Animation Advent Calendar – 12 Days of Christmas #12 – Ultimate Spider-Man: Nightmare on Christmas

A jump far forward into more modern times, with a friendly neighbourhood take on A Christmas Carol. After stopping the Shocker‘s latest robbery on Christmas Eve, Spider-Man is having a crisis of faith. Is Spidey actually helping anyone, given its come to this? As he ponders whether to give up the superhero mantle, angel and devil versions of Spidey appear to take him through a look back over his career and his effect on the community he is sworn to protect.

Ultimate Spider-Man S03 E22 – Nightmare on Christmas

This episode may be set around Christmas time, but it’s success comes with its homages to past material. There’s the A Christmas Carol setup, the Steve Ditko-style of the Christmas past sequences, and ultimately, a big nod to the classic Spidey No More comic book storyline.

I haven’t seen all of Ultimate Spider-Man, but this episode was pretty decent, and definitely a must for fans of Ditko. It is also definitely one for fans of the always-excellent Mark Hamill, for his appearance as Nightmare (the clues in the title). This one might suit known-fans more than the casual viewer, but its a nice little superhero Christmas nugget.

Animation Advent Calendar – 12 Days of Christmas #11 – The Simpsons: Miracle on Evergreen Terrace

Another classic Christmas episode from The Simpsons, and Bart is the catalyst once again. After an attempt at a cheeky sneak peak at his Christmas presents in the early hours of Christmas Day, Bart inadvertently burns down the Christmas tree and the presents with it. If that wasn’t bad enough, he hides the evidence in the snow-covered front lawn snow, and instead of confessing, conjures up the lie that they were burgled. What results is a fantastic show of charity and togetherness from the residents of Springfield to save The Simpsons’ Christmas. That is, until the town discovers the truth…..

The Simpsons S09 E10 – Miracle on Evergreen Terrace

Often hailed as the last-best season of The Simpsons, Miracle on Evergreen Terrace is a corker. Homer’s Christmas Eve shopping strategy is hilarious. As is Bart’s prediction of his family’s presents under the tree. Concocting such a lie just to temporarily save his own skin is up there with stealing from two seasons before, but in many ways both have endearing qualities. Lying often seems easier, but of course always makes it worse, but what ten year old hasn’t? Excellent nod to Miracle on 34th Street with the title, too.

“Aren’t we forgetting the true meaning of Christmas? You know, the birth of Santa.” – Bart Simpson

Miracle on Evergreen Terrace is an excellent episode of The Simpsons. Some of the later Christmas-related episodes don’t have the endearment on display here, and like many episodes in the earlier seasons (bear in mind this one is now twenty-three years old), this is a stark reminder of how good The Simpsons truly is.

Animation Advent Calendar – 12 Days of Christmas #10 – Pluto’s Christmas Tree

We’re dialling back to the earlier days of Disney with this next Christmas entry. Naturally, its good old Mickey Mouse and pals as they prepare for Christmas.

Pluto’s Christmas Tree

If you go down to the woods today, you’re sure of a big surprise. Mickey Mouse and his loyal dog Pluto certainly didn’t get that memo, as their collected Christmas tree is in fact home to two little chipmunks – Chip and Dale. As soon a Pluto is introduced to the pesky pair, protective mode kicks in.

Pluto’s Christmas Tree is a charming little piece of animation. The mischievous Chip & Dale dynamic carries on in this, their 17th animated short appearance. It is one of the last Disney shorts of this period to feature the Mickey gang together in the final memorable Christmas Carol scene. Thanks to Disney Plus, this and many more of the 1950’s+ shorts can be enjoyed all over again.

Animation Advent Calendar – 12 Days of Christmas #9 – The New Batman Adventures: Holiday Knights

I don’t know about you, but I do love a good anthology. The Simpsons’ Treehouse of Horror and Futurama’s Anthology of Interest episodes are the standouts from an animation perspective. But this opening episode of the second nineties Batman animated series breaks from it’s own mould and is a trio of tales set around festive period. This episode surprisingly aired on September 13th 1997. Not complaining, but you know, weird.

The New Batman Adventures S01 E01: Holiday Knights

The three tales of tinsel-time are divided by the dates they are set: December 22nd, Christmas Eve and, of course, New Year’s Eve. On the third day before Christmas Harley Quinn and Poison Ivy, cooped up hiding in crappy digs, fancy some fun and fortune over Christmas. Their master plan is revealed as, while disguised among a group of well-to-do ladies on the arm of billionaire Bruce Wayne, a single chemical-laden kiss from Ivy means he is under her physical control. The subservient body of Bruce quickly becomes Harley and Ivy’s Christmas shopping spree wallet.

“May we give you a ride, Mr Wayne?” – Poison Ivy

“No thanks, I have my own car” – Bruce Wayne

“Oh, but we insist.” – Harley Quinn

Of course the villains get carried away with the use of a blank cheque Bruce Wayne. And as helpless as he is originally, and aware of his actions and state of mind, the chemical effects naturally dissolve which give Bruce the moment he needs to engineer an escape. The climax with the caped crusader also has a very different use for a Christmas Tree.

Tale number two is on Christmas Eve, with Barbara Gordon doing some late Christmas shopping. When she notices a small kid shoplifting, and attempts to stop him, the kid’s hand dissolves in hers. Harvey Bullock and Renee Montoya are posing as Santa and his elf at the mall, aware of several robberies, supposedly by children. When confronted however they merge to form Clayface.

A simple yet fun tale, which features legend Tara Strong in her first credit for voicing Batgirl, replacing Melissa Gilbert from Batman: TAS. Harvey Bullock as a shopping mall Santa Claus is a definite highlight.

And finally there’s New Years Eve. Batman, Robin, and Commissioner Gordon discover that The Joker is planning to wreak havoc at Gotham’s countdown celebration. Enter the new Dynamic Duo: Batman and the new Robin, Tim Drake. Their search for The Joker leads them to room full of Jokers – all celebration participants are wearing Joker masks. This quick caper is brought to an end as Batman, although wounded, drops a giant bell on the Clown Prince of Crime just as the new year rings in. Great stuff. The episode ends with a denouement, following the Joker-centric event, as we learn that Commissioner Gordon meets with Batman every new year’s night. Also, amusingly, Batman manages to sneak away while paying for the coffee each and every time.

“Hi-ho couch potatoes. I’m interrupting the Toilet Bowl to bring you my very special New Year’s resolution: ahem, starting tonight at midnight, I, your loving uncle Joker, do solemnly vow not to kill anyone for a whole year. Which means I’m going to have to work extra fast to bump off a few more of you today.”. – The Joker

As a season opener, Holiday Knights works as a form of light entertainment, easing viewers back into the swing of things. The fact that it wasn’t aired closer to Christmas instead is a little strange in terms of placement, but it also serves well as a taster of the design changes of the new Batman season. Although a continuation of Batman: TAS, The New Batman Adventures is visually quite different. It looks more like a kids show, coinciding with its move in the US from the Fox network to WBKids at the time. But creators Bruce Timm and Paul Dini have spoken previously about having more freedom following the move, and it is clear that the show’s integrity was preserved as a result. I still have issues with The Joker’s look, though. Nevertheless, a nice little collection of Christmas tales from the one of the best superhero shows ever produced.

Animation Advent Calendar – 12 Days of Christmas #8 – A Garfield Christmas

Not long now…. Holidays are coming, holidays are coming. We all want a taste of the real thing, and I’m not talking about a carbonated drink. When Christmas comes around, you can’t help but get excited. Whether it’s music, movies, or any form of entertainment, Christmas comes to the forefront. As we continue the Christmas animation countdown (in no particular ranking, by the way), no list would be complete without the dry humour of the lasagne-loving feline, Garfield.

A Garfield Christmas Special

Garfield has been on our TV screens in some form since 1978 through to today. Before Garfield & Friends, the Jon Davis Garfield and Orson’s Farm popular team up show that would begin in 1988, the Garfield author’s work would often be adapted for the small screen in the form of half-hour specials. One such special is A Garfield Christmas, which originally aired 21st December 1987.

Jon is taking Garfield and beagle Odie to his childhood home for an Arbuckle Christmas get together. Following a fantasy Christmas morning dream where Jon lays out a trail of lasagne’s, having to leave the house is a reality Garfield simply doesn’t want to face. For those familiar with the antics of Garfield, these interactions make up the majority of the TV show and original comic strips. But from time to time Jon Davis treats us by including equally quirky characters outside of Garfield’s immediate family.

Upon arrival, Garfield simply isn’t in the mood for Christmas, let alone one leaving the house and spending time with others. But naturally, as it often does, Christmas spirit comes into play, and Garfield cannot help but get into the spirit himself, along with the rest of Jon’s family. But there are some testing moments for this lazy cat, of course. Tasked with climbing up the ceiling-high Christmas tree to place the star on top, his subsequent fall that follows appears to be the final straw.

“Whoever invented Christmas trees should be drug out into the street and shot.” – Garfield

But Garfield isn’t the only star of the show. Jon’s reconnection with his brother brings out a toddler-like excitement in the Arkbuckle boys; pestering their sleeping dad at 1:30am in an attempt to go present-opening brings back memories of myself as a young whipper-snapper (not in my thirties, honest). Odie becomes an unlikely Christmas hero for both Garfield and Jon’s grandmother, gifting the former a handy back-scratcher device and stumbling across old love letters from grandpa for the latter. It is here that we witness Garfield in a rare sentimental moment.

“All right, you guys, just permit me one sentimental moment here, will you? I have something to say. Christmas: it’s not the giving, it’s not the getting, it’s the loving. There, I said it. Now get outta here”. – Garfield

If you’re looking for a homely slice of Christmas togetherness, A Garfield Christmas is pretty damn perfect. Although written over thirty years ago, Jon Davis has created a classic that still holds up today, and should be viewed by everyone young and old. It is an excellent Christmas short that resonates as much as it entertains.

Animation Advent Calendar – 12 Days of Christmas #7 – The Simpsons: Marge Be Not Proud

Can you believe it is only two weeks until Christmas Day? Mental. A bit like work at the moment also. But now it is time to get back on track. There’s Christmas entertainment to be had, dammit!

The Simpsons S07 E11 – Marge Be Not Proud

One of the few more subtle Christmas-themed episodes of the world’s longest running animated show, Marge Be Not Proud is a cracker. Christmas is approaching, and the latest video game advertisement leaves Bart with an itch that can’t be scratched by his parents. Unfortunately for both Bart and his parents, it leads the former to make a decision that completely alters his relationship with the latter. That decision being, to obtain said video game using the “four-finger discount” method.

This episode of The Simpsons is true evidence of a show at its creative and comedic best. Christmas may merely be a secondary backdrop, but the tale told and lessons learned here could only come at Christmas time. But lets not forget that season 7 was absolute peak Simpsons Marge Be Not Proud is an incredibly funny episode.

The advertisement for Bonestorm, the video game that triggers Bart’s criminal actions, is a fantastically hilarious parody of both the Mortal Kombat videogame franchise and the in-your-face commercials of the 1990’s. Its relentless assault on the desires of a ten year old boy are laid bare as his pursuit of Bonestorm becomes more and more desperate. Each step leads Bart down a path where the moral imperative, seemingly, is to take it from the local department store. What really resonates here is that this isn’t just the decision of the character Bart Simpson, but a decision that many a ten year old could make. That was certainly the intentions of episode-writer Mike Scully, who based Marge Be Not Proud on a similar experience he had at twelve years of age.

“Christmas is a time when people of all religions come together to worship Jesus Christ.” – Bart

Marge Be Not Proud is a prime example of just how good The Simpsons really was in the nineties. And, an excellent Christmas episode too. The end credits are among the best the show has ever produced, with the now-legendary Lee Carvallo’s Putting Challenge segment still as hilarious as it ever was. It is also a true testament to a gamer’s contempt towards an unwanted title. Christmas may not be the big draw here by any means, but this empathic, meticulously funny and charming tale of a boy-done-bad-but-done-good-again is wonderful entertainment.

Animation Advent Calendar – 12 Days of Christmas #6 – Futurama: Xmas Story

Do you ever feel like the Christmas build up is going a little too fast? I’m already FIVE days behind on advent! Apologies for that. But, like always, each entry provides a bit of Christmas magic for your viewing pleasure. And there are few more entertaining than Futurama’s take on Christmas.

Futurama S02 E04 – Xmas Story

Christma- sorry, Xmas, in the year 3000 is an entirely different prospect. Pine trees have been extinct for 800 years, and entertainment comes mostly in the form of preserved heads of 20th Century comedians with 20th century-related jokes. Fry, who for the uninitiated was frozen in time back in 1999 only to awake 1000 years later, longs for an Xmas of old. Pine trees aside, the decorations are up and Fry wants to cheer up a lonely Leela with the perfect present on Xmas Eve. No mention of presents goes without a mention of Santa Claus, who in the future is very much a different proposition….

Matt Groening’s side-splitting comedy series (no, not that one) conjures up an absurd and humorous vision of a Christmas future. Quite frankly, turning Santa Claus into a robotic judge, jury and executioner is a stroke of brilliance. Xmas Eve becoming a purge-scenario after closing time pushes that brilliance even further, as Fry and Leela run for their lives as the biggest holiday of them all approaches.

The supporting cast serve up just as many great laughs as you’d expect. Prolific napper Professor Farnsworth, Fry’s distant nephew, sleeps his way down the ski slopes to a bronze medal he doesn’t realise he’d even entered for. Bender befriends homeless robots for the purpose of a robbery spree. Zoidberg’s face glove. Amy’s arousal at the opposite sex’s injuries is as equally hilarious as it is a bit, you know, weird.

“What’s the problem? Simply get down on your claws and do the apology dance!!!” – Zoidberg

Then there are the references to traditional Christmas stories. Amusing references of course; the most glaring of all being Fry dangling from a clock, a la The Hudsucker Proxy, but not just any clock. A digital clock. Tinny Tim, one of the homeless robots, is of course Tiny Tim from A Christmas Carol. There are many more of these, and they just add to the entertainment and Christmassy vibes.

Xmas Story is not just an excellent seasonal Christmas episode, but also serves as a glaring example of how good Futurama really was. The laughs per minute ratio is phenomenal, and has some of the best lines ever written for the show. By this point Futurama had established itself as animated comedy of the highest order. Adding Christmas, sorry, keep forgetting, Xmas, somehow added an extra layer of quality comedy. Unmissable television.

Animation Advent Calendar – 12 Days of Christmas #5 – Mickey’s Christmas Carol

Five days into December and the season is heating up. Or rather, getting colder. Literally. Today, we’re back to the early 80s with a Disney take on a literally classic.

Mickey’s Christmas Carol

A Christmas Carol is a story that has been told, re-told and reimagined many, many times. This 1983 version puts all the familiar Disney cast of characters into the familiar roles of the Dickens classic. And once again, its the Disney touch that makes this adaption a worthy watch.

The casting here is the true success story, with Mickey and friends sliding in comfortably and perfectly into the Charles Dickens’ character’s boots. Scrooge McDuck is the perfect fit for Ebenezer Scrooge (naturally so, given the latter was the inspiration for the former); Mickey Mouse is seamless as the selfless, good-natured Bob Cratchet; Donald Duck is as cheery as you’d expect as Fred, and Goofy is as perfect as you’d imagine as a delightfully clumsy Marley.

Scrooge’s Ghosts of Christmas also serve up a wondrous cast. Jiminy Cricket is an ideal Ghost of Christmas Past, Willie the Giant as the Ghost of Christmas Present, and the honour of the Ghost of Christmas Future goes to the ghastly foe Pete. There are also welcome appearances by Ratty and Moley of classic feature The Adventures of Ichabod and Mr. Toad as charity collectors. The cigar-chomping Big Bad Pete (that’ll be those “tobacco influences” Disney Plus warns us about) is definitely an interesting choice, with a dark turn late on as he prepares to hurl Scrooge into hell if the errors of his ways isn’t rectified.

Running at just 26 minutes, Mickey’s Christmas Carol is a pretty packed affair. Scrooge’s lesson is learnt within that time, with little pause for breath, but impressively doesn’t deter the story’s intended impact. It was originally released as a opener for cinema a re-release of The Rescuers, a tactic also used on The Rescuers Down Under with another adaption, The Prince and the Pauper, but is an excellent little feature in its own right. As far as Christmas goes, there are few better ways to spend less than thirty minutes if traditional is your aim.

Animation Advent Calendar – 12 Days of Christmas #4 – X-Men: Have Yourself a Morlock Little X-Mas

Its the Fourth of December already. Seriously, how fast is the countdown to Christmas this year? I hope the re-opening of shops hasn’t been too stressful so far. I still have a few bits to get, but I’m not panicking just yet. Whatever your current mood, block out a few minutes and enjoy another advent animation pick. We’re staying in the 90s with another landmark comic book series.

X-Men: The Animated Series S04 E17 – Have Yourself a Morlock Little X-Mas

Marvel’s first ever foray into Christmas television is a tale of tragedy, honor, leadership and, ultimately, togetherness. No, Marvel are not producing this Christmas Day’s Eastenders. Instead, the hugely popular (and Disney Plus resurrected) X-Men animated series of the 90s has a Christmas episode.

As the X-Men prepare for their own Christmas celebration, Leech, the littlest of the underground Mutant tribe known as the Morlocks, is taken critically ill. Storm won the mantle of leadership back in season one after a duel with Callisto and thus, it falls to the X-Men to get the treatment Leech requires. Problem is, Storm’s X-Men duties over the years means she doesn’t exactly spend too much time underground. And Callisto wants payback.

Anyone who has seen the X-Men animated show will be aware of its generally serious tone. After all, this was a Saturday morning cartoon that dealt with issues such as xenophobia, racism, slavery as well general macho bullshit for good measure. But this Christmas episode does have some welcome humour. The kitchen scene, with Gambit and Jean Grey squabbling over the latter’s Christmas dinner preparation, is a hilarious delight. As is Cyclops’ attempts at singing. Wolverine is the Scrooge of the group (naturally), with any attempt at Christmas cheer met with derision.

“”Did I hear an attack alarm? Or would that be hoping for too much?” – Wolverine

A quick tonal shift from cheer to fear sees the X-Men fighting for the Morlock’s life, with Logan (Wolverine) facing personal demons from his past as a cure appears to be found – Logan’s regenerative powers. The delicate balancing act between celebration, comedy and drama is handled with care. The overall narrative belongs to Jubilee’s, the foster child mutant of the X-Men, who is experiencing her first proper family Christmas and has finally found belonging in her life. Her strides of maturity shine through as she comforts the youngest Morlock through Leech’s illness. It is a testament to the strong continuity built as the show progressed.

Originally airing on the Christmas Eve Eve (23rd December) 1995, Have Yourself a Morlock Little X-Mas is an excellent example of what made X-Men such a great show. Its blend of drama, action and overall camaraderie and teamwork shone throughout it’s five seasons. This episode is but one example of that. A great first Christmas TV outing for Marvel.

Animation Advent Calendar – 12 Days of Christmas #3 – Batman TAS: Christmas with the Joker

Finished your disappointing chocolate? Survived another day of Whamageddon? Seriously, google that. Time to move on to the early 1990’s with arguably the greatest comic book cartoon of all – Batman The Animated Series.

Batman: The Animated Series S01 E02 – Christmas with the Joker

Batman’s most famous villain, The Joker, makes his first appearance in just the second episode of this incredible and landmark animation showpiece. Its Christmas all right, but not if the psychotic clown has anything to do with it. After making his frankly hilarious escape from Arkham Asylum, The Joker kidnaps Commissioner Gordon, Detective Harvey Bullock, and reporter Summer Gleeson. As Bruce Wayne and Dick Grayson prepare to watch It’s a Wonderful Life, the broadcast is interrupted as The Joker lures Batman and Robin into his latest game.

Mark Hamill’s debut as the clown prince of crime is but a taster of what is easily one of the world’s greatest examples of voice acting. But what a taster it is. Hamill’s sinister snigger is one of the most recognisable in film and television, and it all started right here. He is of course the standout in a show full of standouts – it cannot be stated enough how good both Kevin Conroy and Loren Lester are as Batman and Robin, respectively.

“Jingle bells! Batman smells! Robin laid an egg! The Batmobile lost a wheel and the Jo-ker got a-wa-a-a-ay!

Crashing through the roof, in a one-horse open tree. Busting out I go, laughing all the wheeeee! Ha Ha Ha Ha Ha!” – Joker

As Joker’s plan to kill the hostages at the stroke of midnight nears, this iteration of Batman shows his true detective colours that would become a staple throughout the show’s three years on air. Bruce Wayne’s 21st century tech surrounds him against Gotham City’s art deco 1930’s style setting. Bruce is of course a man with resources well beyond most and this purely amplifies that, whilst looking ultra cool on the eye to watch.

Originally airing on the 12th November 1992, Christmas with the Joker is simply brilliant comic book television. It serves as an excellent early episode of such a landmark cartoon series. This was the episode that got me hooked back in my pre-teen years, and enjoyed it just as much as research for this post. Easily one of the best Christmas themed TV episodes in existence.