The holidays are drawing near, and you know its true with Universal Pictures Home Entertainment make sure you have THE ORIGINAL CHRISTMAS SPECIAL COLLECTION in time!
In 1964, families gathered around their television sets during the beginning of the Christmas season to watch RUDOLPH THE RED-NOSED REINDEER. The stop motion television special, was immediately embraced by everyone watching. The song of the same name written by Johnny Marks was the inspiration for the special and narrated by Burl Ives.
It is the story of a reindeer named Rudolph (Billie Richards) who happened to be born with a nose that glowed and it does not go unnoticed by Santa (Stan Francis). Made to feel different by the other reindeer’s, Rudolph leaves his home and friends to find a life where he would not be made fun of. He meets Hermey (Paul Soles), a different kind of elf and Yukon Cornelius (Larry Mann), a prospector who does not prospect much.
His parents go looking for him and instead find the Abominable snowman and now Rudolph knows realizes he needs to be there for them and accept what makes him different. His difference is what will help Santa save Christmas!
FROSTY THE SNOWMAN aired in December 1989 and would join his reindeer friend in becoming a holiday favorite even today. The inspiration is based on a song also of the same name written by Walter E. Rollins and Steve Nelson and narrated by Jimmy Durante.
When a town full of children decide to build a snowman, what they do not know that when a magic hat comes into their possession from magician Professor Hinkle (Billy De Wolfe) it brings the snowman to life. Given the name of Frosty (Jackie Vernon), a young girl named Karen (June Foray/Suzanne Davidson) and her friends parade around town having a wonderful time. That is until the young girl realizes that the warm temperatures will melt their new and fun friend.
In the meantime, Hinkle wants his magic hat back! When Frosty and Karen board a train, Frosty sees his young friend is getting colder which is not good for her. Frosty needs rabbit Hocus to find Santa to make things right, but it might not be enough for either of them. This is their adventure as magical and gives the children a reason to believe in everything wonderful. That is why saving Frosty becomes the most important thing they will ever do!
The story of a cricket is told in the 1967 animated CRICKET ON THE HEARTH adapted from a Charles Dickens’ tale written and composed by Maury Laws and Jules Bass. Crocket is a cricket who wants to help a toymaker and daughter when a tragedy comes to their door. He makes it his mission to help them find happiness in the holiday season.
Roddy McDowall is the voice of Cricket Crocket along with Paul Frees as Messenger, Ed Ames as Edward, Hans Conried as Tackleton, Abbe Lane as Moll, Marlo Thomas as Bertha and her father Danny Thomas as Caleb.
THE LITTLE DRUMMER BOY is a stop motion story brought to television in 1969 narrated by Greer Garson with The Vienna Boys’ Choir singing. It is the tale of Aaron (Teddy Ecles) and his animal friends Samson, Baba and Joshua. Given a drum as a gift, he enjoys making the animals dance. When a tragedy happens in his home, Aaron becomes angry and with no place to go he joins Ben Haramed’s (Jose Ferrer) performing caravan.
Treated badly by the towns people of Jerusalem, the group is back on the road and meets the Magi and are told they are following a bright star. After seeing how Ben is treating him and the Magi, Aaron leaves only to be devastated when his friend Baba is injured. He asks the Magi for help and is told that perhaps the child may be able to help. As a gift, he plays the drum and Aaron finds the joy he lost and in the simplest of gifts.
You can not have a Christmas season without telling the story of SANTA CLAUS IS COMIN’ TO TOWN. Another stop motion special airing in 1970 based on the song by the same name, the special was written by J. Fred Coots and Haven Gillespie and narrated by Fred Astaire as S.D. Kluger.
Burgermeister Meisterburger (Paul Frees) is a horrible man who has control of the city of Sombertown. When a baby shoes up on his grouchy porch, he orders the child to be taken somewhere else to be raised. There is something in the wind that is not about to let that happen as the forest animals take the child to the Kringle family. Tanta Kringle (Joan Gardner) names him Kris (Mickey Rooney)!
The Kringles’ are a toy making family and when he is older, Kris begins to take the toys to the children of Sombertown. When Meisterburger falls and hurts himself, he bans toys of any kind in the city and threatens to jail anyone caught. Kris is not about to stop what he loves doing, and he also meets Miss Jessica (Robie Lester). He tries to soften the Meisterburger’s heart, but it does not work.
On the run, the Winter Warlock (Keenan Wynn) captures him, but Kris does what he does best, make people’s hearts fill with joy. Returning to Tanta, she tells him of his birth but it does not change his love for the family that raised him, or the love he feels for Jessica. That love and the inspiration of giving is what keeps Santa Claus in our hearts!
Universal Pictures Home Entertainment has just added an amazing film to their library and making it available for us to all experience and re-experience in our own home theaters. There are films of every genre available from scary to drama to family films. For more of what they have to offer please visit www.uphe.com.
The Enchanting Bonus Features include The Animagic World of Rankin/Bass: A Documentary celebrating the legacy of the holiday specials created by Rankin/Bass including interviews with filmmakers and historians, Restoring the Puppets of Rudolph: Discover how the puppets from the beloved special were restored, Reimaging Rudolph in 4D: A Behind-The-Scenes look at the making of the new RUDOLPH THE RED-NOSED REINDEER attraction film.
Also, T.E.A.M. RUDOLPH AND THE REINDEER GAMES: A video storybook including the untold story of the Reindeer Games, FROSTY THE SNOWMAN: Original Pencil Test and Commentaries on FROSTY THE SNOWMAN and SANTA CLAUS IS COMING TO TOWN.
Rankin/Bass Animated Entertainment came to be known for stop motion animated shows using a technique called “Animagic”, and when I was a kid, I would have then as I do now agree with that term. Founded by Arthur Rankin, Jr. and Jules Bass, the 1960’s became their era of creating amazing stories that have become icons as well as classics.
Although known for their holiday specials, they also created such works as WILLY MCBEAN AND HIS MAGIC MACHINE and THE BALLAD OF SMOKEY THE BEAR. For television they brought Mad Mad Mad Monsters, That Girl in Wonderland and J.R.R. Tolkien’s The Hobbit. Rankin/Bass would end their run in 1987 but the works they created are still as wonderful today as they day they were released. It has been and continues to be pure magic for the family!
This collection of five timeless holiday specials is exactly what everyone needs in their own home entertainment library. These are stories of fun, love, family, friendship, belief in oneself and the magic that seems to be sprinkled all over the upcoming time of year.
THE ORIGINAL CHRISTMAS SPECIALS COLLECTION comes in the amazing steel book edition that I just love. In the colors of Christmas and although it would be nice in anyone’s stocking – might I suggest that this be the one present that the family opens early to enjoy with pajamas, blankets, comfy couches and popcorn.
Each of these films reminds us of how wonderful the world is through the eyes of animation and these films also bring back the childhood for us older folks who remember them as clearly now as the day they were brought to our very small television sets of the 1960’s.
Happy holidays and enjoy.
In the end – it’s a holly jolly good time!