With less than a month to go until Christmas, I guess I better start writing some Christmassy shit.
I’m pretty sure nostalgic Brits remember the cartoons of Cosgrove Hall; Danger Mouse, where Del Boy Trotter played a spy mouse, The Wind in the Willows, where Del Boy played Mr. Toad, and Count Duckula where Del Boy played a vampire duck. Well, you won’t believe this, but today we’re going to look at a cartoon of theirs that doesn’t have Del Boy in it! You’re shocked, I know.
Avenger Penguins is what we’ll be looking at, and it’s a show about motorbike-riding penguins. Isn’t that all the information you need? Oh, okay, I’ll say a few more things.
Avenger Penguins was meant as a parody of Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles and all the ripoffs that followed in its wake. It revolved around the three titular penguins, led by the brash, cocky Marlon, and though Marlon may not have been voiced by Del Boy, he was voiced by Mike McShane of Whose Line Is It Anyway fame.
Now there’s a voice you want for a cartoon.
His teammates consisted of Rocky, the moron of the team complete with “duuuuh” voice, and Bluey, a Donatello-esque tech whiz who spoke in weird sound effects like Gerald McBoingBoing on crack. They were fighting against the evil of one Caractacus P Doom (also voiced by McShane), who looked like the aborted lovechild of Dracula and Don Vito Corleone. His goal was to take over the world (yes, gotta use this) and the penguins stop him. Sounds pretty straightforward, but I’m making the series seem saner than it actually is.
So, without further ado, let’s look at their Christmas Carol parody episode (which aired in October, shame, considering Count Duckula’s Christmas special aired on Christmas Eve), entitled…A Christmas Carol.
First things first: the intro
is fucking awesome.
The episode begins with a panning shot of “Big City” at Christmas while some woman talks about how awesome Christmas is. Then we enter the evil tower of Caractacus P Doom, and we get a big honking closeup of the guy himself. His face is covering the screen and he says ‘Come’ in a weirdly sultry way. And that is the face of someone who’ll watch you masturbate, let me tell ya. Just imagine, you’re off to do one, you’ve got your porn mags and your loo roll, and then suddenly, what looks like an undead Nick Griffin clouds your vision. ‘Come’ is all he says.
Then we meet Doom’s henchman, Harry Slime. Yes, that is a reference to The Third Man. A kiddie show has one of its main characters named after the 1949 noir flick written by Graham Greene. This is because Caractacus P Doom was modelled off of Orson Welles. Yes, that’s not a typo; Doom is modelled off Welles, but Harry, who is named after an Orson Welles character, is modelled off of Peter Lorre. Weird that. Fittingly enough, Slime is almost as pathetic as Lorre’s character in M was, begging Santa to bring him at least one present.
Yes, Harry Slime was actually the most sympathetic character in the show. In fact, earlier on, there was a two-parter about Slime redeeming himself with the help of a magical fairy. I told you this show was weird. Also, remember that for later.
Then we join our heroes. Marlon, with a hat that looks like Donald Duck’s head, Rocky all big and blubbery, Bluey with his weird talky thing. There’s an awkward scene where they’re trying to put a fairy on top of their tree – they left it until Christmas Eve to put up their tree? – before all the power is turned out in Big City. Who could have done such a horrible deed, you might ask? Caractacus P Doom? No, it was Fred Astaire. Pscyh, it really was Doom, who tells the Penguins this via a weird satellite thingy that flies up to their window.
Yes, Doom does know where the Penguins live. No, he’s never burst in there with a shotgun, or blasted the entire place with a laser. Well, he did try to raze it one time, but that’s another story.
So Doom has took away all the power. How did he do that? By taking out a big plug that happens to be in his lair. Who the fuck thought it was a good idea to put the source of the city’s power in the villain’s lair? Following on from that, Doom has the most obvious evil lair ever, a big tower with statues of his grinning mug. Why haven’t they sent the police in there or something? He’s constantly being beaten by three idiot penguins, several cops should handle him no problem.
Doom has gotten rid of the power and thus ruined Christmas. A statement on the commercialisation and materialism of Christmas? I dunno. Doom has power though, with a generator powered by Harry Slime on an exercise bike. Geez, I kinda wanna give him a hug. Anyway, Doom then goes off to bed. And since this episode is called “A Christmas Carol”, I bet you can guess what’s going to happen. Yes, everyone in the city’s gonna hold hands and sing, and his heart’s gonna grow. Given how fat he is, he probably has heart problems already.
So, with Doom’s plan in motion, the Avenger Penguins rush to the rescue, infiltrating his…just kidding, they’re just sitting around talking about what a meanie Doom is. Then they decide to follow Cinderella’s example and solve their problems by standing around wishing. They’re even visited by a fairy; the Sweetheart Fairy Angel of All Things Fluffy and Nice.
Who is the SWFAoATFaN, you may ask? Well, in one episode, Doom threatened to destroy the Penguin’s home unless they raised a million quid. If I were Doom, I’d just flatten the house while the Penguins were goofing around, but whatever. Slime got fired by Doom, and was visited by the SWFAoATFaN, who tried to help him change and gave him three wishes. With two of the wishes (the first was to help a kitty find its way home), Slime helped the Penguins raise the money and banished Doom to Mars. The spell that put Doom on Mars wore off after a year, and he tried to get revenge, but his doomsday machine blasted him back to Mars. Nonetheless, in the next episode, he was inexplicably back on Earth with Slime as his sidekick. Yes, I did just describe an actual cartoon and not a fever dream.
The fairy knows what’s up. Why? Because she read the script to the episode. And this leads to a bunch of fourth wall breaking jokes.
SWFAoATFaN: That’s terrible!
Rocky: The script? It ain’t that bad.
And when SWFAoATFaN tells them about A Christmas Carol:
SWFAoATFaN: It’s an old story by a writer named Charles Dickens.
Rocky: Doesn’t he write scripts around here?
SWFAoATFaN: He’s been dead for more than 100 years.
Rocky: Some of our gags are at least that old!
Well, I’ve heard worse fourth-wall breaking (I’m looking at you, Wacky World of Tex Avery).
So you can guess where this is going. The SWFAoATFaN uses her magic to turn the penguins into the ghosts of Christmas to haunt Doom to try and get him to change his ways. While they’re doing that, maybe they could pop on over to Fabletown too; there’s an awful lot of assholes there, as well as Tiny Tim even.
They jettison Jacob Marley out of this story, but Rocky as the Ghost of Christmas Past has chains though so I guess that evens it out. Rocky also says ‘Come’ while the camera is close on his face, but it’s not as horrifying as when Doom did it. Using the Force, I guess, Rocky makes Doom float out of his bed and takes him to the past. Says Doom of this, ‘Can’t a guy get a little shut-eye without being invaded by kooks, double glazing salesmen, and 19th century penguins?’
Doom is probably the best thing about the whole show. McShane’s obviously having a lot of fun with how over-the-top and wacky he is, and his lines, role in the show, and animation remind one of Long John Baldry’s Dr. Robotnik, and is amusing to watch.
Rocky shows Doom his boyhood days; even back then, Doom tortured Slime, by giving him a Christmas present of two anvils on his feet. Sheesh, even in Slime’s childhood days, you feel sorta bad for the guy. Eminem’s got nothing on him. Doom’s henchman-to-be, however, gets his own back by dropping an elephant on the pudgy one. You know, it’s a wonder why Slime ended up working for Doom. You’d have thought he’d have reported Doom to the police long ago. I haven’t sympathised with a villainous sidekick so much since Jesse Pinkman.
Marlon then appears as the Ghost of Christmas Present on his motorbike, and he rides Doom around Big City. You’d think Marlon would show people and families affected by Doom’s plan, or people trying to make merry regardless, but he just tells Doom that Doom turned off the lights, which Doom already knows, and dumps him off somewhere. Dickens himself couldn’t have written a better scene.
Then Bluey appears as the Ghost of Christmas Yet to Come. He doesn’t get a grim reaper robe, but he does get a tiny spaceship (a flying cup and saucer, very cute) and shows Doom that in the future, Doom will…Doom will…turn off all the stars and make the universe a big black hole, which Doom is then sucked into. Wow, that’s not as stupid as Scrooge in Hell, but it’s still weird.
In true Christmas Carol fashion, Doom wakes up and turns the power back on. He hasn’t changed that much, however, as he plops two anvils on Slime again.
Well, that was certainly something. It wasn’t as good as Dangermouse or Count Duckula, and it was pretty fucking surreal too. Still, the art style and animation was appealing and Caractacus P Doom was just so much fun to watch. I may look at this show again in the future.