7 Unsung Cartoon Holiday Specials To Watch Instead Of It's A Wonderful Life For The 100th Time

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December brings along the hiatus of several current cartoon series (I miss you, Young Justice & Star Wars: The Clone Wars), but we can always look to the past (and particularly the 1980s cartoon explosion) for some amazing holiday specials.


Here is a treasure trove of the best and most bizarre holiday episodes ever created, along with clips for your annotated holiday viewing! Grab one of these and create a new tradition! Do anything to keep your family from watching It's a Wonderful Life again!

A Rugrats' Chanukah

I love this special. One of the few holiday specials to take things seriously and tell a story – A Rugrats' Chanukah tells the tale of the Maccabean Revolt with Tommy as Judah, a pivotal event in history remembered during Chanukah. Wow, I am using that Religion double major!

The second clip introduces Tommy and Dil's annoying cousin Angelica to the several traditions (like latkes!) as the kids search for the meaning of Chanukah. Tommy returns to his animated role in the Maccabean revolt at the end of the episode as their elders finish the story behind the holiday.

G.I. Joe – "Cobra Claws are Coming to Town"

This Christmas episode written by comic legends Roy Thomas & Gerry Conway certainly wins the award for most clever title. In the first clip, the Joes are collecting toys in the middle of a winter wasteland; a parrot sings Jingle Bells, and the Joes are quickly discovered by a Cobra who calls the Joes "turkeys." They survive and gain a present in the process: a Trojan rocking horse.

The Joes celebrate Christmas in the second clip, with one of the Joes leaving in a huff and attacked by the Cobra toys and a miniature Major Bludd. That's what happens when you act like a grinch during a G.I. Joe Christmas dinner.

Batman: The Animated Series – "Christmas with the Joker"

I miss Batman: The Animated Series. My favorite part of Christmas with the Joker comes in the first clip, with the Joker and inmates singing the elementary school version of Jingle Bells, Batman Smells before flying into the Gotham skyline on a Christmas tree.

Later in the episode, a classic Adam West/Burt Ward Batman fight ensues. Batman spares Joker's life for Christmas, only to return the villain to Arkham Asylum in time for another musical number.


Will Vinton's Claymation Christmas Celebration

Holy crap – this was terrifying to set eyes on again — animated clay scares the hell out of me. Will Vinton's Claymation Christmas Celebration features horrific morphing faces, talking Tyrannosaurus and Stegosaurus announcers, anthropomorphized bells, and the California Raisins.

Vinton is a bit of a marketing genius, the man behind the creation of the talking M&Ms, the California Raisins, and the Noid. In the first clip, the bizarre dinosaurs argue and introduce a bunch of clay kids who sing O Christmas Tree. In the second scene, the California Raisins take a break from leading their fellow raisins to death and sing Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer.


Christmas Comes to Pac-Land

I have no idea why this bizarre creation exists. I blame it on 1982 video game insanity and Atari's early 80s desire to rule the world. Pac-Man inherently lacks a plot, but the creators put together some funny/disturbing scenes for this holiday special.

The ghosts essentially perform a drive by on Pac-Man and his family in the first clip from Christmas Comes to Pac-Land. Later on, Santa and his reindeer crash into the snow, looking like a group of mangled monsters for a couple of seconds. Pac-Man's Christmas album was also a thing of great beauty and/or horror.


The He-Man and She-Ra Christmas Special

This special answers some interesting theological and historical questions – When did Christmas begin in Eternia? Are Skeletor & Hordak invited? Mattel brought us an hour-long special in December 1985 by joining the two franchises. It all begins when two Earth children are transported to Eternia by Orko.


In the first clip, we see Skeletor in the roles of babysitter, Scrooge, and eventual softy. He escorts a couple of kids through a snowstorm, even creates winter jackets for the duo in an extremely out-of-character moment. Skeletor definitely wants to leave their dog/cat/thing named Relay – I can respect that.

The second clip shows what a Christmas party in Eternia looks like. Adam dresses as Santa Claus, and the two Earth children return home, where they show off their flying belts to their parents. The entire episode is available on DVD in time for the holidays.


Mickey's Christmas Carol

This Christmas special oft served as a substitute for teaching in my elementary school during the month of December. In the first clip, Scrooge is visited by a couple of creatures dressed like Sherlock and Watson who hit him up for money for the poor, only to hear a convincing economic treatise from Scrooge.

For some reason, Goofy is demoted to the netherworld, only appearing as a ghost in this special. We also get to see Mickey's Kid/Tiny Tim's grave, and go on Uncle Scrooge's visit to oblivion in the second clip.



James Whitbrook

Not animated in the traditional 2D sense, but I always make a point of watching the Wallace and Gromit films at Christmas - whilst the content themselves is not inherently Christmassy at all, it's just a given that at Christmas time in the UK Wallace and Gromit are on the telly somewhere. Hell, they've even done the Christmas idents for BBC 1 and 2 twice!

That said, there are a few Christmassy shorts as part of the Cracking Contraptions series, so there's a little seasonal spirit there!