The 10 Most Underrated Christmas Specials Ever

By Rob Bricken in Cartoons, Daily Lists, TV
Monday, December 22, 2008 at 5:00 am
peeweexmas_2.jpgBy Chris Cummins

By this point in the year, you have probably placed yourself so deep in debt trying to buy the love of your family, friends and significant others that you're ready to pull a D.B. Cooper and drop out of society. So is it to much to ask that you get some decent holiday programming to watch before you have to pay January's credit card bills? It's small comfort to your wallet, but there's a world of Christmas viewing choices other than Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer, How the Grinch Stole Christmas, Frosty the Snowman and A Charlie Brown Christmas. Because of infrequent repeat showings, botched home video releases or good old-fashioned forgetfulness and public indifference, there's a ton of wonderful holiday shows that deserve way more love then they are getting. So pour yourself some heavily spiked egg nog and check out this (somewhat Muppet-heavy) list of the most underrated Christmas specials of all time.

10) 'Twas the Night Before Christmas

Rankin-Bass presents this 1974 adaptation of Clement Moore's classic poem in which Santa gets pissed at an entire town after he reads a letter in the local newspaper questioning his existence. As the community rallies to convince St. Nick that they do in fact believe in him, a mouse watchmaker teams with his son--the overly intelligent brat who wrote the anti-Santa screed--to make things right and save the holiday. Highlighted by the empowering "Even a Miracle Needs a Hand" song, this show is the only holiday special in history that features a skeptic/plague-carrier in a leading role.
9) A Wish for Wings That Work

Bloom County creator Berkeley Breathed may not be a fan of this adaptation of his children's book, but it's more than good enough for the rest of us. Produced by Steven Spielberg while he was making Hook (which explains the vocal cameos by Robin Williams and Dustin Hoffman), the special follows Opus the Penguin as he attempts to learn how to fly. Accompanied by the eternally burnt-out Bill the Cat, his journey to take flight turns into a comedy of errors that makes viewers yearn for more Opus adventures. With Breathed recently ending the Opus comic strip, that may just happen. Here's hoping.
8) The Christmas Toy

Just released on DVD (though minus the Kermit the Frog opening thanks to the same goddamn kind of legal issues that cut him out of the home video releases of Emmet Otter's Jug Band Christmas), The Christmas Toy follows stuffed animal Rugby the Tiger as he learns the hard way that he isn't always going to be his owner's favorite plaything. The special's exploration of what toys do when they aren't being played with was similarly examined--or if you like, ripped off--by Toy Story. But Buzz and Woody don't have a fraction of the charisma that Rugby and his friends possess.
7) Olive, the Other Reindeer

Blending elements of traditional and 3-D animation to bring to life the visual style of the book it was based on, Olive, the Other Reindeer made its TV debut in 1999 on FOX. Produced by Matt Groening, the cartoon tells the story of a dog suffering from an identity crisis who becomes convinced that she has to help Santa save Christmas. From this threadbare plot comes an enjoyable and dare I say touching story about determination and acceptance, heightened by Drew Barrymore's great vocal performance as the titular canine. It's also a great example of a kids program that teaches a lesson without hammering its point home or talking down to its intended audience. (Cough *Ziggy's Gift* cough).
6) Mr. Magoo's Christmas Carol

It's now a holiday special cliché to parody A Christmas Carol, but that wasn't yet the case when this debuted in 1962. Taking the form of a bizarro Broadway musical staged for TV (fitting since songwriters Jule Styne and Bob Merill also wrote Funny Girl), the show has the stubborn and nearsighted Magoo perfectly cast as as the miserly Scrooge. Although there's plenty of laughs to be found, Mr. Magoo's Christmas Carol secret weapon is its fantastic songs, especially the way-depressing "Alone in the World":

If I can stop crying, I'm gonna go get a drink. Jesus.
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