About Christmas TV History

Wednesday, July 31, 2013

Animation Celebration: Recap

This concludes Christmas in July: Animation Celebration!  July is the special time of the year that I turn the blog over to my readers.  All month long I have been posting essays written by people eager to share their passion and memories for animated Christmas entertainments.  I want to thank all the readers who took the time and effort to comment on other writers' essays.  In case you may have missed any of the guest posts this month, below is a complete list of links.  Merry Christmas in July!

Polar Express

Mr. Magoo's Christmas Carol

A Cosmic Christmas

Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer

The Little Drummer Boy

Santa Claus is Comin' to Town

'Twas the Night Before Christmas

The Simpsons' "Marge Be Not Proud"

Batman: The Brave and the Bold's "Invasion of the Secret Santas!"
Winnie the Pooh and Christmas, Too

The Small One

Mickey's Christmas Carol

A Charlie Brown Christmas 

A Garfield Christmas

Santa and the Three Bears

Yogi's First Christmas

A Very Merry Cricket

Tuesday, July 30, 2013

Animation Celebration: A Very Merry Cricket

Welcome back to Christmas in July: Animation Celebration!  July is the special time of the year that I turn the blog over to my readers.  All month long I'm posting essays written by people eager to share their passion and memories for animated Christmas entertainments.

Today's essay is the last original essay--tomorrow I'll post a recap of the month's guest posts so you'll be able to see if you missed any of them.  Thanks to everyone who participated--I hope you got as much out of it as I did.  Isn't it fun to see what animated holiday stories are important to others? 

Today's essay is on 1973's A Very Merry Cricket.  How long has it been since you've re-watched this one?  This guest post comes to us from Dominic, the editor/publisher of 1701 Press, who also wrote the essay on his favorite Simpsons Christmas episode earlier this month.

A Very Merry Cricket is the sequel to the 1973 animated short, A Cricket in Times Square. Chuck Jones--the animator behind the Christmas TV classic, How the Grinch Stole Christmas--adapted A Cricket in Times Square for television from George Selden’s story and Garth Williams’ illustrations. It’s the story of Chester C. Cricket, a Connecticut cricket, who, through a series of mishaps, finds himself in New York City. He’s taken in as a pet by a boy in a subway newsstand, and befriended by a stray cat, Harry, and his best friend, Tucker the mouse. Chester saves the newsstand’s sagging business when it’s discovered that he has an incredible musical gift and all of New York is captivated by his ability to play beautiful music.

A nightmarish and expressionistic New York is getting Christmas all wrong!

In A Very Merry Cricket, Chuck Jones reunites Chester with Tucker and Harry to rekindle the spirit of Christmas in New York. The city has become a nightmarish place--rife with chaos, commercialism, and selfishness. Harry and Tucker decide to bring Chester back from Connecticut to the city for Christmas, believing that his music will inspire the city dwellers to be kinder--like his music did the first time Chester played for them.

Harry the cat, Tucker the mouse, and Chester C. Cricket reunite in Connecticut.

So, the cat and mouse make the trip to Connecticut to enlist the help of their friend. The trip back to New York proves somewhat tricky, with the trio having to improvise to avoid an aggressive bulldog and a threadbare stray cat who wants to make Tucker the main course in his Christmas dinner. When they return to New York, they find it too loud and chaotic for anyone to hear Chester’s music. In a stroke of Christmas luck, a power overload causes a blackout and Chester’s beautiful playing miraculously brings out the best in everyone again.

A creepy stray cat tries to eat Tucker.

A Very Merry Cricket is every bit as charming as A Cricket in Times Square, and it’s filled with Chuck Jones’ unforgettable style. I grew up loving How the Grinch Stole Christmas, and A Very Merry Cricket could have easily been a favorite companion piece to The Grinch. Watching A Very Merry Cricket again, I was struck with how excellent it is. It’s got wonderful characters. Tucker the mouse is voiced with great warmth and humor by Mel Blanc (who brought so many classic Warner Brothers characters to life, from Bugs Bunny to Foghorn Leghorn), and the suave Harry the cat along with mild-mannered, liverwurst-loving Chester C. Cricket, are voiced by the elegant Les Tremayne. Both Tucker and Harry display Chuck Jones’ signature style of facial expressions and movement--looking like they could’ve have been good friends to the Grinch and Max the Reindog. The imposing city scenes of hustle and bustle, and the eventual scenes of goodwill and togetherness are absolutely spectacular. There’s little movement in many of these city scenes beyond that of the camera panning from one direction to another, but it’s done with such artistry that the feelings come across loud and clear.

Harry, Tucker, and Chester take a perilous downhill sled ride (a little like the Grinch and Max) to try to catch the train.

The music is also wonderful.  Music, of course, is a big part of my Christmas celebration. It also plays an important role in my cherished Christmas memories growing up, watching Christmas on TV, celebrating with my family and Italian grandparents, and going to church with all the old Italian people in an atmosphere that was both reverent and joyful. A Very Merry Cricket is filled with lovely violin arrangements of Christmas carols, including “Silent Night” and “Joy to the World.” When Chester plays “It Came Upon a Midnight Clear,” the arrangement swells to include a particularly beautiful vocal accompaniment by a solo child’s voice, backed by a choral group.

People joining together in the spirit of Christmas, inspired by Chester's playing.

The characters are charming, and the story conveys a satisfying sense of Christmas spirit. But my favorite part of A Very Merry Cricket is the montage of scenes of togetherness, goodwill, and happiness as people all over the city are inspired by Chester’s beautiful Christmas music. The illustrations are beautiful, filled with humanity, and they make this animated special a real sight to behold.

Another beautiful image of Christmas spirit while Chester plays Christmas carols.

Monday, July 29, 2013

Animation Celebration: Yogi's First Christmas

Welcome back to Christmas in July: Animation Celebration!  July is the special time of the year that I turn the blog over to my readers.  All month long I'm posting essays written by people eager to share their passion and memories for animated Christmas entertainments.  Just a few more days left in the month--thanks for your continued interest.

Today's essay is about the animated favorite Yogi's First Christmas.  Did you grow up watching Hanna-Barbera's animated Christmas stories too?  This essay comes to us from Drew Flowers, the co-moderator for the Yahoo Group ChristmasMoviesandMusic and blogger at the website Tis the Seasons.  He also wrote the essay on A Garfield Christmas Special from last week. Let's welcome him again.

Yogi’s First Christmas is a 1980 holiday themed television feature- length film that first aired on November 21, 1980. In this Hanna-Barbera Christmas special, the picnic-basket stealing Yogi Bear and his little friend Boo-Boo are supposed to be getting ready to hibernate for the winter but instead decide to experience their first Christmas season.

Yogi’s Christmas special never received a lot of air time on any major networks except on USA, however it is a charming holiday tale for any Christmas lover or Hanna-Barbera fan. Yogi spends his winter working different jobs at the Jellystone Park lodge ranging from a bellboy, a ski instructor and head of security--all of which provide enjoyable moments with Yogi and several classic Hanna-Barbera characters such as Huckleberry Hound, Snagglepuss, Augie Doggie and Doggie Daddie, Cindy Bear, and Herman the Hermit.

When a bratty kid visiting the lodge with his aunt teams up with Herman the Hermit to ruin the holiday fun for Yogi & crew, they realize that having Christmas spirit is not such a bad thing and are forgiven and invited to the Christmas celebration at the lodge. At the story’s end, a visit from Santa occurs at the Christmas party in which Santa brings Yogi a picnic basket full of food. Yogi, however, falls asleep, due to his natural instincts of hibernation. With that, the holiday revelers return Yogi & Boo Boo to their caves for the rest of their hibernation.

When watching Yogi’s First Christmas, it really brings back memories of what cartoons were like back in the 1980’s. The graphics are nothing like today’s cartoons, but every time I watch it, it’s like being 6 years old and eagerly awaiting Santa all over again.  There is something unique about how simple this animated special is but yet provides a touching feel with some great songs and unique story to really make you feel the Christmas spirit the way it should be felt. This past Christmas my oldest son ( 5 years old) watched this more than any other holiday special. He also enjoyed the unique humor and ageless child-like feel this special provides. Yogi’s First Christmas has been on the Boomerang channel recently and even had a Christmas morning airing as well.

Sunday, July 28, 2013

Animation Celebration: Giveaway #2

This month we've been recollecting some of our favorite animated holiday entertainment--and maybe you've discovered a few new titles along the way.  As I promised, I want to offer another animation DVD giveaway.  I have 3 DVDs which are brand new, factory-sealed.  The giveaway includes The Simpsons Christmas,

which includes the holiday episodes "Simpsons Roasting on an Open Fire," "Mr. Plow," "Miracle on Evergreen Terrace," "Grift of the Magi," and "She of Little Faith."

1970's Santa and the Three Bears

Santa and the Three Bears DVD --remember Jakki's essay about this animated classic?

And, Christmas Classics Series DVD which includes three animated TV specials from 1999 featuring amazing voice casts.  "Jingle Bells" includes Jason Alexander, Don Knotts, and Shelley Long.  "We Wish You a Merry Christmas" includes voice work from Nell Carter, Lacey Chabert, and Travis Tritt.  And, "O' Christmas Tree" includes voice actors Edward Asner, Tim Conway, and Marie Osmond.

There will be ONE winner for the entire 3 DVD set.  This giveaway is limited to valid entries with shipments made to the U.S. and Canada only.  You are eligible to enter even if you've won a giveaway from this blog in the past.  All essay writers participating this month are also eligible.  Here's how you can enter the giveaway:

--leave a comment below with the phrase "Christmas in July is my favorite time of year."  You can enter again on Facebook and Twitter by commenting with the words "Christmas in July is my favorite time of year" once at each of the following locations:
Facebook page: Christmas TV History
Facebook page: Tis the Season TV
Facebook page: Christmas TV Companion
So you could enter up to five times by leaving the correct comment at all five locations.  This giveaway is for North American residents only.  This runs from today, Sunday July 28th to Wednesday, July 31st at noon(ET).  On Wednesday July 31st at noon(ET), I'll use random.org to generate a number from the total number of qualifying entries to select a winner.  I'll drop it in the mail ASAP after receiving the winner's mailing address.  

Make sure if you enter that I can contact you--or that you check back to see who won.  Would you believe I've had giveaway prizes go unclaimed!?  I also want to make the restriction that I'll only mail the prize once.  I'm not paying to ship it twice if you don't claim it from the post office.
Good luck! Merry Christmas in July!

Friday, July 26, 2013

Animation Celebration: Santa and the Three Bears

Welcome back to Christmas in July: Animation Celebration!  July is the special time of the year that I turn the blog over to my readers.  All month long I'm posting essays written by people eager to share their passion and memories for animated Christmas entertainments. 

Today's essay recalls 1970's animated classic Santa and the Three Bears.  This post comes to us from Jakki Hanna, the founder of the blog Tis the Season and the Yahoo group Christmas Movies and Music.  She also wrote the essay about Santa Claus is Comin' to Town earlier this month.  Thanks Jakki!

Santa and the 3 Bears is a heartwarming animated tale about 2 precocious bear cubs experiencing Christmas for the very first time, with the help of a jolly park ranger. Mama Bear would rather be hibernating, but can't resist the cub's enthusiasm to know more about this exciting time of year and decides to make an exception if they agree to sleep the rest of the winter after Santa's visit. The film was released in 1970 and originally ran 76-minutes in theaters, but was eventually cut down to 45-minutes for TV airing. Though it has been mistakenly credited as a Hanna-Barbera production, there is in fact no official connection.

This simple little story has been a favorite of mine for years. I still recall the first time I ever saw it and how it stuck with me years before I knew it by name. It was a weekday afternoon during Christmas break in the late '80s and came across it as I was flipping channels on television. I was excited to see something Christmas related airing at a time of day when all you would usually find is talk shows, soap operas and toddler programming. This was well before 24 hour cartoon networks and easy accessibility to movies through DVD and Netflix, so it had my full attention!

Santa & The Three Bears is not a frenzied, hysterical Christmas special, as commonly seen today, but instead has a understated, classic charm. It also lacks a villainous plot, choosing instead to focus on the discovery of Christmas and all it entails. As the ranger explains our human traditions to the cubs, even a child familiar with Christmas can't help but be drawn in. Christmas just has a profound effect on all who celebrate it, in a way that can't really be explained. This special captured the mystery of that miracle, but is also a snap shot of youthful innocence, where the magic of Santa's visit is all too real.

I often thought back to this special and wondered if I would ever know what it was, though I knew I would recognize it in an instant if fate was ever kind enough to cause me to stumble upon it once again. Then one extraordinary summer day, many years later, I was browsing used VHS tapes at a local thrift store. I suddenly came across the title, Santa and the Three Bears. While the cover art did not look quite like the animation in my memory, the title and description sounded exactly right. I took a chance, popped it in my VCR when I got home, and in an instant, was transported back to that winter afternoon in the late '80s with all the hope and wonder of a child.

Thursday, July 25, 2013

Animation Celebration: A Garfield Christmas

Welcome back to Christmas in July: Animation Celebration!  July is the special time of the year that I turn the blog over to my readers.  All month long I'm posting essays written by people eager to share their passion and memories for animated Christmas entertainments.

Today's essay is about the 1987 holiday animated favorite A Garfield Christmas Special.  Drew Flowers, the co-moderator for the Yahoo Group ChristmasMoviesandMusic and blogger at the website Tis the Seasons, wrote this essay for us today.  Thanks for sharing.  Merry Christmas in July, everyone!

The orange cat Garfield, his owner Jon and the slobbering dog Odie head out to the country to spend Christmas with Jon’s family on the farm. Garfield is a Scrooge about the whole Christmas season until he bonds with Jon’s grandmother while coming across a heartfelt gift for her, a forgotten but special item from her past. This holiday season, the fat cat learns the true meaning of Christmas.

It may be the '80’s child in me but I am not sure how A Garfield Christmas has been overlooked as a holiday classic among the likes of A Charlie Brown Christmas and Frosty the Snowman. A Garfield Christmas Special was aired on CBS right after A Charlie Brown Christmas all through the late '80’s and early 1990’s and was just as highly anticipated as any holiday classic being aired.  My holiday season is not complete without a viewing of A Garfield Christmas Special. It has become part of my holiday tradition just as much as hanging the stockings or decorating the tree.

Garfield’s Christmas special has such a wonderful message about learning the true spirit of Christmas.  Garfield’s sly humor and bond with Jon’s grandmother add great moments to this cartoon. The heartwarming story also includes a terrific carol “Christmas is here,” a song Jon’s mother plays on the piano Christmas Eve night. This holiday special’s message is not about the giving or receiving of gifts but it’s about the love one person or cat can give to another.

A holiday special with a meaningful message such as this, A Garfield Christmas Special not only is a classic to share with family and children but deserves the right to stand with the classic holiday animated specials that are aired year after year. I loved this cartoon as a child and my two young boys look forward to watching this classic each holiday as well. Don’t ignore the opportunity to enjoy this holiday special with your family.

Wednesday, July 24, 2013

Animation Celebration: A Charlie Brown Christmas

Welcome back to Christmas in July: Animation Celebration!  July is the special time of the year that I turn the blog over to my readers.  All month long I'm posting essays written by people eager to share their passion and memories for animated Christmas entertainments.

However due to unforeseen circumstances, the guest blogger who reserved 1965's A Charlie Brown Christmas was unable to complete the essay.  Since several people wanted to reserve this TV special for themselves, I knew many might be looking for it--so I guess you're stuck with my personal memories of A Charlie Brown Christmas!

I wanted to play Linus in my 2nd grade holiday pageant.

If you've read the Introduction to my first two books, you may already know that I feel emotionally connected to A Charlie Brown Christmas.  When I was in second grade, I was cast in the role of Peppermint Patty in a stage production of the 1965 animated Christmas TV special.  Though that casting seems like a perfect fit--I was such a tomboy!--at the time, I was crushed that I wasn't picked to play Linus.  (In second grade, I was still a thumb-sucker and was looking forward to the opportunity to portray the authenticity of that part of Linus' personality.  Actually, I just wanted the permission to publicly suck my thumb and not get scolded for it!)

My 2nd grade school photo--Fall 1975.  I was destined to be cast as Peppermint Patty.

Although I was only seven years old, I already knew A Charlie Brown Christmas well enough to be EXTREMELY excited about this opportunity.  In 1975, watching an animated Christmas TV special was still a special event--and you didn't miss the one night it was broadcast.  In the days before VHS tapes, DVDs and hundreds of cable channels, if you missed watching your favorite Christmas TV special, you'd have to wait a WHOLE YEAR to see it again.  And one year felt like decades to a second grade TV junkie.  So participating in the stage production felt like a special opportunity to connect with a precious aspect of TV culture. 

I still remember the play rehearsals--learning when to say my two brief lines of dialogue, hearing the other actors repeat their lines over and over, and discovering where I was supposed to stand on stage at different moments during the production.  My best friend at the time was cast in the role of Lucy, and to this day I still remember most of her lines--Lucy has some of the best punchlines in the script!

Maybe I remember most of Lucy's lines of dialogue because I've been listening to this record for years!?

It was an embarrassing number of years later before I realized that Peppermint Patty DOESN'T EVEN APPEAR in the 1965 animated TV special!?  I'm glad I didn't know this in second grade.  I'm assuming the two elementary school teachers that adapted the TV special into our holiday pageant just added popular Peanuts characters in order to include more children in the production. 

Wha--NO Peppermint Patty!?

Follow-up: at my 20th high school reunion a few years ago, a bunch of us that were in the 2nd grade play together were reminiscing about it.  Turns out, I'm not the only one who's mother saved the original script.  Someone even claims that their parents may still have an audio tape recording of the performance.  Wouldn't I like to hear that!  Anyone have photos from the rehearsals or one of the performances?  Let me know.

Still no Peppermint Patty....

MERRY CHRISTMAS, CHARLIE BROWN! but still no Peppermint Patty :(

Tuesday, July 23, 2013

Animation Celebration: Mickey's Christmas Carol

Welcome back to Christmas in July: Animation Celebration!  July is the special time of the year that I turn the blog over to my readers.  All month long I'm posting essays written by people eager to share their passion and memories for animated Christmas entertainments.

Today's post is a second Disney title, Mickey's Christmas Carol from 1983. (Did you see yesterday's essay on Disney's The Small One?)  Can you believe Mickey's Christmas Carol is 30 years old this year?  This essay is written by Jaleh Najafali who also likes to write for the website The Hungry Nomad as a food blogger.  Merry Christmas in July!

Some people enjoy Thanksgiving, others live for Valentine’s Day, and I’m sure there’s at least one person out there who loves Labor Day. However, my holiday is Christmas, and one of my favorite parts of the season is the movies. I always watch The Year Without a Santa Claus, The Santa Clause, and Beauty and the Beast: The Enchanted Christmas, but my long-time favorite is Mickey’s Christmas Carol.

Mickey Mouse as Scrooge's assistant Bob Cratchit.

This short movie takes Charles Dickens’ A Christmas Carol and puts a Disney spin on it. Some classic Disney characters take up these famous roles, including Scrooge McDuck as Ebenezer Scrooge, the man who is characterized by his greed, and Mickey Mouse as Bob Cratchit, his assistant who is everything Scrooge is not. Other notable characters include Goofy as Jacob Marley and Willie the Giant as the Ghost of Christmas Present. These Disney favorites add another element to the well-known story and make it accessible to people of all ages.

Scrooge receives a visit from Marley

I don’t remember the first time I saw this film, but I do know that for as long as I can remember I’ve watched it during the Christmas season (and sometimes off-season). The thing that this movie does that makes it a great adaptation of Dickens’ story is that it mixes the message of his novel with the fun and creativity of Walt Disney. From the opening music that introduces the characters to the end credits, this film is an enjoyable adventure. 

Black Pete as the Ghost of Christmases Yet to Come

One stand-out scene for me is one of the final scenes with the Ghost of Christmas Yet to Come. As a child, this character portrayed by Black Pete was terrifying with his deep cackle and face lit up by the fires getting ready to claim Ebenezer. While this scene might lack the lighthearted joy that one expects from a Christmas cartoon, it impacted me as a child, and it obviously impacted Ebenezer. While the other two ghosts cause Ebenezer to begin to realize some of the mistakes he has made in his life, it’s not until he discovers his grave that he realizes he has to change. This scene really drives home the message of the film, while the scenes following demonstrate the way these encounters have caused him to reexamine his life and start giving to others rather than taking from them.

The Cratchit family

Of course, the best scene in this sequence of Christmas Day events is when he enters the home of Bob Cratchit after he has seen the poverty that this hard-working yet happy man has been living with, and his son, Tiny Tim, relays the popular line “God Bless Us, Everyone.” Through the lens of Disney, this film is able to remind people what Christmas is all about and do so through some characters that many of us have known since childhood.

Jiminy Cricket as the Ghost of Christmases Past

 I love this film because, for me, it encompasses everything that Christmas stands for, the opportunity to change and do good in the world. Christmas is a time of magic and hope, and the journey of Ebenezer Scrooge, especially in the relatable form of Disney, is one of the best examples of how this time can change even some of the worst people for the better. While some people grow out of Christmas films, Disney, and animated features, I know that I will continue to watch Mickey’s Christmas Carol, and that I will always enjoy this classic.

Monday, July 22, 2013

Animation Celebration: The Small One

Welcome back to Christmas in July: Animation Celebration!  July is the special time of the year that I turn the blog over to my readers.  All month long I'm posting essays written by people eager to share their passion and memories for animated Christmas entertainments.

Today's essay is from Linda Young.  She helps to maintain a website Flying Dreams.org that includes a Happy Holidays/Christmas page, a blog of her daily musings, and more.  Today she shares with us a wonderfully nostalgic piece on Disney's short film The Small One.

The Small One and I go way back. Really way back, to a time when speeds were slower and cars were heavier, and the best place to be on the traditional “Sunday drive” was sitting between Dad and Mom on the broad front seat of a ‘50's Pontiac, snuggled against Mom while we listened to the last vestiges of old-time radio: NBC’s Monitor, the original Gunsmoke, and those others struggling against television’s relentless tide.

Except at Christmas. Those late December Sundays and few days before Christmas were still reserved for Christmas stories, and for many years after radio had abandoned itself to all-music/all-news formats, one radio station in town still played those well-loved stories on Christmas Eve and Christmas Day, and it was those broadcasts I remember, especially the tale of a boy and his elderly donkey, Small One, retold year after year by Bing Crosby.

In 1978, Disney brought the story of Small One to film as a half-hour short preceding the re-release of Pinocchio. It was thought an odd choice for Disney, since they usually avoided stories with references to religion, but the story itself was pure Disney: the age-old tale of the friendship between a child and an animal. In The Small One, an unnamed Judean lad has made a pet of one of his father’s work animals, an aged donkey who finds it increasingly difficult to carry loads of firewood. When the impoverished woodcutter finally tells his son that he can no longer afford to keep Small One if he can’t work and will be taking the donkey into town to sell, the grieving boy offers to do the task himself, determined to find his friend a good home.

And there, onscreen, was the story I remembered from those Christmas Eves years before: the boy’s relationship with Small One, lovingly detailed in play and teamwork; the heart-stopping moment where the boy realizes that there is only one destiny for his pet; their adventures in town, enlivened by the jaunty but cynical “Merchant’s Song”; the final despair that ends in hope when a man named Joseph chooses Small One to carry his wife to Bethlehem. The story is bookended by Bluth’s plaintive “Small One” song, which still reduces me to puddling goo each time I play the DVD.

The Small One is a tale of friendship that can be watched in a secular manner as the story of a boy and his pet, or as a story of faith and the first Christmas. But--if I can bear to close my eyes during the lovely animation that long--I can almost, almost turn the clock back to another story, one of spindly pine trees draped with tinsel to fill in the “bald spots,” “big bulb” Christmas lights, baking cookies, Christmas Mass, records dispensing Perry Como and Nat King Cole, visits to Grandpa–but most of all of being warm and happy next to Mom as the hum of the car wheels and the lullaby of The Small One take me off to sleep.

The original story by Charles Tazewell: http://www.outbackonline.net/Advent%20Calendar/smallone.htm

The Bing Crosby version: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZTggSdU8pFw