Tag Archives: 1984

The Lost Art of the Anniversary Special, Featuring Nazi Donald Duck

I know that the readers of Scratchbomb are students of genuine American folklore. Therefore, this will be of interest you: A Donald Duck 50th Anniversary special from 1984.

Back in those days, television loved to pay tribute to beloved pop culture figures via one-hour programs, during which the figure in question was feted by whatever random celebrities could be assembled. The pinnacle of this art was, of course, the Looney Tunes 50th Anniversary Special. Produced by Lorne Michaels’ Broadway Video, it remains one of the most amazing things humans have made. This was just one example; in the mid-80s, it seemed every three months brought another such tribute to the airwaves.

People tuned in by the millions to watch these shows because back then, if you wanted to catch a “highlight reel” for I Love Lucy or The Honeymooners, this was your only recourse. Nowadays, if you want to see someone’s greatest moments, you can search for them on YouTube and you don’t have to pay Cher or Jeff Goldblum to punch up the proceedings.

However, back in 1984, the heyday of such programming, a special about Donald Duck all but demanded to be MC’ed and narrated by Dick Van Dyke, who also has some split animation/live action bits with the guest of honor. As in other such specials of its time, Donald is further celebrated by testimonials from a polyglot selection of stars seemingly picked out of a hat: Donna Summer, John Ritter, Kenny Rogers, Henry Winkler, and Andy Warhol, who is seen sketching out his own illustrated salute.

andy warhol + donald duckThe special also contains an enormous amount of old cartoon footage that is, I’m sure, locked up in a vault somewhere along with Walt’s frozen head, never to be seen again. For instance, a cartoon meant to promote postwar “understanding” between America and its neighbors to the south, with that understanding achieved by drinking cacha├ža and dive bombing bikini-clad girls on a beach with some kind of magic carpet. But that pales in comparison to a war-time short wherein Donald has a nightmare he lives in Nazi Germany and has to assemble bombs all day to the tune of Spike Jones’ “In Der Fuhrer’s Face.” So if you ever wondered what Donald Duck covered in swastikas would look like, wonder no more.

As with my Halloween presentation, the Donald Duck special is presented here with commercials included, intended to be viewed as one would have viewed it back when it was aired. (Source tape comes from a rebroadcast in 1985.) Again, the quality is not fantastic, but some sacrifices are needed to bring you Nazi Donald Duck.

Slice of Turkey: Cornucopia Finale

To wrap up this feature, I figured I’d showcase a collection of Thanksgiving artifacts from years gone by that didn’t quite warrant a post of their own but which deserve viewing nonetheless. First, an NBC parade promo from 1977, which also contains an ad for a Dolphins-Cardinals game, plus a very 1970s Jane Pauley tells us about Anwar Sadat.

Here are a few opening segments from old Macy’s Thanksgiving Day parades. The thing I love about these is that they cram together all the celebrities in no particular order, and in so doing, create an odd potpourri of folks who have almost nothing in common. Stick around for Jim Nabors, Gregory Hines, and Don McLean!

The 1983 parade opener tells us to get excited for Tommy Tune & Twiggy, Ashford & Simpson, Lou Rawls, and Ballet Hispanico! Plus, Bryant Gumbel hosts this year and he could not give less of a shit!

1984 parade opener, featuring a young, mugging Joey Lawrence and a weird, rubber-necked clown. The glory-hogging cast of The Tapdance Kid returns! The cast of V is here, and so is Dom Deluise!

The 1984 parade ended like this, with that weird clown making a kid disappear. Then a litany of sponsors, and Santa Claus tells us Christmas is here, so you better get your ass to the mall.

Not parade related, but certainly worthy of inclusion: Happy Thanksgiving from The Weird Al Show, the parodist’s short-lived kids CBS kids show, circa 1997.

Slice of Turkey: Cabbage Patch Kids, 1984

I genuinely love the annual Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade. I’ve always made sure to watch a healthy portion of it each year, and do so especially now that I have a child who is still amazed by enormous floating balloons. The parade is, however, undeniably ridiculous, particularly the float/performance segments that occur throughout the presentation. They seem to originate from some alternate universe where musical tastes evolved and we kept developing pop stars in various media, yet Broadway musicals remained the most popular form of expression and those musicals ramped up the camp factor a good 25 percent.

When I was a kid, I found these interludes so cringe-inducing I’d have to leave the room. “And now, here to sing a number from the revival of ‘Carousel’….” boom, I was gone. The nightmare scenario came when something I kid-loved was featured in one of these segments, because I felt compelled to watch it even though I knew it would be horrifying. For instance, Spider-Man and other super guys from the Marvel Universe fake-punch each other to the tune of “I Need A Hero.”

As an adult, however, I find these things hilarious. And so I’d like to present a Thanksgiving advent calendar of sorts by highlighting many such segments from the days of yore. This inaugural edition comes from the 1984 parade and features a float dedicated to that year’s hottest toy, the Cabbage Patch Kids. Remember when moms almost murdered each other to bring one home for their ungrateful children? That was fun. I’m pretty sure Cabbage Patch Kids were the first toys that people wanted so badly they literally beat the shit out of each other, so naturally they are recalled quite fondly these days.

In this bit, Tim Conway talk-sings about these lovable scamps, although many of his “lyrics” don’t sound remotely flattering. The animation of the Cabbage Patch Kids appears much better than I would think would be possible for the time, but their semi-articulated mouths in the middle of ginormous heads are still horrifying.

Then, some kind of evildoer who sounds kind of like a decrepit Baby Bob emerges, trailed by some other ne’er-do-wells who want to rid the world of Cabbage Patch Kids for typical Bad Guy Reasons. Tim Conway looks more fed up than annoyed by this turn of events. (“Great, now what?”) A Cabbage Patch Kid in an army helmet emerges, and he delivers one swift kick to the rear of the main bad guy, which is plenty to send them packing. It concludes with a fiddle solo from Conway and a few tidy dance moves too because, dammit, that man is a professional. You don’t become a cast member of The Carol Burnett Show for 800 years without being a showman.

But above all, I think my favorite part of this video is the fact that the float is lugged along by an ordinary, unadorned Dodge station wagon. I feel like some manager at Macy’s had to ask a maintenance guy to borrow it. “Hey man, can we ‘steal’ your truck for the weekend? Just need to move some lovable moppets with huge heads and Tim Conway. Don’t worry, we’ll gas ‘er up.”

Following the Cabbage Patch Saga, you can see longtime Broadway staple Kaye Ballard sing “Home for the Holidays,” followed by an appearance by the Raggedy Ann balloon. Upon further reflection, I think I may have been at this parade. One year the whole family went to watch it in person, en route my grandparents’ house in Queens. My littlest brother had a Raggedy Andy doll he carried everywhere at the time, and when he saw this balloon bobbing down Fifth Avenue, he lost it. THEY’RE STEALING MY DOLLY! he howled, even though he was clutching his own doll at the time. Did we ever let him forget this, despite the fact that he was two years old when he said it? What do you think?

Bonus! Here’s a bank of commercials from this broadcast, including an odd Timex ad that I recall, some high quality plastic watches, and a G.I. Joe trucking set (?). I think this last thing is the G.I. Joe equivalent of R.O.B.