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Showing posts with the label Special

Mickey's Christmas Carol (1983) [Revisited]

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Yes, we discussed this back in 2010, but at the time we weren't really even doing reviews, let alone any kind of serious reflection or analysis. I'm working my way through the canon of Christmas Carol adaptations, and I felt I needed to give this a re-watch, anyway, so let's take another look at Mickey's Christmas Carol , the version I once considered the best adaptation out there. A little background. This is directed by Burny Mattinson, who'd go on to make The Great Mouse Detective. Those are his only directing credits, but he's worked on numerous other Disney projects dating back to 1953. And, incredibly, he's still with the company - he worked on Ralph Breaks the Internet. Guess he likes it there. It's based on a 1974 album,  An Adaptation of Dickens' Christmas Carol , featuring much of the same dialogue (though with a few substantial changes). Mickey's Christmas Carol was released theatrically with reissued Disney films (The Jungle Book in E

A Christmas Story (1972)

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Not to be confused with the overrated 1983 movie of the same name , this 30-minute Hanna-Barbera special from 1972 tells the story of a dog and mouse attempting to deliver a boy's letter to Santa Claus on Christmas Eve. Like most Hanna-Barbera specials from this era, this has been mostly forgotten, which feels right to me. That's not to say it's particularly bad; it's just not particularly anything . It's relatively early, as far as Christmas specials go, so I assume it was a welcome deviation from the ones already in rotation. But fifty years later, it's not quite old enough to be "one of the first," so it's hard to overlook its shortcomings and aspects that aged poorly. The one aspect I did find interesting was the voice cast. This features two voice actors from Disney's Many Adventures of Winnie the Pooh (Paul Winchell and Hal Smith), and the father's voice is instantly recognizable as Dr. Benton Quest (Don Messick). The whole cast is co

The Stingiest Man in Town (1978) [Revisited]

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We watched and reviewed this eleven years ago , but I'm revisiting it as part of my ongoing attempt to watch as many versions of A Christmas Carol as humanly possible. It'd be worth reevaluating this, anyway, since the context surrounding it has changed dramatically. This is a remake of a 1956 version starring Basil Rathbone broadcast live that was believed lost for decades before showing up in 2011. Technically, it was available when we ran our original review, but it wouldn't have been easy to find, nor were we anywhere near as thorough back then. Obviously things have changed. I actually just finished watching the 1956 version a few days before putting this on (in case it wasn't clear, these reviews aren't entirely being posted in the order I watched them in). Let's dig into how this special relates to its predecessor, adaptations of A Christmas Carol, and Christmas specials in general. First, I want to acknowledge Lindsay and I have very different background

A Christmas Carol (1971)

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This 1971 British TV special was subsequently given a brief theatrical showing, making it eligible for the Academy Award for an Animated Short, which it rightly won. It's easy to see why - with all due respect to Mickey's Christmas Carol, I've got a new favorite animated adaptation. It's directed by Richard Williams, the genius who handled the animation side of Who Framed Roger Rabbit and spent decades working on The Thief and the Cobbler, a legendary animated production that was never properly finished. Ken Harris and Chuck Jones worked on this as well, in case being directed by one of the greatest animators in history wasn't enough. Stylistically, this is based on illustrations accompanying classic versions of Dickens's book. To put it another way, you will recognize these characters. In a similar vein, they got Alistair Sim to reprise his role as Scrooge from the 1951 production. This is, without a doubt, the most impressive half-hour version of A Christmas C

Casper's First Christmas (1979)

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Casper is the title character, but this half-hour special features Yogi, Boo Boo, Quick Draw McGraw, Huckleberry Hound, Snagglepuss, Augie Doggie, and Doggie Daddy, in addition to Hairy Scary. For those of you lucky enough to not know what any of that means, Hairy is a ghost who's friends with Casper (sort of), and the others are anthropomorphic Hanna-Barbera characters. The special opens with Casper and Hairy's house scheduled for demolition. It's Christmas Eve, so Casper wants to decorate. Hairy, not sharing his friend's interest in the holidays, wants to go looking for a new house to haunt. Casper isn't sure whether Santa Claus will come to a house as worn down as theirs, but he writes a letter and leaves it in a stocking, just in case. As this is going on, the Hanna-Barbera gang are lost on the way to a lodge where they're planning to spend the holidays. If you want to impose continuity on this mess, you could interpret that as the Jellystone Lodge from the

The Guardians of the Galaxy Holiday Special (2022)

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As a fan of the Guardians movies and (as you may have noticed) of Christmas media, I've been waiting for this. And, at risk of spoiling the end of the review, I was not disappointed. There are a few details I have issues with, but on the whole, I absolutely love this thing. The special opens with an animated bit establishing that Peter Quill's childhood Christmases with the Ravagers were traumatic (or at least that's Kraglin's impression). Mantis, who we learn is secretly Peter's half-sister, wants to give him a proper Christmas, so she and Drax head to Earth to get him the perfect present: legendary Earth hero, Kevin Bacon. They arrive in Hollywood and, after some of the standard shenanigans you'd expect, the two Guardians are given a map to the stars, which they use to track down Bacon. They break into his house, chase him down the street, fight off police, then Mantis uses her powers to manipulate Bacon's mood so he's eager to follow them anywhere. Th

'Twas the Night Before Christmas (1974)

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Yes, we're embarrassed about this one. What about it? After being sure we'd done every Rankin/Bass Christmas special, we're still discovering that some slipped through the cracks. It only added to the surreality that while watching this, both Erin and I became convinced that we'd seen this at some point in our lives. I guess it just wasn't in the last 13 years. This isn't a stop-motion special, rather it's traditional animation in the Rankin/Bass style. The voice cast does good work, the dialogue isn't bad, the songs are pretty catchy. So why is this holiday special on the more obscure end? Maybe because the story is just a bit... odd. It starts out late on Christmas Eve with the first eight lines of Clement Clarke Moore's "A Visit from Saint Nicholas," of course, as recited/experienced by Joshua Trundle, a clockmaker. Then the story is taken up by a father mouse living in the wall of that house who is decidedly stirring. He tells us that e

Tom and Jerry: A Nutcracker Tale (2007)

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I jokingly apologized to Lindsay while starting this. After all, it's a direct-to-video Tom and Jerry movie from 2007 based on The Nutcracker clocking in at just under an hour: every one of those details is a red flag that this will be awful. Seriously, by all rights this should be borderline unwatchable. Really, no logical way this could in any way be redeemable. Right? RIGHT? Well, apparently my understanding of the metaphysical laws governing our reality is less foolproof than I imagined, because this thing was kind of great. More than that, it was great for what would have been the last reasons I'd have expected, if the possibility had even crossed my mind (which, again, it hadn't). The Tom and Jerry stuff is fine but ultimately unremarkable, save for the fact it's barely an afterthought. Sure, there are sequences of zany, cartoon violence, but it's a fairly small part of the film. The bulk of this, and the reason it's good is.... Actually, it's kind of

Mr. Magoo's Christmas Carol (1962) [Revisited]

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I'm not certain I need to revisit this at all. Rereading my review from 2014 , I find my opinions haven't shifted much on rewatch. That said, having seen numerous other versions over the past few months has altered my perspective a bit. And, while I'm still not the world's biggest fan of this, its place in the history of Christmas specials kind of demands it be included in this year's project of watching every significant adaptation. I'll start with something positive I only glossed over in my initial review: Jim Backus, the actor who voices Magoo/Scrooge, delivers a phenomenal vocal performance here. He manages to simultaneously stay in character as Mr. Magoo while that character plays Scrooge, and through it all his performance is faithful to Dickens' work. I harped a great deal in 2014 on the downsides of doing this within a frame story of a Broadway production (and I'm going to again in a moment), but Backus deserves credit for pulling it off without

The Cabbage Patch Kids: First Christmas (1984)

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I can't find much background information on this, but reading between the lines, I assume it was intended to double as a special and a pilot for a planned Cabbage Patch Kids series that never got greenlit. I'm almost surprised it wasn't picked up, not because this is any good (spoiler: it is not), but because that rarely prevented stuff like this from being made in the '80s, particularly when anchored to an IP as well-known as the Cabbage Patch Kids. This was created by Ruby-Spears Productions, which was founded by a couple former Hanna-Barbera employees. Having recently seen a boatload of Hanna-Barbera Christmas specials, you can see the influence. And not just because the premise of this revolves around characters learning about and experiencing Christmas for the first time.  It opens with a stork traveling to the bleak, snowy landscape that is (checks notes) northern Georgia (you know, where the dolls were invented). Within the wintery expanse, there's a magical

Shaun the Sheep: The Flight Before Christmas (2021)

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TWO Aardman holiday specials this year? Woo! While Robin Robin featured a slightly different look and style for the studio, Shaun the Sheep is right in their comfort zone: hilarious comedy done with extremely professional stop-motion animation. If you've never seen any Shaun the Sheep, you can jump in at any time. There's a television series, two films, and multiple specials. All of them feature roughly the same premise: Shaun and his sheep pals live on a farm. Shaun is much more intelligent than the farmer knows (as are the other sheep, if less so), and comedy ensues. The farmer (who is an idiot) and the farmer's loyal dog often come up with plans to improve the farm, which often come into conflict with capers run by the sheep and other animals.  And it's all wordless. There's no dialogue in Shaun the Sheep, only mumbles and expressive animal noises. The simplicity lends itself to brilliantly outlandish physical comedy.  This special might be the funniest entry I&#

Angela's Christmas Wish [Angela's Christmas 2] (2020)

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A few years ago, we were surprised and delighted by Angela's Christmas , which was a joy in basically every way. I actually remember seeing that this sequel existed last year, but I was hesitant about it. No more source material plus a lot of good press for the first one could easily lead to something rushed and poorly written. And even in the best-case scenario, what could possibly live up to the first special?  Well, not this, but it's still very good. Funny, charming, adorable, uplifting, and really grounded in ways that animation often isn't. It's just not, you know, transformative children's media. If you liked the first one, I recommend you check this out. If you didn't see the first one, go watch that! Angela's Christmas Wish (also marketed as Angela's Chrismas 2) starts with an introduction that takes place before the events of the first movie, in which we see Angela's dad get on a boat for a job in Australia. (Reminder that this all takes pl

Elf Pets: Santa's St. Bernards Save Christmas (2018), A Fox Cub's Christmas Tale (2019), Santa's Reindeer Rescue (2020)

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I want to start by saying upfront: you should discourage your kids from watching these. I'm not joking. And I'm not saying that because these are awful - they are, but that's the least of their problems. These specials cross a line between obnoxious and inappropriate in how they market their toys to kids. I'm not just talking about using animation as an extended ad, either -- this goes way beyond GI Joe or Transformers. GI Joe never explicitly told kids owning their crap would help save Christmas; these specials - all three  of these specials - quite literally convey that message. You want Santa's sleigh to fly? Help by "caring for" one of these three magic toys. I am not exaggerating. I don't recall ever seeing a show or special do anything like this before. With that out of the way, let's talk about the specials themselves, or rather the specials as a group. While all three contain unique characteristics, the overall concept and structure is iden

An Elf's Story: The Elf on the Shelf (2011)

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I'm torn on this. On one hand, this is a cheap ad for Elf on the Shelf, poorly disguised as an animated special. But on the other hand, it's so badly made, I think it actually may have contributed to the downfall of the brand, which is unquestionably a benefit to humanity. The special's protagonist is Chippy, an elf assigned a very important mission to help a boy recover his belief in Christmas. The boy, Taylor, hasn't undergone any sort of hardship or anything, and aside from being kind of a dick around his younger sisters, isn't a bad kid or anything. So the stakes here are pretty damn low. This is just about Santa sending one of his minions to police the beliefs of a random upper-middle-class kid. That's it. Chippy arrives in an Elf on the Shelf box, along with the stupid book, because we're really selling the hell out of the illusion any of this counts as Christmas lore. The family reads the book together, and we get the basic rules: the elf flies back t

The Fairies: Christmas Wishes in Fairyland (aka Christmas Carols in Fairyland, 2009)

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Wow. It took us a surprisingly long time to confirm the information in that title. Another from our stash of random DVDs bought from clearance bins, this... film? Extended episode? DVD special? is part of an Australian children's franchise that apparently started with some direct-to-video specials, then got recast, rewritten, and prettied up (by WETA) to launch a full television series, a longer series of direct-to-DVD movies, a program for ballet schools, and probably some stuff I'm missing.  Both generations of this property did a Christmas movie, but this is the later one with more professional production values. The fact that we weren't sure about that until after some thorough research tells you something about what a low bar "more professional" is in this case.  I don't love to hate on low-budget kids' stuff, but this is very strange, and not really in a good way. The actors are giving it a lot of energy and drive, even though they all seem like peop

Robin Robin (2021)

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Has animation ever looked this cuddly before? I know there has been other stop-motion work in felt, but this is simply exceptional. A new musical holiday special from Aardman Animations and Netflix, Robin Robin is available on Netflix, and it's just so dang adorable! The whole thing is animated with fluffy soft felted characters, and the artistry on display is amazing. The premise is simple: a robin has been raised by mice. The business of mice is to sneak into human houses to steal food. During the first of many delightful songs, it quickly becomes clear that Robin's chirpy, fluttery nature doesn't lend itself to sneaking, but she doesn't understand why it goes wrong for her.  This is a sweet special. There isn't anything unexpected about the resolution, but the humor and music ensure that the ride is thoroughly enjoyable. I'm going to sum up the rest of the plot below, but if you like stop-motion animation or musicals or all-ages media (or all three, like me),