If you’re looking to relive some great yuletide cheer from yesteryear, you’d be hard-pressed to find better memory-stokers than the 1970s Christmas cartoons that you probably watched on a black-and-white portable television, or on car-sized consoles.
Thanks to the magic of the internet, we can dredge all that up again … sometimes with actual videos!
The only stipulation for this list is that we’re only looking at actual cartoons — no Claymation or stop-action here, though some of those specials are, well, super special.
Anyway, here are 10 groovy Christmas cartoons that will definitely make you miss the 1970s — one for each year of the decade.
The Night the Animals Talked (1970)
If you’ve ever had nightmares or bestial hallucinogens after reading Animal Farm, then you will just love — LOVE — The Night the Animals Talked.
You’re crazy if you think you’re bringing that lady and her round mound of flesh into our manger, buddy!
Oh crap … why are the rest of the animals looking at me like they can understand what I said? I mean, I bleated it out in perfect Sheep-Aramaic. There’s no way they —
Oh, I heard you, Skippy. Sounded like perfect Cattle-ese to me. And I agree with you — no humans. But especially no hogs.
Right, no hogs.
Like I said, nightmare fuel.
But then, TNTAT sort of redeems itself as the animals realize none of them is all that special, but at the same time that all of them are special.
The people, too. Especially the little one.
There are lessons here about race and vanity and inclusion and all sorts of stuff we’re struggling with nearly 50 years on.
And … yes … it’s freaking disturbing.
A Christmas Carol (1971)
Yeah, you’ve seen A Christmas Carol a blue gazillion times and in nearly as many formats … heck, most 1970s sitcoms even gave us their take on the Charles Dickens classic.
And you really haven’t lived until you see the crew from What’s Happening getting their Scrooge on.
But this animated version is something special … it’s a cartoon, for one thing.
And it has dramatic transitions inspired by old engravings, for another.
And Alistair Sim.
It got released in theaters after it appeared on ABC … won an Academy Award, too, and the ensuing outcry from the stuffy-scenti caused the Oscar folks to outlaw shows that originated on TV from future consideration.
A Christmas Story (1972)
“Dear Santa … please send be a group of adults who won’t ruin my Christmas by refusing, forgetting, ‘forgetting’, or otherwise neglecting to mail my letter to … well … to you. Love, your biggest fan — Stan.”
So, what happens when your letter to Santa doesn’t get mailed and then it’s too late and then the dog and the mouse find your letter and then maybe i’ts not too late and then they decide to save your Christmas when your parents don’t want to be bothered?
That’s what A Christmas Story is all about, and I swear you can hear an Eminem song echoing in the background even though this thing was made in 1972.
Would you really put it past Baby Marshall to spit real from his crib?
The Bear Who Slept Through Christmas (1973)
If you’re a bear with a name like “Ted E.”, chances are you’re going to hear some stuff about kids and about Christmas.
Eventually, you’re bound to wonder what all the hullabaloo is about. Right?
And that’s what happens here with Theodore Edward Bear who decides to go out in the world to find out all about the yuletide while his brethren are preparing to hibernate for the winter.
So what happens?
Well, it’s tough to overcome your nature sometimes.
Yes, Virginia, There Is a Santa Claus (1974)
This is a cartoon retelling of one of the most famous Christmas stories of all-time …
Specifically, a little girl named Virginia writes a letter to The Sun asking if there is, indeed, a Santa Claus after much debate with her school-age friends.
And the editor responds, in print.
That happened way back in 1897, but the ABC special puts a more contemporary spin on the thing.
Maybe best of all, this one is animated by Bill Melendez, who rose to fame with the Peanuts specials that wiggled their way into our lives beginning in the 1960s.
The Tiny Tree (1975)
Beyond the obvious religious meanings and the secular icons of the season, Christmas is all about goodwill, miracles, and redemption.
The Tiny Tree gives us a bit of all those.
When an accident leaves a young girl wheelchair-bound at Christmas time, forest animals gather in the space outside her window to decorate a small tree and warm her holidays.
Maybe not a miracle, but at least hallucinogenic … how 70s is that?
Frosty’s Winter Wonderland (1976)
Frosty was the rare Rankin/Bass character who wasn’t made of clay and who didn’t move like an AT-AT.
Frankly, that rendered him not quite as magical as, say Yukon Cornelius … but it makes him perfect for our list here.
Frosty’s Winter Wonderland is a sequel to the 1969 classic, Frosty the Snowman. The follow-up has ice dude coming back to the children, as he had promised, on the first snow of the new season.
Why the seven-year gap is anyone’s guess, but wouldn’t you think those original kids wouldn’t be so kid-like by then?
And it was enough time for Jimmy Durante to suffer an incapacitating stroke, so Andy Griffith took over as narrator.
The plot? Jack Frost fixates on Frosty’s silk scarf because he wants the kids to love him. Mayhem and hilarity ensue, as you might expect.
A Flintstone Christmas (1977)
If you have a list of “best cartoons” of any sort and you have a choice that includes the Flintstones … well, you have to make that choice.
And so, for this list, we get A Flintstone Christmas for our 1977 entry.
In this one, Fred ends up playing Santa Claus for the kids at the Bedrock Orphanage when Mr. Slate basically tells him he has to. You know, you do what you have to do to keep the paychecks rolling in sometimes.
And then, when Santa comes down with a cold and begs off delivering presents, the whole world almost learns what a weenie the fat man really is.
But then … yeah, Fred to the rescue!
The Pink Panther in: A Pink Christmas (1978)
Was there any more “seventies” cartoon character from the 1970s than the Pink Panther?
I don’t know, man … dude was pink and laid back and sorta shifty … and a freaking pink panther, for crying out loud.
And then he even got the the Peter Sellers treatment, complete with a 70s-ish mustache.
Anyhow, this cool cat spends most of this 1978 special in sort of a sorry state — homeless and scrapping for food.
It’s a pretty sad journey, but he’s rewarded with some Christmas cheer from Santa after he helps out a dog who’s also down on his luck.
Who knew the Pink Panther could deliver a sort of redemption story?
Casper’s First Christmas (1979)
One of the absolute Christmas classics for kids of the 1970s and 1980s was Yogi’s First Christmas … but that thing was released in 1980 and doesn’t technically qualify for this list.
It’s freaking sweet, though, as it brings together all of the great animal-type Hanna-Barbera characters at a cozy ski lodge and throws in some skating, some romance, some mystery.
Thing is, it wasn’t actually Yogi’s first Christmas, as the lovable/irascible bear celebrated the yuletide in 1979 as part of Casper’s First Christmas.
That’s right … Casper the Friendly Ghost and his dead-pal Hairy Scarey end up spending Christmas with Yogi and Boo-Boo and Huckleberry Hound and all the rest in a house set for demolition.
It’s a fun story and a fun time for cartoon lovers, but if something feels off in this pairing, your Spidey senses are serving you well.
This is a crossover between Harvey Entertainment (Casper) and Hanna-Barbera … the first and only time that happened.