EXCLUSIVE: Ten Christmas TV Specials We Love

1. Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer (1964)

Screen Shot 2014-12-11 at 3.26.47 PMThe 1964 claymation classic was one of my all-time favorites as a kid. It’s quirky and pretty strange at times (an elf who wants to be a dentist?), but nonetheless entertaining. The abominable snowman scared the dickens out of me, but Rudolph was cute and easy to root for. Re-watching as an adult brought the realization that it has some of the most ridiculous and quote-worthy lines that are still pretty funny. (“This fog’s as thick as peanut butter!” “You mean pea soup.” “You eat what you like, and I’ll eat what I like!”)—DT

2. Santa Claus is Comin’ to Town (1970)

KRIS KRINGLERankin/Bass Productions, the company responsible for a ton of the Christmas specials we all know and love, produced this one. Santa Claus is Comin’ to Town is a revamped Santa origin story told by Mailman S.D. Kluger, voiced by the legendary Fred Astaire. I remember really enjoying this one as a kid, not as much as Rudolph or Frosty, but it was in regular rotation around the holidays and it’s a little bit of an oddball in the Rankin/Bass repertoire.—JK

3. Frosty the Snowman (1969)


Happy birthday!” No matter how old I get, I can still hear those words in the exact vocal inflection that Jackie Vernon used as the titular Frosty in this 1969 cartoon. At times, it’s so bittersweet that it practically makes you cry: Spoiler alert—Frosty DIES (I mean, “melts”), and Santa comforts a crying Karen by explaining the magic of Christmas snow. *sob* Still, it’s 25 minutes of good old-fashioned Christmas fun. I haven’t watched it in a few years, but writing about it is giving me a craving. The opening scene reminds me of the excitement of being a student watching the snow fall. The anticipation of a snow day topped with the already existing excitement of the coming holiday was almost always too much to bear. “It was the first snow of the season. And as any child can tell you, there’s a certain magic that comes with the very first snow, especially when it falls on the day before Christmas. For when the first snow is also a Christmas snow … well, something wonderful is bound to happen.” Eeeee, ‘scuse me, I need to go locate our Frosty DVD.—DT

4. Mickey’s Christmas Carol (1983)

Mickey's Christmas Carol

I almost hesitate to list this as a favorite Christmas movie, because in actuality it was one of my favorite movies, just generally, when I was young. Mickey’s Christmas Carol is basically a straight retelling of the Dicken’s classic story. Scrooge McDuck, obviously, plays the role of Ebenezer Scrooge, the crotchety geezer who is visited by three spirits who show him the true joy of Christmas with an all-star cast of Disney characters in all of the supporting roles. I’m pretty sure that I wore out copies of this VHS (remember those?) in the ’80s.—JK

5. Mickey’s Magical Christmas:
Snowed In at the House of Mouse (2001)


Disney Channel‘s House of Mouse only ran for two years, but it was an innovative way to expose new generations of kids to the classic Mickey cartoons that their parents and older sibs fell in love with. Mickey hosted viewing parties of said cartoons for all his friends (characters from Walt’s brilliant animated movies). As a huge fan of classic Disney (we have a ton on VHS), one of my favorites was their Christmas collection. Mickey is hosting a lavish Christmas Eve party for all his friends at the House of Mouse when they all discover that they’re snowed in! What to do? Watch more cartoons, of course. While Donald stews in an anti-Christmas mood more suitable to that of his uncle, Scrooge McDuck, Mickey tries to get him in the Christmas spirit with some of Disney’s best Christmas-themed shorts, including “Donald On Ice,” “The Nutcracker,” Joe’s aforementioned Mickey’s Christmas Carol,” and my personal will-always-hold-a-special-place-in-my-heart favorite, “Pluto’s Christmas Tree.” The cartoon dates back to 1952, when Mickey was at his cutest. He and Pluto go out to chop down a Christmas tree and inadvertently bring Chip and Dale into their house, where the two chipmunks wreak havoc and drive the poor pup up the wall. When I was younger, I used to lie beneath our Christmas tree and wonder what it would be like to be tiny enough to explore one from the inside. (is that a weird thing for a kid to think about?) And in came Disney, bringing yet another dream to life. I just love it.—DT

6. ‘Twas the Night Before Christmas (1974)

Twas the night before Christmas

This is a weird one that has stuck in my memory for a really, really long time. Twas’ the Night Before Christmas has it all, bad mid-70s animation and a story about Santa refusing to deliver presents because he has received an insulting letter. Despite its shortcomings, ‘Twas the Night Before Christmas is still a charming story that resonated with me when I was a kid.—JK

7. How the Grinch Stole Christmas


I’m actually not really a fan of the Grinch per se, but I much prefer the original cartoon to Jim Carrey’s painful facial expressions. I wasn’t nearly as into Dr. Seuss as other kids from my generation, which is funny because I liked poetry. But all that rhyming! Anyway, my distaste aside, you can’t deny that the Grinch is just one of those classic Christmas things you can’t do without. So I usually end up watching it.—DT

8. A Very Sunny Christmas (2010)

It's Always Sunny Christmas

This is a more recent and far more crass Christmas special that I enjoy. It’s basically a retelling of A Christmas Carol, but starring Danny DeVito as selfish, basically evil, Frank Reynolds – a man who buys Christmas presents his kids want for himself, and then makes them watch as he opens the gifts. Does anyone play sleazy as well as DeVito? I don’t think so. Anyway, the Always Sunny in Philadelphia gang gets involved in a bunch of comedic foibles involving stolen presents and crashing parties. Good stuff.—JK

9. A Charlie Brown Christmas


Definition of classic! If a smile doesn’t involuntarily spread across your face when those little pencil-drawn mouths form perfect Os and start singing “Hark the Herald Angels Sing,” I don’t think you’re human.—DT

10. Doctor Who Christmas Specials

Doctor Who

Yeah, so I’m a huge geek who likes British science fiction. I know I’ve mentioned this a time or two in the past. Long-running sci-fi series Doctor Who airs a Christmas special every year and it has become part of our tradition to always watch the new episode after festivities on Christmas.—JK


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