With Christmas time finally arriving, it’s time for everyone to wrap up in a blanket by the fire, get some freshly baked Christmas cookies, and watch their favorite seasonal movies. For many, these include the Rankin/Bass claymation classics. Today we’re looking at the top five Rankin/Bass Christmas movies (*obviously, these are the opinions of the writer and, though it is the correct order, the reader is allowed to disagree).
Before we get into the top five, let’s acknowledge the other contenders: The Little Drummer Boy, The First Christmas: The Story of the First Christmas Snow, The Little Drummer Boy, Book II, Jack Frost, Rudolph and Frosty’s Christmas in July, Pinocchio’s Christmas, The Leprechaun’s Christmas Gold, and The Life and Adventures of Santa Claus. To be fair, I did not even know half of these existed before conducting research for this article, but due to the fact that many of these are not played on television regularly they are not making the cut. And for those that are played on television (such as The Little Drummer Boy and Jack Frost), sorry you’re just not it. You tried, and we appreciate you for it, but you just didn’t give us the extra push to make it to the top five. So without further ado…
5. Rudolph’s Shiny New Year (1976)
Okay, so it’s technically not a Christmas movie- hence the number five slot. But what it lacks in Christmas plot, it makes up for in Christmas spirit. Rudolph must track down Happy, the baby New Year, for Father Time before the turn of the year. Hi jinx ensue, and it brings warmth to the heart as all of the characters ring in the new year of “19-Wonderful”. If it was made this year, maybe they would be celebrating the new year of “20-Wonderful-that-we-made-it-through-this-past-year-of-hey-it’s-not-that-bad-it’s-kinda-like-the-flu-oh-this-is-kinda-getting-bad-shut-down-quarantine-bread-baking-OH-MY-GOSH-PLEASE-LET-ME-OUT-OF-THE-HOUSE-masked-up-I-WANT-THIS-TO-END-people-are-sick-like-dying-sick-Qanon-murder-hornet-TikTok-filled-election-year”… Too much?
4. Nestor the Long-Eared Christmas Donkey (1977)
The story of Nestor is basically the same as Rudolph, except that it is set in Jesus-time Bethlehem. All of the other asses make fun of him for his ears so he struggles to fit in. Some major plot points happen and then he ends up carrying Mary, the mother of Jesus, to the manger scene of the first Christmas. It is lower on the list because of it’s lack of originality, but deserves a spot on the top five just the same.
3. Rudolph the Red Nose Reindeer (1964)
You know the story- jerks make fun of the kid that’s different, he gets chosen by Santa to lead the pack because he can light the way through the fog, and all the kids get their presents. But this version contains the Island of Misfit toys. On top of all of this, it is the original Rankin/Bass Christmas movie, so it gets some bonus points.
2. Santa Claus is Comin’ to Town (1970)
Golden. Fred Astaire, voicing a narrator mailman, ushers in the film which covers the “true” story of Santa Claus. Young Kris Kringle is adopted by elves and he sets out on returning the Kringles to the position of the toymakers of the town. However, the Burgermeister Meisterburger has outlawed toys, so Kris, taking his birth name of Claus as a pseudonym, begins to deliver toys in secret on Christmas so the kids will be happy. Great songs such as: “The First Toymakers to the King” and the classic “Put One Foot in Front of the Other” make this Christmas special a must-watch every season.
1. The Year Without a Santa Claus (1974)
If Santa Claus is Comin’ to Town is golden, then The Year Without a Santa Claus is platinum. Based off Phyllis McGinley’s book of the same name, the film is about the time Santa was too sick to deliver presents. In response, Mrs. Claus sends two elves to try and get the North Pole warm so Santa can heal up. Like every story, hi jinx ensue and the viewer meets all kinds of characters like the Heat Miser, Snow Miser, Mother Nature, and a little boy named Ignatius Thistlewhite. Known best for its songs by the Miser brothers, The Year Without a Santa Claus should also be lauded for putting Mrs. Claus as the real central character of the story. It is also good enough to spawn both a live action remake in 2006 as well as a sequel in 2008. Overall, this is the best of the Rankin/Bass collection.
Whether it be one of these five films, or any other holiday special that is out in the world, the writer would like to wish the reader a Merry Christmas and a Happy Holiday.
(Cover Photo: CBS)