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5 Overlooked Animated Films to Watch This Christmas

Everyone loves a good Christmas film. From old classics like Frosty the Snowman (1969) and Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer (1964) to more recent and innovative titles like Klaus (2019), holiday animation has never been in short supply. With so many great films available, it is no surprise that some stories have slipped under the radar, owing their obscurity to competition, old age, and the tendency of viewers to watch the same favorites over and over again. So, to give you the best holiday experience possible, we have created a list of films that go unnoticed by most viewers at Christmas. All of these films (save one, debatably) are child-friendly and short, with runtimes that rarely exceed an hour so you have plenty of time to wrap gifts, build snowmen, and safely celebrate the season.

We made our list and checked it twice. In no particular order, here are five overlooked animated films to watch this Christmas:


The Bear (1998)

This one is a hidden gem.

Directed by Hilary Audus and based on a Raymond Briggs book of the same name, The Bear tends to play second fiddle to its sister film, The Snowman, which became a British classic after it first aired in 1982. Released 16 years later, The Bear has a plot structure akin to that of The Snowman, following the tender but fleeting friendship between a young girl and a polar bear as the two meet, travel through London, and encounter several fantastical creatures before parting ways at dawn. Despite this storytelling overlap, however, The Bear still manages to establish its own, unique place in Briggs’s world. Welsh singer Charlotte Church lends her beautiful voice to the soundtrack, and Audus’s dreamlike portrayal of the Ursa Major constellation will awe viewers as much in 2020 as it did in 1998.


Beauty and the Beast: The Enchanted Christmas (1997)

Most direct-to-video releases are forgettable, but this film is an exception. A followup to Disney’s beloved classic, Beauty and the Beast (1991), Beauty and the Beast: The Enchanted Christmas rivals its predecessor in both content and form, telling a heartwarming story of faith and forgiveness that is enhanced by a rich, and visibly more modern, animation style. Disney clearly put effort into this film. The title track, “As Long As There’s Christmas,” will stir ears and warm hearts, but it is Belle’s emphatic love song, “Stories,” that really steals the show; it might, daresay, be the most undersung ballad in Disney lore.

Despite its merits, opinions will differ on this film. Beauty and the Beast: The Enchanted Christmas was met with negative reviews upon release, spurned by critics for its dark subject matter and allusions to domestic violence. It does not, however, appear to be any grimmer than the original. View at your own discretion.


The Snow Queen (1957)

For Studio Ghibli fans, The Snow Queen is a must-see.

Lev Atamanov is barely known in the West, but the Russian director’s 1957 animation, The Snow Queen, has been cited by Hayao Miyazaki as the film that inspired his own career. Watch this wintry classic, and there is no question why: Atamanov’s tale of a young girl questing to save her friend from a wicked witch, the titular Snow Queen, places the same emphasis on nature and female empowerment that has so strongly defined Miyazaki’s work. Viewers who love this film can enjoy similiar titles, as well. Russian animation might be one of the world’s best-kept secrets, experiencing an ill-timed, Cold War Renaissance that barred most of its films from Western distribution. The studio behind The Snow Queen, Soyutzmultfilm, can be likened to the Disney of Eurasia, and many of its titles are available on the web. Worthy picks include The Scarlet Flower (1952), The Golden Antelope (1954), and, in keeping with our Christmas theme, Ivan Ivanov-Vano’s operatic opus, The Snow Maiden (1952).


The Tangerine Bear (2000)

The Tangerine Bear is a simple story, but its pure-hearted message is perfect for viewers both young and old. Set in a department store, the film tells the story of Tangie, a stuffed bear whose smile was sewn upside down, leaving his expression in a perpetual frown. No one will buy Tangie because of this, and he eventually finds himself at Winkle’s Emporium: an antique shop full of other misfit toys. There, Tangie befriends Bird the cuckoo clock, Jack the jack-in-the box, and Lorelei the mermaid clock. Tangie's initial goal is to get sold, but as he begins to bond with his new friends and the kindly Mr. Winkle, he learns that his true home could be closer than imagined. Part-Max Lucado tale, part-Corduroy homage, The Tangerine Bear is a touching lesson in self-love and the beauty within every living thing, different or otherwise.


The Snowman (1982)

British viewers are widely familiar with The Snowman, but Americans should also make a point to see this film. Raymond Briggs's melancholy tale of friendship, loss, and the impermanence of life will draw plenty of tears, but its heavy theme is told with a softness appropriate for children. The soundtrack is also renowned; viewers who have not seen the film might already be familiar with its main theme, “Walking in the Air,” which has been covered by the likes of musical prodigy Jackie Evancho, rock band Iron Maiden, and Celtic Woman vocalist ChloĆ« Agnew. Directed by Dianne Jackson, who adapted the film from Briggs’s 1978 picture book, The Snowman is still played every year in the UK and consistently ranks as one of the best British Christmas features of all time.

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