Christmas means "presents" most when you're a kid, mainly because a)there's a lot more you want, and b)there's a lot more you get. Then you grow up and realize how shallow it is to think gifts are the most important thing, although that's probably due to the fact that the gifts start to stink. The blissful anticipation of what you could find under the tree pretty much dies by the time you reach 15; you get a lot less, and what you do get is just lame. What's most heartbreaking about this is watching a little kid right in front of you ripping up present after present in sheer joy, and knowing you'll never be in that kid's position again. I guess you could be if a Bratz doll or a Fisher Price construction set still appealed to you, but no.

Most of my future friends were spending the holiday season finding something huge, gigantic and over $100 under the tree...a computer, an NES/SNES/Genesis, a dirtbike, whatever. As for my parents, they had no desire to go into debt. Wait, strike that--my dad did. But all the Christmas presents he bought for me were mostly intended for himself.
"Oh....another board game? Yippee."
"Isn't it nifty?"
"I guess. But I'll probably only play with it once. And I know you're a collector of board games."
"Will you let Daddy have it then?"
"I guess..."

Luckily, I was easy to please. I never asked for the expensive stuff I dreamed about, because I knew I wouldn't stand a snowball's chance in hell. Instead, I asked for cartoon collections like Calvin and Hobbes, and your basic Lego sets. There was one year I dared to ask for a Game Boy, and I got the response I expected. I had to buy one on my own.
However, there was one landmark year--the Christmas of 1992--that caught me completely off-guard. Yes, my parents bought a $100 gift. For me, just this once...and I never saw it coming, because what was under the wrapping was something I never asked for, yet I knew--I just knew right there--that it was a present I would never forget.

The Video Painter!

This fuzzy, crummy picture isn't mine, it belongs to some guy selling a Painter on EBay. I still don't have a digital camera yet, and I can forget finding one under a tree(the saga continues). The Video Painter had come out the year before, and what it did was let you draw on the TV. Whatever you drew on that large pad appeared as lines on the TV. And the pictures were tapeable, meaning one of my childhood dreams was about to happen, while I was still a child. I could make my own cartoon television shows!!!!
So, will you be seeing them? The answer is...probably not. For the first few years, all the TV cartoons I made were too boring and lame to interest any of you. Many were just doodles extended into sequences. But eventually, some of the more boring elements were eliminated and I built an entire network of quality television. Several of the characters you know on this site begun on television, most prominently the Big Executive Guy with the round head and the cigar, who started his career on the Video Painter as the TV Executive.

The Weird Corporation -- A sitcom about a dumb woman named Maggie working in a large office building. The company she worked for made rubber chickens.
The Night Before Tonight Show (previously taped) -- A down-on-his-luck man hosts a bad late-night talk show from a dumpy studio.
Fools in Action -- Short films about things stupid people do.
Clown Hall -- A parody of "Town Hall," a local TV show that discussed hot issues. People on both sides of the argument would be in the audience and they'd yell at each other for an hour. This was based on that, and was even more disorderly.
Mr. Weirdo's Neighborhood -- Mr. Weirdo's own television show.
2 Stupid Dogs -- Yes, this is the Hanna-Barbera cartoon...minus the "squirrel" segments which were added later and I never cared for. Some episodes of regular shows made it onto these tapes, but this was the only one that appeared was underappreciated back then.
TV Channel Flip -- Surfing through the stations, seeing what weirdness I could find. And there was a lot.
Special Reports -- Dan Blather had his work cut out for him, interrupting all kinds of shows without cease, just to call attention to things we're supposed to care about. "A jet just crashed! Let's look at it!" (same picture for 5 minutes) "More on this later."
Programming 4 Kids -- By "4 Kids" I wasn't referring to the company named that, although if they had been around back then, I probably would have. The "Programming 4 Kids" block, begun in 1995 as an effort to "expand our reach," spoofed various kids shows. "Brand Spanking Old Doug" featured a shriveled-up, whiny version of Doug that whacked his cane at people.
Life in Venice! -- Short films about life in a town where the majority of the streets are waterways. There were roadkill fish and long, long canoes which were supposed to be limos.
And much much more!

I produced 11 tapes over seven years. All of them were six hours long(yes, that's right). Here's a full list:

The Super Silly Tape -- 1993
The Wild, Wacky and Weird Tape -- 1994
The Creatively Crazy Tape -- 1994
The Hilariously Humorous Tape -- 1995
The Amazingly Absurd Tape -- 1995
The Naturally Nuts Tape -- 1996
The Scrambled Eggs Movie -- 1997
The Fantastically Funny Tape -- 1997
The Cockamamie Christmas Tape -- 1997
The Really Really Really Good Tape -- 1998
The Alliterative Adjective Tape -- 1999

The series' final tape ended with a murder--that of the Night Before Tonight Show host(who had suddenly found great success somehow and caused a lot of other people to become jealous of him). For half the tape, the big mystery was who among the cartoon characters could have done it. Then it turned out he had been alive the whole time and the whole thing was staged by the Network Executive, who then got in gigantic trouble and was banished. However, through some legal move he made it so no more videos could ever be made without his consent, and everyone was fired, and that was the end. Actually, this took a while to finish -- well beyond 1999 -- but the fact that I was ending it like this indicated I was no longer interested.
The real reason the videos stopped was because I didn't feel they were worthwhile enough to spend my time on anymore. It was easier to show something drawn on paper than on TV, and these things weren't exactly marketable. Of course, now with VCR/computer cables it's possible, but I couldn't have known that then.

None of this would have happened if it hadn't been for that Christmas in 1992. The Video Painter is bar none the greatest Christmas present I ever recieved, or ever will recieve again. They practically made this thing with me in mind. Thanks again, Mom.

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