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Scrooge U : Part XL -- "Bah, Humduck ! " tries to toon up this classic holiday tale

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Scrooge U : Part XL -- "Bah, Humduck ! " tries to toon up this classic holiday tale

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I have to tell you that "Bah, Humduck ! A Looney Tunes Christmas" caused a considerable rift in the Hill household this holiday season.

Copyright 2006 Warner Home Entertainment

My daughter Alice just hated this Christmas special. After catching "Bah, Humduck !" after it originally aired on Cartoon Network back on December 1st, Alice said that the main problem with "A Looney Tunes Christmas" was that ...

" ... It had no heart. Plus the animators kept hitting Daffy Duck with stuff. Which wasn't really all that funny a gag the first time they did it. But by the 25th time they recycled that "Hit Daffy" joke, you just wanted to change the channel.

Where was the wit? I know that the Looney Tunes characters aren't all warm & fuzzy like the Disney characters. But shouldn't they at least be funny?"

Copyright 2006 Warner Home Entertainment

Me? I have to admit that I thought that it was kind of ballsy for the folks at Warner Home Entertainment to let this "Looney Tunes Christmas" DVD take such deliberate swipes at Wal-Mart. I mean, sure. The Big Box store that Daffy owns & operates is called "Lucky Duck." But check out that blue vest that Porky Pig is wearing as he hustles after his boss. Doesn't that look an awful lot like the vest that all Wal-Mart employees are forced to wear?

Anyway ... As is usually the case in all of this "Christmas Carol" adaptations, the Scrooge character is a slave driver who refuses to acknowledge the holiday. Which is why Daffy is ordering all of his employees (Who worked a full day on December 24th) to return to his store at 5 a.m. on December 25th. So that they can then begin prepping "Lucky Duck" for the after-Christmas sales.

Porky (who's the assistant manager of the store) tries to reason with the boss. He reminds Daffy that many of his employees have families that they haven't see in quite a while because of all the hours that they've been working at the store over the holiday season. Take -- for example -- Marvin Martian. Who hasn't been back to Mars in light-years.

Copyright 2006 Warner Home Entertainment

After listening to this heart-felt plea, Daffy immediately demotes Porky. Thereby making the pig the assistant-assistant manager. Bugs Bunny (Who's shopping in "Lucky Duck" as all of this is happening) then warns the Duck that it's not wise to treat people badly around Christmas. For there are spirits who are wandering about this time of year, eager to get the attention of those who won't celebrate the season.

Brushing off Bug's word of warning, Daffy retreats to his office. Only to encounter the ghost of Sylvester the Cat. Who -- just like the Duck is now -- was once the owner of a Big Box store. But Sylvester treated his employees so poorly that they eventually ran him over with a forklift nine times. Thereby consigning that greedy feline to Cat Heaven.

Copyright 2006 Warner Home Entertainment

Sylvester now warns Daffy that three ghosts will soon be arriving to teach him the true meaning of Christmas. The Duck then decides that the easiest way to dodge these holiday spirits is to hide in his in-store vault. (Which -- to be blunt -- looks an awful lot like some other duck's money bin).

Anywho ... Daffy has just settled in for the night when Bugs awakens him by saying that " ... There are two Ghosts of Christmas Past here to see you, Doc. Shall I show them in?"

Mind you, the Duck doesn't take this news lying down. He immediately leaps to his feet and begins battling these holiday spirits (Who have taken the form of Tweety Bird & Granny).

Copyright 2006 Warner Home Entertainment

But these Ghosts of Christmas Past soon overpower Daffy. These two then whisk the Duck back to the past, where this trio then observes Young Daffy alone & unloved at the "Lucky Duck" orphanage. Which is where (supposedly) the Duck learned to hate Christmas.

Copyright 2006 Warner Home Entertainment

After that interlude is over, Yosemite Sam steps in as the Ghost of Christmas Present. Sam then takes Daffy to Porky Pig's house. Where the Duck learns that -- because of the miserable low wages that he pays all of his employees -- Porky can't afford to purchase the one item that his daughter, Priscilla, really wanted for Xmas. Which was a Pretty Pudgy Princess Piggy doll.

Of course, what's really ironic about all this is that -- given how badly Daffy treated Porky -- the Pig is the one person to come visit the Duck's grave after he's dead. As Porky explains to Priscilla, he still feels sorry for his old boss. Given that Daffy never knew what it was like to have a family.

Copyright 2006 Warner Home Entertainment

From here ... We pretty much follow the established path for every adaptation of "A Christmas Carol." With the miser now reforming. In this case, Daffy demonstrates his newly generous spirit by first giving Priscilla her very own Pretty Pudgy Princess Piggy doll plus a boatload of Pretty Pudgy Princess Piggy accessories.

As for his loyal "Lucky Duck" employees ... Again the writers of this particular holiday special seem to be making some pretty pointed comments at Wal-Mart's expense. Given that -- as a belated holiday bonus -- Daffy promises to raise all of their salaries, provide health insurance, even give these poor slobs a week of paid vacation.

Copyright 2006 Warner Home Entertainment

So the making-fun-of-the-Big-Box-stores portion of this program, I liked. Likewise the smooth & skillful animation that's featured in this holiday special. Which does a pretty good job of recreating the classic look of all these Warner Brothers characters. And let's not forget about those cameos by obscure WB characters as Gossamer, Bertie & Hubie and Beaky Buzzard.

But -- in the end -- I have to admit that my daughter, Alice is right. The basic flaw with this holiday special is that "Bah, Humduck ! A Looney Tunes Christmas" isn't all that funny. Sure, there are a few jokes that actually land. Like when Daffy says that the only things that he truly fears are " ... missing quarterly earnings projections and personal intimacy."

But -- you know -- this historically seems to be a problem with the Warner Brothers characters. That they just aren't able to sustain a story that runs longer than 7 minutes. As long as Bugs, Daffy et al were confined to animated shorts, they were the tops in toons. But as soon as WB started moving these beloved cartoon characters into longer form productions (EX: "Space Jam," "Looney Tunes: Back in Action"), they lost a lot of their fizz & fun.

Which -- when you get right down to it -- is what "Bah, Humduck ! " is missing. Those great big belly laughs that made all of those classic Warner Brothers cartoon so much fun to watch. Again quoting from my daughter here:

"I never laughed out loud at this holiday special. I cracked a smile a couple of times. But most of the time, I found myself blankly staring at 'Bah, Humduck ! ' Wondering when it was finally going to be over."

So if you find yourself in need of some "Looney Tunes" -related laughs next holiday season, might I suggest that you take a pass on "Bah, Humduck !" and pick up the latest "Looney Tunes -- Golden Collection" instead? You're sure to find plenty of yucks in these 4-disc sets.

And speaking of things that are finally over ... Would you believe that this is the 40th & final (for this holiday season, anyway) installment of JHM's "Scrooge U" series? Th-th-th-that's all, folks !

Copyright 2006 Warner Home Entertainment

I will probably revive this series for the 2007 holiday season. Though in a much abbreviated form. Maybe post 12 more stories about other adaptations of "A Christmas Carol." You know, to both freshen up the "Scrooge U" archives as well as celebrate the 12 days of Christmas.

Anyway ... I hope you folks enjoyed this experiment in specialized holiday content on JHM. I know that a lot of you were just chomping at the bit for me to abandon the "Scrooge U" project & get back to writing full-time about the Walt Disney Company. But me? I thought that it was important that I first tackle a project of this size and then actually deliver on what I had promised. Completing all 40 installments by the date that I actually said that I'd wrap up this series on.

Here's hoping that this is the start of a new trend here at JHM ... Now -- if you'll excuse me -- I've got to get to work on tomorrow's "Toon Tuesday" column. Which has to deal with the Walt Disney Company's concerns about a certain CG film.

Your thoughts?

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  • First of all I want to thank you and everyone for airing this series. Its been a great treat over the holidays to read about a different version everyday.Im sure its been a lot of work but then I don't think anything on this scale has been attempted on the net before.It will  be great to run it again next year. New versions or old releases are appearing all the time - I've got two new DVD's this Christmas. One is a black stage version, the other a BFI release of four minutes of the earliest filmed version known to exist.The interest in this book has never been greater and this is shown by the number of comments on your pages from people who are obviously familiar with quite a few of the films you've covered.I might recommend (just from my own printed library) Fred Guida's excellent 'Christmas Carol and Its Adaptations' published by McFarland and Co. in 2000.There you'll find an entire book on the many different versions in various countries.If you're going to do it again next year, you may want to go through it !

  • Great series, Jim.  Well done.  Why not a series on all the Rankin-Bass Christmas specials next year?  

    You're right about the Looney Toons characters not being warm and fuzzy.  It's hard to care about them, since we're so used to their slap-stick.  

    Happy New Year!

  • Happy New Year Everyone!

  • January 1, 2007......a day that will live in infamy....... Jim Hill completes a series! Thanks Jim, and happy new year to everyone! May 2007 be the year of the completed series. :)

  • Congrats, Jim, on not only finishing this whole series, but on doing a great job at it. Happy New Year!

  • Awesooommeee! Going Great Jim. We're off to a good start. Now guys... Let's make this site's resolution... Tomorrow, we won't argue to the point of hurting each others feelings in the new toon column, oh who am i kidding... i'm putting my boxing gloves on

  • Congratulations on finishing, Jim!

    Now, if it wasn't for the fact I know better by now, I'd ask for a conclusion to the Muppet or Light Magic stories... ;)

  • This "Bah Humduck" thing only further illustrated the inability of new toon-writers to write for Looney Tunes characters. They just don't get the flavor of the series nor the characters' personalities. This Scrooge version seemed more a borrowing of Bill Murray's "Scrooged" rather than of the original Dickens tale. It was pretty bad.

  • I can't imagine it's any worse than Loonatics though. :P

  • Thanks for your series. My father has been collecting video and radio recordings of "A Christmas Carol" since VHS started - crazr, but everyone needs a hobby. It's interesting how this fairly simple story has remained so timely over 150 years.

  • Jim,

    I, too, was divided over this special when I watched it. Liked the animation but hated the script. Remember back in the days of "The Flintstones" when H-B hired real TV comedy writers to pen the scripts? Of course, given the current state of sitcoms, maybe I should just shut up.

    One thing I loved about "Bah Humduck," however, was the voice cast. Warner really packed this with some contemporary A-list journeymen & women -- Maurice LaMarche, Joe Alaskey, Jim Cummings, Bob Bergen. And for my money, it was worth sitting through this thing for the treat of hearing June Foray voice Granny again, even if it was only for just a few lines.

    A fine end to a fine series of articles that made the holidays sparkle. Thanks for all your hard work!

  • So now that it's all wrapped up, did you have a favorite?  And a least favorite?

  • Loved, loved, loved this series. Thank you SO much for your work on this!

  • Hudsucker

    "Remember back in the days of "The Flintstones" when H-B hired real TV comedy writers to pen the scripts?"

    Actually Hudsucker,"The Flintstones" and many other early H-B programs were written by Mike Maltese and Warren Foster, two acclaimed Looney Tunes writers.

    H and B went into severe quality decline when they started using sitcom writers for their scripts instead of experienced cartoon writers.

    As for Bah Humduck!,I couldn't watch more than ten minutes of it, but what I saw of it was so painfully unfunny I doubt it did anything to redeem itself later in the program.

    Is it really all that clever to make sport of all the problems that the public has with Walmart? Don't you find a little irony in a corporation like Time Warner kidding another huge company, a company notorious for producing all its goods by overseas sweatshops with a cartoon that was itself outsoursed to a foreign studio, instead of being animated by American animators?

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