I love Rankin-Bass, obviously. So here's my second favorite of their specials. The Year Without a Santa Claus.
Santa's upset that no one appreciates Christmas. He's tired of working one day a year for free meals, housing, healthcare and amenities, and decides to throw a tantrum by taking a day off.
Mrs. Claus tries to point out that people still love Christmas.
Santa grumps. "Yeah, but the Gap mentioned Hanukkah, Kwanzaa, and Solstice in their ads. And the Old Navy greeters still say Happy Holidays even after our cease and desist."
Mrs. Claus has a few ideas, though. She calls up the head elves, Jingle and Jangle. She dresses up as Santa to see if she could do the job.
Jingle and Jangle show up to see her in Santa drag.
"No good, huh?" The elves and Mrs. Claus agree that it makes much more sense for the elves to go on a wild goose change that results in global warming rather than replace Santa with a minority.
Mrs. Claus tells the elves her plan: she wants Jingle and Jangle to go down to Earth prove to Santa that people do care by finding an example of Christmas cheer. Like a Target that only sells Christmas wreaths and refuses to stock menorahs. Or a young Glen "STOP THE WAR ON CHRISTMAS" Beck.
They pick Southtown, USA at random, and ride off on Vixen, a baby reindeer.
When Santa finds out, he scolds Mrs. Claus for sending such innocent souls into the world. He heads down after them.
Down on earth, Jingle and Jangle get a ticket for riding a reindeer. This results in them putting socks on Vixen to pass her off as a dog. (And, frankly, the cutest part of the movie.)
The elves try to talk to a kid named Iggy about Christmas spirit, but he blows them off. And soon they end up losing Vixen to the dog catcher.
Santa shows up next, riding a reindeer down to earth. Introducing himself as "Mister...um...uh...Clows," he asks Iggy if he's seen the elves. But Santa's more interested in whether Iggy himself believes in Santa. Iggy says no way and Santa grows upset.
Iggy's mom notices the strange man who popped out of the bushes to ask her son about Santa Claus and invites him in. Soon, Santa and the whole family rip off Yes Virginiain song form and burn copies of The God Delusion.
Iggy's a believer. Conveniently, he remembers what happened to the elves and their "dog." Santa leaps on his reindeer and rides him off into the distance.
About four hours later, Iggy and his parents realize that the guy was Santa.
Santa busts out Vixen and takes her home, putting her to bed. (The heat of Southtown was a bit too much for our gal.)
Iggy and the elves don't realize this and end up going to the mayor to ask him to release their reindeer. He'll spring Vixen--if the elves can get it to snow in the desert-like Southtown. And in fact he and all the other mayors in America will give Santa a day off.
After selling his eighth pardon of the day, the mayor takes a break to go take phone calls from Runner's World and John McCain, and for a song and dance number.
In the town, the people riot and burn the mayor in effigy in anger at the inefficiency and corruption of local government.
So with Mrs. C, the elves, and Iggy on shotgun, it's road trip time to see the Snow Miser, a guy who controls all cold weather, to ask him about snow in Southtown.
Hearing that Santa has a bad cold, Snow Miser responds, "That's too bad--I'd have given him a good one!"
"Don't you DARE make fun of Santa. He's as American as a Bible juggling, flag waving, sexually repressed talking apple pie."
"Kid, I've got icicles hanging off my nose. I'm hard core. I can break you."
"At least put some damned pants on, hippie."
Snow Miser agrees to the snow -- until he realizes it's in Southtown, which is under the control of his brother the Heat Miser.
At the Heat Miser's, they make their request, but it wasn't filled out in triplicate. Also, Heat Miser now demands the North Pole be warm and under his domain.
Also, that everyone at the North Pole style their hair like Troll Dolls.
The miser brothers end up fighting, so Mrs. Claus goes over their head to Mother Nature who tells Snow Miser to allow one nice day at the North Pole and Heat Miser to let it snow in South Town.
It does snow--their weather tampering works. A young Al Gore sobs silently.
Best of all, everyone agrees Santa gets a holiday and work together to send him cards and presents.
In Santa's honor, a group of ethnic stereotypes decide to film a United Colors of Benetton ad.
Santa's all set for his day off until he gets a card.
Santa blows his nose, teary eyed. Hey, at least she didn't spell Santa with a 6.
Inspired, Santa calls everyone into his office.
"Don't you realize that it's feasible that we can reduce the number of PC holiday celebrations by 80% in favor of Christmas parties? That we can raise the Nativity scenes in banks and city halls by 21% in towns where the Jews and atheists are too browbeaten to complain? Christmas is on!"
Vixen, who was sick in bed only a few hours ago, takes her place among the others, having been stuffed to the gills with NyQuil and Red Bull, with a "Solstice is for Pussies" bumper sticker on her ass.
Child reindeer labor laws, anyone?
Santa sets off happily but bursts into sobs of "No one loves Christmas" when he sees a house whose rooftop is adorned with a HAPPY DIWALI sign.
Once upon a time, there was a reindeer named Rudolph. His nose was so shiny, you could even say it glowed. Of course, not everyone thought it was so great. Santa, for example, showed up at Rudolph's parents house on the day Rudolph was born to tell them Rudolph would be a great failure if his nose didn't stop shining.
And I thought Nuclear Wintour was a bad boss--but even she refrains from showing up to fondle Heidi and Kate Moss's kids to make sure their hips aren't too thick and their faces are symmetrical enough to grace Vogue one day. (Well, she has since the restraining order.)
Rudolph thinks his nose is fine. He doesn't want to cover it up. "I don't want to, Daddy!"
But in the Donner household, democracy is for chumps.
Meanwhile, Santa and the Mrs. deal with disordered eating. Mrs. Claus invites Santa to, "Eat, EAT! Whoever heard of a skinny Santa?" And besides, her Feeder fetish website isn't going to get any hits if Santa doesn't bulk up.
Santa responds by threatening to eat her head.
At the reindeer games, Rudolph succeeds (well, come on, the only competition was Ben Affleck and Gary Sinise). He also meets a rather creepy coach, Coach Comet, who informs the reindeers, "My name is Comet. And even though I'm your coach, I wanna be your paaaaal."
Rudolph's friend, Fireball, and his reaction:
You and me both, Fireball.
Santa sees the nose and yells at Donner for not having had the sense to kick his mate in the stomach when she was pregnant, thus aborting Rudolph pre-emptively. He presents Donner with the traditional Bowie knife so he can commit harikiri. "You should be ashamed of yourself!"
But he meets a cute doe named Clarice, who proves that she's already a better mate than either Debbie Rowe or Lisa Marie Presley by saying that she prefers his real nose, that it's much better than the silly false one he was wearing.
But Clarice's dad shows up and sends Clarice packing. (Time for her to get her eyelash extensions redone.)
Rudolph meets up with a blond elf named Hermey whose life goal is to be a dentist. The two decide to head off together. They soon meet up with a strange red headed man who casually hurls a pick axe and alternatively claims to be looking for gold, silver, and peppermint.
Without much debate, they decide to hang out with the stranger. After all--he does have cute puppies.
Rudolph, Yukon, and Hermey Scrivello, DDS, escape the Abominable Snowman of the North.
They later find themselves at the Island of Misfit Toys, where an effeminate Charlie in the Box, a polka dotted elephant, and a weepy doll, among others, complain that no one wants them. (I recommend a name change, a home among hipster kids, and Xanax--in that order.)
Rudolph promises the leader of the misfit toys, a winged lion who wears a crown named King Moonracer, that he'll tell Santa about the plight. Then Rudolph sets out on his own because he doesn't want to put Yukon or Hermey Scrivello, DDS at risk.
Burl Ives narrates that Rudolph is beginning to grow up.
Okay, well, anyway. Where was I? Growing up...goddamnit, stupid sexy Rudolph!
Rudolph returns home to find that his father went out looking for him and told Mrs. Donner to stay home because "this was man's work." But Clarice and Mrs. Donner went out to look for Rudolph, too. Assuming that female reindeer are like guy reindeers but with no reason or accountability, Rudolph assumes they went to the Bumble's lair and finds the Bumble about to pull a Polyphemus on all three reindeer.
Yukon and Hermey Scrivello, DDS happen to wander by at the exact moment because apparently the Bumble's place is like the Central Perk of the North Pole. Formulating a plan, they knock the Bumble out and Hermey goes to work yanking out his teeth and then dances happily among a sea of molars.
Later, the Head Elf relents and lets Hermey become a dentist. Looks like dental school and being board certified are overrated--being a dentist just means having a knack for sadism. (Marathon Man and Little Shop of Horrors were right.)
The Bumble's strength apparently was in his teeth. He shrinks inexplicably and Yukon Cornelius hurls him off the cliff and falls.
Except he was just punking us 'cause Bumbles can bounce. At home, Santa welcomes Rudolph and the others home, telling our favorite W.C. Fields schnozz that suicide was too harsh. Rudolph can just live out the rest of his life as a Boo Radley esque social pariah instead.
Suddenly, a report comes in that the weather is too rough. (Santa, like Newman, doesn't go out when it rains.) Rudolph's nose starts to glow.
Santa decides to surgically remove the nose and attach it to his sleigh as a beacon, but when he realizes there's no time, he promotes Rudolph to the head of the sleigh.
When Santa realizes how financially viable having a glowing reindeer will be, he grabs Rudolph and whispers sweet nothings to him.
Santa ponders going back for the misfit toys. He decides against it because it'll add to overhead costs. A year later, he rectifies this mistake after the public relations nightmare. (Hasbro threatened to organize a million toy march and Kanye West announced on national TV, "Santa doesn't care about toys.")
Well, the official story is that viewers complained that the toys got left behind, so Rankin-Bass edited in a sequence over the credits.
Did we mention he's a misfit because he's a bird who can't fly--he swims?
Santa's lawyers learned from the Planned Parenthood and ACORN debacle and reported that this elf absolutely wasn't acting on orders from above.
Cara and Freddy are twins who are about to turn thirteen tomorrow. Their parents leave them home while warning them not to look for their presents. As soon as they're gone of course...present time!
Cara and her twin search the basement for gifts. (No, check the way, way back of the coat closet near the front door!) I wonder what present they'd really like this year. The knowledge that Mommy won't verbally berate Daddy on screen anymore, and that Daddy will stop hooking up with Hailey Glassman? Oops, I'm thinking of Cara and Maddy, not Cara and Freddy.
The basement turns out to have a secret passageway that they head down. (Maybe I've been watching too much House Hunters, but this just sky rocketed the value of your house and more than makes up for the matching kitten tiles and wallpaper.)
And there's a coffin on the other side of this hidden room. The kids find a tiny bottle of something called Vampire Breath and open it.
I tried finding out if Vampire Breath really exists and if I could buy it for the good of the blog. So I headed down to my local vampire coven (i.e., a Hot Topic at a mall in Jersey when I was there visiting friends), and asked. The girl in the New Moon hoodie wrinkled her cute beglittered little nose and said that Vampire Breath sounded icky but offered me a tube of DuWop Lip Venom V at half price.
Sadako will stop (briefly) hating on current-pires. Back to the episode. The coffin opens...with a vampire in it.
He moans about he's been sleeping for so long and how thirsty he is. Fatigue? Thirst? All those years of reading Babysitters Club books were not in vain. Stacey McGill has made me into an expert--dude, you have the diabetis.
The vampire speaks. "I'm Count Nightwing. What are your names, children?"
Cara and Freddy introduce themselves and he moans, "So young, so freeeeesh." I'm having flashbacks to the time I took the overweight flabby D&D leader tutoring me in physics to a freshman mixer my first year of university.
The children inquire as to whether he's a vampire. "A vampire? You make me sound like a common creature of the night. I am lord of the undead." But what you're leaving out is that one, you're only a count, and two, you didn't inherit your title--you purchased it. You get outranked by earls, dukes, and other counts. At the yearly Vampire Consortium, you're seated at a lowlier station than Bunnicula, Mrs. Jeepers, and Sesame Street's the Count.
Count Nightwing's hungry! But whom to eat first? (In the words of the late great Towelie, booooth!) "Boys have such a hearty robust flavor. Rich and satisfying." Just then, Count Nightwing pauses to remind himself to jot that down for his yearly NAMBLA keynote speech.
"On the other hand, girls offer such a sweet, delicate bouquet. So refreshing." R.L., please tell me you didn't go there.
He opens his mouth and the kids make fun of him for not having any teeth. "How dare you mock me? I must have taken them out before I went to sleep." He decides he needs the bottle of vampire breath.
The children offer to help him find the bottle in exchange for him letting them go. "How dare you haggle with me? I am invincible." Please, Nightwing, Sonic and Mario Mario were invincible at times.
You can be destroyed with a wooden stake, a tape recording of Here Comes the Sun, withdrawal of your insulin, or some oversoaked breadsticks from Olive Garden.
The kids find the bottle. Freddy threatens to break it, and there's a struggle. "Give it to me!" Then the kids fall into the coffin which turns into a long slide and sends them down a tunnel as they scream.
Freddy and Cara appear to be in the basement of some Gothic castle with tons of coffins strewn everywhere.
They try to find a way out. A cute blonde little girl named Gwendolyn pops up and begs them not to hurt her. She tells them that the vampires make her clean their coffins all night while they're out hunting or they'll turn her into one. Vampires with the OCD tendencies of Adrian Monk, the health sensibilities of Wilford Brimley, and the sexual taste of Gary Glitter? Meh, this is still better than the new Twilight trailer I had to bring my babysitting charges to see.
Gwendolyn wants to find the vampire breath for no apparent reason so they search for it. Apparently it contains a vampire's vitality while he sleeps. Freddy, Cara? Adorable golden tressed little girl who wants to find vampire breath? And you guys aren't remotely suspicious? She might as well be carrying a physics textbook. Have neither of you seen Interview with the Vampire? The Littlest Vampire? Let the Right One In?
(Claudia from Interview with the Vampire.) I leave you to your own conclusions.
Adrian Monk, Dead and Tolerating It, shows up and grabs Cara, telling Freddy to give up the Vampire Breath or the cute preteen girl gets it. Freddy, who some time in the last two minutes must have found the Vamp Breath, refuses and tosses it.
Kirsten Dunst knockoff and the kids play keep away with the vampire breath. Till Claudia-lite grabs the vampire breath and vamps out. The kids are shocked. (Sadako steadfastly refuses to be even a little bit surprised till it's revealed that not only is she a vampire but she's also a castrated boy.)
Count Brimley and Claudia-lite struggle over the bottle as Freddy and Cara flee.
Nightwing gets the bottle, renews his essence, and starts to look kind of good. Like Bela Lugosi before his morphine addicted, hanging out with Ed Wood phase.
Yeah, if you put this pic up on V-Harmony, Nightwing, you wouldn't be peeling your garlic clove alone for once.
The kids make it home, somehow, with the Count at their heels. Their parents are home. "My baby girl!" Nightwing enthuses when he sees Cara and Freddy's mom. There's a warm embrace. Turns out he's their grandpa who's been asleep for years and they never thought to go look for him. (Man, why didn't Brook Astor's son just use that excuse when they asked why his mother was wandering around the basement of their enormous estate smelling like urine and dog?)
Well, they'll have fun reminiscing over the time Grandpa referred to Cara's "sweet, delicate bouquet" and then tried to 86 the kids. Kind of like family reunions at Roman Grant's compound.
Oh, and the whole family is made up of vampires, and the kids will become vampires when they become teens. A few minutes later, their fangs grow in and the vampirism is complete.
Here's where I turn to R.L. "Since when can you inherit vampirism?" "I thought about doing monsters or werewolves but we already had plastic fangs from the Count Chocula cereal that we eat on set. Count Chocula was our vampire consultant." Of course he was.
Also, wouldn't they have noticed their parents never leaving the house after dark? Or sparkling, or something?
Dad tells the kids there's a surprise in their room.
Coffin bunk beds! Every preteen girl with a Living Dead Doll, an Emily the Strange collection, and an Edward Cullen action figure just came a little.
The kids go to sleep in their bunk beds. How incredibly creepy. They're thirteen year olds of different sex sharing a room? What happens when Freddy's nocturnal emissions seep through the coffin into Cara's?
Also, why are they going to sleep at night?
Just as pretty much everyone with an opinion and an African American Studies degree made some petty criticism of The Princess and the Frog for its portrayal of a black princess, and just as disabled activists everywhere put out a hit on Abigail Breslin for playing Helen Keller without being blind or deaf, I expect every card carrying member of the Vampire Defamation League to condemn this movie for its inaccurate and frankly downright offensive portrayal of vampires. And what's with putting pale make up and fangs on Normies to have them play vamps when there are plenty of out of work real vampires?
And now for something at least a little different. Sorry for those of you who wanteda Goosebumps or Are You Afraid of the Dark? recap--but those are still to come.
What do your favorite cartoon stars from the 80s do in their spare time? Why, they run around figuring out why piggy banks are stolen, try to bogart your joint, and essentially ruin your good time. In 1990, McDonald's produced Cartoon All-Stars to the Rescue--basically a thirty minute long PSA starring lovable cartoon characters like the Smurfs, the Ninja Turtles, Winnie the Pooh, Garfield, the Chipmunks, and Alf. Yes...Alf. When a little girl named Cory has to deal with her brother Michael doing marijuana, it's up to the cartoons to help.
It starts as Papa Smurf sounds an alarm when Michael steals Cory's piggy bank for pot money. Uh, Papa Smurf?
Last I checked you guys were thinly veiled Communist promoters. Please. Don't tell me you're not secretly cackling at Michael's socialist spirit and his knowledge of property being theft.
A bunch of other cartoon characters come out of the woodwork from various places to try to warn Cory what's going on. They sneak after her into Michael's room when she confronts him about stealing her piggy bank, which he's smashed open for drug money. The chipmunks huddle under the bed, noticing a metal box. They wonder what's inside.
Simon says, "I hate to suggest this but my guess would be marijuana. An unlawful substance used to experience artificial highs." My guess would have been a carrying case for his diary that would later be published by one Beatrice Sparks as an anti drug screed for generations, but maybe I've been reading too much Go Ask Alice.
The cartoon characters decide to spring into action.
Later, at the video arcade, Michael smokes pot with his drug buddies. The smoke turns into what's supposed to be a creepy looking pot associated villain named Smoke (but in actuality looks like a rip off of Hexxus from Fern Gully). Bad animators!
Smoke encourages Michael to try as many new drugs as possible. The po-po's show up and Michael's friends run off.
But the cop is really just Bugs Bunny in lecture mode who yells at Michael. Michael's all, "There's nothing you can teach me that I can't learn from Mr. Hathaway," but Bugs is having none of it.
Meanwhile, back at home, Michael and Cory's parents are in the kitchen. His dad asks his mother why two beers are missing from the fridge.
She replies that he must have had them when he was watching the football game. You know, when Green Bay lost and that dumb bitch forgot to buy the right kind of hot wings sauce and you had to hurl the bottles at her. Luckily, it was just Coors Lite, so all was fine. Oops, wrong PSA!
Cory ponders telling her parents that something's wrong, but decides against it.
Back to Bugs Bunny who takes Michael in a time machine. Flashback time! Michael two years ago, pre-drugs. He runs into some skeevy looking kids and gets peer pressured into smoking pot.
Bugs Bunny asks if he'd jump off a cliff if everyone else was doing it. "Milhouse is jumping off a cliff?!" I scream. Er, yeah. Bugs Bunny gives Michael a speech on believing in yourself and how we've all got problems but some of us deal with them. Chuck Jones, you were alive for this travesty. How the hell did you let this happen?
Later, Michael smokes pot with his friends who talk about doing crack. Love that huge Blossom hat and gigantic earrings and permed blonde hair that the girl is sporting. It's like someone melded Claudia Kishi and Stacey McGill into one and made her into an animated pot smoker (does that mean she's part Dawn Schafer?). The kids ask Michael for his money to use to buy crack and he's reluctant, understandably. (That stuff's okay for catching fish, sure, but soon you need stronger and stronger bait.)
The girl and the Hexxus knock off grab Michael's wallet and run off. No! Your bar mitzvah money! What would the Rabbi Boteach say if he could see you now? Michael chases her down, and then Michelangelo intervenes by uncovering a manhole.
Michael falls into the sewer and Michelangelo lectures him on not looking where you're going. We're going to get an anti-pot lecture from the ninja turtle who talked Leonardo into going above ground at 3 A.M. last weekend to look for the lone Pizza Hut in Manhattan because, "Dude, Domino's will NOT satisfy this craving"? It's like the time Sasha Baron Cohen tried to give me a lesson on not bringing hookers and feces to Tavern on the Green.
Next! A trip through the human brain, with Piggy and Kermit. The Muppet Babies show Michael how horrid his brain looks because of drugs. Oh, please, Kermit, your brain probably looks like swiss cheese by now considering all the erotic asphyxiation Piggy's put you through by now.
Huey, Dewey and Louie show up to give their iteration of, "Drug'sre bad, mkay? If you do drugs...yer bad."
Uh, guys, isn't it about time for you to hit up your Cigar Smokers Anonymous meeting? Don't think I don't remember the time you guys bought Uncle Donald a box of cigars and he thought you were guys were experimenting and he made you smoke the whole box.
Then there's a totally gratuitous song and dance number involving all the cartoon characters. And I cringe for the voice actors. There's no worse gig than singing about saying no to drugs for Cartoon All-Stars. None. Not even if you're a phone sex operator whose customer on the line wants you to pretend to be a golden showers loving Tinky Winky.
Michael wakes up on his bed. What a trip! Cory comes into the room and asks him to tell Mom and Dad about his problems. He refuses and grabs her wrist, shoving her against the wall. "Don't ask me about my business, Cory!" Michael warns her.
She leaves. But she comes back later after Michael's left, thinking that she should take the drugs to be like her brother. Hexxus lite tempts her, and she ponders going for it.
Meanwhile, Alf takes Michael through a funhouse/amusement park. Daffy Duck as a fortune teller shows Michael his future on drugs. "It...it's me!"
This is a shot of you right before you OD. But on the plus side, your death will result in Dr. Conrad Murray going to jail, in your record sales sky rocketing, and the documentary based on your last performance being sold out everywhere.
Michael realizes the truth. He walks back to his bedroom to see Cory about to do the drugs and he screams at her to stop. If only Amy Winehouse had had a cute animated older brother.
Michael decides to stop doing the drugs and hurls Hexxus, Jr. out the window. Then it's off to confess everything to Mom and Dad and hopefully get an all expense paid trip to the Betty Ford Clinic.
Musings on the episode. Am I the only one disappointed at a lack of Captain Planet in this episode? I've got a drug induced withdrawal fever and the only cure is more "HEART!"
Also, did Michael ever get his wallet back?
Cartoon characters who were asked to participate in Cartoon All-Stars but couldn't go through with it:
Ever since Hadji turned the sahib onto the ganja, he just can't do drug specials with a straight face.
Fritz the Cat
Yeah, no R. Crumb creation could possibly do an anti drug PSA. Why was he even asked? Oh, some dumbass confused "Fritz" with "Felix" and he got an invite. (Hey, it's not as bad as the time Devil Girl got an invite to the Georgia Fathers and Daughters Purity Ball of America and didn't turn it down.)
Well, he has become more moderate with age. But the catch phrase "MARIJUANA IS A SOMETIMES DRUG!" and his exhortations that kids should smoke up only after they've done their homework just wasn't anti drug enough.
Sure, she was a do gooder and relentlessly into socially just causes even as early as 1990. But her solution of how we should discourage kids from lighting up while still keeping marijuana plants around to use the hemp for cheap, non-sweat shop produced clothing instead of burning every pot plant, anything that looks like a pot plant, and anything that has touched a pot plant made her unpopular at the network.