Christmas is the season to spend quality time with family. For parents, that means spending some extra time with your kids. While baking cookies and singing carols are fun activities, sometimes it’s nice to sit back, relax, and enjoy some classic Christmas cartoons.
There are several options that will get your kids excited about Christmas, give you a sense of nostalgia, and entertain the entire family. Whether you want to laugh or are looking for something a little more heartfelt, there’s no shortage of Christmas cartoons to watch as you build up to the big day.
Keep reading to discover eight classic Christmas cartoons to get your family into the holiday spirit. Enjoy some Christmas Pretzel hugs while you’re watching!
Classic Christmas Cartoons That Are Childhood Staples
New Christmas cartoons come out every year, but we always find ourselves re-watching the classics. After all, it doesn’t really feel like Christmas if you don’t watch your favorite Christmas movie at least once.
Having trouble picking which classic Christmas cartoon to start with? To help you out, here are our top picks for the best classic Christmas cartoons to make quality family time a festive experience.
A Charlie Brown Christmas (1965)
There’s only one cartoon that could kick off this list, and that is 1965’s A Charlie Brown Christmas.
A Charlie Brown Christmas showcases that not everyone is jolly during the holiday season. In Charlie Brown’s case, he’s depressed about the materialism and commercialism that has consumed Christmas. Despite his misgivings, at the suggestion of Lucy, he becomes the director of the school Christmas pageant, hoping that it’ll help him find the true meaning of Christmas. However, the process proves to be more of a struggle than he first anticipated. And he must enlist the help of Linus to get back on the right track.
As existential as any other Charlie Brown feature, A Charlie Brown Christmas is a holiday classic that’s perfect to watch from childhood to adulthood. It’s an almost 60-year-old film and it has cemented itself as the ultimate Christmas classic and has been watched by several generations. As you grow older, you’ll find new meaning in Charlie’s dismay, and you might even find yourself relating to him more and more.
Dr. Seuss’ How the Grinch Stole Christmas! (1966)
Next on our list of classic Christmas cartoons is Dr. Seuss’ How the Grinch Stole Christmas!
This Dr. Seuss narrative has been made into several adaptations, with one of the most popular featuring funnyman Jim Carey. The Jim Carey version has been my absolute favorite one. However, the 1966 cartoon version continues to be a classic.
In this film, the reclusive Grinch hates Christmas and decides to ruin the holiday for the people of Who-ville. He comes down from his mountaintop home with his dog Max and steals everything Christmas-related in town to erase any trace of Christmas in hopes of ruining it. However, thanks to Cindy Lou Who’s holiday spirit, she slowly teaches the Grinch the true meaning of Christmas.
Light hearted and with a well-known plot, this is one of those films that is arguably a must-see every Christmas. If you ever need more of the Grinch, you can check out the live-action depiction of the grumpy but lovable character. (Bonus: this is a great way to introduce your kids to the comedic genius of Jim Carey!)
Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer (1964)
Thanks to the classic jingle, most kids know the story of Rudolph almost as soon as their first Christmas rolls around. Although this 1964 TV movie won’t be introducing them to anything new, this feel-good stop animation movie is a classic Christmas cartoon that will make Rudolph’s story a visual experience.
The movie is reminiscent of the song, but it has an extended plot. First of all, the story is told from the point of view of Sam the snowman. What’s more is that Rudolph and his red nose aren’t on their own for this adventure. He teams up with Hermey, an elf who aspires to be a dentist, and Yukon Cornelius, the prospector. When Rudolph and friends meet the Abominable Snowman and discover an island of misfit toys, the titular character makes it his mission to have Santa aid the toys. When he gets back to the North Pole, he finds that Santa’s sleigh is fogged up, and it’s up to Rudolph to save Christmas.
The animation of this movie is a key element in what makes it a classic, and it will surely captivate your kids as you watch it together.
The Nightmare Before Christmas (1993)
The debate is still out on whether this is a Christmas or Halloween movie, but everyone can at least agree that The Nightmare Before Christmas is a classic.
The Tim Burton film follows Jack Skellington, the pumpkin king of Halloweentown who’s tired of his spooky job and longs for a more joyful change. When he stumbles upon Christmastown, he realizes that it’s exactly what he’s been missing. He tries to bring Christmas joy to his fellow Halloweentown citizens, but it doesn’t go as planned and puts Christmas in jeopardy for the whole world.
There’s a lot about The Nightmare Before Christmas that will intrigue your kids and keep you entertained. I loved the creative plot and interesting animation. My kids absolutely loved it too! And the feel-good nature are all elements that make this film a classic Christmas cartoon.
Whether you watch this classic on Halloween or Christmas, or both, you’ll definitely look forward to this.
Frosty the Snowman (1969)
Another well-known Christmas story thanks to a jingle, Frosty the Snowman has been adapted for the screen several times. However, when it comes to picking a classic, the 1969 TV movie is our favorite.
The film starts with a top hat that brings a snowman, made by a group of children, to life. The children and Frosty have a great time until a washed-up magician claims that he wants his hat back. What’s more is that Frosty soon discovers he will melt in the spring and must head for the North Pole to avoid this fate. He befriends a little girl and they embark on this journey together, but they soon discover that the magician is following them, desperately wanting his hat back.
This classic Christmas cartoon goes beyond the song lyrics to create an entertaining plot for the whole family. With so many close calls, this movie will surely keep your kids on their toes. This classic Christmas cartoon inspired a series of sequels, namely Frosty’s Winter Wonderland (1972) and Frosty Returns (1992).
The Polar Express (2004)
Next, we have The Polar Express.
Inspired by the children’s book by Charles Van Allsburg, this film adaptation follows a young boy who, questioning the existence of Santa, takes a train ride to the North Pole on Christmas Eve. But this is no ordinary train ride, as the Polar Express takes the boy on the adventure of his life, filled with self-discovery and several surprises.
Since its 2004 release, The Polar Express has been a Christmas staple for families. This picturesque film teaches everyone the real meaning of Christmas, opening your children’s mind to see Christmas beyond a materialistic lens and settling the minds of parents afraid of seeing their children grow up too fast. If you remember being a kid when this movie came out, this year is a great time to dive into nostalgia with your child.
A Christmas Carol (2009)
Next on our list, we have the 2009 A Christmas Carol. Some people may not consider this film a classic right now, but it is a take on a classic that’s been part of many Christmas movie marathons for over a decade.
As the story goes, Christmas is approaching in London, but Ebenezer Scrooge is not at all in the holiday spirit. On the contrary, he thinks it’s all “humbug” and dismisses everyone who thinks otherwise. He’s later warned by his late business partner that three ghosts will be visiting him throughout the night. Scrooge is brought on a journey through his past, present, and future to learn the true meaning of Christmas.
Jim Carrey gives us another Christmas classic in this remake, delivering a great voice performance of the bitter Scrooge. There are too many adaptations and remakes of A Christmas Carol to count, but as far as animated versions go, this is one of the best.
The Little Drummer Boy (1968)
Chances are you remember catching this classic on TV every year around Christmastime, no matter what year you were born. Well, you shouldn’t be surprised to hear that it’s still viewed every Christmas, introducing the story of the little drummer boy to each new generation.
An orphan drummer boy is left with only his animal friends and is resentful of all humans. When he follows a star to track down a trio of kings on their way to visit the babe in the manger and find his camel friend, he learns to look beyond his hatred of humankind to find the good in people during a tough situation. He takes his frustrations out on a drum, which proves to be both beneficial and transformative for him.
This is also a good time to point out that this is the third classic Christmas cartoon on this list that is based on a song, which suggests that Christmas carols really do make the best animated films.
Bonus: Klaus (2019)
Last on our list of classic Christmas cartoons is Klaus. Released in 2019, some might argue it’s too early to deem this cartoon a classic. Although this is a newer movie, it has the potential to become a yearly tradition for many households.
Jesper, a postman in the making, is known as the worst student at the postal academy and is therefore stationed on an Arctic island full of feuding locals. There, he meets local teacher Alva as well as Klaus, a carpenter who lives alone in a cabin of toys he makes himself. They form a new friendship, which uplifts the town and brings joy to everyone in it.
This Christmas cartoon comedy is a modern, original story that’s garnered critical acclaim for the plot and voice acting. Chances are that your kids love this film if they’ve already seen it, so consider joining them the next time they watch it to establish it as a Christmas classic in your family.
Classic Christmas cartoons are feel-good movies that aren’t just fun for kids. I know I absolutely love them! It’s just such a fun way for us to get that “feel good” feeling with our families. I think you should intro your kids to some of the classics. Don’t worry if they don’t sit still the whole time, it’s all about the feeling you get when you’re together. And the memories we all get to make in our homes.
Share with me! What is your favorite Christmas cartoon?
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