Christmas Classics Countdowns Past – #1 (2011)

Those of you who followed my “100 Film Favorites Countdown” may remember that the posts were updated versions of mini-reviews which originally appeared on my “Facebook pseudo-blog,” Brian Terrill Movie Night. That page in turn initially grew out of a Phi Mu Alpha fraternity event of the same name, which the brothers instituted just to have an excuse to watch more of my weird film collection.

Well, by fall of my senior year I grew bored of simply using the page as a means to advertise upcoming screenings, and so devised the first “Christmas Classics Countdown.” Every day of December, I would link to a musical number from a (hopefully slightly obscure) Christmas-themed film or TV special. In so doing, I hoped to create a monthlong playlist and offer readers a bit of variety and combat the constant onslaught of “All I Want for Christmas Is You” blaring forth from radios nationwide (sorry Dan).

The Countdown (or “Count-Up,” as I ought to have called it) was so much fun that the next October I created a Halloween version, the “Creepy Classics Countdown.” Now I had a use for the BTMN page even post-graduation! It would continue to play host to such Countdowns, right up to the 141,000 word behemoth which first brought me to EarnThis.

Now that I’m here, I hope to continue to my tradition on EarnThis, with the FOURTH Christmas Classics Countdown running throughout the coming month. But to get you caught up (and save myself a WHOLE lot of scrolling should I ever want to read them again), I’ll be posting the first three years’ lists in mega-posts on the days leading up to December.

Behold, the first Christmas Classics Countdown, from 2011:

INTRO:

“Don’t have an advent calendar yet? Don’t worry: This December, check in each day for the Brian Terrill Movie Night CHRISTMAS CLASSIC COUNTDOWN! Every day, I’ll be linking to a musical number from a different Christmas special. I’ll try to stay on the relatively obscure side, just to keep you all on your toes. Be sure to stop by December 1st, as the Countdown commences!”

#1: “Christmas in the Playhouse”

Happy December, everyone! We’re starting things off with the opening number from what is one my favorite Christmas specials, and definitely the most underrated. It’s “Christmas in the Playhouse,” from the Pee-Wee’s Playhouse Christmas Special. Performed by the United States Marine Corps’ own Singing Sergeants and announcing a cavalcade of 80s-tastic guest stars, it’s one for the ages, and a great way for us to get started.

And as the King of Cartoons might say, LET THE COUNTDOWN…BEGIN!

#2: “The Great Rupert”

Here we are at Day 2, with the first example of a not-particularly-Christmas-related song from a Christmas-themed film. There’s probably going to be a lot of these. Anyway, it’s the titular track from the 1950 film The Great Rupert, starring Jimmy Durante and later re-released as The Christmas Wish. It’s about a struggling circus family who has a windfall when they discover a large stash of cash which Rupert has “squirreled” away in the wall of their home.

#3: “Christmas! Bah, Bug and Hum!”

Day 3, and I’m already breaking the rules. I’m hoping “Rupert” was obscure enough to permit a relatively mainstream entry for today. It’s “Christmas! Bah, Bug and Hum!” from Olive, the Other Reindeer. In my opinion, it’s one of the very best Christmas villain songs. Why?

1. It features Dan Castellaneta (the voice of Homer Simpson) singing his heart out in the role of a Christmas-hating mailman.
2. It incorporates a rhyme for “catalog.”
3. Try saying “First class, third class, book rate, bulk” three times fast. Or one time.

See you tomorrow, same BBT time, same BBT channel!

#4: “The Wassail Song” (Here We Come A-Wassailing)

Welcome to Day 4! Today’s number comes from Baby Songs Christmas. It’s a version of “The Wassail Song” which uses to comedic effect the similarity between the unusual word “wassail” and several other more common words. There are actually several versions that do this, but this particular one takes the cake for the creative new lyrics used to rebuff the offer of several similar-sounding gifts:

-When offered a whistle: “A whistle, though quite musical, does not a Wassail make, a Wassail is a toast of health and all of one’s partake.”
-When offered a waffle (“toast of health”): “A Wassail’s not a breakfast food; Its meaning, we are told, is sharing cherished memories from happy days of old.

And so, cherished friends of old, see you tomorrow!

#5: “Link by Link”

Well, this is embarrassing. The original video is no longer up, so I’ve included a link to the audio track: http://grooveshark.com/#!/s/Link+By+Link/veYj9?src=5

Day 5, and we’ve finally got our first Christmas Carol adaptation. The song is “Link By Link” from the 1994 Broadway musical (more specifically, the 2003 TV-movie adaptation of the 1994 Broadway musical). I actually only discovered this version about a week ago while channel surfing. I had thought I knew just about every Christmas Carol adaptation by heart, so to suddenly discover one I’d never even heard of was a surprise. Just goes to show that yes, even I am still broadening my filmic horizons.

At any rate, enjoy George Costanza warning Frasier away from a life of greed.

#6: “Christmas Comes But Once a Year”

It’s Day 6, and today we have the titular song from the 1936 cartoon short “Christmas Comes But Once a Year,” starring Grampy from the Betty Boop series. In the short, a bunch of orphans are depressed when their Christmas gifts turn out to be worn-out, broken pieces of junk. However, the day is saved when Grampy arrives and, using his 1337 inventing skills, creates new toys for the children out of common household items (items which they probably needed, but let’s ignore that).

Just try to get this song out of your head. I dare you.

Also, since the copyright to most of Fleischer’s early cartoons has lapsed, I can link you to the whole thing. Check it out!

Whatchu know ’bout the Public Domain?

#7: “Snow Miser / Heat Miser”

Okay. I admit it. I’ve broken my every rule. Today’s entry is completely mainstream and if you’ve celebrated Christmas in the United States at any point in the last four decades you’ve almost certainly seen it before. It’s the dual-sided theme song of the Miser Brothers from 1974’s The Year Without a Santa Claus. I couldn’t help myself. Why? Because it’s great. And because it has so little to do with Christmas. One guy sings about how much he likes the cold. The other sings about how much he likes the heat. They are mortal enemies forever locked in an unwinnable war; a war made all the more poignant and painful by their bond of brotherhood. Also, I guess something Christmas-related is happening on the side somewhere.
Anyway, in an attempt to belatedly sate your obscurity jones, here’s the cover by Big Bad Voodoo Daddy:

Also, the re-created scene from the live-action remake. It’s notable only because it re-imagines the Misers as straight-up pimps with gaggles of scantily-clad ice- and fire-themed groupies, which is how I always thought of them anyway:

Also, I guess there was that…ahem…sequel…A Miser Brothers’ Christmas. But we don’t speak of that. If you absolutely must see it, seek it out on your own. And may God have mercy on you if you do.

#8: “Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer”

Happy Day 8! This time round, you know the song, but maybe the video is new to you. It’s those shriveled spokesmen of the late 80s, the California Raisins, performing “Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer” as part of Wil Vinton’s A Claymation Christmas Celebration. This 1987 special features claymation covers of Christmas carol classics, including yet another version of “The Wassail Song” in which characters misunderstand the word “Wassail” as “Waffle.”

I’d say more, but I’m scrambling to finish a paper right now. Toodaloo! Catch you on the flipside for Day 9!

#9: “Hooray for Santy Claus!”

It’s Day 9 From Outer Space! Today’s entry is “Hooray for Santy Claus!”, the song that plays over the opening credits of Santa Claus Conquers the Martians. This Christmas…er…classic…is one you should definitely check out. In the film, the children of Mars have grown mopey and lethargic with no one to bring them their annual helping of Christmas joy. The Martian elder tells Ki-Mar (the “King Martian”) that Mars’ problem lies in their lack of a Santa Claus. So, naturally, the Martians zip over to Earth and nab our Santa (inadvertently abducting two earth children as well). Eventually, Santa and the children are able to return to Earth, but not before Dropo (the former ‘laziest man on Mars’) steps up to serve his people as Mars’ very own Santa.

See you tomorrow for #10!

#10: “Mutual Admiration Society”

Hey everybody. So, YEAH, technically I missed a day. If it’s any consolation, now you get two updates. Here’s the clip intended for Saturday the 10th: “Mutual Admiration Society,” as performed by Officers Toody and Muldoon in the Car 54, Where Are You? season 1 Christmas episode. This song was initially written for the 1956 Broadway musical “Happy Hunting,” and the lyrics were re-appropriated for this episode, which originally aired Christmas Eve, 1961.
I only really started watching Car 54 recently, but as far as Christmas episodes go, this is a really great one. Unlike most episodes of the show, which feature a plot-based narrative, this episode simply consists of the officers of the 53rd precinct putting on a show for Christmas: in essence, the whole episode is more a variety show than a sitcom. A lot of good songs are featured, but this is my favorite.

Fun Fact: Fred Gwynne, who plays Muldoon (the tall cop) is probably better remembered as Herman Munster. Or the old guy in Pet Sematary. Or the judge in My Cousin Vinnie.

#11: “Barbecue”

OKAY. Back on track. Here’s the second update for today, the one actually intended for the 11th. Are you happy now? ARE YOU!?

Good.

The song is “Barbecue,” from Emmet Otter’s Jugband Christmas, a 1977 special produced by the Jim Henson Company and featuring the regular cast of Muppet performers. Admittedly, this wouldn’t have been my first choice of song, but because of those sticklers and their copyright, it was the only one I could find a good-quality clip of. Oh well. It’s catchy anyway. If you’ve never seen Emmet Otter…go see it. It really is a great special, and “Riverbottom Nightmare Band,” the song I REALLY wanted to link to, is pretty fantastic.

Also, here’s a fan-made cover video of “Barbecue.” It’s worthy of its own link because they went to the trouble of actually re-creating the whole jugband:

That, my friends, is dedication.
See you all tomorrow!

#12: “Hot Chocolate”

Day 12! We’re already halfway to Christmas Eve…isn’t it about time you had some hot chocolate? Today’s song comes from the 2004 film The Polar Express, based on the book by Chris Van Allsburg. I may catch flack for including it, because it seems the general rule is to hate this film, largely due to the people looking like dead-eyed soulless mannequins, but come on people. It’s not THAT bad.

Some positives:
-Eddie Deezen (Mandark from “Dexter’s Lab”) voices a nerd, with basically the exact same voice as Mandark.
-The hobo plays a hurdy-gurdy.
-Yearly re-releases in 3D from 2005-2008. The 3D is pretty cool, especially when the train’s cowcatcher juts perilously far out from the screen and practically pokes you in the eye.
-This song.

I know the throngs of identical waiters showcase the whole soulless, staring expression thing, but there’s something I find charming about an army of clones clogging in very tight quarters.

See you tomorrow for Day 13!

#13: “The Reindeer Dance”

Day 13!, and we’ve come to one of my family’s favorites. It’s “The Reindeer Dance” (and its reprise) from the Christmas episode of Goof Troop. If “Christmas Comes But Once a Year” is still stuck in your head, fear not. Here’s something new that’s just as catchy. I don’t really have much else to say, so I’ll just include a chunk of the lyrics here, so that you might learn it note for note, like good little children:

First your antlers start to itch
and the music moves your feet,
then your hips begin to twitch
to a crazy conga beat.
Then you cha-cha down the chimney,
scratch a friendly flea,
wiggle your nose,
tickle your toes,
tango around the tree.

#14: “Life Day”

Episode 14: The Phantom Fortnight. Today’s entry proves that while one wookiee may sound cool, 50 at once will make your ears bleed. It’s the “Life Day” song sung by Princess Leia in 1978’s Star Wars Holiday Special. Some people say Star Wars hit bottom with the prequels. Those people have not seen the Star Wars Holiday Special. Actually, there’s a lot of people who haven’t seen it. Aired only once, in a time when relatively few people had VCRs, only a small number of copies exist. But now, thanks to the glorious internet, anyone who is A. a huge Star Wars fan, B. a glutton for pain, or C. compiling a list of musical numbers from obscure Christmas specials, can experience the Holiday Special first hand. Interestingly, the Holiday Special marks not only the first appearance of the Wookiee homeworld, Kashyyyk, but also of the iconic bounty hunter Boba Fett.

As a bonus, this isn’t from a film or TV special, but I didn’t want to overlook it:

It’s the titular track from “Christmas in the Stars,” a Star Wars-themed Christmas album from 1980. The album includes other such classics as “What Do You Get a Wookiee for Christmas (When He Already Has a Comb)?” It also features vocals by a young John Bongiovi (later stylized “Bon Jovi”). Maybe you’ve heard of him.

#15: “Oh, What A Merry Christmas Day”

Oh, What a Merry 15th Day! Today we make our second trip into A Christmas Carol territory. This is the opening credits to 1983’s Mickey’s Christmas Carol. Fun fact: When it was released, it was the first new Mickey Mouse cartoon in 30 years. Though this one is another which more than verges on the mainstream, it’s one of my favorites, so it’s in. Big whoop, wanna fight aboudit?

This next claim may cause some minor controversy, so get ready: Of all the Christmas Carol adaptations I’ve seen, Scrooge McDuck may just present the best portrayal of his namesake. Just putting that out there. If, perchance, you haven’t yet seen Mickey’s Christmas Carol, you really should give it a watch. If nothing else, it’s short (under a half hour). As an added bonus, Scrooge’s coffin swallows him up and he plummets down a fiery pit to Hell (an element of the film shamelessly copied in Disney’s OTHER animated Christmas Carol adaptation 26 years later).

#16: “A Brand New Kind of Christmas Song”

Day 16, everyone! Today we roll back the rock to the dawn of time with this song from 1977’s A Flintstone Christmas. I can’t claim to know the song’s proper title, but I think “A Brand New Kind of Christmas Song” is as good as any, since they say it a couple times. At any rate, one wonders how the Flintstones celebrate Christmas millions of years before the birth of Christ. Maybe this is just evidence of my theory that the Flintstones’ community of “Bedrock” is actually the ruins of our own world after some future nuclear cataclysm. The elite of this post-apocalyptic world, including George Jetson and his family, live in a floating city high above the stone-age subsistence of humanity’s less fortunate.

#17: “Our Christmas Trip is Off”

It’s Day 17, and I’m giving a shoutout to all my diseased homies out there. Today’s song comes from Madeline’s Christmas, a 1991 animated adaptation of the children’s book by Ludwig Bemelmans. Again, I don’t know a proper title for this song, so this one will have to do. The song serves as an ode to all those feeling under the weather at Yuletide, a number among whom I often find myself. But we’ll slog through the sniffles together, comrades. Christmas is just 8 days away!

Hm. For those of you following along at home…I hadn’t really mentioned it, hoping you might not notice, but this hasn’t exactly been a countdown. More of a count-up. That whole “8 days away” thing marks the first incidence of actual countdown-ed-ness. Don’t expect it to continue. Check in tomorrow, one day further into December (or with one day fewer until Christmas).

#18: “Curoo Curoo”

Day 18, and we’re headed to the southern hemisphere, where the seasons are screwy and it’s summer in December. Today’s song is “Curoo Curoo,” from the Wiggles’ Yule Be Wiggling video. Yeah. It’s The Wiggles. You got a problem? Come at me, bro.

But seriously, my brother was big into the Wiggles from like, ages 3-6 or so, so I consider myself fairly well-versed in Wiggle-Lore. Plus, this is a soothing and reverent song. So just sit back and take it in. Ponder maybe. Reason for the season and all that.

Also, sorry for the 240p. If it’s any consolation, this is the lowest quality clip I’ll be linking to all month.

#19: “A Good Old-Fashioned Christmas”

Apologies, friends and neighbors, for my lateness in posting yesterday’s update. Here it is now, with Day 20’s post following close behind. This is the final song from 1991’s A Garfield Christmas. I’ve noticed, especially in recent years, that Garfield tends to get a bad rap and be dismissed as unfunny, but I’ve always been a fan. For a long time, this special was shown paired with A Charlie Brown Christmas in an hour block. In the story, Jon, Garfield and Odie travel to Jon’s old family farm to celebrate Christmas. Here’s the whole Arbuckle clan doing just that.

#20: “Easter Eggs for Christmas”

Day 20! Getting close now!

Though this clip may vie with the Wiggles for the title of “lousiest quality of the month,” the song is one of my favorites. It’s “Easter Eggs for Christmas” from the 1996 Sesame Street special Elmo Saves Christmas. Don’t laugh! Elmo Saves Christmas is greater than it probably sounds. It features narration by Maya Angelou and Charles Durning as Santa Claus. The film revolves around Elmo, who receives a magic wish-granting snowglobe after rescuing Santa on Christmas Eve. Elmo wishes for it to be Christmas every day, and as a result the world begins celebrating Christmas each and every day of the year. With his reindeer friend Lightning, Elmo jumps forward in time to several points throughout the year and witnesses the gradual collapse of civilization due to an excess of Christmas (No one works on Christmas, thus no one works at all, ever; the only thing on TV is It’s a Wonderful Life; The Christmas tree gradually goes extinct; People who have gone away for Christmas never return; etc.) Eventually, Elmo sees the flaws of his wish and makes another wish to restore normalcy…but not before accidentally smashing the snowglobe. The world is doomed to eternal Christmas…but then Lightning uses his time-travel powers to go BACK in time to that fateful Christmas Eve, and Elmo sets things right, knowing that if you “Keep Christmas With You” in your heart, it really can be like Christmas everyday…only, you know, without the apocalypse.

This scene occurs during Elmo’s first stop, in spring, when things are still relatively cheery. I love it, largely because this is quite probably the only Christmas song in which you’ll hear Harvey Fierstein extolling the virtues of teaching plastic eggs to dance the Can-Can.

Enjoy! More tomorrow for Day 21!

#21: “Everybody Loves Santa”

Happy Solstice, everyone! Let me take this opportunity to remind you that we all have one year left to live, according to the Mayan calendar. Keep in touch and we’ll arrange some sort of sexy party by this point next year.

It’s Day 21, and today’s song is “Everybody Loves Santa” from 1997’s Santa versus the Snowman. The half-hour special was directed by Steve Odenkirk, who would later create Jimmy Neutron. I know the ’97 computer animation is…frankly pretty creepy, but this song is catchy enough to make up for it. Also, “I love you more than the time I…loved everything!” is a fantastic term of endearment.

See you tomorrow for day 22!

P.S. – Be sure to check in Christmas Day, when you’ll be getting not one, but THREE videos!

#22: “The Lord’s Bright Blessing (Reprise)”

Day 22! Today marks our third foray into the world of A Christmas Carol adaptations. The clip is the reprise of “The Lord’s Bright Blessing,” from the finale of 1962’s Mr. Magoo’s Christmas Carol. According to Wikipedia, this special was only the second Christmas-themed animated program specifically produced for television, coming two years before the release of Rudolph ushered in a deluge of specials. Interesting if true.

If it hasn’t become clear by now, I love A Christmas Carol in pretty much all its forms, but this is a particularly good adaptation to boot. Featuring the talents of Jim Backus (Gilligan’s Island‘s ‘Millionaire,’ Thurston Howell) as Mr. Magoo, and a supporting cast including Paul Frees (a prolific voice actor whose roles included Rocky & Bullwinkle villain Boris Badenov and the narrator of Disney’s Haunted Mansion attraction, among many others), as well a number of great songs, it’s definitely worth a look. Any fool who goes about without watching Mr. Magoo’s Christmas Special should be boiled in his own pudding and buried with a stake of holly through his heart.

Just kidding. Let me actually take this opportunity to wish you the Lord’s bright blessing of knowing you’re together, of knowing you’re together hand in hand. May you have the whitest Christmas, the lightest, brightest Christmas, a Christmas far more glorious than grand.

See you tomorrow for Day 23! We’re so close now!

#23: “Castle in Spain”

So this is a little bit late, but never fear. Entry #23 is here! Today’s song is “Castle in Spain,” from the 1961 Disney version of Babes in Toyland. Based on Victor Herbert’s 1903 operetta, the story had previously been adapted into the 1934 Laurel and Hardy film March of the Wooden Soldiers, and was again adapted to film in a 1986 version starring Keanu Reeves. The Laurel and Hardy version tends to air around Christmas time, so I’m considering this version Christmas-themed as well. Also, the Nostalgia Critic started off his month of Christmas reviews with the 1986 version, so I think I’m in the clear.

At any rate, here we see the conniving Barnaby (played by Ray Bolger, 22 years after he portrayed the Scarecrow in The Wizard of Oz) attempting to woo the fair Mary through the use of an impressive cape-based dance.

As an aside, I also performed this song in a mock-audition for W&M’s acapella group the Cleftomaniacs. Hilarity ensued.

See you very shortly with a Christmas Eve update!

#24: “Stille Nacht / Silent Night”

Well, folks, we’ve made it. It’s Christmas Eve, and the big day is almost here. I’d like to thank you all for following along this month, and my only hope is that I may have brightened your day on occasion and helped to make the month just a bit merrier.

Today’s song, a solemn rendition of “Silent Night” (both in English and the original German) comes at the finale of the 1977 special John Denver and the Muppets: A Christmas Together, as well as the album of the same name. It’s my favorite Christmas album of all time, and I’ve got it on Vinyl, Cassette, and CD. All the songs are great (including a performance of “When the River Meets the Sea” from Emmet Otter), but this just might be my favorite. Between verses, Denver delivers a short history of the carol’s origins, teaching you more about early 19th century Germany than most non-History majors probably know.

Enjoy the song, and have the very merriest of Christmas Eves and Christmas Days. Check back in throughout the day on Christmas, when I’ll be posting 3 videos, including a musical retrospective of the month created by yours truly.
If you don’t stop by, then once again let me say Merry Christmas, and a Happy New Year!

-This post is dedicated to the memory of John Denver, Jim Henson, and Richard Hunt (Scooter). Sleep in heavenly peace.

#25 – Part 1: “Christmas in Heaven”

IT’S CHRISTMAS!!!

We’ve finally made it! Merry Yule to you and yours.

Starting off today’s triad of tinsel-toned tunes is “Christmas in Heaven,” from Monty Python’s 1983 film The Meaning of Life. It’s mildly Not Safe For Work, but good news: Chances are you’re not at work on Christmas! Huzzah!

Not much else to say, except to wish you much joy in the day ahead. May there be gifts for all the family, with toiletries and trains, and Sony Walkman headphone sets, and the latest video games. Also, don’t forget to check back in later in the day to catch the other 2 updates. Expect the second update when the clock strikes noon. Expect the third update when the clock strikes…eh…five? That sounds about right.

Now, get some sleep!

#25 – Part 2: “Keep Christmas With You”

Hey folks. Hope you’re all having a great Christmas (/ 5th day of Hanukkah). I know I’m a bit past my promised noon deadline, so I think I’ll just share both of my clips now.

First, it’s “Keep Christmas With You.” Originally featured in 1978’s Christmas Eve on Sesame Street (and reprised 18 years later in Elmo Saves Christmas), the song reminds us that even though Christmas (read: this countdown) is coming to an end, you can keep its spirit alive in your heart the whole year through. After all, “Christmas is the spirit of giving peace and joy to you; the spirit of loving, the gladness of living, these are Christmas too.”

RETROSPECTIVE GRAND FINALE SPECTACULAR:

“Let It Be Christmas”

Well friends, this is it. THE LAST…COUNTDOWN CLIP…OF CHRISTMAS! And it’s my extra-special gift to you: A video medley of every single one of this month’s 26 entries, set to Alan Jackson’s song “Let it Be Christmas.” Though it’s not from a film or television special, it’s recently become one of my favorite Christmas songs, and I feel its all-inclusive spirit accurately expresses the mindset of my countdown. Christmas isn’t necessarily one thing or the other. It’s not entirely religious or absolutely secular. Sometimes, it’s cavemen and space aliens and singing otters and gay bearded men in rabbit costumes.
And so, from the volcanic bowels of Hell, to the Wookie homeworld of Kashyyyk, to a Heaven rife with false bosoms and great films on TV, let it truly be Christmas everywhere.

Wherever you may be, I wish you and yours the very merriest of Christmases and the happiest of New Years.

Until next year, this is Brian Terrill, signing off.

Brian T.

Brian T.

Brian is the host of the TV show Count Gauntly's Horrors from the Public Domain and the creator of Brian Terrill Movie Night. He joined Earn This in 2013.

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