This classic 1964 television special featuring Rudolph and his misfit buddies set the standard for stop-motion animation for an entire generation before Tim Burton darkly reinvented it in the early 1990s. Burl Ives narrates as Sam the Snowman, telling and singing the story of a rejected reindeer who overcomes prejudice and saves Christmas one particularly blustery year.
Along the way, he meets an abundance of unforgettable characters his dentally obsessed elf pal Hermey; the affable miner Yukon Cornelius and his motley crew of puppies; the scary/adorable Abominable Snow Monster; a legion of abandoned, but still chatty, toys; and a rather grouchy Santa. In addition to the title song that inspired it, this 53-minute tape is crammed with catchy tunes such as "Silver and Gold" and "Holly Jolly Christmas. " Those who grew up looking forward to watching Rudolph every Christmas season will undoubtedly be able to recite the quotable quotes ("I'm cuuuute. She said I'm cuuuute. " "Herbie doesn't like to make toys. ") as well as any Casablanca cult audience. --Kimberly HeinrichsThis 53-minute, 1970 animated film may be the most delightful of those sundry, stop-motion animated Christmas perennials that show up on television during the holidays. The clay animation production, boasting a wonderful musical score and art direction that occasionally underscores the flower-power era in which it was born, tells the story of Santa's origins, in which Kris Kringle decides to get toys into the hands of poor children in gloomy Sombertown. Charmingly narrated by Fred Astaire and featuring voices by Mickey Rooney and Keenan Wynn, Santa Claus Is Coming to Town presents a nice bridge between two generations of entertainment, the classic and the hip. --Tom KeoghJimmy Durante narrates this Christmas story that is based on the song of the same name. To make up for the fact that her students are in school on Christmas Eve, the local schoolteacher hires the magician Professor Hinkle to entertain the kids. Unfortunately, he's not a very good magician. Frustrated in his attempt to pull a rabbit out of his hat, he throws it away in anger. Outside, the kids build a snowman (what to call it? Harold? Oatmeal? Frosty!), and when the hat blows onto it--Happy Birthday!--it comes to life. Professor Hinkle decides he wants the hat back so he can make money off of its newfound magical properties, but the kids want to save Frosty. When the temperature starts to rise, a new problem threatens Frosty's existence. Karen, the leader of the children, comes up with a plan to save him take him on a train to the North Pole, where it's always cold. With a cameo by Santa Claus, and the promise of Frosty's return every year, this story of life, death, and holiday cheer is glazed with the sweet frosting of hope and happiness. A true holiday classic. --Andy Spletzer n the same way that many a Hollywood sequel has little to do with the first film, Frosty Returns has almost nothing in common with the original Frosty the Snowman, aside from a man made of snow. The biggest difference is that this Frosty doesn't need a magic hat to come to life. The story In the town of Beansboro, old Mr. Twitchell has invented an aerosol spray that can remove snow without the hassle of shoveling or plows. This frightens Frosty, who enlists the help of amateur magician Holly and her friend Charles to stop the old coot. Made in 1992, Frosty Returns has an animation style that looks like a cross between the old Schoolhouse Rock and Peanuts cartoons, with voice talent that includes Jonathan Winters, Andrea Martin, Jan Hooks, Brian Doyle-Murray, and John Goodman as Frosty. The story may be divisive, pitting children against adults and a pro-snow contingent against anti-snow people, but the songs are catchy and the message is one that ultimately empowers kids. Like a hero from an old Western, this Frosty is a wanderer who leaves when his job is done so he can work his magic elsewhere. --Andy Spletzer
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