Monday, December 16, 2013

50 Best Christmas Specials Countdown (50-41)

50. The Story of Santa Claus (1996)
An extremely standard special that offers little in the way of innovation or creativity.  The special is not that well animated either.  However there heart to it.  This is clearly a Santa who cares, I remember the scene where he gives his knife to a child when he runs out of gifts and takes the time to teach him to whittle.  Definitely not the best story of the origins of Santa, but I remember enjoying it as a kid.

49. A Wish for Wings That Work (1991)
A teacher actually played this during a holiday party when I was in eighth grade and it had the entire class laughing.  A big part of it was that the teacher clearly enjoyed it and that got us to loosen up.  I have read that Bloom County creator Berkeley Breathed did not care for this special, and it is very different from the comics.  However it is irreverent fun that works for the most part.

48. Frosty Returns (1992)
This has aired with the original Frosty every year to make for an hour of holiday programming on CBS.  This is clearly nowhere near the masterpiece of the original, although the animation is pretty good.  This is one of those environmental messages that is based around a greedy executive hating the environment just for the sake of being evil.  There is absolutely nothing to do with Christmas and it does not follow the story of the original, but to be honest I watch it almost every year with the original.  The two have become a package deal for many and at least Frosty is still entertaining.

47. I Want a Dog for Christmas, Charlie Brown (2003)
People are harsh on Charlie Brown Christmas specials on the basis that they aren't A Charlie Brown Christmas, but that is an extremely high bar.  This features great gags from Charles Schulz's classic strips.  When I was a kid some of my favorite strips were the (then) newer ones that dealt with Rerun.  The focus on Rerun and Spike was a nice change of pace and it is pleasant.  Did not need to be an hour, but better than most people give it credit for.

46. Olive, the Other Reindeer (1999)
Based on the popular book, one of the few modern specials to catch on with some amount of success (at least for a couple of years).  This was created by Matt Groening and features a good amount of irreverence and pop culture references.  The puns a played too obviously for me (and I love puns) and I think that Drew Barrymore is miscast.  But I love this unique, limited animation design and it is a sweet story.

45. The Madagascar Penguins in A Christmas Caper (2005)
Just got through all of Dreamworks' holiday specials on Netflix and I did not care for most of them.  They all more or less follow the same storyline, feature the same sense of humor and are just not as good as the movies they are based on (Shrek the Halls, Kung Fu Panda Holiday Special, Merry Madagascar and Legend of the Night Fury), but I enjoyed this short.  I have never been a huge Madagascar fan, the main cast and humor has never quite grabbed me.  But the penguins are easily the most entertaining aspect of the franchise.  This short features good animation, action sequences and is just funny.

44. Charlie Brown's Christmas Tales (2002)
Another Charlie Brown special.  Nothing special, but nothing terrible.  This gets paired up with A Charlie Brown Christmas to bring the running time of it to an hour and allow for the entire original special to be shown (commercial breaks are much longer now than they were in 1965).  And in my book more Peanuts is always a good thing.

I have 50 slots to work with, so I am including four Homestar cartoons on this countdown.  Every year I always watch their many Decemberween cartoons which are great satires of Christmas specials and culture in general.  Decemberween is the creators way of satirizing specials that do not acknowledge Christmas, while not acknowledging Christmas themselves.

This short features Homestar realizing that he only has a few hours to do all of his shopping.  Just great energy and physical gags with Homestar realizing he set his alarm to "8 pm instead of am again."  And the usual great Homestar nonsequitirs such as referring to a banana with an arrow through it as a gift, "for the Poopsmith who has everything."

42. Elmo's Christmas Countdown (2007)
This was a fun variety special from several years ago that features the gang from Sesame Street and several guest stars such as Stiller the Elf, Anne Hathaway and Jamie Foxx.  Fun little songs and comedy bits and it was fun seeing this crew in primetime.  Not a classic that needs to be viewed every year, but a nice change from the usual batch of specials.

41. First Christmas: The Story of the First Christmas Snow (1975)
Rankin-Bass overcomplicates Christmas so much, this simple straight forward story is a nice change of pace.  This is extremely cliche with a blind orphan who loses his job while staying with some nuns, but it works.  Its short running time keeps it from wearing to thin and it is just a likable story.  Not the most memorable, but easily better than the many Rankin-Bass specials that did not make this countdown ('Twas the Night Before Christmas, Pinocchio's Christmas, Rudolph's Shiny New Year, Frosty's Winter Wonderland and Leprechaun's Christmas Gold).

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