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All the Important Rankin-Bass Stop Motion Holiday Specials, Rated

Updated: Feb 2, 2023

December 4, 2020 | 2:46pm EST

Thanksgiving is over so that means the Christmas season has officially begun. And now, finally, we can once again binge watch the Rankin-Bass Holiday specials on Freeform. What are the Rankin-Bass Holidays specials, you ask? I think you know. They’re the incredibly weird, claymation movies that come around every holiday season only to be hidden away the minute your last Christmas present has been unwrapped. Some of my favorites include: Santa Claus is Coming to Town, A Year Without a Santa Claus, Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer, and much more. So here’s a list of all of those incredibly odd Christmas specials (only the important ones, of course) rated.

Rudolph’s Shiny New Year (5/10)

First is the absolute oddest one. Because I really can’t talk about these Christmas specials without starting with this one first. It’s Rudolph’s Shiny New Year.

This movie follows Rudolph, a reindeer we know well, as he saves the new year (who is in the form of a big eared baby). Santa receives a letter from Father Time telling him that they must find Baby New Year before the new year. And, naturally, Santa sends Rudolph to do his bidding.

The weirdest part about this movie is that there’s a gigantic vulture named Eon who will turn to ice and snow when the new year begins. He wants to kidnap Baby New Year so the year will never begin. This movie has burned itself into my brain in a way I will never truly forget, mostly because of Ben Franklin’s surprise cameo.

I give it a 5/10 just because it’s so disturbing.

Santa Claus is Comin' to Town (9/10)

This is probably one most people know. But despite that it’s still pretty weird. In Santa Claus is Comin' to Town we get the backstory for Santa Claus, also known as Kris Kringle. Kris is an orphan baby left on the steps of Somebertown’s city hall. The mayor, Burgermesiter Mesiterburger, tells his guards to get rid of the baby right away.

A strong wind carries the baby to the mountain of the Whispering Winds where animals hide the baby from the Winter Warlock before taking young Kris to the Kringle family.

The Kringles happen to be toymakers, and they teach Kris their craft. When Kris grows up he decides to finally cross the mountain of the Whispering Winds so he can bring their toys to Sombertown. When he arrives, he is surprised to find that toys are outlawed in the town. What follows is a thrilling tale involving the arrest and rescue of Kris, the befriending of the Winter Warlock, a song by Kris’ love

The most important thing about this movie is the soundtrack. I sing Jessica’s 70s power ballad not only on Christmas, but all year round. This one gets a 9/10. Points taken off for the annoying noise the penguin makes.

Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer (7/10)

I know that you know this one. This Christmas special tells the story of Rudolph. A reindeer who somehow has a glowing, red orb instead of a nose. It’s never explained why that is. Rudolph’s parents attempt to hide his abnormality but when his secret is revealed, he decides to set off on his own. But not before igniting the flames of a romance between him and a reindeer named Clarice.

But don’t worry, she wears a red bow and mascara so that we’ll know she’s a girl.

Rudolph leaves the north pole with an elf named Hermey who, very weirdly, wants to be a dentist. They also run into Yukon Cornelius, a miner, who joins them on their journey. The three try to find solace on The Island of Misfit toys but are rejected, after an absolute banger of a song, because they aren’t toys.

Rudolph eventually ditches the two because he believes his red nose puts them all in too much danger (it attracts the attention of a snow monster). Some time later after Rudolph has grown up, he returns home to find that Clarice and his parents have been looking for him ever since he left. There is a final battle with the snow monster where Yukon (allegedly) dies.

By the end of the movie Hermey is allowed to open a dentist's office, Yukon has returned with the now tame snow monster, and Rudolph is given the job of guiding Santa’s Sleigh through the snowstorm on Christmas Eve. All in all, it feels like the real story of the song we all know and love is not told in this movie, at all. It really feels like a lot of backstory that we don’t really need. Plus there's the blatant reindeer sexism. I’ll give it a 7/10.

The Year Without a Santa Claus (10/10)

Here it is! The one you’ve all been waiting for. This is, without a doubt, the best Rankin-Bass Christmas special. It tells the story of the year Santa decides to cancel Christmas due to lack of Christmas spirit and a nasty cold.

Mrs. Claus, the clear protagonist of the story, is determined to change his mind. She does this by sending two elves (Jingle and Jangle) to find an example of Christmas spirit. After a confrontation with twin brothers, Heat Miser and Snow Miser, they eventually achieve this by getting the people of Southtown to designate a national holiday for Santa. Why does the mayor of Southtown have this much influence over the entire earth? I can’t say. But what I can say is that the songs in this special are without a doubt the best.

We start off with the theme song, a true classic, where tone deaf children and Mrs. Claus sing of “that terrible year” when “Santa Claus took a holiday.” Yes, I do know all the words to this song. Other notable mentions are Mrs. Claus’ solo “I Could be Santa Claus,” “The Snow Miser/ Heat Miser Song,” and, of course, the absolutely tone-deaf cover of “Blue Christmas.”

The best part about this movie is when Santa awakes from his nap after being told of the national holiday and begins to make a series of grunting noises that are truly horrific. I give this one a 10/10, it's just that good.

Well, there you have it. My personal ranking of the most important Rankin-Bass Christmas Specials. Happy Holidays everyone!

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