The Weirdest Moments in Classic Christmas Specials

abominable snowman on the year without a santa claus
Turns out he’s not a bad guy. But still kind of strange.

Old Christmas TV specials can be downright bizarre. I grew up watching the animated cartoons like  Frosty the Snowman and The Grinch, and eagerly lapped up the clay stop-motions like Rudolph the Red-nosed Reindeer, and The Year Without a Santa Claus. Joyous holiday fun, right?

Yes. And no. They’re enjoyable shorts, but as an adult I’m noticing really strange beats, weirdo songs, and odd, almost off-putting characters. Some of these things resonate through the years: we’ve learned to use the term Reindeer Games to signify human pack behavior that’s intended to be more clique-ish than inclusive. And among those experiencing “outsider status” alienation, the concept of The Island of Misfit Toys really hits home.

Here are some of the best wacked-out songs from decades ago that we still love, probably because of their strangeness.

The Year Without a Santa Claus (1974):

Remember the Heat Miser? There’s also a Snow Miser, but nobody remembers him. The Snow guy seems too nice, but the “Heat Blister” is the king of strange. If you’ve ever seen this, the lyrics come flooding back. (He’s too much…da da da duh…)

How the Grinch Stole Christmas (1966):

I can’t go any further without mentioning the beloved song, You’re a Mean One, Mr. Grinch. What great about this song is there are so many additional lyrics as the song reprises over the course of 26 minutes of cartoon runtime. It’s really creative and each set gets wilder and weirder. I love this. Between The Grinch and the Heat Miser, it’s like grumpy geek nirvana.

Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer (1964):

This is the cutest one in the holiday lineup, with a whole lot of adorableness and a great message about tolerance, compassion for others who don’t fit the societal role, and the kind of understanding that leads (if we’re really lucky) to friendship. Everyone in this special is damaged goods in some way, even Santa himself, who has to stuff himself unhealthily to fit the “image” of a fat old man. But the real strangeness award has to go to the Abominable Snowman, who’s only cranky because his teeth hurt. Enter the elf who wants to be a — gasp! —  dentist. It all comes around, and Rudolph’s deformity saves Christmas. I hope the other reindeer invite him to play their games and he tells them off. Although, I guess, that’s defeating the spirit of the message.

The Island of Misfit Toys also qualifies as weird. There’s a birdfish, a crying dolly, a Charlie in the Box, a train with square wheels…all toys probably made by elves on crack. The toys believe no child would ever want them. In reality — our reality — there are kids who’d love them instead of getting the boring same-old toys: these are unique. And remember, even in this day there are children who’s families can’t afford any gifts. They would CHERISH these toys.

Those who are different don’t have to be outcasts, or think of themselves as broken. Apparently Santa doesn’t even bother to save the toys in the original, as LifeNews reports in an excellent article (well worth a read — angry letters from children saved the day).

And that’s all I’m going to say as I put my soapbox away. Here’s the brightly, sprightly song the lonely toys sing, at strange odds with their predicament — they truly have no hope for themselves. It’s remarkably subversive, and I love it:

In sum, I’d posit that strange is memorable and fun, sticking to the nooks and crannies of the brain moreso than taking more expected  route. Look at the new (1918) Grinch movie. It’ a marvel of animation, but boring. Really, really boring.

Have I missed something noteworthy and odd from your favorite holiday specials? Do you prefer the Grinch song or the Heat Miser? Please add your comments below!

In Defense of the Grinch

The Grinch Who Keeps Stealing Christmas

Movie Review – The Grinch

 

 

 

Jill Florio

Co-Creator of RunPee, Chief of Operations, Content Director, and Managing Editor. RunPee Jilly likes galaxy-spanning sci fi, superhero sagas, fantasy films, YA dystopians, action thrillers, chick flicks, and zany comedies, in that order…and possesses an inspiringly small bladder. In fact, that little bladder sparked the creation of RunPee. (Good thing she’s learned to hold it.)

Movie Rewatch Review — Dr. Seuss’ How The Grinch Stole Christmas (1966)

The Grinch's heart grew three sizes that day.
Spoiler: I cried at the end.

I don’t know if you can technically call a 26-minute television Christmas Special a movie, but let’s go with it, since it’s almost Christmas, and I owe the nice people who like sappy holiday shows a kind-hearted review.

Filmed in 1966 and based off the classic 1957 children’s tale by the beloved Dr. Seuss (who didn’t invent the term grinch, but did coin the word nerd), the short film really stands up well over time. It’s cranky yet sweet, has some great tunes you can’t help but sing to, and the late, great Boris Karloff narrates the thing.

Seriously. How can you NOT love this song?


The animation itself recalls old Looney Tunes, specifically The Road Runner shorts. Watch the special and listen, and see if you don’t agree.

The Grinch himself is basically Wile E. Coyote, but more creative. I couldn’t help but chortle as he slunk around the presents like a green furry snake, wearing a gleeful grin.

This version is just as long as it needs to be, telling an economical tale that’s got a good message and tugs at the heartstrings without being treacly.

And you know, the Grinch isn’t really evil; he’s misunderstood. I’ve even defended him here.

I’ll tell you a secret. I watched this last night with my mother, sang the Grinch song out loud, and cried at the end. I wasn’t just misty-eyed; actual tears ran down my cheeks. I was careful to hide this show of sentimentality, of course, but when the Grinch’s heart grew three sizes, and he saved Max and all the presents and rode into town like a hero, I felt like my heart grew too. Like the Grinch, I can’t be all bad, right?

At this time, I’ve seen every Grinch movie, and saved my rewatch of this one for last. I really hoped it would still be good, that I hadn’t hardened too much to appreciate it, and that it wasn’t showing too many seams as the decades slipped by. I was thrilled when I realized it was as good as I remembered. It blows all other Grinches out the water: Jim Carrey’s live action movie is just too darkly weird, and the new full-length Grinch movie is oddly milquetoast. I’ve reviewed them as a set here.

Movie Grade: A

Happy Holidays to everyone, whether you’re a sentimental sort or a Grinchy grump!

Read more Grinchy Reviews on RunPee: 

Movie Review – The Grinch (2018)

The Grinch Who Keeps Stealing Christmas

Jill Florio

Co-Creator of RunPee, Chief of Operations, Content Director, and Managing Editor. RunPee Jilly likes galaxy-spanning sci fi, superhero sagas, fantasy films, YA dystopians, action thrillers, chick flicks, and zany comedies, in that order…and possesses an inspiringly small bladder. In fact, that little bladder sparked the creation of RunPee. (Good thing she’s learned to hold it.)

Best Rock, Pop Songs in Non-Musical Movies

Thor Ragnarok Immigrant Song
A man with his own theme song.

If you love movies, you’re probably an aficionado of films using rock or pop hits in their stories as well. You can put this mental connection to good use if you run playlists on Alexa/Google Home/cell phone/whatever, loading it up to play songs evoking your favorite films. Use the lists all day long, to wake you up, get you ready for the day’s work, psych you for a workout, or keep you going through a long night of studying.

For example: you can make morning playlists to wake you softly…and then more insistently, by starting with Deadpool’s Angel in the Morning, and moving on to Guardians of the Galaxy Vol 2’s Mr. Blue Sky.

Some films have a soundtrack with either 1. a piece of music tonally inappropriate to the scene at hand, and it is glorious (Again, see Angel in the Morning), or 2. a rockin’ Earth track to underscore how cool a scene is (as in Thor’s Immigrant Song). I’m not going to include music like ABBA from Mamma Mia 1 & 2, since those movies are clearly musicals. Let’s also leave out dance movies like Footloose, Flash Dance, Dirty Dancing, etc.

I made a notation where the music is Diegetic (a case where the music is played by the characters, who actually hear the music in the narrative of the film).

I’m going to get a list started here. Enjoy the videos, and good luck getting these awesome earworms out of your head.

  • Angel of the Morning – Deadpool (Total earworm bait)
        • Immigrant Song – Thor: Ragnarok and Avengers Infinity War (The lyrics from Led Zeppelin are so perfect, they reprised it thrice! Here is each scene, in order)

  • Sabotage – Star Trek 2009 (Young Kirk, stealing his dad’s car — Diegetic — I can’t believe I missed adding this one yesterday,as it’s the best character introduction EVER)
  • Sabotage is even reprised in Star Trek Beyond (Diegetic)
  • And Star Trek Beyond goes even further with Fight the Power (yes, Diegetic too)
    • Dreamweaver – Wayne’s World (Inappropriate perfection)
    • Bohemian Rhapsody – Wayne’s World (Diegetic)

 

        • The entire playlists of Guardians of the Galaxy, Vols 1 & 2 (Diegetic)

        • Avengers Infinity War – The Rubber Band Man (Diegetic, and used for the introduction of the aforementioned Guardians)

      • Come Together – Justice League ( think this was only used in the trailer, but it works)
      • The entire playlist of Pulp Fiction (Some of it is Diegetic)
      • Back in the Saddle Again – RED (Perfect choice)

    • Radioactive – The Host (End credits)
    • Avengers 1 – Shoot to Thrill (Diegetic, when Iron Man hijacks the speakers of the Quinjet)

        • Iron Man 1 – Back In Black (Diegetic in the cold open Army Hummer)

    • Iron Man 1  – Iron Man, (Closing credits)

    • Iron Man 2 – Shoot to Thrill, complete song (Diegetic, at Iron Man’s Expo)

  • Iron Man  3 – Can You Dig It? (End credits sequence) 
  • Don’t Stop Me Now – Shaun of the Dead (Diegetic, on the jukebox: “Kill the Queen!”)

  • X-Men: Days of Future’s Past – Time in a Bottle  (Quicksilver’s Sequence)
    • X-Men: Apocalypse – Sweet Dreams are Made of This (Quicksilver, again)

        • Oh Yeah Great uses in two songs! – Risky Business and Ferris Bueller’s Day Off

    • Risky Business also has Old Time Rock and Roll (Diegetic)

    • Don’t You Forget About Me – The Breakfast Club

    • Ghostbusters  -In the original Ghostbusters
    • AXL F  – Beverly Hills Cop

      • Ruthless People  – Opening credits of Ruthless People

    • Caddyshack – I’m All Right (Gopher opening sequence)

I’m going to wrap this  up and work on other things now. This list could probably go on for the length of a book. So…tell me what egregious misses I made. I’ll add to the list and give you the credit.

 

Jill Florio

Co-Creator of RunPee, Chief of Operations, Content Director, and Managing Editor. RunPee Jilly likes galaxy-spanning sci fi, superhero sagas, fantasy films, YA dystopians, action thrillers, chick flicks, and zany comedies, in that order…and possesses an inspiringly small bladder. In fact, that little bladder sparked the creation of RunPee. (Good thing she’s learned to hold it.)

Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire – Live, in Concert

The-goblet-of-fire,live-symphony
Harry Potter Live- a movie and a symphony

I love attending movie showings at venues that set a live orchestra to movie soundtracks. I’ve attended a few of the Harry Potter ones, most recently Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire (one of the best Harry Potter films. IMO). On August 5th of 2018, I got to enjoy the San Diego Symphony Orchestra play under the bright lights of downtown’s skyscrapers on one side, and the beautiful harbor on the other. It was, well…a magical experience.

Conducted by John Jenesky, and performed at the Embarcadero Marina Park South, it was beyond cool to see up close how a large symphony was coaxed into creating a wall of music.

I was fortunate enough to snag one of the tables up close by the orchestra, under the massive outdoor movie screen. Wine, good food, and tasty desserts were available. I can’t say everything was perfect: the lines at the PortaPotty “village” were long and stinky, and the parking was awful — you could pay absurd fees to park nearby, or  find a side street out of the area and schedule a long walk in. Also, the traffic once the event ended was just snarly, taking  almost an hour to exit the expensive parking garage; no joke. For all things downtown, I’ve learned it’s better to UBER in and out.

However, it’s very worthwhile to catch these kind of events if you can. Of course the movie was enjoyable alone, and got me more psyched for the upcoming Fantastic Beasts 2: The Crimes of Grindelwald. And I went with my Harry Potter Meetup friends, dressed in my best Hogwarts robes (Gryffindor House, natch). We brought our wands and had ourselves a very merry evening.

There’s something special about having a live musical performance set to great movies with a note-perfect soundtrack. The music sounded exactly like the original track by Patrick Doyle and the great John Williams. (Which, really, one would expect in a big city’s orchestral group. We’re not talking about a high school marching band, after all.)

The Harry Potter series plays one movie a year for the season’s program of Bayside Summer Nights. In previous years, I got to watch Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets, and The Prisoner of Askaban. I missed The Sorcerer’s Stone, but maybe it will come around again (in…um, six years — or longer if they include the Fantastic Beasts films).

I also recently watched Star Wars: A New Hope in this setting — also an outstanding experience. I’d happily shell out money for these geeky events whenever I find them, whether it’s for Harry Potter, Jurassic Park, the Star Wars oeuvre, Indiana Jones’ lineup, ET, Titanic…anything iconic, with a  strong, distinctive soundtrack. (Notice the prevalence of John Williams’ films. The man is a master.)

If you get a chance to view a great movie set to a live symphony, make it happen. Highly recommended.

Related, on RunPee —

The Movie Music of John Williams  — Concert Review

Star Wars A New Hope — Symphony and a Movie

Star Wars A New Hope — Movie Review

Solo: A Star Wars Party in San Diego

Fantastic Beasts 2 Trailer Released at Comic Con

Final Trailer for Fantastic Beasts: the Crimes of Grindelwald

Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them — Movie Review

 

 

Jill Florio

Co-Creator of RunPee, Chief of Operations, Content Director, and Managing Editor. RunPee Jilly likes galaxy-spanning sci fi, superhero sagas, fantasy films, YA dystopians, action thrillers, chick flicks, and zany comedies, in that order…and possesses an inspiringly small bladder. In fact, that little bladder sparked the creation of RunPee. (Good thing she’s learned to hold it.)

What is a Scaramouch? The Meaning Behind Bohemian Rhapsody

Or is it just fantasy?
Is this the real life?

I love the song Bohemian Rhapsody, and sing it out loud with glee every time I go backpacking (in the woods, no one can hear you sing). But, I have to admit: I don’t understand a lot of the bizarre words in the song. With the new film about Queen, fittingly titled Bohemian Rhapsody, I decided to use the interwebz for a long look at the meaning of this iconic song.

According to the Wikipedia, Bohemian Rhapsody was written by Freddie Mercury for the band’s 1975 album A Night at the Opera. It’s a six-minute suite, consisting of several sections without a chorus: an intro, a ballad segment, an operatic passage, a hard rock part, and a reflective coda.

Somehow, this random assortment of music genres works brilliantly. But what’s the story about?

Let’s start with the obvious aspects: a young man killed someone, and he’s apparently about to pay for it with death. That’s plain. He’s telling his mother goodbye, and feeling like the devil is waiting for him. (Beelzebub has a devil put aside for me…for me…FOR MEEEEEE!!!)

  • Right then. We’ll start here. Who exactly is Beelzebub? It’s something to do with the devil, sure, but what’s the exact story?

Here’s what Dictionary.com has to say:

Old English Belzebub, Philistine god worshipped at Ekron (2 Kings i:2), from Latin, used in Vulgate for New Testament Greek beelzeboub, from Hebrew ba’al-z’bub “lord of the flies,” from ba’al “lord” + z’bhubh “fly.”

Apparently Freddy Mercury is using this name to signify Lucifer himself, or his demonic equivalent.

  • How about Scaramouch? (Scaramouch, scaramouch, will you do the fandango?)

SongFacts says the word “Scaramouch” means “A stock character that appears as a boastful coward.”

The Wikipedia goes on to say a bit more: Scaramouche (from Italian scaramuccia, literally “little skirmisher”), also known as scaramouch, is a stock clown character of the commedia dell’arte (comic theatrical arts of Italian literature).

  • The Fandango is not just an online movie ticket outlet. The meaning here is that Fandango is a fast Spanish dance. In the song, it’s probably referring to “the hemp fandango,” a delightfully ghastly euphemism for being hanged.

 

  • Next, what’s with Galileo? Does this refer the the early astronomer?  Or is a Galileo Figaro Magnifico something else entirely?

The best explanation I’ve seen is in this music forum, by a poster called, fittingly, Galileo:

“I’ve read somewhere that the line “Gallileo figaro magnifico” in the middle of the “operatic” section of the song, actually, is a slightly corrupted Latin phrase, “Galileo figuro magnifico”, translated as “Magnify the Galilean’s image“.

“It’s a key phrase, which reveals the entire meaning of the song, and usually it isn’t translated by the researchers.

“In fact, “Galileo” was the name of Jesus Christ in the ancient Rome. In other words, the only way to get out of the demonic nightmare of the song is to magnify Jesus Christ and ask Him for help. But the boy can’t believe that God is concerned about him, and refuses the salvation (“Nobody loves me”).”

“But why “Galileo” is repeated five times? In The Barber of Seville by Gioachino Rossini the crowd calls to the town barber five times: Figaro, Figaro, Figaro, Figaro, Figaro! So it’s not difficult to see the analogy.

“Plus, as everybody knows, Galileo is the name of the an Italian physicist and astronomer, who made in the early 17th century the first telescopic observations of the planet Mercury…

“If this is true, what kind of GENIUS Freddie was?”

  • Bismillah….okay: the Wikipedia reports that this is a phrase in Arabic meaning “In the name of God”, and is the first word in the Qur’an,  referring to the Qur’an’s opening phrase (named the basmala).

Let’s back up a little bit and see the entire picture Mercury was trying to evoke.

Quora says this about the song’s title:

It is called “Bohemian Rhapsody” because it depicts the life of a ‘bohemian‘, whose original meaning is ‘artist’ while ‘Rhapsody‘ is a fantasy (literally, it could play in his head) or a vision; within this song Freddie Mercury foresees his life in a symbolic way.

Below are the lyrics for the operatic section of the song — the part that trips everyone up. You can look at it now and understand a little better what Mercury was going for. I think he used macabre themes from old plays and operas to cast an image that was delightfully off-kilter and evocative. He’s talking about death, mostly. Isn’t it strange that so…well…FUN a song is so wrapped up in death and killing? Perhaps in a weird way, Mercury is singing about himself and his own life through this narrative metaphor.

It’s possible that Mercury’s songs Somebody to Love and Under Pressure are also about his inner demons. I’m not the only one thinking along these lines.

Tim Rice, co-creator of Jesus Christ Superstar and Evita, as well as a collaborator of Mercury’s, once said, “It’s fairly obvious to me that [‘Bohemian Rhapsody’] was Freddie’s coming-out song.” (From Into.)

Making a bit more sense, now? 

I see a little silhouetto of a man
Scaramouch, scaramouch, will you do the fandango
Thunderbolt and lightning, very very frightening me
Galileo, Galileo,
Galileo, Galileo,
Galileo Figaro – magnifico
But I’m just a poor boy and nobody loves me
He’s just a poor boy from a poor family
Spare him his life from this monstrosity
Easy come easy go, will you let me go
Bismillah! No, we will not let you go – let him go
Bismillah! We will not let you go – let him go
Bismillah! We will not let you go – let me go
Will not let you go – let me go (never)
Never let you go – let me go
Never let me go ooo
No, no, no, no, no, no, no
Oh mama mia, mama mia, mama mia, let me go
Beelzebub has a devil put aside for me, for me, for me…

Lyrics to Bohemian Rhapsody

Queen at Live Aid

Movie Review – Bohemian Rhapsody

Jill Florio

Co-Creator of RunPee, Chief of Operations, Content Director, and Managing Editor. RunPee Jilly likes galaxy-spanning sci fi, superhero sagas, fantasy films, YA dystopians, action thrillers, chick flicks, and zany comedies, in that order…and possesses an inspiringly small bladder. In fact, that little bladder sparked the creation of RunPee. (Good thing she’s learned to hold it.)

Did Rami Malek sing in Bohemian Rhapsody?

Rami Malek as Freddie Mercury
Rami Malek as Freddie Mercury

If you’ve seen Bohemian Rhapsody, you may be wondering if you’re hearing Rami Malek’s voice during the musical numbers. The answer is a little bit “yes” and a little bit “no.” As amazing as Malek’s voice is, we’re talking about duplicating Freddie Mercury here. No small feat. There’s no shame in being one of a chorus of voices needed to recreate the masterful range of Mercury.

In an interview with Metro USA, Malek confirmed he did sing some of the songs. Malek said, “It is an amalgamation of a few voices. But predominantly, it is my hope and the hope of everyone that we will hear as much Freddie as possible.”

The mixed vocal doesn’t feature on the film’s soundtrack, which is solely of original Queen recordings.

Movie Review – Bohemian Rhapsody

Creator of RunPee. Aspiring author.

Lyrics to Bohemian Rhapsody

Before you go see Bohemian Rhapsody, you might want to brush up on the lyrics to their most iconic song.

Is this the real life?
Is this just fantasy?
Caught in a landslide
No escape from reality
Open your eyes
Look up to the skies and see
I’m just a poor boy, I need no sympathy
Because I’m easy come, easy go
A little high, little low
Anyway the wind blows, doesn’t really matter to me, to me
Mama, just killed a man
Put a gun against his head
Pulled my trigger, now he’s dead
Mama, life had just begun
But now I’ve gone and thrown it all away
Mama, ooo
Didn’t mean to make you cry
If I’m not back again this time tomorrow
Carry on, carry on, as if nothing really matters
Too late, my time has come
Sends shivers down my spine
Body’s aching all the time
Goodbye everybody, I’ve got to go
Gotta leave you all behind and face the truth
Mama, ooo (anyway the wind blows)
I don’t want to die
I sometimes wish I’d never been born at all
I see a little silhouetto of a man
Scaramouch, scaramouch, will you do the fandango
Thunderbolt and lightning, very very frightening me
Galileo, Galileo,
Galileo, Galileo,
Galileo Figaro – magnifico
But I’m just a poor boy and nobody loves me
He’s just a poor boy from a poor family
Spare him his life from this monstrosity
Easy come easy go, will you let me go
Bismillah! No, we will not let you go – let him go
Bismillah! We will not let you go – let him go
Bismillah! We will not let you go – let me go
Will not let you go – let me go (never)
Never let you go – let me go
Never let me go ooo
No, no, no, no, no, no, no
Oh mama mia, mama mia, mama mia, let me go
Beelzebub has a devil put aside for me
For me
For me
So you think you can stone me and spit in my eye
So you think you can love me and leave me to die
Oh baby, can’t do this to me baby
Just gotta get out, just gotta get right outta here
Ooh yeah, ooh yeah
Nothing really matters
Anyone can see
Nothing really matters, nothing really matters to me
Anyway the wind blows…

Songwriters: Freddie Mercury
Bohemian Rhapsody lyrics © Sony/ATV Music Publishing LLC

Movie Review – Bohemian Rhapsody

Creator of RunPee. Aspiring author.

One Hard Quiz – Queen’s Music: Can you match the lyrics with the song?

In this quiz I’ll give you a lyric from some of Queen’s most popular songs. If you’re a die-hard fan, most of these won’t stump you, but there may be a few that’ll make you scratch your head. Good Luck!

Queen Quiz – match the lyrics with the song

I’ll admit that, without my research, I wouldn’t have gotten any questions correct — so be proud of any right answer.

RunPee Mom is our emotional bedrock. Without her, RunPee never would have lasted a decade as an app (which is since the dawn of time in internet years). She’s our biggest cheerleader and an unending source of unconditional love. She works cheerfully and tirelessly, seeing any movie we ask of her, writing interesting reviews, and being our…well…MOM. Her genres of choice: kiddie flicks, animated movies, emotional dramas, historical features, war films, diverse biographies, and even dense, diabolically plotted thrillers. She knows more about famous and infamous figures in history than said figures probably knew about themselves. She’s the Quiz Manager for the RunPee.com blog, and Assistant Facebook Manager for our social media efforts. If you’ve interacted with someone on our Facebook page, you’ve most likely been given a virtual hug by RunPee Mom.

A most excellent cameo, eh?

There are perfect cameos and then there’s Mike Myers’ cameo as Ray Foster in Bohemian Rhapsody.

I honestly didn’t recognize Myers during the movie. It wasn’t until after I saw it — when I was adding Peetimes — that I noticed his credit listing on the IMDb.

If you don’t know why this is such an excellent cameo, then maybe you forgot this:

Movie Review – Bohemian Rhapsody

 

Creator of RunPee. Aspiring author.