Original Air Date: December 1, 1982
The Holidays are all screwed up, but one man refuses to suffer in silence
Tom Wilson claimed to have chosen the name Ziggy because it would appear last alphabetically, and thus set in motion the tone for one of the world’s most lovable systematic losers. Wilson’s Ziggy originally premiered in a book collection/greeting cards published by the American Greetings Company in 1968. Three years later, Ziggy became the star of his own comic strip, and the world fell in love with the guy without hair, pants, or friends.
Wilson would eventually turn the comic strip over to his son Tom Wilson II in 1987, while he continued to work as a licensing executive in the American Greeting Company, shepherding other famous cartoon properties like Care Bears and Strawberry Shortcake.
The 1st and 2nd Tom Wilson
Wilson passed away in 2011, but Ziggy still lives on in over 600 newspapers, calenders, and other merchandise. Ziggy’s Gift, brought to life by famous animators like Richard Williams and Eric Goldberg, remains the character’s only animated special, which won an Emmy in 1983 for Outstanding Animated Program.
Ziggy’s Gift was brought to you by Atari!!
SEE: This is EXACTLY the reason we created this blog! Lovable characters at the fringe of your brain, and quality cartoon Christmas specials that’ve sadly fallen through the cracks.
Ziggy’s Gift is a wonderful little oddball of a special for so many reasons I doubt I’ll do it justice in the following drivel. I’m struggling to think of other specials starring silent protagonists… so there’s one!
Solid clip board gag x2!
Of course, I’d be remiss if I didn’t bring up Richard Williams, the director of Ziggy’s Gift. That Backstory up there focused a little more on Wilson and his character, but Williams is an equally fascinating ink & paint personality.
Richard Williams, animator
Most people of my generation are familiar with his work in Who Framed Roger Rabbit- one of the greatest movies ever made BTW (coming soon to Blu-ray!)- which he served as animation director on. There’s a quote from him in an interview within the Roger Rabbit special features, which I’m going to have to paraphrase.
Apparently Robert Zemekis had shopped the live-action/cartoon hybrid around to other animators, all of whom said it’d be impossible. To which Williams responded (again paraphrasing) “It’s totally possible. It’s just going to be really hard and time consuming.”
Opening backdrop set to music my Harry Nillsson
That quote takes on a special meaning to me, especially when publishing 1000s of words and 100s of pictures over the course of 25 days, but the “just fucking do it!” mentality is evidenced in all of his work.
Certainly better treatment than Raggedy Ann deserved
Williams is an animator who slaved almost alone for three decades over his own gorgeously imaginative The Thief and the Cobbler just to achieve an animated movie as uncompromised and as lavish as he envisioned. Take a look:
Seriously, watch this!
That particular movie’s sad tale is a different story (it was eventually bought by a major studio, taken from Williams, completed by different animators who added celebrity voices) but Williams meticulous devotion to the animation is absolutely on display in Ziggy’s Gift.
Sometimes your reflection is guilty of being an asshole
Ziggy may not be as popular as Snoopy or Garfield, but strangely, he was gifted with one of the best looking specials ever made. You won’t find made-for-TV animation this fluid or this exquisite anywhere else, quite frankly.
Xmas toothpaste? There’s an overdue product idea
It’s as if every frame is unique and camera angles change so briskly backgrounds are almost never reused. Every second of it is distinct from the last. Seriously, nothing looks quite like it.
Ziggy’s dog, Fuzz, is almost always on the move
It’s also one of the warmest, sweetest Christmas specials ever animated. Through his simple goal of working as a street Santa, acts of both greed and kindness occur all around him as Ziggy quietly dispenses good will and charity to all he encounters.
Which is most definitely lucky for him, because the dude heading up the the street Santa racket is a shady huckster, scamming both his potential employees and those giving folk willing to dole out good tidings in the form of tossing nickels into a hobo’s cauldron.
Probably not an antisemitic character
But none of this gets to Ziggy! My dad had a book that I read for probably about 15 years, but I know next to nothing about the guy, and I’m almost certain he was never animated again (Check on that) [You really didn’t post this without checking did you?!].
His best is rarely good enough
Even while mute, Ziggy is essentially the Bugs Bunny of peaceful chaos. It all plays out like a classic cartoon series that has existed for 20 years. What does Ziggy normally do for a living? Is he hard up for money? Why does he wanna be a street Santa? Who cares?!
Blink and you’ll miss the magic
Nothing can stop Ziggy. Being pursued by the police…
Note that vulnerable wallet
Look familiar, animation buffs?
(With some pretty clear inspiration from Chuck Jones’ Dan Backslide, BTW)
Remember this guy from The Dover Boys? (Available on the Looney Tunes Platinum Collection Vol. 1 BTW!)
And even demonically possessed android Santa cyborgs!
None of them prevail of the Zig-man! And while, yes, I’m aware of his status as a hippie icon, I would relish the opportunity to see the lad get another shot at cartoon stardom, because he’s kind of perfect for a running series of commendable anarchy.
Looks as if Ziggy walked into a painting
Even with all these heinous acts of Holiday horror occurring around him, and bear in mind Ziggy our hero is no taller than a toddler, Ziggy perseveres every step of the way.
He saves/befriends a cute ass kitten…
Never walk away from free pussy
He rescues a discarded tree…
“Hey, a new toilet!”
He blankets the homeless…
And that was a rental!
He even frees a gaggle of Holiday turkeys…
The streets ran red with tryptophan
With the piles of money he conjures from a magic cauldron, all of which he means to give away and essentially UNRAVEL THE ENTIRE FUCKING ECONOMY!
I am generally aware of Ziggy’s status as a hippie icon. My father was gifted an anthology book from a friend, complete with “Peace, Love, this’ll blow your mind, man!” quote written by his buddy in the ledger. That was my only exposure to the character. Our newspaper didn’t carry Ziggy -even though I seriously wrote them letters asking them to!- so that book is my only context. Wish I could tell you more, but the dust jacket died before I was even born. It was a rectangular blue book, warped with a shitload of water damage – that’s all I know.
Nothing clever to say, just love this pic
But I’m surprised by how much the character’s kindness worked for me- especially within the context of a Christmas special- and made me really want to see more of Ziggy.
Seriously, this special is gorgeous
Again, he adapts cartoonishly to every situation, although instead of yanking down pants or cracking skulls with a mallet, the gags revolve around doing something unexpectedly… nice.
A climax if there ever was one
The special concludes with the Zigster entering an orphanage, followed by the two pursuers he’s accumulated throughout the course of the special. He’s followed by both the cop investigating the street Santa scheme and the purple pickpocket who’s after Ziggy’s magic ATM kettle, which I wish I had a better explanation for.
I think this is the first time Ziggy opens his mouth
However, they both let their guard down at the site of eager, doe-eyed orphans yearning for a nice Christmas.
Come on in to the orphanage, grown men!
Ziggy forks over the cash to a good home, and the crook character’s Santa sack is radically altered to give it the same properties as the magic cauldron. It can now spontaneously conjure an endless supply of Xmas presents.
Sweet revenge. Literally
Seriously, the villain reluctantly forced to dispense gifts and being briefly endowed with the very magical abilities he would probably stick a shank in Ziggy for is a genuinely great gag, and kinda an awesome end to an Xmas special.
None so much, although multiple characters characters seem to gain the Christ-like ability to produce goods in correspondence with the needs of the needy. And I’ll take toys and cash over fish and leavened bread any day!
All of the shitty street Santas show that either A) The legend is still alive or B) At least someone is still trying. Am I reading to much into this/stretching? MAYBE!
This comeuppance pic is worth a ball or two alone
It’s a damn shame Ziggy’s Gift has fallen out of the rotation of annually aired Xmas specials. It’s a gorgeous animated feat in and of itself, but also bolsters itself with a stirring story and solid gags the viewer wouldn’t expect. I tried my best to knock a ball off, really I did. The character voices are a little overwrought, but that’s easily overshadowed by Ziggy, who’s absolutely perfect in his Charlie Chaplin-esque silence. I wanted to knock the briefly played theme song by legendary recording artist Harry Nillson since it seemed lazy to consist of all of like six lyrics (“Give / Give / Give. Love / Love / Love.”) but I’ve been humming it for days! There’s no other way to say it, if you give enough of a shit about cartoons and Xmas specials to check this site and to have read this far, you absolutely must check out Ziggy’s Gift.
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