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X-Mas Toons!

A review of this year's holiday specials.

By Steve Fritz     November 27, 2000

'Tis the season to be...well, you know.

While we're busy expanding our belt lines from too much turkey this past weekend, our friendly network programming executives are beginning to bombard us with all manner of holiday programming so saccharinely sweet, they're guaranteed to put diabetics into states of shock. On the other hand, they'll also provide the occasional X-Mas or Hanukkah special that's truly worth your time and effort to catch.

Truth is, the holiday season is this old-time animation fan's favorite season. I still have pleasant memories of such cartoon specials as It's a Charlie Brown Christmas, Chuck Jones' masterful version of How The Grinch Stole Christmas and even some of the old Rankin-Bass stop-motion jobs like Rudolph, The Red-Nosed Reindeer. Now NBC could have put me into total euphoria and repeated Mr. Magoo's Christmas Carol, but that's just not to be. I guess they figure another go around of It's a Wonderful Life will do...for the hundredth or so time.

This is a relatively comprehensive list of what a number of the nets have in mind. Some haven't released specific time schedules for their programming, so just keep your eyes open. Otherwise, all times listed are Eastern.

ABC: Prime Time

The Alphabet Network has at least two specials in the works: Winnie The Pooh & Christmas Too! and a new one called The Tangerine Bear. Exact times on both these specials will probably be released shortly. I also wouldn't be surprised if The Wonderful World of Disney will have something full-length and animated coming down the pike.

ABC: Saturday Mornings

It just wouldn't be Disney to not produce holiday tie-ins with their various shows. Why should Saturday mornings be any different?

Actually, Disney's One Saturday Morning will have at least two special programs on Saturday, Dec. 16. The first revolves around the new program Teacher's Pet. In it, Scott (a.k.a. Spot the Dog) learns there is more to X-Mas than drinking the water out of the tree stand. It airs at 10:00 a.m. This is followed by the new Buzz Lightyear at 10:30. The evil Emperor Zurg tries to outdo the Grinch and steal X-Mas from the entire galaxy. No self-respecting space heroa.k.a. Buzzcan sit back and let that happen.

If that isn't enough, One Saturday will repeat the Mouse Works holiday special of last year, where Mickey appears to be the only Disney character who still believes in St. Nick. Guest appearances include Robert Goulet (as Mickey's singing voice!), James Earl Jones as the 'old guy' and a 30-guitar orchestra doing Tchaikovsky's Nutcracker Suite. Tape this one if you know what's good for you. This special will air on Dec. 23. Check your local listings for the exact time.

Cartoon Network

For those who missed Cartoon Network's airing of Chuck Jones' How The Grinch Stole Christmas this November, the all-animation network will re-air this masterpiece on Monday, Dec. 4, along with a number of other animated holiday feature films. In fact, Cartoon Network is pre-empting its usual Cartoon Cartoon prime time format to focus strictly on similar feature-length fair that week. Among the highlighted films are Christmas Flintstones, A Jetson's Christmas Carol and Have a Very Smurfy Christmas. The fun starts on Monday Dec. 4 at 8:00 p.m. and runs until Thursday, Dec. 7. Then Cartoon Network will repeat these movies one more time on the rest of the remaining Sundays of December.

If that isn't enough, on X-Mas Eve, Cartoon Network will air nothing but holiday-themed shorts for the entire day. Considering the number of classic Looney Tunes, MGM/Tom & Jerry, Hanna-Barbera and Popeye shorts and features this entails, one needn't have to change the dial the entire day. Then on New Year's Eve, Cartoon Network will cap it all off with two-hour blocks of PowerPuff Girls and Dexter's Laboratory, with the cherry on top of this cake being the complete run of the Garlic Jr. Saga of Dragon Ball Z. It doesn't get much better than that.

Fox: Prime Time

In a move that's almost too good to be true, Matt Groening and company are bringing back Futurama's evil Cyber Santa for a sequel!

On Sunday, Dec. 17, Futurama will have an episode called 'The Tale of Two Santas that revolves around Cyber Santa becoming trapped on a moon of Neptune. No less than Bender is recruited to take his place and is having a great old time...until the real Cyber Santa (voiced by John Goodman) comes back with vengeance on his mind. This is followed by an all-new King of the Hill with a holiday flavor guaranteed to make you want to tear down any over-decorated holiday house you find on your block.

These two specials will start airing at 7:00 p.m., unless the idiots in sports programming think their NFL games are more important than these little bits of holiday malevolence. Fox will also repeat the original introduction of Cyber Santa the following weekend on Christmas Eve at 7:00 p.m. Somebody please shoot Terry Bradshaw and company if they pre-empt this Groening classic in your neck of the woods.

Speaking of repeats and Matt Groening, Fox will also rebroadcast Olive The Other Reindeer. It stars a little dog who, when learning that Santa can't deliver his goodies this X-Mas because one of his reindeers broke a leg, makes the trek to the North Pole to replace him. The only problem is a psychotic mailman (is there any other kind?) who is also out to kill ol' St. Nick. The voice cast of this very original animated special includes Drew Barrymore as Olive the dog, R.E.M.'s Michael Stipe as a punk reindeer and a number of other notables. Olive The Other Reindeer will air on Thursday, Dec. 14 at 9:00 p.m.

Also, keep your eyes peeled on Fox's Mad TV. Starting on Dec. 16, the sketch comedy series will focus completely on the holidays, and informed sources state we shouldn't be surprised if the show repeats Corky Quakendale's The Reinfather series at one point or another. The Mad TV episodes in question will run at 11:00 p.m. on Dec. 16, 23 and 30.

Fox Family

Meanwhile, Fox's sister network will air not one, but two, all-new Angela Anaconda specials on Dec. 2. The first revolves around Angela finding out that her arch-enemy Nanette Manoir is her Secret Santa, and she must find a gift that matches everyone's least favorite little rich girl. The second revolves around Hanukkah, and finds that Nanette has turned the town's sacred menorah into a chandelier. It's up to Angela and Gina Lash to save the holiday. The Angela Anaconda holiday special will begin airing at 8:00 a.m.

Nickelodeon

There's no specific word yet from Nick, but don't be surprised if The Rugrats Hanukkah Special is aired again. It deserves to be. Check your local listings for more info.

UPN

Last, but not least, UPN will also be airing its own share of Disney- related holiday specials, particularly on its One Two block of programs.

Among the shows airing special episodes will be Recess, Pepper Ann, Disney's Doug and Sabrina, The Teenaged Witch. Most of these episodes will air on Christmas Day itself. Check your local listings for exact times.

No word has come in from either the WB or CBS at this time (NBC is doing nothing animated), but I expect to have those nets filled in in later columns. In the meantime, happy holidays!

Next Column: Neither Cartoon Network nor WB Animation will confirm or deny they are doing a Justice League Series...but Batman: The Animated Series creator Bruce Timm has plenty to tell us about that. He also has some interesting comments about the upcoming Batman Beyond: Return of the Joker direct-to-home video. Stay tuned for next week's column!

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