The Christmas Raccoons
This is the first Raccoons cartoon and special. It’s interesting because from the first Special to the TV series a number of things are tweaked or changed. The titles are very much the same however, keeping the same 70’s text style and star-filled sky opening and ending during the specials and series.
The Narrator describes that on earth there’s a place northward called the Evergreen Forest where “trees are so big the animals live in them”, the flyover comes to a cabin and we’re introduced to Dan the Forest Ranger and his kids Julie and Tommy with their sheep dog, Schaeffer. It’s the night before the day before Christmas and all is well. But then Dan gets a call that lots of trees have been chopped down in the Evergreen forest. He puts the kids to bed and goes off looking for clues.
The kids and Schaffer begin to dream of playing in the forest in winter, as they enjoy the scenes and sights we focus on a particular tree where a group of Raccoons live. Married couple Ralph and Melissa are starting to put Christmas touches to their home, dubbed the “Raccoondominium”. Bert Raccoon wakes up, complementing the guest room. Ralph reads the paper and is outraged to hear the forest is being cut down en mass. No sooner does Melissa declare their area a “safe neighbourhood” the scene changes to the cut trees and a reveal of the villain of the piece, Cyril Sneer.
We first see Cyril with his son Cedric surveying the land. Cyril wants to deforest the entire area and Cedric offers small resistance. Cyril dismisses Cedrics calculations and continues to take trees down, including the Racoondominium. The kids find the raccoons Christmas tree and decide to take it as their Christmas tree, unknowing they are taking the Raccoon’s own home. Meanwhile Cedric and Cyril are back at their base, Cedric’s ready to wind down for the day. But Cyril’s hung up that he’s one tree short. To make up for this disastrous loss he demands more trees.
The basic character traits are established here. Melissa and Ralph are voices of reason, Bert’s a brave joker, Cyril’s greed and Cedric’s submissiveness is all here. The kids and Dan are pretty plain characters though this remains the case till they are dropped after the first season of the series. Bert Raccoon is used as the comic relief here and nothing more. He adds very little to the course of the story, following a slightly more adventurous Ralph and Melissa. Cedric has a little more backbone than in the other specials, occasionally challenging his father with figures to the contrary.
Tommy and Julie finish decorating the tree and decided to go to town to get presents for their father. Schaeffer stays to guard the house and falls asleep. Meanwhile the raccoons have managed to follow the tree to the cabin and decide to enter in through the chimney to get their Christmas stockings. But as Melissa pulls out the stockings a bauble falls and wakes the sleeping dog, who chases them out the cabin. The Raccoons drop the stockings as the chase goes on, ending when Schaeffer trips down a hill and snowballs, crashing into the Raccoons and a nearby building. Schaeffer expresses his displeasure in speech and everyone’s surprised.
For most of the special Schaeffer is just a normal dog. However, after the crash that ends the chase, he suddenly can speak. The chase in itself seems out of character for Schaeffer, considering he’s a much cooler character generally in the other specials and the series. Though it’s nice to see how he first met the forest creatures and became friends.
Melissa becomes curious about the cabin they crashed into and checks the window. It turns out to be Cyril’s Lumber HQ. Cyril’s workers are being worked to capacity according to Cedric and Cyril drives them harder regardless. This is one of the few times we see aardvarks other than Cyril and Cedric, they are phased out in favour of the big brawly bear henchmen and the 3 pigs later on. The raccoons realise Schaeffer wasn’t responsible for the tree felling around the forest and Schaeffer apologises for chasing them. They decided to be friends and to work on a plan. In the meantime Cyril’s getting accounting numbers off Cedric who continues to suggest easing off for the day and doing something nice for Christmas Eve. Cyril refuses to spend a dime or leave any tree unfilled. However as he leaves, he and Cedric are assaulted by the Raccoons and Schaeffer. Cyril tries a sob story to excuse his mass tree felling but Bert and Cedric are the only ones falling for it. Ralph, with the aid of Cedric’s figures, manages to convince Cyril to plant new trees to the replace the ones felled.
Schaeffer hears the kids calling and makes way home, with the Racoons hitching a ride on his back. They say their goodbyes for the night and the Raccoons huddle up homeless nearby. The kids wonder why the Christmas tree was trashed and notice the Raccoons stockings, Schaeffer tugs on the stockings to bring the Raccoons outside to their attention and the kids realise that tree was their home. They call Dan the Ranger who arranges a new home for them, with everyone celebrating till Schaeffer wakes the kids up from their dream with a lick.
The kids think its Christmas but find no Christmas tree. They ask their father who explains its Christmas Eve and they’ll be searching for a tree that day. They ask about the mysterious tree felling and Dan explains they found no trace, but many planted seedlings. We see the raccoons get their new home and they wave goodbye to the kids and Schaeffer before scurrying into the tree.
The story itself is pretty simple and plods along peacefully for the most part. Though despite simplicity, the story suffers from inconsistencies. It’s mentioned part of the reason Cyril is cutting down so many trees is because his Lumberjack license runs out at midnight. Though he seems to be considering continuing the business somehow considering they plan to plant seedlings. Also the special seems to forget about the story being mostly a dream. There’s nothing wrong with a “It was a Dream!...or was it?” ending if it’s the day after or happened during the night. But effectively the dream happened the next day and the kids started Christmas Eve over when they woke up, which just seems somewhat confusing.
Overall, with the possible exception of the Lets Dance Special, which is a clip show that makes creative use of music, this is the weakest of The Raccoons specials