*** This is a reader-submitted post by Rachel Wagner. ***
For this month’s top 10 list it seemed only natural to feature the holidays and for this list I admittedly focused solely on Christmas. I asked around to my friends who celebrate Hanukkah and other holidays and they didn’t have many quality films/specials that they liked or admired.
I think it turned out to be a pretty eclectic list with a little bit of everything. There’s obviously so much good stuff that quality properties had to be left off, but I’m happy with my picks.
- The Little Drummer Boy (1968)
This short stood out to me because it is one of the only pieces of animation I saw that features a nativity. It starts out pretty dark, putting little Aaron in a bitter place, but the ending with his gift to the Christ Child was sweet. I loved the music from the Vienna Boys Choir and all the voice casting from Greer Garson to José Ferrer, Paul Frees, and more was great. It’s definitely jerky animation by today’s standards, but I got used to it.
- Prep and Landing
Airing on ABC in 2009 Disney’s Prep and Landing turned out to be a really cute Christmas special. It’s inventive concept is that Santa has a group of elves who prepare homes for his arrival called the Prep and Landing crew. The voice work is good. The animation is bright and colorful and it, along with the sequels, are very enjoyable.
- Nightmare Before Christmas
This may seem outrageously low for the stop-motion classic but I just feel it is more of a Halloween film than Christmas. However, the catalyst for the story is how amazed Jack is with Christmas and how he wants to duplicate the love and beauty he sees from the holiday. The animation is stunning. The music is unforgettable and it is the perfect choice for something different during the holidays.
- Mr. Magoo’s Christmas Carol
This special is surprisingly charming. It features our title character basically going through the Christmas Carol story. They do make some changes, like visiting Christmas Present first, but there is a fair amount of the actual text and most of the changes are made to fit the 53-minute TV time frame. What really stands out about this special is the quality of the animation and especially the music written by Broadway veterans Jule Styne and Bob Merrill. “Winter was Warm” is my particular favorite.
- The Polar Express
A landmark visual achievement at the time, it has perhaps grown a little dated – particularly in the human characters – but I still love the story and overall feel of the film. It tells the tale of a little boy who is taken on a journey aboard the Polar Express to the North Pole. He is taught the magic of believing and having faith in good things to come. It is a great feat for Tom Hanks, who plays six parts in the film, and the music by Alan Silvestri is beautiful.
- Mickey’s Christmas Carol
When you have a character named Scrooge, it perhaps is a no-brainer to have a version of A Christmas Carol with him as the lead. In this short Disney has its most famous icons playing characters from the Dickens novel. Mickey is Bob Cratchit, Goofy is Jacob Marley, Donald Duck is Fred, etc. It gets pretty scary near the end and does cut out a lot to make the shorter runtime, but it is very sweet and entertaining. It’s a great way to introduce young one’s to A Christmas Carol.
- Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer
Without a doubt, Rudolph is the most iconic and best of the Rankin/Bass specials. It takes the story from the classic song and adds an elf who wants to be a dentist, an abominable snowman, an Island of Misfit Toys, and Sam the Snowman. It’s wildly creative and the stop-motion is a little dated, but it’s still pleasant enough to look at. It’s longer than many of their specials, at 55 minutes, but it doesn’t drag and has great songs from Maury Laws and Johnny Marks.
- How the Grinch Stole Christmas
This holiday special proves the best way to tell Dr Seuss’ stories is in under 30 minutes and animated (not live action). It is of course about the Grinch, who lives above Whoville and who tries to steal the Whos’ Christmas. It’s a sweet movie with a lovely message and a lot of laughs, too – mostly from our narrator Boris Karloff. Thurl Ravenscroft sings the classic song, “You’re a Mean One Mr Grinch” and still gets laughs. It’s tight Christmas storytelling at its best.
- A Charlie Brown Christmas
A Charlie Brown Christmas celebrates its 50th Anniversary this year and it has lasted so long for a reason. Charlie Brown is depressed and worried about not just the over-commercialization of Christmas but the fact that he doesn’t feel happy about the holiday. He tries to solve the problem, but ends up finding the answer from Linus while trying to direct the school play. The animation is simple but it does the job and the music by the Vince Guaraldi Trio is wonderful.
- Arthur Christmas
Perhaps this will be a surprise choice for many, but I sincerely think Arthur Christmas is the best holiday animation ever. The film from Aardman and Sony tells the story of Santa’s sons Arthur and Steve. Steve runs the North Pole like a military op while Arthur still reads all the letters and believes in what they are doing. When he finds out a little girl has been missed he refuses to let it go and sets out to deliver her gift. The film looks beautiful and has a great voice cast including James McAvoy, Hugh Laurie, Bill Nighy, and more.
I hope you liked my list. Please share what you think of my picks and what yours would have been. Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year!
Edited by: Hannah Wilkes