Tuesday, July 27, 2021

Father Christmas (1991)

Premiered December 24, 1991

Another Christmas Eve mission has just been successfully completed and Father Christmas (William Dennis Hunt) returns to his simple house where he lives alone with his cat, dog, and two reindeer.  

After consulting some travel guides, Santa decides to visit the south of France.  

He converts his sleigh into a camper..

...and his reindeer fly him to his destination.  

He dines on the local cuisine and buys clothes that will help him "fit in" with the locals.  He's having good time until he samples some French cuisine, which does NOT agree with his digestive system.  This prompts Father Christmas to leave France.

His next stop is Scotland, where he dances at a pub, wears a kilt and swims in Scotland's cold waters.  His visit ends when a little girl notices that he's Santa Claus.

Father Christmas decides his next stop will be Las Vegas.  He enjoys elaborate stage shows, gambling and relaxing in the hotel pool.  

However, once again, he's recognized and decides to head home.

When he arrives at his house, Father Christmas is greeted by a huge pile of letters!  

He observes that Christmas seems to come sooner every year and gets started with reading letters and preparing for Christmas.  Santa has to rush to get everything ready for Christmas Eve.  

He sets out on his annual trip around the world.

He delivers everything and has time to visit the annual Snow Man Christmas party at the North Pole.  

During the party, Father Christmas discovers that he still has two presents in his sleigh that weren't delivered.  

Can Santa get them delivered in time before the children wake up on Christmas morning?

J.A. Morris says:

Father Christmas is a nice, light special that features a more down-to-earth Santa.  There is no Mrs. Claus, no castle at the North Pole, no scenes of elves making toys.   There is a passing reference to a gift being sent to Santa by his elves, that's the only concession to the "conventional" portrayals of Kris Kringle.  The "plot" consists of Father Christmas visiting various vacation destinations, until circumstances force him to leave.  The story isn't very deep, but that's okay, since the beautiful animation and solid voice-acting by William Dennis Hunt are entertaining enough to carry the special.  

If I'd seen Father Christmas when I was a child, I might have been a bit unnerved at first to see a version of Santa that doesn't live in his "traditional" trappings.  And I would've wondered what happened to his other six reindeer.  

Having said that, it's nice to see Santa kicking back and taking a much-deserved holiday, gambling and drinking (I believe my "younger self" would've been glad to know Santa gets to relax now and then!). 

It treats Father Christmas as a human being who lives a simple life in a modest home with his dog and cat.  Speaking of his pets, we're treated to multiple scenes that show Father Christmas adoring them, which is an endearing touch.  

If it's not obvious from our summary, Father Christmas is a sequel (of sorts) to The Snowman (1982), an earlier classic TV special.  The Snowman and the boy from that special are seen during the Snowman party.  

Father Christmas is an enjoyable special that features gorgeous animation and a unique take on Santa Claus and I recommend it to every fan of holiday programming.  However, I wouldn't say it's a classic that I intend to watch every December.

J.A Morris' rating:

3 candy canes.

RigbyMel says: 

Father Christmas is an enjoyable and VERY British little animated short.  It is based on two books - Father Christmas (1973) and Father Christmas Goes on Holiday (1975) - by English author & illustrator Raymond Briggs.    It also takes place in the same universe as the 1982 film The Snowman

The film's version of Father Christmas is a bit more grumpy than the American incarnation and lives modestly in a little row house somewhere in the UK sans elves or Mrs. Claus.  It's rather fun to see this curmudgeonly version of Santa Claus engaging in daily tasks like gardening and taking care of his (adorable) pets.  I also quite like the pun inherent in his referring to his reindeer as "m'dears".  

As he prepares for his vacation, Father Christmas comes off as something of a stereotypical British tourist,  trying to learn a bit of French while converting his sleigh into a camper van, and griping about the food/weather.  

Interestingly, the version of this short animated film that is most readily available here in the U.S. is a bit different from the original release.  In the original version, Father Christmas is voiced by English comedian Mel Smith  - possibly best known to American audiences as The Albino in The Princess Bride.  You can see/hear Smith performing the song from the film at this link!  

The American edition of the film (which is the most common home video release per Wikipedia) makes a few changes - most notably opting for a more jolly voice over for Father Christmas by William Dennis Hunt and the elimination of over 75 instances of Santa using the British slang term "blooming" and some tweaks for American cultural mores. 

(Personally, I get a bit irked by "translated" versions of UK programming for American audiences, but studios are going to do what they think they need to do to make their films accessible to particular markets, I suppose.)  

Overall, this is a lovely and humo(u?)rous little animated special and worth seeking out even if it is not quite a classic. 

RigbyMel's rating: 

3 candy canes

Sunday, July 4, 2021

Mickey Mouse Works: "Donald's Failed Fourth"

Premiered March 1, 1999.

July 4th has arrived and Donald Duck (Tony Anselmo) is excited about watching fireworks.  His girlfriend Daisy (Diane Michelle) tasks him with finding a spot for watching the fireworks and setting up their picnic.  As Daisy steps away, she tells Donald to make sure he sets up "a perfect view for the night sky."

Donald finds what appears to be the ideal spot for the picnic blanket and lays it on the ground.  However, the blanket comes to life and attacks Donald!  

He resorts to drastic measures in order to get the blanket to lay flat. 

The scenario seems to improve when Daisy returns to drop off some folding chairs, then she steps away.  Unfortunately, the chairs also prove to be uncooperative.  

The same can be said of the picnic basket, which spits out its contents and locks Donald inside it!  All of this causes Donald to throw one of his patented temper tantrums!

Can Donald Duck convince his picnic supplies to cooperate?  Or will his plans for a romantic 4th of July celebration with Daisy be ruined?

J.A. Morris says: 

This is a very short, slight cartoon, but it's a lot of fun.  And as we've said here before, there aren't a lot of specials, movies or episodes built around the 4th of July.  So we're always glad to discover programming that celebrates holidays other than Christmas, Halloween and Thanksgiving.  

"Donald's Failed Fourth" is very much in the tradition of classic Donald Duck theatrical cartoons that were released in the 1930s through the 50s.  Donald would frequently get angry in those shorts and launch into squawking fits.  That's exactly what happens here when his blanket, chairs and basket seem determined to ruin his Independence Day picnic with Daisy.  

"Donald's Failed Fourth" is a cute cartoon set at 4th of July that will be enjoyed by Disney fans of all ages, but it's brief running time prevents me from giving it a higher rating.  

J.A. Morris' rating:

2 and a half American flags.

RigbyMel says: 

I have always been a Donald Duck fan and generally enjoy animated shorts featuring the irascible duck.   "Donald's Failed Fourth" is an enjoyable, if featherweight (pun intended) 4th of July short.  

That being said, I do feel like some of the gags in this short feel repetitive, especially in a very short animated short.  

"Donald's Failed Fourth" is worth taking a look at for fans of Disney in general and Donald Duck in particular, but maybe not a "classic".  

RigbyMel's rating:


2 and a half American flags.