About Christmas TV History

Monday, June 3, 2013

A Pink Christmas (1978)

How long has it been since you've seen this 1978 animated Christmas special?

For my last post this Spring discussing adaptations of two of O.Henry's Christmas short stories, I'd like to share A Pink Christmas, a half-hour animated TV special that features the character of the Pink Panther.   It should not be confused with the more recent animated TV special A Very Pink Christmas which debuted on the ABCFamily Channel's 25 Days of Christmas marathon in 2011.  Though both specials feature the Pink Panther, the 1978 DePatie-Freleng produced animated special takes inspiration from O.Henry's story "The Cop and The Anthem."  In case you missed them, I've already shared about the 1952 movie O.Henry's Full House which includes a vignette adapted from "The Cop and The Anthem," and the 1954 Christmas episode of the Red Skelton Show.

A Pink Christmas begins with the panther waking up cold and hungry on a park bench in New York City.  Sound familiar?

Just as in most of the earlier cartoon shorts and in the television series, the Pink Panther here is silent, that is, he speaks no dialogue.  In this story, the Pink Panther finds himself cold and hungry on Christmas Eve in Central Park at the turn-of-the-twentieth-century.  He makes several attempts to find food or to earn money to buy food, but each time he fails. 

The Pink Panther tries to earn money by taking on a job working as Santa Claus at a local department store.

 Pink not only tries to earn money by working as a department store Santa Claus but he also tries to earn money by shoveling snow.  Down on his luck, Pink is even hungry enough to steal food--and at one point he even stands in line at a soup kitchen for a hot meal.  But each time, Pink comes up empty handed.

Desperate for something to eat, Pink is caught stealing the carrot from a snowman's nose!

The Pink Panther thinks he's about to receive a free meal in a fancy restaurant.
After pressing his nose up against a restaurant window, the hungry Pink is asked by a wealthy doctor to join him for dinner inside.  Once seated and about to order, Pink's host suddenly leaves to assist in a medical emergency, leaving the poor panther once again hungry and without a meal.

Pink tries to gain access to the jail where he sees others receiving Christmas dinners.

In a local police station, the Pink Panther sees several men led into jail cells and fed Christmas dinners.  Wanting a dinner for himself, Pink tries to enter the jail but is sent away.  Nothing seems to be going right for the poor hungry cat.  But Pink finally finds promise in a donut he finds rolling down the street--and he sees another poor soul, a hungry puppy, that needs the meal just as much as he does.  The kind-hearted panther does the only thing he feels he can--and gives the puppy his only morsel of food.

Pink gives the puppy his only food.

On this magical Christmas Eve night as the two new friends share a park bench, a Christmas tree and a bountiful feast is delivered to them, courtesy of Santa Claus.

At least Pink has made a new friend.

It turns out Santa witnessed Pink's sacrifice and rewards both of the hungry ones with a little magic.
The soundtrack for this animated program is outstanding.  Though the entire story is told without dialogue, the story unfolds against Henry Mancini's familiar jazz tune "Pink Panther Theme" in several variations.  It is also accompanied by three songs sung by a children's choir which adds the perfect tone for a children's Christmas story.  The songs are "Yule Tide Spirit" with music by Doug Goodwin and lyrics by Johnny Bradford, and "Jolly Holiday" and "Wonderful Wintertime" with music and lyrics by Doug Goodwin.  The choir's songs are performed by The Children of Saint Michaels Day School Choir, from Studio City, California. 

After being chased from his Santa job, Pink tries to escape from the manager by passing himself off as a discounted toy in the store's toy department.

While not a faithful adaptation of O.Henry's "The Cop and The Anthem," this 1978 Christmas story does take inspiration from the original short story.  The Pink Panther, much like Soapy in O.Henry's tale, makes numerous attempts by any means necessary to acquire food for his empty belly.  Several times we see the Pink Panther abandoning his plan for his next meal as he's being pursued by a policeman or another person of authority.  Clearly, the hungry Pink is a good-natured cat that wants to avoid trouble.  When Pink finally wants to get arrested and get sent to jail to receive a decent meal, this is when the cat finds he can't attract the attention of the officers. 

Or, perhaps the twist is found in Pink's generous gesture to offer his only meal to another hungry soul, just like himself.  However, this animated special has a much more uplifting ending when Santa provides both the puppy and the panther with a special Christmas dinner and a beautiful decorated tree as a part of the magic of the season. 

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