The Raccoons on Ice

“The Christmas Raccoons” may have been a little loose on plot, but the characters and setting must have been compelling enough for another special so here we are.

We start out on the star-filled sky titles again, panning down for a quick fly over Evergreen forest. It’s winter time again and the kids and animals are at play. Dan the Forest ranger calls his kids in for Hot Cocoa (they are pretty much out for the rest of this special) but Schaeffer declines the invite to come indoors and goes out to play, running through snow and sliding on the ice. (To the nice mellow sound of “Takin’ my Time”)

Schaeffer reaches the main lake, all iced up. He slides up, passing a graceful lady aardvark skater. He stops to complement and the lady introduces herself as Sophia Tutu. Sophia’s introduction is quite nice, and she generally has a lot to offer in this special. It’s a bit of a shame by the time the series comes about she becomes a character with practically nothing going for her (becoming phased out after the first season or so)

He meets up with the Raccoons, who are playing a bit of hockey. Bert is more boisterous and ambitious than when last seen in Christmas Racoons. He claims he scores a lot of goals and he’s a “wiz” at hockey, though his first attempt at getting past Schaeffer fails. Melissa and Ralph have toned down and take a bit more of a backseat to Bert this time around.

The picture goes to still and zooms out as a still in Cyril Sneers presentation. His character better defined now, he’s all about the commercialism and money. He announces to his cabinet of bears that he plans to develop on the lake and build the “Cyril Dome”, an ice rink arena. A model plonks itself on the desk, looking grand and flashing in gaudy neon colours (a nice touch for getting across the greedy commercialisation)

Meanwhile Cedric’s working on his hockey skills, playing by himself as he narrates the imagined game in his head. He slips over (the narrator stating this seems kind of redundant) He then sees Sophia and falls head over heels as she glides and dives across the ice. All in a lovely neon-lighted scene played to “To Have You”, which is a little random, but the experimentation is a welcome change of pace. Cedric asks Sophia if she’d like to go get some hot chocolate. It’s all very coy and sweet but it manages to stay charming.

Also I note in this image here theres a bit of a proportion issue in this scene between Cedric and Sophia, if he stood up he'd be a giant!

The Raccoons continue their hockey game. Bert cheers and celebrates a goal as Ralph and Melissa share a “That’s our Bert!” moment. Then Cyril Sneer turns up, declaring his intention to take the lake and build on top of it. The raccoons protest at this and tell Cyril they use the link for skating and hockey. Bert boasts about their skills as a hockey team and Cyril suggests a hockey game to decide the fate of the lake, which he quickly gets a handshake for before dashing off. Bert realises what he’s talked himself and his friends into (though to be honest they all talked themselves into it).

Incidentally a random observation here, this scene is the first time we see the Sneer’s family pet, a blue furred dog/aardvark fusion called Snag. Though he’s never mentioned by name here

Cyril then runs his hockey team (all bears apparently) through a gruelling training program of marching, goal drills and split second puck hitting. In comparison, the raccoons are playing with more intent and trying to work on passing. Bert feels there’s no chance of them being able to win. Schaeffer suggests there may be a way and calls Sophia and Cedric over, asking Cedric to play for them. Cedric mumbles a little, not really wanting to go against his “pop”. Sophia turns on the charm and manages to bring Cedric round to the idea. They practice happily and alls well… BUT WAIT.

Sneaky Cyril’s decided to scope out the other team. He’s surprised to find his own son on the other side. He bans Cedric from playing hockey till his dome is built. The Raccoons continue practicing, though they are unsure about their odds of winning now Cedric is banned. Sophia suggests they go pay Cedric a visit and try to persuade him again. Now I understand Cedric’s the best player, but they make it sound like without him there’s no hope. Though last I checked it was teamwork that normally helps in such sports. Though I suppose it’s understandable they would want him to play anyways

And thus for the first time we see the Sneer Estate in all it’s old gothic glory. It looks a little more haunted house here due to the setting but still looks like a place Cyril would live in. They climb up to Cedric’s bedroom and beg him to play in the game; this doesn’t work so well this time. Cedric fears for his friends and himself, telling hem if Cyril catches them he’ll throw them into the dungeon. Besides that hes already grounded for a month...WITHOUT CHOCOLATE PUDDDING!!11!

… At this point I would like to remind people Cedric is a college graduate. Who’s freaking out about lack of chocolate pudding? While it is common in the series for Bert and Cedric to act much younger than they are it normally comes across naturally, though here it seems just a step too far. Sophia brings us back to reality by pointing out that losing the lake is a bigger deal than losing chocolate pudding. After evading Cyril the team depart without Cedric.

The day of the game comes and spirits are high in the Sneer camp. The game is being televised with a beaver commentator and apparently a mass turnout in some makeshift stadium on the lake. Cyril makes his confidence known and suggests it could be quite a scrappy game. He also seems to be the referee for the game, which is blatant cheating that nobody seems to notice, though this is only for the start of the game. The bears throw their weight about and are pretty much winning via brute force. They manage to take Bert out and damage his hand pretty bad. He’s taken off and it’s looking pretty hopeless (considering its 12 bears vs 2 raccoons and a dog). Sophia decides to actually do something and goes off to talk to Cedric once more.

Cedric pretty much gives the same line again but Sophia this time makes it pretty clear that if Cedric sits by and does nothing the relationship is over. Cedric perks up and joins the other team. They decide to disguise him so they cover up his face with a scarf or something and have Bert swap sweaters with Cedric. The mystery player storms the game, and Cyril has no idea whatsoever who this new player is. He manages to trip him over and discovers its Cedric; he promptly takes him out the game, threatening to lock him in the dungeon after.

The Raccoons panic and pretty much almost give up despite being pretty close to a win thanks to Cedric’s contribution. Bert’s pretty indignant about playing, and announces that regardless if they win or lose, if this is the last time they can be on the lake he wants to make the most of it. The team agree and continue onto the last 2 minutes. They play with renewed vigour. The last 30 seconds count down in the final play; they pass successfully up to Bert who goes in for the shot but is tripped up by a bear. By sheer fluke (and slo-mo) the puck tumbles into the goal at the last second and the Raccoons win the game.

This last scene in the special is kind of what makes it. From the start of the game to its conclusion; it’s a tad predictable, but the characters get enough time to establish themselves that the viewer gets into the game. Plus the nice bit of editing on the final goal really does justice to that last goal. The staging of the scene is a tad ambiguous till a character mentions it is the lake and the animation isn’t totally top notch but it is still a step up from the last special.

A great Special that vastly improves on the initial ideas displayed in “The Christmas Racoons”. “On Ice” takes the good aspects and fleshes out the characters. It also does away mostly with the Ranger and his kids, who are pretty dull in comparison to the other characters. Sophia gets a good introduction here though it’s clear even at this point that Sophia doesn’t have much else going for her bar being Cedric’s girlfriend. But she does have at least one big role in the feature length “Lost Star” before the series relegates her completely to the girlfriend role and obscurity. The music is also a little more prominent here, taking part in little sequences throughout that actually work quite well. Overall a classic Christmas special that works as well today as it did 20 years ago.