Why was it such a misfit?

mirth (noun)
1. gaiety or jollity, especially when accompanied by laughter: the excitement and mirth of the holiday season.
2. amusement or laughter: He was unable to conceal his mirth.

You might be asking yourself, "What are Mirthworms? Was there some 1980's toy property I somehow missed?" Not really. Unlike Glo-Worms, Mirthworms did not exist in much outside of this one cartoon -- one extra special and maybe a comic strip at best. As a kid, I kept seeing this at Blockbuster year after year. By "seeing it" I mean I saw the cover. It was always there, resting on the Kids shelf, gathering dust. I never touched it because I thought "Mirthworms" was a stupid name.

And I still think "Mirthworms" is a stupid name, but now that I recognize its origin I have a little more respect for it. This was the first cartoon created by Perennial Pictures in Indiana -- who eight years later would create the very first special ever covered on this site, the infamous Up on the Housetop. And once again (or for the first time, rather) nearly the entire thing is animated by one man...Jerry Reynolds, or G. Brian Reynolds as he goes by now. So needless to say, the two cartoons have a lot of similarities. The lead character, Bert Worm, has the same facial structure and portly build as Curtis Calhoun, and sounds like him as well, albeit much less whiny.

If "mirth" means amusement, then this special should be pure comedy, correct? Why else would they be named MIRTH-worms?

We open on an aerial establishing shot of the folksy village of Wormingham, made from humans' garbage. Bert is new in town, and trying to make a good impression by volunteering to help with Wormaline Wiggler's Christmas celebration. Unfortunately, Bert is also the klutziest worm in all of wormkind, and causes Wormaline nothing but panic and misery. Normally this would result in a few good jokes, but the way these are staged, we're supposed to feel sorry for Bert, not laugh at him.

Wormaline is chairworm of worm festivals in Wormingham, and every time Bert Worm worms things up, Wormaline gets wormier and wormier, until worm worm wormy worm-worm WORM!

Bert manages to break a ton of dishes, topple the Christmas tree, and get paint everywhere in the span of two minutes. The stuck-up Wormaline loses her last nerve, hands him his hat and coat and orders him to leave immediately. Bert is crushed his first attempt at fitting in was so unsuccessful, and sings a morose song for three minutes alone in his house about how depressed he is.

Crystal Crawler, Bert's next-door neighbor, finds it appalling Bert was given the bum's rush, and goes over to console him at his house. Unfortunately, while in the process of singing, Bert has already decided he doesn't belong in Wormingham and has written his goodbye note. Crystal tries several times to get him to come back, all the while implying heavily she has designs on him, but Bert misses all the cues.

"Well, we don't have to go to the celebration at all then! We could have our own celebration right here!" She's practically throwing herself at you, Bert; are you deaf and blind? He refuses her again and says he needs to be left alone.

"Well......okay......if that's what you want....." Crystal says sadly. Bert closes the door on her, packs up his things in a towel, posts his note to the front door, sniffles a little, and then leaves into the snow.


Later that evening, the celebration is well under way and everybody seems to be enjoying themselves -- a relief to Wormaline. "If everyone isn't smiling and happy when the Mayor walks in, I won't get to be chairworm next year," she explains to her toady. Good thing we knew that, or we wouldn't understand why she starts sweating when Crystal walks up to the stage and pooh-poohs everybody for partying when Bert is suffering. "Regardless of the results, he only wanted to fit in! He only wanted to HELP! And we had no right to chase him away, especially on Christmas Eve!"

Everybody starts to agree, and their expressions turn guilty. Wormaline tries to turn public opinion back in her favor. "WE HAD TO REMOVE HIM! HE WAS RUINING EVERYTHING!!"
"That's nonsense, every citizen of Wormingham has a right to participate," says the Mayor.
"I DEMAND TO KNOW WHO SAID THAAA------" Wormaline looks behind her and finds out the Mayor's been standing out of her viewpoint for the last two minutes, and knows exactly what kind of a sourpuss she is. She puts on an innocent face, but it's too late.

"We should all go back to Bert's house and apologize," orders the Mayor.

Bert's not there, of course. When Crystal finds the note, she becomes very upset, and to make matters worse a blizzard sets into the area. If they can't find Bert quickly, he could perish out there! Everybody splits up and searches (including Wormaline, but against her own will).

None of them can find Bert, and after a while, the storm becomes too much for them and they're forced to return to the Town Hall. As they slowly close the front doors Bert is doomed; the odds of successfully surviving that ice storm are approximately 232 zillion to one! Crystal starts to cry, when suddenly.....

Bert was never in the storm. He turned back when things started getting rough outside, but nobody was in Town Hall, so he just went to sleep below the Christmas tree where nobody could see him. Everybody apologizes to Bert for treating him so roughly, and a good moral is learned by all.

After that comes the credits, where we're informed that "Mirthworms is a trademark of Mirthworms, LTD."

Why didn't it fit in?
It's years too late, but I should sue the VHS manufacturer for false advertising. What kind of brand name is this? These worms are not mirthful by any definition of the word! The animation is nicer and higher-budgeted than in "Up on the Housetop," but the plot is very light and could have been told in one-fourth the time. And not only is it not funny, it's one of the most depressing Christmas specials I've ever seen. How do you name your product "Mirthworms" and miss the implied target by 180 degrees?