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
Airdate: December 23, 1991
|Man, I wish this episode was about an angel showing Bushroot what life would be like if he never existed.|
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...|
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.|
|"That's it. Next year, I'm buying all of my Christmas presents online."|
...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.|
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.
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!"|
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.|
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!"|
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.
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.
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?
...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.|
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.|
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."|
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!"|
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!"|
...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 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.|
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.|
|"Making five random strangers beat each other up is a fantastic way |
to use my miraculous, world-changing powers."
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."|
|"Why must we always meet like this, Herb? Your wife's been asking questions..."|
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!"|
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."|
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."|
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?"
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."|
|"Oh, come on! First potatoes and now this? Get a hobby, for God's sakes!"|
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!"|
|"Eat plastic decorations, dogooders!"|
|"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."
|I don't know, this weapon seems more like something Megavolt would invent...|
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.|
|I'm pretty sure if I was a little kid and saw my tree do this, I'd crap my pants in sheer terror.|
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.|
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!|
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!"|
|Vehicular manslaughter sure puts me in the holiday spirit.|
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!"|
|"Let's see Webby from DuckTales do this!"|
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.|
|At least one of them's happy.|
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.|
|"Wow, I didn't think that'd actually work!"|
|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.
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."|
...by 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.|
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.|
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.|
|This is my face whenever "Grandma Got Run Over by a Reindeer" starts playing on the radio.|
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.|
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."
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.
WHY DOES THIS FAMILY HAVE A BEAR TRAP!?
|I worry for this kid's future.|
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..."|
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.|
|And two major characters died of hypothermia that night. Happy Holidays!|
The Moral of this Cartoon
Christmas is an incredibly mean-spirited, violence-filled holiday and brings out the worst in everybody.
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.