Nothing says the holidays like Rankin Bass Christmas claymation movies. Whether you’re in your fifties or early twenties, you probably remember those Christmas movies that infiltrated your living room right around December 1st. Producer, writer, and director(s), Arthur Rankin Jr. and Jules Bass, have imprinted their style and Christmas cheer on several generations. But just out of curiosity…does anyone actually remember how weird these movies were? It’s a list all of the Rankin Bass Christmas claymation movies ever made!
Classic Christmas Claymation Movies
12. Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer (1964)
Rankin Bass’ Rudolph was a hit
One of the most festive of the Rankin Bass Productions --- the one that started it all. It has everything you’d want in a Christmas movie---elves making toys, Santa giving out those toys, and a beautiful sleigh ride on Christmas Eve. Seems fairly typical.
But, in addition, there’s also an island for “The Misfits.” There are elves who want more for themselves than toy-making (one in particular has big dreams of becoming a dentist?), a skinny Santa Claus who won’t stop calling Mrs. Claus, “Mama,” and reindeer who fall in love.
Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer
Christmas Claymation Movies
11. The Little Drummer Boy (1968)
The Little Drummer Boy claymation
Like most Rankin Bass claymation movies, this one was written by Romeo Muller, and is based off of the song. It’s a biblically-inspired claymation film, but that’s not what’s wrong with it. It’s just overall pretty depressing in tone and story.
Our protagonist (a little boy) sees his parents get killed at around 8 minutes in. Happy Holidays, everyone! It does end better but the 25-minute film mostly stays depressing.
The Little Drummer Boy
10. Santa Claus is Comin’ to Town (1970)
Fred Astaire narrates this iconic Christmas Movie
When I was kid, Christmas wouldn’t have been the same without this movie. It’s synonymous with tradition. The story of Kris Kringle and the future Mrs. Claus. Though, there are a few things now that I seemed to have missed as a kid.
The origin story of Santa Claus is that of a blonde-haired, blue-eyed kid who saves the town from German tyranny. You might remember the name, Burgermeister Meisterberger. It’s this film that is the start of many more European villains by the Rankin Bass duo.
Santa Claus is Comin’ to Town
- Weird Thing? The future Mrs. Claus sings a song about what could be with Kris, going into a kind of psychedelic fantasy. Again, maybe it was just the 70s.
- Tomatometer: 93%
- Watch Now →
Claymation Xmas Movies
9. The Year Without a Santa Claus (1974)
A claymation Christmas in California
Based on the book by Phyllis McGinley, screenplay by William Keenan, Rankin and Bass give us a great story about the power of belief. But if you’re familiar with Rankin/Bass productions, there is a propensity for deity figures.
Mother nature meets with Mrs. Claus and Heat Miser and Snow Miser, are representative of good and evil? Either way, a pretty underrated Christmas movie. It’s more than festive, fun, and Mrs. Claus actually takes charge. When Santa takes a break, she devises a master plan. It’s kind of awesome.
The Year Without a Santa Claus
Rankin Bass Movies
8. The First Christmas: The Story of the First Christmas Snow (1975)
If you haven’t seen it...well, makes sense
A young Shepard is left blind after a freak lightning storm and brought into a convent to recover. Of course, we all learn the "true meaning of Christmas" but you wouldn't expect anything less.
Angela Lansbury is the narrator of this claymation short, voicing as Mother Theresa, and that’s really the best part of it.
The First Christmas
Rankin Bass Rudolph Movies
7. Rudolph’s Shiny New Year (1976)
Not really a Christmas special, but close enough
The sequel to the 1964 Rudolph is a strange one. Baby New Year (literally a baby) runs away for being mocked for his big ears and Rudolph is there to help? Written by none other than Rankin and Bass’ go-to, Romeo Muller, it’s fairly in-line with the other films.
Rudolph’s Shiny New Year
Old Christmas Claymation Movies
6. Nestor the Long-Eared Christmas Donkey (1977)
Watch a Donkey be a hero
Not the most festive of the Rankin Bass Christmas claymation movies, but an interesting one nonetheless. It’s extremely heartfelt and sweet, but ultimately about a donkey understanding his destiny on the road to Bethlehem. A little weird.
Nestor the Long-Eared Christmas Donkey
- Weird Thing? The entire point of this film. I mean it was cute. But a donkey’s mom dies on top of her son. And that donkey’s long ears protect the Virgin Mary?
- Tomatometer: 56%
- Watch Now: N/A
Creepy Claymation Movies
5. Jack Frost (1979)
Rankin and Bass do it again: a classic creepy Christmas
Jack Frost controls everything from inside his cloud, with other weird elf like creatures. Also, a Russian is the villain. Though I guess this isn’t totally surprising considering it is Rankin and Bass.
Weird Rankin and Bass Movies
4. Rudolph & Frosty’s Christmas in July (1979)
This one is a little dark, but still a Christmas movie nonetheless
Another warlock comes into be ⏤ Winterbolt. I’d argue it lacks some holiday spirit, with a slightly villainous plot. But there are enough Christmas songs in it, I guess.
Rudolph & Frosty’s Christmas in July
Classic Christmas Claymation
3. Pinocchio’s Christmas (1980)
Rankin and Bass try their style with Pinocchio
Not their best claymation Christmas special. Pinocchio can’t buy his dad a present. It’s not so much weird as a little boring.
Trying Something New?
2. Leprechaun's Christmas Gold (1981)
A not-so-classic claymation short film
Another great screenplay written by Romeo Muller. Just kidding. An Irish sailor is stranded on a magical island filled with Leprechauns? Ah, yes, a Christmas keeper. But I have to hand it to them filmmakers, it’s so bad, it’s kind of glorious.
Leprechaun's Christmas Gold
- Weird Thing? The whole damn thing.
- Tomatometer: N/A
- Watch Now: N/A
Stop Motion Christmas Movies
1. The Life and Adventures of Santa Claus (1985)
The weirdest of them all
I just, I’m not sure what they were thinking with this one. It makes sense that they ended their Christmas claymation spectacular’s here. It’s a Santa Claus origin story filled with magical lions, children-hating demons, and spirit lords voting on his immortality?
I mean all right. I’m not really mad at this.
The Life and Adventures of Santa Claus
Best Stop Motion Movies
Sick of Christmas movies yet? Next up is a top 10 list of the best stop motion movies ever, Rankin and Bass excluded. And of course, a certain Christmas stop motion film makes the list.
Up Next: Best Stop Motion Movies →
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