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Wednesday, December 23, 2020

Disney and Christmas Movies: A Strangely Disappointing History

 by Ray Keating



December 23, 2020


It’s Christmas time, and in the Keating household, that means watching an assortment of classic Christmas movies. Indeed, the holiday movies viewing season runs from Thanksgiving to New Year’s. And given the pandemic, we’re watching more movies than usual.


Now, I know this will stir some controversy, but it struck me that the Walt Disney Company – arguably the king of family entertainment for almost a century – has failed to produce a true Christmas classic film. That’s a striking oddity in Hollywood history. In fact, in terms of having any true Christmas classics in their movie library, Disney has been saved by acquisition.

I can hear the outrage streaming forth from fans of The Santa Clause movies starring Tim Allen. Do I enjoy these three movies – The Santa Clause (1994), The Santa Clause 2 (2002), and The Santa Clause 3: The Escape Clause (2006)? Sure, they’re fine. And even though I’m a fan of Tim Allen’s, I simply cannot muster any more than just that, i.e., “they’re fine.” But a Christmas movie classic has to be more. And even if the movie as whole might be something less than stellar, there must be a memorable performance (preferably more than just one), key scenes and lines that last, or a strong connection to the reason for the season. I know many people will differ, but The Santa Clause movies just come up short.


After these movies, I simply don’t see anything else that approaches the lofty category of being a Christmas classic movie that Disney itself produced.


However, among its acquisitions during the 21st century, Disney managed to move at least two true Christmas classics into its library. 


First, when Disney purchased the Muppets in 2004, it acquired The Muppet Christmas Carol (1992). Interestingly, Disney was involved in the production and distribution of The Muppet Christmas Carol as well. And yes, this is a classic, as the Christmas season wouldn’t be the same without being guided through the story of Ebenezer Scrooge (played by Michael Caine) by Gonzo as Charles Dickens and his ever-amusing sidekick Rizzo the Rat. There are an assortment of additional treats along the way, including Statler and Waldorf as Jacob and Robert Marley, Kermit as Bob Crachit, a group of funny rats who work as bookkeepers with Bob, Miss Piggy being very Miss Piggy as Emily Cratchit, Fozzie Bear as Fozziwig, and a brief appearance by Sam Eagle as Scrooge’s boyhood schoolmaster. Yes, I would say that The Muppet Christmas Carol ranks as my top Muppets movie.


Second, with the Fox acquisition, Disney picked up one of the all-time top Christmas movies – Miracle on 34th Street (1947) starring Edmund Gwenn, Maureen O’ Hara, Natalie Wood and John Payne. Here’s the heartwarming tale of Kris Kringle (Gwenn) trying to convince the skeptical Doris Walker (O’Hara) and her daughter Susan (Wood), as well as the State of New York in court, that he is the real Santa Claus. This is a not-to-be-missed film at Christmas time.

For good measure, Disney also acquired Die Hard (1988) in the Fox deal, and therefore, injected itself into the long debated question: Is Die Hard a Christmas movie? I say that Die Hard is a non-Christmas Christmas movie. Dare I say that Christmas just wouldn’t be the same without Hans Gruber falling from Nakatomi Plaza?

Finally, someone out there no doubt is going to point out that Disney also acquired Home Alone, and then argue that this is a classic. My response? No. I’ve never understood the appeal of Home Alone on any level, and I certainly wouldn’t spoil my Christmas classic list by including this movie with baffling appeal.


But to avoid leaving off on a negative note this time of year, I wish you all a blessed and Merry Christmas!




Ray Keating is the editor, publisher and economist for DisneyBizJournal.com, and author of the Pastor Stephen Grant novels and assorted nonfiction books. He can be contacted at raykeating@keatingreports.com.


The views expressed here are his own – after all, no one else should be held responsible for this stuff, right?


Keating’s new book Vatican Shadows: A Pastor Stephen Grant Novel is the 13th thriller/mystery in the Pastor Stephen Grant series. Get the paperback or Kindle edition at Amazon, or signed books at www.raykeatingonline.com


You also can order his book Behind Enemy Lines: Conservative Communiques from Left-Wing New York  from Amazon or signed books  at RayKeatingOnline.com. His other recent nonfiction book is Free Trade Rocks! 10 Points on International Trade Everyone Should Know


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