Rankin / Bass Animated Entertainment has made some of the most enduring TV specials of all time featuring Rudolph, Frosty and more. Here̵
Rudolph the red-nosed reindeer
Rankin / Bass’s first animated Christmas special is also still the most famous, with regular annual TV broadcasts during the holiday season since it premiered on NBC in 1964 (making it the longest-running Christmas special in TV history). Inspired by the classic song and told in warm tones by Burl Ives, it tells the story of the outcast reindeer Rudolph, whose glowing red nose ultimately gives him a prominent spot for pulling Santa’s sleigh at Christmas.
Rudolph the red-nosed reindeer streams on IndieFlix ($ 4.99 per month or $ 49.99 per year after a seven-day free trial) and is available for digital purchase ($ 9.99) from Vudu.
The Little Drummer Boy
Based on the Christmas song of the same name, The Little Drummer Boy follows the tragic but hopeful story of the young drummer Aaron. He plays for his animal friends (a camel, a donkey and a lamb) and follows the magicians to Bethlehem to witness the birth of Jesus, where he plays his drum for the newborn savior.
The Little Drummer Boy is available for digital purchase ($ 9.99) from Vudu.
Frosty the snowman
After Rudolph the red-nosed reindeer, Frosty the Snowman is the most popular and enduring Rankin / Bass animated character, who got his start in this special expansion to the hit song. Legendary comedian and singer Jimmy Durante gave his last performance telling the story of the snowman magically coming to life and then being helped by Santa so he can come back every Christmas.
Frosty the snowman is available for digital purchase ($ 9.99) from Vudu.
Santa is coming to town
An all-star cast (including Fred Astaire and Mickey Rooney) provides voices for this story about the origins of Santa Claus, taken from the hit of the same name (which also features prominently, sung by Astaire). It chronicles Kris Kringle’s life, from his birth to the establishment of important Christmas traditions, when he becomes the Santa everyone knows and loves.
Santa is coming to town is available for digital purchase ($ 9.99) from Vudu.
The year without Santa
Based on Phyllis McGinley’s 1956 children’s book, this special tells the story of Santa’s decision to take one Christmas off (he feels a little under the weather.) And the disastrous consequences that ensue (eventually Christmas becomes naturally saved). The year without Santa also introduced the popular Heat Miser and Snow Miser characters, who rule the world’s weather.
The year without Santa is available for digital purchase ($ 9.99 +) and rental ($ 2.99 +) from Amazon, Vudu, Google Play, FandangoNow, and other retailers.
The First Christmas: The Story of the First Christmas Snow
Angela Lansbury tells this story about a blind young shepherd who encounters snow for the very first time. He is received by a group of nuns who cast him as an angel in their Christmas competition, where he experiences a Christmas miracle. The characters sing the classic Irving Berlin song “White Christmas”, although the story doesn’t come from the lyrics (unlike many other song-based Rankin / Bass specials).
The First Christmas: The Story of the First Christmas Snow is available for digital purchase ($ 6.99 +) and rent ($ 2.99 +) from FandangoNow and Microsoft.
Frosty’s Winter Wonderland
This sequel to Frosty the snowman (narrated by Andy Griffith) finds the magical snowman tormented (and eventually befriended) by Jack Frost and endowed with a companion in the form of Crystal, who becomes his Snow Woman (they are married by a Snow Parson, of course.).
Frosty’s Winter Wonderland is available for digital purchase ($ 7.99 +) and rental ($ 2.99 +) from Amazon, iTunes, and Microsoft.
Rudolph’s Shiny New Year
The success of Rudolph the red-nosed reindeer inspired this rather strange sequel. Technically it is set after Christmas (In the opening scenes, we see Santa and Rudolph return from bringing presents.), With Rudolph traveling through a series of islands representing different historical time periods to restore Happy the Baby New Year and save New Year’s Eve.
Rudolph’s Shiny New Year is available for digital purchase ($ 7.99 +) and rental ($ 2.99 +) from Amazon, iTunes, Google Play, Vudu, and other retailers.
Although traditionally aired on TV around Christmas, this special on the adventures of the famous winter ghost is actually more about the festive holiday of Groundhog Day. Groundhog Pardon-Me Pete (voiced by Buddy Hackett) wants to sleep another six weeks and strikes a deal with Jack Frost to extend the winter.
Jack Frost streams on Amazon Prime ($ 119 per year after a 30-day free trial) and IndieFlix ($ 4.99 per month or $ 49.99 per year after a seven-day free trial), and free with ads on Tubi.
Rudolph and Frosty’s Christmas in July
This feature-length special (which was also released theatrically in some countries) is sort of a Rankin / Bass equivalent of a Avengers movie, featuring not only Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer and Frosty the Snowman, but also the Mickey Rooney-voiced Santa from Santa is coming to town and The year without Santa, plus other supporting characters from the Rudolph and Frosty specials. Here Rudolph and Frosty team up to stop the sinister King Winterbolt from destroying Christmas.
Rudolph and Frosty’s Christmas in July is available for digital purchase ($ 7.99 +) and rental ($ 2.99 +) from Amazon, iTunes, Google Play, Vudu, and other retailers.
While Pinnochio is still strongly associated with Disney, author Carlo Collodi’s character has been adapted in many forms, and here Rankin / Bass tells the story of the first Christmas experienced the puppet turned into a real boy. Pinocchio and his father / creator Geppetto both try to find perfect Christmas gifts for each other, which leads Pinocchio to a series of setbacks that resolve in learning the true meaning of the holiday.
Pinocchio’s Christmas is available for digital purchase ($ 7.99 +) and rental ($ 2.99 +) from Amazon, iTunes, Google Play, Vudu, and other retailers.