A MOUSE, A MYSTERY AND ME
Original Air Date: December 13, 1987
A world-class mystery-writing teenager joins forces with an animated mouse to solve the mystery of who kidnapped Santa outside a shopping mall…
Ruby-Spears Productions is the brainchild of Joe Ruby and Ken Spears, former sound editors at Hanna-Barbera. At one point, they were asked to write for a new mystery-based cartoon show, which ended up being Scooby-Doo, Where Are You!
They spun their newfound success off into their own animated outfit, producing such hits as Fangface and Fangface and Fangpuss and… just kidding, I have no idea if those were hit shows or DethKlok songs. But Ruby-Spears did actually work on such memorable fare as the 1988 Superman cartoon show, the 1983 Alvin and Chipmunks, Mork and Mindy, Donkey Kong, Donkey Kong Jr, Q*bert and Frogger, Dragon’s Lair, Space Ace, Punky Brewster, Rambo, Chuck Norris, Police Academy, and the American Mega Man show. Along the way, they picked up Emmy nods for Alvin and The Mr. T Show.
Shut up fool. I need work!
Once the RS factory simmered down, it juggled corporate hands, being sold (with Hanna Barbera to Turner Broadcasting in 1991, which then merged with Time Warner in 1996. In addition, RS produced a ton of TV special fare, like The Puppy Who Wanted a Boy, The Chipmunks Valentine Special, A Chipmunk Reunion, Robo Force, and today’s ultra-special topic of discussion.
Now do you understand how this happened?
There’s not a whole lot of info on A Mouse, A Mystery and Me but it was aired during primetime on NBC in December 1987 and was sponsored by McDonalds. Ya know, there simply isn’t enough innocuous family entertainment sponsored by fast food these days…
Brought to you by childhood obesity!
I watched A Mouse on a VHS taped by my parents for years after its airdate. Up until just a few days ago, I thought these characters were a part of another series that I never got around to watching. Nope!
I always just accepted the premise of a ghostwriting cartoon mouse working with a teenaged novelist at face value. One minute of exposition? That’s all I need! Of course, that was again, only because I thought this universe existed. However, I can’t see how adults would be eagerly on-board for characters they were just introduced to, and that’s unfortunately the perspective I’m writing this entry from.
So, we get little Stevie Mumford walking around a city mall unattended trying to get a spot with the big guy. Too bad Santa’s gotta hit the head.
Santa’s dropping a Yule Log, kiddies
Meanwhile, Santa (Dick Van Patten doing his best Mel Brooks impression) is in a spot of trouble, which by the look of that face, must be of the financial variety.
“They’re gonna take my thumbs!”
Stevie stalks Mall Santa to a park bench and proceeds to lambast the troubled man with what he wants for Christmas. Eventually, Stevie mentions he wants his Dad home for Xmas but fears he’ll never see him.
“Seriously, kid. Do you have several thousand dollars?”
But Mall Santa’s a big softie. He suggests they share a hot dog together – in a very non-pedophilic way! – and strolls off to ease Stevie’s worries. Too bad – he gets kidnapped!
Bang Bus: Holiday Edition
Meanwhile, we meet Jill, a world-renowned teenage mystery novelist, her useless friend Amy, and a cartoon rat. Whaaaaaaaa?
Alex, the “Mouse” of the title
In a one-page dialogue scene setting up all of the exposition we could ever need to suspend any and all disbelief, here’s the gist: Jill gets credit for the books, while Alex ghostwrites the novels. Again, I naturally accepted this as a kid because A) I was stupid (kids are pretty dumb) and B) I thought this was merely a holiday special spinoff from a previously established TV series.
Basically a cartoon mouse means a lot of background plates being shot while Ruby-Spears Productions animates a mouse doing cartoon-esque things accompanied with plenty of Hanna-Barbera sound effects.
“Feets don’t fail me now!” *cue Fred Flintstone run noise*
Suddenly, Stevie walks in and figures Jill can help figure out why Santa Claus was kidnapped, since she’s so good at mysteries and all.
“Somebody stole Santa Claus!”
Note he said, “stole” and not “kidnapped”. That’s because kidnapping would imply some sort of ransom. Not here! Jill, Alex, and to a far lesser extent, the utterly useless Amy, agree to take the case because Alex wants to make Stevie happy on Christmas Eve. I’m more saddened to realize Jill and Amy don’t have family to spend their Xmas Eve with and are perfectly happy running to a mall for a stupid five-year-old, but whatever. I’m cynical.
A MOUSE, A MYSTERY AND ME WILL BE BACK AFTER A WORD FROM OUR SPONSOR!
Back at the mall, there’s a Santa there. Jill talks to the mall managers, Martine and Sam.
Possibly the villains
Jill has Alex snoop around by riding a toy train to get closer to this newer Santa, which points to a tag at the Renta-Santa shop.
Pay attention again, kids. Cartoon Rat’s doing something.
At the Renta-Santa shop, they meet the sleaziest Santa Costume Rental Shop keeper I’ve ever seen.
He even calls them dames!
Eventually, the trio heads back to the mall where another boring minute of exposition plays out.
The old glass-to-ear trick. Works NEVERY time
Apparently Mall Santa may have embezzled $500,000 of the mall’s money. You know, for charity!
Cartoon shenanigans! There we go…
I have no idea how they reach this conclusion, but Sam says Mall Santa did it and will now puts a briefcase full of jewelry into the safe. The girls get suspicious and ask Martine about the shady deal.
Jerry, the Security Guard – whom we’ve never seen before – comes in and Martine tells him to let the girls have a look in the jewelry vault. Cartoon Rat (sorry, Alex) snoops around and does the ol’ Big Lebowski/rubbing on piece of paper trick.
Master of the blow job
But instead of a picture of a giant phallus, it says, “Lock ‘em up!” Now it’s a race against time to save the girls! Luckily we have one more action scene with Alex. Hooray?
Apparently, all toy vehicles sprout tiny combustion engines and gas pedals if you’re small enough.
Not at all ripped off from Gremlins
Now that’s a fine how-do-ya-do!
The girls find Santa and Sam locked up downstairs. Oh, and evidently Jerry the Security Guard is on the take. He and Martine are the bad guys! Well, only Alex can stop them! He drops Jerry’s gun into the bag of cash, which TSA finds at the airport. Great job, Cartoon Rat!
A Fleshlight woulda been funnier
Meanwhile, everyone’s safe for some reason. Mall Santa has gifts for Stevie and the girls continue to spend Xmas Eve with strangers. Ding dong! Who’s that? Why, it’s Stevie’s dad.
Seriously, where have you been?!
Christmas miracle or Deus Ex Machina?
We will never see this character again. Ever. Ever.
Well, there was a Christmas miracle at the end, but Miracle and Coincidence are interchangeable in my book. ZERO CRUCIES!
We counted two fake Santas in there and a nod to a “real” Santa Claus at the end. The “real” Santa Claus is also interchangeable with Coincidence. One star for two fake Santas.
There’s certainly something to be said about two teenage girls giving up their Christmas Eves to spend helping a little boy find an adult stranger caught up in some embezzlement scam… I just don’t know how the hell to say it. So while Stevie fades away from the picture so Cartoon Rat can shine, it’s all done for a good cause. I think?
PRODUCT INFORMATION (Shop Amazon through us – it helps!)
A Mouse, A Mystery and Me has never been available on DVD or even VHS and probably never will be. However, Disney’s The Great Mouse Detective is a more than acceptable substitute! But if you’re absolutely jonsing for more of those cheap, stupid animated thrills that only Ruby-Spears Productions can provide, Mr. T: The Complete First Season and Chuck Norris: Karate Commandos await your purchase!
Author Shane Patterson is a Los Angeles-based writer and filmmaker. Follow him on Twitter at @paperthin0