When we think about “animated Christmas TV specials,” our minds drift to the likes of Charlie Brown, Frosty, Rudolph and yeah, even Garfield, because we’re never gonna let it go with that one.
Of course, the wealth of Christmas cartoons runs so much deeper than that. In the early ‘80s especially, it seemed like there were five new ones every year!
These were the halcyon days of television Christmas specials. It wasn’t just that so many were produced, but also that the major networks gladly ran them in primetime. (In fact, there were years when multiple networks competed for young eyeballs by programming different cartoon Christmas specials against each other. When’s the last time we’ve seen that happen?)
Down below: Eight animated Christmas specials from the ‘80s that you may have forgotten… and tips on how you can see ‘em today!
Christmas Comes to Pac-Land!
Premiered Thursday 12/16/1982 @ 8 PM
Synopsis: Santa crashes his sleigh in Pac-Land, so it’s up to Pac-Man to save Christmas! In the end, Pac-Man feeds Santa’s reindeer power pellets to get them back into flying shape (seriously), and the holiday is spared.
Highlight: Watching the usually-evil ghosts act like pretty okay guys, all in the spirit of Christmas.
Background: Christmas Comes to Pac-Land was spun from Pac-Man’s Saturday morning cartoon series, which debuted earlier that same year. Now mostly counted as a mere holiday-themed episode of that series, it really was an honest-to-goodness TV special, with a spot in primetime. (In more recent years it became a Cartoon Network favorite.)
Hooray! It’s finally here! Dino Drac’s December 2015 Funpack is available now, and I think this one qualifies as a doozy!
(Available in the United States only!)
Do I need to do the spiel again? Okay! If you haven’t been watching the site too closely, I sell monthly Funpacks. Without them, there’d be no Dino Drac!
Subscriptions are $25 a month (that includes shipping), and for as long as you stay subscribed, you’ll continue to receive new boxes of fun junk, each and every month. You can cancel at any time without penalty. In trade for helping to keep the site afloat, you’ll get a box some some (arguably) awesome stuff!
Skip to the bottom of this post for additional subscription details and notes on how to order. Or keep reading, to see what’s in store for the December 2015 Funpack!
Duuuuudes, I think you’re gonna like this box.
To celebrate the holidays, this month’s Funpack will make you feel like a kid on Christmas morning… but more specifically like a kid on Christmas morning in 1985. Every Funpack is loaded with stuff that’s either actually-vintage or retro-feeling. If you’re the type of person who can stomach my mile-long tributes to the minutiae of yesteryear, I’m pretty positive that you’ll love the contents.
EVERY subscriber will receive ALL of the following… Read More…
Hello! Tonight I’ll be tearing apart another old toy catalog for your enjoyment.
This time, Montgomery Ward’s 1983 Christmas catalog is on the slab. We didn’t have Montgomery Ward stores around here, so my firsthand knowledge is limited to stray references in long-ended sitcoms.
I was only four when this catalog came out, so I’m surprised that I remember its inclusions so clearly. I guess it’s hard to forget Han Solo bedsheets, or tricycles meant to resemble KITT.
For the record, that year’s hottest brands — at least according to this catalog — were The Smurfs, Garfield, Star Wars and Strawberry Shortcake. Below are eight of the highlights!
I would’ve killed for something like this as a kid, Smurfs branding or not. Perhaps as a result of spending my formative years in a crowded house with few sacred spaces, the idea of my own clubhouse was riotously appealing.
Standing almost five feet tall and looking as much like Fred Flintstone’s house as Papa Smurf’s, the playhouse was mostly made for outdoor use, where it’d no doubt stay in the backyard for way more years than were necessary, slowly evolving into a filthy sanctuary for bugs and raccoons. Read More…
I love Christmas stockings. The way they look, the way they feel, the way they get filled up with tiny toys. The way they let me hammer nails into studless walls that could support nothing heavier than a 14” sock. They’re 100% great.
During my earliest years, this was the one classic Christmas tradition that my family kind of skipped over. We had plenty of stockings, but they were only used as decorations. It was such a pisser, because the world revolved around me, and a pile of Inhumanoids and Nintendo games under the tree meant zilch if it wasn’t accompanied by a sock full of extra garbage.
After several “depressing” Christmases, I successfully lobbied for stocking stuffers. At first, my family just took this to mean that I specifically wanted Christmas presents that would fit in a stocking, rather than outright additional gifts. Corrective measures were taken. Eventually, I got the stocking that I’d always dreamed about, filled with crayons and candy canes and Super Elastic Bubble Plastic. I put down the knife.
If you’re in charge of filling a kid’s Christmas stocking this year, I’m here to help. See below for five Matt-approved stocking stuffer ideas. Read More…
Oh, man. My buddy Bill donated another of his treasured childhood videocassettes, and this one was killer. Among other things, it included the full broadcasts of A Charlie Brown Christmas and How The Grinch Stole Christmas, which aired back to back on December 11th, 1987.
Nostalgia’s been my trade for the better part of 15 years, and at this stage of the game, it takes a lot to really move me. This tape did. Both specials aired on CBS — which throughout the ‘80s kind of had a stranglehold on animated holiday specials — and there’s no way the me-of-1987 would’ve missed them. Watching Christmassy cartoons in prime time was one of the very best things about December.
Bill’s tape, which included both specials complete with commercials, was almost more than I could handle. I’m used to these fits of nostalgia being delivered as collages, with my own memories filling in the blanks as well as they can. Here, it was delivered as-was, as-it-always-was, and I caught myself getting choked up. I was reliving something from nearly 30 years ago with as precise a lens as allowable.
I couldn’t help but think about how much has changed since I first saw those broadcasts. The last time I watched these specials — these exact specials in this exact order with those exact commercials on that exact December night — my late father would’ve been within earshot, we’d still have a dumb dog named Sandy, and all of my older brothers and sisters would be dramatically younger than I am right now.
It isn’t as if I’m not consciously aware of these changes in my everyday life, but watching that tape… jeez. It was like having a time machine that almost worked, but not quite. Like I’d landed on the living room floor in our old house, but was stuck in some nightmare where I couldn’t turn around to see all of the shit that was way more important than A Charlie Brown Christmas. Does that make sense?
I felt like if I tapped the TV screen, the me-of-1987 would’ve gotten an electric shock. So close, but yet so far.
It was bittersweet, but still so worth it. In some senses, watching that tape put me in the “old kid shoes” harder than our ancient home movies do.
See if your brain plays any of the same tricks by watching ten of the commercials that aired during those specials, down below. (Spoiler: It will.) If I can call ten sketchy encodes of 1987 TV commercials “gifts,” consider this an early Christmas present. It’s the thought that counts.
A CBS Special Presentation Intro!
This isn’t a commercial, but of course I was gonna include it. If you’ve seen images from this intro but aren’t part of the generation with firsthand experience, let me confirm that THIS WAS THE SHIT. It meant EVERYTHING to us. Every primetime animated special that aired on CBS came with this intro at the front, signaling a rare bout of kid-targeted nighttime television. It totally set the stage! Read More…