Sunday, April 15, 2018

Reel Travels #8: Podcast with travel writer Lisa Iannucci, Virgin Traveler

I'm so excited to share that I joined travel writer Lisa Iannucci on her most recent podcast talking about our favorite film and TV pop culture travel destinations. Lisa is the author of the *new* book On Location: A Film and TV Lover's Travel Guide. Her book is so much fun--I've been pouring through it! It's one of those books that I'm going to keep in my collection for later reference too when I'm planning future excursions.

If you follow along on my website, you know I love to travel to pop culture destinations. I'm most attracted to ones with a Christmas entertainment tie-in. Click on each to return to the essay:

John Denver statue outside Denver, CO
Mork & Mindy house in Boulder, CO
Perry Como's statue in Canonsburg, PA
Dean Martin's hometown of Steubenville, OH
Rosemary Clooney's home in Augusta, KY
The Jimmy Stewart Museum in Indiana, PA
It's a Wonderful Life Museum in Seneca Falls, NY
Lucille Ball's birthday celebration in Jamestown, NY
A Christmas Story House & Museum in Cleveland, OH

2017 at the Christmas Story House & Museum 5k run.

Lisa found me on Twitter--and I immediately began following her too! We have a lot in common. So when she invited me on her podcast, I knew we would have quite a bit to talk about.

***Listen to Reel Travels episode #8:

It's a pretty significant discussion. We talk for more than 30 minutes. Feel free to join the conversation and leave comments here, or with Lisa. You can find her on Twitter: @VirginTraveler

At the Rosemary Clooney House museum in Augusta, KY in 2016. They claim to have the largest collection of White Christmas memorabilia there is.

Friday, April 13, 2018

Christmas Records, Part 2

One thing I learned early in my research for the encyclopedia Tis the Season TV, when you specialize in writing about Christmas on TV, you also research and write quite a bit about music. Christmas TV episodes, specials and movies are loaded with music and carols. As a pop culture junkie, I love picking up soundtracks to holiday programs and collecting vintage record albums. As a researcher, I often turn to these official releases for help in the identification of songs and for more information about the music. They're also just cool to have and display in my office.

My collection is focused on Christmas records with a film or television tie-in. I've shared some of collection before. Here's a link to Part 1. Here's the original post that started it all--the Christmas records from my trip to Detroit last year. And, here's a post about my Christmas CD collection. Below is more from my collection of records.

Free record for viewers of the 1970 animated TV special Christmas Is.

I've managed to collect three different printings of the free 7" plastic record that viewers could get for the asking from Lutheran Television Ministries with music and stories from the 1970 animated TV special Christmas Is. The record was advertised after the half-hour cartoon when it aired in syndication for several years. (I saw it airing in syndication where I live in as late as the early 2000s).   
Christmas Is features the characters of Benji and his sheepdog Waldo in their pursuit of the meaning of the yuletide season. Benji and Waldo are also at the center of the 1974 animated special The City That Forgot About Christmas, 1974's Easter Is, and 1976's Freedom Is (about the 4th of July).

Each of the records is slightly different. The first record (no date) Side 1: the songs "What Is Christmas?," "Christmas All Over the World," and "Christmas Is." Side 2: Hans Conried narrates two stories--Christmas as described by St. Luke (Luke 2:1-20) from the Bible, and Christmas as described by St. Matthew (Matthew 2:1-12) from the Bible.

The "preview" mentioned on Record 2 (above) is for a comic strip promoting the animated special Easter Is.

Record 2 (dated 1970, 1973) Side 1: the songs "What Is Christmas?," "Christmas All Over the World," and "Christmas Is." Side 2: an interview with the stars Benji and Waldo. Benji speaks--and Waldo barks--about their characters, the making of Christmas Is, and its appeal to international viewers.

The cover of Record 3 includes a cut-out with the characters from The City That Forgot About Christmas.

Record 3 (dated 1970, 1974) Side 1: the songs "Overture," "You Can't Stop Christmas," and "Chip, Chip, Chip Away." Side 2: the songs "Christmas All Over the World," and "Christmas Is." The inside of the cover includes the song lyrics for the songs. What a keepsake!

12" record of The Alcoa Singers performing selections from the musical The Stingiest Man in Town.

The cover artwork with the cartoon characters first attracted my eye. Those characters are from the 1978 Rankin/Bass animated TV special The Stingiest Man in Town--but this is not the soundtrack. Instead this is the Alcoa Singers--a group of volunteers from Alcoa employees that perform for company events as well as community functions--performing songs from the original 1956 TV musical The Stingiest Man in Town, sponsored by Alcoa. I wrote an essay about that production--see it again HERE.

The Stingiest Man in Town features music by Fred Spielman and lyrics by Janice Torre in a spectacular adaptation of Dickens' A Christmas Carol. It is this production that was then adapted for the 1978 Rankin/Bass animated special. This 1979 record features the Alcoa Singers performing songs from that musical, as well as other traditional yuletide carols. What a quirky treat!

Fans of the movie The Apartment (starring Jack Lemmon and Shirley MacLaine)--do you know about this musical?

I've been looking for this record for a while! Finally, I found it. Promises, Promises is the Broadway musical adapted from the Academy Award-winning 1960 movie The Apartment. If you remember the movie, it includes several Christmas scenes. You may be interested to know that the musical adaptation includes holiday tunes! Yup. There's more: the music was written by Burt Bacharach, lyrics by Hal David, and Jerry Orbach was in the original cast and is featured on this recording. I know--right? Back to the holiday tunes--yes, this musical includes the songs "Turkey Lurkey Time" and "Christmas Day." Bacharach fans will recognize "I'll Never Fall in Love Again" and "Promises, Promises" from this musical too. This 1968 12" is from United Artists Records.

Soundtrack to movie Lilies of the Field, directed by Ralph Nelson. Epic Records 1964.

In my collection, I also have the original soundtrack to Academy Award-winning 1963 movie Lilies of the Field. The music was composed and conducted by Jerry Goldsmith but the vocals are by Jester Hairston. I have this soundtrack in my Christmas collection because there was a sequel made in 1979, the made-for-TV movie Christmas Lilies of the Field. Billy Dee Williams takes over the role of Homer Smith--the role that won Sidney Poitier his first Oscar. I've written about Christmas Lilies of the Field on this website before, click HERE to see it again. The sequel also includes a version of the the gospel song "Amen" originally found on this soundtrack. In the 1963 movie, Jester Hairston provides the vocals for Poitier on the song "Amen." Hairston is a very noteworthy artist--not only did he write the popular Christmas carol "Mary's Boy Child" but her sang it in the 1987 Christmas of the TV sitcom Amen in which he played the regular Rolly Forbes! I've written about this 1987 Christmas episode HERE.

Columbia Records (1967)

Ed Sullivan Presents Music of Christmas is a pleasant album of orchestra and chorus music. The TV variety host selected the songs for the album--what a sweet gig! The music was produced by Ted Macero, arranged by John Gregory, with musical consultant Ray Bloch. The songs range from the secular ("Rudolph, the Red Nosed Reindeer," "I Saw Mommy Kissing Santa Claus," "Jingle Bells," "White Christmas" and more) to the sacred classics ("The Little Drummer Boy," "Three Wise Men, Wise Men Three," O Holy Night," "O Bambino," "The First Noel," the English carol "Bethlehem," and more).

I like that Sullivan's photo is on the album cover. Although I'm too young to have watched the variety show when it originally aired, I did watch it on PBS in the 1990s and I've watched DVDs of the highlights of the original program. The Christmas music clips from The Ed Sullivan Show are some of my favorites--including The Supremes singing "My Favorite Things" on his show in 1966. So stylish. See what I mean?

 Bob and Doug McKenzie's Great White North. Mercury Records (1981)

I was a teenager in the 1980s, so, of course, I'm a big fan of SCTV and the characters Bob & Doug McKenzie (Rick Moranis and Dave Thomas). Great White North is their comedy album with  spoken word tracks and a couple songs. The hit song from the album was "Take Off" featuring fellow Canadian Geddy Lee. But my interest is in the song "Twelve Days of Christmas" in which the lyrics enumerating the gifts given by a true love are instead re-written to reflect the beer-drinking, toque-wearing, jelly donut-eating Canadian brothers' lifestyle. I'm not sure this song gets much radio play anymore during the holidays but it was a popular parody of the traditional song during the 1980s, based on characters from an influential sketch comedy TV show.

Soap Opera Christmas. Pink Wings Productions (1982)

Soap Opera Christmas is very easy to find in thrift stores where I live, and I have several copies. With a little digging, I discovered several artists on the album are originally from Northeast Ohio! Just as the title suggests, this is a collection of Christmas songs performed by soap opera stars. Side A: Candice Earley (All My Children) sings "O Holy Night/O Happy Day," Allan Fawcett (The Edge of Night) performs "Christmas Is You," Randy Hamilton (Texas) sings "Merry Christmas, Darling," Lori Loughlin (The Edge of Night) sings "Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer," and John McCafferty (Texas) rocks out on "Jingle Bell Rock." Side 2: Mary Gordon Murray (One Life to Live) performs "Blue Christmas," Tom Nielsen (Guiding Light) sings "Winter Wonderland," Frank Runyeon (As the World Turns) sings "White Christmas," John Wesley Shipp (Guiding Light) sings "Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas," and Darnell Williams (All My Children) sings "The Christmas Song." ***Several of these actors have been on other soaps too, however I've credited the soap they were appearing in when the record was produced in 1982.

For those paying attention, Lori Loughlin continues to have a very acting successful career. Christmas fans may have seen her recently in the TV movie Every Christmas Has a Story (2016), and the two yuletide installments (2016 and 2017) of the series When Calls the Heart on the Hallmark Channel.

Caedmon Publishers (1957)

I just love this stylish woodblock print-inspired album cover art. Regular readers of this website know I'm a huge fan of Dylan Thomas' "A Child's Christmas in Wales." Click HERE to return to my discussion of the 1987 Christmas TV special adapted from Thomas' story. I've read Thomas' story before, and listened to Youtube clips of the writer reading his own story. But I also have my own copy of the artist reciting his wonderful prose poem "A Child's Christmas in Wales." This album features Dylan Thomas's recitation, recorded February 22, 1952 in New York--arguably his most famous recording. I cherish this record.

RCA/Victor (1952) box and book.

Another highlight of my collection is this 1952 soundtrack. This is a recording of the very first Hallmark Hall of Fame production, 1951's Amahl and the Night Visitors--the first opera commissioned especially for television. The 1952 33 1/3 record comes in its own box and includes a booklet with photos from the 1951 TV production, a history written by its composer Gian-Carlo Menotti, and the Libretto. When my partner came home from the record store with this package for me, I cried! I feel blessed to have my own copy, complete with booklet. THIS is what Christmas TV history looks like.

Do you own any of these musical titles? Do you have other records in your collection that were adapted from Christmas programs? Share the titles below.

Joanna Wilson is a TV researcher and book author specializing in Christmas entertainment. More about the TV programs mentioned here can be found in her book "Tis the Season TV: the Encyclopedia of Christmas-themed Episodes, Specials, and Made-for-TV Movies." 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

*Support this website and its research by purchasing the books at 1701

Friday, March 23, 2018

Christmas Books--Part 3

Last year I shared some of the Christmas books in my collection. I'm always looking for books that inspire Christmas movies and TV specials, and books created from Christmas TV specials and movies. Did you see Part 1 and Part 2? Click the links to see those again. Those earlier essays were so popular, I thought I'd share more of my collection.

Oversized paperback from Hardlake Animated Pictures Corp. (1981)

Christmas music collector Jeff Fox gave me this book. Thanks Jeff! It was adapted from the 1981 animated Christmas TV special B.C.: A Christmas Special based on the characters from the popular newspaper comic strip by Johnny Hart. The full color pages of the book were taken directly from the images created for the cartoon TV special. This book is noteworthy for how rare and nearly forgotten the animated special has become over the years.

Triad Publication comic book (1987)

Pardon my fingers but I wanted to capture the inside double page spread of original art work.

Speaking of comics, I also have the 1987 comic book from Triad Publications which is the Christmas edition of The Honeymooners. The Christmas one is #3 of 24 in the Honeymooners comic series. The story in the comic book is not adapted from one of the many Honeymooners Christmas TV programs. Instead, it is Ralph Kramden and Alice in a version of It's a Wonderful Life. What an amazing crossover, right?

Hardbound book from Dutton Children's Books (2006)

Another adaptation of the 1946 movie It's a Wonderful Life is this picture book version for children. It is written by Jimmy Hawkins--the same man who played Tommy Bailey in the original movie! This adaptation tells a similar heartwarming story but from the perspective of George Baily's son Tommy. Clarence the angel is instead helping young Tommy come to understand his importance to the family and community. Fascinating, huh?

If you're curious, I wrote a mini-review of the book The Greatest Gift by Philip Van Doren Stern--the original inspiration for the movie It's a Wonderful Life. Click HERE to see that review again.

Deluxe storybook from Santa Claus: The Movie (1985)

If you recall from the earlier essay Christmas Books--Part 2, I shared four other books I have in my collection from Santa Claus: The Movie. Two of them were premiums from McDonald's Happy Meals (I'm still missing two from that series), another was a hardbound Weekly Reader edition, and the fourth was a pop-up book. Now I have a fifth book added to my collection. This is an oversize hardbound book--the deluxe storybook version. It's the best of all of them. The photos inside are all color stills taken the movie. Thanks again to Jeff who also passed this on to me.

Look at that title page--David Huddleston in color!

paperback by Harper Keypoint (1988) edition

Another gift, this paperback book is a later edition of the Barbara Robinson best-seller The Best Christmas Pageant Ever first published in 1972. This charming story about an inexperienced pageant director managing a family of misfit children in a Nativity play was adapted into the 1983 Christmas special, starring Loretta Swit and Fairuza Balk. Check out my discussion of that TV special HERE.

Soft cover Golden Book (1993)

Another awesome storybook is this children's picture book of the 1992 movie The Muppet Christmas Carol. All the color photos inside are taken directly from stills of the movie. Nice.

Hardbound Golden Book (1982)

Another second-hand purchase was A Sesame Street Christmas. It is not adapted from any of the many Sesame Street Christmas programs but rather a collection of stories, poems, recipes, and crafts for children at Christmas. What a nostalgic treat!

I just like looking at the pictures! A Sesame Street Christmas (1982)

Hardbound from Running Press (2013) with sound clip buttons from the movie along the right side.

Last December, I finally had a chance to meet A Christmas Story superfan Tyler Schwartz in person. You may remember I wrote about Schwartz, his documentary film Road Trip for Ralphie, and this book A Christmas Story Treasury in my project Triple Dog Dare in 2016. We had corresponded by email and phone but meeting him in person was a treat! Schwartz attended the festivities in Cleveland, Ohio surrounding the Christmas Story House & Museum 5k race. I wrote about meeting him HERE. I picked up another copy of his book and got it signed by him. Actor Tedde Moore who played the schoolteacher Miss Shields in the movie was also there and I got her to sign it too! Have you seen this book about the making of the 1983 movie and its cultural impact? It's a fantastic read.

Music book from The Tiny Tree (1975)

But the Christmas book I'm most excited about--and one of my more recent acquisitions--is this music book from The Tiny Tree. The Tiny Tree is an animated TV special created by DePatie-Freleng starring the voice talents of Buddy Epsen, Allan Melvin, Janet Waldo and Paul Winchell. Over the years, this charming half-hour special has fallen into obscurity.

This book is essentially a music book for piano and vocals.

The music for The Tiny Tree was written by Johnny Marks--known for writing the iconic Christmas hits from the 1964 animated TV special Rudolph, the Red-Nosed Reindeer, and other Christmas classics.

The book contains more than the sheet music for the animated special's outstanding music.

Roberta Flack performed the main themes in The Tiny Tree.

The book also includes lyrics for each song. This is awesome!

This oversize music book is a treasure for fans of The Tiny Tree. I didn't even know it existed until I saw it on-line for sale.

Do you own any of these titles? Do you have other books in your collection that inspired Christmas episodes, specials or movies, or were adapted from Christmas programs? Share the titles below.

Joanna Wilson is a TV researcher and book author specializing in Christmas entertainment. More about the TV programs mentioned here can be found in her book "Tis the Season TV: the Encyclopedia of Christmas-themed Episodes, Specials, and Made-for-TV Movies." 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

Monday, February 26, 2018

Diff'rent Strokes Christmas (1982)

Happy February! It's Black History Month again. I enjoy honoring BHM each year on my blog because there are many noteworthy Christmas episodes, specials, and TV movies with exceptional African-American cast members. There are also numerous outstanding or touching Christmas TV story lines aimed at black audiences. Please indulge me while I highlight another of my favorites.

Kimberly and Willis need their money to buy gifts too.
The sitcom Diff'rent Strokes produced two Christmas installments, a clip show in 1978 and this second one in 1982. The fifth season episode "Santa's Helper" sees young Arnold in need of money to buy Christmas presents. Rather than ask his father for money, Arnold looks for a way he can earn it.

When Arnold gives a few coins, he's told "You can rest assured it will go to someone needy."

On the street, Arnold meets Mr. Jones, a bell-ringing Santa Claus collecting money for an orphaned children's fund. Mr. Jones is sympathetic to Arnold's need for money and once he learns that Arnold lives on Park Avenue, he invites the boy to join him in his charity drive. Jones promises Arnold a small percentage of the charity money collected by Christmas.

"Give 'til it hurts for the homeless squirts." Arnold draws awareness for an orphaned children's fund.
Happy to raise awareness for a good cause, Arnold eagerly applies himself to the task. Jones and Arnold sing Christmas carols and ring bells for the people on the sidewalk.

Hey--that's ARNOLD!?

When Mr. Drummond walks past the street corner Santas, he recognizes his son behind the beard. Young Arnold is pleased to show his father that he's working for his Christmas money.

Drummond has hired Jones to work as Santa on Christmas Eve for his family.

On Christmas Eve, the family gathers around the Christmas tree excited to see the brightly decorated packages underneath. A surprise guest arrives and it's Mr. Jones as Santa Claus delivering Mr. Drummond's gifts for Willis, Kimberly, Arnold, and the housekeeper Pearl. Despite being paid well for his appearance, Jones returns in the middle of the night to rob the Drummond home of its gifts and valuables. When the family awakens early Christmas morning, they are shocked and saddened by the theft. Mr. Drummond explains that they have insurance to cover the missing valuables but Kimberly, Willis and Arnold feel let down by the thieves' lack of holiday spirit.

One thing that wasn't stolen: Arnold's gift for Mr. Jones.

In the afternoon, Arnold reports to work for the last day to collect for the orphans' fund. Mr. Jones listens as Arnold explains what has happened to his family and how they feel about missing out on exchanging gifts. Mr. Jones remarks that whoever stole from the Drummond family must be someone who has great needs. Yet Arnold won't accept this justification--he explains he has known poverty himself and knows the ethical difference between stealing and living without. Despite his frustration, Arnold carries on with his last day at work.

The thief can't steal their holiday spirit.

As Christmas day continues, the family gathers for the holiday meal. They decide to cheer themselves up by discussing what gifts they intended to exchange. Feeling better, they hear the door bell ring to find the Christmas tree, their gifts and valuables being returned to them. This surprise is welcomed by everyone but the robber's behavior is mysterious--who would do this and then change their mind?

The note reveals the location of the household valuables that were taken.

Drummond tells Jones he knows he's a compassionate man.

Not a mystery to Mr. Drummond, we see him take one more visit to see Mr. Jones on Christmas day. Drummond thanks Jones for returning the stolen items and explains that he's offering him a second chance at life to change his ways. He reveals that he won't share his name with the police. A grateful Jones gladly returns to his charity work for the rest of the day.

This yuletide episode offers Arnold a chance to utter a variation on his catchphrase, this time declaring, "Wha-choo talkin' 'bout Santa?"

I remember this uncomplicated holiday story felt satisfying when I was a young viewer. For those not old enough to remember the original run of this sitcom, the series was a TV phenomenon beyond explanation. Young Gary Coleman was a charming, larger-than-life actor that helped popularize this family show, and many other TV projects including TV movies and a Saturday morning cartoon series. I still see t-shirts for sale emblazoned with the Diff'rent Strokes catchphrase "Wha-choo talkin' 'bout Willis?"

Looking back on this series from a 21st century perspective, a wealthy white family adopting two poor black kids from Harlem seems like an incredibly patronizing scenario to base a show upon. I think we can still honor the series for bringing young African-American characters into America's living room each week at a time when it was still all too rare.

Garrett Morris as the down-on-his-luck Santa Claus.

Another reason to remember this episode is the appearance of comedian/actor Garrett Morris as Mr. Jones. His Santa Claus convinces us that Mr. Drummond was right to offer him mercy. You know Morris--he's been on TV and in film quite a bit. Not only has he regularly appeared on Martin, The Jamie Foxx Show, and more recently on 2 Broke Girls, but he was one of the original cast members of Saturday Night Live. His outstanding performance of the song "Winter Wonderland" on the 1975 SNL Christmas show is one of the classic sketches that is often repeated each year in their holiday clip show collections. (I wish I could share the video but it's not available.)

Left to right: Chevy Chase, Dan Ackroyd, John Belushi and Garrett Morris. The "Winter Wonderland" song and dance performance also includes Gilda Radner, Jane Curtin, Candice Bergen, and Laraine Newman.

How do feel about the fifth season Christmas episode of Diff'rent Strokes?  Got a favorite early 80s sitcom holiday episode? Feel free to share your comments below.

Joanna Wilson is a TV researcher and book author specializing in Christmas entertainment. More about the TV programs mentioned here can be found in her book "Tis the Season TV: the Encyclopedia of Christmas-themed Episodes, Specials, and Made-for-TV Movies." 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

Sunday, February 18, 2018

Top 5 Rankin/Bass Christmas Villains

This essay is a part of the Classic TV Villain Blogathon hosted by the Classic TV Blog Association. Click HERE to view the complete blogathon schedule. Read the other essays too--they're good!

We just love to hate our favorite villains, don't we? Christmas entertainment is no different. I thought it would be fun to rank everyone's favorite evildoers in Rankin/Bass holiday animation. You know Rankin/Bass--they're the producer/directors of 20 animated Christmas and New Year's classics, among their many projects. They created both cel animation (the traditional style that Saturday morning cartoons were created in) and stop motion animation (the technique they charmingly referred to as "Animagic"). Some of these TV characters are well-known, but I'm hoping I surprise you and stimulate your childhood memories for a couple of these. Is there a Rankin/Bass animated Christmas villain you would add to this list?

Both sing about themselves, "I'm too much!"

#5. The brothers Heat Miser and Snow Miser, from The Year Without a Santa Claus (1974)

The personification of the natural forces of cold and warmth, the delinquent brothers Heat Miser and Snow Miser are trouble for Mrs. Claus and the elves Jingle and Jangle. The argumentative, name-calling siblings are territorial, petty, jealous, irrational, and uncompromising. When they refuse to cooperate, Mrs. Claus goes straight to their mother--Mother Nature, that is--and tattles on them! These TV villains overshadow the plot of this Christmas special, which concerns itself with the two elves and Mrs. Claus finding someone with enough Christmas spirit that Santa won't cancel Christmas. Who cares, right? TV viewers just want to see more of the crazy, misbehaving Miser brothers.

These two villains are prominent because they are featured in an extremely catchy tune--you know you want to sing along...."I'm Mr. Green Christmas, I'm Mr. Sun..." They also earned their own spin-off animated special, 2008's A Miser Brothers' Christmas. To be fair, you can't really call yourself a fan of these villains until you've seen Harvey Fierstein and Michael McKean play the brothers in the 2006 live-action movie adaption of The Year Without a Santa Claus.

"If that hat is magic, I want it BACK!"

#4. Professor Hinkle, from Frosty the Snowman (1969)

Professor Hinkle is not mentioned in the original lyrics of the song, however this villain was created for the animated TV special as explanation for the snowman's magic hat. If you'll remember, Hinkle is the entertainment for the class Christmas party, described as "the worst magician in the world." When he fails at his magic performance, he throws away his hat which brings Frosty to life--only for Hinkle to re-claim ownership of the hat regardless of the consequences. When the children plead with him to let Frosty live, he refuses and calls them silly. Professor Hinkle's villainy also includes being mean, nasty, and greedy (he sees himself becoming a millionaire magician with the magic hat). He's also relentless in his pursuit of Frosty and Karen on their journey up north for the snowman's comfort and survival.

Villainy, thy name is Hinkle!

Professor Hinkle's most villainous act: he's the one who shuts the greenhouse nursery door on Karen and the snowman, trapping them inside and causing Frosty to melt! Don't worry--Santa Claus comes to the rescue and helps re-freeze Frosty. When Hinkle still wants to claim his hat, taking the life from the snowman, Santa threatens the magician telling him he'll never receive another Christmas present as long as he lives! Whoa. No one wants to be on Santa's naughty list.

NOT Henry Kissinger--it's the Burgermeister Meisterburger.

#3. Burgermeister Meisterburger, from Santa Claus is Comin' to Town (1970)

The Rankin/Bass Christmas villain with the name most fun to pronounce, the Burgermeister Meisterburger is the mayor of Sombertown who hates toys. Not only is he mean and grouchy, he refuses to help the orphaned baby Claus. When he trips on a rubber duckie on the steps, he breaks his funny bone and outlaws toys for everyone. The Burgermeister Meisterburger is a tyrant, and an abuser of power. His extreme behavior leads him to light a bonfire of a pile of confiscated toys. His villainy is so ruthless, he turns the rebel toymaker Kris Kringle into a local hero.

The despot is palatable in this Christmas special because he's also portrayed as foolish--he keeps stabbing his own broken foot with his cane, and he's ultimately ineffective at his job. His unreasonable hatred for toys also makes this villain seem ridiculous. Has modern medicine figured out how to repair broken funny bones yet?

King of the Kossacks Kubla Kraus.

Rankin/Bass created another tyrant in 1979's Jack Frost.  Kubla Kraus is the nasty, greedy tyrant of January Junction where Jack Frost wants to live. Kraus owns every house, the only horse, all the gold, and he wants Elisa to be his wife--the same woman that inspires Jack Frost to become human. One thing I love about Kubla Kraus is his steampunk styling--he has an iron-works horse and an iron ventriloquist dummy friend. This villain shares much in common with the Burgermeister Meisterburger, including an Eastern European accent and despotism. His name is also fun to repeat over and over.

Yikes! The terrifying Winter Warlock

#2. Winter Warlock, from Santa Claus is Comin' to Town (1970)

The Winter Warlock is described as a strange hermit of the North who lives alone in his ghostly palace of ice where he practices his spells and incantations. He threatens those who pass through his snowy territory, frightening the Kringle elves from delivering their toys. Years later, when Kris Kringle finally musters his courage to pass through, a wicked tree under Winter's power comes to life and grabs Kris. I still remember how scary the Winter Warlock was when I was a child. If you peek though your fingers while watching, you'll see Kris befriends the warlock, offering his a choo-choo train he's made, melting the evildoer's frozen heart. To cement the warlock's transformation from bad to good, Kris teaches him the song "Put One Foot in Front of the Other" to instruct him to take small steps toward his goals. It's a lesson we can all sing along with.

The Leprechaun's Christmas Gold draws upon Irish folklore to tell its Christmas story.

Rankin/Bass knew a good villain when they created one. You can see echos of the Winter Warlock in the banshee Old Mag the Hag in 1981's The Leprechaun's Christmas Gold. She's an evil fairy in search of gold for Christmas however, she's not as easily put off as Winter. She can only be tamed by failing to acquire the gold by Christmas Eve, or by Saint Patrick himself.

King Winterbolt is part magical being and part tyrant, but ALL villain.
TV viewers can see the influence of the Winter Warlock in the character of King Winterbolt from Rankin/Bass' 1979 theatrical release animated movie Rudolph & Frosty's Christmas in July too. Again, the appearance is similar. King Winterbolt is a tyrannical ruler of the North who destroys or drives away anyone who defies him, by using the magic in his ice scepter. He wants the love children have of Santa Claus for himself, so he sets out to replace Santa on his annual toy delivery. King Winterbolt's sleigh is pulled by a team of snakes. You read that right--snakes! What some villains will do for power!

King Winterbolt also has two dragons under his power to help him create a storm of snow and fog. How cool is that?

Gggrrrhhh! He's kind of like a white, furry King Kong with blue skin.

#1. The Abominable Snow Monster, from Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer (1964)

This may come as no surprise, but Rankin/Bass' number one villain of course, appears in their most popular TV special--and arguably, the most important Christmas TV special of all time. Not only has this TV special aired in prime time on a major network every year since it was created, but it still earns significant ratings each year too. We love to fear the Abominable Snow Monster, or the Bumble as Yukon Cornelius calls him.

What do we know about the Bumble? Nearly all of our information about him comes from the prospector. The Bumble is mean, nasty, and hates everything that has to do with Christmas. He has one weakness: he sinks (or doesn't like to swim). The Bumble prefers pork to deer meat (remember Hermey's lure of oinking like a pig?) And, in the end, we learn that Bumbles bounce.

The strongest of villains require an extraordinary hero to bring them under control.

Twice we see the narrator Sam the Snowman shake in fright from telling the story of the Abominable Snow Monster. Not only is this Christmas villain a scary creature, but he's only overcome once his teeth are removed! I remember this frightened me quite a bit as a child. Are there any other TV villains who are conquered by a wannabe dentist? I'm doubtful.

King Awgwa looks like he could stand to have a few teeth pulled.

Rankin/Bass created a a couple more Christmas villains worth mentioning even if they failed to make the top five list. In 1985's The Life & Adventures of Santa Claus, the Awgwas are described as a villainous group that live in the Rocky Mountains and influence children to do bad things. They can also make themselves invisible. King Awgwa throws a rock through Santa's window with the message "no more toys." Later they use their invisibility to steal toys from Santa, preventing him for delivering them to children.

Christmas monster? yup.

Winter is Here--in 1985 too.

My favorite is the three-eyed one!

As scary and intimidating as they look, these foes are easily defeated when the Immortals battle them on behalf of Santa Claus. To be considered serious villains, the Awgwas need to wage better defenses. Just saying.

Aeon the giant vulture has potential as a TV villain.

And, 1975's Rudolph's Shiny New Year includes the malevolent Aeon the Terrible, a giant vulture that "terrorizes the sands of time." Rudolph is helping Father Time find the baby Happy New Year who has run away because he's hurt by everyone laughing at his protruding ears. But Aeon knows that keeping Happy from ringing in the new year on Dec. 31st will stop time and allow the vulture to live--not just a thousand years--but forever.

He even captures the baby new year twice--but ultimately fails as a convincing Christmas/New Year's villain.

Aeon doesn't make the top five villain list either because he "laughs himself silly," and falls out of his nest and down the cliff when he sees the baby Happy New Year's ears. Rendered helpless, Rudolph is able to rescue the baby and get him to Father Time before midnight. Successful TV villains need to keep their giggling better under control.

Do you have a favorite Rankin/Bass Christmas villain I didn't mention? Be sure to check out the other essays on TV villains in the Classic TV Blog Association blogathon.

Joanna Wilson is a TV researcher and book author specializing in Christmas entertainment. More about the TV programs mentioned here can be found in her book "Tis the Season TV: the Encyclopedia of Christmas-themed Episodes, Specials, and Made-for-TV Movies." 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