If you grew up in the ’90s with a VCR, there is a strong likelihood your parents have a collection of VHS tapes with made-for-TV specials recorded on them for each occasion. Earlier this year, I highlighted my favourite ’90s Halloween special The Halloween Tree here at Link mag and that got me thinking about how many great ’90s Christmas specials have been lost to the depths of VHS collections.
Luckily my memory still functions better than my VCR, and even luckier that some great people out there have eternalized their Christmas VHS tapes in YouTube videos. So here are my top five made-for-TV animated Christmas specials from the ’90s that are sure to jumpstart your memory, give you a laugh, and maybe even shed a cheesy after-school-special tear or two.
Christopher the Christmas Tree
Christopher the Christmas Tree tells a story of a tree out in the woods whose only dream is to become a Christmas tree. When all of his friends are chopped down and taken away to become Christmas trees, he is left alone with no hope of becoming a Christmas tree; he has grown far too big to fit in anyone’s home. With guest appearances from a bunch of woodland creatures searching for friends and a home, including the flightless-owl Hooty, who comes complete with an awesome theme song.
Nearly the entirety of this special rhymes, and the songs are hilariously catchy and cheesy. It’s an instant favourite. The show starts at the 5:30-minute mark in the video below.
The Town Santa Forgot
Continuing right along with the rhyming style adapted from a Children’s book comes The Town that Santa Forgot. This one is all about Jeremy Creek, a spoiled little brat who throws a temper tantrum to get everything he wants. When his parents finally put their foot down and refuse to buy him any more toys, he turns to Santa Clause. He writes a mile-long Christmas wish list and ships it off to the North Pole, but a mix-up at Santa’s workshop stops Jeremy from getting his toys and sets in motion a whole story about what Christmas is really about. Maybe you’ll even revise your wish list after watching this one. Check it out below.
This has got to be one of the strangest Christmas specials I have ever seen. I think it tops the obscurity list, as I haven’t met a lot of people who remembered it like I did. It tells the story of a Christmas ornament who was bestowed “a happiness” when the glassblower who made it cried tears of joy. This little ornament loves to introduce itself, and does so frequently with the line “My name is Noel and I have a happiness!” which has now become a famous one-liner in my family around the holidays. The whole special is so strange and borderline creepy that it just becomes that much funnier. Check out part one in the video below and if you’re still intrigued by the end of it, here is part two and part three.
Bluetoes the Christmas Elf
Bluetoes isn’t technically a 90s Christmas special as it originally aired in the 1988, but I’m including it here because I definitely watched it many times as a kid in the 90s. “Small One” the little elf goofs up Christmas for everyone and all he wants is to do is help! Complete with a havoc-wreaking polar bear and a clumsy penguin who somehow got to the wrong pole. Check it out below.
The Boy Who Dreamed Christmas
The Boy Who Dreamed Christmas starts off live action but turns animated when the boy goes to sleep. He meets the sandman in his dream with whom he makes a trip to the North Pole to visit Santa. They discover Santa is overwhelmed with the demand for toys (the demand curve has shifted to the right!) and has invented a new automated system run by the terrifying Toymaster to produce all the toys. Warning: if you’re afraid of clowns steer clear.
This one’s YouTube version is like watching it straight off an old VHS tape, poor quality and complete with commercials. What a throwback. Check out part one below and here are part two and part three.
James is a recent graduate of the Marketing Communications program at BCIT, and is extending his time at the institute to earn his BBA. He currently lives in Helsinki, Finland where he is studying for a semester at the Metropolia University of Applied Sciences.