Ho ho howdy folkses! Welcome to the second day of The Twelve Days of Shitmas celebration for 2021. Our first offering this year featured bare-bones production values, some seriously dodgy existential philosophy and a bunch of irritating, poorly developed characters you'd probably wish you could immediately forget. Today's special is a bit clunky and uneven but still enjoyable, with a quirky story and a once-beloved character whom no one today seems to remember. It's also got a bumper crop of sweet, delicious candy-on-a-stick to send your blood sugar up into the stratosphere and your insulin levels down into the bottomless pits of hell.

Test strips are available in the lobby for free. Look for the monkey in the Santa hat.

We're posting a brand-new review of a Christmas special every other day beginning December 3rd, culminating in what we consider the worst of the bunch on Christmas morning. As additional value for your Shitmas dollar we've added a special Secret Santa feature this year in the form of a sneaky link embedded in one of the screenshots in each article. Not the kind of sneaky link where you check into a pay-by-the-hour motel under an assumed name for a little slap and tickle with a special friend while your husband is at work doing quality control at the local condom factory, but a sneaky link to an odd or disturbing depiction of Santa Claus we may or may not have found in a rusty, waterlogged dumpster behind a boarded-up Beefsteak Charlie's shortly after the chain folded in 1989. We still miss their all-you-can-eat salad bar with unlimited beer, wine and sangria. Good times, people, good times...if only we could remember them.

Speaking of memory, it's a mighty strange and fickle thing, is it not? There's often neither rhyme nor reason for why certain experiences plant themselves indelibly into our brains while others never quite find purchase and fade into oblivion.

The Lollipop Dragon: The Great Christmas Race is one of a pair of mid-80's television specials featuring a fully-formed world full of then-familiar characters who'd already had fifteen years of success in various educational media, beginning with a set of six filmstrips developed for use in elementary schools and released in 1970. At one time the Lollipop Dragon and his pals were nearly ubiquitous in schools across the United States, yet since the turn of the twenty-first century they've faded almost entirely from our collective consciousness.

Filmstrips, for all you young whippersnappers out there in the frontierlands of the interwebs, were rolls of still images projected on a screen with either an LP record or cassette accompaniment. Invented in 1925 and a staple of the grade school experience from the 1950's through to the end of the 1980's. They were a beloved highlight of the school week for any students lucky enough to have experienced them.

I'm not an overtly nostalgic person. I've always felt that if you spend too much time looking back you'll stop moving forward, but I sure did love filmstrips when I was a kid and the part of me that is still a child can't help but love them even today.

The software.

When the teacher would pull out the portable screen from the supply closet and wheel in the media cart with the little projector and record player on it you could almost hear the joyful buzz of anticipation. I would imagine most people of my generation still have fond recollections of the word "focus" slowly sharpening into legibility on the first frame, can still recall with perfect clarity the friendly, mellow beep indicating that it was time to advance to the next picture. There was something nurturing in the filmstrip experience, something in those static images that stimulated the juvenile imagination in a way that moving images could not.

The hardware.

Sometimes we'd be shown 16mm films and, in later years, videocassette presentations, and these were always a welcome change from the dull routine of the school week, but they just didn't offer the same kind of congenial comfort. With their easy, unhurried pace and magic-lantern wholesomeness there was a quaint, indefinable warmth to filmstrips these other formats lacked.

The original sucrose-based fantasy hero.

Like the Lollipop Dragon himself, filmstrip presentations inevitably faded into history, to be replaced by entertainments more brash, gaudy and, more often than not, significantly dumbed down and less appealing.

I rest my case.

The Lollipop Dragon character was created by children's author Richard Himmel and illustrators Luther Peters and Connie Ross for the Singer Corporation, and it became popular enough to rapidly branch out into print media, with an extensive series of story, activity, and coloring books published over the next fifteen years. By the mid 1980's, however, the character's cultural cache was on the wane, and after some scattered teacher-friendly videos and computer game releases in the 90's, the brand was finally retired after a less-than-stellar dvd-rom appearance in 2000. In the subsequent 21 years the Lollipop Dragon has trickled down the memory hole so completely that as of this writing he doesn't even have a Wikipedia page.

You can press "return," but I don't think it's gonna happen.

As mentioned above The Great Christmas Race was one of two Lollipop Dragon animated specials, made in 1985 and 1986 respectively. The first, The Magic Lollipop Adventure, is deeply strange and just a little bit wonderful, superior in every way to what I'm bringing to you today, but unfortunately it's not a Christmas special, so this is the one you get. Let's be honest. It's not the first time you've had to settle for sloppy seconds.

The opening credits feature a montage of the cheerful snow-girt environs and happy, motley inhabitants of the magical land of TumTum, the candy-centric city-state in which the Lollipop Dragon's many adventures take place. Unfortunately it's all set to a bland, lazy and uninspiring earworm called "Let the Magic Surround You." It's a really bad song. Not just in a disposable, forgettable way but also in a "I must drown it out with my internal tormented sceams" way. It combines the worst of mid-80's empty pop platitudes, mid-80's recorded-through-an-ear-trumpet-at-the-end-of-a-train-tunnel production values, and mid-80's brain-bludgeoningly insipid AOR balladry. It is not an auspicious opening salvo, but at least it's short and you won't miss anything of import if you fast forward through it.

We see the happy TumTum townsfolk buying lollipops from a kiosk as smiling yellow hedgehog-chickens with elephantine trunks scurry about the square. We thrill at some grinning, buck-toothed dragonlings merrily operating machinery in an elaborate lollipop factory. We stare in reverential awe at a flock of colorful, exotic birds as they swoop past jovial citizens bundled in snuggly winter coats.

Everyone skips and dances and sings and basks in the love, joy and contentment only an equitable society with universal healthcare, peak employment and a robust social safety net can provide.

Dora the Explorer was there, also.

In the factory the Lollipop Dragon and his three young dragon pals, Cuddles, Glider and Blue Eyes are just putting the finishing touches on their decorations for a big Christmas party they'll be hosting there shortly. Just as they complete their arrangements we hear a regal trumpet fanfare, and a squat little fellow in a herald's uniform steps in to announce the arrival of their majesties the King and Queen of TumTum, followed by their two children, Princess Gwendoline and Prince Hubert, who pull behind them an enormous cart filled with gifts for all the workers.

The King and Queen. She seems a bit out of his league.

Gwendoline and Hubert. Thankfully they take after their mother.

Last to arrive is "His Hairiness," the royal musician Hairy Troll, a four-armed, singing lint ball who looks like a cross between a purple shower scrunchie and Jeremy Hillary Boob, PhD. from Yellow Submarine.

He's a hep, cool cat and he knows where it's at. Also he gently exfoliates.

Hairy was the most entertaining character in the previous special. He's a 50's beatnik, artsy, free-spirit type, and you just know when he's not entertaining all the squares at the royal court he's running a jazz-themed coffeehouse somewhere on the seedy side of town where he recites free verse poetry, smokes Chesterfield Kings and can easily be persuaded to sit in with the band for a few numbers during the final set of the night. Unfortunately, he's not given a whole lot to do this time around, because everyone is spread far too thin against a ragged narrative, leaving little opportunity for each individual character to shine.

At the prompting of his wife the slightly absent-minded King makes a half-bumbling, half-grandiose speech about how much he appreciates all the little chef hat-wearing cogs who make the lollipop factory wheels turn. He butters 'em up real good, then asks Cuddles, Glider and Blue-Eyes to deliver personalized gifts to each of them.

There's a good reason the King treats them with so much deference and respect, as the entire gross national product of his sovereign kingdom comes from the supreme quality lollipops these workers make. In fact they are not only the most popular, best-selling lollipops in the entire world, but the tastiest, too, thanks to a huge magical lollipop wand the king uses to purify the kingdom's glacial well-water in an annual ritual that formed the central conceit of the previous special.

Hairy Troll sits down at the piano and starts belting out a festive tune as the three diminutive dragons and the two pre-teen royals hand out the gifts...but alas, all is not well in the land of TumTum this Christmas season. The joyous scene is observed via a magic mirror in a far-off castle by the evil, scheming Baron Badblood, our villain du-jour, and his less-than-brilliant hench-thing Cosmos, who talks like a New York cabbie and may or may not be a distant, black sheep cousin Hairy Troll and his people no longer invite to any family functions.

Baron Badblood, looking angry, angular and mean.

Cosmos, looking like something you'd pour salt on if it got too close to your tomato plants.

The Baron doesn't care for stuff like "fun" and "happiness," and he gets pretty steamed up watching the TumTum folks enjoying their party. He vows to find a way to bring them back down to Earth and ruin their holidays, but first he needs to do a little snooping, so he recites a rhymey little "Mirror, Mirror" spell to turn himself and his minion into something small enough to go unnoticed in a crowd.

The mirror transforms them into sketchy-looking, butt-ugly spiders, and when they jump through the glass they're transported directly to the main square of TumTum City. They take up a reconnaissance position atop the central well, whereon sits the aforementioned Magic Lollipop that is the lynchpin of the kingdom's entire economy.

Despite that the whole point of the previous special was that the Baron wanted to steal this thing, now that he's right next to it, with it utterly vulnerable and unguarded, he doesn't even seem to notice that it's there.

You'd think it'd be kept in a safe deposit box or something.

Baron and Cosmos have come at a fortuitous moment, though, for no sooner are they safely ensconced on the roof of the well than the stubby Herald steps out from the palace to read a royal proclamation.

The King has decreed that in honor of the season there will be a great Christmas race. Anyone may enter, and the winner will receive the highest honor the royal family of TumTum can bestow: honorary lollipops will be made in their likeness and in the flavor of their choosing, and these will be given to Santa Claus himself to distribute to every child in the world!

As Lollipop Dragon, Hairy, the Mini Dragons and the Royal Kids daydream about what flavor they'll choose if they win the race, Spider Baron turns to Spider Cosmos to declare that this race is the perfect opportunity for him to ruin Christmas--not just for TumTum, but for everyone everywhere in the entire world! Muhahahaha!

After a brief commercial message featuring, perhaps some wrestling action figures or maybe a Teddy Ruxpin doll, we jump forward to the morning of the big race, where the various participants sing about their preparations and their hopes for the exciting event. The Royal Children feed a pair of horses and the young Dragons hitch up two pandas to their sleigh while Lollipop Dragon just hopes against hope that he'll be the one who takes the prize.

Back at his evil castle Baron Badblood sings a few verses, too, boasting that what with his dirty tricks and moral turpitude he cant possibly lose. He also openly fantasizes about forcing everyone in the world to lick his lollipops.

Which may or may not be a euphemism.

The chorus of the song is a little suspect, too, with the eager townsfolk belting out the phrase "A TumTum Christmas race, we'd like to win first place, and have a lollipop made of our face."

You're supposed to choose the flavor, not be the flavor.

So the Herald calls all the sleigh teams to the starting line and the King gives a little pep talk speech about how they all gotta front, perpetrate and represent for TumTum, but just as he's about to fire off the starter pistol the Baron shows up with his tricked out ride and his player-hater attitude.

The citizens protest that he shouldn't be allowed to race but he reminds them that the King's own proclamation specified that anyone could enter, so there's nothing they can do to stop him. He taunts the good citizens of TumTum, confidently asserting that he has the finest sled, the fastest team and the most cunning pilot, Cosmos. Oh, and he also boasts that when he wins he's going to force them to hand out liver flavored lollipops to every child on Earth!

The crowd gasps and the Queen elucidates the dire consequences for their nation if the Baron were to win: not only would Christmas be ruined for everyone but no one would ever want to eat another TumTum lollipop again.

"If I've told you once I've told you a thousand times! We need to diversify our manufacturing base!"

The already none-too-cute crowd gets ugly, shouting for the Baron to leave them in peace and stop being such a killjoy asshole, and even Prince Hubert jumps on the Baron-bashing bandwagon, begging Lollipop Dragon to use his magic fire breath to "blow him away," a not very sporting suggestion under any circumstances.

Lolly is a fair, friendly and non-violent dragon, however. He knows the Baron has as much right to race as any of them, but also that they have every right to try to beat him, fair and square. He confidently asserts that as long as they try their best they are definitely going to win.

"I'll bet my 24k gold grill on it, bitches!"

So they all line up and the King fires his pistol to start the race. The Baron pulls out ahead immediately, but as soon as he thinks he's paced out all his competitors the town cobbler, a portly, round-headed, walking, talking Oktoberfest brochure, pulls up rapidly on his left. The Baron shouts at Cosmos to pull a lever in the cab, and a pair of spinning sawblades emerge and dig into the blade supports on the poor Cobbler's sled.

"Achtung Lieber! Mein Schlitten ist kaput!"

A big-ass pair of garden shears emerges from the nose of Baron's sled and snips the Cobbler's reigns, sending the hedgehog bird beasts he's using for horses careening off to one side and the Cobbler tumbling backwards through the air for a good half a mile in a physics-defying reversal of forward momentum that would make Bill Nye weep for the future of science education in America.

The Cobbler lands in a snowbank far back on the course and the Baron speeds on ahead, laughing his evil laugh and twirling his sinister moustache, as we fade to another commercial break, probably featuring Cabbage Patch dolls and Pound Puppies.

When we return, Lollipop D and Hairy Troll are just coming up towards the scene of the crash and have to swerve to avoid the debris. They call back to Gwen and Hubert to warn them of the danger, but the royal tweens run into the broken sled anyway. The impact sends them flying straight up in the air, where they hang suspended for an instant, Wile E. Coyote-style, before plummeting back to Earth. Thankfully their clever and loyal horses manage to circle back underneath them and they avoid the indignity of a cold snowy facial. Safely mounted, but now without a sleigh, Gwendoline announces "I've got a plan! Follow me!"

Gwendoline was kind of emotionally fragile and stupid in the first special, and although it's nice to see her finally asserting herself I'm somewhat skeptical of her newfound cunning stunts. We'll just have to wait and see whether she knows what she's doing or if she's just taking her little brother on a fool's errand straight to Liver Lollipop Land.

Even her horse is like "Da fuq you talkin' about, girl?"

As the royal children ride off we fade to Cuddles, Glider and Blue Eyes ambling along on their own sled through an icy pass. Cuddles laments that they've surely fallen too far behind now to possibly catch up, but Glider posits that maybe if he soars up above them he can spec out an alternate path to and find them a little short-cut.

Hmm...I suppose if you want to get technical about it the original proclamation didn't explicitly ban shortcuts. Come to think of it it didn't ban sawblade-and-garden-shears sabotage of your competitors' equipment either, but I can't imagine either of these things would be considered above board under any circumstances. It's not the fucking Cannonball Run.

Nevertheless our three diminutive heroes don't seem to have any moral reservations about taking a little detour. Unfortunately, it seems the only way they're likely to get back in the running is to go through "The Forest of Mirrors."

I hope they've had their tetanus shots.

Our reptilian trio has encountered this place before, in The Magic Lollipop Adventure, where it played a significant role in the resolution of the plot. When you enter the place the disembodied Spirit of the Mirrors whispers to you, warning that these many reflective surfaces will make manifest whatever makes you most afraid. Soon the poor juvenile dragons are beset by dozens of swirling, grinning demons dredged up from the dank pits of their pre-jurassic minds, all of them aggressively thrusting sinister laughing lollipops shaped like the Baron's head into the poor dragons' faces.

The Spirit of the Mirrors helpfully reminds them that the forest can also help them, if only they can overcome their fears. It asks if they love Christmas, and if so, how much? As they replace their dark thoughts with joyous, festive visions of sugarplums, wreathes and presents the monsters begin to pop like overinflated ballons, and soon all of the shards of mirror are filled with images of Yuletide treats, gift boxes and decorations.

I hope one of those boxes has some band aids in it.

In a trice they've used the mirror power to imagine themselves back into the race, and are speeding along back towards the official course.

On its own his scene is rather strange and eerie, and might have been the highlight of the show for me if I hadn't just watched the previous special. When you compare them side by side the sequence comes across as a drab, warmed-over rehash of the The Forest of Mirrors scenes in The Magic Lollipop Adventure, which not only had the benefit of first-encounter novelty to them, but also carried more weight and consequence for the plot. The nature of the Mirror Spirit was also more ambiguous and menacing, initially not quite so eager to help these hapless interlopers who'd wandered into its domain.

The Spirit's benevolence does make more sense when you know of the shared history between the characters, though. In Magic Lollipop... the Spirit demonstrated a long-standing enmity towards the Baron, and even saved our protagonists from him when it realized they, too were his enemies.

So the Dragons slip sneakily back onto the course just ahead of the enraged Baron. Cosmos snickers and hits a button on his control panel, and the nosecone of the Sleigh opens to reveal a huge metal harpoon. It fires out like a missile and hits the back of the Dragons' sled, knocking them into a snowbank and sending the sled and pandas towards a steep precipice. Fortunately the sled has come factory-equipped with an emergency braking parachute that stops them from going over the cliff. Unfortunately the Baron has once again taken the lead.

Meanwhile Lolly and Hairy are bringing up the rear and spot their friends at the side of the course.

"Slow and steady might win the race, but I think we should haul ass, just in case."

Lollipop and Hairy pick up their pals, but it overloads their sleigh, and between the extra weight and tired horses it seems there's no way they'll be able to catch up to the Baron.

Lucky for them the Baron is thick as shit on a stick. Instead of taking advantage of their sizeable lead and cruising easily to victory he and Cosmos have stopped and wasted precious time rigging up a trap for their rivals. They've tied a rope around a huge snowy ice-ball perched precariously at the edge of a cliff and are lying in wait, ready to pull it down and crush the Lollipop Dragon's sleigh as it passes.

Like Adolf Hitler and General Francisco Franco, Baron Badblood has only one ball.

As our heroes near the fatal pass, Blue Eyes begins to glow with a mystical warning light, sensing danger ahead. It's too late for them to stop the sled, but Lollipop is ready when the snowball falls, using his fiery dragon breath to melt it into a steaming rain that leaves Cosmos and the Baron drenched, freezing and choking on Lolly and Harry's frigid dust.

The two villains quickly resume their positions in their sled and speed double time towards their rivals, and as they descend a spiral path leading to the final straightaway they manage to slip past our heroes and once again regain the lead...

Still, all is not lost for the good people of TumTum. The Prince and Princess have been waiting here at the end of the course to put Gwendoline's master plan into motion, and as Lolly's sleigh passes by they run ahead and hitch up their own racing horses, the young Dragons' speedy pandas and the Cobbler's zippy elephant-chicken-hedgehogs. With the added pull of six additional draft animals, Lolly and the gang easily pace past the Baron and head confidently towards the finish line.

Still, the crafty malefactor has one last trick up his sinister sleeve. He ditches his own hairy burden-beasts, whatever the hell they were, and flips a switch that transforms his sleigh into a sleek, smooth, firm and phallic, high-tech airsled!

Looks like someone's been overcompensating again.

Now in the final, final approach the Baron pulls ahead yet one more time, but the citizens of TumTum have had enough of his ill-manners, snide remarks and cheating ways, and they all start throwing cascades of snowballs at him.

It doesn't seem like much, certainly not a practical or effective solution when they're all about to face the horror of his liver lollipops and the collapse of their entire economy, but when Cosmos takes a few creamy white wet ones to the face he gets so angry he completely forgets what he's doing, slams on the brakes and stops the sled dead just a few yards from the finish line.

I'm sure there's a joke here somewhere but my wife says I rely too much on porn-based humor.

The Baron shouts at Cosmos to keep going, and the fuzzy freaky whatsit grabs at the innumerable, unmarked levers in his cockpit. Unfortunately he's got so much snow in his eyes he pulls the wrong one and sends the entire sled careening wildly into the air.

It crashes nose-first into a snowdrift far away from the racecourse, and our motley crew of heroes crosses the finish line together, definitively winning the Great Christmas Race through a barely-credible plethora of blind, dumb luck.

It just goes to show that you can accomplish anything with teamwork, optimism and a completely illogical plot.

There's one final commercial break where we're probably asked to buy an Optimus Prime Transformer and a G.I. Joe aircraft carrier playset, then we're back for the dedication ceremony, where the King and Queen proudly reveal their deluxe special edition lollipop, featuring the faces of everyone from TumTum who had participated...except the German Cobbler, of course, because fuck him for not finishing.

His corpse would not be recovered until the passes thawed in Spring.

After a rambling speech from the Royal Couple about the gang saving Christmas by having the courage to do their best in the face of adversity, Hairy hops behind the keys of his golden piano and the Lollipop Dragon leads the townsfolk in a deeply unneccessary sing-along of treacly ballad called "Christmas is a Time for Love."

As the folks all sing and sway and groove and dance and get their skanky holiday freaks on the credits begin to roll, and we say goodbye to the affable fantasy reptile who once helped so many American children, including myself, learn to spell and count and color and draw and read an analog clock.

The End.

I have a retired friend who volunteers at the mental health center where I work, who was a kindergarten teacher during the 70's and 80's. I recently asked her if she remembered the Lollipop Dragon, and her face lit up. Of course she remembered him! All the kids and teachers knew the Lollipop Dragon! She seemed genuinely shocked when I told her how obscure the poor fellow has become, how few people today seem to remember him and how he doesn't even rate an entry on Wikipedia.

She gazed wistfully into the retreating landscape of her memory towards a happy, far-off phase of her well-spent life. "Oh well," she sighed. "Wherever he is I hope he's enjoying his retirement as much as I am."

Shitmas Bonus!
Let's Meet Noel!

"I'll eat your soul, I'll swallow it whole!"

This is Noel. Noel is the talent- and charisma-free, cue-card-reading spokesguy for "Just For Kids," the publisher of the VHS home video version of The Great Christmas Race. His dad owns the company. With his feathered hair, awkward stare and slightly-too-tight retainer, Noel is the very model of a modern, mid-80's kid. He's pleased as punch that we've purchased this "Just for Kids" video (sorry, bud, but we actually watched it on YouTube for free) and he wants to ensure that we get the most out of our home viewing experience.

Noel explains that if the picture is fuzzy or has interference or just doesn't look right we should adjust the tracking control, a knob or switch we'll find on the front panel of our videocassette player.

It's not just tracking, it's "Tracking."

If we're ignorant halfwits and can't figure out how to turn a little knob on our own, he says, we should get mom or dad or big brother or big sister to do it for us.

Noel tells us sternly to enjoy the video and stick around afterwards for some special previews and a chance to get a free "Just for Kids" video by sending a vial of our parents' blood to a special address. True to his word he comes back at the end and shows us all of that and more, smiling and staring, staring and smiling, and smiling and staring some more.

"You belong to me now. You shall obey me in all things."

Sadly, Noel's bid for media-based world domination was never to come to fruition. "Just for Kids," eventually went the way of all boutique VHS brands, going belly-up around the turn of the 21st century, after which Noel graduated night school from a local community college with a Liberal Arts degree. He worked for awhile at a local Blockbuster Video franchise, cursing bitterly under his breath each time a "Just for Kids" title was returned without having been rewound, but the location was swept up in the first wave of closures when the home video rental market went bust.

After an agonizing period of unemployment and frequent day-drinking, he worked with his brother-in-law painting houses for a year, then got his real estate license and began flipping houses in southern California. He settled into a financially stable but deeply unsatisfying life with a pair of ungrateful children, a distant, melancholic wife and a three-pack-a-day cigarette habit, dreaming of escape from the soul-crushing ennui of his day-to-day existence.

"I can't even taste my tongue anymore.

Eventually he managed to secretly stow away enough money to buy a used Winnebago from one of his bar buddies, ditched his family and took off for the open road.

After a few months camping out in the Borrego Valley state game lands, eating canned beans and drinking Thunderbird, his Winnebago broke down on a little-used service road. He died at the age of forty-one, ambushed and eaten by rabid chipmunks while walking back to town for a bag of pork rinds and a pack of smokes.

The moral of the story: Don't peak at ten years old or the rest of your life will completely go to shit.


I made most of that shit up about Noel Bloom, Jr. I actually have no idea what happened to him when "Just For Kids" closed down in 2001, but I do know that his dad, Noel Bloom, Sr. also owned the lucrative pornography studio/distributor "Caballero Control Corporation," and unlike The Lollipop Dragon they actually have a Wikipedia page.


Merry Christmas, folkses.

Next Installment: December 7th!

As always, Cheers and thanks for reading!

Written by Bradley Lyndon in December, 2021.

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