Does anyone remember the intro to the CBS holiday specials? Check it out here
I remember the sound of my heart beating faster as the rainbow colored word “Special” did a complete three-sixty. Watching this intro now three things immediately come to mind:
1. I was a child whenever I saw it.
2. It was probably around 8pm in the evening. Most definitely before 9 when all “good” children were in bed.
3. Most importantly something really, really cool was about to be on television.
Although it was used through out the year for holiday specials this little intro always reminds me of Christmas and the days I watched them growing up. And since it’s that magical time of year again all of these shows are back on for another generation (or three) to enjoy.
Which leads me to the subject of today’s blog.
Every year there seems to be new Christmas/Holiday specials on. ABC Family even devotes the entire month of December to “The 25 Days Of Christmas” where they showcase a plethora of new shows mixed in with familiar classics.
Sadly, none of the new stuff can compare to those timeless shows of the 60’s and 70’s. It still amazes me that a cartoon or clay-mation show from forty years ago can tell a better story in 45 minutes then a state of the art, two-hour Hollywood made for TV feature.
One of the things I’ve always loved about these specials were the villains and how in the end they all were redeemed. Whether it was by finding out the true meaning of Christmas or if necessary, getting all of their teeth pulled.
Although I could probably give you at least a dozen I’ve narrowed the list down to eight and can now present to you my picks for The Best Christmas Specials of All Time.
You’ll notice that this list contains a lot of Rankin-Bass favorites and for good reason. These two gentlemen were masters at making specials that appealed to viewers of all ages. All of these shows were, and thanks to magic of cable continue to be, specials I enjoy watching every year.
Let’s see if you agree:
8. Mr Magoo’s A Christmas Carol (1962): What’s not to love about watching Charles Dickens’ classic tale told with the wacky blind guy in the title role? I’ll admit the songs were pretty crappy but the ghost of Christmas future literally scared the crap out of me.
7. Twas The Night Before Christmas (1974): A Rankin-Bass cartoon with great songs and a wonderful story. A disgruntled little mouse sends Santa a mean letter and then has to redeem himself by fixing a clock in the center square of town to atone for it.
6. Frosty The Snowman (1969): Ok, I’ll admit it. I cried my eyes out on more than one occasion when Frosty melted. But let’s get this straight – I was a child…yeah, let’s go with that.
5. The Year Without a Santa Claus (1974): A Rankin-Bass feature where Santa decides to take a year off because no one appreciates him. It’s up to two misfit elves to go to Southtown and find people who have the Christmas spirit.
This show also featured the Miser Brothers. Nothing more needs to be said.
4. Santa Claus is Comin’ Town (1970): The true origin of Santa Claus. I was deathly afraid of the Winter Warlock. That is until he got his Choo-Choo Train and turned good. And what’s not to love about Topper the penguin and his cute little scarf?
3. How The Grinch Stole Christmas (1966): Another great story about redemption. I loved the Grinch’s dog Max. Most kids of my generation were familiar with the animation. It was done by Chuck Jones who was most popular for his work with Bugs Bunny and Tom and Jerry cartoons of the same era.
2. A Charlie Brown Christmas (1965): Whether it’s the Charlie Brown tree, Lucy getting kissed by a “dog”, Snoopy winning the lights and display contest or the message Linus delivers…it’s all wonderful. But the thing I remember most about this show was the music. Vince Guaraldi’s jazz from that special is one of the most recognizable sounds of the season to this day.
1. Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer (1964): There is absolutely no arguing that this is the greatest Christmas special of all time. I own a copy of this DVD and STILL to this very day watch it when it’s on TV. This is THE special I remember most when seeing the CBS “Special Presentation” intro. The only show that has run consistently every year on that channel since 1964.
Rudolph tells the story of a misfit reindeer with a light-bulb nose who teams up with an elf who’d rather be a dentist. Along the way they encounter a bunch of misfit toys that children no longer care for. And ironically, Santa somehow seems to have forgotten about them too.
I loved the music and characters but, like all Rankin Bass specials do – I was petrified of the Bumble snow monster until the very end.
Finally, and although technically not “Christmas”, I need to give an honorable mention out to Rudolph’s Shiny New Year (1976). If for nothing else than the picture below.
As December begins and the hustle and bustle gets into full gear I hope you’ll take the time to watch some of these specials again and make more memories. Also, let me know what your Christmas Special list would look like.
Merry Christmas to all!