|THE WISH THAT CHANGED CHRISTMAS (cbs, 1991)|
Why was it such a misfit?
The sentence "produced by McDonalds" tells you everything.
This is a remake of one of the first Misfits ever covered here, back when I didn't have access to many of them. The original overview for The Wish That Changed Christmas was constructed from memories, garnished with Heroes references, and illustrated by stolen screenshots from Greg's Pop Arena, back when it was a website instead of a YouTube channel. Now that I've uncovered a locally taped first airing of this, I noticed a lot of extra riffable material I didn't recall happening. For one thing, the McDonalds connection was a LOT more pronouced in the first airing.
Ronald himself shows up in the first thirty seconds, strutting around his fireplace before turning around and saying "OH, you're HERE! I was WISHING you would show up." He's got Dad Jokes by the dozens, all of them "wish" puns. He's also got a literal wish in his front pocket, which leaps into his hand. In McDonaldland wishes take the form of hot fireballs that turn into puppies. You probably didn't wish for a puppy, or the terrible story he's about to tell, but Ronald wished you did and his wishes supersede yours.
In this time period, the McDonalds conglomerate was experimenting with making animated specials, under the banner "McDonalds Family Theater." McDonalds was a lot more aggressive in the 80s and 90s than they are now. Today they just feel like they've given up, but at THIS point in time, they were determined to make their soggy food products the most important thing in the entire world. McDonalds ads were as inescapable back then as Progressive ads are now. There wasn't just one in every television ad break. They were even starting to create the CONTENT -- not even Flo has gone that far yet. There were McMovies, McVideo Games and McToons like this one. "Mac & Me" is the most infamous example of the crossover, but The Wish That Changed Christmas is equally cringeworthy, even without Paul Rudd in a wheelchair falling into a river.
Fortunately our true narrator isn't Ronald, but a soft-spoken man in a scarf who explains this story takes place in his hometown of Mill Valley. "People do a lot of wishing around here. I guess wishing and Christmas just go together. Let me show you what I mean." He hangs a triangle instrument on his Christmas tree and then hits it with a hammer. The meaning of this act is lost on me.
Dissolve to an orphanage where a girl named Ivy is staring out a window at a bunch of children marching single-file into a school bus. Seems all her orphan friends have places to stay this Christmas (how?) and she's the only one that doesn't. Maybe she could just hang around the empty halls, but her headmistress tells her "Oh no you can't, I'm not sticking around here either; this place is depressing." She takes Ivy to a train station, puts a ticket in her hand and tells her Ivy is to be dumped at the Infant's Home to spend Christmas among a bunch of crying babies. Then she runs off.
Letting Ivy take this trip by herself is a strange decision, and it has the results you'd think it would. She doesn't get off at the stop the headmistress instructed her to. Instead, as the train passes Mill Valley, she spots a giant lit Christmas tree in the center of town. At the angle that faces the train, Christmas lights spell out "Merry Christmas From Mill Valley." At least they're supposed to, but as improbable fate would have it, some of the lights short out at that moment and make the tree read "Merry Christmas To Ivy" instead. Mistakenly thinking someone must love her, Ivy leaps off and heads for town.
And all the while she's been chatting to no one in particular about her dreams. You know what would solve all her problems? Not parents....not financial security....the solution she dreams of is, a doll. (gaaag)
And from there we switch TO a doll, who by the same coincidence that screwed up the lights, wants nothing more than a little girl to squeeze her stuffing out. (I know this because one of her first lines is literally "I want to be squeezed.") The villain of this piece -- if you can even call him that -- is Abracadabra, an owl that's in the same toy shop. It's never made clear if this is a stuffed owl that comes to life when no one's around, or a real mouse-eating owl that just happens to be in the shop because nobody cleans it. Whichever existence he is, all he does in this story is put down the doll, and he can't even do that very well. When the doll speaks of her dreams, the owl says "OH NOO HOO HOO NO THAT WON'T HAPPEN TO YOU NOPE NOPE HOO DEE DOO NOPE IT'LL NEVER HAPPEN HOO DEE HOO!!"
The other toys tell Holly not to listen to Abracadabra, but whenever she says asks a question or says anything else, he fires off another rant about how worthless she is while staring her down with psychotic eyes. Annoying as he is, he's at least more interesting to look at than Holly, who never changes her expression throughout the entire cartoon. In the Toy Story movies the toys showed a wide range of expressions whenever Andy left the room, but Mickey Dees handled this take differently. Seeing Holly just stare blankly with wide eyes while giving us lines like "I want....to be squeezed" is an experience.
That's not all, folks....the miserable girl and the miserable doll will be sharing screentime with Peter, the toy store assistant who's tired of being treated like a kid. By another coincidence, he'll get a chance to prove his mettle within the half-hour. I know my name is as common as Corn Flakes, but I resented seeing it used here.
When Ivy gets off the train, she starts searching for the sign maker. Her idea of searching is to stand in the middle of the station and yell "HEY, I'M IVY! I'M IVY!!" as loud as she can. She gets the expected "no one cares, kid" reaction.
A police officer walks
right past her without asking why she's just standing
there with no parental guardians. Way to do your job,
"Oh Albert. Why
don't we have a Christmas tree this year?"
Edna walks up to the toy
shop window, stares at Holly the doll and says aloud,
"I wish I had a little girl to give you to." I
have no idea how these characters are going to resolve
all their problems, do you? Edge of my seat here.
Back to Peter -- he's finally being given the big-boy treatment he's been demanding, as the owner hands him the key to the front door and tells him to lock up for the night, by himself. "You've been a good employee, Pete...I'll also let you pick out one of those unsold toys to take home." Peter doesn't like hearing the suggestion he's still into toys. "I'M A BIG KID NOW. I WEAR PULL-UPS."
Unfortunately, Peter blows his big chance almost immediately: he stuffs the key in his pocket, which turns out to have a hole. It lies there in front of the shop until the snow covers it.
Ivy is running up to
random people and assuming they are her mystery
relatives. An old lady is selling balloons on the park
bench; she comes over and announces, "I'M IVY!"
Because Ivy's dog-like instincts are so dim, she has no clue that standing around a public area as a child without asking for any kind of help is a bad idea. Eventually everybody goes home, the sun goes down, and she's standing there alone in the cold at 10 PM while the snow piles up around her. And if you can believe it, it's at THIS point that Ronald reappears with his book and says, "BOY, BOOKS CAN TAKE YOU TO A WHOLE OTHER PLACE! I FEEL JUST LIKE IVY, SHIVERING IN THE COLD, FREEZING SNOW! HEE HEE HEE!" He wraps a towel around himself. I don't know whether to be more scared of the owl or him.
Oh yeah...the owl's still a thing. Since it's Christmas Eve, and Holly is a Christmas-themed doll, she'll be put into the store's inventory for the next 11 months...and boy, is Abracadabra rubbing it in her face. "IT'S A SMALL, DARK ROOM....WHERE YOU DO NOTHING BUT SIT, ALONE, AND GATHER DUST! AND I'LL BE THERE HEE HOO HOO HOO HA HA HOO HOO DEE DOO HA HA!" So he's fully aware of what a freakshow he is, and worse yet, proud of it.
Ivy doesn't have much else to do but look in the windows of the shops as she trudges around trying to keep warm. At that moment Ivy and the doll finally meet eyeball to eyeball, and if you can believe the writer went this far, a light beam from heaven shone onto the doll to attract Ivy's attention. "Oh golly wolly, my super-special CHRISTMAS DOLL!! Now my life is complete!"
She also finds something else: the key Peter dropped in the snow. "I wonder if it's a Good Luck Key! I could use some luck." Um, no, there's no such thing as a Good Luck Key, kid. But after pocketing the key, she does finally locate an open door and a storage area that provides some kind of shelter. She sleeps there on a pile of refuse until the morning.
Come the morrow, Ivy leaps out of the storage area to stare at her Christmas Doll some more. She can't pull her eyes away. It's like it's her "constant," like Penny and Desmond on Lost or something (there, that reference stayed fresher than the Heroes one). Holly thinks her problems are over, until Abracadabra points out (as loudly and manically as he can) that she's outside and the shop isn't open on Christmas, so she's headed to storage WITH HIM. He doesn't know Ivy has the key to the place.
Problem is, Ivy and her dog brain don't seem to know that either. Despite finding it right in front of the store, she never tries using it. And when she overhears Peter fretting to the officer about losing the key, she gives it back right away, then walks off. Guess you really have no hope, Holly! HOO DEE DOO DE DOO!
Peter checks out the inside of the store to make sure no one stole anything. Everything looks the same, and then he remembers the store owner's words about being able to take a present home. He's in a model train mood right now, but then he thinks of the little girl who saved his job, and reaches to grab the doll.
The owl has a big problem with that, and flies off the shelf to -- honest -- viciously bite Peter in the face. Last time I thought it was the arm, but the truth was actually worse! He struggles to get Abracadabra off him, then tosses him into a barrel and shuts the lid over it. Peter's reaction to having a giant bird attack him out of nowhere in a toy shop: "Weird!"
We don't see what happens to Peter after this, and that owl showed all the symptoms of rabies, so perhaps not everyone lived happily ever after.
In the special's last two minutes, the officer FINALLY decides to do something about the little girl wandering around, and takes her to his house to warm her up. She runs to his window and declares, "This is what I've been looking for! A house with a beautiful Christmas tree, but no children!" She really doesn't want any siblings, I guess. And when she meets Edna, she declares her "my grandmother" and that settles that.
Oh yeah, the main plot thread. Peter stops by the door with a big box, Ivy opens it, Holly is inside, and gets the squeezing she was hoping for.
Why didn't it fit in?