Tuesday, November 29, 2005

Christmas - Rankin / Bass Style

No other production company put out better Christmas specials than Rankin / Bass did from the mid 1960's to the late 1970's. My childhood holiday viewing was defined by watching their many entries into holiday television. Here is a list of their best, non-religious work:
No synopsis of this story is needed.
There is a lot to love watching this special. The individuality of Hermey the misfit elf, Rudolph's stubborn independence, Yukon Cornelius doing...well, anything, and the Abominable Snowmonster. I have to admit that he scared the bejeezus out of me until I was like nine years old. Freaky, Christmas hating beast. However, watching it as an adult (and 41 years after it first aired) it is amazing to see what the networks could air back then. Comet (the drill instructor) is just macho evil personified, the Head Elf needs to be bitch-slapped and Santa is a real bastard to Rudolph until he needs something from him. However, you should never watch this from an adults viewpoint. Just know that Rudolph is picked on and ostracized until everyone realizes that reindeers who are different still have a lot to offer to the world.
Watch this show and you'll believe a Reindeer can fly.
Update: The Boston Globe ran this Q&A about Rudolph just this morning. Enjoy!
Santa Claus Is Comin To Town premiered in 1970. Abandoned as an infant, Baby Claus is adopted by the Kringles, a family of toy-making elves in Rainbow Valley. They take the baby in as one of their own and Tanta Kringle, the grand matriarch of the elves, renames the mysterious child Kris Kringle. As he grows up among the kindly elves, this cheerful, generous fellow becomes determined to spread joy by sharing the elves toys with the children of Sombertown. This leads him to a brief conflict with the Winter Warlock and numerous scuffles with Burgermeister Meisterburger. Throughout the story we learn the origins of all things Santa Claus.
This story is possibly the best written of all the Rankin/Bass Christmas specials. The story is simple, charming and effective. Fred Astaire (remember him) is all folksy as our narrator and Keenan Wynn (remember HIM??) is fantastic as the Winter Warlock. "One Foot in Front of the Other" is a fun song at any age. However, like with all of these stories, the scene stealing belongs to the bad guy. Burgermeister Meisterburger is a heartless, unfeeling dictator who rules over Sombertown with an iron fist. He is gleefully cranky and wicked and his rebuttal song to Tanta Kringle's "First Toymaker to the King" is hysterical. The set design in this show is particularly effective in highlighting the grey mood over Sombertown as well as the wintry expanse of the Mountain of the Whispering Winds. But you know what? Who cares! Watch it for some fun songs that support a heartwarming story. Then ask yourself why Kris and Jessica let themselves go to pot once they were married.
This is one of the weirdest Christmas stories ever made. Santa feels unappreciated and thinks the world no longer needs him. As such, he cancels Christmas. Mrs. Claus tries to spark his spirit. She sends a couple of elves named Jingle and Jangle and young reindeer Vixen to discover some signs of Christmas spirit. Needless to say, they do find some evidence of the Christmas spirit, Christmas is back on again and all is right with the world.
Blah blah blah - Big freaking deal. No one actually CARES about this plot because the true stars in THIS story are Heat Miser and Snow Miser!
These two steal the show for the whole 5 minutes that they appear in the production. Their songs are GREAT. They are fun, dynamic and completely unexpected for a "children's story". In my opinion, Rankin / Bass should have cashed in on their popularity by giving them their own special (while Dick Shawn was still alive).
Come on, admit it. You know you love either Heat Miser OR Snow Miser. You KNOW that you prefer one or the other but not both. Everyone always falls firmly in one camp. My personal choice? Snow Miser. No contest. The guy just oozes cool.
Leave a comment to let me know which Miser Brother you prefer and why.
Watch this one simply to have a good, twisted time while watching Santa cancel Christmas, two idiot elves get shown up in SouthTown, USA and some kid named Ignatius Thistlewhite mouth off to Snow Miser. Your kids will never understand just how weird this special really is until long after they've "outgrown" it.
I'm still waiting to outgrow it.


Blogger Cynthia said...

You might have guessed it but I'm a Heat Miser fan: "I'm Mr. Green Christmas/I'm Mr. Sun/I'm Mr. Heat Blister/I'm Mr. 101/They call me Heat Miser/whatever I touch/melts in my clutch/I'm too much!" (I messed up the lyrics a bit so I deleted my first comment. Such a perfectionist...) And I thought it was Freeze Miser but I can't even remember any of his lyrics. Mother Nature's twin sons run amok...sounds familiar this year.

11:27 PM, November 29, 2005  
Blogger Andy said...

It's Snow Miser, dammit! Snow Miser!

"I'm Mister White Christmas/I'm Mister Snow!/I'm Mister Icicle/I'm Mister 10 below/They call me Snow Miser/Whatever I touch/Starts to freeze in my clutch/I'm too much!"

Snow Miser always seemed like he really loved what he did. Heat Miser was just miserable and whiney.

Did you see the Charlie Brown Blog entry. It's like, all religious and junk.

11:06 AM, November 30, 2005  
Blogger Cynthia said...

It's Freeze Miser, trust me. Just because it's on the internet, doesn't mean it's true. Watch the video.

Nah, they make him out to be the bad guy because everyone wants a white Christmas. Imagine the singing voice from the Grinch singing Heat Miser's song: "Melts in my clutch, I'm too much!" I'd rather melt than freeze.

You MUST write about the Grinch. One of the best when it comes to the true meaning of Christmas.

"...and junk"?! I was going to comment on that blog, as if I had had some effect on you or perhaps you were wandering into my territory, blundering sweetly as you went. ;-) But I refrained...well, sort of.

5:17 PM, November 30, 2005  
Blogger Cynthia said...


Check out this link. Someone else is writing a similar article about Christmas specials and he's using "Freeze Miser".

5:19 PM, November 30, 2005  
Blogger Andy said...

It's SNOW Miser. I am 100% sure of it. It's right there in the song. Snow.Miser. Snow Miser. You'll just have to watch it again and see. Don't forget to sing along. :-)

8:41 AM, December 01, 2005  

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