12/4/08

RVOD040 Christmas Toyshop

(1940s-ish, Children/Holiday/Short/Animation, b&w)

Riffers:

Mike Nelson, Bill Corbett and Kevin Murphy

Try not to let your nightmare-inducing wallpaper induce nightmares.

Rating: ***1/2

In a nutshell:

An anthropomorphic spider invades a toy shop.

Summary:

Santa Mike has a wonderful grinchy idea.Actually, the plot summarized in the “In a nutshell” section only describes the middle of three stories, each one framing the other. The outermost layer of this strange little forties concoction (made either in 1944, 1945 or 1946, depending on the source) is comprised of a standard nuclear family—two parents, one boy child and one girl child—each perfectly coiffed and dressed to the nines as they sit around the house on Christmas Eve. Dad switches the radio off and announces bedtime. The kids change into six layers of formal sleepwear and climb into bed. Meanwhile, Dad brings in the tree and presents, pratfalling all the way.

You’d think the noise would get the kids right back up, but no. This is where the second layer of the story kicks in, as an ethereal demon elf sprinkles magic hallucinogens over our helpless protagonists. In their supernatural drug-induced stupor, the children believe their incredibly bumbling dad is actually Santa Claus, who tripped while coming down the chimney. They seize the clumsy, right jolly, and thoroughly disinterested old elf to demand a story.

Santa complies with the short’s creamy nougat story center—an almost plotless little cartoon in which a be-top-hatted spider-dog (“of my nightmares,” Bill is quick to point out) invades a toy party and makes off with the Little Miss Muffet doll. Whimsical dance routines and horrific animated carnage ensue. Miss Muffet is saved, the spider-dog is gassed and dismembered, and we pull back out to story layer two to see that the kids have fallen asleep on Santa’s lap.

For those of you keeping score, yes, story two is also a dream (so I guess they’re dreaming that they’ve fallen asleep) from which they wake the next morning back in story one. They run downstairs to greet their cringe-inducingly incompetent father and stern, school-marmish mother. They instantly see through their dad’s unconvincing Santa costume, then seize a drum and bang on it until it’s time to end.

Thoughts:

A rather bored Santa prepares to conjure up visions of an evil Terrytoon spider.Recipe for Christmas Toyshop: Take one mediocre cartoon. Roll on a layer of off-the-shelf Santa. Roll again in standard family love, spiced with generic stooge pratfalls. Deep fry and serve. It sort of tastes like a Christmas classic, (by forties standards, I guess) but it leaves you with grease coating the inside of your mouth, and you’ll feel gassy and bloated for hours afterwards. For a truly unique holiday flavor, try adding the Christmas Toyshop secret ingredient (LSD) to every layer and let terrifying visions of arachnid/sugarplum hybrids dance through your head.

This bizarre little short inspires one of the most original commentaries we’ve had for a while. As the kids ask their mother to sing them to sleep, Kevin launches into a falsetto Italian aria that increases in pitch and volume as the scene drags on, finally devolving into a rendition of “This is Why I’m Hot” with Bill. When the drug-dispensing demon elf holds a finger to his lips, Mike rasps, “Tell no one of our encounter, Earth creatures.” And of course, throughout the cartoon, Bill doggedly refers to the antagonist as “The be-top-hatted spider-dog of my nightmares.” In addition to being a lot of fun to watch, I’d go so far as to say that it ranks right up there with One Got Fat as one of the most hallucinogenic shorts they’ve ever done.