Well, not too long to go now peeps! Christmas is right around the corner – and I for one am excited about it. As I’m sure you all are!
I love Christmas – I always have done even from a young age. Ok, I admit that when I was younger, all I really cared about Christmas was getting loads of presents – but now I’ve grown up, I’ve also learned to see another side of it. For me personally, Christmas is a time where people can forget about their problems and appreciate what they have. A time where family and friends can get together and celebrate the bond that they share and the strength of their love. It’s a time where we try and remember the good things in our life and forget the bad, wherever possible.
It’s also a time where we get to eat lots of turkey and Christmas pudding!
Well, maybe that is not the main purpose of it. What I’m really trying to say is that Christmas is a time for love and sharing. And the one thing I love are Christmas related specials/movies that try and capture this feeling. Sure, some of them fail miserably and just come across as cheesy and stupid – but there are a lot of movies and specials that DO capture the feel of Christmas and give you a warm feeling inside. So today, I’m looking at the Top Five Christmas related movies/specials, that (for me) perfectly capture the spirit of Christmas and leave you with a warm (sometimes tearful) feeling inside.
As with all my Top Five lists, this is only based on shows that I’ve seen and they are in no particular order. Also, be warned. There are Festive spoilers ahead!
1. A Pinky and the Brain Christmas
I frigging LOVE Pinky and the Brain. They were by far my favourite characters in Animaniacs. They are, in my eyes one of the best comedy duos of all time. Brain, the megalomaniac, humourless mastermind with aspects of world domination – and Pinky, the crazy, stupid but highly loveable mouse that often is the cause for Brain’s failure – due to his incompetence. Every single episode had them focus on a rather obscure and highly silly way to achieve world domination – always failing. Despite their villainous intentions, you just couldn’t help but love them as characters due to their zany antics. Also, I have to say Brain has one of the best voices of any cartoon character (voiced by Maurice LaMarche), sounding very much like legendary actor Orson Wells.
In this Christmas Special, Pinky once more has a diabolical scheme to take over the world (of course!) and this time, he plans to use the Christmas season as lynchpin. Pinky plans to create a special toy that, on Christmas day, will activate and, through the use of a mind control device, bend the entire world to his whim. So he and Brain head off to the North Pole and disguise themselves as elves (just go with it), make the toy and it gets distributed across the entire world. During this time, Pinky is desperate to meet Santa and give him his Christmas list – but fails to do so.
Come Christmas Day, Pinky is upset that he was never able to give his list to Santa and Brain is preparing the mind control device. When the toys activate, he has to give a command and everyone will be under his control. Before the device activates, Brain finds Pinky’s letter to Santa Claus. Reading it, the letter expresses Pinky’s respect for Brain (despite his mistreatment of him) and tells Santa that Brain works so hard for his goals and that he deserves a break. He even tells Santa to not give him any presents this year – but to give it all to Brain. At that point, the mind control device activates and Brain seems to finally complete his mission of world domination. But overcome with emotion from Pinky’s letter, he orders everyone to “Have a Merry Christmas”, then destroys the machine.
This is such a heart-warming tale – because of the mutual respect between the two mice. Even though Brain is a complete jerk to Pinky, Pinky has a certain amount of respect for him and even admires him for his own work. By the same token, Brain (learning of this respect) even gives up his dream of world domination. In many ways, both of them sacrifice something in this episode (Pinky his presents, Brain his dreams) for the other. It’s a wonderful story about how friendship is the most valuable present of all. Don’t get me wrong, it’s still full of zany escapades – but it has heart to it as well. A wonderful Christmas story in my opinion.
2. Simpsons Roasting on an Open Fire
The Simpsons have done tons of Christmas specials over their many years of existence – but none of them, in my opinion, have ever quite matched the magic of the first Christmas special. Despite its age (and primitive animation compared to now) it still holds up as a great Christmas special in my eyes.
For many, this would have probably been the first case of seeing The Simpsons on TV (not including the Tracy Ulman shorts) as it was the first full length episode of The Simpsons to be broadcast on TV. It’s a classic episode that is lauded by many fans – and even taught in Universities as well I heard.
The story involves the Simpson family getting ready for Christmas, as any family would. But trouble strikes when Homer doesn’t get his Christmas bonus at work and Marge has to spend hundreds of dollars to remove a tattoo that Bart has done. With little money, it seems all is bleak for the Simpsons. But Homer, not wanting to spoil the Christmas spirit for his family, does what he can to make it the best ever, taking a second job as a Santa Claus at the Mall, and then spending his earnings on a racetrack when that fails to earn him any money to make it a good Christmas. But he loses all the money gambling. Feeling he has failed his family, and ruined Christmas, he admits defeat. But then, one of the racing dogs at the track (who would go onto be Santa’s Little Helper), is disowned by his owner and he runs into the waiting arms of Homer, who brings him back to the family and they welcome the dog with loving arms.
The Simpsons has always a lot more ironic and satirical than most cartoons back then (and has spawned many others that try to emulate it’s satirical edge, like South Park, Family Guy and American Dad to name a few) and indeed this cartoon has a bit of a darker edge than many cartoons back then. Yes, Christmas is a time of happiness – but sometimes we don’t appreciate what some people have to go through to make it a happy Christmas – and the stress and sacrifices that they have to go through for their families. I’d like to think that this cartoon teaches us to respect the hard work parents have to go through so that everything can go swimmingly on the big day.
So to all the people out there that work their butts off so that their family can have a great Christmas – respect to you all! :)
Speaking of which...
3. It’s a Wonderful Life
I actually only just recently saw this film earlier this year, as a request from my best friend. At the beginning of the year, my brother saw a Barry Norman special in a copy of The Radio Times, listing the top 100 greatest films of all time. In an effort to improve his tastes in film, he made sure he watched EVERY single film on the list – It’s a Wonderful Life being one of them.
When I first heard of this film, I thought it was just going to be a bog-standard kids film. But actually, I was amazed at how dark it was! The main plot was about a guy that was going to commit suicide for crying out loud – in a Christmas film! So after watching it, I will admit that it is, not just one of the best Christmas films of all time, but one of the best STORIES of all time.
The plot is first told in flashback, as some angels describe to Clarence (an angel yet to get his wings) about the story of George Bailey – played by the incredible James Stewart. He was a young, idealistic but altruistic young man that went out of his way to help people, even going so far as to take on a powerful, corporate banker and made his bank into something that actually cared for their customers. But, in his adult years, he was faced with major debts and bankruptcy – meaning that he was broke and could no longer provide for his family. At the end of his life, he prepares to jump off a bridge and end it all.
But Clarence saves George and tries to assure him that his life is worth a damn and tries to remind him of all the good he has done over his life. But George, utterly distraught, wishes he was never born. So Clarence grants him his wish – and George sees first hand that the town he lives in has gone to hell and has become a dark and foreboding place. He grows to realise that his involvement and interactions with the people in his life actually prevented this kind of reality from happening – and he learns to appreciate his life. Being sent back to the real world, he rushes back to his family, now with new admiration of the things that he has, and he vows to face his problems head on.
Then, in one of the most heart warming twists at the end, all the people of the town (the ones George had helped) come to his house, carrying bags of money – enough to pay off their debts and have a happy Christmas. They all then sing Christmas songs and Clarence looks on, having gained his wings.
Sure, it’s kinda cheesy, but I actually would have been very upset if this didn’t end up happily. Mainly because George is just so loveable a character, you really don’t want anything bad to happen to him. It’s a Wonderful Life is just one of those feel good movies that makes you appreciate how good it is to be alive – not just for Christmas but in general. Not only that, I feel it also has a strong “Anti-Suicide” message, showing people that there is always hope, no matter how dark your life becomes, and that there are people who care about you – even if you don’t realise it. The title says it all really - because life is wonderful if you look at it in the right way.
4. The Muppets Christmas Carol
How do you take a classic Charles Dickens story and make it a hundred times better? You add in muppets of course!
I love the muppets – I always have done. Kermit, Miss Piggy, Fozzy Bear, Gonzo, Beaker, Animal, the list goes on. The zany, mad capped humour of them is one that has lasted the ages and I think will last forever in our hearts. I don’t think I have ever seen anything with the muppets in it that I haven’t found hilariously funny at one point. Even films that aren’t as good as the others still manage to raise a smile.
The Muppets Christmas Carol is a fine adaptation of the classic tale – with Michael Caine playing the cranky Ebenezer Scrooge (in one of his best roles I say). The muppets fill in many of the other roles (with the cranky old men playing the ghosts of Marley – definitely my favourite muppet characters) as well as the ghosts and spirits. But whilst it has many of the usual zany (is it just me or am I using that word a lot today?) antics that you would expect from the muppets, it remains very true to the spirit of the original tale. Though it may have been adapted for a younger audience, it doesn’t hold back on the darker nature of the story, especially at the end when Scrooge realises what his life will become if he carries on the current path he is on. Nor does it gloss over the final message, when Scrooge realises the error of his ways and reforms himself, which has always been the true essence of the story – that people can change no matter how bad they may appear as a person.
Not much more to say on this one, but this film further proves my own personal theory that you automatically make a story a hundred times more entertaining when you add in either of these two things. Muppets – or ninjas.
Actually, I think A Christmas Carol with ninja’s would be pretty cool! He could be visited by 3 Oni’s and has to kung fu fight them to survive! Anyone? No? Oh well...
Ahem, moving on.
5. The Snowman
Ah yes, The Snowman. A classic amongst classics. I cannot tell you how many times this story has reduced me to tears, even in my adult life. It’s a bittersweet story about friendship and seeing the idea of Christmas through the eyes of a child.
A hand-drawn animation with virtually no dialogue (except for the song Walking in the Air by Aled Jones), The Snowman tells the tale of a boy who builds a snowman during the winter, who comes to life at the stroke of midnight (I guess through magic, but it’s never really explained). The two embark on an adventure, leading to many zany antics (in fact, I think that’s been a running theme in this Top Five list), involving the Snowman nearly knocking things over in the house (and almost getting melted by a heater) and then a humorous bike ride down the town.
This leads up to the most awe-inspiring scene of the entire story – when the Snowman and the boy take to the sky and fly across the world. The song Walking in the Air starts playing here – and it stills takes my breath away and gives me chills when I hear it. The song has so much power and airy substance that you almost feel like you are flying with them. The entire sequence is also amazing as the boy and the Snowman see the world from below, crossing the ocean towards the arctic. Like I said, this animation was all hand-drawn and that makes this even more amazing, as a lot of painstaking effort has gone towards the creation of it. That is pretty incredible if you ask me.
They meet up with other Snowmen, and Father Christmas (or Santa Claus if you wish to call him by that name), who gives the boy a scarf. They party into the night and then the boy and the Snowman return home. Next day, the boy is buzzing with excitement and goes out to check the Snowman. Only to find (in a scene that has made many children and adults alike cry their eyes out) that the Snowman has melted. Wondering if the whole things was just a dream, the boy finds the scarf given to him by Father Christmas and the story ends as the boy mourns the loss of the Snowman.
A sad ending compared to the others on this list – but this story is a staple in classic Christmas stories as it possesses a magic that no others do. We are seeing this story through the eyes of a child and experiencing the weird and wonderful things that he experiences. Much like the film E.T. it brings out the child in all of us – after all, we all want to believe that the world is full of wonder and magic and this story shows us that side. Not only that, but the fact that the story is told through music and not words lets us feel the emotion of the piece and lets us build our own conclusions, as opposed to just being given exposition.
All in all, it is an amazing story and, if you’re not afraid to let your emotional side come forth and have a good cry – but at the same time experience the magic of the piece – then I highly recommend it.
I’m sure that there are plenty of other Christmas related shows and movies that I could have put on this list, and limiting it to just five meant that I only could put so many on there. So I’d love to know what YOUR ideal Christmas specials or movies are. Please leave a comment below.
To all my readers, fans, or anyone else who just happened to stumble across this blog, Merry Christmas to you all and have a Happy New Year!
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