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Television's Holiday Specials

Interviewees of the Television Academy Foundation's Archive of American Television share the stories behind some of our most beloved holiday specials

CAPTURING TELEVISION HISTORY ONE VOICE AT A TIME

Since 1997, the Television Academy Foundation’s Archive of American Television has been conducting in-depth, videotaped oral history interviews with television professionals, including actors, writers, editors, and journalists. These interviews explore the lives and careers of the interviewees, and often touch on important historical moments and movements.

Gathered here are stories from producers, performers, and animators who worked on holiday specials including How the Grinch Stole Christmas, Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer, and more!

Animation producer/director Arthur Rankin, Jr. tells the story of Fred Astaire lending his voice to Santa Claus Is Coming to Town and how he directed Astaire in the role:

"In a sense, a star like Fred Astaire, you want him to do his personality. Whatever he does, there's no need to direct him except how to project and so forth. But you want him to relax and be Fred Astaire."

Watch Arthur Rankin, Jr.’s full Archive of American Television interview, which spans his career, including creating the classic animated specials The New Adventures of Pinocchio and Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer.

emmytvlegends.org

Animator Chuck Jones tells the story of bringing How the Grinch Stole Christmas to television, from convincing Dr. Seuss to trust the television industry to selling the idea to advertisers:

"I gave twenty-five different showings of the thing to all the breakfast foods and all the chocolate people - to everybody - and finally an unlikely group bought it. That was the Foundation for Commercial Banks. And I thought that was very odd because one of the great lines in there is that the Grinch says, 'Perhaps Christmas doesn't come from a store.' I never thought of a banker endorsing that kind of a line. But they overlooked it, so we went ahead and made the picture.”

Watch Chuck Jones' full Archive of American Television interview, where he tells the stories behind his legendary career, including creating the Looney Tunes characters Bugs Bunny, Daffy Duck, and more.

emmytvlegends.org

Voiceover artist June Foray recalls her role as “Cindy Lou Who” in How the Grinch Stole Christmas:

"She doesn't have much dialogue but she's a very sentimental part of the film. Everybody remembers Cindy Lou Who.”


Watch June Foray's full Archive of American Television interview, which spans her career from her start in radio to The Smurfs and The Bullwinkle Show.

emmytvlegends.org

Producer Lee Mendelson tells the story of bringing A Charlie Brown Christmas to TV and describes what makes the Christmas classic so special:

"I think that the [Vince] Guaraldi music was crucial to its success because that was the first time a cartoon had used jazz, had used adult music. That raised it a certain level.”

Watch Lee Mendelson’s full Archive of American Television interview, which covers his career from producing documentaries to his long association with Charles Schulz.

emmytvlegends.org

Animation producer/director Arthur Rankin, Jr. tells the story behind Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer, including the fact that an actor other than Burl Ives was originally cast as “Sam the Snowman”:

”We put the track together with this actor as ‘Sam the Snowman.’ And afterwards, we realized we needed and wanted Burl [Ives]. Contacted him, he said he'd do it. We arranged to have him re-record all those sections. …He came in and saw the action-- saw the storyboard, saw the character, and did his part. We then cut him in and took the other actor out. And we had a star."

Watch Arthur Rankin, Jr.’s full Archive of American Television interview, which spans his career, including creating the classic animated specials The New Adventures of Pinocchio and Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer.

emmytvlegends.org

Animator Phil Roman recalls working on How the Grinch Stole Christmas:

"When you work on projects, you go from one project to the next, you don't say, this is going to be a classic. And it's amazing how some just stand out above all the other ones...and 'The Grinch' is one of those that just kind of pops out to become a classic.”

Watch Phil Roman’s full Archive of American Television interview to hear stories from his career animating Peanuts specials and The Simpsons, and creating his own company, Film Roman.

emmytvlegends.org

Animator Chuck Jones describes developing How the Grinch Stole Christmas from the original book, and the crucial role “Max the Reindeer Dog” played in the process:

"In reading ['How the Grinch Stole Christmas!'], I realized it only ran about twelve minutes. So, most people would say we had to pad it. And I felt that you had to extend it...If you pad it, it's fat. If you extend it, you find somebody in there that's important, like the dog turned out to be the most important character to me."

Watch Chuck Jones' full Archive of American Television interview, where he tells the stories behind his legendary career, including creating the Looney Tunes characters Bugs Bunny, Daffy Duck, and more.

emmytvlegends.org

Animation producer/director Arthur Rankin, Jr. talks about working on Frosty the Snowman and muses on why the cartoon has endured:

"People sing these songs every Christmas. They see them coming on television. Don't forget, they were the first of their kind. And I'm guessing that grandparents sit there with the children: this is what grandma saw. Or parents: you'll like this because we liked it so much.”

Watch Arthur Rankin, Jr.’s full Archive of American Television interview, which spans his career, including creating the classic animated specials The New Adventures of Pinocchio and Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer.

emmytvlegends.org

Credits: Exhibit

The Television Academy Foundation's Archive of American Television

Jenni Matz, Senior Producer
Adrienne Faillace, Producer
Jenna Hymes, Manager & Exhibit curator
Nora Bates, Production Coordinator
John Dalton, Cataloguer

Video editing by the Pop Culture Passionistas, sisters Amy and Nancy Harrington, who have made a career based on their love of pop culture.

Credits: All media
The exhibit featured may in some cases have been created by an independent third party and may not always represent the views of the institutions, listed below, who have supplied the content.