You know stockings and holly and toys and bows, wreathes and candy and tinsel and mistletoe, but do you recall the most famous Christmas specials of all? Holiday TV programming is as festive as it goes and whenever you get to see it you can even say it glows. But now, for the first time the Elves are having a chance to rank the top Christmas TV specials based on festivity, soul and being not naughty but nice. We’ll leave the 10th up to you. No one wants an arguable runner-up on this list. We’ve gone into the TV Guides, settled down on the floor to avoid couch potatoes and replaced commercials with Christmas tunes; caroling them all to bring you the top 9 on the countdown. Cue the sleigh: our countdown starts at #9 after the jump.
#9 Shrek The Halls
The Shrek family was introduced to primetime television for the first time in 2007 on ABC to a blockbuster amount of viewers. Living up to a movie franchise’s standard is no easy task, but this special was able to include plenty of the gang from the big screen and humorous moments that outnumber the stripes on any candy cane. Short but sweet, it showed what Christmas can mean to different creatures, the fine line between family and friends, and it let us know that only an idiot thinks of the holidays as a step-by-step process to celebrate. Remember: the book “Christmas For Village Idiots” is only a guide. You have to fill in the blanks yourself. The Shrek franchise is no stranger to parodying fairy tales, but this Christmas special didn’t just make the holidays into a joke. It also coughed up some heart.
#8 The Little Drummer Boy
In 1968, this Rankin/Bass production was the third Christmas TV special out of the company, but its story was quite a bit older than even the song it was based on. More biblical than other airings of the festive season, a misanthropic orphan found his life changed forever after meeting the Three Wise Men on their way to Bethlehem. This stop-motion animated tale sponsored by the American Gas Association expanded on the original song by letting us know of events before the birth of Jesus Christ himself. This tale let everyone see the true origin and spirit of Christmas in its purest form, coupled with a simple drum spewing a beat you’re inclined to sing: “Pa, rum, pum, pum, pum.”
#7 Santa Claus Is Comin’ To Town
The original song is owed the use of its name and was sung over radio in 1934, but it wasn’t until this stop-motion Rankin/Bass production in 1970 that people got an extended look into how Santa Claus and other Claus-related traditions came to be. It was a reimagining of the mythology of St. Nicholas. Rather than a pure retelling, it became a unique modern version amongst other historical folklore. A modern fairytale of sorts, it is to this day the one constant that has become a perennial favorite into tackling the story of the origin of the jolly man from the North Pole.
#6 Prep & Landing
2009’s half-hour animated event revolving around an elite unit of elves that makes sure homes are ready for Santa’s visit has spawned a sequel, short films and plenty of merchandising, pretty unique for a Christmas TV special that didn’t originate in the 1960’s. The project came out of an initiative John Lasseter launched, to get animators to come up with ideas for shorts, when he took over Walt Disney Animation Studios in the 21st century. Director Chris Williams originally came up with the concept for Prep & Landing, but he eventually became too busy to fully take part in its production. ABC executives loved the idea when John Lasseter came to them pitching it as a TV special. Plenty were ready to replicate the success of Shrek The Halls. Prep & Landing has ended up winning audiences over for years and initially was nominated for nine Annie Awards and won three along with four Creative Arts Emmy Awards. While this special explains how everything is prepared for wrapped deliveries on Christmas, it itself requires no wrapping and yet it’s just as fun as a new gift each time.
Christmas comes but once a year, but amongst miserly Carols aplenty, this one’s blessed at #5…
#5 Mickey’s Christmas Carol
Clarence Nash’s last voice outing as Donald Duck was when Charles Dickens’ classic tale of Ebenezer Scrooge was transformed by Disney in 1983. Nash was the only original voice actor amongst the characters, but he was alongside some colorful spirits. Not a pale imitation of past adaptations or a childish game of 19th-century dress-up with Disney’s cast, this production balanced animated fun and classic storytelling in a compact present. But it’s not just the 1843 novella that was revisited with this title. It was also Mickey Mouse. Yes, it marked the theatrical appearance of Mickey Mouse after a 30-year absence. This eventual TV classic got started at the box-office. Mickey’s Christmas Carol debuted in 1983 ahead of the re-release of The Rescuers. A few short months later, it was in the running to win an Academy Award for Best Animated Short Film. It lost the Oscar that year, but it won hearts and minds on television, and has been doing so ever since.