The Legend of Frosty the Snowman


  • Year: 2005
  • Director: Greg Sullivan
  • Starring: Kath Soucie, Tom Kenny, Bill Fagerbakke

Ever want to be really confused around the Christmas season? Try breaking down the logic in the Frosty the Snowman series. In today’s world of endless sequels, spin-offs and cinematic universes, it’s easy to forget the time when sequels didn’t necessarily have perfect continuity. There are four sequels (seriously) to the 1969 cartoon Frosty the Snowman, and none of them seem to be in agreement with the others. To understand today’s special, let’s take a brief look at the first four specials: Frosty the SnowmanFrosty’s Winter WonderlandRudolph and Frosty’s Christmas in July, and Frosty Returns. See if they remind you of anything.

In the first film, a creature is created and comes to life by magical means.


In the second, a bride is created for him.


In the third, there is a son, but more time is dedicated to a new bearded villain who acts like he’s been there the whole time.


In the fourth, there is a considerably lower budget and a new actor as the creation.


That’s right, Frosty the Snowman follows the same formula as the Universal Frankenstein films. So what happens in today’s special? Does Frosty meet the Wolfman? Well no, but he does make an offhand comment suggesting he knows what a werewolf is. Get on this conspiracy theorists.

Now for the continuity, because it makes no sense. In the first one, Frosty comes to life by the magic of Professor Hinkle’s hat. In Frosty’s Winter Wonderland, his wife Crystal comes to life when Frosty gets her a bouquet of ice flowers, and then when he melts, he comes to life when she kisses him. This is then undone in the claymation Christmas in July, where only the hat… or the winds of Jack Frost can bring them to life. In Frosty Returns, he no longer has a wife or family, and is voiced by John Goodman, coming to life when a hat randomly lands on his head. Each special seems to exist in a slightly different universe than the last, with Frosty Returns pretending that the last two of them just never happened. That brings us to today’s special…


(I’ve given the judging panel a week off, because apparently watching something with a mayor in it only reminded them of Mr. Mayor who recently died in that tragic Sherbet Buffalo accident.)

With the exception of the 97-minute-long Christmas in July (in which Frosty was really just a supporting player), the Frosty specials up to this point are 25 minutes or so each, just enough to be a half-hour TV special with commercials. The Legend of Frosty the Snowman is a little over an hour long! That’s quite a long legend.

We open on a narrator letting Frosty’s hat out of a chest locked away in a basement.


Hmm, by the looks of it, I think they got Alex Trebek to narrate. That would be interesting.


Burt Reynolds? Just why? FrostyFrosty’s Winter Wonderland, and Frosty Returns all had animated narrators who looked just like their actors. Here, it’s like they did all the animation first and grabbed the first has-been they could find. While we’re at it, even Burt Reynolds is better than this. Sure, you’re ashamed of Boogie Nights, but you’ll do The Legend of Frosty the Snowman.

Since he’s the narrator, Burt painfully sings his way through “Frosty the Snowman,” (Come on man, Jimmy Durante was a better singer) before telling us some of that famous Frosty mythos. “It is said that Frosty the Snowman always goes where he is needed most.” WHEN WAS IT EVER SAID THAT? I’m sorry, I don’t know about you, but I have never once mixed up Frosty the Snowman with Mary Poppins!


Winds in the east, mist coming in

Like something quite stupid’s about to begin

Can’t put me finger on what lies in store

But I fear what’s to happen all happened before.

Wait a minute, he was also named Bert. Now this is starting to make sense.

Anyway…Frosty’s hat floats on over to Evergreen, a town that probably exists somewhere in the 1950s, or rather a parody of the 50s. We’re told that no one needs Frosty more than Tommy Tinkerton (Kath Soucie), but then Frosty meets like four kids before ever fully appearing to Tommy.


I mean, he appears on Tommy’s window at one point, but nothing ever comes of that.

Tommy’s father (Tom Kenny) is the mayor of the town, and he is OCD to the point of absurdity, making sure every last detail of the town is perfectly in order.


This guy wills the sun up and is mad if it doesn’t rise right on time. He is obviously in love with his clipboard, and he even rubs his finger on the sidewalk and licks it to prove it’s clean. He is clearly not well, but it’s played totally for laughs… except it’s not funny. This guy wakes his kids up, tells them to be ready and downstairs in 3 1/2 minutes, but then asks them if the dog was walked. Who can walk their dog properly in 3 1/2 minutes?

His oldest son Charlie (Jeannie Elias) seems to love all the rules and has a military-type demeanor about him. At dinner, Mr. Tinkerton randomly throws a Dinner Quiz to ask about proper etiquette, and Charlie answers everything correctly, earning a #1 button.


They have confetti, balloons and a big hokey sign ready for this occasion? Really? Who does this? This random, slapstick-ish form of comedy doesn’t blend with the laid back feel of other Frosty specials… or even with the rest of this special! It can’t decide what kind of humor it’s going for, so it just throws everything at you, except for actual funny scenes.

Even though this is set in the ’50s (thematically at least), the Tinkertons have these floor-to-ceiling windows that really weren’t popular then.


I mean, yeah, it works so we get a better view of the falling snow and so Frosty can appear on the window, but pick a setting!

When Tommy sees Frosty on his window (and isn’t all that surprised by it or anything), he tells him he can’t play with him, because it will disappoint his dad. Instead, Frosty decides to go to “the home of Walter Wader, Tommy’s friend and next door neighbor.” This is the only line that rhymes in the whole thing. Why? Just why?

Like everyone in the town, Walter’s parents are obsessed with order… except they’re just really confusing about it. When Frosty knocks on the door, Walter’s mother runs to the cupboard and grabs a can of corn.


When Frosty doesn’t answer her when she asks who’s there, Walter’s mother quizzes Walter on what to do next. He says, “Open the door and hit him with the vegetables,” to which she replies that corn is a starch, not a vegetable. When he says she should “Open the door and hit him with the starch,” she again tells him he’s wrong and that he should put the corn back in the cupboard. She also throws in that he should do the dishes while he’s over there.

This very well might be the most confusing scene I have ever watched. Forget the “I definitely have breast cancer” scene from The Room, forget “Pull Ze String!” from Glen or Glenda, forget the fact that Attack of the Clones has a ’50s diner a long time ago in a galaxy far far away, or that Santa apparently keeps a fake beard with him just in case in Santa Claus Conquers the Martians. This one takes the cake for Scenes that Make No Sense.

The town is obsessed with perfection right? So if an intruder comes to the door, why would you grab the corn? What purpose would that serve? Are you going to confuse him to death? Are you going to bonk him on the head with the jar? How about you just don’t answer the door? You are obviously near the kitchen. I’m guessing there’s a knife there, right? Even if you’re so perfect and pristine that you don’t keep knives in your kitchen, you have a can. There must be a can opener! That would do more damage to an intruder’s skull than a can of corn!

Then, after arguing with your son about starch vs. vegetable, you do absolutely nothing with the can of corn and give it back to him to put in the cupboard. What is the point of this scene?

When Walter soaks himself with the dishwater, he goes up to change his clothes and sees Frosty’s hat at his window. Why we couldn’t just start with this scene is beyond me. When he opens the window and grabs the hat, he begins flying.


When Tommy looks out his window and sees his friend Walter flying through the air, he asks him the question we all would, “Where are you going?” I know if I saw my neighbor flying through the air while attached to a hat, my first question would be “Where are you going?” not “Why are you flying through the air while attached to a hat?”

Walter puts the hat on a snowman, of course bringing Frosty to life. He says his famous “Happy Birthday” line, but there’s just something off.


Frosty is voiced by Bill Fagerbakke, probably best known for voicing Patrick Starr on Spongebob Squarepants, and he’s using practically the exact same voice. Why are you a legendary voice actor when you only have one voice? It’s the same one you used in The Night of the Headless Horseman, and it’s the same one you’re using here.

Also, Frosty is drawn almost identically to the way he was in the Rankin/Bass cartoons, even though the rest of the movie is animated in an entirely different style. It’s jarring. What’s weird is they could have totally rebooted the Frosty story as a whole. Frosty started as a song, not a TV special, so if they had completely rewritten the mythos, I could accept that. However, this is clearly trying to do its own thing while using the Rankin/Bass character, just so people seeing the thing will think it’s a sequel.

When Walter points out that Frosty is a snowman, Frosty takes his own head off to look at himself! Never mind the fact that he could just see his reflection in the ice, we need some snowman decapitation in this one.

Tim Burton presents Frosty the Snowman.

Frosty teachers Walter how to make a proper snowball, but thankfully we never get to the scene where Walter shows Frosty how to make a proper skinsuit. See how weird it sounds when the roles are reversed?

After Walter goes back home, Frosty turns directly to the audience and says, “One down, the rest of Evergreen to go.”


First of all, that sounds creepy. Is Frosty a slasher villain now? Second, WHY DO WE HAVE A NARRATOR? If the characters can break the fourth wall and address the audience, what is the purpose of a narrator?

The next day at school, apparently everyone knows that Walter was out after curfew, because no one has a life. The obviously evil Principal Pankley (Larry Miller) advises Mayor Tinkerton to punish the boy, even though he’s a mayor and probably should be at town hall instead of the elementary school. When the mayor goes go reprimand Walter, Pankley brings in a chained box.


Inside is a dunce cap that Walter is forced to wear. Alright, I’ve got some questions.

  1. Why is the penalty for breaking curfew wearing a dunce cap? He didn’t get a question wrong.
  2. Are they trying to say he’s a dunce because he made up a story about a talking snowman? Well no, they don’t know about that yet. They only know he was out after dark. He hasn’t been allowed to tell his story.
  3. Why does the principal keep a dunce cap in a huge chained box?
  4. Why does the principal keep a dunce cap at all? Don’t teachers keep that for students who get questions wrong?
  5. Why is the principal allowed to help a mayor hand down a punishment? The punishable action had nothing to do with school.

After the mayor’s other son Charlie gets detention for food fighting, he too is forced to wear a dunce cap. Apparently that’s the only punishment in this town. Food fight? Dunce cap. Speeding? Dunce cap. Murder? Dunce cap. Stealing the dunce cap?

Tommy meanwhile becomes the mayor’s favorite son. In another subplot, he has a crush on his classmate Sara Simple (Tara Strong), but can’t get up the nerve to talk to her. Her mother insists she’s a princess, but she’d rather be an urban planner. I mean…  I guess that’s a solid goal for a ten-year-old, but do most of them even know what that is? Anyway, she’s working on building a replica model of Evergreen.

When Tommy sees Frosty’s hat again, he chases it to the local library. Here we are folks, 25 minutes into the special—the length of the original Frosty the Snowman. How much of The Legend of the Frosty the Snowman has Frosty been in at this point? 3 MINUTES! Seriously. Frosty the Snowman has been in his own special for less than 1/8 of the run time.

So finally, we get some story actually involving Frosty the Snowman, but trust me, it gets even more confusing. Tommy goes into the basement of the library where, instead of outdated newspapers and porno, he finds Frosty the Snowman, the comic book.


I understand that the principal is intentionally trying to keep the Frosty story out of public consciousness, but if Frosty is famous enough that there’s a comic book about him, word’s gonna get out. Comic books don’t just get published in one town.

The comic tells the story of a boy who didn’t believe in magic, even though his father was a magician.


Hold the phone. The boy’s father was Professor Hinkle!?! The villain from the original Frosty cartoon? Are you going for continuity or are you not?

We then see this boy alone create Frosty and bring him to life.


This doesn’t even follow the continuity of the song! You know, the song that Burt Reynolds sang at the beginning of this special! How’s it go again?

There must have been some magic in that old silk hat they found

For when they placed it on his head, he began to dance around.

THEY! The hat THEY found. THEY placed it on his head. One boy is not they. Don’t worry, we’re not even at the confusing part yet. We later discover that the boy in this comic is Tommy’s very own father, Mayor Tinkerton. Once again, it’s question time.

  1. That magician is clearly Professor Hinkle from the original. If this is Tommy’s father’s father, why is the family name Tinkerton and not Hinkle?
  2. Has Tommy never met his grandfather? If he’s dead, has he never seen a picture? He obviously can’t recognize that these are scenes from his own father’s life.
  3. Has Tommy never seen a picture of his father as a boy?
  4. Has he never heard stories about what his grandfather did for a living and could at least guess this was his dad?
  5. Did the boy in the comic book also name the snowman Frosty? Is that just a go-to name for snowmen?
  6. If little Teddy Tinkerton was the only kid to see Frosty the Snowman in this continuity, why did he get a comic book written about him? Why does said comic book have three children on the cover?

Tommy’s dad meets him in the library…


Which seems to have ignored the “perfection on the outside” feel of the rest of the town, judging by the disorganized books on the shelves. When the mayor meets his son, we see some bizarre, stilted animation that reminds me a bit of William Shatner’s acting.




Maybe if you would have chopped the thing to 25 minutes, you would have had the right amount of money for a decent animation budget! This is terrifying.

As more and more children, including Sara and Charlie, begin to play in the snow with Frosty, they form The Secret Society of Frosty the Snowman. I’m assuming the hazing for this secret society either involves being left out to freeze overnight or being force-fed a live rabbit. Anyway, even though Tommy is apparently the one who needed Frosty the most (at least according to narrator Burt Reynolds), he is not a member yet. Burt says that the group’s “most important member was still missing.” Huh? If he wasn’t a member yet, how could he be the most important one?

Tommy’s mother (while scrapbooking) shows Tommy pictures of his grandfather, because it’s time for this part of the plot to be revealed. If the family had those pictures around, why would Tommy never have seen them before?

The mayor begins to lose it as more and more of the town’s order begins to fall apart. Apparently Frosty the Snowman is an agent of chaos.

Chaos, not KAOS

Principal Pankley convinces the mayor that this must be his fault, and that perhaps he should hand his mayoral duties over to someone else. In a public ceremony, Mayor Tinkerton passes the mayorship over to Principal Pankley, because he can do that apparently.

In a very Hitler-inspired speech, the new Principal-Mayor promises that the town will never hear about Frosty again.


Why do Christmas specials need such cartoonishly evil villains… even if they’re cartoons? The villain in the original was Hinkle, sure, but at least he was trying to get his hat back! Plus, just as much conflict came from getting Frosty to the North Pole in time as came from him. Here, the villain is this evil Principal-Mayor-Dogcatcher who’s evil because… he’s evil? We spend a lot of time on his rise to power too, because apparently kids just love business politics in their specials about talking snowmen.

When Tommy wishes the comic book had more pages, they magically appear. I’m just going with it at this point. He finds out that the current Principal-Mayor-Dogcatcher-Janitor was the one who sealed Frosty’s hat away all those years ago. So he’s always been evil, great. What’s the point in this? Was he plotting his rise to power all the way back then?

The Principal-Mayor-Dogcatcher-Janitor-Orthodontist manages to trap Frosty, by promising Walter some alone time with him. While they’re playing, he drowns and melts Frosty, taking the hat and locking it away again. Somewhere safe you, ask? Of course not, he puts it on display.

Since the hat is in plain sight at the school, Tommy and his friends manage to break in and steal it, bringing Frosty to life and proving to everyone, including Tommy’s dad, that he’s real after all.


The Principal-Mayor-Dogcatcher-Janitor-Orthodontist-Haberdasher puts up one last fight, but it’s in vain, and everyone plays in the snow.

In an epilogue, we learn that the narrator was Tommy Tinkerton all-grown up. So he traveled back-in-time to unleash the hat that would bring Frosty to the town he lived in as a child? Also, he’s married to Sara, but since they live in this house…


I’m guessing she gave up on the urban planning. Give up on your dreams, kids. Merry Christmas.

The Legend of Frosty the Snowman is a disaster—an utter and complete disaster. None of it makes any sense. From literally the first seconds of the movie, we know what kind of crap we’re in for. The animation is ugly, cheap and inconsistent, trying to mix Frosty and Hinkle’s character design with this different style. The jokes are all over the place and they very rarely land, although I’ll admit I did laugh when Frosty pelted a whining parent with a snowball. The story doesn’t line up with any previous Frosty special, nor does it try to be a complete reboot. Burt Reynolds can’t sing, and there’s no need for a narrator anyway, since Frosty addresses the audience in one scene (albeit never again). Frosty is barely even in the thing, which makes no sense for a special called The Legend of Frosty the Snowman. They should have called it The Legend of Mayor Tinkerton or How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Oh Yeah, Frosty’s in This Too. Patrick Starr as Frosty is just the icing on the awful cake. There’s no question about it, this is the worst one I’ve watched this year.


Next week, I’ve got an especially angry religious special in store. Will it make me even madder than this Frosty movie?




Best Christmas Song: 1950s


It was the decade that brought rock and roll to the forefront, and it gave us some of our most iconic Christmas songs. Which four will move on?

(1) Jingle Bell Rock by Bobby Helms vs. (8) Santa Claus is Back in Town by Elvis Presley

So it doesn’t really rock per se, but it sure rocks a lot more than some of the covers I’ve heard. This one is everywhere around Christmastime, so the fact that it doesn’t really get annoying says something.

This one doesn’t really have much to do with Santa Claus, but the bluesy-rocker has been covered a fair number of times anyway. It’s a welcome change from the chipper standards if nothing else.

(4) Run Rudolph Run by Chuck Berry vs. (5) Rockin’ Around the Christmas Tree by Brenda Lee

Even though I like this song, I’ll be the first to fully admit that it’s just Chuck Berry’s “Little Queenie” with different lyrics. It’s just that this song is more iconic than that one. Whether that’s a deal breaker is up to you.

I always thought pumpkin pie was a Thanksgiving thing. Apparently Brenda Lee’s family is different.

(3) Silver Bells by Bing Crosby and Carole Richards vs. (6) Merry Christmas Baby by Charles Brown

This one was originally called “Tinkle Bells,” until the writer’s wife told him he was an idiot. That fault aside, Ray Evans had a good song on his hands, opting to praise the glory of the city at Christmastime as opposed to the countryside that appears in so many others songs.

Not that Charlie Brown Christmas, but it’s still pretty iconic. Both Bruce Springsteen and Otis Redding have covered it, but this is the original version. I was actually mistaken in that was recorded in 1947, but it sure feels more at home in the fresh sounds of the ’50s songs vs. the classical ’40s ones.

(2) Blue Christmas by Elvis Presley vs. (7) Cool Yule by Louis Armstrong

While I personally prefer Bruce Springsteen’s live version, I have to be somewhat diplomatic and include Elvis’ classic rendition of “Blue Christmas.” It’s actually not the original, as that would be Doye O’Dell, but it is the first rock version. It’s a good song, but those background vocals really grate on me.

Well, this one’s wildly different than anything else in this division. It’s draped in Louis Armstrong’s signature style and is pretty catchy, but will it unseed Elvis?



Best Christmas Song: Standards (Round 1)


These feel like they’ve been around forever, and they will never go away. They forever exist in the realm of nostalgia (or torture depending on your feelings), and you can’t walk into a store without hearing them this time of year.

(1) White Christmas by Bing Crosby vs. (8) Do You Hear What I Hear? by the Harry Simeone Chorale

The kind of song you write when you can pay someone to shovel your walk and drive you around, “White Christmas” by Bing Crosby became a standard almost immediately upon release. It’s gone on to become the best selling single of all time, so it doesn’t seem like it’s going anywhere.

This one actually wasn’t written until 1962 in the wake of the Cuban Missile Crisis, but it sure feels older. I’m not sure why inanimate objects, animals and people are all talking to each other with no issue, but I suppose that’s the magic of Christmas or something.



(4) Winter Wonderland by Richard Himber and Joey Nash vs. (5) (There’s No Place Like) Home for the Holidays by Perry Como

Although it never mentions Christmas once, “Winter Wonderland” has become a staple of the season regardless. Later versions have the really confusing verse about pretending a snowman is a circus clown, but I don’t know what the intention in that is. Thankfully that isn’t here in the original, because it’s quite a nice song without it.

A song relishing all the wonders of holiday traffic and doorbells, “Home for the Holidays” still manages to come off as sincere and not satire. I don’t know if that’s impressive or missing the point entirely.

(3) Let it Snow, Let it Snow, Let it Snow by Vaughn Monroe vs. (6) Sleigh Ride by Arthur Fiedler and the Boston Pops

Originally recorded in 1945 by crooner and John C. Reilly-look-alike Vaughn Monroe, “Let it Snow” is what happens when you strip away all the rapey vibes from “Baby It’s Cold Outside.” Trust me, it’s a much better song for that.

“Sleigh Ride” was written as an instrumental piece, and it was originally recorded that way by Arthur Fiedler and the Boston Pops. The lyrics that came later actually fit pretty well, unlike many instrumentals that force lyrics in. Either way, it just feels like winter.


(2) The Christmas Song by Nat King Cole vs. (7) It’s the Most Wonderful Time of the Year by Andy Williams

How pretentious do you have to be to name your song “THE Christmas Song?” Can you imagine “The Horror Movie” or “The Christmas Special.” It’s a classic and was recorded by Nat King Cole many times throughout his career, but why does that have to be the title.

Hey, a song that lists stuff that happens at Christmastime, how original. Hey, let’s go over to Andy Williams’ house for Christmas, he tells scary ghost stories. That’s a weird Christmas tradition. Is it a reference to A Christmas Carol? That line always confused me. Observe other classic lines like “gay happy meetings.” They mean the same thing! It’s just forcing syllables into a song. Why is this a classic?







Best Christmas Song: TV Specials (Round 1)


These are the songs that come from those TV specials we see every year. Some blend right in, while others won’t leave our head for a week after hearing them.

(1) You’re a Mean One, Mr. Grinch from How the Grinch Stole Christmas vs. (8) Everything I’ve Always Wanted from Rudolph and Frosty’s Christmas in July

Sung by ultra-bass Thurl Ravenscroft (when it was discovered narrator Boris Karloff couldn’t sing), “You’re a Mean One, Mr. Grinch” has some of the most creative rhyming in Christmas music. Unsurprisingly, this is because it was written by Dr. Seuss himself. I mean, come on, where else will you find lyrics like “termites in your smile” or “nasty wasty skunk?”

Look, I can’t even find the version from the movie to link here, but this is seriously a really nice love song stuck right in the middle of a ridiculous Christmas special. I reviewed the thing in full here (It’s one of my favorite reviews), but “Everything I’ve Always Wanted” is one of the few things in Christmas in July that is genuinely good and not enjoyably dumb. Look up the full film and hear the version Crystal sings to Frosty to get the full effect, but this version by Virginia Lee is quite pleasant too.

(4) Christmastime is Here from A Charlie Brown Christmas vs. (5) Put One Foot in Front of the Other from Santa Claus is Comin’ to Town

This downbeat song with upbeat lyrics provides a melancholic open to A Charlie Brown Christmas, and has been associated with the character ever since. It’s simple and beautiful, and it fits the mood of the special perfectly.

Even at their absolute cheapest and cheesiest, Rankin/Bass specials always made sure to include songs with catchy tunes. This one, co-written by Bass himself, is proof of that.

(3) Snow Miser/Heat Miser from The Year Without a Santa Claus vs. (6) There’s Always Tomorrow from Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer

Apparently there’s other stuff in this special. Apparently it’s like an hour long, but all that most people remember from The Year Without a Santa Claus is the jaunty ragtime-esque numbers performed by Dick Shawn and George Irving respectively. In fact, they were so popular that the Miser Brothers got their own Christmas special a few years back (Apparently it’s terrible, don’t ask me if I’m reviewing it).

Why does the little girl reindeer have the voice of an adult? Maybe reindeer voices change really early, but only their singing voices. I mean, it’s a nice song and all, but does it really compare?

(2) A Holly Jolly Christmas from Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer vs. (7) Little Drummer Boy (Peace on Earth) from Bing’s Merrie Olde Christmas

There was a version of this recorded by the Quinto Sisters in 1962 before Rudolph, but it’s Burl Ives’ version that has become a standard. It’s simple and catchy without being saccharine, so it’s pretty safe all around.

Wow, this is awkward. I know some people love this one, but it just seems so forced on both ends, and these songs do not blend together at all. It’s an awkward attempt at making Bing Crosby hip and cool.

You’ve got 24 hours to vote!



The Best Christmas Song Tournament

best christmas song

While it may have been harder to throw this tournament together than Worst Christmas Song, there are definitely some good Christmas songs worth of recognition. I may not like every choice on here, but they’re popular and I can’t argue that. Since there are endless Christmas songs, I am limiting it here to specific recordings of songs. You’re voting for a version of a song, not the song itself.


final 4



roudn 3



round 22

rond 2


round 2a


specials 2











Nestor, the Long-Eared Christmas Donkey


  • Year: 1977
  • Director: Arthur Rankin, Jr., Jules Bass
  • Starring: Shelly Hines, Brenda Vaccaro, Paul Frees

Whether they’re nostalgic to you or you don’t get the appeal, it’s hard to deny Rankin/Bass Productions was successful in turning popular Christmas songs into popular Christmas specials. In fact, these specials are so popular that they may be the first thing you think of when you hear “Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer,” “Frosty the Snowman,” “The Little Drummer Boy” or “Santa Claus is Comin’ to Town.” So what did song they pick next? “Silver Bells,” “White Christmas,” “The First Noel,” or “Away in a Manger?” No, they picked a song that led to the special I’m reviewing today “Nestor, the Long-Eared Christmas Donkey.”


Our judges for this week are lover-of-all-things-Christmas, Kirk Cameron and hater-of-all-things-Christmas, Ash. Unfortunately, the Mayor from The Christmas Tree was killed last week in a tragic Sherbet Buffalo accident. The buffalo remains in jail, and will probably be there for a while, as the Mayor himself was the only one who could pay his bail of “two bags of money.”


First, let me get this out of the way, Nestor, the Long-Eared Christmas Donkey is a dumb title. Second, did you even know this was a song? Gene Autry wrote it during the “Rudolph” and “Frosty” craze, but the most popular version outside of this special (and I use the word popular very loosely) was by Marty Robbins. The song is about a donkey whose long ears make him an outcast, but who ultimately is the one who leads Mary and Joseph to Bethlehem. Basically, it’s Rudolph but with Jesus. It’s a silly little song that I would probably hate if it was covered by almost any other country singer, but Marty Robbins’ delivery is just so laid-back and pleasant that I can’t fully hate the thing.

So why would you make a special from this? There’s very little recognition based on the song, it has a dumb name anyway, and there are tons of other songs you could do first.

So who do they get for the narrator? Oh, of course there’s a narrator, because every Christmas special has to have one. Let’s see what country singer Rankin/Bass could afford in 1977…


Roger Miller. I mean, it could be worse, but he does bring that certain level of cheesiness to the song that makes it annoying. Miller voices Spieltoe, Santa’s donkey who is an ancestor of Nestor’s.


So the reindeer are immortal but the donkey who carried Mary to Bethlehem doesn’t get a pass? Kinda species-ist eh? I mean, I’d say it’s because the reindeer can fly, but that’s only because of the magic feed corn right? They’re not really special in any other way.

The instrumental version of “Nestor” that plays over the opening credits is actually pretty nice, showing that even for their low budget, Rankin/Bass understands atmosphere. They’re already doing better than the other specials I’ve watched this year. However, throughout the special, Roger Miller will sing a line or two of the song to begin a scene, and that gets really annoying.

Let’s get to the real issue here—the story. See if this sounds familiar. An animal is born with a strange facial deformity. Everyone makes fun of him except for his mother, and the young animal feels like an outcast wherever he goes.


He runs off into the world and meets some true friends, themselves outcasts in their own way, who don’t judge him for who he is. He then uses his seeming deformity for good and everyone welcomes him back as a hero.

You guessed it, it’s Dumbo. Alright, alright, I’m kidding. Seriously though, it’s the exact same plot as Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer. (For the record, there was a children’s book of Rudolph released in 1939, so it was his story before Dumbo’s). It’s like Rankin/Bass just plugged their formula in and let it go. Famous narrator? Check. Heartwarming story about a poor child animal? Check. Christmas? Check. We’ve got a special. Change some character names from Rudolph, cut some stuff for time, and the kids will love it.

Nestor the long-eared donkey had a set of really long ears

And if you ever saw them, you would say “Those are long ears.”

In the days of the Roman Empire, Nestor is born in the stable of Louie Anderson-look-alike Olaf (Paul Frees).


Look Paul Frees, you were The Man of a Thousand Voices and you were brilliant, but all I can hear is Winterbolt. Olaf of course picks on Nestor for having long ears.


Don’t get me wrong, he does have long ears, but he’s a donkey! All donkeys have long ears! His are just longer by comparison. It’s like if all reindeer had maroon noses and Rudolph’s was bright red. It just stands out far less. What if Nestor had short ears instead? That would be weird for a donkey.

All of the other donkeys used to laugh and call him names

They never let poor Nestor join in any donkey games.


When the emperor needs donkeys, a soldier comes to buy them from Olaf. However, Nestor is wearing socks over his ears to hide their size, and when the soldier thinks he’s being tricked, he takes all the donkeys without paying. Huh? Why was he going to pay for them to begin with if he could just do this? It’s for the emperor right? He can kind of do whatever he wants.

Anyway, the soldier won’t take Nestor, and Olaf kicks him out. Through a winter storm, Nestor’s mother shields him from the conditions, leading to her own death. This is Bambi now too… sure I’ll go with it.

Now all alone, Nestor meets a slightly nervous angel named Tilly (Brenda Vaccaro).


What kind of a name for an angel is Tilly? Why don’t we just introduce Jimmy the demon or Sam the demi-god? It just doesn’t sound angelic.

While we’re at it, does her appearance remind you of anyone?


Geesh, is everything in this just ripping off Rudolph? Try an original idea.

Anyway, Tilly the Angel tells Nestor that he has to go to Bethlehem. Why? Because his ears have something or other that will help someone or other. Why are spiritual beings so vague in Rankin/Bass productions? The Lady Boreal in Christmas in July just told Rudolph to be brave, and Tilly here just tells Nestor to go to Bethlehem, even though she’s an angel and could tell him why.

Nestor and Tilly begin their journey, even though she’s an angel and could, you know, FLY HIM THERE. We see random scenes of the two of them in nature over a boring Roger Miller song called “Don’t Laugh and Make Somebody Cry,” because he’s slipping one original song into this thing. Well that title is confusing. It sounds like he’s saying you shouldn’t laugh but rather make someone cry. I know he’s actually saying you’ll make somebody cry when you laugh at them, but he needed to reword this. It’s almost as confusing as “Take a Knee My Ass (I Won’t Take a Knee).”

The angel leaves him in Israel, and Nestor is taken in by a Jewish stereotype (Paul Frees again).


Then one stormy Christmas Eve, Joseph came to say

“Nestor with your ears so long, please carry us, it’s in the song.”

This merchant tries to sell Nestor, but again, he has long ears and no one wants him. This all changes one night when Mary and Joseph come in and pick Nestor because… they like his eyes? So his ears really don’t have much to do with it after all?


Joseph also looks like he’s 70 for some reason. He probably shouldn’t be traveling long distances at his age, even if there is a census. Mary also tells the donkey dealer “God bless you,” even though she’s Jewish and would never speak God’s name, but who’s going for accuracy at this point?

When a sandstorm hits, Nestor uses his special ears to hear angels and his dead mother guiding his way. So only creatures with long ears can hear angels? It’s as if Arthur Rankin said “This donkey with long ears took Mary and Jesus to Bethlehem,” and Jules Bass asked, “What do the ears have to do with anything?” This explanation makes no sense. Did the shepherds in the Gospel of Luke have long ears? What about the Magi? Does God only reveal himself to the long-eared? Well no, because Mary and Joseph have both heard from God at this point, and they have normal ears. I mean, I guess Nestor’s long ears block some sand from Mary’s face and all, but what’s the point of the hearing angels thing?

It’s also Nestor who brings them to a stable, because as Roger Miller says, “He remembered how warm and beautiful a stable could be for a baby.” Yeah, a baby donkey. It’d be like a person taking a horse to give birth in a hotel room. “Oh trust me, I just love these, and I’m sure all species have the same taste.”


After seeing the Christ child born and the shepherds and Magi worshiping him, Nestor returns home… to the stable owner who kicked him out. Now he’s welcomed as a hero, because he told a cool story I guess. Shhh, don’t tell him his story will get lost in the mix of the more interesting ones.

Then how the Bible snubbed him, never telling of his deeds

Nestor, the long-eared donkey, you’ll be lost to history.

Why does this thing exist? Did someone complain that Rankin/Bass specials were too secular, so they remade one, but with Jesus instead? I mean, cut the filler and side-plots, change up the species, swap out Santa for Jesus, and you can’t tell it apart from Rudolph. Look, Christmas in July is bad, but at least it tells an original story, and it’s so overblown that it’s hilarious. Nestor is is just rehashing a different Rankin/Bass special, and that’s a shame. This is obviously the biggest rip-off of their own work Rankin/Bass ever…


Oh come on. That’s real? I have no words. Let’s see what our judges said. Kirk?


It’s such a bummer that Rudolph had to rip off this true story. Still, I wish it was longer and really showed the relationship between the baby Jesus and NestorI give it 3 empty mugs of hot chocolate out of 5.



Based on a song by Gene Autry after he suffered head trauma, Nestor is historically and geographically inaccurate, although it tries really hard to convince the viewer otherwise. There is a mention of the winter solstice, a pagan holiday, as Nestor starts his trip for Bethlehem to carry the first Christmas gift. No I’m not lying.

During a song called “Don’t Laugh and Make Somebody Cry,” Nestor’s ears are put to use as a boat sail, skis and reins so his “guardian cherub” can guide him. The irony there was not lost on me.

As this experience comes to a close, we’re left wondering if this message is that Nestor’s mother is God, or that God is what you make it, or maybe God is a donkey… whatever it is, it gets a 2/10 for overall rating, and an 8/10 on the torture scale.

Make sure to follow Ash on Twitter at @Leopluradon75 for more great content!

Oh yeah, this one’s bad, but it’s still the most tolerable one I’ve watched so far, which I know isn’t saying much.


Next week, I’ll be taking a look at an entry in one of the most continuity-confused Christmas series out there.




Santa and the Ice Cream Bunny


  • Year: 1972
  • Director: R. Winer, Barry Mahon
  • Starring: Jay Clark, Shay Garner, Pat Morrell

Sometimes you come across a movie that leaves you so stunned in its decisions, so confused by its entire existence that you have to wonder how it could have ever been greenlit. I can guarantee that if I saw Santa and the Ice Cream Bunny as a child, I would have convinced myself it was all a dream.

Made in 1972 by R. Winer (good on him for not revealing his whole name), Santa and the Ice Cream Bunny also incorporates a previous film by Barry Mahon… but I’m getting ahead of myself. I’d introduce our judges, but apparently one has not shown up yet, so let’s dive right in with my review of Santa and the Ice Cream Bunny.


This movie also may break a record for the shortest a movie can go before committing an error.


Really? Putting “Kids” in quotation marks? I know some of the kids look old, but that’s just rude.

These “kids” are playing the elves at Santa’s workshop, who are fretting that Santa has disappeared. They sing a song about it that doesn’t even rhyme, and then they open the door to look outside to reveal something that is clearly not the North Pole in winter.


One minute in, and we’re already using stock footage. Way to go.

We’re all as confused as this elf.

So what happened to Santa? Well this movie is glad you asked. He’s stuck on a beach in Florida.


His reindeer have apparently run off and gone back to the North Pole, because they were too hot. They flew off without the sleigh? Why didn’t they take Santa with them?! I guess Santa was all “No I’ll stay in Florida a bit longer, you guys have fun.”

What is with that dollar store Santa suit? Is that really all the costuming department could afford? I’m starting to think this movie is about a crazy Floridian who thinks he’s Santa Claus. I mean, he refuses to even change out of his Santa suit!

Santa stands up in his sleigh (apparently he doesn’t think he can get out of it or he’s too lazy) and sings a song about how bad his situation is.

Who are you conducting, you crazy, crazy person?

I don’t see how singing is going to make it any better. Also, this song (that I’ll call “Woe is Me,” because there’s no official title for any of these) features a lyric that utterly confuses me—”My predicament lacks its usual cheer.” What does that mean? So you often get stuck in the sand on a beach, but it’s cheery the other times? He’s probably trying to say that this is less cheery than when he’s usually in the sleigh, but how is delivering toys to millions of children a predicament? That’s just an event—it’s not problematic!

Eventually Santa decides to use telepathy to summon some children to him. What is it with writers magically giving characters telepathy in Christmas specials? If Santa can communicate through his mind, why doesn’t reach he out to the elves, the police or a taxi? What is a group of kids going to do?

As the kids run over to Santa, we see Tom Sawyer and Huck Finn on a raft on a river.


Why are Tom Sawyer and Huck Finn in this film you ask? GOOD QUESTION! I have no idea either. They never meet up with the children, only wonder where the children are going, and all they do is comment on what’s going on from afar. Hey, there’s a difference between filler and just chucking in characters from someone else’s stories. Even weirder, as they row closer to shore, someone plays “Old Man River” on kazoo. That’s right, the classic and poignant song from Show Boat on a kazoo! That’s like typing Lord of the Rings in Comic Sans or serving Chicken Marsala with chicken nuggets. “Old Man River” is the only non-original song in the thing, and the river itself serves no relevance to the plot either, so I’m not sure why it’s here.

Well, the kids come up with the brilliant idea of getting other animals to pull Santa’s sleigh. First up…


A gorilla. On a beach. In Florida.

You know, like with my “guy-convinced-he’s-Santa” theory, I think it makes more sense that this is a crazy guy in a gorilla suit. The suit is so obvious, which could be a special effects mistake, or it could be a film about insanity. You make your choice.

Shocker, the man in the gorilla suit can’t pull the sleigh. How about instead you get these 20 or 30 kids you’ve rounded up to push it?

Nah, let’s try one donkey…


Or one pig…


Or one sheep…


Or one cow.


Santa has eight reindeer, right? Why is one farm animal going to do the work of eight reindeer? Why are all of these animals so close to a Florida beach? Most of these scenes just involve pulling animals closer to the sleigh and discovering they won’t work.

Finally someone is a little bit practical and brings a horse, but that doesn’t work either.


HOW ABOUT EIGHT HORSES? Or all of these animals combined? I give up. Why did they start with a gorilla? Where are they getting all these farm animals from?

For about five seconds, Santa starts to dig up the sand surrounding his wheel, but then he gives up on that. Santa is ready to abandon all hope, so he has the children gather around and tells them a story about how you should never give up. Apparently this a story for Santa too.


Santa tells them the story of Thumbelina, meaning for the next hour, we cut to another film entirely. Two-thirds of Santa and the Ice Cream Bunny is made up of Thumbelina. Keep in mind we still haven’t met the enigmatic Ice Cream Bunny yet.

So, we cut to Thumbelina…nah I’m kidding. We cut to a girl (Shay Garner) walking around an amusement park called Pirates World, and after riding a few rides, walking over to a “Thumbelina” display.


Now kids, the story of “Thumbelina” starts off with a girl visiting an amusement park.


Santa, I don’t think that’s how Hans Christian Andersen wrote it. 


Shut up, Chad.

The actually catchy “If I Were Thumbelina” plays over her walking around the amusement park. It’s by no means great, but it sounds like a song you’d hear on a carousel, just with words added, so it fits with the theme park atmosphere.

We then get the opening credits of the Thumbelina film, which I guess means Santa really cares about detail.



Now kids, the production manager in this telling of Thumbelina is Jon Williams. Now that’s not the same Jon Williams who scores most of Spielberg’s films.

We then see the girl at the Thumbelina display, hearing the story told on a speaker by… you guessed it… a different narrator!


And then the girl went into the room and heard a narrator tell the story. I’ll use a different voice to distinguish this narrator from myself.

Come on! If you’re going to splice someone else’s film into your own, do a little editing. Cut out the narrator and make it seem like Santa’s telling the story or something! How hard would that have been? Disney does it with their cartoons all the time.

I can criticize the silliness of the story here, but it’s pretty much just Andersen’s “Thumbelina.” Shay Garner also plays Thumbelina, because she’s basically looking at displays and imagining herself in the story.

Thumbelina’s mother is all alone in her home, talking out loud to herself either because we need her to speak, or being alone has driven her crazy. After saying how lonely she is, she out of nowhere says that she’ll “go see the witch.” You know what would make this a better movie? If it stopped in the middle of this and showed The Witch in its entirety. Forget that the movie didn’t exist for another 35 years.

The witch sings an annoying song about how she’ll create a daughter (“That’s What Magic Can Do”) that seems to go on forever.


In this song, she references another Andersen tale by singing about the time she helped “A duck who had no luck change into a swan.” THAT’S NOT EVEN HOW THE STORY GOES! It’s about an ugly duckling who realizes he’s a swan, not one who has a witch change him into one. Heck, the whole story is about how he wants to change into a good-looking duck. I’m thinking if he saw a witch, he’d probably ask for that instead.

When the witch says the woman is too old to have a child, she responds, “I didn’t want to be a spinster by my own choosing.” “Didn’t want” and “Not by my own choosing” mean the same thing! This is the kind of line I’d expect in a translated dub of a foreign film, not in one actually filmed in English! Was K. Gordon Murray involved in the making of this? It has about the same budget as his films.

There is no K. Gordon, only Ken Smith.

Of course, the girl the witch creates is Thumbelina, who is only two inches high (The creators of this film were far higher, I’m sure). We even get a shot from Thumbelina’s perspective, even though it looks more like a scene from 1984.


Thumbelina then gets kidnapped by a frog who wants a wife for her son, which is one of the more logical portions of this film. Again, it’s the story, so I can’t judge this movie for the decision.

She then spends some time with a mole, who lives in what seems to be the same house the witch lived in, just with different furniture.


Through her, Thumbelina meets a rich mole named Mr. Digger who wants to marry her. Wouldn’t Thumbelina be the digger if she married him? Anyway, Mrs. Mole (who’s also the narrator) encourages Thumbelina to go through with the marriage, even though they’re different species and Thumbelina is just days old, but Thumbelina ultimately decides against it. Weirdly, she seems to care more that he’s old than that HE’S A MOLE.

She eventually finds her people, the flower children…

In more ways than one

And she finds out she’s their queen. Apparently the witch made her a ruler of a people that already exist. Anyway, this guy Tom Thumb is their king, and he insists they get married. She wants to spend some time there first, but ultimately she decides he’s young, so she’ll marry him (being human is just a bonus).


So the moral is only marry within your own race?


Shut up, Chad.

We then see the same footage of the girl at the amusement park from before, followed by her meeting up with her boyfriend (played by the same actor who played Tom Thumb). We even get a “THE END” card and a bumper for Pirates World.

pirates world

And then an amusement park tried to sneak in some free advertising.

When Santa finishes the “story,” there’s only 12 minutes of the film left. You know who we still haven’t met? HALF OF THE TITLE. Why isn’t this called Santa and Thumbelina or Santa Tells the Story of Thumbelina?

When a dog gets a brilliant idea, the kids all run off with him. Santa gets a little too comfortable…


And takes a nap. When he wakes up, the Ice Cream Bunny has come to save him.


Surely you know the Ice Cream Bunny, right? He’s been in things. The kids are all hanging posters of him in their room. He has groupies.

Honestly, this is one of my most hated tropes in all of entertainment—when a movie or show introduces a character as if everyone already knows who they are. This is even more bizarre than Rapsittie Street Kids, though, because at least that wasn’t trying to claim they were beloved mythical characters. Sure audience, you don’t know this character, but that’s your fault. Everyone loves the Ice Cream Bunny.

Who is the Ice Cream Bunny? Why does he drive a turn-of-the-century car? Why is he called the Ice Cream Bunny? Does he sell ice cream? Is he made of ice cream? Why didn’t they think of enlisting his help before? Was he a mascot from Pirates World? How does he know Santa? Well none of these questions are ever answered! Heck, no one on the internet even seems to know who this was supposed to be.

We see a long segment where they just drive, because we’ve got to pad this thing out to 90 minutes. At one point, the dog gets right in front of the car, and in some incredibly sloppy editing, it cuts to him being beside it again.

Santa sees the car driven by the Ice Cream Bunny from a distance, but then it drives right through Pirates World! What? Is this a flashback? Does Santa have really good vision? Why does no one at the park wonder why a dude in a bunny suit is driving a bunch of kids through the park?


However, Santa can’t tell who exactly it is until he walks right up to the car, so I guess it can’t be that vision thing after all.


Upon seeing him, Santa exclaims “The Ice Cream Bunny, of course.” It’s like this movie is openly trying to insult its audience for not knowing who this all-new character is.

The Ice Cream Bunny drives Santa all the way to the North Pole, but he also magically transports Santa’s sleigh back there. Could he not transport the thing with Santa in it? Did he only remember the teleportation powers once he was already on the road and didn’t want to turn back? Was there a weight limit?

I don’t know that this even qualifies as a movie. Not one decision in this film makes sense. Not one line of dialogue is delivered (or more accurately “dubbed”) well. Why do Tom Sawyer and Huck Finn watch from afar and never do anything? Let’s see what our judges have to say, because I’m told our special guest judge is now here. First up, it’s Kirk Cameron.


Not only does Santa never ask God for help out of his predicament, but they have a character in an Easter Bunny costume not called the Easter Bunny. That’s not a rabbit hole I want to go down. It’s half an empty mug of hot chocolate for me.

Mr. Mayor?


If jungle bears live at the North Pole, I suppose gorillas and ice cream bunnies can live on beaches. I’ll give it 2 bags of money out of 3.

And today’s guest judge, you know him, you love him. It’s Tim the Sherbet Buffalo!

tim thews

Oh I’m sorry, you’ve never heard of Tim the Sherbet Buffalo? Well, he’s in things, I promise. You must just not have seen them. Everyone’s talking about him.

Why does he have a monocle and a handlebar mustache? Because he’s Tim the Sherbet Buffalo, that’s why. Does he have anything to do with sherbet? Possibly. You’ll have to find out.

Tim doesn’t know how to speak, but he stomped on that button thrice, so we’re assuming he gives this movie three stars.


The only possible explanation I can give for this film is that is was simply made as a promo for Pirates World, which closed down a few years later due to another Florida amusement park you may have heard of. Otherwise, this thing makes no sense whatsoever. It’s easily the worst one I’ve watched so far this year.


Does a weirder film exist? Well, we’ve got seven reviews left to find out. Let’s see what the religious side of things can cook up next week.




Christmas is Here Again


  • Year: 2007
  • Director: Robert Zappia
  • Starring: Madison Davenport, Ed Asner, Brad Garrett

Oh hello most generic title for a Christmas special ever. Why don’t you just the name the thing Merry Christmas or Santa Wants You to Buy This. Then there’s that cast. I’m pretty sure the director just spun a wheel of celebrities and took whoever came up. Kathy Bates? Brad Garrett? Andy Griffith? Narrated by Jay Leno? JAY LENO? Look, whether you like the guy or not, he doesn’t exactly have narrator voice. It’s like when Joe Pesci narrated Casino.

It’s the first religious special in this Match-Up: Christmas is Here Again (Trust me, it might not sound religious now, but it is)…


With our judges Kirk Cameron, The Mayor from The Christmas Tree, and our guest judge Jay Leno.


Well this special is all about Santa’s sack.. and they call it that a lot. (Apparently they were going to name the thing Santa’s Magical Sack but that would have been an automatic PG-13 rating.) Narrator Jay opens by referring to it as the “magical sack of boys and girls.” No that’s not a typo. Apparently all those kids who ask for little brothers and sisters get their wish a bit too literally. How did no one catch this line read?

Santa’s elves sing one of the blandest Christmas songs ever, where they just list stuff that happens at Christmas.


Seriously, this thing makes Gregorian chants sound melodic and tuneful. Plus, this special is lazy enough to make these elves all look identical. Are they clones? I’m more interested in how Santa created them than anything else.

There are two elves who look different, because they actually have lines.

paul rocco

Hanging off the sleigh on the right there is French-stereotype elf Jacques, and sitting on top is Paul Rocco (both voiced by Daniel Roebuck). What kind of name for an elf is Paul Rocco? Why does he have a last name? Was someone trying to write a mob story that they ended up canceling and just had to use the name?

The elves see that Santa’s sack is missing and break into the ultra-creative “Who Stole Santa’s Sack?” which has the same tune as the previous song, but just in a minor key. It has such creative lines like “Who stole Santa’s sack/The sack he carries on his back.” Hey, how about instead of singing about it, you do your job and look for it?

The question is then answered immediately, as we leave the elves and cut to this guy, who tells the audience (apparently he can break the fourth wall) that he stole Santa’s sack.


Gee I wonder if this guy will be the villain. This is Krad or Chad…or Crab… it’s kind of unclear, but the official cast list says Krad. Get it, because it’s Dark spelled backwards? He’s voiced by…


Ed Asner? Again? Come on, how badly do you need money? I thought that time you played a rapping owl in Happily Ever After was embarrassing. Now you’re playing someone who looks like the Devil in a Christmas special, and it’s not even this one.


Krad successfully holds on to the sack for over thirty years, and Christmas doesn’t come for any of them. Seriously? All that buildup and Santa doesn’t have a backup plan. Also, we learn later that Krad lives AT THE NORTH POLE! If Santa can bring people anything they want, why can’t he bring himself someone adventurous to go find this guy? It’s made pretty clear Santa knows he’s the one who stole the sack. Anyway, like the special, we’ll get back to that, because now we have to spend some time with orphans.

Sophiana is a girl who walks with a cane…and her parents died when she was very young… and she lives at an evil orphanage…and she can’t taste candy…plus she lost a leg in the war. Alright, so those last two are made up, but you get the point. How pitiable can we make this character?


She’s a little girl in danger. Kids are going to sympathize regardless. She also has a caterpillar named Mr. Caterpillar, but seeing as how he serves little-to-nothing to the plot, I’m not going to talk about him.

She lives at your traditional Christmas-special-orphanage, run by Miss Hannigan Mavilda Dowdy (Kathy Bates).


Miss Dowdy is the kind of character who asks Sophiana to explain herself, but then interrupts her two words in and says she doesn’t want to hear it. She also eats bacon and eggs while everyone else is stuck eating slop. She’s also upset because Sophiana wants to try recipes from a cook book, but she’d rather eat the same thing every day.

Sophiana sings another bland song that sounds like a parody of a Disney princess song. It keeps feeling like it’s going to start having a tune, but it never does. I mean, I wonder if she wants a family and the ability to walk. Do we really need a song to explain this? Seriously, try humming this song after hearing it. Heck, try humming it while you’re listening to it. This literally took 60 seconds and a rhyming dictionary, and the instruments are just some flourishes that could easily be the film’s score. It’s awful.

On Adoption Day, an old woman (Shirley Jones), later revealed to Mrs. Claus, comes to town.


She tells the children that they can be whatever they want to be if they dream… and after telling them this, she decides to also sing it. Again, this song has no tune and just kind of rambles on until they’re tired of it. Musicals are supposed to explain their characters’ motivations through song, but here we have the characters completely showing who they are and then singing about it… barely singing but you get the point.

When Mrs. Dowdy (This thing can’t decide if she’s married or not) tells Mrs. Claus to stop filling the kids’ heads with dreams, she tells her that “Dreams are the things hope is made of.” Did someone write this line backwards? Hope leads to dreams, but how can it go both ways? How quickly were these lines recorded?

Quick, if she stays more than five minutes, she’ll realize the lines are awful.

Sophiana wanders away to hide from Miss Dowdy, and she finds herself somewhere near the North Pole. Huh? Could you have at least tried to explain that this was in Alaska or something? Ugh, anyway, she finds Santa’s elf Paul Rocco frozen in ice. He hasn’t died because… magic of Christmas I guess, so she helps unfreeze him.

Since a little girl would have no idea who Santa or elves would be in a world devoid of Christmas for 30 years, Paul Rocco explains that he’s an elf who has magical powers, except apparently the magic of unfreezing or finding a sack. Hey at least he can create a dove.


Hey Rocco! If you can create a BIRD, how about a bird that flies to Krad’s lair and takes the sack!


So I’m guessing this character is pretty pointless then. I mean, he takes Sophiana to the North Pole to see Santa, but really how far is she anyway? If she wandered lost for another five minutes, she probably would have gotten there.

And that’s why we call him Five Minute Rocco.

Rocco tells Sophiana the story of Christmas in song, quickly mentioning Jesus being born, mainly just so he can tie it to Santa bringing gifts to honor that. He sings (again sort of) all about Santa in a song you’d think he would have spent more time writing, seeing as how he was frozen for thirty years.

You disappoint me, Rocco. What did I say about ratting on your friends?

Rocco leads Sophiana to Santa and Mrs. Claus who say they have given up on the idea of going to Krad’s lair and stealing the sack back, and Santa finally explains Krad’s backstory in full. Krad was the one who gave Santa the coal for the naughty kids, but when Santa had a crisis of conscience and decided to stop doing that, Krad led a Paradise Lost-esque rebellion against Santa Claus. As if the Luciferian imagery was not enough, he now lives in the depths of the earth with all the naughty children, whom he has transformed into his minions.


So are Santa’s elves all the good children? Ick let’s move on.

Mrs. Claus sings another tune-less song, which is odd because she mentions Rudolph in this one, even though Rocco specifically mentioned eight reindeer earlier. Santa sends Sophiana home with Paul Rocco, but she insists she must go save Santa’s sack herself. I suppose that she realizes if the team of Santa and elves from before couldn’t save the sack, then a crippled girl and the elf dumb enough to get frozen for 30 years can.

Paul Rocco finally reveals to Sophiana the secret of Santa’s sack, because Rocco’s a total rat at this point and he better go all out in his confession if he wants to enter Witness Protection. She asks why Santa just doesn’t get another sack, and Paul Rocco reveals that… oh my this is dumb. Paul Rocco reveals that Santa’s sack is magical, because it’s made from…one minute sorry.


Paul Rocco reveals that Santa’s sack is magical because it’s made from the swaddling clothes that Mary wrapped the Baby Jesus in.



Oh my, I have so many questions. First of all, how did Santa come across these clothes? If we’re going off the whole St. Nicholas thing, he wasn’t born until the 3rd century A.D. How did these come to Santa? I swear if there’s some Santa Indiana Jones movie we’re missing out on here, that would be a much better film than this. Why was anyone saving the swaddling clothes anyway? Maybe they’re fake and they only work due to a placebo effect. Why do the swaddling clothes magically make the sack able to hold unlimited gifts? All they ever held before was the Baby Jesus, and he was normal-sized.

Weirdest of all, this “twist” has absolutely no bearing on the plot! The only purpose it serves is “We can’t get another sack.” It would be just the same if it was made of an extinct animal hide or pixie dust. Religious themes are never once brought up again for the remaining 40 minutes of the special! The only reason I can think of this is that the thing was funded by a church or some religious organization who forced them to include this.

So what is this special about? Is it about a world where Christmas hasn’t existed for 30 years? A guy leading a rebellion against Santa and company? The swaddling clothes creating Santa’s sack? An orphan just trying to find a family and also Santa’s sack? It’s just so busy, and a lot of these things don’t feel like they belong in the same special.

Sophiana and Rocco try to find the tallest mountain in the North Pole, where Krad allegedly resides. Along the way, she meets some more companions, because of course she does. There’s Charlee the not-so-dangerous polar bear (Brad Garrett)…


Buster the fox who constantly switches between helping the group and screwing everyone over (Norm MacDonald)…


And Dart, the little reindeer who wants to one day pull Santa’s sleigh.


It’s so nice to see all these groundbreakingly original characters all in one place. A bear who’s not really threatening? Well at least it’s not the bear from The Christmas Tree who was actually a jungle bear. A fox who acts sly? Oh how original. I wonder if Dart realizes what will happen when he does begin to pull Santa’s sleigh. If he goes the way of Rudolph, he’ll be treated like he never existed by everyone except Mrs. Claus.

When the group finds the entrance to the evil lair, Buster the fox wants to take the obvious dummy trap of diamonds that are in plain view right by the entrance. Heck, there’s even a sign telling them they will suffer bad consequences if they do take any. Buster ignores this and says “What happens in Middle-earth stays in Middle-earth” which is ironically also what Frodo menacingly whispered to Sam on the eve of his wedding.

They also have to sing a song about taking the diamonds, because we needed some painful rhymes in this special. Hey did you know that “youngsters” rhymes with “monsters?” Well it does in Christmas is Here Again. How about “riches” and “St. Nicholas?” Yep, why not? And “convince us” rhymes with both “princes” and “consensus.” Oh joy, the wonders of a world where these actually rhyme? What does the creator have to say about this?

My name is Robert Zappia/And i quite enjoy tapioca.

As the group descends further into the pits of hell…


They narrowly avoid death (Buster took some diamonds anyway) by Dart flying them out of there.

Meanwhile, Krad watches from afar without really doing anything…because he’s an over-the-top evil villain, and this is what they do. I suppose this goes back to the Wicked Witch of the West, but even she tried to make Dorothy’s journey more difficult by popping up along the way and poisoning the poppy fields. Villains like Krad just sit there and talk about how evil they are and how the heroes have no chance. I also love how he calls the heroes “no good do gooders.” Huh?

When they get to Krad’s lair (it really wasn’t hard at all, but that’s what happens when the villain does nothing), Buster abandons them. I’m not sure where he expects to go, but hey whatever, he’s a fox, he has to be a jerk. When they come across the sack, Rocco tries to take it quickly against the judgment of others. It’s revealed to be a trap, and the alarms go off and the front door closes.

Rocco, you started as a sneak thief, and yet you can’t identify an obvious booby trap. I’m afraid you have no place in the Claus crew.

As they try to escape, they run into Buster again, who claims he’s found a shortcut, even though Rocco says he thinks it’s the wrong way. For one second, this becomes a Naked Gun movie…


But they decide to follow the fox anyway, because he claims he’s gotten them this far, which isn’t even kind of true. The evil elves (called the “selves”) immediately attack, and Krad reveals that Buster sold out for 25 pieces of gold… even though the bag he gets has a dollar sign on it.


Sophiana asks Krad how he could steal Santa’s sack, and he says it’s just because he’s evil (pronounced with emphasis on the second syllable) and can’t help it. Wait, I thought it was because he wanted Santa to continue punishing the bad children so he could continue his production of coal. Santa was punishing kids for being bad, right? So if Krad is just inherently evil, why would he want the punishment of evildoers to continue? I am so confused. Give him a motivation or don’t, but follow through with something!

Well now Ed Asner has to sing a song about being evil, because it was so great when he did it in Happily Ever After. Again, it’s barely a song, although it does randomly have a quick Busby Berkeley shout-out, which is utterly confusing. The point of Busby Berkeley parodies is to be overdone and extravagant. This is a two-second parody of synchronized swimming! THIS MOVIE MAKES NO SENSE!


The song mentions that Krad has tried to be good, but it also mentions all the things he would rather do than be good. Apparently not only did this special have conflicting writers, it seems that this song did too. His minions sing about how he “broke off the tip of Cupid’s bow,” but last time I checked, this is an arrow.


At this point in the special, Jay Leno steps out and tells Conan O’ Brien he can narrate the rest of the thing. It becomes surprisingly funny and unpredictable, but after five minutes Jay demands the thing back and it’s boring again.

With the help of Buster (because it’s a kids’ special and he’s not staying evil), Sophiana and company escape with the sack. They dump all the coal that Krad had been storing in the sack on him and his followers, burying them alive. Merry Christmas from Edgar Allan Poe.

Narrator Jay has the nerve to say that Krad was “the most wicked villain the North Pole had ever seen,” even though I can think of someone who would fight that.


Good, they have the sack back, so now they can wrap this thing up nicely…. Nope just kidding. Sophiana still doesn’t have a family yet.

When Sophiana and Paul Rocco return to Santa Claus, he is of course grateful, praising Sophiana’s courage and “unselflessness” and allowing her to wish for anything she wants. (He also welcomes Paul Rocco back into the fold, but he’ll have to start as a low-ranking soldier in the Kringle crew and work his way back up.) However, when Sophiana wishes for a family, Santa says he can’t really give her anything. Um… didn’t he know she was an orphan? Shouldn’t he have made the qualifications a bit more specific beforehand? Also, if she was going to wish for anything, why not the same family back?

Sophiana returns home, where Miss Dowdy is suddenly nice for no apparent reason. Um, magic of Christmas again? Maybe she was only mean around Sophiana and has been happy now that she’s gone? Even the movie doesn’t seem to care at this point.

Christmas comes again, and Santa brings all the extra gifts for the people who missed Christmas for 30 years. Mr. and Mrs. Claus come to adopt Sophiana, because I hear adoption agencies just love signing away little kids to elderly overweight parents, and they all live tolerably ever after. Except Krad, because villains in kids’ specials should be punished by being buried alive under a mountain of coal. Death is too good for someone who literally can’t help but be evil.

The ending scene is basically just a repeat of the opening song, and we now see Dart pulling Santa’s sleigh, because literally who gives a flying dart about Rudolph? You know he didn’t save Christmas, the New Year, and entire world from the evil lord Winterbolt. What have you done for me lately, Rudy?


WOW. This thing is just so bizarre. While I’m convinced that The Christmas Tree was actually trying to parody all the annoying cliches you find in Christmas specials, this is trying to smush them all together and play them straight. The attempts at humor fall painfully flat, the songs were clearly written thirty minutes before recording, and the villain is way too dark for this sweet and happy kids’ movie. He’s seriously just Satan. There are lines that were obviously recorded wrong (“unselflessness” and “magical sack of boys and girls”) and Jay Leno is literally the last person I’d ever choose as a narrator. Let’s see what our judges think. We’ll start with Mr. Mayor.


It seems to remind me of a particular incident that happened in my town a few years ago. This orphanage owner seems to be a little bit nicer than Mavilda, but it still brings back bad memories. The fact that we never saw the mayor character really felt insincere. I give it 2 Bags of Money out of 10.



It’s easily the best movie I’ve been in, far better than Collision Course with Pat Morita (Yes readers, it’s real. Look it up.) I’m pretty proud with how my narration turned out. I give it 4 Bloody Knives in Conan’s Back out of 5.

And finally Kirk?


I really enjoyed this one. It tied Jesus into the story beautifully, and I really wish I had come up with… I mean researched that sack thing for Saving Christmas. In fact, I’m going to try to write some sequels with Robert Zappia. For example, the Thanksgiving cornucopia is made from Gabriel’s horn. The 4th of July fireworks are actually made from the fire Jesus took from Hell when he descended there after being crucified. The Easter Bunny’s

Ooh I’m sorry, but you’re out of time.

This is one that is almost unbelievable unless you see it for yourself. I almost have to recommend it for that reason, but this thing is far worse than the mercifully short The Gift of Winter from last week.


We’ll bounce back to the secular next week. Perhaps I’ll find something even worse.





The Worst Christmas Special 2: Religious Smackdown


It’s another year of the Worst Christmas Specials, but this year, I’ve got 5 religious and 5 secular specials.



The only proof you need that today’s special is worthy of competing for the title of Worst Christmas Special is that poster… (More)


Oh hello most generic title for a Christmas special ever. Why don’t you just… (More)


Sometimes you come across a movie that leaves you so stunned in its decisions, so confused by its entire existence… (More)


Whether they’re nostalgic to you or you don’t get the appeal, it’s hard to deny Rankin/Bass Production was successful in turning popular Christmas songs… (More)


Ever want to be really confused around the Christmas season? Try breaking down the logic in the Frosty the Snowman series… (More)


Some bad Christmas movies are so bad they make me laugh out loud… (More)


Get a load of that title. This isn’t just A Christmas Carol, it’s Christmas Carol: The Movie. They’re acting like it hasn’t already been done… (More)


Sometimes in life, we come across certain mysteries like rock formations, crop circles or Tommy Wiseau… (More)


“The Christmas Shoes” is the worst Christmas song ever written. You will find very little argument against that… (More)


Here we are at the last special of the Match-Up, the 1987 religious special The Little Troll Prince(More)



The Gift of Winter


  • Year: 1974
  • Director: John Leach, Isobel Rankin
  • Starring: Dan Aykroyd, Gilda Radner, Valri Bromfield

The only proof you need that today’s special is worthy of competing for the title of Worst Christmas Special is that poster. What is with those character designs? I don’t mind cheap if it has a style to it, but what is going on there? What are those things supposed to be? Well, let’s find out with today’s special The Gift of Winter.


With our judges, who will be back at the end to give their thoughts: Kirk Cameron, The Mayor from The Christmas Tree, and our guest judge Winterbolt from Rudolph and Frosty’s Christmas in July.


We begin with a narrator (Gilda Radner) who tells us that once upon a time there was no snow in the world, and winter was cold and miserable. Everyone was unhappy because snow hadn’t been invented yet…except since no one knew what it was, how would they know the difference? Hmm, I wish we had snow in this world. What’s snow? Oh I have no clue, but it should probably be invented.

no snow

Out of some unseen location, voices mumble “No snow?” like this is some preschool show where the audience interacts with the narrator. The only thing is this never happens again. Why is there suddenly a vocal audience for one line?

We meet our charming cast of characters…


I’d say this was made on a shoestring budget, but I’m pretty sure I could sell one of my shoestrings and make a better cartoon. This is so cheap that it probably only cost the price of those little tips on the end of your shoelaces, so I’m going to say this was made on an aglet budget instead.

This animation is painfully cheap, with most of the characters going through about three slides of animation. The worst offender is this guy, whose scenes are basically just a repetition of these three pictures.

The quick jumpy edits remind me of the acting of William Shatner, except they’re a bit more subtle. I also have no idea why the characters have these one-color motifs (budget perhaps), while the backgrounds are perfectly normal. This weird blue guy is Goodly, voiced by Dan Aykroyd, who’s literally just doing his Bass-O-Matic voice. We have similarly named characters like Nicely…




And Bazooey.


Dopey, Happy, Sleepy, Lumpy and Boner (from Growing Pains you pervs) don’t make an appearance, because the thing is only 25 minutes long.

Goodly decides to lead the people in a march to the Ministry of Winter, where they will meet Winter himself and protest the conditions of the season. Alright, so it’s a cute little parable about a few people who get Winter to create snow… and make it home in time for Christmas? Huh? I was going to buy into the simplicity of this thing, but then they have to throw Christmas into the mix. I have a lot of questions.

So this special takes place after the Birth of Christ, but there has never been snow. Forget all the ice ages that occurred millions of years before this, forget any Christmas carols that mentioned snow, because snow didn’t exist until the time of this special. If they were going for a timeless feel and not putting a date on this thing, it could work, but instead they’re firmly placing this thing after 1 A.D. What’s the point? Is it just to shoehorn Christmas into it? It’s already about winter! People are going to watch it around Christmastime anyway.

Malicious and her friend Rotten discuss bringing dynamite along to blow up the Ministry of Winter. This is a plot point… in a kids’ special… by characters aligned with the heroes.


Also, DYNAMITE has been invented? So this special is now taking place post-1867? Both “Good King Wenceslas” and “Jingle Bells,” as well as the poem “The Night Before Christmas” had all been written by this point. All three of these specifically mention snow in correlation to the holiday season (Granted “Jingle Bells” was written as a Thanksgiving song, but still snow+holiday). What weird alternate universe is this taking place in?

Also, there are two kids named Small and Tender who want to tag along, because of course there are.


Everyone is opposed to them going, but they insist on doing it anyway. Wouldn’t it be great if just once someone told the kids they couldn’t go, and they were like “Yeah, sure we’ll stay home.”

The townsfolk draw up their angriest protest signs and get ready to leave.


Alright, one of those signs says “YAR BOO.” What does that mean? Is that his name and he doesn’t grasp the concept of protest signage? Is he Yosemite Sam talking about someone’s girlfriend? Why are all these people smiling as they hold up their protest signs? Why are they holding them up at all before they leave? It’s not like the Ministry of Winter can see them from here.

The group does this weird thing where they announce every step they take, at some points saying “Tramp” over and over. Maybe they’re going for a joke here? I mean, it’s Dan Aykroyd and Gilda Radner, but this seems to be a special for kids. It felt more like something out of Freaks until I realized they were just talking as they walk.

Small and Tender get separated from the group and get lost in the woods. Are you stalling for time in a 25 minute cartoon? We know you’re not going to kill off the children in a cartoon for children, and this sequence is neither atmospheric nor plot-relevant, so why is it here?


For some reason there’s this scene, where one of the two kids asks if anyone wants a peanut butter sandwich and everyone’s mouth moves at once like they’re all talking.


They finally make their way to the Ministry of Winter…


Where they engage in one of the dumbest “Who’s On First” conversations in history with the secretary. She asks if they have an appointment to see Winter, Goodly says no but they’d like to make one, to which she says “Winter doesn’t see people.” Is the secretary just a troll? After all this, she directs them to a different secretary! Thanks The Gift of Winter, I hear kids just love office politics in their Christmas cartoon. The only way you’re going to save this is if Winter sings a jaunty ragtime number when they meet him.

That song will be stuck in your head for the next week. You’re welcome.

Sorry to remind you of a special with actual music in it. The soundtrack here sounds like the organist stepped out at a baseball game, and a drunk fan walked in and started goofing around. It’s that bad.

When Bazooey mis-remembers the directions to the other secretary’s office (such riveting drama, I know), Malicious tells him he has the memory of a fudgybird. Um, thanks that’s great… WHAT IS A FUDGYBIRD? Perhaps they make that distinctive bird call “Yar Boo.”

On the way upstairs, the group comes across what I would normally consider to be a clever joke, but since this movie has had zero of those so far, perhaps the animator was just stupid.


I am still unsure if I’m supposed to laugh or not.

Goodly and Nicely decide to go in and see Winter, while Malicious and Rotten plant the dynamite (with the others still not knowing). The scene where they talk to Winter is an obvious Wizard of Oz shout-out, which is at least a movie kids have seen, but it misses the entire point of homage and/or satire. It never parodies the scene or does anything different with it, so it really just borders on plagiarism. The angle in which Winter is shot also references Orson Welles’ The Trial, because I hear the kids really love that one.


I’m really not sure what the point of planting dynamite is. If you blow up the entire Ministry of Winter, does that suddenly mean Winter won’t exist? Well no, because Winter talks about the sun and cycle of the planets, and surely those aren’t stored in the Ministry of Winter. Perhaps Rotten and Malicious are going for some sort of all-out anarchy, but assuming there is a ministry for each season, wouldn’t they just step in and appoint a new head of winter?

Oh, one can only hope.

After being turned away, the characters named Goodly and Nicely seem to be just fine with the whole dynamite plan, until they realize that Bazooey, Small and Tender are still in there. Again, these are the heroes…in a kids’ cartoon.

The kids and Bazooey talk about how sad Winter must be not having any friends and all, and this causes him to cry snowflake tears, inventing snow and putting out the dynamite.


Bazooey mistakes the phrase “The answer is no” for “The answer is snow,” therefore naming the new substance snow. I mean, would disagree with you on that origin there, but let’s just go with it at this point.


Winter makes sure to get them all home in time for Christmas, and they all enjoy the freezing cold season of winter, because now at least there’s snow.

This thing is just 25 minutes long, but it has so many things wrong with it. How hard is it to screw up a parable about the creation of winter? How about some attempted terrorism? If it was a parody of kids’ specials that was actually for adults, by all means, but it plays up the kids’ cuteness and doesn’t have any adult jokes. I really honestly have no idea who this is supposed to be for. Was this a passion project for Dan Aykroyd and Gilda Radner? If so, they needed to be a little more passionate. Let’s see what our judges think.

First up, it’s Kirk Cameron.


I like how it showed that Christmas was around even before the birth of Christ. He was already there before he was born. Winter of course represented God, who cries when we try to be explosive and do our own thing. Note how Winter ran a ministry, just like a church is a ministryI give it 4 Empty Mugs of Hot Chocolate out of 5.

Mr. Mayor?


Think of all the money that was saved on budget with the cheap animation. It could have gone towards getting those children new clothes. I hope Mavilda didn’t gamble it all away. The characters didn’t seem to blink enough, which took away from the realism. I give it 2 Bags of Money out of 4.

And Winterbolt?


There can be no king of the north, save me/I give it 0 Phallic Scepters out of 3.

Maybe for kids this would just blend into the endless parade of Christmas specials, but it manages to both be lazy and have truly bizarre story elements. Since it is the only special so far, it will hold the BEST spot, but probably only temporarily.


Next week, I’ll be taking a look at the first religious special.