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Animated Christmas Evergreens

Santa’s Workshop: A Disney Silly Symphony (1932)

Santa’s Workshop is a Disney short film directed by Wilfred Jackson, first released on December 10, 1932 in the Silly Symphonies series. The film features Santa Claus and his elves preparing for Christmas. Allen Watson is the voice of Santa Claus, Pinto Colvig voices Santa’s secretary. Colvig was the original voice of the animated Goofy and Pluto, Grumpy and Sleepy in Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs and the Practical Pig in ‘Three Little Pigs.’ Disney animators copied many of Colvig’s facial expressions while drawing their cartoon characters. After leaving Disney following a fallout with Walt, Colvig freelanced voice and sound effects for Warner Bros. cartoons, sang for some of the Munchkins in The Wizard of Oz (1939) and then joined Max Fleischer’s studio, where he voiced Gabby in Gulliver’s Travels (1939) and Bluto in the Popeye cartoons. Later he was the original voice for Bozo the Clown. In Santa’s workshop the music accompanying the elves’ hectic-paced duties is Schubert’s March Militaire.

The Night Before Christmas: A Disney Silly Symphony (1933)

The Night Before Christmas is an animated Silly Symphony that was released on December 9, 1933, following the previous year’s Santa’s Workshop. In a loose adaptation of Clement C. Moore’s famous poem, St. Nick is seen delivering the toys that he made in 1932’s Santa’s Workshop to a house full of sleeping children. The toys come alive, and they dance around and have fun. The kids awake to find a beautiful Christmas tree with lots of toys. Note: Mickey Mouse puts in a ‘guest appearance’ in wind-up toy form and one of the toys is a wind-up Charlie Chaplin. Directed by Wilfred Jackson, with music by Leigh Harline.

‘Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer,’ directed by Max Fleischer (1944)

The last cartoon ever produced by Max Fleischer, who produced the Popeye the Sailor, Betty Boop and Koko the Clown cartoons from the 1910s to the 1940s. Narrated by Paul Wing, the story begins with the lead character already not allowed to skate on ice with the others (all of whom wear pillows on their backs to break their falls). 

The Snow Man in July (1944)

Created in Germany under the Nazi regime, this animated shortwas written by cartoonist Horst von Möllendorff and animated by Hans Fischerkoesen. It was animated in Potsdam, Germany, near UFA’s Neubabelsberg Studios. The original cartoon is in color but was transferred to black and white after the U.S. seized it during WWII. Some historians claim the opening 3-D shot infringes on patents held at the time by Max Fleischer. A brief review by Frank Panucci at Internet Archive: ‘Where did this gloriously twisted thing come from? Good gawd. The ending is delicious horror! It looks like a kid’s cartoon… then it gets more and more unpleasant… then WHAM, gleefully-welcomed death and desecration! A knockout bit of obscure weirdness.’ The badly dubbed English narration is by John and Jane Flynn. 

‘Santa’s Surprise’ (1947

Five children from around the world follow Santa home on Christmas Eve, and decide to give him some extra help around the workshop. Directed by Seymour Kneitel, written by Larz Bourne, music by Winston Sharples. Voices by Jack Mercer, Mae Questel (Little Audrey; Mae Questel was also the voices of Olive Oyl and Betty Boop). 

Raymond Briggs’ masterpiece, The Snowman (1982) featuring the David Bowie introduction removed from the American release.

Directed by Dianne Jackson and Jimmy T. Murakami; written by Raymond Briggs; music (including the song ‘Walking In the Air’) by Howard Blake. In the original version, Bowie’s voice is that of the story’s main character, James, grown up; in the American version, the older James’s voice is supplied by Raymond Briggs himself. This 26-minute film was nominated for an Academy Award. A stage version of the story has been presented every year since 1997 at the Peacock Theater in Westminster, London.

‘Father Christmas,’ (1991), story by Raymond Briggs, author of ‘The Snowman’

English illustrator, cartoonist, graphic novelist and author Raymond Briggs, a two-time Kate Greenaway Medal winner for the year’s best children’s book (1966 for illustrating a Hamish Hamilton edition of Mother Goose and 1973 for Father Christmas), is most widely known for his haunting, entirely wordless, pencil crayon-illustrated children’s book The Snowman (1978). Father Christmas, and a 1975 sequel titled Father Christmas Goes on Holiday, are charming stories featuring a curmudgeonly Father Christmas who complains incessantly about the ‘blooming snow.’ In this 1991 animated film, which combines the stories of both volumes, Father Christmas decides to go on a ‘blooming vacation,’ builds his sledge into a caravan and holidays in France, Scotland and Las Vegas before coming home and settling down, with a bit of grumbling, to answer the mail, get the gifts ready, deliver them and get to the Snowmens’ party on time–only he’s forgotten something. Directed by Dave Unwin; written by Raymond Briggs (books), Dianne Jackson (treatment) and Michael Adams (screenplay revision). Music by Michael Hewer; art direction by Loraine Marshall.

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