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The Christmas Tree (1991)
Before I even start, yes, the Nostalgia Critic brought me here. But don't worry, I'll do my best not to retread his steps or repeat any of his jokes. So with everything that everybody has said about this animated special, is this really the Anti-Christ of Christmas specials? Duh! So anyway, how does this charming little tale begin? At an orphanage run by a cold, calculating she-demon called Mrs. Mavilda, who treated the children badly. She overworks them, starves them, and even pilfers money from the mayor, who donates cash in actual money bags with its intent to take care of the children. She pulls a few fast ones and keeps the money for herself to gamble with. One fine day, a couple with two children of their own venture into town, seeking a new life... boy, did you make a wrong turn. The mayor gives the father, Ray, a job at the mill, though it would require him to be away from his family for some time, and he arranges for the mother, Judy, and her two kids to stay at the orphanage, because... this town has no hotels, I guess. She can be Mrs. Mavilda's new slave... I mean, assistant. Mavilda runs a tight ship and lists off her extremely strict rules... I would say I hate this character, but she's not a character. She's an over-the-top stereotype who can't possibly be taken seriously. Still a bitch though. So, after Judy slaves away at her new job, the children introduce her to Mrs. Hopewell: a pine-tree that sat behind the orphanage. It was named Hopewell because it somehow gave the children hope, and faith. With Judy's help, they build a makeshift playground around the tree. With her around, the children felt happy and it looked as though things were starting to change for the better.
One fateful day, the mayor delivers two money bags to Mrs. Mavilda, which were intended to buy the children new clothes and Christmas presents. Bet you know where this is going. So while Judy tells the kids all about Christmas and Santa Claus and what-have-you, greedy Mavilda gambles the money away with her crooked friends. In the final game, it was all or nothing, and guess what? She lost. Yep, Mavilda done goofed. How will she explain this? Oh, she won't. She just orders Judy to keep her mouth shut about what really happened and tell the kids they won't be getting new clothes. So while she delivers the heartbreaking news, the overly-paranoid Mavilda tries to think of a way to get rid of Judy without arousing suspicion, as she so blatantly exposits to us. So she calls one of her lowlife friends and arranges for Judy to be framed for theft. Oh, and she also plans to cut down Mrs. Hopewell. Um... there's petty, and then there's... this woman. Excuse me while I imagine myself breaking a few of Mavilda's bones and slamming her head through a wall. Well, a little girl overhears Mavilda's plan, but doesn't get to warn Judy. She tells the others, and they hatch a plan to save Mrs. Hopewell...and Judy too. They send Pappy and Lilly, Judy's kids, to tell the mayor about what's been going on, but alas, they decide it's late and the mayor's gone home, so they decide to seek out Santa Claus to save their beloved tree. The kids set out to the North Pole on a makeshift dog sled pulled by their dog Liccorice. Suddenly, they're chased by Baloo the bear and lose control of the sled. Liccorice fights off the bear, while Pappy tries to help up his sister, who was slipping down the edge of a cliff. Unfortunately, poor Lilly slid off and became lost. Well, I guess Mrs. Mavilda's plan of framing Judy for robbery didn't work, so she just outright fires her and plans Operation: Chop Down Hopewell. So after I imagine myself cracking a few more of Mavilda's ribs, Judy stands with the children in defense of Mrs. Hopewell. I certainly hope they're chainsaw proof. Thank God the mayor arrives just in time to stop the madness. Pappy and Liccorice show up, and report that Lilly has gone missing. Determined not to let some children and a tree outdo her, Mrs. Mavilda revs the chainsaw to finish the job herself, when all of a sudden, lightning strikes her. Then, Santa Claus himself rides by on his sleigh and makes Mrs. Hopewell shine bright. He'd even found Lilly, who was reunited with her family. So, the mayor declares Mrs. Hopewell city property and makes Judy head of the orphanage. She and Ray adopt all the children there, and as for Mrs. Mavilda... she becomes Judy's assistant apparently, and she turns good, because you always win when you are good. Um, no!
Okay, so... bad animation and bad acting aside, this thing is an atrocity. There is ZERO character development, everybody is flat and boring, the story is ridiculous, and everything is just plain wrong. I don't need to stress what a horrible bitch Mrs. Mavilda was, just your typical abusive orphanage manager. Nothing like a little child abuse to brighten the holidays, eh? At least the children don't look abused. They're overworked and underfed, sure, but at least they look as though they were still able to eat and keep themselves clean. I hope so anyway. Not much else I can say. This was garbage. If you're curious about this special, watch the Nostalgia Critic's review or any YouTube Poops you can find. Don't torture yourself and sit through all 42 minutes of it like I did. It sucks the big one in all respects. Just...avoid it. It will anger you, annoy you, bore you and depress you.
Cricket on the Hearth (1967)
Love Conquers All, With a Little Luck.
Remember the timeless Charles Dickens' Christmas tale called The Cricket on the Hearth? Well, most people don't either, and there hasn't been a film adaptation of it since 1967, produced by Rankin/Bass, those then-up-and-coming animated holiday special masters. They tell the story, or rather Cricket Crocket himself tells the story...or rather Danny Thomas tells the story, or, you know what? They ALL the tell the story of how a prim and proper cricket changed the lives of a poor toymaker and his daughter...for better and for worse. It all began in spring when C.C. was hopping around, minding his own business, when he came across a toy shop owned by kindly old Caleb Plummer. When Caleb meets Crocket, he immediately invites him to come and stay with he and his daughter, Bertha, who was at present having to say farewell to her fiancée, Edward, who was being called away to serve on the royal navy for two years. For Bertha, it sounded like an eternity, but she promised to wait for him. So as the months passed, Caleb, Bertha, as well as Crocket worked on making toys, for Christmas was coming fast. One fateful night, a ghoulish-looking messenger stops by to inform the Plummers that Edward was lost at sea, and presumed dead. The shock of this news gave Bertha instantaneous hysterical blindness. As a result, Caleb stopped working and spent every waking moment tending to his daughter, bringing in doctors who could not fix her, and borrowing more and more money from creepy moneylenders. Eventually, Caleb was so deep in debt and couldn't pay his rent, and thus the three were thrown out into the street. With no work available anywhere, Caleb considered going to the poor house, but that's when Crocket spotted a toy factory. Maybe they could use an extra hand. Turns out, they could, as they had no hands at all. So, how were they in business if nobody was making toys? Anyway, the factory's owner, a miser named Tackleton, hired on Caleb and he'd be paid in food and shelter.
That night, as Crocket complains about the new hearth he has to rest upon, he gets accosted by Tackleton's pet raven. Fortunately, the miser reclaims his pet before Crocket becomes a midnight snack. In the morning, Tackleton chastised Caleb for using too much paint, because it costs money... something I doubt he has much of since he didn't have a working factory or toys to sell before this. However, Crocket and Caleb make proper adjustments when the old miser wasn't around. And then, a few days before Christmas, Caleb bumps into an old man on the street, who looks mighty familiar, and invites him to stay at his place, like he's prone to do with every strange person or creature he runs into. Christmas Eve finds Tackleton in a very generous mood, as he gives Caleb a bonus of 4 shillings and 1 shilling for Bertha...shortly before suggesting he wanted to marry her. Sheesh, when they handed out class, this guy was in the john. Bertha was flattered at the proposal... as I'm sure any shallow, poorly-written female character would be. The old man on the street who, if you haven't figured it out yet, is Edward in cognito, attempts to break his silence, but when Bertha informs him of her engagement to Tackleton, he chickens out. I guess promises mean nothing. Crocket, on the other hand, attempts to sabotage Tackleton's wooing efforts, and in response, he orders the cricket's elimination. So Uriah the crow ventures to a seedy animal dive and enlists the help of two shady fellows who kidnap Crocket and bring him to a sea captain willing to pay good money for captured crickets. Instead, he pays them in bullets. No joke. He actually shoots them. You know, for kids! However, through a series of improbable and downright lucky occurrences, Crocket manages to get back to Tackleton's, where the toys come to life and tell him Edward's sad story: he'd been marooned on a deserted island for 2 years, and when he was finally rescued, he discovered Bertha's blindness and his guilt prevented him from coming clean. Crocket convinces him to stop holding his tongue and go claim the love of his life. Overjoyed, she marries him almost immediately. When Tackleton found out, he was genuinely heartbroken. For you see, beneath his greedy exterior, he was a lonely man who felt unloved. But some kind compliments from Bertha instantly perk up his spirits. For the first time in Mr. Tackleton's life, he felt special. So it all worked out and having a cricket on the hearth is lucky after all.
Well, what can I say about Rankin/Bass' Charles Dickens' Cricket on the Hearth? Beautiful songs, beautiful music, decent animation for 1967, good camera-work, and of course, excellent voice acting from Danny and Marlo Thomas, Ed Ames, Hans Conried, Roddy McDowall as good ol' C.C., and of course, the legendary Paul Frees. But as far as story and plot, many things happen that don't make much sense and some things are never resolved. Did Bertha ever get her sight back? Did Tackleton grow a heart and start paying Caleb? So this Christmas, why not give Cricket on the Hearth a look? I decided to watch it after seeing a review by an internet comedian called Phelous. I recommend his review too, it's pretty funny. While Cricket isn't as good as Rudolph, Frosty, Santa Claus is Comin' to Town, Little Drummer Boy or Year Without a Santa Claus, it's still pretty good. It has some sad moments, and some that are downright dark. I mean, really? Senseless, off-screen murder? Regardless, I still recommend it.
The Honey Bunch (1992)
Spring is coming early this year...figuratively speaking. It all began one snowy morning in February, when Rusty woke Buttons out of a sound hibernation to go visit Jonesy. They go via their new escape route: down a hill and across an icy pond. Unfortunately, Buttons was too busy showing off to look where he was going and thusly fell through a patch of thin ice. Thankfully he didn't freeze to death, for along came someone that really made him feel warm: a female bear cub. Buttons was instantly smitten. Her name was Bearbette, and her family just moved to Chucklewood Park from Crystal Bayou. Fearing his friend may be sick by the way he was making googly-eyes at Bearbette, Rusty rushed Buttons to Jonesy, who diagnoses him with Spring Fever. Despite initially scaring Rusty by making it sound sinister, Jonesy explains that's simply the time that marks the beginning of spring and love is in the air, and such an occasion is celebrated as Valentine's Day. A day when you give a special token to that special someone. So, Rusty and Buttons leave, the latter wondering what he would give Bearbette, when suddenly they meet up with her again. She happens to mention the sweet honey from Crystal Bayou, and how much she misses it. So Buttons decides they should go there and get some. But how? Why fix up the Adventure Machine of course. But how would they find the place? They ask their pal Turner the turtle for assistance, but both he and Rusty are reluctant to carry out this plan. But Buttons is persistent, because even though they only met twice, albeit briefly each time, and because she's a female bear cub, she HAS to be the one.
So, bear, fox and turtle take off in a flying soapbox car. Yes, I really just said that. They fly and they fly until they finally find Crystal Bayou. On a small patch of land in the middle of the swamp was a beehive, where the deliciously sweet honey was produced. But how do they get across the swamp? Why convert the Adventure Machine into a boat and have Turner pull it, of course. Unfortunately, half way across they run afoul of a hungry alligator named Lester Eli Gator, protector of the swamp. The car goes out of control and is damaged in the process. Rusty suggests they just cut their losses and go home, but Buttons insists on getting some honey for his honey. First he tried catapulting, that didn't work. Then he tries snorkeling under water, and that didn't work either. Even stilts and a bush couldn't fool Lester. But the notion of becoming gator chow didn't sway Buttons a bit, as he, Rusty and Turner construct a fake female alligator out of wood...just go with it, and have Turner wear it as a disguise to try and woo Lester...again, just go with it. He falls for it, because he's either an idiot, blind, or really lonely. So with the guardian distracted, Rusty and Buttons prepare to procure that honey. Naturally, Murphy's Law sets in motion as Lester sees through Turner's disguise, especially when the turtle freaked out over turtle snakes... ('the hell is a turtle snake?) and successfully foils Buttons' attempt to get that beehive. Y'know, Buttons, maybe this girl isn't really worth all this trouble. Are you willing to risk bee stings and becoming gator chow for her? And plus, you're a kid. Girls still have cooties. But anyway, Rusty and Buttons take off, abandoning poor Turner I guess, and aptly get stuck in quicksand. As they sink to their doom, Buttons laments he'll never see Bearbette again. By sheer coincidence, Lester just happened to be a friend of Bearbette's, and started guarding the honey when she left. So Les is a good guy now, as helps the cubs out of the quicksand, gives them a pot of honey and even fixes their Adventure Machine. So the three fly off for home and arrive just as Bearbette's family was visiting their own. Buttons gives his sweetheart the honey...and she doesn't believe him when he says he actually got it from Crystal Bayou! She appreciates the gesture anyway, and silly Buttons is flattered. Rusty leaves the cave with Turner, grumbling about their fruitless efforts and hopes he never gets Spring Fever... cue attractive, cute girl fox and Rusty is bitten by the love bug.
Well, what can I say about this one? Eh, not that great. Again, I'm disappointed by how much they dumbed down this series. It's written and directed by the same people and made by the same company as the '80s specials, so why were the '90s ones so lackluster? I mean, I like the concept of a girl coming between Buttons and Rusty, which would give their friendship some friction. But they didn't go that route. Even when sinking in the quicksand and all Buttons could think about was Bearbette, Rusty didn't try to snap him out of it. And this might sound weird, but until the introduction of that female fox, I had thought Rusty was a girl. I'm serious. I know both he and Buttons are voiced by women, but Rusty's voice is higher and he seemed to be the more feminine of the two. Glad to get confirmation. So anyway, The Honey Bunch is nothing special. I recommend sticking to the 4 '80s specials, and maybe School Daze as that one was kind of good. But The Adventure Machine sucked, What's Up Mom was weird, Twas the Day Before Christmas was decent, and this one... dull, and frustrating. Happy Love Day!
Celebrate Christmas the Critters Way.
Twas the day before Christmas, and all through Chucklewood, spirits were high and feelings are good. Now some of you readers may say, "hold on, you weird reviewer guy. This is a Christmas special, why review it in July?" I say this special can be enjoyed any time of year, and with just 5 months, Christmas is already near. Back to the story that is going to be told, let's see what fun adventures there are to behold. Buttons and Rusty, the lovable bear and fox, head outside via their toy box, and have fun sledding in the snow, only they crash into a big clump of it, wouldn't you know. Pushing the sled up hill to have another go, they see a reminder from at least 1 Christmas ago: the Christmas Tree Train, now that rings a bell. Another wonderful holiday special you should watch as well. The kids see mysterious foot prints in the snow. Who made those tracks, they wanted to know. But back to the snow, how to clear it away? Suddenly Buttons and Rusty see something that makes their day: a pedal- powered snow-plow, built by Abner. But when the kids try it out, they take off like an airliner. They crash it and smash it, what a wreck, running over a mysterious, over-dressed man. What the heck? They go to visit Ranger Jones, only to see, that he's gone home to visit his family. Rusty picks up a card that fell from the mail box, and the picture of Santa, tree and presents inspired the young fox. They should celebrate a traditional Christmas here in Chucklewood, they set off to make plans, fast as they could.
First, to find a tree, with their friends Skipper and Bluebell. Unfortunately, in the one they liked, a timid mouse did dwell. As they found another, wedged on a hill, they see a sight that gives them a chill. That strange, over-coated monster we saw from before, he gives away his identity through exposition, something I abhor. Show, don't tell. You're a cartoon, showing is what you do well. It's old Lester Gator, wandering in the snow, probably because he has nowhere else to go. But anyway, back to the Critters' Christmas celebration at hand, let's see what else Buttons and Rusty have planned. They still need that tree, which looks very nice. They get it uprooted, but it falls on the ice. Chasing it on their sled and using a rope Rusty lassos it like cattle, just as they come upon something to make their nerves rattle: a waterfall, and off it they go. More crashing, thrashing and flying through snow, the tree landed safely, wouldn't you know? Decorations were needed, all critters pitched in, making things the critters' way. All the while, Lester Gator keeps scaring critters half to death. He wonders why. Dude, it's not your breath. Take off that mask, you silly fool. Then you won't look like an Eskimo ghoul. But after yet another sled mishap, the mask comes off and the kids see a friendly old chap. Lester, who they met in The Honeybunch, came up to visit his friends, not have them for lunch. That night, the celebration commenced, it was a spectacular show, and some fireflies courtesy of Lester, made their tree glow. The gang was all here, to celebrate and spread lots of cheer. When suddenly, who comes wandering up do they see? Why it's their human pal Jonesy. He couldn't stay away. In Chucklewood Park is where he wanted to spend his Christmas Day. So everything worked out, all loose ends were tied. Merry Christmas to all, and to all a good night.
Rhyming aside, which was a challenge for this review, I have to say this special was...alright. The only problem is all of Buttons and Rusty's critter pals are not interesting, especially Skeeter that pessimistic mouse. And the revelation that the monster was a friend in disguise came too early. It should've waited until the end, and not been exposited so soon. Other than that, there isn't much plot, but kids will love it. Still not as good as the '80s specials, and as for Jonesy's cameo, I guess they couldn't do a Chucklewood special without him, but he could've just as well sat this one out. So anyway, if you like Buttons and Rusty and want to see all their adventures, you might as well add this one to your list.
What's Up Mom? (1992)
It's Not Nice to Fool Mother Nature.
Buttons, Rusty and their turtle pal Turner were having fun playing in the stream, when suddenly it began to rain...for five seconds. Ha. I didn't realize until now that Chucklewood Park is located in Southern California. So the kids return to the cave, tracking water all over the place, and they can't help but notice Bridgette and Rosie aren't their usual, cheerful selves. While that was going on, George and Abner were in a pickle of their own, as they had just remembered they had meant to do something special for their wives. They jump right to it, while Buttons and Rusty go consult Jonesy about why their mothers are down in the dumps, and he tells them all about the holiday of Mother's Day. So they head back to the cave, wondering what special thing they could do for their moms. Since they were always told to clean up, they decide to do that. Sweeping dirt under the rugs, getting water everywhere...well, at least their hearts are in the right place. As they "clean", they come across a weird series of pipes and hoses going along the ceiling. Unbeknownst to them, this was a shower bath system Abner had rigged up for Bridgette, and had gone out to hook it up to the logger chute. They play on it like a jungle gym, and the whole thing predictably falls apart. They manage to put it back together, and, well, one thing leads to another and when Bridgette tries out her new shower bath, the whole cave floods and she goes sailing out with the tide. After being carried down stream a few miles, Bridgette finally makes it to shore, but has no idea where she is. When George and Abner return to the cave, they set out to find the wayward Mrs. Bear, and all the while Rusty and Buttons talk about having seen a mysterious woman in the woods who could make lightning. The fathers shrug it off as they have more pressing matters to attend to at the moment.
A big rain storm begins while George and Abner try to fix the irrigation system to stop the flood, and Buttons and Rusty go tell Jonesy about the situation. He mentions Mother Nature to them and says she has a mood that can literally affect the weather. So, seeing as how it's raining and all, she must be pretty miserable. He goes on to say that Mother Nature is only a fairy tale... shows what he knows. So the kids run off to prepare the headdress Jonesy described her as wearing. After finding the necessary pieces, such as a feather, flowers and pearls, they meet up with that kooky old woman again who assumes they want something from her and thus shows off her wide range of powers, from changing the weather, to changing Buttons and Rusty's appearances. They manage to talk her down when they give her the gifts. And so the sun literally came shining through, and a triple rainbow appeared over the forest. No joke. So in the end, it all worked out. Bridgette was rescued by George and Abner, and when Buttons and Rusty tried to introduce Jonesy to Mother Nature, she was nowhere to be found. And so, the bear and fox families have a feast at Jonesy's cabin to celebrate Mother's Day. Well, I'm sure Bridgette appreciated the effort Abner went to in order to install the shower bath, but I'm guessing she'll have to continue bathing in the creek.
This one was... weird, to say the least. It bothers me that this series has been dumbed down to use a clumsy expression, but they've really taken a step down in quality from the '80s specials. The animation looks nice, sure, but the stories are not engaging, things happen that make no sense...I mean, if you want something that will entertain your kids for 30 minutes, this will definitely do the trick. But these Chucklewood specials have really lost their charm since the old days. The one before this, The Adventure Machine, was all kinds of bad. And now, What's Up Mom, while it was nice that they made a Mother's Day special, the inclusion of Mother Nature herself seemed like a stretch. She just came out of nowhere. They tried to recapture what the previous specials had, but failed. It's okay for what it is, I guess, but if you like Buttons and Rusty, I'd recommend sticking to The Christmas Tree Train, Which Witch is Which, The Turkey Caper and a Chucklewood Easter. They were better made and more entertaining.
School Daze (1994)
Chucklewood School of Hard Knocks.
The young critters of Chucklewood Forest go to school, just like human children. But there are times when they want to play hooky, and Professor Franklin Owl has to go round up his students on his own. Besides adorable Buttons and Rusty, his students consist of Freddy, a cocky raccoon, some nutty squirrels, and bunnies Skipper and Bluebell. Franklin comes to the realization that school just doesn't interest them, and so Ranger Jones advises him to step up his approach and get with the times. So, he decides to make himself look...cool. Make school cool, that's his new motto. He gives his students a lecture on forest survival...in rap. Unfortunately, Franklin could only keep up this cool facade for so long before reverting back into dull teacher mode, as he bored his students to death with a lecture on the history of Chucklewood Forest. Seems there had been a gold hunt in the underground caves a hundred years ago. Not wanting to listen to this boring story, Freddy decides to go exploring and entices Buttons and Rusty to go with him. They sneak off just as Franklin gets to talking about ghost coyotes. The kids don't get far in the dark cave, as they fall down a hole, land in a mine cart, ride it like a roller coaster through the miles and finally flying off the tracks and into an underground river. They abandon ship before the cart gets sucked into a whirlpool. They continue to wander the cave, and right when they stop to rest by a mysterious campfire, Buttons, Rusty and Freddy are cornered by a coyote tribe. Freddy managed to flee, leaving his friends at the mercy of the feral coyotes.
Meanwhile, Franklin reports to George and Abner that their children have gone missing, but the fathers aren't too concerned. They probably just ran off to play hide and seek. Maybe they went fishing. Maybe they got captured by a primitive coyote tribe who will eat'em for supper. Just keep fixing that stove, guys, don't worry about your kids. No big deal. Back underground, the children are taken to the tribe's village and locked in a cage...and what I love about cages in cartoons is that the bars are always big enough to where the characters could squeeze out, yet they still feel trapped. Buttons and Rusty could easily squeeze through those bars. Anyway, in trying to think of a way out, Freddy suddenly appears! Hooray! Unfortunately, when trying to dig his pals out of the cage, he gets spotted by the tribe, so now he gets to join them. Great plan, Freddy. Who can help the kids now? Well, thankfully, Franklin's persistence got George and Abner to come investigate the cave for the wayward cubs. He suggests making a map as they go along, but they laugh it off, saying they have a natural sense of direction. Ha ha, those two. Back at the coyote tribe, the kids have a tiny bit of luck trying to communicate with the coyotes, and realize fire may be the key. So Freddy starts a fire, allowing he, Rusty and Buttons to escape the cage, but they don't get far. I'm starting to think Freddy is bad luck to be around. Back on the surface, Franklin informs Bridgette and Rosie that their cubs AND their husbands are lost in the cave, and gets Jonesy to print out a map of the underground caves... why didn't he do that before Abner and George went down...? Never mind. Well, despite the run of luck they've had up until now, Rusty and Buttons seem to make some sort of connection with the tribe. They helped them make fire, which seemed to be a difficulty for them, and in exchange, they seem to make peace and the coyotes show the cubs the way out. They follow the mine tracks until they greet a familiar face: Jonesy! He'd come down to look for them, so now the kids were safe. But as for their fathers, well, history repeats itself when George and Abner wind up getting captured by the tribe. But it isn't long before Jonesy and the kids rescue them. Now that that's over with, Franklin can resume his class...with Abner and George as students, because... I guess they flunked his class when they were kids? So if anything, we learned not to exploring parts unknown, especially if the blind are leading the blind.
Very interesting little outing in the Chucklewood series. The new voices are distracting. I miss hearing Bill Boyett as Jonesy, Alvy Moore as Abner, Barbara Goodson as Buttons, Kathy Ritter as Rusty, and so on. And the version of this cartoon I saw had no music. Oh well, I guess that made it more atmospheric. That Franklin was hilarious, and of course, George and Abner are a riot. Love it when those lovable buffoons get into trouble. And that Freddy was a bad egg, well intentioned or not. So, heck, if you like Buttons and Rusty, and come on, we all do, check out School Daze, and get schooled on how they do things down in Chucklewood.
The Adventure Machine (1990)
I Have the Feeling We're Not in Chucklewood Anymore.
So, what are those adorable cubs Buttons and Rusty up to this time? If you're like me, you'll find them irresistible, and if you've followed them through their holiday specials in the '80s, you can't wait to see what they're going to do next. Well, this one starts off in the spring, and the kids amuse themselves by going down a logging chute, which to them was like a water slide. Meanwhile, Ranger Jones was having a problem keeping those pesky crows out of his garden, so he installed a robotic scarecrow that vocally ordered them to shoo, but of course the birds ignored his goofy contraption and kept chomping away at his vegetables. So, Jonesy set it to 'freak out' mode which did little to help matters, because even though it did make the crows scatter, it chased a frightened Buttons and Rusty away, before jumping in the pond after them and shorting out. The crows found this very amusing. Hope Jonesy can get a refund. Nope, turns out he invented that automated scarecrow himself. As Rusty and Buttons watch him fix it, they discover a soapbox derby car in his garage. Fascinated, they ask if they can help him finish building it. He says okay, but to be careful with it. So naturally, he's never going to see it again. The kids push it to the top of a hill and take it for a "test drive", only to crash into the home of their bunny pals Skipper and Bluebell, demolishing the car. They all agree to work together to fix it, so Buttons and Rusty "borrow" Abner's tools and, together with Skipper and Bluebell, repair the racer good as new, and even add wings so they can fly.
To gain enough speed to achieve flight, the four take their contraption to the top of Storm Mountain, Chucklewood's answer to Mt. Everest. Then the kids jump in and go zooming down the mountain, right onto the ski jump and sail through the air. It's at this point they find they can't stop... say, didn't the car have wings on it earlier? Where did they go? Anyway, they sail through a tornado, fly through a vortex, and wind up in a far off forest where they finally come to a stop, destroying a beaver dam in the process. Oh, when those beavers saw the dam damage, they turned a dark angry purple, because this incident instantaneously screwed up the beavers and the opossums' very way of life as they depended on that water. Wait a minute, a dam blocks water, doesn't it? So why would destroying a dam stop water from getting anywhere? This sure is one backwards-ass land Buttons and Rusty have landed in. So they're taken before the leader of "Enchanted Valley", Mr. Ricky, who demands they be thrown into the pit. However one of the beavers, who was earlier screaming and turning purple at the kids for what they did, now tries to stand up for them, as do the others for some reason. As a result, grumpy Ricky demands they rebuild the dam. How do you rebuild a dam? I dunno. Well, damn. So Buttons and Rusty gather as much wood as they can, but discover building a dam is hard work. So, ever the thinker, Rusty tries to think of a shortcut: they cut down a large tree, which causes a gigantic tidal wave. As a result, Ricky has the kids imprisoned in a cave, which turns out to be the home of some weird old guy named Barnabus who's been following the kids this whole time. He's an inventor and is willing to help Buttons and Rusty fix their flying machine. But they need a lot to help, so they appeal to Mr. Ricky and the beavers. They agree to help, only because it means getting that pesky bear and fox out of their fur. So they fix the flying machine, Buttons and Rusty become airborne as they're launched down a mountain, which conveniently causes a rock-slide that fixes the dam. They fly through the vortex and make it back to Chucklewood Forest. Despite being gone all day, Jonesy, Skipper and Bluebell inform them that they had only been gone a few minutes. Huh? Oh, that explains it. They were in the Twilight Zone. Rusty gets mad and turns purple, then everybody has a good laugh and the cubs head off to do...something else.
Um... what the hell did I just watch? Seriously, nothing about this cartoon made any sense. The Buttons and Rusty cartoons that came before this had a charm to them. This thing was all over the place! How did they get to Enchanted Valley? Was it like going to Oz? Maybe, but they didn't explain it. Why did destroying the dam cause the beavers such hardship? I can accept the beavers not staying mad at them, because they're Buttons and Rusty and they're so adorable in their naiveté, but everything else? No. What a letdown. The pacing was even faster than in Christmas Tree Train. The Adventure Machine never stops to catch its breath, it's just constant running and yelling. While CTT was charming and cute and entertaining, The Adventure Machine falls flat. If you saw the other cartoons, I recommend them, but not this. This was a mess. A complete and utter, nonsensical mess.
A Chucklewood Easter (1987)
All Your Eggs in One Basket.
Let's see how our friends in the Chucklewood Forest celebrate Easter. No doubt those cubs Buttons and Rusty will have some grand adventure. They got lost in the city on Christmas, they scared up some fun in the woods on Halloween, and tried to save a whole gaggle of turkeys at Thanksgiving. So I wonder what's in store for Easter? They gonna be accused of stealing Easter Eggs? Actually, I think they are. But anyway, the story opens as the bear family, Abner, Bridgette and Buttons, are about to wake up after a long hibernation. This must have been very tough for the fox family, George, Rosie and Rusty, having to spend 5 months being very quiet. When Rusty could no longer wait for his pal to wake up, he sped up the process, waking both he and Bridgette, but Abner still snoozed away. That bear could sleep through a hurricane. But thankfully, the aroma of Rosie's pies resurrected him. So the kids chomp down breakfast and head outside via their toy chest escape route and wind up in the meadow where they see two familiar faces: bunny rabbits Skipper and Bluebell, who were gathering flowers for some secret project. After they part ways, Rusty and Buttons meet up with Ranger Jones, who tells them about the upcoming Easter picnic. Naturally, they've never heard of this "Easter" business, and so the kindly ranger explains it to them: it's the time of year when a figure few have ever seen goes around the world and leaves presents for kids. Basically, it's like Christmas if Santa just left eggs. The part about decorating eggs sparks the kids' interest, and so they decide to go off and find some eggs to decorate. So, they resort to...egg-napping! That's right, Buttons and Rusty steal eggs from a turtle, a goose, an owl and a woodpecker. But, in their defense, they don't mean any harm. They'll just decorate the eggs and bring them back. I mean they're just kids. What could go wrong?
The thefts are quickly reported to Jonesy, and while he heads up the investigation, Buttons and Rusty paint the eggs all kinds of pretty colors, except for yellow, so they stash the eggs and head to the meadow to pick some buttercups when they run into Skipper and Bluebell again. They pretty much let it slip they know the Easter Bunny, but his whereabouts are exclusive to rabbits only. The cubs accept that and head home. That night, they see a whole herd of bunnies, Skipper and Bluebell among them, heading off to do...something. So naturally, Rusty and Buttons follow suit. They tail the bunny cult to a secluded location where they apparently hold their meeting, and since it's a bunnies-only club, Rusty and Buttons disguise themselves as bunnies and just hop right in. Turns out, it's an egg decorating factory, filled with rabbits who paint eggs and put them in baskets. The cubs fit right in, but as expected, it isn't long before their disguises disappear and once word spread that a bear and a fox infiltrated their establishment, the bunnies go hopping mad! As they try to flee, they run afoul of ol' E.B. himself! The Easter Bunny. Unfortunately, they don't make a good first impression when they accidentally turn him into a chocolate bunny. Meanwhile, the parents discovered the cubs' eggs and try to return them to their rightful owners, and while that wrong is being righted, Buttons and Rusty are put on trial by the bunnies for trespassing, impersonating rabbits without a license, and turning their illustrious leader into a chocolate confectionery. Skipper and Bluebell tried to vouch for their friends, but the rabbit foreman demanded justice. So they decide to banish Buttons and Rusty into the...wilderness! In a last-ditch effort to set things right, the kids try to run home and get their eggs, but thanks to a literal slip-up, the Easter Bunny is freed from his chocolate shell, and he has other plans for Buttons and Rusty: they were to undo the mess they made by swiping the eggs. You see, despite their best efforts, the parents ended up delivering the wrong eggs to the wrong nests, and so the goose has a baby turtle, the woodpecker has a baby owl, the turtle has a baby woodpecker, etc.,...talk about scrambled eggs. Sorry, couldn't resist. So, quick as a flash, the kids return the babies to their rightful parents, and join their families and Jonesy for their annual Easter picnic. Afterwards, when they return to the cave, Rusty and Buttons find a special surprise left for them by the very forgiving Easter Bunny.
I think Jonesy put it best when he said, "everyone deserves a Chucklewood kind of Easter." Only, probably with not so much egg- napping. Well, if you liked the three Buttons and Rusty cartoons that came before this one, you won't be disappointed. I liked the story, I liked the characters, I liked that whole "bunny cult" type thing, and seeing Rusty and Buttons pull their ears and scrunch their noses to look like bunnies was funny. If I have any favorite characters, which is hard to choose, then besides Buttons and Rusty and Jonesy, my favorite would also have to be Abner. That guy just cracks me up, he can't stay out of trouble. So, what more can I say? A Chucklewood Easter is a great Easter special. I believe it's the last of the Chucklewood holiday specials. I guess there were no other holidays they could've done. Maybe 4th of July, where Buttons and Rusty steal fireworks...no, that wouldn't work. Or St. Patrick's Day where they befriend a leprechaun? But anyway, Chucklewood is a great place to visit any time of the year. If you can find these specials, I definitely recommend them!
Which Witch Is Which (1984)
Who Are the Real Wild Animals?
I know, it's Thanksgiving time and I'm reviewing a Halloween special. What of it? It's the last day of October in the Chucklewood Forest (and everywhere else for that matter) and adorable cubs Buttons and Rusty sit in a tree and watch some children playing with their dog, when suddenly a mean old woman dressed as a witch yells at them to stop having fun. Well, the dog's Frisbee gets tossed right at Rusty, knocking him out of the tree, causing he and Buttons to run away. The witch, Mabel, phones Ranger Jones and reports wild animals on the attack, but Jonesy laughs it off. He knows the anthropomorphic animals in his forest are harmless. Soon enough, Rusty and Buttons make it to his cabin, and he tells them about the holiday of Halloween while preparing for the big party he was hosting that evening, and then sends the cubs on their way, because it's a humans-only party. Humans and wild animals don't mix...or so he says. Meanwhile at the cave, the worried parents find their cubs haven't come home yet, so Abner and George go out to look for them. At the trailer park, a Boris and Natasha-esq duo, Lenny and Lulu, are planning something nefarious for the evening while everybody is at the ranger's Halloween the party. What could it be? What else, robberies.
Lenny dresses as a bear, and as soon as Abner and George spot him, they assume he's Buttons and give chase. But when the little bear removes his head to reveal a person underneath, the flummoxed fathers head for the hills. Boy, will they be in dutch with Bridgette and Rosie when they get home. So as the ranger's party takes off, Lenny and Lulu loot Mabel's shop and attempt to steal a van. They're spotted by Buttons and Rusty, who assume they're a bear and a "fox with a funny hat." The robbers are chased away by the van's owner, Sam, and the cubs pick up the witch's hat and bear mask they dropped, deciding to do a little trick or treating of their own. So the two robbers attempt to flee in their RV, only it won't go, so they decide to steal another car. They snatch the van they tried taking before, not knowing Rusty and Buttons were hiding in the back. Sam called in to Ranger Jones to report the stolen van and that kids dressed as a bear and a fox were the perpetrators. We pause for a music break while the ranger heads out to sort this mess. I'm serious, we get an interlude of dancing pumpkins, ghosts and witches, and it's where the title of our special comes from. So Jonesy in his jeep, with stowaways George and Abner set out looking for the cubs, and quickly run into the stolen van. After a brief car chase, the van crashes and the crooks are apprehended. As for Rusty and Buttons, well, that fox just couldn't let well enough alone and attempted to trick-or-treat an old gopher... only to discover it was really a skunk. But it's once again George and Abner who get the worst of the situation.
While not as memorable or as good as The Christmas Tree Train, Which Witch is Which is definitely a good Halloween special. All the great characters are back, getting into all sorts of mischief. This time the kids' fathers get in on the action. George and Abner, those lovable buffoons. And this time, we get a couple of villains added to the story, but they're about as harmless as the animals. If you love Buttons and Rusty, and honestly, how can you not, then I definitely recommend WWIW. It's not as fast paced as Christmas Tree Train, so there's some room for character building, which I think is a nice touch. Though much like CTT, there's a lot of running around, but at least they stop and catch their breath now and then. I also like that Mabel Thorne character and how bi- polar she was. One minute a mean, no-nonsense, no-fun crone and then a thoughtful, kindly woman who was concerned about the children. As I said before, good character building. Check this one out around Halloween or whenever, you'll have a good time.
The Turkey Caper (1985)
Turkeys, Turkeys Everywhere!
As we prepare to give thanks on this blessed holiday, let's check in with our favorite little critters in the Chucklewood Forest. To prepare for the long winter, George and Abner are busy building storage cabinets to store food. Buttons and Rusty offer their help, but Abner assures them the men have it under control, but they end up hammering themselves instead of the wood, so the cubs slip out via their toy chest escape route and look for something to do. Rusty suggests checking out an old cabin which Buttons fears is haunted. Relax, kid, this is a Thanksgiving special, not Halloween. You'll be fine. Along the way, they run into two wild turkeys, Marty and Priscilla, who accompany the kids to the cabin. In it, they find a bunch of old junk, including a book about pilgrims. They decide Ranger Jones would know a thing or two about these people with funny hats, so they leave, Buttons and Rusty say goodbye to Marty and Priscilla who can't leave Wild Turkey Valley, and are nearly mowed down by a truck that almost caused Jonesy to have a car accident earlier. Eh, just some loggers making a supply run probably. So the cubs show Jonesy the book, which is about the very first Thanksgiving. As he reads it, the kids become so bored that they fall asleep and dream about themselves in the days of the pilgrims. When going out to pick turnips for supper, Pilgrim Buttons and Rusty meet a young Indian brave who at first they fear, but when they become lost in the woods in a blizzard, the boy brings them to his cave, and thus, when the cubs' folks find them, peace is made between the Indians and the pilgrims and they all have a big celebration. Yep, that's really how it happened.
Liking the idea of having a Thanksgiving celebration, Rusty and Buttons head off to invite Marty and Priscilla, but unfortunately...remember that truck? They weren't loggers, they were turkey trappers! Working quick, the kids manage to free their friends and the rest of the turkeys and hide them in the food storage crates in their cave. They're soon discovered by Abner who chases them all around the cave, and then out of it. Thankfully, they run into Buttons and Rusty, who bring them all back to the cave and explain the situation to their baffled parents, but uh oh. Here come those men in the truck. No, it's alright, it's only Jonesy...followed by those two men. It turns out, they're not turkey trappers after all, but they're from the Wildlife Preservation Society who had come to move the turkeys to a valley that had a more ample supply of food. So the turkeys willingly went with the men as Buttons and Rusty said farewell to Marty and Priscilla, and the next day, the whole gang gathered at Jonesy's to celebrate the day of thanks.
Well, I think Rangers Jones said it best when he said, "those cubs. You gotta love'em." Buttons and Rusty are adorable, and so are there little adventures. I grew up with The Christmas Tree Train, I saw Which Witch is Which once or twice, and this year, I discovered The Turkey Caper, though I still think the Christmas one is superior. As for the Turkey Caper, it keeps you guessing, and it isn't as fast paced as Christmas Tree Train, which I think is a plus. More character building time. I was disappointed in the revelation that the sinister looking hunters were actually good guys. I was thinking this was going to be another adventure story where Rusty and Buttons travel far away, and have to save the turkeys from a processing plant or something. But it works fine the way it is. Plenty of humorous moments, cute moments, this special is very entertaining. I recommend it. Not very many Thanksgiving specials, aside from Charlie Brown's. So if you love that little bear and fox then, again, I recommend checking out The Turkey Caper and have a happy Thanksgiving.