5 Festive Films to Watch This Holiday Season
Disney has created a wealth of holiday features and shorts over the years. One of our most loved family traditions is watching them all. Here are a few of our absolute favorites.
1. Babes In Toyland
Released in 1961, Babes in Toyland is a perennial Christmas favorite. The movie brought together a number of luminaries, including a significant number of Disney Legends. Annette Funicello (of Mickey Mouse Club fame) and teen-idol Tommy Sands held the starring roles in the film. However, they were only the tip of the iceberg when it came to the talent. The movie’s villain, Barnaby, was played by Ray Bolger who also played the Scarecrow in the Wizard of Oz. The Toymaker was portrayed by the incomparable Ed Wynn. A veteran of vaudeville, Wynn also provided the voice for the Mad Hatter in Alice in Wonderland and was Uncle Albert in Mary Poppins.
(You can read more about his legendary career here: 10 Interesting Facts About Disney Legend Ed Wynn)
Tommy Kirk, who appeared in many Disney films such as Old Yeller, The Shaggy Dog, Swiss Family Robinson, and The Absent Minded Professor, starred as Grumio, the Toymakers assistant. Gene Sheldon and Henry Calvin, famous for their roles in Disney’s television series Zorro, also had roles as a pair of bumbling criminals.
For Disney fans today, the film is perhaps most memorable for its toy soldiers. Imagineer Xavier Atencio created the soldiers with the “X” on their backs. They can still be seen at Walt Disney World during the holiday season in parades like “Once Upon a Christmastime.”
2. Mickey’s Christmas Carol
There is, perhaps, no better known Christmas story than Charles Dickens’ A Christmas Carol. The tale of miserly Scrooge, Bob Cratchit, and Tiny Tim has been told countless times and through countless mediums. Disney Legend Burny Matinson directed Disney’s 1983 animated version of the tale. Prior to Mickey’s Christmas Carol, Matinson worked on films like Lady and the Tramp, Sleeping Beauty, 101 Dalmatians, The Sword and the Stone, Mary Poppins, and The Jungle Book. He was the chief animator on Robin Hood, and also played a hand in classics like The Fox and the Hound, The Rescuers, The Black Cauldron, The Great Mouse Detective, Beauty and the Beast, Aladdin, and The Lion King. Quite the resume!
Mickey’s Christmas Carol was initially released with 1983’s The Rescuers and made its network television debut the following year. The story follows the classic story with Scrooge McDuck in the role of Ebenezer Scrooge, Mickey Mouse as Bob Cratchit, Goofy as the Ghost of Marley, and Donald Duck as Scrooge’s nephew Fred. Jiminy Cricket portrayed the Ghost of Christmas Past, Willie the Giant played the Ghost of Christmas Past, and Big, Bad Pete as the Ghost of Christmas Future.
During the holiday season, Guests of the Magic Kingdom can see scenes from the film recreated in the windows of the Emporium on Main Street U.S.A. Beginning near the Harmony Barbershop and moving onto Main Street, you’ll see the entire story.
3. Ernest Saves Christmas
I suppose you could debate whether or not this film qualifies. I think it does. The movie was filmed at Disney’s MGM Studios before it opened, and was produced by Disney’s Touchstone Pictures and distributed by Buena Vista Pictures.
The film starred Jim Varney as Ernest P. Worrell and follows his quest to help Santa Claus find a replacement. Though he isn’t a Disney legend yet, with a little luck he will be one day. In addition to his work in Ernest Saves Christmas, Varney provided the voice of Slinky Dog in Toy Story and Toy Story 2. He was also the voice of Jebidiah “Cookie” Farnsworth in Atlantis: The Lost Empire. In addition, he appeared in a video on the opening of Splash Mountain called Ernest Goes to Splash Mountain, and was featured in Epcot’s Cranium Command attraction as a man who was, “lovable, but not the brightest person on the planet.” He also appeared in a number of other Disney specials.
4. The Santa Clause
Another film featuring a replacement Santa, The Santa Clause was released in 1994 and featured Tim Allen as Scott Calvin, a man thrust into the role of Santa Claus. The movie spawned a pair of sequels and has become a staple of the holiday film canon. Who among us hasn’t wondered what it would be like to visit the North Pole? And of course, we can now better understand the nuances of the classic poem “Twas the Night Before Christmas,” now that we know about the “Rose Suchak Ladder Company.” (Get it? Incidentally, the original title for the movie was “Such a Clatter!”) However, the best moment is probably Judge Reinhold playing with an Oscar Meyer Wienermobile Whistle. Absolutely Classic.
Tim Allen was named a Disney Legend in 1999, flying into those hallowed ranks on the wings of one Buzz Lightyear. Allen provided the voice for Buzz in every incarnation of the films. He also starred in Disney’s remake of The Shaggy Dog, and in the film Jungle 2 Jungle.
5. Prep and Landing
Made for television and released in 2009, Prep and Landing follows the adventures of two elves on Santa’s “prep and landing team.” That is, they prepare homes for Santa’s rooftop landing, and make sure the coast is clear when the big man goes inside to deliver his gifts. The stars of the film are Wayne and Lanny, voiced by Dave Foley and Derek Richardson.
The film is full of hidden Disney references. When Wayne and Lanny arrive at their assigned house, Mickey’s Christmas Carol is playing on the television. The latitude and longitude coordinates given for the house actually describe the location of The Walt Disney Company’s corporate headquarters in Burbank, and a license plate seen in the film reads “12501 WED” a reference to the birth date and initials of Walt Disney.
The short film spawned a sequel, Prep and Landing: Naughty vs. Nice, and has become part of Walt Disney World’s annual holiday celebrations at Hollywood Studios. The characters can be seen in Jingle Bell, Jingle Bam, the park’s holiday fireworks spectacular.
Those are only a few of the fun holiday films Disney has created. What are a few of your favorites and which will you be watching this year?