This DVD contains three holiday titles from Arthur Rankin Jr. and Jules Bass.
The Year Without a Santa Claus
Even Santa can suffer a case of the holiday blues. In this 1974 stop-motion holiday family favorite, a sparkly eyed Mrs. Claus (voiced by Shirley Booth) sings and tells about the year her hubby felt too weary and too unappreciated to prepare for his annual Christmas rounds. Mickey Rooney stars as the voice of Santa, a rosy-nosed puppet who travels incognito to Southtown in search of his tiniest reindeer, Vixen, and two well-meaning elves. Seems Mrs. Santa sent them to find proof of Christmas spirit--but all they've discovered is ambivalence about Santa's year off. Luckily, when Santa arrives and befriends a buck-toothed lad named Ignatius Thistlewhite, spirits begin to lift rapidly. Adult fans of this cousin to the 1970 television special Santa Claus Is Coming to Town will remember it as the Heat and Snow Miser movie. Their vaudevillian theme songs, complete with trombone and piano riffs, are hard to forget, but other treasured musical moments include "I Believe in Santa Claus," "I'll Have a Blue Christmas Without You," and "Here Comes Santa Claus." --Liane Thomas
Nestor the Long-Eared Christmas Donkey
The wondrous story of Christ's birth is told by an unlikely source: Nestor, a gentle donkey with incredibly long ears and a first-hand knowledge of life in a stable. This simple tale, which takes place in the days of the Roman Empire, is about a humble couple about to take a long journey to Bethlehem and a small, insignificant donkey that is destined to help them along. By all outward appearances, Nestor does not deserve such a privilege. Stable animals tease him incessantly for his long appendages until, finally, he is cast out of the barn into the winter cold. Snow and ice bring about even greater calamity for Nestor until he receives a dose of divine goodness. Nestor meets Tilly, a heavenly cherub (voiced by Brenda Vaccaro) who imparts guidance to the despairing burro and tells him that soon he will be chosen to participate in a miracle involving a star, a baby, a lowly stable, and some travelers named Mary and Joseph. Short and sweet, this stop-motion Christmas gem from Arthur Rankin Jr. and Jules Bass is narrated by Roger Miller. Get out the hanky for an understated holiday classic that will appeal to families of all ages. --Lynn Gibson
Rudolph's Shiny New Year
Rudolph is legendary for saving Christmas, but did you know he saved the New Year as well? While Santa Claus is recuperating from his December sleigh ride, he receives a letter from an old friend, Father Time. Seems that Baby New Year is missing, and if the little tyke isn't found, Old Year will continue forever--a catastrophe for Father Time, whose job it is to keep things moving forward. A search party is essential, yet with such thick fog, there's only one reindeer fit for the job. "Rudolph with your nose so bright, you've six days left to set things right," says Santa. Trouble hits immediately when Rudolph discovers that Aeon the Terrible, a big-beaked monster bird, is also searching for the missing baby. Rudolph gets help from a giant whale and a good-natured caveman, who dish up plenty of song and dance in between narrow escapes in their race against the end of the calendar year. Sound far-fetched? Perhaps, but it contains as much magic as its predecessors, Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer and Santa Claus Is Comin' to Town, all produced and directed by Jules Bass and Arthur Rankin Jr., and written by the esteemed Romeo Muller. The same stop-motion animation we've grown to love is here as well, and narrator Red Skelton has as trusted a voice as Burl Ives and Fred Astaire. While the New Year holiday will never be as celebrated as Christmas, this title is a welcome addition to any Rankin and Bass collection of holiday films. --Lynn Gibson