Freddie’s Top 10 List of Animal Appearances in Christmas Programming

Tis the season for all the Christmas Shows we all love and cherish. These days, with the move away from traditional TV/cable programming and the increase in streaming options, sometimes its hard to locate your favorite Holiday shows. It doesn’t mean we don’t still crave the familiar comfort of seeing Charlie Brown getting that football pulled away at the last moment, Ralphie in the pink bunny pajamas, or Santa asking the littlest reindeer to “Guide his sleigh tonight.”

Freddie loves Christmas so very much that he sent the #FreddieSez team in search of a Top 10 list of Christmas movies and TV specials that either star, or have special cameos, of animals. After hours of research, candy cane munching, drops to clear up “screen eye strain”, flipping through every streaming platform and traditional TV outlet we could find, we’re pretty happy with the list we’ve uncovered. Some of the choices may not be YOUR favorite, and some are hidden gems that you either won’t know or have long forgotten about. Regardless, this list of nostalgic Holiday characters will have you flipping to a Special, or two, on the screen of your choice. These are in no particular order, and we don’t have a real preference. It’s just all good fun for all ages.

#1 – Snoopy

Did you know that “A Charlie Brown Christmas” debuted on TV in 1965, and has played every Christmas since? In reality, who knows how many room or levels Snoopy’s doghouse really has, or how he can get the doghouse to fly? The magic of Snoopy’s appearance the peanuts comic strip as a WWI flying ace was so funny and heartwarming that a musical group called “The Royal Guardsmen” created a song about the beagles ongoing fight with the Red Baron, which was a chart topper in 1966. Another little known fact is that “A Charlie Brown Christmas was nearly shelved and not aired. The executives at CBS were not impressed with he finished product. It lacked a “laugh track” (so people would have to intuitively figure out what was funny on their own), and it was very religious, with the reading of Bible verses as one of the biggest scenes. Eventually, cooler heads, and a sponsorship from Coca-Cola, the network took a chance on the TV special. Thank goodness, we would have never experienced the great soundtrack that Vince Guaraldi gave us, or found out that Snoopy’s dog house was the 1st place winner in the neighborhood Decoration and Lighting Contest. Another little remembered fact is that Snoopy played the guitar, while Schroeder and Pig Pen rounded out the band for the children’s Christmas show.  You can find “A Charlie Brown Christmas” on AppleTV.

#2 – Max the Dog from “How the Grinch Stole Christmas”

Is the Grinch really about a green creature that hates Christmas so much that he attempts to rob the town of Whoville of all signs of the holiday? Or is the cartoon really about a man coming to grips with how much he really loves his dog? Max is an undetermined breed of dog, and in the true spirit of what makes a dog, he was true and loyal to his owner, regardless how horribly the Grinch treated him. Max never lost the smile on his face, or the love in his eyes for the Grinch. The scenes of Max pulling the Grinch down the mountain, and eventually ending up driving the sled, directing him to help in the robbery and dismantlement of the Who’s Christmas (included the Who Feast), and being with the Grinch as he discovered that Christmas wasn’t about possessions or gifts but was really about the spirit of togetherness, family, and love. In the end, the Grinch found that his heart was filled with the magic of Christmas and he opened his three sizes too small heart to his loving canine companion.

Max has also appeared in the Grinch movie, where the Grinch actually apologizes to him for the horrible treatment over the years, a more modern animation adaptation of the Seuss story in 2018, and even his own TV special. Thank goodness for Max the Dog, the comic relief he provided, and his accurate portrayal of canine loyalty and love.  You can find the original “How the Grinch Stole Christmas” on TBS, TNT, or Peacock. The live action version is on MAX or Hulu, and the 2018 animated version is on Prime Video.

#3 – Lady and the Tramp

We know… Lady and the Tramp is not on your Christmas watch list. However, Lady was a Christmas gift, and the last scene of the movie is the Tramp, with Lady and their children, at their home. So, the entire story was framed by a Christmas beginning and ending. A little known fact is that Walt Disney gave his wife, Lily, a chow puppy for a Christmas gift, wrapped in a hat box. The opening scene with Lady being presented as a gift to from Jim Dear to Darling, is an animated recreation of that Disney gift to his wife. The 1955 Disney movie ends with Tramp finally finding a forever home and making a family with Lady.  If you haven’t watched Lady and the Tramp in years, or ever, Christmas is a great time to catch up on Lady, the Tramp, the Siamese Cats, the dog pack of Trusty, Jock Peg, Bull, Dachsie, and the rest of the animals that make this film an animated treasure. Lady and the Tramp can be found on Disney Plus.

#4 – Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer

There are so many animals in the 1964 “stop motion” animated version of Rudolph’s story that we could spend pages recognizing them. From the reindeer themselves, the abominable snowman, and woodland creatures in the feature, the landscape is jam packed with wonderful animal characters. However, we really want to focus on two groups who get the least attention, Yukon Cornelius sled dog team, and the toys animals on the Island of Misfit Toys. Although they go mostly unnoticed by most, if you focus on the Yukon’s sled, you will see that here are a variety of different sized dogs leading the charge into the winter ice and snow. There appears to be six different dogs, of various colors and breeds. None of these dogs looks to be fit or able to pull the large man and his belongings across the  frozen tundra, but they do a fine job.  The other characters we wanted to feature were the animals on the Island of Misfit Toys. If you remember, the island was a refuge for toys that had stopped being played with, has been broken, or forgotten. Santa eventually resuces all the toys and takes them to homes were boys and girl will love and appreciate them again. King Moonracer was a was a caring and benevolent ruler over this Kingdom. He was a stuff Lion who looked after all citizens of the island. There was also an ostrich with a cowboy rider and the Spotted Elephant who was unloved because of his spots, a bear with feathers, and a bird who swims but doesn’t fly. It is touching and sad that they all were cast to this isolated place, but built a common bond that was forged from their being “different.” If you haven’t watched Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer in a few years, we highly suggest watching it again, and very closely for these hidden animal gems. Sadly, Rudolph is not showing on any of he major streaming platforms or networks. You can find it on Freeform, or a number of Video on Demand Platforms where it is for rent or purchase.

#5 – Topper the Penguin

The story of Kris Kringle is told in the 1970 classic “Santa Claus is coming to Town.”  Santa is voiced by the legendary Mickey Rooney, and the narrator is the incredible Fred Astaire. This is an origin story for Santa, so its filled with lot of name brand characters, and some new memorable ones like the Heat and Snow Misers, Burgermeister Meisterburger the scary villain, Santa’s elves, and a show stealing penguin named “Topper”, who St. Nick found when he was looking for the North Pole. The pair ends up in Sombertown, where they quickly discover how the Burgermeister had taken the Christmas rituals away from the children of the town. As Kris attempts to restore some fun and joy to the kids of Sombertown with Topper helping as his sidekick. Topper is captured and help captive as leverage to draw out Kringle. You’ll have to watch the rest to see how it all turns out. Great music, fun characters, even song and dance numbers with the Heat and Snow Misers.  Sadly, “Santa Claus is Coming to Town” aired on ABC on 12/8, but you can catch it again at 8pm on 12/20. You can also buy or rent on most Video on Demand outlets.

#6 – Shaun the Sheep

The Aardman Studios brought back claymotion to tell the stories of Shaun the Sheep. With the popularity of Shaun and his barnyard buddies, the studio created the popular “The Flight Before Christmas.” This animated TV special has plenty of sheep action as Christmas at the farm turns from joy to dismay. The plot surrounds attempting to get bigger Christmas Stocking for Shaun and friends, but in that chaotic attempt to raid the Farmhouse, something goes wrong and Shaun’s younger cousing, Timmy the lamb, goes missing. Shaun the Sheep is a very popular series that has spawned quite a few specials, each one following the same plot of “the normal becoming a disaster” due to unfortunate, but avoid able events. The use of claymotion allows for wild looking action scenes between the characters. Its a fun filled romp, full of unexpected laughs. It will be hard for you not to love Shaun the Sheep and his cohorts. Netflix subscribers can watch “Sean the Sheep: The Flight Before Christmas” all through December.

 #7 –  Bo the Donkey

In a story that is a retelling of the birth of Christ through the eyes of a donkey who is at the nativity, 2017’s “The Star” is full of action, as Bo the Donkey and his buddy, a dove named Dave, attempt to escape from Mary in order to join a caravan rumored to soon be assembled by three wise men. There are many animal stars in this animated film, and a cast of voice talent you will recognize. Steven Yeun, who starred in the first few seasons of the Walking Dead, voices Bo. The movie has nonstop fun and adventure, as there are evil hunting dogs, Bo is kidnapped, and rescued by friends. Eventually Bo joins the Royal Caravan he was so desperately looking for. Bo, Dave, and a few friends they meet a. long the way, follow the North Star to the village of Bethlehem where they witness the nativity. Amazon Prime and Netflix subscribers can watch The Star throughout December.

#8 – Fluffy the Cat & a Random Squirrel

Those of you who have seen these two in action know exactly what movie these characters are seen in. In an overcrowded house, full of ungrateful and odd family members, Clark Griswold struggles with decorations, angry neighbors, a weird cousin, and the fact that he did not receive his yearly Christmas bonus in the 1989’s “National Lampoons Christmas Vacation.” While helping senile old Aunt Bethany unpack, the Griswold clan discovers that Fluffy has accidentally been wrapped as a present. We won’t reveal what happens, but it is an electric scene!! In fact, Fluffy almost didn’t make it to the big screen because network executives thought her performance was too graphic and might turn views off. Instead, her appearance turns out to be one of the most hilarious scenes in the movie. In addition, the traditional Griswold Christmas tree holds a secret that unfolds itself as the family is putting up the tree and decorating. An unnamed squirrel apparently had taken up residence in the tree prior to it being cut down and brought into the house. The battle between Clark and the squirrel is epic and helps to make watching Christmas Vacation a family tradition in many homes during the Holidays. You can find Christmas Vacation. The movie is easy to find this year, as you can watch on MAX, TBS, TNT, Hulu, and rent or buy on most Video on Demand sites.

#9 – The Bumpus Dogs

Even though the Bumpus Dogs only make two brief cameos in the movie, their presences is always hanging over the Parker home. Of course, you can find the Bumpas Hounds in the 1983 classic and family favorite Holiday movie, “A Christmas Story.” From the infamous Pink Bunny on the staircase, to the tongue on the flagpole, to Randy beating up a bully, through Ralphie and “Shooting His Eye Out”, the action and fun of this movie are non-stop. The Bumpus Dogs only mess with Ralphie’s Dad,  and when they do bother him, they are set to destroy his will. Even though they are simply a brief comic add on, these dogs set up the films final scene with great flair and damage. If you haven’t watched “A Christmas Story,” you can find it all December, and for a straight 24 hours on Christmas Day, on TBS and TNT. It is also on MAX this year. You can rent or own from Video on Demand sites.

#10 – Gizmo & Stripe

People forget that 1984’s Gremlins is a Christmas movie. The mogwai was a last minute Christmas present discovered at the last minute by Billy’s Dad in an odd Curiosities Shop in China Town. The strange animal comes with a list of seemingly easy to follow warnings. Do not feed after midnight, do not get wet, and do not expose to light. After naming the pet, Gizmo, the family soon discovers he is very smart, and very mischievous.  As the three rules are broken, one after the other, Gizmo appears to muliply into different, but evil, versions of himself. The leader of the Gizmo clones is the most radical and angry one of all. Due to the white patch of hair on top of his head, the family calls this one “Stripe.” Once loose in the city, the gremlins begin to cause mass destruction. This movie is an oldie but still a goodie, and is a fun romp with lots of edge of your seat action. Gizmo is as adorable as Spike is frightening. You can rediscover the fun of Gremlins on MAX, as well as purchase or rent from various Video on Demand sites.

We advise that all readers schedule some Holiday family time and dial up this wonderful, classic, and fun Christmas fare. There is something on this list for all ages and tastes. We hope you find a show or two that you try and enjoy.

That’s this weeks edition of FreddieSez. As we edge closer to Christmas, Freddie wanted to remind everyone about our donation drive “Freddie’s Christmas Wish.” Our Vista site is collecting blankets,  toys, and treats for shelter and rescue pets who will be in cages and alone on Christmas. To find out more about “Freddie’s Christmas Wish” and how you can participate, check on our social media sites and at our web home.  Won’t you help?

Till we meet again next week, with only days to go until Christmas, our FreddieSez team wishes you a safe, fun, prosperous, and pet friendly week. “A pet is not a gift, it’s a 10 to 12 year commitment, it’s a life. Think before your impluse buy the gift of a pet. If you do decide to add a pet to your family, please consider to ADOPT not SHOP!” #FreddieSez