Podzilla 1985

Tuesday, December 04, 2012

Tis the Season...

Pac-Man Christmas special. Watch it if you never have. It's terrible.
That time of year has rolled around again. I personally am having a hard time getting into the spirit of things so far, partly because of the warm weather we've been having. I grew up in northwestern Pennsylvania, I'm use to being buried in snow by now, but instead here in the Midwest, we're having days hitting seventy. Merry Christmas you don't need a jacket.

One of the things I look forward to every year, besides making cookies and decorating my tree, is watching Christmas specials and movies. I haven't had tv in a couple of year though so I've been making do with picking up my favorites on dvd and blue ray. I wanted to share a few of them with you. Maybe you'll decide to add them to your holiday watch list, if they're not on it already.

My top 15 favorite Christmas specials and movies.

15:  Mickey's Christmas Carol.

Of all the versions of  "A Christmas Carol" that are out there this Disney rendition has always been one of my favorites. Besides it was released the same year I was born. I like that Disney treated this half hour special like a mini play and took time to think about what characters would fit each role. They used their usual cast of Mickey, Donald and Goofy and then pulled in others from past projects. Scrooge was a must for the main role. I loved Duck Tales growing up and I've always kinda of seen this as a progression of his character. He's more of a codger in Christmas Carol and more lighthearted in Duck Tales.

14: It's Christmas Charlie Brown

This is a classic. I would watch this every year with my mom and if I missed it I would be highly upset. It makes a point to cover most of the holiday traditions and yet still reminds you that it's a holy day, not just a time for presents. I love it's title song "Christmas Time is Here". I know someone made a pop version of it some time in the late 90's but I can't remember who...

13: A Year Without A Santa Clause

It's just not Christmas without animation from Rankin Bass. I'll admit I use to not like this one. Heat Miser and Snow Miser where the only reason I ever watched it when I was little. I have a better appreciation for it now. I like is as a whole finally and I credit it to the music and Mickey Rooney as Santa. The Miser brothers are still the most amusing aspect of it though. Random trivia, Snow Miser's bit plays on a TV in Mr. Freeze's hide out in Batman and Robin.

12: Rudolf the Red Nosed Reindeer

Another classic by Rankin Bass, their first creation in this art style actually. I love the music in this one. Clarisse's song "There's Always Tomorrow" is still one of my favorites though they are all great. Burl Ives does the narration for this and has made me come to enjoy his renditions of the usual Christmas tunes. Santa's kinda of a jerk, which is a rare sight for the friendly old man. You can tell the stress of the season's getting to him a bit. As I've gotten older the characters have become more noticeably whiny and that's why it's moved lower on my list.

11: Scrooged 

This comedic take on "A Christmas Carol" is another film that I've only come to appreciate since my college days. It's also one of the few non-animated picks on this list. But really can you go wrong with Bill Murry of the 80's? It's the same old story but with a Hollywood take. Frank Cross runs a tv station that will be airing a live version of Dicken's classic. His under appreciation for the holiday leads to his fated night of ghosts and lessons to be learned. This is sadly one of the movies I've yet to get a copy of for myself, so gold old Block Buster is just gonna have to give me a hand this year. I am not watching the whole thing in 14 min. clips on YouTube. Forget that.

10: Jack Frost

The 3rd Rankin Bass production on my list. I'm a little bias to them if you haven't noticed. This is my favorite of the RB films, but it doesn't have a heavy Christmas theme. That's why I have to put it lower on my list. "It's Lonely Being One of a Kind" is my favorite song in this one. Being from PA I also have a soft spot for the fact that this tale is told by the famed Groundhog, Pardon Me Pete, though we all know Phill now as our yearly weather predictor. Compared to some of their past specials they did a really good job at syncing up the voices and puppets on this one.

9: Twas the Night Before Christmas

This was one of the few 2D animated specials by Rankin Bass. The classic poem is told mainly from the mouse's point of view, from his home in the local clock maker's house.  His eldest son has ruined Christmas for the town by publishing in the paper that Santa Claus is a fake. It's really just a tale about believing in Santa, but it's great. It's one of the first favorites that I made a point of getting on dvd. As usual I'm a sucker for the music. I love all the songs in this, it's impossible to pick just one. So I won't.

8: Santa Claus is Coming to Town

With Mickey Rooney as Santa Claus and Fred Astaire on narration, as a question answering mail man, I ask how can you go wrong? This is all about answering kids questions about Santa. It's not as in-depth as "The Life and Adventures of Santa Claus" but it get's the main points of why Santa is the man he is. Once again I love the music in this. I find myself singing along and later having those same song suck in my head for a the next few days.

7: Garfield's Christmas

My memories of this special include the fact that it always use to be aired right after the Charlie Brown special. This one always makes me tear up when listening to Grandma talk to Garfield, but it such a good special. It touches a little place in my heart, since we use to go out to my grandparent's farm for the holiday too. Granted we didn't spend the night but it was only a 30 min. drive. Garfield is his usual greedy self but he finds a touch of Christmas spirit and leads to a sweet ending.

6: The Nightmare Before Christmas

You knew it was coming, though maybe a little lower than expected on this list.  The two best holidays ever clash when a Skeleton discovers the joy of Christmas. Frankly this kind of freaked me out when I was little. Then in middle school I re-watched my cousin's VHS copy of the movie and became hooked. I love everything about it, the story, the designs, and the music. This is one Christmas movie that I will watch any time of the year without feeling silly.

5: How the Grinch Stole Christmas

This is the Grinch that I love. Not that monstrosity with Jim Carry, we're not going there. If you go there I will be forced to hurt you. When I was little it was tradition to watch this at Grandma's house after Thanksgiving dinner. Back then TNT us to air it that night to kick off the holiday programming. Now that we have ABC's 25 days of Christmas that doesn't seem to happen any more. Chuck Jones did an amazing job bringing this classic story to life. The animation is beautifully done and the music stays with you. We even sang "Welcome Christmas" in my school choir one year for our holiday show.

4: A Muppet Family Christmas

This one special covers a good chunk of my childhood all on it's own. The Muppet show gang all go to Fozzie's mother's home for the holidays only to find out that she's planned a trip to Florida and rented the place out to a man and his dog. That man is none other than Doc from Fraggle Rock! In the end due to a terrible storm everyone stays at the farm house and are joined by the characters from Seasame Street. My favorite part is when Robin the frog finds a Fraggle hole in the farm house and he and Kermit travel into Fraggle Rock. So much Henson goodness in one place. I only have an old VHS copy but you can be sure as soon as I come across a dvd or blue ray it will be mine. Plus we learn that Fraggles are the ultimate re-gifters!

3: White Christmas

I usually start my Christmas movies off with this one, while decorating my tree. In a sea of animated favorites this is one live action, and literally classic film, that I love. It's always been one of my mom's favorites so it probbaly rubbed off on me from her. We use to always listen to Bing Crosby's Christmas albums while decorating the house when I was little. I still enjoy the older versions of the classic songs rather than many of the new renditions.

A faltering ski lodge in Vermont is suffering from a lack of snow. They need a good dose of the white stuff to stay in business, but in the mean time a couple of show biz big names do their best to help out their old army general's business. Wishing for snow on Christmas was never a problem in my youth. We usually had it. Now, however, I hope for it every year. Even if it's just a light flurry. I never would have guessed that I'd miss snow. If nothing else this movie gives me many fond memories and more music to sing along with.

2: Will Vinton's Claymation Christmas

This became my favorite special when it aired in 1987, granted I was 4 but I loved it. It's by the man behind the California Raisins claymations and stars two dinosaurs who talk about the traditions of Christmas in between short music videos for various Christmas songs. The running gag between songs are various groups of carolers singing "Here We Come a Wassailing" wrong.

They stopped showing this special a couple years after it originally aired and it broke my heart for a long time. I finally manged to catch it running on the Disney Channel, back when you had to order it specially, on one of their free preview weeks. Being in middle school I had mastered the VCR recorder and I taped it like there was no tomorrow. I would not go another Christmas without my favorite special. Sadly by college my poor tape was warped beyond watching and I was once again without. After an extensive internet search a couple years ago I finally found it on dvd. I didn't care that I was spending $20 on it. I needed it back in my collection and there it resides to this day. Heck my mom even asked me to mail it to her last year so she could watch it again herself.

It's goofy and somewhat poorly animated but I love it all the same. I will admit I get more the jokes now. The clip above I didn't get any of the Hunchback of Notre-Dame references until late into high school. I just thought the bells were funny.

And last by certainly not least

1: Emmet Otter's Jugband Christmas

This use to play on Nickelodeon during Christmas when I was little. I never thought much of it then, but it had truly grown on me in the past couple of years. It's a heartwarming story of a struggling family of otters who want nothing more than to make a great Christmas for one another. Jim Henson made this film in the late 70's based off a popular book, with his usual team of puppeteers. Frank oz, Dave Goelz, Steve Hunt, Jerry Nelson and Jim himself did most of the puppet work, each voicing and playing multiple characters. The whole movie has a very rustic feel to it and is just simply put gorgeous. Add that with an amazing story, some great jokes and songs and you have another Henson master piece.

These are a few of my favorites and I hope you enjoy many of them as well. I will leave you all today with some out takes from Emmet Otter. In the scene Jim wanted the drum that rolls out the door to wobble for a period of time before falling flat. They did one take for practices, without filming, and it was perfect. Once the cameras were rolling they could not get it to duplicate the action. They did over 200 takes on this scene. Frank Oz and Jerry Nelson are the performers you'll be hearing as the suffer through the takes, under the stage with their arms raised above their heads.  

Merry Christmas!

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