Christmas is a week away and the networks have been airing their usual holiday chestnuts like A Charlie Brown Christmas, Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer, Santa Claus Is Coming to Town, and Frosty the Snowman. When I was growing up in the 1970s, I couldn’t wait for these holiday specials to air on TV because then I knew Christmas really was on the way. I remember lying on the white shag rug in the living room with my younger brother, glued to the huge TV set while Charlie Brown and his friends broke into “Hark the Herald Angels Sing” to inaugurate the holiday season. Back in the day our TV set was actually a piece of furniture, a massive thing that also had a stereo (we'd play over and over again my Dad’s Christmas album, with its selections of “I Saw Mommy Kissing Santa Claus” and “A Christmas Song,” by Nat King Cole [is there any other version worth listening to?]). The stereo was in fact in mono, so the sound had a tinny quality to it, but even that tinniness added something unique to the experience. When we turned the volume up real loud, Charlie, Linus, Lucy, Sally, Snoopy and all the others sounded as if they were actually in my living room. With our white aluminum Christmas tree sparkling in the background (hey, it was the ‘70s!), it wasn’t hard to get into the Christmas spirit.
But while these four specials have become the pinnacle of all animated holiday specials, I also remember the less popular, but no less charming cartoons that seem to have fallen by the wayside since and are no longer aired on TV. Now, that might have something to do with changing styles and attitudes. It’s a given that Christmas specials, especially the older ones, have a treacly quality to them that make them out-of-fashion in today’s era of hipster cynicism. Whatever the reason, I miss some of these specials. The only way I can view any of them now is on Youtube, but that isn't quite the same. I’ve listed some of these specials for today's blog. It’s not a Top Ten list, so there is no particular order in their arrangement. They’re just a list of specials I remember (or in some cases even vaguely recall) from my childhood.
Mr. Magoo’s A Christmas Carol
Santa and the Three Bears
The Bear Who Slept Through Christmas
A Christmas Carol
This 1969 special by Richard Williams is one of the few animated short films that attempts to faithfully adapt Dickens’ novella. What makes this special so distinctive is its impressionistic animation. Some of the scenes are gorgeously rendered, bringing to life a Dickensian style that is so suited to the tale. It also captures some of the more darker aspects of the story, such as the frightening visit from Jacob Marley and the Ghost of Christmas future. Alistair Sim voices Ebenezer Scrooge.
Yogi Bear’s First Christmas
Yogi Bear and Boo Boo celebrate Christmas at Jellystone Park with an assortment of friends like Cindy Bear, Snaggletooth, and Huckleberry Hound. Hardly a classic, but this syndicated animated special played a lot on TV when I was young, so it hardly seems like Christmas without it.
Fat Albert’s Christmas Special
Yes, Virginia, There is A Santa Claus
The Snow Queen