Christmas is nearly upon us and that means it’s time to watch some Christmas classics. Whether it’s a half hour special like Charlie Brown’s Christmas, a classic film like It’s a Wonderful Life or a more modern favourite like Elf or the surprise Netflix hit The Christmas Chronicles, there’s always something to watch. But there are other options to consider this year and some pretty awesome users have had them uploaded to YouTube-and you likely didn’t even realize!
These three selections were staples from when I was growing up, so naturally, I’m quite fond of them. They’re next to impossible to find, however, whether to own or as part of the holiday specials on TV. I used to find one of these on TV myself while the other two I actually owned on VHS. So to find them on YouTube was quite the surprise and I felt the need to share part of my childhood with you and maybe introduce you to a new favourite.
No-not the critically panned thriller starring Michael Fassbender. We shall not speak of that one. Instead, we’ll speak of this one. Released in 1982, The Snowman is a silent animated short that follows the adventures of a young boy. Everything is hand drawn and emotions and reactions are done with music and facial expressions only. The boy lives out in the middle of nowhere and seems to be a bit bored, if not a bit lonely. He builds a snowman one day only for it to come to life that night. The two instantly become best friends and partake in adventures, from riding his father’s motorcycle in the snow to showing the snowman his house. But the snowman is here for a reason: to visit Father Christmas himself. The snowman takes the boy and flies him off to the North Pole for a gathering of thousands of snow people, all basking in Christmas fever in the presence of St. Nick himself. What’s so special about this entry is how different and unique it is. Being silent, a lot of the story is shown instead of told. It’s also equally haunting as it is cheerful, as we’re never 100% certain if the boy is dreaming or if it’s actually happening.
The spiritual sequel to The Snowman is the 1991 film Father Christmas, and this one is the polar opposite of The Snowman. While that film was artistic, slower and relied on musical cues to convey emotion, Father Christmas is chock-full of dialogue and hilarious situations. In this short, Father Christmas is a grumpy old British man living in the English suburbs. He’s outrageously grumpy in fact, and regularly complains about his job and resorts to drinking some scotch and smoking a pipe with his cat and dog. The premise is what does Santa himself get up to for the other 364 days a year? Well this film, based on the book of the same name, answers that question. There are two versions of this film, a “jollier” North American cut that I grew up with that seems to be impossible to find, and the original UK version, which features a different voice actor that’s grumpier. In the American cut, Father Christmas says “Merry” a lot whereas, in the original cut, he says “blooming” a total of 76 times (as opposed to say, bloody). There’s also a shot of Father Christmas’ butt at one point in the film. Despite growing up on the American cut, I’ve grown to appreciate the UK cut. In the end, it’s the same story after all. Anyway, back to the story. One day, he decides he’s due for a vacation after all the work he does and embarks on a trip around the world looking for the perfect vacation spot. His adventures take him first to Paris, where after overeating on French food, he ends up feeling very unwell. The sequence is both hilarious and something of an acid trip as he runs back and forth to the washrooms and wakes up feeling hungover. He proceeds to visit Scotland and Las Vegas, each with their own ups and downs before it’s time to get back to work and start prepping for Christmas all over again. We then follow him around the world as he does his job on Christmas Eve.
Kenneth Grahame’s work played a big role in my childhood. Who’s he, you may be asking? He’s the author of the beloved book The Wind in the Willows and Mole’s Christmas is based on some of the characters from that book. If you’ve never read the book, there’s a good chance you’ve seen the Disney adaptation from back in the day. The plot of the short is actually rather simple. Mole and Rat have just come back from visiting their friend Badger and are trying to get back to Mole’s home on Christmas Eve while simultaneously trying to avoid a pair of Weasel pickpockets. The short is incredibly British, with top hats and charm that may be out of place for some. But I remember seeing this short on TV as a kid every year until it was pulled and I’ve yet to see it play since. The short is very picturesque, with a small English village dressed in snow basking in the Christmas spirit while Mole’s home, Mole End, seems small and cozy-the perfect place for relaxing after marching through the snow. This one is definitely more of a traditional/feel-good Christmas special that you just don’t seem to get anymore.
Did you watch any of these Christmas specials as kids or is this the first time you’ve even heard of them? What would your favourite be and what classics do you love that no one seems to talk about anymore? Let me know in the comments and check out our work proving Die Hard actually is a Christmas movie and our review of the snowy third season of The Last Kingdom.