Oh the weather outside is frightful but festive puppet films are not! Christmas, puppets and cinema – a recipe for ultimate joy, these special ingredients will warm the cockles of your heart like a spiced mulled wine.
You’ll be so warm you’ll completely forget about the frightful weather everyone’s singing about. Puppets, often fuzzy, are the perfect companion at this chilly time of year, evoking excitement, love and mischief in a way that wouldn’t quite work with human actors. Imagine a big human male gremlin in place of the little fluffy Gizmo we all cherish. With a mix of live action puppetry and stop motion animation, this list will shed light on a selection of the finest films; some famous and some less well-known. Without further ado, here is the much anticipated list of Puppet Place’s top 10 festive films for puppet lovers.
10. The Year Without A Santa Claus (1974)
A Christmas special by Rankin and Bass, combining stop motion animation with the catchiest of musical numbers! The story is based on Phyllis McGinley’s 1956 book of the same name. Feeling under the weather, a weary Santa considers cancelling Christmas. Mrs Claus teams up with Christmas elves Jingle and Jangle to try and change his mind. On their journey they encounter two sparkly, supernatural brothers, Snow Miser and Fire Miser who try to block the path to Santa. A comedic classic suitable for the whole family.
9. Alien Xmas (2020)
Based on the 2006 book of the same name by Chiodo and Jim Strain. An alien, bullied for being small, sets out to prove his worth to his Klept peers by travelling to earth and fulfilling supreme leader Z’s orders. Stealing not just all the ‘stuff’ from planet Earth but also stealing the whole of earth’s gravity! Another fun filled family comedy with a poignant message around generosity.
8. A Jugband Christmas (1977)
A wild and unique take on Christmas from Jim Henson. A band of Otters from the deep south singing country tunes in the snow. Their little furry faces sing earnestly and although not a typical festive scene I don’t think it’s one to miss!
7. Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer (1964)
In 7th place we have another Rankin and Bass production. This time following Rudolph the misfit fawn, whose shiny red nose sends him on a journey from being an outcast to being lead of the pack! This colourful and textural film is full of nostalgia and whimsy.
6. The Nightmare Before Christmas (1993)
Tim Burton’s pasty gothic fingerprints are all over this animated Christmas masterpiece. Jack Skellington (The Pumpkin King) grows tired of only celebrating Halloween. When stumbling upon Christmas Town, he decides to make Christmas his own. Many of us grow weary of the same sentimental mush we’re fed around this time of year so here’s something a little different. Having said that, there are still musical numbers!
5. Shaun the Sheep – The Flight Before Christmas (2021)
Rhyming with the previous film, we have Aardman’s Shaun the Sheep latest Christmas special. The Flight before Christmas has a timely debut on Netflix December 3rd. “Shaun’s seasonal excitement turns to dismay when a farmhouse raid to get bigger stockings for the flock inadvertently leads to Timmy going missing”. Only 30 minutes long, it’ll be packed with slapstick humour, holiday cheer and mischief from the nation’s favourite sheep.
4. Elf: Buddy’s Christmas Musical (2014)
Based on the Hollywood film and the Broadway musical, this stop motion TV short is fun for everyone! Stylistically influenced by 50s UPA animation, but with stop motion fuzzy and sparkly puppets, it is a visual treat. The short has the same humour as the original film and music as the theatre production. Full of innocence and charm, this light-hearted film will brighten up a cold winter’s evening.
3. Gremlins (1984)
Another Christmas film with a fun, evil twist. Gremlins is a horror comedy set around Christmas time, so it’s a Christmas film in the same way that Die Hard is. A kind-hearted teenage boy is given a cute, fluffy pet, but when breaking the three rules given to him by the seller, the pets turn monstrous and ravage the quiet small town of Kingston Falls. The physical effects and animatronics in this film are beautiful and the mayhem of the film is a wild ride.
2. Robin Robin (2021)
Co-directors Mikey Please and Dan Ojari partnered up with Aardman animations to create their heart-melting, refreshing, fuzzy felt Christmas short released on Netflix in November. The story follows Robin, a robin raised by a family of mice. The beautiful tale explores themes of belonging, uniqueness and adoption with quick humour and sweet music.
1. Muppet’s Christmas Carol (1992)
A retelling of the Dickens tale ‘A Christmas Carol’. Ebenezer Scrooge (a human) is visited by the ghost muppets of Christmas past, present and future. This old story is brought to life with Jim Henson’s playful and bashful Muppets! A Christmas classic, one that can be watched and re-watched and is held dear by many.