ByMara Mullikin, writer at
I'm an aspiring writer, filmmaker, actress and werewolf.
Mara Mullikin

Once Halloween has passed and the Christmas fever begins, it seems that poor Thanksgiving is left in the corner. Admittedly, the holiday might not have the same striking decorations as Halloween or Christmas, nor offer the same goodies. However, this occasion serves to many Americans as a time to get together with loved ones, to express appreciation, and indulge in a decadent feast. When it comes to TV specials (particularly animated ones), Thanksgiving is one of the more popular holiday oriented subjects. These nine specials don't disappoint in bringing in the nostalgia factor or expressing the true meaning of the occasion. Now, without further ado, here are 9 animated Thanksgiving specials to be thankful for.

9. American Dad - 'There Will Be Bad Blood'

American Dad is about a conservative CIA agent named Stan Smith and his family's daily shenanigans. This episode is about Stan visiting his half-brother Rusty in an attempt to show his unappreciative family how lucky they are compared to his brother's (presumed) rundown life. However, Stan's not only wrong, but his modest middle-class lifestyle is considered sub par to Rusty's lavish way of living. At one point, he even tries to steal Rusty's home and possessions, but ends up getting abandoned in the desert with his family. Later on, Stan realizes the spiritual uselessness of material wealth and understands the true meaning of Thanksgiving. The special humorously satirizes the 'white', polished version of Thanksgivings' beginnings, and simultaneously pays homage to claymation seasonal specials.

8. The Thanksgiving That Almost Wasn't

This Hanna-Barbara production is customary to view during the season. It tells of two boys, one a Pilgrim and the other a Native American. Despite their people being intolerant of each other, they become friends. They later get lost in the woods and a talking squirrel brings their two clans together to get the boys back and finally make peace with one another. It's a sugar-coated telling of the event, but its pleasantly appealing animation, charming ambiance and classic quality make it a timeless treasure to watch during November.

7. Garfield and Friends - 'Garfield's Thanksgiving'

Garfield and Friends was based on the newspaper comic strip Garfield. The show centered around a sassy and robust cat named Garfield. In this episode it's Garfield's worst nightmare, he's put on a diet right before Thanksgiving! Jon (Garfield's owner) also invites the cat's vet Liz to dinner, and it proves to be an easier-said-than-done affair. However, Jon's grandmother saved the day when she came over and whipped up a fantastic banquet for them. The episode's high points are the catchy opening and closing song, and humor from Garfield adjusting to his new diet, and Jon trying to impress Liz.

6. Dan vs. - 'Dan vs. the Family Thanksgiving'

Dan vs. was a short lived cartoon that was about a maladjusted, cynical adult named Dan who's constantly seeking revenge on those who've wronged him. 'Dan vs. the Family Thanksgiving' is one of the more quirky, comedic and heartbreaking Thanksgiving specials out there. It starts off with Dan being unexpectedly invited to join his friend Chris's in-laws, Don and Elise Sr.'s Thanksgiving extravaganza. For the first time in his life, Dan feels genuinely wanted and welcomed when Don and Elise Sr. lavish attention on him and treat him like a member of the family. Unfortunately, as it turns out they were just using Dan so they could steal his coveted deviled eggs recipe. When Dan finds he out he gives them a Thanksgiving they'll never forget.

5. Bob's Burgers - 'Dawn of the Peck'

Bob's Burgers is about a chef named Bob Belcher who runs a restaurant with his quirky wife Linda, and their crazy children: Tina, Gene and Louise. 'Dawn of the Peck' creatively managed to mix Thanksgiving themes and zombie movie motifs in a zany, but delightfully mad cocktail. The show's third Thanksgiving episode has Linda and the kids going to a local theme park for Thanksgiving instead of having it at home. The park hosts a festival for the event which includes a run of the turkeys. However, the proprietors can't find enough turkeys, so they blend in chickens, geese, ducks with the other turkeys and human runners. This proves to be a disastrous choice as the birds start assaulting pedestrians and running amok. The Belchers have no other choice but to fight these miscreants, but when they understand why this is happening they manage to solve the problem and end up celebrating at home.

4. Hey Arnold! - 'Arnold's Thanksgiving'

Hey Arnold! follows the life of a football-head shaped kid named Arnold, and his encounters with his family, pals, bullies and authority figures. One of the hallmarks of the series was how authentically it portrayed real life situations and issues. This episode particularly didn't back down in that regard. It opens with Arnold's class acting in a Thanksgiving play with the final segment portraying the "perfect Thanksgiving family gathering." Later, Arnold's frustrated that he can't have a normal Thanksgiving (his grandmother's posthumously celebrating the Fourth of July), and Helga's (his frenemy/potential love interest) being ignored by her kin. They choose to scout somewhere else for Thanksgiving festivities, and they eventually end up at their teacher Mr. Simmons' door step. Shortly after arriving they not only realize that his family inspired the "perfect family" in the play, but also they're extremely unpleasant and ungrateful. Mr. Simmons privately discloses that while they're a dysfunctional bunch, they're his family and he wouldn't want to spend Thanksgiving with anyone else. This convinces Arnold and Helga to make up with their families and enjoy the festivities.

3. The Simpsons - 'Bart vs. Thanksgiving'

In case you've been under a rock for twenty-nine years and haven't heard about the show, The Simpsons are about the daily eccentric lives of a lower middle-class family of five: Homer, Marge, Lisa, Bart and Maggie. 'Bart vs. Thanksgiving' was the show's first Thanksgiving episode, and it's one of their more heart-warming holiday specials. The Simpsons are gearing up for the big day, and Lisa and Bart are bickering. When it comes time to eat the two fight over where to put both Lisa's handmade centerpiece and the turkey. Bart accidentally throws her centerpiece into the fire, and is consequently sent to his room. Marge demands that Bart apologize, but he thinks he's innocent, so he and his dog Santa's Little Helper celebrate on their own. Bart eventually understands that (after publicly declaring he had no family) he's fortunate to have a family, and what he did to Lisa is wrong. They later have a heart to heart, and reconcile.

2. South Park - 'Helen Keller! The Musical'

Who'd think of mixing together Thanksgiving, Helen Keller, Broadway, ring of fire and a disabled turkey? South Park, that's who! A show about four young crude boys living in a "quiet, mountain town" doesn't mind crossing the line, nor do they apologize about doing it. This episode's no exception. The boy's class is performing 'The Miracle Worker' (a play about Helen Keller and her teacher Anne Sullivan) for their Thanksgiving pageant. After they hear the Kindergartners are putting on a show-stopper they immediately step up their game, and add many resources to the production. Among these are lasers, lights, a professional director, and in particular a handicapped turkey named Gobbles which Timmy takes a liking to. The rest of the cast doesn't like it, but Gobbles beats their expectations and helps them pull off a fantastic play. The side plot of Gobbles and Timmy bonding, breaking up and reuniting is extremely touching and seeing Cartman (the director of the production) stressing over the play and seeking inspiration from 'The Miracle Worker's secondary lead Helen Keller is belly-achingly hilarious.

1. Peanuts - 'A Charlie Brown Thanksgiving'

Peanuts's seasonal specials have been around since the 60's, and fifty years later they haven't gone anywhere. These classics capture the adventures of underdog Charlie Brown, his pet Snoopy and their pals. In this half hour short, Charlie's roped into hosting a makeshift Thanksgiving feast by Peppermint Patty. Snoopy whips up toast, jelly beans, pretzel sticks, popcorn and sundaes for the meal. When everyone arrives Linus says grace in which he briefly mentions the origins of Thanksgiving. However, Peppermint Patty complains about how unconventional the food is which hurts Charlie Brown's feelings. Her pal Marcy points this out to her and Peppermint Patty finally feels guilty. They all go to Charlie Brown's grandmother's for dinner, and Snoopy and Woodstock stay behind to have a turkey dinner together.

Although Thanksgiving is sort of the metaphorical middle-child of holidays it has its own charms, and individual meaning. Thanksgiving is fall's last big hurrah before we venture into the beginning of winter. It's also a decent time to collect past year's experiences, reflect and remember what we're thankful for. Personally (I'll keep this short), I'm beyond grateful for my supportive family, friends, forming a close friendship with fellow writer Tisha Mae Eaton, and MP for giving me a voice and allowing me to be heard. Despite it being premature I'd like to say Happy Thanksgiving!


Which special are you most thankful for?


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