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Saturday, December 01, 2012

Olive, the Other Reindeer

Hello, everybody! And welcome to December!

And since it's December, I thought that I would take this month and make it really fun this year by having every day leading up to the twenty-fifth of December a holiday themed entry.

Now, I know most of you out there have heard the song “The Twelve Days of Christmas”, right? The song where a person gives his one true love five golden rings, a bunch of drummers, at least nine dancing ladies, eight maids-a-milking, and a whole bunch of fine feathered friends.

(Come to think of it, I wonder how much money it would set you back if you tried to buy every item on the 12 Days of Christmas song. I know someone figured it out a few years ago, but I can't remember what the figure is. I imagine that the five gold rings alone would set you back at least four thousand dollars given the price of gold these days.)

Besides, I always like to make every special event HUGE for the holiday season. After all, you know what they say...go big or go home, right? And, I don't think I'm ready to take my typing fingers away from the keyboard any time soon.

So, why would I stop at only TWELVE days of holiday celebrations, when I can do it until Christmas?

Ladies and gentlemen, boys and girls...prepare yourselves for the special event this month known as...


I'm sure that most of you out there know what an advent calendar is, right? Well, if you don't know, I'll explain it. You might have seen in stores those little cardboard boxes with little slots cut into them? In most cases, the doors are numbered 1-24, but some of the more modern ones have thirty-two slots, to last well into the new year. What one does is they purchase an advent calendar right around the end of November leading into December. When December 1st rolls around, a person is supposed to open up the door that has the number “1” marked on the outside, and when they do that, they get to eat the yummy piece of chocolate or candy within. You did this every day of December until Christmas Eve, when you opened up the “24” door, which always had the largest piece of chocolate behind it. It was a brilliant (and delicious) way to count down to the big day, and I think I had an advent calendar well into my teenage years (I think I gave them up when I was seventeen to be completely honest with you...what can I say, I loved chocolate shaped like bells and wreaths).

I suppose that you're probably wondering how I'm going to pull off an advent calendar on this blog. It's not as if I could make you open up a door and I will be able to send you chocolate through the Internet. I really wish we had the technology to be able to do that, but until that is possible, you'll just have to pretend. But what I can do is make every blog entry from today until Christmas Day holiday themed for your viewing pleasure. I will warn you ahead of time that I'm one of those people who does celebrate Christmas, but I will try to work in some mention of Hanukkah and Kwanzaa within this blog for those of you who do celebrate those holidays. After all, I believe that every celebration in December is important.

The theme days will remain the same, but here's what you can expect to see over the next 25 days.

MONDAY MATINEES will feature movies that have to do with Christmas and holiday themes.

The TUESDAY TIMELINE will feature a subject that has at least some reference to the holiday...even if it is minute. We've also designed a new colour scheme for the logo, which I previewed last Tuesday.

On the WEDNESDAY GIFT SHOP entries, we're going to take a look at toys (it is the season, after all), and these entries are toys that I know a little about, as all the featured toys were ones that I ended up getting as Christmas presents in my youth.

The THURSDAY DIARIES will feature some personal holiday stories, as well as my hopes and dreams for this and any future Christmases.

The day known as TGIF is going to look at some holiday themed television specials that you may have watched in your youth. Some you may remember, and some you may not, but I hope you'll have a good time reminiscing about them.

SATURDAY MORNINGS will be temporarily changing to SATURDAY HOLIDAY SPECIALS, and I hope that I will be featuring television specials that you love and remember.  The difference between this day and Friday is that the Saturday specials are going to be animated.

And the SUNDAY JUKEBOX this month will not only feature contemporary Christmas songs that hit the pop charts...but this year, all the songs will be performed by artists from the United Kingdom! It's a very British Christmas, guv'nor!

Okay, so let's start this advent calendar off in style. As I look at my calendar, it happens to be Saturday, which means that we're featuring a holiday special today. And the holiday special that I have chosen to spotlight this week is one that features a little dog with a lot of heart, determination, and desire to save Christmas...despite the efforts of a cold-hearted postal worker who has a grudge to settle.

And to my surprise, this television special was inspired by a book written by Vivian Walsh and illustrated by J. Otto Seibold, and in 1999, Simpsons creator Matt Groening, along with help from writer Steve Young and director Oscar Moore, brought the characters in the book to life.

And the end result became the television special “Olive, the Other Reindeer”.

Guess what! I've even included a link to the full length television special, which first aired on December 17, 1999. You can watch it HERE.

TRIVIA: Olive, the Other Reindeer premiered exactly ten years after another Christmas special that Matt Groening had a hand in creating...the very first episode of the Simpsons debut season (“Simpsons Roasting on an Open Fire” originally aired December 17, 1989).

Olive, the Other Reindeer was one of two non-Simpsons projects that Matt Groening debuted in 1999 (the other one being the television series “Futurama” which has aired on and off since 1999), and it was quite unlike any Christmas special that had aired before it. The animation style was done by using paperlike character art in three-dimensional backgrounds, giving it the appearance of a Christmas card...or an episode of South Park. Whichever you prefer, I suppose.

And talk about an all-star voice cast! The star of the show was Drew Barrymore, who voiced the title character of Olive, but the rest of the cast was rounded out by Dan Castellaneta, Billy West (both of whom had roles in The Simpsons and Futurama respectively), Jay Mohr, Peter MacNicol, Joe Pantoliano, Ed Asner, Tress MacNeille, Tim Meadows, and R.E.M lead singer Michael Stipe!

Yes...THAT Michael Stipe.

The end result though was a cartoon special that was filled with a lot of heart and soul. Of course, like any other creation by Matt Groening, there are also a lot of sight gags and plays on words. (There is a character named Round John Virgin, for example.)

Now, because I've posted a link to the Christmas special within this blog, I don't think that I want to spoil the ending of the show, as I really want you all to watch it yourselves. But here's the gist of the show. Olive (Barrymore) is actually not a reindeer, but a dog. And Christmas happens to be her all-time favourite holiday (although in song, she also loves Valentine's Day, the 4th of July, Halloween, and Thanksgiving). She loves getting in the Christmas spirit, and she displays that spirit all year long. But there's trouble afoot when she returns home to her master, Tim (Mohr). She is shocked to see Tim putting away the decorations ahead of schedule, sadly telling Olive that there won't be a Christmas this year. At first, Olive doesn't know what Tim is talking about, but soon after, she hears a radio bulletin which confirms her worst fears. Apparently, Blitzen injured himself and is unable to take part in taking Santa Claus around the world to deliver presents to all of the good boys and girls. The radio broadcast stated that Santa hoped to be able to continue the journey with “all of the other reindeer”, which Olive seems to misunderstand as Santa needing her help.

Get it? All of the other reindeer = Olive, the Other Reindeer. Cute, huh?

Anyway, with Olive determined to help Santa save Christmas by becoming a reindeer (even though she happens to be a dog that can't fly), she makes getting to the North Pole a top priority. With assistance from a con-artist penguin named Martini (Pantoliano), whom Olive helped save from getting arrested when he was selling counterfeit watches, Olive ends up on a bus to the North Pole.

But there's one person who doesn't want to see her succeed...the evil, duplicitous mailman (Castellaneta), who has a score to settle with Santa ever since he was placed on his permanent “Naughty” list. His main goal is to try and get Christmas canceled for good at all costs...and the minute he hears Olive talking about her plan to become Santa's reindeer, he follows along and tries to stop her every step of the way.

But it isn't like Olive doesn't have allies along the way. In addition to Martini, she ends up getting support from a bus driver named Richard Stans (Meadows), a pair of Eskimo travelers, Round John Virgin and Blitzen's flightless cousin, Schnitzel (Stipe). At some point, all of these people end up helping Olive get to the North Pole to achieve her goal of saving Christmas, and getting an audience with Santa Claus (Asner) himself.

So, does Olive, the Other Reindeer save Christmas? Does Martini find a way to move past his con artist ways? Does the postman end up getting signed, sealed, and delivered far away from Olive? Does Santa manage to make his journey? Does Round John Virgin get the cordless drill that he wanted for Christmas?

I know, that last one sounds kind of random, but if you watch the show, it makes a lot of sense.

All in all, I highly recommend Olive, the Other Reindeer as part of your holiday viewing this Christmas, and I think it's a great way to kick off the Pop Culture Addict's Advent Calendar.

Coming up on DAY #2: A Christmas song by a British rock band that never caught on here in North America, but topped the charts on several different occasions in the U.K. Here's a clue.

So here it is, merry Christmas, everybody's having fun,
Look to the future now, it's only just begun...”

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