I love the children’s Christmas specials that come out every year. Even now that I am in my forties, I still have to watch the shows of my youth over and over again when the season is upon us. Over the years, there have been so many, but I have been able to narrow the list down to my five best specials. See if my five are on your list and feel free to add your own! I’ve placed these in order of my favorites from one through five.
Santa Claus is Comin’ To Town (1970)
This stop action television special was the product of Jules Bass and Arthur Rankin Jr. was made completely of wooden models. It stars the voices of Fred Astaire as the postman narrator and Mickey Rooney as Santa Claus. The story is about the origins of Santa Claus and how many of the traditions surrounding him came to be. While most of these are inaccurate, the telling makes for a fine story.
Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer (1964)
This is the stop action animation that started it all. The story of Rudolph, the red-nosed outcast that saved Christmas by pulling Santa’s sleigh through the worst winter storm that ever occurred. The voice of Burl Ives narrates this holiday classic that was sponsored by General Electric. The show runs several times each year in December. What you didn’t know: Hermie is the only elf without pointed ears.
The Year Without A Santa Claus (1974)
This is another stop action animation from Bass and Rankin. This story is all right, but what puts it on the list is the antagonism between two characters known as Heat Miser and Snow Miser. Mickey Rooney returns to his role as Santa Claus who decides that kids no longer care about Christmas so he is going to take a year off. This show aired annually until 1980 and then disappeared for years. In the 2000s it returned to become a holiday classic.
A Charlie Brown Christmas (1965)
This was the first prime time cartoon based on the Peanuts comic strip from Charles M. Schultz. Initially, after reading Schultz’ script, MGM was worried about the cartoon being a flop due to its highly religious content, but after the first airing, they knew they had a hit on their hands. The story touches on the over-commercialization and the secular aspect of Christmas, while reminding viewers that the true meaning of Christmas is to celebrate the birth of Jesus Christ. What you didn’t know: A Charlie Brown Christmas was paid for by the Coca-Cola Company.
How The Grinch Stole Christmas (1966)
This half hour cartoon is from the creation of Dr. Seuss (Theodor Seuss Geisel) and was narrated by Boris Karloff. The story is about a cave-dwelling misanthrope who sets out to destroy the Christmas of a neighboring village. It satirizes the exploitation and profiteering of Christmas. What you didn’t know: The famous song that everyone remembers was not sung by Karloff, but rather by Thurl Ravenscroft who was also the voice of Kellogg’s Frosted Flakes, Tony the Tiger.