Today we feature a more rare, science-fiction animated TV special A Cosmic Christmas. This essay is written by Jeff Fox. Jeff knows a great deal about Christmas entertainments--check out his amazing website Name That Christmas Special.com. Every time I visit his site, I spend several wonderful hours going through the images. You can also follow him on Twitter: @chrspecials.
A Cosmic Christmas (1977)
A Cosmic Christmas tells the story of three aliens who come to Earth on Christmas Eve in order to learn about a celestial phenomenon that happened two thousand years ago.
When they first arrive in their spaceship, they encounter young Peter, and his pet goose Lucy, and Peter tells them about Christmas and explains to them that it's about love, peace and caring for others. In an attempt to show them, he takes them around town, but all they seem to see are angry, stressed-out people in the last-minute holiday rush.
"Is this Christmas, Peter?" they ask.
After several disappointing visits, Peter takes them to his own home where his Grandmother shares with them stories of the olden days and the aliens bring these visions to life: Magical strings of popcorn, dancing gingerbread men, and flying bells and angels… All the traditional elements of Christmas come to life once again.
But their celebrations are unceremoniously interrupted when Lucy the goose is stolen by one of the town hoodlums, Marvin.
The whole town ends up chasing after them, but when Marvin falls off his bike and into a frozen lake, there aren't enough townspeople to reach him and Peter who has also fallen in after attempting a rescue.
But the aliens, seeing this as a chance to help and learn the true meaning of Christmas, pitch in and help save the boys.
Afterwards, everyone heads back to Peter's house where they celebrate and offer food and comfort to Marvin and his friends who, it turns out, had stolen Lucy because they had no food.
Having learned the true meaning of Christmas, the aliens sneak out quietly, lighting up the night sky one last time as they go, mirroring the shape of Grandma's Christmas angel.
I first saw A Cosmic Christmas when it premiered on the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation in 1977. I was just seven years old, and I remember it was a pretty big deal at the time and received a lot of advance press: It had songs by Canadian icon Sylvia Tyson (of 'Ian & Sylvia' and later the group 'Quartette'), it was the first television special produced by Canadian company Nelvana, it was one of the first animated TV specials syndicated for first-run broadcast during prime time in Canada, and it was getting a lot of attention just as Canadian animation was beginning to come into its own. There was a buzz to the special that it was something to be proud of, and while I probably didn't even know what that meant at the time, it certainly lent to the idea that this was a really special thing we were about to watch!
But hype does not keep a child interested for long, and it's the special itself that made me a fan. Despite wonderful animation, a terrific soundtrack and cute and quirky characters (and an entirely random dance sequence by the alien's flying robotic sidekick and the goose), it was the story and the way it was told, making a case for the simple goodness of the holiday, and for love, peace and caring for others, that struck a chord in me. The way the aliens ask plaintively "Is this Christmas, Peter?" when they keep seeing things contrary to what they've been told Christmas is gets me every time. The story makes a case for why the aliens would be confused being told that Christmas is this great thing, then seeing how it misses the mark, and I think I related to that then, and I still relate to that now. But thankfully it shows us that it's still there, the goodness of Christmas, despite not always being seen by those around us, it's still there, even if we occasionally need to be shown.
I have no idea if seeing this special now for the first time would have the same effect, making it one of my personal favourites all over again, but I like to think it would, and in that sense, I recommend it to all. It is very much a piece of my childhood, and in a way a small piece of Canada's history, but its story and its sentiment are universal, making it one holiday special I love to revisit year after year.
A Cosmic Christmas is available to watch online here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-uItu9hMr8k