Top 10 Animated Christmas Movies for the Whole Family

This is a guest post by Sophia Anderson.

So much of what we love during Christmas-time is based in nostalgia and tradition; fond memories of decorating the tree, taking a nighttime drive to see Christmas lights, and, of course, cuddling around the TV with yummy treats and a warm fire to watch a Christmas movie. December is here, so tis’ the season to break out all of the holiday movies! Here are ten of our favorite animated Christmas movies and TV specials, old and new.

1. A Charlie Brown Christmas (1965)

There is a reason why people wait every year in anticipation of the annual TV airing of A Charlie Brown Christmas. It’s hard to go wrong with the Peanuts gang, but the Christmas special might be the best of all their holiday offerings. Every scene is memorable, from the group decorating the tree that Charlie Brown brings home to Linus’s speech on the true meaning of Christmas. The soundtrack that goes along with the movie – featuring both original songs by the Vince Guaraldi Trio, as well as covers of older Christmas songs – stands apart from the movie as being one of the greatest Christmas albums of all time.

2. How the Grinch Stole Christmas (1966)

Unlike other, newer, adaptations of Dr. Suess’s works, which feel the need to make unnecessary additions to the plot and put famous actors in really bad prosthetic makeup, the 1966 version of How the Grinch Stole Christmas is a straight-forward adaptation of the 1957 book. The story is one that’s not about materialism, but about the spirit of Christmas itself. Even without presents, decorations, or a big extravagant dinner, the Whos in Whoville are able to celebrate just the same. The animation adheres to Suess’s distinctive style, and the soundtrack is perfect from top to bottom.

3. Olive, the Other Reindeer (1999)

It can be hard for newer Christmas movies to live up to our expectations, which are often created from what we loved while we were growing up, but Olive, the Other Reindeer has managed to prove its worth. The story follows a dog named Olive (voiced by Drew Barrymore, who also helped produce the film) who, upon hearing that one of Santa’s reindeers has been injured and that Christmas might be cancelled because of that, decides to volunteer herself for the position. Despite having an evil mailman (played by Dan Castellaneta of Simpsons fame) standing in her way (and also despite her being a dog, not a reindeer), Olive still manages to save the day.

4. Mickey’s Christmas Carol (1983)

There are countless adaptations of A Christmas Carol out there. It’s been done on stage, it’s been done on the radio, and it’s been remade over and over again on film and television. Of all of those adaptations, however, Disney’s is the only one to snag the most natural choice ever to play Ebeneezer Scrooge – Scrooge McDuck himself! It’s a great way to introduce children to the classic Dickens tale. The scariness of the original story is toned down a little (it’s hard to be afraid of a ghost who’s played by Goofy), but the aura of Victorian grimness that is Dickens’s trademark still exists (in Scrooge’s dream of the future, he still sees his own grave being dug, and the Cratchits still live in abject poverty).

5. Polar Express (2004)

There is no denying that The Polar Express is a visually stunning movie. The source material, a 1985 children’s book by Chris Van Allsburg, is equally stunning, and the makers of this film had a lot to live up to. Luckily, they succeeded. The human characters (six of whom are played by Tom Hanks) can occasionally look a little mannequin-like (having all been animated using performance-capture technology), but the detail that is put into every other aspect of the film more than makes up for it. The children in the movie get to travel on Christmas Eve to the North Pole, where one lucky boy gets to receive the first gift of Christmas. The gift is a bell from Santa’s sleigh, which can only be heard by those who truly believe, not only in Santa Claus, but in Christmas itself.

6. Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer (1964)

An entire list could be made just of the best Rankin-Bass Christmas specials, but if you have to pick just one, Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer is the way to go. The stop-motion animation is dated, but charming, and the Burl Ives soundtrack is irresistible. Rudolph, Hermey (the elf who wants to be a dentist), and their friends from the Island of Misfit Toys emphasize the point that it’s okay to not always fit it, which makes the story even more appealing. In the end, of course, Rudolph saves Christmas, Hermey opens his dental practice, and the misfit toys are distributed to grateful children all across the globe. What other ending could there be?

7. A Garfield Christmas (1987)

Although the Garfield franchise is more famous for its cynical main character than it is for its touching and heartfelt holiday specials, A Garfield Christmas is, surprisingly, pretty heartfelt and touching. Jon, Odie, and Garfield venture out to the country, where they spend the holiday with Jon’s parents, younger brother, and grandmother. It’s a pretty accurate depiction of what it’s like to spend the holidays with your family – occasionally frustrating, but always worth it in the end. Thanks to the wonder of syndicated newspaper comic strips, Garfield will never stop being rude and gluttonous, but for one night out of the year, he’s able to make some personal progress and appreciate the gift of family and friends.

8. The Nightmare Before Christmas (1993)

While there could be a very good argument made that Tim Burton’s classic The Nightmare Before Christmas is a Halloween movie (the main character is, after all, a skeleton), it has enough heart to nudge it fully over to the Christmas side. The plot hinges on the idea that there are towns where it is only ever one holiday. Jack Skellington, the Pumpkin King of Halloween Town, comes across a door that leads to Christmas Town. Having never known anything but ghouls and goblins, Jack is understandably fascinated by Christmas, and attempts to recreate it for his own people, with a signature spooky twist.

9. Toy Story (1995)

While Toy Story isn’t a traditional Christmas movie, the last scene does take place on December 24th, and it does contain many of the elements that we expect from a good Christmas film. It’s filled with sentiment, heart, great music, messages about the importance of friends and family, and, of course, the toys. Pixar’s yet to make a movie more directly related to Christmas (although if they do, it is sure to immediately jump to the top of any future lists of this kind). If you’ve watched some of the classics one time too many, why not make Toy Story a new tradition in your house?

10. The Snowman (1978)

Although this film, which is an adaptation of the 1978 Raymond Briggs book of the same name, is only 26 minutes long, it’s a beautifully animated and brilliantly told 26 minutes. It wordlessly tells the story of a snowman come to life. He befriends the young boy who built him, and the two eventually take flight over the English countryside, eventually reaching the North Pole, before coming back home. In the UK, The Snowman is aired annually, but in the US, it can be obtained on DVD.

This guest post was written by Sophia Anderson, who works for a company where you can find adult costumes for Christmas time and more!

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