Has it been a whole year since my last posts on Christmas animation? Around Christmas 2013, I devoted six columns to Christmas-themed cartoons. American theatrical shorts, American TV Specials, direct-to-DVD releases, foreign theatrical releases, and animators’ Christmas cards. Around 125 of them.
These did not pretend to be all of the Christmas-themed animation out there. I am taking a break from my French animated features survey to bring you some more. Many of these were called to my attention by my column’s readers at the time — you can see who should get the credit by reading the comments in last year’s posts.
American Theatrical Shorts
Five Orphans of the Storm. Aesop’s Fables, December 22, 1923. A puppy at the Orphans’ Home doghouse sneaks out on Christmas Eve to hang his stocking at the entrance. Santa Claus pours gifts into it with a funnel, but when the puppy invites five younger puppies to share his gifts the next morning, the stocking is empty. The disappointed puppy wanders through the snow, seeing other cats and dogs enjoying Christmas feasts, until he rescues a little girl from going over a waterfall. Her grateful father gives the puppy a Christmas dinner, which he shares with the younger puppies. The title is a reference to the popular D. W. Griffith Orphans of the Storm feature with Lillian & Dorothy Gish (December 28, 1921).
Toyland. Terrytoons, November 27, 1932. Santa Claus and his reindeer fly over a snowy countryside, dropping presents. A pet dog has a miniature Christmas tree at his doghouse. Many of the presents fall down chimneys, to unwrap and disgorge live toys that parade around living rooms set up for Christmas.
Merry Dog. Universal/Lantz, January 2, 1933. The wolf (with a stereotyped villain’s moustache) kidnaps Santa Claus and steals his costume to get into Polly’s house, where she and Pooch the Pup are celebrating Christmas. Warfare ensues between the wolf and the toys, and there is a separate war between Polly’s cat and all the mice. The cat eats the mice, and Santa gets loose and demolishes the wolf.
Opening Night. Van Beuren, February 10, 1933. Santa Claus sprinkles stars for the opening of the swank Christmas show at RKO’s Roxy Theatre in NYC. Cubby Bear sneaks in, and becomes the orchestra’s conductor. The Van Beuren Studios’ cartoons were distributed by RKO, and this was a parody-showpiece of RKO’s super-modern, automated giant Roxy Theatre and its live entertainment, with Christmas almost immediately forgotten.
Holiday Land. Columbia, November 9, 1934. Scrappy doesn’t want to go to school, and wishes that every day was a holiday. He dreams that Father Time takes him to the holidays; Christmas, but also to New Year’s, Easter, and Thanksgiving.
(Steve Stanchfield posted his transfer of “Holiday Land” on Thursday – so here in its place is a hilariously poor version of a silent home movie edition, with trippy sound effects and dialogue added by the person who uploaded it)
Cats in a Bag. Terrytoons, December 11, 1936. Puddy the Pup finds a bag of abandoned kittens in the snow at Christmastime. He has trouble making friends with them.
Knights for a Day. Universal/Lantz, December 25, 1936. Meany, Miny, and Moe, the three chimpanzees, are singing Christmas carols. They see that Widow Duck and her four ducklings are too poor to celebrate Christmas, so they take the Christmas tree and all the presents from the home of rich Mrs. Henrietta Hen and bring them to the Ducks. When Mrs. Hen sees how happy the Ducks are, she forgives the three “monkeys”.
Gifts from the Air. Columbia, January 1, 1937. When a broken toy soldier is discarded by its toyshop owner, it is rescued by a poor boy who takes it to his shack for Christmas. The boy falls asleep, and the soldier brings Santa Claus to fill the shack with toys and a feast. The toys put on a show, with parodies of popular radio entertainers of the mid-’30s.
The Captain’s Christmas. MGM, December 17, 1938. From MGM’s short-lived “The Captain and the Kids” series, based on the newspaper comic strip. The Captain’s household (der Captain, der Mama, Hans und Fritz) are preparing for Christmas, with der Captain playing Santa Claus in a cow-drawn sleigh. John the peg-legged pirate chief and his three pirates steal the Santa costume from him, get into the house and ruin everything; then getting into the Christmas spirit, they go into the town to sing Christmas carols, which they do so horribly that everyone throws their own presents at them (plus bathtubs, refrigerators, etc.), which the pirates bring home for Hans and Fritz.
Bedtime for Sniffles. Warner Bros., November 23, 1940. Sniffles the little mouse tries to stay awake on Christmas eve so he can see Santa Claus coming down the chimney at midnight.
One Ham’s Family. MGM, August 14, 1943. The Big, Bad Wolf fails to get into the third pig’s brick house, but when he returns during Christmas after the pig has gotten married and has a child, the Wolf disguises himself as Santa Claus to trick Junior into letting him in. But Junior is a “Home Alone” brat who makes things hellish for the Wolf. Tex Avery thought it was funny to make a snowy Christmas cartoon at the height of Summer.
Ski for Two. Universal/Lantz, November 13, 1944. (Released in 16mm and 8mm by Castle Films as Woody Plays Santa Claus).
Woody Woodpecker tries to get into Idaho’s exclusive Swiss Chard lodge during Christmastime, but proprietor Wally Walrus won’t take him without a reservation. Woody disguises himself as Santa Claus, knowing that Wally will not turn away such a famous celebrity, but Wally is suspicious since it’s only October.
Woody hastily stuffs his Santa’s sack with the lodge’s big feast and tries to escape, but for once Wally is ahead of him.
Snow Foolin’. Famous Studios, 1949. The animals are ice-skating in a Winter Wonderland on December 21, the first day of winter. The “follow the bouncing ball” song is “Jingle Bells”, a traditional Christmas song even if it doesn’t specifically mention Christmas.
Mice Meeting You. Famous Studios, November 10, 1950. Katnip the cat disguises himself as Santa Claus to get into a house where the mice are preparing for Christmas. He chases the mice using the Christmas tree ornaments as weapons. The mice are driven out into the snow until cousin Herman (or “Hoiman”) arrives to lead them to retaliate.
Gift Wrapped. Warner Bros., February 16, 1952. When Santa Claus brings Tweety to Granny as a present, Sylvester P. Pussycat switches tags so that he gets the canary and Granny gets a rubber mouse. Much switching of gifts ensues between Sylvester, Tweety, Granny, and a large bulldog.
(Not on You Tube)
Jumping With Toy. Famous Studios, October 4, 1957. Baby Huey posts a sign inviting Santa Claus into his house. The starving fox disguises himself as Santa to get in and eat the giant baby duck, but everything goes wrong. (“Duh, I tink dat you’re duh fox, an’ you’re tryin’ ta EAT me!” — was there any “Baby Huey” cartoon that didn’t have this line?)
I have also been advised of several Christmas cartoons that I consider bogus, despite their being included on XmasFlix.com, such as the Van Beuren Studios’ A Toyland Tale (January 4, 1931) and Toyland Adventure (January 27, 1932). As I said last year, not every cartoon about live toys in a toyshop, or set during a snowy winter, is really a Christmas cartoon even if it was released for Christmastime, if it does not show any sign of Santa Claus or some other holiday aspect. Toyland Adventure is just about two mice playing in a toyshop when it is closed at night, and being surprised by the shop’s cat. It could take place at any time in the year.
There may be more Christmas-themed theatrical short cartoons, but this is enough to fill the column for now.
Next week: Six Christmasy TV Specials.