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Christmas Stories

Friday Film Review: Ziggy’s Gift and A Wish for Wings that Work

Friday Film Review: Ziggy’s Gift and A Wish for Wings that...

Ziggy’s Gift (1982)

Genre: Holiday Animation

Grade: B

“Love is the answer.”

Ziggy’s Gift is a 1982 TV special about Tom Wilson’s cartoon character Ziggy and his dog Fuzz trying to do the right thing. Ziggy wakes up one morning and while getting ready for the day, first hears a TV reporter doing man-on-the-street interviews with harried shoppers and parents gripping about the pains of the Holiday followed by a Walter Cronkite-esque news anchor bemoaning the fact that crooks, in the guise of false Santas, have been conning people out of Christmas donations meaning that many poor people might not have any Christmas gifts this year.

Determined to help, Ziggy answers a newspaper ad he sees for street Santas not knowing that it’s a crook who placed the ad and who would get all the donations. During the course of the day, Ziggy runs into a policeman who suspects Ziggy of being a fake Santa and a real thief determined to rob Ziggy of all the donations he receives. Oh, and lots of live turkeys. Can Ziggy and Fuzz avoid being arrested while spreading true Christmas cheer to those in need?

Ziggy is his usual sad sack self with a heart of gold for whom things work out in the end. If you’re susceptible to sugar overloads, you might want to have something slightly cynical lined up to watch after this. In fact, keep reading and you’ll see my suggestion of what to watch next.

The TV news reports at the beginning of the film lay out exactly what the plot will be. There are no surprises or plot twists – just sweetness and light as Ziggy bumbles around and Fuzz watches out for him. In the face of malfunctioning, mechanical singing angels, plastic poinsettias, aluminum Christmas trees, vinyl holly and polyester pine cones – Ziggy remains steadfast in his desire to do good and spread Christmas cheer.

This one unashamedly yanks on every heart string with the homeless, abandoned pets and orphans all getting trotted out but – gosh darn it! – it’s so simply presented and honestly meant that I melt into “aaaawww” anyway. I’m not too sure about the live turkeys though.

The theme song – which gets repeated at times and might wear on you – says it all. “Give, give, joy, joy.” B


A Wish for Wings that Work (1991)

Genre: Holiday Animation

Grade: B-

As I said in my review of “Die Hard” a lot of you mentioned favorite Christmas specials/movies a while back in 2009 when I posted some of my favorites. Angelia Sparrow listed “A Wish for Wings that Work” which I still can’t believe I missed when it was originally released in 1991. I adored the original “Bloom County” comic strip (and own most of the compilation books), have several Opus t-shirts and even a stuffed Opus toy. Honestly, how did I miss this TV special?

Berkley Breathed apparently hates it but I found it (mainly) charming and fairly in keeping with the spirit of the comic strip. It’s from the “Outland” era so most of the Bloom County characters aren’t there. Mainly it’s Opus and Bill the Cat with a little bit of Ronald-Ann.

Opus wants wings – new non-penguin wings. Not “fancy wings, just plain-Jane, low rent, barely bent, home grown, bare-bone, off-the-shelf, two-part, KMart, no frills flappers.” Opus longs to fly but his penguin wings just aren’t made for it and his efforts, up until now, haven’t worked. Ducks mock him and he’s stuck with “best buddy wannabe” cat who he rescued from a University Science lab. A trip to Ronald-Ann’s “Earthbound Birds Anonymous” support group shows Opus he’s not alone but after listening to a Kiwi bemoan being left by his wife for an albatross – “What does she want? Quality or quantity!?” – he’s little better off.

Then he has an idea. He’ll write to Santa Claus (he actually ends up faxing his request due to the late date). Secure in the belief that Santa will come through for him (“I’ll be flying on Christmas Day!”) he falls sleep. His flying obsession leads to one hella bizarre dream sequence straight out of “Lost Horizon” with the plane going down because penguins can’t fly. Banging on his door wakes Opus up just at the plane’s impact. There’s a Christmas crisis outside and it turns out that Opus, with his special swimming skills – ice water is his shtick – is the only one who can save Santa. But will that earn him his wings? Maybe with a little help from his friends.

The message here – we all have something to offer so be true to yourself – isn’t new. Still it’s told in a way that I think both children and adults (more the usual target for Breathed’s comics – listen as Opus takes a few potshots at Congress, Network Executives and Stormin’ Norman Schwarzkopf) can enjoy. They even work the term “nether regions” into it and all us romance fans love that purple prose phrase. I feel Opus might be a little harsh on poor Bill (“Ack! Pbthhh.”) After all, it’s not easy being a cat with tater tot brains who smells like the garbage can he drags around on his leg. Opus does have heart and a belief in Christmas that – along with his friends – gives us a happy but not too sappy ending.

How to watch these? Both are out on DVD though Ziggy’s Gift is OOP and could be a challenge to find BUT both of these have also been loaded at youtube. Each is less than 25 minutes in length and just right for a work/lunch break treat.


If You Like Holiday Stories…Recommended by the Dear Author crew

If You Like Holiday Stories…Recommended by the Dear Author crew

Given that this is the holiday season, I thought it would be fun to gather a list of holiday recommended reads. Unfortunately the list is largely Christmas oriented, in part because there are so few non Christmas holiday stories out there. Leave your own recommendations in the comments so readers can refer to this list in the years to come.

A Christmas Promise by Mary Balogh

Janine recommends A Christmas Promise by Mary Balogh. Balogh’s A Christmas Promise is a class difference marriage of convenience story in which the main characters were both in love with other parties before being forced to marry, he by a debt he inherited and she by her dying father’s wishes. The book also deals with death and grieving, which keeps it from getting too saccharin.  Reviewed here.

Sunita provides these recommendations:

His for the Holidaystwelve nights sarah morganCarol of the Bellskis by Astrid Amara

His for the Holidays: This was Carina Press’s first m/m holiday anthology, with stories from LB Gregg, Harper Fox, ZA Maxfield, and Josh Lanyon, and it’s a great introduction to m/m romance. The stories range from humorous to angst-ridden, and all the authors are well regarded in the genre and very different from each other. I also like being reminded of the holiday issues that are different for some of us, and those that are the same for all of us.  Reviewed here.

The Twelve Nights of Christmas by Sarah Morgan, who writes some of my favorite Christmas stories. They are suffused with a sense of the season, but they’re never preachy. This one has a workplace romance with a sweet, sunny-dispositioned heroine and a yummy but verging-on-Scroogelike hero, and while it has Morgan’s trademark humor, it also has some poignant scenes that might make you wonder if you just got some dust in your eye.

Carol of the Bellskis by Astrid Amara. This one is set during Hanukkah and stars a Jewish paralegal, his handsome, closeted boss and lover, assorted Jewish guests at a B&B, and Whistler, BC. Amara thoroughly immerses you in the festivities, and while there is both humor and steamy m/m action in this novella, there is also a lot more than that. The guests aren’t just caricatures, our heroes find a way to an HEA, and the reader is gently and pleasantly reminded that there is more than one religious holiday that falls in December.  Reviewed here.

Jayne offers up:

Christmas with Her Boss by Marion LennoxThe Mischief of the Mistletoe by Lauren WilligLiz Fielding Mistletoe and the Lost Stiletto

Christmas with Her Boss by Marion Lennox – Rich Australian CEO gets invited by his assistant to spend Christmas at her family dairy farm where the two discover love amidst the milking. Reviewed here.

The Mischief of the Mistletoe by Lauren Willig – Overlooked heroine and genial but “not the brightest bear in the woods” hero find their HEA during the holiday season while Spying for England.  Reviewed here.

Mistletoe and the Lost Stiletto by Liz Fielding – Fun and flirty bon bon of a holiday story of two nice people who find their Mr/Miss Perfect during the busy buying season in London.  Reviewed here.

Claustrophobic Christmas Ellie MarvelThe Eighth Night - Sandra SookooComing Home for Christmas (anthology) by Carla Kelly

Claustrophobic Christmas by Ellie Marvel – Funny novella in which the heroine with the titular issues is wooed by a sweet hero while they’re stuck in traffic due to bad weather.  Reviewed here.

The Eight Night by Sandra Sookoo – A Hanukkah novella in which the orphaned heroine who has lost her faith finds happiness with the Jewish hero who impulsively invites her to the family gathering to fend off his matchmaking female relatives.  Reviewed here.

Coming Home for Christmas by Carla Kelly – Christmas across the nineteenth century which loosely follows the members of one family finding that perfect someone during wartime and decking the halls.  Reviewed here.

The Cockermouth Mail Dinah DeanFather Christmas by Barbara MetzgerReason to Believe by Kathleen Eagle

The Cockermouth Mail by Dinah Dean – A road romance in which a wounded war veteran and a woman on her way to a dreary future as a governess find love while stranded at a country inn during the holidays.  Reviewed here.

Father Christmas by Barbara Metzger – Hilarious controlled chaos ensues when the childness Duke of Ware decides to “borrow” one of his deceased cousin’s sons for an heir and their mother objects.

Reason to Believe by Kathleen Eagle- an estranged couple finds their way back to each other during a freezing cold cross country ride in honor of the hero’s Lakota ancestors.


 This Wicked Gift breath on embers anne calhoun

This Wicked Gift by Courtney Milan. This historical novella made my top of 2010 list. Lavinia Spencer manages her family’s lending library. Just before Christmas she’s horrified to find the few coins she’s saved for Christmas dinner have been “borrowed” and “invested” by her unthinking younger brother with a swindler who now demands even more of the Spencer familiy’s meager resources. All is not lost, however. A young man who comes regularly to the library and whom Lavinia fancies, Mr. William Q. White, offers Lavinia a way to recover her funds. The story is sexy, funny, full of unexpected twists, and features great protagonists. Despite its brief length, it tells a wholly satisfying holiday tale. It was a 2010 RITA for Romance Novella finalist.

Breath on Embers by Anne Calhoun.

Many novels explore the grief engendered by losing someone we love; many romances tell the story of finding love again after such a loss. I’ve read lots of tales of “a second chance at love” and few of them have felt as powerful as did this novella by Anne Calhoun. Her heroine, Thea Moretti, lost her husband Jesse two years ago during the Christmas season. When Jesse died, so did much of Thea. Thea is “seeing” firefighter Ronan just for amnesiastic sex and she’s sure that’s all she’s capable of feeling. Ronan, however, knows that beneath all of Thea’s pain is a fiercely feeling woman who needs to learn to trust in emotions again.He’s sure he’s the man who can make her feel. The story takes place over the few weeks before Christmas and is perfectly placed in Manhattan. It’s dark, sexy, moving, and all around fabulous. Reviewed here.


From Jane:

A Curious Courting by Laura MatthewsHis Christmas Bride (Harlequin Presents) - Helen Brooks

A Curious Courting by Laura Matthews. An eccentric young woman who has spent much of her youth parenting her male cousin finds love with a prickly and uptight gentleman. While not exactly a holiday story there is snow and sleigh riding.  Review here.

His Christmas Bride by Helen Brooks.  Brooks often writes about a wounded heroine who is persistently (but not in a stalkerish, Edward sort of way) by a wealthy male (often with chest hair).  This is the formula I like best from Brooks.  In His Christmas Bride, photographer Blossom has never really recovered from being betrayed by her ex and she’d like to live out her life as the beloved spinster aunt to her sister’s children.  Zak Hamilton takes one look at Blossom and falls almost instantly but spends the whole book trying to convince her to take a chance on him.  Reviewed here.