Although famed animator Ralph Bakshi tends to be best known for racier material like his classics Fritz the Cat and Heavy Traffic, in 1988 he wrote and directed a half-hour holiday TV special called Christmas in Tattertown. It used to run every year on Nickelodeon in the 1990s (indeed, this YouTube video was taken from a Nickelodeon broadcast).
The plot is none too easy to discern, but it has something to do with a little girl who is transported, Alice in Wonderland-style, to a strange, run-down jazzy urban landscape known as Tattertown, which is redolent of the 1930s. Once there, she interacts with dilapidated toys and explains to the discarded playthings what Christmas is (they have never heard of it).
Some of the elements here are familiar from other places—the general mise-en-scene is reminiscent of Who Framed Roger Rabbit?, while the talking toys can’t help but remind us of Toy Story. Meanwhile, Inside Out, the recent Pixar hit, featured a memorable character named Bing Bong who wouldn’t be out of place here.
In the role of “The Saxophone,” the distinctive bass tones of Keith David’s voice are instantly recognizable from his first lines. It isn’t actually very Christmas-y at all, but I do enjoy the Jazz Age trappings. I half-expected Cab Calloway to show up at any moment.
Previously on Dangerous Minds:
Ralph Bakshi’s animated assault on racism in America is still an uncompromising gut punch