OK, yes, I mentioned some yesterday, but those were live-action specials, not the animated kind.
When it comes to animation, there is invariably the holiday special because, well, kids don’t notice, but adults (and networks) do. They are inevitably set around Christmas time of the year and may involve either an escapade based around the presents or one based around Santa.
Sadly a lot of them are somewhat formulaic although when it comes to the whole concept, there’s not a lot of ways you can deviate from the expected.
The Simpsons gives us a great Christmas story in the ‘Simpsons Roasting on an Open Fire’ which also happened to be the premiere episode way back in 1989. Instead of the usual kids-and-Santa focused antics, it very much laid out the fact that Homer had to struggle his way through Christmas, including taking a job as a department store Santa. This was certainly a deviation from the norm and is worth of a lot of praise for exploring a fact that is rather glossed-over in this country.
On a side note, there is the other Matt Groening Christmas film, Olive, the Other Reindeer which although very much simpler in form than The Simpsons, also contains little nuggets of adult humour. It’s also worth checking out if you happen to find it on TV over the holidays.
As for my favourite Christmas special, well, that one would be Futurama. “Xmas Story” is rife with all the usual quirks that Futurama has become known for. Being set in the year 3000, Santa is actually a robot who’s sensors have been set to high and thus everyone is judged to be ‘naughty’ and is killed on sight.
The episode does go off in a whole load of silly directions with the concept (including Fry indulging in a bit of Harold Lloyd-esque clinging to a giant clock) but in the end, it epitomises the whole idea of Christmas bringing people together and being thankful for what you’ve got.
Well, looking a that list, it’s fair to say that it is pretty much completely dominated by Matt Groening. He has a monopoly on my favourite Christmas shows! Well, no he doesn’t, there are dozens of specials aimed specifically at kids but I cannot recall them all at this point of the morning. Perhaps next year I can list off my favourite cartoon Christmas specials instead.