Get your popcorn and eggnog ready, we’re about to list our favourite ever animated Christmas shows.
Determining what makes one stand out over the others is no easy task; which is why we at Ponoka News took some time to put together a not-so-scientific top 10 animated Christmas movies list.
What does make a show stand out among the many out there (there are quite a few Christmas specials) is a mix of nostalgia, how quickly the show comes to mind when thinking of one, and hearing from readers on Ponoka News’ Facebook page.
Readers comments helped remind us of some of the memorable specials including ones that were also on our minds. This list brings back some of the older specials, which are classics in their own right, along with some of the modern tales.
First: A Charlie Brown Christmas (1965)
Written by the household name of Charles M. Schultz, this TV special debuted on Dec. 9, 1965. It was an instant classic, and anyone who thinks about memorable Christmas movies mentions this one, animated or not.
There’s so much nostalgia built into this story that most folks can remember where they were the first time they watched it. As with many Christmas specials, it ends with a reminder of the true meaning of Christmas, and let’s face it, we all need a reminder like that once in a while.
Second: How the Grinch Stole Christmas! (TV Movie 1966)
A Dr. Seuss story that became an instant TV classic as soon as it premiered.
For a Grinch with a heart two sizes too small and a happy and loving Who community below, How the Grinch Stole Christmas brings the fun elements of a comedic cartoon (Loonie Tunes style), with the genius narration of Boris Karloff.
There are a couple Grinch remakes out there but they are nothing like the original animated show that managed to deliver the genius of Dr. Seuss to television.
Third: Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer (1964)
It was a tough decision placing Rudolph below the Grinch. Quite frankly, one could switch the two shows in our ranking and we wouldn’t be upset. This stop motion special aired on Dec. 6, 1964 and has been aired on TV every year since.
The real magic of Rudolph, however, was in how the story engaged kids and sparked their imaginations. Children to this day find themselves engaged by this TV special, which holds its own to this day. It’s a story that takes many twists and turns with Rudolph coming out as an important piece of the puzzle to the delivering presents.
Fourth: Polar Express (2004)
Robert Zemeckis’ 2004 movie is one about faith, belief and growing older.
The movie brings three kids together as they journey to to the North Pole on, you guessed it, the Polar Express. But what really stands out with this movie is a story-line of kids with real challenges who find ways to support each other.
The realistic 3D animation style film tells an exciting adventure that viewers love. Indeed, it was made for $165 million and grossed over $300 million worldwide.
Fifth: Frosty the Snowman (1969)
Frosty is another special (see Rudolph) that has been aired annually since its 1969 release.
The cartoon follows the story of Frosty who comes alive after kids give him a magical hat. As the winter starts to warm up, Frosty and the young girl Karen, plus a rabbit named Hocus Pocus must take the snowman to the North Pole to save him.
There have been a few sequels of Frosty the Snowman but it’s the original that keeps kids and families coming back year after year.
Sixth: Arthur Christmas (2011)
A pleasant Christmas movie surprise.
Arthur Christmas was created by Aardman Animations, the same group famous for bringing us claymation stars Wallace and Gromit.
The story follows Santa’s second son, young and clumsy Arthur Claus, as he seems to know what the true meaning of Christmas calls for.
Arthur’s older brother and heir apparent Steve, seems to be missing that one piece to the puzzle.
It’s the possibility of one child not getting a present due to a glitch in the system that forces Arthur on an adventure he didn’t quite expect. He just has to get the present to this one child.
This is one movie that proves Aardman Animations brings quality stories to viewers and may just solidify it as a classic for years to come.
Seventh: The Snowman (TV Movie 1982)
Based on the book by the same name (author Raymond Briggs), this story was nominated for an Academy Award for Best Animated Short Film and won a British Academy for Television Award.
The short film follows a boy who creates a snowman that comes alive at the stroke of midnight. It is a story filled with emotion despite being wordless, just like the book.
The short became an instant classic when released in the United Kingdom and still has a special place in the hearts of those who have seen it.
Eighth: The Year Without a Santa Claus (TV Movie 1974)
What would Christmas be like without Santa?
This special follows that line of thought after the man in red’s doctor suggests he take a holiday when he gets a cold…during the Christmas season. The doctor’s feelings were that maybe kids don’t believe in him very much.
Without the help of two elves — Jingle and Jangle — Vixen the reindeer, and Mrs. Claus, kids may not have received any gifts from Santa after all. But through their help, Santa sees that they do believe in him and Christmas comes after all.
Ninth: The Little Drummer Boy (1968 TV Movie)
Based on the well-known song of the same name, this stop motion movie has a similar look to Rudolph.
It follows the story of a young Jewish boy, Aaron, who lost his parents to bandits and who loves to play for his animal friends.
The death of his parents put a weight on him but eventually he finds how his music can heal. It’s difficult not to call this a classic.
Tenth: Rise of the Guardians (2012)
It’s a modern story with an almost epic feel of adventure and hope.
This story follows the Guardians: Santa Claus, the Tooth Fairy, the Easter Bunny, and the Sandman, who enlist Jack Frost to stop Pitch Black from putting the world into darkness.
It doesn’t get any better than that as far as adventures go.
What’s great about this relatively new story is it follows the Guardians as they try to bring faith and belief of Santa back to the children.
An epic tale that has some real depth to it. The movie is based on William Joyce’s The Guardians of Childhood book series and The Man in the Moon short film, also by Joyce.
Honourable mention: The Nightmare Before Christmas (1993)
Produced by Tim Burton and directed by Henry Selick, the director has gone on the record to point out this is indeed a Halloween movie (it was released in early October), yet for fans of this type of story telling, it’s a classic Christmas tale.
While some would argue the stop motion movie, with songs and music by composer Danny Elfman, is a little too Halloween for Christmas, it keeps creeping into the Christmas story rankings.
Some of that may be attributable to its nomination for the Academy Award for Best Visual Effects, and also for its story, which takes viewers into Christmas Town.
The movie’s mix of Halloween and Christmas earns it our honourable mention.
Bonus: He-Man and She-Ra: A Christmas Special (1985)
There are many bad TV specials out there, but the He-Man and She-Ra: A Christmas Special could be one of the worst.
The show follows two Earth kids who get lost in He-Man and She-Ra’s world of Eternia.
If that doesn’t work for you, just watch when Skeletor, the big villain and all around bad guy of the show learns about what it means to care for others during Christmas. Bah humbug!