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Western Animation / Grandma Got Run Over by a Reindeer

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"It's the Christmas season. A time for telling colorful holiday stories. And my favorite story of all time is about my grandma. She had this encounter with a reindeer."

Grandma Got Run Over by a Reindeer is a 2000 Christmas Special adapted from the eponymous Elmo Shropshire novelty song and awkwardly shoehorning some of his other Christmas songs into the mix.

Grandma Spankenheimer is a kindly old woman who loves to spread Christmas joy in Cityville. She also owns the only piece of property in town not owned by the Own-All Corporation...but she refuses to sell, to the chagrin of Cousin Mel, who just wants the money. Meanwhile, Jake, the film's main character, still fervently believes in Santa though his parents are trying to find a way to tell him the "truth." Of course, Grandma inevitably gets run over by a reindeer then vanishes. As the only two witnesses are Jake and his senile Grandpa, nobody believes them. During Grandma's disappearance, Cousin Mel finally claims the store, leaving only Jake to save the store by proving Santa's existence. By the climax of the special, Santa is on trial for his crimes against Grandma and Cousin Mel is on the verge of getting both the store and (she assumes) the millions of dollars Santa must have by suing the crap out of him. Will Christmas prevail over evil? Will Grandma be safe? Will the villains get their comeuppance?


The special premiered on what was once The WB network and occasionally airs on its successor network, The CW, at Christmas. However, it is mostly known for its more frequent airings on Cartoon Network, during both the actual Christmas holiday and their Christmas in July events. Since 2017, it's been aired on Freeform.

This special contains examples of:

  • Acme Products: Cityville Own-All Corporation, which sells inflatable Christmas trees.
  • Adaptational Villainy: In the song, Cousin Mel is only given a brief mention as playing cards with Grandpa after Grandma's death and doesn't seem particularly malicious.
  • Adaptation Expansion: The song only describes Grandma being run over and the family being depressed at her death. The special throws in a plot to buy out Grandma's store, a scheme to sue Santa Claus, and even upgrades Cousin Mel, a minor character in the song who only gets mentioned once, to villain status.
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  • Anachronism Stew: A weird example. Jake is narrating the story years after it occurred. Due to the presence of e-mail, it is assumed the story takes place sometime around 1993-1999. So why does Jake sound so old? He's only about twelve in the story, so unless the narration is coming from the far future, Jake should be somewhere in his late teens/early twenties (in 2000, the year the special was released, that is).
  • Arson, Murder, and Jaywalking: After Cousin Mel admits to framing Santa, they arrest her for the orchestrating the events leading to the disappearance of Grandma, framing Santa, and almost ruining Christmas.
  • Artistic License – Geography: Looking at the map of the United States during "Grandma's Killer Fruitcake," one notices that the animator apparently thought Minnesota and Wisconsin are one state; same for Iowa and Missouri, and Louisiana and Arkansas. Also, there is no Rhode Island or Long Island, and the Upper Peninsula of Michigan is apparently its own state.
  • Amoral Attorney: Cousin Mel's lawyer, I.M. Slime, who's just as greedy and conniving as her partner-in-crime.
  • Ascended Extra: Cousin Mel is mentioned offhandedly in the song as someone who plays cards with Grandpa; in the special, she's the main villain.
  • Big Bad: Cousin Mel, who wants Grandma to sell the store solely for the money it would bring. After Grandma's disappearance, Mel orchestrates a scheme to both claim the store and sue Santa Claus. Noticeable as the song really didn't have a villain, and she was just an extra.
  • Bare Your Midriff: Cousin Mel bared her midriff while singing her Villain Song.
  • Bowdlerise: For some reason, The CW's broadcasts of this special cut out two scenes. One of them is the scene where the Spankenheimers are dressed in black.
  • Chekhov's Gun: There's a song about fruitcake, and Cousin Mel tries to sabotage a fruitcake. Not only does Jake use fruitcake to revive Grandma's memories, but he also used the same fruitcake Mel spiked against the court to drop the charges against Santa after someone brings up his hit-and-run with Grandma.
  • Cloudcuckoolander: Grandpa is either senile or just weird - either way, it becomes a problem when Mel uses his mental state to gain power of attorney over him.
  • Corrupt Corporate Executive: Subverted. Austin Bucks owns the whole city except Grandma's store, which he wants to acquire; he's depicted as more misguided than malicious, becoming Cousin Mel's Unwitting Pawn instead of a villain.
  • "Could Have Avoided This!" Plot: Taking Grandma to the North Pole rather than just a local hospital did more harm than good. Santa claims he didn't do that because he didn't know who she was or where she came from.
  • Creator Cameo: Elmo Shropshire, who sang the eponymous song, as Grandpa Spankenheimer and the narration from Jake's perspective.
  • Department of Redundancy Department: The story takes place in a community called Cityville.
  • Disney Acid Sequence: Grandpa's song "Grandma's Spending Christmas with the Superstars," which he sings after mishearing the word sign as sing. Mel and Slime's song "Grandpa's Gonna Sue the Pants Off Of Santa" also counts since they're dressed in sexy hula outfits and singing against a tropical-esque background.
  • Disneyfication:
    • In the original song, Grandma is clearly killed. In this version, she is merely knocked out, suffers from amnesia, and is carried away to the North Pole for medical attention (though the characters mostly assume she is dead).
    • She also got completely drunk before leaving and dying (eggnog is traditionally made with liquor). In the movie, she's merely allergic, and the "medication" is for her allergy as opposed to being a sign of senility.
  • Don't Explain the Joke: The police code for sleigh hit-and-run is 12-24. One of the police officers just has to point out that it's a reference to the date of Christmas Eve.
  • The Dragon: I.M. Slime to Cousin Mel, as the attorney is very much on board with Mel's evil plan and trial.
  • Easy Amnesia: Grandma suffers this after getting hit, leaving Santa and his elves clueless as to who she is (and thus unable to return her to the family).
  • Evil Redhead: Cousin Mel is red haired and tries to get all of Santa's money in the lawsuit because she hates happiness.
  • Face on a Milk Carton: One of the ways they try to find Grandma.
  • Four-Fingered Hands: All of the characters are this...which is really odd seeing how they are drawn in a semi-realistic style. Let's just say that this didn't have a high budget, and we must assume part of the budget meant all of the characters lost a finger on each hand.
  • Gender-Blender Name: Cousin Melnote  - depicted as a shapely woman in the film, though in the song itself, it was never clear if Mel was a man or a woman, or even an adult (the original music video also depicted Cousin Mel as female, for the record; Elmo Shropshire's then-wife/bandmate Patsy portrayed her).
  • G-Rated Drug: When Jake explains Mel's attempt to contaminate Grandma's fruitcake. "What she didn't know was that the combined concoction had the exact effects of reindeer-nip!"
  • Gold Digger: Cousin Mel is explicitly described as one by Grandma since Mel only wants Grandma to sell her store for the large amount of money it would bring.
  • Good Lawyers, Good Clients: Subverted with the D.A., who counts as a good guy despite trying to get Santa thrown in jail.
  • Goth: Though Daphne Spankenheimer (Jake's older sister) behaves more like a typical mainstream girl throughout the film, the scene that depicts the family wearing black around Christmas time while Grandma's missing shows Daphne wearing a very gothic looking outfit and black lipstick (though she's smiling in the scene).
  • The Grinch: Mel, who openly admits to hating the "goody-goody feelings of Christmas."
  • Hate Sink: Mel, right down to her permanently fixed scowl, with virtually no redeeming qualities to speak of.
  • Here We Go Again!: After all the conflict is resolved, Grandma accidentally opens up the box of fruitcake with the reindeer nip in it. Guess what happens a second time?
  • Heterosexual Life-Partners: Slime and Mel, who get along a lot better than you'd expect from a pair of greedy, dishonest, treacherous crooks. Their Villain Song is perhaps the best example of this.
  • Hollywood Law:
    • In real life, Jake's evidence would have been thrown out of court because it was a fruitcake they had just made, not the same one from the scene of the accident.
    • Then there's the note that Santa left at the scene of the accident. It too would be inadmissible because there was no way to prove that it was left at the scene of the crime. The only thing they could prove is that Santa wrote it, but that wouldn't do jack. Then on top of that, Grandpa suggests dusting the note for fingerprints (which supposedly would've implicated Mel) but Doofus had the note in his mouth, and Grandpa was holding it without gloves, so even if they had proved Santa had left it behind, they still wouldn't have been able to implicate Mel and her attorney, making her confession all the more baffling.
  • I Can't Believe It's Not Heroin!: "Reindeer-nip." Reindeer (and apparently no other ungulates of any sort) will drop everything and come running at the slightest whiff of this stuff, and if an old lady happens to be between them and the goods, well, you've got yourself a novelty holiday song!
  • Informed Attribute: The whole "disgustingness" surrounding Grandma's fruitcake. In the song "Grandma's Killer Fruitcake," we're told that her fruitcake is "harder than the head of Uncle Bucky," "dryer than a drought in Albuquerque," and "enough to give the whole state of Kentucky a great big bellyache," giving the impression that Grandma is a Lethal Chef and her fruitcake is considered gross. However, it's also stated to be a famous recipe and during the courtroom scene, people are shown eating and visibly enjoying the fruitcake that wasn't tainted by reindeer-nip.
  • Jukebox Musical: The special uses Elmo Shropshire's Christmas novelty songs in this manner.
  • Names to Run Away from Really Fast: I.M. Slime, Cousin Mel's attorney and partner-in-crime.
  • No Name Given: Everyone, even the people who aren't related to them, simply refer to the elder Spankenheimers as "Grandma" and "Grandpa".
  • Off-Model:
    • Grandma's face on the milk cartons.
    • The moment when Jake's eyes are briefly crossed. It looks pretty creepy, no doubt.
  • Punch-Clock Villain: Pretty much anyone involved in Santa's trial other than Cousin Mel and I.M. Slime. Heck, the prosecutor admits that he doesn't want Santa to go to jail during his closing statement, but he's still obligated to do his job to the best of his ability.
  • Punny Name: Austin Bucks is rich, I.M. Slime is...a lawyer.
  • Put on a Prison Bus: Cousin Mel is last seen being led away in handcuffs after she confesses to the entire scheme to take over the Spankenheimer store and arrest and sue Santa Claus.
  • Reasonable Authority Figure: The Judge presiding over Santa's court case. She's willing to hear Jake out and take his evidence and testimony seriously, despite the objections of the prosecution.
    Alright then! In the name of justice, we eat fruit cake!
    • Austin Bucks, who gives Jake an extra week to find Grandma Spankenheimer before Cousin Mel buys her store.
  • Rich Bitch: Cousin Mel, who not only attempts to buy Grandma's store, but also tries to convince Grandpa to file a lawsuit against Santa, which would result in her being the prime beneficiary.
  • Running Gag: People complaining about fruitcake.
  • Running Over The Plot: The titular vehicular accident caused by Santa is what puts the plot into high gear.
  • Saving the Orphanage: Saving Grandma's store is a critical plot point to the film. Ultimately, it's saved by the restoration and rescue of Grandma and Austin Bucks having a change of heart; instead of trying to buy the store, he offers Grandma a more beneficial franchising deal that would allow her store to remain open and also spread more stores of the same type across the country.
  • The Scrooge: Cousin Mel, who attempts to prevent Martha from buying a gingerbread house on layaway credit, only for Grandma Spankenheimer to recognize her as a trustworthy customer and okay the purchase.
  • Shout-Out:
  • Smoking Gun: Type 2. Jake manages to get Santa cleared of charges by bringing a fruitcake into the court case and exposing that Mel poisoned the fruit cakes. She admits her guilt and is arrested. As with all Type 2 examples, the new evidence is presented by someone bursting into the courtroom and presenting it without anyone questioning the legality.
  • Spared by the Adaptation: Unlike the original song, Grandma doesn't die in this one. She does get run over twice, though.
    • In a bit of Older Than They Think, the original music video also revealed Grandma was alright in the end, suggesting the characters are just supposed to have assumed the worst...
  • The Stinger: There are three of these at the end of the credits on home video releases (TV versions leave these out):
    Santa Claus performed all of his own stunts.
    The portrayal of fruitcake represented in this story is not necessarily the opinion of the producers.
  • Talking Animal: Santa's reindeer. Surprisingly, nobody finds this weird, although it could be handwaved as Santa's reindeer being magical.
  • That Reminds Me of a Song: A whole song is dedicated to how bad fruitcake is. More egregiously, the Big Lipped Alligator Song started with Grandpa mishearing the word "sign" as "sing" and went on from there.
  • Title Drop: Jake and his grandpa both say the title of the special at least once each.
  • Undisclosed Funds: I.M. Slime's estimate for how much Cousin Mel would get if they win the trial isn't revealed to the viewer, but it's implied to be a lot.
    Slime: (typing on a calculator) Your share as Grandpa's financial advisor is... Woof!
    Mel: Woof?
    Slime: Woof.
  • Unfortunate Names: The family is named Spankenheimer (which sounds a lot like the name of a German porn star), the dog is named Doofus, and Mel's attorney is named I.M. Slime.
  • Victoria's Secret Compartment: Where Cousin Mel hides Austin's phone number and Santa's letter.
  • Villain Song: "Grandpa's Gonna Sue The Pants Off Of Santa", about how Mel and Slime are gonna get Santa Claus thrown in jail just to get rich.
  • Villainous Friendship: Mel and I.M. Slime get along a lot better than you'd expect from a pair of greedy, dishonest, treacherous crooks.
  • Wingding Eyes: Cousin Mel exhibits the dollar sign variant when Austin Bucks mentions selling the store in the beginning.


Video Example(s):


Cousin Mel

VERY out-of-place in a Christmas movie.

How well does it match the trope?

4.58 (12 votes)

Example of:

Main / DisneyAcidSequence

Media sources:

Main / DisneyAcidSequence