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First, let’s set the record straight: We love that famous holiday poem, “A Visit from St. Nicholas” as much as the next internet services provider, but, um, that part about there being “not a creature stirring, not even a mouse” on Christmas Eve, well, them’s fighting words, cuz Mickey and Co. are most definitely in the house this holiday season thanks to Disney’s recently unwrapped streaming service, Disney+.
Amid the thousands of movies, TV series, and specials spanning Disney’s nearly 100-year history is a treasure trove of holiday classics—nostalgic and new, live-action and animated, fiction and non-; hallowed, heartwarming, and hilarious; for the old, young, and everyone in-between. And therein lies the secret of a family gathering that will truly live up to that term—good times, loved ones, fond memories, and timeless tales told beautifully, all under the twinkling of the Christmas tree.
So heat up the cocoa, pop the popcorn, and watch the magic happen. On Donald and Goofy and Mickey and Minnie! Dumbo and Simba and Pluto and Flicka! Huey, Dewey, and Louie! Ariel, Merida, Moana, and Anna!...and too many others to name.
If not the first, certainly the greatest film to ever star a department store, this Macy’s-set classic features an embarrassment of riches: the unforgettable Maureen O’Hara, a nine-year-old Natalie Wood in her first major role, and Edmund Gwenn, who embodied a version of Santa that became the definitive take for generations upon generations (and won a Best Actor Oscar in the process).
Some festive factoids: Disney World is adorned with1,300 Christmas trees during holiday season. The Magic Kingdom features a Mickey made of 30,000 poinsettias. 20,000 pounds of fake snow are dumped on Sleeping Beauty’s castle, while Disneyland’s Christmas tree is 60 feet tall, featuring 2,000 ornaments, 812 bows and 1.4 miles of ribbon. Intrigued? Then check out this special wherein Whoopi Goldberg reveals the manpower and materials behind said magic.
In this beautiful, technically amazing take on Dickens’ classic, Michael Caine devours the screen, and our hearts, as Ebenezer Scrooge with some help from Kermit, Waldorf, The Great Gonzo, Miss Piggy, Fozzie, and the gang, who bring some unexpected, if off-kilter beauty to the performance of a handful of timeless carols.
Ed Asner’s a convicted counterfeiter whose big white beard enables his holiday-time escape from the slammer. When he tries conning two kids into helping him secure his ill-gotten gains in a department store, he finds himself caring for them instead—you know, just like Santa would. (Bonus treat: Costar Fred Gwynne, aka Herman Munster!)
If your answer to the question “How much Tim Allen is too much Tim Allen?” is “No such thing,” then this trilogy’s for you. In The Santa Clause (1994) Tim’s Scott Calvin mistakenly puts Santa out of action and find himself impersonating—and eventually becoming—him; but what’s the fun in being Father Christmas without a Mrs. Clause? Enter The Santa Clause 2 (2002). Finally, The Santa Clause 3: The Escape Clause (2006) finds Scott/Santa with a family to raise and a nemesis to keep at bay: the diabolical Jack Frost (Martin Short).
If all that Santa Clause-ing didn’t sate your appetite for Home Improvement alumni, try this on: Jonathan Taylor Thomas (remember Randy? It’s Randy!) plays a college kid who finds he (maybe) can’t go home again when he’s stranded in the desert enroute to his family for holiday break.
It doesn’t get any more classic than this anthology featuring three yuletide tales. “Donald Duck Stuck on Christmas” finds Don, Scrooge McDuck, and the triplets in a tale inspired by William Dean Howells’ short story Christmas Every Day, but which will scream Groundhog Day to the young’uns. In “A Very Goofy Christmas,” the beloved canine (who was Walt’s favorite creation, by the way) and his son, Max, go to great, and greatly ridiculous, lengths to prove to the other that Santa is real. And, well, then there’s “Mickey and Minnie’s Gift of the Magi.” Enough said.
The ostensible main plot of this Season 11 gem finds focus group-er Lisa unwittingly responsible for the creation of a malign new toy, but the magic really comes in the form of guest star Gary Coleman as a forlorn security guard finds love and acceptance on Christmas Day with the gang at Evergreen Terrace, in the process coining a modern-day holiday greeting all his own: “What you talking ‘bout, everyone!”
After ruining his family’s Christmas, everybody’s favorite spoiled brat makes a guilt-ridden wish that he’d never been born…and finds it come true. When he gets a look at that alternate reality, though, he ruefully realizes it’s a wonderful life after all. The real spike in this egg nog, however, is its crack supporting cast, which includes Eugene Levy, Martin Mull, Lesley Ann Warren, and Kathleen Freeman.
Wunderkind actor and recording artist Christina Milian (who, you may recall, performed "Call Me, Beep Me!," the theme song of the Disney series Kim Possible) plays an unlucky-in-love woman who, with the help of a snowglobe from an admirer, dreams of a world where the Christmas spirit reigns all year round.
Call this pick Christmas-adjacent because, as it happens, Scrooge McDuck has had a surprisingly complex and interesting history (seriously; check Wikipedia) featuring considerable character development which, over time, has made him so much more than an Ebenezer knock-off. Anywho, this series takes him and his three grandnephews on a bunch of adventures which, okay, yeah, tend to involve him trying to find treasure or preventing bad guys from getting at his riches.
Not the most original premise, to be sure—a harried mom learns from an angel that Christmas isn’t about presents and money and stuff but the people she loves—but when said mom is played by Mary Steenburgen and said angel by the immortal (though recently deceased) Harry Dean Stanton, well, those are gifts we’re happy to receive any day of the year.
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