The Other Side of Animation 68: The Magic Snowflake Review

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(If you like what you see, you can go to camseyeview.biz to see more of my work on video game reviews, editorials, lists, Kickstarters, developer interviews, and review/talk about animated films. If you would like, consider contributing to my Patreon at patreon.com. It would help support my work, and keeps the website up. Thanks for checking out my work, and I hope you like this review!)

Last year, I reviewed Santa’s Apprentice. While I did like it, I found some of the story elements to feel rushed, forced, and not well paced. I admit that I was probably a little harsh on the film, since in the end, I can think of a lot worse and more unoriginal Christmas specials that are out there, but if you have a problem with the film, then you should be able to say what it is. Well, here is a funny little story. I said at the end of that review that I would review the sequel, Magic Snowflake, if I could find a way to watch it. Well, guess what appeared on Netflix a day or two later after? That’s right, 2016’s Christmas Special will begin with the sequel to the fan favorite Santa’s Apprentice. The sequel was released back in 2013, and boy, finding out about this film was like pulling teeth out of a guy who gorilla-glued them into his skull. IMDB has very little information, besides the basics, and Rotten Tomatoes doesn’t even have a rating or any reviews from it. Basically, this film came and went like 2015’s Jem and the Holograms movie. One thing that is for certain though is that the amazing animation studio, Cartoon Saloon, was not a part of this film in any way. That is a bummer. Let’s get started before I just rattle on.

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So, this film takes place after some period of time has passed from the first film. They don’t really say how much, but probably six or so months. The current Santa is now officially retired, and it is up to the young orphan boy, Nicholas, to take up the mantle as the new Santa Claus. Why he has to be the new one while he is still a kid, who knows. As Santa and his wife/assistant go off to travel, Nicholas, along with the rest of the side cast of the first film, like the friend/love interest Beatrice, the elves, the reindeer with the lights around his antlers, and a new Eskimo child named  Tim Tim, has to deal with the stress of being Santa Claus. Can Nicholas power through and become the new Santa before Christmas? I also want to make a little correction to my previous review. The names of the actors I mentioned for the first film was actually the Australian cast. The English cast for the characters include Michael Sorich as Santa, Cole Sand as Nicholas, Mary Pat Gleason (Magda Szubanski in the previous film) as Santa’s wife, and you can find the rest of the cast on the Wikipedia entry for both films.

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So, for a sequel to a film not many people know about, how does it do in progressing the story and evolving the characters? Well, let’s talk about the good stuff about the story and characters. First, I’m going to focus on the animation. While it is not being handled by Cartoon Saloon, it is pretty good. Sure, it is not as fluid as the first film, but the animation itself is still fantastic. It pulls off some great visuals. Once again, scenes and backdrops have these great colored pencil look, and it reminds me of old fashioned children’s books.  I especially love the idea of the distressed Nicholas seeing large frozen doors that represent an Advent calendar. This part of the film is where Nicholas needs to hop around time, and I just adore that idea. I also like the idea of a Santa of old taking over while Nicholas solves the puzzle, and it was fun to see how a previous Santa worked. It might be old fashioned, but when you basically live for a century, your time as Santa will definitely be different than the next one. The conflict in this film is much better than the first film, with Nicholas getting stressed out about being the new Santa and having to fix the problem right before Christmas begins. The overall theme of kids growing up too fast, while done before, at least brings something interesting to a Christmas special that I haven’t seen before.

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Sadly, while this film does fix a few problems that the first film had, it still has a lot of lingering problems, and it’s maddening since you can tell there was a lot of effort put into this movie. The whole idea of the “Magic Snowflake” and the Advent calendar doors feels wasted. Like, they had good ideas with them to make this a much darker movie, but they either didn’t have the time, changes were made in production, or they didn’t know how to expand on said ideas. I also like the idea of an older Santa being the “antagonist”, and how he wants to revert the toys they send out back to the ones he sent out as Santa. This could have been amazing, but again, they don’t do much with the elements given to the character. The side characters also don’t have a lot to do, and are there just because they were in the original movie. I hate it when sequels do this because it comes off as an exec mandate instead of letting the creators do something more unique and different. I also found Santa’s sub-plot to be just okay. I enjoyed the idea of him wanting to run the orphanage that Nicholas grew up in, but it feels tacked on. Unfortunately, the film is a bit of a bore to sit through. Not that it can’t have its moments, because it does, but like I have said above, the ideas they have don’t go anywhere, and it makes for a boring sit, since the film couldn’t commit to anything it threw at the screen.

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In the end, this is a completely harmless sequel. It’s not great, but it’s not horrible. I can totally see some people getting behind this film and the previous one for an audience. It still has some good ideas, some good animation, and solid voice work. I just wish it was better. If you can find The Magic Snowflake or Santa’s Apprentice on DVD and don’t mind them being flawed, I don’t see the harm in watching them. They aren’t terrible, and I didn’t find anything offensive about them. There are just much better Christmas specials out there that people can watch. In fact, I want to look at a more recent winter-themed animated film that is in the Oscar running with Snowtime! Thanks for reading, I hope you enjoyed the article, and I will see you all next time.

Rating: Rent It!

The Other Side of Animation 2015 Christmas Special Part 1: Ziggy’s Gift Review

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Ah yes, it’s Christmas time! Time to review two different Christmas specials! I could have gone with the instant classics like The Nightmare Before Christmas, but that’s owned by Disney, so I won’t tackle it. Plus, you should already own the movie. I also could have gone with the timeless classic, The Snowman. However, I decided to tackle maybe one of the lesser known Christmas specials with Ziggy’s Gift. This 1982 TV special was directed by Richard Williams, the same guy behind the Chuck Jones-produced Christmas Carol and Who Framed Roger Rabbit, and is based off the popular long running comic, Ziggy.  Ziggy’s Gift is a short, but charming little Christmas special that has some famous pedigree behind it. How good is it? Is it an underrated classic? Or should it have been forgotten for a reason? Let’s find out!

The story revolves around our small lead character Ziggy, as he spends Christmas as a street-side Santa to get money for charity. Along the way, he encounters a very clever thief, a crooked businessman, and a bumbling cop. Honestly, that is pretty much it for the story element.

So, what is jolly about this Christmas special? Well, besides the overall experience being labeled as charming and cute, the animation is top-notch for TV animation. It’s slick, has good comedic timing, and is very expressive. Ziggy might not be one of the most interesting comic characters, but he is a genuinely nice character. He’s not selfish at all during the special. I also like the cop character. He isn’t a jerk or a doofus cop; he is one who is actually doing his job. As usual, for a Christmas special, it’s atmospheric, heartwarming, and actually touching. I think it’s kind of funny that I’m using a word such as touching and heartwarming with someone like Ziggy.

However, there are a few elements to point out for odd reasons or at least that could have used some explanation. For example, throughout the film, Ziggy uses an honestly out-of-nowhere magical cauldron that he got for his street Santa gig and gives money out to two different individuals. One of them happened to be a butcher who has all of these turkeys. Now, Ziggy buys all the turkeys, only to release them. So, was he not worried about the cars running over the scared, freed turkeys? How did the cauldron become magical? Why was the cauldron owned by the crooked businessman? How did the police officer’s star become one of the saving graces of the show? How did the sack that the thief was carrying get the same magical properties as the cauldron at the end of the special? In the end, this is one kind of special where you don’t really mind not getting the answers. The point of the story is that the magic from the holidays is coming together to help out others. It’s another special with nothing, but good morals.

Ziggy’s Gift might have its odd and surreal moments, but with top-notch animation, some pretty good jokes, and likable characters, this is one Christmas special worth checking out. I have seen that it is available on DVD, so if you can find it for cheap, I would say pick it up. It has a lot more charm than most holiday specials that are based off of comic book characters. Now then, I think it’s time to go back to the individuals of Cartoon Saloon, the studio behind one of my favorite animated films, Song of the Sea, with their second-made animated film with Santa’s Apprentice. Thanks for reading, and see you next time!

Rating: Go See It!