‘Tis the season – so to speak – when our televisions are bombarded with various Christmas programs and specials. It’s A Wonderful Life, How The Grinch Stole Christmas, It’s Christmas Charlie Brown, Rudolph The Red Nosed Reindeer, and a whole slew of cartoons, Hallmark movies, and music concerts fill both network and cable time slots in an effort to display the holiday spirit. Some are very well done, others are simply phoned in; nevertheless, they play virtually endlessly through December 25th.
One in particular that I remember from my own youth seems to be all but forgotten. I never would have seen it myself had it not been for my mother recording it on VHS from cable (WGN if I remember correctly): George and the Christmas Star – a tale of a young man who, while decorating his Christmas tree, decides that a standard paper star on top simply won’t do.
That premise, in and of itself, isn’t all that outlandish in comparison to most other specials. What makes this 24 minute cartoon stand out is the lengths that the titular character goes to find the perfect tree topper….
For starters, the ultimate decoration he desires is an actual star he sees outside his window. But how to get it? Simple! He gathers “a few odds and ends” from his home and builds a fully functioning space ship (at this point, one gathers that “logic” is a moot point in this story) and launches himself into outer space to catch this star.
Ok, a bit unusual, but not ENTIRELY out there, compared to a magic snowman or a deer with a neon schnoz, but we are only 3 minutes in. Throughout George’s journey, he meets an alien robot who owns a planetary motel (but all he ever wanted to be was a piano player), is ordered by space rangers (also robotic) that star hunting requires a permit (of course!), is captured by space pirates, meets a lovely female astronaut, and has to deal with an evil space bike gang.
I couldn’t make that up if I tried!!
Ultimately, George does catch that shiny star and makes his way back home, only for the star to immediately shoot back off into the sky where it belongs. At this point, he realizes that Christmas is not about decorations, but about being with his new found friends.
So how, you may ask, is this show a favorite of mine? How is a plot that seems born from a bad game of Mad Libs even remotely entertaining?
The answer comes from its execution. The story is narrated by the main character in a largely understated, calm, and almost dismissive tone, as if the entire series of events was just another day. For as off-the-wall as each scenario may be, George never once even raises his voice in emphasis. Of course he flew into space and did all these things. Who wouldn’t? The strange and outrageous scenes are not played directly for laughs; they’re simply odd for the sake of being odd, but there is such charm in them that you almost forget that you’re watching one of the few sci-fi Christmas cartoons. And at no point does the story talk down to the audience.
This special was produced in Canada in 1985. I was 4 years old when Mom recorded it, which means that it aired at least once in the US in 1987. Since then, that VHS has been completely worn out. A few years back, I found a VHS copy on Amazon, as well as a DVD that includes other “Christmas Classics” that I’ve never heard of, both for under $10 each, but this past week, I found the entire special on YouTube in one full 24 minute clip. I sat and watched the whole thing on my iPhone and was just as amused now as I was 25 years ago.
If you are tired of the usual Christmas specials and are looking for something different (and I DO mean different), look up George and the Christmas Star.