When I was a kid, I looked forward to many things: getting toys out of the 25 cent vending machines at Kroger’s (all kinds of gooey, bouncy, stretchy stuff), my mom giving me credit card receipt slips from those old-fashioned swipe machines (I can’t figure out why I got so excited about having a RECEIPT.), trips to Kmart where I could get ICEEs, and a weekly trip to Showbiz Pizza where I could play Double Dragon, skee-ball, and be mesmerized by the amazing musical talents of The Rock-afire Explosion.
Christmas, though, was in a class by itself. It was the highlight of my year (only my own birthday rivaled its appeal). During the wonderful 80s, children all across America were privy to more than just gifts under the tree, we also had… THE CHRISTMAS SPECIALS!!! Ah, those loveable cutesy children’s holiday specials that made it to the airwaves for years and years.
For most of these specials, I was lucky enough to have them on hand all year ’round thanks to my family recording them as they aired on TV. I won’t deny it though, I watched these specials when Christmas was nowhere near in sight, but don’t get it twisted– Christmas specials are meant to enjoyed at Christmastime, and enjoyed they were! Here’s just a handful of Christmas specials that made me feel warm and fuzzy then and now.
Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer – Go big or go home, so we’re starting with the Grandaddy Of ‘Em All. This is a timeless classic! How could you not love this or ANY of the other Rankin/Bass animated holiday specials? In the last few years I’ve become a huge freak about the Rankin/Bass specials, I’ve collected *most* of them either on DVD or by recording the obscure stuff ABC Family is showing for ’25 Days of Christmas’.
When I was a kid, this is the special that I looked forward to most. Who knows how many times I watched my family’s recorded VHS copy through the years? The soundtrack is awesome as well. I mean, Burl Ives? C’mon! ‘Silver & Gold’ (one of my favorite Christmas songs), ‘There’s Always Tomorrow’, ‘Jingle Jingle Jingle’, ‘A Holly Jolly Christmas’? Untouchable. Not to mention the title track itself!
You know the story: Rudolph is ostracized for his freakish red nose, Rudolph befriends a gay elf that aspires to be a dentist, they meet up with some misfit toys and an abominable snowman and then Rudolph saves the day with his freak nose by guiding the sleigh. The lesson? You’re only good to Santa if he can somehow exploit your deformities.
Anyway, this is Rankin/Bass Productions’ masterpiece of masterpieces. It’s been on the air continuously since MY parents were kids, and will probably still be in rotation for my grandkids to watch. Note to self: look into starting up an All-Christmas cable channel.
A Charlie Brown Christmas – *high pitch voice* Christmastiiiime is heeeeerrre… It gives me goose bumps! This is a tale of holiday depression, lack of faith from your peers, the search for the perfect Christmas tree, and the true meaning of Christmas. This is the greatest Charlie Brown special of all time. A Charlie Brown Thanksgiving and It’s Magic, Charlie Brown would rank at #2 and #3 on that list… Yes, that’s right, The Great Pumpkin is overrated.
The Smurfs Christmas Special- Sing your smurfs out! I love the Smurfs. I don’t know if they’re something I want to revisit on DVD (I’m still debating on that DVD set), but they bring warm fuzzy Saturday morning memories (hey, I had their bedspread too!) and this is a great holiday special. It’s notable for Gargamel’s temporary alliance with the Smurfs to defeat some evil guy’s satanic flames through the power of chorus. Of course, old habits die hard as Gargie tries to collect the reward for “saving” the children. Oh, Gargamel!
I will say this though, demonic snakes, fires from hell, and attempted children sacrifices make for a totally creepy, hardcore way out there Smurfs cartoon. That evil guy scared me when I was little.
Does goodness *really* make the badness go away? See for yourself.
‘Twas the Night Before Christmas – Being all grown up, I’ve was shocked a few years ago when I discovered this wasn’t really a big deal Rankin/Bass effort to anyone other than myself really. This special doesn’t even have its own DVD; instead it’s partnered up with Frosty’s Winter Wonderland. How sad.
There’s no connection to the poem other than the initial reciting of it during opening of this special. And I guess it IS kind of a weird story once the poem is out of the way. But I love it anyway.
The story is this: humans and intelligent, clothed mice live together in harmony in the town of Junctionville. Proving that mice should NOT be given the gift of speech, thought, or writing capabilities, a young boy mouse, Albert, sends an anonymous letter to the local newspaper claiming Santa does not exist. Little brat rat is going to ruin Christmas for everyone!
Pretty PO’d, Santa is all “two can play at this game” and returns every freakin’ Christmas letter that any townspeople wrote him… UNOPENED. An additional letter, addressed from The Man In Red himself simply stated, “You are all dead to me”. Just kidding! Santa’s not THAT petty.
Anyway, it’s eventually revealed that Albert sent the letter and is told by his father he needs to get the town back on Santa’s good side. And just how is Junctionville to entice Santa? By broadcasting a nice tune for Ol’ St. Nick from the clock tower. Aha, who’s the pied piper now? Unfortunately, Albert breaks the clock! It’s a mad dash to fix the clock and save Christmas for Junctionville.
So let me get this straight– Santa gets mad if you don’t believe in him, but if you play him a nice song, he’ll stop by and deliver presents anyway?
Mickey’s Christmas Carol – What a great cartoon. It’s a Disneyfied version of ‘A Christmas Carol’ with Mickey playing Cratchit and Scrooge McDuck playing (Who else?) Ebenzer Scrooge.
I have a recorded VHS version, plus a DVD version I bought a few years ago. I actually PREFER the VHS recording (I still have it) because the special was aired with three of my favorite holiday cartoons: The Art of Skiing featuring Goofy, Donald’s Snow Fight, and Pluto’s Christmas Tree. Plus there’s the radical 80s commercials. =)
The DVD release (Walt Disney’s Classic Cartoon Favorites, Volume 9: Classic Holiday Stories) also includes Pluto’s Christmas Tree.
Jim Henson’s The Christmas Toy –OMG! I LOVED this special as a kid! I don’t think it had too many airings. It was aired in ’86 and I was lucky enough to have it recorded. I watched it many, many times. Unfortunately, the tape either disappeared or was recorded over at some point. In fact, it was probably only about three years that I even REMEMBERED this special ever existed. Since then, I’ve made it my mission to own this. It was released on VHS sometime in the 90s, but no DVD has come along. Geez, if that silly Otter Jug Band stuff gets a DVD, why not this?
Anyway, I love YouTube because a search earlier today turned up THIS.
So what is The Christmas Toy? Well, it’s where toys come alive! And this time, unlike Chucky or Small Soldiers, they don’t kill. I should also point out, they only come alive when people aren’t around. After we get a Kermit the Frog introduction, we’re down to the meat and potatoes of the special as it is Christmas Eve in some family’s home all the toys in the playroom and worried about the next batch of toys coming into the house.
Last year’s A#1 toy, Rugby the Tiger, thinks it’ll be the previous year’s Christmas all over again with him being unwrapped for a second time. So off he goes to place himself under the Christmas tree to be opened Christmas morning. The problem? If a toy is ever spotted “alive” by a human the toy will turn lifeless forever. In the process of getting INTO the box, he lets the new toy out (who doesn’t think she’s a toy at all). Oh it’s nothing but calamity to keep the proper order of Christmas toys and to make sure none of them freeze!
How The Grinch Stole Christmas – It’s THE GRINCH. If you don’t know, you need to learn.
What did YOU grow up watching and loving?