Whereas the 1960's produced only one animated Halloween special ("It's the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown"), there were no less than three Thanksgiving-themed episodes of the various cartoons on the air during the decade.
Calvin and the Colonel - "Thanksgiving Dinner" (1961)
October 17, 1961
As this is the most obscure of the three shows covered in this article, to give some context, Calvin & the Colonel was an attempt at cashing in on the same “cartoon sitcom aimed at older audiences” concept that The Flintstones had made wildly popular just one year before (rival networks CBS and NBC also launched The Alvin Show and a revamped Rocky & Bullwinkle respectively that same season). Much like The Flintstones was a parody of The Honeymooners, Calvin and the Colonel is a parody of the 1928-1960 Amos ‘n’ Andy radio/TV program, even going as far as to recast some of the actors from that program into the corresponding roles.
Colonel Montgomery J. Klaxon, at a Thanksgiving dinner at his Uncle Harry’s house, in an attempt to make himself look good, makes a bold announcement (much to the disdain of his wife) that, one year from then, all 36 attendants of the dinner are invited to his home for the next Thanksgiving. One year later, too poor to follow through with his promise, he panics and tries to flee, but is forced by his wife and sister-in-law to get the dinner any way he can.
The Colonel goes to his friend Calvin to beg for the $50 needed to buy the food, but his friend is broke as well. Instead, he points the Colonel to an ad for 75 lbs of free food, the catch being that they have to buy a $375 freezer. However, he notices in the fine print that the freezer can be brought back by dissatisfied customers within 30 days for a full refund, which launches his scheme.
The plan goes initially well enough, they buy the freezer with the food, take the food back home, then try to return the freezer twenty minutes later. However, their plan is stopped when the store owner demands the food be returned as well, leading to an argument over whether the free food should really be part of the refund.
The Colonel drops the argument when the store owner threatens to get the police involved, and is forced into a tough situation: Either return the food and ruin Thanksgiving for his family or not return the food and get arrested for his con.
With the food being stored in a neighbor’s home, the Colonel and Calvin break in and attempt to steal the food. However, their neighbor Conway (who also happens to be a police sergeant) overhears them on the roof and catches them in the act.
The Colonel and Calvin then end up in prison for five days, having their own Thanksgiving dinner (how the issue with the freezer was sorted, or if the rest of the Colonel’s family was even still able to have their Thanksgiving dinner is completely unresolved). The episode ends a week later in the Colonel’s real estate building, where he begins to go over with Calvin a scheme to get free food next Thanksgiving. Calvin, wanting no part of it, runs away from the Colonel as fast as he can.
Davey & Goliath - "The Pilgrim Boy" (1962)
Clokey Productions / United Lutheran Church
One day, Davey and his sister Sally are arguing with each other about what to get their mother for her birthday. Sally wants to give their mother her doll, but Davey wants to buy her a sweater with his allowance. Once their mother gets back home from shopping, they drop the subject and Davey heads upstairs to work on his homework: a three paragraph paper about Thanksgiving.
Reading about how God provided for the Pilgrims in need, Davey imagines himself and his sister as Pilgrims. Pilgrim Davey (“Henry”) overhears one of the village leaders questioning if God had abandoned them, following a harsh winter that had killed off many of their group. Soon after, Henry and Pilgrim Sally ("Melody') meet the Indian Samoset who helps them return home before getting caught in a harsh storm.
Their aunt and uncle are skeptical about the idea of an Indian helping the Pilgrims, but Samoset returns with Squanto and another Indian to help teach the Pilgrims how to survive by growing maize.
Through the story of the Pilgrims, Davey learns about how God provides for those who are in dire need of His help.
Underdog - "Simon Says... No Thanksgiving" (1965)
The four-part adventure opens in the laboratory Underdog’s arch nemesis Simon Bar Sinister, who plans to take over the city with just three planes, three tanks, and twelve soldiers.
Penny, Underdog’s love interest who happens to be passing by the building that Sinister's lab is located in, tries to alert police but they simply laugh at the prospect of such a small army taking over.
However, his real plan involves two buttons on a lamppost on Main Street; using his army, he intends to drive the citizens into designated underground shelters and then, using the buttons, trap them all in and take over the city in their absence.
But the foil to this plan is that he completely forgets the following day is Thanksgiving Day, and the city is throwing a huge parade. Sinister, finding himself on the wrong side of Main Street, decides the easiest way to get to the buttons, instead of simply going around the parade route, is to end the parade early by get rid of Thanksgiving entirely.
He rushes back to his lab and gets his “Time Bomb”, a bomb that can send the user back in time. Setting the dial back to 1621, the bomb explodes and carries Sinister and his assistant Cad to the time of the first Thanksgiving, intent on staging a conflict between the Indians and the Pilgrims.
Penny calls for Underdog, who was off in another country, and they meet at the lab. Getting another of Sinister’s time bombs, the two head off to 1621 as well. The pilgrims initially mistaken Underdog and Penny for martians, but are convinced the two are allies after Underdog repairs their ship and builds a town for them.
Meanwhile, Sinister disguises himself as a medicine man and stages a fake conflict, which ignites the Indians to wage war against the pilgrims. Thinking he’s won, Sinister returns to the present and, as he planned, the parade begins to vanish from existence.
However, Underdog is still in the past, and with his x-ray vision he starts a fire outside the pilgrim settlement; the Indians and Pilgrims stop their warfare and join forces to put out the fire, convincing the two sides to continue being allies. Underdog quickly repairs all the damage done from the fighting, and the first Thanksgiving commences as intended.
Back in the present, the Thanksgiving parade comes back into being and Simon Bar Sinister, caught in the middle of crossing the road, is run over by a float and stampeded by a marching band. His puny army attempts to attack, not knowing Sinister had failed in his plan, and are easily dealt away with by the authorities. His easy defeat known to everyone, Sinister becomes the laughing stock of the city. With Thanksgiving saved, Underdog and Penny return to the present and the parade continues on.
"The Mouse on the Mayflower" (1968)
November 23, 1968
This somewhat obscure special from the holiday special masters at Rankin/Bass was their only attempt at a Thanksgiving special.
For an in-depth analysis on "The Mouse on the Mayflower", please refer to my Rankin/Bass Retrospective article on it:
- Rankin/Bass Retrospective - Part 4: The Mouse on the Mayflower
Among their numerous holiday specials, Rankin/Bass only made one Thanksgiving special: 1968's "The Mouse on the Mayflower"
Demas W Jasper from Today's America and The World Beyond on November 24, 2016:
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What great fun for Thanksgiving Day to check out these videos.