Ignatz tries to steal a bag of toys, but his plan fails and they all have a happy Christmas.

Fun Fact: I’m using the pronoun ‘she’ for Krazy Kat (because the character is voiced by a woman) but Krazy’s actual gender was always said to be fluid and non-specific.

My thoughts: This cartoon is aptly named, because it really is crazy. It’s based on George Herriman’s Krazy Kat comic strip, which ran from 1913 to 1944. The basic idea of the overall plot is that Krazy is in love with Ignatz, but all he wants to do is throw bricks at her head. How do you make that basic plot run for thirty years? The cartoon series only ran for one season, which is not surprising, because it really is bizarre. In the original comic, Offisa Pupp was always trying to protect Krazy and he does that here in a couple of cute ways, including physically preventing Krazy from seeing Ignatz’s ‘There is no Santa’ sign and even pretending to be Santa for her. I found Krazy’s voice, as performed by Penny Phillips, to be super annoying, which is the main reason I give this one a thumbs down.

No Santa

The ‘No’ sign around his neck is for added emphasis.

Bare ass Santa

Hey Fake Santa, put some damn pants on!

The North Pole

It’s a ‘pole,’ see?  Because it’s the North Pole.  Good one.

Ignatz as Santa

Ignatz is supposed to be showing us his Christmas spirit here, but those eyebrows are sending a whole other message.

Individual Superlative: Monochrome Madness – Offisa Pupp is one solid peach color – skin, clothes, shoes and all. At least Krazy gets a different color around her mouth.

Want to Watch it? Krazy’s Krismas is available as part of the Krazy Kat Kartoon Kollection DVD and you can watch it on YouTube.