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Showing posts with the label Fantasy

Care Bears: Welcome to Care-a-Lot: Holiday Hics and Holi-Stage (2012)

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As a CG show aimed at children, this was not even close to the best of the crop. However, it's not completely egregiously offensive to the eyes, ears, or brain, either. Pablum is a good word.

These two episodes didn’t air anywhere close to each other, but the second literally takes place the next day.

Holiday Hics


For a 22-minute episode in which very little happened, this dragged a surprisingly small number of times.

As a Christmas episode, this was actually quite interesting, as it’s a fairly significant outlier. It’s a fantasy version of Christmas that isn’t explicitly set in the winter. I don’t know whether there are seasons in Care-a-Lot in this series, but this episode was not wintry in any way.

However, “Great Giving Day” is still clearly Christmas. Not just because it’s a holiday with an “Eve” that involves caring and giving gifts. Nope, we have a genuine magical gift-giver.

The Great Giving Bear has red fur, a kindly-sounding, older voice actor, a present symbol on his tum…

Star vs. the Forces of Evil: "Stump Day/Holiday Spellcial" (2017)

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Hey, it's a fantasy analog Christmas episode! I love those! Where to start, though.

Star vs. the Forces of Evil is an animated show that I quite enjoy. The eponymous Star Butterfly is a princess from a fantasy-esque dimension. Her primary traits are recklessness, enthusiasm, and immense magical power channeled through the wand she received from her mother (Queen Moon Butterfly) on her 14th birthday. At the beginning of the series, she's sent to Earth as a sort of exchange student so she can practice her magic without burning down the kingdom. On Earth, she lives with the Diaz family and meets her best friend, worrywart/practical guy and karate enthusiast, Marco Diaz.

In season three, by the time this episode takes place, Star and Marco are living in her parents' castle in the kingdom of Mewni. And it's Stump Day!

Stump Day

Stump Day is obviously Christmas; it's a winter holiday with all the decorations and carols and forced good cheer. According to the explanation …

The Grinch (2018)

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All the kids in the theater liked the Grinch film that day, but Erin found the experience rather blasé.

I know, I know - we've already released a podcast reviewing The Grinch, but I wanted to cover a few details we glossed over, like the plot.

It's worth noting the story is a little different this time. Or rather, it's almost entirely the same, but the reasons things occur, along with what that implies, is completely different.

Like the original, this revolves around the Grinch, a green-furred individual living on a mountain overlooking Whoville, a town of elfin creatures who live for Christmas. Unlike the original, the Grinch isn't a monster in any sense of the term. He lives apart from the Whos, though he regularly goes into town for groceries. While there, he's somewhat misanthropic, but not to the degree he's shunned or even disliked. One of the Whos even considers him a close friend (though the Grinch doesn't share the sentiment).

The Grinch still disl…

The Nutcracker and the Four Realms (2018)

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Lindsay and I already discussed our reactions to The Nutcracker and the Four Realms in the Mainlining Christmas Podcast, but I wanted to cover a few aspects we omitted. Apologies in advance for anything redundant.

Speaking of redundancy... we talked briefly about comparisons between Four Realms and the 1979 stop-motion special, The Nutcracker Fantasy, but it's worth noting the similarities are more than superficial. Both movies lean in heavily to Wonderland parallels, they incorporate ballet in a similar fashion, they make heavy use of clockwork imagery, and even use some of the same color pallets. I'm not sure if this is a case of them drawing from like sources or if Four Realms was partially inspired by Fantasy, but it's certainly notable.

The story of Nutcracker and the Four Realms differs from any source material I'm familiar with. Clara, the film's protagonist, is mourning the death of her mother, Marie, along with her family. This is something of a Pandora&#…

Podcast Mini Episode - The Christmas Chronicles Movie Review

Mainlining Christmas reviews the surprisingly good Netflix Original movie, The Christmas Chronicles, starring Kurt Russell.

References:Get Santa Transcript:
Erin: Welcome to a very special Black Friday’s Eve installment of the Mainlining Christmas podcast. As always, I’m Erin…

Lindsay: And I’m Lindsay. This is going to be a mini-episode looking at the new Netflix live-action movie, The Christmas Chronicles, starring Kurt Russell as Santa Claus.

Erin: Let’s cut to the chase - I think I love this thing.

Lindsay: Yes, absolutely. The trailers were fun, but I really didn’t expect it to be this good. It might be the best American made live-action movie about Santa Claus I’ve ever seen.

Erin: I wouldn’t go quite that far. I enjoyed this a lot, but I wouldn’t rank it above Elf, and I certainly wouldn’t say it’s better than Miracle on 34th Street.

Lindsay: Well, you know I’m not a huge fan of either of those. I’ll take Kurt Russell over Will Ferrell any day.

Erin: We’ll save this for a futur…

Podcast Mini Episode - The Nutcracker and the Four Realms Movie Review

Mainlining Christmas reviews the surreal new film, The Nutcracker and the Four Realms.

References/Background: Nutcracker Fantasy (Now Available on DVD) The Nutcracker and the Mouse King
Transcript:
Erin: Welcome to the first ever mini-episode of the Mainlining Christmas Podcast. We just got back from watching The Nutcracker and the Four Realms, the new holiday-themed fantasy film from Disney.

Lindsay: For those of you who missed the advertisements, this is the live action sequel to the animated Disney Nutcracker movie from the 60’s that doesn’t… actually… exist.

Erin: It’s weird because it’s structured as a sequel in the exact same way Tim Burton’s live-action Alice in Wonderland was.

Lindsay: Like, the EXACT same way.

Erin: But Disney never actually adapted the original, unless you count those segments in Fantasia.

Lindsay: The makers of Four Realms certainly seemed to. There’s an extended homage to Disney’s Fantasia in the middle of the movie and a callback during the end credits.

Er…

Robbie the Reindeer: Legend of the Lost Tribe (2002)

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The 2002 sequel to Hooves of Fire is, at least in my opinion, an improvement over the original. The story is no longer tethered to that of an 80's sports movie, and the new elements feel much more inspired and original.

The story this time centers around a "lost tribe" of Vikings, who are essentially dwarves in this world. In a backstory relayed by Old Jingle, we learn the last of their kind were supposedly killed off in a civil war waged when all the Vikings got bored.

Robbie's the only one who's seen any of the Vikings, and no one really believes him. They're more concerned with their failing resort, anyway. Why are reindeer running a tourist resort? Because Santa gives the toys away, so he's got nothing to pay them, obviously.

Meanwhile, Blitzen, who's been in prison since the end of Hooves of Fire, is released and returns to the lodge. Initially, the others throw him out, but he convinces them to let him stay when he promises he can turn the busi…

Robbie the Reindeer: Hooves of Fire (1999)

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Hooves of Fire is a BBC claymation special about the son of Rudolph joining Santa's team. Rudolph's name is never explicitly spoken due to copyright issues, but there's no ambiguity about Robbie's heritage. The same can be said about Aardman animation - their name isn't on this, but their style permeates the special. Also, this was directed by Richard Starzak, who'd later go on to create Shaun the Sheep.

Overall, I enjoyed this, thanks to some clever jokes and fun designs. That said, the concept was a bit one-note, there were some unfortunate character directions, and the tone needed work. In short, it was good but not amazing.
The special starts with Robbie arriving at the lodge where Santa's reindeer live and train. Instead of glowing, Robbie's nose functions as a sort of navigator. Also, he later learns to bounce off it, but I'm getting ahead of myself. The nose is basically all Robbie has going for him - he's lazy, out of shape, and self-ob…

Collateral Beauty (2016)

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Collateral Beauty wasn't really marketed as a Christmas movie, but then its marketing was baffling in several respects. For one, the whole "he's interacting with Love, Time, and Death" thing permeating the advertising was quickly undercut by the fact that, in the movie, these three are actually actors hired by the lead's coworkers to portray Love, Time, and Death.

I mean, sure, the ending reveals they were actually Love, Time, and Death masquerading as actors masquerading as Love, Time, and Death (and it's pretty obvious all along), but it still makes for an even more bizarre experience than it would otherwise.

Let's back up.

Will Smith plays "Howard," the CEO of a successful NY advertising agency. A few years before the movie, he loses his daughter to cancer and falls apart emotionally. His friends are executives at the agency, and they're trying to keep it from going under. In order to do that, they need to prove Howard's emotionally …

Saving Santa (2013)

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Saving Santa is a 2013 direct-to-DVD computer animated movie that's something of a paradox. I suppose that's appropriate, since the movie is about "a time-traveling elf," but that's not the kind of paradox I'm referring to - I'm talking about the writing, which is at once utter crap and impressively nuanced.

More on that in a moment. First, the plot.
Bernard D. Elf, astonishingly only the second-worst-named character in this movie, wakes up late for an appointment showing off his new invention to the North Pole's tech company. He races across town and gets them to watch, but in the process momentarily blacks out the elf city's power.
The time the grid's down is just enough for Neville Baddington (and that'd be #1) and his evil package delivery company to determine the cloaked location of Santa's operation. Unaware they're on their way, Bernard heads to his day job, shoveling reindeer dung out of Santa's stables.
No, really.
Wh…

Pee-wee's Playhouse Christmas Special (1988)

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Despite having been the right age, I grew up disliking Pee-wee's Playhouse. I found the characters and sets off-putting as a kid, and I wasn't old enough to appreciate that was part of the point. The 1988 Christmas Special seemed like a good chance to revisit the show and give it another chance.

Ultimately, I was left torn on this one. I have far more respect for the manic, surreal premise, and Paul Reuben's portrayal is certainly impressively bizarre. However, I couldn't shake the feeling that there was something missing tonally. I wanted to be pulled into that odd, unsettling world, but I could never shake the sense I was watching people and puppets act weird on TV.

The plot of this special is... well... it doesn't really have much of one. This is basically an hour of Pee-wee interacting with a long line of guest stars and cast members before the holiday. The closest it comes to a story is a bit about Pee-wee's Christmas list being so long, Santa would need …

The Christmas Dragon (2014)

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If you've been reading this site for any length of time, you probably know that interesting Christmas genre mashups are highly sought after around here. Christmas horror is so common as to be unsurprising now, but Christmas science fiction is rare. Christmas crossed with epic fantasy is extremely rare.

It turns out there are some reasons for that.

We start our tale on Christmas. Or Christmas Eve. Or something. Ayden receives a kite in a dirty sock, and her parents tell her to thank Father Christmas. Cut to Ayden flying the kite outside on a sunny, warm day. It's unclear how much time as passed.

Some villains in black - backed up by a bunch of mooks decked out in cheap gear and swords that your average ren faire attendee wouldn't be caught dead with - accost Ayden's parents for some tax money. (Spoiler: the idea that there is a king or other person in charge of this place is never mentioned again.) Her dad accuses them of skimming off the top, and a fight ensues. The v…

Book Review: Santa's Husband

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Santa's Husband is a children's book where the Plump Jolly Old Elf is portrayed as a black man who's so busy, his white husband fills in for him at the mall, leading to some confusion as to his identity. If that premise doesn't intrigue you, you're reading the wrong blog.

I stumbled across a link to an interview with the writer, Daniel Kibblesmith, that included some shots of AP Quach's artwork. Between those and the description, I was sold.


The book is thirty-two pages, and there's no real plot or story. It's more a series of kid-friendly pictures coupled with text introducing you to Mr. Claus, Santa's husband. Like a lot of children's books, it reads like a series of comic vignettes.

It's a fantastic reimagining of Santa and his operation, and the relationship between Santa and Mr. Claus is sweet and touching. Towards the end, it offers a brief introduction to multicultural holiday traditions that's refreshingly diverse.

The writer ant…

Book Review: St. Nicholas and the Valley Beyond: A Christmas Legend

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We bought this on clearance at a used bookstore, mainly because it was pretty, shoved it in a box for a few years, then came across it while unpacking. I finally sat down and read it, and...

...I already mentioned the art was pretty, didn't I? Because it is. Really nice fantasy artwork in an large picture book (about 15 inches tall) designed to invoke illuminated manuscripts or something. Pretty.

There's also a story inside, written by Ellen Kushner.

Once more, the artwork is quite pretty.

Ugh. Let's talk plot. There was none, and the art was pretty. Okay, that's an overstatement. There was less than no plot. There was, in fact, negative plot.

The story opens with a poor, cold, hungry orphan named Nicholas following mysterious voices that lure him into a magic valley. He finds a party, goes in, magically transforms into a grown man, meets a woman, and gets married.


They get to know everyone in the valley - they're all artisans (toy makers, mostly) - and none of th…

Son of Zorn: The War on Grafelnik (2016)

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The strangest thing about the sitcom Son of Zorn might be that it doesn't air at midnight on Cartoon Network. Stylistically and conceptually, this would be right at home with any of the late-night Adult Swim shows, which were clearly an major influence on the program.

The premise centers around Zorn, an animated - literally animated, in the style of He-Man - warrior from a magical island nation, who moves to California to reconnect with his teenage son. Everything from Zorn's homeland is animated against a live-action setting full of real actors. It's a bizarre show, but both the writing and production values are quite a bit better than you'd expect.

In "The War on Grafelnik," both Zorn and Edie (Zorn's ex) want to spend the holiday with their son, Alan. This year, December 25th is both Christmas and Grafelnik, a holiday built around themes of vengeance. Taking an accidental cue from Edie's new fiance, Craig, Alan tries to play his parents off agains…

Super Why!: 'Twas the Night Before Christmas (2008)

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At one point while we were watching this, Erin turned to me and asked in disbelief, “You’ve watched this before?” What can I say, I used to work a lot of nights before we had Netflix; on many afternoons PBS was my background-noise companion.

Super Why! is one of the least interesting of the PBS kids shows that I’m familiar with from this era. It’s not so annoying that I would necessarily turn it off, you know, if my hands were covered in paint or something, but I wouldn’t seek it out.

The show follows Whyatt and his fairytale friends who live in Storybrook Village (which is a CG land hidden behind a secret door on a library bookshelf). In each episode, Whyatt (his big brother climbed a beanstalk), Pig (of the Three Little), Red (Riding Hood), and Princess Pea have a question to answer. They seek the answers by becoming the Super Readers, magically flying into another storybook, and helping the characters there.

And yes, we’ve got a bit of book-within-a-book-world going on. The story…

Target: The Toycracker (2016)

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Depending on how generous you're feeling, The Toycracker can either be described as a live-action short film, an extended commercial, or the fourth seal of the apocalypse slowly peeling away to open the floodgates and usher in the end of days.

It's not exactly bad, per se; it's more that it's something that should not be. Its very existence is an affront to the world we know and the already fractured boundary between entertainment and advertisement. It's the final stage in the unnatural evolution that started decades ago when toy companies infected Saturday morning cartoons.

As the name sort of implies, The Toycracker is ostensibly a re-imagined Nutcracker. It starts out that way in a semi-clever scene where a modern Clara sings about losing WiFi on Christmas Eve to Waltz of the Flowers. Then she falls asleep and wakes in a version of the classic "giant Christmas tree" set, where she meets the Nutcracker, played by Chrissy Teigen, who starts singing a so…

A Fairly Odd Christmas (2012)

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"A Fairly Odd Christmas" is the live-action made-for-TV sequel to the similarly live-action made-for-TV movie "A Fairly Odd Movie: Grow Up, Timmy Turner!" which is itself a sequel to the Nickelodeon series "The Fairly OddParents," which had a Christmas special of its own, though that featured an entirely different version of Santa Claus and therefore doesn't seem to be in continuity with this film.

I should probably add that I've never seen the first live action movie or any of the animated series other than the aforementioned Christmas special.

This apparently opens where the previous movie left off: the now grown-up Timmy, Tootie, and the CG fairy godparents are circling the world in a magic flying van granting wishes to anyone who's sad. They give one young girl a magic unicorn, another a monster truck, they turn a boy's small toy into a giant monster and set it loose on Tokyo, and they help a bunch of robbers empty out an electronics …