(Photo by Courtesy: Artisan Entertainment, Rankin/Bass Productions, Classic Media)

12 Rankin/Bass Christmas Specials Ranked by Tomatometer

It’s simply not Christmas on television without the holiday stop-motion classics from Rankin/Bass, the production company founded in 1960 by Arthur Rankin, Jr., and Jules Bass. Did you know that 1964’s Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer is the longest-running special on television? This year, AMC is hosting a multi-day Rankin/Bass marathon that began in late November and runs through late December andincludes airings of Nestor the Long-Eared DonkeyRudolph’s Shiny New Year, and, of course, Santa Claus is Comin’ to Town.

For every holiday icon there’s a Rankin/Bass movie to explain its backstory: from Rudolph (ostracized by other reindeer for his famous cherry nose) to Santa (alienated from his peers before donning that big red suit); from an elf who’d rather fix teeth than build toys to a donkey ridiculed for his basset hound–like ears and soft Eeyore-like demeanor. There are also several lesser-known tales, such as Cricket on the Hearth (an animated adaptation of a Charles Dickens short story) and two installments of The Little Drummer Boy story, and even stories for other holidays (New Year’s, Easter, and pseudo–St. Patrick’s Day).

We’ve ranked the top 12 Rankin/Bass specials by their Tomatometer scores, and included a few unscored films at the end to show you more of the titles in their catalog. Though its score is based on fewer reviews than some of Rankin/Bass’ more familiar films, the top-ranking movie might still surprise you.

#1
#1
Adjusted Score: 59.842%
Critics Consensus: No consensus yet.
Synopsis: Walter Matthau gives voice to Scrooge in this animated version of A Christmas Carol. Other noted voices include Tom Bosley,... [More]
#2
Adjusted Score: 96.236%
Critics Consensus: Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer is a yule-tide gem that bursts with eye-popping iconography, a spirited soundtrack, and a heart-warming celebration of difference.
Synopsis: This stop-motion animagic version of the classic Christmas tale adds a bit of a twist when Rudolph encounters an abominable... [More]
Directed By: Maury Laws, Larry Roemer
#3
Adjusted Score: 93.983%
Critics Consensus: Arriving with light-hearted cheeriness and the best musical numbers, Santa Claus Is Comin To Town is a magical story told by charming wood-figure animation.
Synopsis: The story of how Santa Claus came to be is brought to life through the magic of stop-motion animation in... [More]
#4
Adjusted Score: 91.663%
Critics Consensus: Have no fear! Mrs Claus spreads holiday cheer in The Year Without Santa, a holiday classic full of unforgettable songs and characters that stays true to the Christmas spirit.
Synopsis: In Jules Bass' puppet-animated A Year Without A Santa Claus, an elf and a young boy have to rescue Santa... [More]
#5
#5
Adjusted Score: 74.14%
Critics Consensus: Frosty the Snowman is a jolly, happy sing-along that will delight children with its crisp animation and affable title character, who makes an indelible impression with his corncob pipe, button nose, and eyes made out of coal.
Synopsis: This special release celebrates the 45th anniversary of an animated Christmas classic, Frosty the Snowman. First airing on CBS, the... [More]
#6
#6
Adjusted Score: 75.419%
Critics Consensus: The Little Drummer Boy is a mature addition to the Rankin-Bass catalogue, with a powerful conclusion that compensates for the special's dour storytelling and unpolished animation.
Synopsis: The perennial Yuletide animated classic The Little Drummer Boy gets a new look on home video with this release. Actually,... [More]
#7
Adjusted Score: 63.027%
Critics Consensus: No consensus yet.
Synopsis: When a local Junctionville newspaper prints an insulting letter about Santa Claus, Joshua Trundle and Father Mouse set out on... [More]
#8
Adjusted Score: 44.037%
Critics Consensus: No consensus yet.
Synopsis: A puppet-animation feature, noted for artistic values and story line, The Life and Adventures of Santa Claus is based on... [More]
#9
#9
Adjusted Score: 49.009%
Critics Consensus: No consensus yet.
Synopsis: Rudolph is again a hero when he comes to the rescue of Baby New Year (otherwise time would stand still!).... [More]
#10
Adjusted Score: 56.013%
Critics Consensus: No consensus yet.
Synopsis: In this animated holiday outing, a good-hearted little donkey is the butt of many jokes because of his exceptionally long... [More]
#11

Jack Frost (1979)
57%

#11
Adjusted Score: 40.547%
Critics Consensus: No consensus yet.
Synopsis: The 1979 Rankin/Bass production Jack Frost is a made-for-TV stop motion animation feature. Buddy Hacket narrates the story as the... [More]
#12
Adjusted Score: 9.959%
Critics Consensus: No consensus yet.
Synopsis: Santa, Rudolph and Frosty are pitted against the sinister Winterbolt, who has awaken and plots to reclaim his territory from... [More]
Directed By: Arthur Rankin
#N/A
#N/A
Adjusted Score: 0%
Critics Consensus: No consensus yet.
Synopsis: The Cricket on the Hearth is based on one of Charles Dickens' lesser-known Christmas stories. Bertha, the toymaker's daughter, is... [More]
#N/A
Adjusted Score: 0%
Critics Consensus: No consensus yet.
Synopsis: The sequel to the original animated Frosty the Snowman, Frosty's Winter Wonderland originally appeared on television in 1976. Narrated by... [More]
#N/A
Adjusted Score: 0%
Critics Consensus: No consensus yet.
Synopsis: An enchanted being from the Emerald Isle must rescue his village from an evil monster in this animated adventure from... [More]
#N/A
#N/A
Adjusted Score: 10.437%
Critics Consensus: No consensus yet.
Synopsis: Pinnochio struggles to earn enough money to buy his father Gepetto a Christmas present in this animated holiday puppet show.... [More]
#N/A

Santa, Baby (2003)

#N/A
Adjusted Score: 0%
Critics Consensus: No consensus yet.
Synopsis: Contemporary versions of classic holiday songs are featured in this animated musical about the Christmas partridge (Patti LaBelle) who inspires... [More]
Directed By: Lee Dannacher
#N/A
Adjusted Score: 0%
Critics Consensus: No consensus yet.
Synopsis: In this magical animated feature, the beloved stuffed bunny of a small child miraculously becomes the first Easter rabbit.... [More]
#N/A
Adjusted Score: 0%
Critics Consensus: No consensus yet.
Synopsis: The Little Drummer Boy: Book 2 relates the further adventures of the youngster who played his drum for the Christ... [More]
#N/A
Adjusted Score: 0%
Critics Consensus: No consensus yet.
Synopsis: In this animated feature featuring the voices of Cyril Ritchard and Angela Lansbury, a young shepherd is unexpectedly honored after... [More]

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