Media Trends: Animated Christmas Specials

The animated holiday specials of the 60s and 70s had death, terrifying situations, and narration by actors so old no kid had ever heard of them.

In Christmas cartoons created in the past few years, you will not find any of the above tragedy and anxiety-inducing melodrama. For the past few weeks, I have been studying the Christmas specials of three popular current kids’ series (and by studying, I mean a constant viewing every evening with my daughter):

• Nick’s Diego Saves Christmas

• PBS’s Super Why and ‘Twas The Night Before Christmas

• Disney’s Little Einsteins and The Christmas Wish

In these recent shows, I found no character’s mother dying, Misfit Toys, evil Burgermeisters, scary wizards, or killer magicians. All you find in the above three is positive messages, interactivity, learning, and good animation (well, not so much in Diego).


Now let’s talk about the best Christmas Cartoons of the pre-PC media era, filled with oddities and freaks:

#7 Frosty The Snowman

Nothing merrier than a cartoon where our star snowman melts into a pool of water and dies.  Merry Christmas, kids! Spoiler: He comes back to life in the end. 

#6 Nestor, The Long-Eared Christmas Donkey

I’m only including my wife’s all-time fave to keep peace at home this holiday season. It does have some catchy tunes by country-folkie Roger Miller and, yep, Momma donkey dies. Nice.


#5 A Charlie Brown Christmas

“Isn’t there anyone…who can tell me…what Christmas is all about?”

This poor bald kid had the first documented case of childhood holiday depression. Relax, Chuck. It’s all about a dog saving your crummy tree, Linus’ sermon which I always tuned out, and Dolly Madison commercials.

#4 How the Grinch Stole Christmas

Stop with the Jim Carey remake already and watch the original with narration by Boris Karloff.  Yeah not too freakin’ scary.

#3 Santa Claus Is Comin’ To Town

Best line by Keenan Wynn as the deadly Winter Warlock: “Hey, maybe I’m not such a loser after all!”



#2 Rudolph The Red-Nosed Reindeer

Cool: Island of Misfit Toys (yeah!) which is so weird yet cool that Verizon effectively uses it to slam AT&T 40 years later.

Not cool: Rudolph’s voice is the most grating sound of the holidays


#1 Year Without A Santa Claus

Five words: They. Call. Me. Heat. Miser.






****Honorable mention (not fully animated): ***
The Star Wars Holiday Special which included Wookies celebrating … something. But it did feature the whole Star Wars cast along with special guests Harvey Korman, Bea Arthur, and Jefferson Starship. I can’t make this stuff up! Hey, if you were a kid in 1978, this is why TV was invented. It was the closest thing to seeing Star Wars again in the pre-home video age.

3 thoughts on “Media Trends: Animated Christmas Specials

  1. Great stuff!

    Hey, can you do a follow up regarding why all of this year’s X-mas-themed commercials suck? What happened to the feel good “kid comes home from college to surprise his family by making coffee” commercials of yore?

    I absolutely HATE Target’s ads this year. They seem designed to make me feel anything other than holiday cheer and something more akin to uncomfortableness. Ugh. And it’s not just them. Bunch of other commercials seem to be doing the same thing. It’s awful.

    C’mon, you gotta blow the lid off this holiday advertiser conspiracy!!

    Oh, and check out my daily updates on Christmas music here:

  2. Thanks Mike. I have to say that between my daughter’s shows and our movies, almost everything we watch is on DVD and I’ve missed this year’s horrible Xmas commercials. The only exception is during football, so I can only comment on beer commercials.

    Maybe we should discuss the classic Xmas TV spots of the past. Everyone loves the old Norelco ad with Santa riding in the razor!

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