|RAPSITTIE STREET KIDS: BELIEVE IN SANTA (syndication, 2002)|
Why was it such a misfit?
If there's anything I've learned over the years of examining Christmas specials, it's that I should be careful when declaring something "The Worst Misfit." Something worse always turns up after I do that. It never fails.
Within the last few years, the most requested review by far has been for Rapsittie Street Kids: Believe in Santa, something that aired early in the morning on WB affiliate stations during the 2002 holiday season and never again. Due to the way it was buried, the special's existence would have been unknown to most people were it not for the Lost Media Wiki. The LMW has proven itself to be both a blessing and a curse with its strong community obsessed with resurrecting the most obscure videos known to man. On the plus side, they found Episode 14 of Free Spirit for me.....on the minus-minus-minus side, they managed to dig this up.
Keep in mind, no one actually taped it. The LMW's forces had to track down somebody who worked on the special and convince them to loan their copy. The person did so, and what the LMW found turned out to be even wilder than they'd expected. A lot of their goose chases have an anticlimactic ending (for years they were convinced a Sesame Street skit called "Crack Master" was banned for being horrifically scary; it was not), but Rapsittie Street Kids was quite the find. It was such an unholy mess that it's mindboggling it could air on commercial TV. Upon finding this out, the entire Internet fell in love with it and married it in a lavish ceremony.
This special's star continues to rise with each passing year, and I'm starting to see websites with a mass audience publish articles. Eventually you're going to see full documentaries, references to Rapsittie on smart cult TV shows, then references on regular TV shows ("Hey Sheldon, ready for our yearly viewing of Rapsittie Street Kids?" "Sure am, Raj! Bazinga!"), parodies, one-night theatrical screenings where people show up in costumes dressed as the characters, and after all that is settled, stale jokes about it from your mother or a powerful politician. You may want this right NOW, but I guarantee in a few years you'll be so sick of hearing about Rapsittie Street Kids that you'll wonder why I even bothered writing about it. This means if I want to cover every Misfit Special in existence, I need to do this one TODAY while there's still a tolerance for it.
The movie opens with a haphazard aerial view of South Park, Colorado and an ominous child chorus of "Good King Wencelas" that sounds like it came right out of a horror movie (well, not entirely....the credits, rendered in Comic Sans, appear with "BOING!" sound effects to break the tension).
A phat beat drops as a poorly-rendered school bus glides across the pavement and waddling penguin-children hobble out. While they attempt to make it to their houses with their limited mobile abilities, we hear this....sick....beat: "It was the day befo' Christmas dat I'm talkin'! I spent the day shoppin' with my friend I'm walkin'! Aw through the crowded mawls dey pumpin Deck Da Hawls, da trees with lights an' all the (unintelligible word) waz gawkin'!" You see, these aren't just kids...they're RAPSITTIE STREET KIDS, BOY-EEEEE! It might help to point out urban "thug" culture was massively popular in the early-to-mid 2000's. Normally though if you want to aim for that kind of market you actually USE an urban setting....virtually nothing about what we're about to witness feels "street."
After several of these verses we find out who's singing: this abomination here. It's been commented by plenty of people that these look like the kind of graphics you would find on an average video game console of the era. But actually, the Playstation 2, XBox and Gamecube were already out and there were games with better graphics than this being sold.
This dreadlocked robot's name is Ricky* and he's pumped for Christmas because there's so many amazing products out there he'd like to get. He stops at a window to examine the storefront offerings. This year's hottest gadgets include a camel, a giraffe, a zebra, and a manic-looking bee in purple shoes....Deez Krismus is gonna be TIGHT!
*Note: some people spell this name as Rick E, but the special itself credits his name as Ricky. While it's fully possible they misspelled it given the abundance of other typos, we're going with "Ricky."
Or perhaps not. He reaches into his pocket and pulls out just three quarters. "One...two....three is all I see," he rhymes sadly, before lapsing into a pathetic-looking walk cycle that lasts a good thirty seconds until he reaches his room, where he kicks a basketball in frustration. It drifts slowly through the air with moon gravity. He attempts to sit down, attempts to pick up a photo of his mother and recites what has to be the shortest, most to-the-point bit of exposition ever: "Ma, I miss you big. You gave me this bear because of love! So I'll give this bear...because of love!" We see a "dream image" of Ricky and the humanoid mound of Play-Doh he desires floating close together while the stuffed bear rotates around them. Then they bow to each other in the custom of Japan, or they might have been attempting to be kissing. So much is unclear.
We cut to Rapsittie Street Elementary (motto: "Strive For Excelence") and the girl Ricky dreams of, Nicole. She's bragging to her friends about how privileged she is. "I have to dress extra cute, so my mom schedules me with my own hair lady!" Suddenly a plastic dinosaur hits the side of her head with a loud "CLANGGG!" sound. It was thrown by Smithy, the fat fishman in the scarf. "Hey Nicole, DUCK! I mean, Dinosaur! Nya ha ha!"
Ricky is in another corner of the room, juggling ornaments. The animator doesn't actually know how juggling is performed, so Ricky cheats by throwing the ornaments around in a complete circle. The proper way to juggle is to launch objects into the air from one hand to the other in an arc. You can do what Ricky does and casually pass the objects along in the middle, but it doesn't look as impressive and no professional juggler will respect you.
Ricky's so amazing he can just throw the juggled objects onto the tree into their proper places, and he can even do this with garland. I'm sure that was scripted to look impressive, but watching Ricky limply lob stuff at the tree comes off as hilarious instead, and that's before he starts talking: "I'm a decorating master, ain't no one is faster! Doncha know, I'm a CHRISTMAS TREE BLASTER!" The students are impressed nonetheless. Is it enough to win Nicole over? Probably not, we're only five minutes in.
Indeed, it doesn't take long for Ricky to trip at the finish line -- over his own shoelaces -- and plow his body into the tree, dislodging all the decorations he took so much care throwing there. Everybody laughs. "Hey Ricky, looks like you made a smash hit already!" cracks Smithy. He's never taking that scarf off, is he?
Ricky's bear is under the ruined tree. Smithy points it out and Ricky explains, "It's a gift for my honey! I know she's into money! For this she cannot hide, for I know she's good inside." There are five more snide lines from classmates, all covering the same ground (Ricky just tripped, it's the only thing that happened today), and then the teacher calls recess.
"Good!" says Smithy, about to unleash one of the greatest quotes in TV history: "I'm ready to skate bigger and faster than my mom can make the biggest sandwich in the world!"
if you thought they looked bad before, just wait until you see them flailing about in the snow, padding two-dimensional drawings of snowmen with their stick-limbs and sliding statically on a frozen pond. All that's missing is Sally Struthers pleading with the viewer to call a phone number and support them for pennies a day. Bully Todd attempts to push Smithy flat on his face, but misses and ends up getting dragged across the pond clinging to his scarf. Meanwhile Nicole calls for everyone to watch her skate. Ricky is like "Gladly," but Nicole's all "Everyone except YOU, Ricky!" Ricky sighs and says "As if it can't get any colder out here."
After recess comes the classroom gift-giving period. A pigtailed waif gives Nicole a toy reindeer, which she tosses to the floor. "Cheap is not cool, Lenee! Now MY gift's the best! IT came from the MALL!" Because....there's nothing cheap at the mall?
If Lenee sounds familiar, it's because she's being voiced by Jodi Benson, AKA The Little Mermaid. In fact, Nicole's voice belongs to Paige O'Hara, who you might remember as Belle from Beauty and the Beast (now she's voiced both Beauty AND Beast). The bully Todd is played by Nancy Cartwright, better known as Bart Simpson. Clint Howard plays Tug, one of the bullies....And the guy with the bit part of background character Eric? Mark Hamill. You may ask yourself, how can THIS many celebrities have no idea what they were getting into? (Also see: "Movie 43") For a possible explanation let's look at the order in which a typical American cartoon is assembled:
Script > Voices > Storyboard > Keyframes > Animation > Color and backgrounds > Music and sound effects > Cartoon
There are some cartoons out there that use the storyboard as the first step, in place of the script -- it depends on the type of cartoon you want to make. Then the order would be:
Storyboard > Voices > Keyframes > Animation > Color and backgrounds > Music and sound effects > Cartoon
But since this is computer animation (which always looks better), we can eliminate one extra step:
Script > Voices > Storyboard > Keyframes > Animation > Music and sound effects > Cartoon
Notice what these all have in common. No matter what order, voices are usually one of the first things you take care of. So when Hamill, Cartwright and Howard were summoned to record Rapsittie Street Kids, all that existed were concept art and sketches. There was no reason to assume the animation process would be so botched, because it hadn't happened yet. This doesn't explain "Movie 43," however.
Instead of opening a
present, Todd is pulling a girl's hair. "OW! GET HIM
AWAY FROM ME!"
For some reason Ricky
waits until after school to give Nicole his present. He
approaches her while she's spouting some nonsense about
how Santa's toys can't be any good because they aren't
from the mall (talk about a fixation). Nicole notices
Ricky is hiding something behind his back. "Oooo,
whatcha got there? I KNOW it's for me!"
The touching nature of this gift warms Nicole up so much, she quits being a shallow piece of crap immediately. Yeah, actually, she doubles down. "HAVE YOU LOST YOUR MIND? ARE YOUR PURPOSELY TRYING TO EMBARRASS ME?" I have to wonder how it would've gone over if Ricky had claimed that bear was from the mall.
Later, Ricky is writing his Christmas wish list. "Dear Santa, please send me a video box." Jolly Man's gonna have a hard time with that. Does Ricky mean a TV? Does he mean a VCR? A video game console? No idea. "And please give presents to all my friends. ...Even Nicole. Even though she threw away my favorite bear. That Mama gave me before the angels took her." Ricky's trying to be pleasant, but the aggression is seeping through.
Ricky puts his letter in a pile with the rest of the mail and heads out to stick it in the mailbox. The wind blows the letter out of his hand, though he doesn't notice. Instead of in the mailbox, Ricky's letter ends up on the lawn of....Nicole's house!
Before Nicole can find it, she's got to sing about herself. "Look at me, look at me, I'm the best kid in the world!" wails Princess Belle (real lyrics), moving her arms and legs jerkily while the camera remains static, only changing angles occasionally. There's just no comparison between this musical number and Veruca Salt's showstopping "I Want It Now," and also, unfortunately, it doesn't end with the possibility of Nicole being burned alive. Based on everything you've seen thus far, what do you think Nicole's reaction to the letter is going to be? "So it was a memento from his dead mother??? AHAHAHA! I'll bet she wasn't even buried in clothes that came from the MALL! For the latest styles and accessories, you've GOTTA go to ROSS!"
Actually......upon reading the letter, Nicole pivots on a dime, instantly reforming. "Oh no, what have I done?" She actually threw the bear in the school's garbage bin immediately upon receiving it. She's gotta get it back!
Now we get to meet Ricky's great-grandmother, who speaks in unintelligible mumbling. According to someone connected to the special, this character was scripted to speak in complete sentences, but the actress decided to improvise. This means every time she "speaks" her lines come off like "Oooom blagga bloom krismus blooga blooga lovin sharin blagga ooooga bloog." Pair this with the animation and character design and you have something that.....could almost be considered art if it were sponsored by some kind of government funding program.
This makes Rick's conversation with her, which wasn't altered in any way, incredibly bizarre.
"Oooka eeeka blooba
Nicole enlists the help of Lenee and Smithy to sort through the garbage and find Ricky's bear. I don't see how Smithy is much help -- one of his hands is constantly occupied by that sandwich in every shot. How can he possibly eat it now? How old is that sandwich anyway?
The bullies show up, see the normally prissy preteen dumpster-diving, and let out one of their brutal cutdowns: "Hey, I guess there wasn't anything at the MALL, so now you're shoppin' at the GARBAGE!" Boom!
After an exhaustive search, the kids come to one conclusion: the bear definitely isn't there. Nicole's only hope is if the janitor took it out, because Smithy says that guy tends to save stuff he finds in the garbage. But nope, no bear in the boiler room either. The kids will have to go all the way to the junkyard to rectify the problem.
But OH NO GUARD DOOOOOGS! It's impossible to keep a straight face as the kids' terrible walking cycles shift into fast-forward, and these brown poops with table legs chase them. If you think the animators' attempts to make people walk on two feet looked bad, just wait until you see their attempt at quadripeds. (There were five animators in all, by the way. Accurate. The end credits also mention that someone held the job of "Chief Science Officer.") Lenee, Nicole and Smithy find temporary refuge on top of abandoned cars, but the bullies appear again out of nowhere and laugh at them for not wanting to be mauled. That's when Smithy unexpectedly becomes the hero of this story. I know, I don't believe it either.
All this time, I had assumed Smithy would never let go of that sandwich. It would be attached to his hand for the entire cartoon and become filthy and rancid. And it had to be at that point from its trip to the dumpster alone....which made it the perfect weapon. With as much dramatic flair as his badly rigged body will allow, Smithy THROWS the hoagie like a missile, and hits the head bully square in the face. Upon impact it instantly disappears, turning into dollops of mustard and ketchup all over Todd's face. The dogs, smelling food, turn around and start chasing the bullies instead. Rapsittie Street Kids is the most action-packed cartoon of all time.
Ricky's bear turns out to be pretty easy to track down once they're in the junkyard....it's just lying there. They have to scale a fence to get back, so Nicole once again complains about befouling her perfect clothes, but in the end they made it and Nicole gets to do the right thing. When Ricky opens his living room door, she's there with his bear.
"Oh no, you can
keep it, Nicole. It was a gift to you."
After all that he just wants to be friends with her? She did all this for you; she's totally into you! You could've had Nicole, Ricky! I hope he wasn't saving his best moves for "A Bunny's Tale," the proposed second Rapsittie special that never got made once everyone saw the results of this one.
By all rights this miserable experience should be over, but we've got at least ten more minutes on the clock. For some reason the story now follows Lenee, who seems depressed on Christmas Eve with no explaination why. So her dad comes into her room and says "I heard you could use a little EXTRA Christmas cheer! Santa's on his way...if you don't believe me, come take a look!" He leads her to the window, where there's nothing but an overcast sky. "I....see him!" What Lenee sees are clouds in the vague shape of Santa's face, but it's concrete evidence. "He's there because....I believe in him!" This is the cue for Renee and her dad to sing the tune that gives the special its subtitle, "Believe In Santa."
Now it's Christmas Day! Nicole runs into the living room to find a mountain of presents and her creepily grinning parents. You can really see where she gets it from -- these people will not shut up about how rich they are, with every sentence they speak.
"Oh Honey....by the
time I got out of the MALL, the cleaners were closed, so
I BOUGHT YOU a new suit!"
Nicole opens her first present and is surprised to find.....a Video Box. "Oh, this is what Ricky wanted," she says to herself, thinking back to his letter. He was so kind to her, she has to return the favor.
look! Santa must have delivered this present to the wrong
house! I'm pretty sure it's yours."
Ricky is thrilled to get the Video Box, and we finally see what one looks like, but it still isn't clear what the thing is supposed to do. I never quite knew just what it was, and I guess I never will.
Let's just get this done with. It's time for everyone to gather in one shot and wave goodbye, but not before Ricky lets loose one last rap.
"We can always work things through! My friends, believe me, what I say is true! Believe in Santa is where we start, but what matters is in our heart!"
One more thing....Lenee's little sister got a pony. A PONY. Nicole didn't even get a pony!
Why didn't it fit in?
Well, what can I say? Rapsittie Street Kids sure dang gosh isn't the Mona Lisa. But I am not going so far as to label it "The Worst Misfit" because I fully expect something worse than this to show up in a year or two.
The animation quality will be two frames a second and the character designs will be so ugly that if you stare at them longer than three minutes your eyes will actually receive physical damage. Fran Drescher will do all the voices, as nasally as possible, and the music score will be the "NEOWT NEOWT NEOWT" from Sir Paul's "Wonderful Christmastime" repeated on a five-second loop. Half the special will consist of men wobbling around wailing loudly in Swahili and the other half will be graphic footage of the Manson murders. The cartoon will charge you $9.97 per minute to watch it, but won't inform you of this until it's over. The special will be three hours long and will make your entire living room smell like dog poop (thanks to a new technology called "HyperSmel" founded by tech bros).
Does Mary Lou Retton like it?
Mary is dead. She was discovered flat on her back in her palatial estate, next to a DVD-R of Rapsittie Street Kids. To everyone who kept requesting this special, this is on your heads and I hope you're happy with yourselves.