Dancing, Talking and Tickle Santas not for the humorless

Spoiler alert! Dancing Santa and Tickle Santa and the late entry Talking Santa for iPad won’t make your holiday great. They remind me of the movie Dumb and Dumber. You play them and laugh a few times, but they will never find a permanent home on your iPad.

Unless you really, really, really like dumb things. And then they’re pretty funny.


I can’t imagine a Christmas where I didn’t encounter one novelty item. The cheap little device that every body loves for all of a week. Every body gets a laugh, sometimes you have to pass them around, but—like the pet rock—they will soon lose their luster.

There have been so many they the entire genre seems to hang around in my memory locked away under two or three examples. If you forced me to actually recall every Christmas novelty item I’ve purchased the list will probably come out like a scrambled JPEG image.

Two that I can recall clearly are Rock-a-Billy Santa and the DVD release of Santa Claus Conquers the Martians. Carol and I gave Rock-a-Billy Santa to her mother Nancy, and she loved it. Every time someone walked past Santa would start to rock his hips like Elvis and sing “Jingle Bell Rock.” Every body else loved it the first couple of times they walked by.

I’m surprised he hadn’t been stomped to death by New Years.

I received Santa Claus Conquers the Martians as a gift a couple of years ago. This 1964 bubble burst of a movie starred Pia Zadora who was once as famous as Charro, but only for a week or two. The film had been dubbed directly from second generation VHS and was mostly red and green.

Not that it was any good when it first screened almost fifty years ago. If Santa Claus Conquers the Martians were to compete head to head with any movie by Ed Wood, the Ed Wood film would come out looking like Casablanca in comparison.

But I watched it. That day. Tied up my brother-in-law’s Hi-Def TV and Blu-Ray player to watch it during a Dallas Cowboys game. How could he refuse? He gave me the gift. Every one left the room to watch the game on the little TV in the bedroom (soon to be replaced by another, slightly smaller, Hi-Def TV in case I did something like that again), and when it was over I dutifully told everyone how much I enjoyed it.

Then I gave it to my brother-in-law the following Christmas as though I bought it for him myself. I called that move regifting with a vengeance.

Some of those novelty items lose their luster immediately. The one I still shudder to think about was one of the first automated sound machines. It was a cheesy nightingale that chirped whenever anyone walked past the Christmas tree.

This would have been the mid-seventies so you can imagine the quality of the sound chip and playback. It was excessively shrill and sent the brain into sensory overload every time someone set it off.

My father wanted to throw it away, but my mother would have none of it. Like Carol’s mother Nancy, my mother loved novelty items. She even got my sister Aimee a book called Santa Mouse when she was eight, and the Stephens family has been infested with annual visitations from Santa Mouse ever since.

Santa Mouse leaves his own stocking with little bits of cheese and cookies and trinkets, and now all of the grandkids celebrate Santa Mouse as well. And every year I have to empty my Santa Mouse stocking and smile in gratitude for the three walnuts, chocolate Christmas ornament and kazoo.

Mother would not let my father take that bird down. Soon we would enter living the room from the farthest doorway to avoid setting it off. If we had to leave the house through the back door, walk around an enter through the front door to avoid passing the tree with that damned shrill bird, we would.

On Christmas morning every time someone fetched a present from under the tree, the bird sounded the alarm. I spilled my coffee on my presents at least three times and left a permanent stain on my robe. My father, thinking the bird had finished before he opened his present from mother, started to unwrap only to have Aimee get something else and set the bird off again.

He ripped apart his faux cashmere sweater with the wrapping.

That bird was the only ornament that ever came down the day after Christmas. Mother could’t understand why we didn’t love that nightingale. It was so sweet and the sound so pretty.

I later learned my father’s lifelong addiction to Valium began that Christmas holiday, and I totally sympathize. Sometimes addiction is the only cure. And you may feel that way after prolonged exposure to this season’s iPad novelty apps Dancing Santa and Tickle Santa.

Do not show either app to people with no sense of humor. They just won’t get the jokes. Even I have to admit they could be construed as creepy if you see them for the first time when you’re hungover on New Year’s Day.

I don’t advocate that you put yourself in a position to become hungover, but I’m wise enough to know that many of my readers will not fill their New Year’s Eves with the same wholesome activities that my own family will pursue. And trust me, if your head is pounding, your teeth throbbing and your stomach about to explode like Krakatoa with an atom bomb center, you will probably not see the humor in either of these apps.

Dancing Santa

If you are old enough to remember Ally McBeal, you will know immediately whether or not you will like Dancing Santa. Ally McBeal was a TV show about a neurotic lawyer who had visions of a dancing baby (think McWhiney on Gray’s Anatomy, but with briefs; in fact, I’m pretty sure they’re the same character with enough time between shows to avoid plagiarism suits).

Not a real dancing baby, but a baby animated with state of the art 1990’s 3D rendering.

There was something really creepy about that dancing baby, and you knew that if you thought the baby was funny then, deep down inside, there was something really creepy about you. And still you laughed because, as creepy as he was, he was infectiously funny.

Damned if that baby didn’t grow up to become Dancing Santa. Who would have thought?

Dancing Santabusts out with lots of moves. He looks like John Travolta on Fairy Dust.1 You can pick your Christmas song from a list or from your own iPad library.

Who knew Santa had moves like these? He even comes with his own playlist.

Click image to see full size

Unfortunately they’re the same moves for every song. He doesn’t change the beat or the speed or the rhythm. And the Christmas songs don’t even play all the way through. When his loop of moves starts over, so does the song and the results can be pretty choppy.

The humor is there, but it wears quickly.

Tickle Santa

When you first see Tickle Santa, you’ll be in for a surprise. This is the skinniest Santa I have every seen, and I’m not sure why. Maybe his belly would burst through the iPad screen if you tickled him too hard.

In fact, Tickle Santa looks more like one of those pathetic dogs some people keep chained up in their back yards. They really want you to love them, and you can see it in their faces.

You can tickle Tickle Santa in different places for different results. Tickle him on the belly and he warps all over the screen. Tickle him on the nose and his nose gets bigger than Pinocchio’s. Tickle him on the foot and his foot shakes while he laughs.

Tickle Santa in different spots for different results.

Click image to see full size

You need to wait for each animation to finish before you tickle Santa again or you could screw up the playback and crash the app. This isn’t really a design or programming flaw since they tell you as much each time you launch.

Each tickle spot comes with its own gag, much like pulling the string on a talking doll. My favorite is “My belly is so big I can’t fit down your chimney,” especially since Tickle Santa’s belly is the thinnest thing about him.

If you really like the gag lines, you can download them as ringtones. You have to synch the app with iTunes to recover the ringtone, but as far as I can tell the ringtone is free (with the exception of Apple’s ringtone conversion charge).

You can download the gag lines as ringtones.

Click image to see full size

Are Dancing Santa and Tickle Santa funny? Sure, at least for a few pokes. And your family and friends will enjoy playing with them when you pass around your iPad. Providing you’re willing to share.

Best of all, you can close the app and put your iPad away when you grow tired of them. They don’t launch themselves whenever you walk by, and that alone makes them worth the money.

Talking Santa for iPad: Too late to review

Talking Santa for iPad came out just after I finished this review, and I am sad to say it’s the best of the three and the one I would have picked to feature. It has the best interface, you can steal Santa’s milk and open presents. You can even abuse him terribly and then watch him exact his revenge. Best of all you can record an entire session as a video to upload to Facebook or send it as an email.

If you’ve been naughty, Talking Santa lets you know it.

Click image to see full size

The developers also claim you can post the video to YouTube, and I looked for links for readers. Unfortunately nothing showed in the searches. I found out why when I tried to post myself. The app creates an error when uploading to YouTube. I suspect this is because YouTube has some restrictions on video dimensions and Talking Santa would violate those restrictions.

I was able to successfully upload a video to Facebook so you should be able to see it there, although you may have to have an account.

Jenny Manytoes rates Dancing Santa and Tickle Santa

Jenny Manytoes would take a nap next to both apps. They will never be universal crowd pleasers, but they will be fun for those who enjoy a good gag. There will always be a Scrooge who sneers at them, but scrooge those people anyway. They take the fun out of everything.

Jenny Manytoes rates Talking Santa for iPad

This is one of the few that missed review that deserves a rating, and Jenny would definitely purr. It’s a little pricey, but it’s also the slickest of the Christmas apps out there.


1Tinkerbell’s fairy dust. And shame on you for thinking otherwise.back

The Jenny Manytoes Rating System


Jenny Manytoes, our polydactyl cat
  • When Jenny makes biscuits on a product she thinks she’s in heaven.
  • When Jenny purrs over a product she’s very happy.
  • When Jenny naps next to a product it’s okay with her.
  • When Jenny bunches her tail she can live with a product, but she has higher expectations.
  • When Jenny leaves it in the litter box….I don’t think I need to explain this one.

Contact me at Email iPad Envy, or
Email The Hidden Grimoire.

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About Phillip T Stephens

Phillip T. Stephens disappeared into the Bermuda Triangle twenty years before he was born, creating a time travel paradox so confusing it remains unspoken between physicists and sci-fi writers to this day. Follow @stephens_pt
This entry was posted in 3 Stars - nap, 4 Stars - Purr, Entertainment, Seasonal, Time Wasters. Bookmark the permalink.

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