Thursday, 01 October 2020
Christmas Special
Written by Sandra Fitzpatrick   
Sunday, 26 November 2006 21:20

Hark! The Herald Television Sings

As a kid growing up in the 80’s, nothing heralded the approaching Christmas Season quite like our television sets. That’s right, not snow days, or obligatory family visits, or even those annual trips to church rivaled the ultimate in state of the art, full-color Christmas glee brought to us by TV. Inklings of excitement would start the first time I would see a Canadian Tire “Give Like Santa, Save Like Scrooge” commercial, and would grow with the “Sobey’s Festive Touch”. To most people my age the Sobey’s song is etched so deeply into our brains that it is on par with Jingle Bells or Silent Night.

Although commercials played a big part in building anticipation, the ultimate in holiday joy were the Christmas Specials. Just about every show had one from Whose the Boss to He-Man and She-Ra. I remember getting to stay up late watching movies that were only on once a year like Ewoks: The Battle for Endor (I was a science fiction/fantasy geek even at the age of seven).

Just like every Christmas tradition, the older it is the better it is; and television specials are no exception. That’s why my absolute favorite is the 1960’s stop-motion animation cartoon Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer. Rudolph follows the misadventures of a nasally disadvantaged reindeer whose visible deformity makes him a social outcast. No one wants to play reindeer games with him except a cute little doe named Clarice, but he is too insecure to be in a relationship. He decides to run away, and meets up with a fellow outcast named Hermey, the (slightly effeminate) elf who would rather be a dentist than build toys. Their adventures take them from Christmas Town to The Island of Misfit Toys, and into the lair of the Abominable Snow Monster. As a child I loved everything about this movie, but my favorite character of all was King Moonracer, the majestic winged lion who ruled over the misfit toys.

Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer was the most popular in a series of stop-motion cartoons released by Rankin Bass. It spawned a sequel called Rudolph’s Shiny New Year in which Rudolph has to find the big-eared Baby New Year. Santa Claus is Coming to Town told the story of young Chris Cringle who meets the future Mrs. Claus and saves the town from cranky Burgermeister. Another title in this series is lesser-known but all the more interesting because it’s hard to find. The Life and Adventures of Santa Claus held special appeal for me because it told a story of Santa Clause being raised by fairies in an enchanted forest. I actually found a copy of this on VHS a couple of years ago, so it is available if you look hard enough! A special DVD set is available that contains five of the Rankin Bass specials.

These Christmas classics are so memorable because of the amount of care and effort that was put into making them. Each one has catchy songs and great characters with famous voices (Burl Ives, Fred Astaire and Mickey Rooney to name a few). Some newer specials are fun to watch, but none have ever captured the charm of these stop-motion animation classics.

Even as an adult I watch Rudolph every time I see it on, and it never fails to bring back the excitement I felt as a child knowing Christmas was on the way. Oh, and by the way, I think I saw that Sobey’s commercial the other day…