It's beginning to sound a lot like Christmas on TV as familiar voices return for strolls down Santa Claus Lane. Charlie Brown comes a-calling, the Grinch comes a-crawling, and other classic animated wintertime characters are brought once again to life in the television specials that typically return year after year to brighten up the small screen with retro holiday memories.
A Charlie Brown Christmas
Let's begin our holiday jaunt with this very merry Christmas gift from cartoonist Charles Schultz and his Peanuts gang. With a jazzy music score by Vince Guaraldi, the cartoon special from 1965 features Peter Robbins as the voice of Charlie Brown, who just wants to know what Christmas is really all about.
Robbins left show business in 1972, and today, at 55, works in real estate management in Southern California-and he named his own dog Snoopy. Robbins says the Peanuts Christmas special "show poses a question that I don't think had been asked before on television: Does anybody know the meaning of Christmas?" (Linus provides the answer by reciting the nativity story from the book of Luke in the King James version of the Bible.)
Snoopy's "vocals" were provided by longtime Peanuts animator Bill Melendez.
How The Grinch Stole Christmas!
Chuck Jones, the genius behind many classic Warner Bros. cartoons of the1950s and '60s, directed TV's enduring adaptation of the Dr. Seuss classic that aired originally in 1966. Legendary horror film actor Boris Karloff was the narrator and the voice of the green-meanie Grinch, who dresses up as a faux Santa and robs the goodies from Who-ville's citizens, including sweet Cindy Lou Who.
British-born Karloff, who made his mark as the original Frankenstein monster and the Mummy for Universal Studios in the studio's horror heyday, died of emphysema in 1969 at age 81.
The unmistakable singing voice of the Grinch ("You're a mean one, Mister Grinch") was the basso profundo voice actor Thurl Ravenscroft, the voice of Tony the Tiger in Kellogg's Frosted Flakes commercials for decades. Cindy Lou Who was handled by veteran cartoon voice artist June Foray, now 93, who was also the voice of Bullwinkle's TV pal, Rocky the flying squirrel.
Mister Magoo's Christmas Carol
A musical adaptation of Charles Dickens' Yuletide tale takes center stage this 1962 holiday special, which starred the recognizable voice of Jim Backus as the near-sighted Magoo, who becomes miserly Ebenezer Scrooge for a theatrical production. It featured original songs by the Broadway tandem of Jule Styne and Bob Merrill, who went on to create Funny Girl. Among the memorable songs in the 53-minute cartoon, "The Lord's Bright Blessing" stands out with Tiny Tim warbling for razzleberry dressing and woofle jelly cake. Backus, probably most famous as millionaire Thurston Howell the III on TV's Gilligan's Island, created the voice of Magoo in the 1950s. He died in 1989 at age 76 after suffering from Parkinson's disease.