If you’re like us, the weekend after Thanksgiving marks the start of Christmas movie season. We aren’t ashamed to admit that we have an extensive collection of Christmas films, specials, and even television episodes. (To the contrary, I’m actively proud of our huge Christmas media collection.) While binging on Muppet Christmas classics over the weekend, we noticed that we have several Disney Christmas movies/specials…enough to make a top 10 list!
Some of the entries on this list, like Nightmare Before Christmas and Beauty and the Beast: The Enchanted Christmas are obvious titles that every Disney fan has probably seen. For other choices, we went with some deeper cuts; titles that are not commercially available or are just lesser-known.
Don’t worry, though, we have you covered. For the titles that are not commercially available, we’ve scoured YouTube (bless the internet) to find the best quality upload, and have embedded those in the post. We’ve linked to titles that are commercially available so you can add them to your own collection (some are shockingly cheap new)…
9. From All of Us to All of You – This reminds me of a television version of World of Color. It’s not great, but the clips tug at your heartstrings. Per Christmas Special Wiki: “The special has been shown infrequently in the US in recent years, but in the Nordic countries…the show has been broadcast every year since 1959, and has become a holiday classic. Ratings show that around 40% of all Swedes watch it on Christmas Eve, the record (in 1997) being just over half the population.” Now, we all know wiki sites are the paramount in scholarly credibility, but even if that’s a slight exaggeration, it’s pretty remarkable. It took me a good amount of searching to find this full episode, and it’s no longer available commercially. Yet, it not only airs annually in other countries, but is a bonafide Christmas classic there. Pretty wild!
8. Christmas Eve on Sesame Street* – Okay, so this one is an exception. Most Disney fans probably know that Disney was on the precipice of acquiring The Jim Henson Company when its founder passed away in 1990, causing the deal to fall through. When Disney finally acquired the Muppets over a decade later, Sesame Street (and other properties) were not part of the deal. Nevertheless, I think in heart and spirit, Henson’s creations are all in the Disney family (c’mon, if we consider Darth Vader and Ivan Vanko “Disney characters” we better give Oscar the Grouch the same respect). As such, I’m counting this; it’s a heartwarming tale of Big Bird being perplexed over how Santa fits down chimneys, with a lot of fun from the denizens of Sesame Street along the way. I fondly remember watching this as a kid, and Sesame Street is as “relevant” today as it was then.
7. Holiday Time at Disneyland – I can’t help but get chills when watching Walt Disney’s opening of this episode. That, alone, ensures this a spot the list. It doesn’t rank higher because a lot of this episode of Walt Disney’s Wonderful World of Color has nothing to do with Christmas, but if you haven’t seen many episodes of this, it’s well worth watching. This promotes a lot of the new offerings at Disneyland under the guise of holidays, and there’s some excellent footage.
6. The Nightmare Before Christmas – I’ll admit that it wasn’t until fairly recently that I came around on Tim Burton’s The Nightmare Before Christmas. When I was younger, I never really got “into” this movie. I don’t know if it was too dark or just felt too Halloween-y, but it was a one and done for me as a kid. Now, I have a much greater appreciation for the artistic side of the film, and also like the characters and fairly unique concept. If I’m being objective, this should probably be a top 5 entry on the list.
5. The Santa Clause – Another nostalgia pick. Growing up in Michigan, native son Tim Allen was a pretty big deal. My family watched Home Improvement religiously (sometimes just to see what local college Allen would be reppin’ with his attire) and went to see every film of his in theaters. This was one such film, and I absolutely loved it. I still find it to be a ton of fun and I think it has aged pretty well, all things considered. I’m not sure it’s an all-time live action Christmas classic, but it’s as a sappy Christmas movie with heart, it remains something I’ll watch once per Christmas season.
4. Mickey’s Christmas Carol – I’ve tried to otherwise exclude <30 minute shorts from this list, but I’m making an exception copping out for this because it’s a time-honored classic and because the Mickey’s Christmas Carol 30th Anniversary Blu-ray includes a couple other holiday shorts, most notably “Pluto’s Christmas Tree.” These are true Disney animated Christmas classics, and deserve a place on this list…particularly when that list has otherwise bended to include a couple of titles that technically aren’t even Disney. 😉
3. A Muppet Family Christmas – Unless you like to drop stacks-o-hundos on low-quality DVDs of television specials, you might not be familiar with this one. That is, unless you’re a child of the late 1980s/early 1990s. For us, it was a Christmas staple. I had a VHS recording from the television with this, Will Vinton’s Claymation Christmas, and A Garfield Christmas. This special has it all–from the Muppets to Sesame Street to Fraggle Rock…to even Jim Henson, himself! The musical numbers are memorable, and there’s some great humor in here. The writing lags a bit as compared to the top 2 on this list, but it’s every bit as memorable, and remains a Christmas staple in our household.
2. Emmet Otter’s Jug Band Christmas* – Another title that was not part of Disney’s acquisition of the Muppets, this has resulted in home releases that cut the intro/ending with Kermit (which is, interesting, still present when ABC Family airs the movie). Nevertheless, this twist on the classic “Gift of the Magi” has the endearing charm, personality, and magic of Henson characters, and some catchy musical numbers. While it lacks the humor that typifies the Muppets, it’s more heartwarming, and for a Christmas film, that is a perfectly fine trade.
1. The Muppet Christmas Carol – This is the seminal and most faithful adaptation of Dickens’ A ChristmasCarol, which is surprising given that it stars the Muppets.There are a number of reasons why the The Muppet Christmas Carol is #1 on this list. First is the sprawling musical numbers, taking place in multiple settings and involving a variety of Muppets, with minor characters stealing the spotlight. Second is the performances of the three main characters: Gonzo, Rizzo the Rat, and Michael Caine. Having Gonzo play Charles Dickens was a bold move that paid off and provides several brilliant comedic moments. Finally, Brian Henson’s work as director is impeccable and worthy of his father’s legacy. I belabor these and several other points in my lengthy Muppet Christmas Carol Review, but suffice to say, this is the best Disney Christmas film by a wide margin.
That’s it for the list. Oh, and for those of you who want to be “purists” and discount the two entries on the list that technically are not Disney, my alternative titles would be A Magic Kingdom Yuletide Special(a show that reminds me a lot of “Celebrate the Season” mixed with a big dash of 1980s) and Babes in Toyland (which I find to be one of the worst live action Disney films, but I recognize it has a place in Disney history and some people like it…). I’d give an honorable mention to Prep & Landing, but it’s hard to include due to its runtime. I know there are countless other Disney Christmas specials that didn’t make the cut–at one point there was a new one every year, plus the parade–but I either don’t remember those or they aren’t available now…or both. Any changes you’d make to this list?