I’m not sure exactly when it started, but my family has long been fond of so-bad-it’s-great Christmas media. There’s the great Patti LaBelle doing her absolute best at the 1996 National Christmas Tree Lighting Ceremony, this deliberately awful cover of O Holy Night by a composer in Nashville, and more recently, schlocky Hallmark Christmas movies. (Alright, maybe that’s more of a “me” thing.) But just when I thought I’d encountered all of the great Christmas Cringe material out there, Polygon publishes an excellent feature by Adesh Thapliyal about Rapsittie Street Kids: Believe in Santa — an absolute debacle of a holiday special I’m shocked I’d never heard of before.
The original “film” was created in four months in 2002 by a barebones team of animators on a budget of about $650,000, and director Colin Slater hoped it would be the first in a line of extremely popular, extremely cost-effective holiday specials. The moment RSK:BiS made its broadcast debut on Kids WB that year, it was very clear Slater’s vision wasn’t going to pan out. And how could it? Just look at this stuff.
The quality of the CG animation is about what you’d expect from people working under insane time pressure, using software designed to be simple enough for children, guided by a non-technical and mostly absent director in the very early 2000s. In terms of graphical fidelity, it’s pretty mind-boggling to think of how far we’ve come since then, but perhaps not as mind-boggling as the decision to put this on TV in the first place.
To add an extra-thick layer of absurdity to the mix, the movie’s cast was surprisingly star-studded: Thapliyal points out that the film features two Disney Princesses, Nancy Cartwright (otherwise known as Bart Simpson), MadTV star Debra Wilson, original Power Ranger Walter Emanuel Jones, and, uh, Mark Hamill. Apparently, all it took to get Luke Skywalker himself onboard was to hire a limo that would ferry him to and from recording sessions.
I strongly recommend you read Thapliyal’s full feature, regardless of whether Christmas is a thing in your life — it’s just that fun a read. And if you happen to be like me and my family and really enjoy making fun of things, maybe take a few moments today to watch (or re-watch) it on your shiny new phone, tablet, or smart TV. If nothing else, Rapsittie Street Kids is simply unforgettable holiday viewing.