Recently I’ve been thinking about Christmas (we’ve already had snow here a few times!) and that led me to think about one of my favorite parts of the holiday season: all the Christmas TV specials and cartoons and movies! Then I thought it might be fun to make a list of my favorites, so in this post I’ll highlight my favorite Christmas shows! These are generally animated shows that are one hour or less in length.
Some are the ones everyone loves, but others may be new to you. Check them out if you can find them! (Youtube and Daily Motion are your best friends here!)
First off, three shows that everyone knows and loves! I don’t think anyone would argue with any of these first three!
Yep, it’s A Charlie Brown Christmas from 1965. Wonderful songs, a simple but powerful story, and a dog ice-skating (and don’t forget the Christmas queen!) This might be my favorite Christmas cartoon.
From the Dr Seuss book that gave us a great word for anti-Christmas types, it’s 1966’s How the Grinch Stole Christmas! Song lyrics by Dr Seuss, little Cindy Lou Who (“who was no more than two!”), and Max the dog with antlers! And if all that weren’t enough, you get the memorable narration by Boris Karloff (who does the voice of the Grinch too!)
Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer was first shown on CBS TV in 1965, has great songs and narration by Burl Ives. This was the show that gave hope to misfits everywhere!
An interesting bit of trvia about these first three shows: all were first broadcast on CBS! That network also premiered a digitally-remastered version of Rudolph in 2005.
OK, now let’s look at some of my other favorites. You’ve probably seen most (if not all) of these as well.
An Elf’s Story (2011) was based on a book that I’d never heard of before I saw the show! It’s really a good story, great voice acting and some good songs.
This one was also released in 2011, and Ice Age: A Mammoth Christmas is a holiday must-watch for me! All the great characters (and voices) you love from the Ice Age movies: Sid destroying Manfred’s “Christmas rock”, Peaches and her sloth brothers running away to find Santa Claus, and Diego being Diego!
OK, I’ll be honest: you have to get by the really weird animation in Olive, The Other Reindeer, but once you do, you’re in for a quirky treat! Olive is a dog that wants to be a reindeer, and you’ve got to love a show that has that AND penguins (at the North Pole: yeah, I told you it was quirky!) Released in 1999.
I know what you’re thinking: the Simpsons and Christmas? Well, that just shows how much you know! Simpsons Roasting on an Open Fire was the very first full-length episode of The Simpsons, first broadcast in 1989, and it’s a great Christmas show! Bart gets a tattoo, Homer makes $13 as a department-store Santa, and the Simpsons get their new dog, “Santa’s Little Helper” (also known as Number 8 at the dog track!)
Yep, it’s the gang from the Shrek movies with Shrek the Halls. It came out in 2007 with all the usual Shrek characters, and you would be hard-pressed to find a funnier 30 minutes of Christmas fun! I start laughing every time Donkey opens his mouth (and sometimes when he doesn’t!) and Antonio Banderas (Puss in Boots) has one of the best lines: “I have shamed myself.” Trust me, if you haven’t seen it, do it this Christmas (and then you’ll understand why that line is so funny!)
If that expression (“This is so tinsel”) is new to you, then you haven’t seen Disney’s 2009 Prep & Landing, and all I can say is, WHY NOT? Disney has actually made three short Prep & Landing cartoons, as well as several very short (less than five minutes each) films about the Prep & Landing world. The first lines of the original Prep & Landing tell you what you’re going to experience: “Have you ever wondered how it all gets done? How Santa gets in and out of millions of homes, all in one night? Let’s just say, he has a little help…..” This is a very clever and creative show, and I make sure to watch it at least once every year!
This is the line from Prep & Landing that starts Santa Claus on his way!
2010 brought the release of Prep & Landing: Operation Secret Santa. Lanny and Wayne, the Christmas Elves from the original film, are back and are given a secret assignment from Mrs Claus (voiced by Betty White: and yeah, she’s just as funny as you’d expect!)
Finally, in 2011, Disney released Prep & Landing: Naughty vs. Nice, the third installment of the adventures of Lanny and Wayne. Once again, the creativity here is just amazing! (And it’s REALLY funny!)
What would Christmas be without all the Rankin-Bass TV specials? There are so many, and most of them are well worth a watch. (They did Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer and Frosty the Snowman, two of the most popular Christmas shows.) Pictured above are three of my favorite Rankin-Bass shows: The Little Drummer Boy (1968, with Greer Garson as the narrator); Santa Claus is coming to Town (1970, with Fred Astaire narrating and Mickey Rooney playing Santa Claus); and The Year Without a Santa Claus, a wonderful show from 1974.
And now for some cartoons that you may not have seen: I enjoy these every year!
Arnold’s Christmas was episode #18 in the first season of the kids’ TV show, Hey, Arnold! This is a really touching story and even if (like me) you never saw the TV show, you’ll love these characters!
In 1979 Warner Brothers gave us Bugs Bunny’s Looney Christmas Tales, which features the main characters from the Looney Tunes cartoons. Very funny and very looney!
The 1939 MGM cartoon, Peace on Earth, is only 9 minutes long, but it packs a lot into those few moments. It is a world with no humans (the last ones having killed each other off in a massive war), and the animals have decided to learn from the humans’ mistakes. It’s touching and sobering, but also very much a Christmas cartoon. (It was even nominated for an Academy Award!) You can find it on Youtube.
An early Disney cartoon (1923), not only does Mickey’s Good Deed feature the voice of Walt Disney (as Mickey!) but it is also a nice little Christmas tale. You can find it on Youtube for sure.
Released in 1985, A Jetson Christmas Carol is just what you think it might be: the Jetsons’ version of Dickens’ A Christmas Carol. Mr Spacely gets what’s coming to him in this one!
From ITV in England came the 1994 production of Mole’s Christmas, based on Kenneth Grahame’s book, The Wind in the Willows. This is a wonderful Christmas tale, with great voice actors and beautiful animation. A gentle, quiet story that you’ll enjoy at Christmastime!
Based on the famous letter and newspaper editorial from 1897, Yes Virginia, There is a Santa Claus (first aired in 1974) is a really nice story about a little girl and her belief in Santa Claus. It’s narrated by Jim Backus, and is well worth a look this holiday season!
Finally, here’s Christmas Flintstone, an episode of The Flintstones TV show from season five, which first aired in December 1964. Fred wants to make some extra money to buy Christmas presents, so he works as the Santa at the Bedrock department store, and is so successful that even the real Santa Claus hears about him! Very funny show, and a great Christmas story.
I could write about MANY more Christmas cartoons, but these are some of my favorites. I hope they give you some ideas for your holiday viewing. Did I mention any that you’ve never seen or heard of? Let me know!