Ani Shorts: A Very Chowder Christmas

Ani Shorts: A Very Chowder Christmas

One could say CH Greenblatt has lots to be thankful for. The creator of Chowder had a debut season most creators only dream of. Launched a year ago, it has become one of the new flagship series on Cartoon Network, anchoring their Har-Har-Thursday block of programs.

“I’m thrilled that people are discovering the show and are really getting into it,” says Greenblatt. “I keep running into people who tell me their kids love it. We all work very hard here to make these as good as we can, so of course it feels great when people respond positively to it. It helps keep us going, knowing that we have high expectations to meet. There are a lot more episodes on the way and we’re at an interesting place.”

One of those interesting places is the first Chowder holiday special. Entitled “Hey, Hey It’s Knishmas!,” said special debuts tonight at 8:00 p.m. (eastern). It tells the tale of how the denizens of Greenblatt’s mystical/mirth-ical city of Marzipan spend their time under the Gristletoe and anticipate the annual coming of the worm-like Knish Kringle.

There’s catch about having a visit from the jolly old saint though. Everyone must build him a Shminger Bread house. If it likes it, he’ll literally spew up a gift your heart desires. If it doesn’t, Kringle wrecks your home.

This doesn’t put Chowder’s master, the great chef Mung Daal (voiced by Annie Award nominee Dwight Schultz) in the Knishmas spirit. The one thing he’s never been able to do in his centuries-spanning career as a cook is make a Shminger Bread home. At the same time, Daal doesn’t want to disappoint his young protégé. This leads to a situation that fans of one other holiday tale will be quite familiar with; O Henry’s “Gift of the Magi.”

“Definitely,” Greenblatt concurs. “The hardest part about making a funny holiday special is deciding where the emotional heart of the story lies. So I wanted to create a story where Mung and Chowder decide to sacrifice their own desires to make the other person happy. It’s a classic blueprint that works very well for the relationship they have.”

The payoff? Mung Daal makes a deal with the devil. Or to put it more accurately, his arch enemy Endive.

“The original concept for Endive was that she was basically Martha Stewart,” says Greenblatt. “She has a strictly defined set of rules on how things work; everything has to be perfectly done to be correctly. And Mung infuriates her because he cooks from his heart, going with whatever crazy way he thinks feels best.

“As we started writing her, as is usually the case, she developed into something more. I wanted her to have a bit of Mrs. Haversham from Great Expectations, and you see some of that in “Chowder’s Girlfriend.” Ms. Haversham was left at the wedding alter and never got over it, spending the rest of her life twisting a younger girl to hurt men the way she was hurt.

“Endive was really fleshed out by William Reiss,” says Greenblatt. “He knows how find the humanity in everyone and turn their character flaws into comedy. Under his writing, she became the glamorous ogre she is now. She’s a big beast of a woman who puts on airs of being refined but unleashes her fury upon Mung. We decided that when the two of them get together, they revert to being children. The more we write her, the more we find she’s just a lonely woman, looking for someone to love her. But her fear of being hurt keeps driving men away.”

Of course, wherever Endive lurks, her family-way protégé Panini is not to far away. The thing Greenblatt wants to make clear though is the little pink rabbit has goals of her own, the main one being marrying Chowder.

“I think Panini is too resilient to be warped by Endive,” says Greenblatt. “We write her as a very single-minded girl. She wants Chowder. Cooking isn’t her passion. It’s a means to an end. We’ve given her a very strong core. She listens to Endive, but only as much as it suits her needs.”

What’s important though is Greenblatt doesn’t forget the importance of this being the holiday season. He draws from the past before he puts his own unique stamp on “Knishmas.”

“You can look at the stop-motion opening of the show and see the Rankin-Bass Rudolph special right there,” he says. “All the Rankin-Bass specials affected pretty much everyone I know. That’s a bar I don’t think any of us will ever be able to touch. There was another one I really liked--I can’t remember the name--that had a little mouse in a clock tower and the song “Even a Miracle Needs a Hand.” (Twas The Night Before Christmas--ED). I loved all the holiday specials when I was a kid, so it’s really a joy for me to feel like I can do something to add to that canon of shows.”

But, just to say it again, Greenblatt does put his own stamp on this special. Fans will immediately see it when they see each character’s clothing. Based on a process developed by master anime director Mahiro Maeda (who used it in his series Gankutsuou), the clothes have patterns built into them that move their own way. If you pay attention to the details, you’ll notice all said patterns have a particular seasonal theme to them.

“There’s no name for it,” says Greenblatt. “We just call it ‘putting a pattern in.’ Very original, I know. One of our color stylists had a book of vintage Christmas wrapping paper. We scanned in a bunch of those, manipulated them and used them for the holiday special patterns. I think we were crazier with the patterns in this special than in any other episode before.”

And does Mung Daal prepare a truly special feast for his team?

“Whatever it was, it would probably end up all burnt and inedible,” Greenblatt laughs. “We’ve told a lot of stories, so we have to challenge ourselves to not re-tread the same ground. Each story has to deepen the characters or enrich their world somehow. It’s fun to keep discovering more and more about these characters and their relationships. As long as they feel like they’re alive and growing, I’m excited to keep doing this.”


Holiday programming wouldn’t be complete without some word from Disney. They just shot over what’s definitely planned for their family of networks.

Toon Disney

It’s called "Toon Disney’s 12 Days of Christmas," a 12 day event featuring holiday themed movies, specials, and episodes including the Toon Disney premiere of Mickey’s Christmas Carol. Here’s the schedule below


12/14/08 5:00pm The Ultimate Christmas Present

6:50pm Pucca/Secret Santa

12/15/08 5:00pm Polar Express

7:15pm Yin Yang Yo!/Season’s Beatings

12/16/08 5:00pm Recess Christmas: Miracle on Third Street

6:30pm The Replacements - Dick Daring’s All-Star Holiday Stunt Spectacular V

12/17/08 5:00pm Annabelle’s Wish (special)

6:15pm Timon and Pumbaa/Don’t Be Elfish

6:30pm Lilo & Stitch/Topper

12/18/08 5:00pm Mickey’s Once Upon a Christmas

6:30pm The Emperor’s New School/A Giftmas Story

12/19/08 5:00pm Mickey’s Twice Upon a Christmas

6:30pm Monster Buster Club/Secret Santa

12/20/08 5:00pm Mickey’s Christmas Carol

5:40pm Timon and Pumbaa/Don’t Be Elfish

5:55pm Mickey’s Christmas Carol

6:30pm Disney’s House of Mouse/Pete’s Christmas Caper

12/21/08 5:00pm Minuscule/Come Christmas

5:05pm Mickey’s Magical Christmas: Snowed in at the House of Mouse

6:30pm Kim Possible/A Very Possible Christmas

12/22/08 5:00pm The Santa Clause 2

12/23/08 5:00pm Mickey’s Twice Upon a Christmas

6:30pm American Dragon: Jake Long/Hairy Christmas

12/24/08 5:00pm Mickey’s Once Upon a Christmas

6:30pm Lilo & Stitch/Topper

Disney Channel:

They’re calling their special programming "Totally New Year." Disney Channel invites viewers to vote for their favorite episodes, moments and music videos of 2008 in an online poll at

Beginning Friday, November 28 through Wednesday, December 31. Voting allows viewers to determine the New Year's Eve programming lineup entitled "Totally New Year" hosted by Selena Gomez, David Henrie, Jake T. Austin and Jennifer Stone of "Wizards of Waverly Place," airing December 31, 6:00 pm-12:30 am (eastern) on the Disney Channel.

Besides a Hannah Montana special, there’s a new edition of The Replacements called "Dick Daring's All-Star Holiday Stunt Spectacular V." The Daring family hosts their annual comedy show featuring holiday-themed sketches and musical numbers with cameo appearances by Ed Begley Jr., Carson Palmer and Josh Duhamel. Riley is the director, while Todd attempts to make money by holding his own telethon in Monday, December 8 at 5:00 pm eastern.

Also coming on Playhouse Disney is the holiday series "Snow Day Saturdays." Beginning Saturday, December 6 from 6:00 a.m.–Noon eastern. The month-long event will feature holiday and winter themed episodes of favorite series during the Playhouse Disney programming block. New episodes of Mickey Mouse Clubhouse, Imagination Movers and Little Einsteins, and the television premiere of My Friends Tigger & Pooh Super Sleuth Christmas Movie will debut.

The line-up of new holiday themes episodes for Playhouse Disney includes:

• December 6

8:30 am

My Friends Tigger & Pooh Super Sleuth Christmas Movie - Roo and Lumpy discover Santa's magical toy sack while a young reindeer named Holly gets lost in the Hundred Acre Wood. They summon the Super Sleuths to help return the bag and Holly to the North Pole in time to save Christmas.

10:00 am eastern

Imagination Movers – "Present Problem" - Nina brings over her holiday gifts for the Movers, but there's a problem – none of the gifts are labeled. Now the Movers must use their creativity to deduce each gift's recipient without opening them and ruining the surprise.

• December 13

8:00 am eastern

Little Einsteins – "Flight of the Instrument Fairies" - Quincy leads the Little Einsteins gang as they blast off on an arctic adventure to help the little Violin Fairy rescue her fairy friends and restore the Aurora Borealis to the night sky.

9:00 a.m. eastern

Mickey Mouse Clubhouse – "Pluto to the Rescue!" - When Donald and Goofy accidentally build a giant snowman that is so big they cannot climb around it, Mickey and Pluto the Rescue Dog must use their math and observational skills to help Donald and Goofy get back down from Mistletoe Mountain.

NEXT COLUMN: There’s a paradigm shift going down in the animation industry, and the web site is part of the reason. Find out why next Tuesday.

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