Thursday, December 25, 2014

Old School Lane's Nickelodeon Tribute: Christmas in Tattertown

This was a review that's way overdue. 2 years ago on my top 12 Nickelodeon Christmas specials, I had mentioned that I was going to be doing a review of Christmas in Tattertown. Now that today's Christmas, it's time to finally take this special on. Back in the late 80's, Nickelodeon was out of its slump of bankruptcy and was gaining its reputation of being the #1 kids' show mostly thanks to You Can't Do That on Television and Double Dare. However, they weren't known for animation at that point since they still acquired their animated shows such as Danger Mouse, Spartacus and the Sun Beneath the Sea, The Mysterious Cities of Gold, and Count Duckula. However, back in 1988, Nickelodeon became interested in creating their own animation. Then came animator Ralph Bakshi making an animated Christmas special titled Christmas in Tattertown as a pilot for an animated series called The Tattertown Tales making it Nickelodeon's first foray of animation. But nowadays, Bakshi owns the rights to Christmas in Tattertown, so Nickelodeon decided to create Nickelodeon's Thanksgiving Fest a year later and called that their first foray into animation. I did a review of that special a few years ago. If you haven't read it yet, click here.

Ralph Bakshi. There's a huge debate on his style of animation and his way of storytelling with his said animation. Some people love and respect his work, while others can't stand it and see it as a huge mindfuck of madness. Despite that, next to Don Bluth, he was one of the biggest innovators of animation during a time in which animation was at its lowest point with creating low budget 30 minute cartoons based on toys, action figures, celebrities, and movies. Marzgurl from Channel Awesome is doing a Ralph Bakshi tribute, so check it out if you're interested.

With that said, how well does Christmas in Tattertown hold up? Let's take a look and find out.

The episode starts with a little girl named Debbie and her two dolls named Dog and Little Miss Muffet. One day, she stumbles upon a mysterious book that sucks her and the dolls into Tattertown, a town that consists of broken and abandoned toys. When Little Miss Muffet discovers that she can move, talk, and feel emotions, she decides to run away from Debbie since she's sick of the constant hugs and changing clothes that she used to get in the real world. Debbie and Dog meet up with a toy named Harvey who breaks his arm while trying to fight a bodyguard. While she fixes his arm, Debbie wonders about what the toys do around Christmas time. Harvey has never heard of Christmas and Debbie was shocked about it since they were toys and they should at least know about it a little. She then explains what Christmas is about briefly while trying to find Muffet.

Meanwhile, Muffet makes it into a warehouse where a bunch of toys are fighting one another. Muffet yells at them stopping them in their tracks stating that he was going to take over Tattertown and the toys that lived there. The current leader of Tattertown, a spider named Sidney, was impressed with Muffet's attitude and brings him over to his lair where his henchmen reside. He calls them a hunk of junk, but sees that he has no other alternatives.

Harvey takes Debbie and Dog to a comic book store where a Jewish evergreen tree called Tannenbaum sells his comics. Debbie sees that he's the perfect tree to use for Christmas and convinces him to do it when she states that there's no competition. A fly, which is Muffet's new henchmen, finds out that Debbie is planning Christmas in Tattertown and let's her know. Muffet is upset about it so she sends two of Sidney' henchmen and find out how Debbie is planning Christmas. They fail at their mission due to one of the henchmen being an happy, optimistic toy who glows when he saw Tannenbaum decorated with an old Christmas reef. They end up with as glowing ornaments for the tree and sent a postcard to Muffet. Muffet becomes even more furious and plans to fool the citizens of Tattertown by disguising herself as Santa and Sidney as a reindeer. Debbie continues to explain what Christmas is all about while Muffet, Sidney, and a fleet of airplanes fly into Tattertown.

While flying in, they bump into Santa Claus and his reindeer. Muffet decides to change plans to take down Santa, but the planes get confused on the plans and end up crashing each other. Santa then leaves and Muffet and Sidney decides to take matters into their own hands. Harvey is excited about the planes crashing into one another, but Debbie ends up disappointed. She then tries one more time to bring the Christmas spirit by playing "White Christmas" by Bing Crosby in a record player. Sidney starts crying and they fall down. The episode concludes with Muffet collecting Christmas presents in jail.

Overall, all I have to say is one question: "What the hell did I just watch?" I mean, the plot was inconsistent and all over the place. It starts with Debbie landing in Tattertown for the supposed first time, but the other toys knew who she was and she wasn't too freaked out about the toys coming to life. Has she been there before? If not, how do the other toys know her name? Also, it seems that Muffet has little to no motivation on what she wants to do. First, she wants to get away from Debbie. Then, she wants to take over Tattertown. Then, she wants to destroy Christmas. What issues did Muffet have with Debbie? What was her backstory? Why did she want to take over Tattertown? What would she gain from taking it over? Why does she want to destroy Christmas? Why does she want to kill Santa? None of this is ever explained and if it was, it was super vague or completely forgotten and pushed aside. Also, it seems the lesson of explaining of what Christmas is so confusing. Harvey claims that none of the other toys know what Christmas is, but at the same time, there's an old Christmas reef, an evergreen tree, a record of "White Christmas", and Santa. Plus, you cannot be serious that not one toy from Tattertown was opened around Christmas time or knew any other toys that was opened around Christmas before they were broken. Plus, Debbie's teaching of Christmas is so poorly taught and has no significance to the plot. It could've taken place in any other holiday and it wouldn't have mattered. "Christmas Who?", you are not.

The animation is erratic and random, but at least it was somewhat creative. It looks average by today's standards, but compared to animation in the 80's, it's of decent quality. The only highlight of the special was Keith David as Miles the saxaphone, but even then he had no purpose other than just narrating because I still didn't know what was going on. In conclusion, it's bizarre, disjointed, insane, and an overall sloppy execution with very little charm. If you're a hard core Nickelodeon fan or if you're a Ralph Bakshi fan,  I would check it out to see Nickelodeon's first attempt of animation before the original Nicktoons that would debut in the 90's. All the others should skip it.

That's all for now. Hope to see you around Old School Lane soon. Merry Christmas!


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