If I were to make up a story about Rankin/Bass having created a Christmas special built around the song I Saw Mommy Kissing Santa Claus, and claim that it was suppressed for being so weird and crazypants and indistinctly sexy that even the 70s couldn’t put up with it … how many of you would back me up? I’m not asking for the level of, like, making fan art. But would you insist on social media that oh, yeah, there was totally a crazypants sequence where Mommy’s brought to the North Pole for what is a sanitized, Love Boat-but-a-cartoon version of a swingers party where there might not be anything you can actually say is racy but it’s still like forty times the entendres that a kids’ animated special should have? Just doing a quick little headcount is all.
I’m flattered that you’re still coming to me for advice about Christmas decorations after learning I used to be a teenaged boy. It’s not what I would do, but, what the heck. I guess the worst that can happen is a family that’s fled some aesthetic catastrophe within the house, huddling together, promising that no, there’s a reason all those Star Trek comic books were on the wall. Hey, here’s a real thing that really happened in real reality for real: the second issue of the Star Trek: The Next Generation comic from the 80s was about Captain Picard having to save the Spirit of Christmas from some leather-clad Alien Space Grinches.
Anyway a holiday is always a good excuse to decorate. Not without limits, of course. There are only so many things you can put up to commemorate, say, Washington’s Birthday without people asking questions. And not the good kind, like where you can show off what you know about George Washington’s presidential tour of all thirteen states. They ask questions like “… the heck?” And most anything you put up for the August Bank Holiday will get you strange looks. The New Jersey Big Sea Day seems like it ought to have great decorating potential, but most of that is water. Maybe flip-flops.
Ah, but Christmas. And New Year’s. These are holidays that have no socially accepted limits for how much to decorate. You could festoon your house with enough Christmas lights that structural elements crumble, and the building collapses under this load of twinkling merry. Survivors would stagger out of a heap of belongings, drywall, and ornaments. And people would just say, oh, they’re maybe a little much but it makes up for the other houses on the street. It’s one of the few chances you have to festoon things in a socially acceptable way. Heck, it’s one of the few chances to even talk about festooning. Go ahead, list three other times this past year you were able to festoon a thing without authorities getting involved.
Which gets to something important about Christmas decorating. Make sure that you’re decorating someplace or something that you have permission to. Once the authorities get called in you don’t get to enjoy a giddy night of adorning things with tinsel. You have to start sneaking around instead, hiding behind the Christmas tree or unusually wide coat-stands whenever a bunch of people in, I’m assuming, tall blue hats tromp past. Then they hear a suspicious cough off somewhere. One of your confederates, no doubt, if you’ve got this well-organized. And you have to throw a ball of tinsel at a thing you hope is a tinsel-bearing decorative structure unit, like a tree or a wreath or a cat.
That’s not the right way to do things. That won’t get you decorations that festoon a thing. The best you can hope for is that you’ll have decorations strewn about. And strewning is great, don’t get me wrong. It’s just that strewning is great in the right context. The context you want for decorating is that you aren’t trying to dodge people who want you answering questions. You want to have some beloved Christmas special that you’ve watched so often that you no longer watch it. You just have it on in the background while forming questions about the worldbuilding.
After a couple decades of this you start to wonder exactly how much thought the writers put into the mythology behind, oh, the one where Frosty the Snowman creates a wife, and then they have to go create a snow-parson who can “legally” marry them because the human parson voiced by Dennis Day isn’t sure he can do that? And somehow creating a new snow-life is less problematic? And you never see what happens to the snow-parson after that? And it’s not about getting answers to these questions. If you wanted answers go out and become an authority yourself. Not saying about what. An authority on Christmas specials would get you the answers faster, probably. But becoming an authority on, say, tidal pools? Graphic design? It’ll take longer to get answers, but maybe the joy of the season is discovering these things.
Sorry, it’s the time of year I can’t do anything because I’m busy watching Rankin/Bass animated specials again. Today’s distraction: noticing in The Year Without A Santa Claus, and the scene where Santa talks about “by my charts and maps!” So he stands over by his charts and maps. From this I learn that Santa uses the Mercator projection for his work. Defensible given how much navigation work he has to do, certainly. Although I would have expected him to use something centered on the North Pole, you know, his entire base of operations, which is located at one of the only two points in the world that can’t be rendered on a Mercator map. And yes, I know what you’re thinking: what about a transverse Mercator projection? Nuh-uh, thank you, who here is watching the special instead of whatever it was I was supposed to be doing today? Exactly.
|Rankin/Bass Christmas Specials||Questions Raised|
|Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer||14|
|Frosty the Snowman||8|
|Santa Claus is Comin’ To Town||4|
|The Year Without A Santa Claus||18|
|Rudolph’s Shiny New Year||34|
|The First Christmas: The Story of the First Christmas Snow||4|
|The Life And Adventures Of Santa Claus||3|
|Jack Frost||N/A [ No one has settled the question of whether it is a Christmas special ]|
|Frosty’s Winter Wonderland||64|
|Rudolph and Frosty’s Christmas in July||7|
|The Little Drummer Boy, Book II||3|
|Nestor, The long-Eared Christmas Donkey||5|
|`Twas The Night Before Christmas||20|
|The Leprechauns’ Christmas Gold||8|
|Cricket On The Hearth||4|
|The Little Drummer Boy, Book I||5|
|The Stingiest Man In Town||15|
Reference: Two Sides of the Moon: Our Story of the Cold War Space Race, David Scott, Alexei Leonov, Christine Toomey.
Referring to the Rankin/Bass stop-motion animated special and not the song. From Wikipedia’s plot summary:
|Plot Element||Do I Remember This?|
|Peter Cottontail is a young Easter Bunny who lives in April Valley where all the other Easter Bunnies live and work, making Easter candy, sewing bonnets, and decorating and delivering Easter eggs.||Yes|
|Colonel Wellington B Bunny, the retiring Chief Easter Bunny, names Peter his successor despite his boasting and lying.||I Guess|
|Peter, who has dreamed of being the Chief Easter Bunny almost his entire life, gladly accepts.||No; I thought it was an open contest all along.|
|January Q Irontail, an evil, reclusive rabbit villain wants to be Chief Easter Bunny himself so he can ruin it for children after a child roller-skated over his tail and had to wear a prosthetic one made of iron.||Yes about Irontail but I thought his name was Jeremy and I forgot why he had a prosthetic tail.|
|Irontail demands that Colonel Bunny hold a contest between himself and Peter to see who wins since the Constitution of April Valley states that the Chief Easter Bunny should be the one who delivers the most eggs.||No, thought the contest was there from the start.|
|Arrogant Peter accepts Irontail’s challenge, but stays up all night partying with his friends.||Yes|
|Although he tells his rooster to wake him up at 5:30 in the morning, Irontail sneaks into his house and feeds the rooster magic bubblegum, sealing its beak and Peter sleeps on, not hearing the crows from the popping bubblegum bubbles.||No, thought he just slept through.|
|Though Irontail tries all day to deliver eggs with unsuccessful results, he is only able to deliver one egg to a sleeping hobo.||No, thought he just didn’t try after giving out one pro forma.|
|However, it’s still one egg more than Peter ever delivered.||Yes|
|Therefore, Irontail becomes the new Chief Easter Bunny, passing laws to make Easter a disaster such as having eggs painted mud brown and concrete gray, ordering the candy sculptors to make chocolate tarantulas and octopuses instead of bunnies and chicks, and having Easter galoshes instead of bonnets.||Yes|
|Meanwhile, Peter, ashamed that his bragging and irresponsibility led to this tragedy, leaves April Valley until he meets Seymour S Sassafras, an eccentric peddler and inventor, who supplies April Valley with the colors to paint the eggs from his Garden of Surprises, from red, white, and blue cabbages and purple corn to striped tomatoes and orange stringbeans.||Forgot everything about this Garden of Surprises thing and knew there was an inventor but I couldn’t have told you his name if you told me his name.|
|Sassafras then lets Peter use his Yestermorrowbile, a time machine, piloted by a French caterpillar named Antoine to take Peter back to Easter, deliver his eggs, win the contest, and defeat Irontail.||Yes, at least, I remembered there was a time machine in this somehow.|
|Unfortunately, Irontail finds out about Peter’s plan and sends his spider to sabotage the Yestermorrowbile’s controls, allowing Peter and Antoine to go to any holiday but Easter.||No|
|Since the contest’s rules don’t specifically say the eggs must be delivered on Easter, Peter tries to give his eggs away at other holidays without success.||Kind of? But how does this rule make sense?|
|On the Fourth of July, he lies to two boys by painting his eggs red, white, and blue and selling them as firecrackers.||No|
|When that fails, they crashland on Halloween where Peter meets a witch named Madame Esmeralda and gives her a Halloween egg as a gift making the score a tie.||No and what the heck is a Halloween egg?|
|When she calls the other Halloween inhabitants, Irontail sends Montresor the Bat out to steal Peter’s eggs.||No but how does this count as Peter not getting credit for giving away an egg?|
|After getting the eggs back, Peter tells Antoine they have to get back to Halloween, but they can’t go back since Antoine has to land the craft to fix it.||No|
|After failing to give his eggs away on Thanksgiving, they go to Christmas Eve where Peter, dressed as Santa Claus, tries to sell his Christmas eggs on the streets.||No|
|But the streets are deserted.||No|
|Then Peter hears crying from a hat shop nearby where he meets Bonnie Bonnet from April Valley.||No|
|Bonnie is sad because nobody wants to buy her.||No and wait what? Like, is she a hat? What the heck?|
|So Peter tells the shopkeeper that he’ll trade her his Christmas eggs for Bonnie.||No|
|Unfortunately, Irontail steals them again and Peter and Bonnie go after him, accidentally leaving Antoine behind.||No|
|During the chase, Irontail crashes into Santa’s sleigh where Santa demands to give the eggs back to Peter.||Dimly?|
|Santa returns the eggs, but Peter is too sad to say thank you since they left Antoine behind.||No and wait, this is getting complicated.|
|Afterwards, Peter and Bonnie land on Valentine’s Day where Peter meets a beautiful girl bunny named Donna and Peter gives her a Valentine egg.||No|
|However, Irontail finds the eggs and casts a spell on them, turning them all green, inside and out.||No|
|As such, nobody wants the eggs anymore; even Donna gives hers back.||No|
|Peter then vows to be more responsible and they land in the middle of Saint Patrick’s Day where he finally gets to give his green eggs away and wins the contest, becoming the official Chief Easter Bunny, Antoine returns as a butterfly, and Irontail becomes the April Valley janitor while Peter leads an Easter parade with all the characters from the story.||Yes to that later part but the Saint Patrick’s Day thing is throwing me.|
So in summary:
|Plot Points I Remember||11|
|Plot Points Available||30|
|Percentage That I’ve Got Down||36.7%|
I’m sure the time spent arguing about the USS Carolina will be the most productive part of my December.
From Wikipedia’s entry on Teen Angel, the short-lived ABC “Thank Goodness It’s Funny” sitcom. The show was created in 1997 by The Simpsons‘s Al Jean and Mike Reiss, I imagine to comply with the terms of a very specific ransom demand:
Teen Angel follows a high school boy, Steve Beauchamp (Corbin Allred), and his recently deceased best friend, Marty DePolo (Mike Damus), who dies from eating a six-month-old hamburger from under Steve’s bed on a dare and is then sent back to Earth as Steve’s guardian angel. Marty’s guide is a large, orange and disembodied head named Rod (Ron Glass), who identifies as God’s cousin (a running gag throughout the series is that Rod is mistaken for God himself). Maureen McCormick, who played Steve’s mother, Judy, left the series halfway through its run.
That first sentence is the one that most sits on my head and makes me beg for mercy. Not just for content, but the way it’s said. I write some convoluted sentences myself, but that’s in order to achieve a deliberate effect. A big old Wikipedia Heaping Pile Of More Words (Now With More Words! If you find some more, please add them to the pile!) like this makes me want to diagram sentences, which I shouldn’t be doing since I’m not in eighth grade anymore.
So naturally I would like to know: why, in the start of the 1974 Rankin/Bass animated special Twas The Night Before Christmas, are the children of Junctionville sending letters to the rather touchy Santa Claus in September? Well? Huh? Maybe Santa had no idea a mouse published mean stuff about him in the local newspaper and instead he was just peeved they were begging for stuff before Labor Day For Crying Out Loud. Maybe all the characters’ little drama just went completely unnoticed.
I was watching the Rankin/Bass Frosty The Snowman and one scene in the middle struck me. It was Frosty, who’s basically a large mass of white, talking with the rabbit Hocus-Pocus, who’s another mass of white, while standing in the snow-covered forest, again another mass of white, underneath a white cloudy sky. And this was originally shown on American TV in 1969, when the majority of people had black-and-white TV sets, and I remember black-and-white sets because they received about two parts picture to three parts fluffy static.
So this is the weekend I realized that nobody actually saw anything from Frosty the Snowman until about its 1983 airing.
While I’ve gotten plenty of good tips from the dream world I have my doubts about this preview for the next Star Trek movie. I think it’s a commercially viable premise, in having New Kirk find he’s got to go back in time to his own Academy days so as to prevent his New Khan, gone back in time himself to take the place of Kirk’s roommate final year, from sabotaging the presentation by which Kirk earns his commission. That’s a perfectly good expression of the universal fear that problems at one’s thesis defense will create a horrific dystopia wherein the living envy the dead in possibly as many as 23 minutes. It’s just that if I haven’t missed anything this premise is actually surprisingly derivative of Rankin/Bass’s Here Comes Peter Cottontail, and the New Trek movies really need to establish their own identity and not tie themselves so heavily to the voice of Paul Frees.