Tuesday, November 24, 2015

Ghost in the Case: 2 Almost Forgotten Thanksgiving Specials

"Do you see that Odie?  Tomorrow is Thanksgiving!  That's the day that people celebrate having food by eating as much of it as possible!"

Ghost here, and thanks for joining me today for yet another
Thanksgiving Day is almost upon us.

It's that wonderful time of year where we tend to fret about seeing people and eating enough food that we promptly forget what it is that the holiday is supposed to be about.  True to its position in the Holiday Trio, Thanksgiving has really become the middle child.  While never truly forgotten, it's ignored wholesale due to the crazy antics of it's older brother Halloween, and is less loved than it's younger brother, Christmas.  Anymore, stores place both Halloween and Christmas decorations out at the exact same time without even a nod at thanksgiving outside of decorative hand towels.

When it come to film and television, Thanksgiving is handled along the same way.  You can find hundreds of Halloween and Christmas movies/specials but when it comes to Thanksgiving there is far less of a selection.   Sure you have your absolute classics like Planes, Trains, and Automobiles or A Charlie Brown Thanksgiving.  You also have some slightly more modern specials like Friends' The One With The Thanksgiving Flashbacks, or Gilmore Girls' A Deep Fried Korean Thanksgiving.  However, even though there are some well known Thanksgiving specials they are nowhere near as remembered as Halloween or Christmas specials.  That's why I wanted to pick a couple Thanksgiving specials for today.  I didn't want to go with the ones that were super recognizable for the simple reason that everyone talks about those.  Instead I wanted to cover a couple that I pretty much never hear being mentioned.  Those would be Garfield's Thanksgiving and The Mayflower Voyagers.

Why am I going with two?  As a general rule I cover feature length films or entire series/seasons.  It would have felt odd and silly to me to only cover one single 25 minute special.  It also helps that I came to know both of these specials in practically the same way.  Growing up I loved both Garfield and Charlie Brown.  I always watched the Garfield Halloween and Christmas specials when they came on TV.  I was also eager to catch the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown Thanksgiving, and Charlie Brown Christmas anytime they happened to be on as well.  It wasn't until I purchased the Garfield Holiday Specials and A Charlie Brown Thanksgiving DVDs that I even discovered these two specials existed.  Though technically The Mayflower Voyagers is the first episode of a really strange series called This is America, Charlie Brown and not a Thanksgiving special...but eh it counts!

So should we give thanks for these specials or should they end up where all the turkey bones go?  And no that sentence wasn't forced whatsoever.

The Stories

Garfield's Thanksgiving
The special opens with one of the series staples; Jon Arbuckle being rudely awoken by Garfield to fix his breakfast.  After breakfast, Garfield indulges in another series staple, attempting to kick Odie off the table.  However, before he can accomplish this, he notices that the calendar has a reminder for his veterinarian visit on that very day.  Trying to destroy the evidence, he tears the day off to find that Thanksgiving is the very next day.  After showing Jon the news about Thanksgiving, Garfield accompanies him to the grocery store to pick up the Thanksgiving feast.  However, Jon takes a detour on the way home; he hasn't forgotten the vet much to Garfield's anguish.  While at the vet....WAIT
Just what exactly is THIS GUY doing/thinking?!?!  What the...

Anyway, while at the vet office Jon attempts to put the charm on the veterinarian, Liz, whom he has always had a crush.  This plan fails miserably as Liz blocks his every attempts while examining Garfield.  Eventually, Jon decides to hold his breath until she says she'll go out with him.  Liz ignores him and states that Garfield is to be put on a diet.  Eventually Liz gives in as Jon feints from oxygen deprivation and she agrees only because she "can't stand to see a dumb animal suffer."  Jon invites her to his house for Thanksgiving dinner.  Back home, Jon starts Garfield's diet directly by feeding him half a leaf of lettuce and having Odie be on food watch to blow a whistle every time Garfield attempts to sneak food.  The diet shenanigans continue on for a few more minutes as Odie appears in various food containers and Garfield has a conversation with the talking scale who keeps making Orson Welles references. 

The next morning Jon begins to prepare his Thanksgiving feast three hours before Liz is supposed to arrive.  What follows is something very painful sequence to anyone who knows how to cook decent food.  Jon, being an absolute moron, decides to completely disregard the recipes by placing a completely frozen turkey that has neither been stuffed nor had the organs removed directly in the oven at twice the recommended temperature.  After going through several changes of clothes, Jon notices that Liz has finally arrived; He leaves Liz in the living room as he goes to check on the "meal."  Liz re-examines Garfield and decides to lessen his diet.  Garfield then goes into the kitchen where Jon has realized the absolute disaster he has created.

Garfield, after several failed attempts, convinces Jon to call his Grandma who runs straight over to fix the disaster.   Jon goes into the living room to distract Liz from the loud noises in the kitchen with a history lesson on Thanksgiving.  Grandma turns the kitchen abomination into a wonderful meal, sets the table and quietly slips out the back door.  Jon, Liz, Garfield, and Odie then eat their Thanksgiving dinner.  As Liz is about to leave she kisses Jon on the cheek and says she'll be back next year.  The special ends as Odie has eaten too much Thanksgiving dinner so Garfield dons the whistle forcing him to exercise.

The Mayflower Voyagers
The Mayflower Voyagers is actually one giant history lesson so this one will be shorter.  Some of the most popular of the Peanuts Gang are some of the children taking the voyage on the Mayflower to find the New World.  The episode begins as the Pilgrims and Strangers leave Plymouth on their voyage to America.  After pointing out the poor living conditions on the ship, the Mayflower runs into several violent storms out at sea causing one of the main mid-ship beams to break.  The men deliberate about going back to England or continuing on.  Obviously they decide to fix the beam and continue.  As they finally approach land, Lucy asks to be pointed to the suggestion box as she has a few choice words for the captain.

The episode covers the creation of the Mayflower Compact as well as the Pilgrim's difficulty in finding a suitable place to come on shore.  It then proceeds to show the extreme difficulty that the settlers had in finding a suitable place to build as well as the sickness that started to develop among the people.  Finally after sailing downstream the Pilgrims find suitable land for crops and buildings but the sickness becomes so widespread that very few men were well enough to even build a single home.  This forced the children to do part of the chores and gave the Peanuts Gang a chance to do their usual shenanigans.  Charlie Brown and Linus end up picking berries and spewing exposition as they generally do.  Peppermint Patty and Marcy are sent to get firewood and end up running away from an imaginary snake much to Peppermint Patty's annoyance.  Snoopy and Woodstock are sent to fetch water from the river so we get to see a little bit of slapstick from Woodstock attempting to lift the heavy water bucket.  Lastly, Sally and Lucy are sewing and watching clothes which ends in a bad Sally joke as per usual.

The episode then covers the rough winter that the Pilgrims experienced and didn't shy away from the many deaths of the original settlers.  Fast forwarding to springtime, the episode covers the arrival of Samoset.  Samoset then bring Squanto to teach them how to survive on the land.  After showing the preferred method of growing corn of the time, Squanto brings Chief Massasoit to meet the Englishmen as well.  The episode ends with the first Thanksgiving as Schroeder, Lucy and Snoopy play the classic "Linus and Lucy" theme for everyone.

What's Good About Them?

Garfield's Thanksgiving
 While I'm sure a much younger me would have laughed at far more of the comedy within this special, the adult me still got a decent chuckle out of a few things.  The first being the aerial shot of Jon's car once Garfield figured out he was still going to the vet.  I found it amusing to hear Garfield's shouts as hit car ricocheted off of buildings along the street.  Secondly, I found Liz's constant refusal of Jon's advances to be fairly amusing as it's clearly obviously she only went out with him out of pity.  Lastly a few of Garfield's one-liners are pretty great such as  "a wimpy man, but yeah, you're a man."  If you're looking for a decent chuckle here and there then you won't be disappointed. 

Jon is an incompetent moron when it comes to cooking this meal.  I wasn't joking when I said the sequence was physically painful to watch.  While something being a "painful experience" isn't normally something you would praise about something, the scene actually does exactly what it was designed to do.  It was designed to make you cringe hard at his sheer idiocy about this turkey.  Those two minutes of pain are extremely memorable and well worth he price of admission.

Lastly, there is one person in the Garfield universe that can turn even the worst of segments into an absolute delight and that would be Jon's Grandma.  Although you don't get to see her much in this particular special she is quite possibly the most amazing and hardcore grandmother character I've seen.  Not only does she drop everything to come hep her grandson, but she does so riding a motorcycle.  Shes always able to get a good smile out of me no matter what she's doing so her presence in this special can be nothing but a positive.

The Mayflower Voyagers

The few moments where the children were able to act like the classic Peanuts characters was pretty great.  The episode had little moments (few though they were) where the classic characterization and usual activities of the characters were able to be exhibited such as Charlie Brown being the unlucky one to sleep on the floor or Lucy wanting to see the suggestion box.  The three minute segment devoted completely to the children just doing chores around the settlement was great and we really got to see their personalities.  I just wish there was more of it...but I'll get to that later.

One interesting thing to note is that this special, as well as the rest of the series it comes from, is very different from classic Peanuts shows because it shows full bodied and voice acted adults.  Generally in the past and in the comic strip adults were not seen; they also were only heard through a trombone sounding off noises to indicate an adult speaking.  It's really neat to see fully animated and voiced adults interacting with these children.  I especially found it interesting when Squanto was showing them how to plant corn.

What's Bad About Them?

Garfield's Thanksgiving
There's only one really bad thing I can say about this special.  There are some segments that just seem to go on far longer than they need to and certainly far past the point of humor.  For example we know that Jon is an idiot but we didn't need to spend a full minute with Garfield handing Jon different items related to his Grandma in order for him to eventually get the clue to call her.  We also didn't need to spend so long with Odie's head in the sugar jars.  It just felt like they were padding out the run time with some of this stuff.  With the Halloween and Christmas Special they put a few songs which Garfield or Jon would sing; while these were sometimes a little bit lame they never felt unnecessary or like they were padding for time.  This special only has two brief songs that are sung over things happening rather than a character singing.  If they had one more song that probably would have fixed everything.

This point isn't necessarily bad it's just incredibly odd.  When Garfield gets on the talking scales and asks who he is, the scales say "Based on your weight you are Orson Welles."  Now, if this were just one quick throw away joke I wouldn't have bothered but it just keeps going on and on about how she's seen all his movies and asking or an autograph.  Eventually Garfield gets angry and stomps the scales to death and her last word is "Rosebud."  For those of us who have seen Citizen Kane or know who Orson Welles is that would be rather amusing, but this was placed in a kid's cartoon.  How many children at that time would know who Orson Welles even was?  Certainly far fewer would know who he was as time went on.  It was just a really bizarre little sequence that wasn't necessarily bad it was just weird.

The Mayflower Voyagers
I'm just going to come right out and say it.  This special is BORING!  I'm talking supremely boring here.  If you ever thought Charlie Brown was boring before you haven't seen anything yet.  Charlie Brown has always been a more laid back sort of entertainment.  You have to expect slow and steady when it comes to their work but mixing slow and steady with trying to teach about locations, dates, and people... is not a winning combination whatsoever.  Yes the episode does do it's best to teach you exactly what happened when the Pilgrims sailed and settled to the New World...or at least exactly what happened from white people's standpoint.  It's incredibly informative and I genuinely found the explanation for corn planting by using a caught fish to cover the corn kernel interesting.  It just made the cardinal sin of most educational products and being simply, thoroughly boring.

Why exactly was it boring?  Well, for an episode about the Peanuts Gang being part of the colonists, I expected a lot more Peanuts and a lot lest history lesson.  What we ended up getting was Charlie Brown and Linus reading us dates, numbers and facts about the voyage while the animation shows what the adults are doing.   Occasionally we would get a half-scene focused on the kids.  While the segments between the kids were generally good or decent, the gang spent far too many of these scenes explaining what was going on with the weather, ship, or adults rather than reacting humorously to the situation as the Peanuts gang usually does.  If you are telling an original story for them, then having the kids talk about what may or may not happen is fine, however we KNOW that the Mayflower made it to the New World.   Give us less "I wonder if we're going back to England."  and more of Lucy being pig headed, Snoopy doing some physical comedy, and Charlie Brown shouting "good grief!" 

Side Note

As a side note before we end this properly, I was going to mention how interested and impressed I was that both of these Thanksgiving specials slowed the main characters praying.

Obviously this spoke to me as a Christian but even if I wasn't I would have found it interesting to see that they included, but never made a big deal about the prayer.  It was just something they did; it's also something I see far less of in specials these days.  Now the Charlie Brown episode I wasn't all that shocked by.  It was about the actual Pilgrims and the series has always liked to touch on religion when it was valid to do so.  I was more surprised/impressed by it happening in the Garfield episode... or I was going to be until I remembered Doc Boy's ludicrous prayer in the Garfield Christmas Special then I suddenly became less surprised.  Either way it was interesting and neat to see.


Many times I conclude these by saying that the movie/show etc. deserve to be far better known than they actually are.  However, in this case I think the popular opinion is closer to right. While I can certainly recommend Garfield's Thanksgiving to a general crowd, I can't exactly say the same for The Mayflower Voyagers.  That being said, Charlie Brown definitely outshines Garfield in it's other proper Thanksgiving special, A Charlie Brown Thanksgiving.  Neither of these specials are as good as the ones which have become popular staples of the holiday.  If you only have time to watch one Thanksgiving special then pick one of the more popular ones.

However these two specials are not without merit.  If you are looking for a little bit of humor and want to watch something that you haven't seen many times then give Garfield's Thanksgiving a watch.  If you have a young child who wants to know about the history of Thanksgiving then they may find The Mayflower Voyagers interesting enough to sit through once.  As I've said, they aren't bad there is just better out there.

Garfield's Thanksgiving is available on the Garfield Holiday Celebrations DVD
The Mayflower Voyagers is available both on the A Charlie Brown Thanksgiving DVD as well as the season set of This Is America, Charlie Brown

Actually, if you want to watch them both now, I have found them streaming online at the links below.
Garfield's Thanksgiving - Part 1  Part 2
The Mayflower Voyagers
- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -
you want to see my other Movie and Television reviews/recommendations then simply click here!

No comments:

Post a Comment