It's A Licensed Character Christmas
December 13, 2014 4:39 AM   Subscribe

For use spreading misery and pain during this holiday season, have a heaping shovelful of bad bad 80s Chrismas cartoon specials. Hail Grinch!
He-Man & She-Ra's Christmas Special (YouTube 44m)
Christmas Comes To Pac-Land (Dailymotion 23m)
The Wacky 12 Days of Christmas (YouTube 24m) (with Phil Hartman)
And the one that inspired this post, the amazing Deck the Halls with Wacky Walls (YouTube 23m) That is to say, the Wacky Wallwalker Christmas Special. Written by Mark Evanier!
After the break... TWENTY-ONE MORE OF THESE THINGS. You're welcome!

Ho ho ho! No no no!

Because pagan woodspirits care about Christmas too: The Smurf's Christmas Special and 'Tis The Season To Be Smurfy (Dailymotion 48m) - Baby's First Christmas (Dailymotion 23m)

Bears, too, somehow have reason to celebrate the birth of Our Lord And Savior: Berenstain Bears' Christmas Tree (YouTube 24m)

The letters "B.C." mean "Before Christ," so you would think cavemen would be excused from the annual yuletide ritual. You would be WRONG: A Flintstone Christmas (Dailymotion 46m) - A Flintstone Family Christmas (23m)

B.C.: A Special Christmas Part 1 (YouTube 13m) - Part 2 (YouTube 11m)

The future! A Jetson Christmas Carol (Dailymotion 22m)

Ghosts, no doubt denied access to Heaven because of some curse! They still celebrate Jesus' birth! Casper's First Christmas (Dailymotion 24m)

Random talking animals! Yogi Bear's All-Star Comedy Christmas Caper (23m)

A non-talking animal! A Pink (Panther) Christmas (Dailymotion 25m)

Boring suburbanites! A Family Circus Christmas Part 1 (YouTube 8m) - Part 2 (YouTube 8m) - Part 3 (YouTube 7m)

For Better Or For Worse: The Bestest Present Part 1 (YouTube 9m) - Part 2 (YouTube 8m) - Part 3 (YouTube 5m) - Farley La-La-La (YouTube 6m)

Talking dolls and Wile E. Coyote (under a pseudonym)! Raggedy Ann and Andy: The Great Santa Claus Caper (YouTube 24m) (Directed by Chuck Jones)

Blind old men! Mr. Magoo's Christmas Carol (Dailymotion 52m)

Plumbers in magic mushroom land! Super Mario Bros. Super Show: Koopa Klaus (Dailymotion 22m) - Super Mario World: The Night Before Cave Christmas (Dailymotion 10m)

Obscenely animate lumps of clay! Will Vinton's California Raisins Claymation Christmas (Dailymotion 24m)

Cartoon Kid Louie Andersons! Life With Louie: A Christmas Surprise for Mr. Stillman (Dailymotion 20m)

Whatever the heck the Warner Brothers and Sister are! Animaniacs: A Christmas Plotz and Little Drummer Warners (Dailymotion 21m)

And, for that extra tinge of holiday horror, there's Hugh Harmon's terrifying tale of a post-apocalyptic Christmas: Peace on Earth (YouTube 9m)
posted by JHarris (60 comments total) 105 users marked this as a favorite
 
So I was at a food place (I hesitate to call Denny's a restaurant) with a friend and we were talking about the horrors of the holiday, stuff like Lovecraft "Solstice Carols" and the like, and I got to talking about Santa and the Ice Cream Bunny. Well he suddenly got this look in his eyes, as if reminded of some long forgotten wound, and then said: "A Wacky Wallwalker Christmas." I knew the moment I heard it I had to look it up, and I don't think it disappoints. And, because I hate mankind and wish for the end of all things, I knew I not only had to post it to Metafilter, but to find the worst licensed character Christmas specials I could find on YouTube, with a couple more for good measure.
posted by JHarris at 4:45 AM on December 13, 2014 [17 favorites]


How can we forget the sequel no-one asked for, 1992's It's Christmastime Again, Charlie Brown?

The Xmas spirit willing, maybe by bingeing on 150-proof egg nogg...
posted by Doktor Zed at 4:51 AM on December 13, 2014 [1 favorite]


I didn't say this was comprehensive. Any more anyone wants to throw onto the heap, by all means!
posted by JHarris at 4:52 AM on December 13, 2014


Awesome post, I definitely watched more than a few of these as a child in the 80s. We had the He-Man and She-Ra one on VHS tape and I would occasionally watch it even in the summer to get my He-Man fix.

Though for my money as an adult, the best animated Christmas special is The Junky's Christmas.

You might want to ask the mods to fix that Chrismas/Christmas typo above the fold though...
posted by 256 at 4:53 AM on December 13, 2014 [6 favorites]


Ah, good catch.
posted by JHarris at 4:55 AM on December 13, 2014


Not a licensing tie-in, but Nelvana's A Cosmic Christmas was the weird Christmas special I remember being disappointed with when I was a kid. I don't know when they finally stopped showing it, but I remember wanting to see it, because spaceships and aliens, but it was so incredibly boring, I don't know if I ever watched the whole thing.
posted by Mister Moofoo at 5:09 AM on December 13, 2014 [5 favorites]


Although some of these specials are a ripe slice of hell, those that came before weren't all that much better. I came across "Happy Holidays from Bing and Frank" (Brought to you by Chesterfield Cigarettes!) last night and though the songs were lovely, the whole stilted banter in between and the fake apartment they awkwardly moved around in keeps the tone kind of "off", like David Lynch kinda "off".
posted by AlonzoMosleyFBI at 5:18 AM on December 13, 2014 [2 favorites]


Claymation Christmas should not be included on this list. Claymation Christmas is fantastic.
posted by Metroid Baby at 5:31 AM on December 13, 2014 [9 favorites]


I actually do think the Claymation Christmas special is a cut above most of the others here. But I also included the Animaniacs and Peace On Earth. And technically a few of these aren't specials but cartoon episodes. Still, though, by the time you work your way down the list to the Raisins and Animaniacs, you're probably due a respite.
posted by JHarris at 5:39 AM on December 13, 2014




Even as a kid, I was all WTF about Buttons and Rusty.
posted by pxe2000 at 6:17 AM on December 13, 2014 [1 favorite]


I don't care what you say, Mister Magoo's Christmas Carol is good. It's a musical stage production in cartoon form, with songs by an actual Broadway songwriter.
posted by fings at 6:19 AM on December 13, 2014 [8 favorites]


Funny you should say that, because I was just watching a bit of it. I'll allow it might be okay overall, but the highly limited animation takes its toll on it.
posted by JHarris at 6:27 AM on December 13, 2014


It's a shame that the Animaniacs one is in French - I can only understand about one word in three.
posted by YAMWAK at 6:37 AM on December 13, 2014


Also great, and too often overlooked: A Wish for Wings That Work. It's charming, well-made, and has Bill the Cat.
posted by Metroid Baby at 6:38 AM on December 13, 2014 [13 favorites]


Good timing, as little theBRKP and I just got finished watching the Spongebob Christmas Episode.
posted by theBigRedKittyPurrs at 6:40 AM on December 13, 2014 [1 favorite]


Mr. Magoo's Christmas Carol is the finest, most noble, ray of pure joy to ever bestow its finery among us mere mortals.
Fanstastic post. Can't wait to curl up with these.
posted by missmary6 at 6:43 AM on December 13, 2014 [3 favorites]


Mr. Magoo's Christmas Carol is my favorite version by far.
posted by CarolynG at 6:44 AM on December 13, 2014 [3 favorites]


Wait, if Casper is a ghost, that means at one point he was a living human, so it's pretty possible that it's NOT his first Christmas.

Hmpf.

/pedant

I am an Old, so I never saw any of this stuff. My cartoon heyday was the 70s, filled as it was with The Grinch, Rankin-Bass and A Charlie Brown Christmas. By the mid 80s, I had even stopped watching those.
posted by droplet at 6:50 AM on December 13, 2014


....you claim to be posting the worst holiday special tie-ins ever, but I notice one very glaring omission from a galaxy far, far away.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 6:51 AM on December 13, 2014 [8 favorites]


Without Pee Wee's Christmas Special, this list is nothing. I'ma let you finish, but this is the best Christmas. Special. Of. All. Time. It's a a two spot to watch on youtube, and totally worth it.

Also the children in the HeMan Christmas special... is it just me or are they proto-hipsters?
posted by 1f2frfbf at 6:52 AM on December 13, 2014 [4 favorites]


And, for that extra tinge of holiday horror, there's Hugh Harmon's terrifying tale of a post-apocalyptic Christmas: Peace on Earth

That's an amazing anti-war short created directly between the two World Wars. Just haunting and sad, really.
posted by xingcat at 6:58 AM on December 13, 2014 [1 favorite]


Don't forget io9's epic demolition of the He-Man & She-Ra Christmas Special.
posted by TheWhiteSkull at 7:18 AM on December 13, 2014


Yeah that post-apocalyptic Christmas is fascinating. 1939 is a delicate time for an American studio to be making an anti-war film. Not quite as provocative as, say, 1940 would have been, but still. And of course this film is pre-nuclear, so the imagery is different. Mostly World War I soldiers in gas masks. Still, chilling.

But not as chilling as seeing an animated For Better or For Worse. Yeeech.
posted by Nelson at 7:27 AM on December 13, 2014 [2 favorites]


BTW if you just have a minute, start watching that post-apocalyptic video at 6:55, the happy conclusion. The woodland animals read the injunction "Ye Shall Rebuild the Old Wastes" (Isaiah 58:12) and loot a battlefield, turning the helmets of fallen soldiers in to cheerful little squirrel houses. One hopes they washed the brain and skull material out first.
posted by Nelson at 7:32 AM on December 13, 2014 [2 favorites]


Glad to see A Cosmic Christmas mentioned above; that shit was crazy.
posted by The Card Cheat at 8:21 AM on December 13, 2014


Mr. Magoo's Christmas Carol! I've been trying so hard to track this down; my local public library has a copy but there's a weird glitch whereby it's in constant limbo and no amount of "holding" will get it to you (I think it's lost but they're in denial). Then I saw it at Costco but it was bundled with a bunch of other crap I didn't want to see and pay for and it was quite pricey ($14 or maybe $18? Whatever, even a dollar is too much...)

Thank you! (I haven't seen it in 30 years so I *might be* remembering it more fondly than it deserves...)
posted by joseph conrad is fully awesome at 8:32 AM on December 13, 2014 [2 favorites]


Came in here to defend Mr. Magoo's Christmas Carol, saw I didn't have to. That was a staple of my childhood and, from what he tells me, my father's as well. We had a VHS tape of it that had been recorded in 1986 off some airing, so it had all these wonderful mid-80s commercials for toys that became more and more irrelevant. We'd watch it every year, usually the same day the house got decorated. People say the Mickey Mouse version was the best cartoon version and I will fight you. I will accept the Muppets, because Muppets, although they are not a cartoon and therefore in a different category.

(Well, we had that tape until my younger brother used that tape to record a football game. We never let him live that down. Then the Great Mr. Magoo Christmas Carol Hunt occurred, and eventually Christmases were once again Right And Proper.)
posted by ultranos at 9:15 AM on December 13, 2014 [3 favorites]


Yeah, I gotta defend the Claymation Christmas special. Raisins aside, it's the only post-70's production that achieved Christmas special canon status in our household. If only for the brilliant Carol of the Bells segment.
posted by usonian at 9:33 AM on December 13, 2014


Yeesh. I made it through about two bars of the theme of that For Better For Worse special. Does it get any better?
posted by ob1quixote at 9:52 AM on December 13, 2014 [1 favorite]


I tried watching the He-Man one and the Wacky Wallwalker one. I tried.
posted by Going To Maine at 10:28 AM on December 13, 2014


To think that before he was the leader of the Autobots, Optimus Prime was Big Blue the Wacky Wallwalker.
posted by XMLicious at 11:19 AM on December 13, 2014 [1 favorite]


A love letter to Mr Magoo's Christmas Special from Sally Forth's Francesco Marciuliano.
posted by edheil at 1:44 PM on December 13, 2014 [1 favorite]


To think that before he was the leader of the Autobots, Optimus Prime was Big Blue the Wacky Wallwalker.

I tend to think of him as Eeyore myself.

Sorry the Animaniacs one is in French. I didn't screen that one, going from old memories of the episode. Which I knew wasn't as bad as most of the others. I was trying to get most of the ones I could find that weren't generally known.

On certain omissions/inclusions:

- The highlight of the post was intended to be Deck The Halls With Wacky Walls. I would have made the post around it alone. I actually think Mark Evanier is terrific overall (Garfield and Friends is rather better than the newspaper strip), but there's a lot of work he's done that, I think he'd admit, was just him keeping food on the table. Often you're given a bizarre premise by a producer and have to work with it the best you can. You can't be too edgy, you can't be offensive at all, and there's probably three or four different editors reviewing your script itching for a chance to hand you a note. You really can't blame him that much.
- Overall, I made the post fairly quickly, because past megaposts have taken up so much of my time and I've been a bit pressed lately. I'll admit a bit more time might have helped this one.
- Star Wars Holiday: I made an early decision to go with animated specials, and that one's mostly live action. Also, I think it's been covered before.
- Rankin-Bass: They made a ton of them. They mostly deserve a post of their own.
- Peanuts: I skipped Charlie Brown Christmas because everyone knows it, but neglected noticing that they made a sequel. Wow.
- Garfield: Didn't find a complete copy.
- There's a couple others I could only find paid copies of, or incomplete copies. One of these was a second Yogi Bear Christmas cartoon, but they wanted $9 for that, and no.
- Cosmic Christmas: had never heard of it.
- On the better inclusions: lately, the whole idea of devoting a block of 30 minutes or more of time based around Christmas has gotten harder to defend. Magoo is in because the Christmas Carol portions are a weird juxtaposition with the Magoo jokes. Claymation: I saw this on air and remembered it as a little better than the others, but... it still a half-hour of holiday-themed animation, and Will Vinton's been on the Blue a bit lately, so I threw it in.
- A particularly glaring omission, because it came up in my searches over and over, was Fat Albert's Christmas. I left that one out on purpose. Can you guess why?
posted by JHarris at 2:28 PM on December 13, 2014


Yeah that post-apocalyptic Christmas is fascinating.

And yes, I've known about that one for a while, it's amazing. It arguably doesn't deserve the company of the others, but the theme overall is holiday horror, and it certainly fits the bill, just in a different way. I like how Harmon managed to slip in so much commentary into the standard funny animal format.
posted by JHarris at 2:31 PM on December 13, 2014


Wait, if Casper is a ghost, that means at one point he was a living human, so it's pretty possible that it's NOT his first Christmas.

Casper's so weird, and that's even before that CG movie came along. Some of his stuff you get the feeling he's somehow always been a ghost. There was a cartoon I've mentioned before that Hanna-Barbera made, Casper and the Space Angels, that puts him in the future, like a Jetsons-style future, and has him pal-ing around with lady space police officers on jetbikes, who zoom through outer space without air supplies. or full-face helmets. Bizarre.
posted by JHarris at 2:35 PM on December 13, 2014 [2 favorites]


Oh, and I wanted to include A Wish For Wings That Work as one of the less-bad ones, but couldn't find a copy.
posted by JHarris at 2:36 PM on December 13, 2014


> I didn't say this was comprehensive. Any more anyone wants to throw onto the heap, by all means!

Some men just want to watch the world burn.
posted by Mrs. Davros at 2:59 PM on December 13, 2014


The Truly Worthy Animated Christmas Specials are a small, special list:
How the Grinch Stole Christmas: Dr. Seuss, Chuck Jones, Boris Karloff, Thurl Ravenscroft... was there anybody associated with that production who was NOT Legendary?
A Charlie Brown Christmas (still being recognized and merchandised today in the form of the barren 'Charlie Brown Christmas Tree' ...Amazon's #1 selling Christmas Tree... I don't know how to deal with that)
Mr. Magoo's Christmas Carol: Jim Backus as Magoo did the Best. Scrooge. Ever. And they ignored Magoo's characteristic blindness when it would've interfered with the plot.
The Best of Rankin/Bass: Original Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer, because "Bumbles bounce!", The Year Without a Santa Claus for Heat Mizer and Snow Mizer and the NOT claymation Frosty the Snowman for the voice of Jackie Vernon (he "used to be a dull guy")
Claymation Christmas Celebration; the Raisins were the hook to draw the audience (pre-internet clickbait), but there was a lot more.
A Wish for Wings That Work... Opus IS the Best. Penguin. Ever. (and the only one who'd agree to be interviewed by MeFi'sWendell)
annnnd if you stretch the definition of 'animated'a little bit, the Muppet production Emmet Otter’s Jugband Christmas was, IMO, the best thing in felt for the season.
posted by oneswellfoop at 3:34 PM on December 13, 2014 [5 favorites]


It's nice to hear this outpouring in favor of ol' Magoo. I don't think I've ever seen it all the way through. I'll have a watch through later.
posted by JHarris at 4:23 PM on December 13, 2014


If you want to see what crap is being foisted on today's kids, just pull up Kid's Netflix. Tons of low-budget animation with paper-thin plots about reindeer, Santa, and wincingly, sometimes baby Jesus. They look cheap, they are cheap, I don't know why anyone would watch them but somebody must be.
posted by emjaybee at 8:13 PM on December 13, 2014 [1 favorite]


What a pity that Seth McFarlane never made Kiss Saves Santa.
posted by Pope Guilty at 11:08 PM on December 13, 2014 [3 favorites]


The success of Mr. Magoo's Christmas Carol kicked off The Famous Adventures of Mr. Magoo, a series in which the otherwise nearsighted bumbler is a talented thespian performing in adaptations of classics like Frankenstein. Magoo was a great actor!

My fave animated Xmas show of recent vintage is Olive, the Other Reindeer.
posted by bonefish at 11:40 PM on December 13, 2014 [1 favorite]


That's awesome bonefish, I had never heard of that! Although with the animation in those cartoons I imagine they could be produced really cheaply.
posted by JHarris at 12:00 AM on December 14, 2014


"Emmet Otter’s Jugband Christmas" has been a staple in our house for years. It was my favorite as a kid, and I kept the VHS tape recording of itfor years. Found the DVD some years ago after the tape broke, and have played it for my family every year ...

Although my favorite memory of that movie was when we were picking out our christmas tree years ago, my young daughter says loudly as we are leaving the tree farm " Let's go home and put it up, and then we can watch that beaver movie you like so much!"
posted by das_2099 at 8:57 AM on December 14, 2014 [1 favorite]


I got, like... one minute into A Wacky Wallwacker Christmas. I'd learned that the lead character was named "Wacky". I hadn't even heard the One Vocal Tic That Substitutes For Actual Character Traits of all half-dozen members of the Only Team Of Wallwalker Explorers Not On Vacation Right Now before I had to tap out.

If that makes me weak, so be it.
posted by egypturnash at 10:24 AM on December 14, 2014 [1 favorite]


Snow Miser/Heat Miser are definitely the highlights of Year Without a Santa Claus. In a more recent viewing I was really struck by Santa's last line in the finale - it seems like a bit of madness and cosmic horror slipping through Santa's cheery facade: "I dreamed unhappy things!"
posted by usonian at 2:41 PM on December 14, 2014 [1 favorite]


To be honest, the animated Frosty with Jimmy Durante does not hold up that well. It's kind of pretty to look at, but unsatisfying. Even as a kid I never liked it as much as the Rankin-Bass stopmotion stuff, which had the power of its own oddness to carry you through the dull bits.
posted by emjaybee at 8:04 PM on December 14, 2014


Often overlooked but sooooo good ... Ziggy's Gift. Music by Harry Nilsson!
posted by jbickers at 7:07 AM on December 15, 2014 [1 favorite]


Although with the animation in [Olive, The Other Reindeer] I imagine they could be produced really cheaply.

Just in case you weren't aware - that particular special was based on a children's book, and the animation was designed to resemble the illustrations in the book itself.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 7:40 AM on December 15, 2014


I was referring to Mr. Magoo, which was produced under the UPA house style, which was very limited, highly stylized animation.
posted by JHarris at 8:21 AM on December 15, 2014


We made the A.V. Club.
posted by Chrysostom at 12:33 PM on December 16, 2014 [1 favorite]


Damn it! I'd only just finished Night Man!

Great post, Jharris - thanks!
posted by running order squabble fest at 4:45 PM on December 16, 2014


I was going to ask about cavemen and Xmas but then I realized I'd have to think about feet-powered cars and I don't want to go down that road. Again.
posted by Ik ben afgesneden at 7:13 PM on December 16, 2014


the highly limited animation takes its toll

Eh, what's that? The minimal aesthetic (typical of UPA animation) is just one of the components which makes Mr Magoo's Christmas Carol so charming. (Thanks for that Jule Styne enlightenment, fings!)

Yes -- in this production, not only can Magoo see, but Gerald McBoing-Boing (playing Tiny Tim) can speak. (Everywhere else, his voice is merely various sound effects.)
posted by Rash at 9:44 AM on December 17, 2014 [1 favorite]


This was actually a pretty good take on Christmas for a TV show Dinosaurs Refrigerator Day.
posted by boilermonster at 9:59 AM on December 17, 2014 [1 favorite]


Nobody here's mentioned it, so --- if you've been lucky --- maybe none of you have seen a crime-against-animation called Santa Claus vs. the Snowmen. But yes, it's an animated Christmas-themed movie, so what the heck, let's toss it on the pile. Just be warned, in case you're tempted to hunt it up: it sucks.

(Although my own Christmas movie pleasure isn't animated: it's the gloriously cheesy Santa Claus Conquers the Martians.)
posted by easily confused at 12:35 PM on December 17, 2014 [1 favorite]


Eh, what's that? The minimal aesthetic (typical of UPA animation) is just one of the components which makes Mr Magoo's Christmas Carol so charming.

Hm. To be honest, my take was influenced by Chuck Jones' opinion of it in Chuck Amuck, which was rather critical. There are positive elements to it, true. He was probably despairing that Warner Bros, Termite Terrace-style lush animation would disappear from the earth, which it pretty much has as a commercial concern, although due to entirely different factors now.
posted by JHarris at 3:17 AM on December 18, 2014


Skating walruses crashing into penguins still bring my brother and me to tears of laughter
posted by ikahime at 10:30 PM on December 18, 2014


Slight derail: for those with Netflix, you can watch a special Bojack Horseman Christmas Special, in which Bojack & Todd watch the Horsing Around Christmas Special. It's a little meta.
posted by Going To Maine at 6:12 AM on December 19, 2014 [3 favorites]


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