Author Jacqueline Detwiler
Like candy canes and family arguments, Christmas specials are unavoidable this time of year. Between the Home Alones and the ubiquitous yule log, you can’t flip between bowl games without hitting a half dozen of them. On the 30th anniversary of A Christmas Story, we compiled a few holiday movie facts—which, if nothing else, will serve as a good way to change the subject when your great aunt starts insulting your latest significant other.
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Now considered a timeless classic, A Charlie Brown Christmas Special was actually a rush job. Charles Schulz wrote the outline in a single day; it was animated and voiced in a matter of months. The lyrics to “Christmas Time Is Here,” the track that plays during the opening skating scene, were written by the movie’s producer, Lee Mendelson, in just 10 minutes.
In order to make 1980s Cleveland look like 1940s Hammond, Ind., set designers for A Christmas Story borrowed antique cars from a local auto club. The drivers were instructed to follow a specific route in circles until told to stop. Then each car was pressure washed and parked under Cleveland’s Terminal Tower to prevent damage from road salt.
“You’re a Mean One, Mr. Grinch,” the most famous song from the 1966 TV movie How the Grinch Stole Christmas!, was sung by Thurl Ravenscroft, the voice behind Kellogg’s Tony the Tiger (“They’re Grrrreat!”). Ravenscroft’s name was inadvertently left off the credits, however, so Dr. Seuss sent letters to major U.S. newspaper columnists to tell them who the singer was.
Frank Capra III, an assistant director of 1989’s National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation, is the grandson of Frank Capra, who directed It’s a Wonderful Life. Capra III included several homages to the classic in Christmas Vacation, including having Clark Griswold saw off the top of his newel post with a chainsaw. A loose newel post was a prominent feature in It’s a Wonderful Life.
The California Raisins ads were notably effective, but the wrinkly R&B ensemble didn’t reach pop icon status until they covered The Temptations’ “Rudolph the Red-nosed Reindeer” on the Emmy-winning A Claymation Christmas Celebration in 1987. “The Simpsons” spoofed the performance 16 years later, when the “California Prunes” sang “Oh Pruny Night.”