Once upon a time, we got up on Saturday morning and watched cartoons. Even my stepson did this, and he’s 21. But around this time of year, we also could count on a bevy of stop-motion cartoons or flat-out animation. Frosty the Snowman, Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer, and even A Year Without a Santa Claus.
Rudolph is the mack daddy of Christmas specials. The story of the misfit reindeer that literally glowed still draws kids to the TV every year. So influential is it that the “Bumble” (a ten-foot tall yeti whose name is derived from the Abominable Snowman) shows up in winter-themed commercials every year now. What I did not realize is that the scene where the Bumble and Yukon Cornelius fight to their apparent deaths (Spoiler alert: They survive!) was lifted directly from Lord of the Rings. That’s right. Yukon Cornelius is doing a full-on Gandalf tell the Bumble he shall not pass!
But the most touching part is the Island of Misfit Toys, where the defective toys are left to pine for some child to give them a home.
But before Rudolph, there was Frosty the Snowman, where the titular snowman comes to life. A really bad magician, Professor Hinkle, throws out his top hat when his tricks don’t work right. Some kids put it on a snowman, and Frosty is born. The rest of the time is spent trying to save Frosty from Professor Hinkle, who suddenly wants his hat back.
But when I was in my tween years, they brought out another stop-motion special, this one where Santa decides to take the year off. Mrs. Claus convinces Santa to change his mind, but he puts a condition on it: It has to be a white Christmas in the south and green in the north. This takes some negotiation with Mother Nature’s cantankerous sons, Heat Miser and Snow Miser.
Of course, who can forget How the Grinch Stole Christmas, Dr. Seuss’s entry into this canon. Many today remember the Grinch as Jim Carrey in a really well-done live-action movie a few years back. But originally, it was a cartoon narrated and voiced by horror icon Boris Karloff. And I used to listen to the theme song once whenever I stressed out at work.