'Twas the Night Before Christmas (1974 TV special)

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'Twas the Night Before Christmas
Written byJerome Coopersmith
Larz Bourne
Directed byArthur Rankin Jr.
Jules Bass
StarringJoel Grey
George Gobel
Tammy Grimes
John McGiver
Narrated byGeorge Gobel (main story)
Joel Grey (poem sequence)
Theme music composerMaury Laws
Country of originUnited States
Original languageEnglish
ProducersArthur Rankin Jr.
Jules Bass
CinematographyToru Hara
Tsuguyuki Kubo
Running time25 minutes
Production companiesRankin/Bass Productions
Original release
ReleaseDecember 8, 1974 (1974-12-08)

'Twas the Night Before Christmas is a 1974 animated Christmas television special produced by Rankin/Bass Productions[1] which features Clement Clarke Moore's famous 1823 poem, A Visit from St. Nicholas, the opening line of which is the source of the title of this animated special.[2] The special first originally aired on CBS on December 8, 1974[3] where it aired annually until 1994, when The Family Channel (now Freeform) took over its syndication rights. AMC took over syndication rights for the special in 2018.[4]

Although the opening credits mention "told and sung by Joel Grey", it is really narrated by George Gobel, as there is more emphasis on the point of view of Father Mouse, with Moore's poem read by Grey as a secondary plot.


The program is set in the fictional town of Junctionville, New York, around the turn of the 20th century. Santa Claus is offended by an anonymous letter printed in the town's newspaper (and signed "all of us") claiming that he doesn't exist. In response, Santa returns the entire town's letters to them unopened. Upon reading the anonymous letter printed in the newspaper, Father Mouse — a mouse assistant to the human clockmaker Joshua Trundle — immediately suspects that his brainy, college student son Albert is its author. Albert confirms his suspicions, repeating the letter verbatim to him.

Father Mouse and the Trundle Family devise a plan to appease Santa by building a singing clock tower for him, built with a special recording to play a song to coax him not to bypass Junctionville on Christmas Eve. Unfortunately, Albert enters the clock to explore it without permission, and inadvertently causes it to malfunction in front of the whole town, seriously damaging Trundle's professional reputation. Furthermore, the Mayor, publicly embarrassed at the clock tower's failure, refuses to give Joshua access to it for repairs.

Confessing his mistake, Albert volunteers to repair it himself and Father Mouse tells Joshua of the situation before waiting at his bed with worry on Christmas Eve. Although Albert does not complete his task until about one minute after the midnight deadline, the clock does play its song within earshot of Santa which convinces him to turn around and come to town after all.


Additional voices[edit]



There are three musical numbers in the program:

  1. "Give Your Heart a Try" - Father Mouse (George Gobel)
  2. "Even a Miracle Needs a Hand" - Joshua Trundle (Joel Grey), Albert (Tammy Grimes)
  3. "Christmas Chimes are Calling (Santa, Santa)" - Chorus

In popular culture[edit]

"Even a Miracle Needs a Hand" later appeared on South Park in the Season 4 episode "A Very Crappy Christmas". Similar to its use in the original special, the song is sung by Kyle to Stan and Kenny during a seemingly hopeless situation. At one point, Joshua Trundle's face is even superimposed over Kyle's face.[5]


Like many of Rankin/Bass' other animated TV specials, this special was animated in Japan by the animation studio Topcraft, which was rolled into Studio Ghibli in 1985.

Home media[edit]

The special was originally first issued on VHS by ABC Video Enterprises and Golden Book Video in 1987. After Lorimar was purchased by Time Warner, Warner Home Video/Warner Bros. Family Entertainment (owners of the post-1974 Rankin/Bass library), re-released the special on VHS in 1990, and on DVD in 2004, paired with the 1976 special Frosty's Winter Wonderland. A Blu-ray was released on October 5, 2011.[6] It is also available on iTunes for purchase.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ "Rankin/Bass' "'Twas the Night Before Christmas" on Records |". cartoonresearch.com. Retrieved 2023-07-01.
  2. ^ Crump, William D. (2019). Happy Holidays—Animated! A Worldwide Encyclopedia of Christmas, Hanukkah, Kwanzaa and New Year's Cartoons on Television and Film. Jefferson, North Carolina: McFarland & Company. p. 324. ISBN 9781476672939.
  3. ^ DataBase, The Big Cartoon. "'Twas The Night Before Christmas (Rankin-Bass Productions)". Big Cartoon DataBase (BCDB). Retrieved 2023-07-01.
  5. ^ "South Park" A Very Crappy Christmas (TV Episode 2000) - Connections - IMDb, retrieved 2023-07-01
  6. ^ "Twas the Night Before Christmas: Deluxe Edition Blu-ray - WBshop.com". 2015-06-20. Archived from the original on 2015-06-20. Retrieved 2023-07-01.

External links[edit]