Old Christmas Cartoons are Still Awesome (Except for the Racism)
Long before TBS cornered the market on Christmas specials with an annual 24 hour loop of A Christmas Story, various production houses used to try to outdo each others Christmas specials each year. Of course not every production was a work of art (see Christmas Comes to Pac-land or KISS Saves Santa for proof). But more often than not, directors and animators got it right—especially in the first half of the 20th century.
The hand-drawn characters, art direction, and music of some of these classic cartoons remain unmatched even today. And best of all, these classics are able to tell their stories in less than ten minutes—a lesson in brevity that Peter Jackson could use.
So why don’t we see Santa’s Workshop or Santa’s Surprise among today’s holiday favorites? Well, for starters, the guys drawing delightful little children anxiously awaiting St. Nick, and toys that come to life…were racist as shit.
Santa’s Workshop (1932)
Besides stealing from the public domain to establish his entertainment company, Walt Disney famously detested African-Americans and probably wasn’t a big fan of Jews even if he wasn’t actually a Nazi. Regardless of whether Disney was just a product of his time, one thing’s for certain. No one who’s seen his Silly Symphony series will accuse the man of being a forward thinker.
Which is a shame, because Santa’s Workshop is an amazing feat of animation (especially considering this is 1932 we’re talking about here) and musical composition. In almost every way, this eighty year-old story of St. Nick and his elves preparing for tomorrow’s delivery stands up against even the most recent Christmas specials. It’s bound to fill you with Christmas cheer. Unless you’re part of the 13% of the country that’s black, of course.
Say what you will about Disney’s, ahem, “caricatures,” but that racist thief sure could pen one hell of a catchy tune.
The Night Before Christmas (1933)
In Disney’s 1933 follow-up to Santa’s Workshop, we get to see Santa deliver all the presents from the first short film to some apparently really, really, poor white kids who sleep eight to a bed.
Again, toys come to life and infectious music ensues…Also, it turns out toy soldiers are fantastic decorators…
Once the children wake up, the toys go still, Santa jets off and the children search for Santa in the most likely spots.
Santa’s Surprise (1947)
Just so you don’t think we’re singling out Disney, we dug up the Famous Studios classic Santa’s Surprise. And while it can’t compete with Disney’s shorts in the art direction, music (it’s annoying to all but the worst children), or animation departments, Santa’s Surprise demonstrates just how big a step backwards is possible in fifteen years.
On the surface, a story about kids who want to give Santa a present should be the pinnacle of the Christmas Spirit. That’s like turning “The Gift of the Magi” up to eleven. After all, what could be more selfless than giving the ultimate gift-giver himself a present on Christmas day? This anti-greed tale begins with Santa circling the globe delivering presents.
Having successfully delivered presents, Santa, having worked one entire day, settles down for an epic Santa slumber.
Little does Santa know that children from all around the world followed him to the North Pole with the sole intention of giving him a gift.
The children of course think of the most wonderful Christmas gift imaginable—cleaning some shit around his house.
You know what? Fuck those kids, and fuck Santa’s Surprise. Is A Christmas Story on yet?