Between bouncing from party to party, picking perfect presents, and trimming the tree, the holidays can be overwhelming and difficult to soak in. But if you’re lucky, perhaps you will turn on your TV and find that a familiar holiday classic is on. Nothing ignites Christmas spirit quite like sitting down to enjoy a Christmas movie. Of all the movies that come with the season, animated holiday films hold a sense of nostalgia. They have the ability to use their charismatic and iconic characters to offer a taste of the holidays for all ages. Here are five of the most quintessential animated classics that are a must-watch this holiday season
A Charlie Brown Christmas (1965)
Since first airing on CBS in December of 1965, no one has managed to capture the feelings of the holiday season quite like Charlie Brown and the Peanuts gang. Charlie’s depression surrounding the season resonates with those who struggle with this time of year. He faces his own shortcomings and criticism from peers as he attempts to organize the Christmas play and find the “true meaning of Christmas”. There are many iconic and insightful lines in its mere thirty minute runtime, but nothing defines the meaning of Christmas as well as Linus’s recital of Luke 2: 8-14. Backed with a jazz soundtrack, composed by Vince Guaraldi, that has become synonymous with that warm holiday feeling, A Charlie Brown Christmas is a heartwarming and relatable holiday classic.
Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer (1964)
The iconic Christmas carol Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer comes to life in the made-for-TV special. A story about outcasts and misfits, the message of Rudolph is less centered around the meaning of Christmas, and more about universal themes surrounding individuality, kindness, and belonging. The intricate world building through claymation creates a distinct and festive aesthetic that has influenced modern Christmas classics like Elf. The film is the definition of timeless, and it wholesomely embodies the comfort that comes with the season. While nearly sixty years have passed, Rudolph will never lose its kitschy charm.
How the Grinch Stole Christmas! (1966)
How the Grinch Stole Christmas! is a short and sweet classic adapted from the well-loved book by Dr. Seuss. The film tells the story of the Grinch, a creature who lives on the brink of Whoville in his lair on Mount Crumpit. The Grinch and his dog Max attempt to take away the Christmas cheer so loved by the citizens of Whoville. They take presents, Christmas trees, even lights and decorations. Unfulfilled by the completion of his scheme, the Grinch has a change of heart and has a new love for Christmas, shared by the Whos. The film has a nuanced take on the materialism that comes with the holiday season, unlike some of the surface level messages in the formulaic Christmas tales that have come before the Grinch. The quirky and bright appearance of the animation brings Seuss’s whimsical illustrations to life and hold true to the message of the picture book. The film also debuted the sardonic and sly song “You’re a Mean One Mr. Grinch” that is still a Christmas favorite. The outlandish cartoon set the stage for two other adaptations, solidifying the Grinch’s legacy as an iconic Christmas character.
Olive the Other Reindeer (1999)
Lesser known than the children’s book of the same name, Olive the Other Reindeer is a perfect family comedy. The film features Drew Barrymore as Olive, a dog destined to save Christmas. After mishearing Santa on the radio, Olive journeys to the North Pole to help Santa make his annual Christmas Eve flight. Her journey is not easy, but with the help of a penguin named Martini, she overcomes several obstacles all revolving around a vengeful mailman who hates Christmas. Self-aware and smart, every ounce of comedy packed into the film makes Olive fun for the whole family. Sprinkle in several songs, including one performed by 90s rock sensation R.E.M., and Olive the Other Reindeer is a quirky, clever holiday film that deserves a spot amongst the classics.
The Polar Express (2004)
Remember the day before winter break as a kid? You sat with your friends in your pajamas, sipping on hot chocolate, eyes glued to the pull-down canvas screen, watching The Polar Express. Nothing better, right? The Polar Express captures the magic of the holiday season for the inner child in all of us who still believes in Santa Claus. On Christmas Eve, the Polar Express arrives at the home of a boy that has a fading belief in Santa Claus. The boy meets the conductor, voiced by Tom Hanks, who informs him the train is going to the North Pole. The boy befriends several other children on the train and they face several obstacles on their journey to see Santa’s headquarters. In combination with the whimsical story and heartwarming message, every detail of the film encapsulates the jitters that keep everyone awake on night before Christmas. There is no shortage of magic in The Polar Express and children’s feelings of wonder are validated at every turn.
Maureen Zywicki is a staff writer for Oswego East’s online news magazine The Howl