The mystery of Canadian cartoons finally solved after 6 years, thanks to the Internet

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How do you remember the names of cartoon characters from your childhood?

Mickey Mouse, Bugs Bunny and Pikachu are pretty easy. But a nondescript cartoon elf seen in a Christmas photo has blocked the internet for years, with some losing sleep trying to figure out exactly where he came from.

And perhaps none more so than Emily Charette, whose father took the first photo at their Ottawa home in 1992.

Charette fell on the photo again a few years ago. But this elf, gray hair, beard, glasses and overalls, has puzzled her ever since.

“It drives you crazy. It’s like when you think you can remember an actor’s name or something’s on the tip of your tongue,” she said.

So in 2016, when the marketing agency where she worked decided to hold an office photo contest, Charette decided to submit the photo hoping that her colleagues would be able to determine the origins of the elf.

Emily Charette, center, poses for a photo with her older brother and sister in 1992 during Christmas vacation at their family home in Ottawa. (Submitted by Emily Charette)

No matter who she showed it to, no one seemed to be able to figure out where the character came from. Unable to solve the mystery, Charette and her friends took to the internet, posting an image of the photo online.

It spawned a years-long search by citizen sleuths around the world that finally yielded an answer last week.

“For a week, it was my full-time job”

What, you thought we’d give you the answer right away?

In 2016, Sophie Campbell, illustrator for the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles in New York, heard about the elf from friends at the agency.

In search of an answer, she job about the mystery elf on his Tumblr page – even offering a cash reward to anyone who can solve the case with evidence.

“All these suggestions started coming in and my friend and I were watching all these terrible old cartoons,” Campbell told CBC Toronto.

Sophie Campbell posted about the mysterious elf on her Tumblr page in 2016, even offering a cash reward to anyone who could solve the case with evidence. (Sophie C/Tumblr)

Inundated with advice, Campbell watched over 30 old cartoons in search of an answer, to no avail.

“For a week it was my full time job…following this stupid thing on Tumblr,” she said. “And then it kind of faded.”

But the online posts have continued to get the occasional attention over the years, with Campbell receiving sporadic messages from strangers asking if she’s solved the case.

The trail gets cold until the viral message

Enter Will Sloan, a Toronto writer who first heard about the photo in 2019 from his girlfriend.

Curious about the mystery, Sloan created his own posts on Twitter and Reddit looking for interesting leads. Three more years passed without success. The track was cold as ever.

“Then a few days ago my partner said, ‘Hey, you have more Twitter followers than you did in 2019. Could you post this one last time? Maybe we can finally unravel this mystery once for all,'” he said.

Post he did. And this time it became a gangbuster, setting off another wave of attempts to identify the enigmatic elf.

A few days later, the lingering mystery was finally cleared up.

After six years and more than 11 million views on social media, two American brothers have finally solved the case.

‘Oh my God, that’s it!’

Lucas and Josh Rastia, from Green Bay, Wisconsin, had no idea that an old VHS tape gathering dust in their house would be the key to unraveling the mystery of the internet.

Josh Rastia – who doesn’t use Twitter or Tumblr and was unaware of the photo – discovered the mystery on YouTube last week.

It was then that the two realized they might know the answer.

By chance, a few years ago, Lucas Rastia was on the hunt for a Christmas special he grew up watching. So he started looking for obscure cartoons.

Lucas Rastia, left, and Joshua Rastia of Green Bay, Wisconsin, say they’re happy to have solved this Canadian cartoon mystery. (Radio Canada)

“I just started going down the rabbit hole,” he said.

After nearly giving up, he finally found the show in a compilation VHS box set he had purchased on eBay. Among the tapes was a TV movie titled Soul mates: the gift of light, created in 1991 by Canadian screenwriter Gabrielle St. George.

Josh said he looked at Charette’s photo several times to make sure she matched the elf on his brother’s tape.

“Finally, watching this thing all the way through, I’m like, ‘Oh my God, this is it,'” he said.

A VHS copy of The Christmas Gift of Light can be seen here from the Rastia Brothers’ collection in Wisconsin. (Submitted by Lucas and Joshua Rastia)

The brothers sent the response to a friend who posted to Sloan’s Twitter feed, which then had several thousand views.

“We found it. … My god heaven, I can’t believe it,” Sloan replied.

The mystery even caught the attention of the creator of the cartoon, St. George, who said she had no idea her decades-old cartoon elf had become an internet mystery. According to St. George, the special aired on CBC for five years and was sold internationally before being released on video.

‘Definitely’ add cartoon to Christmas movie list

The Rastias say they are just happy to preserve a piece of history and solve a mystery that has made so many people feel like children again.

Meanwhile, Charette says she never imagined a family photo taken 30 years ago would become such a phenomenon.

“I was like, ‘Holy shit,'” she said. “Loved this whole elf cartoon mystery adventure. It’s the power of the internet.”

His family is also enjoying the moment, Charette said.

“My parents just think it’s awesome. We’re definitely adding this movie to my list of Christmas movies for years to come.”

Emily Charette says after six years she was shocked to know that someone had found the answer to the mysterious cartoon. (Radio Canada)

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