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Sunday, December 12, 2010

Top-10 List: Holiday Christmas Specials!

I'm amazed at all of the holiday specials that are playing and replaying this time of year. Growing up during the 1970s with only three TV networks, holiday specials were truly "special."  My fondest memories of those days were the "Animagic" Christmas specials produced by Arthur Rankin and Jules Bass.
It's a Wonderful Life (60th Anniversary Edition)You know the stop-motion classics about Rudolph, Heat Miser, the Winter Warlock...etc.

Now, ABC Family channel is running those specials wall-to-wall, decked halls and all until the end of the month.

That prompted this top-10 list of the greatest Christmas Holiday Specials ever:

10. Frosty the Snowman: I was never a huge fan of this :30 minute cartoon but for some reason at the age of eight, I thought Jimmy Durante as the narrator was inspired casting!

9. How the Grinch Stole Christmas: again Boris Karloff as the creepy voice was inspired and what kid didn't love a great Chuck Jones cartoon!

8. Elf: this full-length movie should probably be higher in the rankings because Will Ferrell was soooo incredibly funny. I've literally incorporated "ginormous" as part of my everyday speech because of this movie.

7. A Charlie Brown Christmas: great characters + clean fun + a great message = a timeless classic!

6. Rudolph, the Red-Nosed Reindeer: This is the first Rankin/Bass production on this list and it's simply outstanding. The idea of being a "misfit" really struck me as a kid growing up because my family moved around so much - it was always hard to fit in, this was a great story that I can still relate to today.

5. Santa Claus is Coming to Town: Another Rankin/Bass "masterpiece," this one explained the Chris Krinkle backstory with the vocal talents of Mickey Rooney as Santa and Fred Astaire as the postman/narrator. Even today, I could watch this one over and over again.

4. Year Without a Santa Claus: This is my FAVORITE Rankin/Bass special - hands down, and it's because of two words...Snow Miser! His Broadway-style floor show and rapier exchanges with his simmering step-brother Heat Miser are pure genius. Here's a taste of the "Big Ham"......

How can you not LOVE that!!

3. A Christmas Story: This is such a charming and funny slice of pure Americana nostalgia, it's difficult for me to shut it off once TBS begins its annual 24-hour marathon of this movie on Christmas Eve! I think most people can relate to some aspect  of "kid-dom" that's featured in this movie - and the late Darren McGavin stole every scene as Ralphie's dad!

2. The Little Drummer Boy: I love this Rankin/Bass special because it is so subversive and counterculture to our current post-modern sensibilities. I guarantee that if some writer wanted to create this exact story today - it would not get the greenlight because of its exclusionary, divisive and inflammatory subject matter. If I'm not mistaken, I think it even mentions the "J-susWord" - shocking!

1. It's a Wonderful Life: Where to begin with this astoundingly profound work...this movie has richly complex characters, engaging situations, multi-level subplots, laugh-out-loud humor, all wrapped around a message that will linger with you about the value of an individual life when it's poured out for others. If you've never seen it - don't wait another day. 

Please share your favorites as well!


  1. Dont forget Miracle on 34th Street.
    I introduced this classic and Its A Wonderful Life to our 9yr old daughter this year. She loved them both. It was a real pull to get her to try them since she doesnt like 'grey' movies. ;)

    We also love White Christmas!

    Thanks for the walk down memory lane Tor.

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  3. I'm guessing it's probably strange that I personally haven't seen all of these. I had an interesting childhood and upbringing, so I'm trying to rack my brain and determine which of the "older ones" I've even seen....hmmm You've got me thinking though - and wondering what I'm depriving my children of! Off to research this subject! haha

  4. @KL, good one! The original "Miracle" with Natalie Wood is indeed a classic!

  5. @Kathy, Thanks for the kind words - please stop back often!

  6. @Laura, thanks for the comment! As a caveat to my post, A Christmas Story has some low-level swearing and a few situations that might not be appropriate for younger kids. You won't be disappointed with the Rankin/Bass selections!

  7. Great list, but I agree ELF should move much higher on the list. And how can you not like Frosty the snowman?? It's true we both love It's a Wonderful Life, and I love that it's a part of our holiday tradition to watch it together every Christmas season. Love you!

  8. Nestor The Long Eared Donkey - makes me cry everytime! Rarely shown as it is a little crass and politically incorrect - Nestor's mom makes the ultimate Christ-like sacrafice. The true meaning of Christmas for sure. I always enjoy your blog - keep sharing!

  9. I direct your attention to my FB status of a few days ago: that IAWL is the best Christmas movie ever. Heck, in my book, it's near the top for ANY movie ever.

    Sh'nuff said.

    Except.... how can you overlook the classic, "Jingle All the Way"??? :-O