Friday, October 30, 2009

The Night Before Christmas

I’m a sucker for Christmas. It’s my favorite holiday of them all. Halloween is a close second, but Christmas is my favorite. So it shouldn’t be a surprise that The Night Before Christmas was a great delight to me.

This is an unofficial sequel to Santa’s Workshop, the earlier Silly Symphony that featured Santa and the elves getting ready for Christmas night. Here, we get to see the fruits of that labor, as Santa delivers the toys to the boys and girls who have been waiting for them all year long.



This is presented as an interpretation of the famous poem by the same name, but the poem is used as a framing device more than anything. The words of the poem are sung at the beginning, until Santa arrives at the house. From that point until near the end of the short, the action is all about Santa delivering the toys, which does not follow the poem.

The Santa presented here is the same one that was in Santa’s Workshop, with a red bulbous nose and overstated girth. You might recall that I did not enjoy that style then, and I still don’t. But in this short, it seems to fit better, because Santa is the magical person in an ordinary world, which makes it seem more realistic, if that makes sense.



The fun part of this is looking at how people were celebrating Christmas in 1933, versus how things are done today. I had forgotten about the fact that many people, per the German tradition, did not set up their tree until Christmas Eve, to reveal it to the children the next morning. In the short, Santa brings the tree and the toys help him set it up.

We get to see a parade of the toys, which is a familiar Disney theme. We saw in Santa’s Workshop, in an earlier Silly Symphony, Midnight in a Toy Shop, and it pops up again later in things like Babes in Toyland and in the parks with the Christmas parade. Here, we even get a familiar face in the parade.



This Mickey Mouse toy is a cute addition, because it really was a popular toy at the time. I have one that was my grandfather’s, and have copies that were made later as a “retro” toy that my son played with. It’s a nice little Easter egg for this short.



Of course, the Christmas spirit is front and center in this. It really warms my heart to see the toys gathered around the tree, and how they dive for cover when the kids come down the stairs. It’s like an early version of Toy Story. Funny how these early shorts seem to influence later films again and again. I don’t think that’s a coincidence.



The final scenes where Junior gets a puppy and Santa leaves the house just add to the overall fun of the short. This is one that tugs at the heart strings, and leaves you in the mood to hang some twinkling lights. If you’re like me, the malls already have them up, so start getting in the spirit!

All images copyright Disney. All rights reserved.


2 comments:

  1. A delightful little Christmas cartoon, that I'd be hard pushed to view objectively since it's the same old cartoon I've seen many times since I was really, really little! What's nice about this 'sequel' is that it fits so nicely onto the end of "Santa's Workshop". There we left Santa riding into the night sky and here we start with him landing to make a delivery.

    It's a relatively little known fact that the version on the More Silly Symphonies DVD is from an edited print. This was a mistake and Disney did offer a disc replacement program so that people could obtain the original version as advertised (I wish I'd gotten around to replacing it myself). Even the versions on YouTube which are labeled "uncut" and "uncensored" actually aren't. I've never seen the whole thing, but I understand that the parading toy scene was originally longer and contained more ethnic stereotype toys (notice how the music stops and starts suddenly in the cut from the parade to the tree).

    ReplyDelete
  2. In this case, I think the similarities to a later film are quite possibly a coincidence. The idea of toys that came to life had been used at least (and probably a lot more often) when Toy Story was made, once in this short and once in a children's picture book called "Cordaroy" about sentint, animate, talking Teddy Bears. I think there was also at least one animated movie about live teddy bears at one point, and a Christmas special about toys trying to get themselves delivered for Christmas (though I can't remember its name) and, of course, the misfit toys from the Island of Misfit Toys in the stop-motion animated "Rudolph the Red-Nosed Riendeer" special.

    ReplyDelete