Thursday, December 06, 2007

Some Christmas Specials Are Specialer Than Others

It's Christmastime, when we let in light and banish shame and remind the Third World that its snowy over here in the land of us North American scum. And since it's Christmastime, one can indulge full tilt in an ever expanding array of Christmas themed television programming. Now, at my house, the Wife of DCeiver is a merry, full-on indulger of the Yuletide spirit, and, as such, loves her some Christmas specials, especially the cartoons we all enjoyed as kids.

But where she is ecumenical, I am, in my own flawed way, less forgiving. See, back in the days before basic cable, limited options kept most of the animated specials that weren't the cream of the crop sidelined. Now that there are all these cable channels, some of the crappier fare finds a home. And that's too bad--it's one of those ways progress tends to secretly ruin our lives. Over time, I've developed a pretty strict taxonomy of what Christmas specials are good, and which ones are the Worst Noel.


  • How The Grinch Stole Christmas: By which I mean the animated cartoon, not the grotesque Jim Carrey atrocity, obvs.
  • A Charlie Brown Christmas: I loved me some Charles Schulz as a kid and still enjoy the classic special. I even don't mind all the add on shorts that it comes with now, even though it reminds you that all the people who voiced the originals are dead.

  • The original Rankin-Bass Rudolph The Red-Nosed Reindeer, complete with vaguely swishy abominable snowman, and the original Frosty the Snowman cartoon, because my niece and nephews enjoy them and stay relatively calm when they are on.
  • Olive The Other Reindeer: If you like bad puns, Drew Barrymore, and Michael Stipe cameos, this cartoon is hella cute, one of the few attempts at making a newish cartoon that didn't end in pain and misery - mainly because it combines the talents of Matt Groenind and J. Otto Seibold
  • Futurama's Xmas Story: Totally great Christmas episode, complete with robot wassailing, the establishment of "ask" being pronounced "axe," and a witty gag based on Harold Lloyd's Safety First!

  • The Year Without a Santa Claus: While definitely insipid, it's a pretty ambitious story.
  • Santa Claus Is Coming To Town: Hopelessly fey and asinine, but worthy because it teaches children to hate fascism. And that's okay by me.

  • Twas the Night Before Christmas: Utterly stupid tale about talking mice, incompetent clockmakers and songs that inspire people to serial killery. There was a time where I thought the special's greatest flaw was the idea that a newspaper would publish an editorial authored by a stuck up, intellectually priggish rodent. But then the New York Times hired Thomas Friedman.
  • Rudolph's Shiny New Year: Sorry, but: Beloved Christmas Character + Some Holiday That's Not Christmas = TEH SUXXORS. Really, why not have Rudolph's Bitchin' Flag Day or Rudolph's Gender-Confused Cinco De Mayo?

  • The Polar Express: Rubberized ghouls board a train, ride it to the North Pole, and add a thin veneer of primal terror to the souls of children.
  • Nestor The Long Eared Donkey: Don't think I didn't catch this out as the crass exercise it was, Rankin Bass. Like the way "Nestor, the long eared donkey" has the exact same scansion as "Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer?"
  • Every "Sequel" To The Original Frosty The Snowman: Man, these grew worse and worse as they went on. The one where John Goodman voiced Frosty was nothing but an insult, and they have some new sequel that looks like it was animated by the same guys who do Stroker and Hoop that is the Christmas special equivalent of watching dogshit congeal in the palm of your hand.

  • A Star Wars Holiday Special: After Jerry Lewis' The Day The Clown Cried, this might be the most painfully misconceived entertainment in the history of the universe. It has something to do with "Life Day" and holographic gymnastics and Chewbacca's wife, father, and kid - who are named Malla, Itchy and Lumpy, respectively. I am not making this up.

  • I don't know what it's called, but the Rankin Bass special that takes place in Ireland with the Leprechauns and the Banshees. The one time I saw this special, I couldn't help thinking of that line from 1984, "Imagine a boot stamping on a human face - for ever." Mainly because I would have vastly preferred a boot to be stamping on my face forever than watch another minute of that excrement.


Sukaluski said...

Where does "A Claymation Christmas Celebration" fall on this scale?

Missy said...

I'd rank "The Year Without A Santa Claus" higher, but I'm a sap who still loves Heat Miser and Cold Meiser and has "I Believe In Santa Claus" on her eyepod.

I would add
"Christmas special you loved in childhood and didn't understand why when you saw it again as an adult" - The Claymation Christmas Special." Eesh.

Also in the "So bad it's good" category: "The He-Man, She-Ra Christmas Special." When Skeletor learns the true meaning of Christmas and decides to actually be nice (!) for the holiday. This may, though, be enhanced by the fact that we have it taped off TV when it originally aired, and get to watch all 10 commercial episodes of the saga of "Sectaurs" by Coleco.

Anonymous said...

Darby O'Gill and the Little People?? With Sean Connery?

Jack said...

Couple notes:

Don't forget to add to the Worst Noel list the CGI-sequel to the Rankin-Bass Rudolph.

Also, you mention swishy Abominable Snowman, but not the outright queeny Snow and Heat Misers in Year Without...

And I'd nominate in a new "So Bad It's Good" Category: The He-Man/She-Ra Christmas Special...

Kate said...

That crazy Rankin and Bass is "The Leprechauns' Christmas Gold". ABC Family is doing a Rankin and Bass Suckathon on Saturday 12/8 from 7 am-7 pm but not including this.

My personal favorite of Rankin and Bass: the Really Fucked Up Years is showing bright and early. "The Life & Adventures of Santa Claus" is best summed up with an IMDB user comment: CLAYMATION COUNCIL GATHERS TO DECIDE ON IMMORTALITY FOR SANTA CLAUS. There's paganism, bad songs, and Santa's disturbingly close relationship to the local orphans. It's Christmas gold!

Tony said...

You've mixed some movies and cartoons. Do you have a similar list for movies? National Lampoon's Christmas Vacation? Ernest saves Christmas - quality