Without a doubt, one of my fondest childhood memories was watching this animated special every Christmastime. It wasn’t just an excited build-up to one of my favourite holidays. Will Vinton created something so incredibly unique that it gave me goose bumps even when I was all of five years old. It’s not a special that comes on anymore, which is a pity, considering how classic it is. However, I came across the entire special on YouTube, and everything was right again with the world.
I thought one of the best ways to spread some of that “Holiday Cheer” that everyone talks about (but has become more and more rare as time goes by) is to share some of my favourite moments from the special. There are so many vignettes to choose from, all of them special, having their own twist on classic Christmas tales, songs and even the Biblical inclinations of the story of Christmas itself.
Probably the most unique (read: ridiculous) aspect of the piece is its hosts. Two dinosaurs who are attempting to bring some joy and grandeur to the holiday. The hosts — Rex, the snobbish and self-proclaimed intellectual; and Herb, the somewhat slovenly yet incredibly lovable foodie — dissect the most classic Christmas carols, peeling back their meanings and histories and giving the audience more than just beautifully animated shorts, but also a surprisingly in-depth understanding of what each carol means and its origin.
What follows isn’t the entire special, rather it’s a look at my favourite segments and exactly what each did to my creative subconscious as a child.
Somebody had to do it. Somebody had to take the bullshit and excuses of an entire faction of humanity and make it shine bright. Aaron McGruder decided he was just the man for the job. With his racially relevant and socially unforgiving comic strip, The Boondocks, he started a conversation that just had to find itself on television sooner or later.
And with that, the entire world stood up and took notice. Not only was the show unapologetic, it was brutally raw, honest, and funny as hell. It’s a shame that so many people failed to see the show’s inherent brilliance. But then, of course, that’s why I’m here. I can’t pretend to know every single line of every single episode. What I do know is that the episodes that I saw were probably some of the most hilarious, most severe representations of the Black community that I’d ever come across.
When you think back over your childhood to choose the most defining moments, chances are they begin with something that you saw on telly. If you wanted something to take your mind off of the craziness in your household, if you wanted something to do when reading just wasn’t cutting it, or if you just wanted something to do while eating your peanut butter and jelly sandwich on the week-end, most likely your journey began and ended with the tube.
That being said, there was something especially significant about Nickelodeon. Starting from the late 80s to the late 90s, there was a period of absolute dominance that the channel had over daily programming for children. Nick stood out among its peers for being able to toe the line between precocious wit and thematic elements that we’d only truly appreciate after high school. But even with its revolutionary perspective on child programming, there were moments when the channel stagnated (only a little).
However, on 7 October 1996 (the day I turned 10), the channel had an epiphany, a true rebirth. It introduced the world to Hey Arnold. Almost instantly, the average American child was thrown headfirst into a world very singular in environment.
There were few shows before — and almost none since — that have taken a realistic approach to teaching children about the inner city. Adults had their New York Undercovers and their South Centrals to look forward to when kids were supposed to be in bed. And even then, those shows were delving into themes familiar to their audience. Though subliminal (mostly), Hey Arnold tackled issues that most kids wouldn’t even become privy to until they reached high school.