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Five Things You Might Not Know About Classic Christmas TV Specials

12/16/2014 08:36 EST | Updated 02/15/2015 05:59 EST
ABC Photo Archives via Getty Images
67505_003 - 'A Charlie Brown Christmas' - When Charlie Brown complains about the overwhelming materialism he sees amongst everyone during the Christmas season, Lucy suggests he become director of the school Christmas pageant. Charlie Brown accepts, but it proves to be a frustrating struggle; and when an attempt to restore the proper spirit with a forlorn little fir Christmas tree fails, he needs Linus' help to learn what the real meaning of Christmas is. 'A Charlie Brown Christmas' airs on Thursday, December 6 and Sunday, December 16 (8:00-9:00 p.m., ET) on the ABC Television Network. (Photo by ABC Photo Archives/ABC via Getty Images)

You'd better watch out. Why? Because Santa Claus is coming to town. How do we know this? Because that song is played over and over again on the radio for six weeks every year. Not only that, but the popular kid's holiday song is also a very popular TV special. In fact, there are very few popular Christmas songs that have not been turned into TV specials or movies. Below are five random facts about some that might just be on your "Best Of" list every year.

5. You've Probably Never Seen Santa Claus Is Comin' To Town In Its Entirety. This 1970 Rankin-Bass production starred Mickey Rooney as the voice of Kris Kringle, otherwise known as Santa Claus. With Fred Astaire lending his voice (and likeness) as the narrator, this special told the story of Santa's origin and rise to fame. Although a holiday staple constantly played every year on TV, the special that most people see is a shortened version of the original 1970 broadcast. To make room for commercials, several songs have been cut over the years, including one considered a bit sappy for kids (Love songs! Blech!) and one deemed a bit too harsh, where the villain (The Burgermeister!) sets fire to toys. All of the cut scenes appear on the DVD releases, however, for those who wish to see this TV classic in its entirety.

4. Star Wars Did One, Too. Star Wars was everywhere in 1978, despite having been released in 1977. Hugely popular, the film got its own holiday special that aired only once, on November 17th, 1978. Now called one of the biggest, most confusing disasters in Star Wars history, the awkward TV special never aired again, has never been released on home video, and has been panned by everyone from critics to the people involved in making it. For years it could only be seen on video bootlegs passed around by fans at conventions, but a simple Google search can find it these days. Mostly of note is that this special featured the first appearance of fan-favourite character Boba Fett, the bounty hunter.

3. Santa Almost Forgot The Misfit Toys. In 1964's legendary TV special Rudolph The Red-Nosed Reindeer, ol' Rudy is stuck on an island with toys no kid could ever want, Rudolph befriends such toys as a choo-choo with square wheels and Charlie-In-The-Box ("Nobody Wants a Charlie-In-The-Box!"), and promises to return with Santa Claus and find each of the Misfit Toys. In the original 1964 broadcast special, however, Rudolph never returns. The special ends with our hero guiding Santa's sleigh and becoming the legendary reindeer who would go down in his-stor-y. Parents wrote and called to complain that there was no closure with the Misfit Toys. To appease upset viewers, the producers included a scene the following year with the lovable Misfits being picked up by Santa and ol' Rudolph. The scene has been included ever since.

2. Magoo Did It First. With such popular Christmas TV specials as Rudolph and How The Grinch Stole Christmas airing on broadcast television, there are bound to be several that don't get as much attention. One special that remains more of a cult classic than enormous holiday event is Mr. Magoo's Christmas Carol. The near-sighted Mr. Magoo plays Ebenezer Scrooge in a re-telling of the classic Dickens tale. What many people do not realize is that Mr. Magoo's Christmas Carol is the first-ever animated special made specifically for broadcast television. The 1962 special pre-dates Rudolph, The Grinch, and even Charlie Brown. Many consider this to be the tops in regards to Christmas specials There's music by Merrill and Styne (Funny Girl) and great voice work by Jim Backus as Magoo. Every year, Magoo's Scrooge often places in the Top Five of listener polls of favorite Christmas Carol adaptations, proving that it has a bigger fan club than many realize.

1. The Anti-Commercial Peanuts Were Pretty Commercial. Although it is now considered by many to be the definitive Christmas television special, A Charlie Brown Christmas almost never made it to air. The 1965 special was produced on a shoestring budget and contained several editing flaws. The special was, of course, an enormous hit and many praise its anti-commercialism message. In 1965, however, this special was pretty commercial itself, and even included product placement throughout. Today there is a deleted scene where Linus crashes through a billboard for Coca-Cola, the special's original sponsor. Also removed since is a scene where the gang throws snowballs at a Coke can and, in the closing credits, a voice-over telling everyone that the special was brought to you by -- you guessed it -- Coke.

Got a favorite TV Christmas special?

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