Ah yes, a thirty-minute commercial to promote a toyline, while leading in a possible TV series, topped off with Christmas?
Definitely worthy of a Retro Rewatch!
I’ve said this in previous years – there are reasons why some Christmas specials – specifically, the animated kind – are timeless and stick around for years and countless broadcasts. Various Rankin-Bass specials, a Grinch who stole Christmas, a blockhead in search of the true meaning of Christmas, even the time Garfield celebrated Christmas on his owner’s family farm – these specials are timeless and find their way into primetime television lineups, pre-empting established program schedules and being enjoyed by countless generations.
And if you are of a certain age, you knew something good was always coming when this happened…
I’m so glad I captured that from my “1986 Christmas video”.
As I also said, in contrast to the timeless Christmas specials, there are the one-offs and “forgettable” specials, doomed to the doldrums of obscurity from which they came (thank goodness for YouTube!). These usually were “of the time” specials, meant as merchandising tie-ins, or just didn’t have the impact that the “memorable classics” have. For every How The Grinch Stole Christmas and A Charlie Brown Christmas, there’s the subject of this article.
Now, don’t get me wrong, I love a good merchandising tie-in that only a good mid-1980s cartoon could provide, but there is a reason these specials were only good for the time they were relevant. The toylines get discontinued, kids grow up and move on until they’re in their twenties, the Children’s Television Act of 1990 gets passed – you know, the pitfalls of children’s programming. It happens. But what it leaves behind is the stuff that finds a good home on YouTube, or in the very least, digitized so it doesn’t collect dust in the old videocassette collection.
Like today’s subject, which I swear I’m getting to!
The Glo Friends is a cartoon in the Hasbro universe of toys-turned-animated characters, airing from 1986 until 1987 for one season and 26 episodes in first-run syndication. The cartoon comes from Hasbro’s Glow Worm toy, which was introduced in 1982. The cuddly bedtime toy was expanded to a whole world of glowing creatures through Hasbro’s Playskool division in the mid 1980s.
The Glo Friends co-opted their airtime with two other Hasbro properties-turned-toys, Moondreamers and The Potato Head Kids, all of which aired as the “B” segment during My Little Pony ‘n Friends. My Little Pony would have a 15-minute episode, with each of these cartoons occupying the remaining runtime. Based on the episode guides for these series, The Glo Friends aired on Tuesdays, Potato Head Kids on Wednesdays, and MoonDreamers on Thursdays; however, both Potato Head Kids and MoonDreamers ended their runs before The Glo Friends, with 23 episodes and 16 episodes, compared to The Glo Friends‘ 26 episodes. My Little Pony continued for an additional season, ending after 65 episodes. But before The Glo Friends (and even My Little Pony) went to series in 1986, they had “specials” that served as pilot episodes. Of course, if you’re a cynic like me, they were actually a way to promote/introduce the toys.
While My Little Pony didn’t have holiday-themed specials prior to the start of their series, The Glo Friends were introduced to the world in a pre-series Christmas special (originally aired in the United States in December 1985), and well, it truly is special. From songs every time you turn around to cute characters that scream “you need this in toy form!”, to “big celebrities” voicing important characters and credited during the opening theme song (something done during the early My Little Pony specials), it isn’t among “the classics.” But is it worthy of a Christmas watch?
We shall see…when The Glo Friends Save Christmas!
It’s Christmas Eve in the Land of the Glo Friends (known as Glo Land), and the Glo Friends are preparing for their very special Christmas celebration, while singing about this preparation!
You’ll be hearing that song all day.
I’m assuming you caught the “Big Name Celebrities” this special had to offer…
Archie and Gloria Bunker fill the celebrity roles these Marvel/Sunbow/Hasbro specials always toted (remember Sandy Duncan and Tony Randall from the first My Little Pony special?), which means that all the Glo Friends are Meatheads and “Little Goils,” and perhaps one of those Meatheads is married to a “Little Goil,” which would explain the presence of a Baby Glo Worm, whom we’ll call “Joey.”
None of this is true, but it’s still funny….to me. And maybe a few other people.
Anyway, Christmas cheer, celebration, mistletoe, and Glo Friends!
So, it’s obvious that the Glo Friend group is very excited about the impending holiday excitement.
They’re eating warm chestnuts, their snowman is built, stockings are hung, and tomorrow is Christmas Day! Baby Glo Worm asks Glo Grannybug if Santa is real, and if he will come. Grannybug reassures the young Glo Worm that Santa is one thing in this world that one can count on.
Good work, Grannybug!
Meanwhile, at the North Pole, Santa Bunker – er, I mean, Santa Claus – is preparing his sleigh and DearDeer (yes, that’s what the Reindeer are called), for Santa’s Christmas journey around the world. Santa is so excited about Christmas, so much so, he risks being late, and prepares for takeoff, toting toys for the entire world.
So, with all of this holiday cheer and excitement, these specials would be remiss if they didn’t include someone to spoil the all the excitement, right?
They wouldn’t be doing their job otherwise!
Enter Cloris Leachman – er, Blanche. Good old mononymous Blanche.
And no, that is not Cloris Leachman, but man, I think she looks like her. In actuality, this is where Sally Struthers came in, and I’m convinced Mike worked on her last good nerve, topped off with Joey perhaps being a little brat because wow, Gloria has AGED! Still sticking with “she looks like Cloris Leachman,” but for the sake of everything this is Sally Struthers’ voice.
(Seriously, no disrespect to Cloris Leachman, she was great on The Mary Tyler Moore Show!)
Blanche is the Wicked Witch of the North Pole, and clearly loves to wear fur, even the kind that is still alive (hence, her weasel scarf). And she’s conversing with Moose, who had been rejected by Santa to help fly his sleigh due to his “navigational improficiency,” but is kind and doesn’t want Blanche to take down Santa Claus, so people will think of her when they think of the North Pole.
Moose (who only sounds like Garfield because his voice is that of Lorenzo Music) is insistent that Blanche not “bid farewell to Christmas.”
But of course there’s a song!
She like The Grinch, but fabulously dressed.
After she finishes her song, she sees Santa leave and is furious.
Meanwhile, Scuttlebug and Dragonflyer see Santa head off to deliver toys while perched in a tree. Scuttlebug, dismayed that Santa didn’t see them, is reassured by Dragonflyer that Santa knows they’re there.
Flying away on Moose, Blanche creates a trap for Santa and the DearDeer – trees that reach skyward and pull them from the sky and into a frozen river.
Attempting to swim away doesn’t work, as Blanche creates a geyser that rains down frozen water onto Santa and his reindeer, imprisoning them in a ice cage.
Moose is appalled by this, and charges at her, only to be tripped by Blanche. She sends Moose off to the middle of nowhere.
Scuttlebug and Dragonflyer inform the others that Santa has been imprisoned in a cage of ice, and the group sets out to make a daring Christmas Eve rescue, lead by Glo Turtle, who promises the group they’ll be there “as soon as we can.”
But of course, their efforts are put to a screeching halt by Blanche, who is apparently known the world over, or at least, in the world of the Glo Friends.
She’s impressed that she’s known there, but it isn’t enough to leave them alone, as she creates dark storm clouds that trap the Glo Friends and send them into the forest. Again, they’re undeterred by this inconvenience, and continue on their way to help Santa.
Meanwhile, Santa’s efforts to escape his ice cage is made impossible when he cannot squeeze through the bars. So, rather than continue to attempt an escape, he begins to sing about having the blues.
Yes kids, Santa Claus sounds like Archie Bunker, and he’s got the blues…and a song in his heart.
After his song, which involves dancing DearDeer and despair, the Glo Friends continue on their journey, while trying to be brave…with song!
Because at this point, you expected anything less?
And now that they feel better, they’re scared again by a strange voice calling out for help. The group splits off – some go to look for Santa, the others look for the source of the cries for help.
It turns out to be Moose, who is trapped in a tree, so Dragonflyer works to help save him, with the help of the Glo Friends.
The ones who split off fall into a trap Blanche sets – beautiful flowers made of ice that trap the Glo Friends. Glow Worm looks for his friends, and is trapped too. Prayerbug hopes someone finds them, and Moose and the other Glo Friends arrive, and set about freeing the trapped Glo Friends. Moose leads the way to Santa.
Meanwhile, Glo Turtle and Glo Hopper are still behind the group, and Glo Hopper believes they may just make it to Santa by New Year’s Eve.
On the treacherous river, Santa and the DearDeers are calling for help, as the ice cage sinks into the river. But, have no fear, Moose and the Glo Friends – whom Santa knows, apparently – arrive. But Moose’s attempt to land on the ice slab where the cage is results in him winding up in the river, with some of the Glo Friends on his back. But, he gets his footing and manages to swim against the current, delivering the Glo Friends to the ice slab.
The Glo Friends set to work on freeing Santa. When trying to spread the bars of the cage wide enough doesn’t work, holding hands, emitting their glow – and a song, don’t forget the song! -turns out, does work! However, the group isn’t complete, and Glo Worm can’t quite reach Glo Bashfulbug’s hand to complete the circle.
But of course, we’ve got a few minutes left, and Blanche has to make another appearance. Because the cartoon – and the Glo Friends – aren’t done with her yet.
She informs the group that it is too late to save Santa, but Santa asks her if she’s done enough already. Glo Worm asks her if they can talk about what she is doing, to which she is annoyed. However, the ice slab Blanche is standing on begins to melt (the hard work of Glo Hopper and Glo Turtle, sending Blanche into the river.
The arrival of Glo Hopper and Glo Turtle (way ahead of schedule!) allows the group to complete their Glo Circle…and melt Blanche’s wand.
The Glo Friends continue to sing as the ice cage melts, freeing Santa and his deer, as Moose cheers from shore.
Blanche wrings out her fur weasel, and goes off to lick her wounds. She vows revenge, which would be credible, except…we’ll never see her again.
Santa thanks the Glo Friends for saving Christmas – and him! – and Moose offers to help Santa out of the woods, with the Glo Friends lighting the way.
And as the closing credits roll, the Glo Friends sing about Christmas cheer, and bid Santa good bye, and “see you next year!”, all while Baby Glo Worm and Glo Grannybug watch Santa fly away.
Yes, Baby Glo Worm, there is a Santa Claus. And the Glo Friends saved him!
Because it has happened other times, to other cartoon characters, but the Glo Friends needed to join in the trend!
Oh, and “see you next year!”…is that a threat, a promise, or “hey, you don’t know it right now, but we’re getting a series!”?
So, a traditional Christmas special it is not, but The Glo Friends Save Christmas wasn’t meant to be the “traditional” Christmas special. It came of a time where cartoons were thirty-minute commercials meant to sell new toys. The toyline outlived the cartoon once it went to series, but this special started it all.
I’m sure I’ve seen this special before, as it looks familiar, but it has definitely been a long time since I’ve seen it. The special is cute, definitely on par with the typical 1980s “cartoons made for the sole purpose of selling toys.” And sell they did – this tactic almost always worked well. Heck, it still does, but with limitations that the 1980s “30 minute commercials” didn’t have.
Damn you, Children’s Television Act.
That said, Glo Friends Save Christmas is cute, as long as you don’t think too hard about what you’re watching. This rule seems to go hand-in-hand with these types of shows and specials, but I don’t regret watching it. I didn’t have to seek it out (it was on a videocassette my friend Ashley sent me to copy), so it was only natural that I’d watch it for funsies. The animation for these types of cartoons (especially those of the Marvel-Sunbow era of 1980s animation) is pretty good, cutesy and very 1980s, but it is pleasant to watch. (Again, if you don’t think too much.)
I think for me, the biggest surprise of The Glo-Friends Save Christmas was the voice cameos. If the credits hadn’t reminded me that Sally Struthers was in this, I wouldn’t have known it. And I certainly wouldn’t have known she was playing Blanche. She usually plays sweet-voiced characters. I see Blanche and think Cloris Leachman, not sure why. I’m not even sure why I think the character looked like her. As for Santa, Caroll O’Connor’s voice is very recognizable, if not very toned down from his portrayal of Archie Bunker. He sounded much more like his character on In the Heat of the Night, sans the Southern accent.
History of the Toyline
The toys actually followed the special, hitting the toy shelves in 1986, ahead of the TV series premiering in September 1986. The toys were soft vinyl figures that glowed, and outlasted their run on television, with Wendy’s releasing a series of thirteen Glo Friends toys in 1989, but the toyline, as sold by Playskool, was discontinued in 1988. In all twenty-nine Glo Friends were manufactured during that time.
Not manufactured during that time? Glo Friends with Santa hats.
The Glo Friends Save Christmas
I separated out the music in the special, but I’d be remiss (or not thorough) if I didn’t share the video of the whole special. Now is your chance, if you don’t remember it, or like torture, to watch it!
(Special thanks to Ashley at The Nerdy Blogger for the videocassette this rode in on!)
And Now, You!
Do you remember The Glo Friends Save Christmas, whether it was recorded in 1985, at some other point in the 1980s, or you owned the videocassette of it? Did you have a Glo Worm or any of the Glo Friends toys? Were you as shocked to hear Carroll O’Connor and Sally Struthers as the “big celebrity voices” in this cartoon.
I’d love to hear your memories of, well, all of this.
Christmas on Allison’s Written Words continues on, all the way up until December 25th!
Have a great day!