My family always celebrated our holiday on Christmas Eve. Every year, around 6 pm, Dad would put me and my Sister in the car and we would drive around looking for Santa Claus. Mom always stayed home to set out our Christmas Eve snack of cold meat sandwiches, a cheese ball and crackers (Mom’s special recipe), and Christmas cookies. When Dad, Sister, and I got home, Mom and Grandma and Grandpa and Aunt E would all be there and our gifts would already be under our tree. Santa Claus came while we were out driving around. Every year, we would go off looking for Santa and every year we would discover that we had missed him and he had been to our house while we were gone. But we never gave up. We always thought we could find Santa before he got to our house. One year our perseverance paid off. Dad, Sis, and I started off just like every year. We drove around, going up one street and down another. We were driving down Main Street, just three blocks over from our house, when suddenly I spotted something. We had done it! We had finally found Santa Claus. There he was, in red suit and white beard. Santa got out of a yellow Volkswagen Bug and walked up to a house with his bag of toys. Sis and I wanted to lead him back to our house but Dad said we should go home and see if he had already been there. So we hurried home and, yep, Santa had beaten us to our house again and our gifts were already under the tree. But it did not matter because we had actually seen Santa delivering presents. To this day, when I drive down Main Street, I can still point out the house where Santa was delivering presents from his magical yellow Volkswagen Bug.
In the spirit of that old Santa magic, here are six fun cartoons to liven up your holidays.
The Shanty Where Santy Claus Lives
The Shanty Where Santy Claus Lives is a black and white (or rather – sepia and white) Merrie Melodies short that premiered on January 7, 1933. Merrie Melodies, at that time, often made cartoons that showcased a song that Warner Brothers owned and published the music for. The story is a “good example of Depression-era wealth fantasies” and features a desperately poor orphan boy who gets a change of fortune and a surprise trip to Santa’s home. Santa sings the showcased title song when he arrives to whisk the boy away and toys sing the song later at Santa’s home.
The Internet Archive has two versions of this short and one is an ASL version. Warning: the non-ASL version includes a couple scenes midway through the cartoon that feature toys with the racist blackface look that was common at the time. There is a blackface toy band and a white skinned doll that falls into a coal sack and pops out in blackface, singing “Mammy!” Fortunately, the ASL version cuts out those scenes entirely. The Shanty Where Santy Claus Lives runs six minutes 10 seconds for the non-ASL and six minutes 45 seconds for the ASL version. The cartoon is a brown tinted sepia color and is pretty blurry. The ASL version has a much clearer picture. Audio is fine on both versions.
Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer
It seems nearly everyone knows the story of Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer. Robert L. May created the character the 1939. May’s brother-in-law, Johnny Marks, wrote the popular song in 1949 and Rankin/Bass created the classic stop-motion animation holiday special in 1964. But there was another animated short featuring Rudolph years before the famous Rankin/Bass special, and before the song burst on the holiday scene. This earlier Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer originally appeared in 1944 and told a story that is more faithful to Robert May’s original story. When the Johnny Marks song became popular, the cartoon was re-worked to add the song to the opening credits and re-released. This Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer was made by ace animator Max Fleischer for a little known company, Jam Handy, that actually specialized in making training films.
Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer is in color. The Internet Archive has two versions, one runs just over eight minutes, one runs just under nine minutes. This animated short features several quotes from Robert May’s original Rudolph story. This Rudolph is not quite as cute as the more famous Rankin/Bass Rudolph and the story is very different but it is still enjoyable. The animation is a little blurry and the colors somewhat faded in places but the audio is excellent.
The original title of this British cartoon from 1949 is Ginger Nutt’s Christmas Circus. The Internet Archive has an ASL version that uses the shorter title Christmas Circus. This animated short was made by the short lived Gaumont British Animation aka David Hand Productions. They made nine cartoons between 1948 and 1950. Ginger Nutt’s Christmas Circus features many of the characters that appeared in the other eight shorts including the squirrel Ginger Nutt, cantankerous Boko the Parrot, Willie Weasel, Chester Cat, Zimmy Lion, and Oswald Ostrich.
Christmas Circus is the least Christmas-y of our six cartoons. The story is about Boko the Parrot stealing Willie Weasel’s ticket to a circus and Willie’s efforts to get into the circus and get revenge on Boko while various circus acts take the stage. There is a little bit of “Peace on Earth” spirit thrown in at the very end. Christmas Circus runs nearly eight minutes and is in color but the color is rather faded and the picture is somewhat blurry. The audio is fine although there were a few short instances when my sound cut out (not enough to ruin the story). The Internet Archive only has an ASL version of this cartoon. The narrator is the same lady who translates most of the other ASL cartoons on AI but there is also a man who translates the voice of Boko the Parrot. When Boko speaks, a small picture of the man signing is superimposed over the Boko character. Unfortunately, the video of the man is much smaller than the usual video of the woman narrator. The small size and the blurriness of the video made it difficult to see all his signs. Both the man and the woman emote wonderfully.
Paramount and Famous Studios produced a number of “sing-a-long” cartoons that took “popular songs of the day and combined Famous Studios animated stars”. Snow Foolin’ is one of the last of these “sing-a-longs” that used a “bouncing ball” (a “bouncing egg” in this case) to follow along with the lyrics. The song featured in this cartoon is Jingle Bells and includes the very rarely heard second and third verses. Snow Foolin’, like Christmas Circus, is not really very Christmas-y except for the song. The story starts with various animals playing various winter sports and games then simply becomes a “sing-a-long” with Jingle Bells.
Snow Foolin’ is in color and while the picture is a bit blurry, the color is good although the ASL version has a much clearer picture. The audio is excellent. The Internet Archive has a version of Snow Foolin’ that runs just under six minutes and an ASL version that runs six minutes sixteen seconds. The ASL version starts with several children signing the Jingle Bells song and a small video of Santa Claus signing the first verse and chorus above the bouncing egg and lyrics. The first part of the cartoon, and the very end, features full animation but during the “sing-a-long” the cartoon uses a chicken egg bouncing over words superimposed over still illustrations. While the winter sports scenes are fun and I enjoyed hearing three Jingle Bell verses, Snow Foolin’ really feels like two separate cartoons instead of one story.
Popeye the Sailor – Mister and Mistletoe
Mister and Mistletoe is the “only color Famous Studios Popeye cartoon with a Christmas theme”. This short features Popeye and three of his nephews doing Christmas at Olive’s house. After the nephews go to bed, Popeye and Olive begin to decorate the tree. Popeye’s old rival, Bluto, peeks in the window and decides to get rid of Popeye so he can have Olive all to himself. The rest of the cartoon is the usual Popeye-Olive-Bluto hilarity. Mister and Mistletoe runs six minutes 24 seconds. The edges are a bit blurry but the color is bright and clear. The audio is excellent.
The Christmas Tree
The Christmas Tree aka The Christmas Visit is a Russian animated short directed by Pyotr Nisov. This is a cute cartoon with some very original touches. The story features a young Russian boy named Kolya who is very worried that his father, a weatherman stationed at Antarctica, will not have a Christmas tree for the holidays. Kolya decides to take his small tree to his father in Antarctica and gets some help from Santa Claus, a Lion, and a Whale along the way. I really liked that Santa Claus, in this short, flies around in a sparkly jet plane called the Star Shooter instead of the usual sleigh.
A Christmas Tree premiered in 1959 in Russia and runs ten minutes 35 seconds. The animated short is in color. The colors have faded a bit but the picture is not as blurry as some of our other cartoons. The audio is excellent. This is a cute story and Kolya makes for a determined little hero. I absolutely loved Santa’s Star Shooter although the animation of the jet reminds me a bit of Wonder Woman’s invisible plane in other older cartoons – just more sparkly.
Our six cartoons are all FREE in the Public Domain and can be watched online or downloaded at the Internet Archive.
Christmas Circus aka Ginger Nutt’s Christmas Circus
Popeye the Sailor – Mister and Mistletoe
A Christmas Tree