(1972, Holiday/Children, color)
Mike Nelson, Bill Corbett and Kevin Murphy
Guys, did we take powerful hallucinogenic drugs before this?
In a Nutshell:
A stranded Santa relates the tale of Thumbelina.
Santa went to Florida for some reason and got his sleigh stuck in the sand. His reindeer tried their best to free him (not depicted), but eventually gave up and returned to the North Pole without him.
As our story begins, pointy-hatted elves notice he’s gone. They sing a tuneless song about how he’s not there and then continue their work unperturbed. Meanwhile, Santa uses his psychic powers to summon every child in running distance, including the tropically shirted Tom Sawyer, his pal Huck Finn and their nameless pet raccoon. They hide in the bushes while Santa explains his predicament to the other children. These children run off and return one at a time with a wide variety of barnyard animals, none of which can be persuaded to hitch themselves to the sleigh and commence towing. (Of course Santa and the kids can’t be bothered to do any hitching themselves.) Having exhausted every possible option, Santa does the only thing he can: He sits the kids down to tell them the story of Thumbelina.
Cut to nearby Pirates World, a crappy Floridian theme park whose approach to ride safety can accurately be described as “nonexistent”. A young woman peruses a diorama of the Thumbelina story (filmed from behind, so all you can see is its bare plywood backing) while a tinny loudspeaker begins the tale. A new set of opening credits roll...
Thumbelina’s prospective mother putters aimlessly around her cardboard house for a while and then goes to visit a witch. The witch sings an endless, repetitive song while puttering aimlessly around her papier-mâché witch cave and then gives the lonely old woman a seed. The woman plants it, and out pops an inch-high young woman.
Many happy months are implied to pass, until one day the forgetful faux mother leaves a window open. A plush frog woman kidnaps Thumbelina (not depicted) as a bride for her hideous plush son, trapping her on a lily pad. Sympathetic fish cut the pad’s moorings to help her escape (not depicted) allowing her to slip quietly down the river. She meets a gang of hideous plush insects (depicted, unfortunately) who threaten to squish her. She runs away, eventually taking shelter with an old mole woman. Old mole woman turns out to be our tinny speaker-voiced narrator. She guilt-trips Thumbelina into getting engaged to their rich but elderly neighbor, also a mole. Thumbelina gets cold feet and abandons him at the implied altar, running off at the last minute with a capricious bird. The bird drops her off in The Land of the Flower People (“Also known as Berkeley,” Bill adds) where she weds a tiny king.
End credits. Back to Santa.
The kids all get the same bright idea at once and run off. Having sweltered under the hot Florida sun for more than an hour now, Santa starts to remove his red velvet suit. Hearing an odd siren, he hurriedly puts it back on. The children have returned in a fire truck piloted (barely) by an enormous plush rabbit. “Ice Cream Bunny, of course!” Santa exclaims. Santa leaves his sleigh to board the fire truck, which the Ice Cream Bunny will presumably drive all the way to the North Pole. The sleigh magically follows shortly thereafter. The children are all astonished by its sudden disappearance. So are Huck and Tom, who were watching from the bushes this whole time.
End credits again.
Who, exactly, is the Ice Cream Bunny? Possibly people familiar with Pirates World would know. I wouldn’t place very good odds on it though, considering how well the movie explains everything else.
Truth be told, I don’t think it would matter if it was an explaining sort of movie. This is a film that defeats explanation. Has my poor summary made it sound incomprehensible? Aimless? Hallucinogenic? Santa and the Ice Cream Bunny is all of these things. I have previously described films as “mind-altering.” I have described them as “cinematic fever dreams.” I meant these phrases as hyperbole—not as concrete descriptions, but as words meant to evoke a film’s flavor. I’ve used them again here, further up in this very paragraph, and as they pertain to Santa and the Ice Cream Bunny, I want you to take them literally.
Watching it was a more intense experience than I’ve come to expect from Rifftrax. The first few minutes perplexed me. The next few minutes made me chuckle. During this short period I only wrote down two jokes worth mentioning. One is quoted at the top of the review; in the other, Kevin describes the elves as, “When Girl Scouts join the Klan.” Thereafter, I laughed so hard I could scarcely breathe. I did this without stopping. My wife came over several times to see if I was okay. My youngest daughter (six years old) woke and tiptoed carefully up beside me to see what I was laughing at. She saw the hideous plush bugs dancing across the screen. My headphones were in, so she couldn’t hear Kevin making the same comment she was: i.e. shrieking in abject horror. I had to pause the movie and spend a fair amount of time calming her down and coaxing her back to sleep. I was afraid that the interruption would put me out of a Rifftrax-enjoyin’ mood, dulling the humor, but within a minute I choking back sobs of laughter, tears streaming down my face. By the time it ended I felt emotionally drained. I never expected them to top The ‘Star Wars’ Holiday Special, thus far the apex of their work, but somehow they have done it. I said this already in the Holiday Special review, but now it applies to Santa and the Ice Cream Bunny even more—if you only plan to watch one Rifftrax in your life, this is the one.
(1972, Holiday/Children, color)