Cartoon Review: The Year Without a Santa Claus

Posted: December 18, 2010 in Cartoon Review, Holiday, Reviews
Tags: , , , , , , , ,

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The Year Without a Santa Claus (1974 Rankin/Bass Productions Dir. Jules Bass & Arthur Rankin Jr.)

Oh goodie, Rankin & Bass! Because that’s always worked out well for us in the past, huh kids? You remember Rudolph? You remember ‘Twas the Night Before Christmas? Yeah, maybe now you know why I hesitate. The thing is, I remember this one being particularly painful, mainly because it’s the ultimate Rankin/Bass Christmas Story. One where Santa, tired of requests for Red Ryder’s Peacemaker, decides to quit. I know, you’re so shocked by this I can hear you gasping now. I mean, what are the odds, right? I mean he only cancels the trip just about every special he shows up in. Now, in some ways, this is a sequel to Santa Claus Is Comin’ to Town, which I haven’t reviewed. You ever notice that most the time when I review a sequel I haven’t reviewed the original? I’ve noticed that if I don’t review the original first, it doesn’t get reviewed. Probably in the fullness of time, I’ll get around to it.


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Why such a filthy dress? Let’s just say a lot of men have handled me with their dirty hands.

The story is told by Mrs. Claus, who is first seen hanging up washing on an outdoor line… at the North Pole! Why? The washing will not dry, it will freeze. If the snow isn’t melting than evaporation isn’t taking place, or at least it isn’t taking place at anything like a speed that will make hanging it outside a viable option for drying. She then introduces herself in a ham-fisted way which is both awkward and stupid. However, since she’s hanging her clothes up in the midst of winter I suppose the solution could be that she’s a few bulbs short of a light strand. I mean, she’s the only old woman at the North Pole, but she asks “How do I know so much about Santa? Well, I’m Mrs. Claus.” Well, duh! I didn’t think you were Mrs. Jernofski, the wife of the janitor. Also, I think maybe English isn’t her first language, because she garbles her syntax a bit in this introduction. “It was a long time ago before you were living.” I suppose I know what that means, but why say it like that? Was this translated from the original Mandarin without the help of a native English speaker? And why is her smock so dirty? You can see the dirt and grime on her dress.

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Guess where this one is going!

So they start a flash back and now they seem to be talking in a strange rhyming couplet style of speech. To make matters worse, it’s really sort of clumsy, requiring Mrs. C to break the forth wall and narrate when they really need a rhyme. All this clumsy talk and translated speech brings us to the point that Santa isn’t feeling too well. I can understand, I’m not a minute thirty into this thing and I’m feeling a bit ill myself. So the doctor comes in and berates Santa for traveling around the world to give toys and candy to a bunch of people who don’t care. So nice of the doctor to editorialize on the single point of Santa’s raison d’être. If this turns out badly, I’m blaming him! The Doctor goes on to rant that no one cares about Christmas and that he wouldn’t be surprised to find out that no one believes anymore. He then proves that he watches Fox News by going on to blame liberals for the lack of good cookies and proper milk being left out lately. After a few race bating comments and a suggestion that gay elves like Hermey shouldn’t be allowed at the North Poll, he leaves screaming that birth certificates can be faked and lets the door slam behind him. The whole time Mrs. Claus tries to talk him down, but being a typical gutless liberal just sort of mumbles that he’s probably not right or he’s making up figures and doesn’t just kick his ass out the door like she should. Stupid Gutless Liberals.

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The saddest elf of all.

Santa, being Santa, takes all the ranting and raving to heart. He calls everyone together and tells them that he’s canceling Christmas. I’m wondering if it was the lies about no one caring, or if he was just looking for an excuse. I mean he does rather cancel Christmas every single year, and every time I ask how HE got to be in charge of that. Never have got an answer. Anyway! We’re then given the first song of the special, where it seems Santa can declare no Christmas. Lights are switched off, decorations are carted away, children are sobbing, congress is holding a special session to see if they can order that doctor shot, it’s pretty sad really. Why doesn’t the Santa Corporation have an alternate delivery set up to deal with these issues? It’s not like this is the first time this has come up after all. The opening credits end and we’re given our first commercial break.

COMMERCIAL1

Yeah, it’s a bottle of beer. What’dya want from me?

Our first ad is another beer ad. Hey, don’t look at me, this is what I was given to review. A guy runs into a bar and screams that Big Jim is coming. This clears the bar out pretty quickly and in walks a big man up to the bar and asks for a Schmidt’s beer, stating he doesn’t have much time. The bartender, assuming that this is Big Jim, says that it was a great choice. See this particular advertisement is for the Big Mouth Barrel, which is a wide mouthed bottle of beer. He then tries a weak pun by saying that the man doesn’t need a glass since “Schmidt’s Big Mouth is in a glass all by itself.” and that the bottle contains the same great beer every time. He then tries to entice the fellow by asking if he wants another beer on the house. The man looks at the bartender and says “Are you crazy? Big Jim’s coming!” and leaves the bartender to look quizzically after him. See it here.

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Uuuum…

Anyway, they tell all the elves to put the gifts away and they each pad their parts out by asking if he also means the stuff they’re working on. Mrs. Claus decides that she’s had enough of these melon-farming snakes on this melon-farming plane and puts Santa’s hat on herself. Then she breaks into song, a full minute and a half after the last one ended. Well, if you’re not counting commercials. The song then gets sort of disturbing, what with Mrs. Claus admitting that she’s often fantasized about being her husband. Is this not weird to everyone else? She fantasies about being her own husband! She wants not only to be a man, but a man she has been… well… intimate with. Now, don’t start giving me that whole “Don’t make me think of Santa having sex.” thing because Santa has been having sex in Playboy comics for years and years. It seems going to the homes of young urban women for booty calls is the only reason he leaves the house. She goes on to sing about how she could be Santa and take over for him, despite the fact that the boots, costume, beard, and hair are all wrong. Sadly, as soon as the elves realize it’s her in the costume (what with her telling them it’s her) she decides it won’t work. So what the hell were the last three minutes for?

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And she told him to stick it in! Shocking! I know, right?

So anyway! Mrs. C send a couple of elves (Jingle and Jangle) with Vixen to go find some Christmas cheer in order to change Santa’s mind. So Santa and Mrs. Claus talk about how he’s feeling and he thinks she’s up to something because she doesn’t look like she’s up to anything and at times like that, she’s up to something. I’ve made it a lot less convoluted than they did, because I was able to get a hold of the original scrolls this tale was based on and it seems they aren’t in Mandarin, but in Sanskrit. Well, Mrs. C tells him about how the elves and Vixen went out to find goodness in the world. Santa however, being another paranoid Fox viewer, knows the world is just full of darkness and evil and that those three are on their way to being raped and murdered by vegan hippies who will probably eat them after they’re done. He slips on his shoes and gets ready to go.

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They’re actually quite happy to be falling to their deaths. It’ll get them out of the rest of this special.

He mentions that the group won’t even get past the Miser Brothers, and Mrs. C mentions that she forgot all about those guys. However, she says it in such an unconcerned tone that I have no idea if she’s actually worried or just putting on an act. I certainly hope there’s a song explaining who the Misers are. Nope, Mrs. C just gives us a short narration. That’s sort of sad really. It’s been almost four minutes without a stupid song and my hands are starting to shake. No reason given why a flying reindeer can’t just go around these two warring brothers. Mrs. C does mention she never thought Vixen would be dumb enough to fly into Heat Miser’s territory, so that’s something. Not much though, because Jingle and Jangle are blasted by a heat ray and knocked off Vixen. As they plummet to their deaths, we cut to commercial. Allow yourself to savor the idea of Jingle and Jangle’s bodies smashing into the ground. Their bones splintering and their bells flattening on impact, never to ring again. Their deaths won’t really be sad, because we don’t know them at all, but it will provide you with a momentary distraction while you read about this advertisement.

COMMERCIAL 2

Eat Quisp or he’ll end you.

In our second advert, we see a cartoon of a massive ball of yarn that has blocked all space travel. They call an alien that wants to deliver Quisp cereal, so he knits the massive ball of yarn into a giant necktie 87 miles long. It’s a really short feeling commercial, even though it’s a full minute long. For some reason there’s a cowboy who interrupts before getting jabbed with the needles by the alien. Don’t know why. See it here.

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VixensBlog.Com She’ll be complaining a lot.

As could have been predicated by anyone save for a moron or a mother watching with her child*, the elves did not in fact die. They are saved almost instantly by Vixen who high tails it out of there and goes to Southtown U.S.A. Really? Southtown? Well, clearly it is a town in the south because they are immediately pulled over and given a ticket for looking funny. Also for riding a reindeer, even though the cop doesn’t know what a reindeer is. Jingle and Jangle prove to be about as smart as anyone else in these things by deciding they don’t like reindeer around here. Instead of taking the fact that they were given a ticket ten seconds after arrival, they decide to stick around Southtown (really? Southtown?) after putting socks on Vixens head to make her look like a dog. Vixen is about as pleased about this as you’d expect, but doesn’t grumble about it. Oh, but her blog will be full of vitriol tonight, I can promise you that! The humiliation continues when they demand her to bark for a woman who is holding her cat like a muff. Why? I have no idea. Vixen’s Blog… look it up. She’s really quite angry about the whole thing.
*Mom’s are over dramatic and always act like the first thing we’ll see coming back from commercial is a dead body.

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Well, this isn’t creepy or anything.

Santa, it seems, is right behind the two elves. He’s got right to Southtown and talked to the cop already. However, Buford turns out to be almost as nasty to Santa as he was to the elves. The elves by the way, just need to be shot. Noting how hot it is, they leave Vixen by a tree while going to talk to some kids, and in the one minute they’re away, the dogcatcher snatches her. Southtown is not doing a lot to dispel prejudices about the south, I can tell you that. Did I mention the kids don’t care about Santa? Did I also mention that after talking to the elves, Santa jumps out from behind a tree like some sort of child molester? He’s not helped by… well… I hate to repeat a prejudice, but he’s wearing a pink suit and purple shirt and looks like a dandy old queer. I mean, I think he’s going to seduce this kid and then later pay for his dancing lessons.

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Yeah, not getting creepier, is it?

Allow me to again be baffled. Santa sneezes and the kid’s hovering mother suddenly throws open the window and asks if it was him sneezing. She must be stalking the poor kid, or her apron strings are only about seven inches long. Throwing open a window to ask if it was him sneezing? Instead of asking why an old dandy in striped pants is trying to pick up their kid, they ask him in for some tea and hope beyond hope that he might sing them a song. Well, their hopes are realized and he does sing them a song about how he believes in Santa Claus. Then the father starts singing along and he talks about the time Santa snuck into his room and touched him. HOW IS SANTA NOT ON A WATCHLIST? Yeah, he touched him with the power of song, but he crept into a kid’s room and touched him! EW! And this is a family show? They sing and the kid (not the father the kid) sheds a tear.

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Rankin & Bass’s Sin City

So the kid explains about the dog pound, and Santa has one of those OMG moments. He then determines to break Vixen out of the big house and gets a crew of rough necks together. Well actually, we break for commercial after seeing poor Vixen cry a little. I’m not going to break for commercial, I think I can get away with it. I think they need me right now, the guards have looked worried all day since that broken bottle incident. I’ll skip this and go on with the story. Santa hops onto whatever reindeer it is that he brought with him and takes off into the air. At this moment, the kid and his father work out that he might be Santa. The kid wants to help and the father suggests the kid go to the Mayor’s office and tell him the whole story. Because that’s going to work! The kid won’t just get kicked out of the mayor’s office or anything. Well, the mayor laughs his ass off at them and then explains that it hasn’t snowed in Southtown in 100 years. He then tells them that if he can make it snow, he’ll release Vixen.

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What the hell is Chaplin doing here?

He cackles with laughter as they leave and instead of thinking them insane, sings a song about how it’s going to snow. He runs out of his office and tells everyone that “It’s going to snow, right here in Dixie” and… is that Charlie Chaplin? Yes. Charlie Chaplin is in this thing. But it’s pointless because Santa came and paid her bail already. Since Vixen isn’t in the clink anymore, they don’t need to make it snow anymore I guess. Of course, since no one has cell phones in this show, they don’t know about how Vixen is doing. Well, instead of trying to kill the mayor and the dogcatcher, (Also known as the sensible option) they decide to call Mrs. C for backup. One assumes she left before Santa showed up, because she just comes to them with a plan to go see Snow Miser and ask him to make it snow in Southtown.

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I won’t see anything more nightmare fueling this whole day.

Well, Snow Miser shows up and sings a song introducing himself. He tells them all about himself. This sort of thing wastes a lot of time and fits nowhere in the narrative, but since Mrs. C calls him a big ham I should allow it. So they talk about making it snow, but he tells them that Heat Miser screws up his snow every time he tries to send it to Southtown. So they go to talk to Heat Miser and on the way out Snowy says “Bring your husband next time and we’ll have a blizzard! Woooo!” and what the hell does that mean? Is this some kind of freaky swingers code? Is he talking about something kinky? We already know Mrs. Claus fantasies about being a man and her husband to boot. Is this going to turn into some kind of fetish porn before we’re done?

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I would like to amend my previous caption.

Well, anyway, they go to see Heat Miser, who has a different song but the same tune. It’s so obvious that they wrote the Snow Miser song first and then tried to filk it to the other side of the spectrum. Now Heat Miser is annoyed by Santa’s connection with winter and cold. Mrs. C asks if he could make it snow in the south, which he rejects. He then says it might if there was “Something in it for me.” and at this point I can only guess that their Mrs. C or Jingle is going to have to offer their body up while Jangle take photos for the internet. Well, actually he wants The North Pole. Mrs. C calls up Snowy and lets the two brothers talk it out a bit before deciding she’ll just go to their mother. So the last ten minutes have been entirely pointless padding. Well, the group is going to go see someone Mother Nature, announcing that what with the snakes, the planes, and the melon-farming, that enough is enough and that she’s had it. Before she can for all Samuel L. Jackson though, there is a commercial break and I can’t avoid it this time.

COMMERCIAL!3

He’s waiting until the tuba blasts to let off his farts.

Tony the Tiger has come back to the jungle with Frosted Flakes. See, it’s the year of the tiger and he wants everyone to know about it. I guess that and the 8 essential vitamins and iron that have fortified the ceral are enough to advertise it to the world. They really don’t do much else. Still, watch it and see if it makes you hungry. Sorry these aren’t longer, but there isn’t much insanity to this bunch.

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Look at those giant nickels. Batman probably wants one.

And we’re back! Everyone is really nervous about going to see Mother Nature, which means she’ll be a delightful lady. Guess what? She’s a delightful lady, cheerful and smiling. She tells the brothers to work together, and is all smiles about it. The brothers give her a little trouble, but she smiles through it and remind everyone that she doesn’t have to be nice. I sort of wonder if the moment the guests leave, if she isn’t wailing on those two with a belt or something. There does seem to be a little something crazy in her eye. Anyway, Santa gets back and puts Vixen to bed before falling asleep in his chair. It snowed in Southtown and everyone is really happy. All the mayors in the country got together to declare a holiday for Santa… despite the fact that one already exists! Now he plans to take a vacation, even though he could have taken one in July! I just… I… ARG!

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She’s so sad, she now lives in a crayon drawing of a house.

So, because Santa has a day off, the children of the world bring gifts to Santa. Why they’re all going to the north pole, where they might freeze to death, I have no idea. After his day off, Santa wanders around the place mumbling to himself like a drunk. And then… Oh Great Waffle… it’s horrible. A child sends him a letter and sings Blue Christmas. It seems the children of the world aren’t going to have a very nice Christmas without Santa. Wait a second, you mean the canceling of Christmas might have an adverse reaction on children who mark it as their favorite day of the year? I had no idea! How long has this been going on? THIS! CHANGES! EVERYTHING!

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He looks drunk.

So Santa changes his mind about taking a break and demands to know why everyone is sitting around not working. Everyone reminds him of his symptoms and he tells them to shut up before they feel the back of his hand. And then everyone sings Here Comes Santa Claus, because The Gods hate me. No one seems to notice that he didn’t actually stop, they’re thrilled about the whole thing. And yet, all I can think is, go find that stupid doctor and set his feet on fire. All of this, every last stupid moment of it, is his fault. This isn’t as offensive as some of the Rankin/Bass stuff has been, but it sure could be a bit squicky if you think about it for more than five seconds. It was a colossal waste of time though, massive. Still it could have been worse and they don’t seem to have actually murdered anyone like they did in Rudolph. Still, if you want, you could buy your own own copy and tell me I’m wrong. Maybe you’ll love it.

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So how do you feel about this special, Santa?

Official Score:
2 Degrees on the Graffiti Bridge Scale.

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