Thanksgiving may dominate in the areas of meals and football, but it lags woefully far behind Christmas and Halloween when it comes to animated specials. It’s not that there aren’t any Thanksgiving-themed cartoons, it’s that there aren’t any that won’t make you want to heave your pumpkin pie all over the TV screen. Dull stories of Pilgrims and Native Americans compete with ill-advised weird Turkey Day entries in such well known franchises as the Berenstain Bears and the Wizard of Oz. What follows is a list of such specials you should only put on if your goal is to clear out those lingering in-laws and friends who don’t know when it’s time to call it a night.
The most “name brand” of the Thanksgiving animated specials sees Charlie Brown letting Peppermint Patty treat him like garbage about the meal she invited herself to so much that he comes off as an unsympathetic blockhead. He never stands up for himself and its all resolved when his grandma bails him out by inviting his friends over for a second dinner. Bonus pain is inflicted by the addition of the The Mayflower Voyagers, a historical snoozefest featuring the Peanuts gang in the time of the Pilgrims.
This Hanna-Barbera special plays it safe and adheres to a formula and look familiar to kids who grew up watching Saturday Morning TV in the 1970s. Seemingly influenced by HB’s successful Scooby-Doo series (to the point of using some of the same music), it features kids getting lost in the woods, being menaced by a wolf and having to be rescued by a friendly squirrel. It’s all rather inoffensively boring.
Also boring, but more offensive, Christmas special specialist Rankin/Bass checks in with the double-sized sleeping pill detailing this tedious trials and tribulations of the Pilgrims as they make their voyage to the New World and then attempt to survive the winter before the first Thanksgiving. Featuring Native American characters drawn in such a manner that will make you cringe, there’s even a red mouse with a mohawk and wearing warpaint who speaks in stereotypical fashion. Also hideous for different reasons due to the Cinderella-inspired dream sequence of one of the Pilgrim women. No doubt more harsh to endure than that first winter.
Mama Bear uses some silly hocus pocus to read the future in the drippings of a honeycomb and comes to the conclusion that the evil monster Bigpaw is coming to unleash Armageddon on Bear Country because no is sharing with each other anymore. An angry mob is formed as the rumors spiral out of control and everyone is almost killed in a confrontation on a mountaintop before cooler heads prevail. It’s truly a terrible message that you should celebrate the ideals of Thanksgiving merely so that some boogeyman doesn’t appear and rend you limb for limb. Quite the uncomfortably embarrassing misfire for such a goody-goody series.
Who would have ever thought that the wimpy stuffed animals my sister loved over thirty years ago could get involved in such an action-packed, horror-tinged thriller? Sour Sam the Pieman is using his evil pies to make people hate everything and even turns almost all the Care Bears into sourpusses before Grams Bear arrives with her happy pies to fix things. Somehow this was the least punishing effort on the list!
The weirdest entry here, this version of Oz features a giant green turkey balloon that comes to life as well as a talking pie! Dorothy ends up in Oz again and matches wits with an evil toy maker who is intent on taking over Oz with a bunch of toys he’s going to bring to life. Backed up to no good effect by Jack Pumpkinhead, a robot, and a hungry tiger, Dorothy saves the day by simply talking the wizard out of his diabolical scheme. It all finishes on an odd note, when Dorothy’s aunt, uncle and house are transported to Oz in an effort to stay one step ahead of the bank they owe money on their house to.
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