Our favorite retro television holiday specials

A Facebook post reminded us that some of our favorite holiday specials were released in the 1960’s. We thought we’d walk you down memory lane with us:

Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer

5450f97f46f69Rudolph the Red–Nosed Reindeer is a long-running Christmas television special produced in stop-motion animation by Rankin/Bass. It originally aired on NBC on December 6, 1964, and is now the world’s longest-running and highest-rated television special of all time.

Fun fact from IMDB: When the film was first released, in 1964, the technology of using an articulated metal armature inside the figures was considered so amazing that TV Guide devoted four pages to the story. They failed to mention that the “new” technology had been pioneered 31 years before, most prominently inside the gorilla King Kong.

Dr. Seuss’ How the Grinch Stole Christmas!

happyEndingHow the Grinch Stole Christmas! is an animated television special based on the book by Theodor Geisel (better known as Dr. Seuss).  It features narration and the title character being voiced by Boris Karloff.

Originally broadcast on CBS on December 18, 1966, CBS repeated it annually during the Christmas season until 1987.

Fun fact from IMDB: Thurl Ravenscroft, who sang the song, is perhaps better known as the voice of Tony the Tiger in TV commercials.

Frosty the Snowman

3Frosty_paradeFrosty the Snowman first aired on CBS on December 7, 1969. Based on the holiday song and written by Romeo Muller and produced and directed by Arthur Rankin and Jules Bass. The song was first performed by Gene Autry in the 1940s.

Fun fact from IMDB:  Originally June Foray provided the voices of Karen, the Teacher and the other children. Interestingly, most of her recordings as Karen and the other children were replaced with the voices of actual young children by the third airing. However, no changes were made to the credits, so the actual child voice actors remain unknown and uncredited.

The Alan Brady Show Presents

dickvandyke“The Alan Brady Show Presents” originally aired on CBS on December 18, 1963, during the show’s third season. Apparently a welcome break for many of the cast members, this is a music-filled and Christmas-themed episode of the 1960s American television sitcom The Dick Van Dyke Show.

Fun fact from IMDB: Opens with an instrumental version of the song “A Lot of Livin’ to Do” from “Bye Bye Birdie.” Dick Van Dyke stared in “Bye Bye Birdie” on Broadway in 1960 and in the movie version earlier in 1963.

A Charlie Brown Christmas

charlie-brown-treeA Charlie Brown Christmas was the first animated television special based on the comic strip Peanuts by Charles M. Schulz.

Produced and directed by former Warner Bros. and United Productions of America (UPA) animator Bill Melendez, who also supplied the voice of Snoopy.

The special has been honored with both an Emmy and a Peabody Award.

Fun facts from IMDB: Broke many of the rules prevalent for animated holiday specials during the 1960s: it didn’t make use of a laugh track; real children were used for the character voices instead of adult actors imitating children’s voices; and Biblical references were used to illustrate the true meaning of Christmas.

When viewing the rough cut of the show, both Bill Melendez and Lee Mendelson were convinced that they had a flop on their hands. After it premiered, they were happily surprised and shocked at the high ratings and excellent reviews that the show received. Today, the show remains the second longest-running Christmas special on US network television (the 1964 Rudolph, the Red-Nosed Reindeer (1964) premiered one year earlier and is still broadcast every year on US network television).

Special Mention:

This special was actually released in 1970 which is a bit out of our normal coverage era, however, my editorial staff thought this list wouldn’t be complete without it.

Santa Claus Is Comin’ to Town

Originally telecast December 14, 1970, this stop motion special, also made by Rankin-Bass, stars actor Fred Astaire as the narrator S.D. Kluger, Mickey Rooney Fred1as Kris Kringle/Santa Claus, Keenan Wynn as the Winter Warlock, and Paul Frees in various roles.

Created using stop motion animation called “Animagic”, in which all the characters are made out of wood and plastic and animated via stop-motion photography.

Fun fact from IMDB:  When aired on TV on ABC and ABC Family, sometimes the special has been edited in order to fit the hour-long slot along with commercials. In the ABC version, the songs ‘If you Sit on my Lap Today’ and ‘My World is Beginning Today’ are cut while the ABC Family version cuts out scenes that may be traumatizing for younger viewers, most notably the scene where Burgermeister Meisterburger burns all of the toys belonging to the children of Sombertown.

Are there any we forgot to mention?

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