One joy of having children is having the opportunity to force-feed them the entertainment that you grew up with. And, in that way, the offspring of '80s babies are lucky. It was the decade for the family Christmas special. Every beloved character got one. Here are four that you simply must dredge up on YouTube and pass along to the next generation
A Garfield Christmas (1987)
While Garfield's usual grumpiness is a true comfort to those of us who have difficulty tolerating the Odies of the world, a holiday special demands he soften up a bit. Garfield, Jon, and Odie trek out to Jon's family farm where Garfield bros out with Jon's feisty grandma and Odie constructs his frenemy the best present ever: the ultimate backscratcher. Adults should keep tissues handy for the unexpectedly poignant discovery of a pack of love letters from Grandma's deceased husband.
Mickey's Christmas Carol (1983)
Your family could do worse than this Academy Award-nominated short, which was also the first theatrical Mickey Mouse cartoon produced in 30 years. Mickey plays Bob Cratchit, of course, and Scrooge McDuck, since he co-opted his whole game anyway, is his miserly boss. All well and good, but casting Daisy Duck as Bob's fiance Isabella seems a little uncool. What would Donald think?
A Muppet Family Christmas (1987)
Jim Henson himself cameos in this Muppet adventure, which is just as essential as any other. A childhood without Muppets shouldn't be allowed, so don't even try it.
He-Man & She-Ra: A Christmas Special (1985)
Christmas comes to Eternia via two suitably diverse Earth kids, Miguel and Alisha. And the attempt to shoe-horn a Christian holiday into a alien world of god-like princes and flying unicorns is so '80s that it hurts. Even Skeletor can't escape the Christmas spirit, though he's relieved that he still gets to be a bad guy for the rest of the year.
Merry Whatever-You-Celebrate! Hopefully by now the shopping is done, the turkey is defrosting, and all those relatives you can't stand are firmly ensconced in your otherwise comfortable domicile. If there is one thing you can count on this year, besides having to share quarters with a cousin who snores like a diseased grizzly bear, it's the onslaught of holiday specials both classic and contemporary that will put a stranglehold on the airwaves over the next few days. If you find you are growing tired of the same old holiday fare, I mean how many times can you really watch Jimmy Stewart scream like a joyful lunatic at buildings in his hometown, consider the following list of not-so-traditional viewing fodder as a substitute. If that aforementioned cousin really bugs you, these would be the specials to make him suffer through as glorious retribution.
Christmas in Eternia (He-Man and She-Ra: A Christmas Special)
Oh He-Man, what a marvelous disaster are you and your fellow Masters of the Universe. Despite your deceptively macho title, you are about as manly as a day of pedicures and seaweed wraps at the Four Seasons Spa. In this super awful Christmas special, Orko manages to accidentally bring a couple of Earthen kids back to Eternia while Skeletor and Hordak try and kidnap them to curb the tide of cheer and curry favor with Lord Prime and…boring! I don’t know if it’s the “we’re totally not Transformers” transforming robots, the puppy that keeps turning Skeletor into a softy, or the fact that all the monsters on Hordak’s ship look like the K-Mart knockoffs of the exact monsters on Skeletor’s ship, but at some point I wished a rocket would launch me into January.
Santa and the Ice Cream Bunny
You remember that production studio based out of a theme park in Florida? No, not that one. In the late 60s, just before the inception of Walt Disney World, Florida was populated with a number of smaller, less amusing, amusement parks. One of those parks was the enigmatically titled Pirate World. Unsatisfied with the returns at the gate, Pirate World decided their fortunes lay in the fast-paced world of holiday children's films. A few ill-advised efforts later, Santa and the Ice Cream Bunny was let loose upon theaters. This film is inexplicably bad, but I shall do my best. Santa crash lands on the beach, his reindeer abscond, and he enlists the help of several different animals who each attempt, and fail, to pull his sled. That is until the Ice Cream Bunny arrives in his magic fire truck and saves the day! What?! If that's not perplexingly terrible enough, at one point Santa regales the children with the story of Thumbelina, which is then fully enacted to pad out the film's run time. Because if there’s one story that gets me into the Christmas spirit, it’s Thumbelina. There is not enough spiked eggnog in the world to make this bearable.
Santa vs. Satan
Although I think the actual title for this 1959 Mexican holiday flick is Santa Claus, for me the title and the absurd plot are inextricable. Santa flies down from space where he is apparently keeping children from all over the world who sing for him with the sonorous timbre of seasonal depression whenever he pleases. He must then battle the devil who is trying to turn children evil and only with the help of Merlin can Santa win back their souls get them back on the nice list. Are you stoned yet? Then you won’t appreciate this festering sore of a holiday film.
The Magic Christmas Tree
Where to begin, where to begin. This is your classic boy-meets-witch, boy-is-given-magic-seed-to-grow-magic-Christmas-tree, magic-tree-kidnaps-Santa story. An oddly shaped, ghostly waif of a child manages to drift through what looks like a Young Americans public service announcement film with some of the most ridiculous plot points and bad special effects ever captured on celluloid by human beings. There is an extended segment with a runaway lawnmower that is especially useful for getting everyone in the Christmas spirit? The kind of epic failure immortalized here really does demand viewing. It may be the best Christmas movie ever made…for $14.
The Star Wars Holiday Special
I can both already hear and totally agree with your resistance to this entry. Yes, by now more than a few people are aware of the intergalactic stinkburger that is The Star Wars Holiday Special but good luck finding it. George Lucas, in a rare demonstration that he does in fact possess a modicum of shame, has all but disowned the thing and has made it his life’s mission to see it never released on home video. If you are lucky enough to find it online or have a friend that taped it when it aired in the late 70s, you are in for the greatest test of your Star Wars fan mettle. Almost the entirety of the first half hour is spoken in Wookie with no subtitles, Mark Hamill appears just after his car accident looking like a living waxwork, there is a Boba Fett cartoon apparently drawn by blind weasels, and if you ever wanted more Cirque du Soleil from the famous hologram chess scene you will not be disappointed.
A special based on the "He-Man and the Masters of the Universe" and "She-Ra: Princess of Power" series. When Okro, a friend of He-Man and She-Ra, accidentally lands his space ship on the planet Earth, he meets two children and learns about Christmas. The story relates Okro's efforts, returning to Eternia, to spread the Christmas spirit -- despite the evil Skeltor and Hordak's efforts to discourage holiday cheer.