ZIGGY'S GIFT (abc, 1982)
Why was it such a misfit?
Getting a prime-time animated verision of a newspaper comic strip was a really special event, once upon a better time...a better time for cartoonists, anyway. Most popular, well-circulated comic strips (with the exception of Calvin and Hobbes) got their own cartoon specials through the mid-90's. Even if the strip itself wasn't that great, like "Ziggy," seeing the characters move and hearing them speak sure was. As a voracious comic strip reader, I loved it when these came on.

But in "Ziggy's Gift" we don't get to hear Ziggy speak. We see him move though. He moves at a butter-smooth 24 FPS, constantly, thanks to the skillz with a Z of director Richard Williams. Williams, an animation legend and strict perfectionist, had taken on "Ziggy's Gift" as a way to get bread on his table while continuing work on "The Thief and the Cobbler," the biggest project of his life and the single most tragic behind-the-scenes story I can think of where no one dies. ....Well, actually, Vincent Price did.

Ziggy starts his morning by turning on his pathetic little black-and-white TV, then walks off to brush his teeth. While he's doing that, Walter Cronkite (it's really Walter Cronkite) tells of a scam plaguing the city. Fake Salvation Army Santas are appearing at street corners, claiming to be bell-ringers for charity but actually giving the money to their boss. Ziggy should have been listening, because the next thing he does is look at the want ads, and he sees an ad for a street Santa. The ad was placed by that crook, but he doesn't realize it.

"Ahhh yeees, you must be here for the Santa Position!" Ziggy is hired instantly, despite his being much too small to fit into the Santa costume. His application is "filed" in the wastebasket and the man tells a bare empty room "the position has been filled." He shuts the door and says to Ziggy, "Oooh, they took it rather badly!"

He's not the only shifty character in this cartoon. There's also a thief who bares more than a little resemblance to the title thief of Richard Williams's movie. He's mute, has a big pointy nose, and moves slowly and cautiously. He may be purplish, but it's the same guy, fundamentally.

I have to admit....I've never understood the whole deal about cartoon policemen sounding like leprechauns. Where did that come from? Why should a cop be expected to have an Irish accent if the setting is clearly America?

Brogueish Policeman #4,353,467,923,458 is on the case of the bogus Santas, many of which are getting busted as accomplices despite being clueless to the whole scheme. This isn't good for Ziggy, who he's increasingly suspicious of.

Fortunately, in Ziggy's case, the money never really gets to the criminal mastermind....Ziggy keeps seeing things that he has to give money toward, and eliminates the middleman by giving them cash from the pot directly. There is one pointless moment when Ziggy meets another Santa and takes money from his pot to put into that guy's pot. You're missing the point, Ziggy.

Ziggy lives in a pretty corrupt neighborhood...there are thieves stealing from thieves. The purple big-nosed guy swipes the Santa costume right off one of the poor clueless Santas and gets a pot of his own, then perches next to Ziggy and rings his bell louder. It doesn't seem to faze Ziggy much, but his dog is another matter: the thief gets a chomp to the leg that he has to hop all the way down the street, into the distance, to dislodge.

As Ziggy drags his kettle-loaded sled through the city, a stray cat hops on for the ride, which the dog doesn't like either. Ziggy runs into a meat market selling "Live X-Mas Turkeys" that look absolutely miserable. They're fully aware of their oven-bound fates and are shaking with nervousness as the Russian butcher asks Ziggy which turkey he'd like to purchase. "VWHAT? You vhwant ALL da turkeys?" he says in astonishment after Ziggy says...nothing, because Ziggy has the same telepathic communication with others that Link does.

Ziggy gives the butcher $175, his asking price, right from the kettle, and then lets all the turkeys free. They squawk and gobble and fling feathers everywhere as they rush in all directions down the street. "Hoboy, you meet a lot ov KRAZY people in this turkey business," the butcher sighs.

"Now just whaaat's been goin' on 'round here?"
"HOOOO--BOY, MISTER POLICE-GUY, ya wouldn't believe! Some coo-coo Santa come and buy up ALLL my turkeys!"
"And why are your turkeys running all over town?"
"That's vhwat's so coo-coo 'bout this Santa guy! He buy up all my turkeys, but he don't take my turkeys! He just let them loose and they run like crazy! YOIIII, ZEH TURKEYS, YOI!"
"Was he a little guy....about....so high?"
"Yeh, and there's something else coo-coo about dis guy! Some people have wallet, or purse! This guy have BIG IRON KETTLE!"

Now he's certain this is the dwarf he's after. And it better be, because he's already got everyone else....

It's not going to be a good Christmas for the con artist, surrounded by the people whose reps he's ruined. They're all crammed in the police van, save for Ziggy. The cop stops at a police call box (remember those? Neither do I) to report his progress to the Chief.

"So what NOW, smart guy?" an angry and very strong-looking man yells in the crook's Kissingeresque face.
He replies, "This crooked Santa operation is far too seasonal. I'm now considering a career in politics." Which doesn't make sense if he's going to jail.

Meanwhile, the thief is still trying to steal from Ziggy's kettle, and having the same amount of luck getting past the dog. He just can't learn. This time, though, Ziggy finally catches him in the act, and as they're tugging the pot back and forth, the policeman catches up with both of them. What will happen NOW?

Right at the second when things are about to get REALLY ugly, they hear giggling and freeze in place. A foster home full of orphans are watching them from a nearby window.

Uhh......they're really here to.....SING CAROLS! "SOOY-LENT NOIIIIGHT!" the policeman starts, sheepishly, and the other two join in. If you listen closely, you can finally find out what Ziggy sounds like. Sorta like Droopy.

The caretaker opens the door. "Ah, that was beautiful! Please come in! We would love to have you visit with us."

The children believe the stringy purple thief is Santa Claus, and start swarming him for the "presents" in his bag. The thief swallows hard -- he can't do this anymore. He starts handing out his purloined property to the orphans, and even has a gift for the officer....his own police badge. He gave that one rather nervously.

Ziggy brought his own present...the stray cat. The kids love the cat and it seems to feel at home already, so...why not?

The caretaker comes into the room with hot chocolate for everyone. The policeman now believes the thief was planning to visit the orphans with presents all along, and Ziggy was with him the whole time. "Sorry about the mix-up with you and your friend there," he says to Ziggy. "TO THE LITTLE GUY!" the cop cries out. "And his generous Santa friend!"

The thief gives a half-honest grin.

Why didn't it fit in?
It wasn't because it was terrible or anything. If you're going to look for Misfits to watch, you can't go wrong with Ziggy's Gift. It's a well-made, well-animated and charming little cartoon that everyone should see at least once, no matter what their opinions are on Ziggy.