"Christmas in Tattertown," a special that introduces Ralph Bakshi's new cartoon series (at 8 tonight and again Friday on cable's Nickelodeon channel), displays even more of the rambunctious energy that's made his version of "Mighty Mouse" on CBS so popular.
Tattertown is "the place where everything you've ever lost ends up," and Bakshi populates it with an array of toys, dolls, musical instruments and old junk. When a young girl named Debbie falls into Tattertown through a mysterious book, her stuffed dog and Miss Muffet doll come to life. Delighted with her new freedom, Muffet runs off and plots to take over the city as "Muffet the Merciless." (The idea of an adorable but nasty dolly is a welcome relief from the formula goodness of the toys on shows such as "Raggedy Ann and Andy" on CBS, and will probably delight children.)
Debbie brings Christmas to Tattertown by playing an ancient disc of Bing Crosby's "White Christmas" on a gramophone. The scratchy old record brings tears to everyone's eyes and precipitates a snowstorm. The ensuing flurry of sentiment and snowflakes allows Debbie to defeat Muffet and her armada of war toys from the nearby "Deadster Zone."
Bakshi has always been a fan of the rubbery, goggle-eyed cartoon characters of the early '30s, and "Tattertown" appears to be his hommage to the films of that era. Although the animation (from the Wang Studio in Korea) is too limited to recapture their fluid movement, Bakshi uses wild, exaggerated takes to punch up the visuals and hold the viewers' interest.
Gary Anderson's upbeat period score helps keep the show moving and evokes the Fleischer cartoons that were set to jazz songs such as "Swing You Sinners" and "Minnie the Moocher."
The show's weakest point is the vocal cast, who tend to get a bit loud and obnoxious: The actors need to tone it down and control their ethnic accents. But if Bakshi can maintain the level of energy and imagination this special exhibits, "Tattertown" should be a winner. (The series will arrive in late spring or early summer, Nickelodeon reports.)