The minute the Christmas lights are twinkling and the stores are filled with toys, parents and children start perusing the TV Guide for Christmas specials.
Though some holiday television specials come and go as quickly as our children grow, others have stood the test of time and remained Christmas favorites year after year. What has made “Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer” and “Frosty the Snowman” stand out in a crowd sprinkled with Charlie Brown, Mickey and the Grinch?
According to IMDB.com, “Frosty the Snowman” and “Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer” started enticing children during the 1960s, with Rudolph appearing in 1964 and Frosty in 1969.
While the original “Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer” was produced with puppets through a Japanese animation company, “Frosty the Snowman” is animated in the traditional cartoon fashion. Still airing on major television networks between Thanksgiving and Christmas, both Christmas specials aired on television first, though they can be purchased on DVD today.
There has been much debate over the years about why these holiday specials have continued to entertain America’s youth during the Christmas season. “Olive the Other Reindeer” fell flat after a few years, but “A Christmas Story” is still going strong.
We still watch “Miracle on 34th Street,” but rarely do people stalk the TV Guide for “The Year Without a Santa Claus.” What’s the big deal about these Christmas specials?
The Generation Effect: First, a lesson can be learned about the staying power of Rudolph and Frosty by looking at toy companies. Within the past 5 years, there has been a rerelease of toys based on the classics from the 1970s and 1980s, including “Strawberry Shortcake,” “He-Man,” “Fraggle Rock” and “My Little Pony.” Parents who grew up with these toys are suddenly interested in sharing them with their own children.
The Character Effect: Not all television shows watched in youth have become Christmas classics. There’s more required than just the memory factor. In addition to helping parents recall fond memories of their youth that they want to share with their own children, Rudolph and Frosty are likeable characters who have become popular in their own right. There are books, stuffed animals and even songs about these characters, which have helped them transcend their on-screen images and take on a life of their own. No one knows any more what came first — the song or the movie. As a result, both are classics.
The Meaning Effect: Not only are the characters popular, but the messages that these Christmas TV specials promote are lacking in much of today’s media. Finding a place to fit in, because there is one for everyone, is part of the message shared by Rudolph. Valuing friendship, caring and kindness is one of the primary focuses of Frosty.
From their lovable and remarkable characters to the messages they share with children and parents alike, Frosty and Rudolph are sure to continue to be Christmas TV classics long after their original audiences have stopped watching.
By Kelly Herdrich, Contributing writer