Road to the North Pole vs. The Boy Who Dreamed Christmas

Let's get ready to RUUUUUUMBLE!

Let’s get ready to RUUUUUUMBLE!

OK, fuckers, Christmas Day may have been and gone but I want to put out at least one Christmas-themed article/review/whatever before Twelfth Night. In fact, I want to revisit a cartoon I took a look at two Christmasses ago.

The Boy Who Dreamed Christmas. Kid and Sandman visit Santa Claus only to find his workshop’s been taken over by an evil clown who isn’t evil. Kid stops clown by deleting items off other kids’ wish lists so they only get one present. It wasn’t very good. You want to tell a story about how being greedy at Christmas is bad and that you might not get everything you want, fine. There are better ways to go about it then making some kid deprive other kids of most of their presents.

In the original review, I also said it reminded me of the Family Guy holiday special “Road to the North Pole”. Like Boy, “Road” had two characters go to visit Santa Claus only to find his workshop in shambles. They also save the day by making everyone in the world get only one present at Christmas. It also wasn’t very good, but I’m still going to compare the two, just to see which is the lesser evil. And yes, I shall take into account that one was made for an older audience than the other, even if Family Guy isn’t exactly what you’d call mature, and making a show for adults about how wanting lots of stuff for Christmas is bad is a little condescending.

Before I start, let me say that I don’t hate Family Guy or Seth McFarlane as much as some people. I like American Dad, I liked Ted, and Family Guy has entertained me more often than not. Still, a lot of the time, Family Guy just seems to be there to make newer episodes of The Simpsons better by comparison (people didn’t like Homer apparently getting raped by a panda? Let’s have Peter Griffin get raped by a bull and make it more disturbing and explicit). And yes, there’s lots of filler and the chicken fights are dumb and “Road to the North Pole” isn’t exactly a shining example of quality and showcases a lot of the show’s main flaws.

Both shows have a live-action opening; “Road” has narration from Seth McFarlane’s dad and Boy has the titular boy, Peter Fletcher, in live-action form, excited for Christmas. I’m not really sure about “Road”’s narration but it sure as hell beats the crap out of the monotonous acting of what Boy has.

Family Guy: 1
Boy Who Dreamed Christmas: 0

Then both are followed by the characters saying what they want for Christmas, and in both, we are supposed to be tut-tutting them for being greedy. Boy, still in live-action, has Peter look over his Christmas list, which includes a bike, a spaceship toy and a stereo. So yeah, the special is inoffensive at this point. We all wanted lots of stuff over Christmas when we were kids, but this does seem like a bit much, so we do kinda want him to learn a lesson about greed.

Family Guy, however, goes into cartoon at this point, and has a big musical number where several characters sing about what they want for Christmas, while Brian sardonically looks on in disapproval. The song is somewhat catchy, but still frustrating because it highlights one of the most annoying elements of Family Guy: Brian being a smug douche who’s right when everyone else is wrong. It’s even been made fun of in the series proper, most prominently when Quagmire makes a big speech about Brian’s flaws to Brian’s face. In the special, Quagmire gets another go at Brian in a rather forced scene, but in the end, Brian’s moral superiority is what saves Christmas.

And you don’t really feel any urge to tut-tut the Quahoggers as they sing about what they want. Some want arbitrary presents, sure, but poor Meg Griffin wants ‘a dad who doesn’t drink’ and ‘softer voices in [her] head’. And why shouldn’t she?

Family Guy: 1
Boy Who Dreamed Christmas: 1

So Boy is half an hour long, while “Road” is three quarters of an hour long, so for “Road” it takes longer for Stewie and Brian to get to Santa’s workshop then it takes for Peter to do the same with Nilus the Sandman. Nilus is voiced by Long John Baldry.

Family Guy: 1
Boy Who Dreamed Christmas: 2

Peter Fletcher is turned into a cartoon by Nilus the Sandman in a dream, Peter asks Nilus to take him to meet Santa, they’re there. Stewie doesn’t get to see a mall Santa because the line was too long, and asks Brian to take him to the North Pole so he can kill Santa. I’d give Family Guy a point because I think going to the North Pole to kill Santa is potentially more interesting than just going there to say Hi to him, but it seems to take forever for Stewie and Brian to get to Santa’s workshop, packed with unfunny jokes like one about Canadian hospitality and a poor man’s Who’s On First.

Family Guy: 1
Boy Who Dreamed Christmas: 3

Now for the meat of both specials: Santa can’t keep up with the world’s demands for presents so his workshop’s gone to pot. Well, it’s really only gone to pot in Family Guy. In Boy, the workshop is a little dusty and plain, but Santa, his elves and his reindeer all look quite healthy, though a little sad. Plus, there’s another workshop beneath Santa’s: one quite modern and festive, and run by the supposedly evil Toymaster.

In Boy, the ever-growing demand for gifts made Santa build the Toymaster to help out with the workload, but the Toymaster took over and made a modern factory beneath Santa’s old workshop. The Toymaster may look and sound like Pennywise the Dancing Clown, but he’s pretty much solved the problem Santa has. Santa was worried he couldn’t keep up with the growing population and their want for more gifts, and the Toymaster’s factory can create millions of toys that will more than satisfy the demands of the kids of the world. None of his toys seem defective, and had his plan succeeded, everyone would have gotten what they wanted. The only thing that’s really “evil” about it is that…gasp…the elves working there look slightly tired. Because I bet they were never tired before, making toys for every kid in the world.

In Family Guy, Santa also has a problem keeping up with kids’ demands, but it has actually taken his toll on him, his helpers and his workshop. He now works in a hellish factory that resembles Charles Dickens meets Guy Ritchie, and in order to get more elves to make more toys, he’s been forced to inbreed, creating a whole lot of deformed, miserable goblins who know nothing but work. It’s not really funny but I’m not sure it was supposed to be really. It certainly is memorable, which is more than can be said for most of Family Guy’s output.

In both shows, Santa gets a song about how good the old days were and how horrible everything’s gotten. In Boy, it’s too wistful and schlocky to really remember. Family Guy’s answer is probably the best song the show has ever done, one that I actually like to listen to a lot, one that belongs in a better show. It combines pathos, anger and nightmares into a whole, with frantic and fierce imagery and though I don’t really approve of what the show is trying to do here, you at least feel something should be done about Santa’s predicament. In Boy, you just want to say ‘Look how happy the Toymaster is! Let him have his fun!’ Family Guy’s Santa would welcome the Toymaster with open arms and a ticker tape parade.

Family Guy: 2
Boy Who Dreamed Christmas: 3

I can’t praise Family Guy for very long though. In “Road”, Santa is deathly ill from all the pollution so Brian and Stewie decide to try and deliver the presents themselves. What follows is an awkward scene where they try to deliver presents to a house, but are spotted by the owner, so they kill the guy, then kill his wife, and then tie up a now-orphaned girl. I love dark humour, but dark humour has to be, you know, humour.  There’s no real jokes in the scene, just a poor attempt to shock.

Family Guy: 2
Boy Who Dreamed Christmas: 4

In both specials, the main character decides the solution to the problem  is for Santa to only give out one present at Christmas. Never mind that delivering one present to every kid in the world is still a big fucking task, it still comes off as preachy and ham-handed in both specials.

I guess it’s slightly better in Family Guy, because there Brian goes on TV and asks everyone to only want one present at Christmas. It’s pretty silly that everyone agrees to it, even Quagmire does and he hates Brian’s guts, but at least Brian asked. In Boy, Peter Fletcher, without asking anyone, deletes items off of kids’ wishlists willy-nilly and even destroys the Toymaster’s factory in the process. There wasn’t really any need for him to; from what we saw the Toymaster was doing a bang-up job and if he succeeded, kids would be happy. Now that Peter Fletcher’s done what he’s done, a whole lotta kids are going to be disappointed. ‘I got my train set…but no cure for my cancer.’

Family Guy: 3
Boy Who Dreamed Christmas: 4

In both, Santa’s workshop is restored to normalcy strangely quickly. Peter blows up the Toymaster’s factory just as soon as he was about to deliver the presents, and next thing we know, Santa’s workshop is happy again and he somehow has the toys he needs to deliver. In Family Guy, everyone agrees to one present and next year, no more moody factory or deformed elves. But I thought the elves came about because of Santa inbreeding; did everyone not being greedy make them magically non-inbred? It’s way too tickety-boo for a special that had the main characters kill two people and just bugger off. So neither special gets a point there.

Wow, so The Boy Who Dreamed Christmas is the lesser evil here. Still, I recommend neither special. There are countless superior Christmas specials for kids, and adults certainly could do better when it comes to cynical Christmas comedy. Santa’s Slay, Scrooged, the Royle Family specials, Blackadder’s Christmas Carol, the list goes on. So, Merry sorta Christmas, folks.

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About jabberw

A writer of short stories and reviews, who likes to dabble in other creative media as well.
This entry was posted in Episodes, Movies and tagged , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

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