BUMP IN THE NIGHT “TWAS THE NIGHT BEFORE BUMPY”
Original Air Date: December, 19, 1995
A little green monster who lives under a bed sets out to steal Santa’s bag of presents, destroying all his friendships in the wake of his selfishness.
In the late 1980’s, a man by the name of Ken Pontac began his career in graphics and effects, working in commercials. Now that seems very vague, but it would eventually lead into the birth of a creative Saturday morning cartoon a little over a decade later.
At the time, and in Hollywood, the path of being a filmmaker was very generic and worked almost like a video game skill tree. In Pontac’s case, his work in graphics lead to the inevitable and he found himself transitioning into the world of animation. In 1987, he had landed an art director position on The New Adventures of Gumby (his beginning foray into stop motion animation) creating props, characters, sets, what have you. This would prove to be a valuable asset years later. After bouncing around a bit in the development department at Warner Brothers, he started up his own production company, Danger Productions.
Following hot off of the heel’s of the pretty darn successful, The Nightmare Before Christmas (1993), Pontac proposed a Saturday morning cartoon in a similar vein. His knowledge from his stint on Gumby helped sell the idea of animating and creating everything in house and a year later the cartoon, Bump in the Night (about a little green monster who lives under the bed), hit television.
Bump in the Night was a short-lived show that ran for two years (1994-1995) on Saturdays at 8AM. At the time everyone had re-fallen in love with the idea of stop motion animation (thanks to Tim Burton). It even had a Toy Story feel before the world knew what Toy Story was. Every night, creatures and toys alike would roam about a house on odd mis-adventures. The lead characters were Mr. Bumpy, a large-eyed, little, green monster who sounded like Darkwing Duck (probably due to the fact he was voiced by Jim Cummings); a blob of blue toilet water named Mr. Squishington voiced by the talented Rob Paulsen a.k.a Yakko Warner (or Bubsy, from the amazing Bubsy game franchise); and Molly Coddle, a Raggedy Ann doll pieced together from broken doll parts (voiced by Gail Matthius who had a role on Airplane II: The Sequel).
If you close your eyes, it’s basically a cartoon about these people
There isn’t much more to be said about the show other than it was most definitely geared at children with problems concentrating and it dealt out moral lessons to it’s demographic. Each episode always contained a lesson about patience and understanding. Not a lot of people have solid memories of the show’s existence beyond the occasional “Oh yeah, that was a thing.”
Fun fact: Ken Pontac now writes for Happy Tree Friends, which should give you some idea of what his brain is like.
I think, Bump in the Night was something only I had watched as a kid and not a lot of other people cared about. It probably explains why the show fizzled out, but the unfortunate reality is that it provided something special. It was something that you could sit and watch, while turning off your brain, and yet be 100% engrossed in the visuals.
The office probably just got Microsoft Power Point
As I prepared myself to dive into something that I hadn’t watched since childhood, I was readying myself for absolute garbage. However, as I watched, I was more intrigued than appalled by the cartoon. Looking past what could be considered The Nightmare Before Christmas’ “special” little brother no one ever talked about, I found myself returning to glorious days where thought was not required and I could lose myself in this visual oddity.
There has to be room for a piano in the budget or it’s not worth it at all
One might think ‘Twas the Night Before Bumpy is just another cookie cutter holiday cartoon adaptation, but nay- it goes beyond that. It’s as if the writers decided to mash together a Frankenstein monster from buried story parts. The best way to describe this 90 minute special is to call it a Christmas Adventure Musical Clip Show.
The story starts off with the show’s strange assembly of characters decking the heck out of the halls (or at least their little quadrant of the house) at night. They’re carrying out a montage of holiday traditions as they prepare for a pageant they’re putting on for themselves.
They have a freakin’ dive bar under some kid’s bed
As everything seems to be going swell, Mr. Bumpy (our hyperactive protagonist) asks the very soft-spoken Molly Coddle (our subplot heroin), to help him search for Mr. Squishington (the foil, if you will). His given reason for such an endeavor? Top secret Christmas business, of course. After a moment of searching and holiday small talk, they find the blue goo character, but perhaps at the wrong moment. As Mr. Squishington’s name is called, he turns and trips over what appear to be a series of traps Mr. Bumpy had set earlier by the house’s Christmas tree.
The real present is those eyes
There’s a moment of confusion before Molly Coddle demands to know the reason for the traps and current mess. It is then that Mr. Bumpy startlingly reveals he is once again after ol’ Santa Claus’s bag of goods. As the green monster relives past Christmas attempts where he failed to steal all of the presents in the world, Mr. Squishington begins to cry. It turns out that this act clumsiness was the straw that broke his emotional camel’s back, as this whole time he’s been longing for a pair of feet so he can learn to tap dance. Yes, the dream of dreams.
Toilet water doesn’t need feet
Of course, being a selfish green monster, Mr. Bumpy takes advantage of poor Squish’s broken dreams and heart. He promises him his very own pair of tap dancing feet if he helps him sneak into Santa’s workshop in an elaborate heist to steal the bag of presents.
The rest of the Christmas special ends up going through periods of referential jokes and stolen plot points. Take for example, The Wizard of Oz. As Mr. Bumpy and Mr. Squishington make their way to the North Pole, they enlist the help from others who are also longing for more adequate solutions to their body’s mishaps (I think there’s something about self-confidence to be learned here). There is a worm who may or may not resemble John Waters (and sounds like Cheech Marin) who only wants a pair of arms so he can do “arm things.”
“You know. Arm things.”
There’s also a hummingbird who is stuck at Stonehenge only because she doesn’t have the speed or energy to travel long distances. So obviously she wants a jet pack, because that totally makes sense. To top off the bird’s appearance, she’s English and says the words crumpet, cheerio, and fish ‘n’ chips, all in the span of one minute.
I bet she flies on the left side of the road and loves tea, too
The special also has a “we must save the pageant or Christmas will be ruined” subplot. When Mr. Squishington- the pageant director- left with Mr. Bumpy, he left Molly Coddle- who is afraid of being in a position of authority- in charge.
Telling people what to do is haaaaard
Every five minutes, the story is interrupted for a musical number that cleverly changes the lyrics of holiday classics to match the plot (and uses clips from past episodes to save time in animation).
The 90s were such inclusive years
Lastly the special takes cues from A Christmas Story, where Mr. Bumpy’s selfish desire is matched none other than by Ralphie (who only cares about what he wants). If any of that doesn’t work for you, ‘Twas the Night Before Bumpy even throws in a Raiders of the Lost Ark and Full Metal Jacket reference.
It’s pretty much the same thing
Like I said earlier, there’s a lot going on. Almost too much. But for some reason this works and brings back what I enjoyed about the show in the first place- I can just turn my brain off and enjoy what’s in front of me. Now before people get up in arms and say, “Well that’s just shitty television,” I must say both yes and no. Look at the cartoon Adventure Time or even going back to the Animaniacs; being nonsensical can sometimes be the most intelligent thing you can do. It allows for us to appreciate aspects of something we normally wouldn’t, which is where ‘Twas the Night Before Bumpy excels.
This special creates a dark yet bright world and dabs at it with holiday cheer. Although not the world’s greatest in stop motion animation, there’s something genuine about it, and seeing such hyperactive characters inhabit such a world, I would have to say that the special takes on the sincerest form of A.D.D..
To top things off, there’s also a humbling feeling that comes with each character’s resolution that makes you appreciate the season even more. A normally tough and gruff RoboCop toy rip-off named Destructo finds someone to love his tender side, Mr. Squishington learns that he is perfect just the way he is, and Mr. Bumpy learns the age-old “tis far better to give than to receive” lesson.
Hmm, nope. No Jesus here.
Well they DO break into Santa’s workshop and steal his sack of presents… So I’d say he’s pretty important to this special.
EVERYONE learns a special lesson. The holiday spirit is all up in this show. Bumpy does manage to steal Santa’s sack (and tear it open on the way back home) but doing so teaches him the most valuable lesson in any Christmas movie.
PRODUCT INFORMATION (Shop Amazon through us!)
Despite it’s lack of popularity, you can find Bump in the Night: Twas the Night Before Bumpy on DVD. You can also pick up Bump in the Night: Night of the Living Bread, which contains a variety of episodes. While you’re on the semi-dark stop motion kick, why not grab The Nightmare Before Christmas?