|ANNABELLE'S WISH (fox, 1997)|
Why was it such a misfit?
There was a cow who had a wish, and Annabelle was her name-o.
Grampa Baker, resident of a rural community, spends his time giving the neighborhood children caroling rides in the back of his pickup. They ride through the town and sing to the villagers in a wholesome manner. As the special begins he's letting the kids off at their homes, until there are only two left, Billy (Baker's grandson) and Emily (his neighbor). Not every kid wanted to go caroling, however. As the truck stalls in front of a barn, a couple of mean kids, Bucky and Buster, emerge and start taunting Billy. "Hey, I wonder what carols he's been singing? Silent Night? HAHAHAHA!"
Indeed, Billy can't talk, but Emily is always willing to stand up for him and say the things he can't. "Why you...you....you BULLIES!" she yells. Stating what they are doesn't wound them much. Baker has a better idea...he gets out of the truck and invites the two boys to go caroling later. But at that moment their father, Gus, comes out and declares HIS children will be going nowhere with BAKER. The man is old enough to have taken Gus caroling when he was a kid, and he points this out. "You were just FULL of Christmas spirit then."
"THAT WAS THEN AND THIS IS NOW," Gus growls. Every time he tries to intimidate them, he lifts up his lantern lit by a candle, It's unclear when this is supposed to take place but if there are cars, there have to be light bulbs. However, Gus does look the type to not be into "those newfangled stuffs."
Baker arrives on his farm. It's Christmas Eve. He and his grandson should get to sleep if they want Santa to leave them something good, but Baker has to check the stable first. His suspicions were correct: the mama cow gave birth. To make sure Annabelle stays nice and warm on the first night of her life, Baker hammers some boards over the cracks in the walls and drags a heavy blanket over the two cows. "That should fix things," Baker says. "...But I wish I could fix Billy."
This is all very sweet and cuddly, but then suddenly -- JUMP CUT TO DRUNK RICH WOMAN!
This is Aunt Agnes, and she introduces herself by singing "Deck The Halls" off-key while haphazardly decorating her big city penthouse with garland and ivy. She is, in fact, Billy's biological aunt -- she has a framed picthre of him to prove it. So why is Billy living with his grandpa instead of his more financially stable relative? Because as her lawyer explains to her (and the audience), "when your brother died, you gave up all legal rights to your nephew." She now regrets that decision and wants him back...whether he wants to come with her or not!
There is more expostion as, back in the country, Grampa Baker stares at his own photo of Billy while remembering the incident in which the child lost his voice. He's shown carrying Billy out of a barn on fire, then being told by a doctor that "Billy has recovered, but he may never talk again." Not sure how, exactly, a fire could do this to a kid who otherwise looks fine, unless Billy inhaled a TON of smoke in there, but he isn't coughing either.
As Billy and Grampa turn in for the night, their basset hound Ears sneaks out of the house and into the stable, because as the narrator explains, he has a "secret mission" that has to do with "the secret legend of Santa Claus." Turns out as Santa is visiting homes around the world, he also gives any animals living there the power to speak for just one night. "Let the talking begin," Santa says as he blows pixie dust in front of the eager livestock.
Christmas," he says.
Once they can talk, we get an overview of all their personalities. Ears is like some kind of gruff government spy, Oliver the Owl can't seem to fly right, and Annabelle is the naive little squirt who asks a lot of curious questions in Kath Soucie's squeaky voice. She runs around Santa, begging to know who those "weird cows" are. Santa informs her they're his magic flying reindeer, and they're how he got to the farm. After watching the reindeer take off, Annabelle chirps that she wants to fly too. After a few nose-dives into the snow, she can't understand why it's not working.
"Don't be silly,
dear, cows can't fly. But maybe if you're real good, you
can ask Santa in a year."
Aunt Agnes arrives in a taxi, carrying presents and complaining. "WHOSE idea was it to have Christmas during THIS time of year? They should have it when there's no snow!" She should think about moving to Brazil, then.
After dumping her heavy
purse on Grampa's foot, Agnes rishes inside and embraces
Billy to his discomfort, then sits him on the couch.
Agnes gave Billy a ton of presents, but he doesn't seem to care for any of them. What DOES perk him up is the small box Santa left, that contains just a note which says "Look outside." Billy runs out and there is Annabelle, wearing a ribbon. "SANTA LEFT ME A COW?? I must've been really good this year!" is his implied reaction.
Of course Grampa Baker knows the truth -- his heifer gave birth to that calf last night -- but he's willing to let it slide. "Yup, sure, that was Santa." Agnes immediately gets agitated for encouraging "that Santa fairy-tale stuff" in her nephew. Then she voices her disapproval of his even being here. "How could you let him live on a FARM after what he's been through? You're lucky he hasn't suffered a relapse."
While the audience clearly isn't meant to side with Agnes, her words prove true when Billy runs into the barn after Annabelle and gets immediate flashbacks to the fire he barely survived. He starts having a panic attack, and the animals try to comfort him.
Then Billy sneezes.
falls backwards, flat on his rear. That couldn't have
just happened! The other animals are in equal shock. The
talking was supposed to be a total secret -- Santa said
so! Annabelle just ruined everything!
The grown-ups suddenly
notice Billy is gone. "He's in that hideous BARN,
isn't he?" gasps Agnes. That's where he is, all
right, but Agnes' tolerance for the inside of the barn
lasts about four seconds.
As Agnes is high-heeling
it out of the barn, she steps directly in a dung heap.
Once both Aunt and Grampa leave Billy alone, Ears addresses the topic at hand. "Now, I know it's part of the agreement that we aren't supposed to talk to humans. But it should be all right as long as it doesn't go any further! I'm pretty sure this here youngun won't go blabbing about it to anyone." Annabelle's mother points out that Billy literally can't tell anyone, so that settles that.
Meanwhile in the
kitchen, Agnes is trying to convince Baker to give Billy
This nearly convinces
Baker, but then he thinks about what Billy would want.
"Billy would much rather stay here. And you're NOT
getting him so you should just GIVE UP."
Annabelle tells Billy she wants to be a flying reindeer, just like the ones that pull Santa's sleigh. Billy fashions some twigs into fake antlers and attaches them to Annabelle's head with rope. Annabelle looks at her reflection and is pleased.
Emily stops by to show off the new sled she just got for Christmas. "Hey, neat cow! I bet if I tied her to the front of the sled, she could pull us just like Santa's sleigh." No objections from Annabelle. The trip goes smoothly at first, but eventually the sled goes downhill and picks up speed. Annabelle is knocked backwards onto the sled, which in turn knocks Emily completely off. The remaining passengers crash right into the fence dividing Baker's farm from Gus's.
They're immediately greeted by Bucky and Buster, who threatem to beat them up with plywood, until Gus arrives to stop the fight before it starts. Watching Annabelle leave, Gus thinks to himself "You know...if old man Baker has the money to buy a cow like that for Christmas, he probably has the money to fix my fence."
As Annabelle sleeps that night, she dreams of flying...of seeing the farm from the clouds, and sliding down the crescent moon like a slide. She's disappointed to wake up and find her body still earthbound, and not only that, Santa's magic wore off and she can't talk anymore (it's no longer Christmas Day). But her December 26 is about to get worse...
Gus and his boys show up
on Baker's front lawn, along with the county sheriff.
"These boys tell me their fence was wrecked....by
your young boy over there."
"But.....I'm afraid I don't have the cash on me to..."
Baker," Gus says, staring across the field with
greedy eyes. "I believe something can be substituted
of equal value....like THAT NEW COW over there."
"IS THERE SOMETHING
I CAN DO?" Baker begs the sheriff.
Baker only has one object he can pawn that would match Annabelle in value: the music box once owned by Billy's mother. "This was her most prized possession," he sighs, wiping away a tear. It's rough on the family, but Grampa does manage to get Annabelle back, and Billy is overjoyed to see her. This is followed by a montage that fast-forwards through the next eleven months. Gotta get to Christmas again...
Nearly a year later, the
school bus drops Billy and Emily off near the barn. Bucky
and Buster are waiting nearby to harrass them. "Hey,
how come you only hang out with cows? What's wrong with
you, huh? Oh right, you can't answer 'cause YOU CAN'T
TALK! HA HA!"
And they've both made Annabelle so mad that she paws her hoof and charges straight into them! That makes Buster and Bucky run away, but they sprint straight to their dad, and concoct a whopper about how "we were just minding our own business when Billy's DANGEROUS COW rammed us into the dirt!"
This leads to another
meeting with the sheriff. "Billy's cow? You mean
Annabelle? Are you sure?"
Gus turns around and glares at the kids. They sweat a bit and shamble off sheepishly.
"What's gotten into
you, Gus? You've turned into a miserable old Scrooge. Did
you ever wonder how Baker got the money to pay for
Annabelle? He had to sell his daughter's music box.
Really sad. Lotsa memories were in that box."
But Billy's problems aren't over yet -- did you forget about Agnes? She arrives on Christmas Eve out of nowhere with a court order from a judge grating her custody of Billy. Seems the judge felt Baker's barn was "too dangerous" -- not sure how he arrived at that conclusion without any evidence, but the order says Billy is hers until such time as he can speak. And she knows he can't!
"You'll love living
with me, Billy....I'm rich! Now run along and get your
The animals won't let it
happen! Ears ties a rope around Agnes's Cadillac, the
horse pulls it up to a big mud pit, and the pig pushes it
"THEN THAT'S WHAT I'LL DO," Agnes says icily. "Enjoy your reprieve, you old coot, because we're leaving first thing in the morning!"
While the humans are
asleep, Santa arrives again and spreads his magic dust.
The animals can talk for another day.
correct....and so you have. What is the wish?"
whispers the wish inaudibly, and Santa is like
"Whoa, that's a big wish, are you sure?" Her
mother says "She's thought of nothing else all
Christmas Morning. A tow
truck is outside raising the muddy Cadillac. While Agnes
is packing Billy's things and gloating over her victory,
Ears finds an extra present under the tree. He grabs it
with his mouth and places it on Baker's crotch.
When Billy opens the
box, there's nothing but a bunch of dust inside. But
after the dust clears, Billy points out "There's
nothing in this box."
If he can speak, that renders Agnes's court order null and void. And yes, this is Annabelle's Titular Wish. Even though she dreamed of flying, she watched Billy struggle with being unable to talk all year and had to think of him first.
But it was actually a
greater sacrifice than that. When Billy rushes into the
barn to talk to the animals, Annabelle just says
"moo" at him. Billy doesn't understand.
Oh, right....I forgot about the super-happy Hallmark ending. All this time we've been hearing the voice of a narrator, who is credited as Randy Travis but unidentified in the story up to this point. He reveals himself to be Billy as a grown-up, who married Emily and inherited the farm. Annabelle is still alive in the present, but she's an old cow on her last legs. Santa still visits her every year, but he can tell it's going to be her last Christmas.
Good thing Santa can reverse aging, cancel death, restore voices and turn cows into reindeer! Also...believe it or not, Gus married Agnes.
Why didn't it fit in?
Does Far Side Cow like it?
For today's second opinion, we asked Gary Larson's famed bovine for his take on Annabelle's Wish. "That cow wasted her wish if you ask me," we were told. "Any cow can perform restorative surgery with one of these."