Jump to content
Big Panda

Animated Christmas specials

Recommended Posts

I was initially going to just make this a status update, but as the post got longer, I realised maybe a thread would be better.

I’ll start by getting my most obvious pick out of the way:

While American’s have the tale about Frosty, the jolly snowman who came to life one day because of a magic hat, Britain has a living snowman tale of their own:

“The Snowman”, based on the picture book by Raymond Briggs, has been trotted out for yearly repeats at Christmas time ever since it first premiered in 1982. This completely dialogue-less animation tells the story of a little boy who’s snowman comes to life in the middle of the night, who whisks him off on an adventure to meet Father Christmas. The film’s most famous sequence is the flying scene, set to the tune of haunting ballad “Walking in the Air”, with animation that is honestly breath-taking considering this was traditionally animated in the early eighties!

It received a sequel in 2012 in the form of The Snowman and the Snowdog which, while not quite as haunting as the original, is still pretty good.

Raymond Briggs’ other books have been adapted too, many through animation. His book Father Christmas was adapted in 1993.

Briggs’ take on the legendary figure differs quite a bit from traditional, jollier portrayals. In fact, this Father Christmas (voiced by the late, great Mel Smith) on the outside, is a bit of a grump! In this story, Father Christmas is a down-to-earth working man who lives in a normal house with only a cat and dog to keep him company, as well as his two reindeer. This Father Christmas is a stereotypical grumpy old man who often complains, but he is still, at his core, a man who loves his job, as strenuous as it could be, which is what makes him such a charming character ^^

Another Raymond Briggs adaptation I’d like to give a shoutout to is one simply titled “The Bear”. Animated and told very much in the same way as The Snowman, this film sees a little girl becoming the unwitting pet-owner to a massive polar bear, who she tries to help get back to his family in the arctic. The animation is lovely, and the music makes me well up whenever I hear it. There’s no video online of the scene I would like to have shown (the moment the “star bear” appears), I’ll link to the next best one, which offers a great example of the soundtrack:

Now to finally move on from Raymond Briggs...

How the Grinch Stole Christmas!

I first saw this special when I got the VHS for Christmas back in 2000 (after having seen the Jim Carrey movie that same year). I remember the VHS also had Horton Hears a Who on it.

Mickey’s Once/Twice Upon a Christmas

SUPER nostalgic over Once Upon a Christmas. I always associate it with Sonic Adventure and the Dreamcast since it was the same year (1999).

I also have fond memories of its sequel, Twice Upon a Christmas, especially the ending credits sequence

Christmas episodes of animated shows (AKA, the part my status was originally going to be about)!

I get super nostalgic for any Christmas episodes of old Nicktoons, especially the first Rugrats one (“The Santa Experience”). As for current Nicktoons, Loud House’s “Twelve Louds a Leaping” is another goodie.

The SpongeBob episode “Christmas Who?” has one of my favourite musical numbers in the whole series

I still crack up at Squidward’s “Spongebob, Patrick, why’d ya do this to me~?”


On the Disney side, everybody in my family loves “Winnie the Pooh and Christmas Too”. We have the old VHS release of it somewhere, where it was coupled with two additional, winter-themed New Adventures of Winnie the Pooh episodes. It’s the special, plus that specific combination of episodes afterward my family are super sentimental for. The version on the 2003 special “A Very Merry Pooh Year” just isn’t the same...

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

The Snowman - Walking In The Air must've gotten some American distribution as well; I remember watching it as a kid.

When it comes to Christmas specials, the two that probably top my list (with half the reason likely being nostalgia) are Frosty's Return and Rankin-Bass' Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer special from 1964.

Frosty's Return was made during a weird time so they really try to cover their tracks to not mention Christmas (which isn't even named once) but I always thought it to be a fun special. Decent animation for TV in the early 90s, nice designs, a charming little cast, and I've gotta admit, I really have a soft spot for Let There Be Snow. Whoever had the idea that John Goodman might turn out to be a good singer deserves a medal.

As for Rudolph, despite it looking cheaper to my adult eyes than it did when I was a kid, you gotta keep the time in mind with these things. Stop-motion animation has always interested me, so that's a plus. It's another special that comes across as fun and, again, has a nice set of characters to compliment that. The only thing I don't like about it, after I got older and sorta realized about it was just how horrible most are to Rudolph before he saves Christmas. The other reindeer kids, fine, whatever. But c'mon, his own father? Santa Claus himself? These are characters you'd kinda hope and expect to not be such a dickbag to this baby reindeer, but it doesn't ruin the special or anything. Just odd.

I know there's a ton of other classics, like the Grinch mentioned earlier, but those two are the ones that have resonated with me the most over the years.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Here are a few of my personal favorites, starting with a lesser-known one: 

The Santa Claus Brothers was a special that Toon Disney would run quite a bit in the early 2000s. It's a CG production about Santa's three sons each trying to prove themselves worthy to take over Pops' duties when he retires, but the meddling of a power-hungry elf tries to throw a monkey wrench in things.

The special actually features an all-star main cast with Kevin McDonald, Richard Kind, and Harland Williams (years before I would know him as "that guy who wouldn't stop talking about Space Ghost's veiny legs") as the eponymous Brothers, Caroline Rhea (who you probably know as either Hilda Spellman or the oblivious Mother of Phineas and Ferb) as Mrs. Claus, and freaking BRYAN CRANSTON AS SANTA CLAUS. Dat Malcolm in the Middle boost.

While I wouldn't say it's objectively anything too special, I enjoy its toy-esque style and I think the cast does a great job. It's just a charming, goofy little TV special that really stuck with me after all these years.

dwlROkg.jpg

Olive the Other Reindeer is another favorite that I'm sure more of you have heard of. Produced by Matt Groening and animated by DNA Productions, this is another one that I grew to love through TV reruns. (Specifically when Cartoon Network would air it every year. Whatever happened to that?) The picture-book style is really charming, the songs are cute, there's some good humor, and Drew Barrymore never ceases to be just adorable. 

Mvz1IQf.jpg

HMcIHjZ.png

Moving on to Christmas episodes of shows, I always loved when the Pokemon anime would dip its toes in festivity, whether through the Porygon-delayed-then-Jynx-banned romp Holiday Hi-Jynx (featuring the trademark random Pokemon anime weirdness of a talking Lapras and the length of a boat trip from the Kanto region to the North Pole apparently being a single day) or the various Pikachu's Winter Vacation specials. It's just kinda fun to see Ash and crew put their journey on hold to take in the season.

wl710gn.png

Another personal TV fave is Invader ZIM's contribution to the holiday zeitgeist, The Most Horrible X-Mas Ever. Famous for ending up essentially being ZIM's series finale and the only finished animated episode to feature Mini-Moose until the Enter the Florpus movie, there's just too many laugh-out-loud moments to list and it's a great mix of the show's usual absurdity along with the fun of Christmas. Merry Platypus, one and all!

Also, this isn't an actual pick because the short is pretty "eh," but I have to at least mention the episode "Don't Be Elf-ish" from the Timon and Pumbaa cartoon. Why?

BECAUSE IT'S A CHRISTMAS SPECIAL WHERE TIMON AND PUMBAA WANT AN N64 PARODY. THIS IS THE MOST LATE 90'S THING.

Finally, I'd like to spotlight something that's not really an animated TV special or episode, but related and nostalgic nonetheless:

Animated Christmas commercials for kid channels and programming blocks will always have a special place in my holiday celebrations. Whether it's through Nickelodeon's loving parodies of classic Christmas specials or through Kids WB's charmingly goofy alternate takes on holiday tunes to reflect their line-up, they're a lot of fun to revisit and make me super nostalgic for the Christmas breaks of my youth. Plus, where else are you going to see a stop-motion-animated Zim violently ask who SpongeBob is or hear Meowth singing a duet with Sylvester? Only in these weird, WEIRD holiday bumpers!

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

@Koopa Klaus CC14 I completely forgot about Santa Claus Bros! I had it on VHS as a kid. I had no idea there were famous faces behind the characters!

Since you’ve also brought up Christmas bumpers

This takes me back to when we temporarily had Nickelodeon on our TV for the first time, which just happened to be at Christmastime. I never really noticed at the time, since I didn’t pay nearly enough attention to Hey Arnold, but it’s kinda funny seeing how they completely dubbed over Mr. Hyunh with a voice that’s not even trying to sound like him.

Nickelodeon had a few great Christmas promos in fact.

The twist at the end still cracks me up (“she decided right then and there, she really, truly, didn’t care!”)

HAPPY (insert holiday choice here) TO YOU!

And one last shoutout to this one from Cartoon Network UK, from the year of my first ever Christmas with the channel.

https://m.youtube.com/watch?v=zk7BRI2JvGY

 

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Okay, let's see if I can chip in with some ones not already in the topic. 

Mickey's Christmas Carol

Before there were Once and Twice Upon a Christmas, there was this gem. Made in the 80s, it takes arguably the most logical creative decision I've ever seen by making Scrooge...well, Scrooge McDuck. Since this was pre-Ducktales, I think Disney took this chance to be a but more risky with it, what with not shying too far from the original gothic tone (as much as you can when Goofy is Jacob Marley), and nods to some really obscure Disney pieces.

Santa's Workshop

I want to say this is one of the more famous Silly Symphonies, if only because I saw this on VHS and I'd imagine it was a popular VHS. Honestly, it's one of the more tolerable Silly Symphonies, since most from that era tend to grate me in terms of music but this one's nice, and it has some cute visuals...mostly.

Unfortunately, this one comes with a big caveat. This was made in 1932, and if there's one thing we know about animation in the 1930s it's that it loves its casual racism. There is a brief but fairly obvious joke about the Golliwog doll (conveniently made apparent in the video thumbnail) and another gag about some more generic japanese wind up doll figure things. It's weird because I never hear this short brought up in the whole classic animation racism discussion, but it's there. 

Yogi's First Christmas

Cartoon Network/Boomerang used to air this one every Christmas when I was young, and it was often on in our house...which is strange because the UK branch were reluctant to show anything else of the Hanna-Barbera family that wasn't Top Cat, Hong Kong Phooey or the Hair Bear Bunch. Anyway, this one's actually kind of clever because it centres its plot around something that bears are known to do but is most often passed off as a gag for a few seconds. It was also weird because the baddies were a bratty kid and a literal hermit that lived in the mountains that hated Christmas because...why not. It's also arguably the most reserved crossover HB put out in the 70s/80s, featuring only a handful of other characters from other cartoons. This is probably why I didn't know there were so many until, like, half a decade ago. 

Fright Before Christmas

This one I saw on VHS and literally nowhere. Despite being Looney Tunes it seems to be pretty obscure, which is a shame because there's nothing like a classic throwdown between Bugs and Taz (in a suburban environment to boot). Does make me realise I've never seen that nephew character anywhere else ever though. 

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

This is one that I had on video as a kid, and only recently just rediscovered on DVD. As a kid, I even made it a kinda-sorta tradition to watch this every year at some point during the first week of the Christmas holidays:
00-C9-F432-48-A1-4032-9849-6-C07-B7-DF48

This is actually available in its entirety on Youtube, so give it a look for yourself if you’d like

Hollyberry, the squire who eventually wins the heart of the princess (oops, spoiler) is voiced by the late, great Phil Hartman, whom you might remember as the voices of such iconic Simpsons characters as Troy McClure and Lionel Hutz (see what I did there?)

The cast also includes Carter Cathcart, of 4kids and Pokemon fame. I actually can’t figure who he’s playing in this, which is incredible considering how easy the guy is to spot in his most recent works, so there’s that.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Oh man snowman. That song....

Focus, other things!

Well Miraculous Ladybug is good superhero show, has flaws, but also a lot of heart. It's Christmas special was one of best episodes. Touching, warm, full of singing.

And it had evil "Santa Claws" with his own evil song and everything.

What not to love?

Adventure Time had "Holly Jolly Secrets", but it's not that Christmas-spirited. Pony had few, but they were just okay..

I know! Gravity Falls... fan made special. Hanuka, but it's still Christmas spirited and deserves recognition.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=U2lc_MvUQjM&list=PLmZF5BWnxVbx1zQdr1LrjUH8XBgafBaOG&index=11&t=0s

For some reason it got blocked in Poland, I hope it works for you.

And lastly, did people watch Arthur Christmas?

image.png.9c628fee08fb765ee49bc3960cab465d.png

It's a very smart movie about 3 generations of Santa Claus-es and different approaches to Christmas, but also it's true spirit. Comedy could been better in second half,  but other that, it's amazing movie every Christmas-Maniac should give a chance.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Has anyone ever heard of this TV special called Frosty Returns? Its about some girl who wants to be a magician meeting Frosty and they figure out that an old guy has created this spray that gets rid of snow and they old guy wants to use it to become king of their town. So Frosty and the girl has to stop him. It may sound cheesy and horrible but its quite charming! The writing and character design (but specifically the character design) kinda reminds me of Peanuts. Overall its kinda an underrated special.

spacer.png

Here's a picture of the movie.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
On 12/1/2019 at 12:14 AM, Panda Claus said:

Briggs’ take on the legendary figure differs quite a bit from traditional, jollier portrayals. In fact, this Father Christmas (voiced by the late, great Mel Smith) on the outside, is a bit of a grump! In this story, Father Christmas is a down-to-earth working man who lives in a normal house with only a cat and dog to keep him company, as well as his two reindeer. This Father Christmas is a stereotypical grumpy old man who often complains, but he is still, at his core, a man who loves his job, as strenuous as it could be, which is what makes him such a charming character ^^

Without a doubt my best Christmas film of all time. There's just something incredibly endearing about the character being a believable, grumpy old northerner. 😋 Kind of makes that heart of gold all the more apparent when it comes out.

 

Some of my own to add.

One film I frequently watched with my sisters around Christmas was the movie "Rudolph the Movie". It's a unique, oddly well produced musical movie which is a fun Rudolph origin story. Plenty of problems though, don't get me wrong. I rather like it though given it pretty much goes into and covers off each verse in the song in a fun and interesting way. Also... the movie in its entirety is online!

 

Next is a wildcard. It kinda fits into the "Die Hard" classification of Christmas movie in that it's not specifically about Christmas, but it takes place around Christmas, and I love to watch around Christmas time - "Why Charlie Brown? Why?"

 It's a Peanuts film/PSA about leukemia/cancer and it's a genuinely heartwarming watch. There's little footage of the movie online anymore, but I implore anyone to check it out if they can. The ending still gets me every time.

 

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
36 minutes ago, JonoD said:

Without a doubt my best Christmas film of all time. There's just something incredibly endearing about the character being a believable, grumpy old northerner. 😋 Kind of makes that heart of gold all the more apparent when it comes out.

 

Some of my own to add.

One film I frequently watched with my sisters around Christmas was the movie "Rudolph the Movie". It's a unique, oddly well produced musical movie which is a fun Rudolph origin story. Plenty of problems though, don't get me wrong. I rather like it though given it pretty much goes into and covers off each verse in the song in a fun and interesting way. Also... the movie in its entirety is online!

 

Next is a wildcard. It kinda fits into the "Die Hard" classification of Christmas movie in that it's not specifically about Christmas, but it takes place around Christmas, and I love to watch around Christmas time - "Why Charlie Brown? Why?"

 It's a Peanuts film/PSA about leukemia/cancer and it's a genuinely heartwarming watch. There's little footage of the movie online anymore, but I implore anyone to check it out if they can. The ending still gets me every time.

 

Its movies like Why Charlie Brown, why? That makes me love the Peanuts so much!

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

I should probably follow this thread; there have been some really good replies here.

Figured it would be interesting to talk from the perspective of having made a Christmas special, now that it's out. It's probably no surprise (since I've posted here previously) that I love Christmas specials, so as a content creator, doing one myself had been on the bucket list for a while. I've been making sprite videos for the last eleven years and always wanted to do one for the holiday. I can think of two previous attempts that didn't work out (in 2009 and 2016,) but I think I got just enough of a head-start to make this one work.

It started with only a few lines of dialogue I wrote down in January of last year (inspired by some of Sonic and Amy's interactions in Sonic X; for all the show's faults, they really knew how to write heartwarming stuff.) It was originally gonna be a New Year's special. So those lines just kinda sat there for a year and a half until I started thinking about them more and, back in July, I asked a good buddy of mine if she'd be interested in helping me turn it into a full script. She was pretty happy to work on a scripted video with me, and the two writing sessions it took were fun times. We'd brainstorm ideas and, most of the time, went back-and-forth writing the lines (so she'd write one, I'd write one, repeat.) Doing the frames was a bit of a hassle and gave me some eye strain, but I got them done in good time. Really happy with the cast, too. I had my usual Eggman and Amy/Cream on board; as for the other castmembers, I've gotta say I'm really grateful for the opportunities I've been given from my time on YouTube. DonkeyDude's become a good friend whom I wouldn't have met without having been a part of the SonicSong182 cast and it was nice to see him debut as my go-to voice actor for Knuckles. Then there's the ones I kept as a surprise. They were gonna be co-hosting the premiere with me anyway, so I thought it'd only make sense to ask if they'd like to have a part in the video. Kn of SonicSong182 and I have been friends and worked together almost as long as I've been doing these videos and it was nice to have her come back for a sprite skit for the first time in seven years. Then finally, we have Courtney from ProjectSNT as the narrator. Again, another person I wouldn't have been able to get in contact with had it not been for some good luck in recent years. A very nice lady, she happily accepted the role after the first draft had been written so I wrote down some narrator lines for her to do and she nailed 'em perfectly; it was like listening to an audiobook imo.

Technically almost two years after the project first started, I'm pretty happy with how it came out. I had a great co-writer, a great cast, I got to play around with some visual effects the likes of which I hadn't tried before, had a good selection of music to choose from, I really couldn't have asked for a more satisfying first shake at doing a Christmas special. Wanted to do it for years, finally got the chance, and had a good time making it.

...And that's my rant; again, figured it might be interesting to hear it from a creator's point of view. Sorry if the tale was too long and/or boring. XD

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

I watched Winnie the Pooh and Christmas Too for the first time in years yesterday.

I’d completely forgotten how much this scene hit me. That soundtrack, that animation, and Jim Cummings’ heart-wrenching delivery (“Please come back! I’m supposed to take you to Santa!”)

They truly don’t make ‘em like this anymore.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Join the conversation

You can post now and register later. If you have an account, sign in now to post with your account.

Guest
Reply to this topic...

×   Pasted as rich text.   Paste as plain text instead

  Only 75 emoji are allowed.

×   Your link has been automatically embedded.   Display as a link instead

×   Your previous content has been restored.   Clear editor

×   You cannot paste images directly. Upload or insert images from URL.


  • Recently Browsing   0 members

    No registered users viewing this page.

×
×
  • Create New...

Important Information

You must read and accept our Terms of Use and Privacy Policy to continue using this website. We have placed cookies on your device to help make this website better. You can adjust your cookie settings, otherwise we'll assume you're okay to continue.