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.)

In Defense of the Grinch (1966)

To start with, the Grinch doesn’t seem all that bad. He doesn’t like a lot of dissonant noise. That’s hardly a crime. I don’t know why he seems to hate Roast Beast, but maybe he’s on a diet. And he’s never directly mean to anyone. Look how sweet he was to Cindy Lou Who. He gave her a cup of water and patted her head and practically tucked the tot into bed.

He’s also a pet owner.  He owns a dog! This is a creature he feeds and looks out for, and probably gives him company while he schemes in his lonely cave. Honestly, I think this guy has probably a big history with rejection.

I didn’t like him whipping Max all the way up to the top of Mount Crumpet, but this was in the 60s, and people might have been less sensitive about this kind of thing then.

I also noticed he’s quite domestic. He sewed up a nice red Santa coat with a treadle sewing machine, and hand stitched white cotton onto his hat.

His stealing techniques were masterly creative. He used a cane like a pool cue on the Christmas balls, walked the wind-up toys into his sack, and drove the choo choo train off its rails. He was having a lot of fun. He’s probably be a hoot to hang around with a few beers in him.

And he comes through in the end. He hears the Whos singing,  realizes that one’s thoughts determine their reality, and saves the day he worked so hard to steal. He goes from loser to hero over the course of one life-affirming moment, and best of all: the Whos accept him to their hearts and their table without fuss or complaint. In this moment, everyone who’s been damaged by rejection can also heal, even a tiny bit, and feel hope again.

Not bad for 1966 children’s cartoon special.

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.)

Quiz – Mary Poppins

These questions are taken from the 1964 Disney movie of Mary Poppins. I’ve made this quiz fairly easy, keeping in mind that the movie is over a half a century old. Best of luck!

Mary Poppins

It's been over 50 years since the original movie, Mary Poppins was released, so keeping that in mind I've made this quiz fairly simple. Best of luck.

With The Return of Mary Poppins this Christmas, expectations are high — Emily Blunt will probably rock the role. We can’t wait!

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.

Movie Review – SmallFoot

That guy is barefoot in the snow a lot. Just saying.

It is such a relief to watch a movie I can give an A+ rating to without hesitation! It was charming, warm-hearted (albeit set in a cold place!), engaging, funny, and surprisingly detailed. I especially loved the many interesting things to look at in the yeti village. I was never bored. I see a lot of movies for RunPee, and not being bored scores high in my book.

A couple of the songs were quite good, and the “Let It Lie” number by Common is a straight-up standout. That entire scene (the one with the Stone Keeper and Migo inside the mountain) was captivating.

Small Foot had some great elements of world-building, which is nice to see in an animated kid flick. The details of the yeti town, their mythology, the backstory…everything fit together seamlessly. I was really surprised how even small details (like why the ice cubes were chipped into spheres) came together later on.

The ‘short Yeti’ comic relief character was a bit tiresome, but that’s my only nit to pick. I’m sure the kiddos liked him well enough. The ‘dumb Thor’ Yeti made the geek in me smile. Mostly, the Yetis and their world were well drawn, the voice work was pleasant, and the climax and denouement actually came from a logical place in the narrative.

It’s also nice to see a movie with no villain. Sometimes watching a plot based around an obligatory ‘bad guy’ makes for tiresome viewing. Writers have to be more creative to do it this way.

There’s a great message about tolerance, without banging the audience over the head with it. I also liked that we saw humanity from an outside perspective, recognizing both the good and the evil inherent in our species. I’d hope that if we found other intelligent beings somewhere, we’d know enough to try communication before hostility.

Outstanding film.

Movie Grade: A+

About The Peetimes: Here are 3 Peetimes of various lengths. If you can manage the 1st one, you won’t have to rush and you miss very little. I was surprised how hard it was to find good Peetimes in this animated film — it’s a tightly woven tale with very little downtime. They put a lot of plot development and world building into this. I also didn’t want to place a Peetime during any of the musical numbers, since I figure if you’re watching this, you’d probably like to hear the songs. One note: if you decide to duck out during a song, do NOT leave when Common/The Stone Keeper does his number. It’s just that excellent.

One More Note: I liked Common’s song Let It Lie so much, I had to look it up for you.  It’s just as good on a second listen — gives me chills. DON’T PLAY if you haven’t seen the movie yet:  it’s got the film’s biggest spoilers in it. Otherwise, enjoy!

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 Review – The House With A Clock In Its Walls

I wish this film was better. It started out lively, with some nice funky humor for a while. There were good production values throughout. Unfortunately, the story went downhill fast at the middle mark, and became a dreadful muddle by the end. I watched the children in the theater to make sure it wasn’t just me, and yup…the kids were bouncing around, completely bored, even during the climax. Bummer.

Here’s my thinking: it’s not Harry Potter, folks. Don’t toss your money away to see this in the theater. The kid is decent enough (he gives the erratic script a real go), but he’s hampered by the adult actors at every turn, and sadly, the work of the other children as well. The “Turby” stuff went nowhere — a pity.

Jack Black has a few good moments in the beginning, but this isn’t his best work (although there’s few movies he’s impressed me in, granted — Jumanji 2 being the exception). Why is this man getting work? His comedic timing is just strange. That works, somewhat, in the early stages of this wacky, kiddie horror house movie. Then the plot gets…well…”stupid” (that’s the only word that fits), as the story ineffectually tries to escalate the jeopardy. The “stupid ball” is passed around a lot in the finale.

Between the increasingly weird script and missed narrative opportunities, I can only say, “WTF were the writers thinking? Who greenlit this garbage? And why was a chair the best character?”

Even Cate Blanchett couldn’t elevate the lackluster material presented. How did she decide to throw her lot in with this? Did she hope to become the next Professor McGonagle? (Harry Potter reference, again, but Blanchett must’ve badly misjudged this.)

I really, really don’t know what happened here. It’s ultimately a movie mess that started out quite nicely. I’m grading it in the (low) C range and not worse, because it looked pretty, and had early potential with the surreal atmosphere,  incessant ticking clocks, and creepy toys. There was enough goodwill to carry the audience for part of the show. But by the time the pumpkins started puking,  I had to give up. Give this film a firm pass. You’ve been warned. 🙂

Movie Grade: C-

About the Peetimes: Here are 3 good, long Peetimes, spaced well thru the film. This was easy to get Peetimes for, since a lot of the exposition is either repeated, or provides plot points that kind of peter out, storywise. 

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 Review – Teen Titans Go!

I’ll try to stay away from spoilers, but let it be said of Teen Titans Go To The Movies! that there are hilarious references to the Marvel universe, along with a multitude of other jabs toward superheroes in general.
The plot was typical of most animated movies about the good, the bad, and the ridiculous. Lots of bathroom humor that kept the kiddies laughing in their seats, while keeping the adults entertained as well.
This is a great movie to get the kids out of the house, out of the heat, and out of parents hair for an afternoon.

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.

Movie Review – A Wrinkle in Time

I’m trying to figure out how to make A Wrinkle in Time make any sense. I love fantasy and science fiction, and am very forgiving of stories in these genres. From the trailer, I figured this would be a really pretty excursion into time travel, with kids discovering their powers in a whimsical land. The early reviews seemed disappointing, but I figured something visually enchanting would be enough for a pleasant afternoon.

But honestly, after my viewing, I’m not sure where the plot was going at all. I’m more confused what this movie was about than I’ve been in…ever? I didn’t read the 1962 children’s book this was based on, so that might be a part of my confusion. But a movie should stand on its own, regardless.

The original, award-winning novel is a slender volume, and I tried to read it a few times in my youth. I devoured fantasy voraciously, re-reading Lord of the Rings annually, and hoped the movie would encourage me to go back and finally get through the book. I’m still the perfect target audience, so I’m forced to think the movie just isn’t a good one.

It’s certainly a baseline attractive flick, with some occasional unique imagery…but it’s not as lovely as many other fantasies out there. I was expecting something on the ambitious level of Valerian and the City of A Thousand Planets (another convoluted and unsatisfying film, but a visual treat), or Avatar (which is a work of art AND delivers on its story potential). Disney can do outstandingly pretty work, and very recently too: as in Coco, Finding Dory, the new Star Wars films, and their most recent MCU offerings of Black Panther, Thor: Ragnarok, and Guardians of the Galaxy 2. So,  A Wrinkle in Time gets a “+” tacked onto my review grade for being nice-looking — however, this studio should have made this older classic stunning, and could have, if they tried.

Story-wise, you don’t get to know the characters well at all, and the execution is very convoluted. The moment when [a plot thing] is found is completely underwhelming. Normally the child actors in a Disney film are pretty good, but I have to admit I didn’t care for any of the three leads. (Or the adult leads. Only Chris Pine, in essentially a cameo role, brought any spark.)

One other thing: I think a good compositional arrangement could have raised the bar on WIT considerably. A nice track, with some good evocative and repeating themes, would have gone a long way. Think of all the wonderful genre films that make you feel, care, and sometimes cry, cued along by a wonderful soundtrack. Think of almost anything by John Williams. Now imagine those movies without his work. WIT stood out musically, in absentia.

I wish I could say better things, and I’m sure some folks enjoyed WIT. Personally, I can’t recommend this one. Even in 3D, I didn’t think this was worth a trip to the theater. I was actually the only person in the room on opening night, and that made me wonder how everyone else knew the movie was going to be a flop. Not even Oprah or Reese Witherspoon (who really didn’t seem like they were trying) could save this film from the dustbins of…well…time.

Grade: D+

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 Review – Wreck-It Ralph

wreck it ralph and vanellope
An unlikely friendship

Wreck It Ralph has a little something for everyone. Gamers from way back in the 80’s will relate well to this movie. The film is retro, sweet, charming, and funny.

Initially, I thought it would only have appeal to the small kiddies of 3 to 7. But as the movie progressed, I realized that the plot, the dialog, and unexpected twists and turns had completely grabbed my attention. I wouldn’t go so far as to say Ralph was as good or better than Toy Story, but is definitely in the same league.

Grade: B+

About The Peetimes: I tried to find another Peetime, but the movie has lots of action and character development which made it difficult. The one Peetime I did find is one long scene.

There are no extra scenes during, or after, the end credits of Wreck-It Ralph. (What we mean by Anything Extra.)

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.