Top: Jack Frost (villainous ‘Frosty’s Winter Wonderland’ version), Jack Frost (nice ‘Jack Frost’ version) Middle: Father Winter (‘Jack Frost’), Snow Miser (‘The Year Without a Santa Claus’) Bottom: King Winterbolt (‘Rudolph and Frosty’s Christmas in July’), Winter Warlock (‘Santa Claus is Comin’ to Town’)
I’ve always thought it was interesting that Rankin Bass used multiple characters with winter-based powers. A few of them were even credited with ushering in the season of winter such as Father Winter, the naughty version of Jack Frost and Snow Miser. The nice version of Jack Frost is basically Jesus to Father Winter’s God.
Then there’s the villainous sorcerers, King Winterbolt and the Winter Warlock, who basically seem kinda like the same guy. The difference is Winter Warlock looks much cooler but Winterbolt has a cooler name, SNOW DRAGONS, REIN-SNAKES and Scratcher the evil reindeer. I guess once the Winter Warlock went good, Rankin Bass decided an evil winter magician was too cool to let go of, so they came up with King Winterbolt.
I find my lack of Christmas movies & specials on Blu-ray disturbing. This year, I’ve started to do something about it. So far this season, I’ve picked up Home Alone 1 & 2 double-pack, the 50th Anniversary edition of Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer, National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation and Elf. Frosty the Snowman was given to me by a friend that knows me all too well.
There’s a couple of other Rankin Bass holiday specials on Blu-ray that I need to pick up as well as the Santa Clause trilogy and Christmas with the Kranks, but maybe they can wait until next year (or until there’s a good price drop). I already own Gremlins (as part of a triple pack with The Goonies and Gremlins 2), which is gruesome and disturbing at times but still a Christmas movie in my opinion.
So I’m a fan of The Original Christmas Classics and Santa Claus is Comin’ to Town on Facebook and saw a link in my news feed this morning about an Amazon Instant Video Offer. I already own all of the Rankin Bass specials on DVD (the ones that are available, that is) but I figured what the heck and clicked the link when what to my eyes did a appear — a Justin Bieber music video (too bad it wasn’t “Justin Got Run Over By a Reindeer”)!
Despite this guy apparently being some huge music sensation, I couldn’t tell you a single song he’s sung even if you held a gun to my head. I’ve never heard a Bieber song other than a few songs from his recent Under the Mistletoe Christmas album. And that brings us to this special Amazon offer called Justin Bieber’s Santa Claus Is Coming Town. In reality, it’s a music video for the song “Santa Claus Is Coming To Town”. You click the link, Tweet about the Amazon offer, then you’ll get a $2 credit to your Amazon account and can then use that credit to download the $1.99 video (Where’s my penny?!).
Now, I bet you’re asking why anyone would want to download a Justin Bieber music video. Because of its connection to the classic Santa Claus Is Comin’ to Town holiday special, that’s why! Bieber is transported to the world of animagic, getting the puppet treatment himself, and is inserted into scenes from the special along with new scenes featuring Kris Kringle himself and Topper the Penguin.
To be honest, I initially was like “child, please”, closed the tab and was about to carry on with my regularly scheduled web surfing. Then I pondered it and figured I had nothing to lose other than four minutes of my time since the video was free after all. Plus, I wanted to see the new footage or Kris & Topper.
The song sucks. It’s an updated pop/rock version that’s just bad and exposes how mediocre of a talent this kid is. It’s not enough he has the kind of face you want to punch — he’s not a good singer at all. I really hate updated version of Christmas songs. If you’re not going to play them straight, then just make up an entirely new Christmas song.
But oh well, just wanted to throw this out there if you’re a RB nut like me and you’re willing sit through the music. Click here and download the video for FREE.
The First Christmas: The Story of the First Christmas Snow
(Rankin Bass Productions, 1975)
Run time: 22 minutes
I talked about wanting this lesser-known Rankin Bass special on DVD last year but decided it deserved to be recognized on its own. It originally premiered on NBC and then was later aired on CBS before being released on VHS. The last (only?) VHS release was in 1993. While the official title is The First Christmas: The Story of the First Christmas Snow, it is sometimes referred to simply as The First Christmas (as evidenced by the title card and VHS box art).
For the last few years ABC Family has been airing it as a part of their 25 Days of Christmas but I have read that this year it is not on the schedule at all. It STILL has not been released on DVD so if you want to watch this special nowadays you’ll either have to track down a VHS copy or download it somewhere (I have NO CLUE how you would go about doing that). I have seen it on YouTube though. Warner Brothers still owns the rights to this special so you’d think they would’ve thrown it in as a bonus with some of the other RB specials they release year after year. At the very least they could give us the benefit of selling it at the Warner Archives site where every DVD is made to order. They gave us Chuck Norris Karate Kommandos for Pete’s sake! We can’t get The First Christmas?
VHS Cover Art
As for the special itself it is narrated by and featuring Angela Lansbury (as Sister Catherine and she sings a nice version of “White Christmas”). And The First Christmas isn’t about Baby Jesus as you might think. Instead, the special centers around a young shepherd boy, Lucas, who was involved in a lightening storm that caused him to go blind and the nuns who take him in.
The abbey that the nuns live at is putting on a Christmas pageant and Lucas is cast as one of the angels, despite his eyesight. Lucas has never seen snow and Sister Catherine, having grown up in the mountains, tries to describe it to him (the story takes place near a sea, where it never snows). During the course of the pageant, snow begins to fall and then another miracle occurs when the boy’s eyesight returns.
It’s a good tale but not the usual peppy, colorful Rankin Bass effort that we’ve come to expect from the Frosty, Santa or Rudolph specials. Still, I recommend it for anyone that enjoys the other Rankin Bass stop-motion specials.
Buy ‘The First Christmas’ on VHS at Amazon.com
This is CBS promo from 1987 for the beloved Bugs Bunny’s Looney Christmas Tales and Santabear’s High-Flying Adventure (which was premiering that year).
I can’t recall ever hearing of Santabear but after a quick look at it on YouTube, that’s probably for good reason because it’s very offbeat and has lots of awkward silence. There’s not much in the way of background music. But, when you’ve cast John Malkovich as your Santa Claus, you’re probably going for offbeat & awkward in the first place. I mean, seriously, why was this guy at one point considered a great actor? He’s awful and/or hammy in every performance I’ve ever seen.
Still, had my dad deemed it worthy of being recorded, I have to admit I probably would have grown up loving it. I’m not sure if it’s ever seen a video release or aired any time after 1987.
Oh, and yes, there were be a review of Looney Christmas Tales coming later this month so that’s why I’m not saying much about it.