This holiday season, there’s no shortage of Christmas tales, old and new, on air for viewing. In my house, old-school renditions of Rudolph and Frosty the Snowman have been wearing out our DVD player. The night before Thanksgiving, the season officially began. Merry Christmas Madagascar and Kung Fu Panda took the holiday milieu out of the suburbs and off to other continents. Later that week, on the hunt for more fodder to fuel our little one’s sugar plum dreams, we ordered Bob the Builder’s Christmas On Demand. And this, I can highly recommend. Bob has a twin brother? And he lives on the North Pole? And the real Elton John performs at the town Christmas celebration? What’s not to love?
My son viewed these new shows in sprinklings, while he took to the oldies as his staples. As my husband and I tend to feel a little retro during this season, we approved. But on our first viewing of this season, we noticed something that didn’t really stick with either of us from our own Christmas-special-filled-childhoods. In Rudolph, Santa isn’t so nice! In fact, we might argue that he’s a bit naughty! Between reindeer who exclude others who are different, an abominable snowman who is outright violent and a merry old man that tells Rudolph he better get rid of that red nose if he ever wants to guide his sleigh, this “classic” version of Christmas fare raised more than a few questions for us. Every few minutes, my son turned to his ruffled parents to say, “that’s not very nice,” or, “why aren’t they letting him play?” In contrast to Bob the Builder, this throw-back raised many more moral dilemmas than we were prepared to address on a cold winter’s night.
Have our new shows become too tame? Is a little fear and perhaps a bit of disillusionment part of the complex Christmas dance? Can Rudolph become a hero who goes down in history without overcoming adversity?
At a recent holiday party, we heard about a new twist on the classic tale of Santa and his Elves, that, admittedly, we missed the first year it aired. But this weekend, cozied up in front of our computer, we watched the latest entry into the holiday special space – and we think it manages to crack the code that so often eludes marketers and creatives – making an old idea fresh without losing its essence. Not surprisingly, John Lassiter of Toy Story fame brought Prep and Landing to ABC, carefully balancing kid-captivating humor with sugar plums for their parents. Prep and Landing looks at the same old Santa story, but through the lens of an elite group of advance elves – charged with making sure “no creatures are stirring” (with the help of a high-tech tot scanner) and that the stockings are hung with a flourish from the fireplace. We won’t give away the ending, but needless to say, the story seamlessly integrates Inspector Gadget-style spy gear with a timeless tale about an elf who tempts the “naughty list.” Ultimately, sweet, sleeping kids catalyze a change of mind in this disheartened elf and all settle down to a silent night.
What’s your favorite holiday reinvention?