Animated TV shows seem sometimes more capable of pulling off Thanksgiving episode than their live action counterparts. Or maybe it’s just cheaper for a cartoon to recreate a Thanksgiving parade and football games and all those other traditions we associated with turkey day. Whatever the case, one thing is for sure: animated series have produced some memorable episodes taking place on Thanksgiving.
The Simpsons: “Bart vs. Thanksgiving”
While a few episodes of “The Simpsons” have touched upon Thanksgiving, the only episode that is specifically driven by Thanksgiving is this one. The plot is about Bart ruining the Thanksgiving dinner centerpiece that Lisa created from scratch, but the most memorable bits are those that make commentary upon the traditions of Thanksgiving. Bart and Homer argue over the relative value of the cartoon characters deserving of becoming giant balloons in the Macy’s parade and miss a Bart balloon floating past on the TV screen. The satirical take on “Up with People” that is the “Hurray for Everything” singing and dancing troupe providing halftime entertainment during the football game. Even Kent Brockman’s visit to a food shelter serving Thanksgiving dinner for the homeless smacks of the emotionally empty “food good but guilty” local news stories that have become a tradition on Thanksgiving.
Hey Arnold!: Arnold’s Thanksgiving
As usual, Arnold’s looney grandmother confuses things and is busily planning a Fourth of July celebration for Thanksgiving. Such is the stimulus that sends inner city kid Arnold into the kind of emotional turmoil that marks this wonderful kids’ cartoon that is more than enjoyable for adults. Arnold would just once like to have a normal holiday at his grandfather’s rooming house that actually bears a strong resemblance to holiday in question. Meanwhile, Helga Pataki, the little girl with the serious case of a love/hate relationship with Arnold (she loves Arnold but hates the idea of actually letting him know that) is up in arms because her alcoholic mom Miriam and oblivious dad, Big Bob, only care that older sister Olga is home for the holidays. “Arnold’s Thanksgiving” offers communion between two very sensitive young kids and ultimately extends to their very sensitive teacher who is putting up quite a good front about how his perfect family Thanksgiving.
King of the Hill
If “The Simpsons” is the Fox animated series that owns Halloween, then “King of the Hill” owns Thanksgiving. This sorely missed example of how Fox used to do things right when it came to animation (before selling its soul to the devil of the unfunny, Seth MacFarlane) presented a number of memorable episodes set during Thanksgiving. “Nine Pretty Darn Angry Men” takes a look at the intimate relationship between Thanksgiving family time and commerce with a parody of “12 Angry Men” that situates Hank Hill as the Henry Fonda character who is left alone to defend his old mower against a new model and his mother against his father who long ago upgraded to a new model. “Happy Hanks Giving” finds Hank Hill temporarily going blind after witnessing his mother and her boyfriend in the throes of passion atop his dining table. And in “Spin the Choice” we get a Thanksgiving episode from “King of the Hill” that questions the entire premise of a holiday that essentially celebrates genocide.
Calvin and the Colonel: “Thanksgiving Dinner”
“Calvin and the Colonel” was one of the many attempts by networks to cash in on the unexpected success of prime time animated series for adults like “The Flintstones” and “The Jetsons.” Essentially “Amos and Andy” adapted into cartoon form, the show presented a Thanksgiving episode on a topic that perhaps many Americans can relate to in the wake of the hard economic times since the 2008 recession that never ends. The Colonel has invited all of his relatives for Thanksgiving dinner before realizing that he doesn’t have nearly enough money to buy all the food that will be required to feed those rapacious relatives.