Friday, December 9, 2011

Darkwing Duck - It's a Wonderful Leaf

Since it's incredibly easy to talk about this show, the next Christmas special will be about ducks in capes.

Like any good Disney show, Darkwing Duck happens to have a Christmas special, and what a Christmas special it is. You know how Frosty the Snowman never let up on the whimsy and the cutesy-wutesy? This episode, on the other hand, proves that it can have an ending that ends on a warm, fuzzy note while at the same time depicting one of the more horrifying ways to apprehend a villain in this series. Darkwing Duck continues to kick ass and chew bubblegum even when he's supposed to be filled with the holiday spirit, so don't think that just because Santa's in this cartoon that Darkwing's going to let up on the cartoon violence.

Which is good, because after the schmultz that Frosty and his underaged minions forcefed me, I can use some good old-fashioned 90's-grade violence.

And before someone points this out, yes, this is yet another Bushroot episode, effectively making three out of the four Darkwing Duck posts I've done so far Bushroot episodes and placing him in a giant majority on my blog. Well, what can I say? The mutant vegetable finds himself in quite a few episodes that are themed around holidays, and he happens to be one of the show's main regulars. I promise you, I will do a non-Bushroot episode next. Mostly because there is such a thing as too much of a good thing, and in Bushroot's case, his whiny Tino Insana voice will grate on your nerves after too long.

So deck the halls with whiny plants with low self-esteem and install really complicated security systems on your trees, for you're about to be bombarded by lame, Disney-style puns in...

It's a Wonderful Leaf

Man, I wish this episode was about an angel showing Bushroot what life would be like if he never existed.
Airdate: December 23, 1991

Availability: On DVD

Judging from the unique title card (which might be the only time Darkwing Duck doesn't use his trademark bold white font for a title name) and the jingly holiday music, I can instantly tell that my childhood hero Darkwing Duck realized that he was dealing with a Christmas special and decided that, to appeal to the network executives, he was going to pull out every last cliche in the book just so that every last member of the audience knows what religion he practices.

We open on a Christmas card, prominently displaying Saint Canard and its iconic and often destroyed bridge, and then it opens up and reveals magical glowing snowflakes and a setting that really overdoes it on the Christmas spirit. I like how Christmas specials are never subtle; this episode makes it very clear that if you're watching this in any other time besides the Christmas season, you're either weird or a Darkwing Duck completionist, although that's kind of redundant now that I think about it.

Hmmm, I wonder what holiday they're celebrating right now...
And what's our first setting? Why, a shopping mall of course! A crowded, hellish place of a shopping mall at that, one that yells "I'm going to be attacked by one of the cartoon's main villains!" at the top of its metaphorical lungs. In one of the trademarks of the 90's, shopping malls are the cartoon's way of making fun of America's love of capitalism, and this place is no exception. The very first jokes involve just how much people can be assholes on the holidays in their valiant search for a good deal, although this cartoon takes it to major extremes and makes Saint Canard look like a seething inferno of animosity, the way that literally everybody in this mall hates everyone else. Do I really want Darkwing Duck to protect these people? Maybe being enslaved by one of the members of the rogue gallery would be an improvement!

I do love how overdone these set designs though. Literally every inch of this shopping mall just screams Christmas. The owner of this mall must've spent half the year's budget on all of these lights, trees, and ornaments because damn.
Peace on Earth and goodwill to all men, my ass.
Oddly, instead of starting with Darkwing Duck like most episodes, we see Bushroot of all people trying to brave the crowds and being frightened of the wanton cruelty inflicted by his fellow man. I remember as a kid finding this scene kind of strange, because here we have the shy, misunderstood villain (and he actually is shy and misunderstood in this episode, unlike Night of the Living Spud) that is considered so hideous that society thinks he's a monster, and yet here he is in the middle of a crowded shopping mall in a flasher's trenchcoat. Smart. No one's going to be suspicious at all!

"That's it. Next year, I'm buying all of my Christmas presents online."
The whiny little piece of celery says that Christmas shopping gets more dangerous every year, which really kind of goes without saying, when you think about it. After all, last year, Bushroot wasn't a grotesque monstrosity with convicted felonies to his name. Last year, he could just walk up and buy his gifts for his colleagues without having wear a sock over his head to hide the fact that there's a flower growing out of his cranium. Last year, the worst he had to worry about was the ugly sweaters his aunt would send him in the mail or Dr. Gary and Dr. Larson spiking the eggnog at the University Christmas party.

...unless that happened over a year ago. Thanks to the negative continuity, you can never tell just how much time takes place during this show. Either way, this setup is kind of depressing and exists to make the viewer pity this poor chloroplast-filled loser, because Salad Head's at least trying to fit into regular society and be a good boy without flipping the hell out and holding up a shop clerk at gunpoint. Flowerpoint. Whatever.

So anyways, before I got off-topic, we see the mutant vegetable avoid the holiday rush by hiding out in a garden shop (because get it, he's a plant) and bemoan the fact that he always waits until the last minute to do his shopping. No offense, Mr. Bushroot, but wasn't it established in previous episodes that you like to steal now? Although if Bushroot was actually going to pay for his presents with some of his savings from before he turned into a plant, that would make what happens next even sadder.

And all of the potted plants are all "Aw crap, he's back!" and try to avoid eye contact.
But I quickly forget that, because what follows just kills me every single time. After avoiding getting trampled to death by a crowd of bloodthirsty shoppers, Bushroot just kind of casually strolls around the garden shop, reading from a shopping list and looking like he's actually going to obey the law in this episode. One of my favorite things in cartoons is when the established supervillains do something casual and mundane instead of shouting pun-filled catchphrases all over the place, which is why I get a real kick out of this scene.

It also leads me to wonder if Bushroot regularly shops at this store. He seemed excited that he ended up in here, can recite the name of the place by heart, and knows where everything is. I'd love to see what the staff thinks whenever they see the same guy dressed in the same trenchcoat, gloves, and ugly hat combo just handing them sacks of money and buying thousands of dollars worth of plant supplies right after the news reports a mysterious plant-related bank robbery.

I like how Bushroot was careful to hide his flower hair and his leaf hands, and yet his
hideous, root-like monster feet are exposed and easily visible. Whoops.
He finally finds a gift, because plants are incredibly easy to shop for since they don't want any expensive videogames, and then some strange, ugly dogman with human skin takes it. Bushroot, instead of flat-out murdering the guy (because he is an established villain on the show with an actual death count), actually takes the polite, nerdy route and tries to ask for it back. Aww, I love it when villains actually revert back to their previous personas, even for just a brief moment, and you're reminded that at one point, they were just a regular person just like you and me.

Unfortunately, this conversation goes nowhere and makes the hideous human/canine hybrid so irate that he swings his shopping bag and actually knocks all of Bushroot's clothes off. And somehow he's totally okay with the fact that he forcefully stripped a person in public. I love cartoons.

Also, if someone swung a shopping bag hard enough to knock someone to the floor, I'm pretty sure that counts as criminal battery. I hope ugly hairless dog person (is that fur or skin? Seriously, what am I staring at here?) likes spending Christmas in a jail cell because I'm positive that plant store has security cameras.

"No offense, sir, but you really don't look like the gardening type. The Redneck Emporium is in that direction!"
So our now naked villain lands in a barrel filled with rakes, where he ends up scaring a little girl with his deformities. Aww, poor hideous Bushroot, making children cry. It's only Christmas Eve and already this is shaping up to the worst Christmas in his life.

Although to be fair, the fact that he popped out of a barrel and started loudly complaining about the fact that she pulled his hair probably wasn't the best idea in the world, not when he's a monster that regularly appears in news stories and, again, has at one time viciously killed two people at a local university. I don't care if she plucked one of your petals out, Bushroot. You're kind of not supposed to be seen in public. You can be more discreet than this!
Oscar the Grouch in his early years.
The mother of the pig girl (by the way, keep an eye out for these two; they happen to be reoccurring characters in this episode) turns around, is that Bushroot expression inappropriate. Why is he in such a good mood all of a sudden? He's naked, exposing the fact that he's a frightening beast, and yet he looks like he's just chilling there in that barrel, having a swell time. Did yelling at the girl satisfy him? Does he take pleasure in the tears of children?

Eh, maybe he's happy that, for once, people are actually going "eww, a monster!" at him. There was a surprising lack of that in Beauty and the Beet and Night of the Living Spud, so I'm happy this scene exists so I don't just assume that Bushroot's being a drama queen and overreacting over a little greenness.

"There's a naked man in this barrel of rakes!"
Anyways, before I got distracted, Miss Piggy screams that there's a plant monster. Okay, typical freakout scene, I was kind of expecting this to happen from the moment Bushroot entered the mall in disguise since he must never succeed. But then this unnamed character actually takes a level in sheer badassery by actually grabbing a rake and starts beating the everliving crap out of Bushroot, forcing him to pitifully crawl away as fast as he can before she breaks his skull open like a chloroplast-filled pinata.

Now remember, Bushroot is a supervillain who regularly goes to prison, has had the city at his mercy several times over the course of the show, has kidnapped people more than once, and can create vampire potatoes. He's actually killed people in an episode. And this bystander, this overweight woman with a bratty child, is handing his ass to him. I both feel bad for Bushroot and want to give this woman a Medal of Badassness.

By the way, also criminal battery. This would so not happen at my mall because the cops there would haul you away faster than you can say "but he started it!".

The other members of the Fearsome Five like to bring this incident up all the time,
right after they bring up the vampire potato wife.
So Flowerhead McLeafhands runs around aimlessly in fear, like Solid Snake after the player accidentally fails at being stealthy, and...holy crap, where did that mob come from?! One moment, Bushroot just has the attention of one badass woman and her daughter, and the next moment, the entire mall is filled with people toting torches, pitchforks, and lawnmowers. Man, the way this city can just spontaneously generate a mob of people willing to stab Bushroot to death with farming tools just puts me in the Christmas spirit.

Also, where the hell are the cops? I don't mean that because of Bushroot either; that mob is a huge safety hazard! Open flames in a mall! People running really fast with lethal pitchforks on slippery tile floors! I bet off-screen, the Old Navy burst into flames, several small children were ground to death by those lawnmowers, and someone was stabbed in the neck after the guy in the front tripped.

Why do I get the feeling that I'm going to be rooting for Bushroot in this episode?
Get it? Root? Because he's a plant.
The freak of nature escapes, but his mood has soured faster than a glass of eggnog that's been left sitting near a fireplace. He's so mad that he even says "Bah grubbug" in an attempt to be cute. To be honest, his anger is pretty justified. All he wanted to do was do a little Christmas shopping legally. Wouldn't you be pissed off if you went to a mall and people tried to run you over with lawnmowers?

And, in one of the more iconic Bushroot moments, he complains about the way people treat him while staring hopelessly at his own reflection. I say iconic because if I had a nickel for every time this image has popped up in Darkwing Duck fan forums, whether by itself or with some poetic text underneath it, I'd have enough money to buy the entire collection of Darkwing Duck action figures in mint condition and still have change to spare. 
Who is that plant I see
Staring straight back at me?
When will my reflection show
Who I am inside?
As you can probably guess, it's right then and there that Bushroot decides he's going to ruin Christmas, on account he's the person on the roster who looks the most like The Grinch. Because why just focus on that mall or just go to a different mall and hope the people there won't be complete jerkwads? Clearly the entire city needs to suffer his wrath! I love villain logic.

...course, this strangely emotional scene is kind of ruined, because while he's declaring how he hates this holiday (although by that logic, he should hate every holiday on account of the crowds of hellishly mean people in this city), we get to see a cloud of pollen erupt from his head in anger. Uh, eww? Why is his anger making him ejaculate in public?
Poor Bushroot was typecast into his Grinch role on account of his green skin.
In typical superhero cartoon framing, the moment we hear the villain's supreme plan to either take over, kidnap, or destroy something or someone, essentially laying out the plot of this cartoon, we have to check in on our heroes and see what they're doing at that moment. As an added bonus, Darkwing ironically says a line that mirrors what Bushroot said. Bushy said soon people will be glad Christmas only comes once a year, and then Darkwing, on cue, says that he's sad that Christmas only comes once a year. Good old Disney writing at its best.

And remember when I said I wanted to give that pig mom a Medal in Badassness? Well, now Darkwing Duck deserves one, because he somehow turns decorating a Christmas tree into an extreme sport. Why merely decorate a tree when you can decorate it using parkour?

Nobody likes a showoff, Darkwing.
This cartoon seems to be filled with inappropriate expressions today, because when Darkwing Duck points out how there's something about the holidays that makes everything seem so peaceful, Launchpad's eyes bulge really far out of his head for no apparent reason. Peace frightens Launchpad apparently, because the poor pilot looks like he's seen a ghost.

That, or our hero's original line was considered too risque for the target audience and it had to be redubbed.

"DW, there are strange, ape-like creatures watching us."
Oh, and Gosalyn, in her rush to appear in this episode, wrecks stuff and tries to open up her presents early. At the risk of getting every single Darkwing Duck fan in the history of the universe wanting me dead, Gosalyn's scenes are, while very entertaining (because I love cartoon violence), extremely predictable. I think it's because her archetype is used thousands upon thousands of times in cartoons (hell, she's just a girl Bart Simpson with a duck bill), but you could set your clock to how her scenes run.

Gosalyn is really good at what she does, though. In one scene alone, she destroys the tree, disintegrates an antique sled Darkwing's had since he was a little kid, nearly causes a fire, screams really loud, cause her two parental guardians physical anguish, and tries to unwrap the gifts, all without breaking a sweat. And all Darkwing does is stand there with his arms crossed and look slightly miffed. The Caped Duck Crusader doesn't even ground her or spank her (I'm pretty sure if I did what Gosalyn did as a kid, I wouldn't be able to sit down until New Years) or anything. He just assumes that by glaring at her, she'll learn her lesson. Dude, she just destroyed a tree that was worth at least fifty dollars. At least make her sit in the corner! Do something!

"Destroy anymore of the expensive, irreplaceable Christmas decorations and I'll have to glare at you for even longer!"
So, of course, since Darkwing Duck is one of those New Age parents who believes that punishments hurt a child's creative spirit, we end up getting a scene where Gosalyn and her loyal puppet of a friend Honker (it's always kind of sad how in quite a few episodes, his main role is "do whatever loud, demanding friend tells me to do and barely talk at all") try to open presents. I'm pretty sure we were all expecting a scene like this.

What's stopping her? A Christmas tree alarm on top of an instantly brand new tree, of course! Yes, it turns out that Darkwing Duck's tree has a very loud and very annoying police siren that goes off whenever someone touches a present before Christmas Day. They never explain how the hell this alarm works (Is it touch activated? How would someone set one up?), but apparently in Saint Canard, they're all over the place and they will come up later in the episode. Without giving too much away, remember that Bushroot is a plant-themed villain. Kind of a big clue.

And man, think of the complaints from the neighbors if you had one of those. Imagine if you were in an apartment and suddenly you were woken up at three in the morning because the snot-nosed brats upstairs tried to sneak a peek at one of their gifts. The Christmas tree alarm sounds like a good idea on paper but I really dread the thought of one actually existing.

"It's the air raid siren! The Germans are attacking!"
That scene ends, we open on a happy little Christmas lot filled with thousands upon thousands of trees (wow, that poor lot owner must be bankrupt, considering the lack of business and how little of his stock has sold), and...Bushroot has transformed into a war general, shouting for the trees to rise up against their oppressors and break their popcorn chains in an attempt to take back Christmas from the people who cut them down and regularly decorate their dying bodies with silly Santa-themed ornaments.

...okay, what the crap. Why is Bushroot trying to turn his near-death experience at the mall into a massive political movement? Is he honestly implying that the people in that mall from earlier were committing a hate crime? There are just so many things wrong with this idea that I don't even know where to begin. I wonder if he was ever this insane about politics when he was just a normal duck working at Saint Canard University and he felt very strongly about certain topics.

And nice security there, Christmas tree lot owners! It's not like it's Christmas Eve or anything and some people don't regularly pull pranks with Christmas trees!

"Don't let the chordates from Kingdom Animalia hold you down! They've been taking advantage
of the fact that we turn carbon dioxide into oxygen for way too long!"
And immediately I lost the ability to take this scene seriously (although I never did in the first place) when Bushroot's ridiculous remote control thing shoots out magical Christmas sparkles, animating all of the trees. I guess there must've been some magic in that old star wand he found!

...and how the hell are those trees able to move? I know, I know, Bushroot has commanded trees to move before and it was equally ridiculous then, but they at least had roots that could support their weight. Christmas trees get chopped down at the base and need a stand and some screws in order to hold them upright. That's like us trying to walk around with no feet. What we're dealing with here is essentially an army of cripples. Fun.

Truly the manliest Darkwing Duck villain is right here.
I will give Spinach Butt some credit where credit is due. The first thing he does with his loyal tree army is that he goes back into the mall and gets revenge on both pig mom and ugly half-human dogperson by commanding the trees to do his dirty work and making sure that everyone hates each other and they beat each other up. Although really, considering the opening scene has established that these people are cruel, heartless animals capable of inflicting cruel amounts of violence to each other during Christmas Eve, he really doesn't need to do much in order to make things worse.

Also, did no one notice the giant army of Christmas trees just marching down the streets, when even just one tree moving would be a major cause of concern? And how far is was that lot in relation to the Saint Canard Mall? And why is Bushroot just absolutely fine with walking around stark naked in the snow when I'm pretty sure his species is not a plant that can survive harsh winter environments?

I guess the answer to all of those questions is like the answer to all of the questions that came up in Frosty the Snowman. Because it's Christmas, that's why.

Man, those Christmas lights have their high beams on.
Just look at how easily Bushroot can hide from everybody too while he's causing rage and destruction in a mall that contains only six people! Oh yeah, no one's going to spot him there, kneeling out in the open behind a group of poinsettias that don't even completely cover him!

"Making five random strangers beat each other up is a fantastic way
to use my miraculous, world-changing powers."
And at one point, Bushroot, who's really going kind of crazy with his whole "Ruin Christmas" scheme, feels like it's a good idea to actually dress up like Santa and be a dick to random strangers, because he really wants to make the Dr. Suess copyright holders angry at Disney. He even calls this part "Phase Two: Sinister Santa", because his evil scheme is apparently so complicated that it needs multiple steps. Does he have all of these phases written down somewhere? Which phase involves stealing the roast beast from Whoville?

Sinister Santa Bushroot (which sounds like an action figure too cool to exist) is kind of awesome, though. I like how this character can just totally switch gears and go from being shy, nerdy, and kind of a wimp to be an absolute jerk to children who seem like nice enough kids. It's like, yeah, Bushroot's a nerd, but he also has quite the mean streak. Was Bushroot like this at Saint Canard University? Did he ever have to courage to just walk up to Dr. Larson and insult him to his face at times?

It's also kind of cute how the moment Bushroot puts on a Santa suit, no one thinks he's a plant monster. I guess it's the flower hair that really clues people in.

"Look, kid, I'm not even Santa. I'm just a hired worker that dresses up as a fictional character in order to get a paycheck because the economy is so bad that my Masters in Biology isn't helping me in the job market."
The best part? When Herb Muddlefoot, that overweight annoying neighbor of Darkwing's that's really quite awesome in his sheer happiness, sits on Bushroot's lap (probably breaking every bone in his root legs in the process) and asks from gifts from the hideous bearded plant man. This might be one of the best scenes in this episode, if not the entire series, if only because I always kind of liked the idea that Herb and Bushroot would be friends (and I'm sure someone on the Internet went the extra mile and supports them as a couple) just by their names alone. Herb seems pretty accepting of alternate lifestyles; I'm pretty sure he'd be a-okay with a emotionally distraught vegetable-like supervillain for a friend just as long as he appreciated the finer storytelling found within Pelican's Island.
"Why must we always meet like this, Herb? Your wife's been asking questions..."
And then, since at one point, Bushroot made that exact same pig girl cry (so what, this large shopping mall only contains like ten people tops excluding the random mob?), it's Super Pig Mom to the rescue and she's ready to win her second Medal of Badassness! Want to know why I see this episode every year?

Super Pig Mom must also have poor eyesight, because she seriously can't recognize the mall Santa as the same plant monster that started screaming at her child back in the plant store. I guess all ducks look the same to a pig.
"You degenerates! There are children present!"
Meanwhile, Darkwing Duck (okay, his civilian name is Drake Mallard, but come on, we all know he's Darkwing Duck) is going a little nutzoid on the last-minute shopping, purchasing a giant tower of gifts because apparently he knows like fifty other people in his life. Seriously, why is it that every single cartoon I run into has the main characters shop on Christmas Eve? How come Black Friday doesn't exist in any Disney cartoon? How come no one thinks to plan ahead and do their shopping on less crowded days like December 5th?

I also want to illustrate a weird quirk that was present in this episode. Quite a few of the inbetweens have wonky eyes, as demonstrated by Crazy Holiday-Loving Darkwing here. It's a weird stylistic choice that's present in this episode (and probably in any other episode animated by Sunwoo Entertainment, the animation studio that did this episode) that's probably supposed to make the animation look more cartoony, but it just makes everyone in Saint Canard look like they're suffering from Amblyopia.

"DW, I hate it when you do that with your eyes. It creeps me out."
But wait! People are getting their stuff stolen! Because...apparently one of Bushroot's phases was to just steal random things from random people shopping at the mall for absolutely no rhyme and reason to the thefts. His plan sort of dissolved into "I'm going to be a jerk for funsies!", from the looks of it. Aw well, either way, it looks like Drake's shopping is cancelled because it looks like a job for Darkwing Duck!

Oh, but first he dresses up like Santa and decides to go undercover as a mall Santa in order to search for clues. Because apparently Darkwing just happens to have a Santa Claus outfit just lying around behind an oversized candy cane decoration for no reason. I wonder how the mall owners feel whenever they see the same guy dive behind objects and start stripping.

"Launchpad, why aren't you in your reindeer costume? We went over this."
There's a scene where the mallgoers mistake Darkwing for the Sinister Santa, leading me to wonder if the citizens of Saint Canard are very nearsighted or very stupid (money's on the latter) on account the Santa they want clearly is taller and has green feathers. Luckily, The Duck Knight is able to narrowly avoid getting ripped apart by an angry mob by...ducking behind a tree and changing outfits there. Okay. And I guess no one asked questions when the Santa's pilot sidekick is the same pilot sidekick Darkwing Duck has either.

Also, where did all of the presents Launchpad was carrying go? I'm sure Darkwing's not going to appreciate the fact that Launchpad threw away several hundred dollars worth of presents in his mad rush to get away from the scum that occupies this fair city.

"Why is it that I can't have a regular Christmas without one of the members
of my rogue gallery ruining it for everyone?"
We then get a classic line from Bushroot as he, for some bizarre reason, magically appears from behind the same tree Darkwing was behind (yeah, explain that!), and then says "I'm not really sinister, just misunderstood", which kind of sums up the entire character right then and there. Like the scene where Bushroot gazes at his reflection, this quote pops up a ton when it comes to fanforums dedicated to this show, and it's often a philosophy that many diehard Bushroot fans subscribe to, to the point where they tend to forget that Lettuce Lips can be kind of an asshole at times. Hell, before this scene, he was making children cry! I'm pretty sure we're not misunderstanding your motives, Bushroot. You're just a jerk.

I do like how Bushroot says that he isn't sinister when one of his phases was called Sinister Santa. Kind of being a hypocrite there, Reggie.

"I'm just doing this to get attention, really."
Darkwing then discovers Bushroot and, now that he knows just who is behind this Christmas-themed episode, decides to make with the heroic alliterations and starts yelling at him in a typical superhero fashion. Although, really, Darkwing. What the hell did you expect? You have a plant-themed villain on your roster and Christmas is built on the foundations of countless plant slaughter. We have mistletoe nailed to door frames, we have trees grown just so they can be ruthlessly harvested, and to make matters worse, no one even pays attention to the plight of the poor neglected holly! You'd better believe Bushroot was going to make a stink out of it one of these days, even if he was only driven to do it after a pig and a dog were mean to him in a garden shop.
"Oh, come on! First potatoes and now this? Get a hobby, for God's sakes!"
When Darkwing Duck complains about how Bushroot is being a butthole by ruining Christmas, all Bushroot does is cloyingly say "Everybody's got to celebrate in their own special way", leading me to wonder just why the hell he doesn't just explain to Darkwing exactly why his leafy tailfeathers are all in a bundle. Bushroot's one of the more reasonably sane villains in this show; he can talk to Darkwing and explain his problems. If he just said "Look, I was trying to do some legal shopping but then I narrowly avoided getting lynched by a goddamn mob. Look at the security footage if you don't believe me!", then maybe DW might understand where Bushroot's coming from. Hell, he might think some of those people deserve it, because who the hell starts chasing people with a pitchfork in a crowded mall?

Bushroot's torso is really freaking me out in this scene too. What the hell, did he turn into a snake while Darkwing was talking? The fact that Bushroot's so bendy gives some animators an excuse to draw him really off-model and this episode is no exception.

"Stop randomly mutating! It's freaking me out!"
And, in case you're wondering how Bushroot manages to deal with Darkwing, he summons trees and stands on the sidelines of course. Like all the villains in this show, Dr. Reginald Bushroot suffers from an unhealthy fixation of what defines him and feels like if he somehow doesn't commit a crime that isn't plant-themed in some way, all the other villains will judge him for acting against his gimmick. He just can't branch out, no pun intended.
"Eat plastic decorations, dogooders!"
Since our hero knows exactly how this villain plays his game and can just ignore whatever the hell this guy throws at him (because seriously, Christmas tree stars as weapons? What the hell are they even supposed to do?), Darkwing actually manages to complain how much of an asshole Bushroot's being while adopting the best "what the crap" faces I've ever seen on a cartoon duck. It's just adorable how he has to roll up his sleeves before he gives the ugly plant chimera a good talking down too. Meanwhile, look at that smug grin Bushroot's giving to the audience. It's like he knows we're enjoying this.

"Wait a second. You have plant telepathy that can automatically control plants! Why the hell do you need special tree toppers to control Christmas trees?"
"Because it looks cool."
Bushroot, tired of the insults flung in his direction, kind of wanders off in a non-climactic way while the trees hold off Darkwing by pointing their cheap, plastic decorations at him. They never explain just what's so dangerous about the tops of the trees, nor do they use this choice of weapon ever again in this special, but I guess since DW and Launchpad are pressed up against a wall, it must be bad, right?

I don't know, this weapon seems more like something Megavolt would invent...
...well, no. In fact, Darkwing rather easily gets away from them because his gun can shoot Christmas decorations at random, which causes the trees to get distracted enough for them to slip away. Why can his gun shoot tinsel and ornaments? Because shut up, he's Darkwing Duck!

Okay, fair enough, so let's check up on Bushroot instead, as he proceeds with Operation Bah Humbug while driving around in a car he definitely doesn't have the proper license to handle. Wait a second, Bushlips. Earlier you were using phases, and now they're operations? Make up your mind! This is the most disorganized evil villain plot ever!

Also, why a neighborhood? The mall seemed to be the root (sorry) of his problems; I know the show's hero was found in there, but he could still reasonably attack the mall with his plants instead of being a jerk to people who weren't even involved with him not getting his Christmas shopping done. At this point I think he's just ruining everyone's Christmas because we're expecting him to at this point. His reputation is at stake!

Not pictured: The truck driver Bushroot mercilessly killed off-screen.
Anyways, this Operation makes all the trees start sprouting weird pine needle arms (how would those strange appendages work? Again, telepathy or remote controls doesn't mean the trees mutate too just because you tell them too) and grabbing whatever gifts are spread around them, which they later haul over to Optimus Prime and his plant duck buddy so that they can hawk the stolen goods for fertilizer money. At least, I assume that's what Bushroot wanted to do. I think the reason he never explained what he was going to do with the stolen gifts is because, somewhere in his shriveled little chloroplast-filled heart, he knew he never was going to succeed and just didn't bother.

I'm pretty sure if I was a little kid and saw my tree do this, I'd crap my pants in sheer terror.
Oh, and the Muddlefoots's tree punishes Tank Muddlefoot, because I've quickly learned that the moment that poor unattractive duck version of Nelson appears onscreen, he's going to get ruthlessly attacked. I know he's a bully, but oftentimes the punishment seems way harsher than what he was dealing out. Hell, this scene? All he does is bite the heads off of gingerbread cookies and says "stupid tree". That's it. And somehow this warrants a slow suffocating death while trapped in a Christmas stocking. Gotta admire how durable that cloth is, though.

Also, the Muddlefoots have five stockings when they have four members of their family and no pets. Looks like someone on the creative team doesn't know how to count!

Oh, and Vegetable Beak ends up running into a Christmas tree alarm,  which causes him to, well, do this.

No, that's okay, Bushroot. I wasn't intending on sleeping tonight anyways.
And the award for the ugliest reaction goes to...Bushroot, and his eyeless sockets of doom! No offense to the Disney animators, but this is so not the show for Spumco-esque takes. You can't just have relatively normal animation with a certain style and then just whip out levitating eyeballs for one scene and one scene only! It's incredibly jarring, and doesn't fit the spirit of the show.

What makes this even worse is that a legitimately creepy scene follows this scene, where all of the trees in the neighborhood form a line with their stolen goods and then get onto Bushroot's truck. I guess, when he's not busy either being a jerk or being a whiny, misunderstood ball of sad, Bushroot also likes to add a little surrealism to Saint Canard. I'm sure if ever wants a little extra space in prison, he just pops his eyes out of his sockets and then relish in his fellow inmates' horrified tears of anguish.

Also, why isn't anyone trying to fight off the trees? You can't seriously tell me that over two dozen households just didn't notice the trees that could suddenly walk around and carry things with magical tree limbs. I'm not buying the idea that somehow a Christmas tree can hold off any possible threat. We've only seen them subdue little kids; judging by the way my dad decorates, he could murder these suckers just with the use of a tree stand and some awkwardly placed pieces of furniture.

Look at all of those yard decorations! Truly everyone in this neighborhood just loves the holidays!
I do love it when Bushroot gets behind the wheel of anything in this show, be it a rideable lawnmower or some truck he stole. I'm not exactly sure why he looks so absurd when he drives. I guess I can buy a duck scientist that can turn himself into a mutant plant just by shooting flower blood into his arm, and yet my suspension of belief immediately goes out the window the moment I see him in a motor vehicle. Where the hell does he keep his driver's license in case he gets pulled over anyways?

And you know what else I love? The fact that for the rest of this episode, Bushroot wears a darling little Santa hat, because it's chilly outside and he wants to preserve as much heat as possible while he's running around in the frigid snowy environment while completely naked. Geez, Bushroot. If you can steal presents, you can steal a coat and some pants.
"Oh yes, I love this song! She took the midnight train, goin' aaaaaanywhere!"
Saint Canard's Greatest Detective manages to catch up to him by driving around randomly on his motorcycle (because apparently this city is absurdly small) and he tries to stop him by...jumping in front of his car okay what the hell, Darkwing. You can do better than this! At point did your mind go "Hey, you know what would stop that speeding truck? If I jump off my motorcycle and land on the windshield" and decide it was a good idea? I mean, come on, if the villain looks embarrassed for you, you know you messed up.

Vehicular manslaughter sure puts me in the holiday spirit.
So Bushbrain gets away, Launchpad gathers Darkwing's bruised, broken body off of the streets before anymore cars finish him off, Gosalyn and silent but suffering Honker (who hasn't had a single line in this entire episode so far, by the way) catch up, and then Darkwing decides that after nearly getting killed by a speeding truck, he's tired of the violence and the mean-spirited animosity he's harboring to this former scientist. In fact, he's going to go the peaceful, calm route and he's just going to talk this over with Bushroot and maybe, just maybe, they can work things out. It is Christmas after all.

Nah, I'm just kidding. Darkwing Duck says he's going to do some Christmas tree chopping and pulls out a really huge axe. Because that's what makes me think of Christmas! The thought that one of my childhood heroes is going to happily decapitate one of my favorite villains of all time!

...I'm pretty sure there's a reason why Bushroot hates you, Darkwing. It's because you're totally okay with lethal force.
"Let's get murderous!"
We then get a really gratuitously long car chase scene, demonstrating that Disney really can't write a car chase scene to save their lives, where they go after the truck and manage to catch up (again, how come Bushroot's really easy to follow in a city filled with millions of different streets?), Darkwing and Launchpad somehow get knocked off, the children are left alone on the motorcycle,, Gosalyn knows how to pilot that thing really well. Forget the age laws. If she can do that on a snow-covered road (where the hell are the snow plows?) with no seatbelts and no protection other than a helmet, then she deserves a driver's license.

"Let's see Webby from DuckTales do this!"
And, through a series of cartoon physics and contrived coincidences, our Caped Crusader and his bumbling sidekick (who, now that I think about, has contributed pretty much nothing in this episode) end up flying around on a plastic Santa sleigh and reindeer while the city looms in the background. Because we can use the strange yet Christmas-themed imagery.

I gotta hand it to Gosalyn. She wasn't lying when she said she's never gonna forget this Christmas. I'm sure whatever Christmas where I nearly die in a motor vehicle accident and my dad ends up sailing through the air to his gruesome death would be etched in my memory too.

Look on the bright side, DW. The newspaper editors are going to have a hell of a time trying to explain your death.
Long story short, since I'm not going to make a run-down on how they get from Gosalyn on a motorcycle and Darkwing imitating a Stephen Spielberg classic to the group all gathered together in the same place without one of them dying, they manage to end up together at the Christmas tree lot and they manage to get all of the stolen tree presents, all at the same time. Don't ask me how they do this without wrecking (four people did just land right on them to cushion their fall) or losing any of the gifts; I really don't know myself. Let's just say that I'm pretty sure the streets of Saint Canard can't be accurately mapped unless if you add some wormholes.
At least one of them's happy.
So while Gosalyn, Honker, and Launchpad return the gifts (although they never explain how they'll know which gifts go to what house), effectively removing them from the final battle so that they don't suffer from any friendly fire, Darkwing Duck's gonna brutally eviscerate Bushroot on national television. Yes, my friends. Not only does The Duck Knight carry a giant axe, but he also carries a huge pair of hedge-clippers. I just want to point out that he never pulls out sharp implements of pain when he fights Megavolt, Steelbeak, or Negaduck. Nope. But Bushroot? He's fair game on account he can grow back whatever limbs Darkwing horribly severs off his body. I know Bushroot was a jerk to those kids at the mall but how is this fair?

Isn't it kind of frightening that Darkwing Duck just has easy access to these things too? Sheesh.

If you're wondering where Lilliput went, here's your answer. The cops still haven't found his body.
Darkwing decides to search for Bushroot, but this search lasts about twenty seconds before Bushroot captures him through the use of a lasso of Christmas lights, because remember, it's Christmas and there's still some Christmas-themed thingys they had yet to use. Man, where did Bushroot learn how to do that? Hell, how did he get so athletic all of a sudden? If you recall Beauty and the Beet, he was an out-of-shape middle-aged man who wasn't powerful enough to get a potato from his coworkers. I guess prison has great Phys. Ed or chloroplasts physically make you twenty years younger.

"Wow, I didn't think that'd actually work!"
And then, Darkwing just decides he's through playing cute and harmless and points his gas gun right in Bushroot's face. At first, I thought he was just going to use his typical, non-harmful gas, the kind that just makes the villains disorientated, but then he says "put up your roots before I fumigate you", implying that he actually loaded that gas gun with honest to god weed killer and is pointing it at the plant villain. That's a lethal weapon he's holding right there. And we're not even getting into the axe and the hedge-clippers he has stored somewhere just in case Bushroot tries to resist arrest!

I'd like to see an episode of Batman where Batman just points a gun loaded with
weed killer in Poison Ivy's face and threatens her.
Insulted by the fact that Darkwing is pointing weed killer at him when he never pulls out poison for any of the other villains (I mean, come on, this is like Darkwing stopping Quackerjack with arsenic gas), Bushroot decides he's going use his plant powers to have a plant-themed climax for our delightful Christmas romp. And, like he normally does, The Root of the Bush decides to summon a plant to do all the work for him instead of fighting his own battles. Wuss.

I'd like you to meet Douglas. He's going to be Bushroot's secret weapon for today's episode. His name is a plant joke and he's the reason why, as a young kid, I actually knew what a douglas fir is. He's also as large as he festive, because even though Bushroot had a Christmas tree the size of an NBA player, he figured he might as well save him for last. The cartoon needs a decent climax after all.

"Season's Beatings, punk."
In Bushroot's defense, he at least tries to help in this fight this time around. grabbing a star and then handing it to Douglas. Wow, he certainly is contributing to this team!

All Bushroot wants for Christmas is some dignity.
How does Darkwing avoid getting his head chopping off by a ninja star tree ornament thing and oh god I can't believe I wrote that? By a well-placed fire hydrant of course! That Darkwing decides to kiss for no reason at all other than to work a "tongue stuck on a frozen pole" gag because I guess he's into that sort of thing. Who am I to judge?

And at the risk of disappointing everyone, this fire hydrant is going to save the day. Santa is a big fan of the water department after all.
Pictured: Saving the day.
Yep, this is what stops the main villain. A conveniently placed hydrant, the fact that Darkwing is willing to kiss anything (eww), and a conveniently placed snowman carrying a shovel. And all of this happens while the Terror that Flaps in the Night (who doesn't even say his "I am the terror" speech at all in this episode; the closest thing we get is a line Gosalyn has) is bursting out as many water and ice puns as possible considering the short time frame.

This conclusion makes me feel a little bit cheated, to be honest. Why would he show off that awesome axe and hedge-clippers combo earlier and then not use them on Douglas? What a tease!

Yeah, so much better than hacking down a murderous tree with a battleaxe.
Bushroot's reaction to seeing all of his tree-themed minions getting frozen by a broken water main is very apt, to say to least, but I haven't even gotten into what happens to him yet. Brace yourself, because this show follows a very strict tradition where all of Bushroot's episodes has to feature him suffering a horribly painful death, all because this show has made it very clear that he's like a mutated phoenix in that he can just rise up from the mulch of his previously pulverized body and live to see another day. Kind of a cruel fate if you ask me. What if Darkwing Duck tries to use one of these lethal weapons on Bushroot during a Fearsome Five episode and ends up killing Quackerjack instead?

This is my face whenever "Grandma Got Run Over by a Reindeer" starts playing on the radio.
Anyways, like the trees, he too ends up getting frozen. Okay, this might sound pretty innocent, but just stop and think about it. My last post, Frosty the Snowman the characters made a huge deal about a character nearly dying of hypothermia. Here, Darkwing is just a-okay with sending a stream of ice cold water at someone fleeing from him in terror until ice forms around him, restricting his movements to the point where he can't even blink. Is Bushroot still conscious in this frozen state, or did he slip into blissful unconsciousness the moment his body temperature slipped to incredibly lethal lows? Either way, this scene's kind of mean. To think, this all would've been avoided if that dog man in the garden shop just let Bushroot keep the goddamn watering can.

This scene also proves how incredibly hard Bushroot is to kill, by the way. He's been run over by a lawnmower, ground to paste by multiple machines, destroyed off-screen by an angry mob, and now getting frozen supposedly doesn't destroy the beast. I wonder how would someone kill Bushroot. My money's on "poison", personally, since that's the one weapon you never see get used on the guy.

I love how Darkwing Duck just throws handcuffs on the frightening Bushroot statue like an afterthought too. Yep, he sure vanquished that villain fairly! The fact that Bushroot's completely naked, therefore completely unable to maintain any body heat, makes this even worse.

And, just for fun, Darkwing uses him to replace the Christmas tree in his house.
But frozen vegetables aren't going to shove a convenient Christmas-themed moral at the very end of our plot. We need something tragic to happen at random just so Gosalyn can give up her presents, something that just needs to happen in order for this to be a true Christmas special.

I know! Let's make it so that the Muddlefoots are the only family on the block with missing presents even though that logically makes no sense.

"Considering you're the only one that lost your presents, maybe that's a sign
from Santa that you don't deserve any presents this year."
Aw yeah, there we go. I love a good author's saving throw. And at least Honker gets a line in this episode. For those curious, the only thing Honker gets to say is "Aw, that's okay". I always feel really bad whenever Honker gets little to no screentime in an episode he's in, the poor kid.

So Darkwing decides that he's going to save the Christmas Bushroot ruined by dressing up like Santa to surprise his neighbors, Tank puts a bear trap at the bottom of the chimney, presents are given out, Tank puts a bear trap at the bottom of the chimney, Honker and Herb are both happy that Santa is in their house and the holiday cheer is so thick that it's almost palatable, Tank puts a bear trap at the bottom of the chimney...

...Tank put a bear trap at the bottom of the chimney. Tank put a bear trap at the bottom of the chimney. Tank put a bear trap at the bottom of the chimney.


I worry for this kid's future.
So Darkwing delivers seasonal happiness in possibly the worst Santa disguise ever (come on man, at least put a pillow underneath so you don't look like Santa starved himself inbetween Christmases), Tank ends up sitting on his bear trap (god, what the hell is wrong with this cartoon, bear traps are designed to break bones) and flying up through the chimney and getting stuck, and all is right with the world. I do like the small continuity nod where, instead of a Christmas tree, there's a sad-looking wreath hanging on the wall. Because unlike their traitorous kind, wreaths hate Bushroot's plans and are good, law-abiding plants.

I wonder if this city ends up outlawing Christmas trees on account of the mass havoc they caused tonight. Also, if Bushroot destroyed the Muddlefoots' presents in his hideous Christmas-ruining rampage, doesn't that make him legally responsible? The Muddlefoots can take his chloroplast-filled ass to court and sue him for the damages!
"Huh, Santa looks an awful lot like our neighbor, who happens to look a lot like Darkwing Duck..."
But no, we're going to the traditional route since this is a Disney Christmas special. Thanks to her selflessness, Gosalyn even gets a sled from Santa, and Santa gets to appear and belt out his classic "Ho ho ho" laughter. Awww, that's cute.

Watch as Gosalyn ends up growing bored with that sled within a couple days and it ends up collecting dust in the closet.

And so this Christmas episode decides to zoom out on Tank screaming for help since he's wedged in a chimney, his panicked yells filling the soundtrack just as much as the happy, tinkly Christmas music is. I would find this ending a bit funnier (because hey, Tank put a freaking bear trap in a chimney, this is kind of an apt punishment for once) if this isn't honestly how some people die around this time of year. Remember the speech in Gremlins? That's exactly what I'm picturing right now as I see this poor kid struggling for dear life. I'm sure the Muddlefoots were very happy when they woke up on Christmas morning and had to remove the frozen corpse of their oldest son out of their chimney before he could start to putrefy. Fun.

Yeah, kid. This is what you get for being mean.
With that, we get a shot of Saint Canard while this cheerful tale of holiday cheer and giving is sent off with the sounds of Tank's desperately pleading with Santa in order to save him from a horrible freezing death and we watch as old Saint Nick just tunes the kid out and leaves him to his fate. Merry Christmas!

And two major characters died of hypothermia that night. Happy Holidays!
I think I'm going to decorate my home with bear traps, Christmas tree alarms, fire hydrants, and scary frozen corpses now in honor of this cartoon, if you don't mind.

The Moral of this Cartoon
Christmas is an incredibly mean-spirited, violence-filled holiday and brings out the worst in everybody.

Final Verdict

I can sum this episode up with one sentence: One of the strongest Bushroot episodes and one of the strongest episodes of this cartoon.

But since I'll feel bad if I just leave it that, let me elaborate.

This is a Christmas special that doesn't try to jam holiday spirit down your throat and pull random "And Santa saved the day!" plot points to solve the conflict. What makes this episode great is, minus the animated trees, this is a pretty grounded episode. The heroes and the villains are by and large regular people with regular motives. Bushroot has a really good reason why he's angry, but then he goes way too far, which helps to establish the reason why he's an antagonist. Darkwing Duck, when he's not fighting crime, has to deal with things every ordinary civilian has to deal with, like the holiday rush and bratty kids. The focus is less on Santa and more on the holiday shopping which, when you think about it, is really what happens during this time of year. The ending kind of feels a little hokey (again, how was Honker's family literally the only family who lost their presents? It might've helped if there was at least a couple other families with that same problem and Gosalyn had to help complete strangers too) but in the end, it was a decent Christmassy way to end a Christmas special.

And okay, I really liked this Bushroot. Like many Darkwing Duck episodes where I judge the episode on the villain performance, this episode was top-notch Bushroot insanity. He had a nice balance between pathetic and psychotic. The opening scenes with him shopping are just as memorable as Sinister Santa. I love it when he has a clear duality, where you see that he could be a good person if he really wanted to, but due to some fatal flaws, he's a villain. It's definitely a lot better than Night of the Living Spud where he goes into nightmarish murder mode at the drop of a hat. He sort of builds up because he just hates those mallgoers. 

But Darkwing was good too, and the moments with his family and his neighbors are probably the better parts of this cartoon as well. There were no real weakpoints.

In other words, a great episode. It's loaded with great animation, excellent timing, incredibly good action sequences, and it even manages to be adorable at times. You won't be disappointed if you choose to watch it this holiday season.