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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 currently airs on Freeform.

This show 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 & Wisconsin are one state; same for Iowa & Missouri, and Louisiana & Arkansas. Also, there is no Rhode Island or Long Island, and the Upper Peninsula of Michigan is apparently its own state.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • Cloud Cuckoo Lander: 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; but 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 that he didn't do that because he didn't know she was.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • 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).
  • 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 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!"
    Cousin Mel (in Grandma's store to Mr. Bux): Why don't we go somewhere romantic and consummate this deal?
  • 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 (though she's smiling in the scene).
  • 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?
  • 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 they say to dust 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. But 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.
  • 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 must do his job.
  • Punny Name: Austin Bux is rich, I.M. Slime is...a lawyer.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • Spared by the Adaptation: Unlike the original song, Grandma doesn't die in this one. She does get run over twice though.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • That Reminds Me of a Song: A whole song is dedicated to how bad fruitcake is. But most egregiously, the Big Lipped Alligator Song started with Grandpa mishearing the word "sign" as "sing" and went on from there.
  • 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 they're gonna get Santa Claus thrown in jail just to get rich.


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