Dec. 12 – Count Duckula “A Christmas Quacker”

COUNT DUCKULA “A CHRISTMAS QUACKER”
Original Air Date: December 26, 1990

When Christmas arrives at Castle Duckula, Santa gets lost in the extensive chimney system! As the residents of the castle eagerly await Santa to find the right exit, Count Duckula takes a short mind-trip into his favorite comic book due to Nanny’s dangerous Christmas pudding.

BACKSTORY
Count Duckula came to us from the British studio Cosgrove Hall and aired from 1988 to 1993. Because of his recurring villainous role in  Cosgrove Hall’s terrific treat to the cartoon world, Danger Mouse- following the adventures of a secret spy mouse and his pitiful hamster sidekick- it was decided Count Duckula deserved his own spin-off series (both Danger Mouse and Count Duckula were voiced by David Jason!). Originally a sharp-toothed spit-spewing lisping vampire duck, Count Duckula underwent a slight makeover for his own series.

Is that a comb-over? And nice medallion…

Although it’s never been explicitly stated as such, the Danger Mouse incarnation of the Count appears to have died and then been resurrected as the new spinoff Duckula. Unfortunately for the butler, Igor, the resurrection ritual in the opening sequence “did not run according to plan”, due to the incompetence of the nanny, Nanny (imaginative name), who used ketchup instead of blood for the spell. This of course created a VEGETARIAN vampire duck, what else would you expect?

You’re looking right at the bottle, there’s a label… TURN IT AROUND!!

The new Count Duckula, as was apparently common with his predecessors, retained no memory of past incarnations. Despite this restriction he did still strive for fame and fortune, on TV or wherever, like his Danger Mouse counterpart, but at least the new Count is much more kind and hospitable. Not trying to drain everyone’s blood helps public relations too.

BREAKDOWN
I grew up on Nickelodeon shows, especially cartoons. When I first encountered this strange British show, Count Duckula, I just knew the silly twist on characters regularly reserved for scary movies was worth my time. This, however, did not stop my still young and paranoid brain from changing the channel during the opening theme because it had lightning and a sinister organ and was SCARY… right?


I eventually warmed up to it, especially those great beats…

As holiday specials are so common in cartoons, of course Count Duckula would be the perfect show to celebrate Hallow…wha? Christmas? Alright, let’s see how jolly they can make this.

Igor’s jolly face

Barry Clayton’s Vincent Price-esque narration really gets you in the festive mood as the camera zooms in on the roof of Castle Duckula, revealing Santa and Rudolph ready to deliver some presents. Santa doesn’t sound too excited to be at such a creepy location, and Rudolph looks like he couldn’t care less as he leans against the wall and idly tosses a snowball.

You’re on your own, fat man

Santa unfortunately quickly gets himself lost in the complicated maze-like chimney system of the castle, although he mentions this happening every year at the end of his Christmas travels. You would think by now the poor guy would’ve made himself a map.

There’s no way this is the most efficient design

Meanwhile, I hope you like “Jingle Bells” because every character is singing it as they appear in the next few minutes of the episode. And since we’re without the real Santa for a while, everyone else must have taken advantage of some Santa suit sale and dressed up for the occasion. Count Duckula, Igor and Nanny all separately wander the halls as Santa for no apparent reason other than when they crash into each other for some weak slapstick and voice their confusion about who was supposed to be Santa this year. Then they give up and sit by the fireplace in their normal attire.

Totally worth at least a chuckle

The special appearances in this episode consist of a few “enemies” of Count Duckula. First the four Crow Brothers are seen scaling the outside of the castle as is their trademark, feeling it’s better to receive than to give. Their ingenious plan? Sneak into Castle Duckula dressed as Santa and steal what they can. Sure there’s only three people living in the castle who would immediately notice trespassers, but if they’re dressed like Santa they must be OK! Thankfully the real Santa opens a window and sends them falling to a gruesome death on the rocks below… no wait, this is a cartoon. They’ll be back, and with no visible injuries.

How did they get that far with that short rope?

As Dracula was hunted by Van Helsing, so is Duckula tormented by Von Goosewing. Despite the current count’s harmless vegetarian nature, Goosewing is determined to destroy the unholy creature! Goosewing simply adds more comic relief, however, because his attempts to kill always back-fire. This special is no different, but we’ll have to wait to see how it ends since Goosewing stupidly takes the same chimney route as Santa and won’t be seen again for a while.

Oh yeah, and this is not conspicuous at all

Waiting for the real Santa is not particularly exciting, so the denizens of Castle Duckula break out their own presents for one another. Duckula gives Igor a wrapped but extremely obvious axe for unspecified grotesque personal use, and Igor reciprocates with some nice pointy teeth for his leaf-loving lord, vainly hoping for the count to suddenly crave blood.

It’s a… large block of cheese with a sausage jammed in it?

Count Duckula still has a gift to give to Nanny, who enters as usual by barging through the freaking wall instead of the door! I imagine her arm in that sling would heal if it wasn’t constantly smashed against solid stone constructions… Anyway, the gift just happens to be “The Very Big Tremendous Terrance Adventure Book”, a hard-cover comic book collection which Nanny has absolutely no interest in and Duckula actually just wants to read for himself. So generous!

Did they steal Charlie Brown’s tree?

After we’re introduced to the space hero Tremendous Terrance and such fantastically-named aliens as the Futons and Dribulons through (in)expensive and off-center panel-by-panel views of the comics, Duckula himself is thrown into the quest to free Santa Claus from the Dribulons after Nanny’s rock-hard Christmas pudding bounces off his head (and also through the window, knocking the Crow Brothers off the castle again).

I thought pudding comes in a cup…

Now posing as the Daring Duckula in his own adventure with Tremendous Terrance, the count journeys to free Santa! The next five minutes sees very little animation as we are guided through each comic panel.

Exciting space battle? No, it’s just a picture with wasted potential

Daring Duckula and Tremendous Terrance are captured by the Dribulons and taken before the Igulon, who looks and sounds suspiciously like Igor… plus they face the evil Nannoxx, a large green and orange version of Nanny. As Nannox grabs Daring Duckula and Tremendous Terrance, Duckula awakes to the real Nanny shaking him.

I miss the days of evil villains in levitating chairs

Shortly after Duckula returns to his senses, we return to focusing on Christmas as Santa and Von Goosewing finally tumble out of the fireplace. Von Goosewing’s present to Duckula, given in the spirit of Christmas and goodwill towards all (riiight…), is momentarily ignored while Santa delivers his own presents. Igor gets another obvious axe, Nanny gets a nondescript large box, and Duckula receives… “The Really Big Tremendous Terrance Adventure Book”! Despite the small script error (“Very” vs. “Really”) it’s the same book that Duckula selfishly got for Nanny and then took to read himself. How ironic…

That eggnog is some strong stuff

After that humbling moment Von Goosewing forces the group to open his present of Christmas crackers, traditional British toys which consist of a cardboard tube that creates a small bang when pulled apart by 2 people and includes a toy. Of course, these crackers have been modified to create a much larger explosion to take care of Count Duckula once and for all. Nanny and Duckula have a bit too much trouble pulling the cracker apart, however, and Von Goosewing finally pulls it himself. Due to the resulting explosion Von Goosewing flies through the window, once again knocking the Crow Brothers off of the castle.

“We should really stop climbing near windows…”

Finally, Santa simply takes his leave from Castle Duckula…. “Have yourselves a very merry Christmas out there… whatever you are!”

Not even a cross is used against the count!

Almost every character is dressed as Santa at some point in this episode, and Santa is the main focus of why they’re sitting around the fireplace reading comics.
This special episode felt like it started off strong in the Christmas festivities with plenty of Santas, Jingle Bells and presents. Once the comic book came out, however, it felt a bit off topic and the simple panel-by-panel story is awkward without much animation. One must appreciate the irony of Count Duckula receiving the comic book from Santa though, and it is meant to be a lesson in being more giving to others and not thinking so selfishly! I would have enjoyed seeing some more interaction between Santa and Duckula though. Heck, Duckula and Rudolph could’ve bonded over carrots!

PRODUCT INFORMATION (Shop Amazon through us!)

You can grab ALL the Count Duckula in The Complete Collection, a must-have for fans of the series. Danger Mouse has its own Megaset as well, which contains all six seasons, PLUS the never-aired pilot and other rarities. If you’re a fan of Cosgrove Hall, we highly recommend the studio’s adaptation of The Wind in the Willows.

MORE CARTOON CHRISTMAS SPECIALS!

YESTERDAY’S XMAS SPECIAL
THE BERENSTAIN BEARS CHRISTMAS TREE

 

LAST YEAR’S DEC. 12th XMAS SPECIAL
A CHRISTMAS SPECIAL PODCAST

 

2010’s DEC. 12TH XMAS SPECIAL
A JOHNNY BRAVO CHRISTMAS

 

2009’S DEC. 12TH XMAS SPECIAL
DONALD DUCK’S “TOY TINKERS

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