Wednesday, December 9, 2009

Unusual or Largely Forgotten Christmas Specials

Before I get to topic advertised in the title, I just realized that I can no longer let Xuxa Pets (or whatever they're called) pass without comment. Here's the commercial, which I initially thought was an elaborate satire:

(Love how the actual honest-to-goodness tagline is basically, "It's just like a real hamster, but it doesn't crap everywhere!")

"Rudolph", "Charlie Brown", "Grinch". We all know the Big Three Christmas Specials. But there are lots and lots of lesser-known specials that are still very good. Some of them are still well-loved but are simply not shown on TV anymore. Here are just a few of my favorites. Titles will link to their IMDB page:

"A Wish For Wings That Work" - Informally known as "The Bloom County Christmas Special" (even though it was made during the "Outland" era, but let's not get into the sticky issue of Breathed-verse continuity). This Youtube clip isn't the best quality, but trust me the animation is superb. Sadly, it's Opus' only animated outing. There is some concept art on Michel Gange's website that suggests a sequel was in the works, but it never came to be. It saddens me that we never got an Opus series (a la "Garfield and Friends") in this style:

"Twelve Tiny Christmas Tales" - I probably only have to say the following words here: Bill Plympton Christmas Special. It does retain his twisted humor and low-tech style, but it's also really sweet. It's available on Plympton's "Dog Days" DVD collection.

"Olive, The Other Reindeer" - It saddens me that this little slice of happy has faded into obscurity. It was produced by the "Futurama" team at the top of their game, and features big name voices that actually fit their characters. Best of all, J. Otto Seibold's artwork is perfectly replicated. As you can see, that was quite the animation challenge:

As a bonus, here's the unedited cut of "A Muppet Family Christmas", the best Muppet holiday special of all for my money (and it has some tough competition). Tough Pigs called this Jim Henson's victory lap and when you see how many characters he created, it's easy to see why:

(I officially deem it totally cool to go "awww" during the special's very last scene in the kitchen.)

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