On our modern age, one of the most popular traditions during the holidays is watching Christmas cartoons. From classic stop-motion animation cartoons, to more recent CGI holiday specials, this list includes my top picks for Christmas cartoons.
A Charlie Brown Christmas
is the most popular and classic of all Christmas cartoons that have ever aired on TV. I defy anyone not to get a little misty in the eyes when that tiny tree comes to life, or when those tiny round mouths form perfect o's to sing Christmas carols. A Charlie Brown Christmas
was the first TV cartoon that was based on Peanuts
, Charles Schulz' popular comic strip. Original air date: December 9, 1965.
How the Grinch Stole Christmas is another classic Christmas cartoon, but a little more on the devilish side. Based on the Dr. Seuss picture book by the same name, How the Grinch Stole Christmas quickly became a Christmas classic because it had the best talent in animation behind the scenes. Chuck Jones directed the cartoon, with stars Boris Karloff and June Foray providing voices.
Although the Grinch is the character you love to hate, the ever-optimistic Max is my favorite. The moral of this story has lasted for decades: "Maybe Christmas--perhaps--means a little bit more." Original air date: December 18, 1966.
Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer
is one of the highest-rated Christmas specials of all time. An example of a classic cartoon from Rankin/Bass Productions, Rudolph
remains popular and timeless, using stop-motion animation
instead of cel animation
, which gives the cartoon a life-like style. Original air date: December 6, 1964.
Frosty the Snowman
is based on the traditional Christmas carol. Frosty the Snowman
tells the story of several buck-toothed children who bring a snowman to life, using a top hat. This cartoon was also produced by Rankin/Bass, although they used traditional cel animation rather than stop-motion. Legendary actor Jimmy Durante is the narrator.Frosty the Snowman
inspired a sequel, Frosty's Winter Wonderland
. Original air date: December 7, 1969.
"I'm mister heat miser/I'm mister sun." Sing with me! the Year Without a Santa Claus
is a tale of two cranky brothers, Heat Miser and Snow Miser, at opposite ends of the world who control the weather. When Santa loses his mojo, Mrs. Claus must reconcile the feuding syblings in order to deliver toys to the world's children on time. Original air date: December 10, 1974.
The Little Drummer Boy
is a lesser-known stop-motion cartoon from Rankin/Bass. The Little Drummer Boy
is a more religious holiday special, because it is based on the Christmas carol about the little boy who follows the Christmas star to pay tribute to Jesus Christ, the newborn king. As a child, I found this holiday special terribly depressing, because I felt sad for the little boy who had nothing but his song to give. As an adult, I see that The Little Drummer Boy
offers a message for the true meaning of Christmas, celebrating Jesus' birth and giving our talents, whatever they may be. Original air date: December 13, 1976.
This DVD packs a lot of holiday-themed episodes of The Simpsons
into one neat package. It includes the first Christmas special, titled "Simpsons Roasting on an Open Fire," along with "Mr. Plow," "Miracle on Evergreen Terrace," "Grift of the Magi" and "She of Little Faith." What's fun about these episodes is that each one searches for the meaning of the holidays in a different way, but comes up with pretty much the same sweet answer. ("Grift of the Magi" is probably the weakest of the bunch.)
Although Olive, the Other Reindeer
is fairly recent, it stands out as a Christmas cartoon because it offers humor and insight for children and adults. Olive is a little dog who believes she is a reindeer. The cartoon tells the story of how her dream comes true. Olive, the Other Reindeer
works on many levels, much like The Simpsons
, which is no coincidence since Matt Groening
produced both shows. The Christmas special is based on the children's book of the same name, perfectly capturing the illustrative style of J. Otto Seibold. Drew Barrymore's performance (one of her first voice-overs) as Olive is spot on. Original air date: December 17, 1999.
It's a SpongeBob Christmas!
was Nickelodeon's first stop-motion animation Christmas special. In It's a SpongeBob Christmas!
, SpongeBob must defeat Plantkon when he begins turning everyone into a humbug. The cartoon was an achievement, demonstrating the humor that is unique to SpongeBob SquarePants
, while displaying the fun and cleverness of stop-motion. The mini-sets, textured characters and catchy musical numbers add up to a sleigh-ful of fun. Original air date: December 6, 2012.
My list would not be complete without including South Park
Christmas episodes. On South Park
could deliver the Christmas message wrapped in fecal matter. In "Mr. Hankey the Christmas Poo," Kyle discovers a special friend who lives in the toilet. In "A Very Crappy Christmas," Mr. Hankey is too busy with his family to spread Christmas cheer, to it's up to the boys. Other episodes on this DVD include the musical "Mr. Hankey's Christmas Classics," "Red Sleigh Down" and "Woodland Critter Christmas." Needless to say, you should enjoy these holiday cartoons once the kiddies are in bed.