Going back to 1987, this particular Christmas special that has remained completely under the radar for audiences ever since, IS my all-time favourite TV Christmas Special. That's saying a lot, seeing as it has such things like 'Rudolph', 'Frosty', 'The Grinch' and of course, 'Charlie Brown' to contend with. But this came along when I was 5, and for whatever reason, very much into the California Raisins.
For anyone unfamiliar, the California Raisins were claymated jazz raisins for kids, who sang real soul songs our parents probably enjoyed. Their biggest hit was 'Heard it Through the Grapevine', and they were often used for advertising. For many of us kids, it worked... I still dunno why, but it is what it is. Here's a quick pick of their raisin commercials.
Anyway, they had their share of specials for kids, but their best featured appearance was probably right here in this one. They do their rendition of 'Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer' as the big finale song for this special. And yes, I'm a 36-year-old man who still considers this to be the best version of the song, even over the talents of Burl Ives (whose rendition is from the 'Rudolph' special). A bold statement, perhaps, but there you have my unpopular opinion.
The special is hosted by a Tyrannosaurus named Rex (Johnny Counterfit) and a Triceratops named Herb (Tim Conner). Together, they go through the 24-minute special, introducing us to claymated music videos that cover specific Christmas traditions. Aside from 'Rudolph', they also tackle 'We Three Kings', 'Carol of the Bells', 'Angels We Have Heard on High', 'Oh Christmas Tree', 'Joy to the World' and 'Here We Come a Wassailing'. All are done in comedic fashion, except 'Joy to the World' which... honestly just plain looks awesome, and is probably my favourite version of THAT song too.
The special can be easily found to stream on-line, and each music video is easily found on YouTube. It sadly made its last run on television (that I'm aware of) some time back in the 90s, and has been well-hidden ever since. It's a special that, when brought up to people, no one seems to really remember. However, more people remember the next special I'm about to cover more, and it ran back-to-back with this for a little while. It's funny what our minds retain.
If you ever get curious about more claymation and those crazy raisins, however, check out this special's director Will Vinton. He directed pretty much all of the 'California Raisins' specials, along with an Easter special (that I have yet to see) and much more. He was an interesting and unique talent, who really seemed to understand that some kids wanted the strange and unusual. He only just passed away on October 4th of this year, and didn't seem to get any recognition for his work, even if it's completely dated. It should be known that most of the songs on that list, I was introduced to through this special. It's worth a watch for a mere good 24 minutes. Good laughs, good music, good animation, and a good way to get into the festive spirit.