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Disney's Christmas Features

Looking for More Holiday-Themed Viewing?
We Look at the Christmas Shorts, Specials, and Films That the Disney Studio Has Produced Over The Years.

The first instance of Walt Disney's studio of animators addressing Christmas on film was in the 1931 Mickey Mouse short "Mickey's Orphans", in which a group of orphan kittens are dropped on Mickey's doorstep and ruin the good-intentioned Christmas party that Mickey, Minnie and Goofy try to throw them.

In 1932, the Silly Symphony cartoon short "Santa's Workshop" depicted Santa and his elves at work preparing the List and all those toys, while "Mickey's Good Deed", told the story of the Christmas Eve when Mickey Mouse sold Pluto to help out a poor family. The next year, a new Silly Symphony short
tackled Santa's task of actually delivering the gifts to the children in the world in "The Night Before Christmas", based on Clement C. Moore's classic poem.

In the decades since, Christmas has turned up as a topic in countless animated specials, and in a number of Disney shorts, as well. "Toy Tinkers"(1949) had Donald fighting with Chip and Dale over the presents under his tree. "Pluto's Christmas Tree"(1952) memorably depicted Mickey and Pluto chopping down their Christmas tree, only to find that it came with inhabitants Chip and Dale.

Probably the most beloved and familiar Christmas short produced by the Disney studio is 1983's "Mickey's Christmas Carol" in which Charles Dickens' immortal classic was brought to life with Scrooge McDuck (naturally) playing the role of the miser who is visited by three ghosts seeking to change his cold heart and bitter ways. The role of Dickens' misfortunate co-worker Bob Cratchit belongs to Mickey, Goofy is the ghost of Scrooge's late business partner Marley, and the three spirits are portrayed by Jiminy Cricket, Willie the Giant (from Fun and Fancy Free), and "Pegleg" Pete. This charming 25-minute piece received an Oscar nomination for Best Short and remains a staple of holiday viewing for many.

Lesser known but affecting all the same is "The Small One", another featurette-length short released five years earlier, which told of an unnamed Judean boy whose difficult trip at the town marketplace ultimately results in his undersized but kind donkey finding an important new home with a pair of Bethlehem-bound passengers.

Buy Walt Disney Animation Collection: Classic Short Films - Mickey's Christmas Carol (DVD) from Amazon.com Buy A Walt Disney Christmas (VHS) from Amazon.com Marketplace Buy One Magic Christmas (Disney DVD) from Amazon.com Buy The Muppet Christmas Carol: Kermit's 50th Anniversary Edition DVD from Amazon.com
Mickey's Christmas Carol: includes "The Small One", "Pluto's Christmas Tree" and "Santa's Workshop" A Walt
One Magic
The Muppet
Christmas Carol (1992) (Kermit's 50th Anniv. Ed.)

Of course, today, Disney is known primarily for their feature films, and the studio has certainly made a number of live action movies that are centered around the holiday season. In terms of animated theatrical films, there's not as much. The 1949 film The Adventures of Ichabod and Mr. Toad deals in its first half ("The Wind in the Willows") with J. Thaddeus Toad's manias, imprisonment, and ultimately his Christmas Eve escape. Six years later, Lady and the Tramp opened and concluded with a pair of heartwarming Christmas scenes. The most substantial animated celebration of the holiday was in 2009's 3D motion capture extravaganza A Christmas Carol, directed by Robert Zemeckis and produced by his since-shuttered ImageMovers Digital studio.

Disney's 1985 holiday drama One Magic Christmas is a little-known but frequently-praised film that successfully juggles a grim reality, a grimmer potential reality, and a world of magic on its path to discovering and embracing Christmas. Mary Steenburgen delivers a strong leading performance, and Harry Dean Stanton is unforgettable as the mysterious angel Gideon who's playing his harmonica up in the trees when he's not making miracles happen on his assignments from above.

Disney took on Dickens' tale again in 1992's The Muppet Christmas Carol, the first Muppet feature film in eight years and the first following the premature death of visionary creator, puppeteer and voice man Jim Henson. Also the first of the two Muppet literary adaptations distributed by Disney, Muppet Christmas Carol is a warm and witty production that manages to remain surprisingly faithful to Dickens' original text and yet deliver the comedy and music that one associates with the Muppets.

Buy The Nightmare Before Christmas: Collector's Edition DVD from Amazon.com Buy The Santa Clause DVD from Amazon.com Buy The Santa Clause 2 DVD from Amazon.com Buy A Christmas Carol (2009) on DVD from Amazon.com
The Nightmare
Before Christmas (1993)(Collector's Edition)
The Santa Clause
(1994)(Special Edition)
incl. "The Night Before Christmas" (1933)
The Santa
Clause 2
A Christmas Carol (2009)

The following year, Disney dealt with a Roger Rabbit-type quandary with The Nightmare Before Christmas, an innovative and often dark stop motion-animated film written and produced by Tim Burton. Uncomfortable with putting the "Disney" name on something so bizarre and potentially unsettling, the film was released under the "Touchstone Pictures" banner. Successful at the box office and subsequently embraced even more, the movie has this century been treated to four theatrical re-releases, high-profile DVD, Blu-ray, and Blu-ray 3D releases, and plenty of exposure at Disney theme parks. Unabashed in promoting the film and its plentiful merchandise in clear view of the studio's name,
Disney put an end to questioning the movie's home by releasing a Walt Disney Pictures-branded "Disney Digital 3-D" version of Nightmare to theaters in October 2006, which returned as holiday staple the next two years. Whether you find the film best suited for viewing around Halloween or Christmas is still up for debate, however.

In 1994, Disney struck box office gold when Tim Allen made his feature film debut in the family comedy The Santa Clause. Playing an everyman not unlike his popular "Home Improvement" persona, Allen's character Scott Calvin has his world turned upside down when his son Charlie and he hear "a cladder" and then see Santa fall off the roof. Scott unwittingly assumes the role of Santa, which doesn't exactly make things easy at work or for his custody rights battle over Charlie. Blending laughs, fantasy, and unexpectedly effective drama, The Santa Clause was an instant hit with an audiences and went on to become the fourth-highest grossing film released its year.

Eight years later, Allen and company reunited for The Santa Clause 2 with surprisingly positive results. This time around, Scott had to find a wife, get his son off the Naughty List, and have everything ready in time for Christmas. In 2006, Allen jumped back into his fat suit to reprise the sarcastic Santa role in The Santa Clause 3: The Escape Clause, which introduced Martin Short as Santa's icy nemesis Jack Frost. Allen's television son Jonathan Taylor Thomas found less success in the domain of big screen Disney holiday comedies. The 1998 film I'll Be Home for Christmas starred the young actor as a wheeling and dealing college student who tries to get across the country in time for Christmas Eve to claim a car, against many obstacles. Critically thrashed and largely ignored by the general public, the movie marked the last high-profile starring role for the former teen idol.

Buy Beauty and the Beast: The Enchanted Christmas Blu-ray + DVD from Amazon.com Buy Mickey's Once Upon a Christmas on DVD from Amazon.com Buy Very Merry Christmas: Sing Along Songs DVD from Amazon.com Buy Eloise at Christmastime on DVD from Amazon.com
Beauty and
the Beast:
The Enchanted
Christmas (1997)
Mickey's Once
Upon a Christmas (1999)
Merry Christmas
Sing-Along Songs
Eloise at
Christmastime (2003)

Then there are the direct-to-video holiday-themed features that are often a hit with consumers, if not always with critics. Beauty and the Beast: The Enchanted Christmas (1997) focuses on the holiday that was celebrated but not featured during the award-winning 1991 animated film. The 1999 release Mickey's Once Upon a Christmas weaved three vignettes together in a celebration of the season starring Mickey and Minnie, Donald and his three nephews, and Goofy and son Max. A sequel, Mickey's Twice Upon a Christmas, was released in 2004 and its five holiday-themed shorts featured familiar Disney characters for the first time in computer animation. The company's centerpiece of the talking dog movie market, the popular Buddies series, came up with successive holiday outings in 2009's Santa Buddies and the kindred 2010 spin-off The Search for Santa Paws.

In 2001, Mickey's Magical Christmas: Snowed in at the House of Mouse blended "House of Mouse" animation of the smorgasbord of Disney characters

with recycled Christmas content from over the years, including the aforementioned "Mickey's Christmas Carol" and "Pluto's Christmas Tree." Other recycled animation releases include Recess Christmas: Miracle on Third Street (2001) and Winnie the Pooh: A Very Merry Pooh Year (2002), which edited new content together with episodes of "Recess" and "The New Adventures of Winnie the Pooh", respectively.

Made-for-television movies featuring the holiday include 2003's Eloise at Christmastime starring Julie Andrews, Santa Who? starring Leslie Nielsen, Mr. St. Nick starring Kelsey Grammar, and the Disney Channel Original movies The Ultimate Christmas Present and 'Twas the Night.

Finally, there are the video and DVD compilations that Disney has issued to home video, such as the Very Merry Christmas Songs Sing Along Songs volume on DVD and VHS, and A Walt Disney Christmas and Twelve Days of Christmas Sing-Along on VHS. In 2005, holiday-themed episodes of original Disney Channel programming were released as A Very Playhouse Disney Holiday and Disney Channel Holiday for preschool and tween-plus audiences, respectively. The eighth entry in the girl-geared Disney Princess DVD series, Disney Princess: A Christmas of Enchantment culled from shorts ranging from 1930s Silly Symphonies to Fantasia 2000, mostly tied closer to toys or sweets than Christmas itself. Currently, Disney's most satisfying compilation of Christmas-themed cartoons is the seventh volume of its since-ended Walt Disney Animation Collection: Classic Short Films line, which takes its title from Mickey's Christmas Carol but includes three other shorts.

With 80 years of Christmas-themed entertainment, there are plenty of Disney offerings to make part of your holiday viewing this season, and we've only scraped the surface.

Complete List of Disney Christmas Features, with Home Video Availability

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Related Reviews - Disney's Christmas Films on DVD:
A Christmas Carol (2009) The Santa Clause (Special Edition) The Santa Clause 2 The Santa Clause 3: The Escape Clause
The Muppet Christmas Carol (Kermit's 50th Anniversary Edition) The Nightmare Before Christmas (Collector's Edition)
Walt Disney Animation Collection: Classic Short Films - Volume 7 (featuring Mickey's Christmas Carol, The Small One, and others)
One Magic Christmas I'll Be Home for Christmas The Christmas Star Eloise at Christmastime A Muppets Christmas: Letters to Santa
Mickey's Twice Upon a Christmas Mickey's Magical Christmas: Snowed In at the House of Mouse Disney Princess: A Christmas of Enchantment
Winnie the Pooh: Seasons of Giving (10th Anniversary Edition) Winnie the Pooh: A Very Merry Pooh Year Santa Buddies The Search for Santa Paws
Phineas and Ferb: A Very Perry Christmas Disney Channel Holiday A Very Playhouse Disney Holiday Little Einsteins: The Christmas Wish
Mickey Mouse Clubhouse: Mickey Saves Santa and Other Mouseketales My Friends Tigger & Pooh: Super Sleuth Christmas Movie

Related Reviews: Other Christmas Movies, Specials, and Shorts on DVD and Blu-ray:
It's a Wonderful Life (Blu-ray Collector's Set) Elf (Ultimate Collector's Edition) Scrooged (Blu-ray) Santa Claus: The Movie (25th Anniversary Edition)
Peanuts Deluxe Holiday Collection (featuring A Charlie Brown Christmas) Alvin and the Chipmunks: Classic Holiday Gift Set (featuring A Chipmunk Christmas)
Shrek the Halls Dragons: Gift of the Night Fury Ice Age: A Mammoth Christmas Special How the Toys Saved Christmas
Fred Claus Four Christmases Jingle All the Way (Family Fun Edition) Unaccompanied Minors Deck the Halls
Jack Frost (Rankin/Bass Remastered Deluxe Edition) 'Twas the Night Before Christmas Yogi Bear's All-Star Comedy Christmas Caper
Holiday Treats: T.V. Sets Christmas Treats: T.V. Sets A Colbert Christmas: The Greatest Gift of All!
The House Without a Christmas Tree Mrs. Miracle Call Me Mrs. Miracle In Search of Santa The 3 Wise Men

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Last updated December 15, 2011.