Tuesday, June 20, 2017

Dean Martin Festival in Steubenville, OH (2017)

It's summer time and I've traveled to another to pop culture destination while on vacation. You may remember some of my earlier destinations: Rosemary Clooney House in Augusta, KY;  The Jimmy Stewart Museum in Indiana, PA; It's a Wonderful Life Museum in Seneca Falls, NY; The Waltons-Hamner Homestead in Schuyler, VA; The Lucille Ball museums in Jamestown, NY; and A Christmas Story House Museum in Cleveland, OH. I love traveling and sharing my adventures. What pop culture destinations have you visited?

Last weekend I journeyed to Steubenville, OH, the hometown of crooner Dean Martin. Two weeks ago, it was (what would have been) Martin's 100th birthday. So his hometown's celebration, the annual Dean Martin Festival, was planned to be bigger and better than ever. Most of the special events were scheduled for Saturday, June 17th but I was only able to make the trip on Friday, June 16th. I knew I would be missing out on most of the fun--but I decided to go anyway, to take in and enjoy what Martin's hometown has to offer.

Spotted this marker from the freeway and was able to find it again after exiting. (Click on image to enlarge).

Steubenville is a Rust Belt city in the Midwest. Like so many others, its peak in population (and industry) was many decades ago but the city and its people move forward to redefine themselves. One of the more fascinating aspects of visiting Dean Martin's hometown is discovering the vibrant and rich history of the city at the time Dino Crocetti lived there. I love history so visiting the local Historical Museum was a must.

The historical museum's collection on Martin includes photos and memorabilia of his music, television, and film career.

The Jefferson County Historical Association Museum is a frequent stop for Dean Martin fans. There's an entire room in the historical home-turned-museum dedicated to Martin's lengthy career. Steubenville residents are especially proud of Martin's acknowledgement of his hometown--there are many newspaper clippings and photos of his return visits.

Who could forget Martin in the car rally movies Cannonball Run and Cannonball Run 2?

Getting a photo of the entire room at the historical museum was too difficult but I found one piece of memorabilia to pose with!

The historical museum is a typical small-town museum but I appreciated its attention to detail and they way it captured the city's rich history. I also learned here that actor Robert Urich is also from the area--he's from Toronto, OH which is right up the road from Steubenville.

Although the Dean Martin Festival website didn't recommend a stop at Dean Martin's Steubenville home, we decided to look up the address on-line. Now we know why. Here's the field bearing the address.

The Dean Martin mural is on the wall of a local grocery store.

Steubenville is also known as The City of Murals. Wonderfully detailed, painted murals line many of the downtown buildings. Of course, there's a Dean Martin one. His mural includes a central image of Dean singing as he descends carpeted stairs. This is surrounded by four sepia-toned tableaus.

Top right quadrant: Dean and Jerry Lewis.
Bottom right: Dean and his musical director from TV's The Dean Martin Show.
Top left: Dean and his Rat Pack buddies, Sammy Davis Jr. and Frank Sinatra.

Bottom left: Dean and Jerry riding in a car during a hometown parade.

The mural is quite a tourist attraction! Everyone at the grocery store was used to seeing people like me stopping for photos.

The Dean Martin Festival also recommended eating at Dean's favorite restaurant in Steubenville: Naples Spaghetti House. On Friday evening, the old-school eatery was already filled with locals and people from out of town for the festival.

Maybe I'll get another chance to eat here next year :)

Again, I missed most of the special events planned for the festival but that's okay. They had a parade through downtown, a marathon street dance, many concerts, contests--even a 5k race! Dean's daughter Deana even came to Steubenville for the celebration. Maybe I need to come back next year.

It turned out to be a nice day trip for myself and my friend. We listened to several Dean Martin albums on the drive down--including a Christmas one! And, I got to share with my friend my passion for the Christmas episodes of The Dean Martin Show and the numerous '70s Christmas specials too. Remember I wrote about the 1968 Christmas episode here.

from the 1968 Dean Martin Christmas show.

Have you ever visited a pop culture destination? What are you plans for this summer?

Joanna Wilson is a TV researcher and book author specializing in Christmas entertainment. Her latest book "Triple Dog Dare: Watching--& Surviving--the 24-Hour Marathon of A Christmas Story" was released in 2016. Her books can be found at the publisher's website: 1701 press.com

Saturday, June 10, 2017

Christmas in July 2017 ANNOUNCEMENT

Hey-hey, ho-ho! The annual Christmas in July party I host each year on this blog is happening soon.  If you've been around awhile, you may remember that each year the summer time party is a little different.  I try to do something special in July each year because we all get very busy in December and it's a fun to have a get-together when we aren't in the midst of the holiday season.

This year I'd like to repeat the mini-questionnaire as a way to spark a dialogue and to have everyone get to know each other  better.  I was inspired to try this approach from what I saw (and participated in) four years ago on the website Kindertrauma.  With their blessing, I've adapted the questionnaire to fit our needs. We did this last year too--remember all the fun answers?  Click on these links to see the 2014 recap, the 2015 recap,  and the 2016 recap.

This is how we do it: Answer the following five questions as completely or as briefly as you like.  Everyone is invited to take part--long-time readers, other bloggers, casual TV fans, or just the curious passer-by.  Everyone should feel free to join the Christmas in July party. 

Copy + Paste the questions below in an email, answer them, and email it back to me.  Send your responses in immediately and I'll email you back with a number. That number is your confirmation that I received your answers and it is your place in the queue. I will begin posting the responses starting on July 1st--and roll them out in the order received. (DON'T put your responses to the questions in the comments below--email them in). Email your responses to: Joanna @ 1701press dot com

Don't worry about photos either--I'll take care of that.  And duplicate answers are part of the party experience--don't exert too much effort trying to find rare examples for your answers. If you want to change your answers after you email them to me--please resist the urge. Instead, add comments to your own post when it goes up in July.

The Christmas in July party is supposed to be fun and entertaining so don't sweat your responses.  Don't spend four hours on it--just go with the responses that come easily. Get creative and have fun with it!

If you feel you need a little help, feel free to flip through your dog-eared copy of the encyclopedia Tis the Season TV--or put a copy on hold at your local library.  You can also use the search box on this website (not easily visible on a mobile device but it is top right of the screen for computers) or click through the archives on this website (along the sidebar on the right).  Christmas TV memories will come flooding back, I'm sure.

2017 badge

Whether you send in a response or not, please feel free to follow along throughout the month of July.  Reading other people's responses is half the fun. I want to encourage everyone to leave comments too--it makes people feel good to know their entry is being read by others. If you like, please feel free to use the Christmas in July 2017 badge on your website or social media posts to let others know what you are up to!

Let's get this party started:

Christmas TV Party 2017: (insert your name--your website/optional)

1) Who's your favorite Santa Claus? (from any TV episode, special or movie)

2) What's your favorite Christmas episode from a TV series? (NOT movie or special)

3) Do you enjoy watching Christmas entertainment year round or do you only like watching it during the holidays? And, why?

4) This is the 21st century--how do you watch TV and/or Christmas entertainment? Do you primarily watch through antenna, cable, satellite, a subscription service, or streaming? Do you primarily watch through YouTube, Netflix, Amazon prime, or Hulu? Do you use your local library? Your own DVDs, VHS tapes, or rent DVDs? A combination of these options? Explain.

5) If you were to be stranded on an island (maybe Christmas Island in the Indian Ocean!), what three Christmas movies, specials, or episodes would you like to have with you?

Since I'm hosting this party, I'll be glad to be the first one to join the party and lead by example.  Isn't this fun already?

Christmas in July 2017:  Joanna Wilson from ChristmasTVHistory.com

1) Who's your favorite Santa Claus?

I love it when an episode has too many Santas. I think it's a way for TV writers to show off an ensemble of characters' Christmas spirit. Perfect example: the 1965 Christmas episode of The Addams Family. Viewers can see Gomez, Uncle Fester, Lurch, Cousin Itt, Grandmama, AND Morticia all dressed as St. Nick for the sake of the children Pugsley and Wednesday. This sort of crowd of Santas has been done multiple times on television. I usually find it quite heart-warming.

2) What's your favorite Christmas episode from a TV series?

It is difficult for me to pick just one. Today my favorite is the 1976 Christmas episode of Laverne & Shirley, now entitled "Oh Hear the Angels' Voices," but it was originally called "Christmas at the Booby Hatch." It is a variety show-within-a-show so viewers are treated to our favorite L&S characters singing and dancing in a stage show for the holidays. I love love love the kooky song Lenny and Squiggy sing ("The Jolliest Fat Man"), and I like seeing Laverne and Shirley doing their best to sing, dance and twirl batons to entertain people in a hospital for the holiday. Other favorite episodes: the 1963 holiday episode of the Dick Van Dyke Show and the 1964 Christmas episode of Bewitched with Billy Mumy.

3) Do you enjoy watching Christmas entertainment year round or do you only like watching it during the holidays? And, why?

You know what I'm going to say, right? I enjoy watching it year round--and I always have. I especially like seeing the Christmas episodes in TV shows I'm watching in reruns. For example, I've been watching M*A*S*H reruns on MeTV lately and I'm very pleased to see the numerous Christmas episodes as the network broadcasts the entire series. It's nice to be reminded of the heart-warming holiday story lines throughout the year.

4) This is the 21st century--how do you watch TV and/or Christmas entertainment? Explain.

I know my response is going to be a unique one--I don't watch TV like anyone else. So don't compare yourself to me. But I watch TV and Christmas entertainment through every imaginable option available. I'm very resourceful. I currently have cable TV--which also includes a dozen or more antenna digi-net channels (MeTV, AntennaTV, RetroTV, CoziTV, GetTV, Movies! etc). I also use my local library's resources--they all know me there!--and always have TV series and Christmas entertainment on DVDs checked out. I also use their inter-library loan services to check out stuff from all over the country. I still have several VCRs that I regularly use to view older Christmas entertainment. I'm a Netflix subscriber--both streaming and DVDs. I still use the resources of a local video rental store--to see new releases (stuff that I want to view immediately because there's a long list of holds on the library copies, Netflix will take a day or two, and I'd rather not buy a copy to stream it). I also house-sit quite a bit throughout the year, so I have access for long periods of time to other peoples' Roku, Hulu, and Amazon Prime accounts. I keep up with new series and holiday entertainment through these avenues as well. And, yes--I do watch YouTube too. Today's options to access the archives of TV history and new releases are sometimes overwhelming. I love it!

5) If you were to be stranded on an island (maybe Christmas Island in the Indian Ocean!), what three Christmas movies, specials, or episodes would you like to have with you?

I answered a version of this question for a blogathon from last year: check out my list of 5 classic movies here. To provide a somewhat new response: Here's my list of three Christmas titles:

#3: A Charlie Brown Christmas
If I find myself stranded on a deserted island, I anticipate that I'll be craving the comforts of familiarity and home. What better to bring this feeling of comfort than the classic animated Peanuts Christmas special? Long-time readers of mine may remember that I was in a staged school production of A Charlie Brown Christmas when I was in 2nd grade--and I still remember much of the dialogue from those rehearsals. The music, the animation, and the dialogue still remind me of the warmth and glow of a pleasant childhood--and it would be nice to be reminded of these comforting memories during the long days and nights on the island.

#2: White Christmas (1954)
I anticipate having to perform quite a few mundane chores on this deserted island in order to survive. I'll probably have to gather palm fronds for a shelter, and fruits, nuts, and vegetables (I really don't see myself hunting and killing wild boar) in order to eat. I might even have to plant and harvest food to sustain a lengthy stay. UGH! These chores will go faster if I sing while I work--so I wanted to select a Christmas musical to sing along with.

The song "Snow" may help me chill out on those long, hot days stuck on a tropical island!

The lyrics to the title song "....I'm dreaming of a white Christmas, just like the ones I used to know..." will certainly fit the bill, living on a tropical island. The song "Sisters" always puts a smile on my face, and "Count Your Blessings" may help inspire me to feel grateful that I'm alive during my darkest moments alone on the island. You can't beat an Irving Berlin soundtrack set against island living!

#1: The Star Wars Holiday Special (1978)

If you haven't already figured it out, I wouldn't really enjoy being stuck on a tropical island. The experience doesn't sound like paradise to me--it resembles torture.  So if I'm on a deserted island, my efforts will focus on trying to escape. Here's my best plan: request that the Star Wars Holiday Special be made available to me on my island. Since the 2 hour production no longer officially exists (George Lucas stopped acknowledging its existence decades ago), any search for an official print of the movie will alert certain people of importance. Disney purchased the Lucas catalog a few years back--so aggressive Disney lawyers will become involved. After they hunt down my location to deliver a cease & desist/restraint order, I'll have access to a lawyer's boat to escape my deserted island! My plan doesn't require me to actually watch the absolutely awful Star Wars Holiday Special--not again, please!--but merely to request a print for my island visit.

However, if somehow my brilliant plan doesn't work--and I do acquire a copy for The Star Wars Holiday Special for my deserted island experience, and anyone else ever washes ashore, then this movie will give us a laughable conversation piece for the rest of our long lives!

If you have any questions about Christmas in July 2017?  Ask below in the comments.

Send in your responses today!  Thanks for playing along and Merry Christmas in July.

Joanna Wilson is a TV researcher and book author specializing in Christmas entertainment. Her latest book "Triple Dog Dare: Watching--& Surviving--the 24-Hour Marathon of A Christmas Story" was released in 2016. Her books can be found at the publisher's website: 1701 press.com

Tuesday, May 30, 2017

Rubber City Pop Culture Fest 2017 recap

This past weekend (May 26-28th, 2017), I was signing books in Akron, Ohio at the first ever Rubber City Pop Culture Fest (rcpcfest). I met so many wonderful people and had a lot of fun! I'm such a pop culture nerd that I would have been there even if I hadn't worked it. It was exciting to share my passion for Christmas entertainment with so many new people--and to see people as enthusiastic I was about Christmas on TV and movies--in the month of May. Thanks again to everyone who came out to meet me. And, for those who weren't able to attend, I thought I'd share some of the highlights of the weekend's activities.

1701 Press booth. Photo courtesy of ArtsNow.

Artist Brian Dunphy

I had a chance to meet the artist Brian Dunphy. He was kind enough to show me the original art he did for the cover of The Devil Strip--a local arts & culture magazine--he drew last year when I was included on the cover. I'm in the top right quadrant of the illustration, sandwiched between basketball superstar LeBron James, the University of Akron's mascot Zippy, and Akron entrepreneur Cristina González Alcalá. The original art was quite impressive and it is an honor to be included on the cover with these other Akronites.

Being goofy with Big Mike.

I met the Mayor! Mayor McCheese, that is.

I also had the pleasure to meet Big Mike from Discovery Family channel's Lost & Found TV program. He also runs a vintage shop Finders Keepers in Sugarcreek, OH which I have followed on Instagram. With his partner Jesse, their booth was filled with quite a few Christmas pop culture items including copies of the European release (I think?) movie poster for A Christmas Story, a Charlie in the Box toy, a couple vintage Daisy BB guns, and tons more.

movie poster

A Charlie in the Box misfit toy character from Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer.

collectible advertisement for BB gun in A Christmas Story.

Big Mike was extremely generous--he gave me a vintage TV dinner plate and a decades-old sign from Akron's Chapel Hill Mall, the birthplace of Archie the Talking Snowman (I wrote a local history book about Archie!).

This vintage Swanson's TV dinner tray (it's clean!) is made of thick aluminum--before they manufactured them in thin tin foil or cardboard. Thanks Big Mike!

Old school logo for Chapel Hill Mall--in east Akron.

Kris Kringle action figure from 1947's Miracle on 34th Street.

I even bought myself a Miracle on 34th Street action figure of Kris Kringle and the little girl he addresses in the 1947 movie who speaks Swedish. I'm excited to add this to my collection.

Super Nerd!

Saturday night's events included several wrestling bouts.

Several of the cosplay winners.

An enthusiastic Cleveland Browns fan--with a Browns/Leg Lamp t-shirt. Northeast Ohioans love A Christmas Story!

There were tons of superhero comics and merch but I was more attracted to TV collectibles, like these vintage M*A*S*H action figures.

Of course, the pop culture fest included celebrities, artists, vendors, and entertainment. There was also a cosplay contest, a zombie walk, bands, a charity auction, and even wrestlers. It was an eventful three days.

I won 2 lots in the charity auction--one lot included memorabilia from a now defunct professional soccer team called the Cleveland Force. The 2nd lot was a set of admission tickets to several local drive-in theaters. Guess where I'm going this summer?

And guess who I spotted walking through the venue? I recognized musician/songwriter Chris Butler--from the 1980s New Wave band The Waitresses. (Remember the 80s classic song "Christmas Wrapping"and the theme tune to TV series Square Pegs?) How cool is that? I connected with him over the phone when he shared with me his story about A Christmas Story that I included in Chapter 7 of my book Triple Dog Dare but it was great seeing him in person this weekend.

Me, Chris Butler, and his girlfriend Beth. RCPCFest 2017

If you didn't attend RCPCfest but would still like to get a signed copy of any of my books, you can order them directly from the publisher, on this website here. I hope you had an eventful Memorial Day weekend too!

Joanna Wilson is a TV researcher and book author specializing in Christmas entertainment. Her latest book "Triple Dog Dare: Watching--& Surviving--the 24-Hour Marathon of A Christmas Story" was released in 2016. Her books can be found at the publisher's website: 1701 press.com

Tuesday, May 9, 2017

TV Guide Christmas Quiz from 1996

If you follow me on Instagram (I'm @TistheSeasonTV--here's a link), then you know I've had my head stuck in old TV Guide magazines lately. Seeing the decades-old advertisements for Christmas TV movies, specials and animation gets my heart pounding with excitement. There are other bits of info and features in the magazines that catch my attention too. When I stumbled across a quiz that tests knowledge of Christmas episodes, I knew I wanted to share it here.

How well do you know Christmas TV episodes?

I discovered the quiz in the Nov. 30-Dec. 6, 1996 TV Guide magazine. It was written by Rick Schindler. There are twenty questions--and the answers are provided. You just match the question to the correct series episode. Want to play? I've provided the correct answers down below. Just match up the number to the letter. Isn't this fun?

Here's the quiz. Below, I've also written it out. Remember the quiz was written in 1996 so don't consider any series made in the twenty years since then. GOOD LUCK!

Strange occurrences:

1. An orphan who doesn't believe in Santa is magically transported to the North Pole.

2. A time traveler tries to stop a real-estate tycoon from tearing down a mission.

3. A comatose woman is found to be pregnant--despite also being a virgin.

4. A man is kissed under the mistletoe--by a horse.


5. A TV newsroom on Christmas Day.

6. A police station flooded with homeless people.

7. A Chicago hospital, where a doctor is having an emergency tonsillectomy.

8. A high-stakes poker game pitting brother against brother.

9. A Chicago hospital, where a singer is suffering from Alzheimer's disease.

10. Stranded in a bus station by a blizzard.

11. Stranded in an airport by a blizzard.

12. Stranded on a space station by mad scientists.

13. A Christmas party with a tropical theme in an overheated apartment.

14. The International Cottage of Flapjacks.


15. A bowler who pawns his bowling ball to buy a Christmas gift for his wife.

16. A former loading-dock foreman whose holiday guest is a draft evader.

17. An ex-astronaut who meets the Korean family he never knew he had.

18. A gentleman farmer who is forbidden to cut down a Christmas tree on his own property.

19. A small-town Scrooge who demands the sheriff arrest a local bootlegger.

20. A TV newswoman who receives the surprise gift of a pony.

Match the question to the Christmas episode:

A. Murphy Brown
B. Picket Fences
C. Friends
D. Northern Exposure
E. The Andy Griffith Show
F. Green Acres
G. All in the Family
H. Mystery Science Theater 3000
I. The Honeymooners
J. A Different World
K. Bewitched
L. Quantum Leap
M. Barney Miller
N. Home Improvement
O. Taxi
P. The Bob Newhart Show
Q. Mister Ed
R. The Mary Tyler Moore Show
T. Martin

While you're working on that quiz, I'll share an amusing cartoon I also found in TV Guide. This particular "That's EnterTOONment" strip was in the Dec. 9-15th, 2000 edition of the magazine. Its humor is aimed at Christmas TV entertainment fans like us.

(click on image to enlarge.)

Ready for the answers?
1. k
2. l
3. b
4. q
5. r
6. m
7. p
8. o
9. s
10. t
11. n
12. h
13. c
14. j
15. i
16. g
17. d
18. f
19. e
20. a

Give yourself 5 points for every correct answer. 0-20 points--Grinch. 25-45 points--Humbug. 50-70 points--Santa's Helper. 75-100 points--Wise Man.  How did you do? Thanks TV Guide.

Joanna Wilson is a TV researcher and book author specializing in Christmas entertainment. Her latest book "Triple Dog Dare: Watching--& Surviving--the 24-Hour Marathon of A Christmas Story" was released in 2016. Her books can be found at the publisher's website: 1701 press.com

Tuesday, April 4, 2017

Yes, Virginia, There is a Santa Claus (1974)

My photo of an advertisement from a 1974 TV Guide magazine. Remember watching this classic?

When I was growing up in the 1970s, Yes, Virginia, There is a Santa Claus was must-see TV during the holidays. The half-hour animated special has since fallen from most viewers' favorites list but re-watching it recently reminded me of its strengths and charm. Let's revisit this cartoon classic and see how it fits in with other Christmas entertainment.

Hand drawn images are used throughout this 1974 cartoon.

1974's Yes, Virginia, There is a Santa Claus was produced and directed by Bill Melendez, and produced and written by Mort Green. The following year, it was awarded an Emmy for Outstanding Children's Program. Melendez's name may sound familiar because he also produced and directed A Charlie Brown Christmas (1965). The animation in Yes, Virginia features an illustrative style (the images are hand drawn), a distinctive style I miss seeing in contemporary animation.

A teacher asking students to write a paper about Christmas--that sounds familiar!? (It's also a major story line in the 1983 movie A Christmas Story).
Virginia is voiced by Courtney Lemmon.

The story is inspired by the real-life Virginia O'Hanlon and a newspaper editorial from 1897 that ran in the New York Sun. This adaptation turns the newspaper's response to the 8-year old's letter to the editor into a more complete story. It begins with Virginia's schoolteacher asking the class to write a composition about Christmas for an upcoming holiday program. Young Virginia decides to write her paper about Santa Claus, confirming her belief in him. After hearing this, the other children in the classroom begin to laugh at her. Most of them confess that they no longer believe in Santa.

Virginia's classroom reflects the popular movement in the 70s to be more inclusive of minorities. Here we see Virginia's friends include Arthur, a Chinese-American, and Amy, an African-American.

Upset by their teasing, Virginia doesn't want to quit believing. She decides to ask some adults about Santa Claus to see what they have to say. After school, the children pass by Officer Reilly and ask him about Santa Claus. They stop by Shulman's candy store and ask Mr. Shulman. And, they ask Arthur's father Mr. Lee Fong, who runs his own Chinese food restaurant. The adults are each wise enough not to discourage the little girl from losing faith.

The Jewish candy store owner encourages Virginia to believe.

Virginia's father explains that we regularly believe in things we can't see.

But Virginia's questions about jolly Ole Saint Nick remain unanswered--has anyone ever seen or met Santa Claus? When Virginia returns home, she asks her father Dr. Philip O'Hanlon about believing in Santa even when no one she knows has seen him. Dr. O'Hanlon shows his daughter images with the stereopticon to make his point. Christopher Columbus sailed west for the New World although no one could see that the Earth was round. Thomas Edison developed the light bulb, Alexander Graham-Bell invented the telephone, and Marconi achieved wireless radio transmissions--although none of them had seen these things before. Virginia is inspired by these words but she is still a little skeptical. The newsboy on the corner selling papers recommends to Virginia that she write a letter to the editor of the New York Sun newspaper, an institution that prides itself on its truthful reputation: "If you see it in the Sun, it's so."

I love the period references in this turn-of-the-twentieth-century story, such as the stereopticon, the clothing, and diversity of residents dwelling in New York City.

Tommy, the newsboy who sells papers on the street corner.

Tommy convinces Mr. Church that it would be wise to respond to Virginia's letter.

Francis Church, the editor at the New York Sun, receives Virginia's letter and he's not sure how to respond. We see the man walking the streets of New York City experiencing holiday cheer from everyone he meets. Church's spirit is even given a nudge from Tommy, the newsboy who is Virginia's friend. Meanwhile, Virginia waits impatiently to see if her letter appears in the newspaper each day.

The teacher reads the editorial for all to hear.

Eventually, the school holiday program is held and the teacher discusses the children's writing assignment. As a surprise to Virginia, her letter appeared in the newspaper that day, and the teacher reads it and Mr. Church's response to the entire audience. For the full text of the original 1897 editorial written by Francis Church, click here. The inspiring words for adults and children alike still warm the heart--even after more than 100 years. Some things don't change.

Don't be surprised if you get a little choked up--just like Virginia!

A few things about this production stand out to me. I love the animation style here--the backgrounds have watercolor textures that are not just visually stimulating but evoke turn-of-the-century images that may have become water stained or faded with time. I also enjoy hearing the voice of Jim Backus as the narrator. Not only is he a familiar actor on television and film. but he voiced the title role in the 1962 animated classic Mr. Magoo's Christmas Carol. Another interesting voice role is Courtney Lemmon as young Virginia--she's the real-life daughter of Oscar-winning actor Jack Lemmon. And, the closing theme tune is performed by Jimmy Osmond, the youngest sibling of Donny and Marie Osmond. This cartoon is a slice right out of the 1970s.

At the end, this animated special reminds viewers that this story was taken from real-life events.

I also appreciate that this cartoon is inspired a true story. In 1897, an 8-year-old girl named Virginia O'Hanlon did write a letter to the New York Sun newspaper and she received an editorial response from Francis Church--words that are still meaningful and emotionally moving today.

Have you seen the 2009 TV special Yes Virginia?

Did you know that the real Virginia O'Hanlon appeared as a guest in the 1960 Kraft Music Hall/Perry Como Christmas special? And, in addition to the 1974 cartoon, the story has been adapted several more times for television, including the 1991 TV movie version starring Richard Thomas, Ed Asner, and Charles Bronson (yes, THAT Charles Bronson), and the charming 2009 animated TV special with Neil Patrick Harris and Jennifer Love Hewitt using their voices to bring the characters to life. Have you seen any of these adaptions of the story of Yes, Virginia?

Joanna Wilson is a TV researcher and book author specializing in Christmas entertainment. Her latest book "Triple Dog Dare: Watching--& Surviving--the 24-Hour Marathon of A Christmas Story" was released in 2016. Her books can be found at the publisher's website: 1701 press.com