If there could be an exact opposite to the holiday animation of the Rankin-Bass team, this 1993 claymation short would be it. Based on a 1952 short story by William S. Burroughs (it’s also his craggy voice that narrates the film), The Junky’s Christmas tells the familiar yuletide tale of the fresh-out-of-lockup smack addict and his quest to score on Christmas Day. If you thought it was tough to buy last-minute stocking stuffers, the plight of junkie Danny’s frustrated quest will seem familiar … in a perverse way. The set pieces and black-and-white film stock do a fantastic job of establishing the 1950s-New York milieu in which Burroughs originally set the story, but the animation benefits greatly from the progress the form has made since the glory days of Burl Ives’ Santa Claus. The DVD inclusion of two short films, Ironbound and Traveling Light, have nothing in common except that Francis Ford Coppola produced all three; they’re merely here to fill up the DVD’s available space.
Disney’s Adventures of the Gummi Bears
When Disney decided to dip their toes into the Smurf-stirred pool of 1980s televised animation, they chose the unbelievably stupid premise of magical, candy-inspired bears who can jump really high when they drink, uh, gummiberry juice. While the mid-’80s were not the company’s most fertile or imaginative years, one marvels at how low the bar dropped for this once and future titan of children’s entertainment. It’s hard to believe that professionals greenlighted a series so transparently unoriginal. Yet, as even Walt would acknowledge, the cachet of his last name can float a lot of garbage, and these Adventures ran for six seasons between 1985 and 1991, producing a total of 95 episodes. At the time, these bears were the hypnotic of choice for more than a few current 20-somethings. Also, in a weird way, they were the beginning of Disney’s revitalization as a market-force steamroller. Looking back at this three-DVD collection of the first three seasons, though, the crass simplicity is astounding; the faux-medieval setting and the invisible-but-to-the-believers nature of the Bears is just way too Smurfy for its own good. With nearly four hours of material jammed onto each DVD, this set suffers from lots of pixilation effects and includes no extras; that probably gives a good clue as to how the current regime at Disney feels about this questionable era of content.