Christmas Claymation Movies: The Forgotten Cinematic Universe

It goes without saying that watching classic claymation movies like Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer and A Year Without a Santa Claus during the holiday season is a tradition for countless families each year. However, many forget that most of these films are actually connected. These holiday favorites actually made up one of the early cinematic universes before the age of the MCU. 

This isn’t just some Internet fan theory or meme; these movies really did crossover, some of them more subtly than others. This is likely because many of these made-for-TV films were created by the same company: Rankin/Bass Animated Entertainment. Rankin/Bass must have just found it fun to have their various beloved characters interact with each other. It’s obviously not mandatory to watch them all together or in any order like many other shared movie universes, but it’s still neat to see how everything connects. 

If you still don’t believe me, let’s take a look at how each of the holiday flicks connect starting with some of the bigger names. Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer saved Christmas with his shiny schnoz back in 1964, and later crossed paths with other Christmas icons like Frosty the Snowman. After Frosty the Snowman originally aired, the titular snowman also starred alongside the heroic reindeer in Rudolph and Frosty’s Christmas in July.

It wasn’t just Rudolph and Frosty who met each other and connected these well-known stories. Mickey Rooney voiced the same incarnation of Santa Claus in Rudolph and Frosty’s Christmas in July, Santa Claus is Comin’ to Town, The Year Without a Santa Claus, and A Miser Brothers’ Christmas, technically connecting each of them. Rudolph and Frosty’s Christmas in July even features a flashback to Santa’s early years in Santa Claus is Comin’ to Town. It’s not Christmas without Santa, afterall. 

In The Year Without Santa Claus, we’re introduced to some especially colorful characters. Two of those characters are elves named Jingle and Jangle. Both Jingle and Jangle are also seen in the opening of Nestor, The Long-Eared Christmas Donkey. The Year Without a Santa Claus also introduced the world to the fan-favorite Heat Miser and Snow Miser, who went on to star in their own spin-off movie, A Miser Brothers’ Christmas, decades later. 

Of course, both Rudolph and Frosty starred in plenty of their own sequels like Rudolph’s Shiny New Year and Frosty’s Winter Wonderland. The latter introduced a couple of more entertaining characters like Frosty’s wife Crystal (who also appears in Rudolph and Frosty’s Christmas in July) and Jack Frost. Jack Frost serves as an antagonist in Frosty’s Winter Wonderland, but learns the errors of his ways, leading him to star as the titular protagonist in 1979’s Jack Frost. 

Quite a few of these animations showcase a similar theme of using one’s differences as their strengths. Many of the characters, like Rudolph, Hermey the Elf, Frosty, Happy the Baby New Year, Nestor, and others are considered to be misfits, but all use their uniqueness to save the day, whether it’s taking down the Bumble or ensuring Mary can give birth to Jesus. Common themes only help to further tie the movies together. 

Because of the clear connection between all these movies, it’s reasonable to assume that any other specials made by Rankin/Bass exist within the same world as well. There are some clear continuity errors, like the elf designs in many of the films not matching up with their origin in Santa Claus is Comin’ to Town, but they’re all still clearly connected. With all eyes on more modern takes on shared cinematic universes, it’s slightly upsetting that this especially enjoyable one is often not realized. 

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