As I’ve discussed many times on the Animation Addicts Podcast, most stories in animation begin with the words What if…? When you’re writing a Christmas/holiday special for an animated film or series, it goes without saying that the What if…? premise is essential, especially if you write for a show about, say, a large, green, wise-cracking ogre. Or a naive yellow sponge. Or whatever words can adequately describe Adventure Time.
Unfortunately, many animation serials don’t even make it long enough to have a Christmas/holiday special. Can you imagine the kookiness we might have enjoyed had these animated Christmas gems actually been broadcast?
I do all the time. So for your animated pleasure, I present some awesome animated Christmas/Holiday specials… THAT MIGHT HAVE BEEN!
1) UNRELEASED SEQUEL TO NIGHTMARE BEFORE CHRISTMAS
I can hear the Hot Topic crowd squealing now. Just kidding, y’all know I love you.
Nightmare director Henry Selick has done a few interviews entertaining the idea of a sequel. A couple of hard facts exist, like how in 2001 there were talks of making a CG–not stop-motion–sequel. I don’t like the idea of making it CG either, but keep in mind the talks were made in the early 2000s, when everyone was all googly-eyed over the industry’s growing computerized animation prowess. Everyone wanted CG.
I mean, League of Extraordinary Gentlemen? I mean.
While Selick seemed either-or about it, Tim Burton seems to have made up his mind years ago, sounding weary of commercializing the franchise. In a 2006 interview with MTV Burton said: “I was always very protective of [‘Nightmare’], not to do sequels or things of that kind. You know, ‘Jack visits Thanksgiving world’ or other kinds of things, just because I felt the movie had a purity to it and the people that like it.”
Thanksgiving World would have been cool, but Selick had a better idea: “It’s a hard thing to top in terms of story. That particular collision of nightmares is perfect. I don’t know if Jack Skellington trying to take over President’s Day weekend would be as good [laughs].”
2) 1938 DISNEY SHORT TITLED “MICKEY’S NEPHEWS”
We don’t have much on this unreleased Christmas short besides a year, a name, and a short description: A Christmas story where Mickey would have played Santa for the Orphans.
Clearly those 1930s nightgown-draped Disney orphans deserved their own Christmas. What’s interesting to me is how Santa Claus is most definitely a registered Disney character. So was he going to be there in this short? Why did Mickey play Santa for the Orphans? Maybe Santa got delayed because <insert awesome vintage animated short premise here>. If I were to make an educated guess, I’d say Pegleg Pete was behind it. So Mickey would have to stand in for the big guy for the orphans and maybe there’d be this BOOM MERRRRRRRRY CHRISTMAS moment where Santa arrives and the orphans go wild, etc.
3) 2004 LOONEY TUNES EPISODE “A VERY DAFFY CHRISTMAS”
Daffy Duck + Elves. ‘Nuff said. Given that Daffy Duck is usually the antagonist (or at least a trouble-maker) in Looney Toons Christmas specials, I suspect this unreleased encounter between Daffy and the elves would be less “Peace on Earth, Goodwill Toward Men” and more like “All Out War”. I imagine there would have been many uses of the classic ACME large wooden mallet.
4) POKEMON EPISODE HOLIDAYHI-JYNX
Okay so this one doesn’t really fit in the “unreleased” category since it did play once in the U.S. However, it was removed from U.S. rotation after its initial release in October 1998. Put concisely, it was a banned Pokémon episode.
The reason it was banned in North America was its depiction of Pokémon #124, Jynx. Jynx was criticized as being a racial stereotype for African Americans because of her character design. Not only was the episode banned in North America, but the character design for Jynx was changed to be more racially sensitive.
The plot of the episode is something about returning Jynx to the North Pole and Team Rocket wants to ruin Christmas by kidnapping Santa Claus. That premise alone makes me realize too things about the Pokémon universe: Santa Claus is a real character in Pokémon and, most importantly, Santa Claus is a trainer.
Or at least he owns Pokémon. Most obvious is Jynx, but he also has a Lapras and a Ponyta to pull his sleigh. Which is cool considering this is all pre-Generation II when Stantler made its debut. I would choose Ponyta because it could defrost all the ice on rooftops so Santa can make better sleigh landings. I mean hello.
Had the episode gotten more airtime, could we have seen ol’ Kringle in a trainer battle (or better yet–a gym leader battle?!) in the games?
5) UNAIRED POKEMON NEW YEAR’S EVE SPECIAL
Apparently nobody has seen original footage of this lost episode. All we know is it was (sort of) scheduled to be the 40th episode of the Pokémon cartoon and it was supposed to have lasted an hour on a Wednesday morning. Since the original Japanese title had the word “Encore” in it, it’s believed the episode was to be a recap of previously aired episode footage.
But if it did have a plot of its own, I would suspect it’d have something to do with Meowth drinking too much champagne and acting like a real jerk at the Silph Co. office party.
Honestly it was pretty difficult digging up these lost Christmas episodes. So I took the liberty of thinking up my own because that’s cool. So, for your consideration:
MASON’S AWESOME IDEAS FOR ANIMATED CHRISTMAS/HOLIDAY SPECIALS
SPONGEBOB SQUAREPANTS: THE CHRISTMAS PARTY
This is animation gold right here. Make an episode about the “embarrassing snapshot of Spongebob at the Christmas party” mentioned at the end of the Secret Box episode. They’ve already made Spongebob into an idiotic buffoon in recent seasons, and he already got inexplicably drunk off ice cream sundaes in the movie. Recipe for success.
GODZILLA ANIMATED SERIES CHRISTMAS SPECIAL (Working title: Tokyo Roasting on an Open Fire)
You know Hannah Barbara had a Godzilla animated serial for a while, right? Ah well now you do. Even though I personally don’t like HB’s treatment of Godzilla, a holiday special starring the big guy (and Godzooky, obviously) would have been great. Although I can’t decide whether Godzilla would be the guy trying to ruin Christmas or the guy trying to save Christmas from another monster.
Either way, he’s gonna zap Santa Claus out of the sky. Circle of life, kids.
SAMURAI JACK CHRISTMAS SPECIAL
CN execs, I’m giving you a little help here. Aku outlaws Christmas, Jack brings Christmas back. Heck, let’s make Jack do a Coca-Cola ad while we’re at it.
GARGOYLES CHRISTMAS SPECIAL (Working Title: Here Comes Cthulu Claus)
This really could have saved the show.
THE BLACK CAULDRON CHRISTMAS SPECIAL
FRITZ THE CAT CHRISTMAS SPECIAL
Yeah it’s time to stop.
I’m sure y’all can think of better ideas for animated Christmas/holiday specials. If you do, leave ’em in the comments below.
Mason is a rigger/animator at Triseum Games. He's also a grad student at Texas A&M working on his Master's thesis. He loves talking about animation, watching old Godzilla flicks, listening to 80s music, and drawing cartoons.