December is here, and with it soon comes Christmas. As we prepare for the special day to arrive, I’ll be using this space to go over some films to help get you in the spirit this season. Over the next four weeks (including today’s column) I’ll be looking at some seasonal films in a number of categories. Today, that will be some of the classic animated specials that make the season merry. Don’t see your favorite on the list, or have a different take? Be sure to fire it up in the comments.
Christmas is coming, it’s time to get ready!
Yogi’s First Christmas (1980)
About: This one is often overlooked, forgotten even. But, dear old readers, it has a special place in my heart because I remember watching it as a kid. It’s long, running more than 90-minutes, and isn’t a yearly fixture anymore. (But it is on HBO Max). In this one, Ranger Smith and the gang are trying to save the Jellystone Lodge, which is up for sale. Their revelry awakens Yogi Bear and Boo Boo, who soon become integral to making a good impression on the owner. This one’s fun, especially if you watched Yogi as a kid, but it’s not quite incredible.
The Year Without a Santa Claus (1974)
About: This one features a tuckered out Santa (Mickey Rooney) who needs a vacation, so he decides to take some time off since he’s worn out and belief in Santa seems to be at an all time low. That puts Mrs. Claus (Shirley Booth) in the driver’s seat here, as she tries to rally the public to boost Santa’s spirits and get him excited about his duties once again. Not to be a Snow Miser, but this one has a sort of silly hook. It also isn’t really part of the regular network rotation of late, but you can still find it to rent on stream. The music here might be the catchiest part.
Santa Claus is Coming to Town (1970)
About: This one tells the history of Santa Claus (again, Mickey Rooney) by focusing on questions asked by kids that send letters to Santa. Fred Astaire serves as the postman/narrator that takes us to a time when Kris Kringle was a small lad learning the toy trade, and how it developed into an annual global commitment. We get more classic music and fun answers to kids questions about Santa, which is what helps this one become an endearing classic. All though some of it feels a little dated and odd.
Frosty the Snowman (1969)
About: Happy Birthday! This classic tale is about a disgruntled magician, a magic hat, and an ill-conceived road trip. Jimmy Durante is the narrator, and sings the classic song, while Jackie Vernon voices Frosty. As a kid I remember enjoying this one a lot, but watching it as an adult, you can’t help but ask a few questions—especially when they go on the road trip to the North Pole. But Santa shows up to patch things up and then the song plays and you sort of gloss over some of the plot questions. Happy Birthday!
How the Grinch Stole Christmas! (1966)
About: There have been plenty of versions of this story in recent years. There’s a live action version with Jim Carrey, which I don’t really care for, and in 2018 a full-length animated version was released. But I’m partial to the 1966 original with Boris Karloff as the Grinch, whose heart was a few sizes too small. This, to me, is a classic of the season, and this original animated version feels closer to the heart of author Dr. Seuss. This is definitely worth checking out each year.
Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer (1964)
About: And we’ve hit the absolute classics in this genre, for me. Rudolph is a tale I catch each year. Burl Ives is our narrator, and main singer, for this tale about a group of outcasts who finally get appreciated as they help get Christmas to the masses. There are a lot of lessons to learn here as long as you can avoid any dangerous bumbles, and it’s all worth it to see Rudolph lead Santa’s sleigh with his nose so bright. Of course, I still have questions about someone who longs to be a dentist….
A Charlie Brown Christmas (1965)
About: And now we come to my favorite in this genre, and one of my absolute favorites among Christmas content, period. This is a classic that I have to watch at least once every year. It’s a great story, with some iconic moments and I love the heart and message of Christmas given by Charles Schultz. This is the pinnacle of the animated classic genre, in my opinion, and a pure delight. Make sure to catch it on PBS or Apple TV+ this season!
Matthew Fox is a graduate of the Radio, Television and Film program at Biola University, and a giant nerd. He spends his free time watching movies, TV, and obsessing about football. You can find him @knighthawk7734 on Twitter and as co-host of the Fantasy Football Roundtable Podcast, a proud member of the Drive-In Podcast Network.