Monday, December 16, 2013

Top 10 Best Christmas Specials [Part 1 of 2]

It is finally beginning to look a lot like the most wonderful time of the year! I tolerate 11 months of the year solely for Christmastime and now it is finally here! Seriously, unless you have a 'Phoebe Cates-esque' reason for hating Christmas, all the Scrooges in the world can kiss my yuletide ass!

I love Christmas for several reasons (The music, the presents, the decorations, the presents, the family, the presents ect.), but one of the most special aspects of Christmas to me are the films and TV specials. Missing any one of these classic specials causes the Holiday season to feel incomplete. They were a huge part of my childhood Christmases and remain a strong reason why I still enjoy the yuletide season to this day.

This list will focus on the 10 Christmas Specials I consider to be the greatest of them all!

#10. Christmas Eve on Sesame Street

It may seem odd for a grown man to include a Sesame Street special on this list and I will be the first to admit that it will probably have little value to anyone who did not grow up with Sesame Street. However, as someone who grew up on the classic series, this special offers a nostalgic trip back to my childhood. Nevertheless, some of the comedy still holds up even for adults and the three heartwarming stories are filled with touching moments and enjoyably musical numbers for all ages. If you grew up with these characters this special is a great way to enjoy the holidays and relive some memories. 

#09. Santa Claus is Comin' to Town

If you are among those who feel Christopher Nolan destroyed the fun of comic books with his Dark Knight trilogy...well, you would be wrong...but you might also despise this classic Christmas special. This Rankin-Bass cartoon tells the story of how Santa Claus and the many traditions associated with the character came to be in the first place. The writers have cleverly mixed realistic reasons for how all the customs connected to Santa Claus (climbing down chimneys, hanging stockings, ect.) came to be with imaginative elements such as a Winter Warlock and anthropomorphic animals. Admittedly, only one of the songs is genuinely memorable, but the voice performances are the truly outstanding component of this special. Mickey Rooney, Fred Astaire and the rest of the cast deliver lively performances that bring energy and likability to the colorful characters. The animation is dynamic, the characters are lovable, and the story is pure creative gold.

#08. The Little Drummer Boy

This special does not get nearly as much exposure as the rest of the Rankin/Bass holiday cartoons and despite my disdain towards religion I find that fact to be a shame. While not as  light-hearted or humorous as the more well-known specials, the more serious tone of this one is part of what makes it unique and worth watching. The main character is bitter and angry, the antagonists are genuinely sinister people, and there are some dark moments far more somber than anything found Rudolph or Frosty. If the other Rankin/Bass specials were too childish or whimsical for your taste, this special may offer a more thought-provoking and mature gateway to the same warm and joyous feeling we love to receive from these specials. 

#07. Mickey's Christmas Carol

Yes, A Christmas Carol has been done to death. There have been several incarnations of this great and classic tale, but which one do I prefer? Out of the 'previously-established characters assuming the role of Dickens' characters' versions, my favorite family oriented adaptation would be Mickey's Christmas Carol. While the half-hour time limit and general Disney tone force it to skim over some of the darker tones and imagery of the original story, it still manages to include the essential somber elements such as Tiny Tim's illness. I will even admit to being terrified by the image of Scrooge nearly plummeting into an inferno inside his own grave as a child. The cartoon does not exactly reinvent the story or introduce any surprises, but frankly that it was I love about it. It does not play up the gimmick of having Disney characters but rather treats the material respectfully while sporadically inserting some classic Disney humor. This heartwarming entry into the Christmas Carol library is always enjoyable and comes highly recommended! 

#06. Frosty the Snowman

I honestly pity any one who was deprived of this classic cartoon as a child. This special was part of what defined the holiday season for me as a kid. While some aspects do not hold up quite as well as others (specifically the child characters being idiotic enough to forget that the North Pole is...cold) this remains a must-watch cartoon during the holidays for yours truly. The animation is excellent and Jackie Vernon gives Frosty a distinct and lovable personality. Jimmy Durante is perfectly cast as the narrator and Billy De Wolfe is wonderfully nasty as the sniveling villain Professor Hinkle. Even the main child character named Karen manages to warm even the coldest hearts. This cartoon cleverly expands a simple song into a half-hour special with creative story-telling and fun adventure that truly captures the spirit of Christmas. 

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