Christmas truly is a special time of year no matter how you celebrate it. Every person and family has different traditions, but one of the most popular is sitting down to watch holiday movies and TV specials. There is something about having classic Christmas programs playing in the background while decorating the house or wrapping presents that makes the season even more special.
In Part 2 of Disney’s Best Christmas Movies, TV Specials and Shorts, I mentioned that Toy Tinkers, Pluto’s Christmas Tree, The Nutcracker Suite from Fantasia, Babes in Toyland, Once Upon a Wintertime from Melody Time and Ernest Saves Christmas all deserved a holiday viewing spot. Here is Part 3 of Disney’s Best Christmas movies, TV specials and shorts in no particular order. However, these ones may be a bit more special on Christmas Eve or Christmas Day.
NOTE: Some of the movies, TV shows, and shorts listed below can be hard to find/may be unavailable. There is no guarantee that they will be broadcast this Christmas.
1) “Santa’s Workshop” (1932) & “The Night Before Christmas” (1933)
The two shorts discussed this time are both Silly Symphonies and they are both about everyone’s favorite fat, jolly man at Christmas. No, I’m not talking about Burl Ives – it’s Santa Claus. Santa was the star of two Sillly Sympony shorts in back-to-back years and a third was to come, but it never did. The first is “Santa’s Workshop” (1932), which was recently featured as part of TCM’s Treasures from the Disney Vault marathon. “Santa’s Workshop” focuses on Santa going over his list of children checking to see what presents they will be receiving. It also shows the elves in the workshop building the toys in a variety of ways from assembly line production on rocking horses or using a spider to scare a doll so much her hair can shoot up into a curling machine.
“The Night Before Christmas” (1933) had to come the next year to show Santa delivering the toys that the elves were making in the previous short. “The Night Before Christmas” says Christmas more than any other Disney short produced. Santa arrives at a house, goes down the chimney, pulls out a tree and then the toys roll out of his bag to decorate the tree and set up for the children who are upstairs sleeping. Santa laughs a little too loud, waking the children who catch him in the act, but the story ends with Santa exclaiming, “Merry Christmas to all and to all a good night!” “The Night Before Christmas” is the Disney Christmas short I remember most from my childhood. As an adult, I can now cringe at some of the scenes in the short, specifically the moment where a toddler gets into a chimney and comes out with blackface, but most children will never pick up on some of these now insensitive moments and will just enjoy it for how good it is.
2) Prep & Landing (2009)
Like several entries in Part 2 of this series, Prep & Landing is another special that I had no watched until this year. I don’t know if it had to do with not knowing the characters or something else, but I just never gave it a chance. After giving it a shot, I have to say that I wish I would’ve taken the time to watch it a few years ago as it will become part of my holiday watch list.
The story is pretty simple – Wayne is an elf working for Prep & Landing, the division that prepares houses for Santa’s arrival, and is hoping for a promotion. He grows bored and restless when he doesn’t get a promotion and ends up botching a job when he leaves his new partner to do all of the work. Nothing about the animation or voice work is overly amazing, but the story has a good message and ends on great note. I have to applaud some of the stylized background art though, which was used in some original commercials based on Prep & Landing.
3) Mickey’s Christmas Carol (1961)
Mickey’s Christmas Carol isn’t the best Dickens adaptation Disney has their name on. That credit goes to Henson’s The Muppet Christmas Carol, but that film also lacks the Disney touch that Mickey’s Christmas Carol has. The short, which is 25-minutes long, was the first theatrical short in 30 years when it was released and had a complete different feel from classic Disney animated shorts. Granted, a brand new animation team was working on the feature and the only original voice actor was Clarence Nash, the voice of Donald Duck, but the movie still has a ton of heart.
The story doesn’t stray too far off the plot of A Christmas Carol, but it definitely doesn’t portray the bleakness and misery of 19th century London. Disney characters take over the classic roles including Scrooge McDuck as Ebenezer Scrooge, Mickey Mouse as Bob Cratchit, Goofy as Jacob Marley, Jiminy Cricket as the Ghost of Christmas Past, Willie the Giant as the Ghost of Christmas Present, Pete as the Ghost of Christmas Future, Donald Duck as Scrooge’s nephew and Mr. Toad as Fezziwig. It’s not the best version of the story, but it is a classic and must-watch for Disney fans
4) Toy Story That Time Forgot (2014)
The second Toy Story holiday special tackled Christmas and it did so in a very unique way. Toy Story of TERROR! wasn’t set during Halloween, but it incorporated themes from a horror film. Toy Story That Time Forgot lacks Christmas themes, but more or less explores the life of toys just days after Christmas and to quote Rex, “This seems festive.” The Toy Story gang goes with Bonnie to a play date with a boy friend and upon arrival they crash land on a strange planet after being ignored for video games. The strange planet they arrive on is populated by Battlesaurs, robot dinosaurs fresh out of the box, completely unaware that they are toys because they have yet to get played with.
Toy Story That Time Forgot will mostly resonate with boys of the ’80s and on, but also the parents of those kids who shelled out way too much money on complete sets of action figures and their accompanying buildings and accessories. For a lot of boys, Christmas used to be about getting those sets and then getting lost in them until Christmas break was over. Those who are expecting a more Christmas-y special are going to be disappointed, but the experiences is real. At the end of the day, the break out star is the new character – Kittysaurus, an cat/angle ornament who can play “O come, O come, Emmanuel” on the french horn and dish out inspirational quotes like, “Limitations are the shackles we bind to ourselves;” “Greet the world with an open heart;” and “Be grateful for your gifts; they are all around you.”
5) Disney Parks Christmas Day Parade
When talking about Disney holiday traditions, I think the one that tops the list is watching the Disney Parks Christmas Day Parade. It happens every single year on Christmas Day and it is the perfect thing to have playing in the background while opening presents. For families who haven’t been to Disney Parks in a while, it is a great way to bring back the memories of being there. For others, the over-commercialization of it is the perfect reminder to book a Disney vacation. Regardless of how relentless Disney is shoving their products down your throat, showing C-List pop stars lip sync holiday songs and briefly showing the parade you are tuning into see, it will remain a tradition in most Disney households – unless the Frozen theme this year took it too far over the edge.
“From All of Us to All of You”
Although this special is seldom seen in the United States anymore, it is a true Disney classic. Originally, “From All of Us to All of You” was part of the Walt Disney Presents series and then throughout the years it was broadcasted in different ways on different channels, but the basic premise is Jiminy Crickett presents holiday clips via Christmas cards. The special still exists to this day in Nordic countries and is considered a Christmas Eve tradition, which is crazy to think it’s been on TV there every year there since 1959. It was released in an edited format on VHS in the ’80s, but hopefully it gets the broadcast it deserves very, very soon.
That does it for Part 3 of Disney’s Best Christmas Movies, TV Specials and Shorts. Feel free to comment below on what made the list so far, let me know what else you think should make the list! Find Part 1 and Part 2 here.