I just remembered that I promised you a blog on Christmas specials, specifically the best Christmas cartoons of all time. Considering that Christmas is only five days away, today seems as good a day as any to do this. This is especially true when you consider that tomorrow is my normal Friday Thing of posting some past writing of mine, which oddly enough despite my own opinion of these pieces, everyone else appears to be enjoying. Go figure.
I was making a point. Oh, yes, and after tomorrow I won’t have much time to post before Christmas because of all the holiday cleaning we’ll be doing in preparation of having the in-laws all over for Christmas Eve. Yippee! (If they’re reading this, I really do mean Yippee. It’s always a joy to have the family together for Christmas. If they’re not reading this, then meh! :b.)
Oh! Weird Factoid: Do you know why they call it Christmas Eve? It’s because years ago, maybe centuries ago, sometime long before any of us were born (yes, even me), each day was considered to begin at 6pm in the evening of one day and end at 6pm the next day. Therefore, Christmas actually started at 6pm on the 24th of December and ended at 6pm on the 25th. Thus, Christmas Eve actually meant the Evening of Christmas. (Today we consider the evening of Christmas as anything past 6pm on the 25th.).
I forgot where I read that, but there you go. Your little bit of trivia for the day. Now go amaze your friends with that bit of knowledge
But time’s a wasting. My point, I guess, is if I didn’t do this blog today it wouldn’t get done until the 26th. Not sure how many of you watch Christmas entertainment on the 26th. Granted, if you want to get technical, the Christmas season lasts until January 6th, which I believe is the Epiphany, the day the Three Wise Men finally came to view the Christ child. (Which I think I also just heard, that it took them something like three years to find him (obviously they didn’t have GPS systems then, just a star). Therefore, shouldn’t Christmas last for three years? Or at least all year? And if that’s the case, why do they always portray Jesus as still in the manger? Wouldn’t he have been a toddler at that point? I’d have thought Joseph and Mary would have been kicked out of the stable by then. Food for thought.)
I’m procrastinating and I apologize. So without further ado, the greatest Christmas cartoons of all time, according to me. Again, in no particular order except that this is the way they fell out of my memory.
A Charlie Brown Christmas (1965). Of course I had to list this one. It’s the greatest of the greatest. A true classic. My favorite part of the entire program is when Charlie Brown shouts, “Does anyone know the true meaning of Christmas?” and Linus launches into a recitation of Luke 2:8-14. This is probably one of the few instances where the True Meaning of Christmas is ever truly explained. No Santa. No reindeer. No elves. No Christmas tree. Just a bible verse describing the birth of Jesus delivered with the eloquence and wisdom of a child.
Rudolph, the Red-Nosed Reindeer (1964). The only decent thing Rankin-Bass ever produced. Makes me wonder if it was just a fluke. This story, done with stop-motion animation, hasn’t lost any of its charm despite the archaic technology that went into making it. Or maybe because of it. I remember this the first few times it was aired. It was sponsored by Norelco and the commercials featured a stop-motion Santa sledding through the snow on a Norelco electric razor head, writing the word “Norelco” in the snow. Sometimes I wish when they released these things on DVD that they would include the original commercials, too.
A Muppet’s Christmas Carol (1992). I mentioned this in my Christmas movie blog, but since it’s the Muppets, I thought it deserved its own listing here, too. Michael Cain is Scrooge, Kermit is Bob Cratchet, and The Great Gonzo is Dickens, who narrates the story. It’s a wonderful take on the Dicken’s classic told only as the Muppets can. Not a cartoon, but as close to one as you can get.
Mister Magoo’s Christmas Carol (1962). Maybe it’s my own nostalgic view of things, but this was one of my favorites growing up. I haven’t seen it in years so who knows if it’s aged well or not. I’m afraid most kids today don’t even know who Mr. Magoo is, so they might not appreciate a musical cartoon about him as Scrooge. I just remember looking forward every year to seeing it. The late Jim Backus, he of Gilligan’s Island fame as Thurston Howell the Third, is the voice of Mr. Magoo and simply a delight as the nearsighted crotchety old man. Very Broadway-esque.
The Grinch Who Stole Christmas (1966). Forget the overblown remake with Jim Carey, this is the cartoon classic everyone adores. How can you not love the animations of Dr. Seuss? The man was the cartoon version of Salvador Dali, creating all manner of strange animal and device, all of it captured here for your holiday pleasure. It’s narrated by Boris Karloff, for goodness sake! And the song, “You’re a mean one, Mr. Grinch” is always enjoyable, sung by the uncredited Thurl Ravenscroft.
If you’re wondering why my list is so short, there are several reasons. One, my memory ain’t so good and I’ve forgotten a few good ones. Two, there are many out there that I absolutely can’t stand such as anything by Rankin-Bass (and since they created the majority of these, enuff said).
And as an aside, do yourself a favor and rent Santa Claus Conquers the Martians (1964). Not a cartoon, but a live-action film and voted one of the 50 Worse Movies of All Time. And it is. That’s why it’s so much fun. Rent it and pretend your family is doing a Mystery Science Theater 3000 routine. You won’t be able to not comment on how awful it is.