Last week, The Retro Network dropped the Preview Episode for a new podcast debuting on the platform. Titled Rental Return – Tales From the Video Store, the show will chronicle the lives of former store employees and their memories of working at retail stores who rented VHS tapes. As part of the Preview Episode, the question was asked: “Did you have a specific video that you rented all the time?”
For me, that was Tiny Toon Adventures: How I Spent My Vacation. For a long time, when Mom would take us down to the Mom and Pop rental store called “Dollar Video” to rent a movie or video game, it was pretty much a given I was going to grab How I Spent My Vacation.
The original half-hour cartoon, Tiny Toon Adventures, aired from September of 1990 to December of 1992. In a several years-in-the-making collaboration between Warner Brothers and Steven Spielberg’s Amblin Entertainment, the pilot episode debuted as a CBS Prime Time special. The series aired in syndication for its first season before moving to the popular Fox Kids programming block. Airing in direct competition to the very popular “Disney Afternoon,” Tiny Toon Adventures earned higher ratings than its Disney counterpart. Despite its success, production was halted in 1992 to make way for a new series that was a success in its own right, titled Animaniacs.
After its cancellation, a spinoff The Plucky Duck Show would make a quick run on Fox Kids for 13 episodes. Aside from the pilot episode, an homage to Batman Returns entitled “The Return of Bat Duck,” the remainder of the episodes were only recycled shorts from Tiny Toons and failed to earn a following.
On March 11, 1992, just months before the show halted production, Warner and Amblin released How I Spent My Vacation as a direct-to-video full-length film. Vacation was initially slated for theaters, and it was executive producer Steven Spielberg that insisted on a direct-to-video release. Released on both VHS and Laserdisc, it became the nation’s first animated film released direct-to-video. It would eventually be one of the highest-selling videos in the United States, making Billboard magazine’s 40 “Top Video Sales” for 16 weeks in a row by July of 1992.
Like most good stories, several different plots and storylines happen simultaneously, and How I Spent My Vacation is no different. As the film starts, we quickly follow four very different storylines that will intertwine throughout the movie in different and funny ways. Babs and Buster Bunny end up flooding Acme Acres and floating downriver to the southern United States and must find their way home as the main storyline. Two minor storylines involve Fifi La Fume drooling over her favorite movie star, Johnny Pew, and Elmyra Duff chasing after her escaped animals. In what is likely the “B” storyline, but is definitely the “A” story in my book, Plucky Duck and Hamton J. Pig take a cross country road trip to visit Happy World Land.
As someone who travels for a living, enjoys traveling in my spare time, and has had wanderlust from a young age, any movie or tv show that involves a road trip is right up my alley. The first time I saw Plucky and Hamton hit the open road, I knew this movie was for me. It also didn’t hurt that my two favorite characters from the afternoon cartoon, Plucky and Hamton, were front and center.
When I was younger, my Grandparents on my Mother’s side lived in Lakeland, Florida. We’d fly down once or twice a year and visit them, and while we were there, we’d spend a day or two at Disney World before flying home. I have very fond memories of our annual trips to Disney, and I’m fortunate that I’ve been to the Disney parks so many times. When I saw Happy World Land I knew right away they were spoofing Disney World, and it made me enjoy the movie all the more.
I can easily say I enjoy the entire movie, but I truly enjoy the road trip to Happy World Land much more than the rest.
The movie begins just as school lets out for the summer and Plucky follows Hamton home. Being the jerk he is, Plucky tells Hamton that if he asks politely, he’ll consider letting Hamton spend the summer with him. Hamton says he can’t because his parents are taking him to Happy World Land. Plucky goes bananas and asks if he really is “going to the Happiest Place in the Hemisphere, where you go on all the rides till you barf, fun for kids of all ages… HAPPY WORLD LAND!?”
Hamton’s parents Wade (voiced by Jonathan Winters) and Winnie (the great Edie McClurg), are ready and waiting in the driveway. Plucky refuses to let Hamton leave without him but Hamton uses everything from a crowbar, a jackhammer, and the jaws of life to break free from his grip. The Pig Family, including Uncle Stinky, drive off in their little green car with a giant bag of luggage strapped to the roof, which includes things like a rubber raft, a rowboat, and a fishing pole. In a funny reference to the original Looney Tunes, they have a Porky Pig air freshener hanging from the rear-view mirror.
Determined to not be left behind, Plucky follows. Dressed as a construction worker he puts up barricades in the road, but the Pig Family is more excited the car’s odometer is about to cross into 100,000 miles and drives right through them. Wade runs over Plucky while he’s too busy humming “Pop Goes the Weasel” and filming the odometer. When he realizes the cap was still on the lens, he backs up (over Plucky) and re-film the odometer crossing into 100,000 miles, again running over Plucky. Plucky finally succeeds when he rolls up his “leg” and reveals a lingerie-clad woman’s leg, and Wade locks the brakes up to stop for it. Hamton begs his parents to let Plucky join them until Wade relents. Plucky happily slides into the back seat between Hamton and the odiferous Uncle Stinky.
I always thought it was a little weird that Plucky would just go on a seemingly months-long vacation with his friend’s family without even telling or asking his parents, but I guess it’s a cartoon, right?
Having been in the car for some time now, the Pig Family is driving Plucky crazy. From singing “100 Bottles of Non-Alcoholic Beverages On the Wall” to Wade’s constant humming of “Pop Goes the Weasel,” Plucky is pulling his feathers out. Asking for air conditioning, Wade feels it wastes gas, but Winnie won’t let him open a window because people will think they can’t afford air conditioning. So, the window stays up, and the air conditioning stays off as we see they have now driven straight to “Heck,” complete with fiery volcanoes erupting around them. Feeling faint from the heat, Plucky is saved by a brief rain shower. He splashes about and even gargles with the rainwater, but when he looks up, he realizes it’s only greasy sweat being wrung out of Uncle Stinky’s handkerchief.
Plucky decides to pass the time reading and pulls out a comic book spoofing the “Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles” called “Immature Radioactive Samurai Slugs” Issue Number One. When he shows Hamton, Winnie says they don’t allow Hamton to read comic books on car trips. Plucky ignores her and lets Hamton read it anyway. Plucky tells him how rare this issue is and says that comic books won’t rot his brain as his mother thinks. Hamton informs him it’s not the brain-rotting, but reading in the car makes him get car sick before promptly throwing up all over Plucky’s prized comic.
Back in another storyline, Elmyra’s parents have taken her through a drive-through zoo called “The Wild Safari Zoo.” Elmyra, who loves animals to death (quite literally), escapes her parent’s car and scares away a group of zoo animals. This group of animals, including a cheetah, zebras, and an alligator, are tied up and forced to sit through Elmyra’s “class.” They manage to escape in one of the cars driving through the zoo, and in one of the great tie-ins between storylines, nearly collide with the Pig Family’s car on a stretch of desert road.
After the animals drive off, Plucky is sweating so much from the heat and panic from the near-miss, so he asks for a pit stop. Wade stops at an “ACME” gas station, and the family hops out of the car before “suiting up” in Hazmat suits to clean the restroom. While the Pig’s soap up the bathroom, Plucky looks around for a water fountain with lust in his eyes. He finds one, but his sweat sticks to the “cheap Naugahyde” of the car seat and he can only get within inches of the water fountain.
Just as he unsticks himself, Wade opens the restroom door knocking Plucky aside. As Plucky dips his beak into the water, Winnie grabs him by the neck and drags him into the car while telling him that if he drinks any water, he’ll need to use another restroom soon. As they hit the road, Wade turns on the radio to K-FUDD “wadio,” which begins to play an instrumental version of “Pop Goes The Weasel.” Wade is delighted while Plucky is beside himself.
Later on, Plucky asks how much further to Happy World Land, and Hamton hands him a map. Plucky unfolds the extremely large map and blocks Wade’s view of the road. As they swerve around in their lane, Plucky announces that “if they proceed East along a nearby frontage road, then hang a left at Beloit, and jog Northwesternly along Route 647 for a couple of dozen parsecs, they’ll be at Happy World Land at roughly April 6th, 2021!”
As I type this… they’re almost there! Just 3 months to go!
The weather suddenly turns dark and stormy as a shadowy figure walks into the road. Mr. Hitcher is a tall scraggly man with long hair and pasty skin wearing a dirty baseball cap, tattered overcoat, and orange sneakers. The Pig Family stops to pick up the creepy hitchhiker, and he slides into the backseat with Plucky and Uncle Stinky.
Plucky laughs nervously and offers some “slightly moist reading material” to Mr. Hitcher, who just stares ahead and grunts. A breaking news bulletin comes through on the radio and says a psycho killer has just escaped the State’s Maximum Security Prison. The report says he was last seen wearing a dirty baseball cap, tattered overcoat, and green sneakers. Plucky breathes a sigh of relief when he sees Mr. Hitcher’s orange ones but the announcer reveals he made a mistake and that the killer is actually wearing orange hi-top sneakers. To make matters worse, the announcer says the killer has an aversion to pork and that the exposure to pig products can cause him to go screaming off the deep end. If anyone is to see the killer, they are to call an important number.
Plucky nervously begins to take down the number, but Winnie says the news likes to sensationalize everything these days and shuts off the radio before the announcer can finish. Mr. Hitcher laughs evilly, puts on Jason style hockey mask, and begins to pull-start his chain saw while yelling about bacon, pork chops, and carnitas. Plucky panics, but Winnie tells him to quiet down and stop roughhousing.
Plucky develops a plan and mails an S.O.S. to his sweetheart, Shirley the Loon, figuring she’d rush to his rescue after reading his note. He pens a brief letter and drops it in a mailbox (from the car), and a mailman arrives to take the letter, beginning another crossover into one of the other storylines. The mailman delivers the letter to Shirley, but as she starts to read it, she is pulled into the movie theater by Fowlmouth Chicken, and the letter falls into a trashcan, unread.
Back in the Pig’s car, Wade pulls the car over and politely tells Mr. Hitcher that this is as far as they can take him and if he’s ever in Acme Acres to visit. An angry Mr. Hitcher says that he also hates duck and chases Plucky with his chainsaw. As Wade drives off, Mr. Hitcher slices part of the car apart with his chain saw, which Plucky quickly grabs and drags along with them. While the Pig family comments on what a nice young straight-arrow type man he was, Plucky lays in the backseat holding flowers saying his final prayers.
Hamton wakes him to say that they have finally arrived at Happy World Land! As they travel through the large parking lot, Plucky is so excited he can barely contain himself and says he plans to go on every ride until he barfs twice.
The entrance sign says tickets for each guest is $80. In 1992 when the film was released, the cost of a single park one-day ticket at Walt Disney World was $34 ($63 in 2021 based on inflation.) In 2021, it’s $109-$135 for the same ticket depending on the day of the week. Maybe the Pig Family really did arrive at Happy World Land closer to April of 2021 than 1992.
As they ascend a rainbow-colored escalator, a catchy theme song plays, claiming the theme park has six thrill rides and 400 gift shops “at only 80 bucks a pop… it’s beautiful Happy World Land!”
Plucky and the Pig Family enter the monorail that will take them to the theme park. As a kid, the monorail at Disney was one of the best parts of the day. For many Disney theme park enthusiasts the monorail it still is an essential part of the visit to a Disney Park. It’s considered a “first taste” of the magic as the anticipation builds for your day in the theme park.
The monorail, called “The Tooth Ferry,” is a ride unto itself. The train is shaped like teeth, and the station resembles a giant mouth. The teeth-train leaves the mouth-station and begins to circle the park. Hamton and Plucky press their faces against the window excitedly as the rides in the park appear below them.
They immediately pass the legendary “Happy-Go-Pukey” ride, which spins customers around, and when it stops, they all come out nauseous and vomiting.
Plucky points out the Happy Feet ride, which has cars shaped like feet that move up and down like someone walking.
They next pass the “Gargle,” a water slide shaped like a mouth.
Then, my favorite, the “Happy Crasher,” a high-speed roller coaster that climbs up a hill, falls off the track and immediately nose-dives into a crash.
Plucky is excited to see the “Happy Centrifuge,” which spins around in circles and then pours out the people at the end of the ride like toothpaste.
Another favorite of mine passes by the monorail windows as we see the “Slap Happy Fun” ride which is a giant shaped hand with customers seated in it that springs like a trap and slams the people into the ground.
Hamton is excited to then pass the Stairway to Heaven and the Bullet Train to Heck. I notice the Stairway to Heaven has significantly fewer people than the Bullet Train to Heck!
As the monorail finishes its loop around the park, Plucky tells the Pig Family they should stay for a week, maybe two weeks, or maybe a whole month! Wade ignores him, and the family all happily head back to the car. Hamton’s mom says it’s time to go home, and Plucky protests because they didn’t do anything except ride the monorail. Wade tells him they don’t want to overdo things on their first visit, and now they know what to look forward to next time. Plucky is outraged they drove all that way without riding any of the legendary rides and faints. Hamton drags him back to the car, and they head for home.
Finally back in Acme Acres, Plucky kisses the ground when they arrive at the Pig house. He hastily says goodbye and walks away, claiming he’ll never have an experience like that again. Before Plucky gets too far, Wade grabs him by the arm and says he hasn’t seen the photo slideshow yet, and drags him back into the house. The slideshow begins with the very clean motel bathroom in “Yorba Linda.”
The slideshow takes place over the next 3 days, and meanwhile, the final entanglement of storylines occurs. Mr. Hitcher is now chasing Buster and Babs Bunny in racing minecarts through a coal mine. They eventually exit the cave and come to a roller coaster-like incline, and when they reach the peak, they see a Happy World Land sign in the distance. A closer sign indicates they are actually on the “Happy World Land Mine Bender Ride.”
Back at Acme Acres, Winnie finally arrives at a picture of Mr. Hitcher and asks Hamton if he ever gave that “nice young man” their address. Plucky screams when Hamton replies, no, but he did give him Plucky’s address. Finally, Winnie announces they have reached the last slide and Plucky bursts through their front door. Frantically running down the sidewalk, Plucky has the slide projector chained to his ankle. As the film nears its end, Plucky would eventually return to school the following day as his entire summer vacation had been spent on that trip to HappyWorldLand.
I must have seen this cartoon 100 times when I was young and many times since. It would air as four separate “Tiny Toon Adventures” episodes on Fox Kids, where I taped them on VHS so I wouldn’t have to rent it any longer. I still pop the DVD in a few times a year for a nostalgia blast, but like when I was younger, I often skip the other stories and watch just Plucky and Hamton’s road trip.
In October of 2020, a reboot series called “Tiny Toons Looniversity” was announced and is currently in development. The show was already given a two-season order for streaming service HBO Max and cable channel Cartoon Network. Maybe we’ll see a sequel of sorts to “How I Spent My Summer Vacation.” I know I’d watch it if they made it, and I’ll definitely check out the reboot series.
Were you a fan of Tiny Toon Adventures? Do you have fond memories of this movie or another movie you rented until the tape wore out? Leave a comment below!