Holiday Highway: Top 5 Animated Christmas Specials

Written by Emily McWilliams December 18, 2012

Maybe this Top 5 seems a little obvious because, after all, what would Christmas be without classic animated specials? The fact that I re-watch these every year proves that these aren’t just for kids, and it seems that as I get older, I come to love these more and more. For their creativity and ability to bring back many happy memories, here are my Top 5 Animated Christmas Specials.

5. “Simpsons Roasting on an Open Fire”

The first full length “Simpsons” episode is one of the best sitcom Christmas episodes ever created.  This episode is actually very tragic if you think about it: the family loses their Christmas money, Homer has to get a second job as a mall Santa, and Homer and Bart go to the dog track in a last ditch hope to get some money.  However, the family learns the magic of the season when they adopt a new member into their family and have a Merry Christmas anyways.  Heartwarming and hilarious.

4. “Rudolph The Red Nosed Reindeer”

Yes, I had to include at least one of these stop-motion animated specials and so I decided to include the most well-known and politically correct one, “Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer”.  Considering that this hour-long special was crafted from the popular Christmas jingle, the plot is entertaining thanks to it’s eclectic cast of characters like Hermey the elf/aspiring dentist, Yukon Cornelius, and the abominable snowman.  A charming tale of Christmas and learning to appreciate others’ differences comes to life through the simply adorable stop-motion animation.

3. “A Charlie Brown Christmas”

There are so many things to admire about this special, because while it may seem harmless, it has some controversial aspects.  It rejects the materialism of Christmas outright, and brings in a strong religious reminder of the season.  Whether or not you agree with these elements of the special, there are other moments that have become signifiers of Christmas pop-culture.  There’s the little rejected Christmas tree, that iconic children’s choir soundtrack, and of course, the dance scenes that have been parodied in almost every contemporary animated show.  This is an animated special with a message, and one that always brings back the nostalgia.

2. “The Nightmare Before Christmas”

Ok, so it’s technically not a “special” but a full-length animated film.  Regardless, Tim Burton and Henry Selick’s masterpiece is one of the most unique and creative films about Christmas ever made.  Jack Skellington is the pumpkin king of Halloweentown, but wants a change from his usual scare tactics.  He stumbles in the world of Christmastown, and is inspired to create his own version of Christmas that is wonderfully grotesque and horrible.  The art and animation of this film are stunning and this remains one of the best stop-motion films because of Burton and Selick’s imagination.

1. “How The Grinch Stole Christmas”

In my opinion, this is the only version of the Grinch that exists (let’s just forget that Ron Howard-Jim Carey fiasco, shall we?). Like Charlie Brown, this story rejects the materialism of Christmas and shows us that Christmas is about spirit and love.  Also, the narration and voice of the Grinch is provided by Boris Karloff which is absolutely amazing, and he voices the parts perfectly.  I’m pretty sure everyone sheds a tear when the Grinch’s heart grows as he saves the Whos’ presents, and for that reason, it is the best animated Christmas special.

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