We open on a lone factory in the middle of a frozen landscape. Suddenly, an explosion rips the facility. A lone man, with a mysterious box in his arms, flees the building towards the hangar nearby. After shooting off the lock, he runs past the airplanes and jumps into a familiar sled pulled by nine reindeer. He cracks the whip, and the takes off into the sky above the North Pole.
He is not alone for long. Another man, with a long white beard and riding a hoverboard, catches up to him. A struggle ensues, with the bearded man seizing the box and jumping to the surface below. The thief then pulls out a pistol and fires three shots into his pursuer. As the man loses consciousness and falls towards earth, the thief says one final line “Merry Christmas, Santa Claus”. Thus begins one of my all-time favorite Christmas Specials.
I’ve said before, and I’ll say it again: I loved Regular Show. I discovered it at a time in my life when I had started to think I had outgrown cartoons. Most of the cartoons I grew up watching had ended or were no longer interesting to me. The beauty of Regular Show, though, was it’s ability to appeal to all ages. For a children’s show, that is an impressive feat. They did a lot of holiday specials throughout their run, but I think their first Christmas Special was the best.
In the Park, the entire gang is throwing a Christmas party and having a blast. Muscle Man is binging on cookies, Benson is flirting with his neighbor Audrey, and Mordecai and Rigby are throwing down some sick raps for the holidays.
They step away from the party to get Benson some more soda, only to see the man from before falling from the sky into Skips’ garage. If it wasn’t obvious before, that man is Santa Claus. His reaction to being found by Mordecai and Rigby: “Aw, man. You two?”
I liked the version of Santa that Regular Show gave us, especially since he barely resembled depictions of him in pop culture. He cares about people, but he can be grumpy and sarcastic. That is thanks to him once again being voice by Edward Asner. This had to have been the third time I had seen him play Santa, so I have a bias, but it’s earned. He brings a sense of realism to the role of Santa. Take the way he proves to Mordecai and Rigby that he’s Santa by telling them what they wanted for Christmas as kids:
Dear Santa, dude, give me an invisibility cloak. Santa, dude, don’t be a jerk. Just get me an invisibly cloak.
Lord of the Box
Anyway, the reason why he got shot and fell from the sky is that the box is like the One-Ring from Lord of the Rings. Santa’s lead toy designer, Quillgin, invented a box that would magically give whoever opens it what they want most. To Santa’s horror, though, anyone who opened the box would be consumed by greed. That ’s the risks of using dark magic, though.
Santa locked the box away and destroyed all of Quillgin’s research, leading him to vow revenge, hence the opening. If he gets his hands on the box, he’ll use it to destroy Christmas forever!
Fellowship of the Box
From here on out, the special is a tribute to J.R.R. Tolkien’s Lord of the Rings books: the Park Gang becomes the Fellowship of the Box. The box is the One-Ring that corrupts people. And Quillgin is either Gollum or a minion of Sauron. As Skips notes, though, the box’s dark magic components prevent it from being destroyed by conventional means. The only solution is to cast it into molten lava. As luck would have it, the rival East Pines park has a cave with lava in it, but it’s guarded by several traps.
At this point, tvtropes.org says it becomes a partial tribute to the classic 80’s film The Goonies. I can see that with all the booby traps, though I actually thought it bore similarity to Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade. Both movies had to deal with dangerous trials that needed to be overcome, after all. From a deadly dance off to wrestling a bear, this is an epic adventure.
The best part, though, is the climax as Quillgin confronts the Park Gang at the lava pit. Quillgin gets his hands of the box and begins to bring about the destruction of Christmas. We are then given a montage of Christmas stuff around the world being lace with TNT to the ominous sound of “Carol of the Bells”. Normally a song that brings joy, this moment subverts it by highlighting how dire the situation is.
Then Mordecai tackles Quillgin and sends both of them into the lava pit, with Rigby following, as the music transitions to “Sarajevo 12/24” by the Trans-Siberian Orchestra. The music is perfectly in sync with the action, with that epic guitar solo timed just as Quillgin and the box fall into the lava. Just like Lord of the Rings.
Not Your Normal Christmas Special
This was not a normal Christmas special by any stretch. But Regular Show is not a normal cartoon. It thrives on the use of pop culture and surrealism, and that’s what made it so entertaining to watch during its run. This wasn’t even the craziest thing Mordecai and Rigby had done by then. They had already fought demon spawn of the underworld, traveled through time, and gone to the moon. So saving Christmas was nothing out of the ordinary!
This was an unexpected but greatly welcomed present for me when I first saw it. Speaking of presents, Mordecai and Rigby got the invisibility cloak they had wanted as kids! Best gift ever! And, as all good Christmas specials do, it ends with Santa going “HO HO HO! MERRY CHRISTMAS!” Then his sleigh leaves behind rubber burns like in Back to the Future. What a way to end a special, J.G. Quintel!