Inspired by Clement Moore's poem, 'Twas The Night before Christmas is the charming animated tale of Scrooge-like Albert Mouse who calls Christmas "a fraudulent myth" and because of his opinions letters to Santa written by the children of Junctionville are sent back unopened. The skeptical rodent must be brought to his senses "and let up a little on the wonder why." Joel Grey, Tammy Grimes, John McGiver and George Gobel are featured voices.
Title: Twas the Night Before Christmas
Release: December 8, 1974
Genre: Animated Christmas Special
MPAA Rating: G
Based On: Twas the Night Before Christmas by Clement Moore (poem)
Writer: Jerome Coopersmith
Director: Jules Bass & Arthur Rankin, Jr.
Produced By: Jules Bass & Arthur Rankin, Jr.
Distributed By: CBS Television
Run Time: 25 minutes
A Visit from St. Nicholas; more commonly known as Twas the Night Before Christmas, is one of the most famous poems ever written and is considered to be responsible for the main beliefs about Santa Claus that have continued on to this day. Originally published in 1823, there have been many interpretations and parodies of Clement Moore’s poem from stories to cartoons to even comic strips. It’s even been made into a few films and holiday specials like Rankin/ Bass’ 1974 loosely interpretive animated version.
I say “loosely interpretive” because while some of the dialogue is lifted directly from the poem, holiday specials run a minimum of 25 minutes and the poem just wasn’t long enough to cover the full time. So somebody got the brilliant idea of not only is a mouse “stirring” but he’s the main narrator! Voiced by the comedian George Gobel, Father Mouse’s story is what helped stretch the picture so long and it wouldn’t be Rankin/ Bass without a couple of songs and he sings one too, the often deleted song “Give Your Heart a Try” (the others are all sung by a chorus, the most notable is Christmas Chimes are Calling). Surprisingly, Gobel wasn’t credited as being the narrator, instead Joel Grey was and he doesn’t tell the story at all! His character Joshua Trundle is one of the most important people in the story; as he is supposed to be the narrator in the original poem, but he’s still secondary (he still sings one of my favorite songs, “Even a Miracle Needs a Hand.”
Rankin/ Bass’ most popular Christmas specials were those that are stop-motion animation featuring beautifully made puppets but I doubt even the kings of Christmas could have pulled off animating this story any other way than they did. While the animation isn’t as charming as something that Disney would have produced, it’s still able to provoke an acute case of nostalgia today.
Links: Poem Wikipedia, Christmas Special Wikipedia, Imdb.com, Original Poem