Tuesday, November 15, 2016

Very Merry Holiday Stories

I slept in today. It was rainy and gloomy early in the morning, but by the time I was up and about, the sun was coming out. I put on my first holiday special of the year as I ate and got organized. Very Merry Christmas Songs is the expanded DVD release of the Disney Sing Along video of the same name from the late 80's. It's holiday and winter sequences from Disney shorts and films up to the early 2000's set to music. Most of the songs are traditional carols, but there's also some pop numbers, including Gene Autry's version of "Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer" and two songs from Bing Crosby, "Let It Snow" and "White Christmas." My family traditionally watched this after the kids got home from school on the first day of holiday break in the late 80's and early 90's. This isn't the most necessary thing, but it makes great background music if you or your kids are big Disney fans.

Called Mrs. Stahl after breakfast to cancel my appointment. I barely had the money for the things I needed this week, much less counseling. I was hoping to see her again during my December vacation, but she's booked. We won't be getting together again until January 3rd.

Headed out around quarter after 12 to run errands. Started at the Oaklyn Library. For once, they were very busy, with plenty to do. I shelved a big pile of board books in the kids' area while the librarian and other volunteers prepared for their basket auction this week. Looked at the DVDs as well.

Strolled down to the Family Dollar next. It was a nice day for a walk. By 1 PM, it was sunny and warm, actually a bit too warm for the time of year. The neighborhood is looking so beautiful now, with the trees all gold and green and red. Most houses are festooned with pumpkins, scarecrows, and the remaining mums and roses, or just settle for fall banners waving in the breeze.

I really only needed pads. I was almost completely out. Family Dollar was very busy when I arrived, probably with people coming off their lunch breaks on the White Horse Pike. Thankfully, they'd just opened another line when I got up there.

When I got home, I ran another holiday special while eating soup for lunch. The Leprechauns' Christmas Gold is one of the strangest stop motion cartoons Rankin-Bass ever made. A young Irish sailor stops on a remote island to get a Christmas tree for his captain. When he cuts down the tree, he accidentally frees a banshee. She's needs a leprechaun's gold to survive, or she'll turn into tears on Christmas morning. Art Carney is the leprechaun and Peggy Cass  his wife, separated by the banshee's spells. The sailor tries to help, but he also succumbs to the banshee. It takes a lesson in forgiveness to banish the wailing spirit and free the sailor.

Went right back out after lunch to get the laundry done. Good thing the place was dead, with only one other cheerful woman watching Steve Harvey and Ellen. I had a huge load to do, including towels and sweaters.

Worked on the story for the next couple of hours. The rest of the party goes very well. Rey happily dances with her father, her uncle, and her friends. She plays dolls with Kaydel and Jess and tries to ignore the boys crashing through their games and introduces them to Bee Bee the kitten.

After the party, she overhears Snoke kissing her mother's hand, laying on the flattery. Hans Stahlbaum doesn't appreciate this one bit. He argues with Leia over the snobbish tutor's attentions to her and Benjamin. Leia's beginning to wonder if her husband is right. She hired him after getting good recommendations from a friend, but she agrees that he's being too forward with her and has too much influence on their son. Rey sticks around long enough to see them kiss on the top of the steps, silhouetted by the Christmas Eve moon.

Rey takes Bee Bee to the kitchen to get her fed. She chats with Mrs. Maz, the cook and housekeeper. Mrs. Maz is a very old woman, and she knows pretty much everything that goes on in the household. Rey asks her why her parents argue and if they really love each other. Don't worry, dear, Maz explains. They adore one another. They just have such strong personalities, they tend to clash every now and then. It's just their way. Everyone has their own way of showing love.

Since it was on the same disc as Leprechauns' Christmas Gold, I ran How the Grinch Stole Christmas while eating scrambled eggs with mushrooms and onions for dinner. Snoke's not the only grouch making trouble during the holidays. The grumpy Grinch is determined to steal the Whos' yuletide fun and keep his mountain quiet on Christmas Day.  He finally learns that Christmas is about more than gifts and noise when the Whos manage to keep their traditions going, with or without gifts.

Moved on to Barbie In the Nutcracker while working on crocheted flowers to make into ornaments for family for Christmas. The first Barbie As/Is movie was a Christmas tale. Barbie is Clara, who travels with the Nutcracker to find the Sugar Plum Princess in a remote island. The Mouse King (Tim Curry) is determined to stop them and continue his evil rule over the land. But the Princess is closer than any of them believe. Clara learns that, when we have courage and stay strong, we can all be kings and queens.

I like this better than I did when it came out in the late 90's. The CGI animation is waxy and stiff, and some of the effects (like the rock monster) haven't dated well. On the other hand. the story is a creative take on mainly the ballet (though the end with who the Sugar Plum Princess turns out to be feels like a bit of a cop-out). Not the best of the Barbie specials, but if you don't expect it to follow the ballet to the letter, it's a lot of fun.

Ran The Nutcracker: A Fantasy On Ice after taking a quick shower. Dorothy Hamill is Clara in this lovely ice skating version of the ballet from the early 80's. Lorne Greene narrates as a grandfather telling the story to his granddaughter. This was my first Nutcracker, well before I knew it was a ballet, and I still have very fond memories of it.

Ended the night with The Nutcracker Prince on YouTube. This 1990 animated film is pretty much the only movie version I've ever seen use the original story The Hard Nut. We still have Clara and her prince and the Mouse King, but we also found out how the Nutcracker was enchanted. (It also briefly includes the older sister Louise, who is often dropped from most versions.) Like Barbie, I enjoy this more than I did when it made occasional appearances on cable in the early 90's. If you like animation from the time or the original Nutcracker story, it's worth a look.

The Nutcracker Prince

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