Hey, this is MDTartist83, once again bringing you another retro review. Throughout history, there have been many different cartoons, specials, and movies circling around the season of Christmas. Some are more well-known than others. These include “Frosty the Snowman”, “Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer”, “How the Grinch Stole Christmas”, and “Christmas in July” just to name a few. However, there are some forms of media that inevitably fade away into obscurity, and remain in the shadows for eternity. And some titles are so obscure and unheard of, that very few people are even aware of their existence. So much that not even today’s generation seems to know about them. But hey, that’s what I’m here for. And today’s subject is a rather interesting piece of history, as it’s one of those titles that is so obscure that you may not have heard of it until now. “Noel” is a mostly forgotten animated Christmas special from the early 90s. It was directed by Masaki Izuka, written by Romeo Muller, and released on December 4th, 1992. I'm not sure which company distributed this cartoon. But the crazy thing is I didn’t know about Noel when it first came out. I was just barely 10 years old when it was first released. But from what I've gathered, it was strictly a direct-to-video release on VHS. And as far as records go, it was never released on DVD or Blu-Ray. What’s even stranger is that in some VHS releases, the boxart added that the special was from the creators of "Frosty the Snowman" and "Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer". But I’m a bit skeptical on that because it’s never explained exactly WHICH versions of Frosty and Rudolph they’re talking about. Though, it turns out that Noel WAS written by the same person who wrote the scripts for the Rankin Bass Rudolph and Frosty, Romeo Muller. Sadly, from what I heard, this was Muller's last cartoon he wrote before his death later in December of 1992. So I guess the information is somewhat accurate. There have been many different versions of Frosty and Rudolph throughout the ages. Though, the information on Noel is scarce due to its rarity and obscurity. But the question is this; “Is Noel any good?” Well, let’s find out, shall we? Oh, and before I begin, this cartoon was narrated by Charlton Heston.
The story circles around a red glass Christmas ornament who's happy as a crackhead named “Noel”, who was created in the 1940s by an aging glassblower (who kind of looks like one of the dwarfs from Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs). At first though, Noel was just a lifeless inanimate object. That is until its brought to life when a teardrop of happiness from his creator falls into Noel, bringing him to life, and giving him a cheerful happy-go-lucky attitude. And yes, people, we’re bringing the “magical tears” thing into this as well. But just bear with me here. When Noel is given life, he tries to socialize with another Christmas ornament, a snow angel named Miss Friezenda, who has an extremely rotten attitude, and only sees Noel as annoyance. Not to mention she’s already my least favorite character in this cartoon as her obnoxious attitude grades on my nerves. When Noel asks who she is, she answers “You don’t know?!”. Okay, first off, you two have only been alive for a few seconds! How the hell is Noel supposed to know who you are? Lay off the attitude why don’t you? And so happy as hell Noel and the obnoxious cynical Friezenda are placed into a box with a variety of other Christmas ornaments that also happen to be alive. And they also share Friezenda’s rotten attitude, and they treat Noel like garbage. Yeah, this cartoon is kind of like “The Brave Little Toaster” with inanimate objects coming to life, but just not as memorable. And also, the characters in this story don’t really do much since they apparently can’t move on their own like the appliances from “The Brave Little Toaster” or the toys from “Toy Story”. Yeah, they are apparently alive and sentient, but they lack the basic motor functions to enable independent movement. Talk about being handicapped. Life must really suck for them. Or not because I guess depending on how you view it, some people take their conditions more lightly than others do. And also, when Noel asks about the humans (which he initially refers to as “big things”), Friezenda tells him in a rude sort of manner that they are “people things”. Okay, again, how is Noel supposed to know this after just being brought to life? And how do the other Christmas ornaments know this already let alone know what children are? And why are they so mean to Noel? Then again I guess I shouldn’t question this cartoon’s logic. This is from 1992 after all.
So what goes on in this story? Well, Noel and the other Christmas ornaments are placed in a store just after their creation, and they get purchased by a family who uses them as displays on Christmas trees during the holidays. But they do this not once, but many times throughout time. And also, Noel meets children. And also, for some odd reason the children kiss Noel. Okay, why would you kiss a Christmas ornament? I know they’re kids, but I was a kid once in my life, and I NEVER once kissed a Christmas ornament in my life. To say nothing of how fragile and breakable glass ornaments really are. I don’t know. It’s just that I find it odd that the children would kiss Noel. Not to mention that no kid loves a generic glass bulb that much. What’s even weirder is that the girl holds onto her love for Noel even as she ages. Okay, that girl needs therapy. I mean hell; I was obsessed with Megaman at one point in my life. But at least I grew out of my obsession eventually. So anyway, one of the annoying things about this movie is that Noel has a habit of saying over and over again “My name is Noel, and I have a happiness!” And believe me; he spams that A LOT throughout this cartoon. And here I thought Flame Hyenard from Megaman X7 was annoying as hell. On one hand, I can sort of see why the other Christmas ornaments are assholes to Noel. But still, my opinion about them doesn’t really change because well, the other Christmas ornaments don’t really have much to their personality other than being cynical pessimistic and obnoxious douche bags. And again, Miss Friezenda is my least favorite character because she’s totally unlikable and despicable. Granted, she’s not exactly a villain because she doesn’t do anything sinister or diabolical to warrant that. But her obnoxious and bitchy personality is enough to get me to dislike her with a passion. I mean sure, Noel may be annoying. But at least he has a sunnier attitude than any of the other ornaments do. That includes Friezenda. So anyway, with each Christmas that comes and goes with each passing year, Noel meets new Christmas trees with different names (Brutus, Harold, Bernard, Anthony, Gregory, Irving, and Jacques just to name a few) who interact with him and teach him about the magical spirit of Christmas and what it’s all about. Noel finds comfort in befriending these trees because unlike any of the ornaments, they are kind and gentle to him. But whenever Christmas ends, the trees are dragged away by the family to die off-screen, and Noel and the other ornaments are placed back into their box, much to Noel’s extreme grief and sadness. Okay, I found these certain parts of the movie to be rather sad and heart breaking. Because each tree that is brought into the house makes an effort to befriend Noel (which is more that can be said for any of the ornaments), and they offer him friendship and wisdom. But all of the Christmas trees inevitably meet with the same fate. And whenever this happens, Noel cries and mourns their loss. Noel is told by one of the trees to “hold onto his happiness” prior to its death. Again, these are very depressing parts in the movie. Though, one thing I found that was kind of off is that they introduce a display featuring the baby Jesus straight from the Christian bible. Noel questions this, and Harold explains to him what it is. Although he doesn’t directly say that it’s “Jesus Christ” as a newborn baby. Okay, now here is where I draw the line. I know that the true meaning of Christmas is the birth of Jesus Christ. But this is religion we’re talking about. And I don’t think this goes well with the story of a talking red bulb with the personality of a five year old kid. Just saying, including religion into this is a bit taboo. Especially since other Christmas specials don’t really talk about Jesus Christ.
As the decades pass, the children inevitably grow up and start families of their own. And their parents reach old age with the passage of time (much like how it is in real life). Noel and the other ornaments fell into a deep coma-like sleep, as they were eventually left in the attic and forgotten about. Inevitably, the parents who owned the house pass away. Many years later in the 1990s (which was the time this special was made), a new family steps into the house and redecorates it to make it inhabitable again. They move into the new house and discover the now old and worn out Christmas ornaments. During the Holiday season, the ornaments awaken, and Noel is nonetheless happy to still be alive despite how much has changed since their time. But Friezenda, being the complete bitch she is, complains (like she always does) and asks “What’s so great about going back to work?” Okay, first off, who are you to complain? All you do year after year is hang on a tree! That's hardly what I would call "going back to work"! And as the new family prepares decorations for the holidays, they determine that the ornaments in the box are too old and chipped to use, so they decide to get rid of them, much to Friezenda’s shock and dismay. Friezenda then pleads the family to put her on the tree, but they close the box on them and send them away to be disposed of. Good riddance to them I’ll say. It’s not like they were likable characters to begin with. So now they get to die. But even so, Noel bids Friezenda farewell, and mourns her loss despite how badly she treated him. Though I can’t say I share Noel’s sympathy for her. Friezenda only complained, bitched, and whined throughout this entire cartoon. And her attitude never really changed. So I don’t feel sorry for her or any of the other ornaments for that matter. And so after they’re disposed of, the family decides to use the now frail Noel for their new Christmas tree Abraham. But Noel’s new found happiness is short-lived, as he falls off the tree and shatters upon impact with the ground. However, Noel’s soul (which came in the form of his creator’s tear which was inside him for decades) was still intact. And now with his spirit free, he sees the baby Jesus inside the display, and understands the true meaning of Christmas. And so Noel’s ghost flies away into the sky to spread happiness all over the world. Hmmm… Now that I think of it, this seems to be a metaphor on what supposedly happens when we die. Because it is commonly believed that when we die, our souls leave our bodies, and descend into the afterlife. Or at least that’s what some of us believe in. Either way, I found this to be a sad but happy ending at the same time. Sad that he dies. But happy because his spirit roams freely. And before the closing credits, Noel manages to break the fourth wall, as he seemed to know that the narrator was talking the whole time. That's odd.
And so that was Noel. What did I personally think of it? Well… Meh… And what I mean by “Meh” is that I neither liked it nor disliked it. My feelings towards this special are somewhat mixed. On one hand, I can see why Noel has pretty much been forgotten. It’s not really memorable and it does touch upon some rather taboo subjects for something that was intended for little kids (the baby Jesus). But on the other hand, this cartoon did have some rather dark and dramatic moments which really touched me. And some parts of this cartoon made me feel genuinely sad. And the ending like I said before, is kind of mixed. But all in all, this is a pretty weird cartoon. Some parts made me question "What were they smoking and drinking when they made this?" There’s not a whole lot that goes on in it besides the same repetitive cycle of Christmas coming and going as time passes by, and the movie spends the majority of itself focusing on Noel repeating his one line of dialogue “My name is Noel. And I have a happiness!” And he says it over and over again to the point in which I wanted to say “Okay! I get it! I know who you are! Why do you keep repeating yourself? Do you have turret syndrome or something?” I mean this is more annoying that Groot saying “I am Groot!” and Optimus Prime repeating “I am Optimus Prime!” over and over again! And also, I know I said this already. But… Why do the kids keep kissing Noel? That’s just weird. Because again, I was a kid once in my life, and I never obsessed over a generic red bulb EVER. All in all, there’s nothing truly meaningful about this cartoon and I found it to be mostly forgettable. The animation is nothing to write home about either as it’s just the typical Saturday morning cartoon style akin to what was normally seen at the time. In conclusion, if you’re genuinely curious about this cartoon, then by all means check it out. It should be available on YouTube to watch at your leisure. But otherwise, I’d say give it a pass.