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I love all the classic holiday stuff you see on television each December. Even though I have most of my favorites on DVD there’s something special about seeing them when they’re actually being aired. It doesn’t count if you record them or stream them later. I’m talking about the random channel surfing that suddenly turns up one of your favorites, as if the network aired it just for you. I tend to obsess over the things that make me happy and one of my biggest obsessions is Christmas specials.
Back when I was a kid, in the days before you could record stuff and watch it at your leisure, when a Christmas special aired the whole school would be talking about it for days. The news travelled like wildfire, so if you hadn’t managed to see it in the TV listings or catch a commercial, by the time snacktime rolled around at least a dozen of your friends had told you what was on that night.
Then there was the interminable wait. Seven o’clock seemed to be the time of choice and I swear the minutes were actually longer on those days. I’d get in my pajamas, grab a blanket and possibly a stuffed animal and curl up in front of the TV just waiting for the little pre-special montage that notified you there was, in fact, a special about to air. Some of these shows stuck with me so much so that to this day I can recite half the lines. So, in honor of all things Christmas, here’s a list of my favorite childhood specials that still hold a place in my heart today.
There isn’t a kid who celebrates Christmas who hasn’t looked out the window and imagined seeing a faint red dot in the sky on Christmas Eve. And if you saw that little red dot in the sky, the image that came to mind was likely of Rudolph as he was in the Rankin/Bass stop motion animation special that first aired way back in 1964. But more than the story of Rudolph and how the other reindeer were mean until he saved the day, this special introduced us to the Island of Misfit Toys. In fact, it’s all the other characters from this one that make me love it. An abominable snowman named Bumble, a prospector named Ukon Corneilus and little Hermey, the elf that just wants to be a dentist. The supporting cast nearly out shines the lead’s nose.
Every single year I built a snowman. Every. Single. Year. And that darn thing never came to life no matter how many different kinds of hats and scarves I gave him. But, it was okay, because I still had my Frosty movie to keep my hopes alive and show me what might happen if I persevered and kept building happy little snowmen across my lawn. Since 1969, the Rankin/Bass animated version of this classic has been keeping kids hopes alive and bringing them to tears. Come on, who didn’t cry when that stupid Profesor Hinkle trapped poor Frosty in that greenhouse? I hate that guy.
Another stop-motion animation classic from Rankin/Bass that debuted in 1970, this one shows us how Santa got his start as a little orphan baby taken in my elves. I mean, how cool is that? Can you imagine growing up with elves? Meanwhile, Mayor Burgermeister Meisterburger is making the children in the town of Sombertown miserable by outlawing toys. Yeah, he’s one evil dude but he does have the best villain name in the history of forever. I always imagine the creators of this one were super hungry when they came up with that one. Despite the coolness of his name, the Mayor fails and eventually good ole Santa Claus delivers toys to the children of Sombertown and a legend is born.
This 1974 movie has my all-time favorite songs sung by my all-time favorite stop motion animation characters. Heat Miser and Snow Miser perform the best sing and dance-off in history to determine who’s the better brother. The rest of this movie centers around trying to save Christmas when Santa is a bit under the weather, but these guys steal the show. Their crazy hair, mini-me minions, and ragtime dance sequence make them the most memorable stop motion characters ever. Ever. I love those guys.
Although it didn’t make it’s debut until 1983, this has become the grandaddy of all Christmas movies. It doesn’t matter that it’s set way back in the late 30’s, this movie captures the essence of being a kid in any era. From the iconic leg lamp (the ornament is on my tree) to the bullies, the triple-dog dare to the ridiculous bunny outfit, every single one of us can relate to little Ralphie. You may never have longed for a Red Ryder BB Gun, but we all had an “it” toy that we were dying to see on Christmas morning. And really, how can you not like a movie where a kid gets his tongue stuck to a flagpole on a dare?
That’s my list. These are the movies that I watch every year and sing along with like I’m a seven-year-old up past her bedtime. There are so many good ones out there, though, that I’m sure there are a few that didn’t make my list that are tops on yours. Tell me, what did I miss?