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Top 10 Underrated Christmas Specials

VO: Rebecca Brayton WRITTEN BY: Nick Spake

Do you recall these lesser known Christmas classics? For this list, we’re taking a look at holiday specials that don’t get as much attention as others, but deserve to be revisited every year. Our list includes Charlie Brown, Garfield, Winnie the Pooh, BoJack Horseman, The Little Matchgirl and more! Join MsMojo as we count down our picks for the Top 10 Underrated Christmas Specials.

Check out the voting page for this list and add your picks: https://www.WatchMojo.comsuggest/%20Underrated%20Christmas%20Specials Special thanks to our users Rokon, Jordan Brown and hulkfan for suggesting this idea!

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Script written by Nick Spake

Top 10 Underrated Christmas Specials


Do you recall these lesser known Christmas classics? Welcome to MsMojo, and today we’ll be counting down our picks for the Top 10 Underrated Christmas Specials.
For this list, we’re taking a look at holiday specials that don’t get as much attention as others, but deserve to be revisited every year.

#10: “BoJack Horseman Christmas Special: Sabrina's Christmas Wish” (2014)


BoJack Horseman makes Ebenezer Scrooge look like a saint, but on his sitcom from the ‘90s, he plays a father figure who’s as loving and supportive as Bob Cratchit. This creates a hilarious contrast, as BoJack and drinking buddy Todd watch the “Horsin’ Around” Christmas special. Part of what makes this special so funny is that the jokes are purposely corny and the writing isn’t afraid to be overly sentimental. Whenever matters start to get too mushy, though, BoJack is ready to chime in with snide commentary. The result is a fitting balance of sincere and cynical, in a story tailored around little Sabrina’s wish reunite with her parents.


#9: “It’s Christmastime Again, Charlie Brown” (1992)


“A Charlie Brown Christmas” was a tough act to follow, which might be why fewer people know about this Peanuts special. Airing over 25 years after its predecessor, “It’s Christmastime Again, Charlie Brown” may not carry the same emotional weight, but is still doused in Charles M. Schulz’s signature wit. The humorous storylines are all ripped from the comic strip, with Charlie Brown becoming a door-to-door wreath salesman, Snoopy channels Santa, and Peppermint Patty is turned into a sheep. The funniest subplot involves Sally rehearsing her one line for the Christmas play, which has a slow buildup, but a hilarious payoff. This special’s quite good, it turns out. Maybe it just needs a little love.


#8: “A Garfield Christmas” (1987)


“A Garfield Christmas” is a fairly laidback special, which is appropriate considering its titular character’s nature. The plot finds Garfield reluctantly spending Christmas with Jon’s family on the farm where they decorate the tree, sing carols, and partake in other traditional festivities. While that might not sound like anything extraordinary, it’s the simplicity of the story that makes this special stand out. It demonstrates that Christmas isn’t about getting, or even giving, but making memories alongside those you care about. The Arbuckle family is certainly a lovable bunch of characters we’d be more than happy to spend Christmas with. As cynical as Garfield is, Christmas can even bring out the goodwill in him.


#7: “The Little Matchgirl” (2006)


This Oscar-nominated short was initially conceived as a segment for the cancelled “Fantasia 2006.” Although that film never saw the light of day, it didn’t stop “The Little Matchgirl” from shining through. Based on the tale by Hans Christian Andersen, the short follows a neglected child trying to sell matchsticks around Christmastime. As others spend the holiday comfy by the fire, the little matchgirl freezes on the streets, grieving her deceased grandmother. Like Alexander Borodin’s music, the narrative ranges from heartwarming to heartbreaking, amounting to a beautifully animated production. As a matter of fact, this was the last time a Disney animation would utilize CAPS, which subsequently went out like a candle in the wind.


#6: “The Snowman” (1982)


Like Raymond Briggs’ original picture book, “The Snowman” has no dialogue, but gets a blizzard of atmosphere across through visuals alone. The story centers on a little boy’s relationship with a snowman as they fly through the winter air and party with Father Christmas, and builds to an ending that pulls no emotional punches. “The Little Matchgirl” is a tearjerker, but “The Snowman” evokes a different kind of sadness. It’s a special that fills you with so much joy, only to leave you feeling sorrowful. Then again, perhaps that’s a perfect metaphor for Christmas. We never want the holidays to end, but there comes a time when every snowman has to melt.


#5: “Winnie the Pooh and Christmas Too” (1991)


Winnie the Pooh is such a cheerful, wholesome character that it’s impossible not to feel all warm and fuzzy inside whenever he’s onscreen. So naturally, this Christmas special hits the spot like a cup of hot chocolate or tea with a dash of honey. Airing shortly after “The New Adventures of Winnie the Pooh” wrapped up, the Hundred Acre Wood gang goes a little overboard with their letter to Santa. Pooh, being a kindly bear, is determined to make their Christmas wishes come true, even if it means going to the North Pole and back again. Ultimately revealing that togetherness is the greatest present of all, this special is like receiving a hug from a best friend.


#4: “A Pinky and the Brain Christmas” (1995)


First the North Pole and then the world! The Brain refuses to take a break from his world domination plot, even during Christmastime, hatching a scheme to control consumers with his hypnotic Noodle Noggin dolls. As one of the most well-written animated shows from the ‘90s, it shouldn’t come as a surprise that Pinky and the Brain’s Christmas special is a clever satire packed with brilliantly crafted jokes. What catches most viewers off-guard is the special’s touching finale, as the Brain’s affection for Pinky takes precedence over his desire to rule over humankind. This perfect harmony of laughs and heart left Pinky and the Brain singing Christmas carols all the way to the Primetime Emmys.


#3: “The Christmas Toy” (1986)


Almost a decade before “Toy Story,” Jim Henson produced this Christmas special, which also focused on living playthings and their fear of being replaced. Brought to life through wonderful puppetry, “The Christmas Toy” turns an everyday household into a world of its own. Wanting to relive the morning he was first unwrapped, Rugby the Tiger ventures out of the playroom and under the Christmas tree, although he doesn’t realize what’s at stake. As colorful and charming as the special is, it also has a tonic dark edge, as the toys risk being frozen forever if they’re caught out of place. Of course, since this is a Christmas tale, it wraps up on a merry note.



#2: “A Muppet Family Christmas” (1987)


“The Christmas Toy” isn’t the only Jim Henson holiday special that’s fallen through the cracked ice. “Christmas Eve on Sesame Street” is often overlooked, but “A Muppet Family Christmas” has never even received an unedited release on North American home video. It’s unfortunate, as this was arguably the most ambitious Muppet crossover ever, not only featuring appearances from Kermit’s crew, but also characters from “Sesame Street” and “Fraggle Rock”. There are too many memorable moments to count, as Cookie Monster finds a kindred spirit in Animal, Swedish Chef tries to cook Big Bird, and everyone finds yuletide cheer through song. Henson himself makes an onscreen cameo, demonstrating how Christmas really brings everyone together.

Before we get to our top pick, here are a few honorable mentions:
“The Berenstain Bears' Christmas Tree” (1979)


“Olive, the Other Reindeer” (1999)
“The Small One” (1978)


#1: “Arnold’s Christmas”


“Hey Arnold” is a nostalgic show that holds up superbly when we revisit it as adults. The same can be said about this Christmas episode, which leaves a stronger impression if you’re familiar with the Vietnam War. Learning that his neighbor Mr. Hyunh has been separated from his daughter ever since the war, Arnold sets out to make a miracle happen in time for Christmas. Working on “Hey Arnold!,” creator Craig Bartlett was largely inspired by Peanuts and this special was perhaps the closest the series came to capturing the same magic of “A Charlie Brown Christmas.” Nowhere is this more apparent than during the ending, which never fails to prime the waterworks.

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