Friday, November 16, 2018

Rugrats Christmas (1992)

Rugrats on Nickelodeon

Are you feeling nostalgic about 1990s Nickelodeon series, like I am? Although more than twenty five years old, I still enjoy watching Rugrats episodes. One of the outstanding things about the animated series Rugrats was that they created holiday stories to include many of the faiths and heritages of the baby friends. Of interest here, Rugrats made a Chanukah special, several Christmas installments, and even a Kwanzaa story. You can revisit what I wrote about the Kwanzaa episode HERE. I think my favorite Christmas story on Rugrats is 1992's "The Santa Experience." Let's look at it again.

Chuckie tries to convince Tommy that there is something sinister about Santa Claus.

The episode begins with the parents taking the babies to see Santa Claus at the mall. As they stand in line, Chuckie anxiously voices his deep concern about St. Nick--the man who can see you when you're sleeping and breaks into your house on Christmas Eve. Despite Tommy's reassurances, Chuckie can not be calmed.

Angelica has a long list of toys she demands from Santa Claus.
Angelica is a monster! Here, she asks Lil to sacrifice her coloring book to acquire a gift for her brother Phil. Angelica's side eye here reminds me of The Grinch!

Angelica is up to no good. Not only does she yank the beard off the mall Santa's face, but she sets in motion a horrible trick on twins Phil and Lil. Talking with Phil, Angelica urges him to give his sister Lil a box of crayons as a gift for Christmas. She agrees to trade him a box of her new and unwanted crayons for his much beloved Reptar doll. Then, Angelica approaches Lil and persuades her to give Phil a Reptar accessory (a Reptar space helmet) for Christmas--after trading Angelica her coloring book for it. Yes--Angelica has convinced the twins to give each other Christmas gifts that are useless to the other.

After the babies witness Angelica remove the beard from the fake Santa Claus at the mall, Grandpa Lou explains that Santa does indeed exist. Unfortunately, Chuckie's fears are reinforced.

Everyone sings Christmas carols traveling in the car to the cabin in the woods.

Meanwhile, the parents begin to worry about their young children experiencing a meaningful Christmas. Eventually they agree to enjoy an old-fashioned Christmas in a rented cabin in the woods! The families pack up and head to the cabin. After Grandpa Lou speaks to the babies about Santa Claus, Angelica begins to worry that her trick on Phil and Lil may result in her getting coal in her stocking and in her gifts under the tree on Christmas morning. Her conscience begins to weigh heavily on her.

Chuckie is still frightened by Santa Claus. Tommy wants to help.

Angelica's father Drew hires a professional Santa Claus to visit the cabin for the kids.

Angelica makes numerous attempts to speak with Phil and Lil about the dirty trick she played on them but she keeps getting interrupted. As Christmas Eve approaches, Chuckie is more suspicious and anxious about Santa's arrival. His good friend Tommy makes a suggestion: the babies can make a trap to catch Santa and then they can ask him if he's good or bad. Chuckie likes the idea so when everyone begins decorating the cabin for the holidays, Tommy & Chuckie use strings of popcorn to weave a net to capture St. Nick! Didi and Betty head outside into the woods with the other babies to chop down their own Christmas tree. After selecting the perfect specimen, the women decide it's too beautiful to cut, so they return to the cabin to decorate an artificial tree as usual.

The Santa trap captures Stu bringing in gifts!

Chuckie is relieved that his trap didn't catch a monster.

Late on Christmas Eve after the babies are in bed, Stu carries wrapped gifts into the cabin to place under the Christmas tree. He is caught by Tommy and Chuckie's trap and the babies awaken and rush toward the tree.  There they see that they have only caught Tommy's father.

Chuckie's father plays Santa Claus and climbs down the chimney.

Next, the babies see a dark figure emerge from the fireplace! It's Santa Claus covered in chimney soot caught behind the locked fire screen. The parents let the dirty St. Nick into the room but Chuckie is overwhelmed with fear. The orange-haired baby is only calmed after his father pulls off his beard and removes the hat to reveal his true identity. The tone in the room changes when there's a knock on the door and a pleasant, friendly Santa Claus enters with a bag filled with toys for each of the children.

Angelica is convinced she'll receive coal from Santa Claus.

Phil and Lil exchange their gifts with one another.

Chuckie and Tommy are happy with their toys from Santa too.

Angelica's gifts reveal the toys from her wish list and NOT the coal she feared she'd receive. When she asks Santa about it, he explains that her trying to be good (her efforts to communicate her trick to Phil and Lil) can be as important as being good. The twins exchange their gifts and immediately recognize that the other made a huge sacrifice in order to give. Much like the popular short story The Gift of the Magi by American author O.Henry, the gifts given from love end up more valuable to the twins than their practical purpose. This is a sweet ending to Angelica's prank. And, Chuckie and Tommy are happy to find out that Santa Claus is a pretty good guy.

Who was that Santa Claus?

After Santa leaves, Drew receives a phone call from the professional Santa Claus he hired. The actor explains that he needs to cancel the assignment--he won't be able to make it due to illness. This leaves Drew and Chas wondering who just came into their cabin bringing gifts for the whole family?

Tommy Pickles at Christmas.

This charming and funny episode takes advantage of several common Christmas plots. Children trapping Santa Claus in their homes has been done numerous times in various episodes, specials and movies, most memorably in Pax's 2002 TV movie The Santa Trap with actor Dick Van Patten playing Santa. Screen adaptations of O.Henry's The Gift of the Magi are also plentiful. A few years back, I wrote numerous summaries on some of my favorite examples--you can see a recap HERE. And, the plot point at the end with Drew and Chas left wondering if the real Santa Claus actually visited their cabin is a fairly common Christmas storyline, found again and again in TV sitcoms. However, in this animated children's episode, the well-worn story lines feel fresh and filled with life again when seen through the eyes of our favorite TV babies, the Rugrats.

Do you have a favorite holiday installment of the Rugrats? Please feel free to share it below.

Joanna Wilson is a TV researcher and book author specializing in Christmas entertainment. More about the TV programs mentioned on this website can be found in her book "Tis the Season TV: the Encyclopedia of Christmas-themed Episodes, Specials, and Made-for-TV Movies." Her latest book "Triple Dog Dare: Watching--& Surviving--the 24-Hour Marathon of A Christmas Story" was released in 2016. Her books can be found at the publisher's website: 1701

*Support this website and its research by purchasing the books at 1701

Wednesday, November 14, 2018

DVD Dress Reveal--Part 6

I'm so happy to finally reveal the photos of the dress! I want to thank Netflix and for supporting this project and I'd like to wish DVD Netflix a happy 20th anniversary!

Below are photos of the paper dress made from my collection of DVD envelopes I saved over the past thirteen years. More about the project HERE. Many thanks to my designer Alyssa Hertz too--I couldn't have done it without you :) And, thanks to Akron Makerspace for the help with design and tools for the accessories I made.

If you're looking to follow along with the photos, you can see them and the reactions here on Instagram, Twitter, and Facebook.

The debut of the photos came by way of Twitter on Nov. 12th from DVD Netflix.

On the staircase at the Rosemary Clooney House museum in Augusta, KY.

These photos were taken by Keisha Lenee Photography last month at The Rosemary Clooney House museum in Augusta, KY. Thanks Keisha for joining us on this adventure.

In front of the Clooney Museum

In the White Christmas room at the museum

with my designer Alyssa in front of the Ohio River, Augusta, KY

Thanks for following along on social media. This adventure has been such an exciting project. I hope you like the photos as much as I do.

We were fortunate to have the local TV news excited about our story and they shared it on a broadcast. Thanks to Amani Abraham and WKYC TV, the NBC affiliate in Cleveland, Ohio for covering the debut of the dress. Watch the video!

DVD Netflix included an interview with me and my designer on their website too. My favorite quote from the interview: "Getting the opportunity to wear a glamorous dress made from the packaging of my research materials seems like a beautiful tribute. This dress couldn't "fit" anyone but me." Read the full interview HERE.

Newspaper coverage too!

I was lucky to receive coverage about the dress from my hometown newspaper too. An interview and photos ran in the Akron Beacon Journal on Tuesday, Nov. 13th the day after the debut. You can read the online version HERE. What a crazy headline: "Author is Enveloped in Unique Gown." Yup. That's me!

And, it was surprising when the national website Boing Boing also picked up the story of the paper dress. Here's their article they wrote about it:

This project has been so much fun from start to finish :)

Joanna Wilson is a TV researcher and book author specializing in Christmas entertainment. More about the TV programs mentioned on this website can be found in her book "Tis the Season TV: the Encyclopedia of Christmas-themed Episodes, Specials, and Made-for-TV Movies." Her latest book "Triple Dog Dare: Watching--& Surviving--the 24-Hour Marathon of A Christmas Story" was released in 2016. Her books can be found at the publisher's website: 1701

*Support this website and its research by purchasing the books at 1701

Tuesday, November 6, 2018

DVD Dress Update--Part 5

Some of my DVD Netflix envelope fronts spread across the floor of an office space later filmed for local TV.

Thank you for following along with the progress of my paper dress project, celebrating the 20th anniversary of DVD Netflix. I've been a subscriber to the DVD service for the past 13 years and have saved EVERY single envelope front from all the Netflix DVDs I received in the mail. I always imagined making a paper dress with them and now DVD Netflix is sponsoring it! I'm having so much fun with this project. As a Christmas TV and film writer, I've relied on Netflix to do quite a bit of my research over the years. This project is a dream come true.

Hahahaha. I look so pensive! Let me tell ya, posing for photos isn't easy.

In Part 4, you saw my own crafty contribution to fashion project--I made some paper holly leaves from the DVD Netflix envelopes for a hair accessory, and a shiny hand made mini-DVD necklace. Thanks again to the assistance of Akron MakerSpace for the use of their laser cutter and Devin Wolfe's help in designing my accessories.

In this update, let me share my experiences getting the completed dress photographed. REMINDER: we debut the photos of the completed dress on Monday, Nov. 12th. This is my backstory about getting the photographs for our premiere next week.

I visited Rosemary Clooney House & museum in 2016. Read about that trip again HERE.

This past summer, I contacted the administrators of the Rosemary Clooney House museum in Augusta, KY to talk to them about the red dress in their collection. If you're a regular reader of my website, you may remember that I visited the museum back in 2016. Click HERE to see that post again. The museum houses the largest collection of White Christmas movie memorabilia in the world! I remember that the red dress in their collection is a recreation--they're still looking for the original gown Rosemary Clooney wore during the filming of the movie. When I spoke to the museum administrator about the red dress and our paper dress project, we were invited to Rosemary Clooney's former residence to take our photos for the debut! Uhm...YES, PLEASE!

From Akron, Ohio to Augusta, KY=200+ miles.

So a couple weeks ago, when the dress was complete, we made the journey down to Augusta, Kentucky. This became an adventure unto itself! There were five of us in the caravan, in three vehicles: Alyssa Hertz the dress' designer, her father David, our fashion photographer Keisha from Keisha Lenee Photography, myself, and my partner Dominic. The dress is so large that we couldn't all travel down together in one vehicle!? I can't wait for you to see it on Nov. 12th.

The museum is in a charming small town located right on the Ohio River. Can you can see the expanse of the river in the background?

When we arrived in Augusta, the appealing small town was in the middle of their Autumn Festival. The roads were crowded with street vendors, residents, and visitors. There was a wooden stage set up with local musicians playing all day too. We were excited to be at the museum but we were hoping to walk around and join the festival later in the day too.

The museum is Clooney's former residence and now houses the world's largest collection of White Christmas movie memorabilia.

After our photographer Keisha scouted out the museum and grounds, she decided we'd start taking photos inside the museum first, then move outside. Museum visitors that afternoon got an eyeful of our team of people taking photographs. We did our best to stay out of everyone's way but quite truthfully, people followed us where ever we went. Everyone was curious about the dress and our project! It was beneficial that we had five people in our party to help navigate from place to place, and get what we needed done. But I was more than happy to take multiple breaks from posing for photos to answer questions from the people that gathered around to watch. It was a constant reminder that a paper dress made from DVD Netflix envelopes is a rare sight!

A close-up, detail shot of the dress.

Wait until you see the whole dress!

Modeling the dress was a bit intimidating for me--I'm DECADES older than the average fashion model. I'm a researcher/writer, not someone who usually worries about what she looks like. But this is a unique project and I decided early on that I would embrace whatever challenges it brought. Yes, you can laugh--so am I--but it was HARD smiling all day. My face muscles hurt the next day. I want to reassure you that I've fully recovered! The paper dress has quite a bit of structure added to it underneath to maintain its shape so it is heavier than what I'm used to wearing. While we were taking photos, I had to frequently adjust my alignment and shoulders to hold the dress up. I'm not complaining--it's just a new experience for me to model a garment. I'm no Barbie doll but it was exciting to have people stopping to talk to me about the dress.

Look familiar? This sign hangs inside the museum's entrance to the rooms with the White Christmas movie memorabilia.

We took photos inside the museum and outside as well. When we were outside it was a little more pleasant because it was a cool, crisp day. It was nice to enjoy the fall weather. We could also hear the musicians on the stage a couple blocks behind the museum and it was energizing. I think my favorite memory was standing near the front iron gate and suddenly realizing a horse-drawn carriage was slowly passing! It was a breath-taking, unexpected fantasy moment, feeling the glamour of a classic Hollywood movie like White Christmas and then seeing a horse and carriage. I asked myself what new surprises will this day bring? The horse might have been just as surprised to see me as I was him! We all laughed about the moment later that evening over dinner.

Two murals in downtown Maysville, KY

Channeling my inner Rosemary Clooney.

I ran across this sign on the outskirts of Maysville. Heather French and her husband Dr. Stephen French run the non-profit org behind the Rosemary Clooney House.

When I visited Clooney's former residence back in 2016 I didn't have the time to make my way to the nearby town of Maysville where Rosemary grew up. So this time, I wanted to make the effort. I knew her hometown has two painted murals to honor their favorite singer/actress so that's where we headed. We eventually found them on a floodwall behind the town newspaper's buildings in Maysville. Digging around online looking for the location of the murals, I discovered ANOTHER Clooney mural in Cincinnati, Ohio, so we took a spontaneous side trip.

The color and movement in this several stories-high mural is amazing!

Hahahaha! Mural #selfie.

This gorgeous colorful mural was painted by Natalie Lanese. I was excited to see that it depicts Clooney in the song and dance number "Love, You Didn't Do Right By Me" from 1954's White Christmas. But it was sequestered behind a temporary six-foot construction fence. I still managed to get photos as best I could. I made a mental note to make an effort to go back to Cincinnati in a year or so to see it when the construction is complete.

I'll be sharing the photos of the completed paper dress taken at the Rosemary Clooney House on Monday, November 12th on social media and on this website. Please stop by to see them. I think you'll like them! If you need to catch up with the previous four installments about the DVD dress project, I have them linked here:

Joanna Wilson is a TV researcher and book author specializing in Christmas entertainment. More about the TV programs mentioned on this website can be found in her book "Tis the Season TV: the Encyclopedia of Christmas-themed Episodes, Specials, and Made-for-TV Movies." Her latest book "Triple Dog Dare: Watching--& Surviving--the 24-Hour Marathon of A Christmas Story" was released in 2016. Her books can be found at the publisher's website: 1701

*Support this website and its research by purchasing the books at 1701

Wednesday, October 31, 2018

New York City Christmas Pop Culture Destinations

In September, I spent a week in the archives at The Paley Center.

One month ago, I spent a week in New York City doing more research for the updated edition of the encyclopedia Tis the Season TV.  It's scheduled to be released in 2020. You know how I love to hunt down Christmas pop culture destinations when I travel--and this trip was no different. Now there are probably one million different places in NYC that I could have visited to experience a Christmas pop culture connection, but I only had time for a few. Where would you go in NYC to connect to a Christmas pop culture landmark?

My desktop in the Scholars Room at the Paley Center for Media.

Remember Lumiere in Disney's Beauty & the Beast: The Enchanted Christmas?

Everyday I was in the city, on my way to The Paley, I walked passed the intersection of 8th and 53rd where I saw a sign for Jerry Orbach Way, a segment of the street named in honor of the great NY actor. I'm a big fan--who isn't, right? He was a Broadway legend and played Det. Lenny Brisco on TV's Law & Order. Okay--there isn't a Christmas installment of Law & Order, but he was the original Chuck Baxter on Broadway in the musical Promises, Promises. Do you know this musical? It's the stage adaptation of the Billy Wilder movie The Apartment. (Orbach played the role Jack Lemmon played in the film). If you'll remember, The Apartment is set during the Christmas and New Year's holidays--and so is Promises, Promises, with the musical featuring a couple holiday songs. Yup. I have the original cast recording on vinyl. You can see the cover HERE. You should probably look for a copy for yourself too because the music and lyrics were written by Burt Bacharach and Hal David. Yeah, it's good stuff.

Orbach was also the voice of Lumiére (the candlestick) in Disney's 1997 short Beauty & the Beast: The Enchanted Christmas. If you haven't seen it, I recommend checking it out. The visual representations of music throughout the animated story are breathtaking. Much of the voice cast is carried over from the original 1991 Beauty & the Beast movie too so the quality remains high.

Turns out Orbach was interred at a cemetery close to where I was staying in the city. (I was staying in Hamilton Heights). So I made a quick visit to see the final resting place of Orbach. Before I went to New York City, a friend had told me that if I was looking for Christmas pop culture destinations, I had to visit Trinity Cemetery. I had every intention of going, however not until I was sitting on the bench in front of Jerry Orbach did I realize I was already in the exact cemetery my friend had recommended. It was just a short walk (not even 100 feet, if I remember correctly) to my next popular culture Christmas destination.

If you're a cemetery person, this is a gorgeous oasis in the middle of the city.

Clement C. Moore

This is the final resting place of Clement C. Moore, the author of the poem "A Visit from St. Nicholas," more commonly known as "Twas the Night Before Christmas." The poem has been adapted into numerous animated TV specials, and referenced in countless more. Most of us can probably recite it from memory, or at least parts of it with a few prompts! My friend told me that a nearby church still holds a candle vigil each year just before Christmas at the gravesite, the participants read the poem, and then they celebrate the life of the writer. Isn't that nice?

Moore's Christmas legacy continues into the 21st century.
Public transportation is the way to go in NYC.

If you're curious, I did bump into one celebrity while I was there. In the subway, I was waiting for an uptown train alongside actor Matthew Broderick. You may remember that he played the narrator in last year's TV musical A Christmas Story Live, but he'll always be Ferris Bueller to me!

My recording of Dylan Thomas reciting his poem "A Child's Christmas in Wales." Click HERE to see more about my record collection again.

On the corner of 11th and Hudson, I believe.

Near the end of my week, I had one more Christmas pop culture experience. At The Paley, I watched a very rare 1961 Christmas TV special of actor Richard Burton recalling his friend and fellow Welsh man Dylan Thomas. Burton shares the story of the first time they met, in a bar in New York City called the White Horse Tavern. The rest of the TV special is shot inside the White Horse Tavern with Burton reading Thomas' much-beloved holiday story and drinking a couple of beers. They don't make 'em like this anymore, do they? Anyway, this 1961 TV special was so extraordinary--sitting in the Paley, I googled the White Horse Tavern and was surprised to see it is still open and operating! So I literally packed my stuff up right then and went down there.

1987's A Child's Christmas in Wales starring Denholm Elliott.

Once inside I could see that it is indeed the same place, open since the 1880s, and they take their literary history seriously. There's even a huge mural-sized photograph of Dylan Thomas in a back room. I was in the right place! In the 1961 TV special, Richard Burton seats himself at the wooden bar in the center of the tavern. When I walked in, that's exactly where I took my seat as well. You probably remember that I'm a huge fan of the 1987 TV special A Child's Christmas in Wales. Read my discussion of it again HERE. If you follow me on Instagram, you may remember many of these photos from last month. Now you know what I was doing in New York City.

When in Rome....

In case you've missed one, here are more links to Christmas pop culture destinations I've written about:

Little House on the Prairie destinations, in Walnut Grove, MN and DeSmet, SD
Hamner House/The Waltons in Schuyler, VA
John Denver statue/Mork & Mindy House in Colorado
Perry Como's statue in Canonsburg, PA
Dean Martin's hometown of Steubenville, OH
Rosemary Clooney's home in Augusta, KY
The Jimmy Stewart Museum in Indiana, PA
It's a Wonderful Life Museum in Seneca Falls, NY
Lucille Ball's birthday celebration in Jamestown, NY
A Christmas Story House & Museum in Cleveland, OH
and the Mary Tyler Moore House and statue in Minneapolis, MN

And earlier this year, I recorded a podcast with travel writer Lisa Iannucci for her series Reel Travels. Listen again HERE.

Joanna Wilson is a TV researcher and book author specializing in Christmas entertainment. More about the TV programs mentioned on this website can be found in her book "Tis the Season TV: the Encyclopedia of Christmas-themed Episodes, Specials, and Made-for-TV Movies." Her latest book "Triple Dog Dare: Watching--& Surviving--the 24-Hour Marathon of A Christmas Story" was released in 2016. Her books can be found at the publisher's website: 1701

*Support this website and its research by purchasing the books at 1701