Odds are pretty good that, today, my quasi-sister-in-law and her family (her brother and I aren’t married, though we’ve been together nearly twenty years now) are watching this special. Apparently, in Sweden, some forty percent of the population regularly watches it on Christmas Eve. I’m pretty sure I watched it now and again as a kid, one of those things that would just turn up on the Disney Channel now and again, but I don’t remember for sure. Which means I honestly couldn’t quite tell you if it’s really split between colour and B&W or if that’s just the copy I had access to.
Walt says that Mickey and Jiminy Cricket insisted that he had to present this “cricket-sized,” but mostly he turns over hosting duties to them. Or Jiminy, mostly, because Mickey has no lines and just provides the music. But anyway, the pair of them are there to show us a series of festive clips. In the original airing, we got “Santa’s Workshop” and a version of “Toy Tinkers” with a new beginning, then a collection of clips from Peter Pan, Bambi, Pinocchio, Lady and the Tramp, Cinderella, and Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs. And if you’re thinking, “Wait, only one of those has a Christmas scene,” well, yeah.
Better yet, only one of those has a Christmas scene—two, in fact—but that’s not the scene the show includes! As of 1958, the special’s initial airing, I think Lady and the Tramp was the only Disney movie with an explicit Christmas scene, though I could be wrong. Certainly Lady is given as a Christmas present, and then there are puppies at Baby’s First Christmas at the end. But the clip they show from the movie is “Bella Notte.” And I like that song, but what exactly about it says “Christmas” to anyone?
My son, meanwhile, suggested that the Bambi clip could be because Bambi’s a deer, and reindeer, and so forth. I suspect it’s more that it’s the clip where Bambi is learning to slide on the ice, which is seasonal and all that. You could make a solid case for it if you’re making a special about Yule, which is after all the winter solstice and all that. But Christmas? No. I’m not sure the movie even suggests that the assorted animals have a concept of holidays. It’s been a while since I’ve seen it, but I don’t think so.
I suppose the dress thing, “The Work Song/A Dream Is a Wish Your Heart Makes,” does tie into gift-giving. And “Silly Song” kind of resembles the sort of thing you’d get in a seriously old-fashioned Christmas, the kind where you’d get a Lord of Misrule and all that. And “You Can Fly” ties into . . . magic . . . reindeer? Pinocchio’s “I Got No Strings” could be from a Christmas pantomime? Yeah, I got nothing. There is a weird truth about Disney holiday specials that they often only tangentially seem to have anything to do with the holiday in question. This one is going strong for the shorts and then loses the thread when we switch to the holidays.
And I plan to get into the Jiminy Cricket thing next week, when, really, I promise we’ll cover “Pluto’s Sweater” and the fact that Figaro canonically becomes Minnie’s pet. But arguably Jiminy Cricket’s appearance here is even weirder, because I’m not sure he and Mickey are ever in the shot together. They might be implied to be the same size. But Jiminy Cricket (I can’t separate the names) deals with Chip ‘n’ Dale at one point and is shown to be substantially smaller than they are. So how tall is Mickey in this special? Normal Mickey-sized? Probably? But why is he performing with Jiminy Cricket? And why don’t they clear it up? The whole thing is deeply unsettling.