The end of the year is not just to celebrate the holiday season but a time of reflection on the joys of the past. For Disney fans of “a certain age” like myself one of the Christmas traditions was watching a very special showing on the Disney weekly television show.
Titled From All of Us to All of You, the festive episode surrounded a charismatic Jiminy Cricket with colorfully illustrated Christmas cards from the Disney characters (back in the days when people actually sent physical Christmas cards and displayed them on the fireplace mantel and tables or hung them around the living room) that transitioned into excerpts from Disney’s classic cartoons.
That was a pretty big deal, because in the days before videotapes – much less Blu-ray discs – that was our only opportunity to see these animated treasures. And, of course, Disney and Christmas have always seemed to be magically linked.
The episode was directed by Jack Hannah who had been responsible for many of the classic Donald Duck theatrical cartoons.
“I ended up directing fourteen of the television shows, usually the ones featuring Walt and the Duck,” Hannah told me in one of my first interviews with a Disney animator in 1977. “I was brought in because Walt could tell that these other guys couldn’t ‘feel’ the presence of an unseen animated character.
“We used an awful lot of old animation stuff in the making of these shows to help with the costs. You’d find a theme like going on vacation or Christmas and tie a couple of short segments around a little new animation.
“One of my favorite shows and one that I felt came off really well and got a good reaction was ‘From All of Us To All of You’. Unfortunately, they have cut it up so much over the years to promote their latest film that I can hardly recognize it anymore as mine. The timing is all off. It doesn’t seem to hold together like the original.”
The show first aired December 19, 1958 and starting with its re-airings in 1963, the final segment was always reconfigured to showcase an excerpt from a current or upcoming Disney animated feature film.
In order to accommodate that change, the original opening and closing were cut completely which was a criminal shame.
Walt Disney during his introduction was shrunk to the size of a cricket by Tinker Bell’s magic because Walt said that Mickey Mouse and Jiminy Cricket insisted he appear “cricket-size” because “Christmas is bigger than all of us”. Walt explains that the show is going to be put on by “our cartoon critters” but takes the time to wish home viewers “on behalf of the human members of our staff” a happy Christmas.
Standing on the fireplace mantel, Walt introduces Jiminy and Mickey and turns the show over to them. Jiminy explains, “One of the nicest things that can happen this time of the year is to receive Christmas cards from your friends. Our gang would like to present their cards and through them share some memorable moments.”
Also eliminated was the closing sequence where Mickey Mouse plays the piano and Jiminy Cricket sings “When You Wish Upon A Star” which he says, “symbolizes faith, hope and all the things Christmas stands for. So this is my personal wish for you, something that can make Christmas everyday.”
At the end of the song a wide variety of Disney characters gathered around including some animals and birds from Snow White, the birds from Cinderella (perched on Alice of Wonderland’s lap), Pluto lying down next to Thumper and some young bunnies, Brer Bear, Brer Fox, the Seven Dwarfs, Goofy, Donald Duck and his nephews, the Three Little Pigs, and the mice from Cinderella.
Jiminy wished everyone a “Merry Christmas from All of Us to All of You” while the camera showed a “From All of Us” card on top of the fireplace mantel over a roaring fire while Christmas decorations and a Christmas tree filled the room. Tink waved her wand to create a big flash of light to close the show.
Like many of the episodes that featured compilations of classic cartoons, new animation (especially Jiminy interacting with the Christmas cards) was created especially for the show by Les Clark, Volus Jones, Al Coe and Bob McCrea.
Yale Gracey, Ray Huffine and John Hench were involved with the art design. In fact, Hench designed many of the Disney Studio Christmas cards so it is likely he designed most if not all of the cards shown in this show.
The catchy title tune was composed by lyricist Gil George (the pseudonym of Disney Studio nurse Hazel George) and award winning composer Paul Smith who she was living with as well as collaborating with on some memorable tunes. The song was released that same year as a single on Disneyland Records label.
The show was written by Albert Bertino and Dave Detiege and was later rerun December 25, 1960 and December 22, 1963. That 1963 edition had a different ending with Jiminy Cricket explaining: “Of course, no Christmas would be complete without a surprise gift” so he shows a preview scene from the then-new animated feature, The Sword in the Stone.
That new 1963 edited version without Walt was later rerun in 1967 (publicizing Jungle Book instead of The Sword in the Stone), 1970 (The Aristocats), 1973 (Robin Hood), 1977 (Pete’s Dragon), 1979 (Corn Chips cartoon included) and 1980 (Aristocats again for its re-release).
The original show included Santa’s Workshop (1932), Toy Tinkers (1949) and short scenes from Peter Pan (1953), Bambi (1942), Pinocchio (1940), Lady and the Tramp (1955), Cinderella (1950) and Snow White (1937).
The transitions to the scenes were fairly clever. For instance, Bambi has his head and shoulders poking through the letter “O” in the world “Noel” on the Christmas card and then moves, leading into the scene from Bambi. Jiminy Cricket is dangling on puppet strings on the Pinocchio card and lights the candles on the table outside of Tony’s restaurant to lead into the scene from Lady and the Tramp.
In 1983, the show was repurposed and expanded to ninety minutes and re-titled A Disney Channel Christmas.
One of my Christmas wishes is that someday Disney will re-release the complete original 1958 version of From All of Us to All of You. Even though it was shown in black and white, it was filmed (including the new animation and footage of Walt) in color and it would be wonderful to see a cricket-sized Walt Disney wishing a “Merry Christmas” among other treats.
As the closing credits to the episode stated “This special holiday program has been made possible by the combined talents of the entire Walt Disney Studios. It is our way of saying ‘Merry Christmas from all of us to all of you’.”
This column is my way of saying “Merry Christmas” to all of you and for the many interesting comments you add to all of my columns, especially Animation Anecdotes, that I consider as gifts given to me and animation history all year round.
Here is the link to the original program: