Growing up, my family didn’t have Christmas movies. We had TV specials. The recollection of my dad sitting by the VCR, painstakingly taping The Grinch Who Stole Christmas is still one of my fondest holiday memories. And man, was he an expert at skipping commercials. Everyone has seen the classics like A Charlie Brown Christmas, but my dad taped anything with a holiday theme, including some lesser known gems from the season. So sit back, grab a hot todde and check out the top five holiday specials you’ve probably never seen. This list is in no particular order.
1. The Snowman (1982)
The opening piano chords of this Oscar winning short kills me to this day. One of the best known specials from this list, this beautiful tear-jerker tells the story of a young boy, his magical snowman and a whimsical trip to the North Pole. While much of the film is filled with the wonder the season brings, it’s the gut punch ending that traumatized so many young viewers, myself included. Kleenex required.
2. A Garfield Christmas
Another, more mainstream selection, A Garfield Christmas still deserves a spot on the list. The lasagna loving tabby had his fair share of TV specials in the late 80’s, including Garfield in Paradise and Garfield’s Halloween Adventure, but this holiday entry remains one of the best. Mixing awkward humor, grown men acting like children and some truly touching moments, this special not only entertains but showcases a rare emotional side of the wisecracking cat. That and Lou Rawls sings Garfield’s vocal parts. Awesome.
3. Will Vinton’s A Claymation Christmas Celebration (1987)
Ready for the synopsis? Two stop motion dinosaurs, one an intellectual, the other a Santa outfit wearing glutton, introduce a series of music videos with offbeat renditions of holiday carol classics. These shorts include two ice dancing walruses, soulful camels grooving We Three Kings and the California Raisins flying into the sky like reindeer. The African drum rhythms of Joy To The World still remains my favorite version of the song. Claymation has always fascinated me, and the work involved to create something so weird is amazing. It’s kitschy, strange and completely wonderful.
4. The Bear Who Slept Through Christmas (1973)
And now for something a bit more trippy. Casey Kasem narrates the story of an adventurous teddy bear who decides to eschew traditional winter hibernation to discover what this Christmas thing is really all about. Seeped in seventies style with plenty of “modern flair”, this is a strange but well done holiday entry. The dialogue is also great as it isn’t filled with clichéd holiday cheer. Well worth the $1.99 to see this On Demand.
5. Mr. Magoo’s Christmas Carol
While Mr. Magoo’s “blind old guy” gimmick wears quickly in TV show form, he’s great as Scrooge in this faithful, hour long retelling of the classic Dickens tale. Aside from a bumbling opening scene, the special is a well written adaptation of a classic story. Complete with great musical numbers, a lively cast of characters and classic Magoo muttering, Mr. Magoo’s Christmas Carol is one of the few specials my family watches every single year. And it also features the very first emo kid in recorded holiday media. Fast forward to 23:15 and you’ll see what I mean. Can’t you just picture a Hot Topic t-shirt featuring him? I sure can.
Did I miss a strange holiday favorite? Sound off in the comments below!
ABOUT THE REVIEWER:
Jersey born, New York based and Austin bound, Bill Tucker is a writer of short fiction, film reviews and articles across a variety of media. He currently writes bi-monthly reviews for Pantheon Magazine and his micro fiction story, K, was recently accepted for publication in Solarcide’s flash fiction compilation, Flash Me. When not writing, he works as an IT Trainer for a fashion software company. Check out more of his work atwww.thesurrealityproject.com.