Archive | December 2011

Book Review: Steve Jobs, by Walter Isaacson

I’ll just say this right upfront: I’ve never been a big fan of biographies. When it comes to books, most of my interest in them has often swayed largely towards fiction, or to those that deal with the making-of aspect or analysis of the Entertainment Industry, or Art-Based Mediums.

The last two biographies I read were Walt Disney: The Triumph of the American Imagination (by Neal Gabler), and Schulz and Peanuts: A Biography (by David Michaelis). Both Walt Disney and Charles M Schulz were two men of the arts who greatly inspired me growing up, but what made these biographies so tempting to me, was that Gabler and Michaelis had been given exclusive access to personal materials from these men. However, in the end, their books seemed to show men of creative brilliance, yet distant to family and friends around them. Naturally, the families of both men decried their portrayals.

Walter Isaacson has written biographies on people such as Albert Einstein and Benjamin Franklin. It was these biographies that caught Steve Jobs’ eye, and had him call upon Isaacson to write a biography on him. Unlike biographies done long after the subject has passed away, Jobs was cooperative with Isaacson, giving him interviews and insight into his creative processes. As well, interviews were conducted with those close to Steve, and those who he had readily ticked off over the years.

It wasn’t easy for me to accept Walt Disney or Charles M Schulz to be creative-yet-selfish people. With someone like Steve Jobs, I could easily accept it. I’ve met a couple people in my lifetime that were very similar to Jobs: they had a creative drive that often made them narrow their eyes at a convoluted and backwards world, and all their brain could think of was, “how can this be made better?”

Jobs’ quest for perfection would often push many people to give more than 100%, and turn out products that were not just flash-in-the-pan. An Apple product (under Jobs’ supervision) was something that was impressively designed inside and out…but often with the caveat that everything was ready to go: a closed system that could not be tampered with (and the packaging had to be equally spectacular).

Unlike the Disney or Schulz biographies, Isaacson’s writing style is very intriguing. While some chapters deal with the development of Apple’s hardware and software, technical jargon is kept to a minimum, and is written in a way that most non-techies can (probably) understand. One has to wonder if Isaacson tried to channel Jobs’ feel for simplicity when writing the chapters. Each chapter provides a nice level of information that never really feels like its welcome is overstayed.

Biographers (I’ve noted) usually hit on one central idea/theme that is a ‘constant’ with their subject. In this case, Isaacson goes with the “Reality Distortion Field.” Those who worked with Jobs are well aware of this strange phenomena, and a whole chapter is even turned over to its dissection. In short, it was a way for Jobs to will himself or others to believe something was possible…even if people said it was impossible.

There are a few areas where it feels that Isaacson could have given us a few more opinions. While quotes are given from interviews with Jobs’ wife Laurene, mention of their children is used sparingly, and no direct quotes are taken from them. This could fit in with what Jobs told Isaacson about one of his reasons for wanting to participate in the writing of a biography about himself:

“I wanted my kids to know me,” he said. “I wasn’t always there for them, and I wanted them to know why and to understand what I did.”

Isaacson’s stylings definitely make the book to be about Steve Jobs, and not Steve Jobs & Family. However, it is rather refreshing to read something that doesn’t just turn into a multi-page lovefest. Jobs gave no requests to make the biography to portray him as a saint, and Isaacson definitely does a great job in showing us a man teetering between creative genius, and hard-@$$ed taskmaster. Jobs could be known to be scathing to reviews or work that criticized him and Apple’s products, and one has to wonder if he had lived, how soon afterwards Isaacson would have received a phone call from Jobs, berating him for something that didn’t gel with him.

Steve Jobs has been one of the first biographies that made me eager to keep turning pages. I was on vacation in San Francisco, and downloaded the 80-page sample from iBooks. After an hour or two of reading, I then made my first full-length book purchase from iBooks (prior to this, I had eagerly downloaded the short story Mile 81, by Stephen King). When I wasn’t touring Museums or seeing the sights around the San Francisco area, I was reading the biography. Even the television in my hotel room stayed silent throughout my entire trip.

Even if you’re not a fan of Apple’s products, Steve Jobs is a very interesting read, and I think will cause people (like myself), to seek out the other works of biographer Walter Isaacson. It is also worth noting, that this book could very well be Steve Jobs 1.0. In a recent interview with Fortune magazine, Isaacson said that he has considered expanding the book with either an extensively annotated version, or to include an addendum in regards to the details and reactions in the wake of Jobs’ passing.

“Simplicity is the ultimate sophistication” – Leonardo da Vinci

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Movie Review: We Bought a Zoo

There’s just something about the world of Cameron Crowe that seems so enticing. Maybe it’s the soundtrack, maybe it’s how there seems to be one special ‘muse’ for every loser/failure, or maybe it could be how everyone seems to have their own philosophies on life. Either way, Crowe’s latest film taps into a well of familiarity that feels incredibly comfortable.

It’s been a rough decade for Crowe. His dream film Almost Famous netted him many accolades (and a Best Screenplay Oscar), but his follow-ups were met with lukewarm receptions. Vanilla Sky (his adaptation of the Spanish film Open Your Eyes) was mildly praised, but his 2005 release Elizabethtown received a smattering of negative reactions. While some like Roger Ebert (one of Crowe’s biggest fans since the film Say Anything) praised it, many weren’t at all willing to accept his family/failure roadtrip film.

With We Bought A Zoo, Crowe takes another direction from the ‘family/failure’ playbook. After the death of his wife, Benjamin Mee (Matt Damon) is unsure just what to do. His current job as a reporter with the Los Angeles Times seems to be bearing little fruit, and he is unsure what to do in regards to his family. While his young daughter Rosie (Maggie Elizabeth Jones) seems to be handling herself okay, his son Dylan (Colin Ford) has been having issues with school and life, as evidenced by some rather violent artwork and suspension from school.

Feeling that he and his family need a clean slate to start over, Benjamin quits his job, and decides to go house-hunting. With encouragement from Rosie, Benjamin purchases a house in the country, that also comes with a zoo. Also there to lend a hand are a group of loyal persons that have maintained the zoo and want to continue to do so. These include the taxed-but-dedicated Kelly (Scarlett Johansson), her carefree cousin Lily (Elle Fanning), Scottish groundskeeper Peter (Angus Macfadyen), and many more.

After his turn recently as Jason Bourne, seeing Damon in a father-figure role may seem a little odd. His role as Mr B Mee (“be me,” get it?) is a rather fine balancing act, showing a man trying to keep his cool amid a tumultuous situation regarding the addition of a zoo to his lifestyle.

Crowe usually adds a mentor or confidante for his lead actors, and Thomas Hayden Church plays the part as Ben’s brother, Duncan. Church plays his role as a voice of reason, but also as a man who doesn’t have a spotless past track record of success. However, he does provide several fun moments.

Ben’s children are also an interesting group. Rosie is almost like the female counterpart of little Ray “the human head weighs eight pounds” Boyd in Jerry Maguire. Every other scene with her will most likely melt the audiences’ heart, but it almost works as a counterpoint to scenes regarding Dylan. The development of Dylan feels like the area where the film falls flat. I could kind of get behind him withdrawing in the wake of his Mother’s death, but the rest of his role was a bit rocky. Even the added country-girl crush that Lily has on him felt a bit too convenient.

That could be one of the biggest issues regarding the film: several scenes feel a little “too convenient.” There’s one such scene that comes along at just the right moment, and I did find my eyebrow cocked at how it worked out.

The film also marks a new first for Cameron Crowe. From 1996-2005, his former wife Nancy Wilson (formerly of the group Heart) provided the instrumental scoring for his films. After their recent divorce, many wondered what would happen to this component of his films. For Zoo, Crowe chose Icelandic musician Jónsi. Jónsi’s original score can’t compare to the often guitar-oriented instrumentals from Wilson, but he proves to be a man of mood music. Such score music in Crowe’s films should act like a comforting hand regarding big and small scenes, and this is definitely what we have here.

For those who disliked Elizabethtown, We Bought A Zoo will seem a more palatable return to the world of Cameron Crowe. However, it is far from his best work. It’s a feel-good film that definitely feels right at home in a crowded Christmas Season of high-profile films.

Holiday Musings: Rapsittie Street Kids – Believe in Santa

What is the Christmas Season, without Christmas specials? Some old, some new, but many of them animated. Who can forget such classics like A Charlie Brown Christmas, Frosty the Snowman, and Rapsittie Street Kids: Believe in Santa.

What’s that? You’ve never heard of Rapsittie Street Kids? How could you forget? I mean, it featured voice work by the likes of Jodi Benson (Ariel, the Little Mermaid), Paige O’Hara (Belle, from Beauty and the Beast), Mark Hamill (Luke Skywalker, The Joker), and even Nancy Cartwright (Bart Simpson), and aired on The WB in December of 2002.

Well, to tell you the truth, not many people will remember it. I heard it was the equivalent of a traumatic experience that you swear you’ve experienced, but noone will talk about. Supposedly, it aired only once, and all searches online for a trace of the full, hour-long(!?) episode have turned up nothing. The only proof we have, is the demo-reel from Wolf Tracer Studios, who (presumably) made it. I’ve included a link below, but please bear in mind that clips from Believe in Santa only take up the first 4 minutes, with the last 3 1/2 minutes being the studio’s attempts to do their own ‘dinosaurs-on-a-rampage’ show:

Yes, it’s no joke. Someone at a network actually bought into this. Graphics moving as if the computer was still rendering them, mis-proportioned characters, and a song that almost sounded like the Chipmunks being held in a recording studio at gun-point, forced to sing. All I can think is, someone must have been really, really, really drunk to have considered putting this abomination on the air. I couldn’t believe that Wolf Tracer Studios would put this stuff on a demo reel of their work. I remember in one class in college, we watched a terribly-animated Mortal Kombat short, and that thing looks like a masterpiece next to this stuff.

Another ‘leaving’ that this show existed, is a page on Promark Telelvision’s website. The page features this charming image of our happy band of kids:

(insert your own caption here…words just fail me)

Plus, here’s the text they included to sell their show:

Every now and then an animated program comes along that seems destined to become a classic.”The Rapsittie Street Kids” franchise is such a project. Featuring a one hour musical animated special entitled “Believe in Santa” it is the first of two holiday one hour specials that features the rambunctious, cool and cute “The Rapsittie Street Kids.” The music sound track is being released to radio to coincide with the Christmas TV Syndication window.

The Rapsittie Street Kids are reminiscent of the beloved Peanuts characters – set in a modern day suburban neighborhood and features the voices of; Paige O’Hara (Bell – Beauty & The Beast) and Jodi Benson (The Little Mermaid).

That’s really, really reaching for the stars right there. The beginnings of an animated franchise, and comparisons to the Peanuts gang? I’m almost curious as to what their second hour-long special would have entailed.

Oh, and supposedly, there’s a storyline. Here is supposedly all the information we have regarding what that hour-long masterpiece was about:

Ricky thought that he had the perfect gift for his classmate, Nicole. After all, his teddy bear, slightly soiled, is his most precious possession. Nicole, however, is slightly spoiled well very spoiled.Her version of value is where was it bought? How much did it cost? Ricky’s teddy bear scores very low on the Nicole scale of worth and she tosses it in the trash. Nicole later learns that the bear was the last thing Ricky’s mother gave him before she died.
Not wanting to name names, but my guess is Nicole is that Britney Spears wannabe/look-a-like holding the upside-down can of Pepsi in the image above. As to who Ricky is, I can only assume it’s the kid in the number 17 shirt, holding onto the Spears wannabe’s arm. How the other 6 kids fit into the show, noone can really tell. I do also wonder how adding that Ricky’s teddy bear is slightly soiled would help the studio’s case that this show had to be seen by the masses. Kind of reminds me of how the promoters of The Human Centipede 2 kept mentioning the main character’s use for sandpaper…to which I’ll just stop right there.

Rapsittie Street Kids – Believe in Santa definitely feels like the ‘Bigfoot Sighting’ of Holiday specials. I seriously doubt anyone I know actually saw it, though now you know about one of the Holiday’s deformed stepchildren, that was let out into the light for a few brief moments, before being locked back inside with a bucket of fish heads to eat.

Fish Heads, Fish Heads, Roly-Poly Fish Heads.

Fish Heads, Fish Heads, Eat-Them-Up, Yum!

__________

*UPDATE – 9/13/15*

Early the other morning, I was contacted by the owner of The Lost Media Wiki, a little site that often tries to find obscure shows and music. The owner of the site, had some amazing yet disturbing news: he had found a copy of Believe in Santa, and had deemed me worthy enough to know of it!

He provided a link in the comments, but I thought I’d put it here:

Rapsittie Street Kids – Believe in Santa

If you have 42 minutes of your life you’ve been dying to get rid of, click the link above. Dare I say this could become The Room of animated Christmas Specials? The Nostalgia Critic almost lost his mind over the absurdity of a special called The Christmas Tree, but compared to that ‘film,’ this makes that one look like A Charlie Brown Christmas.

Movie Review: Young Adult

Exclusive Poster for "Young Adult's" Chicago Preview Screening, designed by artist Anne Benjamin.

Former High School Golden Girl Mavis Gary (Charlize Theron) has long ago left behind the little podunk town of Mercury, Minnesota in which she was born and raised. Now residing in Minneapolis, she’s a divorcee living like a hermit out of her high-rise apartment. Subsisting on Diet Coke and alcohol, the one thing that Mavis still has going for her, is her job as a ghost writer for a series of Sweet Valley High-like young adult novels.

One day, she receives an email that gives her reason to pause: her former high school sweetheart Buddy Slade (Patrick Wilson) and his wife Beth (Elizabeth Reaser) are inviting her to a party for the birth of their new baby. Mavis then makes a life-altering decision (as life-altering as her current predicament is), and heads back to Mercury with the intention of ‘saving’ Buddy. During her time in town, she also runs into another classmate named Matt Freehauf (Patton Oswalt), who was the victim of a hate-crime in high school that has left him dependent on an arm brace for mobility. A Beauty and the Geek type of bond seems to form between Mavis and Matt, as she can’t seem to stop running into him in her small hometown, and he becomes her confidante to her grand plan.

One question that screenwriter Diablo Cody often got was, “When are you going to write a screenplay that isn’t about teenagers?” There are a few traces of Cody’s teenage lingo at work in Young Adult, but they don’t fly with the velocity like what we’ve heard previously in Juno or Jennifer’s Body. For those whose biggest issue with Cody is her Honest to Blog dialogue, it soon becomes apparent that she has chosen to keep such verbalizing for the teenagers.

It wasn’t hard for me to accept Charlize Theron as Mavis (in a way, she reminded me of the character Tina that she played in the film That Thing You Do, only a little older). Her character was ‘that one girl’ in high school we almost all remember in some capacity. Even so (unless you have a huge chip on your shoulder regarding such girls), we are soon intrigued by Mavis’ character rather than repulsed. Maybe it’s because we feel that she’s on some kind of collision course, but we don’t quite know just who or what she is going to collide with.

Just as impressive with their character is Patton Oswalt as Matt. Aside from his smaller comedy and stand-up roles, Oswalt’s only real ‘meaty’ film role so far was as reclusive sports fanatic Paul Aufiero in Big Fan. Oswalt walks a very fine tightrope in making Matt a character we can sympathize with, but not milking his condition for audience sympathy. His role as Mavis’ confidante is interesting to watch, if not for the fact that you can see that once she tells why she’s in town, he just wants to tell her outright, “This is a bad/stupid/dumb idea.” Of course, Matt’s too much of a nice guy to do this. Then again, maybe he is also wondering what the aftermath will be.

One problem with Young Adult is that it’s such a unique film, that any ideas regarding marketing just feels like the advertising campaign will be a shot in the foot. After watching the film, viewing the trailer just makes it feel like the marketing people are being a bit too ‘blunt.’ I applaud the filmmakers for using their sneak-preview screenings to drum up word-of-mouth for the picture. Reitman in a Q&A did state that they avoided film festivals for this one, and felt it best to take it to the people.

The best bit of advice I can give is to enter Young Adult with an open mind. The times I have done this (with films like Amelie, The World’s Fastest Indian, and Let The Right One In), I emerged from the theater having enjoyed the film even more. Young Adult is funny, enjoyable, and in it’s own quirky way, messes around with it’s audience whenever it can. Sometimes, it helps when a movie gets to jerk you around by the leash, and blow your mind.

Young Adult opens in limited release December 9th, and nationwide December 16th.

An Animated Dissection: ‘Twas The Night Before Christmas

By now, we’re all fully ensconced in the Holiday season. The stores have not relented in the neverending torrent of Christmas music coming from the speakers, glittery red letters over the doorway of Macy’s tell us to Believe (in what, they don’t say), and we can look forward to a staple of television that almost all of us remember in some capacity: Christmas Specials.

Two that I readily enjoy for their simple message are A Charlie Brown Christmas, and How the Grinch Stole Christmas (the one with Boris Karloff, not Jim Carrey, though that one isn’t all bad either). One studio that became synonymous with Holiday specials was Rankin-Bass Productions. Founded by Arthur Rankin, Jr, and Jules Bass, their specials related to Christmas were the ones most of us recall. While the majority of their Christmas specials like Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer were done with stop-motion animation, they also produced several hand-drawn animated specials like Frosty the Snowman.

Studying animation, one thing I noted in a lot of the older productions was a lack of logic at times in order to push some stories through to their completion. There’s a general thought by some that cartoons don’t need proper logic, just enough movement to keep the kids occupied. Plus, if you examine a few of those cartoons, the stories are a little questionable. One such example is in Frosty the Snowman, in which after her adventures with Frosty, a little girl named Karen is returned to her home by Frosty and Santa Claus. However, where do they leave her? Not at the front door, but on the roof of her home! I still remember our paperboy coming by to collect money when I was 9 years old, and he witnessed this moment too. “I always wondered,” he said, as Santa and Frosty flew away, “How did she get down from there?”

"Thanks Santa! Thanks Frosty! Hopefully once Spring arrives, my parents will find my remains up here!"

This put me in mind of a recording done by Patton Oswalt, in which he dissects the song Christmas Shoes, by a band called New Song. What starts as a grumpy guy standing in line witnessing a boy buying shoes for his Mother on Christmas Eve, really becomes kind of ‘wrong’ as Patton dissects the song.

This week, I thought I’d take a cue from Mr Oswalt, and dissect one animated short from Rankin-Bass that I’ve come to question over the years: ‘Twas the Night Before Christmas.

The short subject is based on a poem of the same name, and like some works, it would be over before it began. So, it was up to the writers to stretch it out into a story that could last 25-30 minutes.

Even Joshua Trundle is perplexed as to how a poem can be made into a cartoon.

The first 8 lines of the poem are narrated over by Joshua Trundle(Joel Grey), the town’s clockmaker, awake in his bed, who is (possibly by sheer coincidence) reading ‘Twas the Night Before Christmas (and judging by the size of the book, he’s got the unofficial, unabridged version). The scene then moves below the floorboards to a mouse family living under the Trundle’s. The head of the Mouse household is Father Mouse(George Gobel), who is also awake and unable to sleep. It is then that he breaks the fourth wall, and addresses the audience, leading us into a flashback.

The 99% want Santa Claus to give them free stuff! When do they want it? NOW!!!

Two months prior, the entire town of Junctionville (where the Trundles and the Mouse family live) received the letters they sent to Santa…returned, and unopened. No one has any idea why this can be, and Father Mouse says that the grown-ups are “going to do everything they can to find out.” However, in regards to the ‘human’ grown-ups, “finding out” means one thing: demanding that the Mayor and the City Councilmen give them some answers!

The Mouse Family however, actually does something. Using their phone, they ring the North Pole substation, and talk to a mouse phone-operator(?). The mouse phone-operator then explains that Junctionville got their letters back because Santa was upset by a ‘letter to the editor’ in the town’s newspaper, simply signed “All of Us.” This is where my first question comes up: why weren’t the humans smart enough to consider making a call? If the mice can ring a mouse-operator(?) at the North Pole, doesn’t it stand to reason that there would be a human-operator there as well?

Speaking of the humans, the Mayor and his Councilmen are at a loss for what to do, and simply decide to barricade themselves inside the Town Hall and sit around a table. Eventually, Joshua Trundle comes to them with a possible solution. Joshua proposes that the town build a clock that will play a special song on Christmas Eve, that Santa will (hopefully) hear, causing him to forgive the town and return. Of course, within reason of cartoon logic (and with no other options available), everyone in the room eagerly votes to pass the proposal. Forget about those public tax dollars going to fix roads and pay for education: we need Santa to come back, doggonit!!

Back at the Trundle’s place, the Mouse Family has gone through the bundled back-issues of the town’s newspaper in the family’s cellar, and find the letter. The letter states that Santa Claus is a myth and a lie, along with his reindeer. Just like the mouse-operator said, it is signed ‘All of Us.’ Now here’s a bit of logic to think about: does Santa get newspapers from every town/city/municipality in the world? If so, there have to be more than just this one from Junctionville that got him upset. Maybe Santa was having a bad day and this Letter to the Editor was the last straw. Or, maybe he had a group of ‘yes men’ who decided to make the decision for him, with Santa completely unaware of the town being snubbed. Kind of makes you think, doesn’t it?

Anyways, Father Mouse notes there are a number of long words, and immediately suspects one person/mouse: his son, Albert. Up until this point, we have seen the Mouse family consisted of Father Mouse, Mother Mouse, and two unnamed boy and girl mice. Albert is the only mouse child we encounter who has an actual name (most likely since he figures into the plot). Albert admits to writing the letter, along with his friends (which is odd, considering we haven’t seen a sign of any other mice that live in Junctionville).

Albert refuses to write a rebuttal to his letter, and Father Mouse then shows how his opinion has destroyed the hopes and dreams of numerous people in the town. In this case: little children. However, even the sad predicament of these children does nothing to make Albert remorseful.

Father Mouse then shows Albert the model of the special clock Joshua Trundle is working on. However, Albert’s mental acuity filters out the fact that Joshua believes in Santa, and instead becomes enthralled in the complexity of the clock.

Finally, Joshua’s clock is completed. Most likely as a cost-cutting measure, Joshua has simply retrofitted the Town Hall’s clocktower with his mechanism. However, at the ribbon-cutting ceremony to test the clock, it malfunctions and breaks down.

Next comes two of the biggest ‘WTF‘ moments in the show. After the clock breaks down, all of Joshua’s customers take back their clocks, and noone will go to him. I’m assuming Joshua is the only clockmaker in Junctionville…so this means the townspeople with broken clocks must have decided to either live with their broken clocks, or go to another town many miles away to get them fixed.

Everyone makes mistakes...except Joshua Trundle, whose actions are like a plague on the community of Junctionville, USA.

The next moment comes when Joshua goes back to the Town Hall, intent to fix the clock and find out what went wrong. He is at first rebuked by a security guard, who asks in a smarmy voice, “Haven’t you fixed things enough around here?” Really? The man made more of an effort than anyone to try and put things right, and you’re casting stones? As if to add insult to injury, the Mayor comes out and throws around some more negatives words of his own, before demanding Joshua go home. Geez, the way they shun him, you would have assumed he’d gone on a mass killing spree or something.

What we should also consider is that at this time, the humans are still running on the assumption that Santa is mad at them, but have not found out ‘why.’ Only the Mouse Family knows…and they haven’t told ANYONE!! Why is this!? Are they the only mice in town that can speak to humans? Is Joshua the only one who can understand them? Are they renegade mice from a turn-of-the-century NIMH, who escaped and are hiding in the town, and this is why they can reason, think, talk, AND wear clothes? I better move on before my head explodes.

Winter comes, and both of the families endure hardships with noone willing to help the Trundles or go to Joshua for clock repairs (and once again, the mice who are hungry and as listless as the Trundles, STILL haven’t told them about what they know!). Eventually, Christmas Eve comes around, and Joshua’s children doubt they should put up their stockings. It is then that Joshua then begins to sing the song, Even a Miracle Needs a Hand.

This is a strange and somewhat confusing song, in that it lifts the spirits of the children, and throughout the piece, we see images of the Town Hall clocktower, and some gears. We even see the kids polishing up the model of the clock Joshua presented to the Mayor, while he draws at his table and…whittles? However, once the song is over…that’s it. Several persons I’ve discussed the scene with felt that it was a sign that Joshua was going to pull a Christmas Miracle, break into the Town Hall, and set things right.

Instead, he merely hangs up some stockings, and he and his wife go to bed as well. Shame on you, Joshua Trundle. You’ve let down the entire town, and now, you lifted the spirits of your children who are going to hate you for doing so in the morning.

It soon becomes apparent that the song that was sung was a means to catch the ears of Albert…who has been out-of-the-picture since he saw the miniature of the clock. It is then that he confesses to Father Mouse that he broke the clock…and rather than confess this as soon as it occurred, he seems to have gone into self-imposed exile since the incident, and just emerged as Joshua started singing that song. Well, that’s what it seemed to me, anyways.

With time ticking away, Albert intends to set things right, and rushes off to Town Hall to fix the clock himself. Even though Father Mouse claims Albert doesn’t know how to fix a clock, he still goes anyways…armed with a wrench, pliers, and a book on Astronomy (presuming that the information inside telling about Copernicus will help).

After this, Father Mouse visits Joshua. This also becomes the only time where Father Mouse briefly mentions what Albert did (regarding the letter). Here’s the conversation:

Father Mouse: Merry Christmas, Mr Trundle.

Joshua Trundle: Not very merry, I’m afraid.

Father Mouse: You’re right of course. And it’s my fault…my family’s.

Joshua Trundle: How so?

Father Mouse: My older boy, Albert. First he insulted Santa, and then…I can hardly say it.

Joshua Trundle: Go on.

Father Mouse: I’m afraid he got into your clock, just to see how it works, and…

Joshua Trundle: Ker-plunk?

Father Mouse: Ker-plooey.

One wonders why Joshua doesn’t suddenly fly out of bed yelling: “What!? What do you mean by insulted Santa? And why are you telling me this now? You mean my family’s life has been ruined because of your son!!?” But of course, Joshua Trundle is a modest man with a heart of gold and a modest mentality (well, when he’s not filling his children’s heads with hopes and dreams he can’t provide). He simply listens and says:

“So…that was it.”

With that scene over, we return to Father Mouse coming out of the flashback (which took up about 17 minutes of the show’s running time). With only 3 seconds until Christmas, no chimes from the Town Hall’s clock are heard. Both Father Mouse and Joshua assume Albert has failed, and go to sleep.

Out in the streets, a group of people are singing Silent Night, which is a rather interesting contrast: the townspeople seemed so upset over being snubbed by Santa, yet the true meaning of Christmas seems to have eluded those who simply wanted a hand-out from the man in the red suit. Then again, maybe the carolers singing are the town renegades: they may have been the only ones who didn’t care about Santa snubbing Junctionville, and their hope is that their simple caroling will lift the town’s spirits in a way that will make them recall just why December 25th is so special.

But, that’s me being ridiculous. Albert manages to fix the clock, and a full-on chorus starts singing once the chimes start ringing. The entire town lights up, and everyone just starts running around, their eyes wide-open and their mouths stuck in a wide grin (even Mr “Go Home Trundle!” Mayor comes out with a big grin plastered across his face). Eventually, we see a far-off silhouette in the night-sky. It pauses in mid-air, then does a turn, and we soon see that it’s Santa, having heard the song, and on his way.

From here on in, Joshua Trundle continues the rest of the Night Before Christmas poem, narrating it over the scene as Santa alights on the roof of the Trundle house, comes down the chimney, and leaves them gifts. The poem to me sounded like it was just the narrator who saw Santa, but in this case, Santa allows himself to be witnessed by all of the Trundles, and even the Mouse Family, including Albert who has returned, and gets to see Santa for himself too.

One of the strangest revelations I had came after the whole poem had ended, and Santa flew away. In the Rankin-Bass short, he only fills two stockings left by the Trundle’s fireplace, and that’s it. He doesn’t go to any other houses in town, and there’s nothing even left for the Mouse Family. It seemed that for one brief moment, the rest of the town was affected by cartoon-mob-mentality, which means that every single person becomes unified in one emotion/movement. We see this alot in cartoons (most notably The Simpsons). One has to wonder what the townspeople must have thought when they saw Santa and his sleigh disappear into the night sky…and only the Trundles were given gifts.

In a twisted sense, I had this thought of the Trundles suddenly being descended upon by the angry citizens of Junctionville, who now considered them to be truly evil since they were the only ones who got something from Santa. But this is a children’s cartoon, so the sight of them being bludgeoned and their home burned to the ground wouldn’t make for good, wholesome entertainment.

The cut scenes from "'Twas The Night Before Christmas," in which Junctionville celebrates the burning of the Trundles' house (with the Trundles inside), for being the only ones whom Santa favored and 'rewarded.'

In another sense, the fact that the Trundles were rewarded could be seen as a sign that since they believed and at least attempted to do something, that this was why Santa came to them. Just something to ponder.

And that’s my analysis on Rankin-Bass’ ‘Twas The Night Before Christmas. It definitely suffers from the problem of people receiving too little information, and problems that could have been solved pretty quickly had people used their brains, or explained things. Though there are plenty of other films and TV shows out there that suffer from this. Take Star Wars Episode III: Revenge of the Sith. Yoda and Obi-Wan simply assume that Anakin has turned to the Dark Side, but they never think of a reason, or are given one. Anakin knows the reason why: he’s afraid of his wife dying, and he’s turned to the Dark Side in hopes that he can find a way to save and protect her. But of course, Anakin never tells Obi-Wan, and Obi-Wan never questions why his friend/pupil has done this. I better stop, as that frustration level that rose earlier in my recap is boiling to the surface again.

Anyhoo, Merry Christmas to all, and to all a good night…unless you’re the Trundles, in which case, watch your backs. Those Junctionvillians know where you live.