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In 1974, Rankin/Bass produced an animated special for Television based on the Clement Moore poem. 'Twas the Night Before Christmas tells the story of Joshua Trundle, a local clock maker who tries to entice Santa Claus to come back to the small town of Junctionville after a letter questioning his existence appears in the local paper.

The special stars Joel Grey, star of such movies as Cabaret and comedian George Goebel, whom some may remember from a series of mattress commercials for Sealy posturpedic. The special ran on CBS until the early 90's and currently appears on ABC family television. ABC family was originally CBN, a christian broadcasting network owned by Pat Robertson. The version I have uploaded here is the one edited by CBN because they felt the song "Give your Heart a Try" held too many references to other fairy tales such as leprechauns and the Easter Bunny. They felt since Santa Claus was based on St. Nicholas, that would still be appropriate. As a christian, I think it's silly because kids can distiguish between fantasy and reality and why show it at all if you deem it inappropriate?

Anyway, I have uploaded the entire cartoon here for your enjoyment.
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One of the "Big Four" in the Rankin/Bass stable, Santa Claus is Coming to Town tells the story of the origins of Santa Claus and includes the voice talents of Mickey Rooney, Keenan Wynn, and Fred Astaire. 

 At the start of the film, a brief newsreel (narrated by Paul Frees) is shown, depicting kids worldwide awaiting Santa Claus. Then, Special Delivery "S.D." Kluger (Astaire) is introduced. His mail truck breaks down, so he begins to tell the story of Santa Claus, in order to answer children's letters to Santa. The show presents a bleak world where children aren't allowed to play with toys until Kris Kringle (adopted son of the Kringle family, a group of elves) brings his toys to the children upsetting the Burgermiester Miesterburger who then makes Kris an outlaw. Kris then changes his name to Claus, a name he had with him when found by the Kringles. The burgermiesters sort of "die off" and Kris, now Santa Claus, is free to distribute his toys to all of the children. But, he has to pick one night of the year due to the amount of requests from children. So, he picks the holiest night of the year, Christmas Eve. 

 The film ends as S.D. Kluger reflects on what Santa's real meaning is all about. Just then, though, S.D. remembers that he still has a load of letters to deliver to Santa. Then, joined by a parade of children, S.D. begins to sing Santa Claus Is Coming to Town. The film's closing scene has Kris and Jess (Mrs. Claus now) in silhouette, as he puts his old hat back on his head. Then, Santa steps out of his Palace, revealing himself in full splendor. 

 The special airs on ABC television and currently on ABC Family during it's 25 Days of Christmas.



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Bringing the Peanuts characters to television was not an easy task. The strip's creators, with funding from sponsor Coca-Cola, presented the CBS network with an idea for a Christmas television special starring Schulz's characters.

At first, the CBS big-whigs didn't like the special. They felt it needed a laugh track or else the audience wouldn't know where the jokes ended and began. They also felt the jazz soundtrack by Vince Guaraldi wasn't right for a children's program. They finally felt that Linus' speech from the gospel of Luke wouldn't sit well with audiences as they wouldn't want to sit through a reading of the passage. Charles is said to have responded "If we don't tell the true meaning of Christmas, who will?".

The special first aired on December 9, 1965. It was soley sponsored by Coca Cola and, to the surprise of Network executives, was a smashing success. 50% of TV viewers tuned in to watch the special. It went on to win the prestigous Peabody Award and an Emmy.

The track "Linus and Lucy" has become synonymous with the Peanuts characters and the soundtrack album by Vince Guaraldi continues to be a success.

Trivia

  • The main titles have Linus crashing into a Coca-Cola sign after Snoopy has spun both him and Charlie Brown around with Linus' blanket. In the versions currently available, the viewer never sees where Linus' trajectory lands him. Instead, they see Charlie Brown landing towards a pine tree which causes more snow to fall on top of him.
  • In the "fence" scene, where several of the Peanuts gang are attempting to knock cans off a fence with snowballs, Linus is seen knocking down a can with his blanket. In the original airing, this was a Coke can, but it was later replaced with a nondescript can.
  • The final end credit originally had a voice-over saying, "Brought to you from the people in your town who bottle Coca-Cola." This is why the "Hark!" chorus sung at the end trails off oddly before the song would normally end, as an announcer originally did a voice over at this point in the credits to repeat and reemphasize the local bottler's well wishes to the TV audience (watch clip here: Clip 1 ).



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In the fall of 1950, The Frank Sinatra Show joined CBS' schedule. At the time, Sinatra was at the top of his career, so the show's success was practically a given. CBS saddled the series with tough timeslots against the hits Your Show of Shows and Milton Berle's Texaco Star Theater, though, and the series was cancelled after only two seasons.  



Sinatra was lured back to television in 1957 by ABC. With his film career in full swing, Sinatra decided that his new The Frank Sinatra Show would follow a loose format. Some weeks it would be a variety show, other weeks a dramatic show, and some weeks he would simply introduce episodes in which he would not appear. This show, too, was a failure, and was cancelled after one season


When the special was recorded, Bing felt that he sang better in the evening while
Franks sang better during the day. So, Bing recorded his part of the duet separately while Frank sang it live as the scene was recorded. The style of the show gives the viewer the feeling of two hep cats sharing a bit of Christmas cheer with each other and the audience. The show ends with Frank and Bing singing a rousing duet of Crosby's most famous hit, White Christmas.
In 2001, Sinatra's daughter Nancy, herself a pop veteran with the variety special Movin' with Nancy under her belt, began to examine old film canisters as part of her role as family archivist. While trying to determine which parts of the family's large film library were in danger of decomposition, she stumbled upon a theretofore unknown color print of Happy Holidays with Bing and Frank, the 1957 series' Christmas special. Happy Holidays was broadcast for the first time in over forty years on the cable channel Trio in December of 2001, and now it is available on DVD.


Here is an excerpt from that special. Keep your eye out for the carolers as one of them is Don Williams, older brother to Andy Williams.

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Before we get started down this road exploring all of our favorite Christmas Cartoons and Specials, I thought it would be important to start out by writing a little about the team that is foremost responsible for bringing us some of the greatest memories from Christmas Past.

That team is none other than Arthur Rankin, Jr and Jules Bass. They started their production company in the early 1960's as Videocraft International. They were famous for creating productions using "Animagic", a stop-motion animation technique. Amongst the stable of contributors throughout the catalog of shows were people such as Romeo Muller who contributed to many of the specials as a screenwriter and Maury Laws, who served as musical director for almost all of the animated films.

Their first holiday special production was Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer, produced for NBC and sponsor General Electric in 1965. Based on the song by Johnny Marks, the special featured Burl Ives as Sam, the talking snowman and contained an orchestral score also written by Marks. Rankin/Bass then began producing a string of holiday hits starting with The Cricket on the Hearth (1968) featuring Danny Thomas.

Others that followed were:


The Little Drummer Boy (1968) -featuring Greer Garson and Jose Ferrer
Frosty the Snowman (1969) featuring Jimmy Durante and Jackie Vernon
Santa Claus is Comin' to Town (1970) featuring Mickey Rooney, Keenan Wynn, and Fred Astaire
The Year Without a Santa Claus (1974) - featuring Shirley Booth and Mickey Rooney
The Little Drummer Boy, Book II (1976)- featuring Miss Greer Garson
Nestor, The Long-Eared Christmas Donkey (1977) - featuring Roger Miller
Jack Frost (1979) - featuring Buddy Hackett
Rudolph's Shiny New Year (1976) featuring Red Skelton
Rudolph and Frosty's Christmas in July (1979) - featuring Mickey Rooney and Ethel Merman
'Twas the Night Before Christmas (1974) - featuring Joel Grey and George Goebel
Frosty's Winter Wonderland (1976) - featuring Andy Griffith
The First Christmas (1975) - featuring Angela Landsbury
Pinocchio's Christmas (1980)
The Leprechaun's Christmas Gold (1981)- featuring Art Carney




Mickey Rooney appeared as Santa Claus in three Rankin/Bass productions making him the most used popular actor of the genre. Two of the most recognizable voices from the specials were voice actors Paul Frees and June Foray. June may be best known as Rocket J. Squirrel from the adventures of Rocky and Bullwinkle. She also portrayed Cindy Lou Who in How the Grinch Stole Christmas.

It was in those days that no matter how big a star you were, if Rankin/Bass asked you be in a Christmas special, you did it.

The team of Rankin/Bass are honored here for the tremendous contribution to all of our childhood Christmas memories.



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The series, The Andy Williams Show won three Emmy Awards for outstanding variety program. Among his series regulars were The Osmond Brothers. He gave up the variety show in 1971 while it was still popular and retrenched to three per year. His Christmas specials, which appeared regularly until 1974 and intermittently from 1982 into the 1990s, were among the most popular of the genre. Andy's specials were famous because it featured his three brothers; Bob,Don,and Dick whom he sang with in the early part of his career. It also featured his wife,Claudine and their three children Noelle, Christian, and Bobby. Andy Williams has recorded eight Christmas albums over the years and has been penned as Mr. Christmas - an obvious rival for Bing Crosby.

Here is the opening to the 1966 show.

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In 1968, Rankin/Bass produced a stop motion animated feature based on The Little Drummer Boy. The film names the drummer boy Aaron and expands the song's storyline to include events before the birth of Jesus. It stars the voices of Greer Garson as "Our Storyteller" and Jose Ferrer as Ben Haramad; it also features the Vienna Boys Chior singing the title song.

It aired for many years on NBC (under original sponsorship of the American Gas Association(AGA) before entering syndication). It currently airs in the U.S. on the ABC Family cable channel. A television sequel, titled The Little Drummer Boy, Book II, premiered in 1976, also on NBC, again sponsored by the AGA, again narrated by Greer Garson, and also currently airing on ABC Family.



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This is my first post. This is a blog about the numerous Christmas Cartoons and specials that most of us have known since our childhood. Some you may remember and some you may not.
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