Tag Archives: Nostalgia

The Thanksgiving That Almost Wasn’t

Here we go. Thanksgiving special review #2.

 

Do these guys really need an introduction? No, but I will give a brief one anyway.

If Mel Blanc was the man of a thousand voices, Hanna-Barbera is the company of a thousand characters. And while not all of them are interesting, per say, neither are any two too alike.

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The Flintstones. Tom and Jerry. The Jetsons. Yogi Bear. Dexter’s Laboratory. Scooby Doo. These cartoons and more defined several generations. Their legacies are fondly remembered today, and a few of them have even continued to evolve, producing new films and tv shows.

The company that brought them to life (those post MGM, I mean) started up in 1957, with the titular William Hanna and Joseph Barbera at the helm, and together, they would soon become famous for their iconic animation styles, sound effects, and the near-hilarious repetition of said animation and sound effects.

 

Some shows used it more than others (mostly the older ones), but it was there. And even when I wanted to shout “lazy and cheap!” for the whole world to hear, I found myself strangely endeared to the rhythmically bobbing heads, familiar backgrounds passing by every few seconds, repeated and sometimes flipped animation cycles, and background music and effects that will haunt your subconscious for years.

Enter The Thanksgiving That Almost Wasn’t, a more fictionalized account of the First Thanksgiving and how close it was to going south, apparently. And no, I don’t mean “going south” as in stealing and bloodshed between warring peoples. More as in “our dinner party will have to be rescheduled! Oh, the horror!”

In short, it’s your mother’s worse nightmare.

Okay, so what’s the story here?

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In “modern-day” America, a squirrel family is about to sit down to dinner. The dad squirrel begins telling his son (voiced by June Foray, who you may recognize as the voice of another famous cartoon squirrel) about the First Thanksgiving, in a similar vein to Legend of the Titanic:

(skip to around 2:47, unless you’re interested in the full review)

That’s right, kids. The history books got it wrong. You should always trust talking animals when it comes to learning about the past. But hey, at least this story’s “version” of history isn’t as insulting…depending on who you ask…

Moving on.

Long story short: the Native Americans saved the settlers’ naive butts and decided to pay them back with a big feast, sharing all of the food they managed to grow after that rocky first year. Not too far off, I guess; nevermind that nobody has a historically correct accent or any kind of language barrier.

Oh, and by the way, this special goes a little bit into Disney’s Pocahontas territory.

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The squirrel kid’s ancestor, Jeremy Squirrel, became friends with two boys from both sides. On the day of the feast, Johnny Cook and Little Bear get so caught up in play-hunting and proving their manly worth to one another, that they run off into the deep woods and get lost. Thus, while they try to navigate their way back (a la silly, forced hijinks) and keep from being killed by the one douchey animal in the woods, Jeremy leads the search party to bring them home.

Spoilers (not really): they make it back fine, and the feast commences the day after, I guess. Jeremy sits as the guest of honor, gives the sappiest prayer you’ve ever heard in your life, and the special ends on more comedy lite.

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Despite my sarcasm, it’s a charming little special. The quality of it feels novel somehow; it’s not really funny, and it egregiously repeats its animation within the same musical number (let alone the same scene). There are about three musical numbers that are all cute and inoffensive.

In fact, that’s the perfect word I’d use to describe it. Inoffensive. It feels like it’s been sanded; so even when drama strikes, it’s not very engaging. Like an after school special meant to make you aware or appreciative of something, and all it really does is bore or unintentionally amuse you.

The characters are all distinctly one-note, so you don’t really feel or worry for them. The most I felt was irritation at their continuous stupidity (terrorizing innocent animals, running off, being ignorant of the dangers they repeatedly almost fall prey to). None of the adults leave any impact, and the squirrel is an annoying goody-two-shoes, who would have been likable if he had more of a character.

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But, to be fair, the special isn’t very long, so the character development of these totally new characters was always destined to suffer. What’s good is that the plot/conflict is fine, and it fits the story and run time very well. Snug, but not about to burst in an explosion of buttons.

The goof ups and inaccuracies are downright hilarious, as are the cut corners, but most of the morals are good and sound, if preachy. Overall, it’s average, but also, as I said, novel. Not something you see everyday – not that you would want to – but just right for the holiday season. Corny and wooden; certainly not the best of the Hanna-Barbera brood, but I’d still recommend it over Charlie Brown’s lackluster escapade any day.

Inoffensive. Well-meaning, warm and friendly, but out-of-touch. The Thanksgiving That Almost Wasn’t is the kindly old grandmother of Thanksgiving specials. And in that sense, it is lovable and nostalgic, in more than just the classic Hanna-Barbera animation and gimmicks. Though be warned; it may be lost on (or easily ridiculed by) new viewers.

It fits Thanksgiving just right, although I’d be surprised to see who could screw up such an easy message.

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To bring my ramblings here to a close, I pose this question to you:

Why is Thanksgiving as a holiday so easily glanced over?

Why are there fewer specials and movies to choose from? Fewer decoration choices?

My theory is this: food can only be left out on the shelves for so many months, and Thanksgiving has a simple message, with only so many ways you can retell it and make it new.

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Think of how many times you’ve seen A Christmas Carol retold. It can get old and tedious, but the bones of the story is timeless and constantly relevant. It’s about loving life, but more so about giving.

That is the key.

Not to say that giving is a bad thing, just that it is easily exploited. Thanksgiving, generally speaking, tends to be focused more inwardly. It’s about contentment; trying to appreciate what we have, which many of us constantly fail to do while slow internet and spotty connections still plague our poor little first world country.

Christmas is about giving more and more, and having more and more. Thanksgiving is about having enough (plus any leftovers). Marketers don’t hate it, or even have anything in particular against it, but it doesn’t boost the economy quite like Christmas, or encourage the endless cycle of want quite like Christmas.

They can’t do much with Thanksgiving, so they turn their focus elsewhere. It truly is the middle child, because Halloween, while it doesn’t necessitate gifts, can at least sell candy, props, and costumes. Halloween mostly takes care of itself.

Ironically, despite not having to be a religious thing (you can pray to anyone you please, or just be happy with yourself), Thanksgiving gets pushed aside by Christmas, a holiday that once bore a cross rather of a Santa hat and beard. What we long ago dubbed as “Jesus’s Birthday,” now just about anyone can celebrate if they want, all because of marketing. The change has resulted in a very mixed bag, with some things lost and others gained.

Thanksgiving is a less “in your face” Christmas, and because of that, fewer people care about it.

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I find it sad for a number of reasons, but at the same time, I’m kind of glad that advertisers leave the holiday mostly alone (except for this greedy bs here). Less commercialism is kind of nice once in a while, for certain, special things.

I think Thanksgiving should qualify as a special thing. A time for love and memories; the things that are truly important.

Food for thought…for food…

So enjoy your holiday this year, however you see fit. Enjoy it with good food and good people, if you can. And if you can, give to those who are in need. Thanksgiving is about having a whole other kind of wealth; one that is meant to be shared with all families (small, large, or the whole of the human race), feeding everyone’s spirits for the better. That’s how I see it.

With that said, enjoy this wholesome contrast:

 

Happy Turkey Day.

*All pictures, video clips, and other media belong to their respective owners. None of the images or sounds belong to me.

CftC: Ed, Edd n Eddy’s Boo Haw Haw

Welcome back to:

october

 

Ed, Edd n Eddy was one of those “love it or hate it” kind of shows. The whole premise – three kids try to scam the rest of the cul de sac out of their money – is kind of mean-spirited, although the show was pretty good about giving consequences to the right characters. All of the characters had their mean moments, but it also felt very innocent; reminiscent of how kids can just be cruel, sometimes with seemingly no reason.

And intense gross-out gags usually appeal to boys, anyway.

Still, I loved it.

Ed, Edd n Eddy was definitely one of my favorite shows. It was colorful, and the art style really bloomed in season 2 and up, managing to look both pleasant and colorful, and silly and grotesque when it needed to. It had its silly and gross-out moments, but by the standards of most modern cartoons (modern Spongebob, Sanjay and Craig, etc.), I’d say the latter was fairly restrained. The characters were funny, and the zany schemes were over-the-top and fun; fake enough that you knew not to try them at home, but real and kid-ish enough to be put together with odds and ends, boxes, and duct tape.

40% of it was stuff I didn’t mind much, an 60% of the show was honest fun and heart.

The show began running on Cartoon Network in 1999 and ran for 10 years and 6 seasons in total. While designing a commercial, Italian-Canadian cartoonist Danny Antonucci conceived Ed, Edd n Eddy. He approached Cartoon Network and Nickelodeon with the series, but both channels demanded creative control, to which Antonucci did not agree. Finally, a deal was ultimately made for Cartoon Network to commission Ed, Edd n Eddy, after they agreed to let Antonucci have control of the show. The series’ TV movie finale, Ed Edd n Eddy’s Big Picture Show, aired on November 8, 2009.

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Of the main trio, there is Eddy, the short one in yellow. He gets a few redeeming moments, but otherwise, his character is pretty static: he is the Scrooge and head con artist of the group. Edd, the tallest kid in the Where’s Waldo shirt, is the muscle and lovable moron with the most creative imagination…and the poorest hygiene. Edd, more commonly referred to as “Double Dee,” is the smartest, most mature and finicky of the group. He is a good-natured but beleaguered nerd who cleans and straightens obsessive compulsively, and tries to keep a handle on his two crazy friends. Eddy uses him frequently for his own ends, but typically includes Double Dee on the rewards (and punishments) he receives from the other kids in their neighborhood.

Also, Double Dee wears a sock on his head, and I don’t think we ever learned what he’s hiding beneath it. The show’s writers sure loved to tease it, though.

While the friends could fight and be shallow or selfish to one another, their bond felt natural and as true as any friendship in kiddom. It helped some that the trio were all pretty equally low on the cul de sac social hierarchy, but they almost never ditched each other when a rare opportunity for popularity presented itself anyways. The social politics were nowhere as mean and unpleasant as that with Penny’s friends on The Proud Family, although I liked that show a lot too.

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Other notable characters include Kevin, the aloof and irritable “cool kid” jock; Nazz, the cool girl and practically the entire cul de sac’s love interest; Jonny “2×4,” (so named for his large cranium and imaginary friend, a fence board with a face drawn on it named “Plank”) who sometimes rivals Ed’s lack of self-awareness and intelligence; Sarah, Ed’s bossy, violent little sister; Jimmy, Sarah’s overly effeminate friend with dental work; Rolf, an out-of-touch immigrant farm boy with strange customs and behaviors; and the essentially trailer-trash Kanker sisters, May, Marie, and Lee, who torment the other kids and occasionally stalk the Eds to try to force them to be their boyfriends.

It toed that fine line between cartoony, matching its art style, and semi-realistic, with very little honest to goodness supernatural stuff. There was plenty of violence, too, but it had a bit less cringe content to it than something like Tom and Jerry. The kids represented various age groups and cliques, and were all redeeming in some way. Yes, even the loathed Kanker sisters.

And, similar to Peanuts (perhaps inspired by it), adults never speak coherent words or appear onscreen at any point.

The official Halloween Special came out in Season 5, on October 28th, 2005.

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Though certainly not as great as The Great Pumpkin, Ed, Edd n Eddy’s Boo Haw Haw has some of that same fun, imaginative spirit, while still taking place on a regular old night of trick or treating.

The premise is this: Eddy’s offscreen prankster of an older brother (Eddy looks up to him immensely, but is constantly abused by him) leaves him the map to a place called “Spook-E-Ville,” where the candy abounds. He convinces the other two Eds to join him, and all the while Ed is suffering from massive, graphic hallucinations as a result of binge watching horror movies. The colors were very pronounced in this special, and always in dark contrast with one another. The animators got to have fun with the designs of monsters in Ed’s Horror-vision, and the characters all wear costumers that either mirror or just speak volumes about their personalities. Eddy is Elvis, Ed is a viking warrior, Double Dee is the bubonic plague (dubbed throw up by Eddy), Sarah is a princess, etc.

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It reminds me of Lucy from The Great Pumpkin, particularly her insistence that the witch costume didn’t represent her at all. And poor Double D is like the smart Charlie Brown of the group, trying his best but ultimately getting handed with a bunch of rocks.

At least the Eds never let life get them down.

The ending is pretty predictable, even by the show’s standards, but I won’t spoil it for people who haven’t seen it. It’s still a fun ride to get there, and sometimes, that’s the most important thing.

7/10, so check it out! But beware if you’re not a gross-out fan.

*As per usual, most of the pics don’t belong to me. The title card does, though. Twas done by the gracious and talented Zero, who can be found here. Check her out! 🙂

 

 

CftC: It’s the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown

October is here, and this month, we’re going to do something a little different.

If Christmas weren’t around, Halloween would be my favorite holiday, hands down. It’s a night full of fun, possibility, and yes, even a bit of horror. Whether it’s the kid-friendly, cheesy, Hallmark side, the actually frightening “dark” side of Halloween that I get to see, or some unholy, scrambled combination of the two, I reeeeeaally look forward to October 31st every year.

And if there’s one thing I thank marketing for, it’s turning the holiday into its own season, with holiday specials and events you can do all month. Costumes, kids, candy, scary movies, haunted houses, corn mazes, and more, if you know where to look.

So I’m commemorating this glorious month with nostalgic movies and tv specials. Welcome to:

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And we’re starting off right with perhaps the most famous and nostalgic special of all: It’s the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown.

 

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It’s one of the most memorable of the Peanuts’ segments (and, in my opinion, the best of the bunch). A fluid story that doesn’t feel too padded, with sketchy and watercolored skies, and the characters we know and love talking going on their own various suburban adventures. Specials like A Charlie Brown Thanksgiving and It’s the Easter Beagle, Charlie Brown owe their sorry excuses for plot to Great Pumpkin, and while I love A Charlie Brown Christmas, it has less plot, more muted colors, and just isn’t quite as interesting as the Halloween romp. It’s still a classic, though.

Great Pumpkin came out in 1966 (16 years after the comics first began to run in weekly newspapers), and for a time, it played once a year. “You either caught it, or you missed it,” my dad has said to me, because back then there was maybe one t.v. per house and only so many channels. Crazy, right?

This was the first special to use “, Charlie Brown” to finish off the title, the second of the holiday Peanuts specials, and the third of their specials to air on television, right behind Charlie Brown’s All Stars (in June of that same year) and A Charlie Brown Christmas (the year prior).

The style is, of course, hand drawn animation with lots of vibrant colors. The voice acting is typical for Peanuts; lots of child actors stumbling about trying to talk like adults, clearly not knowing what the words mean. But that lends the special, and the characters, a lot of charm and humor. The music was performed by jazz genius and early Peanuts composer Vince Guaraldi, with the song Linus and Lucy, the iconic Peanuts theme made popular in the Christmas special, frequently played throughout. New songs for Great Pumpkin include The Great Pumpkin Waltz, Breathless, Graveyard Theme, Trick Or Treat, The Red Baron, and Fanfare, and the World War 1 era songs used (it makes sense if you’ve seen the special all the way through, with no cuts) are “Pack Up Your Troubles in Your Old Kit-Bag, Roses of Picardy, There’s a Long, Long Trail, and It’s a Long Way to Tipperary.

For as great as Halloween is, I’ve noticed that it lacks one officially appointed mascot. The closest (and most  notable contenders) I have found are Stingy Jack, Jack Skellington, and any of the classic movie monsters. You could point to any one of them and think Halloween, though, so I guess that works just as well.

But to get back on track, Great Pumpkin attempts to add a new potential mascot to the line up. The Great Pumpkin!…even though we’re not quite sure what he looks like.

It’s Halloween (of course), and Charlie and the gang get their costumes ready. It’s Sally’s first time, so she naively follows people around and asks questions.

Meanwhile, Linus writes a note to the one he calls “The Great Pumpkin:”

As you can see, everyone else reacts like this:

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But Linus doesn’t care. He keeps his faith in the Great Pumpkin strong, no matter what.

Hijinx ensue. And poor old Charlie gets a lot of rocks.

Incidentally, kids across the country sent candy to Charlie Brown after this special aired. Because they pitied him.

I won’t spoil the rest for all two of you that were just born or just now crawled out from under your rock, but suffice it to say, Halloween costumes have become a lot more…intricate in the last 60 years. And I’m not convinced that’s a good thing.

Another fun piece of trivia: the voice actress for Sally was about to lose a tooth at the time, so the producers rushed her to finish up her lines. The tooth popped out just as she finished the line, “You owe me restitution!”

The story is fun and cute; the obligatory Charlie Brown bashing comes off as funny rather than just sad; the lines and artwork are primitive (by today’s standards) at times, but classic and fun. Some character expressions can look a bit dead-eyed, but most of the time, they are so funny and familiar that it’s uncanny.

All around, this is a great special. You watch a fun, imaginative night of trick or treating that’s a part of animated (and comic) history, and it feels timeless despite the simplistic, homemade costumes and lack of cell phones or computers. Those aren’t really the focus, anyway.

Also, Snoopy is a boss.

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It’s a tradition in my family to watch it every year. If you haven’t seen it, or want to relive the heyday of Peanuts, stream it, buy it, rent it, or catch it (soonest) on ABC Thursday, October 15th at 8:30 EST.

Without my nostalgia glasses, I’d give it a solid 8/10.

*As per usual, most of the pics and clips don’t belong to me. The title card does, though. Twas done by the gracious and talented Zero, who can be found here. Check her out! 🙂