About Christmas TV History

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 frightens him. 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 press.com

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

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