Tuesday, December 22, 2009

In praise of Christmas villains...

When I was a kid, part of the happiness I found during the holiday season was watching all those old Christmas specials on tv. You know the ones I mean, because they are timeless and still playing in re-runs every year. But let's take a moment to give a shout-out to the villains of all those great shows. 'Cause after all, no joy is worth it unless you've had to deal with the Heat Miser and other likely suspects.

*Probably my favorite holiday bad-guy is Winter, the nasty warlock from Santa Claus is Coming to Town (1970).

No doubt the scariest wiz since Gandalf, Winter took great pleasure in protecting his lands like Casey Hampton probably does his twinkies.

Winter didn't like anyone trespassing, and took great measures to direct his magic trees to capture Kris Kringle while he was on his way to Sombertown to deliver toys to the kids.
Things looked fairly grim until Kris gives Winter a choo-choo.
This kind gift breaks down Winter's icy demeanor and before you know it, they are dancing and singing.
The true villain of Santa Claus is Coming to Town is probably more likely the mayor of Sombertown, the Burgermeister-Meisterburger - a grouchy bastard who friggin' hates kids, apparently - and doesn't want them having toys at all since his dumb ass tripped over a toy in the street.

So he bans toys and seeks to stop Kris altogether from delivering them secretly. What a prick.

This man seems almost irredeemable, and I hate him even after the town realizes how ridiculous his laws are and oust him, allowing Kris to morph into Santa Claus and continue his toy deliveries, albeit only once a year now.

*My second favorite villain is a two-fer.
In the hilarious Year without a Santa Claus(1974), we get the amusing and lively Snow Miser, as well as the gruff and boorish Heat Miser.

When Santa Claus is advised to take a rest, (Duh! he works once a year, people! I wish I had his job) Santa has become disillusioned with Christmas, believing most folks no longer believe in him and wouldn't miss him, so he decides to take off a year.
Naturally, this does not sit well, particularly with a couple of elves apparently worried about job security.
They take off to find some true believers and get lost in Southtown, where their reindeer (disguised as a dog so as not to draw attention - WTF?) gets taken to the pound.

When explaining that they are elves and the dog a reindeer, the Mayor balks at them and says he'll only release the deer if they can use their 'elfy magic' and make it snow in their town.
This takes the elves to Snow Miser for a plea for the white stuff. But Snow Miser doesn't own that territory so they have to make a deal with the Heat Miser. Trouble ensues. As does one of the catchiest tunes from any special out there.

Actually though, once again I think the true scares in this one don't come from the Miser duo, but from their madre, Mother Nature herself. I've no doubt she could kick the shit out of both of her sons, and anyone else that got in her way.
When I was small, her loud bellowing voice scared the shit out of me. I just wanted her to go away!

She was like Julia Child on steroids!

*Truly my favorite holiday special was no doubt Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer (1964). When I was small I tape recorded it (back in the days of cassette recorders!) and listened to it over and over throughout the season - not even any VCR's back then, kiddies!. I loved it.
But I doubt I was ever scared of The Abominable Snowman, or Bumble as he was affectionately called.

While he frightened Rudolph and the gang quite rightly, I always wondered why Donner was so afraid - he seemed like such a bully, always bitching at Rudolph about his nose. If he was such a tough guy why didn't he make a stand? Instead, little misfit Hermie had to do it. Score!
I almost felt bad for the Bumble when they tore out all his damn teeth. But then again, if he'd have eaten Rudolph it wouldn't have ended quite the same. Venison, anyone?

But if I'm being honest here, Yukon Cornelius was ten times as frightening as the snowmonster.

Holy crap that dude was loud! He needed to put a lid on it. I was actually excited when he went over the cliff. Alas, he returned in the end. This was a kid's show, after all.
But seriously, he and Mother Nature should get together.

*Next up, The Grinch.

Don't think there's much I need to say here. We all know the story (and the song) about the ghastly green son-of-a-bitch who dared to make the Whos' Christmas anything but stellar.

How the Grinch Stole Christmas (1966) is one of the best out there, and I'm not talking about the absurd Jim Carrey version. I'm talkin' the Karloff-narrated gem that is shown 437 times between Halloween and New Years on TNT.
It is utterly timeless, and I never tire of it.
When he sticks those antlers on the poor dog, and when he steals the last little crumb on the floor...priceless. Though I actually giggle when he is lugging all that shit up the mountain.
At last redeemed by his bursting heart, the Grinch still remains the ultimate Christmas villan because he just wanted to eliminate the holiday altogether. Sometimes, I agree.

*Can I be completely honest when I tell you that Frosty the Snowman is really annoying?
Yes, I always watched it when I was a kid, but now that I'm an adult it really just bugs the hell out of me. And it's not a snowman thing. Quite to the contrary, I actually collect snowmen and love the darn things.

But Frosty?
Okay, I think it comes down to the Happy Birthday thing. WTF?
His voice grates my nerves.
And Karen? What the heck kind of friend is she, making Frosty drag her into a toasty greenhouse up there at the North Pole? I think exposing kids to that kind of thing is cruel. Essentially, Frosty melts into a puddle of goo. Not a nice picture. Almost a horror cartoon.
But then ole Frosty comes back to life and all is well. And it's all Happy Birthday all over again.
The main creep in Frosty is Professor Hinkle, the so-called magician.
Despite the fact that he can make it all go away with the stupid magic hat, I still don't like him. Whomever they got to voice these characters just got on my last nerve. Even Jimmy Durante as Frosty jerked my chain.

And if we're being truthful here, Hinkle wasn't the villan of Frosty.
The freakin' SUN took Frosty out!

Heat. Warmth. See-ya.

*In the same holiday vein we have Rudolph's Shiny New Year (1976) - obviously about the new year and not Christmas. The villain in this one is a buzzard.

Yes, you heard right.

For some reason, Father Time has asked Rudolph (in all his infinite wisdom) to find the next Baby New Year before midnight arrives and everyone is doomed.
(Well, I don't know if everyone is doomed, but I think that's what they were going for.)

Aeon the Buzzard wreaks havoc with Rudolph and his
buddies as they search through the various periods of time (this is really dumb, actually) and Ae
on doesn't let up until they actually find the baby and he sees how big the baby's ears are!

It makes Aeon double over in laughter and the day is saved! As is the New Year, natch!
I'm gonna take a wild guess and say that the reason the no longer show this one that often is due to the blatant jokes made at the baby's ears' expense. I mean, that really isn't what you want to teach your kids - how to make fun of someone and get away with it.

*I don't think Charles Dickens could ever imagine all the ways his
timeless story 'A Christmas Carol' would be told.
But no matter how it is delivered, it still tells the same story of redemption.
And ghosts. And one
Long a favorite story of mine (though I'm partial to the George C. Scott 1984 adaption), A Christmas Carol was made into a cartoon starring none other than Mister Magoo.
I have to agree, if Magoo was going to star in a holiday special, this was the one.

Mister Magoo's Christmas Carol (1962) pre-dates even Rudolph, and featured the voice of Jim Backus (aka Thurston Howell, III)!

Also feeding the Dickens' fire was the 1983 special - Mickey's Christmas Carol, which of course gave us Donald Duck as the titular Ebenezer Scrooge character.

While some folks may consider Scrooge the villain here - and he was a rat-bastard for most of the time - I was always scared shitless of the ghost of Christmas Yet To Come. I had nightmares about the ethereal antagonist coming to get me while I slept. Not necessarily the Magoo version, but something of the likes.

The ghost of Xmas future is pretty fat in the above pic, don't you think? What the hell is under all those robes?

Actually, here's the one that haunts my dreams to this day.

And last but certainly not least, we have A Charlie Brown Christmas (1965).
Definitely the most charming and enjoyable of all Christmas specials, the moral here is a religious one, and I, for one, am shocked it continues to still get play. But I'm glad, because it's just simply put- superb.

To find a villain here is difficult, but not impossible. It becomes obvious as you get older that the true bad guy here is commercialism.

When Charlie Brown goes to the Christmas tree lot and sees all the silver and colored aluminum trees, he has a near shit-fit and buys his famous sad little tree.

Dejected further by seeing Snoopy's first place win for his decorated dog house, he takes that moment to add an ornament to his pathetic sapling, effectively killing it.

You don't have to be inherently spiritual to get the basic facts. We all rush around too much, buy too much, and strive to out decorate the Joneses next door - when we should be just enjoying the time we have to spend with our loved ones. At the risk of sounding too sentimental, isn't that what it's all about?

But then again, this post is about villains, right?
So I vote for Lucy as the villain of A Charlie Brown Christmas.

God, she's a bitch!

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Matt-suzaka said...

Ahhh, I love all of those cartoons/animation Christmas specials and it seems like I never get to see many of them each year. After reading you post, I am jonzing to watch all of them!

The one I haven't seen in the longest time is Mickey's Christmas Carol and the one I would love to see again the most.

You brought me right back in time when you said you tapped Rudolf off of TV with a cassette recorder! So something I did when I was a kid!

And lastly, I could not agree with you more about Lucy Van Pelt...I made her the Monster of the Week at my blog a few weeks ago. She really is such a bitch!

Awesome post!

jmcozzoli said...

Super rundown on these love-to-dislike characters.

Dawn said...

Nice post! However, Donald Duck did not play Ebenezer Scrooge, he played his nephew, Fred. Ebenezer was played by Donald's uncle, Scrooge McDuck =) Remember 'Ducktales'!?!