We've looked at Rankin/Bass' best, but that doesn't mean we've seen all the best of Christmas animation yet. Far from it.
Where to start? Well, that's a no-brainer, isn't it?
Come to think of it, there could be dissenting opinions on that view. My best friend can't/won't watch A Charlie Brown Christmas. The Thanksgiving show, she'll watch. The Christmas show...not going to do it (and I should know, I tried to get her to sit through it...I failed...).
Why? She thinks it's too depressing. Ok, so she has a basis for that. Charles Schulz, by all accounts, wasn't exactly the happiest person on the planet. Often his work reflected that. This work most certainly did.
One key element of the show that reflected most directly Schulz's feelings about the holiday was Linus' monologue on the Nativity. CBS, in their infinite corporate wisdom, didn't want it included. For some reason, introducing religious themes into a story about Christmas made them nervous.
Regardless, Schulz wanted it. It was a reflection of how he felt about the season. Ultimately, he got it.
Personally, and despite the fact that I'm more of a secular celebrant of the season, I'm glad he did. I also think the mood that my friend hates is in perfect keeping with the season.
Let's face it, the holidays are stressful. For some, sadly, they're more stressful than they can bear.
They're also breeding grounds for greed, commercialism, cynicism, ostentatiousness, expectations which are all too often unreasonable or unrealized...do I need to go on? Schulz, one way or another, addresses all these things...with grace, intelligence, skill...
And more than a little redemption.
That truly is what Christmas is all about,
Here's a short cartoon that's even darker in tone than A Charlie Brown Christmas.
MGM's Peace On Earth (which can frequently be seen during the season on Cartoon Network) has probably the most glorious use of colors I've seen in animation outside of the Fleischer Superman cartoons of the 1940's (although my screen capture capabilities don't reflect them here).
It has as cute a family of anthromorphic animals as you'll ever see.
And halfway through, every human being in the piece is dead...
Made in 1939, prior to World War II, but with a nervous
world anticipating the inevitable conflict, this was a cautionary tale
brilliantly crafted by Hugh Harman. It is amazingly easy for one
to be caught up initially by the charm of the animal characters.
Make no mistake, at the heart of it is terror in the anticipation of what
might break out at any moment...but like Charlie Brown, tempered with the
hope of redemption.
Ready for something lighter? I know I am...and I certainly don't want to give the appearance that I'm some sort of Web-based Grinch here...hmmmm...Grinch, eh???
Granted, the good Dr. Seuss crafted How The Grinch Stole Christmas from a pretty dark place. Still, it's done with such brilliant humor that the black heart of this green Uber-Scrooge seems more mischievous than evil.
Then again, you've got Dr. Seuss, Chuck Jones, Albert Hague, Boris Karloff, June Foray and Thurl Ravenscroft all over this thing...how could it go wrong?
(In the spirit of the season, I'll refrain from using
the phrase "live-action" here...)
As I'm perusing my tape collection, I'm finding there are just too many interesting cartoons to confine to one page. Therefore, next month, I'll be posting Part 2 on this topic, featuring short subjects and maybe one or two half-hour cartoons you might not be quite familiar with...and some you may.
To close out what is now Part 1, let's take a look at a character who well could've been actively Grinch-like in his own right...if he wasn't constantly too bloated from lasagna binges...
This time around, Garfield finds himself smackdab in the middle of an Arbuckle family Christmas...
Ok, maybe in a bit more than that...
Still, the holidays will out...and an unexpected gift from Odie caps a day that brings even Garfield to sentimental reflection.
That'll be it for right now, Part 2 will be up September 25. See you then.
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